February 21, 2013

Advice for bloggers, vol. 2: blogging your life


Today is the next installment of the advice for bloggers I promised last week, so, giddy up! Here we go!

Blogging your life. What's the trick to it? IS there a trick to it? How come some people's lifestyle blogs are more interesting than others? Is it because they just have better lives? Better STUFF to take pictures of? Because they're attractive and funny and charming? Well, perhaps. Not going to lie, those things don't seem to hurt in the lifestyle blogging department. Chances are good that at least a couple, if not most, of your favorite blogs are written by interesting people who are easy on the eyes and who have a unique sense of style or a cool apartment or they live in some exotic faraway land, or NYC, or something. None of those things hurt.

But is it possible to have an awesome lifestyle blog if you're, well, average?
I say yes.
And you might not be as average as you think. Blogs tend to snap a picture that is only representative of the whole - not the whole whole.  So basically, you just have to snap the right pictures, so to speak. Draw your readers in with great topics and great images.

Speaking of images, when I first started this blog, I felt SO weird about posting pictures of myself. I thought to myself, "ugh, people (specifically real life friends and family) must think I'm pretty egotistical to write all about my own life and experiences all the time, alongside so many pictures of myself." And you know what? To some people it will look that way (egotistical). To people who don't understand blogging and don't "get" what it's all about, and potentially to jealous types who are inclined towards negative thinking/judging anyway. You have to let them go. They are not your target audience and never will be.

Because guess what? YOU and YOUR LIFE and YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES are the only things that set your blog apart from all the rest. I like to say that lifestyle blogs (and often fashion blogs) are like a reality show on the Internet, and why would anyone be interested in watching/reading if they never get to see and read about the characters the show is about?  When I enter into a blog and don't see a single photo of the blogger in any of the initial posts I skim, or get any strong feel for a person's personality and life, my interest is immediately lost and I'll probably click out. Words on a screen and inspiration boards and recipes and pictures of babies and curated link lists and guest posts aren't even a dime a dozen in blog land - they're, like, a penny a dozen. Harsh truth: why should we care about your latest Pinterest finds if we haven't grown to know, love, and respect the person behind the screen? Give your readers content that you and only you can give them. This is achieved through photos of yourself and the people you love, stories about things that happened to you, insights into your life that others might relate to, pictures from around your home, personality that only you can insert. OK, so maybe you have a third eyeball in the middle of your forehead and don't want to post a lot of photos of yourself, or maybe you have zero design eye and your house is bare and blah. Those might not be your strong points, but I bet you DO have strong points. Maybe you're a really inspirational writer and can share what it's been like having that third eyeball and how you've overcome it, or maybe you live in a really cool city and can post photos from your adventures exploring around town, or maybe you're really funny and you can't tell a story without making people  laugh. Create your own niche, and attach your personality to everything you do.

Fact of the matter is, people need to feel who you are through the screen or you probably won't stand out. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, like Joanna Goddard (A Cup of Jo) who mostly curates content, but she also inserts her own personality and thoughts and is respected because she produces really consistently interesting content that people enjoy and relate to.

So, to recap: posting lots of pictures of yourself and from your life, and writing about your experiences, doesn't make you conceited. It simply gives your blog and you as the "main character" depth and dimension. The person that is YOU is what will set your blog apart. Sure, people will sometimes misunderstand you. Not like you. Not agree with you. Unfollow you. But for every person you turn away by being yourself, you'll attract five more. MOST people are drawn to authenticity. To bloggers with a distinct voice. That aren't always walking on eggshells, trying to please everyone. What's that saying... if you're not pissing people off, you're doing it wrong?! I still try not piss people off, but it's not paralyzing like it used to be.  Being completely yourself and blogging your life as you live it is freeing and confidence building and perspective changing and all around awesome. Try it!

Do you have anything to add? What do you think makes a great lifestyle blog?

**note: this advice series is for people who are looking to grow their blogs, not people who just blog for fun or for friends and families. I don't want to make anyone feel bad about their blog, if they're just doing it for a creative outlet. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. I know not everyone cares to blog professionally! 

61 comments:

  1. i completely agree with you and do the same thing. if i dont get to see pictures of the blogger, then i skim.

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  2. i've been thinking a lot about this lately. this post comes at a good time. i've been talking to steve about how i, very soon, have to stop writing about william and lindsey in any sort of funny, humorous way because they're going to care! they might read it (they don't now), get offended... but it's the stuff other moms can relate to! and then--the teenage years--when i would probably have the MOST fodder to write about and relate to other mom bloggers... that's when i absolutely CAN'T write about them outside of "we went here, we did this." it's tough. i'll admit, i'm bummed by it. i think those family anecdotes are some of my favorite to record on my blog, for people to read, etc. but, i can't hurt my kids in my attempt to have a blog worth reading. figuring it out as we speak...

    i like this series!

