February marks my 8th blogoversary and each year, I do a recap of my blogging year and this one is no exception. It’s fun to look back and document my online journey and this time, I thought I’d share the most important things I’ve learned about blogging over these last 8 years. This will be long, so get ready to read. After this many years blogging, I do have some things to share and keep in mind, these are my thoughts and opinions and what I’ve experienced in blogging. Eight years in blogland is ancient, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. Sure, there were many bloggers who started 10 years ago, but they are not that plentiful and the niche group that I’m in was practically in infancy back then. It’s been quite the ride and I’m still so very grateful that I have had the pleasure of traveling this road.
1. Getting an early start in blogging was crucial.
This is definitely one of the things that I’m so happy about. The fact that I got in early was a big part of taking my blog to the fulltime level it is now. There are so many factors in what makes a blog successful, but without a doubt, the early start was one of the biggest factors for me. Little did I know how things would change and GROW over the years. Now there are no doubt millions of blogs out there now. The internet has grown into a big world wide web of information and everything is at our fingertips now. Back in 2007, it didn’t seem nearly as big and vast as it is now (and it wasn’t!), but the community back then was small and friendly. Community is still a big part of blogging, but with the tremendous amount of blogs out there, it’s just not possible to get to know everyone these days. I still enjoy the relationships so much though, that is one of the best things about blogging to this day. Little did I know where a whim would take me. It was a very good whim!
2. Blogging is a constantly changing venue.
Without a doubt, blogging is a machine that constantly changes. The changes can be good and bad and this is probably the biggest thing that I’ve had to adjust and grow with. What started off as a fun hobby and turned into a business is a phenomena that I didn’t have a clue would happen, but the steady growth and change made it possible to wrap my head around it all a bit at a time. If you jump into something like this and try to learn it all at one time, your head will explode! No kidding. Those first couple of years were constant learning opportunities and back then, we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. Not to mention, we had no idea the big changes that would eventually come, creating growth and learning spurts all along the way.
If you don’t want to learn new things, then I definitely would tell you NOT to get into blogging. You always have to be on your toes and open your mind to learning new things and going with the flow. Change is inevitable with something as fluid as the internet and there will always be something new and better and the latest and greatest gadget or application process to help make blogging easier. Finding those things that work are crucial for every blogger. I still don’t know it all, but I’ve had to adapt and change along the way, just to stay in the mainstream of blogging. Collaborating with long-time blog friends has been crucial for me to stay in the know about all things blogging. If you don’t have a group of friends to bounce things off of, do that immediately. It’s a very important part of blogging and one that has helped me tremendously. Find folks who are at your level and above your level, ask questions and learn from them.
3. Social Media has totally changed the landscape of blogging.
Word. This is SO true. Social media was almost non-existent back in 2007 when I started blogging. Facebook began in 2004 (I had to look that up), but originally it was a personal space and the business page part of it grew later. Twitter began to take off in 2007, after launching in 2006. Back then, there was no Instagram, , Google + or the BIG world of Pinterest. Pinterest is the biggest game changer in social media that has come along to date. I still have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I do love that it sends me traffic and keeps my old posts and content in constant circulation. It brings me about 25 to 30% of my traffic these days and it is a great tool and definitely has its place. The thing that I hate about Pinterest is the constant frantic feelings that come from keeping up with Pinterest, putting beautiful pin-worthy posts together, as well as graphically beautifully pictures with captions that now most ALL bloggers strive for. Before Pinterest, there was not a need to get into all of this. We blogged and we put our content out the best we could. And people came to our blogs. But now, it’s a mad race to pin, pin, and pin some more. And it works. That’s why everyone is so into Pinterest and capturing all that traffic back to their blogs. It just takes some of the fun out of blogging for me, I’ll admit it. I sort of miss the good ole’ days of blogging, but change is part of it.
