Category Archives: Blog Business

The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack

It was almost exactly a year ago when I sat nervously at my computer, getting ready to launch The Organization Toolbox. Of all the posts I’ve written over the years, I was the most nervous about that one. I worried that no one would like my printables…or use them. I worried people wouldn’t subscribe to get them, and I worried I was wasting my time. I had all these ideas and plans for tools, forms, and systems I wanted to create…but until that launch, I had no idea if any of them would ever come to fruition. In the year since that launch, thousands of readers and visitors have subscribed to gain access to my printable library; and many of you have even taken the time to write or message me to let me know how much you love and use them. I knew that I loved making and using printables and coming up with systems and processes to make my life easier. But until the success of The Organization Toolbox, I never realized how much I genuinely enjoyed creating those same systems and products for you guys! Week after week, month after month, my confidence was bolstered and I finally found the courage (and time!) to put a plan into motion to launch all those printable ideas overflowing in my mind!

Today is another launch day that has filled me with a lot of nervousness, but also a lot of excitement. Today I launch a total labor of love…a pack of over 200 pretty printable pages to help you organize and improve function in each and every area of your kitchen! I can’t wait for you guys to check out all the goodies in my Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack!

Ready to organize your kitchen? These 200+ printable pages can help!

The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack contains pretty printable pages in my signature style to help you organize your kitchen, streamline your meal planning and grocery shopping processes, and ultimately create a kitchen that is a prettier, more organized, and better functioning place to cook, eat, entertain, and more! The bundle includes 4 printable packs plus 3 bonus kits (because I just couldn’t stop creating fun new things for you guys!) You can check out ALL the details, sample pages, and pricing HERE, but here is quick snapshot of what’s included!

4 Printable Kits

Meal Planning Kit  Meal planning is a tried-and-true method for reducing meal-time stress, keeping pantry/fridge clutter at bay, and sticking to a grocery/food budget. This kit includes dozens of meal planners, trackers, and shopping lists to provide you with countless options and ultimate flexibility.

Recipe Organization Kit  Having your recipes sorted, organized, and accessible is key to reducing meal time stress, streamlining your meal planning process, and efficiently generating complete grocery lists. The recipe categories, inventories, recipe cards, stickers, and tabs in this kit are all color-coordinated and designed to create one comprehensive Recipe Binder.

Food Labels & Inventories Kit – The printables in this kit will help you to inventory, track, label, and organize the foods you have on hand, enabling you to generate grocery lists and prepare meals easier and more efficiently. This kit also includes pages and pages of printable labels for everything in your pantry!

Coupon Organization Kit – Having a comprehensive system to sort, organize, and access your coupons is the key to effectively using coupons and ultimately saving money. The printables in this kit are designed to be used together to create a Coupon Binder. The color-coordinated cover sheets, dividers and tabs will help you quickly sort your recipes and make finding exactly what you need while shopping quick and intuitive.

Get your Pantry sorted and organized with the worksheets in The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack - 200+ printable pages to organize and improve function in every area of your kitchen! Get your Recipes sorted and organized with the worksheets in The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack - 200+ printable pages to organize and improve function in every area of your kitchen! Get your meal planning and grocery shopping on track with the worksheets in The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack - 200+ printable pages to organize and improve function in every area of your kitchen! Get your Coupons sorted and organized with the worksheets in The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack - 200+ printable pages to organize and improve function in every area of your kitchen!

Did you Say Bonus Kits?

I sure did! I just couldn’t stop coming up with fun things to include in this bundle, and these three mini bonus kits are the most fun of the bunch!

Mini Cleaning Kit  – You guys have been asking for it, and I am happy to respond! This mini cleaning kit has  “Clean Routine” worksheets as well as fun cleaning stickers for your planner/calendar. This kit is a mini version of a full Spring Cleaning Kit coming down the pike soon!

Dinner Party Planner – This kit is a great way to track all of the details of any parties or events you’re hosting. There’s a one-page planner for small events, as well as an expanded 12-page planner for larger gatherings!

Fun Extras – I wanted to provide a variety of binder covers, spines, dividers and tabs to help you create a fun, unique and personal kitchen resource binder. There are 10 bright and fun covers to choose from to give your kitchen binder some extra pizzazz!

For more details, pricing, and sample pages, click HERE!

