Blogiversary: A Reflection on 2 Years
Let me start by saying this is not my usual blog post. This is meant to serve others who are considering starting a blog and also as a reflective piece for the sake of my own mental wellness. If you're looking for crafting tips, check out literally any other post.
If you want advice on starting a blog, scroll down to Advice for New Bloggers I've included just for you.
A Reflection on the Last Two Years
It's officially been over 2 years since I created this blog and wrote my first post. In that time, I've written, edited, and posted 54 posts (including this one). Each post takes 3-6 hours to complete, not including the project the post is about or any additional pattern work or videos included.
I started this blog during the pandemic, months before there were any vaccines. I was (am) working from home full time and had no reason to leave the house except for church on Sundays - mass was still held virtually so I sang to empty pews and a webcam. While my family set up biweekly zoom calls, my husband and dog were the only souls I regularly got to interact with. As was true for many people, the isolation took a toll on my mental health.
I turned to crafting and started making facemasks for myself and my family and friends in the area. I made a huge batch of tri-folds and donated them to a local medical charity, using the only elastic I was able to find anywhere (including online). I started to play with different designs, hoping to find a mask that was breathable, wouldn't fog my glasses, and felt comfortable to wear for hours at a time. After several iterations, I finally had it and wanted to share the process with others.
Remember, at this time in the pandemic, it was difficult to find any masks at all for purchase. It was all about DIY masks to go to the store and save the real masks for medical and essential workers. My comfy mask discovery felt, at least to me, like an important piece of information that I had and wanted others to have too. So I photographed the process and wrote my very first post: How to Make my Favorite Face Masks.
Surprising absolutely no one, it got a mere handful of views. But that was ok, I told myself. I knew starting out that it would take a while to build a user base and get my newly-created blog out there. I set a 1-year goal of breaking even - I wanted to make enough money from pattern sales to pay for the privilege of writing this blog, maintaining the website, and providing my knowledge for free to others.
I continued to write, refining my style, learning how to best manage my time and what kind of content would interest other people. I started an Instagram account and amassed a few dozen followers. Nearly a year passed. In August of 2021, I was getting 0-2 site visits per day. I had maybe 100 followers on Instagram (that's likely generous, if I'm being honest). Sometimes it would be days before anyone paid this site a visit. I watched the Analytics site visit counter sit at zero, my post views sit in the single digits, knowing full well it was mostly family members and mistaken clicks that stayed for less than 10 seconds. After a year of collective trauma from the pandemic, I was not in a great place.
This blog had been the one thing where I really felt like I was able to do some good - like I could help people learn something that mattered to them. And, importantly, no one who found my blog was going to send me an angry email or lie about things I have or haven't said over the phone - my constant work anxiety companion. And it was failing.
I tried to tell myself that this was normal. That the original 1-year goal I set for myself was unrealistic. I tried to keep writing. Then one day I just...couldn't. I started forcing myself to write a post (don't ask which one, I don't remember), but all I could hear from the voice in my head was "Why bother? What's the point? No one is going to read this anyway. No one cares." I broke down crying.
There have been exactly 3 times in my life where I've felt wholly unable to pull myself out of despair - this was the third. I cried for an hour, feeling defeated, like nothing I did would matter. In a fit of frustration at my own lack of achievement, I made a post on Imgur screaming into the void. I assumed no one would read that either. It would be my last attempt at bringing in any traffic. If I didn't get a handful of views by the end of the day, I would stop trying and shut down the blog.
The unexpected happened: I went viral. The Imgur community is fickle, but incredibly supportive when you catch it on a good day. I had to put my phone on mute because of the sheer number of people who clicked on the link to my site (I still get a popup notification with a "ding!" on every visit). My comments were flooded with words of encouragement and advice. A dozen or so people filled out the subscription form, adding to the list which had previously been my personal email and my mother-in-law. I cried again, but this time from gratitude and marvel that there could be so many people who would care even a little bit about a complete stranger.
So I kept writing and, on the advice of my sister, started a TikTok. I went viral for the second time. The numbers started going up and I finally felt like I wasn't wasting my time anymore.
I still struggle sometimes, especially when I spend hours crafting and creating a post to end up with just a few views. But I know that I have people who care and I know that my posts and videos are helping people learn. I still cry sometimes, but now it's when I receive a kind comment on a post or a DM thanking me for my content and sharing their work based on one of my tutorials.
To those of you who come back week after week, thank you. I never would have made it this far without your support. A special thank you to the one person who comments on my every post, you know who you are, it means so much to me.
Advice for New Bloggers
Suffice to say, I've learned a lot in the last two years. While there are many websites and articles out there with tips for new bloggers, everything I've listed below is hard-won knowledge based on personal experience. I hope it can help.
