Blog Love: RJ Dancel of The Millennial Panda

Blog Love: RJ Dancel of The Millennial Panda

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This is a guest post by RJ Dancel of Millennial Panda. She is one of the interns here at Make it Blissful, managing our @makeitblissful Instagram account, and also contributing in any way to the community. I immediately clicked with RJ because her blogging path is so similar to mine! Be inspired by this personal essay of hers, her first contribution to the blog. Thanks, RJ!

I got pregnant when I was still in college. Imagine waking up 7:30 am to take your midterms while feeling nauseous, and still recovering from going to a full day of class the day before. Bobby (my boyfriend) and I never expected this to happen. One moment we were partying the night out at one of the hippest EDM concerts in the country, and the next moment we see two lines appear on the pregnancy test. Instead of going to clubs on the weekends, or taking a spontaneous out-of-town trip, I had to stay at home and see my friends enjoy their millennial lives.

Our lives changed forever. My dreams of becoming a corporate drone, of being a full-on career woman, of migrating abroad to pursue further studies — all gone. Bobby was still figuring things out on his own ‘cause of his odd (and stupid) family situation (basically his parents kicked out a year before I got pregnant and has been living under my parents’ roof ever since). I felt so hopeless. I was a graduating pregnant college student living together with her out-of-school boyfriend who solely depended on my parents for support. Imagine how sad that is. Others have it worse, but in my world, I felt like I hit a dead-end.

The moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to step up. Put my dreams on hold, and create a sustainable future for my boys. I strived and graduated with a degree in Management and Philosophy, marching at graduation six months pregnant.

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I took a break and decided to go into freelancing while waiting for our son to be born. I started writing for different companies internationally, and eventually found a local website that I could contribute. Writing was never the vision — but out of necessity and my hidden passion for it, I decided to go for it.

From the moment I graduated (March 2015) until August, I was feeling drained. Tired every night trying to balance the work-at-home mommy life. I never got to go out, never had time for myself, lost time with Bobby. My life literally revolved around writing for others so I could earn for my little family.

One day, one of my closest friends, Adi, gave me this weird idea of starting a passion project for myself. She told me to start a blog. I found the idea funny cause I mean, c’mon, at that point, I was doing so much writing — how the hell could I start a blog and maintain it? Why should I pour my time and effort to something I felt wouldn’t grow? Who would even listen to my stories? I was just a random newbie millennial mom trying to make my way through life and doing damage control for all the problems my family and I have been facing.

Adi then told me, “RJ, you deserve a break. You deserve to do something you could possibly love. Share stories that would inspire people. Share your ramblings on how life is hard. Your life is an inspiration in itself. Imagine, you went through college as a troubled soul with bipolar disorder, destroying anything on your path… and now, after a few years, you’ve grown into this respectable woman — a driven, hardworking mother that hasn’t lost touch of who she is. I don’t even know anyone that we know that can pull off what you accomplished.” 

Her words brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been following bloggers ever since I was high school, and I never thought of doing one because (1) I was insecure with how I wrote, (2) I can’t afford to pour my time to something that wouldn’t produce income for my boys, and (3) I felt like no one would read it.

One night in September, after finishing my online jobs, I logged in to WordPress and created a [crappy] blog site called Mommy Panda Adventures. I wrote my first story on my birthing experience. Unbelievably, people actually read my post. My friends were surprised to see the path I’ve chosen. The path I was unexpectedly put on.

Four months into my newfound life as a work-at-home newbie mom and blogger, I’ve met the best, and most inspiring people I could ever meet, including Martine (who I’ve been following since college). I’ve rebranded into The Millennial Panda after all of the insights and learnings I’ve gathered from all the individuals I look up to (that are now my friends, yay!). My life took an unexpected turn. I made the sacrifices that I had to make in order to secure a future for Bobby and our son. I’m not as sustainable as I want myself to be, but I love what I do.

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It is in this little wins, and humble beginnings in life that I see what makes things… makes life blissful. Despite the issues my family’s still faced with, whenever I write my heart [and mind] away and see my son playing in the corner, I feel utmost joy. I don’t mind missing parties, concerts, impromptu adventures, or drinking ‘til my liver’s gone. I don’t mind hearing my friends telling me, “RJ, you keep on staying at home and missing out on all the fun. Hang out with young people naman.” or “Last night’s drinking shindig was super, it’s a shame you weren’t there.” I think I’ve finally outgrown my young, wild self and transformed into something beautiful — a mother, a writer, an all-around empowered woman.