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    2. bridget, i think it's SUPER cool of you to consider your kids in this manner...making sure to not hurt and offend them on your blog b/c they're coming to such sensitive ages! just had to let you know i think thats awesome :)

      and people will still come, regardless of what you don't include about the kids..you have a hilarious personality, and you should totally be confident in your readership :)

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    3. nicole, thank you! you are really sweet.

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  3. i, obviously, appreciated your disclaimer at the end. i think i would definitely classify myself as a "creative outlet" blogger. but i think your advice and your words apply even so. it's so much more intimate and relational to let your blog be a window into who you are. even if you only post bi-annual outfit posts (again, looking at myself here). it allows you to make those connections with other bloggers that we all crave. there's a fine line between only portraying the sunshiney parts of your life, and ratting out the people in your life who shit all over you. some of the bloggers i love reading the most are the people who are able to describe even the dark and tough experiences they've had with a beautiful sense of perspective.

    i feel like this comment is all over the place, so i'm going to just stop now and say YES. preach, sista.

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  4. i'm not sure how i wasn't following your blog before but i am now! love it and i love this post! :)

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  5. I love this post. Thank you for saying about posting pictures of our selves not being conceited and that it is the "main character depth and dimension". I honestly shy away about posting photos of myself in things I post about because of that. I do self portraits as a creative hobby and doing one every so often I still felt kinda like 'hey look its me!'. Thank you for giving it a different spin.

    Bonnie Rose | The Compass Rose

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  6. what a great post!!! I recently just changed my whole point of view of my blog from a home design blog to more of a lifestyle blog. So I am still trying to find my voice and grow my blog. I have seen a rise in readership and followers in just the last week, which makes me feel like I am doing something right - even when I am "doing me." I have no filter, which sometimes is BAD, but in my blog I just go with it! Thank you for this!

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  7. haha, as you know, i post tons and tons of pictures of my life & myself but i am far from conceited ... i tend to like blogs that do the same because like you said it makes you feel like you know or understand the person better, etc.

    it isn't easy having a lifestyle blog but i always think that years down the line i am going to be so happy i did.

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  8. I was so glad to wake up to this message today. This helps to know I am on track in one department anyway. I wondered what other bloggers opinions are concerning posting pics of oneself. But, I love telling stories through pictures and I've learned that in this short time I've started my blg, that is my style. My poor family get's the brunt of it bc they are more interesting than me! LOL. I def want to ask you more about the pinterest side to it all, this evening in our consult. Learning, learning, learning, thank you!
    Cortne

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  9. This is so very true! I've found at least a handful of blogs that I click out of immediately/won't follow, and they go on my mental list of "no"s - often the reason is because I don't see any pictures of the blogger herself! I'm a very visual person (Ex: when I'm reading a book, I quickly think up an image in my head of each character, and that sticks with me through the entire book.), so if I'm reading through a blog but don't have a visual of who's speaking to me, I definitely can't enjoy the words!

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  10. GREAT advice jenni- so happy you are sharing all your blog intelligence with us (;

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  11. You know, I started out blogging for friends and family. I still do. Then it felt like radio silence. Was family even reading my blog anymore. Last summer I received a few emails from people who had found my blog and wanted to know more about life in Scotland. I've been trying to blog more. For myself and for them. But...I never take pictures of myself. I hate taking pictures of myself. I'm always afraid my outside doesn't match my inside. But, I'm going to try and take more photos. My blog is very very small...but someday I'll want those pictures to match what I was talking about.

    Thanks for the advice!

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  12. Love this advice! I've been reading blogs for about a year now and just recently started one myself. I have had a lot of time to see what I like and don't like in a blog, but have realized it's harder than it looks! Thanks for the tips!

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  13. love, love this. thank you for taking time to write this out. I would love to grow my blog & posts like this are a great reality check for me. time to get it in gear ;) thanks again!

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  14. I agree with you 100%. If i scroll through a blog and the first page or two doesn't showcase who that person is or anything about their "real" life -- I'm not interested in their shopping picks or guest blog spots. I need to connect with that person to enjoy reading what they have to say -- so you are so spot on! xo

    http://allthingsprettyandlittle.blogspot.com/

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  15. But what if you hate taking selfies of yourself (or others taking them of you)? Any advice on how to get over it? Do you just have to do it?

