I finally surveyed my readers! After thinking about it for over a year, I buckled down and did some research on what to ask, wrote a survey in Google Forms, and sent out a request. I used Google Forms for two reasons – 1. it is completely free, no matter how many responses you get and 2. it makes it super easy to create charts of your responses. You can see the survey here, if you’re interested; I wrote a blog post and then sent it out to my newsletter subscribers and posted it on social media. I left it open for a week and then gave myself lots of time to read all the responses and reflect, and now I’m sharing what surprised me, what I learned, and what I’m changing!
What Surprised Me
1- My readers aren’t who I thought they were!
I didn’t realize it before the survey, but I mostly pictured the people who read my blog as just like me. How narcissistic!
2- What I think of as a weakness, is actually a strength.
I love trying new things (hence the TSNEM project) but frequently think about how this makes it much harder to carve out a ‘niche’. It goes against the most basic blogging advice to be all over the place with topics and tutorials. But, that is how I am, so I kept doing it and thinking of it as a bad habit. Turns out, lots of readers like that about my site, which was a pleasant surprise.
3- Virtually everyone has trouble finding time to craft or sew.
This was an overwhelming theme in the responses.
4- No one hates my ads.
Only 3 people out of 166 mentioned anything negative about my ads/sponsored posts, and even those 3 were pretty polite/mild about it. I know it would be better to have a site with no ads, but I depend on ads for part of my revenue. I anticipated lots of grousing over them with an anonymous feedback form, so this was a big surprise.
5- Not everyone likes watercolor elements.
I redesigned my site (announced here) a while ago and picked what I thought were pretty clean, neutral details. I had a few people express pretty strong dislike for my logo, which I never would’ve guessed.
My survey had 166 respondents- I have over 1400 newsletter subscribers after my recent inactive cull and about 700 opened the email inviting them to answer, with 190 clicking over.
Most people are from the US, like I am, with sizeable chunks from other countries. I’ve never had anyone ask for imperial measurements in my tutorials, yet!
This is the graph that shocked me the most. It should be noted that I think that people who are 50-75 presumably don’t have kids underfoot and have more time than 20 somethings with toddlers (aka me) to answer a survey. With that being said, I never would have guessed so many of my subscribers were over 50 – and over 75 even. I knew my Mom reads, but apparently she is in good company 🙂
Again, reflecting the respondents, having grown up kids (and grand kids) was a large chunk. Several people who indicated they don’t have kids themselves noted that they sew for other people’s kids instead. Which is good, because there are lots of kid-centric posts here! Also, learned a new term, FIDS, as in feathered kids. My apologies to the sole bird parent, for having excluded you!
I asked people what kept them around – what they liked about my site – and had some of the most lovely responses. I created a word cloud to show some of the most common phrases tossed around:
There was so much positive language used, I felt such a happy glow reading these responses. People repeatedly commented on how much they enjoyed the variety of my projects and the links in my newsletters – which is great because I like those things too!
One specific comment that made me smile was this: “The structure and content. Yours and Abby Glassenberg’s are always opened and read as soon as possible. My business is at the very beginning stages, and something similar to your newsletter is what I aspire to. ” Abby is one of my favorite people on the internet, and I love her newsletter, so this seriously made my day.
Another comment I wanted to address was “I love even more that you’re a total momboss and manage to stay on top of things. “. THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! Maybe my husband will chime in for a comment, but I can assure you I do not stay on top of lots of things. We literally have never made our bed, I regularly operate out of a “clean laundry (unfolded) pile”, and no one in my family bats an eye if I announce we are having PB&J for dinner. I am 0% apologetic about any of these things, because sewing and blogging time is more of a priority for me than having clean floors. But don’t think I have everything together!
I asked what topics were most interesting and sewing was overwhelmingly the favorite, with TSNEM towards the top, which is good since those are both my favorite too.
Overall, I was surprised at how nice people were, even anonymously. There was some negative feedback (which I wanted, of course); I could not stop laughing at this first comment: “I’m kind of confused about your logo. It looks like a handi-wipe or diaper with your blog name on it. Might want to explain the design choice” also, “What exactly is that purple/lavender thing that Swoodsonsays is typed over? I already filled out the survey but forgot to ask.”
To clear the air, that purple thing is just a watercolor flourish. It looks textured because it’s a scan of watercolor paper! I like it. I love purple. I’m not sure how to explain the design choice – but that is what it is, anyways!
One respondent has me confused with someone else! I don’t sell fabric. Some of her other comments also had to do with my fabric designs – but I don’t have any fabric designs. “My package of fabric looked like it had been mauled by a bear! Fabric was ok except for two of the 10″ squares which had some grease on them. Yipes!”
I’ve thought about guest bloggers before, and this suggestion reminded me of that: “Monthly guest bloggers on refashioning, kids activities, that sort of thing? I really really love your pattern comparisons like the beanies.” There are two problems with guest bloggers -1. I am a control freak and 2. I’m not sure I have enough to offer in return. Writing a blog post takes a ton of time, with photos and editing etc., and I am not at a point to pay anyone else to write for me. I love those comparison posts too, though, and am planning some more of them soon!
The aforementioned ads issue. Ads are a huge chunk of my monthly income, and one of the most reliable. I like my ads. I’m so thankful that my readers get it – saying “From an aesthetic point of view i would prefer to see fewer adds but appreciate the need to generate some sort of income from the work you put in!”, and also, “There was one of your sponsored posts that seemed like it was a bit of a stretch to get it to work with a tutorial you did. BUT I do love that you create tutorials for your sponsored posts. And you’re doing great, 99.9% of your sponsored posts don’t feel forced :)”. I try hard to balance wanting to make money with staying true to my ideas, the reader’s experience, and what I actually like making – so hopefully I’ll keep walking that line well!
