How They Blog: Tsh Oxenreider

tsh-oxenreider-headshot2Tsh Oxenreider

Blog:
Simplemom.net
Social media:
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Intro

Intro: Give us a quick intro to you, your family and your blog.
Hi! I’m Tsh, and I’ve got three kids ages 2 1/2 to 8 and one husband of ten years. We currently live in Bend, Oregon, but I’m originally from Austin, Texas (hook ’em!). I write and run a blog called SimpleMom.net, which is about the art and science of living life simpler.

Tsh-Family-Oct-2012-sm

Tsh and family.

2. Tell us your blogging story. (Is this your first blog? How did you get started? How long have you been blogging?) Feel free to share anything that might be helpful for growing bloggers.
I started SM in early 2008, but I had a small family blog since 2005 (the kind to show photos of the grandkids to the grandparents). We were living overseas, I was diagnosed with depression, and my therapist recommended finding a creative outlet while we were living in a new culture. Kyle, my husband, recommended starting a blog since he knew I liked to write and because blogging was a cheap hobby I could do anywhere in the world.

So I quietly started SM when my second-born was a newborn, and I had lots of time to just sit and work on it. I also read a ton about blogging “professionallly,” even though I didn’t really think that’s what I’d end up doing long-term. When I started the blog, I knew from the get-go that I’d offer ad space (or do whatever to make some money), but it was only with the goal of what I called “latte money.” So I had ad spots from the beginning of my launch, but in those early days (meaning, the first 6 months or so), I did nothing but write content and tweak my design. I focused almost exclusively on good content, not on making money. And that’s how I grew to love blogging and knew I’d be willing to do it for free—it became a big part of my life early on, it became part of my therapy for depression, and I rekindled my love of writing. And I made new friends online.

Tsh-mydesk

SimpleMom.net headquarters

3. Tell us about a blogging “success” or “failure” that taught you a powerful lesson.
Let’s see… where do I begin? I feel like I’m constantly learning new things from both successes or failures. I guess maybe one early lesson I learned was when I was featured in Better Homes & Gardens a year after SM’s launch. I was so excited to be featured and thought, “Okay, now here’s my big break!” But… it really did nothing for traffic. I mean, it’s nice to be able to say I was featured in a big magazine, but that’s about it. The best traffic grower for me (both early on and now, today) is fellow bloggers. Far and away, those relationships have more clout to building my traffic than any sort of national brand has so far. Plus, those relationships make blogging so much fun, and one of the best side-effects of my blogging career so far are the friendships.

One thing I’ve learned from a so-called “failure”—really, really, REALLY think about your blog name. I know, everyone says that. But really, once your blog grows, it’s very hard to change your blog’s name if you want to retain a sense of branding. I really wish my blog’s name wasn’t Simple MOM. It’s not really a blog about parenting (even though we do have that topic); it’s more of a life-development blog with plenty of topics that appeal to not only dads, but non-parents, too. Sigh… oh well. It is what it is.

So I work in my office most of the time—but about once a week I like to spend my morning at a local coffee shop, just to get out of the house.

So I work in my office most of the time—but about once a week I like to spend my morning at a local coffee shop, just to get out of the house.

4. What are the intangibles (perspective /determination /character /planning /supportive family etc) that have helped you succeed?
The number one thing that has helped me succeed is Kyle’s support. There is absolutely no way I would be where I am now if he wasn’t 100% on board with me blogging—I’m talking both in practical ways and in the more intangible things, like encouragement, camaraderie, and being a sounding board.

I’d also say knowing myself has been helpful. There are so many blogs out there, and so many bloggers, and you can really easily start comparing yourself if you’re not confident in how you’re made. The more I learn about myself, the more peace I find in stewarding my little slice of the Internet. I don’t need to be THE best, I just need to be MY best. I don’t need to be Jane, or Emily, or Rachel, or whomever. I just need to be Tsh. And I need to continually learn how I’m made—my gifts, my values, my priorities, my goals.

5. How do you keep your blog and home life in balance? What does a “typical” blogging day look like for you?
When I first started blogging, I wore 17 hats and spent a lot of time working for no money. But now that it’s a job, I invest some money in some things that help me focus on my strengths and can delegate my weaknesses. This means I have regular babysitting and an assistant.

So a “typical” day (though every day is different, especially depending on the time of year) might look like this:

6 am—Wake up, personal time, coffee, writing time (if my toddler doesn’t wake up).

7:30-9:00 am—Breakfast with the family, get the kids ready for the day and out to school.

9:00 am-1:00 pm—Work, work, work in my office at home while our babysitter is out in the rest of the house with the boys (my oldest is in school).

