We left off the story with me blogging and wanting everyone to like me.
Then I started teaching online classes. Then I started designing digital products.
Suddenly my blog was much more than a place to vent about being addicted to blue raspberry ICEEs. It became part of how I promoted the other parts of my growing online businesses.
And that is when you, if you’re me, get very self-conscious and want people to like you even more. In my mind, people liking me equaled more business. It would stand to reason, right? But the fact remained: I was always trying to find a balance between business and authenticity. I think that’s part of the business of blogging when your life is part of your business. How do you promote the very things that allow you to make a living while maintaining personal integrity?
And the years passed by until we landed in 2013.
As a designer, I was perpetually frustrated by my lack of web design knowledge. I knew enough to keep a blog running from a content standpoint, but not enough to make it look pretty.
As the primary breadwinner in my family for the past several years, it was time for me to start taking this business of blogging more seriously. I just wasn’t sure where to begin.
I started by asking friends who’ve made the transition to more sophisticated, well-designed sites. Friends like Ali Edwards and Kerri Bradford. Both were very generous in sharing their experiences of creating new sites. I knew I was headed for a platform shift—TypePad to WordPress (everyone said it offered greater flexibility)—and I figured I could purchase some type of pro level template and go from there.
So that’s what I did. I signed up with Bluehost*, I bought a template and set out to get to work.
*2020 update: I would not recommend that company today. I had a horrible experience with them!
But I was completely overwhelmed by it all and my lack of understanding how to use it, so I shelved it for most of 2013.
But a strange and fortuitous twist of fate happened. Totally Rad Actions, a company whose photo filter and plug in products I love and promote, was hosting a multi-day giveaway. I think it was around Thanksgiving as a way of saying thank you to their customers. There was one giveaway that sounded like it was right up the alley of what I needed: Win a one hour brand consult with a now defunct Los Angeles-based branding firm called Big Deal Branding.
What the hell. I entered. And whaddya know? I freaking won.
My initial thought was, “OH SHIT! This swanky LA firm is going to find out that a middle-aged scrapbook mom is the winner and they’re going to be sooo bummed.” (Yes, even after all the success I have with my work life, I still have those little inner squirrels that tell me I should apologize for how I make my living.)
But to my complete and utter surprise, they liked me.
Not only did they like me, they actually told me things in that one hour that kind of had my jaw on the floor. They spent time going through all of my archives. They told me the good (you have a really strong voice and know who you are) and the bad (your present blog is a chaotic hot mess and no one could find anything if they tried).
And then they asked me a question that kind of changed the course of my life for the past six months: “You used to be edgy and now it seems really watered down, like you’re throwing away the best part about you… what’s up with that?”
And that’s when two things happened: one, I fell in love with them and two, I knew I needed to find a way to hire them and go through their entire Signature Brand Therapy process.
So I pow-wowed with Dan and we agreed that an investment in my business, while providing no guarantee of producing any return, was a needed thing.
He had just returned to grad school, in pursuit of his elementary education degree. Aidan was less than a year out from college. We had two cars greatly in need of some TLC. But we were going to take the risk and just do it.
It was time to go big or go home, right?
This is awesome! I love the new site. But, for the record, I have always thought you were edgy and honest.
Heather Clements says
Ugh! You are killing me…way to leave us hanging everyday! I feel like I should know the story as I have followed your blog for years. Btw, love the new site. Looks great on an iPhone…no more squinting for my middle aged eyes! Looking forward to tomorrow’s entry!
Cathy Zielske says
🙂 I had to break it up, you know, add to the suspense of it all.
Lori P. says
yes, yes, YES!! I agree with Bluehost and can not wait for the “real” Cathy, even though I have loved reading your blog since I found it (which was 2011 – I think). You give me strength to be real. Thank you Cathy!
I didn’t know Dan was working on a degree in elementary ed. How cool! I am a former elementary teacher and now teach those who want to be teachers. You will have two educators in the family-you and Dan! I am enjoying reading this series. I like the discussion about your voice. I have always liked reading your blog because you sound authentic. Keep writing!
Cathy Zielske says
Yep. It’s been a life-long idea he’s had and he finally pulled the trigger last Fall and enrolled. I have two college students in this house now. 🙂
Looking forward to Full Strength Cathy! I look forward to dialing in to your world because there just aren’t many women our ages out there that are talking about the inner squirrels.
