Parenthood is something that literally millions of people around the world share in common. And it’s one of those significant life milestones that most people reach with very little experience on how to handle it.
Although parenting may not be easy, most people get by on the fact that being a parent is in our nature as human beings. We instinctively know how to further our own race (that is, the human race). But that doesn’t mean we’re perfect – far from it. And this is something Sumitha Bhandarkar has really focused on with her blog, A Fine Parent.
She launched this blog back in October 2013, and it has already seen some great success. Her site’s Facebook page even has 30,000 likes, which is incredible. In this interview, Sumitha shares the story of how her blog came to be and how she’s built it to be successful in such a short period of time by simply connecting with other people and offering real value.
Check it out and see for yourself.
Sumitha, although I’m not a parent (yet), I do appreciate the work you’ve done at A Fine Parent. There are a lot of “parental advice” blogs out there, and yours has clearly stood out with the massive growth you’ve seen ever since you launched in October 2013. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What’s your background like, and how did you get the idea to start A Fine Parent?
Have you ever wanted something really badly, but when you finally got it, you totally blew it? That was the case with our parenting. It took us 4 years to have our daughter, but we found we were totally at a loss when it came to raising her right. It didn’t help that she was amply blessed with the stubbornness genes from both sides of our families. Or that both my husband and I had highly stressful, highly demanding careers. We pretty much messed up. By the time my daughter was 3, we were already having monster power struggles at home. Between my high-stress job and the highly-volatile situation at home, every day felt like a fight to just get through.
A lot of families around the world have a similar situation in some form or the other. And they get on by. We probably would have too, except, life threw us a curve ball. On a day that was just like any other, I got a call from my husband. He was in an emergency room. It was bad.
That incident shook me out of my inertia. It was a wake-up call that I couldn’t ignore. I spent the next two years focusing on three things – (a) cleaning up my parenting act (b) saving money like a squirrel on steroids so I could take a break from work and (c) trying to figure out what to do to stay busy during my break.
I was making slow, but definite progress in the way I responded to my daughter and our relationship was improving dramatically. One day it occurred to me that during my break, I could build a blog to bring together other parents in the same boat who are keen on becoming better parents, and better people – the slow and steady way. I went and got afineparent.com.
Around March 2013, I felt like I had a sufficient financial buffer to quit my job and take a 2-year break. I spent a couple of months traveling with my extended family and in October 2013 I started A Fine Parent. The blog is built around a simple belief that great parents are made, not born. This belief has resonated with a lot of people and our little community of fine parents is growing a lot faster than I had thought!
Did you have any previous experience with internet marketing or building a blog?
Back in 2006, I had a blog that was more of a hobby. It grew organically to a decent size. About a year or so into it, I started to get bored with the topic. Also, life started to get too hectic. So, I stopped blogging. Something strange happened though. I started getting inquiries from people about publishing paid posts and adding sponsored links. I’d tried Adsense before and maybe made enough for a cup of latte, but here we were talking about real money. Hundreds of dollars. And the funny thing was, I wasn’t really even doing anything with that blog!
Compared to my primary income, it was chump change. But it was proof of concept that there is something to this whole blogging/internet marketing thing. So I started reading more about Blogging and IM.
Slowly, I realized there are two primary ways to make money with blogging/internet marketing – (a) put up a website with some (any!) content and monetize it with ads and affiliate links (like I was doing with my old site) or (b) put up a site which offers real value to people, build an audience and then eventually create paid products that your audience asks for and will willingly buy.
With (a) you can start making some money rather quickly, but I doubt if an average Joe can take it beyond a nice side income. Option (b) on the other hand takes a bit longer, but you can actually build an ethical business out of it. And this idea of doing something you are passionate about, and eventually earning a living from it really appealed to me and I decided to use this model for my new site.
I know you’ve experienced some quick growth, and I’m excited to hear more about it. What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blog?
