Don’t Give Up On Blogging

I recently spoke before about 100 mostly tech guys at a local networking event here in Germany about my pretty, light and bright blog called decor8, my all-girl team and how I built my blog from nothing to something quite robust that I'm proud of. I talked about Blogging Your Way, too. How this online learning site came about as a result of wanting to help others to achieve the success I've had without ALL OF THE TIME I had to spend failing, falling, picking myself up again, struggling and trying to figuring it all out. Blogging Your Way is the ultimate guide to Blogging and Social Media but also to photo styling and photography and branding and marketing and SO MUCH MORE. Blogging Your Way saves people YEARS of screwing up with a single online course that can take a max of 3 weeks to go through. THREE WEEKS. That's a big time saver. I've had Blogging Your Way since 2009 when we launched and we've taught over 8,000 students online how to do what all of those big, important "professional" blogs are doing as well as the lesser known blogs who still have a crazy devoted following and who are driving readers to their content almost effortlessly and as a result, dollars to their pockets. I love to empower others to set their plans into action and to let people know that it is possible to get some, or even all, of what you want.

I am PROUD of Blogging. How far it has come, where it is, where it's going.

Yet, as I spoke to this all-guy crowd, I felt intimidated, a little nervous and well, quite a fish out of water. I wondered what they thought as I waxed on about my books and showed the pretty covers in my happy slide presentation. I wondered if I was cool enough to present along with others who were there to talk about virtual reality headsets, online insurance portals, travel websites, etc. But I played along and spoke about my work with joy because well, I love what I do.

I enjoy spreading a little magic as often and as far as I can. If you're a blogger like me, you must understand this feeling. When I throw seeds out there and someone grabs one, grows it, and becomes a successful entrepreneur based off of something I said, that’s my fuel forward. I’m proud of blogging but even more proud that after celebrating my TEN YEAR (!) blog anniversary in January, that I still have passion for this and so many readers popping by regularly to see what we have to show next on my blog and in our online courses.

I’m honored, flattered, and extremely joyful that I can wake up each day and approach my work with a happy heart. Not all days are sunny, I have some rubbish ones like the rest of us, but all in all my career has made my life better than I had imagined it as a young girl dreaming of my future. I wish I could give everyone with big dreams the courage to go out and make them come true.

I digress...

After presenting, I stepped off stage to a mighty applause. Those guys respected me and were happy that I came out to share my story. They were intrigued by my “self made” profession and, that I was a women in new media, that was even more interesting to them because the tech world and new media is still largely made up of men, especially in Europe. I ended up inspiring a group of men that I never thought I COULD inspire being a woman blogging about cute stuff and offering classes online about blogging. How about that?

It was honestly a massive lightbulb moment for me, to know that people REALLY genuinely are still very interested in blogging, and they want to hear from the success stories and they like knowing that other people are out there making their dreams come true – it’s encouraging – it gives hope and at the end of the day, HOPE is the fire inside that keeps us going, gets us up in the morning, makes us reach a little higher towards the light. HOPE.

A LOT of bloggers are due a little hug right about now, a sign of hope along with a big kick in the pants to wake up and stop feeling so sad about blogging and to appreciate this platform now more than ever. Especially with so many things distracting our readers away from our blogs - Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Feedly, Bloglovin', Facebook, Instagram... The list goes on and on and on. What once took a respectable amount of time and finesse (crafting a blog post and gaining a following) can be done almost overnight by a new comer without a blog using Instagram posting pretty photos with barely a line of text. And some of these people have 500k following or 2m and you sit there wondering how this can be, how did they earn that spot? And then you think about all of the blood, sweat and tears you've put into blogging. And you wonder if it's all worth it.

IT IS.

Blogs remain. And you know what, we are IN CONTROL of our blogs.

What we show, what we say, our template, all of it. So many of these apps change the game once they're in control and have you and your massive audience. Suddenly they decide to chance algorithms, or they drop in ads, or they don't let ALL of your followers see your content unless YOU PAY THEM. There is so much control lost. Not to mention if they sell to another mega company and then, everything looks and feels different. I find blogs very sacred in this sense. Plus, what is blogged is something anyone can find online, easily. It's archived. It stays. It becomes part of your living journal.

