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The Blogging “Rule” It’s OK to Break

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riting  about my flagrant mis-use of social media last week got me thinking about some of the other so-called “rules” I break as a blogger.

There are quite a few of them, actually, and now I’m going to tell you aaalll about them. Well, come on: you didn’t expect me to have a thought and then keep it to myself, did you? So here are some more of the blogging “rules” I’m quite happy to keep on breaking…

5 blogging rules it's OK to break - and why you should01.

I don’t have an Instagram theme

Admit it: you just clicked over to my Instagram account, and now you’re sitting there going, “WHUT? Bitch DOES have an Instagram theme? It’s the same ‘basic blogger’ white background thing everyone ELSE has, surely?”

Well, I can see why you’d think that, and it’s true that I AM pretty basic most of the time, but I actually don’t have an Instagram theme – or not an intentional one, anyway. The fact is, most of my backgrounds are white, because most of my HOUSE is white, and that’s where I normally take my photos – so no real “themeing” is necessary. If, however, I take a shot that doesn’t have a white background (I mean, heaven forbid!), I have no hesitation in posting that too, and  I don’t really care if it’s “off brand”, or breaking the continuity of my grid, or whatever.

I did TRY to have a Instagram theme once. Last year, I read so much advice about how having an Instagram theme will get you more followers, that I thought I better get on board with that, STAT.  Well, I have to admit, I do love looking at “themed” grids, and God knows, I’m a sucker for a bit of colour-co-ordination, so I dutifully started to develop a “theme” of my own, and, you know what? It didn’t make a blind bit of difference to my follower numbers – or not that I noticed, anyway.

What it DID do, on the other hand, was to completely kill Instagram for me, because it meant that, instead of just posting whatever I wanted to post, I was having to stress over whether each photo worked within the context of “the grid”, and whether I was sticking to the right colour scheme – which, in my case, was “white, with a pop of colour”. Do you know how many different variations there are on the colour white? Can you even imagine how boring it would be to have to find out? People, I lived that nightmare so you don’t have to, because I’m really not convinced it mattered that much.

I’ll be honest: on the rare occasions when I actually look at someone’s Instagram grid (as opposed to just seeing their photos when they pop up in my newsfeed), I enjoy a colour scheme as much as the next person – I do. The presence or absence of one doesn’t affect my decision to follow you or not, though, and I can’t be the only one, surely?  Now that I’m fully over my MUST! HAVE! A! THEME! moment, I’ll happily post photos that don’t have white backgrounds, and my followers have yet to freak out and unfollow me because of it, so honestly, I think the only real “rule” of Instagram is to post awesome photos… whether they’re colour-co-ordinated or not.

02.

I don’t make every single post “useful”.

Another piece of advice you often see is that when you’re writing each blog post, you should ask yourself whether it’ll be “useful” to your readers, and how you can MAKE it useful, if it isn’t. Again, this isn’t bad advice: every one of my most popular posts, for instance, is a “how to” or advice post, because that’s what people tend to search for. Well, no one’s hitting up Google and typing in, “I want to read about what random Scottish women got up to at the weekend,” are they? No, they want to know how to walk in high heels, where to buy a dressing table that will hold all their makeup, and which foundation is best for vampires – that kind of thing.

I write that type of content because it’s useful, and it brings new visitors to the site: and of course I want to bring new visitors to the site, don’t I? I don’t ONLY write “useful” content, though, because, well, that would bore me rigid, to be perfectly honest. And it would probably bore YOU rigid, too, if you’re a regular reader: it would be like only ever reading instruction manuals, and never getting to flick through a trashy magazine, or sink into one of those mystery novels I love so much.

It takes all kinds of content to make a blog, is what I’m saying – or to make THIS kind of blog, at least. So write the helpful posts, sure – they’ll help your blog as much as they’ll help other people. Don’t be afraid to write the random life updates and other anecdotes, too, though: not EVERY post needs to be “helpful”, and not every post has to make it into your greatest hits parade. Sometimes you just want to write something because you feel like it – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

03.

I don’t go to blogger events.

I kind of hesitated with this one, because these days it feels like blogging is SO much centred around events and other non-blogging tasks that it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out unless you either live in a major city, or are able to travel to one regularly to attend all of those blogger events everyone’s always writing about. I DON’T live in a major city, as some of you know, and I have never attended a blogger event in my life: I’m WAY too anti-social for all that. Has it affected the success of my blog? Honestly, it’s hard to say: I mean, I feel like I’m doing OK, but I do have to acknowledge the fact that I might be doing a whole lot better if I was just willing to make the trek down to London every couple of weeks, and spend a bit of time awkwardly standing around, clutching a wine glass and trying to pretend I wasn’t about to faint with terror. Or… maybe not, actually.