1:00 pm—My second goes to preschool and my youngest naps, so I either wrap up work or catch up on household stuff.

3:30 pm—Pick up kids from school, help with homework, start dinner, clean, and other typical mom stuff.

5:30 pm-8:30 pm—Dinner, baths, storytime, family time, bed.

8:30 pm-10:00 pm—Any combination of work catch-up (although I don’t write, I do more brainless stuff, like photo editing, email processing, etc.), but I prefer to do things like watch a movie or read a book.

Rinse and repeat!

Come back Wednesday to read all of Tsh’s Blogging Gadget and App recommendations and on Friday she’ll share her thoughts on social media and writing. Stay tuned!

Q & A with Tsh

What questions do you have about blogging for Tsh? Click here to share your thoughts or ask your question!

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Comments

  1. Are you typically a morning person? Or is this just the best time for you to write?

    • Sorta both, though I don’t think I’ve always been a morning person. It kinda grew on me as I realized that was the best time for me to have alone time (it pretty much coincided with becoming a mom!). Once I got in to the habit of rising early, I grew to love it.

      Now, I’m not the earliest riser in the world, and I know several bloggers who think my general wake-up time is sleeping in. 🙂 I know Kat gets up pretty early, and my friend Myquillyn (TheNester.com) wakes up reeeeeally early. But several others I know write best at night. My friend Lisa-Jo Baker writes well at night.

      So… when I wake up early, it’s not because i think there’s something particularly holy about that. It just works for me.

      • That was my question, Kelli! Thanks for asking and, Tsh, thanks for answering.

        I’ve been struggling to make my mornings more productive (my thoughts have actually begun to culminate in my first try at an eBook which is exciting) and love that it seems rising early “grew on you”. I find that the day just gets too busy, too distracted, if I leave writing / general creativity until the very end. There is hope for us non-morning people! (Also, it cracked me up that Starbucks wrote “Tish” on your cup lol)

        Thanks for the interview Kat!

  2. Love the behind the scenes look! Thanks, Kat & Tsh!

  3. Tsh, I first really heard about you when you spoke with your husband last year at Allume, and now your podcast is the highlight of my week 🙂 Thanks for this behind the scenes look into “how you do it” – looking forward to the rest of your tips & tricks!

  4. I loved your behind the scenes look! Especially the success and failures. What a blessing your blog must be to you, opening so many wonderful opportunities! I hope you continue to love it because I know the readers do! 🙂

  5. What a great start for “How They Blog!”
    Thanks for sharing, Tsh, and looking forward to the rest of the week!

  6. Tsh I would love to know how you approach(ed) selling advertising space on your blog?

    • In my early days, I only had private ad space—no third-party ad network selling ads on my behalf. So I started a spreadsheet of potential advertisers based on what I saw on the sidebars of blogs that I guessed had a similar audience to mine. I figured, those companies already understood the influence of blogs, so I wouldn’t have to “convince” them of the benefit of advertising on one.

      Then, in the last half of the month, I shot them each a quick email, one at a time. I kept it SUPER short, non-spammy, and friendly. Basically, something along the lines of just letting them know I had ad space available next month if they were interested. A lot ignored me, and a few of them bit. That’s all I needed.

      It went on like this for several years, doing my best to cultivate ongoing advertiser relationships, so that I didn’t have to start from scratch with new ones every month. As things got bigger, I eventually brought on an ad girl to handle this side of things for me. I paid her a percentage of ads sold.

      Let me know if you have more questions, Kamille! Happy to answer them.

  7. I absolutely love this blog! Thanks for sharing. Blessings!

  8. Reading these sorts of posts always reminds me why I find the actualy WRITING part of blogging so hard most of the time – I have four kids who are home all day with no babysitter. #woeisme #firstworldbloggingproblems

    • It started that way for me, Jessica—I didn’t have childcare for the first few years. I just wrote when I had time; little snippets here and there. But also, writing is the easiest part for me; all the other bloggy jobs are much harder. I think we’re all just made differently in that way. 😉

      • I’m easily distracted and need some level of concentration for writing. So being asked for something every 30 seconds turns me into some terrible Hulk Mommy Blogger monster. 🙂

  9. I’m planning on ovethauling my blog soon and really want to change my blog name. Do you have any suggestions on how to brainstorm and form a new name for a blog?

    • That’s a huge question, and one I don’t really have a good answer for. In general, I’d say think about your 3 to 5-year goals and try to name your blog based on where you think you might be. An obvious example would be to not name your blog something about “preschoolers” if you don’t really anticipate writing only about preschool stuff, because your kids will outgrow that stage quickly and you’ll be stuck.