So…you’ll notice this post is a little short on my usual pictures because well…#Christmas and #baby! However, in the coming weeks, I’m going to have several tutorials on how to use the various printables in this kit, including how to assemble the ultimate Recipe/Kitchen binder, how to use the spice/pantry labels, as well as more about the cleaning routine I’ve developed so keep your eyes out for those.

Until then, I’d love if  you popped over to check out all the goodies I’ve created for you…and if you’re an email subscriber, be sure to check your email for a coupon code before you check out 😉

2016 THIHM Reader Survey!

Your feedback is invaluable to me! I appreciate you taking a few minutes to provide your thoughts on the projects, posts and initiatives on The Homes I Have Made!

Hello and Merry Christmas, sweet readers! I hope you and yours’ had a wonderful holiday full of joy, merriment, relaxation and happy memories. We are still anxiously awaiting Baby Boy’s arrival and trying to soak in every bit of family time and holiday cheer as we can in our remaining days (hours?) as a family of three. I also want to thank you all for your thoughts, suggestions and support on my last post. It’s always so nice to hear from you guys on what you really think and I was so comforted and excited by everything you all said! Hugs!

I’m trying to lay low as much as possible; but as promised last week, I wanted to pop in with my annual end-of-the-year Reader Survey. I have conducted a survey here on the blog for the last few years; and each time, I am always amazed at what valuable feedback I get from you all! With each answer you all click and type, I gain insights to your reader experience, ways I can improve, and awesome ideas for upcoming content. I am so excited to read what you all have to say this year!

I tried to keep the survey quick and to-the-point this year so it should only take you a few minutes. For those of you visiting the site directly, you should be able to log your responses right in the form below. If you’re in a blog reader, you’ll need to click over to the site to enter your responses. Lastly, if you’re having trouble here on the blog for some reason, you can also visit the survey HERE!


I SO appreciate you taking the time to give me some feedback on everything I share here on the blog! In the next month or so, I’ll be back to share the results and give you some updates and sneak peeks of things to come in 2017! Until then…continue enjoying your holiday and Happy New Year!

Christmas Coffee Break

Happy Tuesday-Before-Christmas, Friends! I hope you are all enjoying the final few days/weeks of this fun holiday season and are ready for all the gift-giving and merriment that is just a few days away! I had intentions for a different blog schedule this week; but in all honesty, I think I am ready to cry “Mercy!” I usually hit some good blog burnout this time of year and take some time off by now. Although I could feel the fatigue creeping in a few weeks ago, I tried to keep going strong knowing I would be taking some time off once baby came. This past weekend, I found myself stuck between wanting to knock out a ton of things before baby came (yep, still not here!) and just wanting to sit and relax, soak in and savor every moment of this exciting, scary, overwhelming, and special time for our family. The later sentiment rightly won out so I didn’t snap any photos of our holiday home or prepare my end-of-year survey. Instead, we went to see Santa, watched a Year Without a Santa Claus (my fav!), made some cookies, and finished up some shopping. So I didn’t leave you hanging here at the end of the year, I thought I’d pop in with one more coffee break post before checking out on Christmas/maternity break! Read on to find out the latest on Baby, the blog and other life happenings!

Taking a few minutes to slow down, catch up, and share some thoughts about home, life, baby and more!

Bump Update

I am 39 weeks today and the little babe is still cooking. Between Henry being 3 weeks early and all the Braxton Hicks contractions I’ve been having for a month, I’m admittedly shocked to still be pregnant. I thought for sure he would be here before Christmas; but with just days to go, I’m starting to think I might be opening presents with a still very round belly! I’m not horribly uncomfortable (although the numb hands I’ve had for the past month due to pregnancy-induced carpel tunnel are NOT fun!); I just really wanted him to be here for Christmas. We are now heading into a situation where we could be in the hospital on Christmas Eve or Day. We have all sorts of contingencies in place for Henry and for Santa/presents, but I am still hoping we won’t need to use any of them. As many of you long-time readers know, my birthday is on Christmas, so my family knows a thing or two about Christmas babies. And while I think it would be super special to share a Christmas birthday with this little one, I just can’t shake the visions I have of our family of 4 around the tree on Christmas morning. I know, I know…babies come on their own time…but any prayers and good vibes to get this baby out before Christmas would sure be appreciated 😉