So, I can’t say for sure, but I HAVE managed to make a living from blogging without jumping through all of the event-related hoops that are so much a part of it these days: yes, I suspect I could make a BETTER living if I DID do those things, but… I’m OK with that. Yes, really. You might not be, of course – I get the impression that one of the reasons a lot of people want to get into blogging these days is because they perceive it as being kind of glamorous, with wall-to-wall events, and non-stop socialising, so I suspect I’m a bit of an outlier with my preference for the quiet life. But blogging is still a pretty good choice of profession/hobby for introverts, because you don’t necessarily HAVE to do all that stuff if you don’t want to.

04.

I don’t  have a ‘niche’ – or not a very narrow one, anyway.

This may be controversial, because it seems to be widely accepted that blogs need a very defined niche in order to be successful, but I’m going to respectfully disagree. I wrote an entire post on WHY I disagree a few months ago, so I won’t repeat myself, but in short, if I tried to stick rigidly to just one subject, I’d have given up years ago: in fact, the main reason (and perhaps the ONLY reason) this blog is now a decade old is the fact that I allowed it to evolve, and didn’t try to force myself to only ever write about one topic. That might work for some people (and it obviously does!), but it doesn’t work for me, so I’m perfectly happy to continue with my non-niche blog.

05.

I don’t  do video

I’m constantly hearing about how video is the blogging of the future: how You Tube/Snapchat/Periscope are gradually taking over from text-based blogs, and how you’re missing out if you don’t have a You Tube channel, and didn’t bother to snap your breakfast this morning.

So, I DO have a You Tube channel, and I also have a Snapchat account (It’s ‘foreveramberUK’, if you’re interested, but the fact that I had to go and look that up – and re-learn how to actually navigate Snapchat in the process – should tell you how often I use it…), but while I’m happy to dabble in both of them from time to time, I don’t see myself ever producing tons of video content, or making it a regular part of my schedule. Not only do I find video-editing hugely time-consuming (I have NO idea how people who do daily/weekly vlogs manage it: hats off to them, seriously…), I also hate the way I look/sound on video, and I know that, ultimately, trying to become a You Tube or Snapchat “star” would actually HURT my blog more than help it.

The fact is, I’m a writer. Always have been, always will be. Writing is my natural habitat: it’s where I feel most comfortable, and most “myself”. I can express myself in writing in a way I can’t really do it in person. I mean, despite its length, this blog post didn’t take me very long to write. If I’d tried to do it as a video, however, it would’ve taken me all day, and the result would be 20 excruciating minutes of me umm-ing and aahh-ing, and turning bright red, and you’d all be, “Wow, Amber’s actually a bit of a dumbass, isn’t she? UNFOLLOW.”

It always surprises me that so many people seem to think an ability to write a blog implies an ability to do video, or public speaking. They’re actually two (three?) completely different skills, and just as someone could be an amazing speaker/video presenter without being good at writing, it’s also possible to be a competent writer, who goes to pieces when put in front of a camera. And, of course, the nature of digital content creation has changed – the fact that I’m calling it ‘digital content creation’ rather than just ‘blogging’ is a sign of that – and I now frequently get requests to do video campaigns or public speaking engagements, rather than to write a blog post.

I turn every one of those requests down, for the reasons given above. As with the “events” point, I’m guessing I’d make a lot more money if I DID get into video etc… but so far I’m still doing OK without it, and I’m happy with that.

As for the rules you DO need to follow, meanwhile…

… I can only think of three:

01. Don’t copy other people’s work.

02. Don’t break the law.

03. Don’t be an ass.

Any more?

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23 Comments
  • Ruth
    May 22, 2016

    Love this Amber! Just proves that if you work hard, you don’t need to do EVERYTHING to be successful. Too many bloggers get caught up on what they feel they ‘should be’ doing, rather than what brings them satisfaction.

  • Ida
    May 22, 2016

    I’m so sick with all these blogging rules and when I get back into blogging I will do it in my way and not how “everyone” else tell me to do it.
    I don’t use instagram at all at the moment since the camera on my phone is soooo bad. And I don’t think I will ever go to an blogging event, or even get invited to one. And I tried to do useful posts but the thing is that I can’t really do anythin that others can’t do ten times better.
    So maybe this means my blog will never grow, or maybe it will anyway since people don’t always look to learn things. Sometimes they just look for nice outfits or some entertainment.

