In the course of my series on blogging, I’ve written a lot about the things I think you should consider doing if you want to turn your blog into a career. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it takes to make a blog successful, though, so here are some of the things I DON’T think you have to do: even although they might seem like the “right” thing to do at the time…
You don’t have to write about everything you’re asked to write about
When I had my beauty blog, I used to get sent a lot of product samples, the vast majority of which I hadn’t been contacted about beforehand – they’d just turn up at the door one day. Now, this sounds like an absolute dream, and don’t get me wrong, I was very appreciative of the fact that brands were sending me things to try. The problem was that I felt I had to write about every single thing I was sent, whether I’d agreed to it or not, so I ended up with a drawer full of samples, many of which were totally unsuitable for my skin type/colouring, or which I just wasn’t particularly interested in. And I thought I had to blog about them ALL. I remember once, someone sent me a pack of something like 10 false eyelashes, and I wrote ten separate blog posts about them, because, well, they’d sent me them for FREE. It would be SO RUDE to not mention them – or even to lump them all into one post: I mean, wouldn’t that be rude?!
Looking back, this just seems ridiculous to me now, because for each of those posts I had to apply the lashes, photograph them, and write the post – it probably amounted to at least a full day’s work, possibly more – and all I got in return for it was a bunch of false eyelashes, which I’d worn purely for the purpose of taking blog photos. As much as I don’t want to sound ungrateful, or like I’m complaining about being sent free things (Because, bitch, please…), I ended up getting fairly stressed about it all, because I was having to spend a large amount of time writing about products I wasn’t interested in, and hadn’t wanted in the first place.
Remember: it’s not “free” if you have to work for it, and it’s not worth working for it if it’s something you don’t want or need. You’re under no obligation whatsoever to provide coverage of products you didn’t request, or to write about someone’s new business/website/Kickstarter, just because they asked you.
You don’t have to help everyone who contacts you
When I started blogging, I tried my best to help everyone who contacted me. I’d get tons of emails from people asking me to help them find a particular pair of shoes, or to suggest outfits for an event they were going to, and I’d dutifully spend hours of my time trawling the internet for them, and putting together lists of suggestions – only to never hear from them again (Not even a “these didn’t work for me, but thanks anyway!”), or to get an “Oh, I love that dress, but I can’t wear blue – can you find a similar one in red?” so I’d have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.
As with the review samples, I kept doing this because I thought it would be rude not to, and, to be totally honest, because I didn’t want the people to hate me for refusing to help them. The fact is, though, you can’t help everyone. Right now, I’m getting multiple requests for dissertation help every week, most of them from people who haven’t even bothered to find out my name, but who nevertheless expect me to sit and answer a set of in-depth questions about the impact of blogging on the fashion industry. It’s nice to help people, and I think it’s good karma to make time for it when you can, but if you’re getting 15 people per day expecting you to help them with their dissertation, I think you have to decide where you’re going to draw the line…
You don’t have to tolerate abuse
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion! You can’t censor people!” You hear this kind of thing a lot as blogger, and while it’s certainly true that everyone is entitled to their opinion, it’s NOT true to say that they’re entitled to voice that opinion on your blog. Freedom of speech is incredibly important, and I’ll defend anyone’s right to express themselves freely. I also, however, won’t hesitate to delete comments that are racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive to me, or which have been posted purely to attack me or someone else.
By doing that, I’m not preventing anyone from exercising their right to free speech – I’m just preventing them from using my blog to do it. Those people are totally free to go and say whatever they like on their own blog, on social media – hell, they can take out an advert in the newspaper if they like – I really don’t care. I DO care about what’s posted on my webspace, though, because that’s my property, and just as I have the right to decide what kind of behaviour I’ll tolerate in my home, I also have the right to decide what I will and won’t tolerate on my website.
It’s up to you to decide what kind of commentary you’ll allow people to post: just don’t let anyone tell you you’re obliged to allow people to abuse you or anyone else in the name of “free speech”.
You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you
A lot of people think that if they’ve followed you on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/whatever, then you have to follow them back, or you’ll have broken some golden rule of blogger etiquette. So they follow you purely to get you to follow back (Sometimes they’ll even comment asking you to “follow for follow”) and then un-follow when you don’t. The reason this technique works is because so many people have bought into the idea that they’re obliged to follow everyone back, that they always return the favour – even when they have no intention of actually interacting with you, or reading your blog.
This type of “follow-for-follow” (or “comment-for-comment”, in the case of people who believe they must comment on the blogs of everyone who comments on theirs…) might seem like the polite thing to do, but it ultimately makes the act of following someone completely meaningless, because everyone ends up following each other, with no benefit to anyone. I’d much rather have one follower who actually reads my blog than 10 who are following just to get me to follow them back; follow people because you want to follow them, and comment on posts because you enjoyed them and have something to say about them – not because you feel obligated to do it.
You don’t have to write about the same things everyone else is writing about
As a new blogger, it’s really easy to get caught up in blog trends, or convince yourself that, hey, everyone ELSE is doing a Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, so YOU should probably do one too! Actually, though, I think the fact that everyone else is doing something should be a clue that you don’t have to – unless you have something completely different to bring to it. When everyone writes about the same things at the same time, blogs get boring really fast – and why compete with every other blogger on the planet when you could be the first to do something totally different instead?
Actually, I think a lot of the hype around certain events or products is mostly PR-led: it’s a result of brands contacting people to say, “Hey, as you know, this week is Toenail Appreciation Week, so we thought you might like to interview our toenail expert!” and bloggers thinking, “OMG, this must be a big deal – I better make sure I’m all over it, even although I didn’t know it was Toenail Appreciation Week, have never interviewed anyone in my life, and normally blog about tropical fish!”
Don’t get caught up in the hype, or feel like you have to write about the same things as everyone else – your blog will be much better for it!