5 Lessons Blogging Has Taught Me
It was a little over a year ago that I wrote this simple guide to planting an indoor herb garden, and it completely changed my world. I started writing daily for this blog and never stopped; my mind started to fill up with ideas on what exactly I wanted this space to be about and who I wanted to attract. While there are some days where I am still trying to figure that out (I am definitely no expert on blogging when it comes to marketing), I have found that these collective thoughts and ramblings have somehow brought in a tiny community of people that I just adore with all of my heart. There was a post I did for Embroidery Club at the end of July, and I asked you all to say which fictional character you felt most connected to. Oh my goodness - YOU GUYS. We are all so alike, and I relate with every single character that you brought up. Just when I thought that I had no idea who my blog was attracting, there you all were, like my best friends coming to sit and hang out and make me feel more at home with myself. So thank you. I hope I can do the same for you.
Today I want to share 5 lessons that blogging has taught me over the course of the past year (and roughly three months). There are many things that have changed and evolved, and I hope that if you are ever in the area to start a blog of your own or even just continue to practice your writing, that you might find some solace in these lessons!
Writing is About Focus, Dedication, and What You Know
I've said it before, but I am pretty sure that I came out of the womb knowing I wanted to be a writer. I spent more time as a child creating fictional worlds and characters in my imagination than I did playing with friends. I had a really great childhood friend whose mind worked as imaginatively as my own, and we would create these grand storylines that our toys would follow or that we even put ourselves into. I still remember some of the elaborate stories that we came up with. I was also the weird kid that would go to the library and sit on the public computers the entire time. Ugh! I hate admitting that because it was so nerdy, but I wasn't spending time playing games. I was on the roleplaying forum, which was for ages 18+ (not likely), and creating characters and writing their backstories. That was where I first learned HTML; you had to create a profile page for your characters on the forum, which required coding. (If you're reading this as a parent raising a child in this technology age and worrying about what they're doing on the internet... I don't know; I say don't worry so much! It changed my life positively. All of that time spent learning coding at age 10 has created this business. Just putting that out there.)
With all of that information, I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what to write. What really interested me? How could I write a blog when my life wasn't interesting? What I realized over this past year is that blogging is about writing in a more strict and confined personal bubble. I was trying really hard to get around every single subject that interested me: fashion, beauty, motherhood, diet, fitness, etc. I wanted to do it all! I have opinions and methods on all of those subjects, and while I did try a majority of them on this blog, it took a lot of practice and dedication to realize that I wasn't necessarily good at writing about most of them. Or even photographing most of them! My talents do not lie in recording my weekly outfits or talking about which makeup product I use, and it didn't relate to our products at all. My tip? Figure out what you really love, whether that's one thing or five things, and write the crap out of them. Look into them and see how many blog posts you can come up with based on those handful of subjects. Those are your categories and your focus. For me? That's gardening, food, homesteading, sustainable homemaking, and herbalism. I write about those things and then other personal parts of my days and life come out in the mix.
It Will Be Really Lonely... Until It Isn't
Blogging is hard. When I first started out, I felt like a fraud. Sometimes, I still do, but really that feeling has pretty much left. Not because I feel like I have achieved internet fame or because the things that I wanted are being handed to me... definitely not. I am not famous; my life is not anything any more special than anyone who is reading this. Honestly, I sit behind a computer for a few hours a day with a cold cup of coffee, hair in an awful bun, and a scribbled in notebook writing this blog - if I'm lucky to have that much time. The rest of the time is spent taking care of my toddler, cooking dinner, cleaning my house, tending to my garden, watching Netflix while I embroider, running errands, maintaining this website, and answering an almost endless supply of emails and messages. The emails! When I used to read some of favorite bloggers (who have sadly all gone away) and used to read them complain about emails, I always kind of laughed at them. Like, big deal, they're emails! Oh my word was I naive! There are days where it feels like all I do is interact with people online, whether that's answering their questions, taking on new collaborations, or dealing with an issue from our shop/website. I would not trade this job for anything, I love it so much, which is why I do it. But there are days where I feel like a hermit. It's lonely running your own online business, especially a blog. You spend a lot of time observing your own life and writing about it, which is great because I love doing that, but if you're a more social person, you're going to have find ways to feed yourself that energy that other people give you. That's why I, the introvert, write the blog and Jill, the extravert, makes all of our sales and talks to people at shows and social events. I feel much better hanging off to the side and sipping a coffee! While this may sound daunting, it shouldn't be. Even though I spend a lot of time answering messages and comments, that's how I've met some of the greatest people ever online! These are people that I never would have met, people that I connect so well with, who live miles and miles away. Even countries away! I have made some amazing friendships with other businesses and even have had the opportunity to meet some of my small world celebrity idols. Being here makes the world actually seem that much smaller and more attainable.
