Today marks the 8th birthday of ModlyChic. I published my first post knowing absolutely nothing about blogging and very little about fashion. It was meant to be a creative outlet when I worked in the non-creative field of real estate reporting. Over the years a lot has changed and I’ve learned a lot from blogging. A lot has changed with me personally – I’ve lived in 4 different cities during these 8 years, and switched careers multiple times. A lot has changed for ModlyChic – it moved away from blogger, started self-hosting, and began to create a little revenue stream. A lot has changed for blogging too – it’s gotten a lot more technical, has become much more competitive and marketing has gotten a lot more complicated.
So, to mark this day – besides perhaps indulging on a milkshake (since I’m still on this blasted liquid/soft foods diet) – Here are the 8 things I’ve learned from 8 years of blogging. Fair warning these are a little loftier. I’ll do another post soon on 8 practical things I’ve learned to make blogging easier.
8 Things I’ve learned from 8 Years of Blogging:
ONE:: It’s time consuming.
Yes, blogging is fun and creative and exciting at times, but it is also time consuming – at times even exhausting. It can wear you down and tire you out. There are endless email to go through. There are new ideas to cultivate. There are pictures to take and pictures to edit and pictures to post. There is marketing to be done. And there are social media accounts to cultivate along with the blog, which at times can almost take more time than the blog itself. There are events to attend, products to try, outfits to create.
When I first started this I thought it would be a fun little writing experiment I did on the side, while waiting for a source to call me back, or while tethered to my phone for a long earnings report. I figured it would take me 30 minutes to an hour o pen a post, afterall I could write a pretty solid article in that amount of time. Surely I’d be able to keep a blog up in a similar timeframe. LOL Oh to be young and naive.
TWO:: Pictures matter
I used to think all I needed was a simple picture taken of an outfit would suffice for what I was trying to do. I took a lot of pictures in my room or in my driveway. They were ugly. They were unclear. They had uninspiring backdrops. I didn’t even notice all of that for a couple years, as I continue to take photos where ever I could set up a camera on a flat surface. But then I took an Instagram class and one of the points was to look at the overall picture, the look, the feel, all the components, and to make sure that fit with the message you were trying to convey. And from that moment on I tried to upgrade my photos. It’s still a work in progress. I still have to take my own photos with a camera, tripod and remote. But I’ve been working on taking better pictures for the blog and Instagram and it’s made a large difference.
Now I use a variety of apps to help edit my pictures, especially for Instagram, so that they have the same look, feel, and coloring. I adore VSCO and occasionally use Facetune, Snapseed, Retouch and Afterlight as well. (Eek!! Just look at that pic below from 2011, which was already 2 years into blogging.)
THREE:: Focus on two or three social media outlets.
One of the things that I think can be overwhelming to a new or even experienced blogger is the amount of social networks it seems like you HAVE to be on. There’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon to name a few. And then let’s not forget all the new social media outlets that continue to sprout up making you feel like you need to jump on that bandwagon as well – Periscope or Vine, anyone? I used to worry about all of them. I used to try to post, interact and grow on all these platforms while also trying to grow my blog readership. It was time consuming, exhausting, and at times honestly fruitless.
Several years ago, I gave up trying to do it all. Instead I focus most of my efforts on one channel and then give two more, based on traffic patterns to the blog, my attention. The others I post to on occasion but I don’t interact much with and I don’t worry about spending time on those. For me Instagram is the account I focus on the most. I like being able to micro-blog in that way, and I like the visual aspect of the app. Next I focus on Pinterest and Facebook, since they drive the most amount of referral traffic to my blog. The others I don’t worry about.
FOUR:: Do what you love, don’t do it for the money.
It can be easy to get lost in the attempt to make the blog a little side hustle or even a full-time job. And while it is great for a little extra spending money, or a few more quality items in the closet, that end goal doesn’t having staying power. Blogging because you love your topic, or you love the craft of creating a blog post – that will keep you blogging week after week, year after year. If you are only focused on the dollar signs or the free items you get to review, blogging can be really frustrating. Some months the money is good. Some months the money has dried up and it seems like you aren’t going to even cover your basic expenses. Things ebb and flow – it’s a lot like freelance work in that way. You aren’t guaranteed the money will be there next month like it was this month.