Don’t worry, it’s not as if I’ve fully deprived myself. I still have fun once in a while. But at the end of the day, I go home to my little boy, and as I watch him fall into slumber, I log into my blog, and write my heart out once again. Things were never planned this way, but its life’s unexpected routes that can turn something seemingly perfect to something imperfect, but blissful.

How about you? What humble beginnings did you go through to achieve something incomparable in this world? What’s your story behind your bliss?

How I make money from a blog that doesn’t have killer traffic

How I make money from a blog that doesn’t have killer traffic

blogging tips for low traffic blogs

I’ve been blogging for about six years now here on Make it Blissful, but my site’s traffic probably wouldn’t impress you. Seriously. A lot of people think I have tons of it, but really I don’t. And frankly, I couldn’t care less. You see, despite my traffic stats (say, 35,000 views, last time I checked), my blog is my full-time job. I can afford to hire an assistant for the blog, and last year I had 40 individual blog clients (coaching, mostly, and less than ten advertisers). That’s one client a week, if you minus the holiday breaks I took and weeks I didn’t work. Half of these were from here in the Philippines, while the other half came from other countries like the U.S., Singapore and some European countries.

MakeitBlissful.com is a regional blog, mostly read in the Philippines, and written in English. It has a 35 percent readership in neighboring Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia, approximately 28 percent readership in the United States, and Australia, and a small fraction in Europe and Canada. Although the blog contains content relatable to readers from anywhere, you’ll see that a number of its features are for women in the Philippines (like some sponsored content). When my readers visit Make it Blissful, they’ll notice that the blog events are within the Philippines, and that many of the small businesses are based here, too.

I’ve got more of an international following on Instagram (@martinedeluna), which also feeds into my blog, but not everyone lands here on Make it Blissful. The international blogging scene is already rather saturated, so it’s not an easy feat to carve out a niche, especially if you want make a living out of it. While I do get international clients for my blog coaching, I get most of my advertising opportunities (sponsored content) from local partners. These efforts, when combined, have been excellent sources of income for me as a blogger, despite not having killer traffic stats to boast of. In fact, I can afford to just have 10 to 20 percent sponsored content on my blog, because I am able to monetize other elements of my blogging.

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Blogging beginnings (and why I know what I’m talking about)

When I first got into blogging — the serious kind, not the angsty-blogging of the early 2000s — I was in a part-time writing job. That was about seven years ago, and I was writing website articles for $5 a pop. Cheap, I know, but I was just starting out, so I would take the jobs that came along. Eventually I was brave enough to apply for a a full-time copywriting job with a digital media company based in Los Angeles. It was my first online job that offered a steady pay check. I basically sealed the job because I used my blog entries as an example of the writing quality I was capable of. 

It was during my time at this particular job that I got hooked on blogs and blogging. I was fascinated by how people could make a living from writing on a personal website. During my time in the company (that’s three years), I worked with mostly women-centric brands, so I would be researching beauty, fashion and lifestyle genres, and what would work for these brands when it came to online marketing. Part of my job was to assess content that worked on blogs and social media platforms, a task that I found fun and exciting (and what eventually became my passion).

Related: Blogging to create a job you love

Eventually, I started to write more niche-targeted articles on my own blog, about how to blog better, or blog meaningfully, with more heart, and so on. I started to see an opportunity regionally — within the Philippines and in Asia — to offer a sideline service on the blog (the blog coaching). After getting client after client during my 2012-2013 year of blogging, I resigned from the digital media company and started to take on my own clients as Make it Blissful, the brand that I had built as a blogger. I didn’t know exactly how much money I was really pulling in, since I was both working and sidelining. But I knew that what I was earning from blog coaching could well replace the regular income I was earning in the digital media company.

It wasn’t easy to get to where the blog is now, but hopefully my story encourages other bloggers to go beyond the usual lifestyle blog template and really make blogging into a job they love. Here are some of my personal tips on how to do this, even if you don’t have loads of traffic. 

How to make money blogging when you don’t have lots of traffic

1.  Be part of a niche, but find your unique offerings within in that niche.

Here in my country, I’m known as a “blog coach.” This line of work isn’t new in the international scene, but locally, no one else was coaching other women on blogging, at least not when I started offering it as a service some years ago. After I finished some intention-coaching and blog training from my mentors Jess Lively and Holly Becker, I identified the need in my community for a blogging resource for bloggers who wanted to brand their blogs. In fact, it was Jess who first advised me to be “the go-to person for women who want to be editors-in-chief of their lives,” which gave me the idea to develop my blog coaching programs.

So I became that go-to person here in the Philippines for women who wanted to become editors-in-chief of their blogs, but also their lives!

When I first began fulltime blog coaching, 2013. I would do it on the side from 2011.