There's Only Room for Personal Opinions if You Want Controversy
I have opinions... about religion, politics, sexuality, etc. A lot them, and I don't talk about them here or on Instagram or Facebook or anywhere else. Every time that I begin to write about the why behind I choose not to write about these topics or voice my opinion, I feel like a big baby. But I just don't find them that important. I think the big baby feelings mostly come from the knowledge that my opinions hold the possibility to create change in the world, but again, I just don't find religion or politics important. Especially not in this space. This is a place for you and others to find information on backyard homesteading and improving the environment and your lifestyle with it. I read a lot of blogs, and anyone who writes about these things always turns me off. I just don't care about which god you follow; I want to learn information from you about our interests and hobbies. There will always be something that you and I eventually disagree with! But that's okay. This internet world can be a great place to be open about controversy, and I hope we're discussing our opinions about organic food and embroidery instead (:
With all of that said, even though I don't find these topics important when it comes to this space, I do hope that in light of all that is happening in our country you understand why this is so important. I am seeing a lot of blogs and other internet figures making a stance, which I think is great and I feel for that, this is not to put them down in any way, but I want you to come here to take a break from it all and learn something that could positively impact your life - no matter who you are or what you believe in.
Collaborations Are For Your Brand, Not Your Bank
I had a really great mindset about this from the beginning when we first delved into our first collaborations with other brands. For us, collaborations often mean being sent free product for a review on the blog, a small feature, or a share on Instagram. I actually do a lot more collaborative work through my personal Instagram account (@kayhaupt), which has its own set of unique followers. While our business Instagram doesn't often feature collaborative brands, there are still things happening behind-the-scenes over here. I just don't feel like we're that type of account anymore to be honest! When we first started that account, we were focusing really hard on selling children's clothing. Now we hardly sell any clothing, except for some accessories, and are working towards making our embroidery and art work as well as this space online the most important aspect of our brand! A lot has changed!!
With that in mind, it's taken us well over a year to get our first paid collaboration. We're doing it all the hard way, with organic engagement through social media and paying our dues. That means we have to work hard to get page views to this website and then turn around and show that off to companies who might want to pay us to share their product! Doesn't that sound fun? Even through that hard work, we have been offered many a collaboration opportunity and had to turn them down. Why? They just didn't fit our brand. As much as I sometimes would like to say yes, it's not worth the money. It's work that I have to do to share a product with you that I don't truly love and then end up disappointing our readers. Don't take on every collaboration that comes your way. Wait for the good ones!
Sticks and Stones
Throughout this entire year of blogging, of sharing my words and my heart, of finding myself and changing directions multiple times, I know I have not yet experienced the true hatred of the internet at full impact. There has been some hate, definitely some hate, and for whatever reason it sticks out the most. Why is that? Because negative opinions and comments about your work can eat you alive, and the people that write them know that. There have been many days where I have had to take a deep breath, remind myself what my focus is and remember that this is my job, but it is also fun, and decide to keep on living. Because if I'm being honest, there hasn't been a day that's gone by where someone hasn't said something to me through this space or otherwise that doesn't make me feel absolutely loved. I love reading your comments, your messages. I am starting to get to the point where I can't always answer all of them, but they mean the world to me, and I do read them. It makes my heart hurt with happiness when I see a comment that says, "I feel like I can do this after reading your blog!" What?! That's not actually happening, is it? But it does! There is honestly nothing I would rather be doing than hanging out around here, because you all who read this space make my time worth it. I didn't realize how much readership would impact my life until starting this blog, and I don't know if I could ever go back. Thank you!