      Basically, really think through what niche your blog falls in, and leave yourself room to add (or take away) some topics without its name sounding weird. Maybe name it based on something you like more than something specific you plan to write about.

  10. Just wanted to say that I love your blog… I’m not a mom but I wasn’t turned off by the Simple Mom name 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m a new blogger and it’s nice to learn from others who are successful.

  12. Hi Tsh. I really like to blog but I am horrible at figuring out how to set everything up to make money off of the blog. Do you have any suggestions of any easy way to figure this out or to go about the setup process that will benefit the blogger best?

    • Could you be a bit more specific with your question? Not sure what you mean by figuring out “the setup process,” and monetizing a blog is an enormous topic. Give me 1 or 2 of your most pressing questions in this department, and I’ll see what I can do to help!

  13. Kat, the new site looks great. I look forward to reading more.

  14. Tsh, I’m new to blogging and am trying to focus on writing good content but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the techy stuff. I want my site to look good, but I don’t know how much I can do in regards to design. I blog mostly for a creative outlet and to connect with others. Would you recommend hiring someone to do some design for me at this point, should it be a focus, or do you have any other advice? Thanks! I love your weekly podcast. It’s a nap-time delight.

    • I’d say wait to pay someone, because a (good) professional overall design will cost quite a bit of money. But you can sometimes find an artist wiling to design you a custom banner or some buttons for just a couple hundred bucks.

      Before you can afford a professional design, keep your layout insanely clean with lots of white space. Minimalist looks way better than cluttered. 🙂

  15. I love this behind the scenes look into blogging, and I’m a huge fan of Simple Mom! Been reading since 2008 (my husband thanks Tsh every time I go on a purging spree in the house). When do you do all of your long-term planning?

    • If you know much about Myers-Briggs, then I can tell you I’m a “J”—which means I’m always planning! I actually love planning, both long and short-term, so my brain never really shuts off in that department (much to my husband’s demise…). That said, when it comes to longer-term blog planning, I just make that part of my work week or month. A few hours per month of thinking through editorial content and longer-term goals and writing them down is usually plenty. But honestly, my brain is always percolating in that department… 😉

  16. I love this new blog, Kat! And I loved the interview, Tsh! I can’t wait to learn more from others!

  17. Kristine Adams says:

    What resources do you use for your topics? How do you schedule your topics?

    • Not sure what you mean by “resources,” but I just use Google Calendar to drag and drop my different post topics throughout the month. And since I have a team of writers, our editorial calendar is planned months at a time.

  18. Tiffany Hester says:

    Thank you for being transition and giving us an inside scoop!!! If you had to do it all over again, what process would you use to create/develop the name for your blog?

    • I think I would just think of things that I personally love and name it based on that. Or maybe some quote that I loved. Basically, not accidentally name my blog something that could be given to myself as a moniker. If that makes any sense.

  19. I loved this behind the scenes look, brilliant idea, Kat!! I’m looking forward to more!
    Question for Tsh, did your books follow your blog, as in did they come out of your blog or because you were already blogging?
    And a little more personal, did you find you were indeed less depressed after you started and is this something that you still struggle with?

    • My books followed my blog—I was contacted by my first editor from my blog’s simple contact form. 🙂 And then eventually my literary agent contacted me because she was one of my blog readers.

      Blogging definitely helps with my depression, but I still struggle with bouts of it, as do most people inclined to depression. I know my signs of depression well, so when I see it coming on, I do what I can to cope (which includes writing).

  20. Beth Piper says:

    Thanks for all the info Tsh! I was just directed to your blog this morning from Kat and loved it. I had just read about your day there (but from when you homeschooled your daughter I think), nice to see the updated version. I look forward to following your blog.

    I’m afraid Kat is going to be giving me too many new, wonderful blogs for insight and inspiration!

    • Beth,
      Don’t worry, I plan to even our all the inspiration with a good dose of actionable uber-practical stuff….stay tuned. 🙂

  21. nicolehaganjones says:

    Very cool, Thanks. I’ve been trying to become a morning person. It always seems like I get my bright ideas at night but then I’m up late and I sleep in and don’t get my morning time, which I need to start the day right. I’m trying to get up earlier, but it seems to be a repeating problem.

  22. Thank you so much for the interview. Very inspiring.

  23. Tsh, Thanks for the wonderful interview! In regards to building relationships with other bloggers, what are your thoughts about guest posting? Is it blogger etiquette to pitch a request to anyone, even if they do not provide submission guidelines on their site? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this 🙂 Thank you!

