Ok, so five and a half years of blogging…including two total career changes (one from PR to social media, and another from social media to working for myself) and I’d hope I’ve learnt a few things about blogging. And no, I don’t just mean which red lipstick really is the ultimate or what the answer is to the question of ‘how many mint nail polishes really IS too many?’. There are a few things I’ve learnt along the way and I thought it might make a nice little brain dump/post so here we go…
1. Blogging has zero limits
I know, I’m going straight in there with a big old sweeping statement. But really – think about it. Blog start from absolutely nothing – not even a blip on the internet and they can become whatever the blogger behind them wants – you have total creative freedom to write about whatever and share photos of whatever you want. You could have a beauty blog and write a post about pottery making, or a fashion blog and write something about cake baking. The blogging world really is your oyster and I can’t really think of another field that offers the same level of creative freedom and boundless space for ideas. Sometimes I think the only thing that really limits bloggers are the pressures to conform to the blogging ‘norm’ be it a style of photo, a look, or a blog design or a style of review. Be as creative as you like – sure, take inspiration from blogs you love – but try to keep it classy and don’t just outright steal styles of doing things. Give it your own stamp of personality.
2. Blogging can make you self-conscious (or worse)
There’s a saying out there that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ – there couldn’t be a truer saying when it comes to blogging. One of the worst things you can do is be in the blogging world and spend too much time reading other blogs with a ‘why am I not as skinny/pretty/have as good hair’ hat on. It really is the worst thing you can do for your own self esteem. Read other blogs that make you happy or inspire you – maybe keep a little distance from those that might leave you feeling a bit low about yourself. For your own sake – think of blogs as like friends. Stick with the ones that lift you up and make you feel good – or inspire you of course. Avoid those that have a negative effect or that you find yourself comparing yourself to. Do your own thing and don’t let your own green eyed monster (we all have one) take any enjoyment away from it as much as you possibly can.
3. Blogging lets you self-teach yourself skills
Photography – not something I learnt in school and whilst I’m no expert I do now use a DSLR camera for most of my photos and how to use it is about 90% self taught. Before I bought it I went on a one-day photography lesson and borrowed the boyfriend’s brother’s 7D camera – a beast of a thing that I never quite got the hang of – but did get my head around the basics of exposure/aperture and all that. Video editing – again, I’m not going to win an Oscar anytime soon – but I’ve learnt a few tricks and still very proud of how I edited THIS video together – same goes for HTML and some design things. Never mind the whole new side to blogging professionally that I’m learning now. It basically shows me that there’s a whole world of skills out there that you might not have learnt in school but can learn in other ways instead.
4. Blogging makes you thick skinned (ish)
Sort of the opposite, but related to point number two. You put yourself out there, which to be honest was never something I intended to do when I started blogging at all. I actually began keeping the blog anonymous rather than putting my name against it. Then gradually I recognised that it really needed more of ‘me’ to the blog rather than it just being about the products – so little by little I’ve put a bit more ‘me’ into posts – but with that you can open yourself up to the nasty side of blogging. Not everyone will like you, and some people are a bit silly and rather than just clicking away to another site they feel the need to tell you this – or point out your flaws (see point two… I’m already well aware of most of them, but thanks for bringing my attention to them again regardless). I’m actually fairly fortunate in that I’ve only had a handful of hurtful comments on posts or videos over the years – but sparing a thought for a few of my You Tube friends who have to deal with nasty stuff day after day. The internet can be a cruel place – and of course you can never expect everyone to like you – but then there really should be a limit on what sort of mean or cruel comments put out there. On the plus side, I know to just ignore the nasty comments as they say a lot more about the person writing them than they do me – which in turn has given me a thicker skin.
5. Blogging doesn’t really have a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way
Everyone will have their opinion on blogs, bloggers and blogging. Personally, I feel disclosing sponsored content with a clear disclaimer and using a * to indicate when a product has been sent as a sample or gifted is the ‘right’ way to do things – regardless of what the OFT says, my view is it feels right and has done before they ever decided to post their own guidelines so it’s what I’ve always done (and always will). Others don’t do that, and it’s their call. Some people feel it’s fine to publicly slate a product, person or company – others do not. Again, each to their own. Some people view receiving products for free as ‘selling out’ or blogging as a profession as ‘not what it’s all about’. Fair enough – that’s their view (I would challenge them to turn down the chance to make their hobby into their career…). Bottom line is – your blog, your rules. In my opinion, as long as you’re not doing anything illegal then go for it – it would just perhaps be nice if others could just let people do just that without imparting judgement or their own rules and opinions. But hey, the same goes for life!
