What I brought home from Allume ~ Survey Says

Last fall you might remember I went to a blogging conference. For me, the highlights of that conference were meeting online friends and acquaintances; bunking with Jamie, visiting with my dear friend Emily, traveling somewhere different, and learning more about better blogging.

I call it better blogging because the focus of the conference was very much about blogging with integrity and attention to our real life relationships as wives and mothers. Allume is a Christian women's blogging conference and the vast majority of attendees are married mamas.

I loved the atmosphere of that conference. I loved the speakers. I loved rubbing shoulders with big name bloggers like Darren Rowse of Problogger and Tsh Oxenreider from Simple Mom.

I want to be a better blogger and I want to earn money from my online endeavors. I went to Allume, in part, to learn more how to do that. And I went to hang out with women who understand why I love blogging so much.

(Bloggers go to blog conferences for a whole bunch of reasons. There was a definite "how to get published/publish your own book" theme at Allume but that's not where I'm at right now so that didn't interest me as much.)

After three nights and two intense days of fabulous eating, great keynote sessions, note taking and networking, late night desserts at the hotel restaurant, and hanging with friends old and new, I knew the direction I wanted to go. I knew where I needed to spend my precious blogging energy (it is overwhelming when you start to think about all the things you can and should do to be a better blogger.)

I came home from Allume, with a commitment in my head and heart, to nurture the community of people that already exist around this blog - this wee little corner of the web that, for various reasons, attracts a small following of readers.

(My bathroom has nothing to do with this post. I just like this simple, clean photo.)

What I brought home from Allume

I came home from Allume with a desire to serve you. To meet your needs in a way that only FIMBY can. I came home from Allume with a renewed commitment to honest, open and beautiful writing and photography.

I came home wanting to grow as a writer, not so that someday I will be "published", but so that today I can give my best to FIMBY readers.

I came home remembering that my family, my marriage, my life are my first priorities and anything good I accomplish here will flow from that.

For a while I was concerned about "growing FIMBY" but Allume set me straight on that one. I was convicted that if I spend too much time looking outward trying to woo and gain new readers I wouldn't have the energy to serve those people who are already coming here. People like you.

This is a delicate balance because Damien and I are self-employed online entrepreneurs. We are supporting our family through computer related work - programming, writing, digital products, advertising and affiliates. FIMBY is only one of our online endeavors.

While at Allume, I had the chance to speak with Darren Rowse, of Problogger and Digital Photography School fame. Damien and I have followed Darren's online journey for many years - admiring and envying his success (and learning a lot about blogging and photography also).

Darren knows and works with a lot of bloggers, big and small. He is the Problogger and he knows his stuff. He encouraged me that I don't have to be big to be successful. He knows this from personal experience with other bloggers. He might be big but that is not a pre-requisite for success.

Success is a totally subjective word and I tend to avoid it for that reason. I know what successful family life looks like and successful homeschooling, but what does successful blogging and online entrepreneurship look like? I think people need to make their own definitions so here's mine:

Success is doing work I am uniquely skilled and gifted for; connecting with people and meeting a need in their lives; being financially compensated for that work so I can contribute to our family's goal to live an adventurous, experience rich life focused on relationships. "Big" has nothing to do with it. My goal is not to reach the maximum number but to meet the needs of those around me already.

That is what I brought home from Allume.

There is a community of people around FIMBY. As much as I love writing for my personal need to write, Allume really nailed home the message (to me at least, I don't know that it was an overarching conference theme) the importance of serving others in this work.

Financially, this only makes sense. There is an exchange of value (money) for goods (services and/or products) around people's needs. And as I stumble my way around this, I need feedback to help me know what your needs are and how I might meet those. Some people call this understanding your market, I call it understanding a community. Answering the questions What do you need? How can I help? this is the direction I want to take my work. My coaching, ebooks, courses, audio teaching, etc.

Survey Says

And so now I'd like to thank you. Your responses to my call for help floored me. The poll responses didn't surprise me so much. I had a gut feeling about what FIMBY readers (especially the homeschooling mamas) want and need. What astounded me was the sheer number of responses and the comments you wrote.

I used a free online survey service to generate and collect your responses. But what I didn't realize is the survey is free up until 100 responses. You went well over that limit, but I am happy to pay the onetime upgrade fee to read and learn from what you had to say.

