Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Things I've Learnt From Blogging This Year


Over the past couple of months I've really been reflecting on what a positive year 2016 has been for my blog and my personal development within providing regular creative content. 

When I first set up my blog it was more of a hobby than anything else. It didn't really matter to me how well it was doing or that my photography wasn't as good as it could be. It was more so for me than anyone else and just something I enjoyed to do on the side. 

At the start of this year, and after having blogged for a year, I made the conscious decision to try to 'up my game' and progress more within the blogging community. I started to take it more seriously and with that came a lot more opportunity and a much greater satisfaction with the work I was producing. 

This year I made some big changes to how I blogged and the results have been proof enough that these were the right decisions to make. My follower numbers have consistently been on the rise, both on Twitter and Instagram. The offers that pop up in my email inbox are much more frequent and fruitful. And this has been the first time that I have actually made money from blogging. 

So what's been my secret?


Investing in a decent camera & a photography course has helped so much 

For a long time I solely relied on my iPhone 6 Plus as my blogging camera and I was pretty happy with the images it produced for me. I never really felt a need to splash out on an expensive camera until I realised that for me a lot of the time it was a bloggers photography which drew me in to reading their blog post. My husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I suddenly decided that I needed a DSLR in my life.

When I received my shiny new and highly complex Canon 750D I made the decision to sign myself up to an evening course in digital photography where they showed you how to use and get the best from your own cameras. Even though it felt like a challenge at the time I am so glad that I forced myself out of my comfort zone to do this course as it really motivated me to take better photos. I then felt confident using my new camera (not just on auto mode) and I spent way more time actually thinking about the composition of my images. Rather than just standing a product on a white background I started to think about props, setting, lighting and a whole host of other things. My photo taking process went from being a 5 minute job into something I would spend hours on a Sunday working on.

I still feel like there is a lot of room for improvement and I don't by any means feel like I am a pro, but I think you can see from the below images how far my skills have come along in just over a year. 
   

Starting a YouTube channel was a great decision 

I never in a million years thought I would ever start a YouTube channel. In fact the idea of being on camera really used to freak me out and I would have never imagined myself sitting in front of a camera and making the kind of videos that I do today.

Before 2016 I never really got the most from YouTube. I used to just search for the occasional videos on there like funny cat ones but it wasn't a platform I ever used religiously. I had heard of famous vloggers like Zoella and Tanya Burr but never really paid much attention to that whole explosion of video blogging. Eventually one day in February of this year curiosity got the better of me and I settled down to watch a Zoella video. Before I knew it my whole evening had been consumed by watching her vlogs which then led to me watching other vloggers who featured in her videos and pretty soon I became addicted. YouTube has now pretty much replaced TV for me. My new evening routine is getting into bed and catching up with my YouTube subscriptions and I just love it! 

Watching these videos really inspired me to start my own channel but at first I wasn't brave enough to actually put my face on camera so you'll notice that my first ever videos are purely of my hands demo-ing lush bath bombs. Fast forward a few months and I now have 600 subscribers and I am vlogging face on at least once a week.

I absolutely love having another creative outlet other than writing. I love the fact that if I am unable to get my words down on blogger I can easily pick up my camera and do a chatty video. It's also great that I now have a new audience on my blog who may not have known about me before coming across my videos. I have learnt some new skills in teaching myself how to use iMovie and edit videos which is something I had never done before. My videos have also been a great way for my audience to get to know me a little better and put a face to the name. It has without fail made me more confident and creative.

      
Sticking to a schedule & producing regular content is a must

I have to say that I am not too rigid when it comes to a blogging schedule but since the new year I said to myself that I would like to post at least twice a week on Tuesday's and Thursday's. For some reason this schedule has just worked really well for me and as a result I have been able to stick to it. I really feel that posting on set and regular days of the week has helped my blog as my readers generally know when to expect something from me. If I can't stick to this schedule then I don't beat myself up about it because sometimes life gets in the way, but it definitely helps me to feel more organised and productive if I have a set schedule.

There's no denying that producing regular content definitely helps blog growth and development. This is the first year that I have pretty much stuck to consistently posting regular content and as a result my page hits and follower numbers have both risen.


It's better to focus on quality over quantity

Maybe my blog would be bigger if I posted daily? That's a thought that goes across my mind often. But then when I start to read other blog posts that are churned out thick and fast I can't help but feel that focusing on quality over quantity is a better way forward. Well it is for me anyway! I know that I would rather spend my time on making my posts the best that they can be opposed to stressing about getting out daily content. I want to be able to look at my blog and love what I see in both my photography and my writing and I don't just want to post for the sake of posting. I also want my audience to enjoy reading my blog opposed to feeling like it's a chore to catch up on all my posts. 


I need to stay focused & not feel deflated by others success

When I first started blogging and in the early days of my blog I would often find myself feeling like there was no point to what I was doing. Ok it was a hobby and it made me happy, but really where was it actually going? I found myself comparing my blog to other more successful blogs and at times this made me feel like giving up. I would often take pro-longed breaks away from my blog and i'd frequently question my content and the types of posts I was writing. I wanted to be more like other popular bloggers but how could I get there? 

