There are many, many things I am incredibly proud of when I think about The Modern Austen, my first “real” blog and big creative endeavor. It led to so many incredible experiences and achievements, allowed me to grow as a writer and business-woman, and brought me to this wonderful place in my life today.
All of these accolades aside, however, I recognize that with growth comes mistakes and lessons learned. These mistakes prevented me from producing content that was both sustainable and fulfilling for myself, and led to the very necessary decision to start fresh with Ampersand Creative. I don’t regret making these mistakes at all, but moving forward, I’d like to avoid making them at all costs so I can build a successful brand and business.
Mistakes are a part of life, but sharing them with others in an effort to provide insight makes them worth the while.
I refused to find my niche.
Given my diverse variety of interests and ever-growing pile of ideas, I never wanted to label myself with one particular niche—I even had a hard time calling myself “lifestyle” because I wasn’t really that either. I thought that by choosing a niche would pigeon-hole me and stifle my creativity. I don’t like limiting myself in any way, especially so I can give myself room to grow and change. While this is admirable and important in many ways, it left the door of opportunities far too open. I tried a little bit of everything, achieving only mild success, instead of becoming specialized in a few select areas and giving myself the chance to really thrive.
Coming to this realization has been a huge factor in my growth as a creativepreneur. I actually feel more relaxed and confident as a result, knowing that I will be able to share my knowledge and experiences in the blogging, creative, and business realms. Initially I worried about not being able to share my other important interests until during a conversation with a really great friend (Kristin from My Life as a Teacup), I was reminded that social media will be the perfect outlet for this, allowing the platforms to be used as they were intended.
Takeaway: Challenge yourself to find the areas that you feel comfortable and confident in exploring and learning more about. You can still talk about other things from time to time, but you’ll always have something to fall back on, instead of staring at a blank calendar wondering what you will possibly talk about next.
I often published content merely because it was convenient or popular, not necessarily because it fired me up or allowed me to share my talents.
I never intended on becoming a fashion blogger of sorts. It just sort of happened. While fashion posts are still a lot of work (I hear you, fashionistas!), they were quicker for me to produce with my work/life situation at the time. I didn’t provide a whole lot of useful commentary to accompany my photos and, too often, I was throwing posts together at the very last minute just so I could have some content out there. I still enjoyed writing them and thought they provided some value to others, but these posts were not showcasing me or my skills and knowledge to the fullest potential.
Takeaway: Writing for the sake of having new content out there for readers is not healthy for anyone and it often compromises the integrity and quality of a blog. Writing anything that you aren’t super passionate about or anything that doesn’t fulfill some sort of purpose is a waste of precious time and energy that could go toward something more valuable. If anything, this mistake reiterates the importance of selecting a niche.
I abandoned moments of opportunity and lacked follow-through because it required extra work and planning.
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I got lazy, but hey guys, I got lazy. There were several posts that would have done very well in a series or moments when I even shared that I would compile a follow-up post about a particular topic of interest and I abandoned the opportunity. This is a direct result of poor planning. In my mind, I made excuses like “there’s bad lighting today so I can’t take pictures” (Forget that there would be better light tomorrow.) or “too much time has passed for this to be relevant anymore.” In reality, I just didn’t want to do the work.
Takeaway: There’s an amount of grace that accompanies pursuing any sort of venture, but be cautious taking on something that you aren’t certain you can carry out fully. Ultimately, not carrying out a project or not fulfilling a promise will confuse or disappoint your readers.
Are you sensing a trend here? While there were a million little mistakes I made (and new ones I’ll likely make moving forward) with my blog that I could mention, there’s really only one big fat mistake that prevented the sustainability of The Modern Austen:
I was not producing the content that I was meant to produce.
Of course I was sharing things I cared about, but I wasn’t sharing the best of me all of the time. When I gave myself the chance to reflect on what it is I really knew about and had a passion for and wanted to know even more about moving forward, I realized that my blog was greatly lacking in this area. Interests and passions are important when it comes to blogging—you should always be passionate about what you are doing—but take a deep and honest look at yourself and know who you are and what you are knowledgeable about. Ask yourself:
- What value can I provide to others?
- What do I know about that others might benefit from that can’t be discovered in a quick Google search?
- What’s an area that I am passionate about and want to learn even more about?
Maybe you have a creative DIY spirit and really excel in working with mixed mediums. Perhaps you are a skilled photographer who loves to try unique angles and lighting and composition. Maybe you are in the trenches of law school and have found unique ways to study and balance your exciting new career. Or maybe you find yourself drawn to the business side of a creative side-gig. Whatever it is that makes you YOU and also can be translated into useful content on a regular basis is key.
If you are ready to take this blogging business seriously, also be ready to accept what you were meant to share with the world. Does that sound scary to you? It might be. And it might change down the road. But ultimately, you are in control of where your blog takes you—make sure it’s a journey both you and your readers are going to fully enjoy.