Last week, on a whim, I hired a photographer to do a maternity photo shoot. Anyone who knows me knows that this is SO outside my personality. But in recent weeks I’ve been reflecting a lot on what a difference a year makes. I can distinctly remember my mental state last Christmas. I was pretty much completely out of hope, feeling betrayed and frustrated by my body’s inability to get pregnant. The readings at church this time of year were painful to listen to, and I couldn’t look at a pregnant belly without holding back tears. Now a year later, I have wiggles and kicks (and heartburn!) alive inside of me, and we are practically consumed with the anticipation, hope, and excitement of how our family is about to change. This year, I feel so grateful for this body of mine and for the chance to get to carry another baby. If our journey has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know what the future holds. So while I don’t love the way I look or feel, capturing this crazy wonderful time on “film” suddenly felt right. We haven’t gotten the photos back from the photographer yet, but I will likely share on Instagram once we do 🙂

Christmas Blog Content – Where Do You Stand?

I am beginning to think I should start taking December off of blogging each year. Every single year I struggle SO much with blog content in December. I am usually burnt out from various projects, commitments (and moving!), and putting together holiday content just overwhelms me for some reason. I don’t know how other bloggers churn out SO much holiday content at the end of a full year AND amidst all the hustle and bustle this time brings. Scrolling my Instagram feed sure is inspiring but it makes me tired just looking at all those pretty pictures, lol! I find myself wanting to post organizing posts and other house updates, but worry they would get lost or overlooked among all the holiday content. This is the second year in a row that I really couldn’t bring myself to deck our halls like crazy. Last year our whole life felt so temporary and this year, well…#baby. Admittedly, seasonal decorating really isn’t my “thing,” and the clutter and fuss (and cost!) of it all weighs on me. But as a blogger, it feels like some strange responsibility that I am neglecting. I also can’t get on the bandwagon to decorate my house super early, which puts me behind the curve when that content needs to be posted. I’m starting to wonder if my energies would be better spent in December taking some time off, preparing content and posts for the New Year and making site/backend updates rather than forcing myself to keep up in a race I don’t really feel like running. I’d really love to hear your perspectives as readers! Do you love all the holiday content that is overflowing blogs and social media right now, or is it all just too much to take in? I bet you can guess which camp I’m in 😉

The Next Few Weeks

Next week, I plan to have my annual end-of-the-year reader survey up for you all to take. I do hope you will take a few minutes to give me some feedback, as I take it all to heart in order to make this platform as fun and helpful to all of us! Some of the most successful things I’ve done here on the blog came directly from ideas and suggestions from you all so I can’t wait to read what you all have to say this year! Look for that next Tuesday.

Beyond that, I am planning on taking some time off over the next month or so to snuggle our sweet new baby boy. However, I don’t have intentions of disappearing all together…I hope to pop in here in there with a few announcements and posts. It will take me a little bit of time to find a new rhythm to life and the blog; but once we do, I’ll be sure to update you on when exactly I’ll be posting since I know many of you check the blog directly on post days. I so appreciate your understanding, encouragement and support as we navigate this new and exciting time!

(Pssssttt – Although I am sure I’ll be popping in before then, be sure to check back here on January 10th for the reveal of my big kitchen printable project that I am so excited about! You won’t want to miss it!)

THIHM Around the Web

Last but not least, I thought I’d close out for the week with a quick little round-up of my posts and projects that have been featured around the web in the last 2 months. I realize it’s a little late for some of these projects this year, but you can always pin or bookmark for next year! Click right on the photos to head to the post:


I hope you all have a very, very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Send lots of good labor vibes my way, and keep an eye on Instagram for first news of little man’s arrival! Much love to all of you and see you back here soon!

THIHM Around the Web #20

A Collection of Projects and Articles by The Homes I Have Made Author Megan Duesterhaus

The time has come for my monthly recap of all the posts and projects I’ve contributed to other sites and platforms during the last month…and boy do I have a roundup for you today! At the beginning of the summer, I was approached by a handful of bloggers, many of whom I look up to and adore, to guest post on their sites. Since we were getting ready to move and I had no idea when we’d have a house or see our stuff again, I happily agreed but pushed ALL of these features to August. This worked out since it took so long for us to get settled, but it also meant that the last 4-6 weeks have been BUSY around here as I delivered on these deadlines. I think you all will love these projects/interviews, so I do hope you’ll take a quick second to pop over and check them out. And just a reminder, these posts will never appear here on THIHM so click the links to see all the details! Enjoy!