At the start of this year I decided that I'd had enough of feeling like that and I realised that everyone has to start somewhere. Instead of wasting my time focusing on what others were doing I put all my energy into doing what I wanted to do and without constantly comparing myself to others. This has done wonders for my blog because it has meant that I haven't been distracted and questioning everything which has in turn meant that i've been able to complete the above two points.

If you work hard and put energy into something it will eventually grow and start to have more success. You just have to believe in yourself a bit and have some faith. Nothing will happen overnight and it does require you to be persistent.

  
Scheduling tweets is vital 

If I am honest scheduling tweets is the bane of my life. It's the one weekly blogging task that I hate and that I struggle with the most. It's boring, time consuming and monotonous. But it's a highly effective method of promoting your hard work and ensuring your blog is seen and heard by the all important readers and new readers. There's no way I could spend all day and night on Twitter but in order to maintain a presence and promote new blog posts there is no better way to ensure exposure. I always try to use hashtags within my scheduled tweets and I will often tag blog retweet accounts to give my posts that extra promotion. I don't think there has been a week this year where I haven't scheduled tweets and, as tedious as it is, it's something I always make sure I do.  

    
Promoting my hard work pays off 

When it comes to promoting my work I don't solely rely on scheduling tweets and Twitter, although it is without a doubt my favourite social media platform. 

Along with tweeting I also have a Facebook page for my blog where I always link my new blog posts and videos. I don't really feel like my Facebook page has played a huge part in my blog growth this year but the social groups within Facebook, where I also post my links, are pretty beneficial for gaining more page hits and interest in my blog. Fortunately blogging about all things cruelty free and vegan is quite a niche subject and therefore it's easy to find relevant groups to post within on Facebook. It's also great because it allows me to connect with people who wouldn't ordinarily view my content.

Instagram is another favourite of mine and it's a platform that I have really grown to love over the past year or so. As my photography skills have improved so has my Instagram feed. My Instagram isn't only for blog promotion, it's also a little insight into my private life too, but I find it works really well for promoting my blog posts too. On average I try to post at least 3-4 times on Instagram a day and as a result I have really seen my follower numbers grow. I distinctively remember having 250 followers on Instagram for what felt like years. Now i'm steam rolling towards 2,000 and although that's still quite a small number in the grand scale of things, it's really rewarding when you can look back and see how much it has grown.  


Being present on social media counts 

You will have guessed from what you have just read that I am pretty present on social media and this is something that I feel I have to be in order for my blog to grow and for me to be able to connect with my readers and fellow blogging community. I try to engage in conversation with others as much as possible as it can really help me to feel a part of things and encourages people to come back to my blog. 

I am not always great at making myself available for blogging chats on Twitter and this is something I think I'd definitely like to improve on as I think it's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and gain valuable information. If you do have the time to take part in blogger chats on Twitter I would highly recommend it and I would also suggest setting a reminder on your phone so you don't forget when they're happening.


Going to events I am invited to is important 

I wouldn't say that I am not the most confident of people when it comes to putting myself out there and going to events, especially if it means going alone. This is something I have struggled with in the past and I have often passed up great opportunities due to anxiety about either getting to events or going to them alone. 

I have tried to make a much more conscious effort to go to blogger events this year and every time I have gone to an event I am reminded why they are so important. It's a great way to network with other bloggers and meet people who you may have spoken to online before but never met in person. Whenever i've been to a blogger event I always leave feeling so motivated and inspired to keep doing what I am doing.


Supporting other bloggers work helps 

I try quite hard to stay up to date with other bloggers work, especially those who I have built up a rapport with and those who I "speak" to regularly. I like to show support for their work by retweeting their links and commenting on their posts because I know how much of a boost it can be when another blogger does the same for me. Other bloggers can also be pretty inspiring with their work and I think it's important to immerse yourself into that online community in order to feel that you are a part of something and that there are other people rooting for you too.


Allowing my readers & viewers into my life was a hurdle worth overcoming 

When I have reflected on the blogs that I am most drawn to and the work I enjoy to read to the most they all have one common denominator - they offer up a real insight into their personal lives. For a long time I didn't want to share too much about my personal life online but I think with that came a lack of personality in my work and it made it difficult for people to relate to me in any way. 

I think this is one of the biggest struggles and questions bloggers face when entering into this world of sharing. How much do we share? Often the subject you may want to talk about the most is the one thing you're most scared to talk about out of a fear about who may read it and know how you're feeling. However, I have learnt that when you do finally open up and write/vlog about those issues you are instantly more passionate and relatable in your work. 

Deciding to blog about mental health was huge hurdle for me but it was definitely worthwhile overcoming because the sheer volume of support and encouragement was the boost I needed at the time. It helps to know you're not alone whilst also offering up some support to others.