I still love blogging for the pure pleasure, my wonderful readers, sharing creativity, and all the reasons why I started blogging to begin with. I still love all of that! What I don’t love is the pace of social media and how it has put all bloggers who are successful and trying to make this a fulltime business into a hamster-wheel of craziness. We all want to maintain the growth we’ve accomplished and not slide backwards. It’s not my imagination either, this is the way it is in blogland now. And this is the part I really don’t love. Social media is wonderful and it works, but it is a never-ending crazy cycle of me, me, and more me for bloggers. That drives me a little crazy. But, it is not likely to change and I do realize the advantage of social media. It has lots of perks, but a few side effects that I just don’t enjoy. I see so many bloggers totally stressed out trying to keep up with it all. That’s the downside that I really don’t like to see. I do the best I can and try not to let it stress me out. Blogger burnout is real, I’m afraid. I do my best to continue to write the best blog I can and try not to stress myself out about doing it all. Because none of us can do it all.
4. Being authentic is one of the keys to success.
Blogging for me started as a way for me to share my creative ideas with other women who loved home as much as I do. There were not many of us back in those early days and I loved getting to know all of those out there who were blogging about home and garden topics. Sharing and being creative has been the focus for me all these years and it hasn’t slowed down at all. I love when people tell me when they meet me in person that I am just as they thought I would be from reading my blog. THAT’S what I want to be, an authentic person whose personality come through in the words and ideas that I share on my blog.
I dearly love to inspire others into trying things from my blog and giving women the shot in the arm they need to try something themselves. With all I’ve been through in life, I have learned so much about living my life in an authentic way and showing my heart has been such a rewarding part of blogging too. Authenticity is key, I think to having a successful blog and letting people see the real you on the pages of your blog is a good thing. I will continue to blog that way and share my life and family in the same way I’ve done all these years. Life is a wonderful blessing and I don’t take it for granted. Being able to share my life with others is a privilege too and I’m grateful that somehow, my core readers have connected with me in the last 8 years and continue to support my blog. I’m blessed in that regard too!
As one of the older bloggers in my niche group, I’m happy that there are many older readers who relate to me and my lifestyle. Even though I’m single, I have many married women who read and follow my blog and most of my readers are over 40, all the way up to seniors. I will never capture the younger audience on the internet and there are plenty of young bloggers who do that so well, but I know there are plenty of baby boomers out there too who need inspiration from one of their peers. They relate to me because of my age, not in spite of it.
Be aware of WHO your audience is as a blogger. Don’t try to be like everyone else who you see as successful. It would be ridiculous for me to try to blog like a 30 year old, since I’m almost double that age. Not everyone will like my decorating style (and they don’t), but there are enough people who do like and relate to my style to make my blog work.
5. Continued hard work is necessary to keep a blog successful.
I think some people who are not involved in an online business may not realize just how much work goes into running a successful blog. It is work, no doubt about it. Fun work, but work nonetheless. All of us who do this for a living work constantly behind the scenes to make our blogs what they are. Blogs don’t write themselves, nor do pictures get taken and edited all by themselves. We have so much to do behind the scenes to write those blog posts and keep our blogs going. It’s a never-ending endeavor to run a blog. It never stops, but we all have to take time off sometimes and recharge the batteries. I have to say, I never get completely tired of blogging ever. It’s still fun for me and I do enjoy the work, the challenge of running this blog.
Working with brands is another perk of having a blog like this and all of that has gotten better and better each year. Eight years ago, that wasn’t even on the horizon as a possibility of making money and having a blog be a fulltime business. But, little by little, it grew and grew into what it is today. Eight years of evolution has seen many growth spurts in working with brands and finding out what works for both of us. That has been a huge learning curve too for both sides, for both bloggers and brands. I’m happy that it has evolved in this manner, as it has opened up so many doors for all of us to do what we do. The great thing is there is room for lots of folks to be successful. Nowadays, there are blogs for every topic. It just amazes me that there are so many different blogs out there and I’m constantly discovering new to me blogs that are humming along, doing their thing too, just like I am. From home blogs, to food, travel and fashion blogs, it’s an explosion of personalities and information out there at your fingertips. I feel privileged to be in this group and I’m so happy I didn’t let my age hold me back. I’d definitely say that I’m one of the older bloggers out there doing what I do. Most bloggers these days are way younger, in their 20’s through 40’s. I’m happy to represent the baby boomer generation!
