I feel like this chapter of my life could be titled “Tales From a Semi-retired Influencer.” From the first post I published on my old Blogspot blog to the present, it’s been a wild ride. Here are some thoughts that have been whirring around my heat and heart lately as I reflect on joys, regrets and learnings from sharing myself online for much of a decade:
- Someday you and your family may prioritize your privacy:The older I get the more I am. When you share something online, it could be there forever. It might seem fun to include a photo of your spouse making a funny face. But five years later as he’s moving into a new job and the first photo that Google pulls up is him making a funny face holding a lunchable pizza, you may not feel the same. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t post personal insights or photos, as they can be cathartic to you or inspiring to others. It’s just can’t always take them back.
- Understand why you are blogging and remember your “long game.” Is it to be taken seriously in a certain area of interest? Or to make a quick buck with every sponsored post you are offered? There’s no wrong answer, as it is your blog. However, remember your long-term goal and know that certain paths aren’t always mutually exclusive. Really think about the types of sponsored and affiliate opportunities you accept, if they’re good fits & how honestly you disclose them. Trust is hard to regain once lost. Certain paths might pigeon-hole you from future opportunities. If your long game is to get as much free stuff as possible, you know what to do. If it’s to work towards certain types of writing opportunities or earn respect in your area of interest, be patient and press on. It will pay off eventually. Maybe not in cash, but other types of dividends when you least expect them (trust me).
- Know it’s OK if your interests, perspectives, and goals change. We are all humans who are constantly in flux and so it’s only natural that our writing changes with us. For those of us who have been sharing our blogs and lives on social media for years, it’s strange reflecting on how a world outside of our family and friends have watched us grow up. Yes, we need to be held accountable for our words. We also need some grace.
- Don’t give away your best writing to another entity (unless it’s a significant site and they’re compensating fairly or it’s helpful to have this on your writing resume). When you are a new blogger, you will be so eager to write that you may be tempted to write for “exposure.” This is one of my biggest regrets. Secure a self-hosted website so that your content is your own and you can monetize how you wish. Years ago I gave away writing to the Huffington Post. Sure, they shared it to a broader audience, but profited off my work and can do what they want with it for eternity. Writing for exposure led to more inquiries asking me to write for exposure. One local publication to which I exchanged lots of posts for $25 each hasn’t published anything for years. I wish I had reserved these for my own blog.
- Critically evaluate whether or not it’s worth it to accept products for posts. At first, you might feel flattered a company is offering $50 worth of food in exchange for a post. But think about it; Is this actually worth space on your website + the time and effort to write a blog post, edit photos, and share on your social media channels? The answer is probably not, but could be if it’s a company with which you are seeking a relationship or small company you 100% believe in and want to see grow.
- Be prudent with your resources when considering conferences, workshops, how-to kits, etc. Bloggers love to sell things. Be cautious paying money for something that promises Ree Drummond success or the opportunity to work full-time from home. Yes, continue to build your skills and invest in reasonable learning opportunities if you are serious about this, but be prudent. Blogging conferences are fun. They can also be expensive. Some take place out-of-town where you have to purchase admission, hotel, transit, and food. The most value I’ve personally gotten from the conferences are networking opportunities and inspiration. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to conferences, but don’t overextend your budget to attend them and be realistic about what you expect to gain. I hope to gain inspiration and deepened connections. Anything else is icing on the cake, as workshops and presentations vary wildly in quality.
- If you keep trying to capture the perfect Instagrammable moment you won’t live in the moment. Eight years later after chasing follows and trying to capture every amusing moment, I’ve deactivated my Facebook account and intentionally leave my phone in my bag longer when I’m out with family and friends. I attended a recent influencer event and realized how lonely and isolated I felt looking around at a room full of people who were taking selfies and using holiday props to create that perfect, sponsored Instagrammable moment. My personal decision is to keep this blog as my passion project; I’m OK posting less often and taking OK photos, because, in exchange, I feel more alive and present.
- Most brands just care about your number of followers. Some actually do, but most don’t. They may round-up a group of influencers and tell you a nice story about how they are looking for content that’s more edgy and real, but in the end they’ll choose the bloggers with the most followers.
- Don’t change gears or overanalyze your stuff over feedback from one particular reader. Do this for you.
- And finally, stop (or take a break) when you’re not having fun anymore. And don’t apologize for this.
As always, your thoughts are welcome below in the comments!