I feel nostalgic as December comes to a close. So ends my first full year as an equestrian and canine blogger, and with it my “newbie” status. This is my contribution to the December Equestrian Blog Hop, Year in Retrospect.
I have learned many things over these 12 months and made a few mistakes a long the way. But all in all, my successes were many. In retrospect, was my first year blogging everything I expected? No. It was so much better.
(In no particular order of importance)
Blogging has lent me a freedom that I never had previously. I’d always put pressure on myself and my writing. Wondering if it was good enough. But as the year progressed I became more confident in my voice and my writing. The best thing about blogging? No two blogs are the same. We have the freedom to use our own voice and not succumb to some cookie cutter requirement.
We are the writers, the proofreaders, the graphic designers, the photographers. We have sole responsibility of our blogs. We have a distinct voice and the freedom to be ourselves, wh0ever that may be.
Improv my Writing and Photography
Once I began writing and formatting my photography it became easier. The block I had was gone, and the ideas spewed forth. After only a month or two, I was better at both writing and knowing what photos to take and how I wanted my website to look. I found my voice, and learned to change it depending on the type of post I was writing- for example, educational vs. introspective.
The biggest recommendation I have for any blogger- go back and review your old posts with a fresh eye. You will see how far you’ve come and probably want to make a few changes.
To be fair, I’ve always been creative. I attended the University of Delaware (many decades ago) for English, with a concentration in Business and Technical Writing. What in the world is business and technical writing? Well, I learned to design newsletters, code HTML, copyedit, and more.
While in the work force I didn’t implement all of these skills. In fact, it wasn’t until I started Bridle & Bone that I did any graphic design again. Let’s be fair, in the 20 years since I left school technology has come leaps and bounds.*
Wit the help of free software application like WordSwag, Enlight, and Canva I found again my love for creating images. The interfaces are easy to use and did I mention- free!
I’ve always been technical. In my first job out of college my boss designed a peer review management system for scientists and medical journals. It was custom made and I had a lot of practice using it and helping to develop it as a user. When moving to my next company, I quickly caught on to their peer-review management system and in a very short time co-lead the team to create best practices and educate others. More, my team created guidelines and a team to support our editors and their staff.
I stepped away from technology for awhile while home with my young children. But I didn’t let that keep me done. In fact, when my partner and I started Bridle & Bone Wellness, I designed and implemented our website.
I loved every minute of it. I read through the tutorial, did some research, and had a lot of trial and error. The blog and our traffic outgrew the platform, Squarespace, in only 6 months and I knew I needed to make a change. After attending the BlogPaws conference in 2017 and with some friendly guidance from the fabulous Jill Caren of 2 Dogs Media, I transferred effortlessly to self-hosted WordPress.
I cannot say enough good things about my experience with WordPress, and I now have the capability to customize my site just how I want it. If that isn’t enough, I launched a second website for my books and photography, www.heatherwallace.us. Oh but wait, I’m also building websites for my colleague and consulting on others.
Blogging has really allowed me to use my talents and skills that have lain dormant for years. And it’s fun!
Pet Blogger’s Conference
I attended conferences for Scientific, Technical, and Medical publishing, and I learned a lot. But this year I attended for the first time a conference because I wanted to, the BlogPaws conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While I always strive to learn more and take risks, that can be scary. The BlogPaws conference was my first conference as a pet professional and a blogger. I did not know anyone really. Thankfully the network was amazing providing guidance and support in advance of and during the conference. This is truly a network of caring, supportive people.
Kia Chambers of Come Wag Along and I created the BlogPaws Conference Newbies Facebook group because we were new attendees and wanted to meet other newbies as well before the event. We felt it would be a great way for other new members to virtually “meet” and ask questions, plan meet ups, or more. This is not an official BlogPaws group, but a complement to the SLC site and training courses since we are always on FB anyway.
The group was a great way for us to coordinate beforehand, and after the meeting we combined our session notes.
*Do you write about animals? Join BlogPaws today.
Nominations and Awards
This year has been amazing in so many ways. Blogging has opened opportunities to me I never realized existed. Bridle & Bone has been awarded the Blogger Recognition Award, Top 100 Equestrian Blogs, and Top 100 Pet Blog. More than these, however, is the recognition that I have received from my peers.
