Saturday, 25 January 2020

10 years of blogging, and what I've learned

Scroll to the bottom if you just want to see some strong looks from the old days of girlnextdoorfashion

On 22 December 2009, I was 19 years old.

I was in my second year of university, obsessed with Glamour magazine and writing for the fashion column of my student newspaper (when I wasn't trying to read 2 books a week for my course or at one of my five dance classes a week or at my part time job at the student bar).

And I decided to start a blog.

And girlnextdoorfashion was born.

And here I am, 10 years later, still writing this blog!

Bloody hell, has a lot changed!

Of course I have changed - I'm now about to turn 30, I'm married and live in a house I own with my husband. I've been working in marketing for 7 years and I no longer wear knee socks and mary jane shoes.

But blogging has changed more.

Bloggers are now influencers. They don't post their pictures on Chictopia now or dream of appearing on the Lookbook.nu front page. 

I used to think charging £30 for a link was wild - now people can charge thousands for an Instagram mention.

I used to think I could make it one day as a full-time blogger. Now I can't imagine that being something I would want to do.

But despite how much has changed, I'm still here. 

I've nearly quit hundreds of times over the years, but I've always found myself coming back to it.

I can't tell you what it is. I've quit loads of things over the past 10 years! Jobs, hobbies, relationships, ideas, plans, but I've never been quite ready to let this blog go.

It's not been a fashion blog for years - I don't think I've posted a picture of an outfit since 2016 - and to be honest, I'm not really sure at all what kind of blog it is. I think my most recurring reader is myself (seriously I'm always looking for old blog posts to help me remember which lipstick I like or which recipes are best from a particular book). I don't blog for anyone but myself any more, which makes it weirdly self indulgent but also quite freeing. 

It's funny because I rarely post on social media any more and don't have the apps on my phone. Instagram makes me feel rubbish even though I'm old enough and smart enough to know that what people show isn't the reality and I don't post on it because I don't like pretending everything is shiny and perfect. But I still blog, and isn't that the same thing?

Anyway, I'm not about to have some kind of existentialist crisis about whether I should be blogging or not, this is about celebrating!

Ten years! When I was 19 I had no idea I'd still be doing this at 29. 

I often wish I could blog more. I wish I had more time to blog, but the reality is I choose to do other things instead of blog. I have hundreds of ideas for topics which I know I'll never sit down to write. There are so many things I wish I'd blogged more about. There are so many things I wish I could change about my blog (I've had this same layout for at least 5 years) but I don't have the time or inclination to change them.

But I'm here! I'm still doing it! I might have only written 20 something blog posts in the last year year, compared to the 285 (?????????!!!!!!) I wrote in 2011. 

So, without further ado, here's what I've learnt from 10 years of blogging:

Just start

I remember dithering for months over whether to start a blog. I just didn't feel like a "blogger". Then I met a girl at uni who had a blog and realised, oh, she's just like me. And also, once you start a blog, you become a blogger. I think this is true of so many things in life - it's definitely been the case with me when I first started running 6 years ago. Just starting, in whatever capacity, is often the biggest step.

It doesn't have to be great

While I'm in no shape or form a perfectionist (my motto is "done is better than perfect"), I did struggle with the idea of starting because I wanted it to be good before I put it out in the world. Well I can tell you now, my early posts were definitely not good (and I'm not sure a lot are now!) but linking back to my first point, I did it and once I'd done it once, it was easier to do again and again and again and learn from it.

Be open and personal

I consider the period between 2010 and 2012 to be my blogging heyday and when I asked around at the time (I know, so self indulgent) why people enjoyed my blog (remember end of the year blog surveys?!) a lot of it came down to personality. Sometimes you just like reading what certain people write, and I tried to make sure I was an open and personal and showed as much of my personality as I could. But then there's also...

You don't have to overshare if you don't want to (though sometimes it helps)

I'm a lot more guarded than I used to be. Sometimes wish I could be more honest but that isn't me. I am very aware that this blog is out in the public. I'm not one to cause tension by speaking my mind too much and I hate confrontation. One of the reasons I started a newsletter was to give me more of an outlet for being more open and honest privately, but even that felt too much and too self-indulgent and navel-gazing at times.

I've also grown up a lot in the past 10 years. There are a lot of things I wouldn't share now that I did then, but a lot of that is just because I was in my early 20s and I didn't know any better!

It's okay to diversify

This is clearly no longer a fashion blog. In fact, as I wrote this I'm wearing faded Primark jeans, a Parks and Recreation tshirt, fluffy slippers and a hoodie. I haven't been interested in fashion for probably close to 8 years and I'm nowhere near as obsessed with personal style and shopping and outfits as I was 7 or 8 years ago. 

I worried a lot about this blog a lot when I realised I was losing interest in taking photos of my outfits and feeling the pressure to keep coming up with new outfits. I thought that I had to have a new outfit to post in order to be able to write my blog. But then I realised I had so many other things I wanted to write about that weren't clothes! I'm so glad I took the plunge and moved away from a topic that no longer interested me.

I wish I'd picked a better name!

Yep 10 years on and I'm still using the twitter handle gnd_fashion and girlnextdoorfashion as an Instagram handle. And I'm still debating changing it.

