How not to be a successful blogger

Do you ever try and further yourself and come out of it feeling like giving up? Like when you go to the gym but after three classes, you forget to go back and put on half a stone devouring cup cakes to make yourself feel better and forget about the gym guilt?

It happened to me a bit after Doolin Writers’ Weekend. I went in all guns blazing and on the drive home I felt a bit deflated – like I’d just been to see masters at work and in my hand I held a child’s drawing, scribbles, colours outside the lines – twenty years behind Picasso or Van Gogh.

After letting my learnings settle I eventually became more inspired. I realised I needed to immerse myself even more, to read, to listen, to write more, to craft.

This weekend I attended the Irish Bloggers’ Association conference in Dublin. I had an idea by the line up that a lot of the speakers were a little outside what I normally write about – fashion led, wellness, more lifestyle than I’ve been blogging about recently with all my creative writing work.

And after a day of listening to the speakers, of talking about blogging for money, of instagram feeds that garner thousands, of watching speakers fifteen years younger than myself tell me what’s revelant… well I felt… not very.

“I’m thinking of deleting my blog,” I said to himself when I got home.

He laughed.

And I knew it was an idle threat. One of those – I’m never drinking again when you have a hangover threats.

But I did have a hangover.  A blogging hangover. And this time, I don’t think after the learnings have settled that I will feel more inspired.

Blogging is a funny old business. It’s hugely personal – what you put down here is honest, a part of yourself, an opening up and sending yourself out in the world. It’s hugely cathartic, satisfying, rewarding when people like what you write and tell you.

But as your audience grows and you join the blogging communities, you realise what’s out there. Successful bloggers. Money making bloggers. And it’s only natural to want to be part of that – to grow your own blog to be successful in the way that you see it.

But what is a successful blogger? Is it a writer who walks and talks fashion, who is flawless and snaps their life away in a filtered divulge of constant interestingness? Is it a blogger who has thousands of followers, who wins awards, who has Facebook share in the billions?

Is it a woman who supports her family by the money she takes from brands who pay her to use her platform – one she has invested in and built over time, who has spent hours pawing and tweaking at, of sharing and link dropping, of taking pictures of intimate happenings to tell the whole world?

Is it a hard worker who churns out content, who hits the mark every week, who watches her stats rise, the more she posts, the more she shares?

Is it a brand leader, a self starter, who has legions of fans outside of her own 503 Facebook friends?

Or is it all of the above or none of the above or a mixture of both, or nothing, insignificant, a speck on the internet, a waste of band space, a hogger of hosting services that could be going to another well deserved domain?

I know it wasn’t the aim of the conference, and maybe I knew it about myself going in, but I walked away feeling like I care about none of these things.

What’s the point? I thought. Isn’t there more to life than stats and statuses?

It’s probably inevitable, that an activity that started out as fun for most, has become a business model and with that comes all the serious stuff. I bet footballers went through this when the world cup came about. Those who wanted to be really good, trained hard and went to try and win the gold little man. Those who didn’t fell off and continued to kick the ball around their back garden.

I haven’t decided what I want yet. To keep pursuing the successful blogger model, which involves a small business attitude and the stamina of a camel. Or to return to my roots and post what I want, when I want and without care for anyone else except I and the readers who regularly interact with me.

I know this is a lot of yearning for a Bank Holiday Monday.

And even as I write it, I roll my own eyes and yawn, who cares?

But this is what’s in my head right now and isn’t that what blogging is all about? Your thoughts on a web page, your opinion for others to read?

Good luck bloggers. See you on the other side.

I’m just not sure which side yet.


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20 Comments on How not to be a successful blogger

  1. I feel like this too sometimes, I didn’t attend the conference as I was disappointed with the same organisation’s conference in Cork but I can see how you would come away feeling like that. For what its worth if you’re enjoying it even just a little bit and it serves as an escape then keep it up, there’s good and bad in almost everything you try!

