I will remember 2016 as the year I threw myself head first into blogging.
Yes, many terribly shitty things happened in the world - Brexit, Trump, Aleppo. But personally, 2016 has been an incredible year for me in many ways. I have grown so much, a large part of which is due to working on this blog every single day for a year. Yes, you heard right. Every single day. Not a day has gone by this year where I haven't been scheming on some new blog post, liking the crap out of Instagram or working out how to Snapchat.
So I thought that I would let you guys have a peek behind the curtain so I can share with you all what I learn, warts and all, about the digital world in 2016. Some of you may have a desire to start something, whether it be a blog, a company or an Instagram account. I couldn't help but share with you what I have found especially useful to grow through this year.
If you decide to do something, don't do it half-assed. It's like what Yoda said in The Empire Strikes Back - "Do, or do not. There is no try." What I noticed while I was reading blogs and watching YouTubers right before I started 'The Residents' in late 2015, was that every single one of them was committed to producing content every single day. Whether it be an Instagram post, a tweet or a new story, these people were committed. They did not take off overnight. They've been around for YEARS (most of them 4 - 8). Truth is, I knew they couldn't have had it as their job the whole time, so I was impressed that even when they didn't have 300,000 followers on Instagram (Instagram is going to come up a lot), they still were writing and sharing content online.
Personally, I committed to a short term goal of 1 year (yeah that's right - 1 year SHORT TERM). I knew if I didn't commit I would never make anything worth while. I read a book during 2014 - 2015 many times by a guy called Austin Kleon called 'Steal like an artist' and 'Show your work'. It is full of great tips to help you if you want to make something (not just art). It busts all the myths you might be holding about your own capability and explains you how things to play out when you commit to be creative. That commitment is a firm promise you make to yourself, that no matter what - even if no one comes and validates you - you will keep making stuff.
2. Consistency is King
This is similar to what is above, but nothing is a bigger factor in getting noticed than consistency. I have some sayings I've started since blogging which I find myself repeating. One is 'It's all about the Hustle'. The other is 'It takes people 7 times of seeing something before they take action'. But if you give up on round 3, then you are effectively DENYING that person the ability to notice or take action about your cool thing you make. So keep it up.
When I feel demotivated, I like to pretend I have a little box in my heart where I keep kind things people have said to me about what they think about what I am trying to do. I tuck them up like notes from school friends whenever I get one, and pop it in the box for a sad day. Then, whenever I don't feel like writing another blog post, or re-posting on my own Facebook page, I bring out one of those nice things and it helps me feel like someone is encouraging me along. Without the kind things people have said to me, or messages I have received (some from people far away in the UK or USA, missing New Zealand), I don't know if I could have been as consistent with my writing.
There is a great clip with a now world famous YouTuber (see 'Rise of the Superstar YouTuber' doco on - you guessed it - YouTube) and check out the now arena sell-out YouTube gamer guy who says he was uploading content for 2-3 years and that they were the hardest because you are just posting so other people come back).
3. Know your values
If you know who you are as a blog, it will be much easier. I knew from the start I wanted to be a single point of view blogger, not limited to any specific niche - broadly across lifestyle. Content wise, I wanted to help people, like me, appreciate living in the present moment of their own city and learn about interesting and cool things. I also wanted to support local brands and raise awareness of events in the city, sharing these all through a personal lens that would make people smile.
Stylistically, I felt there already were brands with way more of a budget than me (read: nil) who were covering Wellington from the 'City Guide' perspective (such as Neat Places, Concrete Playground, Word on the Street). I wanted to do something a bit more independent and a bit more personal. I knew what kept me coming back to certain bloggers content was their tastes, humour and style. Basically - in a nutshell - their personality. I knew I had personality for all of Africa, but I was also worried about what some of my friends would think? Would they think I was weird? What would work think? Truth was, they already thought I was as nutty as a Pandoro Christmas cake anyway.
