Just Heather

I didn’t really mean to abandon my personal blog. It just sort of got shuffled aside as I launched my new site, muddled through various illnesses and struggled with personal drama & everyday life. Over the years, this blog has been many things—an online scrapbook, an outlet for adult conversation or a place to find new friends. Since it’s relaunch, it has morphed into a place to record my personal journey.

And, that’s how I’d like it to stay.

It will be a place to record my progress as I learn to be a grownup. I’ll track my 40×40 list, share our alphabet dating journey and cross off any other Someday lists I come up with along the way. In between, though, I’m finding places for the rest of it. I am now the proud owner of 5—yes, 5—blogs. So far.

Wanna know my thoughts on Mommyhood? Check out my latest project, Miscellaneous Mom. I’m sharing parenting tips, rants, fails and more with a few of my bloggy friends. The name? Based on a quick post I wrote right here, once upon a time. (You know, before Twitter made micro-blogging an actual thing.)

Looking for my money saving expertise? That’s still at Inexpensively, where I’ve joined forces with frugal bloggers across the country to provide advice, bargains and weekly grocery deals. I’m also working with a lot of experts to bring tips on saving money in a variety of categories.

And, don’t worry—I’m still a huge sports fan! I’ve channeled most of that into my new Colts fan blog. Of course, that venture came just in time for the end of the season, but training camp is just 4 months away.

Were you counting? That’s just 4, including this one! I’m getting ready to launch yet another site with MFJ—who is now officially a blogger! In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter to see why friends don’t let friends drink and tweet!

I’ve got a few other projects in my head, but that’s probably enough for now. I’m already overwhelmed enough to have accidentally abandoned Project 365. I’m sort of failing at the daily photo thing. Although, I am taking more everyday, family life photos. As that was my personal goal for the project, I’d have to call it a success!

Sort of.

I’m in the middle of a women’s study on The Mom Factor through my church. As part of tonight’s activities, we were asked to design a mask—one side represented our personal, inside attributes; the other represented our public face. Whoa.

I wrote character words around the outside of mine, colored my public face purple (duh) and used a variety of colors to represent my insides. The mask I wear for the “public” isn’t fake or a contrived persona. It’s just the best part of me—the parts my parents would be proud of. Inside? I’m a big, hot mess. I bill my competitive streak as tenacity. I cover up my confusion with determination. And, I hide my hurt with defiance.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that I’m completely open, honest and transparent here. In our discussion, I think I nailed down the reason. Here, you can only stop reading. And, I’m okay with that. In real life? People have the power to hurt me. Here, I can hide behind my computer and pretend no one reads my words. Out there? In the real world? What if they don’t like me?

So, I blog. I blog about the things I can’t talk about to people in my life. I blog about the things I’m excited about but think no one else will care. I blog about the worst parts of me I wouldn’t admit to my best friend. Because it’s freeing. And, sometimes? I find that people do care. People do relate. And? People still like me. So, I’m working on taking off the mask in real life a little.

If I hadn’t been real, if I weren’t all me with MFJ, we wouldn’t be planning a vacation together right now. If I hadn’t opened up, made myself vulnerable and let Spencer see all of me, we wouldn’t have reconnected the way we did. Yes, even the hubby was kept at a distance—out of fear, mostly. I’ve been letting it go a little, peeking out from behind my mask and thrilled to find that he loves me anyway.

What does your mask look like? What are you hiding from?

Kim & HeatherLast week’s Vegas trip wasn’t all fun and games. I attended Affiliate Summit West for the first time to learn a little more about marketing at Inexpensively. As it turns out, I learned way too much for just one site! I have multiple projects underway right now, including one I purchased a domain name for several years ago. I like the direction Just Heather has taken since its relaunch last spring. This is where I will be sharing our marriage journey, crossing off my 40×40“>Someday lists and reporting progress on learning to be a grown-up.

Other parts of my life will be shared elsewhere through niche projects. The first of my new ventures launched last night—I am super excited to finally have an outlet for the sports fan in me. My commentary and Go Team! excitement never really fit on my other sites. Colts Stuff will give me a chance to not only earn a little extra money but finally have somewhere to share my love of the boys in blue. I learned a ton from Tricia’s case study in her session.

We have also been working hard to implement several new ideas at Inexpensively. Many of them have been in the works for quite some time, but I’m thankful to Jim Kukral for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to just do it, already! Probably, I’m going to need to order his upcoming book. Very smart guy, tons of fun and completely casual—Spencer and I bowled (for boobies) with him without having any idea who he was or that I would be attending his session.