    • Thanks Eimear. Maybe it was the soul that was missing, that it’s not all about money or views or followers but blogging as a passion, because you feel drawn to it without really understanding why. I can’t see myself giving up, but maybe changing direction. We’ll see! How are you getting on, hope things are going well for you : ) xx

  2. I try and prioritise quality over content. Sometimes that means an unintentional break from blogging for months, but I’ve always come back to it. I definitely don’t have the time or motivation to dedicate to it as a ‘business’. It’s mad to see how what was once a small hobby for a few has developed into a massive industry.

    • I know, maybe that was why I was deflated – so much about products and brands and sales. I don’t mind a bit of it, but it can be so soulless. I’ve taken a bit of a back seat since I’ve been concentrating on the novel, and I still love it. It’s striking the balance that’s the hard bit – as always!

  3. Yep – I can understand why blogging is a job for some, and the focus is all on stats and promotion. But there’s still plenty of room for blogging for you rather than an audience which events and conferences don’t really focus on. Blogging has indirectly led to some great things for me, but it’s always going to have to take a back seat to other things. At least for the next few years anyway! A novel is a massive undertaking – keep your blog for all the bits and pieces that are more for you 🙂

    • Such a good way of looking at it – you’re right, conferences are not really going to look at that, and I was probably naive for thinking it would. The novel is a big commitment and because it’s taking up my time – the blog has inevitably turned to support that – it does reflect my interests I think. Thanks for your comments Mrs, I’m off now to think about them all!

  4. There are a lot of soulless blogs out there. Many that do not relate to ordinary people. We aren’t all interested in makeup and fashion. I have been reading your “how to write” series and have really enjoyed it. I think if a blog becomes about making money and great stats that is when it becomes uninteresting and not relevant. You should write about what is important and what you are thinking about and it should be whenever it comes to you. So it’s like a gift when you see it in your mailbox.

    • Thank you – I have to agree with your comments. And I think you can sometimes see that progression with blogs – I guess I don’t want that to happen to me – I don’t want to lose the love. Maybe no more blogging conferences for a while!

  5. I often feel like this and as strange as it sounds I’m glad to see I’m not the only one, so thank you for sharing your current state of blogging mind.

    My blog has been through many changes since I began beauty blogging in 2011. I reached a point where I felt like I ‘had’ to blog a certain way and about certain products and my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I took a step back and some time out to re-evaluate and decided to change direction. I now write about a mish-mash of things best summed up as “a blog about life, politics, books and skincare”. I’m happy with that, but in a world of “being on brand”and “finding your tribe” it means I don’t have a niche.

    • I think that’s why I have a few names on the blog too – you have to be happpy with it – that it represents your interests and that’s why you might not necessarily find your tribe! It’s interesting that you went through similar thought process and came out with a conclusion. Maybe I will too. Thanks for your comment – and for being yourself!

  6. I can understand exactly what you are saying. I have got used to being a blog which doesn’t fit in. I have no interest in stats, as long as there are ‘enough for me’ reading. I have made a conscious decision to never monetize my blog as for me it is and always will be an extension of my diary, a public expression of my thoughts and musings.
    I wonder if it would be helpful for you to know what it is about your blog I love. Then you might see it’s not just out there in the wasteland, it’s something I look forward to reading.
    I love your ‘writers series’. I also love the way you write aloud, if you know what I mean, I love your posts such as this one, which allow us to engage. Finally I enjoy reading your blog because I absolutely believe that someday you will be using this very blog to celebrate the news of your novel and many more successes and I’ll still be here cheering you on.

