Every year around this time I start to get a lot of interview requests from students writing dissertations on blogging, social media and that kind of thing.
(Side note: this reeeaallly makes me wish blogging had existed when I was at university: I’d much rather have read fashion blogs than Wordsworth, although I suppose revealing that blogging wasn’t actually something you could study back when I were a lass has just made it super-clear that Wordsworth is closer to my age-group than most fashion bloggers are these days. But I digress…)
As much as I’d love to be able to answer all of these questions (Because, as you all know, there’s nothing I love more than talking about myself, is there?), there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all of them, unfortunately. As a lot of the questions I’m sent come up more than once, though, last week I had the brainwave of just answering some of them here on the blog, so I have something I can direct people to who’re looking for this kind of thing… plus, of course, the opportunity to talk about myself a bit more. Which is the main thing, really.
These questions were sent in by Adele, who’s studying at Strathclyde Uni, and who kindly allowed me to publish them, along with my answers: shout-out to Adele! Here are my answers….
Most of the people who inspired me originally weren’t actually bloggers: they were “online diarists,” who would sit and laboriously hand-code each new diary entry (i.e. what we’d call a blog post today, but which, back then, really was much more like a page from someone’s diary), and then upload it to their website. I don’t actually remember the names of any of those early blogs, and I don’t think any of them are still around, but I remember finding one written by an American girl who sounded just like me, right down to age, hair colour, and the fact that she liked to post emo song lyrics (I seem to recall that Sarah McLachlan was a favourite…) on her blog every day. It was just the story of her life, really, and nothing very dramatic happened (Actually, saying that, I’ve just remembered that her house burnt down once! If anyone remembers who this girl was, please tell me: I would SO love to know if she’s still writing, although I’m pretty sure she used a pseudonym, as most of us did back then, so I may never know…), but I was completely fascinated by the idea that I could read about the day-to-day life of this complete stranger, living on the other side of the world from me, and that’s what really got me hooked on the idea of blogging – or online journaling, rather.
Once blogging as we know it now became a “thing,” I was most influenced by the Shiny Media blogs, which I freelanced for, many years ago now. In retrospect, I was probably a bit TOO influenced by those sites, because I kind of got it into my head that, “Well, this is how THEY do it, so this must be how I should do it, too,” which is why I ended up just launching a new blog every time I wanted to write about something different, rather than trying to just wrap it all up in one – my biggest blogging regret!
The story above (A much longer version of which can be found here, if you have a spare few hours…), really. The revelation that people were writing about their own lives online – and that other people were actually reading it – was a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment for me. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I’d kind of assumed that if I wanted to write, I’d have to either write news/other commercial copy, or be a novelist – which didn’t really interest me. Well, to be honest, the idea of being a novelist DID interest me, because I thought it sounded really romantic and fun: unfortunately the reality of actually writing a novel didn’t appeal nearly as much, which is why I’ve started and abandoned quite a few of them, all of which ended up being about a red-headed woman who lives in Scotland and doesn’t really do very much at all. That doesn’t really work as a novel, obviously (Although, if you’re a book publisher, and you disagree, CALL ME!), but it DOES work as a blog, for reasons I’ve never really understood, and I was totally blown away by the idea that I could write about my life, and maybe even make a living from it. I still am, actually.
3) If you weren’t blogging, what would you be doing?
Writing is really the only thing I know how to do: my husband likes to joke that my skillset is “very tightly focused,” but what he actually means by that is, “If Amber couldn’t write, she’d probably be in the workhouse by now.” As workhouses aren’t actually a thing these days, though, I guess I would probably be freelancing for someone. I think it’s probably a bit of a cop-out to say that if I couldn’t run my own blog, I’d likely write for someone else’s, but I went into journalism when I left university, and then did a brief stint in PR, and neither were for me: I just really don’t cope well in an office environment (I also worked weekends in a call-centre, while I was at university, and it was what I imagine hell must be like…), and I find it hard to motivate myself when I’m not interested in what I’m working on, so being able to work for myself, and run my own business is honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. Having said that, I recently did a bit of freelancing, and it really served to remind me how much I dislike working for other people (I am NOT a people person…), so actually, I think I’ve just talked myself out of that one. Hmmm. I don’t think I could ever go back to traditional employment, so if freelancing is off the cards, I think my only option would be to come up with some other idea for a business of my own, and make my fortune that way. I’ll have to work on that.
4) What is the best adventure that you have been on because of blogging?
I actually don’t think I’ve had many adventures because of blogging? Is that bad? Does the time someone called the police and reported my husband for “stalking” me, when he was actually just taking outfit photos, count? No? It’s a shame, because, er, that’s all I got, folks: sorry.
