I am well into my fourth year of blogging. A pretty decent amount of time for something that started out as a hobby and a creative outlet from my everyday life. When I started Valiantly Varnished I knew pretty much nothing about my subject matter, nail art. I just knew that I loved it and that I wanted to be a part of this niche community of amazingly talented people. And so I learned as I blogged. There is a part of me that kind of regrets this. A part of me wishes that I had practiced and perfected my skills before I ever made my first post. That I'd had a fancy camera and not just my trusty iPhone to take pictures with. That I'd had cool graphics instead of a free Blogger background I'd downloaded from online. This is the perfectionist in me. The person who wants everything to be just so and put her best foot forward. Four years in and I am thinking a little differently about where and how I started. One thing is that I have grown in front of my awesome readers. You can document my skill set growing and improving on this blog. There are some posts that are just outright embarrassing to me now. I'd seriously considered just removing them altogether but decided to leave them up because I think it's important for those just getting started to see. But - but. There are things that I wish I'd know before I started. Things that would have saved me a lot of time and a lot of headaches.
I didn't purchase my domain until a year into my blogging career. And I sooo wish I'd done so from the start! Why is owning your domain so important? Well, there are two important reasons why I think it's important to own your domain.
1. It's more professional. Period. If you are blogging and looking to work with brands and perhaps turn your hobby into a career it's important to show that you are serious about it. It shows an investment in yourself and your business and that you take it seriously.
2. I started out on Blogger and I had the blogspot.com in my web address. Which means that I didn't actually own my blog. Blogger did. And they could shut it down anytime they felt like it. They also owned my blog name. So let's say I decided to stop blogging for awhile and my blog became inactive. Somewhere out there someone else decides to start a blog - and they decide on the exact same name. And they were smart enough to purchase said name. Well - I'm basically screwed. Because they know own that domain name and it cannot be used by anyone else. This is a BIG deal. Your blog is your brand for all intents and purposes. It's what people immediately identify you with online. So my advice is don't be cheap! It cost me $12 a year for my domain. That's it. That's less than what I spend on Starbucks every week (if I added up what I spend on Starbucks I'd probably start crying). Its the cost of two Grande lattes. I think owning your blog name is worth far more than that.
Now I say this as someone who actually really likes my blog name (I mean, Valiantly Varnished is a pretty bad ass name, if I do say so myself). It's fitting for me and my blog niche. But I have seen so many bloggers change their blog names because they weren't happy with what they had originally chosen. The cutesy name they came up with no longer fits their topic, their brand or their personality. Choosing a name that you can live with will save you the trouble and pain of having to completely re-brand everything down the line. So take the extra time to really think about what you want that name to be and how you want it to represent not only your blogging niche but you.
This is something we are all guilty of not only in blogging but in our lives. I certainly struggled with it (and still do sometimes). If you are like me you love to read blog just as much and you love to write your own. I would find myself perusing other nail bloggers' sites and drooling over their work and then walking away feeling awful about myself and my blog. "Why can't I freehand like her? Her cuticles are flawless - mine don't look like that. Her nail beds are amazing! Why can't mine be like that? She has sooo many followers. I will never get to that level." And on and on and on. All it did was kill my own creativity. I found myself attempting to replicate or repeat or be just like instead of finding my own voice. I took a break from reading other nail blogs for awhile and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. It allowed that evil little voice that can sometimes tell us we're not good enough to go have a seat in the corner and be quiet. While I still love reading blogs and seeing what others are up to, whenever I feel that little voice making me feel bad about myself I step away from them and take a little time to regroup. One thing that I remind myself of frequently is "we never really get to see people's failures when it comes to blogging. We get to see the things they've perfected and worked on. We get the highlight reel. You can't compare yourself to someone else's highlight reel. It's also why I chose to keep my crappy first blog posts up. As a reminder not only to my readers but to myself that growth happens and you can't rush it.
This is something that I've only recently given myself permission to do. I am at a very different place than I was four years ago when I first started blogging. I started a blog during a time of deep depression and to give me something to be excited about and to learn something new. Now I am in a much happier and healthier head space and I started looking at this blog differently. I wanted to branch out a bit. At first I felt a bit scared about it. "Would my readers enjoy me talking about blogging and the ins and outs of it?" "Could I incorporate my love for nail art into this new point of view?" "What would that look like?" I'm still working on that last question, but allowing myself the space to entertain it has allowed me to get excited again about blogging and nail art and the nail community. To think of new ways to approach this niche community we reside in and finds ways to broaden it a bit. THAT is really exciting to me! If you are feeling like there is so much more you want to say I say go for it. But allow your readers time and space to process this. Make it a gradual integration. If you write about food and cooking, your readers won't know what to think if they open your blog and suddenly see a post about rebuilding old cars. Will all of your readers stick around for this? Maybe not. But just as you can't live your life for other people, you also can't blog for others. And you can't do your best work if you are unhappy with what you are producing.
This ties in to what I stated about allowing for change. About a year ago I hit a wall. I was no longer inspired to post about nail polish or nail art. I had no cool ideas for posts. I honestly didn't even know if I would keep this blog going. I knew I wanted to still blog but I didn't know if I wanted to still blog about nail polish. It wasn't what I wanted to spend my time doing anymore. At least not to the extent that I had been. Could I find a way to recapture some of that enjoyment and excitement? Maybe, but first I had to take a step back from it. I started posting less and spending more time planning posts that I felt really good about. I started thinking of ways that I could engage with the nail polish and nail art community without it being about me posting new nail art and swatches every other day. Because let me tell you - it's exhausting. Being creative every single day after spending 7-8 hours at work 5 days a week is a lot. Swatching can take hours of your day. I have spent entire weekends just doing my nails taking pics, editing said pics, and writing posts. And nail art can be just as time-consuming. I felt tremendous pressure to come up with something creative that I felt my readers would want to look at. It made me overly critical of myself, my posts, my pictures, everything. As a result of that pressure, the joy was gone. It had stopped being fun. And that scared the shit out of me. That's when I decided it was time for a change. I found the space I needed to think outside of the box and create a blog that would allow me to do things on my own terms. The blogging community has a lot of rules: when to blog, how much to blog, how to blog. It wasn't until I set those things aside and thought about what I wanted to create here in my little corner of the internet that I found the excitement I had been missing. I encourage anyone who is feeling burned out to take some time away for yourself. It was the best decision I ever made not only for myself but for my blog.