It was one year ago that I launched How Does She Do It? promising prospective readers:
“You’ll be inspired by the extraordinary and ordinary life stories of women in the Seattle area.
Each week I’ll interview a single mom, elite athlete, artist, or community volunteer; women who have arrived at their destination or women in transition – about who they are now and what choices they made to get to this point.
I’ll ask these women to tell who has made a fundamental impact on their lives, and what resources they turn to for support. And I’ll ask, whom should I interview next? We’ll start a thread that could weave throughout the region, and we’ll follow it wherever it takes us.”
With the first story about my mother Kelly Pelz I’ve gone on to write about 24 other women, ranging in age from 13 – 99, women involved in the arts, sports, non profit organizations and business; women making an impact in this country and around the globe.
In the process I’ve also had my eyes opened to the power of the web to connect us. Google provides more information than I can use, but here are some of the more impressive statistics:
- Since I posted my first story, I’ve had more than 13,000 page hits. When I started writing, I was excited to see the number of readers rise by 25 with a new story. Now I regularly get between 30 – 60 hits on the days I don’t even post from people who have Googled something and seen my page on their results page.
- My biggest single day was 328 hits about Lacey Evans, captain of the Rat City Roller Girls. By way of update – you’ll recall she was planning a kickball game at her wedding to determine the couple’s new last name. The groom won, and Lacey is now Lacey Ramon.
- 85% or so of my readers in any month are new to the site. These are people who might be looking to read about a specific person I’ve profiled, or they may be looking for information on a topic like raising children as a single mom, living with ALS, or owning and operating a restaurant.
- Through Google searches I’ve been found by readers on every continent. A reader in Kenya read about Trish Dziko’s efforts to educate children of color. Someone in Venezuela read about Marla Smith-Nilson’s organization Water First and their efforts to bring clean drinking water to the poorest parts of the planet. Readers from European and Asian countries regularly visit my site.
- Without question the story that is most often Googled is the one I wrote in two parts about the young violin virtuoso Simone Porter and her mother. Simone’s high profile as an international performing artist has inspired a lot of interest. (She got a nice acknowledgment for her performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert she was preparing for when I interviewed her).
- Sometimes another web site directs their readers to me. There was the time when the website Feministe picked up my story about Joanie Warner, who has been living with breast cancer for 17 years and her daughter Abby, who was organizing a rock concert as part of a high school project to raise money to eradicate the disease. I saw a spike in readership from that link, including one woman who was an old friend of Joanie’s from North Carolina. The two friends found each other through my web site and are once again in each other’s lives.
- 70 of you currently subscribe to the site – thank you for your vote of confidence! If you don’t do so yet but like the idea of each new story showing up in your inbox when I post, just fill in the white box in the upper right hand column where it says “enter your email address here” and hit the “subscribe” button. No cost, no obligation even to read, but it’s there if you want to. Likewise, if you prefer not to receive my regular emails notifying you of the new story, please don’t hesitate to ask to be taken off the list. I know how email overload can become an issue.
While most women eventually agree to be interviewed, almost all of them start with the disclaimer that they aren’t interesting enough to merit a story. A few have turned me down, including one woman I greatly wanted to interview who sent me this:
“I do wish I could say I'm enjoying my time as a full-time teacher with the Seattle Public Schools, but that's sadly not the case. Rather, I feel thwarted at every turn. It seems to me that creative people are not wanted in the public schools. I don't believe I can continue as a public school teacher.
“Due to my present lack of inspiration, both for teaching and writing – teaching has taken all the time and energy I had for writing – I'm afraid I'll have to decline Janet's gracious invitation for an interview at this time. I wish I were in a better place to provide inspiration for other women.”
Although I get wonderful kudos about the stories I write featuring other women, I don’t feel as successful in trying to establish the site as a place for readers to connect with each other. My other goal in starting was this:
“So, how do you do it?
Is your secret as basic as a crock pot or as meaningful as the words Aunt Lola whispered to you on your wedding day? What gets you up on a rainy morning and sustains you through one more meeting, rehearsal, breast feeding, burnt casserole, proposal deadline, or arrival of the Great Hormonal Onslaught?
I’ll open up topics and ask you to weigh in.
We’ll learn from each other, share our secrets, and promote the people, organizations, books – even kitchen gadgets -- that add value to our lives.”
The times I’ve put out a question for your response I’ve been met with deafening, well, silence, which makes me think, either I’m asking the wrong questions or you don’t have an interest talking to each other through the milieu of a web site. Consequently, I’ve become reluctant to try.
Likewise, the comment function of the site doesn’t get much use. My hope is that the site could grow into something more like a book club than a text message – something that inspires conversation rather than tweets.
All of this represents the growing pains, the adjustment period. You can help me with your ideas by clicking here to take a survey.
And finally to the business side of this project. I spend between 10 – 20 hours a week on the site, arranging and attending interviews, writing and posting stories and trying to master the technical aspects of blogging. As compensation, I’ve made about $94 in advertising and referral sales. I thank the person who ordered a camera on Amazon by clicking from my site -- that grossed me a whopping $16! If you want to help support this project, you can do your Amazon (and affiliated sites) shopping by clicking their ad on my site. I’ll get a percentage of your sales as a referral fee at no cost to you. Similarly, if you just click on any site ad, you’ll earn me a few pennies even if you never make a purchase.
Obviously, I don’t have the business model to make this a financial success, but I definitely feel as if I’m building something of value in writing these stories. I’m looking for other ways to share them (a book, perhaps?). If you have any ideas, I hope you’ll send them along.
If you have a few minutes, I’d appreciate your responses to a brief 10-question survey. Click here to take survey. I’d love your ideas for how to make the site a more valuable place for you to spend some of your time each week.
I can’t thank you enough for your support.
- Janet Pelz