Cathy Zielske says
Oh, I have plenty of squirrels to keep me writing for years. 😉
take the trusty pellet gun to those squirrels, girl! xoxo
Love the new site and your multi-part story! I started scrapbooking 12 years ago, but struggled to find my own style with so many products and what felt like pressure to find ways to use them all. The result was a hot mess – junking up my treasured photos and stories. All of that changed when I found you, Cathy. It was so refreshing to see there was a better, cleaner way to approach memory keeping. My favorite thing you ever did was the “taking the crap out of scrapbooking” tag line. Edgy and true. There is no better way to describe it… It was one sentence that explained why I have always been drawn to your style. Cheers to the next chapter!
Hi Cathy. I love that your sexy is back! Only you can do you. Thanks for sharing.
thank you for sharing the long version of your story. it is such an inspiration to hear how your journey unfolded. and i love that you made a bold move…took a risk and invested in yourself. kudos to you and congrats on your awesome new site.
Debbie McIntyre says
You are edgy , in a normal and comfortable way, and it’s what makes you stand out from everyone else. This blog is better than any tv show on the air right now. See you tomorrow.
Cathy Zielske says
Well now that’s high praise! 🙂
Maybe part 4 should be a reality series! Love your new look!
I really like the new everything. Just seeing your name makes me smile. You will always be the lady who tried to help me at a CKU event by instructing me to “tell them I said it was ok.” I turned to you and asked, “And who are you?” You never missed a beat, but my daughter was mortified. What did I know? I had just started this scrapbooking thing. On the way home, this thought kept sticking in the back of my head that my daughter acts pregnant. She was, twins! So yeah, your name makes me smile.
Cathy Zielske says
Now that’s a story! 🙂
I have loved reading YOU for quite a few years. I’m lovin’ the story behind the brand.
Andrea W. says
Your new site is great! I love reading your blog too! I had your old blog on Feedly but can’t seem to connect the new one to Feedly. When I try, it just connects the old one. Would it be possible to put in a direct link to Feedly.
Cathy Zielske says
Andrea, I am working to figure out why Feedly is not working with my site. I know Bloglovin’ seems to be working, but not Feedly. Hold tight. We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.
Cheri Andrews says
Now I’m sitting on the edge of my seat awaiting the finale! So glad to have edgy Cathy back – never ever ever be afraid to be you! Tell all the haters to take a hike!
Audrey V says
It’s amazing that we all have a story to tell, and we assume that others are not interested in our story. Yet when we DO tell our story, others respond with “wow, your story is so cool!” Go you!
Shawna Zervos says
All week you’ve left me hanging by the seat of my pants for the next installment. I am so thankful for you, your confidence in being yourself, and for taking time to share thoughts, ideas, and your family with us. Kudos to Dan for returning to school. My husband and I are both elementary teachers and the rewards are so fulfilling. This year my husband had our fifth-grade daughter and I had our Pre-K daughter in our classes. I know for a fact that he was not referred to as, “Okay Miss Hannigan!” on a weekly basis.
Jeanne Ann Carver says
I have been a lover of your blog and all things Cathy for a long time. Your creative style and time at SS was when it all started and you have been at the top of my blog reading list since. Your honesty about your life, your fears and your creative talent are what keep me coming back. You can never go wrong when you stick to your guns and follow your heart! Thanks for the new home of Cathy and the Z clan!
I am loving this story! Loving it!
Fran A says
Go Big, I reckon!
You are a star Cathy.
Thank you for being you and sharing you.
Glad you chose big.
Love the new site, and I love that you are sharing your self and the process of these changes with your readers – for the record though, I have always thought you were awesome!
Wow, kinds glad I was offline last week and now get to binge-read the “anatomy of a rebrand” series all at once. It is a treat to get to know the behind the scenes stuff.
Yes. Less water, more edge. YES.
Love your edge, love the new site.
Off to read the wrap up now…
make that kinda glad!
PS – That is awesome that Dan wants to teach! Bet he’ll be a natural!!
I love reading all of your business-y stuff. Thanks for sharing in such detail.