Happy blogging birthday to meeeeee! Nobody bought me a cake, so I bought myself one. Only kidding (kind of). My little slice of the internet is now a year old and I feel like a proud mum (somewhere around ‘did first wee on the potty’ rather than ‘graduation’). I never particularly knew what to expect when I started sticking my mug on Instagram and wearing out my laptop keys but I am immensely proud of the progress I’ve made in the last twelve months. To be able to start daring to believe that what started as a dear-god-someone-save-me-from-my-degree hobby could be a viable career option – one that excites and fulfils me beyond measure – is bloody amazing, and bloody terrifying in equal measure. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about blogging in my first year.
12 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED IN 12 MONTHS OF BLOGGING
1. Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter
Before I turn this into some weird okay-calm-down-Beth Oscar speech, I want to make it clear that whilst I’m bloody proud of myself I am also beyond grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from my family, my friends and so many beautiful strangers. When I first started blogging I hated the idea of anyone I actually knew reading my work or following me on Instagram. I worried about what people would think and feared the negative judgement.
12 months on? I have made friends in the industry that I know are for life, I have taken ownership of what it is I’m doing and why it is I’m doing it and whilst yes, there are still many a silent scroller that watch without an ounce of encouragement, I do notice the names that support me whether they’re childhood friends or internet pals. I notice, and it makes my heart happy and I am oh so grateful.
For a while the odd critical remark; the implication that it’s vain, that sharing my life online is inappropriate or that pursuing it as a career is a waste of my degree bothered me. Some people will never get it, and that’s totally cool too. Just do you.
2. You’ll never know what your job title is
Errr yeah I’m a…writer. A freelancer. A photographer. A content creator. A caption-addict. Uhm, I tweet a lot and say the word ‘vagina’ on Instagram without batting an eyelid?
Trying to explain to someone who doesn’t understand or have any experience of the blogging industry is a bit like trying to go to the loo after you’ve painted your nails. Uncomfortable, frustrating and you might get wee on your hands. Okay, not the last bit. I hope.
3. No, I don’t want you to take a photo of us together, thanks Susan
You will never, ever be able to go out and shoot outfit photos (whether with a photographer or with your mate/insta-hubby) without some lovely, but confused soul offering to take the photo for you. It always makes me giggle because people must just assume you’re the most dedicated tourist ever, or REALLY obsessed with your shoes.
4. The best thing you can possibly be is yourself
I spent a lot of time worrying about where I might fit in and whether there was room for me at all. I don’t regret that because it’s all a part of the journey that is self-discovery but as soon as I realised that the only thing I could be the absolute best at – the thing that nobody else could do – is be ME, I became a whole lot happier.
I started to find my footing and trust my instincts more and I gradually saw it paying off too. There is no use trying to recreate what someone else has already done, by all means be inspired but go with your gut and be yourself.
5. It is really important to log off sometimes
At this precise moment, sat on my bed writing this post, I am logged off of Instagram. I gave myself some time off of the app a few days ago and it has been so refreshing. It’s really important to detox when your mind (and body – spending too long on my phone affects my sleep) needs it. I used to worry that because Insta is my highest grossing platform and the one I invest most of myself into on a daily basis, I wasn’t allowed to take a break from it. Actually, sometimes you NEED a break just as anyone in any industry does so that you can come back refreshed and ultimately better at what is if you do.
So whether you just ensure you put your phone on airplane when you’re out for dinner or turn it off by a certain time each night, or whether you fancy logging off altogether for a few days, know that is is not only totally fine but also really necessary.
6. Running a blog is not free
Yes, you can find an open platform, pick a template and start bashing away without getting your wallet out, but if you want your blog to one day support you financially (please note: none of the good bloggers I know started out with the intention of making money – if that’s your sole motivating goal then it’s probably not going to work) then you have got to invest into it.
Why do I need to get paid for what I do? Well lets forget my rent, utilities and unhealthy obsession with Marmite for a minute. Let’s forget the time, skill and reciprocal benefit of creating content for a brand. I pay for web design and photographers, every month I have direct debits that pay my server fees, my Adobe subscription and for my crazy data and wifi usage. When my laptop and phone got stolen it was imperative I replaced both immediately because I could not run my business without them. I buy photography equipment; new lenses, lights for the dark winter days, memory cards and spare batteries, props and backdrops. Then I pay for apps, subscriptions and software to edit them with.
I am well aware that I choose to spend all those pennies but when there are 6 direct debits going out each month on top of one off and annual costs, it can be frustrating to hear people dismiss bloggers as “in it for the ‘free’ stuff.”
7. Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 12
Even the highest of flyers start on the ground.
8. You’ll find yourself doing the weirdest things in the name of Instagram
Erm, yes I am giving my donut a photoshoot with a soft box and carefully placed props and no, that is not strange at all. Well, actually, now you mention it…
9. Write for yourself, not for your readers
Desperately trying to write content that will please others is not only tiring but also pretty bloody difficult to achieve. Write for yourself, create the content that fulfils you and the readers will come. When they do, they’ll find someone who is genuine, authentic and who believes in their own words. After all, if you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to?
10. Know your worth
As both a person, and as a content creator. Know that you do not deserve rude or negative comments; block them and move on. Know that what you are doing is a talent and a skill, as well as being time consuming. If someone wants to work with you it’s because you’re worth something so know what that is and don’t be afraid to stand your ground politely. Don’t undersell yourself.
11. You will only spend 30% of your time actually creating content
Writing emails, reading emails, replying to emails, flagging emails, filing emails, unsubscribing from mailing lists you never signed up to in the first place. Creating invoices, sending invoices, chasing invoices, threatening to send an envelope of carpet-ruining glitter to people who don’t pay their invoices. Calculating fees, negotiating fees, sighing when someone only wants to pay half your fees. Reading contracts, changing contracts, signing contracts. Scheduling tweets, writing Instagram captions, responding to comments, sharing URLs. Styling photos, taking photos, editing photos, arranging photos.
It’s all in a days work and whilst I wouldn’t change it for the world (actually…a PA and an accountant would be nice pls), I probably underestimated just how much leg work there is behind the scenes.
12. Success does not come over night
Unless you throw a poo out the window after a particularly fiery Nando’s and go viral.
It’s a slow burner and patience really is a virtue. Growing a blog that you can rely on as your main source of income (which, by the way, is not a goal to be ashamed of) is a bit like growing cress on some cotton wool when you’re 3. It takes BLOODY AGES and then when a tiny sprout does rear it’s cute little head some other snotty toddler pokes it. There are no quick fixes to growing a dedicated following or a steady income and anyone who forgets that usually perishes in a sea of inauthentic skinny tea commercials and shitty engagement. Stay true to yourself and create wholesome content – whether sponsored or not – that you’re proud of and eventually the rest will follow.