My photo shoot from when I first began full-time blog coaching, 2013.

So yes, think of your niche: lifestyle, products, women, etc. Once you have decided on your niche, find your local angle, too. Think about what kind of blog would target a specific need and go from there to develop services or products that can supply these needs, that can provide solutions.

2. Build local relationships and connections.

Blogging may be an arms length type of platform, but it is the connections you build that make your blog successful. It’s never been more true for a local blog! Find people in your community who have influence (i.e. established bloggers, leaders in the local lifestyle scene, local media, etc.) and partner with them. In my case, collaborated with established blog designers (like my partner Patricia of Fancy Girl Design Studio) who were able to refer me to their clients. I also built relationships with local brands, bloggers and people whom I knew were influential and well-known in my niche. Naturally, these people would talk about or even blog about my blog coaching services on their social media and websites. Think of the value you can offer your local connections and slowly build up your credibility with the help of these connections.

3. Allow people to find you.

SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the most important tools for a local blogger. You can gain a ton of readers through specific searches. In my case, if I want to promote my blog workshops here in Manila, I want to come up on the first page of Google for searches like, “blog workshops in manila”. (See my search results? Make it Blissful shows up at number 1.)

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I make sure I diligently update my blog posts’ SEO fields, before I publish them. I use the All-in-One SEO plugin for WordPress, because it updates regularly with improvements. It’s worked great for me so far. Of course, SEO isn’t a silver bullet that’ll make your blog a money generator, but simple SEO is a standard practice in helping people find you and what you have to offer. Just make sure you stay up to date with the latest trends, as it is an ever-evolving science.

4. Adapt as needed.

When I first started blogging, I had a mommy blog called Dainty Mom. I enjoyed it for a time; however, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain it as a mommy blog in the Philippines. Many of the local mommy blogs were popular because they were by celebrities who were already popular (hence, their blogs were, too). Most were also stuck using the sponsored post business model, which wasn’t really doing it for me since too many sponsored posts took the joy out of blogging. I also began blogging during the “mommy blog boom” of the late 2000’s, so that meant technically competing against 4 million or so blogs, just like mine! And so, I took more blogging courses, business courses online, and I eventually adapted. I went from being a mommy blog to being a women’s inspiration blog

Related: Why Dainty Mom is going to change

It’s important to adapt and be open to changes. You may start your blog thinking you know what to do, but then you’ll get to know your readers more and find out they actually need something totally different. So get to know your readers. Find out what is important to them and to be willing to adapt your blog towards meeting their needs.

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As I write this post today, I’m going on my 6th year as a blogger. I’m not in the league of the Emily Schumans or the Daphne Osena-Paezs out there (two international bloggers I admire). But, I can say that my work as a blogger is paying off. This year Make it Blissful is on its way to becoming a full-service media boutique, offering a range of marketing communication services through the blog, consulting, gatherings (workshops and events), and webinars. I’m excited!

I don’t have the traffic levels of celebrity bloggers, but I’ve managed to create a flexible, work-anywhere job for myself through this blog. Currently, it’s my job that pays our bills. (We’re now a single income family as we build up a new business.). It also allows us to homeschool (or “lifeschool”, as we call it), take trips, and be a bit off-the-grid in our lifestyle choices. It’s a blog that has a bright future, is growing, and most importantly is something I love. I know that the same is possible for other bloggers out there, those who want to create jobs they love out of their blogs. Are you one of them?

What about you? Have you thought about how to possibly make a living from your blog, that’s outside the typical “success model” of more popular blogs? 

 

Why it matters that bloggers gather.

Why it matters that bloggers gather.

blogging workshop in manila

Blogging is never a solitary journey, and is best travelled with like-minded people. Sharing stories via a screen and an Internet connection has never been more typical; exchanging conversations through an online form with a click of a button is almost second nature. For some, blogging is cathartic; for others, it’s even become a way to make a living.

I’m from the latter camp, as you very well know. It’s my third year giving regular blogging workshops, and since the very first blog workshop we had in 2013, the gatherings have evolved: from targeting moms who write, they made a switch and reached a broader audience through the “blissful blogging” series. And I think its the current community of women bloggers, creatives, and storytellers that have had the most impact on me personally as a “workshop blogger.” The ladies who’ve attended my gatherings don’t realize that they’ve taught me more about blogging than I could ever teach in our sessions!

Let me explain.

blogging workshop in manila

“Why hold a blogging workshop?,”  I’ve been asked. 