Over on the blog, I shared 5 things you should do before moving out and turning over the keys to your rental. We had just moved out of our Kansas house when I wrote this post, so these are true “real life” tips!

Be sure to do these 5 things before handing over the keys to your rental!

My current DIY art obsession is to use paper – it’s just so cheap, versatile, and available in any color, pattern and texture you can think of! This time around, I used cardstock to replicate a common quilt pattern to make a “paper quilt.” You won’t believe how easy this one comes together! Find the full tutorial right now on the Name Bubbles blog!

Colored and white paper squares come together in a fun and interesting way to create cheap and customizable artwork!

My other obsession lately is to play with all the different wooden and die-cut shapes available at craft stores these days. I combined some little letters with wood slats to make personalized name key chains…just in time for back to school! Get the full tutorial over at Thirty Handmade Days!

Wooden letters and some pretty paint combine to make personalized key chains - perfect for school bags, gym bags, lunch boxes and more!

One of my favorite projects I’ve done in a long-time is this basic school supply “upgrade” I also did for Thirty Handmade Days. I was able to customize and personalize some generic supplies to make a truly eye-popping collection of books and folders. Too bad I don’t have a teenager who could actually use them! See how I did it here!

Don't spend money on expensive school supplies! Buy the inexpensive versions and give them your own flair with DIY vinyl labels and decals!

Over on Skip to My Lou, I am sharing a fun and easy way to make a banner for ANY occasion…even if you don’t have any fancy craft supplies or cutting machines. This banner project comes with a FREE printable template, making them a snap! Access all the directions here!

Need to make a banner for a special occasion but don't have any fancy supplies? Use this FREE printable template to make a banner for any occasion!

I was beyond honored with Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog invited me over to chat about my favorite organized spaces. Although I had a hard time choosing which room to focus on, I ultimately decided on my Kansas Craft Room (shocker, right?). You can get some behind-the-scenes scoop and insights on this space here!

Come visit Megan from The Homes I Have Made at Just a Girl and Her Blog to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how this home office and craft room functions!

Pssst – This space was also recently featured in a great Office Round Up put together by Shutterfly. If you need some home office inspiration, you’ll find tons here!

Last but certainly not least, Laura from I Heart Planners asked me to stop by and share something printable/organization related, so I jumped at the chance to write about all the things I’ve learned since launching The Organization Toolbox. If you are looking to start making your own printables and/or love a good behind-the-scenes post, be sure to check it out here!

Come visit Megan from The Homes I Have Made at I Heart Planners to learn all about starting your own printable collection!

As you can see, it’s been a much busier month around here beyond unpacking and baby growing! It was so much fun to guest post on all these amazing sites, but I am glad to have all of these deadlines behind me so I can focus a bit more on really getting settled in this new home! As promised, I’ll be kicking off September with a first look at our San Diego home, some much-needed back-to-school organization projects, and some FALL projects too! Due to some deadlines, I might be checking in on off days (like this Monday), so be sure to come back often. See you back here soon!

Megan Signature

10 Things I Learned My First Year On WordPress

Read about my experiences switching from Blogger to WordPress and learn from the mistakes I made along the way!

I mentioned last week that I had a whole slew of personal posts coming your way this month, and we’re diving right in today with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. However I needed to wait for the dust to settle and my raw nerves to heal before doing so! Some of you may recall that about this time last year…right when we were moving into our Kansas home…I took an entire month off of the blog to work tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for a new blog design. In fact, it was August 5th of last year that I officially made the transition from the (free and easy) Blogger platform to the (not free or easy) platform WordPress and launched the all-new, custom-designed The Homes I Have Made (the design you see on your screen now). In the year since I transitioned to WordPress and revealed the new design, the blog has experienced tremendous growth. In fact, I almost don’t believe the numbers! My traffic in the last 12 months is almost twice that of the previous 12, and I have gained thousands of new followers, subscribers and readers across a variety of platforms! But as many of you dedicated readers also know, the year was not without some SIGNIFICANT technical challenges and setbacks that cost me a lot of money, stress and sleepless nights. A year later, I can say without reservation that switching to WordPress was one of the best things I did for my blog…but I sure messed up A LOT along the way! Read on to find out what I did wrong, what I learned, and what I’d do differently if I could!

