January is typically a time of reflection, be that where you're going or where you've been. I can tell you with great certainty that I've already spent way more time than I should have thinking about where I would like to go this year and things future Vickie should focus on, but I thought it would be fun to look back on my blogging journey so far and think about what I would tell 2009 Vickie to save her some grief. My hope is that some of the lessons I learned will help you along your blogging journeys, and maybe it will inspire others to share their insights as well... we're all in this together, right?
DO YOU, BOO
When I first started posting my outfits online, I didn't have a strong sense of my personal style and was heavily influenced by what other bloggers were doing at the time. Now I know that the best way to stand out in such an overpopulated niche is to be true to your own style, voice, aesthetic, etc. but it took me a really long time to realize that. So while it's good to know what's going on around you and get inspired by what your fellow bloggers are doing, don't let trends and what works for other people take over — people can sense inauthenticity and it will end up biting you in the you-know-what.
When I look back at my early photos, I can't help but cringe at the quality. Not only was I using a terrible camera to begin with (I started AiF with a crappy point-and-shoot), but I had no concept of lighting and even less of a clue where photo editing was concerned. Now I'm not saying you need the most expensive camera and the fanciest lens to make a go of blogging, but investing in the best equipment you can afford is crucial to producing quality content, as is learning how to properly edit your photos... practice makes perfect!
KNOW YOUR (BASIC) HTML + SEO
I can't tell you how many times over the years Blogger has driven me crazy, be it with minor formatting issues or photos not properly uploading. To save past Vickie a ton of grief, I would tell her to read up on basic HTML from the get-go, and make researching SEO tactics a priority. I'm still not an expert on either, nor will I ever be, but I know enough now not to want to pull my hair out or get frustrated when my analytics don't show consistent growth (definitely a sign of bad SEO!). Possibly the biggest tip I would share with myself now is to name photos and their alt text to reflect their content; it's also a game-changer when any of your photos are Pinned!
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
And by that, I mean consistency in the aesthetic you create, in the tone your blog and social platforms take, and in the frequency in which you publish new content. As a small example, it took me years to realize that I needed a uniform handle across all my platforms, and operated as @vick-to-the-e on Twitter for ages before I streamlined everything to @advinfashion (I still hate when people call it "Advin Fashion," but it was the best I could do with character restrictions — sigh!). The point is, it's important to audit yourself periodically to make sure everything you do is on-brand and that your audience is getting what they've come to expect... hear that, past Vickie?
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
It took me ages to even tell people I had a blog, let alone actively promote it, so putting those feelings of self-doubt aside sooner would have probably helped me grow a lot faster, but hey, it's about the journey, right? If you're a new blogger, just promise me you won't make the same mistake I did — put yourself out there both online and IRL, talk about your achievements where appropriate (and with humility), carry business cards with you everywhere you go, and be your very own hype person... I still need to work on this one, so it'll have to fall under the "Do as I say, not as I do" category.
KNOW YOUR WORTH
I can't tell you how many times I've sold myself short, undercharged or just plain worked for free in the first two to three years of blogging. The problem is when that happens, the bar is lowered for all of us in terms of what brands come to expect when working with bloggers. Now I know it can be super hard knowing what to charge, but if you take a look at your overall stats, the amount of work that goes into each project, and roughly how many hours it would take to complete, you'll be able to come up with something that's fair. When working with brands, I also find it beneficial to break my pricing model down so they know exactly what they're getting, and can even pick-and-choose services if my initial ask doesn't align with their budget (ie- X amount for a blog post, X amount per social share, X for a bundle of my services, etc.). It's also important to mention at this point the power of saying 'no' during negotiations; once you've established your rate, you have to stick to your guns, otherwise people won't take you seriously. It might seem scary to turn down a gig because a brand you want to work with is low-balling you, but by standing firm on what you think you're worth, you'll weed out the companies that aren't a good fit for you and gain the respect of ones that are.
Above all, have fun and don't take yourself too seriously — blog because you love it and the rest will fall into place. xx