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A blogger’s journey: how to thrive as a content creator

Each month, Girl Tribe Gang asks one of our members to share a few pearls of wisdom with us in our Knowledge Exchange. Below, Holly from We Blog North and HollyGoesLightly explains how she got started with blogging, the development of this burgeoning industry and why she now considers herself a content creator, not just a blogger. 

My Blogging Journey

When I started my blog HollyGoesLightly seven years ago, blogging wasn’t even a thing! I simply did it as an online CV – a way to document my then job (Wedding and Events Planning). When I moved up to Manchester from London, it quickly became a sort of online diary, documenting me navigating my way around this new city and doing what I loved most…eating out!

It was in the days before taking photos of your food was acceptable and instead, it was embarrassing and I used to sneak a shot when no one was looking. Oh how things have changed. From then on, my blog became a creative outlet, a space I could write about whatever I felt passionate about at that time and post my photographs (something which was quickly becoming a hobby of mine!).

Earn money from blogging? Yeah right!

Seven years ago, I had no idea that commercialising your blog was even a possibility and in honesty, I wish I knew then, what I know now as I think my career would have taken a very different turn and I’d be blogging HollyGoesLightly full-time. But alas, there was a different path meant for me…

Working with brands

So earning money from my blog never even factored into the mix for a the first year or two of blogging, but I guess, as my blog became more established and fairly high on the Google ranks for certain searches, brands and agencies were discovering me. I started to get approached for collaborations, advertising and sponsored posts. People wanted to send me things to review and invited me along to new restaurants etc.

I thought I’d made it – what a compliment that anybody thought my little space on the internet was worth anything! But I had no idea where to start and what to charge and for a while, I didn’t charge a thing…I just said “yes” to the brands I liked and “no” to the ones I didn’t and it stood me in good stead for further down the line when I did create a rate-card.

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It’s a long game…

I decided quite early on that I didn’t want to ever feel like a “sell-out”, I didn’t want my audience (small yet perfectly formed) to judge me or get bored and think I was only pushing things that were gifted to me. So I made the conscious effort to mix brand/paid-for work with the general lifestyle content I had been posting for years (travel, experiences, restaurant write-ups etc). I also decided to only endorse products, brands or businesses I either already knew and loved, or had tried-out and loved…ie. I don’t write about negative experiences and I don’t write about anything I didn’t genuinely love discovering. That way, I’d always feel true to myself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a lot of trial and error along the years and a couple of collaborations that I accepted years ago that I definitely wouldn’t now (cringe!), but hey, it’s a learning game and it’s a brand new industry that nobody had yet carved the path for!

I was working full-time at this point in a regular “9 to 5” and blogging for me, was the early-day “side-hustle” where I’d get some cool free stuff and the odd paid collaboration for pocket-money. I still didn’t see it becoming a career and the only people who seemed to be making waves in the industry didn’t seem like me at all…an ordinary woman (ie, not a young fashionista, model-like looking, cool kid in London!).

I’m glad that I didn’t say “yes” to everything and stuck to my guns, as it’s helped me further down the line, work with the brands that I want to as I have a portfolio that suits my brand. A lot of people step into this industry to make a quick name for themselves, say “yes” to everything and then don’t last long as they have nowhere to grow or develop. So I always say, it’s better to play the long-game as it’ll be more beneficial in the long-run.

So where am I now?

As I said earlier, I wish I knew then what I did now, as I would have left my job sooner and made blogging my full-time job, but I just wasn’t brave enough. Instead, I did what I was good at and what I knew, I started blogger meetups and events and WeBlogNorth was born. I created a community (or tribe!), of other like-minded bloggers who wanted to make friends, inspire each other, share knowledge about this crazy industry and collaborate with each other…ie become better bloggers!

That’s where it all started – twenty of us in a pub, chatting about how we could take photos of ourselves in the street without people pointing! Who knew that a few years on and everyone would be selfie-ing away, left, right and centre, without a care in the world!