I think the biggest thing I got out of Affiliate Summit was all the connections—new friends, great mentors and businesses I’ve already started partnering with. Plus, Peter Shankman liked my boobs! That was actually the very same session in which I met the affiliate manager for PokenZoo. Everyone was clamoring to Poken with Peter, and I was completely clueless! I have since learned it’s like a digital business card with 1-click uploading to your social networking sites—how cool is that?

pokenzoo-poken-ninjaPlus, they looked super fun. The hubby wants this Ninja, although I kind of expected him to eye the RockStar. Yesterday, I received a Poken Pulse from ConAgra in my free Blissdom pre-conference gift pack—I guess it’s supposed to be more “businesslike” or “grown-up” but that’s clearly overrated. Ninja Poken! Poken Alien! In pink! I could see these being a huge hit with our girls—if I were willing to let them swap information with people. I can’t wait to try it out at my next conference.

I just hope I finish processing everything I learned at Affiliate Summit before I cram my head full again. On the other hand, this is a different kind of conference. Sure, there’s learning to be had but it appears a bit more relaxed. I’m looking forward to some girl time and meeting several gals on Team Inexpensively in person. More than half the team will be there, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. We also get to meet Harry Connick Jr.!!! (Do you need a few more exclamation points?! Harry! Connick! Jr.!) Meeting a celebrity has been on my 40×40 list so I am beyond excited. Plus, it’s Harry Connick Jr.!

Do you think he’ll Poken with me?

Pro-Mom or Pro-Blogger? Why do we have to choose? I think I can be a great mother, and still run a blog as a professional business. Maybe the issue comes up because many women bloggers started as stay-at-home moms who just wanted contact with the outside world, unaware of where it could lead. However, I specifically created Feedindy (now Inexpensively) as a business. It takes a lot of time & effort to organize sales, write daily articles and track deals. I love what I do, and I love helping people, but it takes way too much time to do it for free.

I am comfortable with my work-at-home title. I get to be here, present in my children’s lives, free to create flex time in my work schedule to attend field trips, assist with class parties and accompany my youngest on playdates & library events. I work in the mornings, in between playing Barbies, refereeing board games and donning my own tiara for the fashion show. I work in the afternoons during the ever-decreasing naptime, and I work at night after the children are tucked into bed.

I work less than 8 hours per day, plus I get to fit my time into our schedule. The saying “You can have it all, just not at the same time.” is partly true. It’s important to find a good balance—I have high hopes that the Blissdom schedule is going to help me get better at that! It is also important to know what your goal is with blogging. Do you blog for fun, connection, a desire to help others or for the freebies & income it could provide? Of course, we can all use a little extra cash but if that wasn’t the motivation for your blog, then don’t get sidetracked trying to make it happen.

Every person, business and even blog should have a mission statement. Define who you are, what you will do and how you plan to accomplish it. Define three, specific things you plan to do with your blog, then concisely state how you will get them done. For example, I am a married mother of three beautiful, active girls who have created in me a Montessori mom, Scout mom, allergy mom and avid coupon clipper. I share deals and tips at Inexpensively and report progress on learning to be a grown-up here at Just Heather. I’ll tell my darkest secrets, share my hopes and dreams and dish on my favorite things, but I promise to tell you no lies. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and I’m hoping, in the end, we’ll be friends.

You now know exactly who I am, and I’ve told you that on this blog you’ll learn my hopes & dreams, find the occasional product review and that I’m looking to make friends. Of course, the mission statement for this blog leaves it wide open—and that’s exactly the point! Just Heather is a personal blog, a journal of sorts. It’s been various things over the last 6 years, but mostly it’s just my little corner of the web to scrapbook my life. The content may change as my life does, but the purpose of my blog is still clearly defined. Inexpensively also has a definitive mission statement, but it’s completely different because its goals and motivation are completely different.

The Inexpensively network provides a whole lifestyle concept for savings. We compile weekly lists for grocery store deals, suggest ideas on living your life for less, offer tips on finding the best savings and encourage our community to be charitable even on a budget. We connect a network of individuals from around the country to provide families with the most up to date and accurate savings tools in their own communities. In short, we encourage families to maximize their budgets so they can use some of their savings to help improve their neighborhood.

I challenge you to create a mission statement for your blog. Use it in your bio, showcase it on your Facebook Page and come back here to share it with me—but, most importantly, let it help you decide if what you’re doing with your blog is what you should be doing! If an opportunity, article or topic comes up that doesn’t fit into your mission statement, it probably doesn’t belong on your blog.

Live Blogging Session #4

Erik Deckers, Pro Blog Service

5 Simple Rules of Writing Quickly

Quality is important, but you have other stuff to do with your day.

Plan first.
Think about it during your downtime—in the car, in the shower, etc.