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    1. Emily, that is such a good question, and one that I'm sure LOTS of bloggers have. Unfortunately i don't have the best answer for it, because I've always weirdly loved selfless and little photo shoots?!! Haha. The only time I start to feel super awkward is when there's an audience, like out in public. THAT is hard to overcome. But I guess just try to make it as quick and painless as possible, not draw too much attention to yourself, etc. I also find that the more practice you get, the more you start to learn what types of poses, facial expressions, angles, etc are most flattering for you, which will help you not waste time in the future only to end up with a bunch of pictures you hate. I hope that helps a little bit! Yes, I think you just have to get 'er done, and it will probably get easier for you with practice! :)

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  16. You just addressed so many of my fears and made everything make sense. Applause for you, lady!

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  17. This is fantastic Jenni!!!! My little blog is still just getting going and I'm working on finding my voice and style and all of that good stuff...so this was very helpful =)

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  18. I HATE taking pictures of myself!!! And it's completely for insecure, stupid reasons. I just don't take good pictures recently. And even though I know I should cut myself some slack for not looking as good as I have in the past, I still can't make myself do it. But everything you said makes sense. Perhaps pushing myself to post some more pictures will help me not be so stinkin' self conscious (which is definitely needed). Thanks for the great post! :)

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  19. Love love the advice. Thanks friend. Drinking it all in...

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  20. Thank you Jenni!! I am just starting my blog. After many years of talking about it, I decided it was time to take the plunge. This such great advice. I adore your blog and I value all the advice you have to offer! I will keep this in mind as I write my first posts...

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  21. Thanks for he advice! Sometimes its so tempting to ty and please eveyone, but at the same time our readers know when we aren't being genuine and will move on.

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  22. That is SUCH great advice. I've always had insecurities about posting pics of myself, simply because I don't want to be viewed as being conceited. But honestly, my favorite blog writers have oodles of pics of themselves. I want to know THEM. And when you made the comparison to a reality show...being the main character, it totally makes sense! Thank you!!!!

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  23. I so agree that you have to be authentic. I cannot stand inauthentic blogs. They make me not want to return....while authentic blogs, even if they aren't "perfect" make me want to come back again and again. You are fantastic at being YOU and showing your authentic self here, which is why I am always returning :).

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  24. Thanks for the advice, Jenni! I've been blogging for a year now, but it's definitely been an easing-in process; I took it slow and made sure that I felt comfortable with the idea of a blog before really jumping in. Now that I'm in, it is so much fun!

    I struggle with posting photos of myself for the same reasons you mentioned. It feels conceited. It feels awkward. But I can't imagine truly connecting with a blog or its writer WITHOUT knowing what they look like. I've updated my about page with photos of myself, and I'm starting to feel more authentic.

    The other thing I would add about lifestyle blogs is the ability to admit when we don't know the answers. I sometimes find myself wanting to conclude with a pithy "and here's the point, folks", but that's not what life's about. Admitting I don't know the answer is another step towards honesty.

    Thanks again for posting!

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    1. I love what you said here and never really thought of it that way before! I definitely tend to try and wrap up each post with some sort of inspirational something (the "here's the point" part that you mentioned), but sometimes it might be more accurate to admit that I don't know all the answers. Thanks for this comment!

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  25. liked this post, Jenni! I've struggled for about a year now on where I want to take my blog. because of that I sort of just stopped blogging consistently because I was/have been discouraged on my content.

    i'm still working through it, but hoping to gain a little inspiration in the coming months :)

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  26. Great advice! As always! Most def agree that the hardest part is taking pics of myself, but you make a good point that people want to get to know you. Thanks for the words of wisdom!
    Adrienne

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  27. i think this is some superb advice! I do believe it can apply to those small time bloggers not really looking to do this professionally. Writing with your own personality is key... no matter what you're doing. :]

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  28. Such truth to this post! I couldn't agree more!

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  29. Amen. :) Just, everything about these tips.... amen. :) And it all really falls into that thought that you must find your voice.... with your words, your pictures, the way you format your posts. It's a whole lot more than liking up with this and that. I could care less about linkups and all of that craziness. Show me who you really are.
    Great, Jenni! I love this!

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  30. Awesome tips, Jenni! Thanks for sharing. Looks like I'll have to get in front of the camera now! x

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  31. GReat advice jenni! I have found the more pictures of myself and the mote information I divulge the more people love it! I agree, it's like a reality TV show!

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  32. good one. I dont feel so weird taking pictures of myself now haha.

    www.visceralmaze.blogspot.com

    Anu

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  33. This was really helpful. I guess I sometimes find it hard to feel or communicate that authenticity you speak of in a world where there's "nothing new under the sun." I love fashion. I took a few pics. So do 149570934 other blogs... and they're good at it. I talk about vacations, my city, thoughts on social media... none of it feels new or beneficial to other bloggers... BUT!

