It all started in 2007. I created a Blogger account and started keeping a journal of all the places my kids and I visited for our “field trips.” Several people found the website, and before long it was listed as one of the best travel websites on the Internet. When I took the blog to my own self-hosted space, the site ranked #31 as one of New York’s Top 100 Blogs! As #39 on Technorati’s list of the best global travel blogs on the Internet! And #67,665 in the book The World’s Best Websites! My site was referenced in a few books and websites as a source for Upstate New York history. I was stunned by the attention and success. It was just a hokey little blog. People seemed hungry for personable, homespun stories and history. It was great fun!
I started up a few more websites, like this one. It was easy to monetize them. Advertisers found my contact information and asked if they could advertise on the sites. I was making pretty good money from 2009 to 2011. One year, I made almost $5,000 just by passive advertising in the blogs’ sidebars. I was shocked that I could make such money. I sought more opportunities to expand my new little business.
Blogging honed my writing skills. As a homeschooling mom who taught every grade of English and grammar four times a year for eight years, I learned a LOT about how to write well. And people seemed to really like my bubbly, quirky stories and commentary. Sometimes I wrote for the advertisers, sure, but it was always with my readers in mind. If I had to insert an advertisement or sponsored post — well, by golly — I was going to make it entertaining, at least. Advertisers loved me because I was so enthusiastic. I even won “Postie of the Month” at IZEA and $1,000 for a video the kids and I made. Reporters from TIME, iMedia, The Wall Street Journal, and The Associated Press called me for interviews about being a mom, being a successful mom blogger, and how to make money at home. I was invited to participate in media events in New York City, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and other places. I wasn’t making a ton of money (some mommy bloggers I know make $50,000 or more!), but I was feeding our large family and I was able to completely renovate the downstairs of my old house (including the pricey kitchen).
I was hired by several top-notch writing companies who syndicated my articles out to such illustrious venues as USAToday.com, Salon.com, AZCentral, and others. I worked diligently and improved my writing skills. I got good scores and was placed on the “elite” writers lists. I was in a whirlwind, it seemed.
Our vacations were practically paid for. In exchange for social networking and my blogging reviews, businesses like hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions footed our bills. We had some pretty nice getaways and ate in some wonderful restaurants. It was a nice perk for a home-grown blogger. The kids loved the travels. But even though the vacations were “free,” they weren’t really vacations. I worked the entire time, snapping photos, interviewing hotel managers and meeting with restaurant chefs, thinking of how to create funny anecdotes, and researching the history of the places. I never got any breaks. I found that I couldn’t relax.
I reached my peak in 2010. By 2011, I was coasting on past successes. Blogging had changed rapidly in five years and the money opportunities slowed down. In 2012, two things hit hard: Google and extreme fatigue. Google was slamming websites that had sponsored posts and links. Advertisers shied away from sponsoring blogs and turned to advertising on Google’s pages. It became harder and harder to make more money every year to meet the rising cost of living. And my syndicated writing jobs became more difficult. The companies, suffering from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, came down very hard on writers. They demanded more intricately researched content “from experts.” Before long, I was writing three to four 1,000 research papers a day, just to keep up. It took 2 hours to complete one article, and I also had a dozen blogs to maintain.
So I started to tire of the constant work. Blogging at home is hard, especially for obsessive, workaholic people like me. I found it very difficult to pull myself away from the computer, from the online world. The work was sucking an average of 15 hours a day if you count the research-article writing, blogging, social networking (on Twitter and Facebook), blog maintenance, and more. And THEN advertisers wanted me to join Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn to give them more exposure. No. I couldn’t do it all. Besides, people were not commenting on my blogs so much anymore. Instead, they began using Facebook and Twitter. All blogs were suffering the same fate. Things were on the decline.
And the husband was grouchy. He didn’t like me sitting at the computer for hours every day. Worst of all was the income taxes. It took me about two weeks to scour through the paperwork, and it became incredibly stressful. Because we have older kids who are not in college and couldn’t take a gadzillion other deductions, we actually had to pay thousands in income taxes even though our combined gross income was under $40,000. It was because of the high self-employment taxes. As soon as December 31st rolled around, I began to dread April 15th.
But I HAD to work. The family had become reliant on my income and my husband’s employment was going through a shake-up. I had prayed several times and sought godly counsel in the past about getting an “outside” job, but the answer was always “no, not yet.” I waited. But now as things were reaching the breaking point, I took it to prayer and sought more counsel. “Yes,” was the answer.
I hit the sidewalks in November and applied for the job I thought I was supposed to take, a part-time position at a post office. The employer there told me the position had already been filled. I applied for other jobs in the area. One place was ready to hire me on the spot but I hesitated. The job itself looked great, but it was 25 miles away across country roads. And at some point the hours would drop from 8 hours to 2 hours! No, thanks.
I applied again at the first job. They told me the person who had originally filled the position had quit, but they had just interviewed another prospect and that the period for job applications had expired.
So I waited at home. I wasn’t making much money and was concerned how I was going to pay the bills. I could sit and write research papers all day, every day, but just the thought sent me into depression. During this time, a family crisis hit and I was needed to help support the family. For the entire month of December, I hardly wrote anything at all. I worked when I could on an online odd-job (selecting titles for articles). Miraculously, I earned enough to meet my bills AND a little extra to get through January.
I applied again at the job of my choice. They informed me that the applicant had not shown up for work, so the position was open. OH MY GOODNESS it was as if God had parted the Red Sea for me. I marched on through. I was hired! For three weeks, I trained and studied and trained and studied. Then they informed me that the job was going to be temporarily full-time before it went to full-time, was I interested?
Was I interested?!?!?!?!?!
But this post is already so lengthy! I’ll have the rest of the story in the next post.