November 2010 I don't think I've ever told you how RowdyKittens got started. Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking about this story because I've received hundreds of inquires from readers asking questions like:
- When did you start RowdyKittens?
- Was it an overnight success?
- If you had to do anything differently, what would that be?
So let's get started…
While interviewing for a "real job" during the summer of 2007 I was asked the following questions:
Have you blogged before? Do you know anything about Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, and social media in general? Can you define the term web 2.0? Ohhh and have you ever written a press release?
During this interview, I kept thinking to myself:
"Wow, what am I doing here? I might be a Victim Advocate, but I don't know anything about the Web 2.0 world."
At the time, I used the Internet to check my email and for research purposes. However, blogging and social media were not a part of my life. Before this interview, I had heard the term "blogging," but didn't understand what it was. I walked out of the interview thinking I bombed the interview.
So, imagine my surprise when I was offered the job. I was super excited about the opportunity to be part of this organization.
The day I started my new job, I was completely freaked out. I vividly remember my boss giving me a tutorial of Wordpress and I was extremely nervous. However, he assured me that with a little practice I would become a "blogging ninja." Little did he know that he would unleash the RowdyKitten.
As I got more comfortable with Wordpress, I started toying around with the idea of starting my own blog. I wanted to learn more and be better equipped to do my own job. But I didn't want to test out my new skills on the organization's website. So starting my own blog was the perfect way to improve my skill sets and get going. My co-workers and boss encouraged me to start a blog, even though I didn't think I had anything relevant to say.
I had no idea what to name my blog. One afternoon, my co-workers and I were hanging out in the conference room working (Well, we were actually goofing off. But that's another story).
I asked my colleagues:
"What do you think I should name my blog?"
Simultaneously, someone shouted "rowdy" and another person shouted "kittens!" I liked the hybrid of the two words as a name and RowdyKittens was born. I registered the domain name, secured a host, and signed up for Wordpress. I was ready to get started!
When I started RowdyKittens, I had no idea what I wanted to write about. At the time, I wasn't thinking about starting a small business or using my blog as a platform to connect with like minded people. I had two basic goals:
1. Learn as much as possible about Wordpress and social media.
2. Find my writing voice.
Prior to starting RowdyKittens, I hadn't thought about the direction I wanted to go with my writing or even if the blog would have a general focus. My goals were simple and straight forward.
As I focused on both of these goals, the emphasis of my blog became clear. Yet, I never imagined or predicted that:
- I would leave my day job.
- That I would start my own small business and my blog would be a component of this business.
- Or that I would be featured in the New York Times, on the Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, and a variety of other mainstream outlets.
What I Would Do Differently?
Focus on finding my voice.
In the first few years of blogging I struggled finding my writing voice. Most of my posts weren't in-depth. They were short blurbs and I linked out to a lot of different resources. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I should have focused on developing my voice through intensive writing. It wasn't until 2009 that I got serious about writing better content. I still have a lot of room to improve, but I feel like I've gotten a whole lot better at conveying ideas.
RowdyKittens started with no focus, then it evolved into a personal journal, and now it's part of my business model. It took me a long time to find focus. For instance, I didn't have a tag line for the first 6 months of blogging. Even after I had a tag line I was still writing about random topics and posting silly cat photos.
I noticed that my blog didn't start growing until I started writing helpful content. I still talk a lot about what I'm doing in my life. But I always try and be helpful. After I tell a story, I try and leave tips to help readers.
So what can you learn from all of this?
Three years ago, I had no idea what I was doing and I was a technophobe. So if a former technophobe like me can start a blog and figure it out, you can too.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Tell your story.
Tell your story and think about what you can teach others (this also goes for writing posts and developing products).
2. Don't fret over your blog design.
Pick a simple free theme or have someone design a Wordpress site for you. Once you have a everything in place, don't worry about the design. Playing around with plug-ins and code is a great way to learn, but it's also a way to procrastinate. For example, I spent hours messing around with free themes and plug-ins. I learned a lot, but my time would have been better spent focusing on writing.
3. Start small.
I'm a huge fan of starting small. If you want to blog, get going. Sign up for a free Wordpress account and start learning how things work. I promise, there is nothing to be scared of.
4. Keep your expectations in check.
Building any project from the ground up takes time and hard work. So remember to keep your expectations in check. For instance, during my first year of blogging RowdyKittens had about 20 visits a day. Now, RowdyKittens has between 5,000 to 10,000 visits a day. As I discovered, blogging is hard work and it can take a long time to build up an audience, especially if you aren't focused. It's been incredible to see RowdyKittens grow and I'm grateful to have so many amazing readers! However, for me writing isn't about the number or how many subscribers I have. It's about helping others.
Before you start blogging, think about what you want to write about and who you can help. More importantly, constantly reflect on why you started the blog in the first place.
5. Invest in yourself and keep learning.
Don't be afraid to invest in yourself. Being frugal and watching your money is a good thing. Nevertheless, I think it's essential to invest in yourself.
For example, I didn't join the A-List Blogging Club until this year. I thought about joining last year but I didn't want to spend the money and thought I could figure out the blogging world on my own. Looking back, I realized that this was a bad decision. When I started getting serious about blogging, I could have used the additional help and access to all the incredible resources offered by the club. It would have saved me a lot of time. I still think about my purchases. However, I'm not afraid to invest in products that can help me become a better writer and business person.
Remember life is a continual learning process. I still have a lot to learn too; that's why I keep reading and investing in my education.
My first post on RowdyKittens was in early December 2007. It's crazy to think that I've been blogging for three years! There were a number of times I wanted to stop blogging because I felt like my writing was horrible. But thanks to the encouragement from peers and readers I kept writing.
Thank you for your support!