What’s Missing Out there
I asked folks what was missing out there, or what they’d like to see. I was hoping to mine this information for future products and blog posts, and will to some extent, but was also left with several comments that I wanted to address but didn’t have an email for! So, feel free to skim these and see if either 1. your question was answered or 2. you have a suggestion for someone’s question:
- “I would like to know what judges expect when entering a show with your quilts. The AQS and other certified judges ask for some things the non-certified judges another. It would be cool to have a compendium of info for those people who want to enter into different shows and contests” I literally know nothing about this! I would recommend asking in the Late Night Quilters Facebook group.
- “I wish someone would make a tape measure that no matter what end you pick up the end always start at the beginning. I have a few older ones, however they don’t seem to make them anymore. They are so handy if you have not ever had the opportunity to use one. I have one that is my grandmother’s and it is about wore out.” I have no idea what this is or what it looks like! I’d love to see a picture.
- “Feasible, affordable plus size seeing patterns that neither make one look like a whale trying to impersonate a dolphin, nor ones that are so baggie as to make one look like they are wearing a tent/awning/feed sack.” Have you seen Cashmerette’s new patterns?
- “I really really need a better tutorial for how to draft a custom bodice.” I’m assuming you have checked Craftsy’s classes? I see one that talks about a bodice sloper, I have no personal experience and that is an affiliate link! Update- @sewmelwyk shared that she has enjoyed that class!
- “I’ve been looking for a good source for hiking pants fabrics, ” ME TOO! I had two different fabric stores in the PNW recommended to me, but neither responded to my emails. I have a swatch of this and it feels like it will work, so I’m going to try that!
- “I would like more clothing tips for the older body but, I do realize that your readers are a bit younger.” Apparently my readers are NOT a bit younger, but I still am so I don’t have any tips. I will do some brainstorming on blogs that might though!
- “This time of year I’m always looking for Christmas bazaar ideas that can be made in bulk by people with varied skill levels.” I wrote this post for So Sew Easy that you might like!
- “If you have older/elderly people in in your life (or your blog friends do) it would be nice to have a section on children (toddlers to teens) interacting with them. Could be learning a skill with grandparents (gardening, cooking, crafts) learning about older family members’ life stories or history (through crafting special trips, etc). Photos of grandparents with grandchildren every year. Help the children learn to appreciate older people and their stories.” I LOVE this idea. Thinking more on this!
- “A tutorial about making a quiet book from start to finish, including templates. I love looking at Pinterest and saving things but I must have a bazillion ideas and I’m hesitant to start.” I don’t have any to recommend, which surprises me, but hopefully someone else will chime in with one. As always, I urge you to just start though. It’s just fabric! Update- @sewmelwyk kindly shared this awesome resource, Sherri is fantastic and I am embarrassed that I forgot to share this, myself! Second update- Alicia reminded me that she has a bunch of resources for quiet books: quiet book basics “better logging out of one’s account, it keeps me logged in even when I try, insistently, to log out. I even tried on chrome, internet explorer and firefox, the problems subsists” I haven’t heard this issue from anyone else, I am sorry! I wonder if it is a browser setting?
1- Reassurance that my ‘voice’ is coming through. Sometimes I feel like I re-read and sanitize things a bit too much. I edit a million !s out of my posts – I am not really a ! type of person in real life, but sometimes a . just seems too boring. Anyways, I’m glad that people seem to feel like they get a sense of my personality through my writing.
2- I need to figure out how to best address the main problem I saw mentioned, directly and indirectly. People aren’t making creative time a priority! Which can lead to feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what to start, and turning back to Pinterest again. I love reading and scrolling, but it’s consuming. I’d love to find ways to help people start creating more and consuming less (which is ironic since you’re consuming this post, if you’re reading this, of course).
3- Not everyone is like me. Duh. Of course not. But a good reminder that people are coming from completely different places in life than I am – two recurring themes in some of the comments were trying to juggle a full-time, out of the home job with crafting and also trying to balance managing their disability with being creative. I’m not sure that I can help with either, necessarily, but it is important for me to think about these things when I’m wording my posts.
4- I’m doing something right. I shared back in the beginning of the year when I was in a bit of a blogging funk, and it can be lonely pouring time into a newsletter or a blog post and not really getting feedback on it (boo hoo, I know, it’s “the job” but hey, it’s true). It was just nice to “hear” from people who are regularly reading what I’m’ writing, and that they are enjoying at least some of it.
What I’d Do Differently Next Time
I’d like to do another reader survey eventually, and next time I need to ask more questions about Swoodson Says patterns. I’m not 100% sure how my customer base intersects with my blog reader base, but I’d like to know! There were very few mentions of any of my patterns, in general. I might reconsider adding an incentive to get more reader responses – 166 people is a lot but not when you compare it to how many people saw my request between social media and my own pages. I will say that without any incentive, almost all the responses were thoughtful instead of just filling stuff in for a chance to win or a coupon
Phew, what a long post! Just like with my income reports, I enjoy sharing information for transparency’s sake but also benefit from writing it all down and being forced to analyze it. If you’ve done a reader survey, or have thought about reader surveys, I’d love to hear them in the comments!