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I’m going to start off by saying that this might not be the most interesting post unless you happen to be a pet blogger yourself or maybe if you’ve been friends with Koly and me for a long time.
Every year, our friends in the blogging community gather together to discuss our sites, what drives us as content creators, and our goals for the coming year.
When you are writing and creating all the time, it can be very easy to get caught up in the routine or get stuck in a rut, and this chance to stop and reflect has always been instrumental in helping guide and define what I want to do with Kol’s Notes over the coming year. I’m always grateful to Colby from Puppy in Training for hosting and to Amy at GoPetFriendly for starting this hop so many years ago. My last post for the hop was in 2018 and it’s refreshing to be able to take this beat to relax and reflect.
So, if you’re new here or if you’re like “why would anyone want to read this?!”, I hear you! Maybe check out some of our top posts of 2020 instead.
If you’re here because you love the window into pet blogging and hearing what everyone has planned for the year? Welcome, friend. Let’s do some navel-gazing together.
With ten years of sharing our stories on this site behind us, Kol’s Notes is like an old friend.
An old friend that has pushed me to grow and change. One that has, at times, tried my patience and brought me to the edge. One that has built my confidence and made me want more for my life. And most importantly, Kol’s Notes has brought me to an amazing community of dog lovers I could never have imagined would shape my life in so many beautiful ways.
Sharing my dogs and our lives with everyone has been a catalyst; inspiring me to be a better dog owner.
This blog started because I wanted to feed my dogs better. That was it. Along the way, I realized I didn’t just want to feed my dogs better. I wanted to be a better dog owner in every way.
I wanted to offer them ample opportunities for enriching experiences. I wanted to give them training that set them up for success, but that didn’t temper their natural spirit or personality. I wanted a dog-friendly home, but I hated living in a “dog house”. If I’ve become a better dog owner in the last 12 years and I have anything good to share here, it’s because of you all, and for that, I remain truly grateful. (OK, that’s probably. the last of the sappy stuff. Bring on the snark and sass.)
Look, let’s just call it what it is: 2020 was trash fire.
Oh 2020, I had such big plans for you and for our 2020 content. I wanted to share ways shelters and rescues could connect more with their communities, raise funds, and help more pets. I wanted to write about fun ways to enjoy the world with your dog. I had all sorts of ideas for ways you could entertain friends and family in your dog-friendly home. I was going to spend more time with blogging friends and go to more events in fun places.
But, you know, none of that was particularly relevant to a year when so many were unable to socialize, couldn’t hold events, and with the Canadian border closed, travel was canceled. That left me with a big void.
What I’m most proud of in 2020 is continuing to show up for this blog, for Kolchak, and for myself.
I know. Doing my JOB doesn’t sound like a lot, but hear. me out. 2020 was challenging and unforgiving. If all you had the brainpower to do was survive it? That is a darn win. The fact that I achieved anything on top of that needs to be celebrated. My amazing writing partner, Maggie from OhMyDog! and I were relentless this year in showing up to do the work – even when we weren’t inspired or didn’t want to.
If had one recommendation for bloggers who are struggling it would be to get you an accountability partner like Maggie. We’ve been Zoom-ing since before it was cool. For the last few years, we’ve had scheduled virtual meetings for writing and we might be the teensiest bit co-dependent in the best way possible. (Would I write if Maggie and I didn’t meet? Undetermined.) I can confidently say she makes me a better blogger, a more thoughtful writer, and a kinder human. While blogging can be an amazing community, it can also feel very isolated. We are usually our blog’s only employee. There’s not usually someone to bounce ideas off of or help solve challenges. It’s totally ok to choose someone as your co-worker and to rely on one another. In fact, it’s awesome.
Continuing to create my fluffy non-essential content through 2020 has been my ultimate act of hope.
In a year when so many are focused on staying afloat, staying alive, fighting for their rights, and struggling in a million other ways, creating light, fun playful content feels very counter-intuitive and sometimes, a little tone-deaf. But for me, it felt like committing to the idea that one day, hopefully soon, our hearts and minds wouldn’t be so consumed with struggle and we could once again focus on fun.
If I could chose a second thing I’m most proud of?
