Making some changes (A Women in Business Post)

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life42 Comments
The ways of making money online with a blog are a-changin’.

That’s nothing new and perhaps a gross understatement, but it’s a fact. Friends and family ask me all the time, “Don’t you make money off your blog?” and my answer is usually a qualified, “Yes, but…”

Back in 2007 I opened up my site to sponsored ads. In the beginning it was a huge boost to my income. At one point, I was bringing in over $1,500 a month in ad revenue. My readership was growing and scrapbooking companies were looking for creative ways to reach their target markets online. It was a win-win on every level. While the numbers from 2007 were not to be repeated, over the years this ad revenue made up a piece of my overall income pie. As a self-employed person, there are a handful of pie pieces that come together to keep me here, doing what I love to do, and still managing to pay my bills, put food on the table and partially send a child to college (with a bit of help from the federal government).

Online classes, digital products and freelance jobs make up the core of how I make a living. Aside from my blog sponsorships, the core of my income is not coming directly from this blog but of course, they are served and supported and promoted by it.

I’ve decided to close my sponsor program in August. While I have appreciated the opportunity to work with numerous companies over the years and greatly appreciate their financial support, it’s time to try something new and so I’m adding Google Ads to my site. One of the reasons is that a) it’s one way to add a bit of income, though I have no idea how much that will be and b) I am no longer beholden to my sponsors which means no more giveaway posts. If I want to giveaway something of mine, great. But going forward, I’ll no longer be hosting other companies’ giveaways unless it’s someone I choose to promote on my own.

I have friends who do what I do and I love their work. In that regard, I’m freer to promote those types of things. It also means that the pressure I feel to make sure I have new posts always ready to roll will be partially lessened.

I love having a blog but that doesn’t always mean I have a zillion ideas in my head at any given moment to post and share.

I see my blog as a few things right now:

1. A scrapbooking design and resource blog. I know good design and I’m able to talk about it as it relates to this fine hobby of ours.

2. A lifestyle blog…of sorts. You are never going to get wardrobe tips from me, but yes, I do talk about lifestyle things from time to time. I mean, remember that post about the egg cooker? That’s valuable stuff, people.

3. A product and class promotion vehicle. I mean, if I can’t pimp myself out here, there where? This is where the true revenue generation comes from.

4. A personal blog. The reality is, and I speak from over 10 years of blogging experience, the posts that seem to hit home and garner the most feedback and views are the personal stories about real things. That actually makes me happy. I started this blog as a means of self-expression. I didn’t plan a CZ Design machine which is probably why I’m still trying to get comfortable marketing the shit out of myself. But a CZ Design machine is what I have and so I work to balance these areas of blog content.

So that’s the scoop. You will now see an ad on my sidebar. Don’t be afraid. If it’s something you are into, by all means, click on it. I can take all the clicks I can get.

In the mean time, I will still feature my affiliate sponsors in my sidebar. These are companies whose products I use and wholeheartedly endorse and from whom I earn a small percentage on clicks to purchases by you.

And yes, believe me, every little click adds to a small piece of the pie.

I honestly don’t know what my financial story will be from year to year. We are facing some really big changes in the next 12 months as Dan is one semester away from becoming a student teacher, on his way to changing careers and teaching elementary school. Student teachers do not get paid. They do not get benefits. I’m feeling the pressure more than ever to make my work all that it can be.

I appreciate my readers’ support tremendously.

Thank you.


Cathy ZielskeMaking some changes (A Women in Business Post)

42 Comments on “Making some changes (A Women in Business Post)”

  1. #1

    Life is always changing…best wishes for you and your family. Sometimes so much uncertainty is a little nerve-wracking. I can’t wait to see what is coming down the road for you and for us class wise 🙂 I have always really enjoyed your classes and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

  2. #2

    I think we’ve all been in that grey area wondering how we’ll put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that you “market the shit out of yourself”. It’s a win/win for all who stumble onto your site. I, for one, enjoy it here. So…you’re welcome and thank YOU!

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      It really is an amazing thing, huh? I have to thank my friend Lisa Russo for putting me on the path to great hard boiled eggs!

