Back in 2010 most bloggers didn't even have their own camera. We happily wrote oodles of words and focused on the opinions we were providing, wacking in a grainy stock image or (if you were lucky) a quick snap taken on a smartphone just to break up the text. However, as the years progressed the focus has very much shifted to illustrating products and news in an aspirational and creative way; photography is key, as is the overall design and atmosphere your blog provides. If I look back to photographs I took even a year ago, I'm incredibly embarrassed of the quality - the angles are awful, the lighting is terrible, the backgrounds don't exactly set the scene and overall they didn't provide the aspirational setting I wanted them too. Investing in a fancy camera, learning how to use a macro lens and playing with backgrounds really helped me to raise the bar of the blog and send me off into a much better direction in the long term.
Lesson Learned: Photography is just as important as the words, so experiment and find your own style. You don't need a ridiculously expensive camera, but a short course or online tutorial can work wonders.
Although blogs are incredibly reactive and have the ability to bring news pretty much as its breaking, that can leave the author in somewhat of a tizz. I used to sit with my laptop and wait for the creative juices to start flowing, but on some occasions it simply doesn't happen; I can't tell you how many evenings (rightly or wrongly) I've spent worrying about having nothing to post about the next day. Ever since I took the blog full time I've been working off about five different spreadsheets to keep track of my content, projects, contacts and so on - and it's never been easier. Plotting out my content for the week onto a spreadsheet helps to ensure I've covered off everything I want to, as well as highlighting any gaps or duplicate ideas. Even if you run your blog as a hobby, a content plan can really aid the running of your site and ensure you're always on top of your game.
Lesson Learned: A simple spreadsheet can make your life so much easier. No matter how often you blog, tracking and plotting everything with ensure you feel in control.
Putting The Pressure On
When you're a one-man-band it's so easy to put the pressure on and push yourself close to breaking point. Checking and replying to emails, negotating collaborations, attending events, socialising just the right amount, networking with brands - and actually writing blog posts! It all builds up and leaves you feeling emotionally exhausted; you'll never be able to tick every box and execute everything perfectly, so it's essential that you learn to take a step back and breathe. I've almost had a breakdown at least five times since I started LBQ, putting so much pressure on myself to reach the moon and do it right now. However, taking everything step by step and setting smaller goals ensures you're much happier, much more productive and allows you to take the time to celebrate even the smallest of successes.
Lesson Learned: Too much pressure on yourself is counterproductive. The world isn't going to end if you don't get that lipstick review up and time won't stop if you don't clear your inbox daily. Take it easy and enjoy it; blogging is supposed to be fun.
Although they're not the be-all-and-end-all, relationships can be incredibly fruitful when it comes to growing and building a blog - both with brands/PRs and other bloggers. It's easy to cut yourself off from everyone else and 'just do your thing', but essentially you need to be part of a community in order to benefit from it. It took me a long time to realise the benefit and support being part of the bloggersphere could bring, not only expanding my social circle and providing shoulders to metaphorically cry on, but providing a network of people that really understood what it was like to be a blogger. Furthermore, building relationships with brands and PRs has allowed me to develop a commercial arm of the blog and turn it into an income source - having a relationship with someone ensures you're top of mind when an opportunity crops up, as well as enabling you to approach them for a helping hand when you need it.
Lesson Learned: Building relationships can elevate your blog, your social network and your 'brand', but most importantly you'll have people to talk to about that Twitter spat.
I've always been an impatient so-and-so. I've always wanted everything right now, no excuses - whether or not it's a promotion, a new handbag or 25,000 Twitter followers. However, blogging is a little bit of a waiting game and success only comes with tonnes of hard work and a dusting of patience. You do have to quietly beaver away and carve your way, building relationships and contacts as well as dedicated readers that really trust what you say; success only comes with time and you do have to be patient. I can't tell you how many tweets, emails and messages I get every single week from new bloggers that want to know how to become 'a big blogger'; my answer is always the same: there's no magic answer, just keep doing your thing and be patient.
Lesson Learned: Patience is a virtue. Take your time and great things will come (with hard work of course,) so don't expect your dreams to turn into reality overnight.
The green-eyed monster crops up when you least expect it, but it will always be your downfall. I've experienced huge periods of jealousy, begrudging others' success when I really should be celebrating it - after all, someone has to pave the way and start opening doors! - but you learn from it and start to realise that you should focus your energies on your own site and your own dreams. Once you learn the jealousy bug is not your friend, it's almost like you have a moment of clarity. Although I do still occasionally think "oh b*gger it, I wish I'd got that opportunity," I'm now much for focused on celebrating what I have achieved, thanking other bloggers for opening doors and changing the way in which brands work with bloggers overall.
Lesson Learned: It's not all about you. Turn your jealousy on its head and make it drive you forward to bigger and better things. The world is your oyster.
Have you learned anything from blogging? Are there things you'd wish you'd known when you started your site, or have these points helped you take that first step?