MaAnna Stephenson is the owner of BlogAid, and is committed to bringing you easy-to-use information that will help you become a confident site owner. From two decades of Web director experience, she offers you classes, video tutorials, and site consulting that are specifically for non-geeks on a budget. BlogAid specializes in sites and training for small business, solopreneurs, practitioners, authors, artists, and other creative folks.
I'm excited to introduce you to MaAnna Stephenson!
1. Welcome, MaAnna, and thank you for agreeing to interview with us today. Can you start out by telling our readers a little bit about you, including how long you have been writing?
I'm an electronics engineer and have produced technical/training material since the 1980s. In the 1990s I began developing websites as a volunteer with non-profit organizations and also wrote ad copy for them. I had a nice side business with it from all of the word-of-mouth referrals and never once had to advertise. In 2003 I wrote my first novella, which is still unpublished. Shortly afterward I began an intense period of study that lasted over four years and eventually became The Sage Age - Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom. It was featured in Publishers Weekly shortly after its publication in 2008.
2. You are also a nationally recognized wood carver, would you mind sharing a little bit about that with us?
I was in the music business for decades, mainly writing jingles. Even though I have airplay in 14 countries, it was never more than hobby income. And I wanted a hobby that was far less expensive and time consuming, so I started carving. I created a website to share them with friends around the country. (http://www.HeartwoodArt.com)
A column writer for Fox Chapel Publishing found the site and contacted me shortly after The Sage Age came out and asked if I would like to have my carvings featured in Scrollsaw, Woodcarving & Crafts. Of course I agreed and was very flattered. She came back and said the editors were so impressed that they wanted to feature them in the other magazine, which was Woodcarving Illustrated. I was floored. Since then the carvings have been featured in five magazines, including the premier Russian carving one, and I've written a paid tutorial. At some point I'll do a book for Fox Chapel, but BlogAid took off and I simply have not had time.
3. What inspired you to launch your BlogAid website?
In the five years between closing the website side business and creating a site for The Sage Age, the Internet had changed considerably. Blogs were becoming popular and Twitter was just catching on. I had a new learning curve, and being a tech writer, took good notes. My editor had questions about her blog (we were both on Blogger) so I sent her my notes. She jumped up and down with me for weeks saying that there were millions of folks who could benefit from that information.
So, I created a site called Just the FAQS and wrote twelve or so ebooks that gave step-by-step instructions on Blogger, WordPress.com, WordPress.org, and RSS Feeds.
Since JTF dealt with all the techie stuff, I created BlogAid as a sister site to cover the marketing, blogging, and social media aspects of online promotion, but only posted to it occasionally. I eventually merged them into one site, which is BlogAid as it stands now.
4. Are there any memorable moments, challenges or trials that you have been through on your journey with BlogAid that you would be willing to share with us?
After a year with JTF and four months with BlogAid, I realized that folks didn't want training manuals as much as they wanted personalized instruction and/or video tutorials. And, I had developed a much better marketing mindset by then. So, I merged JTF into BlogAid because it was the more marketable domain for offering training and services on everything that had to do with online marketing.
Naturally, I built static sites for both the book and carvings. My blogs were on Blogger. I eventually created WordPress blogs, but simply attached them to the static sites. I did JTF the same way and realized all I was missing by not being on WordPress and switched it over. I built BlogAid as a WordPress site the first time.
So, if I had to do it all over again, I would have started out on WordPress. In some ways, it's been like starting over every six months. But, because I've become more online marketing savvy, it really doesn't take long to recoup and surpass where I was before. BlogAid, as an integrated site that I'm putting my entire focus on, is only a few months old and I stay up to my eyeballs in clients and opportunities.
The other challenge I've had is in developing a sales mindset. I've been in service my entire professional life. For the most part, I've been very successful with all of my ventures without having to advertise at all. Because of what I do, any time I just show up I get mobbed! Everybody has a question or needs help with their site in some way.
I'm good at marketing, but not so much at selling folks my services, which is different. Somehow, I think that's going to be okay in the long run. Folks are getting sick of being "sold" all the time online as it is. And pushy, guerilla marketing tactics and squeeze pages that scream at you are loosing favor by the day.
And, I never leave enough time for all of my success! I believe I suffer from that ancient Chinese curse/blessing, "May you get everything you want - all in the same day." So many of these opportunities have come one on top of the other.
5. Can you tell our readers what kind of services you offer, and what they could expect if they signed up to work with you?
I offer one-on-one WordPress training that is tailored to each client's needs, skills, comfort level, goals, and target audience. I specialize in working with creative folks who are non-geeks, such as authors, artists, intuitive practitioners, and small business owners, including retail shops.
I also offer a full array of site services such as secure, turn-key WordPress installation and setup as well as setup and optimization of things like Google Analytics and RSS feeds through Feedburner.
I've had a lot of fun making video tutorials and more are on the way every week. They serve as a great way to get a taste of all that WordPress can do, and serve as back up reference to the training classes.
I've also just started offering video website reviews where you can have a set of expert eyes look at your site and make suggestions about what's working well and what you might want to add or tweak to make it better. There is no such thing as a single right way to do a site. I take into consideration the target audience and the owner's goals when I do a review.
6. If someone was thinking of setting up a Wordpress site, what would you say the most important thing for them to know would be?
Purchase your domain name and hosting yourself. Make sure you have all of the security info for every aspect of your site and that you are listed as the owner. I'm sorry to say that I've worked with far too many clients who got their domain and hosting through a designer. Then, when they wanted to change to another designer or found a better hosting deal, the next day they found their entire site gone. The designer owned the copyright and held all the security info. Their site, domain, brand, and SEO they had worked so hard to build were gone and they had to start all over from scratch.)
The second way folks get ripped off on their first site is to pay way too much for the design. A $500 design will not get you noticed online. Stellar content will. Content rules the Internet. In my classes, I use a proven method of training first, content second, and design last because it works. Folks usually come to me with a design in mind. By the time they finish the class, they realize they need an entirely different type and style of site that enhances their content and meets their online goals.
7. MaAnna, thanks again for agreeing to interview with us. In closing can you tell our readers how they can connect with you online?
Thank you so much for inviting me! You can connect with me on BlogAid at http://www.BlogAid.net and on these social media sites:
"I Wish I'd Found Your Site a Year or Two Ago"
"Incredible Source of Information"
"Amazed at the Number of Tools for Writers"