And here's the dominant theme so far of what you had to say - you have specific needs, but you also have time and resource constraints. I get that.

I have the experience, heart, and skill to meet those needs and I have the creative capacity to work within your constraints.

And that's not all, the community at FIMBY wants me to succeed in my endeavors as much as I want to see you succeed in your homeschooling and life endeavors. This is a mutual thing, a relationship, and that's what I want to build. What a wonderfully supportive and kind group of people you are. (Of course there were some negative comments but even those were written constructively and I can learn from those also.)

I would love to develop products (in your price range) to meet your needs, while keeping FIMBY what it is - a beautiful, honest, and inspiring personal blog. I.e. I don't want FIMBY to be an ad, product driven blog anymore than you want it to be that.

I don't claim to be an expert on all things, but there are some things I know, and that I know well: growing strong relationships with your family and building an enthusiastic and exciting learning environment out of those relationships; having the courage to do your own thing; finding and fighting for joy and freedom in family life; living an adventure and creating a life that inspires you and your kids; encouraging your children (and yourself) to grow and develop personal passions and gifts.

All of these, and more, I know I can support and teach. (Some of you want me to sell soap. Sorry, I've discovered that kind of work doesn't bring me joy, but I'm happy to support other soap sellers. And teaching outdoors adventure stuff? Damien and I are working on that together but it's a slow go because our own adventures take a lot of our time. Oh, and I'm tired of ebook bundles too.)

So thank you for your feedback. Thank you for your encouragement and your honesty. Thank you for reading and being patient with me as I figure this out.

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  • Jessica

    Jessica on March 13, 2013, 6:14 p.m.

    I'm delurking for a moment to say something about a "three level" system that I read about a long time ago from the blog The Fluent Self (which unfortunately, I can't seem to locate at the moment in order to be able to link for you) Basically the concept is that you should have a number of different "commitment levels" for your services.

    For example: You will probably sell more $5 ebooks than $500 or $5000 conferences, but as people get to know you (your blog / your content) they may feel more comfortable moving up the scale. I know blogs that I like but I would never go to a conference for but I would buy a first level ebook or a second level physical book from. I know blogs that I started with the smaller first level stuff and now love their (third level) real world offerings. I know blogs that I bought first level stuff from without first following their blogs and totally regretted it.

    YMMV, but I hope there's some useful for you in this comment :)


  • Angela - texassky

    Angela - texassky on March 14, 2013, 2:13 p.m.

    Still loving this blog. It's chock-full of useful information. I was introduced to a bigger blog through yours. That being the simple mom blog. Regardless, I have always come back to your web corner to get grounded and centered. I mean not to put pressure on you by telling you this, only to compliment you! Good luck in your endeavors and for what's to come.

    BTW: I love the cleanliness of your bathroom. Being a soap maker, what kind of cleaners do you use to disinfect germy corners of your physical home?


    • renee

      renee on March 14, 2013, 10:36 p.m.

      Thanks Angela. I use a bio-friendly, phosphate free, made in Quebec (did I cover all my bases?) dishsoap. The same soap we use for washing our dishes. I prefer Dr. Bronners peppermint all in one castille soap, but I can't find it locally and it's just so much more expensive to order online than when I lived in the states.  I also use a vinegar and water spray for the mirrors and taps. And borax or baking soda for scrubbing.  I never think about cleaning in terms of dis-infecting, we're not a germophobe household and I actually think we may be healthier that way. (We don't eat meat so our kitchen is free of those usual concerns with food safety.) I feel I have to add that disclaimer since some people are very concerned about micro-organisms, and would not use dishsoap to clean the toilet. (ha, ha!) I'm not sure what you're supposed to use exactly to clean the toilet? I never did understand why there should be a toilet cleaner, a counter cleaner, a dish cleaner, etc. Aren't they all kind of the same thing? I think "bathroom" cleaner, "kitchen" cleaner, "floor" cleaners are mostly marketing strategies to sell a bunch of products people don't need.  Wow. That's a long answer to your question. I guess I feel the need to clarify why I only use dishsoap for my bathroom (smile). It's kind of embarrassing, like I'm breaking the "happy homemaker cleaning rules" or something.