6. Be prepared to learn about technical topics and to keep learning, over and over.
Learning html that first year of blogging, just about blew my mind. Luckily, I didn’t have to really learn it and I never have moved much past my rudimentary knowledge of html and the back end of a blog. I’ve been fortunate to hire blog designers and graphics people who can help me with what I need help with. Making a blog pretty is one of those things that we all wanted to do when I started blogging back then. All of that has grown too and now there are countless blog designers and technical people who can help (thank goodness!). I’m so glad for that as the technical side of blogging is not my strong suit. I know enough to be dangerous, but if I get stuck or if my blog breaks, I have to call in the big guns, those guys who know how to fix things. Luckily, it’s been awhile since I had any major blog problems, but rest assured, if you blog, you will have issues sometimes. Whether it is behind the scenes of your blog with a plug-in problem or your host and server going down, it will happen and you have to roll with the punches. I’ve been fortunate to find a great ad guy too who handles all my ad networks. That’s something that is way over my head and I am so glad I don’t have to deal with it. The internet and blogging has created many technical jobs that never existed before.
7. Learn to become a decent photographer.
Photography was one of those things we all embraced early on too. I started with a point and shoot camera and didn’t upgrade to my DSLR until 2010, 3 1/2 years into blogging and when I was making part-time money to afford it. Creating pretty pictures is a big part of blogging in this niche group and I’m happy that my photos have improved a lot. I’m still not a natural born photographer, but I have improved so much.
I see bloggers now getting caught up in which camera to buy, best lenses to use, and investing in expensive camera equipment, but really, it’s all about how you use the camera you have. Having a fancy camera will not make you a better blogger. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it is a tool to help your blog and people do respond to pretty pics. I still have my original Canon DSLR and don’t feel the need to buy a new one yet. But photography has definitely become a hot topic in blogging. Beautiful pics feed into the competitive feeling too in blogging. But, honestly, I think readers don’t care nearly as much about perfect pictures as we do. They love pretty pictures, but they come to a blog to see YOU, the blogger.
8. There is a feeling of competition in blogging.
We don’t like to admit this, but it’s true. I’ll say it. Early on, as most of us got started blogging, I think many of us felt the competitive edge of blogging. If so-and-so got more visits and clicks, then what was she doing that was different from me? I would watch others grow their blogs and wonder why mine wasn’t growing at the same pace. But, about 2 or 3 years in, I started realizing that we are all on our own journey and being successful looks different for all of us. We will not all grow at the same pace, nor will we all get the same opportunities.
I struggled with that for a few years, but finally came to peace with it all. It feels competitive out there for a reason. There are TONS of blogs, so it’s only natural to want to compare yourself to others in your niche group. But, as we all know, comparison is the thief of joy and it will definitely steal your joy if you let it. Don’t let it! Be yourself, be authentic, be kind to your community and it will come back to you tenfold. I always tried from the beginning to help bloggers coming after me to learn and do their best and that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Once you can get over the feelings of competition and you can relax and just be YOU, things will go a lot better for you.
9. Being kind and embracing your community will be beneficial to a blogger.
Once you realize that embracing community is a good thing, it really does make things a lot better. There are so many wonderful women out there in this niche group and I’m privileged to have met many of them out there in person. I feel like I have friends all over the country now and that has completely changed my life. My life is so much more full and rich than it’s ever been and I can’t even describe how much that means to me. It’s an amazing journey and I’m so grateful that I got to take this journey and be a part of this incredible online community. I say it all the time. Blogging has truly changed my life in so many ways that I never even imagined. Not only is it the most fun job I’ve ever had, it’s the most rewarding.