We run the show. You should definitely keep blogging and let your blog feed into everything else.

Don't abandon your blog to use Facebook solely or to pin all day. Combine and create a multi platform recipe that works. Have your blog and share that content on your other platforms too. Just keep driving your readers back home. Bring them back to your blog where you can invite them to join your mailing list and preserve your relationship with them in a special way.

A blog is still a very powerful, personal, largely independent, massively popular platform. Big business wants to change that, to remove the power from the little guy, to make us all brand-driven and codependent, power and number hungry, hoping to have 20m followers on the latest platform simply because that could mean a lot of brand power for us - we can demand more money and work on more campaigns for brands.

While it's nice to pay the bills remember that lots of us want to pay the bills and deliver beautiful content that shows our voice, our talent and that has something to offer. Lots of us want to memorialize our travels, our special parties, the birthday of a friend, a gorgeous baby born to us, using our blogs - no strings (or brands) attached. Some of us still want to be able to say whether or not we genuinely enjoyed a product or a service without having to always sing the praises of everyone and everything because we are scared to be honest or worse, we are being paid to say only good things.

So do your Instagram. Do your Facebook. Do your Snapchat. But at the core, the foundation, DO YOUR BLOG. Because your blog is your center, your home, where you want to drive your audience ultimately.

I'm a pioneer in this industry, I've had a blog since 2005... Blogs aren't phasing out. It's just a massive "sift" period. The true die-hard writers and content providers will continue blogging AND use all of these sharing and microblogging platforms too. They know that you can enjoy your country home, your lake house, and your tent in the woods but you ultimately always feel safest, loved and can run the show YOUR way at home.

Still not convinced? Then read what Seth Godin has to say about the topic, "Read More Blogs".
(Photo: Irene Hoofs/Bloesem Design)

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Why Do You Blog?

Grab a pen and paper and think about why you blog. What is your motivation? When you have at least five answers down on paper, please continue reading below because what you discover may surprise you and could lead to an exciting new adventure in blogging.
Let’s look at your answers.

Are you hoping that your blog will earn some money, provide a measure of fame, or help you to network or make new friends? Are you blogging to promote your business? Is your blog a creative outlet for sharing your interests with others? None of these reasons are wrong, in fact, all can be great motivators! But there is one answer that most overlook that is what I believe should be the driving purpose behind blogging.

Your blog should add value to your life

That is the single most important thing your blog should be doing for you. I’ve been blogging full-time for over nine years so I have acquired enough experience to know that your blog should be a catalyst that helps you to live your very best life. It should encourage you to pursue what will make your life richer, fuller, guide your creativity, sharpen your skills, discover talents, bring a measure of joy and to add real value to your life.

When your blog accomplishes any of these things you will feel motivated to write and your readers will be more interested in following your blog and sharing it with their friends which is how a blog grows -- through word of mouth.

Your blog is nothing without you and your voice. If you aren’t interested in blogging then your readers won’t be interested. If you are bored with your life, your readers will be bored. If you blog just to “get a post up” this week, your readers will sense that your heart isn’t in it. Writing is incredibly revealing.

Your blog depends on YOU

If you’re having fun and blogging motivates you to get out and try new things, meet new people, explore uncharted territories, experience new ideas, learn new things (like photo editing or how to take better photos), then it will bring great value to your life, to others, and provide great learning experiences that you will never forget.

The experiences had when we are not at our computers can give our blog voice more passion, conviction, truth and great power. Think of the most popular bloggers that you follow. Many have a lot to talk about because they are involved in interesting pursuits outside of their blog -- and you can’t help but become intrigued and inspired, even slightly emotionally involved, as a result, right?

On the flipside, blogging is not always fun and games. It can be quite stressful, competitive, challenging and a lot of work. So being realistic is also essential. You will have bad days and get into creative ruts.

Some bloggers say that it is a burden to have to write regularly and they become stressed from having to constantly think of new story angles. It is completely normal to lose your blogging mojo at times and to want to give up.

