The process with Dana Willard

When did you start blogging? Four years ago, in 2008, I had just left my career in the film industry to be a stay-at-home mom with two kids, which I am sure sounds familiar to many. I loved being a mom, but I also loved sewing, taking photos, and writing. Blogging seemed to be the perfect outlet for my creative interests. When I started my blog, I wanted it to be simple space to share my projects, kind of like a sewing portfolio. I spent the first month uploading projects, and when the blog was (sort of) ready, I shared the site with family and friends. Over time, as I shared ideas, the tutorials got passed around, people started linking to my projects, and my little blog grew.

Tell us a little about what you do and what your site is about. My site MADE, danamadeit.com is a place for sewing, design, photography, and DIY inspiration. In a nutshell, I make things, take pictures of them, and share them on my blog. Though I really love sewing and creating, being able to share my projects through photography is what I love the most. I often think about a project backwards, thinking about the photo set-up of the finished project first. As I drive around my town, I'm always on the lookout for interesting photo locations. I snap photos on my phone and keep a little list of locations so I can remember one orange wall from the next one. (Actually orange walls are hard to come by - if you know a good one in Austin, please let me know!)

What is your idea of blogging success? I think there are many factors involved, but here are my top 3:

  • Pictures - whether pretty, or messy, or crazy, if you share photos that are interesting, people will want to look at your site. Even the simple step-by-step photos should be appealing. Take time to think about the lighting, clear away the clutter from your shots, vary the angles of your project by showing some close-ups, and you will be on your way to showcasing great photos.
  • Teaching - not every blogger needs to be a teacher.  Some successful bloggers share their family life, and we can't wait to peek in at their pretty pictures. However, what boosted my site in my first year of blogging, was sharing a Shirt Dress tutorial. After I posted this tutorial (don't laugh at the photos, it was my first tutorial), it went viral, and my traffic jumped exponentially. I couldn't believe it!
  • Be yourself, and be consistent - people are coming to your site because they either like your point of view, your style, and/or your ability to round-up cool fashions or home decor.  There's something about your blog that makes you different from the rest, and it's important to stay true to that style/brand you're creating.  It's easy to get sucked into cross-branding with other bloggers, guest bloggers, and giveaways. When it comes down to it, your most successful posts are when you're being yourself, and sharing original projects. That's what drew your readers to the blog in the first place.

What has been the single best decision you've made regarding your blog? While this is a hard question to answer, I think a successful blog becomes a successful business when you do it because you LOVE it, not because you want to make money. Truly ask yourself: "If the money wasn't there, would I still be doing what I'm doing?" I never understood being truly passionate about your job until a year into my blogging adventure. Even in all my years working in the film industry, I never loved it as much as I love blogging. This is what keeps me up until 2 a.m. tweaking the font on a picture to get it just right, or sewing projects in between school pick-ups. It is important to love what you do, to be creatively fueled by it, and, if you make money on the side, woo hoo!

What is it about blogging that you love? I really love the creative adventure. As I talked about above, I love thinking about the overall "package of a project." I want to share the photos, the graphic design, and the writing. It's exciting to post something, receive instant feedback from people, and feel validated. We all like the comments, right? And in return, I love peeking in on my friend's blogs to see what they're making and sharing. I'm inspired by their styles and photos. Some of my best friends these days are people I've never met in person. I don't even know the sound of their voice, but we're both stay-at-home moms who love sewing and live in different parts of the world. That's pretty rad.

What does the coming season look like for your site? I've been a bit distracted this past year with my book that just came out, Fabrics A to Z, which outlines every type of fabric and how to sew with them. I'm even more distracted with a new book I'm working on, which has 25 sewing projects, and is styled similar to my blog. This is very time-consuming, but I am looking forward to finishing it up and getting back to the routine blogging that I love.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a new blogger who is looking to create a successful site like yours? Be yourself; blog because you love it, and just get started! Don't get hung-up on making a really cool looking site or hiring a web designer to create something snazzy. Just get going and see if you even like doing it. Over time you'll discover your own style, and vamp things up to fit your look.

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Eden Hensley

Marketing creative, community engagement specialist, technophile, photographer, food and wine enthusiast, and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Road to The Good Life, a lifestyle blog about appreciating and enhancing your life by being grateful for the "haves" instead of lingering on the "wants." There you will find personal stories about my life and family weaved in with real-life, achievable entertaining tips, recipes for hearty home cooked meals, and DIY projects for capturing and sharing memories. I believe the best place to swap stories is over a shared meal, preferably a Thai-meal served family style, and teach an online introduction class to Thai Flavors and host the Family Dinners at The Station supper club in San Francisco.