(Set Reasonable Goals) If you've never written a SMART goal, now is the time. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. What do you want to achieve by writing this blog? How will you know when you've achieved it? How long will it realistically take for that to happen? This is one area where I set myself up for emotional damage by setting an unrealistic timeline. Even now at the two-year mark, I know that a 3-year goal of breaking even financially is more realistic and even then it's still a bit lofty based on how I have chosen to produce content and the fact that I have firmly decided to NOT include ads in the middle of my posts. Seriously consider your goals and write them down. Stick to 2-3 at most. Mine are as follows:
Establish a reader base and make an impact. This will be measured by view counts and subscriber lists on social media accounts - 10k on TikTok, 500 on Instagram.
Write and post to the blog every other Friday.
Within 3 years of starting the blog, finances will break even between pattern sales and website upkeep costs.
The first one doesn't have a timeline because when I originally wrote the goal, it was only the first sentence (terrible goal writing structure, I'm well aware). This is an emotional goal for me - I want to feel like I'm making a difference to other people. The wider my base is, the more of an impact I get to make.
(Claim all your accounts right away) Even if you don't plan to actually post content to all of your accounts right away (nor should you), claim your username on all the major platforms as soon as you've decided on a name. For example, I own craftematics.com along with the @craftematics handle on TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, and Pinterest. Twitter should be on your list as well - it was too late for me on that front. If the account name has already been taken everywhere, consider changing the name or adjusting is specifically for social media. Try to use the same handle and same profile picture on all sites so people know it's you. For the curious, I used Canva to make my logos and, if needed, MS Paint 3D to remove the backgrounds.
(Get to know one platform well before adding another) Every platform is different and its users behave differently. Anecdotally, users on TikTok are likely to watch for a few seconds before scrolling. If they stay longer, about 10% will like the content and about 1% (or less) will make a comment. People are more likely to like or comment if there are already a large number of likes and comments. Because of the way TikTok's algorithms work for the For You Page, more people will follow you than will like the video. This is because if you don't follow a user, you may never see their content again. So on a video with 1000 views, I might get 30 new followers, but only 5-10 likes and maybe 1-2 comments. Additionally, as one post becomes more popular, TikTok is more likely to show users some of your other videos so even older videos continue to get views, likes, and comments.
In contrast, users on Instagram will like your post but not follow you because they already follow one of the hashtags that brought them to your post in the first place. Commenting engagement on Instagram is similar to TikTok. In contrast, once a post has started decreasing in engagement, it becomes less likely for it to be shown to new users.
Different approaches will bring you different levels of engagement on each platform. Spend time getting to understand how each platform works and specifically what works for your type of content on each platform before you start posting content to another.
(Write about what you find interesting) Write what you know is an old adage for a reason: it's true. You don't have to be a fountain of knowledge to write about something but you do have to be willing to (a) do some research, (b) acknowledge you're still learning, and (c) accept corrections from your audience. Making mistakes is fine, but you have to be willing to admit and correct them. That said, if you don't find the material engaging, neither will your audience.
(If others have already done it, do it better) There's nothing wrong with doing something that everyone else has done. But there IS something wrong with doing it exactly the same way everyone else has done it. For example, I recently made a post on How to Make an Infinity Dress. Prior to writing, I think I watched 2 videos and read...maybe 6 tutorials? They were all very similar to one another on one important front: lack of detail. Sure they all included the shapes and the basic steps, but not one went into detail on measurements or how the math was supposed to work out. No one talked about fit on differently shaped bodies. I always include as much detail as possible in my tutorials, particularly where math is concerned. This is what sets my content apart from others. Find what makes your content different and go with it.
(If you can, try not to focus on income) For me, this blog was never about making money and it still isn't. If your goal is to turn a profit, great - skip this piece of advice. I always wanted to help people and pass on my knowledge and learnings to others. The financial goal was secondary to justify the cost of keeping a website (which was higher than I thought it would be). I emotionally put too much of myself and my concerns into the financial goal and that really contributed to my emotional breakdown. Remember this is secondary to your primary goal and do your best not to let it take up too much mental space.
(Everything is content) If it's related to your schtick at all, it's content. Maybe it's not enough to make a whole post about, but it could be a great Instagram photo or a short how-to on TikTok. This also ties into "get to know one platform before moving on to another" piece.
(It's ok to write a filler article on occasion) Sometimes you just don't have enough time to do something interesting. That's OK. Sometimes what you want to write about isn't necessarily your typical content. That's OK too. Don't make a habit of it and you'll be fine.
One more big thank you to anyone who read this far - please know how much I appreciate you. My next post returns to regularly scheduled crafting content - fill out the form at the bottom of the page to make sure you won't miss it!