      • Anonymous

        Anonymous on March 18, 2013, 5:37 p.m.

        I saw this and had to comment. The part about why so many cleaners...I actually asked this question from the company president for a leading natural cleaning brand and he told me its actually just because of marketing! Just as you assumed. He told me that people also want those things because they are used to those things in non natural cleaners. He told me the all purpose cleaner is basically the same but diluted differently. I just use the all purpose, vinegar, and baking soda. Easy, cheap and easy to store too.


  • Beth

    Beth on March 14, 2013, 4:54 p.m.

    You are a wise woman, Renee. I've been a quiet observer here but you remind me to stick with what works for me and my family. Thank you for sharing!


  • Kika

    Kika on March 14, 2013, 5:11 p.m.

    Thank you for caring about those of us that that are already here and who love and benefit from your work. I always have this negative reaction to people or organizations that focus on "bigger is better". It always makes me feel like I am devalued as an individual. This holds for churches, for blogs, even for friendships. I'm drawn to smaller communities because I feel I have a voice there and when things get too big, too impersonal, I'm gone. I do wish you great success, on your own terms. I pray you continue to grow in vision and clarity of your own strengths and giftings and how to minister to your circle of influence within these areas. I pray you and your family would prosper, even as your soul prospers. xoxo


  • Brittany

    Brittany on March 15, 2013, 3:13 a.m.

    Hi Renee,

    Just popping in from my corner of the world (sunny Southwest Florida) to say thank you, thank you, thank you for the gift of your writing. I've commented once before and said that if I'd ever had a sister, I'd want her to be you! I am a homeschooling mom to two young boys (just turned 7 and almost 3) and my days are rewarding, but often quite tiring (and sometimes end in tears). I've been very blessed by reading about your days at home and quite honestly, the glimpse of life with older kids gives me so much joy about what is to come with my boys. I hope my comment doesn't sound too sappy... but I've found it hard to make true, close friends in real life since becoming a stay-at-home mama, and your blog is one of the "friendly" stops I make each day to connect my soul with others in my shoes.

    Blessings to your family,

    Brittany R.


    • renee

      renee on March 15, 2013, 11:38 a.m.

      Thank you Brittany. It does not sound sappy at all. I'm honored, really honored, that you visit here and find encouragement. Tears seem to accompany motherhood no matter what stage we're in but I do remember the early years having more tears and more exhaustion. Good things are coming Hon. You just keep building the family life you want (keep on, keeping on) and the rewards do come. And they are very sweet. 


  • anastasia @ eco-babyz

    anastasia @ eco-babyz on March 17, 2013, 3:52 a.m.

    You're doing this again Renee! It is as if you're reading my thoughts this weekend. Exactly what you took away from Allume is what I have been pondering a lot about my own blog lately (and I've never been to a blogging conference). Mine is a lot smaller, but I've had the temptation to 'go big' before. Now I just want to 'go small', in the sense of centering in on what my readers want. I think that's so important, though not as easy. I want to focus on creating content people can relate to and benefit from. I am not the greatest writer, English is actually my second language. Nevertheless, I LOVE to write, I always have SO MUCH going on in my head - I'm ready to explode with everything I want to write about. On any given day I have 20 posts in draft :) I think my biggest challenge is learning to focus! Especially now that we are actually starting out with homeschooling our 4 year old.

    Most of all, I am just happy at the prospect of being able to be home, raise a family, and make a living all at the same time - allowing to spend more time with people most important to me in my life and inspiring other to do the same. You inspire me, I will forever be one of your biggest fans!


  • shelli : mamaofletters

    shelli : mamaofletters on March 18, 2013, 4:23 p.m.

    Renee, you know you inspire me, and I wish you the best of success. I'm not in a position to pay for anything, but that doesn't mean I don't think you and other knowledgeable people shouldn't charge for your work. I think you will actually be more respected for having charged a fee. Good luck to you.

    I don't usually have time for leaving comments, but I wanted you to know that I still love to visit your corner when I find the time!


  • Phoebe

    Phoebe on March 19, 2013, 5:19 p.m.

    Thanks for these insightful ruminations. I'm a newish blogger and I often feel as though I'm battling conventional concepts of success ("bigger, faster, louder!"), while at the same time wondering what a successful blog will look like for ME.


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