Plow through.
There’s really no such thing as writer’s block. It’s really just lack of motivation or getting stuck on what to say. The best cure for writer’s block is just to sit down and start writing. The rhythm of writing and stream of consciousness will eventually lead to what you want to say.

Fill it in later.
Start with an outline or bullet points and create paragraphs out of it later.
Write a lead; string leads together or space them out and add content to each lead.

Write everyday.
Writer’s write. They don’t watch tv, sleep, etc. Write everyday, no matter what it is.

Keep it short. Real short.
The shorter it is, the more likely people are actually going to read it.
If you end up writing a huge post, chop it up to create multiple posts and post date so you’re ahead of the game.
Series posts bring people back.

5 Simple Rules of Writing Well
Write for a Clever 12-year-old
We don’t like to read things written at a college level. We only have so much mental space and don’t want to fill it with heady articles.
Blog readers don’t usually want to think too hard.
Funnel—all the big, important information is in the first sentence/paragraph so the importance of the information gets smaller as the article goes on.
Bloggers should skip the background information that doesn’t need to be there. Keep posts to 300-500 words.

Be clear.
“For sale: baby shoes, never used.” ~Ernest Hemingway (the 6 word short story)

Use short words. Use short paragraphs too.
You can have 1 word paragraphs, despite English rules.

Edit mercilessly.
Revise and rewrite. Cut out useless words.

Don’t overwrite.
Say what you need to say with the fewest words possible.

5 Simple Rules for SEO writing
Write for readers, not spiders.
Being number 1 on Google doesn’t do any good if people leave 3 seconds after they arrive because they don’t want to read crap.
If you write for readers, readers will come. Write good, quality content that interests people.

Use unique keywords.
Erik is number 1 on Google for “It’s in my raccoon wounds.” for a post on his child’s vomit.

Integrate Keywords Naturally
Related words and synonyms

Don’t repeat your keywords.
Don’t pack key words. This is bad writing. No one is going to stick around to actually read it.

Anchor text
Be sure to use keywords in the actual post. It must be relevant.

Shawn and Noah have put together a great conference for us. I’m excited to be here to learn about the things I need to be doing to make my blog and Inexpensively what I know it could be. They really know what their doing when it comes to connecting. They’ve been on top of every question I’ve had on the conference—even the ones I didn’t think to ask.

It was a bit disconcerting to walk in and have someone I’ve never met greet me by name. I guess my avatar looks just like me. Who knew? I’m so bad about names and faces that it throws me when others aren’t. It actually happens all the time, though, so I guess I need to get used to it. (Yes, Mom, I’m wearing makeup!)

This is my first attempt at live blogging. I need to take notes and this seemed like the best idea, given the topic. These are my raw notes as they happen. I’ll come back later to fix obvious typos and errors, but if I decide to expand on anything I heard, it would be in a separate post. To quote my girls, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”

Live Blogging Keynote

Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer: The Rules Are There Are No Rules

“If the rules are there are no rules, what the hell is this guy going to say? I’ll get to that, in about 40 minutes.”

The rules are there for a reason, but sometimes they’re meant to be broken.

Design Matters:
Design doesn’t matter in the tech/social media world because more than 50% of readers are never going to visit your website—they will subscribe to your RSS feeds instead.

The more you engage with people, the more connected you are with your audience.
A blog that does not allow comments is not really a blog. It’s a personal publication platform.

Blog Frequently:
Deb Schultz, Jeremey Pepper, Dave Weiner—Don’t blog frequently, but when they do it is incredibly compelling and engaging.
Keep it short and simple. People want short snacks in today’s attention deficit world.

Play Nice:
Some who don’t can get away with it because they are entertaining, if you get their humor and/or sarcasm.

Provide Value to Your Reader:
Value is relative—any blog will have value to someone, even if it’s just your mom.

Most blogs will never make more than $24.99 (and no one will cut you a check until you make $25)
Monetizing blogs is not about advertising; it is capitalizing on opportunities that your blog provides.

Driving Traffic:
Promote your blog.
The rules say be active on Digg, Reddit, Stumble Upon, Propeller, Mixx.
The theory is readers vote for good content. “The theory is bullshit.” None of the front page content on social media sites is actually based on what the community wants to see. It’s based on the back scratching and trading of a few hundred people.

How to Use Social Bookmarking Sites/Breaking the Rules:
Vote for good content when you see it.
Help friends with votes, if I like the content.

Social News/Bookmarking Success:
Spend all day on the site.
Get secret invites to voting circles
Pander to people via IM
“all the damn time!”

There is a lot of great advice, guidelines and “rules” but bottom line is are you happy with your blog? The success of your blog is really determined by how you feel about it.