    • If they don’t have guest post submission guidelines obviously prominent on their site, I think it’s okay to “pitch” a blogger with a query. That’s a super-short email quickly describing who you are, the post idea you have, and why you think their blog is a good place for it. Don’t hound them if you don’t hear for several weeks, but it’s okay to write a quick follow-up if you haven’t heard from them in two business weeks. And stick to their guidelines if/when they send them to you. Be super professional, in other words. 🙂

  24. LOVE the new site, Kat! And thank you so much for sharing your blogging experiences, Tsh!! I have been a “hobby” blogger since 2008 and am recently working to make the transition to “professional” with the launch of my new blog: http://www.thereisgrace.com. I’m trying to balance my enthusiasm and myriad of new ideas with the limited time I have until my youngest starts school full time in the Fall. I’m so excited for the insights from this site, and Tsh, thank you for sharing such great thoughts! Can’t wait to see more!

  25. Love this blog! Been reading both you and Kat for a while, though I say Sic ‘Em instead of hook ’em! 🙂 Wondering if you still keep up your personal blog for family and grandparents, etc. and if you have any thoughts about how to morph a blog of 6 years into something a little more than a personal blog? Gradually change or just start a new?

    • Smart girl. Sic ’em!

    • I don’t keep up with that blog anymore, no. And that’s a broad question, so it really depends on what topics you’re wanting to branch out in to, and also what your blog is like currently. If it’s something that’s already part of your “normal” life (such as, you want to become a food blog, and you already cook all the time), then I don’t think it’d be a big jump to start writing about the food you’re cooking for your family. But if your idea is on something totally different, such as beaver watching, it might be best to just start a new blog.

  26. Kat – I was so glad to see this in my inbox this morning – I’ve been looking forward to it ever since the blurb about it on Simple Mom podcast 🙂 YAY!
    Tsh – thanks solo much for the reminder that I don’t need to be THE best, just MY best … totally needed that today <3

  27. Tsh, as you look back in hindsight what’s the one best thing you did (intentional or accidental) that gave you that “aha” moment when the lightbulb came on? I’m going into 2 years of blogging and my goals are not to be big or earn money but to “reach out and touch someone” 😉 and I’m just curious.

  28. WOW. Could it be possible that I just found my new favorite blog after just an hour? Thank you so much, Kat, for putting together this informative resource, and with a professional but casual approach. Love it! I’ve only been blogging since last July, so I’m in the “sponge” stage of blogging right now–soaking up every little bit of advice from blogging veterans!

    I practically inhaled all of the great advice from Tsh. I completely related to her saying, “Okay, now here’s my big break!” because I had the same experience when one of my posts was chosen for syndication on the BlogHer network. I thought it would change everything, but it was a modest bump in traffic, compared to traffic from other bloggers. BlogHer just accepted another post for May syndication, and while I’m enormously grateful, now I know to be realistic with my expectations. Building a blog, I’ve found, is a slow and steady process, not an avalanche.

    Can’t wait to learn more from this blog, and thanks again!

    • I’m so glad you like the blog, Joy! I can’t wait to share all the amazing interviews I have lined up. So much wisdom. I hope it helps you as you grow your blog!

  29. If we all waited until we knew exactly what to do before starting a blog, the internet would be empty. Most of blogging is on-the-job training…so while it’s good to have some basics (like who you’ll be writing for on your blog and how to convince them that your blog is a great place to be (turning them into subscribers)… the rest will come with time.

Trackbacks

  1. […] She runs one of the biggest and most influential blogs around (she has over 75,000 followers on Twitter alone!) and yet she is wonderfully humble and willing to share what she has learned along the way. So, grab a cup of coffee and let’s go behind the scenes with Tsh and learn how she blogs&#8230… […]

  2. […] How They Blog: Tsh Oxenreider 2. Tsh Oxenreider’s Gadget and App Recommendations 3. Tsh Oxenreider on Social Media and the […]

  3. […] share what they’ve learned–and root out the wisdom of others. She’s interviewing top bloggers, introducing new ones, and sharing other great resources on the How They Blog facebook […]

  4. […] They Blog. I’m a big fan of Tsh Oxenreider (SimpleMom), so I was excited to see that Kat had interviewed her and I couldn’t wait to read it. Right there, in the middle of the interview, was the […]

  5. […] They Blog. I’m a big fan of Tsh Oxenreider (SimpleMom), so I was excited to see that Kat had interviewed her and I couldn’t wait to read it. Right there, in the middle of the interview, was the […]

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    How They Blog: Tsh Oxenreider

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