Here at BlogOn we like nothing more than showcasing different bloggers and their wonderful blogs. This weeks blogger is Amanda from The Family Patch. If you fancy being featured on Meet the blogger then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Family Patch
Name – Amanda Shortman
Blog – The Family Patch
Blog Url: https://www.thefamilypatch.com
How long have you been blogging and what made you start?
I began blogging in 2006, just as I was about to graduate university. I’d spent a fair bit of my free time as a student on forums, and as blogs began to become more popular I quickly jumped on that bandwagon too.
I’d always been an avid reader and writer, and my love of writing only grew as I studied German and Russian at university – let’s just say that after you’ve spent hours deliberating over the best translation of a word or worrying incessantly about how accurate your grammar is in another language, there is nothing more exciting than being able to write in English without even thinking about it!
I’ve been blogging for well over a decade now, and in that time my life has changed in so many ways and so have the things I blog about (and the way I blog too). But I still absolutely love it, for the exact same reasons that drew me to it in the first place – the freedom to express myself through my writing, and the opportunities to connect with others by sharing experiences via our blogs.
What do you wish you had known before you started?
That blogging could provide me with a way of using my passion and skills to create a career I love.
Back in 2006 there weren’t that many bloggers making an income out of what they did – people hadn’t really realised just how influential and skilled bloggers could be. A lot of us just wrote rambling posts about our days, and found other blogs via blogrolls on sidebars of the blogs we loved (social media was only just starting to kick off back then).
But, of course, blogging grew massively in a very short period of time! When I started Amanda’s Patch (later The Family Patch) in 2010, I threw a lot of time and energy into creating regular posts and trying to find my audience. But I was clueless. I knew nothing about SEO, I still hadn’t really jumped on the social media train, and despite getting a regular writing gig with an online magazine, it was completely voluntary. It was then that I decided I wasn’t cut out to make an income through blogging.
This thought carried me through the following years, and so even as I began to attend conferences and network more, I still felt like I didn’t have what it takes. It took my sister-in-law hiring me to move her business site to WordPress and help with her rebrand to realise that I actually had skills and experience that businesses would pay for. If I’d known all this way back in 2006, I could have made my working life a whole lot more enjoyable!
What one tip would you give to a new blogger?
Make friends with other bloggers, as they will be the most amazing part of your entire blogging journey!
You can do this via social media, of course, but my favourite way is actually meeting bloggers in person. Nothing compares to going to a conference and meeting the people behind the blogs you love (and discovering new blogs to fall in love with too).
Whilst many bloggers are introverts by nature, if you can overcome the fear of attending a conference you will never look back! The people you meet through events like this will help you make the most of the wonderful world of blogging, by giving you tips and resources, as well as simply being some of your biggest cheerleaders.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned since you started blogging?
That I’m actually far more confident than I ever thought possible when it comes to meeting people. I spent most of my teen years battling such terrible shyness that I couldn’t even talk to the man in the chip shop (despite going to pick up our tea once a week!) I kid you not, I would have to hand over a sheet of paper with our order written on it, as he smirked to himself.
Admittedly, some of this eased as I studied abroad (you can’t refuse to talk when you’re doing a language degree!) However, a lot of my confidence has come from attending conferences and finding the courage to sit down at a table full of bloggers who seem to already know each other and introducing myself. I felt sick as a dog the first few times I did it, but you know what? Bloggers are amazingly welcoming people, and they are wonderful at boosting your confidence if you just take that first step.
What is the best thing about blogging?
Now this is a tough one for me – it’s hard to choose between having the space to creatively express myself, and the blogging friendships I have made. If I had to choose just one I’d go with having the space to write, write, write, because that is such a massive thing for me. I work out most of my issues in life by thinking them through as I write, and so blogging is like my own personal therapy in many ways. I feel so blessed to have this space in which I can share my heart so freely.
What new skills have you learned since you started blogging?
Absolutely loads. As I mentioned before, it has taken me many years to realise the worth in them, but slowly I’m getting there. I think sometimes it is far too easy to undervalue the skills and experience you have gained through blogging, because you see your fellow bloggers all doing the same things (and sometimes far more) all the time.
I know that this has been very true for me in the past. But having worked with clients this past year, I have learnt that other (non-bloggers) really value the skills we have. Things that come so naturally to us, like using WordPress, creating graphics in Canva, sending newsletters via Mailchimp, using social media schedulers, finding suitable stock images etc, are all such useful skills which businesses are more than happy to outsource to you (for a really good hourly rate too). And they’re skills that many of us don’t even think about, because we use them all the time.
What is the most unusual thing you have done/received because of blogging?
I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but I’m really not sure I’ve done or received anything that was really unusual…
In the early days I found I didn’t really have much in common with the blogs I read – many were parent bloggers and I was a single university graduate. But that didn’t stop me building up some amazing friendships, and I still post Christmas cards to a couple of US bloggers I met via blogging in those early days. One of them even sent me some of her son’s outgrown baby clothes when Oscar was a baby – that was an unexpected and beautiful surprise!
What has been your proudest blogging achievement so far?
That has got to be reading one of my poems to a roomful of bloggers at a conference in 2015. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the post I submitted would be chosen as one of the Blogger Keynotes, so the pride I felt in knowing my words had touched the conference organisers enough to include it was really something.
I rebranded my blog at the end of 2017 to focus more on creative writing, which is quite a daunting change for me. I’ve always wanted to share my poems and stories (and novel) on the blog, but have always struggled with fear that they aren’t good enough or of interest to others. So, knowing that one of my poems was chosen as a keynote really does help me keep those fearful thoughts at bay!
What is your blogging goal for the next year?
My biggest goal for this year is to actually make some money via the blog. Last year when I went freelance I still wasn’t confident enough to do this, so chose to work exclusively with clients on their own sites instead. This year I want to finally overcome these feelings of inadequacy and actually try to make connections with brands who’d like to collaborate with me on my blog.
I’ve decided to focus on sorting out my SEO and increasing my use of Pinterest, so they both better reflect the creative writing side of things now I have rebranded the blog. I know it will take me some time to begin connecting with those who are also interested in this side of things, but I hope that by the end of this year I’ll have made some headway on this.
What will you be doing in 5 years time?
I would LOVE to have built up The Family Patch as a place to share my own work whilst also encouraging and inspiring others to explore their creative side too. I’ve started a WordPress for Beginners series, taking people through the very basics so that they can explore blogging for themselves. I hope to also create a Blogging for Beginners series too, to help people to find and be confident in their own voice.
I love demystifying technology and helping people learn how to use it – it brings me so much joy to start with someone who is terrified of even touching a system and gently empowering them to use it by understanding how it works. So I’d also like to consider offering in-house training or workshops to local businesses to help them understand how blogging and social media works too.
Right now, thought, I am really quite ill, and even doing the smallest amount of work is a challenge, so my 5 year plan may look a little less adventurous than most. But if in 5 years time I’ve connected with an engaged audience, shared my own work, created useful resources for others, and worked with creative brands whilst also making an income from all of this then I will be happy.
Will we see you at a BlogOn event this year?
I truly hope so. It is very dependent on both my health and my finances – at present I cannot justify the cost – but I loved it last year and would hate to miss out this year. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will all come together somehow.
If Yes, What do you hope to learn more about at BlogOn?
I’d love to learn more about Pinterest and YouTube, as well as focusing on getting organised and collaborating with brands.
If you enjoyed this why not check out last weeks Meet the Blogger What the Redhead Said.