  3. #4

    Hi Cathy, while it’s not my husband that is going to be a teacher, I can relate. My son just ‘graduated’ from college this spring but has his student teaching coming up this fall (partial tuition due since he’s ‘not technically done’ with the teaching license part) and he’s not allowed to work another job during unpaid student teaching. It’s not in our area so he’ll have living expenses too. I wish you all the best getting through the next chapter, it’ll be worth it. In 6 months my son will be a licensed middle and/or high school science teacher and hopefully there will be substitute teaching opportunities right away and he’ll impress the right people and he’ll get offers for full time teaching the next school year. Breathe in, breathe out…

  4. #6

    Change is necessary, and good. Best of Luck. I look forward to seeing how your blog evolves. Maybe we will see more bee dances and selfies 🙂

  5. #7
    Karen J. McLean

    You are so incredibly brave and so incredibly real. Creative women reading this post will blink and say, “It’s not just me?” I know, because I’m one of them.

    Thank you for this. You have no idea how many people you may have touched today.

    1. #7.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Karen. I guess it is my goal to show what self employment, especially in this scrapbooking industry is like. I would love it if I were a kept woman and could do this at my leisure. But maybe it wouldn’t be as worthwhile when it is successful, right?

      1. #7.1.1
        Karen J. McLean

        It would certainly lose its authenticity. I know of blogs that purport to be about simple pleasures and values that are run by millionaires, and once you know that, it loses so much of its human interest value.

        The scrapbooking industry has taken so many blows in recent years, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that there are still so many people documenting and telling life stories. I think there is something in human nature that is compelled to say “I was here.” And we scrapbookers also value hearing other people’s stories too.

        I have recently begun blogging again, and have been putting a lot of thought into its purpose, so the topic of your post was timely.

  6. #8

    I had same conversation with my son yesterday, after rubbing 2 nickels together last month- I told him we have to play social media games! So I will being doing my first giveaway it should be interesting a bunch of grouchy men who think I don’t I do anything but answer the phone and make coffee?

  7. #11

    I don’t know Dan, but from what you’ve shared here I am excited to hear the news that he is going to teach elementary school! He reminds me so much of my brother-in-law, and I’ve always thought my brother-in-law would be the best elementary school teacher. (He’s in social work, but I can always hope he’ll want to make the switch one of these days)

    1. #11.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think he will be amazing. He has a way with children that is enviable to me. His spirit is very gentle and kind. I think he’ll be so happy he did it.

  8. #12

    I have so much respect for you Cathy! Not only do I love your design work but I truly love your blog!!!! I feel like you are an old friend that I get to catch up with every week over a cup of coffee!!!!
    Thank you for doing what you do… even if you don’t know what that is!!!! I think you ROCK!

  9. #13
    Bec Kilgore

    I have no doubt you will always be a business winner. You are so talented, a great writer and teacher. Not to mention your slice of life Posts have brought me huge laughs and some tears. Good stuff. Hurray for Dan and you for going for your dreams and goals.

  10. #15

    I find it interesting that when a blog changes, everyone feels the need to explain it. While it’s nice to know why, what bothers me most is readers that would question it without an explanation! It’s your blog, your content, and your hard work. I think you’re awesome and will like seeing more of your shit!

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yeah, I hear that. I mean, I think for me, putting a Google ad on my site isn’t something I would have done in the early years, so that’s probably why I posted. That and I do like sharing the business side of blogging, mostly to debunk the idea that it’s all a free and easy ride. 😉

  11. #16

    Thanks for always putting your stuff out there – personal or business. It is always so helpful to see all sides of life, not just the great stuff most people want to post.

    And I totally get the mid-career change. My husband did the exact same thing about 6 years ago, except he is teaching high school and loving it! Definitely his thing. So I can relate to the pressure of the unpaid semester of student teaching and then the job hunt. Hang in there!

  12. #17

    I absolutely love this part of our blog where you talk about the realities of blogging as a business. And quite honestly, the ads along the side – so many people have ads and I couldn’t tell you one from another (except you have yours marked a little as to if they are sponsor or affiliate). I am getting ready to re-launch my website and I’m not planning to have any ads at all on it. Using it as a business is also not in the current plans, hence why I can get away with no ads.

    One thing I love about your website as a whole is you do not have pop up windows begging and pestering for people to sign up for things or subscribe to things. Your site is pleasant to come and visit without feeling harassed. The clean, clear concept you have going is something I am planning to follow your lead on. Thank you for not having an obnoxious website/blog.

    Also – Yippy for Dan! Even though I don’t know him, just from what you’ve shared about him here and there, he seems like he will be an awesome elementary school teacher!