(Pssst – I realize not a lot of you are bloggers and potentially don’t care about the technical side of blogging. However, I really want to share my epic failures with other bloggers (and somewhat feel a responsibility to do so) who might be getting ready to start a blog and/or transition from Blogger themselves. Blogger or not, hopefully, you’ll find this peek behind-the-scenes interesting and maybe even a bit humorous! And if you do make it all the way to the end…gold star for you…this one is a long one!)

1. Do A Lot of Research…And Then Do Some More

I started my blog 5 years ago (whaaat??) on the free Blogger platform, intending it to be just a hobby blog. When I started blogging a little more “seriously,” I knew I would eventually switch to WordPress because of the significant boost in website capabilities. I’m not tech savvy at all…so in November of 2014, I started exploring various designers (via Etsy) who could not only help me re-brand (with a new logo(s) and color scheme) but also design a corresponding website and move my entire Blogger blog over to WordPress. The early stages are a bit fuzzy now, but I believe I searched “WordPress design” on Etsy and then spent hours pouring over the plethora of sample logos, fonts, and designs available. This was my only “research.” I was consumed with the look of my site, and didn’t really research about WordPress itself or how the transition from Blogger to WordPress would and should work. I didn’t educate myself on how WordPress is setup or learn about themes/child themes (how a website looks and is organized). I didn’t know other bloggers had put together entire step-by-step manuals on how to setup a pretty and unique WordPress site for far less than I paid for a custom design. When I thought I was researching “how to transition to WordPress,” I was really just gathering ideas for what I wanted my site to look like. But a good web design is about so much more than how it looks.

LESSON LEARNED: I’ll just put it right out there…I very much regret doing a custom web design when I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve since learned that you can purchase very pretty blog/website design templates (from online shops and designers) and customize them for much cheaper than what I spent for a custom site. I also regret not researching “how to setup a WordPress blog,” because a lot of the other mistakes I’ll talk about in this post could have been avoided if I was following a step-by-step guide. If I could start again, I would buy THIS e-book by Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog (which I discovered AFTER I had already switched and launched). She breaks down every step for starting a WordPress site, a lot of which I could do myself. Yes, I still would have needed help with customization and transferring my Blogger posts over, but I could have navigated the hosting, domain, and basic design stuff much easier than how I really stumbled through it all.

2. A Good Designer Does Not Equal a Good Website Builder

I am not about casting shade or calling someone out, so my original logo and site designer will remain anonymous. That said, a lot of my trouble in my transition from Blogger to WordPress was because I hired the wrong designer for the job. I found a designer who’s aesthetic I loved, and I (too) quickly signed a contract and handed over a whole bunch of money for a custom logo AND web design, including the Blogger transfer and a shop. The designer didn’t have a vast portfolio or a bunch of reviews…but because I was smitten with the logos in the online shop, I put aside my worries, stopped my “research” and went for it. We started with the branding process, which was honestly wonderful. Although I’ve gotten some negative feedback on them, I personally really love my logo, fonts, and color scheme the designer put together for me. I LOVE having several pre-made logos I can use on photos, printables, business cards and more…and since implementing consistent fonts and colors, I feel like I finally have a very recognizable brand.

The troubles really started when we moved into the website design phase of our contract. The designer was seemingly unable to translate my requests into a site design that looked and functioned the way I wanted. I now know it’s partially because it was designed using a different “theme” than most of the blogs I’m used to reading. But because I hadn’t researched enough, I didn’t have the vocabulary to ask for specific things. The whole design process came to a screeching halt when the designer was unable to complete the transfer of my old Blogger posts to my new WordPress site (despite having paid for it) and fix some final pre-launch issues. Out of desperation, I had to suddenly end our relationship and look for another designer to salvage my site and my launch.

