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What’s Next for Us

Brandon has been out of work for nearly six weeks now. He doesn’t have any prospects lined up, but unemployment benefits have finally started coming through. They won’t replace his income, of course, but along with what I’m making, we’ll be able to cover our mortgage and bills. Insurance is my biggest concern because we’re now on COBRA, which is expensive.

I know I haven’t written anything about our situation since I mentioned it upon returning from Alt Summit. It’s been stressful, to be honest, and easier to not dwell on. Our roles, our daily routines, and our financial outlook all changed overnight, and we’re all (the kids, too) still adjusting.

I’ve had an assistant since October, Valerie, coming three days a week for six hours a day. She had been helping with some of the administrative blog work (setting up Facebook giveaways and responding to advertising inquiries), but she also helped me a lot with Eleanor and August. Now, with Brandon home, we need her less (and it was suddenly hard to pay someone for 18 hours a week). Valerie has been great, and happily flexible in regards to hours, so she’s staying on board but mostly working from home.

The kids have benefitted from more time with their daddy, but even though that’s a good thing, it has still been an adjustment. Brandon and I have different parenting styles in some ways. Eleanor and August do well with routines – a fairly predictable structure to their day – and things have shifted all of a sudden. They’re fine (we all are), but it’s something I think about. I’m also working more, and for longer stretches during the day, and my work/life balance feels out of whack.

I had an interview a couple of weeks ago for a copywriting position with a great Chicago-based company. I hadn’t sought it out, but if I were looking for a 9-5 job, it’s exactly the kind of place I’d want to be. Had Brandon still been working, I probably wouldn’t have even considered the opportunity, but with him home it was something that needed to be explored. Ultimately, after a lot of thought, I passed on the position. I’ve worked for years to create this job, this crazy job of being a “professional blogger” for myself that lets me work on the things I love. I started blogging before I had children, but now working from home and being able to spend time with them is something that I wouldn’t give up unless it were truly necessary. If I need to, I could start up my shop again or take on web design work to make more money. Had I taken the job offer, I would have had to cut back on the blog, and that’s not something I want to do. I am more committed than ever to Making it Lovely.

I’m not able to be the sole breadwinner in the family. Not yet, anyway… but things are going well. I have my writing jobs at Family Style on Babble and at My Colortopia. I accept advertising on Making it Lovely directly for small businesses (e.g. Etsy shops), and through Federated Media for larger companies. I also work with sponsors. In fact, I’ll be heading out to San Francisco on Thursday for business. I’ll be lining up new sponsored content for the blog, and also pitching some new ideas with my team at FM.

Sponsorships are a tricky subject for some, I know. It’s something that I’ve written about before, and I’ve done a lot of sponsored content since then. There was one campaign in particular that I don’t feel was executed well, but it’s something that I’ve learned from, and I feel good about how I’m applying those lessons as I move forward. I am proud of the standards I hold myself accountable to, and proud of the partnerships I’ve worked on.

Sometimes a brand’s sponsorship can be looked at as a commercial at the beginning or end of a post, similar to the way you may see a show “brought to you by XYZ.” In those cases, I’m not required to (or even asked to) write about the brand. The topic may be tangentially related, but the post is then completely up to me. The other type of sponsorships that I’m interested in facilitating are more closely tied to the brand involved, but they would allow for some fun projects. I’d love to do more home makeovers for readers (free of charge to the recipient), but for that to happen, we need a budget. I have other ideas in the works as well, and I’ll be doing my best to make them a reality.

We still have a lot of thinking to do. As I mentioned, Brandon is now on unemployment, and it is a lifeboat for us. Our way forward is unclear right now though. He may get another steady job, and life will return to what we knew as normal for all these years. There is a fantastic local store up for sale and we considered buying it, but unfortunately, the details didn’t fall into place for us.

We’ve talked about reopening Pink Loves Brown, with Brandon running it, or having him contribute more heavily to Making it Lovely. There are benefits to both, but clear drawbacks and concerns as well. If we pursue those options, we would lose the financial stability we used to have, and at the same time, we would need to secure independent health insurance. We would also no longer be able (in good conscience) to receive unemployment benefits, and that would be a further difficulty for us right now.

I do want to thank you all for the support you’ve shown us. Especially as we figure out our direction in the wake of Brandon’s job loss, but before that, too. I want you to know that it’s greatly appreciated. I’m lucky, even in the more difficult times, to have such an amazing community, and to have been able to craft this life with my family.

Teach Me, Teacher

I’m teaching a few classes online for Alt Summit.

I’ve already taught my first, on Growing a Readership, and I’ll be teaching my second this afternoon about Understanding Analytics. Both will be repeated in March in the evening, so there’s still time to sign up if you’re interested. Each class is just $15.

Understanding Analytics
February 23, 11am PST & March 13, 6pm PST
Page views, subscribers, and unique visitors, oh my! Learn what to use and how to use it when it comes to keeping track of your site’s stats.

Growing a Readership
February 9, 11am PST & March 28, 6pm PST
Looking to grow your blog? Of course you are! Learn tips and get concrete steps to grow your readership and create a true community for your site.

I’ll be honest; I do get nervous before these things. I’m introverted and shy! I love talking about the business of blogging though, and I have so much information to share. Really, once I get past seeing my face staring back at me during the class (oh yeah, there’s video), I’m very comfortable. Plus I’ve put together some awesome powerpoint presentations (which is something I never imagined I would be typing), and I’m proud to be partnering with Alt Summit on the whole thing.

Besides, I’m going to pretend you were all listening to this before class. It’s my version of imagining the audience in their underwear; much less intimidating.

The New Site Design

I’ve finally finished the redesign of Making it Lovely!

Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a million and one little tweaks and additions that I’d still like to make, but the changes are ones that don’t impact the overall look and function, so I can add them in over the next few days/weeks.

I do all of my own designing and coding (I used to offer web design as Smart & Lovely), and this time around I built these themes off of Standard Theme for WordPress. It’s been been great to work with. I made a lot of changes visually, and a few changes to the core PHP files, but for the most part it gave me the structure I needed. And as for the pretty? I have Moglea to thank for the custom floral illustrations in the header, and I used a couple of elements from Pugly Pixel as well (the glitter and the honeycomb). The background floral pattern is a licensed image, and the logo and all the rest were done by yours truly.

Hold up, did I say themes in that previous paragraph? Plural? Yep. Remember the whole minimal vs. maximal debate I’d been having in regard to the new design? Jessica left a comment suggesting both with a theme switcher, and that was a genius idea. I’d forgotten that was even a possibility! So the default is the “Lovely” theme, full of pattern, but if it’s a bit much (and it may be), you could choose the “Minimal” theme instead. You can switch between the two themes at the top right, next to the social media links. Everyone wins! *

* Well, everyone will win. Eventually. It’s a bit buggy right now (I’m working on it), but you should be able to switch between the two themes with a hard refresh.

So what’s still to come? More organization of categories on the backend, making the design responsive (resizing to fit smaller screens for the 7% of you that need to scroll left to right a little on the site as it is now), more post layouts for different types of content, fine tuning the sidebar, perhaps adding to the footer, some changes to the social sharing options, and on and on. Good stuff, but not essential to launching. And I’ve been dying to launch, so it feels good to push on ahead, right on schedule.

And now, onward! Onward with bigger pictures, interesting new layouts, and different post formats. Onward with a select few new contributors (soon)! Onward with more content, and more awesomeness. And thank you for your patience as I’ve devoted myself to all of this design work lately. Hopefully you’ll love the new look and everything to come as much as I do.

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