I know, I get it: Why teach something that is typically a hobby, something done for fun or maybe as a kind of therapeutic outlet? Why bother doing a blog workshop when there isn’t much of a chance for these newcomers to catch up with the frontrunners, the old-timer bloggers who’ve built empires from their following? Why encourage women to think about creating platforms for their thoughts, musings, and messages? What good will it do?

Believe me, I’ve asked these questions to myself and continue to ask them on a regular basis. As someone who encounters both personal and passion (business/niche lifestyle) bloggersI’ve met bloggers who simply keep a blog for pleasure (no business, no money), and those who do want to make some money or a living from blogging. Why do I keep giving the talks I do, about how blogging can help you live a meaningful life? Why does it matter that bloggers gather to talk and learn about blogging? Why not just blog, right?

Let me explain some more.

Related: How blogging can help you live meaningfully

blogging workshop in manila

We need other bloggers who will share in our storytelling. Deanne (of classymusings.com) purposed her blog to be an exercise in femininity and its different aspects. When we did our blog coaching in the latter part of the past year, I was refreshed by the approach she wanted to take as a blogger. It was a breath of fresh air amidst the slew of lifestyle blogs, popular with women in her generation. Her entries on domesticity, on marrying young (she is in her mid-20s), on embracing her new path as a housewife: These are written in essay format, with a ponderous tone, and accompanied by clear, light photos. I feel her creativity unfold each time I stop by.

blogging workshop in manila

We need each other as bloggers  to encourage each other in meaningful work. Such is the case of Rose, whom I met almost two years ago when she attended one of the first workshops I ever had. We’ve become friends since then, and she also launched her blog, Life Begins, as an exploration into elderly care and the vocation of caring, its joys, its trials and its rewards. The blog is undergoing a quiet reinvention (which is why she was at the workshop last weekend), but despite its hiatus, it still speaks of what is closest to Rose’s heart as the designated caregiver of her elderly mother.

blogging workshop in manila

As bloggers, we gather and share our current life stages with one another, in a fun and real way. This is what I enjoy about RJ’s newish blog, Mommy Panda Adventures. It’s the first blog I’ve ever read by a true to form “millennial mom,” and RJ is an apt and eager blogger to begin with. I really feel that she has embraced this new world of motherhood, because of the energy she puts into her blog, as well as her work as a freelance writer. In many ways, I see a lot of myself in her, and even her blogging journey mirrors mine. It’s the “relate-ability”, the empathy in telling our real-life stories that makes blogging a powerful connector to readers who can share our journeys.

blogging workshop in manila

We can help each other, as bloggers, make things happen. For bloggers like Steph and Chrissy, the desire to blog as a creative outlet is strong. Both working women —one with a high-powered career, the other a full-time working mom—, their purpose for blogging is to write from their unique perspectives. In my recent blog coaching calls with them, their individual passions shone through, and along with these their respective goals in life and how blogging could meaningfully be a thought process or community-building tool to help them reach those goals.

blogging workshop in manila

For the recent Blissful Blogging Workshop (dubbed “State of the Blog”), our group talked about how much blogging has changed, which trends are making it big in 2016, and what each of us is willing to put into our respective platforms. Clearly, our group had a lot of questions to consider: Will I video blog? Will I keep things unmonetized? Am I willing to put the work into it regularly? Should I keep on going on just stop?

We had a blog critique portion where everyone self-assessed their blogs, and then created action steps for each of our blogs (which was followed-through with a Skype call with me, one-on-one). As the ladies shared their plans and thoughts one by one, the unifying intention was to take blogging back and keep it meaningful for ourselves, whether we did it purely for pleasure or to create a job we love doing. Because in the end, why would we settle for anything less? Why would we put effort into a platform, a message, a discipline to blog if we didn’t find meaning in it?

blogging workshop in manila

blogging workshop in manila

Thanks also to La Creperie for hosting us. (Fact: We began these blogging workshops here in the San Juan branch in 2013). These women are a great bunch, and the time we had for conversations and the workshop was just right to get our energies flowing, in support of one another and our respective blogging journeys. I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout!

Thanks to Amber, Steph, Missy, RJ, Rose, Chrissy, and Deanne, for making it to this intimate gathering. Like I said: I learned a lot from you, perhaps even more than I attempted to “teach” during the workshop. Hugs, and til our next get-together.

blogging workshop in manila

For more information on the latest Blissful Blogging Workshops and our other Make it Blissful Workshops, please subscribe to our Make it Blissful Newsletter, and make sure you bookmark our Workshops page.

Do you have a ‘personal’ or a ‘passion’ blog?

Do you have a ‘personal’ or a ‘passion’ blog?