I cannot tell you how much it means to me, when you reach out privately to tell me just how much my writing and blog means to you. How it inspires you, makes you work harder, or teaches you. This is the best award I could ever hope for and I’m so grateful to have even a small, positive impact or source of inspiration. Thank you.
Until I attended the BlogPaws conference I was hesitant to monetize my blog. Why? Because I was so new. My social media reach was small, I didn’t have a lot of experience writing sponsored posts or working with brands. More, I didn’t want to sell my opinion and make earning money the focus.
Did I know my blog was special? Of course! We all think our blogs are special and we should. But I wasn’t sure anyone else saw value in it. I underestimated myself, which is somewhat of a habit.
In the last year I learned how to diversify. Mind you, I will never have pop up ads on my site. I’m sure they bring in great money, but I find them incredibly annoying.
- I became an Amazon Affiliate and now Amazon Influencer. I have my own shop on Amazon <-affiliate link> full of my favorite things.
- I joined a few influencer sites to meet with brands I connect with that share my vision.
- I allow for limited advertisement (chosen carefully) on my sidebar.
- I sell images for marketing campaigns and stock photography.
- I write a limited number of sponsored posts in exchange for payment, and rarely for free product if I really want to connect with that brand.
- I wrote a little book, which I self-published and sell through my site and Amazon in Kindle and paperback.
Now, would I love to make a lot of money on my blog? Absolutely. But the blog began as a way to answer questions regarding animal health & wellness and to promote our services and aromatherapy products. This is still the focus and always will be.
From Blogging to Books
Blogging has allowed me to fulfill my life-long dream of writing a book. Equestrian Handbook of Excuses began as a blog post. However, I received such amazing feedback that I decided to turn it into an ebook. Then the feedback was readers liked the photography so couldn’t I please print it? Now the paperback version is the most popular version sold!
The first edition of the book is short and sassy, just like me. But it was a great way for me to get my feet wet and learn the ins and outs of self publishing. But to have my first book become a 2017 Literary Selection for the Equus Film Festival? I’m humbled. It was an honor to attend, sell books, and meet other amazing authors.
I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I’m working on a memoir that is intended to inspire others to follow their passions and take risks, which is scheduled for 2018. This is something I’m really excited about, and while horses are the metaphor, you don’t need to know anything about horses to follow my journey.
More, I plan on making The Handbook of Excuses an entire series! I’m doing a survey to see which book in the series you’d like to see next.
Would you like to participate? Complete the survey here.
Friends and Connections
Last but definitely not least- blogging has introduced me to some amazing people. These people have been supportive, knowledgable, engaging, and a life line. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am happy to help others the way that I have been helped. Pay kindness forward.
I have made amazing connections and friends through my networks: BlogPaws, American Horse Publications, Haynet, and the Equestrian Bloggers Facebook group. Bridle & Bone and I would not be the same without these people and networks. To all of you, thank you for everything. You have helped to shape my blog into what it is today, and helped shaped me into who I want to be as a person.
The only downside is that my friends all live so far away that meeting is tough to do. I’m looking forward to several conferences this year where we can connect in person.
I don’t usually write ride reports, as you know I don’t have my own horse. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak (shocking!) and would rather be behind the camera than in front of it. But writing my Confessions of a Timid Rider series has really helped me learn about myself. The process of writing down my feelings, organizing them into themes, allows me to reflect. I can step outside of myself and view what I did right or wrong in my lessons.
My riding is not progressing how I would like mostly because I lack practice. So the writing helps me visualize. When I’m feeling down, I can go back and read an uplifting post. When I’m feeling amazing, I can look back and see how far I’ve come.
At the end of the day, blogging has taught me a lot about myself not only as an equestrian but as a women and as an entrepreneur.
Would I Change Anything?
I’m not sure I believe in regrets. In life there are things I say I would like to do differently. However, when it comes down to it I firmly believe that everything I’ve learned, all I’ve experienced in work and life, has created the person I am today. I have plans for Bridle & Bone, my riding, and my life. I’m always moving forward.Just like with horses, always keep moving forward. Click To Tweet