    After reading Erin's blog a few days ago, she asked us to ask ourselves who we wrote for. I realized that I originally wrote for myself and while I LOVE talking with others and sharing my life and living life with others, at the end of the day I need to love what I'm writing. Believe in what I'm writing.

    Thanks again Jenni. I always appreciate your honesty and tips.

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  34. Awesome advice, Jenni! Really inspired me and made reconsider the way I blog. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  35. great advice here! I'd love for more bloggers to do their 'success stories' as it's still a mystery for me :)

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  36. amen sister!

    thanks for your advice, i always value what you have to say about this blogging world of ours.

    xo the egg out west.

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  37. this post couldn't have come at a better time for me, in blogging terms. it was just what i needed to feel a push toward chronicling more of my life, more of me. and also, striving toward an ultra-important goal: finding my true voice.

    thank you.

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  38. Quick newbie question. Do I have to have google plus in order to have the google friend connect gadget? I still have my blogger profile but its not allowing me to add GFC. Thanks so much for all of your help!
    Adrienne

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  39. Love this post, you have this subject mastered. Thanks for sharing these tips!

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  40. I blog and post a good amount of pictures of B and our life, but I'm trying to work on taking and posting more pictures of myself. That's one thing I feel I'm missing.

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  41. Great post! Honestly, you have the best common sense advice ever... Your blog is a true testament to what you are saying...
    Love this article!

    happymedley.blogspot.com

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  42. That is the best article I've ever read about life blogging! Hats off for you!

    I encourage you all to check my own blog about life! Self taught and experience!
    http://lifewasnevereasier.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-i-chose-to-write-about-life.html?m=1

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  43. Jenni, great advice! It has taken me nearly a year and a half of blogging to begin getting over the whole narcissistic-guilt-trip I've had going on. I am a photographer, but I tend to hide behind photos of my children and landscape shots, rather than being in the photo myself. But something I've noticed? People love it when I jump out of my comfort zone and include shots of me on my own blog. Funny how that works. :) I love how you explored the idea of having liberty to be yourself on your blog, and if you drive some people away, then that's not who you were trying to reach anyway. Loved that and love this series. Keep it up girl!

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  44. Okay, you write what's in my head and do it 1,000 times better than I ever could...I am not the best writer, ya know?? ;) But this is so true....be authentic...people are so intrigued with other people's lives, that is why reality TV is so huge. I have grown so much since I started blogging and learned that people DO want to get to know ME, not just what I wear. And yes, I am sure many of my IRL friends think I am self absorbed...I just have given up trying to make them understand. I would rather spend hours reading blogs than watching TV. I learn way more from people like you than any skanky Real Housewives show. ;) Great post, Jenni!

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  45. Thanks for the advice! I'm glad you started this.. I want to start a blog, about life, being a mom, kids, etc.. I have so much to say sometimes and no one to say it to (besides my poor husband)! I need a creative outlet and I feel like blogging might be it. I also love photography, and I think they go hand and hand. I started one about my kids, about their medical conditions, updates for family and friends, but I don't feel like I can talk about others things there.
    But anyway.. I am really curious about how you learned to advertise and how it works. :)

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  46. I'm new to blogging and I've been struggling with finding a "niche." Thank you so much for sharing this! It's really helpful!

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    1. Hey Alexandra! I'm also new to blogging and I found that staying true to myself and what inspires me to write is a great way to find a niche. It can get discouraging at times, but I'm trying to stick with it, putting out stories that others can relate to. Check out my blog and I'll do the same. :) If you like what you see, please, follow me!

      www.thehumbledbeginnings.blogspot.com

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  47. Thanks for such an inspirational post!! I'm new to the blogging community and it can be very discouraging not seeing any number (page views, follower counts) grow or increase as the days pass. You just reminded me that it's still important for me to stay true to myself and realize that staying true in my writing will set me apart from the rest. Please, if you have time, stop by my blog and let me know what you think. I would greatly appreciate any feedback and I look forward to keeping up with your posts as your newest follower! :)

    www.thehumbledbeginnings.blogspot.com

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  48. Very Inspiring and helps me put it into perspective. Thanks!

    Happy Apple Blog

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  49. I didn't realize not adding photos of yourself could be a turn-off to readers. While I have my little profile photo, I'm usually not comfortable posting photos of myself. But I'm trying it out now, thanks to you!

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  50. I hadn't thought about blogs in terms of "characters", but now that I think about, my favorite lifestyle blog has a main character, her husband, her best friend, best friend's baby, twin sister, and dog. And chickens. I follow her life, but also know the traces of her friends. I like this.



    idonthaveacluebutimfindingout.blogspot.com

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Thanks so much for leaving your two cents! I read and appreciate every comment and respond when I can. Thanks for reading. :)

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