I’ve been writing this little blog of mine since 2009. In that time, some pretty incredible things have happened – I’ve travelled to 19 countries and got press passes for shows and interviews with musicians I admire, I’ve been part of campaigns with Guitar World and Sheri Moon Zombie, I’ve met some incredible, intelligent, thoughtful people, both online and off. I’ve expanded my own knowledge of blogging so much that I landed myself a full-time blogging job.
However, over the last year, as I’ve been publishing books and focusing on my own creative projects, I’ve realised that I need to kick things up a level here at steffmetal.com. I need this site I’ve built to not just be a blog about metal music, but also a hub for my fiction writing and my other creative projects in the future, and I need to find a way to make that all work together and still be the badass place you all know and love.
Enter … the Blogcademy.
The Blogcademy is an in-person blogging workshop run by three prominent ladybloggers in various locations around the globe. I snagged tickets to the Dec 14 Auckland class, and joined 12 other kiwi bloggers for a weekend of cupcakes, cornfetti and cranium-stuffing.
If you read my blog, you probably haven’t had much to do with the blogs of the ladies in charge of the blogcademy – these ladies write in drastically different niches to me, but they are all awesome and totally grymm in their own unique ways:
What was interesting to me was that each headmistress achieved her blogging success in a different way, and each runs her site based on different models. Shauna Haider used her blog – Nubby Twiglet – as a platform to promote her design services, growing from a budding freelancer to opening her own design agency, Branch. Kat Williams’ blog – Rock ‘n’ Roll Bride – is an online bridal magazine for alternative weddings, and she makes the majority of her income from advertising (although she’s teamed up with a publisher this year to launch Rock ‘n’ Roll Bride as a print magazine, to which my only response is ‘About bloody time!”). And Gala Darling’s lifestyle and happiness blog succeeds purely on the glittery hurricane force of her personality – you have to love Gala to love her work, which is all about feeling fabulous from the inside out. Her brand of “radical self love” is becoming a global movement – and she offers email courses, podcasts, in-person salons and soon a book to help women feel good about who they are and succeed in every level of their lives.
Gala’s blog was one of the first I started following, back when it was more of a kooky fashion & lifestyle site, and in many ways it was the inspiration behind starting this site. Gala is a kiwi lass, too, although she now calls NYC home.
Although our topics couldn’t be more different, our outlook on life is really similar, and that’s probably a large part of why I still follow her these days. I’ve also followed Kat and Shauna a bit through Gala’s site, and have a tremendous amount of respect of the way they’ve shaped their respective companies. So it was pretty cool to meet them in person and see that behind those blogs are three genuine, fun, and clued-in chicks.
It was awesome to meet other local kiwi lasses blogging about life here in NZ. I’m not very plugged into the local blogging scene – my audience is largely international and most local blogging events seem to focus around the kind of fashion and beauty that you definitely can’t wear in the mosh pit. So it was cool to see what else was going on.
I was fascinated by the mix of topics in our class – there were a lot of beauty, fashion and “living a beautiful life” bloggers, but also a milliner, a paper-craft goddess, a book reviewer, a travel blogger, a girl who wrote about the strange and remarkable people who came to her house on Waiheke Island, some bloggers for children … Even Gala’s dad, Jonathon Paape, came along to get some insight for his cycling project. He’s been in business for decades and his insights during class were fascinating!
The Course Material
The Blogcademy isn’t cheap, and I admit that I was worried I wouldn’t get my money’s worth. Although I’m no “star blogger” with a million followers, I have been doing this since 2008, and blogging (albeit for someone else) is my full-time job. However, I’m a big believer in there always being something new to learn, and since these ladies are where I want to be, and the course seemed different to the SEO-heavy blogging courses I’ve done before, I wanted to give it a fair go.
And boy howdy, was I glad I did. Although I found some sessions – especially on the first day – a bit basic, I still learned a metric fuckton (that’s a technical term, yo) about how to grow and improve. A lot of the advice is the same stuff you hear elsewhere – create unique content, don’t follow what others do, build a consistent brand, etc – but hearing it in the context of their sites and their career evolution help to show why these things are at the core of blogging, and how they are applied in practical ways. Each day was divided into nine modules, with Gala, Kat and Shauna heading up those modules where their expertise lay.
The modules I found most useful were:
The design module: The girls showcased some of their previous and current designs, as well as some other examples, and demonstrated why some designs worked and others didn’t, and how your site needs to change to reflect current trends (even if those trends aren’t necessarily what you’re interested in). It’s all about making your site more appealing for readers. I tool a ton of notes here as my sites is in desperate need of a revamp.
The about page module: This was Gala’s shining moment, and one of the best modules of the entire class. She’s created a “formula” for the About Page, which is as clever as it is simple to follow. I’ve read a lot about writing about pages and have created several successful ones for clients, but I’ve never seen a formula like hers before. She walked us through that formula, using examples to demonstrate why each section was important, and then ran an activity to help to jumpstart our own pages.