But you can turn that around.

You can easily unplug for a day and proactively do something inspiring that will also provide blog content. Being proactive can help you emotionally to lift yourself out of the ruts because we all go through them. A day at the local modern art museum with your kids, meeting up with a cheerful creative friend for lunch, or simply a shopping trip to a store that inspires you can completely turn your mood around and give you something to write about on your blog or turn into Instagram inspiration. Who knows who you may meet, what you will see or what you may learn by spending a day away from your computer engaged in something that brings joy?

Your blog should make your life more meaningful, not all of the time (that is unreasonable) but most of the time.

A blog is like a partner, a child or a friend. You will love your blog most of the time but get really annoyed by it some time too -- and that is perfectly normal and okay! BUT if you start to dislike blogging more with each passing day then it’s time to reevaluate and gain some perspective so that you can make blogging fun again.

Allow blogging to lead you to some new adventures, give you creative challenges and opportunities for personal and professional growth and help you to cultivate new friendships. But how, you ask? In my next article, I'll give you 10 ways that you can use your blog to add value to your life.

(image: holly becker)

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10 Ways Your Blog Can Add Value

Let's talk about how your blog can enrich your life because that is the key to not only being a success at it, but in enjoying the time and energy spent pulling together posts.

Here are 10 ways to add value to your life through blogging:

1. Stop making unfair comparisons and create your own magic. It's silly to be petite constantly wish you were a supermodel. It's also silly if you're a single mom on a Nebraska farm comparing yourself to a married mom in London with household staff who blogs about her life balancing motherhood with her job as a fashion editor for Vogue magazine. Comparisons are normal, we all make them, and sometimes they can drive us forward. Beware though of unhealthy comparisons. Instead, look at the other single mom bloggers who are creative and making the best of their life and doing great things with their blog. That can be a source of encouragement and strength. Also consider that your life may be even more inspiring than that London mom who seems to have it all - your readers may find much more value in your words. We often dismiss our daily life as nothing special but we all have a story to tell. Be proud of who you are and what you can personally accomplish and bring to the table through blogging.

2. Be consistent with your voice and vision. Consistency is steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc. Your written words and your photography should be consistent with your overall blog and brand. What do you think readers look to their favorite blogs for? What do you look for when you are reading a blog? I look for a consistent voice and a clear, unique vision. A blogger may take some good photos now and then but if most of their photos are poor, this isn't showing consistency. Readers like something they can depend on, even visually (not just words). Another example is that a blogger may be open and positive but slowly start blowing off steam, posting negative thoughts on their blog that brings down the mood. This can irritate readers and even irritate you as the blogger. How? Consistency makes YOU happy because when you know what you want, define it clearly and then work to make it clear to others it can make you feel accomplished.

3. Maintain a balance between family life and online life. Family members can quickly become resentful if your back is always turned to them as you tap away on your keyboard. When your family is happy, you feel better, right? Set aside time when you are offline to enjoy your family without distraction. You can blog without them even knowing it if you schedule posts to run at times when you are away from your computer. Scheduled posts are a dream for this reason!

4. Let your blog guide you through, and beyond, your fears. Facing fear is tough but it feels great once you've identified it and have pushed through. Fear can be healthy or negative - it is cautionary at times, a result of your gut giving your a warning, your inner voice sounding a warning signal so you can consider next steps. Fear in this sense is healthy. It can also motivate and drive you to build courage, especially the more you work through fear and find success. Overcoming fear helps you to gain greater self-confidence. For your blog to give your life more value, you have to get exorcise those unhealthy, “I’m not good enough” voices which may be based on a fear: the fear of not being interesting enough. Examine why you have fear in the first place and if your reason isn’t based on something concrete then push past it. If it is valid, fix what appears to be broken. It feels great when you're not afraid and face life with courage and a full, passionate heart.

