365 Days Later: The Tea Spilled and Lessons Learned From My First Year of Blogging
Moment of honesty: I never thought I would have this website. The idea entered the atmosphere when I was still living in Kentucky and on my way to Chicago. New career, new city, new life, who dis? Tons of ideas were floating around with no place for them. To put things in perspective, Instagram was just starting out and it was only available for iPhone users. Cooking, traveling, thrifting, and all of my hobbies were things that I thought the world would want to know about. Selfishly I wanted everyone to read what I did but not with the intentions of helping or teaching. It was just to show the bits and pieces of the good side of life. What many of us have been taught to show.
Three years later my website finally came to fruition. A new mindset came along with it. I became less focused on how many people would read my story and what I wrote and more so how can I help someone else. I replaced my original thoughts with new ones after asking myself one important question: If only one person read my blog and got inspired to do or learned something new, could I be satisfied with that? The answer was yes. That is how I knew I was doing this from a good place.
A year later here I am thankful for so many experiences and moments that I may have never happened if I didn't have this site. The day I got back to Chicago I specifically prayed that I wouldn't be there for more than two years. There is really no rhyme or reason to why that was my prayer. A request was made that God press out of me everything He needed to in order to mold me into who I was supposed to become. I never anticipated the level of discomfort and discourse this would cause. My anxiety attacks were at their peak. Many times I was having to pull over on the side of the road for hours or left crippled by weight that was not letting up. I gained friends for life and lost ones that I never thought I would in the process. Through all of the tears and fighting for what seemed like my life, I am forever grateful. Had that not happened I wouldn't be in Dallas writing this and sharing these stories. God gives trials to those He can entrust with them. I arrived in Chicago in April of 2014 and left in March of 2016, just shy of exactly two years. If anything I am an example of God and His perfect timing.
A brief look back down memory lane:
I've been through as many physical, emotional, and spiritual changes as I have had hairstyles in the past 365 days. Even though as many changes have happened the one thing that has always remained constant is that I love to create for myself but love even more when I get to help others curate their ideas and bring them to life. We tend to learn a lot of things by trial and error and research, but experience is a hell of a teacher. If you are thinking about starting a blog, website, or channel here are 15 things to keep the top of mind:
- Consistency always wins. To be good at something you have to constantly do it, then look for ways to improve. There will be people who will do the same thing you do half as good because you don't put the work in. You also see that when you do good work people will notice, and maybe even copy it.
- Leave your comfort zone. That is where the magic happens. Sometimes we stay where we are comfortable just for the sake of staying. Stickin' round's the same as being stuck (it was time for a Drake lyric people. You know me by now. Gifs and Drake are used daily)
- Know how to answer these questions: Why, What, Who, and How. Why are you creating this outlet? What are you going to give people from it? Who is your demographic? How are you going to reach them and get them interested in your work?
- You have to know your audience. It's perfectly fine to appeal to different groups but you should know the ideal person who would be a reader. This helps determine your content and it's king. For example, I write for the corporate entrepreneurial social butterfly and people that like/want to throw events. Although they can be two different groups of people, a lot of what I do intertwines and makes sense for both. You wouldn't create a site for BBQ and market it towards vegans....
- Get an accountability team. It will be so important to have that support. I would love to say everyone in your circle will support you but it's not true. What I can tell you is that it will push you to work harder. There will be people who you don't know that who will support what you do more than some people you've known for years. Don't get so focused on who didn't show up to the game that you forget those who are shooting in the gym with you. As you progress some friendships/relationships may change. At times peers will want you to succeed but not more than they are.
- Before you release any website and/or channel have content locked and loaded. It shouldn't just be one post or video. Have a solid foundation for your outlet.
- You are bound to f*ck up and guess what? It is okay. In February I redesigned my entire website and objectives for my blog. I was scared that people would think I failed but I needed to make sure was happy with what I was putting out. Quality is a thing.
- Start small. Get really good at a topic or two then expand. Be a subject matter expert in whatever you are wanting to discuss. If that's makeup, fashion, travel, or food be the go-to person. Jack of all trades works in some areas but not in all. Introduce them as you see fit. Sticking to a few topics will make SEO easier as well as monetizing your blog if you choose to.
- Have boundaries to protect your sanity. You don't have to divulge everything you do or the relationships you have with people. When I wrote the piece for Epic Fab Girl it took me more than three months to do it. It was a boundary for me but I was willing to let it down. *circles back to comfort zones* If you aren't comfortable with it you don't have to talk/write about it.
- Your media life shouldn't be that much different from what you do in real life. If we took your platform away, would you still do the same things? I tell people all the time don't go to events/travel just to write about it. I do dope sh*t and happen to write about it. It's never the other way around. Okkkuuurrrrttttttttt.
- Constantly worrying about the numbers will drive you crazy. Patience is learned with having a blog. You may think that other sites or channels are moving faster than yours or it's not going as quick as you planned it. Remember that process is a privilege.
- Don't think you can't do it. It may seem like there are 1000 new bloggers that pop up daily. Don't regret reading someone else's words wishing you would have written it.
- There is a technical side to all of this. Use YouTube University, Udemy, and other sites to get cheap or even free courses to learn basic SEO, website integrations, and basics for Squarespace or Wordpress. There are tons of resources to use to help you get creative! Canva (creating my own graphics) , Unsplash (free high-quality images), and Fivverr (freelance work) are ones that I consistently use
- Don't be scared to use your network. Work with other bloggers in your space on content. If you want to talk about fashion, reach out to make-up artists or hair stylist to plan a joint shoot or collab post. Food blogger? Work with a nutritionist or trainer to discuss healthy eating choices while out and about. Feature other people on your blog or channel. Network across and help other people build. I use this same concept when I'm doing shoots. I try to work with a new team every time not only to expand and connect but be a referral source for them as well. If you are in the Dallas area and need photographers/videographers, make-up artist, hair stylist, or wardrobe hit me up. I have a working list
- *I'm going to shake the table real quick* Earn your title. There are as many amazing bloggers/brands/influencers/content creators out there as there are people who call themselves one just for the sake of attaching something to their name. A few posts with tags isn't everything that goes into this life. We all have to start somewhere but put the work in first. I get shaky calling myself a blogger or creator. Even after a year, I don't think I deserve that yet. I have a lot more to do to make an impact. Blogging is a humbling experience. It forces you to look at who you are vs who you say you are vs who you want to be. Also be ready to face who people think you are.
You can read hundreds of blogs, listen to hours worth of podcasts, and scour the internet for answers but honestly, there is no foolproof way to prepare you. Make a plan, develop it, move forward, mess up a bit, and do it all again. Do not doubt yourself. God wrote a perfectly crafted story that is your own. It is up to you to determine how you want to tell it. Remain true to who you are. All parts of you, not just the ones people want you to be. Know that there will be ups and downs, and even at time circles. Don't ever stop rooting for yourself at the end of it all. Humbly talk your sh*t and get to work, love.
As always, stay classy my friends.
Photos by @fresh.blvd
Make-up by @desireephillipsmua