In case you missed it, tickets to Blogtacular 2016 are now on sale! Blogtacular is an amazing event for creative bloggers to meet, share and inspire one another. The event, hosted in London in June, features a range of keynote speakers and workshops to help you become a better blogger.
I’ve been looking forward to Blogtacular since January, when I set my 2016 blogging resolutions, and have been joining the weekly #blogtacular Twitter chats in anticipation ever since. Blogtacular chats are a little different to other chats in that they are geared towards sharing expertise and best practice.
Learning from Blogtacular 2015
This morning I came across a blog post by XOMISSE who attended last year’s conference, and discovered the 2015 keynote speech by Grace Bonney from Design Sponge, one of the most famous interiors and lifestyle blogs on the web. I started watching, and was immediately enthralled.
Grace’s talk was all about ’embracing fear’ – as the online landscape endlessly evolves, we have to constantly face our fears to learn or try new things, to help us stay on top of the wave. The talk really struck a cord, especially as, not long ago, I joined a Blogtacular chat on the topic of bravery.
In her talk, Grace describes her 5-step process to overcoming fears. The first step is to ‘Acknowledge’ the fear, which she calls the ‘private therapy moment’. The key is to identify the things that scare you (for example that you don’t think your content on Instagram is good enough), and air them.
All fears are valid, and by acknowledging them, you can start to do something about them. During her talk, Grace encourages the audience to write down three things that they’re afraid of. As I continue on my blogging journey, I thought it was about time that I started to air some of my fears, as I’m sure that I’m not alone, and by talking about them, hopefully I can start to better forge my blog’s future.
So, here goes…
Fear #1: Content: What is my blog’s USP, and what do readers want?
I first started Shelley Makes as a new year’s resolution to try my hand at more arts & crafts, but what started out as an online show ‘n’ tell, has become a bigger obsession and goal. I love the blogosphere, and I love networking with fellow craft-bods and creatives, but I’m still figuring out where my blog fits into the wider ‘world wide web’, and how I can give it a creative edge.
In Grace’s speech, she talks about fears to do with identity – in the ever-changing blogger landscape, how do you define what you do, and what you’re about? What is it that makes you different to your ‘competitors’, and what do people want from you? In order to grow my blog, I know that I need to consider what it is exactly that I have to offer readers, and play to my strengths.
The talk got me thinking about my USP – what are the ‘hats’ that I wear that I can bring to the table? What will make readers want to spend their precious time reading my blog? On the blog to date, I have enjoyed creating my own DIY craft tutorials, writing about fairs and workshops that I’ve been to, and promoting independent designer / makers, but to what extent should I post about what is interesting to me, and to what extent should I be tailoring content for my readers?
Also, importantly, can I really call myself a craft blogger when, by my own admission, I am not THAT great at crafts? Don’t get me wrong, I score myself an ‘A*’ for enthusiasm, and I enjoy it, but there are a lot of creative bloggers out there who do a better job than me. Can I still inspire people with my ‘If I can do it, you can do it’ attitude? Is my ‘try-hard craft newb’ status my differentiator? Many bloggers go on to open online shops or create their own product lines, but that doesn’t feel right for me.
Outside of blogging I work in PR; in PR, you would never undertake any activity (such as launching a blog, writing a blog post, hosting an event, or posting a picture on Instagram) without first of all identifying your objectives. What are you aiming to achieve, and what is the ultimate end goal? Am I simply a publisher of creative information and inspiration? Or is there more than I can offer?
I feel as though I’m still working out that answer. Aside from my personal aims of interacting with like-minded people, I feel like I need to better understand what you (my reader) wants, and then figure out how I am qualified to help. Honestly, what sorts of things would you like to see more of?
Fear #2: Lack of control – my formatting phobia
In her talk, Grace talks about the fear of losing control of content, which I can empathise with. In fact, I have a confession to make… I am a formatting nazi – to the point of phobia.
I hate writing copy where just a few words go onto another line. I have to like how the copy looks as a bulk on the page (a nice rectangle or square), which makes copy-writing a complete pain in the arse. I have no idea where this ‘phobia’ or fear stems from, but it means that I can spend ages writing blog copy just to try and make it fit concisely onto 2-3 lines. If it’s two lines and a quarter, or three lines and a half, I feel disappointed in myself, as though I haven’t written it correctly or concisely enough; in my mind, there must either be not enough detail, or too much detail. Completely irrational, I know, especially as copy looks different depending on what kind of device or browser you read it on!
Some of the challenges that this ‘phobia’ presents, is that I become paranoid when it comes to guest blogging. What if what I write in my browser, ends up looking different in their browser, and I have odd words over-following onto random lines?! In my mind, the reader will physically recoil.
This is the first time I’ve ever talked about this, so if anyone else has this, or has heard of it, please let me know! How can I stop being a crazy lady? How much does formatting matter to you?
Fear #3: The big blogging pay debate
The big debate in the blogosphere right now is about money. What is both ethical and reasonable income that we should expect to make from brands, and when is it OK to blog for free?
For me, a lot of the joy of working with brands is simply exposure to cool, crafting events that are fun and inspiring, that connect me to like-minded people, and help to further my crafting skills. Like all bloggers, I’m also keen to up my blogging game, whether through photography, picture editing, or Instagram workshops, so there is a lot of added value that brands can provide bloggers for free.
That said, blogging can take up a lot of time and energy. Many of us blog alongside full-time jobs, not to mention juggling home responsibilities, and so when a blogger agrees to work with a brand, we are making a big commitment. It only seems right, therefore, that we should be rewarded for this dedication, in some form or fashion, so that our commitment represents a true partnership.
If a brand hired a photographer to take pictures of their product, they would pay. If they hired a copy-writer to create content for their website, they would pay. So I do feel passionately that bloggers should not be seen as the ‘good Samaritans’ of the content world, blogging from the kindness of their hearts (although, for the most part, we do have kind hearts). So here’s to a fairer future!
If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for listening to my ramblings. I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you make of the blog, and what would you like to see more of? How can I provide added value? What are your three blogging fears? And are you heading to Blogtacular 2016?