Starting Your Own Blog? Mommy Blogger Crystal Paine Shares 5 Tips
If you’ve ever followed the mommy blogger phenomenon, you’ve heard of Crystal Paine. Her site, MoneySavingMom.com, which she started in 2007 as a resource for couponing and deal-hunting, now averages 1.5 million unique visitors every month. Paine is a true work-at-home mompreneur, managing a brand that employs 17 team members and engages more than 750,000 followers—and that’s just Facebook.
When I arrived at Paine’s home for an interview, she was busy working. She and her assistant chatted at their laptops as we set up. Soft-spoken and warm, she sat down to put on her mic and asked what would make the interview “a win” for me. I was taken aback by her generosity, and it is matched only by her strategic genius, which she obviously uses to build her ever-growing site. Those two things are just the start of what we can learn from Paine about success.
Are you an aspiring blogger? Here are a few pointers, from Paine to you:
1. Start small, thinking of ways you can bump up your traffic today.
Like most, Paine started trying to make just a couple dollars a day off her online platform. We like to think that successful people have some sort of fast-track or secret to success—but there’s no secret, no shortcut. “I worked every day,” she says. “I remember, I would take my shower and I’d think, What can I do to bring a little bit of traffic to the blog today?”
2. Get educated and pay attention to what works.
This is a common theme in all of my interviews, because most successful people read, read and read some more, and they look outside their own industries. “There wasn’t really anybody who was doing what I was doing,” Paine says. “So I found other people who were in other fields and were successful, and then I said, What are they doing? How can I implement that in a way that works for my blog?”
She is constantly watching other sites, large and small, and testing different tactics, even down to changing which words in her Facebook posts are capitalized. “I feel like a lot of people don’t tap into the tool that Facebook is because they’re not really paying attention to what works. So I paid really close attention to what works for other people. Those people have a lot of engagement. What’s working for them?”
3. Focus on small wins.
Paine built her community over three long years by commenting on other blogs, responding to her readers, learning their needs and preferences, and testing strategies. She focused on the small wins for most of those three years. “It was just these little streams of traffic. Those little streams eventually turned into a river that then turned into this raging torrent,” she says. “But you have to go after those little streams. I think so many times we look at that little trickle and we think, That’s not worth our time. But when you’re first starting, it’s those little trickles.”
She recalls the launch of her first digital product, an eBook-turned-online course on supermarket savings, long before digital products were a thing. “It was this audio that I had recorded on a free [program] in this free forum and this PDF download that I’d made with free software. So I sold that as a bundle…. This was three and a half years in; we did a three-day sale and made $3,000. And it was mind-blowing for me to realize that three and a half years of working so hard… and it all paid off.”
Community is an important part of a launch like that, she says. “We built up a strong email list, we built up networks with other people, and they were promoting it for us. I remember that moment of thinking, Oh wow. This actually could work.”
4. Put your readers first.
This is probably the most important: Paine clearly cares about her customers, her readers. Although she has encountered them, she never once talks about “haters” or “online trolls,” instead saying that she sometimes “disappoints her readers,” which shows her deep sense of responsibility to them. “I put everything through the lens of Is this a win for my readers? I’ve turned down thousands and thousands of dollars [in advertising and sponsorships] every single year because it’s not a win for my readers…. Always think of your readers first, because there are plenty of opportunities to earn a quick buck and lose your integrity.”
5. Shut out the noise.
Beyond that, Paine does her best to block out the noise, drawing a line between possible and impossible. “I don’t follow very many blogs. And a lot of times, I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on outside of my community, because I will never be good enough [when I compare myself] to any of the other bloggers or online entrepreneurs.”
She refuses to let the noise overshadow what’s most important to her. “I’m really trying to be strategic about using my blogging time well, so that when I’m home, I’m home.” What’s most important to her? “I’m a wife and I’m a mom, and that comes first in my heart,” she says. “I could stay up all hours of the night, doing these amazing things and lose my family… and that’s just not worth it to me.”
So don’t forget to look at everything you want to do—personally and professionally—and ask yourself, What is going to matter 25 years from now? Focus on doing those few things well and be OK with the fact that you can’t do everything.