Tucson bloggers draw thousands of followers and earn some perks, too

2014-01-05T00:00:00Z Tucson bloggers draw thousands of followers and earn some perks, tooBy Johanna Willett Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rebecca Ludlum wrote about her sons’ antics to help her cope with their energy.

Emily Benziger used her blog as a creative outlet to document her favorite outfits and do-it-yourself projects.

Lauren Goslin went online to organize the recipes that helped her keep food allergies at bay.

What started as a way for each woman to deal with a personal challenge became a blog that attracts thousands of readers who await each post.

“I think a lifestyle blog is a personal look into people’s lives, and they’re giving helpful tips,” said Ludlum, who blogs about her family. She also mentors new bloggers and has worked as a social media consultant.

The money Ludlum has earned from these businesses and sponsored posts allowed her to quit her part-time job as a speech therapist.

Each of these writers share snippets of life online, inviting readers along for the ride.

Family

Rebecca Ludlum’s sons have grown up on her blog.

In exchange for sharing bits and pieces of their lives on their mom’s blog, My Crazy Good Life, Michael, 13, and Jack, 9, get some perks.

The blog got the family a mostly-paid-for trip to Disney World and scored them backstage passes to a Demi Lovato concert. When Ludlum, 36, freelances for media such as iPhone Life magazine, the family keeps the gear.

The money and perks that come from the blog have increased in Ludlum’s five years online. In that time she has seen successful, part-time bloggers pull in between $10,000 and $20,000 for selling ads and writing posts for companies about specific products and services. She knows of full-time bloggers who earn more than $50,000, but said income depends on a blog’s audience size and a company’s interest in it.

Ludlum has to remind her sons that most of the time they live normal lives.

“When I paid to take my son to Pitbull last year, he was like, ‘Do we get to meet him?’” Ludlum said. “‘No. We don’t. We’re regular people.’ I have to make sure they understand it.”

Ludlum started writing about her family online as a way to cope with Jack’s energy.

As a toddler, he clogged the drain in the bathroom sink by stuffing it with toy sponges that expand in water. The family struggled with the plumbing for weeks before taking the drain apart.

“I would call my mom with a story and she would be hysterical laughing,” Ludlum said. “I was so stressed out, and so I realized that if I started to write it down, it would be less stressful.”

The blog took off. Through social media, My Crazy Good Life reaches more than 13,500 people. The blog has about 60,000 to 70,000 unique visitors each month. Ludlum posts about four times each week.

She quit her two-days-a-week job as a school speech therapist to deal with the traffic but still struggled with work-life balance.

“The kids would come home, and I would say, ‘I’m just going to finish a couple of things up,’” Ludlum said. “I need complete quiet to work, so when the kids came home, I would find myself getting stressed because they need help with homework or they want a snack — totally normal stuff, but I would find myself getting overwhelmed. That’s when I stepped back.”

Ludlum no longer hunkers down on the couch with her laptop as family life goes on around her.

Even writing her book “Everything but the Posts: Tips, Advice and Templates from a Blogger Who Has Been in Your Shoes,” Ludlum kept her work from interfering with family life. She woke up at 5 a.m. for 50 days to write for an hour. The book comes out this month.

She always lets her sons decide how much of their lives show up online and censors more as they age (Michael has some friends who follow the blog).

The boys have started to contribute. Michael often helps Ludlum with tech reviews, and Jack is always looking for the next blog post.

“My youngest son cracks me up, because he’s always like, ‘Can’t you just put that on the blog?’” Ludlum said. “We’ll make a good dinner, and he’ll say, ‘You should put that on your blog.’ It’s very cute.”

Fashion

Emily Benziger used to build swings and ladders in the cottonwood trees on her parents’ Tucson ranch.

Now, she uses that self-taught craftiness to fill her apartment and closet. She records all of it on her fashion and DIY blog, Yesterday’s Sweetheart.

“When I was younger, I would have to change my room around almost every month,” Benziger said. “I would do some sort of switch — paint my dresser a different color, get whole new pillows and just create new spaces.”

Benziger, 24, started her blog to keep track of personal projects. She did not plan on a public following. At first, she just shared with friends and family.

Three years later, more than 12,000 followers watch the blog on various social media, clicking through a scrapbook of homemade necklaces, shopping finds and the decorations scattered throughout the apartment she shares with her boyfriend. About 8,500 of those followers come from Instagram.

The audience growth has earned Benziger some pocket change — maybe $100 a month — through ads and free clothing, as companies ask that she feature their styles in the posts that she puts up several times a week.

Her own inspiration comes from websites such as Pinterest, which also allows her followers to organize and try the projects she posts.

Recent projects include building a desk and coffee table — furnishings for her new apartment — but spring will shift her focus to fashion.

This year, she plans to launch Fine Life Company, an online clothing store inspired by her “modern vintage” style. It is a natural step for the blogger who worked her first retail job at Posh Boutique and helped build the store’s website when it reopened as a resale shop in 2012.

“(Fashion) has been intuitive for me,” Benziger said. “When I was in retail, I always loved helping people put outfits together. It just kind of spills out of my mouth.”

Food

When food allergies dominated Lauren Goslin’s life, she ate a lot of oatmeal.

That, along with chicken, beans, apples, cucumbers and rice kept her going for more than four years in the midst of crippling allergies. When medical treatments finally began to work, Goslin slowly toyed with exploring new, healthy and tasty foods.

The Internet became her digital cookbook.

Usually an organized person, Goslin has piles of scrawled recipes floating around her kitchen.

When she started Oatmeal With a Fork in April 2012, she organized everything, paying tribute to her beloved oatmeal and her husband’s tendency to eat it with a fork.

Now, she sometimes references her own blog to find recipes — as do about 6,300 social media followers. She posts three times a week, and through ads and affiliate links, Goslin estimates that she makes about $50 to $60 a week.

“It starts with substituting out things I can’t eat, changing the oil, lessening the sugar, using oat flour for something I don’t handle very well,” Goslin, 33, said. “It’s just an eliminations process with a lot of failures along the way.”

When Goslin’s father died from a heart attack in 1999, her feelings of helplessness brought on a struggle with bulimia, ultimately damaging her immune system and spurring extreme food allergies. It took years of tests and doctors’ visits before Goslin could include variety in her diet. Her symptoms calmed down, easing eczema, acne and depression.

She still relapses when food does not agree with her, but through Oatmeal With a Fork, Goslin has met other women with similar experiences. Together, they hypothesize about causes, symptoms and healthy workarounds.

“It seems a lot of women have digestive issues or acne or hormonal stuff and all of us are just trying to find what works for us,” Goslin said. “You get ideas from other people.”

Goslin does not strictly follow a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diet, but she tags many of her recipes that way. Most of the recipes she tries, she does so with the dietary limitations of her readers in mind.

“I know what it’s like to be severely deprived, so I have a lot of sympathy for those people,” Goslin said. “That makes me want to help them.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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