  • Ruth
    May 22, 2016

    Not related but I love your stationary! Is it Kate spade?

  • Anca
    May 22, 2016

    I pretty much do the same, except the blogging events, I love those. I don’t have an Instagram theme, I don’t post very useful posts, I don’t have a niche and I don’t do video. My blog is small and only as a hobby, but it’s great to hear you say that. I don’t compare myself to others, but I sometimes doubt I’m doing what’s popular (not that it matters, don’t plan of blogging full time).
    I love blogging events, they are really great. I had the chance to meet wonderful bloggers, with some of them I went out for coffee a few times. It’s nice to be able to talk with people that have the same interests. Also it was a chance to try new things and that makes it exciting.

  • Emma
    May 22, 2016

    It’s honestly a huge inspiration to me that you do break these “rules”, and whenever I start thinking maybe I should jump on whatever bandwagon people are saying I “must” jump on, I remind myself that you’re not, and you’re doing just fine. You were actually the final push I needed to start my blog in the first place, because you don’t have a (narrow) niche and because you write long posts. I’m a spare-time blogger and my readership is still tiny, but it is growing, and growth is exciting no matter how small. I like working a 9-5 office job and blogging for fun, and if I can make a little bit of income from it that’s fantastic; full-time blogging isn’t my aim, although I often have to remind myself that!

  • Trona
    May 22, 2016

    I’d like to add: don’t buy fake followers! Thanks for being the voice of reason, I think it can be easy to get caught up in what others are doing and all these bloody blogging rules, so it’s refreshing to read from someone who’s doing their own thing and being very successful from it.

  • Heather
    May 22, 2016

    Most of the blogging advice going around is all of that cookie cutter nonsense, which if everyone followed would make for dull reading. And as far as videos go, I don’t always like a post being a video because I have to wait until it’s convenient to watch it. Like, if I’m at work, I can sneak a read here and there, but needing sound is harder to sneak, and wearing headphones is inconvenient. I can read at my own pace and leisure, a video you are stuck there. I mean I do still like them, in small doses.

    With Instagram I have a love/hate relationship with “theming”… on one hand it’s pretty and cohesive, on the other hand, it’s boring and repetitive. So I think I agree with you that it comes down to just posting good photos.

  • Lucy Mitchell
    May 22, 2016

    Your posts are so addictive! Love this too!

  • Sarah Rooftops
    May 22, 2016

    I do go to blogging events (because there’s free food and it gives me an excuse to hand over parenting duties for a couple of hours) but I’m with you on the rest of this. The only Instagram grid I ever look at is my own – who are these people who are supposedly clicking through to our profile all the time to admire our colour scheme?

  • Cherish
    May 22, 2016

    LOL!

    Loved this. Have to admit you’re right with the insta-theme. Mine is honestly very white and normally I do all dark (like, I’m low-key ‘gothic’ tbh) and I intersperse every 4th photo with more color or a selfie… Guess where that leads me? A week without posting anything because I haven’t even had the time to do my ‘insta-makeup’ -_-

    Also, I agree with the video thing. I have a youtube but right now it’s more-so as ‘support’ for my blog-posts. I imagine the videos would be totally useless as stand-alone and that’s because I consider myself a writer first and foremost.

    Cherish

  • Julia
    May 22, 2016

    This was such a great post, it made me feel pretty relieved actually. I just started blogging and I always somehow feel like I’m doing something wrong. I just need to remember to chill out sometimes. Thanks for being a blogging role model 🙂
    Julia | http://juliainbluhm.blogspot.com/

  • Alysa
    May 23, 2016

    I love this, and I super agree! Especially about the Instagram one. One of the Instagram “tips” I’ve heard is to have every third pic be something similar bc then you look down the grid and it’s supposed to look good. So, this past December, I tried that with my Dressember photos. It was EXHAUSTING!! There are days when I don’t really do much, and so I don’t really have anything to post, so coming up with 2 extra pictures when I had no idea what to post was pretty difficult. I happily stopped doing that when the month ended.

  • Harlow
    May 23, 2016

    While I do admire people who are able to stick to an instagram theme, it’s not for me! If I had the photoshop skills to edit the photos to have a certain colour scheme going I would probably be very much into it, but I just don’t get photoshop so I gave up on that one. I also don’t really like the idea of not being able to post something because it doesn’t conform to a certain style…Like you said – I don’t think it really makes a difference to people following you.
    As for blogger events – biggest waste of time! I went once and have vowed to never go again, no matter how tempting the free cocktails, goody bags and canapes are. Nothing more awkward than finding yourself stuck in a mums group, which is what events organised by PR companies tend to be! Blogger meet ups arranged by actual bloggers are awesome however because if you already know some of the other bloggers from interacting with them online because they are within the niche you yourself blog about, you might actually end up making some great friends and have a fantastic time swapping blogging war stories.

