Honoured to be featuring Ms Polka from Polka Dot Bride. She has been a long time supporter of Blog Chicks, and spent a lot of time at #1 on the old Blog Chicks Top 100 list. She is one of Australia’s top bloggers, coming from a blogspot blog started as a hobby, to a business employing 5 staff.
When did you start your blog?
Polka Dot Bride was started in January 2007
Why did you start blogging?
At the time, I loved all the new and different wedding inspiration in Australia and wanted to share my finds. I actually started blogging in 1998 on a completely different platform, prior to Polka Dot Bride I had a blog where I would paste all kinds of things like wedding readings, theming ideas, flowers I loved!
Describe your blog in 20 words or less
Polka Dot Bride is an Australian wedding blog dedicated to helping couples create a wedding that is uniquely theirs.
What are your 5 must have tools for blogging
If we’re talking outside the computer – my ever trusty notebook for my to do’s (because I have never been able to move to a digital version), my laptop, my camera, my iphone (for all that instagramming and spam filtering on the go) and plenty of candles!
For computer-based tools – WordPress, Google Analytics, Evernote, 37Signals (their project management and CRM software) and Xero are all essential for me.
What is your favourite part of being a blogger?
I love telling the stories, I love the interaction with readers and while sometimes I feel I have a love/hate relationship with it, I love learning about media and publishing and figuring out the path we will take as a blog and a business. I love that it’s all new territory and we’re all creating the story as we go.
What would be the biggest thing you have learnt since starting your blog?
I don’t think I ever stop learning big enormous things that I wished I learned from the beginning! From huge big thoughts like treating everyone with respect (because you never know who you are talking to and who they talk to and what affect that might have on your business), to basics like how to use my camera out of ‘auto’ mode.
If you could start again, what would you do differently?
I think I’d get tech savvy from the get go. I started on Blogspot with no idea of how to insert a header (in those days, you had to do HTML). When I moved to WordPress, I installed on a /wp subdomain because I didn’t know better. Knowing basic technology really helps lay your foundation.
Knowing when to hire has always been a struggle for me – I wish I had done it earlier on every account. It’s really hard to find the right people and it is incredibly scary to give over parts of your business, but on every occasion it has helped us move forward. Our latest employee has freed up time to allow us to do our own shoots and content which is something I have been dreaming of for years.
What has been your blog’s biggest achievement?
I think every day is an achievement to be honest. For starters we have a wonderful team and the fact the blog supports them that amazes me.
Every time we help a vendor to book a wedding they adore because someone found them via our site. Every time a bride or groom finds their ultimate vendor and tells me about it. The emails we get from couples who started out overwhelmed in quiet desperation, and slowly found their way, inspired by the stories we tell.
What do you find is the best way to help promote your blog?
Good question! I haven’t actively promoted the site in a long time. I think my main focus is on creating strong content. I post 12 times a week on the main site and together with contributors we have about 20 posts go up on our specialty sites a week- that in itself has been key to our growth.
I think though, the main thing is noticing what is going on around me – watching out for fantastic new wedding businesses, stalking Instagram and finding insanely talented people and then interaction. For me, interaction is always a key on any medium.
What advice would you have for new chick bloggers?
Build your blog with solid foundations! By this I mean, find your voice, get your rhythm and your blog together and figure out who you are before you monetize and start clamoring for advertisers.
I think it’s easy to start selling ads, but there is a lot to be said for finding your footing, getting into your rhythm with fantastic content and working hard to find a readership – readers are the key. Without this – your advertisers won’t be repeat customers because the foundation just isn’t there.
Do you (or do you plan to) make any income from your blog?
I do make money. Polka Dot Bride currently employs five people plus project based contractors. This was not a goal I ever set out with and it took ten months before I introduced advertising, for a few years it was merely pocket change, enough to keep the site afloat.
What future goals do you have for your blog?
What goals don’t I have? My limitation is time!
I’d love to continue producing our own content, which has been possible for us this year with our latest team member. I’m looking forward to continuing develop the ideas we have around that.
We have so many ideas up our sleeve with expansion of the site and functionality – so I’d love to invest decent hours to really move forward!
What is your all time favourite post that you would love people to read?
I love our red lip series because it was the first in house shoot that we really worked hard to produce. I love the idea of marrying our incredible vendors, with incredible products, on real people providing inspiration and help to our readers.
What is your most popular post (in number of comments, or traffic received)?
Our tissue paper pom pom tutorial – I loved the Martha Stewart version but found using Australian materials it wasn’t working out for me, so I reinterpreted it using Australian resources and a few shortcuts. Needless to say these come out a lot!
Our wedding venue resources are always a hit and this one on rustic wedding venues hit on a time when couples were looking for exactly that!
Who are your 5 favourite chick bloggers and why?
Lucy Feagins of The Design Files -A pioneer in Australian blogging who has insane crazy ideas and pulls it off with grace and kindness.
Tina Roth of Swissmiss – Tina always finds the most incredible stuff that is useful, stylish or how did I ever live without that?
Emma Steedman of She Sews Seeds – Emma wrote some gorgeous DIY projects for us while she was planning her wedding so she has a special place in my heart. For her honeymoon with her husband – they spent a year jackaroo-ing around Australia and I’ve been following her blogs since then. Now they live on the Limestone Coast and I adore reading Emma’s adventures.
Jen Jones I Heart Organizing – I’m on a an organising kick lately and this blog is all about making the most of the space you have and doing it in a fun way,
Heidi of Apples Under My Bed – I love Heidi’s take on food and cooking. Cosy blogs are my favourite and Heidi’s is always one to make me feel snug and like I want to bake an apple pie.