LESSON LEARNED: At least in my experience, a good graphic designer does not necessarily translate to a good website builder. I LOVE my logos and branding and feel like they were worth every penny. But from the get go, it seemed my designer was not as comfortable or experienced designing and building the website. There are so many things about my site that I truly love, but if I were to do it again, I would have spent the money for custom branding (logo, colors, fonts) and used those elements to customize a basic WordPress theme. If you are going to hire a designer to do a custom website for you, do A LOT of research, ask to see sample sites, and trust your gut. Oh…and if the price seems to good to be true…it probably is 😉

3. Find Good Tech Support

When I was faced with putting off my blog launch (to sort out issues with my current designer) or jump ship in an effort to get back on track, I chose the latter. I went back to Etsy and searched “Blogger to WordPress transfer” and found Daniel of Trendy Themes. His prices and reviews were phenomenal, but having just been burned by lack of research, I was hesitant to hire someone else so quickly. My launch deadline was approaching however, so I trusted all the 5-star reviews and requested a custom order. Literally within a day, he had righted all that had gone wrong with my blog transfer/launch…and I practically became a customer for life! Messaging Daniel that “fate-full” day last August was seriously one of the best things I’ve done for my site. Not only is Daniel incredibly savvy and gotten me out of a whole heap of messes I made throughout the year, but he is consistently proficient, professional, reasonable, and just darn good at what he does. I have now gone back to him time and time again to fix things that break (more on that in a minute), and am quite certain that I will be using him for any site re-designs in the future.

LESSON LEARNED: For those of you thinking about transitioning/starting on WordPress, the rumors are true. WordPress can be hard to figure out; and when it “breaks,” it’s not the most intuitive thing to fix. If you are like me and lack any and all website/technical skill, then I can’t recommend finding a good and reliable tech/design support person enough. When things don’t look or function right on the site, it can be really, really unsettling, but I personally don’t have the time or interest to learn that tech side of blogging to be able to fix it myself. Having someone I can “call” to fix issues…big and small…has allowed me to get back to the funner and prettier parts of blogging!

4. Good Hosting Is Everything

Because I was not following a step-by-step guide and didn’t have a good designer to walk me through the process, I stumbled through a lot of the initial WordPress setup (i.e., domain name, hosting). Years ago, I bought my domain name ( through a partnership Blogger had (has??) with GoDaddy. Because I thought GoDaddy already owned my domain name, I figured it was where I HAD to setup my hosting too. It turns out that when you buy your domain through Blogger, GoDaddy treats them a bit differently. So I still had to “release” my domain from Blogger/GoDaddy and regular GoDaddy had to pick it up. This is an insignificant detail, but had I known that I wasn’t already tied to GoDaddy, I would have “shopped around” a bit more for domain and hosting support. Anyway, with my domain at GoDaddy, I figured I had to have my hosting through GoDaddy too (which actually isn’t true!) and signed up for a Managed WordPress hosting package, not really knowing what it was or that I had other options.

Life was good and the site transfer was going swimmingly until I made my biggest mistake of all (#5 below). To fix that mistake (which I go into detail below), I had to change my Managed WordPress hosting to Shared WordPress hosting…which in itself was a huge blunder. I wish there were big red signs and flashing lights somewhere that said ” Danger Ahead! Danger Ahead!” Because Shared hosting is exactly as it sounds…you share a server with other sites…it’s not the most suitable option for blogs with a decent amount of traffic (especially ones as picture heavy as DIY blogs). For 4 months, I (and you!) suffered through site crash after site crash, slow loading, “site not available,” and new posts not showing. It was exhausting and exasperating, and I can’t even tell you how many nights of sleep I lost fretting over my darn hosting.

In March, I finally had enough and committed myself to spending the time, money and hassle of switching BACK to a Managed WordPress platform (where you don’t share a server and a lot of the maintenance issues are handled for you). Instead of sticking with GoDaddy, this time I did REAL research and switched to Synthesis hosting. Not only is my site faster and no longer has any weird cacheing issues, but it has only gone down once in the 4+ months I’ve been with them. It was a very costly and time-consuming mistake but after MONTHS of agonizing daily over my hosting, I honestly haven’t thought or worried about it since (which is how it should be!)

LESSON LEARNED: If you have a picture-heavy site, a decent amount of traffic, and/or ads, a Managed WordPress platform is worth the extra money. Period.

Read about my experiences switching from Blogger to WordPress and learn from the mistakes I made along the way!