So I took the plunge, as nervous as I was, and decided to not just be a brand but to put my face and name to things. I feel that had I not done this, I would not have been speaking my truth. I wanted to be at the heart of things. Over time, I have been more confident but I've always wanted this blog to encourage being true to yourself and being open. Having strong values will help you make decisions and not just say yes to everything. Don't hide. Let your light shine (mozzarella cheeeeese on toast y'all).
4. Do your Homework
Blogging and social media is all about research, research, research. There is already SO MUCH out there. The internet is full of suggestions and tips for making your blog successful. It can be easy to get overwhelmed.
This is what I have found: You need to trawl lots of articles and write down tips that resonate with you. Some people will be focused on driving people to buy products, or get an e-book. As I had none of these, I focused on articles about social media and how to make my content better. One thing that resonated was that people are looking for articles with suggestions on improving content and reflection. You will find if you know what else is out there, you will be more strongly positioned to take advantage of what is missing.
The thing everyone seems to agree on is to make sure you are writing about something you are passionate about, whatever it is. Don't just start doing a makeup YouTube channel because you think everyone else is doing one. Do we need another review of the Kylie Jenner lipkit? I think not...
Be unique and consider what makes you special. If you try and write about something you aren't that into, then it will show. Also, if you don't know how to do something - GOOGLE IT. The university of google is one that rarely fails me. Know thyself and be true to thyself.
5. Be your own cheerleader
I heard on a YouTube video/TED talk/Louise Hay book once that if you don't back yourself, no one else will. That is why, as embarrassing as it might seem, I always share my own content on my own timeline on Facebook. I also actively talk about my blog in a positive manner. I try and never say that I am 'Kind of' a blogger or 'sort of a blogger'. I just say 'I'm a blogger'. It keeps it simpler that way. Yeah, I have a day job too. But much like how some people who run companies and shit have different hats when they are on different boards, when I am blogging I treat it like a job. I am as (if not sometimes more) professional as I am in my 8:30 - 5:30 job. I am one person, I just have multiple passions. I can care about the corporate world, law and be interested in the financial markets AND be fascinated with how Nelson native Jessie Bush from 'We the People' gets her Instagrams SO GODDAMN PERFECT.
6. Relationships are crucial
Blogging has made me a nicer person. I really mean that. I realised after a while blogging isn't transactional. You form connections with people. Those can last a season or a lifetime. All I can say is that I've met some kick ass women through my blogging, just by being interested in their business. I've also met some very wise older people who have helped guide me. Also, our reputation is all we have and as we get older, we need to be more aware of how we come across. You never know where a coffee with someone could lead...for me it led to my first blogging trip to Thailand!
7. Self Belief
This is kind of like point 5 but different. You only live one life. You have one shot to do something you truly love. It doesn't need to mean quitting your day job and throwing everything in. In fact, I would discourage that. Small steps are the place to start. Work out what you love. Dip your toe in the water. Don't flagellate yourself just because you missed a blog post. You're in this for the long haul baby! Get back on the horse, channel your inner creative energy and keep on making work. Because the more I practice, the better I get. You will too.
For those of you who want a kick starter - here are my favourite tools to start blogging.
- Macbook Air - so light it can go everywhere.
- Squarespace - my hosting platform. Beautiful easy website construction and only $140 a year. Perfect for those who want to avoid coding at all costs but still want a sleek.
- Canon Cameras - I have a second-hand 700D. It is excellent.
- Backup SD cards - Never get caught having left your card in your computer and be embarrassed on a blog shoot.
- Mosaico App - It will change your life if you are an Instagram obsessive (aka me). Move squares around to see what your grid will look like before posting.
- iPhone 6S - Syncs with your laptop so you (mostly) don't even have to upload. I used this alone to take photos for the first 5 months of blogging and it totally did the trick.
- Crowdfire - See who is following you and more importantly unfollowing you.
- Lightroom - Just got this and apparently this is what I need for editing my photos. Up until now it's been a mix of whatever is available for editing tools.