The monetisation modules: This was most of the second afternoon – yay money! Kat talked about advertising and affiliates. I’ve done advertising before, but never on Kat’s scale, and I learned a lot about the types of campaigns a blog can run. A lot of the information in this section wasn’t new to me, but hearing detailed examples of how Gala, Kat and Shauna run their sites made all the difference. All three openly shared details about their prices for adverts and sponsorships, and it was interesting to see how their income was made up of diverse streams.
Self Publishing / Digital Products: Another Gala section, where she talked about her upcoming book, and touched on some important points about self-publishing I think are so vital to get through to people – that if you put out a quality product, many readers don’t care it’s not from a “real” publisher. That the gatekeepers are gone, and now it’s your chance. Gala even showed everyone in my class a copy of The Sunken, and I talked a little about my experience as a self-publisher.
Who Is the Blogcademy for?
Gala, Kat and Shauna are running a few in-person Blogcademy courses this year, although none in New Zealand. They are also launching Blogcademy Online, an online version of the full weekend course.
At nearly $1000NZ for the weekend, the price tag is hefty, and this would make many people pause. I paid in four instalments and found that manageable, and it’s a deductible business expense, which is fantastic! I found it on par (and in many cases, cheaper) than other business courses I’ve taken before, although their really is no other similar course to really compare it to. The truth is, if you can’t afford the price, I think you’re not at the stage where you need a blogging course like this in the first place.
Several people in the class hadn’t actually started a blog of their own yet, or had started one but had very little idea of what they wanted to do or what their end goal was. If this was you, I would recommend holding off on the Blogcademy until you had clear in your mind. For me, being able to get personal feedback on my site and talk about specific examples from my blog was a huge part of the value I gained, and if I didn’t have that, I’d have found some of the content less useful.
Also, while I did send my boss an email of 25+ interesting ideas I’d gleamed from the course that we could use on our company blog, the content is not really suited for the type of blog I write for work; a business advice blog that has only a little of my personal voice in it. It’s definitely better suited to individuals using a blog as part of a creative project or business.
Some reviewers have written that they felt there wasn’t enough interaction with the headmistresses. I imagine each class is different, and being NZ we didn’t have as many attendees as some of the larger classes, but in my experience the headmistresses were approachable, friendly, and happy to talk and hang with the students on the breaks. They came in early on the second day so we could sit with them and talk about our sites. I felt they did a great job of being available – after all, we’re not meant to come away being BFFs with them, are we?
As I often do, I completely forgot about the fact I have difficulty reading slides until a couple of days before the course. I emailed Kat to ask if there was a way I could get a file of the slides I could read on my iPad so I could enlarge it. When I arrived, they’d organised the slideshow on Kat’s computer for me so that I could write my notes on it and follow along on the screen at the same time. They went above and beyond to ensure I got the full value of all the content and that I could find my way around the venue and the city, and get two thumbs up and some epic metal horns from this legally blind chick for that.
The headmistresses are talking about a Level 2 class, where they get into more advanced content. I would definitely attend this in person (probably in Australia), although I understand they’ve shelved the project for the time being to focus on putting out the online version of their class – definitely worth checking out if you can’t make it to their in-person workshops.
Change is Coming
I came out of the class with a huge list of things I intend to improve in 2015. I’ve already made a few small changes – updating my About page, reorganising some of the site categories, etc. In 2015, expect to see:
- A new site design, possibly on a new platform, which will retain the metal “attitude” but pared back into a more minimalist, sleek, elegant design (one that’s a bit easier on the eyes!)
- More regular blogging – 2-3 times a week.
- The introduction of some new columns – post scriptum, which I’ve already introduced, Barbarian Home, which is all about living off-grid, and another as-yet-to-be-named column with a bit of writing and self-pubbing advice.
- Thanks for your requests, I’m going to be writing more of the following in 2015: metal album lists and playlists, travel articles (I’m going to Peru/Bolivia/Chile next year, as well as the South Island), random stuff about my life, book lists and literature stuff (especially as it relates to metal), more about life as a writer and a bit of writing advice, and more fashion and cool stuff I find online.
- Some of the technical issues that have been plaguing my site for the last year or so will be fixed.
- And, of course, 2015 brings the second and third novel in my Engine Ward series, plus a few other fiction writing projects I’ve got in the works, and maybe … MAYBE a Kickstarter campaign to bring back a much loved black metal kitty character :)
I am excited about what I’ve got planned for 2015. Thanks to the Blogcademy for helping me take the first steps to making Steff Metal that most badass blog in entire the history of the internet, ever.
Check out “To the Blogcademy You’ll Go!”, a Dr. Seuss-themed poem I made up about the Blogcademy in 2013.
All images courtesy of Bubblerock.
The Sunken, my dark fantasy novel, is now available on Amazon.
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