Q&A with PR Smith, Author of UpsDownsFamilyHistory

Tell us a bit about your Blogging.    

My WordPress blog started in 2013. After some hit and misses, I went with a paid WordPress platform that I dropped after the first year because the company (not one of the main ones, but a smaller competitor) was too hard to get responses from. I was able to migrate my WordPress platform to a free WordPress blog and have been using it ever since.
My blog can be found at upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com and I try to blog on a regular basis. I hit my 300th blog post recently and I try to blog at least once a week with a preferred goal of 3 – 5 per week at a minimum.
My blog is a mix of topics -Genealogy, Bipolar Depression, Mental Health, Mental Illness, DNA, History, First Nations (aka Native Americans), Military History, World War II, and Cemeteries. It’s on my to-do list to create separate blogs for some topics and have one blog that covers all of them.
Not listed, but I also do product and service reviews – I don’t get paid to do them and provide them as a service to people who read my blog. As somebody who is on a very tight budget, I look for ways to stretch my money as far as I can.
I am in the middle of writing a blog post about where I get some of my topics – social media. It can be questions or comments that pique my interest or are commonly raised questions.

What gave you the idea for your business and how did it start? 

My Master’s thesis was the initial idea for my business and while I haven’t been paid for my dream job yet, social media consultant, I have provided services in this capacity to friends, nonprofits, and businesses as a way to build a potential audience and showcase my skills in the area. My thesis was on nonprofit usage of social media and I worked on it 2009 – 2011. Sadly, much hasn’t changed in the nonprofit world when it comes to under-utilizing social media.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? 

I have a sleep disorder so my schedule doesn’t fit the 8-5 or 9-5 routine. With blogging, I can blog at 2 or 3 in the morning and not worry about having a boss mad at me for being on the clock at that time of the morning.

What are your keys to making yourself productive? 

This is a hard one as I have some health issues that have flared up over the last year and it can be difficult to be productive when fighting moderate to severe pain. Thankfully, focusing on blogging helps me ignore or temporarily forget the pain sometimes. I am working on a schedule to have days of the week where I blog on specific topics for each day. I also strive to have unpublished blog posts as back-ups for days when I am less productive. WordPress is great about allowing you to set a future date and time for a blog post. I have 47 blog posts that aren’t published and most of those will get published over the coming months.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career. 

To write a series of books and with self-publishing set to come into its own, this goal may happen in a few years. The books would range from sci-fi/fantasy to blogging and how to start your own company with little or no money.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career? 

Everybody is important. That may sound strange, but I treat all I come across as worthy of respect. I don’t care if you are the janitor (something I have done years ago) to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I am not going to treat you differently. Some of my best advice has come from people at the bottom and some of those used to be at the top before they found themselves back at the bottom. I used to ride the bus with a Vice President of a major bank. He made plenty of money, but chose to ride the bus for various reasons. I am open to learning from somebody who has tried and failed as they may have good advice on what not to do. I hang out at a local fast-food place to do a lot of my blogging. The manager and her regional boss don’t mind me hanging out as I don’t interfere with the employees and I have been doing this for several years and six managers. In case it’s not obvious, I inject humor and less serious subjects into some of my blog posts. For example, check out my blog post about Death Wears Bunny Slippers.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field? 

Don’t give up too soon, but also don’t hold onto a dream too long if it’s not attainable. Know when to hang on and when to let go. If you don’t try, you won’t know if you could have succeeded. Don’t look down on somebody who’s lower in the food chain than you because one day they may be your boss. Be willing to consider a career change. I started college in 1979 going for Electrical Engineering. By the time I finished my first degree in 2008, I had switched majors numerous times and earned two B.S. degrees and a Master’s that were in the business or nonprofit fields. It took me many years to get the first degree because I often worked long hours that made attending college difficult. The advent of online and online/in-person courses helped as I was frequently able to do much of the coursework on my schedule and not on another person’s schedule. When I started my Master’s thesis, social media consulting wasn’t something that many had heard of. Even today, getting jobs in the field are difficult because it’s still new enough that many companies aren’t willing to take a chance on hiring you. Be willing to go above and beyond. I have worked many jobs where I put in more hours than a boss and those hours weren’t always on the clock. Be willing to work outside your job description if the opportunity presents itself. Volunteer work can be as valuable as paid work. I got a job with the federal government because I learned computer skills volunteering at a local nonprofit. If you volunteer, take it seriously. I learned early on to treat it like I was being paid. I later managed volunteers and they ranged from you could count on them to being unreliable. Be willing to do what isn’t in your job description. I worked at a nonprofit where the Executive Director had to clean toilets on occasion. It kept her grounded in what her employees had to deal with.
On a somewhat different note, take time for family. When I worked for the federal government, I was rarely offered overtime and took advantage of it most times. However, one time I was offered overtime for a Saturday, but it was my week-end with my daughter so I declined. Likewise, when I worked for a bank, I was given overtime. The week-ends I had my daughter, I only worked 55 hours and the weeks I didn’t have my daughter, I worked 75 hours. I knew the overtime would only last for a set amount of time, but I also knew my daughter was growing up fast.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work? 

Genealogy, travel, spending time with friends and family, reading, learning about new things. I had a goal to go to Finland and I never thought it would happen, but in 2005, I was able to achieve this dream. New Zealand is on bucket list and one day I hope to make it there. DNA testing has become a passion as I have tested with over a dozen companies.

Name a few influential books you’ve read and/or websites you keep up with that you’d recommend to readers. 

The Bible – I know it’s out of favor with many people, but there is a lot that can be learned from the Bible. That applies if a person is a Christian or not. Lord of the Rings if read understanding why Tolkien created it. In terms of websites, I follow many of the major genealogy bloggers out there; I also belong to too many Facebook groups focused on topics related to my blog. For your readers, find websites, blogs, social media groups that fit with your career goals.

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