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Monday, 25 March 2019

10 Lessons Learned in One Year of Blogging

10 lessons learned in one year blogging - me

I can’t believe Melis Living is one year old! (And a few weeks... it's taken me a little while to get this post published).

It genuinely feels like two minutes since I started this little space to share my travel ramblings on the internet. At the same time it feels like a lifetime ago that we flew to Singapore and I started writing blog posts to fill some time and document my travel experiences to look back on. You can read my first ever post about Chiang Mai here.

To celebrate my first year, I thought I'd share the 10 lessons I have learned in one year of blogging.

I will caveat this by saying I am not claiming to be an expert or have all the advice (for this I'd recommend checking out Ell Duclos or Vix Meldrew) but I thought it would be good to share some of the realities I've found from my very short experience of running a blog.

Finding a work-life balance is hard

I thought I would start with the big one. As you may already know I am a ‘hobby blogger’, which means that although I do earn a tiny bit of income from time to time from Melis Living, it is generally my hobby and always will be.

I am in the midst of changing careers and working full-time on a doctorate, which is challenging but definitely where my focus is as I move into an academic career. Imminently I will have a full-time job as well as balancing my demanding studies so time will tell how I manage to fit blog posts in to my schedule.

Hobby bloggers have to fit content creation around day-time work commitments, their family, partner, household chores and also manage to have some kind of social life! This is a task which sometimes seems impossible and has felt like the biggest challenge over the past year.

10 lessons learned in one year blogging - radio

Support from loved ones is key

I couldn’t keep my blog going without such amazing support from my partner and mum. I am grateful to them for every little proof-read they do, or positive comment they make about my Instagram photos.

It can feel like blogging starts to take over your life, so having someone who understands is really helpful. My partner will encourage me to have some downtime when I've been working too hard on the day job and blog, so it's really good to have that.

Not everyone will get it and that is OK

Some people will assume you're 'in it for the freebies' (read more on this below). Others will really not understand why you do it, especially if you hope to make it your job. Stick at it and engage as much as you can with like-minded people and before you know it people who doubted you will be messaging asking how they can start their own blog...

You need to have the right motivation to keep going

If you fancy starting your own blog for the money, or the ‘freebies’ (spoiler: nothing is actually free when you factor in the hours needed to create content) then I need to pre-warn you that this is the worst thing you can do. You have to enjoy it as a passion, otherwise your personality will not come out in your words and you will soon feel defeated when you realise it can take a while to get that first collab.

It took me around a year to earn my first small bit of income from this website and I am sure I would have given up ages ago if I was in it for the money. I have turned down offers of free product and paid work when they don’t feel like a good fit for my blog and it is important to realise from day 1 that you shouldn’t accept every offer. I try to focus on writing posts which I know will be a good fit for my readers.

10 lessons learned in one year blogging

You will get a little obsessed with your website

I love being able to write about topics such as travel, days out, and life as a 30-something, hoping that it helps other people going through similar experiences to me. It is therapeutic having a space which allows you to write creatively and freely. I can’t emphasise how happy it makes me to read a nice comment or get a Twitter or Instagram message from a like-minded person.

My blog is my happy place and whilst it is hard work it allows me to de-stress and pour all of my feelings into blog posts to unwind after a hard day. I do feel really proud of everything I have created and whilst it is hard to balance it all I can't imagine giving it up now.

A small initial investment is worth it to make your site professional

I would advise someone just starting out to limit their initial outlay, especially if they are a hobby blogger like me. Try not to get sucked into too many paid-for blogging courses and use free guides where you can as there are loads out there.

I paid for my theme on Etsy and the cost was minimal. I pay for my own domain name once a year which makes my site look more professional but it's not expensive and the platform I run my blog on is free. 

If I did ever decide to make this my job then I would pay for a fancy theme and potentially go self-hosted, but my advice to other newbies would be to buy an inexpensive theme to begin with and consider using Blogger.

Blogger friendships are real and amazing

One of the main motivators which keeps me going, even at 10pm on a Tuesday night when I am churning out a post instead of binging a new Netflix series, is the people. I have met some cracking friends through my blog and Instagram account.

10 lessons learned in one year blogging
This Melissa, The Delicious Nutritionist, and one of my fab blogger friends.

I get invited to some local events where I have met so many like-minded North East bloggers, and I even met expat friends in Singapore through my Instagram account. Speaking of Instagram, it wouldn’t be a reflection on my first year of blogging without talking about the platform bloggers have a huge love-hate relationship with.

Instagram can be very frustrating for bloggers

I started my Instagram account about a year before my blog even existed, with the wonderfully odd username ‘Lifesacoco’. Don’t ask – I was in Thailand and it felt appropriate at the time!

I was so shocked to find that as quickly as I gained followers, I would lose them again. This was my first taste of the ‘follow to unfollow’ phenomenon which unfortunately makes Instagram a real challenge at times. My advice to anyone starting out a blog Instagram is:

1. Don’t buy followers. It will make your engagement rate (the proportion of likes and comments on your posts / number of followers) seem incredibly low and people will doubt your credibility. It’s also unfair and unethical if brands pay you to promote something to a huge ‘following’ which is actually a load of inactive accounts.