10. Not everyone will make it big in blogging.
This one is a little hard to swallow too, but I truly believe that not everyone will “make it” in blogging. The potential is certainly wide open for sure, but with all the blogs out there now, only a few will rise to the top and make it big as far as making money from blogging or getting a lot of recognition. Success looks different for all of us, so we do have to define what we see as success and what we want out of our blogs. For me, success meant that I could sustain myself financially with my blog. We all have to define that for ourselves and decide what we want out of blogging. Some are content to keep blogging as a hobby, sharing themselves with the world and just enjoying the day to day journey. For others, you might want to make a part-time income from blogging and for others, it means making a full-time income. I do think with a lot of hard work, that many can be successful at it, but I would imagine that from a percentage standpoint, only some blogs are going to rise to the top. Mine is certainly not the biggest or best out there, but I’m so very grateful that it has been successful for me. I know I was in the right place at the right time when I started blogging and that one thing contributed greatly to my success, but hard work has sustained me. God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.
Everyone has to look at this for themselves and decide how hard they want to work and what level they want to achieve in blogging. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s bubble, but these are the facts as I see them. Work hard, do your best and I do think some level of success will come. I am part of many groups in blogging and I’ve heard many say that they are working very hard and not being rewarded nearly as much as they thought they would. I’m not sure what to tell anyone on that, but to keep following your dream and work hard at making your blog the best it can be.
11. Not everyone will like you and your blog.
It’s true. Not everyone will like you or your blog or how you blog or your home. That’s just a part of life and we all have to find our core audience and realize that we are not going to appeal to everyone. That’s true in all avenues of life. We are not going to connect with everyone out there. I know I don’t completely appeal to a younger group of women and there are plenty in that age group who are blogging about home and fashion topics. And I’ve had my share of snarky commenters and stalkers who just do not like me. That’s part of putting yourself out on the internet. Some will like you and some will not. You have to develop a somewhat thick skin in blogging and realize that fact and then just get on with doing your thing. The blogging world brings out the worst in some folks and people will sometimes post the ugliest comments behind their anonymous computer screens that they would never dream of saying to someone in person. That’s another downside to blogging. But, fortunately the positive and encouraging people far outnumber the grumblers out there and that makes it easy to ignore the nay-sayers.
12. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
Amen! This is the absolute truth. I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything I’ve done previously. I did work hard for 30 years in the corporate world and hope I never have to go back to that again. Being creative and sharing ideas online is still so rewarding and fun. Meeting and collaborating with so many other creative people out there is also a blast. I feel so incredibly blessed to be doing what I love to do and to get paid for it and make a living from my endeavors. That’s the best feeling in the world and I do tell people that I have a dream job. We have no idea if this will all last or not (and I say that every year), but I will continue to pursue my dreams in blogging as long as I possibly can. It’s been such a fun journey and I look forward to the next 8 years. Who knows what changes will be in store for us by then?!
The internet has opened so many doors for so many people and making a living online these days is not unusual. From online shops, to bloggers, to writers, to technical people, the internet is wide open with opportunities. I’m thrilled that I’m part of that and didn’t stop being willing to learn and grow. That has helped me more than anything, to not accept age as a barrier, but to continue to work hard at what I do, being the best I can be. Blogging has given me more confidence too than anything I’ve ever done. Starting from scratch and growing nothing to something is the best feeling in the world. I wish all of you out there in blogland much success in blogging too, no matter how you define that success.
If you want to start at the beginning of my blog story, make yourself comfortable and start at the first, how this all got started from Part One through Part 7 (scroll to the bottom of that page and click Next page to start at Part One) and catch up to this post.
Last year’s My Blog Story, Part 7 really broke down the financial side of blogging and how I make a living doing this. Scroll to the bottom of the post for lots of good information about that part.