I made friends with Ralph from Beagles and Bargains. Ralph is wary of new humans and our first meeting in 2017 was not a wild success. In January, when I went to Colorado for Jessica’s wedding, I got to have a nice little cheese date with my Ralphie and we’re cool now. (On the downside, a cheese date with a dog was the only date I got to go on in 2020 because you know, quarantine problems, so, ugh.)
Speaking of quarantine…
2020: the year we all learned to make bread.
As lockdowns reduced everyone’s passions to things they could do at home, many people turned to their kitchens. For all the ways 2020 sucked, it was a good year to be a baking site. We saw visits to our recipes soar this year and it filled me with joy to think so many dogs are getting fresh, whole homemade dog treats.
We created our essential guide to making dehydrator dog treats last year and that post has proved wildly successful, but honestly, all of our dog treat recipes saw more visitors this year. My only regret is that I didn’t have a better way for all these visitors to share what they made with us! Finding a way to let people come and share their dogs and photos with us is on our to-do list this year because I would love to see more pics of your doggos eating our treats.
It’s so hard to know what 2021 holds for me, for the blog, and for the world.
For a lot of us, 2020 was the year we spent with ourselves – and there’s a beauty in that. I have a whole lot clearer idea of who I am, what I want and what makes me happy.
But I think we are all hoping to connect more with our community and people we care about in 2021. I’m craving it, waiting for the moment when it can happen, but still feels irresponsible to create content promoting that. So my goals for this year are less about what I want to create or share and more about how I want to use this time to set up the blog better, and to create better ways to promote our work and connect with dog lovers online.
A goal is just a wish without a plan. So I’ve been putting my planner to work.
Kol’s Notes is getting a new look this year. The changes will be an evolution, not a revolution of our branding that is not only past due, but that should make the site faster and easier to use.
I want to get back to our newsletter sharing not just our news and more personal stories, but also sharing fun things from around the internet and maybe even a fun new monthly challenge.
And last, as Kolchak ages and I focus more on enrichment, fitness, and senior care with him, I’m excited to share those stories with all of you.
I don’t know where Kol’s Notes will be a year from now, but my goal is to make it much more… muchier.
To do that, I’m going to have to spend some money. Invest in the site. Invest in making things better for all of you.
Us bloggers were asked to answer “if you had $1000 to spend on your blog, how would you spend it?” I’m truly lucky that I do have some money to invest in the blog this year.
I reluctantly started running ads on Kol’s Notes a while ago and while I’m still not in love with how it looks, the revenue it brings in allows me to do so much more with this site. This isn’t a cheap hobby. The domain, the hosting, the theme, the sharing tools, The recipe index plugin, the mail services… it all adds up fast. I think people would be shocked how much it costs to run even a small website like this! I lost money on it for years. But ads give me the flexibility to really invest in the site and I’m excited about it. I already mentioned our new look, but I’m also planning a few more awesome, if somewhat pricey, projects:
I want to re-bake, improve, and re-photograph some of our OG recipes and I want to develop a bunch of new ones. Fancy grain-free flours ain’t cheap and I’m going to buy them all to play with.
As I talk more and more about enrichment, I want to try the tools and toys that can help bring Kol joy so I can truly and honestly tell you which ones rock his world. He las like 6 new lick mats and I can tell you now, he’s loving this new kind of treat.
I want to give back. Not all rescues have the money to create slick resources or to have an event planner work on fundraisers, so I want to keep creating things they can use – totally free – to help.
I’ll also spend a little on improving me.
Did you know they’ll let literally anyone make the internet? You don’t need any qualifications. There’s no entry test. You can just… buy a domain and write what you want. I knew nothing when I started and some of our old work, oh boy. It shows lol! I want to keep learning how to create better blogs and how to best promote that work, so more people get to share in it.
I don’t know that travel will be on the table this year, but there are some really amazing virtual conferences I could attend and I’m eager to keep learning.
The hop always ends by asking “If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?“
And I never really know what to ask. This year, with an all-new, revamped newsletter in the works? I’m wondering who subscribes to a newsletter they love? What makes you want to open it?
Want to learn more about what makes us pet bloggers tick?
Head over to Puppy in Training to find a list of people sharing. And if you made it this far? Thanks for sticking with us. I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for over a decade, but I hope we get to do it for a decade more…