  • Lena
    May 24, 2016

    This was such a refreshing post to read, and is one of the many reasons why I love reading your blog! So much blogging advice is so homogenous, and it makes it less fun. I can never be bothered with an instagram theme either.

  • Sagan
    May 24, 2016

    The important thing, always — YOU DO YOU.

    I’m totally with you on the niche thing. There are way too many topics that I want to write about to stick to one super specific niche. That’s what makes lifestyle blogs so awesome 😉

    When I started doing more of a theme for my Instagram account, it actually made me start to like the platform a lot more. I like that my account has more of a structure and organized process to it now. But that definitely doesn’t mean it’s for everyone!

  • LucyChi
    May 25, 2016

    I really hate the video/vlog trend. I read blogs at work, I’m not going to watch videos! And maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t like video in general. That thing, where you see a headline and think “Hm, sounds interesting” and then you click on it, and turns out it’s a video, that is the WORST.

    And those are totally different skills! I’m good at writing but bad at public speaking, and my husband is just the opposite.

  • WhatLouWore365
    May 27, 2016

    I don’t tend to follow Instagram accounts with a “theme” – I find it so dull and to be honest, fake! When I’m scrolling through my feed and I think, hang on, I’ve seen this before, click over and find that all their pics are the same / becoming the same I tend to unfollow. I just like a little snapshot into everyday life, I don’t need white backgrounds, marble countertops and flowers artfully arranged around a macaron…. 🙂

  • Lili J. W.
    June 1, 2016

    Hey. I just watched your “GOPRO in Los Angeles and Las Vegas” video, it was so cool, I mean the two of you really got a lot out of that holiday of yours 🙂
    Anyways, I see what you mean by the v-logs, I’m not sure many people do as much editing as was done there but I just wanted to say that I thought it was put together quite well, it made me smile/and made me wanna go there (almost feels like I did!) 😀

  • Yvie
    June 8, 2016

    Ha I actually love this post! So true that some of the blogging ‘rules’ out there are a little over the top. I don’t think of myself as being a follower of some of them either, but I do get a little caught up in others at times. It’s good not to, almost like re-inventing the wheel a little bit!

  • Fashion and Frappes
    July 5, 2016

    So so glad to read this because this is every rule I have broken and break! (Also really sorry about spamming you with comments today but I just found your blog and its a slow day at work and I am totally enjoying going through all your blogging posts. I will move onto the fashion ones at home – slightly awkward looking at fashion posts in an open plan office.)

    http://www.FashionandFrappes.com

  • Bekah
    August 27, 2016

    Omg, just found your blog today and love it! You are like my hero, I love that you don’t like to follow all the arbitrary “rules” of blogging, social media, etc either! Like literally every one of these is something I also don’t like, especially the hard-core niche advice, I have always felt like it was way too restrictive, and honestly it held me back from actually starting my blog for a long time, since I felt like I had to choose the best niche for me, and I really can’t! I like to follow people anyways, once I am interested in them, and even if the initial reason I went to their blog is beauty, I love to see what else they are into! This was really refreshing to read, and a great reminder for me to just blog, and not spend too much time thinking about the “rules!” Honestly, who makes all these rules anyways, and why should we care? Haha. 🙂

  • Viviane Feeney
    May 20, 2017

    Cheers for that Amber! Hats off to the ‘rebellion’ of not having a niche, because ugh, that being told that drives me nuts. In fact, when I first heard the word ‘niche’ it was from an obviously successful (and verrryyy entertaining) blogger who claimed ‘I don’t have a niche. I cover everything I enjoy…’ (cheers Rosie Londoner!)
    I also don’t feel like studying 12 billion blogging courses when that would overwhelm me and every course would teach something different fo shizzle.
    Wow. That was an essay. I’ll let you go now.
    Cheers.
    https://dreamtraveleat.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/smoreo-slutty-brownies.html

  • Mel
    September 4, 2017

    As pretty as Instagram themes are, I honestly cannot understand how anyone can be bothered maintaining one. I love Instagram for the fact I can post anything I want and I’d hate for it to actually feel like it was a job so no theme for me!
    Reading this post is making me realise how very few blogging “rules” I actually abide by. Oops!

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