Last year, 2014 was a wonderful blog year for me as well, with so many great opportunities and trips along the way. Each year holds so much mystery and fun and it’s always exciting to see what’s around the next corner.
These are the highlights from my blogging year of 2014, from trips, to projects, to family time.
In February, I headed to Tybee Island for a very fun blogger’s retreat and we had the best time, exploring that tiny island and enjoying the sunshine and beach cottages.
On February 17th, our baby girl, Parker, was born and it’s been one exciting year of watching her grow and change. She has truly changed our family forever and we are so happy to have her.
We also had a huge snow jam in Atlanta last February and that made for a few exciting days around here. The conversations on Facebook were priceless and I thought another war was going break out between the North and South over that fiasco.
In March, I headed to NYC for a brand event with Birch Lane and that was such a fun and exciting experience, from having dinner in a beautiful and elegant NYC loft, to seeing this new brand up close and personal, traveling to New York is always a fun time for this Southern girl.
Also in March, the Spring edition of Better Homes and Gardens came out with MY kitchen featured in their Makeovers magazine. Dream come true, people, dream come true!
Also in April, I visited the HGTV Smart house in Nashville with many of my blog friends. Fun and inspiring, yes it certainly was!
In May, we celebrated Mothers Day with my sweet mama and it was so fun to take a pic with the new baby that made her a great grandmother. She is relishing that title.
Also in May, the entire exterior of my house was painted and that was a big, big day for me. Two years of waiting paid off and I finally got the exterior I had dreamed of.
In June, I had the thrill of seeing my front yard come alive with the addition of plants from the Southern Living Plant collection. It was a pinch me moment, for sure! The before and after pics are amazing and I still can’t get over the changes.
During the summer, my dad and I worked on the Billy bookshelf project and that was a wonderful thing to see happen as well. One of those things I envisioned coming to life once again!
In July, we celebrated my dad’s 87th birthday and I’m so grateful to still have both he and my mom with us. They are my rocks!
Also in July, the Haven team put together Haven 2014 and it was another huge success, for the 3rd year in a row. We are in the planning stages now for this year’s Haven Conference 2015 and it is sure to be another banner year. Another blessing that I get to be a part of!
In July, I toured the Southern Living offices in Birmingham with a small group of bloggers and that was fun to see it all over again.
Also in August, I spoke at the Becoming Conference in Asheville (with Jen and Kari), another highlight for me last year.
In September, I flew back to NYC for a style event with Better Homes and Gardens, along with about 75 other bloggers who were invited. That was such a highlight of the year!
In October, I was asked to speak on stage at the Country Living Fair, so I shared my ideas on decorating with thrifty items and shopping at yardsales. That was a blast too!
In October, I headed to St. Simons Island, GA for a media trip and what a blast that was. I’m still in awe of all the things I’m asked to participate in and am so grateful for each one.
In November, I headed back to Asheville with my niece, Lauren, and had the pleasure to be invited to be a judge at the Grove Park Inn’s national Gingerbread house contest. Another dream come true and such a fun event!
I did a whole recap post of my house after being in it for 2 years and all the changes we have made, in Before and After photos of each room, including the exterior. Quite the post of my house journey!
I got to tour the Atlanta Home for the Holidays show house again last year during Christmas and that was so fun to do as well. I love getting to tour so many beautiful homes.
In December, I went back to Nashville to tour 4 beautiful decked out homes in the Holiday Parade of Homes.
And in December, I participated in 2 Christmas Home tours (Part 1 and Part 2) for the season and that wrapped up 2014. It was a great year and I feel so blessed when I look back and see all I’ve been able to experience last year. Each year holds many blessings.
I hope this was a post that you could learn from and enjoy reading. It is always my hope and desire that I share good things with folks that read my blog and my blog story is part of that too. I have learned more than I ever dreamed I could learn on this blog journey and it’s been amazing.
Thank you all for hanging out with me these last 8 years (some of you have been with me that long!) and here’s to 8 more years! I can’t wait to see what this new year of 2015 holds.