    1. #17.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Maureen, I’m sure some savvy marketers would say I’m missing the boat on prospective new customers by NOT having pop ups for sign ups etc. Partly it is because I have no idea how to add those, and the other is that I too do not love them. 🙂

      1. #17.1.1

        Hi Cathy – I am a Marketing Manager for a security company and from experience, I can honestly tell you that the last thing you want to do is annoy your visitors (and you know that already!). Pop-up’s, while some people swear by them, are a fantastic way to do just that. There are so many other ways to gain visitors and keep them. You are successfully keeping your loyal visitors coming back and that has so much to do with your style of writing (honest, open and real), your style of scrapbooking (taking the crap out of it!) and your consistency with posting content that keeps us coming back for more. Keeping them coming back is the tough part but you’ve got a firm handle on it! And I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking back control of your blog and determining who your do sponsor/affiliate ads with or giveaways with. There is also nothing wrong with google ads as long as you don’t let them over run your website and make it difficult for visitors to find your actual content. (So many people mess up their websites with too many ads all over the place!). And good for you for making the hard decisions and changes that will help your business in the long run. Even though it is hard and no one likes to do it themselves, keep promoting the heck out of yourself because that’s what will bring people to your blog! If what you do is of interest to the viewer, they will come.

  13. #18

    Question for you: How does Feedly (and bloglovin’ and other RSS feeds) affect you? I always figured you lost clicks/ad revenue/whatever if I read via RSS. So I always make it a point (on the blogs I love that are run by real people struggling to make a real living) to click the link and come over to the actual site, even if I don’t always comment (work, she gets in the way of all my fun).

    You can just imagine me over here on the sidelines with my pom-poms cheering all of you on. Goooooooooo Zielskes!!

    1. #18.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You know, I have no idea. I should, but I don’t.

      I do not read blogs through readers. I never have and I never will. But maybe that’s because I’m now an elder stateswoman in blog land. Hard to say. I just enjoy going to my bookmarks and clicking on things.

      I’m old fashioned. 😉

  14. #20
    Kim D

    Cathy, promote the hell out of yourself. Whatever you do feels real to me, and what most others do doesn’t. I don’t know if it’s talent, skill or a certain little something, but you have it. That “realness” is what makes you so special. Your posts, your blog’s direction, it’s all good. Just don’t stop, OK?

  15. #22
    Kate Greenslade

    Good luck Cathy!!! I am very sure that you will nail this. And congratulations to Dan. How long will he be a student teacher for? I am confident that he will be a great teacher who inspires lots of little kids to do great things.

    I also have a blog documenting my journey as an above knee amputee who *happens* to be a single Mama. It’s a pretty cool journey so far. 🙂

  16. #23

    The world needs more good teachers….. thank you for doing what you can to add one more “good one” to the teaching pool in America. I make less teaching than I ever made working in the industry, but I do love my kiddos and my life. 🙂

  17. #24

    I’m here for the long haul. Here’s to changes – especially in mid life. They tend to shake us up and make us feel alive! 😉 I for one, say, bring ’em on!

  18. #25

    I just have to say this: how awesome that Dan is following his dream, and you along for the ride. Not everyone is brave enough to jump into a dream career, spend the money on education, take a pay cut, and not especially when kids are in college! Bravo to you both, I know those conversations are hard and scary (even with an awesome therapist?) as the reality. I know I panicked every time my husband talked about starting his own company when things got frustrating. I was always thankful whenever he decided to stay for a while longer (though I never said No/don’t even when I wanted to scream it!).

    Kudos to both of you!

  19. #26
    Laura G.

    You are talented and creative, funny and real…you will do fine out in the Big Bad World! I love your designs and have followed you since Simple Scrapbook Magazine…hey, write another scrapbooking book…I will buy it! I bought the others…still have them. 🙂

  20. #27

    You GO, girl. And here’s a question: if I click on any ad on your re-vamped blog and purchase from them, you get some Zielske bucks, yes? Cuz I have no problem making my journey to a site from which I will purchase by way of your blog. You’ve been such an inspiration in so many frickin’ ways over the years, that I’ll do whatever I can to add to the CZ pot. You got this!

    1. #27.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yep. If a Google ad shows up that you like (and you will notice, it’s based on your searches, what ads come up, which always freaks me out, like, WHAT? I was JUST looking at Patagonia duffel bags and there’s an ad!), then yes, I get income from those clicks.

      I appreciate you, Abby! 🙂

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