2. Do not follow to unfollow someone as soon as they follow back, and don’t use bots which do this for you. It is incredibly annoying and people are definitely catching onto this now so you will get caught out.

3. Try and be patient. It takes bl**dy ages to grow any kind of genuine following. It really does. The best thing you can do is only put out your best photos, try and be consistent and constantly engage with others on the platform. Like and comment on photos in your feed, explore hashtags and really build a community around your work.

Sometimes I really despise Instagram and want to delete my account but then I’d lose touch with some really incredible bloggers who I regularly message through the platform. Give it a go and see if it works for you, but it is important to take a step back if it gets you down.

Having a niche isn't vital, but having a focus is

This is an area which usually divides opinion. Does having a specific niche matter? A lot of people think it doesn't and I do agree with this to some extent. However, I do think you need some kind of focus.

You don't have to only write about travel, or decorating your home, or food. You can write about all these things. However, I try to write every post with my specific audience in mind (30-something, loves to travel but also loves a nice life at home so tries to save money where possible).

So whilst a very narrow niche isn't the be-all-and-end-all, I do think a specific focus or voice is important to stand out from the crowd. I am definitely not the best at this and I am trying to work on refining this more in 2019.

Taking time off is key for your mental health

The pressure to grow in the world of ‘influencers’ (I hate that word) can be crippling and I have learnt to take a day or two off my blog and Instagram, or unfollow people who make me feel anything less than brilliant.

Nobody should make you feel anything less than your wonderful self but I had to mention this as it can be difficult sometimes. Imposter syndrome, and constant comparison can eat away at you if you don't take time out for yourself and remember that you have a life outside social media and your website which people don't actually know much about!

10 lessons learned in one year blogging

10 Lessons Learned in One Year of Blogging: closing thoughts

Writing this has really made me reflect on the positives of my blog and reminded me how much I enjoy it. If you are starting out, I’d highly recommend listening to the Exciting Emails and Hashtag Authentic podcasts to get you off to a flying start and work out what to focus on.

I am excited to see what the next year brings and would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who reads my blog. I hope you have enjoyed reading the 10 lessons I have learned in the past year. Bring on another year of Melis Living!

22 comments :

  1. I love it!! I'm so glad that I stumbled across your blog. It's genuinely a pleasure to see your posts pop up!

    It's great you have the support from your mum and partner. I've always found that many people think blogging is for people who want to brain dump and leave a daily journal and it's just not the case.

    I've been blogging for 9 months and it's probably the longest hobby I have ever had in my adult life!

    Great post,
    Jess xx

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    1. Thanks so much Jess! I love your posts too. It's so nice to have virtual blog friends like you to keep me sane :) I am glad you enjoy the hobby too, it's lovely to have our own side projects to work on! Melis x

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  2. Fab lessons! It feels as if you have been blogging a whole lot longer than one year. Here's to many more xx

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    1. Thanks Sam. I am so up and down with it (especially Instagram - I totally agreed with your post the other day).. but generally the good sides outweigh the bad and it's nice to have something to say when people ask about hobbies! Thanks for reading :) Melis x

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  3. Love this post! So many great tips for new bloggers and such a lovely, genuine read. Congrats on your blog anniversary!

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    1. Thanks very much Ciara, glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. I've been at it for less than a year but have stayed focused and enjoyed doing it and learning about the entire process. Ultimately I hope to earn some money to be able to do a little travelling with my wife as we are both retired and it's now or never applies. We were in Chiang Mai last year to asist a family member with a medical emergency which was not a fun trip, but lucky enough to have also spent 5 weeks in Australia later in the year. So, we now need to take the blog a bit more seriously and I've been trying to increase my traffic. Thanks for putting your thoughts and experience out there.

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    1. This sounds excellent. A retirement filled with travel is definitely the dream for me! Sorry you had that difficult time last year, I am glad you got to have another more positive trip during the year as well. I am checking out your blog now! Thanks for commenting. Melis

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  5. Thanks for the post. I am 3 months in and sometimes feel like it will never be something I can monetize. It’s overwhelming at times! Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you, wishing you all the best with your blog!

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  6. I can't believe it's only been a year, you're such a pro!

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    1. Ohh that's so kind Chloe, thank you! I feel a long way off that but I just really enjoy the fact it's something fun that I can do as much or as little of depending what else I've got on :)

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  7. Thanks for this! As a new blogger, it's great to have this refresher.

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    1. Thanks Madison, I hope it's helpful! Good luck with your blog. Melis

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  8. Happy blog birthday. Instagram and the follow/unfollow thing drive me mad too x

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    1. Thanks so much! Yes it's definitely the platform I literally either get obsessed over or hate. Melis x

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  9. Congrats on one year!

    And well done on the doctorate - good luck with working full time too, it sounds super tough and it sounds like you're doing so well! <3

    www.chloexlizabeth.com

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    1. Thanks so much - it's a challenge but hopefully worth it in the end! Melis x

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  10. Congratulations on a year of blogging! I hope you have many more :)

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  11. Thanks for this article. I’ve just begun blogging and finding the focus is a tough thing.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it. I find trying to get in some kind of regular routine and treating it like a hobby you'd 'book in' for does really help. I hope you are enjoying blogging! Melis

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