Bartering With a Geek (said with the utmost affection)

I used to be an avid quilter and when my daughter got married I promised them a wedding quilt. I’m not always on time with my handcrafted gifts, especially for something as big as a quilt. But when their 5-year anniversary rolled around and I was nowhere near being finished, I knew something had to be done. That something was a barter with my friend Chris Kirsch.

You may have heard me mention Chris before. She’s an internationally known quilter, teacher and author, and we’ve done several projects together, like this first barter, this photo shoot, and this workshop.

As it turns out, the same time I was bemoaning cutting hundreds of small triangles, Chris was struggling with an outdated website. She jumped at my offer to update her site if she would finish my quilt. It was a perfect exchange for both of us.

Isn’t my daughter’s quilt beautiful?

And here’s Chris’ new website and blog.

A Blogging Geek

I call Chris a geek, which always makes her laugh. Interestingly, when she started blogging nine years ago she was a self-professed non-techie. But if I may speak in quilter’s lingo, she’s pieced her blocks together perfectly and created a showpiece that’s as beautiful to read as it is to view. Even now, when many feel blogging is past its prime, Chris continues with an engaged readership in the thousands. Her secret? Simply put, she builds relationships, caters to her audience, shares information, and is always creatively thinking ahead. These are good tactics for any industry, don’t you think?

Since Chris is into sharing, I pried her with a few questions. Let’s take a look.

You’ve been blogging since 2011 to a very specific audience. Can you describe your readers and a bit of their demographics?

My blog is written for quilters, the majority of whom are retired women. I post weekly and send out an email to a list I’ve accumulated by passing out a sign up sheet whenever I teach or lecture. In this way I know everyone on my list desires to be there and already has an interest in what I’m sharing. At this point my list contains over 2000 names and I usually have around 1200 who actually visit my site each week.

Blogs can be a place for sharing information and, since I love to teach, you encouraged me to write a teaching/sharing blog.”

Nine years ago women in this age group weren’t commonly blog readers. How have they found you and how have you gotten them to subscribe?

When I began passing out my sign up sheets I would preface it by saying that I used to think of blogs as a waste of time because I didn’t want to read about the antics of someone else’s pets or what they had for dinner last night. But you (Adunate) helped me to see that blogs can be a place for sharing information and, since I love to teach, you encouraged me to write a teaching/sharing blog. I think this peaked their interest. 

In the beginning someone would often ask if subscribing to my blog would be difficult or take up space on their computer. I would assure them that by clicking on the link I email them, they will simply be taken to a website that would not harm their computer in anyway. I could see the relief on their faces. I would follow this by explaining my site was always available with my most recent post at the top, and they could “bookmark” the site address (this often required another explanation) and visit whenever they wished. I believe this encouraged many of them to give blog reading a try.

You post every Sunday night, without fail. How do you come up with ideas? How do you organize and schedule yourself?

I chose Sundays as my posting day because it is a day when most people are resting and relaxing, and this often means sitting on the couch, reading emails, and surfing the web.

I belong to a number of quilting guilds and teach classes regularly, nearby and nationally. I also attend quilt shows and visit shops. I’m continually in the company of quilters and I keep my eyes and ears open for possible new topics, snapping photos when the opportunity presents itself. When a possible topic presents itself, I send myself a text so I won’t forget it. Then, when I have a free moment, I write up the post so it’s ready for the next Sunday. I often have two or three ready to go and, praise the Lord, I’ve never had a Sunday where at least one idea hadn’t presented itself the week before.

I recently returned from leading a quilting tour to the International Quilt Festival in Tokyo, Japan. We not only visited the show, but we toured the country of Japan and took classes with Japanese fiber artists. This gave me loads of information to share in future posts. At this point, whenever I have a free moment, I go through my photos, break all of the information down into post sized portions, and compose drafts which will be ready to be sent on upcoming Sunday evenings.

When there comes a Sunday that I don’t have something to share—I guess I’ll be done blogging.

My original intension wasn’t necessarily to profit. I just love to share! What I’ve discovered is the blog benefits my business in ways I didn’t expect.”

You’ve chosen not to accept advertising on your blog. How does blogging benefit your business?

I actually continue to blog because I love researching and writing blog posts. Because of my passion for my subject and my love of teaching, my original intension wasn’t necessarily to profit. I just love to share! What I’ve discovered is the blog benefits my business in ways I didn’t expect. It’s a great place to advertise new classes, future trips, and even make my books available for sale. Because of my blog, guilds contact me to teach for them, people sign up for my tours, and books sell.

Any last bit of advice for those looking to market their business with a blog?

As a blog reader I would recommend not pushing the marketing too hard, but rather finding ways to engage your viewers with topics that they enjoy. I have found in my teaching, the more I’m willing to share what I know, the more they want to take my classes. In my opinion, everything we have to share or sell, someone else has available too. So make them want to get it from you by giving something first.

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