Jason’s Rules for Blogging:
Be bold. Say something that other people are not. If your blog offers nothing different than what other people in your niche are saying, you’re just a me too. Take a different stance now and then.
Be fair. Let your opposing readers have their say. Letting them have the last word now and then is classy.
Follow the rules…sometimes. Good advice is still good advice.
Be loyal to your audience. Remember what people come there for and stay true to it. See what drives traffic. See what people comment on. Write about what your readers want to talk about.
Write good stuff!

Q. What would you call it then, if there are no rules? Aren’t we still in need of rules and guidelines?
A. I would call it Blogging Best Practices.

Q. What about ghost writers?
A. Transparency is key in social media. Ghost writers are the opposite. The biggest problem is getting found out. You run the risk of being disingenuous. It intimates that you have something to hide.

I have been blogging for several years. The blog world has grown and changed around me. My reasons for blogging and what I’ve taken from it has also changed over the years. When I first started, it was a medium for adult conversation. Over time, it became a journal of sorts for my girls. Along the way, I found a few Hoosier bloggers and began to take my blog connections offline. When I relaunched this blog a few months ago, it was with my professional image in the back of my mind.

My professional self launched a new business earlier this week. While FeedIndy was all me, Inexpensively connects a network of frugal bloggers. When bloggers contact me in hopes of joining the network, the interview process includes reading their blog and following them on Twitter for several weeks. Yes, that’s right, I read blogs as my job! This also means that blog conventions become real and actual business conferences.

I’m attending BlogHer ’09 next week (well, it’s LobbyCon because I didn’t get my tickets ordered on time!). I’m looking forward to actually meeting some of the bloggers I’ve “known” for years. I’m also terrified of meeting people. I’m stressing over what to wear, who I’ll meet (Tim Gunn—ack!) and how I’ll remain standing on heels all day long. That’s my irrational, paranoid side. The rest of me is just plain excited. Just a few weeks after BlogHer, I’m attending a local conference. I’m even more nervous about this one.

At BlogIndiana, I have a real opportunity to make connections with fellow Hoosiers. I’m also speaking at BlogIndiana—I’ll be on the Foodie Panel for Saturday’s Social Media Summit. I’ll probably be the pickiest eater on the panel, but it’s exciting to be able to share the concept of doing whatever you do, inexpensively. People mistakenly assume you can only save money at the grocery store if you buy junk, but it just isn’t true. That’s the perspective I’m bringing to the panel, but I’m still a bit worried about being the least foodie person in the room.

I’m less worried about my shoes for Blog Indiana, though. I don’t think it will be quite the focus.

Update: I am now on two panels for Blog Indiana. They have added a Mommy Blogger panel that has me very excited! In honor of the addition to Saturday’s Social Media Summit, I have a special coupon code for you! Enter momblogsrock at the checkout to save 20% off your ticket purchase.

Blog Indiana 2009 countdown!

My friendly neighborhood UPS man just dropped by and left a nice surprise. The business cards I ordered 2 weeks ago have arrived already! Perfect timing since my new venture launches (hopefully) this week. I do wish I had proofed them  a bit better, but they look exactly as expected. They are beautiful, but I forgot to include inexpensively” target=”_blank”>Twitter. It wasn’t a standard line in the template so it completely slipped my mind.

I ordered my business cards from UPrinting because I am now a part of their Blog Sponsorship program. Plus, the prices were right. I paid about $25 for 1000 business cards, which I thought was an excellent deal.  They use eco-friendy papers and non-toxic ink so I was especially excited about my purchase. It’s nice to find a company that cares about the same thing I do. They make an effort to support sustainability in printing, support social justice programs and sponsor blogs like mine.

I am new to their blog sponsorship program, but I’ve been pleased with it so far. They offer contests regularly when you can blog about a specific theme to be entered into cash drawings. They are also giving all of their current bloggers a set of 500 business cards. That offer came through right after I ordered mine, but I can obviously always use more. I think I’ll choose a set for my fabulously talented, completely unpaid director of communications (aka MFJ) since she is attending BlogHer with me in July.

Why UPrinting.com isn’t your average printing company:

Blog Sponsorships:
If you are looking to find a sponsor for your blog, UPrinting.com is definitely interested. We offer giveaways, advertising and more for qualified bloggers.

Non-Profit Sponsorships:
The U-Community Program sponsors hundreds of non-profits and education to improve our local communities.

Social Justice Projects:
The UPrinting Kiva account promotes small business growth in developing countries.

Green Printing:
UPrinting supports a sustainable future by recycling, using non-toxic inks, and offering eco-friendly recycled paper stocks for business cards and postcard printing.