On a serious note, because I’m very introverted/shy/completely anti-social, I’ve never been into the blogger events that are so much a part of blogging now (Also, quite apart from anything else, because I live in the middle of nowhere, the time I’d spend travelling to them wouldn’t be worth it), and I can’t think of anything worse than those press trips, where you’re herded around with a bunch of other bloggers. Well, OK, I CAN think of worse things, but, well, as much as I’d like to see the world, I’d like to see it with the people I love, rather than with a bunch of strangers. (Perfectly lovely strangers, I’m sure, but still: strangers. Who make me anxious.) So I don’t go on a lot of adventures, although, earlier this month, Terry and I did spend a weekend on Arran, doing a hotel review, which was amazing, and about as adventurous as it gets around here.
(Wait! Wait! I tell a lie: last week we were watching TV, and I sat in the seat Terry normally uses, while he sat in my seat. Kerraazzy times, people! We haven’t repeated the experiment, because WHOA, steady on there, but still, no one can say we aren’t adventurous now, can they?)
5) How did you start off, did you receive any help? What are the most important steps for getting started?
I didn’t have any help at all: I literally just decided to start a blog, and a few minutes later I’d registered a Typepad account, and was messing around with it. I don’t necessarily recommend that technique, because blogging is so competitive now that it’s probably a good idea to put a bit more thought into it than that, but then again, I kind of DO recommend it, because I think the biggest issue a lot of people have is actually getting started. I see a lot of people talking about starting a blog, and thinking about starting a blog, without actually, you know, starting a damn blog already, and sometimes I think you just need to jump right in, and see what happens. (See? ADVENTUROUS.)
With that said, in terms of practical advice, I’d say the most important thing is to think about WHY you want to blog, and what you want to get out of it. There’s no wrong answer to that ( I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea that “if you’re doing it for money, you’re blogging for the wrong reasons!” – I mean, we don’t tell people in other careers that they shouldn’t want to get paid, so I don’t know why people try to insist that bloggers should be starving artists, just slogging away for the sheer love of it…), but having a clearly defined end goal, whether it be to earn a living or just make some new friends, is really important as it will shape the way you go about blogging.
(Oh, and I also have a step-by-step guide on starting a blog here.)
Be yourself, and don’t get caught up in the idea that there’s only one way to blog, and that you should basically be a carbon-copy of everyone else. Make yourself aware of publishing and copyright law, so you don’t find yourself landed with a huge invoice, because you thought it was OK to steal images as long as you wrote, “Image: Pinterest” underneath. Never stop learning and analysing what works and what doesn’t. Take the best photos you possibly can – images are SO important now. Don’t waste time on comment pods and doing, “follow-for-follow” – one genuine reader/follower is worth 1,000 ones you had to pay for or bribe. Finally, write the blog you want to read yourself: I know that advice gets repeated all the time to people, but it’s because it’s good – if you don’t enjoy writing a blog post, people probably won’t enjoy reading it, either.
7) What are your aims for the future?
I’d like to be able to keep on working for myself, but ideally with a better work-life balance – which, in my case, means I’d like to have just one blog to update every week, rather than three of them! I’d also like to write more ebooks/regular books: I have a habit to ramble on, as you may have noticed, so I enjoy being able to do longer pieces of writing, and it would also help me move away from relying on advertising and sponsorships to pay the bills if I had more products I could sell.
I’d also like a house in the sun, and a miniature pony. Those have nothing to do with blogging, really, I just want them.
I am completely incapable of naming favourites of anything: I just can’t do it! I like different outfits for different reasons (or for different seasons), but I don’t think I could pick a One Outfit to Rule Them All, so to speak. If it’s any consolation, I don’t have a favourite book, movie, song or food either!
9) Who are your biggest fashion influences?
I’m pretty much oblivious to “fashion” and celebrity culture, so I’d say my biggest influences are probably all of the people I follow on Instagram, who post daily outfit shots: SO many times I see someone wearing something, which I then have to talk myself out of buying (And sometimes I don’t bother talking myself out of buying it: whoops!), so, yeah, Instagram is pretty lethal for me, really! Because I”m generally shopping on a budget, and also because I don’t exactly live a high-fashion kind of lifestyle, I find myself much more inspired by the things “real” people (I absolutely hate that term, because we’re ALL real, obviously…) wear, as opposed to what people who are very into fashion, or who are rich and famous wear – which is why I love blogging so much!
(P.S. If YOU have any burning questions you’d like me to try to answer, just use the form below (you can remain anonymous, if you like), and I’ll do my best to answer in another post!)