Welcome back, guys! As part of my 4-year blog anniversary (blogversary?), I’ve talked about a few things that are helpful to know when starting out (click here to read that blog post, the two go hand in hand), and now I’m cruising down the cringe-worthy part of memory lane by talking about the things that I did wrong, and what you can learn from them.
There have been a lot of blunders, so it was hard to boil it down, but for all of the things I messed up, I learned a lot, and that meant it had value even if it stung at the time.
Here are some of the biggest fails I had, and what I learned from them:
Not thinking outside the box
I said in the previous post that one of the most important things about blogging is finding a way to stand out, and that means doing things a little differently. One of the biggest reasons why blogs fail is because they don’t differentiate enough, don’t fit into a niche that is specific enough, and tend to try to repeat was was successful for other bloggers.
The thing is, what worked for me four years ago will not work in the same way for you, and what worked for the bloggers who I followed and tried to imitate when I started did work for me a little bit, but if I had thought outside the box, I could have gone a lot farther a lot more quickly.
Not recognizing the power of Instagram sooner
To follow on to not thinking outside of the box, I was way late to the game with Instagram. I don’t know why I didn’t think of uploading my DSLR photos instead of crappy phone photos from the get-go. I always had my camera with me and I was going to awesome places. I actually used to take a photo with my camera and then whip out my phone to take one for Instagram! Then I HDR’d the hell out of it and put the saturation way too high. Why, Kristin, why?
I didn’t innovate. I didn’t pay attention to what the successful accounts were doing. I kick myself because I could have been so much farther along by now. Now when I find an up and coming social network, I ask myself if it’s something that I should focus a lot of effort on and if it can help me in some way, and that was at least a positive outcome.
Setting up a Patreon page
About two years into blogging a friend sent me a website called Patreon where creators can set up accounts and their readers can pledge monthly support at various levels. I thought that was a super cool idea, and saw it working well for a few different blogs (Wait but Why is a perfect example).
A few months later when I was Googling my blog name, which is a good idea from time to time, I found a forum called Get Off My Internets (GOMI). I was being torn to shreds by people on there saying that I used to be cool but I’d changed, and that they couldn’t believe I was panhandling from readers. I obviously hadn’t seen it that way when I set up the page, but it was enough for me to take it down and wish I’d never put it up in the first place.
Letting the haters affect me
I remember the first negative comments I got, and of course the GOMI threads, really getting me down. It didn’t matter how much positive reinforcement I was getting in the form of heartfelt emails and comments, because one bad comment was enough to push them all out of my mind.
It got particularly bad when I got some media attention, and the comments on those articles ranged from calling me ‘Miss fugly tats’ to sexually suggestive things. It’s like those people didn’t ever think I would read what they said, or worse, they just didn’t see me as a fellow human being and therefore didn’t care. I’ve learned to externalize those things now, and actually stop myself from reading the comments if they’re rude. It comes along with the territory, and I get way less offensive comments than feminist writers, for example.
Learning to tune those guys out was the best way to focus on the positives and to keep doing what I’m doing. Not everyone has to love it, and other people’s opinions are none of my business anyway.
Not creating a brand sooner
I wasn’t really sure what my niche should be at first. I recall reading a blog post from another blogger ranting about how many ‘solo female travel bloggers’ there were and that made me feel like it shouldn’t be my brand.
It didn’t matter, though, because without me even realizing or choosing it, I did become known as a solo female traveler simply because that’s what I was out doing. Within that, I was still able to differentiate myself by doing particularly adventurous and outdoorsy things that others aren’t doing, like hitchhiking solo in China, or traveling through Mozambique on my own, or climbing the Annapurna circuit independently. Now when I work with clients, they know exactly what my brand is whereas before, it wasn’t very clear.
Do what you love, and make it your brand. Then it will never feel like work when you open your laptop.
What I’m saying with all of this is, learn all that you can from what I did wrong, but also, don’t be afraid to fail sometimes.
In an interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, she talked about the importance of failure. She stressed that if you don’t fail that means that you didn’t try, and you can’t succeed if you’re not willing to fail. I’ve found that to be true, and when you have no idea how something will end up until you try it, naturally some failures will come out of that.
Over and above all of the adventures, new places and thrills, the most rewarding adventure of all has been working for myself. I wouldn’t give it up for the world!
Stay tuned for Monday’s post on all of the things that I did right with my blog.