5. HTTP AND HTTPS Are NOT the Same Thing

Oh friends. Just typing those words makes my face red hot and my fingers start to shake. A majority of my troubles over the last year are attributed to this, and I feel like I could write an entire cautionary tale on this one. But I’ll try to keep it brief. The short version of the story goes like this. When I originally setup my (Managed WordPress) hosting through GoDaddy (and before my new site went live), it came with an SSL (a secure certificate). I simply got an email that said “Setup Your Secure Certificate Now.” Not know what it was exactly (because I hadn’t done my research), I went ahead and set it up. I quickly learned that it’s the “thing” that makes a website httpS rather than just http….and that’s a big difference. Essentially, it’s an entirely different url..and unless you do some fancy coding, all of your old http links will go dead. Because I was having a shop on my site, I figured having an SSL was probably a good idea, so I kept it. I had my tech guy re-route all my traffic that was previously http (from Pinterest and other web features) to my new httpS site. I launched, and all was good with the world. I had a fast new site, I had an SSL, and my traffic was all re-routing properly.

After a few months of swimming along, I decided to put ads back on my site. Love them or hate them, ads are a valuable way bloggers make money, and I was missing out on a real and important revenue stream. Well, after LOTS of rejected applications, I learned that no ad agency will put ads on sites with an SSL. Whomp. I agonized for weeks on what to do, but ultimately decided to remove the SSL (so I could have ads on my site) and re-route all my now HTTPS traffic back to my HTTP site. Well friends…you can easily route HTTP to HTTPS, but for some reason that I still don’t quite understand, you can’t route it the other way without some very fancy and complicated coding. For 2 weeks, my site was dark, no one could find me, pins weren’t routing, and I was sad. So so sad. So…I switched my site to Shared Hosting (see above) and my tech guy did the fancy re-routing required to get all my traffic going to the right places. And for a time, all was again right with the world. You guys could get to my site, pins were re-routing correctly, I could have ads on my site, and I could breath. Until my site started crashing over and over and over…because of the shared hosting. Are you exhausted yet?? Because the whole thing was beyond exhausting then!

When I switched back to a new Managed WordPress platform because my site speed and stability were so bad, I had the option to keep the fancy httpS re-routing but decided to say goodbye to the SSL once and for all. No fancy configurations, no more re-routing. Just a plain old http site on really good hosting. For a few weeks, I had a lot of pins on Pinterest and around the web that led to dead links, which certainly isn’t ideal. Over time, the pins have mostly “washed out,” and after having a few rough traffic months, things are finally starting to come around. All in all, I’m relieved to have the saga over, but man did I pay in a lot of ways for a dumb, dumb mistake!

LESSON LEARNED: Stay away from the SSL! Okay…kidding…but just a bit. There ARE times when an SSL is very appropriate (like with a shop). My shop, however, only accepts PayPal, which has and uses its own SSL, so I never really needed one to begin with. Long story short? If you want to be able to have ad revenue, do NOT install an SSL!

6. Things Really Do Go Wonky

Okay…so I certainly had the perfect storm of design problems, hosting issues, and re-routing complications that most bloggers don’t regularly have to deal with (I hope!). BUT…the reality is that WordPress sites do “break” or go wonky seemingly inexplicably. After months of quiet on the backside of things (after a very rocky first 6 months), I logged on just the other day to discover my side bar was missing. Gone. I hadn’t done anything (wasn’t even logged on!) to make it disappear. Galleries have stopped working for me, my header has reformatted on its own, and more. I’m assuming they are due to updates or weird theme glitches, and boy they used to really, really rattle me. With everything I’ve been through with my hosting and link re-routing though, these small nuisance issues have become just that…nuisances. I typically wait until I have a bunch of them and then hire my tech guy to fix them all at once.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, it can be frustrating to wake up one day and have a page or side bar missing or a link not working right. But if your site is up, running, and you can publish a new post, all is good. Figure out a way to deal with the technical glitches or hire someone to do it for you…but all in all…just know they ARE going to happen!

7. Being on WordPress Can Be Expensive

If you can’t already tell, I’ve forked over a good bit of money in the last few years just to get my blog up and running. From the custom design work to tech support, hosting fees and various plugins and services (like my mailing list platform), it certainly adds up. The blog does make money, so I am comfortable investing some of it back into its design and function; but when compared to the FREE Blogger platform, it can defiantly take some time getting used to. Thankfully, hosting and domain fees are an annual (or even bi-annual) cost and the design fees were a one-time investment (until I decide to change designs again!). All the tech support fees have been worth every penny for peace of mind and knowing things were done correctly. However, they are something I have to factor into my blog budget since I am pretty much incapable of fixing the technical problems myself.

