This weekend, my cousin Agatha Wells visited from Pittsburgh. It was part vacation, part meet-the-baby, part figure out why the Southwest had been calling to her since she left the region 6 years ago after her first visit for my wedding.
It was big! Like Tom Petty’s Big Weekend big:
We did a lot of tourist and cousin bonding things, but we also had a very interesting creative session.We both sat down at the kitchen table with our laptops, drank my sister’s wine, and hashed out some quick things. The result was http://18thcenturymodlife.com.
Agatha is a writer who has found an authentic, engaging voice in her leanings towards Jane Austen and other woman contributors to the arts of the 18th century. There’s also the architecture, the the language, the decor aesthetic, the fashion (the wigs? the hats?!) and the courtly structures that characterize this European/Caucasian American period that contribute uniquely to her zest for life, people and storytelling. She could turn this into something big for all of us that lean this way sometimes, or sometimes more than others, but she felt stuck and I asked why.
When she told me, in so many words, that the reason she wasn’t writing & publishing publicly anymore was because she was still on an old Blogger site and didn’t feel that it had the flexibility and pull that she really needed to truly brand herself, I jumped in and created a new WordPress site for her on my VPS. We added a brand-new WordPress install, a domain, all of her old blogger content, Yoast SEO, some of the images from Blogger, and the Sprocket WordPress Theme available on Creative Market to give her a clean, legible look and feel with a little room for humor in the top banner images (right ladies?) and ultimately, ads to supplement her income when the timing is right.
These may seem like no-brainer’s so here are some of the collective thoughts that went into these choices:
- A blog is a particular form of content and it takes a particular kind of content management to effectively govern the site and provide the right options. WordPress is king of this and has always excelled at it. It’s also Open Source and carries no licensing restraints and therefore the only barrier to entry is technical know-how, which can be eliminated by 1-click installs or having a developer like me at your side.
- it’s important to be able to migrate in and out of a content management system while just getting started, because needs may change and the better one responds to that, the better the success of all of the work involved. It was easy to migrate into WordPress from Blogger, and WordPress does provide means to Export its content, even if it’s less easy than coming in.
- Have a domain. http://something.blogger.com doesn’t cut it. It’s $12/year, fer cryin’ out loud! And it’s your brand.
- The Sprocket WordPress Theme is made, essentially of a header image and page content. The default font choice for text is an elegant serif font which is so legible that the eyes practically can’t help but read it. I chose this for Agatha so that she would have the chance to first greet her reader with an image (potentially a funny one or one that captured the essence of what she wrote,) and then the content would lead the reader down the page. It’s unobtrusive, clean, and responsive.
- Ad spaces aren’t built into Sprocket but in any scenario where she’s getting the traffic to support advertising, she could easily hire a programmer of the millions out there, or myself, to take a couple of hours and make ads available on the theme.
- Yoast SEO is an on-fire do-it-yourself-we-will-teach-you content strategy plugin. It will take any writer to the top with SEO.
I know you’ll follow this blog because it’ll be slinkin’ amazing.
We also talked brand strategy, logos, and writing strategy. Essentially, own your content and use your skills to effectively dig into the market and find the audience for your voice. She’s skilled, she’s funny, and she’s inspired. Oh, and she’s lucky to have all of this, as well as a point of inspiration with which many of us can identify, yet may be under-represented in blog writing. All she really needed was a leg up from a friend!
It took me a couple of hours (and her a couple of hours) to migrate into a new WordPress site with a new look and feel that should be able to take her all the way to the top. We didn’t custom design anything. We didn’t add a bunch of pages that didn’t already exist. She exported her blog from Blogger and imported it on WordPress while I added a domain, set her up on my server, and added a few add-ons that would bring her up from just a regular WordPress blog to a writing hub for a future author.
It wasn’t all work though. There was some conversation, some exercise, some gazing into the future, some job strategizing. Some finding killer clothes.
I hope she visits again soon. Maybe it’ll be because she’s doing a state-by-state tour of 18th Century living because of the wild success of her blog. Maybe she’ll need some serious Southwest Hot Springs time (Drat! We didn’t do that!) Maybe she’ll relocate here entirely - who knows. But probably not. She’s got loose ends to tie up in Pittsburgh and a whole new life to start there, apparently - but you didn’t hear that from me.