Personal blogs vs niche blogs

Hello! It’s Tuesday, and each week this day I’ll be writing about anything related to blogging. After reading through the responses from our recent reader survey, “blogging topics” were the number 1 subject matter requested by most of you. So I’ll be coming out with a blogging-themed article every Tuesday, as much as possible. Wish me luck!

This week, I wanted to talk about the difference between two types of “blogging niches” that I see a lot of online. For purposes of this article, I’ve divided these into two types: “Personal blogs” and “passion blogs.” If you take up my Blissful Blogging Workshops, you’ll know that I often begin the workshop with examples of these two types of blogs.

I asked some of the Blissmakers their definitions of personal blogs and passion blogs. Here’s what they said:

Personal blogging is more like a journal or diary, … And I think that’s how most of us bloggers started out? — Tina Rodriguez of Truly Rich and Blessed

Personal blogging is similar to journal writing. It’s a creative outlet, a means to sort out your thoughts and make sense of life events, both mundane and special. It’s exploratory in nature. — Vanessa Salas of Shed, Mom

Personal blogs are public journals.

It’s this quality that brought us to blogs in the first place. We love reading stories about ordinary people, stories we could relate with. We enjoy seeing the creative processes of other bloggers. We like knowing what they’re going through. I remember loving the very up close and personal blog posts by Writing WishingThese Little WavesMommy Shorts and Design Mom; these were some of my favorite mommy blogs in my early days of blogging. They were moms, just like me, sharing their journeys with me in a way that made me feel connected to them. They shared everything, and let their feelings out in every post, and that gave me some sort of satisfaction whenever I’d stop by and read a post.

Rants… raves… anecdotes… brain farts… That’s personal blogging.

So, how is “personal blogging” different from “passion blogging”?

When I attended Erin Loechner’s workshop “Blog Better Best” in Singapore, the subject of “over sharing” on our blogs came up in the discussion. Some in the class expressed concerns about how much of their personal lives needed to be shared on their blogs, and Irene Hoofs of Bloesem gave a very sobering and poignant answer: “You don’t need to share anything personal on your blog if you don’t want to.” In Irene’s case, her famous blog Bloesem is dedicated to interiors, decor and style. She chooses not to write about the personal lives of her family, and her blog is perfectly fine. Bloesem provides its audience with passionate content about interiors, decor and style. And it keeps it that way, and her readers respect that.

Which brings us to what makes “passion blogging” different:

Passion blogging is more of blogging for one’s self and for others… writing about topics you’re passionate about because you want to help or serve others, and not just to say how you feel or share what happened to you. — Tina Rodriguez of Truly Rich and Blessed

Passion blogging has a specific purpose, a clear goal. That objective dictates the tone and direction of your posts. It can be personal, too, but it’s informed and superseded by an overall objective, or whatever it is you’re passionate about. — Vanessa Salas of Shed, Mom

Passion blogging can be focused on what the blogger can give to the readers (driven by what he is passionate about) — Denise Rayala of Royal Domesticity

A “passion blog” deals with a specific niche, and doesn’t focus mainly a blogger’s personal life.

I’ve shared before about how Make it Blissful is not a purely personal blog anymore. When I first started it as Dainty Mom, it was. I’d be sharing stories about my days as a mom, and it enjoyed a regular following, even a steady stream of brand partners and sponsors. But then I realized I didn’t want it to be a totally personal blog.

Instead, I wanted to make the blog “in sync” with my life & work, instead of it just being a diary that I blasted out into the world. I wanted to write more informatively on blogging-related content, because that is my passion, my inclination. I knew I couldn’t sustain the traditional lifestyle blogger lifestyle, because I don’t like going to events or launches so much (unless I super like the brand, and I only really like a few). Nor did I have the time to write my daily ramblings as a mom, because I was too busy being a mom!

Related: Why I’ll never be a rich lifestyle blogger

Since I am a writer, I believe that my writing is good and also has value, and a blog being a written platform could be more than just a hobby for me. So I transitioned Make it Blissful to be a blog about blogging, with a little bit of my personal life shared here and there when I felt like it. Through this blog, I offer my Services, help reader start their own blogs, and create events.

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Does it make me “less of a blogger” now that I don’t make this a personal blog? No. Like I said in another post, a blog is what you make it. It can be a meaningful expression of your business, or it can be a place where you just process your thoughts, as Vanessa said earlier. It can be a full-time job if you want it to be, or an online playground where you don’t do anything serious, just have fun and relax. I don’t share my day-to-day ramblings anymore, but this is still my blog. It just has a different approach. Lately, I’ve been working to share more personal insights and happenings in our family, and then tying it up with one of the core messages of the blog, because I believe that a blog can be about both your personal life & passions/business. At least, that’s what I aim to achieve for my blog.

