Blogtacular 2016 (& embracing my blogging fears)

Blogtacular 2016 logoIn 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.

5 step process.png

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?

8 thoughts on “Blogtacular 2016 (& embracing my blogging fears)

  1. I am with you on discovering my usp. I am a craft blogger, but in comparison with others my projects are always a little wonky. I don’t know how other creatives manage to come up with so many new ideas, when so many projects already exist. On the copy front, I can’t say it bothers me, but I do have a thing about uniform picture sizes that makes me a bit reluctant to post on blogs where it’s all a bit higgledy piggledy (random old-fashioned phrase there). I am sure that you will have an amazing time at Blogtacular and continue to go from strength to strength.

    • Haha, I love that way of describing them – ‘a little wonky’. There is something very nice about wonky handmade things though – I quite like the imperfections, so maybe it isn’t so bad after all =) Ah yes, I like uniform picture sizes too – I see what you mean! Thanks so much for your comment. I am really looking forward to Blogtacular so hope to come back full of inspiration =)

  2. I saw last year that another blogger had been and I meant to look into it but forgot. One of my fears is that I wouldn’t even be let me in to such an event because my blog was terrible and not good enough! I write for myself and don’t think too much about what might attract readers. Maybe I should and then I’d get a better following? I dunno… something to think about.

    • I guess it depends on what you use your blog for? If you’re happy with the following you have then no need to change things unnecessarily? As my old pa would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I’m sure you wouldn’t be laughed at if you went to Blogtacular! x

  3. Fear #2. Today I just got a new Chromebook and upon opening up my blog I see that the format is completely different to how it is shown on my old laptop. Ugh. I say completely different but really it is only a few more words on a line more, but still… You get me. As for what I like to see from others bloggers: honesty. I like getting to know about the blogger aswell as the crafter, and I’m still working on this balance myself. Its really hard to decipher what absolute strangers would find interesting or super boring! You don’t have to have the best home, or be able to cook, or own a linen apron. I like that everyone is different and when I find a blogger being themselves I am drawn in. Which is what lead me leave a comment, I like your honesty! 🙂 Hannah

    • Haha! I’m pleased I’m not the only one! I was beginning to feel alone there =) I completely agree with your point re: working out what strangers want from you, and whether they ‘expect’ anything from you at all? Thanks so much for your comment, you made my day =) Honesty shall be my ongoing policy from now on =) x

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