5. Step away from your blog for a fresh approach. Take a walk, do some gardening or play with your dog. If you’re lacking inspiration that is an indication of boredom so it's time to do something that gets your creative wheels turning. Go to a museum and roam the halls, take your camera to a botanical garden and snap some photos, make a little video on your phone of your children playing in the park and send it to their grandparents. Not everything needs to be associated directly with blogging or your job. In fact, we often need to step out of our job for a moment and into something unrelated to spark new ideas.

6. Surround yourself with people and experiences that inspire you. Decrease your exposure to things (or people) that are draining. This makes you happier which spills over into all of your activities, including blogging. Negative people always make you negative and bring down your energy. It's vital to reserve your energy and put it into the things in life that matter most.

7. Learn to trust others and delegate or collaborate! Ask your family to support your creative endeavors. Let people help you. Ask for help. Hire outside support as needed, too. Some people can do things better than you can do them or at least as good, so work together to make some magic. I always say to outsource the stuff you don't like doing or that you're not good at. This means you have to TRUST people. You will be shocked to see how much joy you have when you're not struggling from doing everything alone.

8. Schedule time for vacation.
Vacations are vital, even if you stay home for a week and work in your garden or sunbath on the patio. Time out allows you to relax and refocus, and become mindful again, to center yourself in the present moment. When you return to blogging, you can channel that renewed energy into your blog.

9. Beware of analysis paralysis!
Take some risks and stop worrying about what others think to the point of becoming paralyzed. If you over-analyze your every move and question yourself, you’ll constantly feel weighed down and definitely not light and happy! Do what your creative soul is telling you to do and don’t listen to your inner critic who says that you must be perfect in order to share something – forget it! Perfect is unattainable and when people strive to be perfect, it comes across as really safe and boring.

10. Have the courage to experiment more on your blog. Try new photo layouts, work on your writing style, ask more questions, approach your topics differently, change your blog template, improve your photography, add a new column, remove a column that bores you to tears... Experiment!

Remember, your blog and its success depends on YOU first. How will you turn your blog into a creative catalyst that makes your life more exciting and adds value? Only you have the answer to that question.

(image: valentina fussell)

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6 Ways To Be a More Consistent Blogger

Consistency the key to success in most things that we take on in life, isn't it? Health, business, building a solid relationship, saving money, the list goes on and on. Consistency is key to whether a blog becomes successful or not, too. Here are 6 tips that may help you be more consistent and find genuine value in the time that you spend reaching out to others through your blog.

1. Set a schedule. Carve out a weekly or daily time slot to blog and stick to your schedule the best that you can. Life will get in the way but writing at least a few posts each week is a great habit to form. You can also schedule posts to run on specific days during the week to help you stay on track.
2. Stay on topic. Have a list of topics that you will regularly cover on your blog and try to stay within those topics.
3. Draft some back up posts. Save some posts on draft mode for times when you aren’t feeling creative. Then you can publish them to freshen your content on days when you're not feeling up to writing.
4. Be relevant and regular. Provide value by delivering regular content that is also relevant to your readers that you are excited to share. Stay on top of trends in your field and new trends in thinking and technology, too. Follow your readers and fellow bloggers to see what they're sharing and liking online.
5. Spell check and read each post before hitting publish. Readers will run in the opposite direction if some of your posts are well written and others are a hot mess. You’re or Your? Thank you or Thankyou? Their, there or they’re? Read posts (often out loud) to check flow, reduce or remove run on sentences, eliminate redundancies.
6. Know your readers. Who are you trying to reach and how do you want them to see you? You can’t develop a consistent voice if you’re all over the place. Most bloggers do not consider themselves a brand but it is still important to consider how we’re perceived from the other side of the monitor. List what you would like your readers to associate with you and your blog. Is it your creativity, great entertaining ideas and inspired decorating? Do you want them to associate you with winning recipes, a great sense of style and the feeling of community that your blog gives? Whatever your looking to convey, by knowing your audience and consistently delivering content that fits your own goals for your blog, you can feel more inspired to be consistent as a blogger because you'll feel a reward whenever you post by how your readers respond to it.

What are some ways you have found to be helpful in becoming more consistent as a blogger?

(image: fiona humberstone)

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