When I then took redundancy on maternity leave, I decided to try and make a business out of something that I’d come to love but had grown bigger than something I could just manage in my spare time. It meant that HollyGoesLightly wasn’t my sole priority, but instead, I concentrated on growing WeBlogNorth and helping other content creators in the North, get off the ground. I found this incredibly rewarding and it gave me the diversity and flexibility that I wanted and needed in my career as a thirty-something mum who was totally unhappy in her 9 to 5.

The great thing about WeBlogNorth, is that it compliments my personal blogging journey perfectly! The two sit side-by-side and work laterally – I meet brands through one side of my business and introduce them to the other, I’m networking constantly and I get to create content for both…

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What’s a content creator anyway?

You’ll note I’ve been talking about myself as a Blogger until now. Well, things have changed, the industry has grown and developed and I now see myself as a Content Creator. I’m someone who creates content for use online and currently my channels are my blog, Youtube, instagram and twitter. If you run your own business website or social accounts, you’re a content creator too! It’s so much more than blogging now and that’s what makes this industry so exciting…the possibilities are endless!

Where is the industry going?

Video video video!

If you don’t have a Youtube channel or you’re not at least utilising Insta-stories, then you’re missing out on a vital audience. People are online more and more and they’re using their phones more and more to digest content. People are also extremely busy and lacking time so want to digest their content quickly and easily, which is where video really comes in. It’s a great way to get straight to the point of the topic at hand and your audience get to know you and your brand instantly. There’s still a place for blog posts (I mean, you’re reading this one aren’t you!), but video opens up a whole new world.

Podcasts!

They’ve been around forever (longer than you probably realised) and again, they’re a great way of getting in front of a new audience and an audience that can digest your content on the move (think headphones on your way to work, listening in the bath etc). And if you don’t like being in front of the camera, this could be a great option for you and your brand!

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My top tips for being a great content creator

  • Think outside of the box – try to find a new angle and a new way of portraying your topic to your audience
  • Engage with your audience and across social media – don’t just mindlessly scroll through twitter or instagram, liking and moving on. Stop, read the captions, respond, ask questions, answer them, be helpful and show the love. This is the only way to grow on social media and what you give, you’ll get back in return.
  • Get used to video, one way or another – it really is the way forward for the majority of online content creators and is a great way to engage with your audience. A great way to ease in front of the camera if you’re not confident (or an introvert), is to dabble with insta-stories. They’re 15 seconds long, don’t need editing and are gone after 24 hours, so there’s nothing to worry about!
  • Play the long game – and don’t sell out by saying yes to everything that comes your way. It can be tempting, believe me! Know your brand and know your audience and only collaborate with brands/businesses or other content creators that represent those values or can bring something new to your content. It may not be as quick, but is definitely worth it in the long-run.
  • Find your tribe! – you’re already here with Girl Tribe Gang, so you’ve got an amazing tribe of women to support and inspire you. WeBlogNorth was built because I wanted and needed a tribe of content creators in my local area, so I went and found them. A tribe is there to help, support, guide and inspire you!

Can you do it?

Of course you can! Why not?

Yes, the industry is a lot busier than it was seven years ago, but the good news is, there are people who have done the hard work and the trial and error already – they’ve carved the way to make it easier(ish) for new content creators to make a name for themselves.

And, if you’ve got a smartphone, you’re good to go! With the amazing technology of phones these days, you can produce your content (word, spoken and visual) all from your phone, from wherever you are! It’s definitely possible to create a side-hustle from your content, if you concentrate on quality and consistency.

If you want this to become your full-time job, then the more time you spend on your content and the more energy you put into getting better at it, the more you’ll get back. It very rarely happens instantly or even quickly these days (unless you’re lucky enough to go viral!), so like with anything, be prepared to put in the hard-work and you’ll soon see that it’s worth it and not as scary as you probably thought it would be! So why not give it ago?

Connect with Holly

For further support or for a community of content-creators in the North, join WeBlogNorth and for anyone outside of the North, register your interest for WeBlogUK, launching next year!

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