Warning: this is a wordy post!
Having a career apart from the blog is something I don’t like to mention here often, as I feel it comes across as a complaint or an excuse that I can’t produce content at the same rate as other bloggers that don’t have careers or full time jobs. While that is my reality, what I realized very recently is you can still be successful as a blogger, or have a successful online voice, even if you’re unable to produce content on the daily. I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years now, and I figured I have a little nugget of encouragement I can share with folks who are thinking about starting a blog while balancing a day job.
These are the 5 things I believe have been key contributors to the successes this blog has achieved:
Be authentic – Readers will be interested in reading about you, your personality, your spin on projects, your voice – not you pretending to be Martha Stewart or faking your way like you’re a design professional when you don’t have a client to call your own. I am really sensitive to authenticity, most readers (most other bloggers, honestly) can see right through a fake voice. Sure, some bloggers become success by the numbers while not being purely authentic, but honestly, it doesn’t last. I’ve seen some bloggers flame out because they couldn’t keep the charade going any longer. Basically, be you, and be proud to be you.
Be nice – This is totally the golden rule, treat others as you would want to be treated. Folks don’t comment much on blog posts anymore, which is totally OK but as a blogger I know just how great it makes me feel when I receive a comment. I read each and every one, which leads me to believe that all other bloggers do too! If you want to grow your online presence and network, start by commenting on your favorite blogger’s posts. Interact with them on social media. Ask them questions that make them feel good, soon they will learn your name and click over to your blog, and hopefully find a friend in you. Most bloggers live, & love, to support each other. This is definitely a sure way to grow your network. Otherwise, how would other bloggers know who you are?
A hard and tragic lesson I learned his year is not everyone is capable of accepting someone’s kindness. I recently experienced this with a blogger I highly admire. I was always positive and encouraging in my comments. I connected with her style and even thought maybe one day we could be friends! I look back now and laugh at how that sounds, but I still love her content and appreciate the way she paves a path in this space. Unfortunately she took me being nice as a threat, actually accused me of not being authentic and original, and even went to the extent to infer I must not know what I’m doing and needed to be taught a lesson. Ridiculous, I know.
I still believe that being nice to others opens doors and generates friendships. I will continue to comment encouragingly, and work to build a network of bloggers that I can call my friends, and tell others that it’s one of the best pathways to growth.
Be original – I’ll be the first to admit, my early days of blogging were testing out projects that I saw other folks do. Paint a piece of furniture with chalk paint? You got it! Refinish a table and blog about the steps as if you’re the only one on the planet who knows how to do it? You got it! I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning, and learned from others and shared what I did without a thought of originality. It didn’t take much time to realize in order to stand out amongst the crowd, I had to develop original projects and tutorials that folks hadn’t seen anywhere else. It still took me a LOT of time to grow into my personal aesthetic, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what that is from go.
Authenticity and originality go hand in hand. You can’t be authentic if you’re not sharing original ideas and projects.
Don’t apologize – This one is tough. I used to be the type to overly apologize for things that I shouldn’t apologize for, for an error someone else made, for an awkward conversation, for my house being untidy. I realized in my late 20’s that I was beginning to not be perceived as an expert in my line of work, or being taken seriously. Sadly, being overly apologetic is actually known for being a female trait. I think it’s important not to apologize for things that you shouldn’t apologize for.
When it comes to the blog, if you haven’t posted for a week, don’t apologize! You don’t need to say sorry if you’re life prevents you from posting on your blog. Just pick up where you left off! If someone asks you why you haven’t posted, be confident and tell them the truth – sometimes life gets in the way. If you have a career, like I do, you’re providing for your family and that shit takes precedence. Trust me, your readers will understand without any explanation.
I like to think of apologizing and confidence as having an inverse relationship. The less you apologize, the more confident you become, and the more confident you are, the more people will trust you and look to you for guidance and expertise. Success is built on confidence, not apologies.
Know your limits & your boundaries – In the beginning of my blogging career, I thought success meant sponsored content. Of course it feels amazing when a brand you love wants to sponsor a post on your blog, and if you get big shot brands it makes you look wildly successful in the eyes of your peers and readers. But honestly, having purely sponsored content isn’t the end all for success anymore. Nowadays, many brands, even well known ones, take complete advantage of bloggers and ask them to essentially work for free. We could dedicate a weeks worth of posts on this topic, but bottom line don’t work for free if you feel you should receive compensation for your work. Placing a dollar value on your time is a line you’ll have to draw at one point or another.
For the longest time I was also terrified of declining a proposal for a sponsored post, thinking I should never say no. Once I started receiving requests from random companies to blog on topics completely irrelevant to the blog, I knew I had to start saying “no thanks”. I started setting more boundaries and limits to what kind of content I wrote about here on the blog. I was already battling the challenge of carving out enough time in the week to generate content for the blog, why would I waste it on content that doesn’t represent me or my voice or my style? I don’t remember exactly when it was, but there was a distinct moment I decided that from that point forward everything I post on my blog and on social media, sponsored or not, was going to be content I generated myself, rooms I made over myself, photos I took myself, DIY projects I created myself, etc. If the sponsor fit my design aesthetic, my project pipeline, my values, I would engage with them. I would rather not post for a day than post something irrelevant to the blog. This is perhaps the biggest limit or boundary I’ve set for myself and this blog, but at the end of the day I want my blog to be 100% me.
What I found over years of reading hundreds of blogs is, my most favorite bloggers to follow are 100% authentic, true to themselves, don’t pretend to be someone they’re not. They’re nice to others and supportive in this community. They create & share original content. Best of all, they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s characteristics like these that make a blogger wildly successful.
I’m fast approaching my 5 year blogging anniversary, which is just a month away. Maybe it’s this milestone number, but I had started feeling insecure or doubtful about my online presence, like I hadn’t grown enough during these 5 years. It’s actually really stupid to feel that way, because earlier this year the blog was named by Domino as one of the top design blogs to follow. Also, our kitchen made it into print for the first time, April’s publication of Good Housekeeping! I might not have a husband who knows how to frame houses and reroute plumbing, or a studio space to house all my inventory (I store all my inventory in my garage! It totally pleases my husband, #not), but I think I am successful in my own way, and honestly that’s something to be proud of.