Is your blog both?

In my opinion, some of the most effective blogs out there are those that are niche-specific blogs that are still able to capture the heart of their readers. They can be —

  • business blogs that tell engaging stories, including those of vulnerability, of learning, of trials (and of course, conquests and successes) Recommended article: Why storytelling matters
  • design blogs that don’t just report on trends but also involve readers into the “heart” of the blogger (not necessarily their private lives);
  • lifestyle blogs that don’t just create an unrelatable picture of an “ideal” life, but who intersperse their content with more “heartfelt” posts on a regular basis.

Because blogging is evolving, being relatable to our readers is still what will keep this medium from completely dying out. (Related: Blogging, the new year, and how to stay) As readers get more picky with how they choose to receive content; as social media influencers churn out fast-paced lifestyle updates; blogging will still be about great storytelling and compelling insights. Next to social media platforms like Instagram, blogs will still be the number one destination for those looking for in-depth articles, for those looking more a more meaty experience online. Why do you think Huffington Post is so popular? Yep, because it is actually one big, multi-contributor-powered blog!

Hopefully this gave you a bit of insight into the difference between a purely personal/diary-type blog, and a niche blog.  What about you? Do you write a ‘personal’ blog or a ‘passion’/niche-focused blog? What are your thoughts about the different types?

Blog Love: Audrey Angcos of Cheerful Journey

Blog Love: Audrey Angcos of Cheerful Journey

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Welcome to another Blog Love edition, where I feature women who have found their bliss through blogging. Let me start off 2016 with one of our own #blissmakers’ blogs: Say hello to Audrey Angcos of the blog, A Cheerful Journey. She was one of my clients last year, but we became good friends, and eventually, she became one of the Make it Blissful collaborators through the Blissmakerie. Get to know what makes her truly cheerful, in today’s feature.

1.  Tell us a bit about yourself, as a woman. Let us get to know you better!

Hello! I’m Audrey. I work full time at the Senate of the Philippines. Aside from my 8:00a.m to 7:00p.m. work, I also serve as one of the board members of the Reading Association of the Philippines. This organization helps promote literacy all over the Philippines. I also blog at cheerfuljourney.com. I love to explore and learn. I want to achieve my full potential as a person. I love beautiful and dainty things.

I was raised in a conservative and loving family. Growing up, my parents always remind me not to compare or compete with anybody. Rather, I should become a better person by competing with myself.

I was trained to give my best in everything that I do. Lately, I discovered that I love to organize meaningful events. It started with the Blissful Blogging workshop that I co-organized last June 2015. Then I became one of Martine’s collaborators on the first public Blissmakerie last September 2015. Then I organized the ‘Make it Blissful with Luminisce” event last November 2015 and the “Skinvestors’ Treat” came last December 2015. Those events are just proofs how God blessed me with the right people, the right situation, and the right determination.

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Whenever I have the time, I do arts and crafts, sing, or read self-help books. I also love trying new restaurants and whenever I’m at home, I am fond of experimenting with new recipes.

2. How did you come to start a blog of your own and why?

I started blogging in 2011 by accident – or let me say it was a coincidence. I love writing poems. However, when I lost my notebooks that contain my original compositions (because of flood), I decided to start a blog where I could put my poems. I initially use a free wordpress domain (sentimentsfromtheheart.wordpress.com). It was a pleasant surprise when my blog started to gain readers. Then I started to get invitations to do product reviews and restaurant reviews. Then last March 2015, I re-launched my blog as cheerfuljourney.com.

3. Tell us what you think is special or valuable about your blog.

I created cheerfuljourney.com with the intention for it to be an oasis on the daily hustle and bustle of life for normal people like me. I want to help others see the beauty of life that no matter what situation we are in, there is a silver lining that we need to see that would help us to keep going.

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I believe that life is a journey. With the saying “Life is like a coin, you can spend it in any way you want, but you can only spend it once” my mantra goes, “Life is a journey and we only have a one way ticket. Hence, we better make it a cheerful journey.”

This lifestyle blog is an amalgamation of authentic and genuine reflections, product and restaurant reviews, events, adventures, and creative pursuits.

4. What comes to mind, for you, when you think of “bliss”, as a blogger? What makes blogging “blissful” for you?

As a blogger, bliss happens when I was able to impart positivity and good will to my readers. My blog is a combination of serious and light articles.

Blogging is not that easy. However, when readers take the time to write or send me an email to let me know how my blog made a difference in their lives or how my blog helped them get through a hard day, then that makes my blogging really blissful!

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5. What are some lessons you’ve learned so far as a blogger? Can you share some with us?