Integrity is important to me

For me, integrity is huge. I couldn't write sponsored posts that felt fake or insert irrelevant links to products I didn't care about, regardless of how much I was paid. I had a few years of sponsored links and content and it just wasn't for me. I felt like I was losing control of my blog and it didn't feel authentic to me any more. I had some amazing years of working with sponsors and partners and I'm so lucky to have received dozens of items to review over the years, but I also never felt comfortable reviewing items I didn't really love. I decided to stop taking sponsored content and items to review a few years ago which for me helped me to feel more authentic and that was really important to me.

It should be fun!

Another reasons I stopped taking sponsored content was because it stopped being fun! It started to feel like work. If I had X items to review and X photos to take and they needed to be done by X date, that's a job. And for me, that wasn't what I wanted this blog to be. There were times in my life when I loved doing that, but once I started working full time on top of everything else, I wanted my blog to be there for me when I wanted it, but only when I had the time. 

It doesn't need rules

Okay so I like rules, but even so, sometimes I've given myself way too many rules along the way (and I still have some in place when I'm trying to squeeze in a month in review at the end of a super busy month!) but I think rules can stop the fun. This is probably a lesson I still need to remember!

It doesn't have to be a side hustle!

Okay I've kind of said this now, but I hate the idea that anything you do as a hobby or for fun should be a commodity. Yes you make good cakes, but you don't need to start a cupcake stall! Yes you make nice scarves but you don't have to sell them on Etsy! You can enjoy a hobby without making money from it, because once you make money from it it can start feeling like work.

It's a great time capsule

Oh god is it a good time capsule. Want to read the post where I said "I've got a date tomorrow" they day before I met my husband? Do you want to remember details of a trip I went on in 2012? Do you want to see photos of my terrible hair from 2010? Do you want breakups? Of course you do - step up and see the last 10 years of my life in glorious technicolour!

This is both good and awfully terrible. Reading back over my old blog posts from 2010 is like reading my diary. Oh except it's on the internet. Oh yeah I know I could delete them, but I'm not that vain. It's funny, it's tragic, but it's a snapshot of who I was once.

And sometimes it's nice. I've gone back and read the post from when Phil proposed and posts from when I first started running and I go back all the time to my recipe book reviews to see which recipes I like best. And of course there's some questionable content and terrible outfits out there but I quite like that I can revisit myself from 10 years ago (and laugh at myself).

Can be what you want

As I said before, a blog is merely content on the internet. It can be what you want. Of course there's so much now about finding your niche, but I think more often than not it's about personality. Many of my blogger friends have gone from fashion blogging to lifestyle blogging to Mummy blogging and I still love reading their content, even if I have no interst in children myself! It can be full of tips and advice or just stories about your day, or both!

Both long and short content is great

I love love love longform content and that's what I've done a lot of on this blog over the last few years, but I really want to get back to short blog posts. I want to get back to a little idea and putting it out there without trying to think of how I can pad it out. I love long content but it can take me a few days and a few sessions of writing to get one live - I love a little short snappy post and I want to feel more comfortable that that "counts" as a post. edited to add: I started writing this post in November and it's taken me til now to get it finished and live!

It gives purpose

I love having a hobby after 10 years which, while not quite tangible, exists out in the world. I love having the responsibility of this blog after all these years. Even if nobody is reading, it does give me motivation and a sense of purpose to know this blog is still out there, still going after all this time.

It's pretty good going to be doing this after 10 years!

I don't think 19 year old me would think I'd still be doing this 10 years later, but instead of blogging about the latest double spread in Glamour, I'd be writing about running marathons and managing anxiety disorder and recipe books and reading. While I don't promote my blog at all outside of the odd tweet and Facebok post when I've got a new post live, I'm still really glad it's still going. Sure I still find it a bit embarrassing when someone finds it and I know it's still a bit self-indulgent but there are loads of blog posts on here I'm really proud of! I don't know if I'm still be doing this in another 10 years  - I definitely cannot think ahead to being 39 right now! - but it wouldn't surprise me if I'm still too stubborn to give it up over the next few years.

I nearly gave up back in 2015 when I was losing interest in fashion blogging, but then I had a resurgance and wrote some of my favourite ever posts, so who knows?

Thanks to all of you who have stuck around, especially those there from the start.

As a reward, here's some classic girlnextdoorfashion content just for you...
(ps. There are so many of these outfits that I genuinely loved! I absolutely loved the way I used to rewear clothes in different ways!)

 I got one hell of a lot of wear out of this little military jacket!
I was so proud of this outfit back in 2010! I spent a lot of time on my year abroad almost getting chillblains after taking photos outside in sub zero Minnesotan temperaures and running my freezing hands under the tap after

I remember wearing this outfit to uni and nearly absolutely decking it on the cobbles because there 4 inch heels were definitely not made for walking

One of my first "outfit posts". I'd made the ears myself for a joint Minne and Mickey costume


LOOK HOW MUCH I WORE THIS DRESS! I was obsessed with "remixing"my clothes and I love how creative I was with finding new ways to wear the same items

This is from my 21st Birthday in Duluth, Minnesota where I spent my year abroad. My dress was a Birthday present from Modcloth - I was obsessed with Modcloth!

I honestly believe this to be one of my greatest ever outfits. And I still have and love this blazer

A rare occasion I actually got someone to take my photos for me. This is Duluth town centre in the early days of my year abroad

I was super proud of this outfit in 2010. Those lace ankle socks!

I was really, really, really into knee high socks. And lace.

No shade, I still love this outfit (circa late 2011)

And this one

I really miss that wall.

I hope those of you who were blogging in the early 2010s enjoyed this post - I definitely enjoyed this trip down memory lane!

Charlotte x

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