To me, hands down it is the “thank you” comments and emails that I receive from parents who read the site. I know the place where some of these parents are right now. I know how painful and frustrating a place that is. And receiving mails which say, “I see a ray of hope” or “You couldn’t have come into my life at a better time” are satisfying at such a deep level that no amount of pageviews/subscribers can possibly replace!
The next big unexpected thing has been the ability to connect with other bloggers with similar values as me. Blogging has offered me the unique opportunity to connect with someone who might live a thousand miles away, in a different time zone, but believes in similar values as me and dares to live a life in line with these values, publicly through their blogs. It’s incredible to surround yourself with such great influence!
What did you find to be your biggest challenge when starting A Fine Parent? How did you overcome it?
Believing that I can actually do something that can positively impact someone else’s life — that’s been my biggest challenge since the day I started and still is.
You can have a great idea. You can be on a great mission. Heck, you can hold the solution to all of the world’s problems in the palm of your hand. But if you cannot overcome that little voice in your head that says “Who are you to think you can make any difference? What if everyone laughs at you?” — it’s not going anywhere.
At the moment, I’m still working on it 🙂 The small community that is building up at A Fine Parent has been phenomenal in helping me overcome some of my fears. As a matter of fact, with their backing and support, next week I am now on a mission to inspire and support 10,000 families adopt habits that make nagging, screaming and drama a thing of the past, while still maintaining discipline and raising beautifully behaved kids. It’s called Project: Discipline Without Drama, and we’re taking it on as a community challenge.
The 10,000 number still freaks me out big time. I have so many “who are you to…” and “what-if…” churning in my head. Sometimes, I just want to go back to simply writing a few posts for the blog and be done with it. In the end, it comes down to the “why”. I didn’t create a site to be just an information source – there are enough of those on the web one Google search away for anyone to find. My goal is to bring out the best parent hidden within each of us. If I succeed with this attempt, great! If not, tomorrow’s another day… Or, so I keep telling myself 🙂
What has been your primary strategy for growing your blog and subscriber base so quickly? Are there a few tips you can share for someone who is currently in the early stages of their own site?
Building connections with other bloggers who have similar values and beliefs. I started guest blogging to do this, and built a small community of interested parents even before I launched the blog. I think that was crucial in helping the site grow so quickly. I wrote a very detailed guest post about it on the Smart Passive Income blog and will defer to that for the details. On my site, I don’t write about the blogging side of things, so that post is a comprehensive summary of pretty much everything I’ve learnt so far…
I don’t often focus on social media in my interviews, but I noticed that the Facebook page for A Fine Parent has around 30,000 likes. For a site that is so young, this is highly impressive. How have you grown your following on Facebook so quickly? Has it been completely organic, or have you used ads?
I actually started the Facebook page long before I started the blog. While I was still working full time, I’d post a few updates on the Facebook page as and when I found the time. I also played with Facebook ads to build the initial likes to the page.
For those of you interested in this strategy, check out Jon Loomer’s site – I learnt most of what I know about FB ads (which isn’t a whole lot, but just enough to get a small following started) by following Jon’s site.
Looking generally at starting and growing a successful blog: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Initially when I started, I was overwhelmed by all the great information out there about building a blog with a strong mission. At the same time, I’d get very frustrated by how much crud there was mixed in. There’s a Bruce Lee quote that helps me sort through this overwhelm and frustration, and get on the right track every single time. I hope some of you will find it useful as well –
Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. ~Bruce Lee [Click here to tweet this]
It worked for Bruce Lee. And, from my limited experience, it sure works for us bloggers on a mission!
Finally, where can people find you online?
I blog at AFineParent.Com
And, here’s the Facebook page.
And for those of you who are parents and are fascinated by the idea of creating a stress-free home where kids behave because they want to and not because they are nagged, screamed at or punished constantly, I’d love for you to join us in the Project: Discipline Without Drama community challenge!
Thanks so much Sumitha for sharing your story with us!
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