This post has been in the works for probably something like two years now. I'd come back to it every so often, think I had it perfect, and then completely rewrite it. But I think I've finally managed to express myself the way that I want to, so it's seeing the light of day. Blogging has changed immeasurably since I first started using LiveJournal back in high school in the early 2000s. Whether you’ve had an online space for literally half your life(!) like I have, or if you’ve always been a silent reader, I feel like blogging has enriched my life in so many ways and I know I wouldn’t be the same person without it.
But in all the ways it’s changed, so has my relationship with it, and I want to talk a bit more about that. Of course I only have my own experiences as a frame of reference, and I don’t claim to be an authority on the matter, but I have a lot of thoughts about the way blogging has become an industry and how these changes have influenced me and my blog, and I think it’s important to talk about it. Side note: I went on a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon earlier this year which is where these photos are from – but back to business!
Being a Slow Blogger
is Perfectly Valid
It took me a long time to figure this out, but after lots of talking with my slow blogger bff Tenneil it finally clicked and my outlook changed significantly for the better. A few years ago, around the time influencer marketing really started to get some money behind it, the blogging world was awash with advice posts like, "How to Boost Engagement" or, "Making Your Blog SEO Friendly".
The thing that always felt off to me about these advice posts is that they assume that everyone who has a blog has the following goals:
1. Consistently grow follower count
2. Increase engagement stats
3. Work with brands + get on PR lists
4. Get paid to blog
5. Quit your day job and become a full time blogger
Behind this assumption is the implication that if you aren't working towards these goals then your blog isn't "successful" - whatever that means. Having career goals is important, and if blogging is your career, or if you want it to be, then of course these things are also important. But the overwhelming majority of blog owners still have day jobs, and until fairly recently being a blogger was not a career path that anyone had ever thought about pursuing.
Furthermore, just because some people have managed to work incredibly hard and make blogging their full time job, does not mean that they're the success stories and everyone else is trying and failing to do the same. I found it so freeing when it finally clicked that I'm not, nor have I ever been trying to be a professional blogger, so I don't need to listen to anyone else's rules or advice. It's perfectly okay to just blog as a hobby, at my own pace, and not want to turn it into my career. My blog isn't pointless and I'm not failing at anything because I don't have a PO Box overflowing with press samples that I don’t even really want.
Of course there's absolutely nothing wrong with being, or wanting to be, a professional blogger. I have nothing but love, support, respect, happiness, and encouragement for people who have been able to make a living from doing what they love. I've enjoyed so much blogging content over the years and it's all been for free because of other people's hard work, and the blogs I read and the (mostly) women behind them inspire and educate me endlessly.
All I'm saying is that it's perfectly okay to not aspire to that, and your blog is still completely worthwhile even if you've never been sent anything or made a cent from it. Call me old fashioned, but even though it's a fantastic career path for some, I still think there's room for the little guy who buys whatever they feature with their own money and blogs when they feel like it instead of on a schedule.
That's how blogging started and just because it's turned into an industry doesn't mean that all blogs have moved from one format to the other and slow/hobby blogs are obsolete. The professionals are now in their own category, but hobby bloggers should sit proudly beside them without feeling inferior or like their voice is unimportant, or like they have to try and keep up. I've have definitely felt the pressure of all of those things in the past and I'm sure I'm not alone in that, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There's No Right or
Wrong Way to Blog
There are so many things that I love about blogging. The biggest is the sense of community and the friendships I’ve made, some of which have moved off the internet and into real life. Beyond that, it’s also an important creative outlet that gives me both a place and a way to express myself. It’s somewhere I can share and learn more about my hobbies by having conversations with people who are interested in the same things as me, and who I may not have found irl.
As well as this, I’ve just been doing it for so long and it’s such a natural part of my life that I don’t even really know what it would be like not to blog. But with blogging becoming a monetised industry, and with the word “influencer” now a job title, some people have very different reasons for doing it.
I see/hear a lot of people these days worrying about the Instagram algorithm and asking how to get more followers, or wondering what they’re doing wrong or why people aren’t engaging with their content, and I just feel like I no longer want to be a part of those conversations.