FIVE:: Stop comparing yourself to others.
As women, or even just as humans, we tend to compare ourselves a lot to others. And in the blogging world that seems to often be amplified. We aren’t getting the same opportunities, or we don’t have as many followers, or we haven’t grown at the same rate. It can be disheartening to look at all the other bloggers who are doing the same thing as you and seem to be getting ahead.
First off – that’s probably not the case, because we get a glorified version of everyone’s life and work thanks to social media. We don’t see their struggles and their defeats like we see our own.
Secondly – rejoice at the success of others. It isn’t a comparison thing, but rather something we should applaud and encourage. Some women are hustling and making it and that’s awesome. Their success isn’t holding us back, or bringing us down.
And Thirdly, you are you – and the world needs you to be you and not a copy cat version of someone else. You have a unique way of looking at things, a unique perspective, a unique life experience. And those things make you different from those around you, even those who seem to be similar.
SIX:: Be authentic.
I think this is especially true with the kind of opportunities you accept and the types of companies you work with. Yes, over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of companies, obviously some I love more than others. It’s like owning 7 pairs of jeans, all of which you wear but 2 pairs are your go-to favs. It can be tempting, especially when the money is good, to opt for a collaboration with a company that doesn’t meet your message, standards, focus, whatever. Don’t give in. Keep you heels high and your standards higher (love that quote).
For example, I’d say at least twice a month I get an email asking for a guest post to be published on my blog. The topic will be fashion related, unique to my site, etc, etc… and the link will be to a casino or online gambling site. I don’t gamble. Most of my followers don’t gamble. And while I’m not morally opposed to gambling – I’ve been to Vegas and played the slot machines – it’s not a mentality that really goes with my lifestyle blog focusing on fashion, food and fitness. So I turn these opportunities down, even though they are willing to pay.
The same goes for things I don’t like. While I won’t post a negative review because I want ModlyChic to be positive and uplifting, there are often times when I reach out to the company and let them know that I don’t like the item or it didn’t work for me and therefore I won’t be reviewing it. I know some people are worried that doing that will make the company or PR agency not want to work with them, but for me I’ve found it is the exact opposite. They tend to appreciate the fact that you are honest and forthright about the entire experience.
SEVEN:: Review items are pretty awesome.
I won’t lie, one of my favorite parts about blogging is the fact that I get the chance to try so many different things. I love sampling items and then reviewing them. I love the fact that my siblings all have a pair of sunglasses that I reviewed and wore for a time. And I love that my roommates over the years have inherited some pretty awesome wardrobe pieces. I like that my brother and I got to experience the Windy City SmokeOut last year, and that my sisters and I were able to explore Chicago on a staycation weekend.
While these are awesome perks, they aren’t something that happened overnight. I know so many people who will comment to me that they want to start a blog so they can get free stuff. It doesn’t work like that. It was years before I got a single item to review. Even now some companies ask me to purchase the item they want me to review. (um, no!) And getting a review item means a lot of work – it’s using the item to be able to give an authentic review, it is photographing the item in the best possible manner, it’s writing a post, it’s promoting the post on social media, etc…
EIGHT:: People just don’t get it.
I’ve been doing this for 8 years and while blogging has become a thing that is understood generically by most people and more brands, it is still something that isn’t truly understood. People think I take a picture, post it to Instagram and just like that free stuff comes flying my way. Or that the pictures posted to my blog or Instagram are a simple, point, click, then upload. it’s way more detailed than that. Or companies think I want to work at promoting a product of theirs for free in exchange for a potential social media share (this is one of my biggest pet peeves!). Or they think my time isn’t worth compensating for.
Then there are also people who think it is pure vanity and superficial. I mean she takes pics of herself almost daily, how full of herself can she be. LOL To be honest, I hate talking about my blog to strangers and even a lot of my friends because they have immediate assumptions about it.
So there are the 8 things I’ve learned from blogging. If you’re a blogger would love to hear one of your lessons. If you’re a reader and not also a blogger, would love to hear a question you have about blogging.