As a blogger you need to know your intention on why you are blogging – you need to have the right intention. Why? Because there are times when you get tired and ask yourself why do you blog, you will go back to your mantra, to your intention, and that will keep you going.

Just like in life, before you do something or make a decision, your need to know your intention for doing certain things or making certain decisions. Life is not a bed of roses, there are bumps and antagonists along the way. However, if you are at peace with yourself and your Creator, no one and no situation can pull you down. Rather, you will use those bumps and negativities to strengthen you as a person, which will eventually make you achieve your full potential.

6. What do you have planned (or in your dreams) down the road for your blog?

Oh, I am such a dreamer! I want to improve my blogging skills. I want my blog readers to look at my blog as an oasis where they could get positivity and authentic reviews, where they could learn and gain friends and be in a positive community.

I want my blog to come to life through meaningful and intentional events in accordance to the different facets of my blog. I know that I still have a long way to go but as I said, we only have a one way ticket in this life’s journey, I would dare to dream, and work on making those dreams come true.

Connect with Audrey! Follow her on her Instagram accounts @audreyangcos and @cheerfuljourney

For those who still believe in blogging…

For those who still believe in blogging…

bring back your blog to life

Remember the Essena Oneill “social-media-is-evil” controversy that happened a couple months back? (And most recently, her emotional response to the backlash she received, just posted today on several news sites.) Or how about the blog sabbatical of long-time blog couple Young House Love, because they felt that the blog had taken over real life? Or the stories of other bloggers who’ve experienced blogger burnout in the last few years?

As someone who is around blogs 24-7 because of my work, I have to understand the root causes of these “blogger deaths” and the abrupt goodbyes of so-called “social media influencers.” I also know that many pro-bloggers have been talking about the changes in blogging for 2016, the relevance of blogs (are they dying, are they being read), blah, blah…

The truth is: Blogging could be dead to some people.

Related read: Slow blogging in a hurried world

The main reason why a lot of people have stopped caring about blogs is because bloggers stopped caring about their readers. They evolved to more sophisticated content styles, sometimes alienating readers. Sponsored content changed blogging, for everyone across the niches. Social media amplified it further, and served content like fast food, to alarmingly peer-pressure type levels. (Hello, who’s pressured upon pressured to take a more awesome #flatlay than the one you saw two hours ago — Am I right? I know, I’ve dealt with this shit before!)

Still, despite these changes, I believe that blogging is still a top notch platform, especially for readers seeking more in-depth, solid information and entertainment. But truthfully, a lot of the “soul” has been missing from blogs, and we need it back. Yes, we have to keep up with the technical changes (e.g., using social media to support blog posts) but not at the expense of our “blog soul,” our authentic voice.

So to start the blog year afresh, here are my personal insights on how we can still love our blogs, love our readers, and go back to a more simple, happy habit of blogging from the heart.

1. Just be you.

In my work as a blog coach, I spend a lot of time with clients on the subject of personal branding. It sounds so official and business-like, but what we really take up during our personal branding lessons is, simply, “How are you going to be yourself for those who come to your blog?” Knowing yourself is key to a blog that will thrive and grow with you, your seasons, your life stages. If your blog isn’t something that will add purpose to your life and give back to others, then what’s the point, what’s the motivation behind it?

Think about it. The most successful blogs are those that have withstood the test of time, sponsors, brand partnerships and fame. These blogs have managed keep on speak to the hearts of their readers. They are those who have been able to thrive amidst the onslaught of savvy, socially-chic blogs. (My long time personal favorites still are Sweet Juniper, Girls Gone Child, and local blogs like Wifely Steps and Topaz Horizon.)

Look at your blog and think: Is it still you? Do you still love what you’ve been creating? Or are you trying to be someone else?

Which brings me to my next piece of advice…

2. Stop reading other blogs (for a while).

I’ve had to go on “blog fasts” from time to time. Sometimes it’s the comparison trap, the envy monster, the insecurity bug that keep us from being our real selves as bloggers. Maybe you’re a DIY blogger who salivates at Sugar & Cloth and aches to be like A Pair & a Spare; or you’re a cooking blogger who wishes you could kill a blog post like The Pioneer Woman or Local Milk. Perhaps you’re a lifestyle blogger who wants “to be just like Cupcakes & Cashmere“, but you get frustrated that you’re, well, just not her and can never be her, or like Design for Mankind (double-sigh).

I’ll be the first to tell you that “blogger envy” is something I deal with every.single.day, because of my job. I see so many awesome blogs out there! For a time, I was wishing I was just a fraction of all of these awesome blogs, and then I realized something: I was so caught up wanting to be like them, I forgot to be me. 