Of course as I said, there’s no right or wrong way to blog and if you’re trying to turn your blog into a business, then I completely accept that these things are important to you. But I just feel like it’s become assumed that we all have the same goals and the same worries, and it made me feel pressured to try and blog in a certain way so I didn’t get left behind.
When you focus on these things there’s so much pressure to follow some magical recipe for success. We're told to keep our photos consistent so they become recognisable. We're told to pick a colour theme for our Instagram and plan our feed using a separate app. We're told we should be posting daily on 10 different platforms and that our writing has to be SEO friendly. At times it made me wonder what was the point in blogging if I’m not as good as someone else?
But eventually I realised that it's perfectly okay to just blog for myself without following any rules or formulas, and without having any goals in mind. Since blogging isn’t my job, it shouldn’t feel like hard work. So I stopped worrying about all that other stuff and suddenly it became fun again.
I'm not a competitive person by nature, so most of my hobbies don't revolve around hitting targets. I don't read with the intention of getting through a certain number of books each year. I don't listen to music for anything other than enjoyment and emotional connection. So why should I have to set goals for my blog or try to achieve anything in particular?
My hobbies are an escape and something I do to unwind, not to put more pressure on myself. Blogging doesn't have to be about building an empire, it can just be something you do in your free time because you love talking about makeup or vintage fashion or whatever makes you happy.
It's perfectly fine to still just want to connect with other people and talk about whatever you like as frequently or infrequently as you like. Regardless of how long you've been blogging, just because you're not a professional doesn't mean you should give up or that your voice doesn't matter. There's still plenty of room out there for hobby bloggers who have day jobs and have no intention of quitting them. You still have something worthwhile to contribute and it would be such a shame for people to stop blogging, or never start in the first place, because they've been made to feel otherwise.
Do What's Right For You
I feel like blogs took over from magazines partly because digital everything has taken over from physical everything, but also because people found honest content written by real people with nothing to lose far more relatable than a glossy editorial spread that’s full of advertising.
But as more money has been pumped into blogging, a lot of what we see these days is now paid for by brands, or falls under what you might call "aspirational" content, particularly on Instagram. While this has its place and there are millions of people who love it, we certainly don't all have to fit into the same mould of what blogging "should" look like. There are definitely people I've had to unfollow because their content has moved so far into the realm of fantasy that I can't relate to it anymore.
We all know by now that everyone posts the best selfie out of the 50 they took, and that we're all far more inclined to post about the good things over the bad, but I still think showing that you're a real person and doing what comes naturally to you instead of subscribing to a formula is what creates a connection. I still keep up with lots of the same people that I’ve been following since as early as 2008 when I first started exploring blogs outside of LJ.
Part of that is sentimentality, and part of it is because some of those bloggers have managed to retain their original voice and it still comes through in their content. My favourites have always been the ones with a personal touch, because that’s what I really connect with, whether they’re full-timers or hobby bloggers.
Personally, I've never been able to push myself to blog more often than I can manage, which is part of what makes me a slow blogger. I'm the first to admit that sometimes I'm quiet for weeks on end. But when it's not a paying job, most of us can't blog every day or plan out months’ worth of posts in advance, and I don’t think we should feel like we have to either.
Some of my favourite bloggers have a day job and don’t post every week, let alone every day. If you can make daily content happen, then major kudos to you because that's an incredible achievement, but I know that I’d never be able to do it and still be happy with what I’m putting out, because that’s just not how I work.
Social media is another area where I “fail” as a blogger. Honestly it started to feel like too much work and not enough fun, so I got over it. I know that’s a major no-no for #influencers trying to #grow their ###brand but I find it really hard to give a shit.
And as flattering as it may be to be approached by a brand or PR company, I’ve never been able to accept products that I don’t think would be a seamless fit for my blog. I don’t care if it’s free, I’d be too embarrassed to feature anything that I think would stick out like a sore thumb.
For me, reaching a place where I’m happy with my blog has come from finding a style that feels authentic to me, and creating content that I would find interesting and would want to read if someone else had written it.
As long as I’m proud of what I’m creating then that’s the most important thing to me. If you want to be a professional blogger, there are tonnes of posts out there with advice and guidance on how to make that happen, and I wish you all the best.
But I want to remind the hobby bloggers out there that just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you have to be aiming for that. You’re not automatically a “failure” because you haven’t "made it". You can just be a blogger and that’s enough.