I have received messages in the past asking how I am so ok with sharing with what I do and such insights into my home and personal life. It isn't something that bothers me now at all because I am confident in myself and happy in my life. I have also stopped caring what other people think as I realised it was holding me back too much. I quite like the fact that my readers and viewers know who my husband is and what pets I own. I like sharing home tours and a day in the life type videos as it helps my audience get to know me and how I live my life. I genuinely think that once people can relate to you more and gain an insight into who you really are it helps so much with continued engagement.   


This blog is only in it's 2nd year and, although the past couple of years have felt like a bit of a whirlwind, I have already learnt so much. It's definitely made me realise the importance of keeping going with something despite any insecurities and doubts I may have. I don't by any means think I have 'nailed' blogging and I don't think that I am any kind of expert because I am aware that both my blog and I still have a lot of growing to do. That being said, this year has really felt like a time where things have changed for the better and this has started to feel more like a job than a hobby (an enjoyable job anyway!). I am also excited for the future and to be able to look back again in a years time to see how I have grown and developed as a blogger again. 
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22 comments

  1. Amazing post lovely and a brilliant blog! Your posts are an absolute pleasure to read and I especially love watching your vlogs. You clearly love what you do and this shines through in your work <3. It sounds like you have grown a lot in the past year with who you are and in finding out what is important to you. In my book, that is an inspiration for us all. It takes courage, determination and diligence to put your private life and passions in public view, but your followers are a testament to that process being a well loved and needed contribution to the vegan community. In fairness, the only thing that's really missing is a vegan biscuit dunking competition but that's by the by ;) Jayne xx

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    1. Thanks so much Jayne, that means a lot! Such kind words xx

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  2. This is a fab post and it's great to find out what you've learnt over the past year! It's a constant process, always loads to learn, but it's great to see how far you've come vs 2015! Not just on your blog, but I believe with your anxiety, too! Excited to see what the next year holds for you!

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm excited to see what next year holds too. It's great to feel like you're always learning and developing in new ways x

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  3. I'm really enjoying your content particularly on your YouTube. You come across so well on camera and it's nice to see how much more confident you've gotten. I like that their's a mixture of content between your blog and YouTube channel. I'm glad you're proud of yourself, I hope you keep growing and look forward to your upcoming content :)

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    1. Ahh thank you! YouTube has been a big surprise for me, especially that my channel has grown so quickly and I get so much positive feedback about it. It helps to keep me going and doing what I do xx

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  4. I found this really interesting as someone who's currently trying to have a successful blog. I've enjoyed upping my photography game for it as well; though I don't know how you manage to Instagram so often - I sometimes struggle to find a nice picture just once a day! Thank you for the long post and all the tips; I think I need to get on Twitter more; and also out to blogger events, but they don't seem to happen out here in the South-West. I'm traveling to London for a big one next month and I'm very nervous! Well done for getting where you are today :)

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    1. Thank you so much! That's great you're going to an event so far away despite your nerves. I am sure it will feel worth it and like a big accomplishment. I always take so much from attending events! x

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  5. What an amazing post! It sounds like you were able to accomplish so much congratulations! I just started on my own blogging experience and it definitely is harder than it looks! You gave me so many ideas thank you!

    -Silvia
    lovelysilvia.com

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    1. Thank you Silvia! :-) Blogging is so much harder and time consuming than people realise. I'm glad you've taken some inspiration from this post xx

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  6. What an intriguing post, and congratulations on accomplishing so much! I started writing at the end of August, and it's all been uphill from there. I feel much more confident talking to people now, and I'm really enjoying putting content out there - I'd love to try YouTube, but I'm worried I won't have many ideas in terms of what to actually video or talk about haha x

    www.sheintheknow.co.uk

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    1. Thanks so much Rebecca! It certainly does feel uphill at the beginning and something you just have to keep plugging away at. I'm pretty sure if you want it to be a success then it will be. Good luck! xx

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  7. So nice to have read about your journey! As long as you keep challenging yourself, you will go far.

    http://Adorngirl.com

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  8. This was a lovely read and it was really interesting learning about your blogging experience. I have also recently started to take my blog more seriously and I am loving the positive outcomes :)

    Sarah | What Sarah Writes

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    1. That's so great! I think the extra effort you put in definitely pays off! x

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  9. I loved reading this post Sarah & I'm totally coveting your Pusheen planner!

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    1. Thank you lovely! Maybe add it to your Christmas list! I am loving everything Pusheen lately, especially my mug, I use it every day. Have a peek in John Lewis next time you're near one :-)

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  10. Such a great post!
    I would love to start youtube too but there are many great vloggers already on there and I am quite shy to sit in front of the camera and talk etc.

    ZEKALIN

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    1. Thank you! There is already a LOT of great YouTubers. But that shouldn't mean us smaller vloggers shouldnt give it a go. You'd be surprised how quickly you can get into and grow your channel. Good luck! x

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  11. I think you're amazing for conquering all the difficulties you've had over the past 2 years. Blogging might not seem difficult for some, but it's really a lot of work and dedication.
    Looking forward to see where you go next!

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    1. Ahh thank you :-) It's a lot more time, work and effort than people realise. But if you enjoy it then it's worth it for sure! x

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