How to succeed when you're not extraordinary.
To get anywhere in this industry, a blog is something that has to begin out of love and passion; it has to be something you grow because you're obsessed with it, because you adore it and because it's yours. A blog started simply for the desire to receive 'free' products or earn money most likely won't last all that long, those things are simply bonuses for those of us who have discovered a passion this way, opportunities we won't have had the chance of beforehand.
Since the beginning, I've been using this space to record our memories, to salvage the umpteen photographs I capture weekly, to pull something together that we can regularly look back on and laugh at, to stall the memories from fading and to jump-start those that are already threatening to disintegrate. It naturally grew and became something more; I had to consider social media, promotion, my branding and branding consistency across the entirety of my network, and then it became all-consuming and I got lost.
I went through a phase of regularly joining linkies and hosting my own, yes to discover other bloggers, but also to grow my own page views and visitor count, of sharing pre-written sponsored content (a blogger's gotta eat), of writing simply to fill a quota.
Then there came a turning point, where I realised as much as I wanted my little blog to succeed, I didn't want to do it by partaking in things I was finding such a chore, by sharing posts I wasn't entirely in love with just to fulfil a schedule I had no idea would help me to grow or not. I wanted to post quality not quantity, pictures I was proud of, memories I didn't want to lose (the things I'd started with in the first place), so I stopped the schedule and the released the pressure.
I stopped reviewing products unless they were really beneficial to us and though I still collaborate on sponsored content with brands, I only accept if it's a post I can write myself, something I can pour myself into, a subject I can take on that intertwines comfortably with our stories and I ensure those posts are as transparent as possible. Transparency was something that used to be seen as the death of a blog post, yet now seems to be the key to your audience trusting you, understanding that the paid posts are those that keep you able to do what you love in the first place and to be lucky enough to do it as a job.
Of course, there's a price to solely doing what you love, sharing it whenever and wherever you want to, and that's usually a dip in visitors, a slowdown in correspondence and less opportunities throwing themselves your way. It seems to succeed, we have to push and push and do all of those things we don't particularly enjoy, in any industry, to put in the hours, but luckily I am in a position where I can say 'I can't do that right now', I'll post for us and whatever comes out of it is simply a bonus.
I'm a graphic designer too, so I'm able to take a little pressure off of the blogging side of things and focus on earning my money that way; I'm lucky enough to have two things that I'm animated about, so perhaps that's why I've been able to take the route I have.
What I'm getting at is, it takes a lot of hard work to build a successful blog; it takes passion, love, determination, a knowledge of marketing, of branding, of design, of knowing your target audience, of being aware of and taking advantage of your niche, and sadly, right now, I'm simply not that extraordinary.
My days are fairly mundane but hectic, filled with nappy changes, pre-school drop-offs, organising appointments, preparing dinner, entertaining small children (something we all know is a job in itself), and all that before I can really get around to me. My child-free time is spent sending emails, completing design jobs, tidying the mess of the day and half the time the lure of a good read or a Netflix original means my blog can take a back seat.
I've gone from three posts a week to one and I vlog, oh at least once every three months, but what I do post, I love, and I know I won't be pushing the delete button in a years time. I relish in the collaborative projects I take on because they are a challenge; they force me to think differently in the way I see a product or service and in how I can blend that seamlessly with my own life, our life. Frankly, I'm just as proud of those paid posts as I am of the organic ones, and shouldn't that really be what a love for something is? Wanting to retain it's purity, to keep it good. A place we are only fully happy & content to spend the little free time we have.
Perhaps I'll never be that blogger. Perhaps I'll never grow my Instagram audience beyond 2.5k or have the ability to happily stick to a schedule. Perhaps I'll never get my branding right, never quite hit the nail on the head, never get the chance to build an audience big enough to be eligible for certain opportunities.
But perhaps, that's my thing. I may not appeal to the masses, our life may not be particularly extraordinary, but it is ours and it is a passion, a love, and it has helped to unearth a side of me I was never aware of before my boy's came along, and to the audience I do have; the loyal, engaged readers, I take the route I do for us and for you and for the want of building something that could, one day, become something more.
It is an escape, a getaway, something that I can fully immerse myself in after a hard day of being a parent. Sometimes, I'm too exhausted to post, to hit a schedule, a quota, but I know it's always there, to delve into when I really need it the most, so it's really okay to take the pressure off, to find your inspiration again, to rediscover why you started. The biggest selling point your blog has is you and your stories, and whether your balance is giving it all or barely nothing, no one can make that decision but you.