    • Aw Tric… you always know how to cheer me up! Thank you for your lovely words. Unexpected disillusionment – it hits you hard! I’d like to think we’re of the same writing mind – writing for us, for the band of readers that engage. I don’t think I could ever fully monetize my blog -it would become a business then and it would really feel like work. It’s about getting the balance – because it can be costly to run a blog too. I really hope you are right – that some day I will announce my booky news. And to be fair, that’s probably where a lot of this is coming from – that I’m struggling to keep up the blog as much as I’d like while writing as much as I like too. Bit more thinking to do. Thanks for the encouragement, support and kind words, much appreciated – I look forward to reading your blog too btw! Nicci x

  7. Now, I’m adopting a bit of a teacher voice here Nicola, but what you do is write really good quality blog posts about whatever you feel like saying at any given moment. Those are my favourite kinds of blogs. I want to hear a real voice, and hear about what’s going on in people’s lives. I don’t want to read reams of reviews and sponsored posts. And I think there are many, many readers out there who want exactly that – honest, interesting, well-written posts. Please keep doing what you’re doing!
    The stats and the followers and the sponsored posts are great for people who really want them, and lots of bloggers start out looking for that. But lots of us didn’t – we just wanted a space to say what’s on our minds. AND if you go chasing stats and brands, you’ll have to trade something in – that could be your lovely honest posts or your fiction writing – that would be AWUFL. So don’t change anything. How bossy am I today!

    • Oooo you’re a bit scary with your teacher voice on Andrea! Hmmm food for thought. I know I like to read the same. I think that’s why I got so disillusioned after Saturday! It felt very business like – about making money or being ‘successful’. Well I won’t be trading in the fiction writing – for the moment. And hopefully the honesty will stay! Guess I’ll just have to trade in the WORLD FAMOUS BLOGGER bit! thanks for your comment, much appreciated. *still a bit scared of your teacher voice*

      • Really enjoy your blogs Nicola. Your blog has made me want to set up a blog. I haven’t done it yet and I may never.. Dont know if I am ready to put myself out there yet.. But I have been inspired by you to think about it. Conferences like that can make you question your abilities and agenda.. And that’s sometimes a good thing. Clearly you are able to write interesting blogs that engage your followers.. Their agenda is not yours.. Don’t give up or change your style. You are honest and unique. As Hector used to say Keep her Lit …..

        • Thank you Carol! So interesting to get the feedback! Oh I’d say def go ahead and set one up if it’s on your mind. I will still be blogging – but just having a think about my direction at the moment. It’s easy to get sucked into what you think you SHOULD be doing. You’re right – we all have our own agendas. Thank you for your kind comments, much appreciated. I love Hector!!

  8. It all depends what you are looking for. I get my posts only out there by the Facebook groups bloggers have created to promote it and boost it. And also linkys of course. To monetize my blog I get the odd email and some I rejec . I love reviewing stuff which I get to do a lot. I wouldn’t say I’m a successful blogger but I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t give it up and I generally give up quickly.

    • I know what you mean Janine. I turn down the same, it has to feel right. I don’t review too much but I guess it’s about getting the balance right. Don’t see myself giving up either – just having a good think about things! Thanks for the comment x

  9. I can understand very well how you feel, as I often ask myself very similar questions about blogging.
    I believe one of the problems, with blogs, is that we cannot really define what makes them successful, because success comes in so many different ways: the blogger who wants to work with PRs is successful when she wins a campaign. The one who is proud of their writing, when published by the huffington post. The one who writes personal stories is successful when the story touches someone and makes a difference in their life. At blogging conferences, I find it sometimes hard to remember this: everyone seems 20 years younger than me, with different taste and interests and it seems like there is only one way to blog. But there isn’t: blogs are great because they are personal, there is no one way of being ‘good at blogging’ , there are many.

    I think the way to look at this is to try and identify what success means to you and try work towards that, whatever that is. It might not be the same as conference speakers, but it must work for you and when it comes to you and your blog. ‘you’ is all that matters 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment and sorry it’s taken an age to reply! You are so right in everything you say and I absolutely agree with you. I did feel like everyone was younger than me and the blogs coming up behind me are so different to mine. But you’re right- everyone’s is different, they are personal and we all have our goals and milestones. In fact last year I had blogging goals that have become very routine for me now. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts x

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