6. Blogging doesn’t need tons of money or gadgets
Ok, so if you have mega bucks then sure, you could pour tons of it into blogging – you could buy the latest cameras, have someone design a slick site for you, maybe even pay someone to take photos or film/edit for you and with the right help and investment you can launch yourself into the blogging stratosphere on a bit of a ‘fast track’. But genuinely you don’t NEED an expensive laptop/camera/other such gadgets to blog. Sure, as it grows and develops or even as the mood strikes you – invest in it, it is worth investing. But investing doesn’t mean money every time – the time, and effort and a steady hand and some good lighting (outdoor lighting is about as good as you can get in any shop!) and your photos, even if taken on a camera phone will work. It’s amazing what a phone can do, especially with all the fancy apps and what not out there. Get started and see how you get on – just make sure your photos are focussed and clear and take the gadget investment a step at a time.
On the other side of ‘need money to blog’ argument – whilst obviously samples help as each one gives you a piece of content. But just look around you for product and content ideas – write about your current routine, your all time favourite products, what’s in your bag, what you take on holiday. Raid your best friend’s make-up bags and blog about those – or even just keep a visual diary of your day and blog about that. Or subscribe to monthly subscription boxes so you know you have a few blogging opportunities coming each month – one for each product you can review, then one on the box as a whole. Buy magazines with product freebies – you can blog about the magazine/freebie offer – and then review the product too.
7. The blogging community has it’s ups and downs
Ok, so the blogging community probably gets a bit of an unfair rep sometimes. There’s the occasional drama, or some sort of bitch-fest. There’s always some sort of rumour or gossip circulating around or even things like horrid sites dedicated to saying nasty things about other bloggers. I think this is kind of part and parcel of a community largely made up of women. Sometimes women can be the most supportive and loyal friends a girl could ask for – other times…not so much. But it’s certainly not all doom and gloom – there’s also the wonderful side that you will meet and build your own network of friends and fellow bloggers that you share common interests and goals. You can skills-swap with these friends, help each other out and be a little rung on the ladder for each other. You can build a blogging circle of friends who will be there if you want to have a rant or a moan about life (blogging or otherwise) or as a sounding board for a new blogging or video idea. If you’re really lucky, you will find true friends in the mix that you care about and really want to spend time with away from the crazy world that is blogging. I certainly count myself lucky enough to have found friends who I would definitely say fall into this latter category.
8. Blogging will make you want your life to look Pinterest worthy – and it probably wont
Maybe this is just me. But as much as I would love for my living room to look like it fell right out of Pinterest, or my desk to always be a perfectly organised haven (the picture for this post is a total fake, just out of shot is a pile of paper work and some products I’ve been testing…strategically moved out of shot for full blog-worthy effect). Looking at blogs where the images do always have that look of perfection can cause much interior-frustration (and I mean home interior, not soul-searching). I am constantly wanting to redecorate – with weeks to go until a wedding this probably isn’t the best time. My little trick for this – even if your home space is small or perhaps a touch chaotic with rabbits and dogs and a boy to share the home with… (*raises hand*) try and find a little space you can use for your blogging photos that is all bright and clean and tidy. Until I move to some sort of Zone-1 mansion which I can totally redecorate based on Pinterest inspiration (also known as wake up in dream land), this will have to do.
9. Blogging inspiration will come and go
Just read THIS post to see what I mean.
10. Blogging is still the best thing I’ve ever done
I’m sure I could keep listing the things I’ve learnt about blogging until I had bored you all senseless (maybe I’m already there). But as my hobby and now as my job, I still love it – and all the ups and downs that come with it. Maybe I’ll follow up with a ‘part two’ or ‘more things I’ve learnt about blogging’. But will all the ups and downs it really is such a wonderful field to be in – something creative, and remembering point one… no limits! If you’re a blogger yourself, or thinking of starting one – go for it – try and remember that blogging at it’s heart is not about the freebies or the money, pour your heart into it, make it your creative or emotional outlet. Enjoy it, the readers will come and it will just become more and more rewarding over time. Make it what you want – start a beauty blog, then write about golf… there are no rules. It’s your space and starting your blog is your chance to totally own it. GO FORTH AND BLOG YOUR ASS OFF!
Also, share some titbits of what you have learnt about blogging – either just as a blog reader, or a blogger yourself. I’d love to hear what others have learnt along their way!