LESSON LEARNED: On one hand, I want to say “It takes money to make money,” but I also know there are many, many successful bloggers running their businesses through Blogger and other free platforms. I don’t necessarily regret having to spend money to keep my blog up and running, but I do admit I could have penny pinched more along the way (like customizing a generic theme rather than getting a custom-designed site). Like everything these days (or so it seams), the online/blog world is a big ol’ business, and you can end up paying for pretty much every product and service out there. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I recommend paying for a few select things that really matter to you (and only you know what those are!), and trying to DIY or find work arounds for the rest!

8. Find a Community

I could technically lump this one into “Do More Research,” but I thought it was valuable to point out how invaluable fellow bloggers are when it comes to de-bugging issues, finding the best plugins and tutorials, implementing the latest strategies and more. For my first few months on WordPress, I was marching along alone and very afraid to do or try anything that might “break” my blog. If I needed something done, I would reach out for professional help only to realize that (some) of the fixes were relatively easy (and even sometimes achieved via a plugin!). When I bought Abby’s Building a Framework e-book (for a whole host of reasons!), it was the exclusive Facebook community that I found the most helpful for WordPress-specific troubles. When I needed a new pop-up plugin, a simple post to the group quickly yielded dozens of options and opinions. When I finally decided to sort out my hosting saga, fellow bloggers were the ones I ultimately trusted to point me toward the best companies and packages. When my site is doing something crazy weird and I don’t know if I should freak out or not, I can quickly find out if other bloggers have experienced the same thing!

LESSON LEARNED: Google searches are great, but when it comes to finding the best advice for your blog, check with other bloggers (even better if they are in your niche). They know the platform, the requirements, and the common problems better than anyone and can usually offer a fix that is easier than you imagined!

9. You Can Easily Do So Much More!

I’ve gone on and on and on about how much more work, stress, and cost having a WordPress site has been, so you might be asking yourself “Then why even bother?” The simple answer is because WordPress really is a much more sophisticated platform; and because of that, you can easily do so much more  (at least compared to Blogger). Uploading, naming and tagging photos is SO much easier. Linking back to old posts/projects is SO much easier. Writing specific SEO descriptions (so that Google can find you!) is SO much easier. Pre-populating picture descriptions for Pinterest and Facebook so they load automatically is SO much easier. Adding in “no-follow” and affiliate links is SO much easier. Sharing downloadable files (like printables) is SO much easier because you can actually upload PDFs right to WordPress (which is impossible on Blogger). Creating galleries and menus and forms is SO much easier. Yes, the big headaches of hosting and costs and broken links can sure be stressful and exhausting when they come up, which is infrequent. Rather, it’s the efficiency and simplicity of the smaller and much more frequent tasks you do in every single blog post that make the biggest difference and make it SO worth it to be on WordPress!

10. It’s Easily The Best Thing I Did for My Blog!

If this post tells you anything, it’s that I’ve been through the ringer my first year on WordPress. I made so many stupid and costly mistakes, and lost way too much sleep and wasted too many dinner conversations trying to fix them. It has been a steep learning curve and a heck of a lot of trial-and-error, but I will say this: I’d do it all again (well, maybe not the SSL part because that really was so painful to sort out). I love the professionalism of my site, the increased functionality, and the ease at which I am now able to do basic post functions (such as SEO, linking and more!). I can’t say that the increase in traffic and followers over the last year is directly influenced by my site design (because I have been busting my but on projects too), but I have to think it’s been part of the picture!

Read about my experiences switching from Blogger to WordPress and learn from the mistakes I made along the way!

Phew! What started as a quick and simple listicle-style post turned into one of my longest ever. Sorry about that. Told you I’ve been storing up to write this post for a while! Beyond just sharing what I’ve gone through this past year, this post also serves as a good reminder for me on how far I’ve come. Making mistakes (especially costly ones) is not fun for anyone. And while there is still so much I don’t know about blogging and WordPress, it’s times like these when I can step back and see (and appreciate!) how much I do know! This whole blogging journey has really been one big DIY for me…figuring it out as I go, learning what I like and don’t like, and even making some great things happen along the way! Thanks for indulging me with your time on this one, and hope you found something here interesting and/or helpful!

Megan Signature

P.S. None of the links used in this post were sponsored, I’m just sharing my favorite and most helpful finds with you! Oh – and the gorgeous photos are by Kellyn Wilson Photography!