This post originally appeared on What's Haute.
Where did the time go? 10 years ago, in February of 2006, I started a little blog for fun. I was preparing to launch my own handbag line so I spent a lot of time researching other emerging handbag designers online. I stumbled on to an online publishing tool called Blogger and discovered a bunch of fashion blogs there. At the time, I was working for one of the top radio companies in the country but the work was very routine and I was quite bored. So, in my free time, I sought as many additional creative outlets as possible. Designing and making handbags was one of them, but it quickly got replaced with blogging. I always loved to write, and I was coming across all of these cool, emerging handbag designers, and I wanted a way to showcase them as well. So I started What's Haute (originally as a handbag blog). Back then, I really couldn't have imagined what it would become today, and how many opportunities it would provide for me. But 10 years later, it has become way more than just a hobby and creative outlet. It is a full-fledged business, my lifestyle, a source of personal enjoyment (most of the time) and stress (some of the time), but most of all, a source of inspiration to others -- and to myself as well! And of course, a continuous learning opportunity -- in both business and life!
Here are 10 life lessons I learned in 10 years of blogging:
1. Do what you love and opportunities will come
As I mentioned, I began blogging strictly for fun and as a source of personal inspiration. I have always been a serial entrepreneur, so I am not new to turning hobbies into sources of revenue, but when I began blogging, I didn't even know that I COULD make money off of it, for a while. I did what I loved (write, talk about bags, and eventually, fashion), and opportunities started to present themselves over the years. One of my personal goals was to attend New York Fashion Week and that opportunity was afforded to me as a result of blogging. Additionally, I achieved other accomplishments due to my blog, like being featured as an up-and-coming blogger in Women's Wear Daily, and being flown out to California to shoot a video segment for Subaru, just to name a few. If you do the things you love and are passionate about, opportunities (and income) will come.
2. Don't take things for granted
Sometimes you might start to take things for granted but you need to remember and reflect on where you started and how far you've come. As the years go by, it's easy to lose sight of successes, no matter how big or small. While blogging, I've had good and great days, and also have had times where I thought about throwing in the towel. But I often reflect on where I started, and where it has taken me. My sister recently reminded me that blogging was a dream job for someone like me. I've always loved to shop, get dressed up, and dabble in new beauty products, and that's exactly what I get to do with my blog -- and get paid to do it! I love it and remind myself to appreciate the opportunities every day. Don't take your current situation for granted.
3. Don't give up
Listen -- blogging, like life in general, can get hard sometimes. Sometimes things get challenging and you'll feel like giving up. There were times I've felt extremely exhausted running this hobby-turned-business. There were times I felt stuck in neutral and didn't feel like the blog was growing or going anywhere, or even worth doing anymore. I've faced financial challenges, creative challenges and legal challenges. But instead of quitting, I would take a step back whenever I felt burned out. It's always okay to take a break, refresh your mind and reset your goals, if you need to. And then get back to work!
4. Surround yourself with the right people
Over the years, I've had several readers reach out to me, offering to contribute to the site. I hired them to become writers and editors, and eventually they became friends too! Your 'customers' can make the best employees because they already love and are passionate about your product/service. Additionally, every business owner should have an attorney and accountant on hand, at the very least. I've had to fork over thousands of dollars to the IRS because I didn't fully understand business tax law. And I've been threatened with lawsuits, from everyone including readers of my site, to large law firms. When you own your own business, it's important to have all the right people on board to assist you in every possible way. The same is true for everyday life, as well!
5. Have multiple sources of income
When I started this blog, it was strictly for fun. Over the years I turned it into a business and consistently turned a profit, except for one particularly difficult year. It was then that I realized the majority of my profits were coming from one major source. Once that source of income turned cold, my site (and bank account) began to suffer. I have since incorporated different sources of revenue on my blogs and via my corresponding social media platforms. You can't be totally dependent upon one advertiser, blog network, or social media tool (or in life, one job, investment opportunity, etc). You have no control over them and how they do business, so you really need to put a major focus on your own business and ways to secure income. When it comes to your sources of revenue, don't put all of your proverbial eggs in one basket.
6. Expect the unexpected
One of the fun (yet sometimes challenging) aspects of running this blog is the unexpected things. Most have been great (exciting opportunities and partnerships, extra revenue), some I could have done without (lawsuits, threats, people stealing your work), but that's all a part of the fun, right?! The road to (and through) entrepreneurship (like life) is never a straight line; there are always tons of curves and bumps, with some pleasant stops to see and experience, along the way. I have learned to expect and embrace the unexpected, no matter what.
7. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others
With some bloggers making millions of dollars, it's hard to NOT compare yourself to others! But you really can't. You don't know their life! As with anything else, you have to focus on being the best you, and building the best business for yourself and your customers/clients/readers. What's for you is for you, and what's for someone else is for them.
8. Never be afraid to reinvent yourself
Since I launched in 2006, this blog has undergone several iterations. It started as a handbag blog, and I branched that off to a separate site and turned this into a fashion and beauty blog. Once I started attending more lifestyle events in NYC, and traveling around the world, I added both of those as components of my blog as well. There was a time I focused more on celebrity style but have since evolved from that to focus more on my own and other's personal style. With any business, you should always continue to reevaluate the industry landscape, and decide what works best for you and your company. I realized that the celebrity blogging landscape began to get oversaturated over the years. Plus, my readers seemed to respond better to my more personal posts (what I'm wearing; my beauty and skincare product reviews; my personal life). Reinventing yourself and evolving is the key to consistent growth and success.
9. Network and sell yourself
Selling yourself consists of many things. Sure, it can mean literally selling your product/service to those who can offer some form of compensation. But it also means getting the word out about yourself and what you do. That is one thing I've really had to work on. I've always preferred to do the work behind-the-scenes and let others discuss it. But with an ever-growing sea of blogs, how else will people know about you? Also, whether you're a business owner or moving up the corporate ladder, it's important to establish networks with like-minded individuals. Not only does it give you the potential to learn things you may not have known that will help you grow your business, but to also share your personal or business knowledge with others. Sharing is caring.
10. Some people won't understand you and what you do, and that's ok
Sometimes people don't understand that what you post is not personal and not just for fun, but rather because it makes great content and serves your business. I wouldn't post an opinion that I disagree with, or something I find unethical, but I can post what someone was wearing, and that doesn't mean I personally support that person. I share my posts, on multiple platforms, because that's a part of growing my business. But with that sharing comes the inevitable criticism and negative feedback. And when you put your content or yourself out there, you have to learn to expect that. I have received judgement on some of the things I've posted, personal attacks, and even critical comments from my "friends". They don't see the partnerships built behind the scenes that have resulted in a campaign. They don't understand why you would do a post on a particular celebrity or political figure that they dislike. They don't understand why you'd post a reference to a popular singer on her birthday. Sometimes people don't understand the decisions you make that will positively impact your business, simply because they personally disagree with or dislike the content you put out. But, that's part of what comes along with running a business on a public platform. That goes for you being you in life, as well.
All in all, blogging has been a fun ride. If and when the time comes that I want to end it, I will have no regrets. I've learned a ton while doing what I love!
What are some life lessons that you think can apply to business and other areas of your life?