My simple solution sometimes is to avoid reading other blogs for a while. Cut the source of the envy, the comparison, and just write, just reflect, just be alone, or even go offline.

Maybe you need to do a “blog fast,” too. What will you do with that time? Well, read, reflect, maybe journal, take up a new hobby, do yoga— anything — just find something else to enrich yourself with.

Related: Can blogging be meaningful? (A 4-part free writing workshop on creating an inspired blog)

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3. KonMari your blog and find your bliss.

I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up twice, and am still working up to the big purge in our home (which I will get done this first quarter!). Why not apply it to the blog, too?

The key factor and the “magic formula” that Kondo proposes when discarding things is:

“Does it spark joy?”

If something doesn’t spark joy in you, says Kondo, then it probably has no business in your home, your life, so discard it and throw it away. I’d say the same for blogging! I know of friends who have purposely purged their blogs of negative posts that made them unhappy or reminded them of things they probably ought not to have blogged. There are other bloggers (myself included) who have re-organized categories on their blogs, so that readers could have an easier time reading and finding relevant articles. Still others who stopped writing sponsored content because they didn’t want to deal with brand requirements and dictates.

Perhaps there are parts of your blog that no longer spark joy? Maybe the design doesn’t inspire you to blog your best, or there are topics that you no longer feel like writing about? Maybe you want a whole makeover of your blog and just need the push to go for it? (And for some, maybe you need to take a break or even quit?) Sit back, take a good look, and ask yourself these questions. Who knows? You might even find something new to blog about.

4. Take your blog back.

I experienced “sponsorship paralysis” twice on this blog, sometime between 2011 and 2012, and then just mid this year, when I wasn’t blogging about anything much but had to fulfil my sponsored post commitments with my blog agency. I’ve already told you what took up most of my year: Krista, my husband losing a job, us having to move, etc. I actually could have blogged what I was feeling during these times but I didn’t have the energy anymore! That’s why it seemed like I was just blogging about events, brand partners and work. I paused with the heart-powered blog posts and I kept to myself a lot, and understandably so.

And yet, the blog still remained strong, good enough to be nominated as one of the Philippines’ top Parenting sites in the 2015 Influence Asia Awards in Singapore. The workshops were well attended, the events were in-demand…. but I had stopped writing!

I feel like I have to warm my engine again, you know? And well, now that I’ve somehow found a rhythm to family, work and blogging (it only took me 11 months to figure it out, haha!), my goal is simple: To take my blog back. Back from the limbo it’s been on for months, back from brands, back from mere reportage. I’ve got to go back to what makes this blogging journey blissful: Community. Connecting with readers. Giving out virtual hugs and pats on the back through the posts. You know, stuff that made you love it in the first place.

Sure, sponsored content still has its space, but it should still uplift and make you guys feel good, not just tick off a brand’s requirements. (At one point this year, I even had to tell my blog agent, “I don’t need to do all these sponsored posts! I’m happy not doing them, you see?” Of course, I still accept a handful, but I’m very, very picky… after all, it’s my blog, my voice on the line!)

Are you like me? Do you need to take your blog back, too?

We can do it together by remembering our reasons and motivations for blogging. My motivations are simply my family and our life. At this point, its the efforts of the blog — my coaching clients for blog coaching, my services for social media, my blog workshops and gatherings — that are my family’s bread and butter. By taking care of the blog and making it meaningful, I’m saying “thank you” to you guys on behalf of my family.

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Whew, all that was hard to write! Sure, I help and coach women on how to improve their blogs, but I am a lifelong learner, and am always learning new things myself! I needed to start 2016 on this note. This blog — even though it is successful in many small ways — is imperfect, still makes mistakes, still fumbles up a lot. Make it Blissful — even Dainty Mom, back when I began — has always been about “delighting in the imperfect” but being inspired nonetheless. It is obviously a business now, since the blog creates income for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s “not personal, it’s business” (yes, a Godfather reference!).

The blog is still my joy, my bliss. It went awry for a time, along with loads of failures last year… but I still love blogging and always will.

I’m going back to that. Would you like to come along with me? 

A challenge:

Leave a comment below OR write a blog post (if you can or want to) about one of these points above. Which one do you feel you need to do so that you can find your joy in blogging again? Write about it (link back here if you want to blog about it), and let’s talk! You can also join in our discussions on Facebook at the Make it Blissful Bloggers Group.

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A quick announcement: By the way, next week, I’ll be having my first Blog Workshop for the year — after a loooong hiatus! You can find details about that in the Workshops page, if you want to join. Just look for the link that says “State of the Blog” workshop. Hope to see some of you guys there.