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Today’s interview is SO in-depth, it’s nearly an article!  Julie of On the Dot Creations specializes in all things polka dotted AND sharing amazing business and blogging tips with small business owners.  Her site is chock-full of nice tidbits (and tons of polka dots)!  If you’ve ever had questions about blogging, I know this interview with Julie is going to answer them!

We’ve all been told that a blog can help our creative business. What are the ‘real’ benefits of having a blog?

1. Blogs bring your business EXPOSURE (SEO).

2. Blogs build a CONNECTION with customers.
Especially if you create handmade products, your customers want to know more about you, the artist. A blog is the perfect venue to build relationships.

3. Blogs can allow you to be seen as an EXPERT in your field.
If readers see you as an expert in your field, they will be more likely to buy from you. Just having an online shop filled with products doesn’t make you an expert. Sharing your story and your creative process (and providing resources) makes you an expert to your customers.

What is your stance on balancing personal with work in terms of blog posts?

I absolutely love a personal touch in blog posts. By definition, a blog is a place for a writer to share experiences, observations, and opinions. In fact, if I find a creative business owner whose products I admire, I often search for that person’s blog and begin following it. I feel more connected to artists who blog (and I often make future purchases from those artists, too!).

I think a good rule of thumb is this: if you share a personal story in a blog post, somehow correlate that story to your business. For example, I once wrote a blog post that included a story about a very unprofessional worker who came to repair my air conditioner. The theme of the post was the need for professionalism in creative business, but my story drove the point home more than an information-only style post would have.

How much personal information is too much?
I think a little bit of personal information in each post is fine — if the personal information is helpful, humorous, or applies to your business.

If you don’t want to share personal stories in each post, you could schedule an “About the Artist” (or some catchy title) post once a week. Let that post be the time that you share your thoughts, fears, struggles, and inspiration.

* Here’s a fun tip: An easy way to bring a personal touch to your business blog is to display your photo in a prominent place. Megan Auman of Crafting an MBA does this beautifully (check her sidebar).

If someone wants to start a blog, how many posts should they have written before it goes live? And what content should these posts contain?

I actually think it’s okay to make your blog live from the beginning. Share it with a handful of people you trust — your “cheerleaders,” if you will. Ask these people to help you search for bugs, errrors, etc. Ask for constructive criticism that can improve the site.

Do NOT tell the world about your blog yet, though. You need a few blog posts “under your belt” before you tell everyone about your new venture.

Early blog posts should include:
1. A post about your PURPOSE
Why are you starting the blog? What do you hope to give (and to gain) through this medium?

2. A post about the PERSON behind the blog (you)
Share your background. Why are you a creative entrepreneur? What inspires you?

3. A post about your PRODUCT
Of course, you’ll talk about your products quite often as your blog becomes established, but start off by explaining exactly what you sell. What do you hope your products will accomplish for your customers?

4. A free RESOURCE as a gift to your readers
This resource could be a short e-book, a video tutorial, or an e-course. I have used this tactic with my free e-book, Secrets of Savvy Etsy Sellers and my free e-course, How to Write Irresistible Product Descriptions. You can give the resource away freely (which I do with the e-book), or you could require an email address to receive the resource (which I do with the e-course). Much of my blog traffic comes from these two free resources.

For additional help on the subject of starting a new blog, I highly recommend ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

So many of us are already pressed for time and don’t feel like we could add a blog to our regime. Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs/mompreneurs who want to maintain their blogs while keeping up their heavy schedules?

I will not pretend to be an expert on this issue. As a wife, mother, and full-time employee outside the home, I struggle with keeping my blogs current. I often feel pangs of guilt when I read beautiful blogs that are updated every day with fantastic photos and wonderfully detailed writing. How do they do it?

I do have a few suggestions, though:

1. From the very beginning, determine a blogging schedule that will work for you. Consider your family routine, your work schedule, etc. How many times per week can you blog without pulling your hair out? Don’t start out with a daily blogging regimen if you don’t think you can maintain that schedule. Start slowly and build a schedule that works for you.

2. Create an editorial calendar to help maintain your blogging sanity.
If you’ve ever found yourself in front of a computer with absolutely NO idea what to blog about, you probably need an editorial calendar. This calendar will help you plan out your posts for the month with themes, interviews, guest posts, etc. An editorial calendar can be a huge lifesaver for a busy blogger.

Here are some fabulous articles about creating an editorial calendar:
http://www.savvyb2bmarketing.com/blog/entry/572231/save-time-stress-%E2%80%93-blog-editorial-calendar-template

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/04/17/editorial-calendar/

http://outspokenmedia.com/blogging/blog-editorial-calendar/

3. Determine your optimal blogging time.
When is your best blogging time? When can you be alone/uninterrupted? When do you have the most energy during the day? Make an appointment with yourself to blog (and then keep the appointment). Ask your spouse or a family member or friend to help with your children or other responsibilities.

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In closing, let me remind you that in order for a blog to be successful, the blogger must commit time and effort. You don’t have to be a superwoman (or man) to blog, but you must be committed to do your best!

For more articles for creative entrepreneurs, visit the Handmade Biz Tips Library on my blog, On the Dot Creations.