how do you define success?

April 24th, 2017
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Every once in a while I’ll re-read my “about” page. It really speaks to the hopes and goals that I had way back when I started this blog – in particular, these words:

“…I would not let fear of failure or the need to wait till I could put out a ‘perfect product’ hold me back. I allowed myself the prospect of succeeding – not so much  in the traditional ways we measure such things,  but by actually feeling happy and fulfilled.”

I so, so desperately wanted to approach blogging in a way that felt completely different from every pursuit that preceded it. That it could be this pure, unaffected, just-for-me passion project was EVERYTHING to me. I can still feel the power in the words I wrote back then – as if by simply putting them out there, they would magically come true.

This lasted about a week.

At which point I decided that I had to “win” at blogging.

(Spoiler alert: I’m still trying to figure out how to make that happen)

Of course I wasn’t writing in a bubble. I was publishing my work, promoting it on social media, and expanding my circle of blogs to follow, emulate, learn from.

Oh – and be TOTALLY jealous of.

And it was this jealousy that – if I’m being completely honest here – really drove me to do whatever it took to make my little blog a SUCCESS.

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But if you think about the words I wrote back then – how DO you define success in blogging? More importantly, how did I define it? Was it the number of Facebook followers? My daily pageviews? Acceptance letters from Foodgawker? Or that big sponsored collab with Madewell (Spoiler alert: I’m still trying to figure out how to make that happen)?

See, that was the problem. All my previous careers had clear markers for what it meant to be successful – and a road map for how to get there. And whether it was how high my fee was, the number of clients I had or the size of jobs I booked, I could all but hold in my hand that “success”. With blogging, it was less clear – and for sure, less attainable.

So I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. Read posts and listened to podcasts about blogging. Worked on my photography. Met (in-person and on-line) other bloggers. And even attended a conference or two.

And I verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly began to figure out what the goal of blogging was for me. That it wasn’t about being “big”  (be it followers, pageviews, whatever). For me it was a two-pronged goal of creating paid content for OTHER sites, and writing the occasional sponsored post on my blog. This would provide the income I was working toward (because, let’s be real here – we will somehow always find a way to tie money in with success), while allowing me the freedom to keep this space as much “my own” as possible.

Goals established, I set about trying to get hired on other sites. This took a couple of years but I was very fortunate to land a few regular paying gigs. These jobs have been such a blessing because, in addition to the income, I’ve learned much along the way. Watching trends, working on my food styling and photography skills, and becoming a more polished writer in general. It was like getting a free education, the skills from which I could also apply right here.

As for getting sponsored work on my own blog? Talk about a Catch-22. I knew that, in addition to the income, more sponsored work with brands would increase awareness for my blog AND grow my readership. But I couldn’t GET those brands to work with me because my blog was too small.

UUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

Beyond frustrating. At this point I had a blog that I was really proud of. My writing and photography had greatly improved and I was publishing content that I consistently put my heart and soul into. But in the end I simply didn’t have “the numbers” to qualify me for many of the bigger sponsored opportunities.

But a few years ago I started working with a few influencer agencies that weren’t hyper-focused on “the numbers”. These agencies were looking for bloggers that were as professional and committed to providing quality work as “the big guys”. One of those agencies was Collectively, and I am forever grateful to them for the opportunities they’ve provided me.

The chance to work with big brands – on targeted posts – has helped hone skills that I could have never attained by solely writing my own posts here week after week. Sponsored posts are an entirely different animal, requiring a commitment to comply with guidelines, attention to detail and a responsibility for promoting and sharing those posts once published.

And I will tell you flat out that sponsored posts are the MOST fun for me to do. It’s one thing to come up with content to share here each month. And I truly enjoy it. But it’s something entirely different when tasked with a challenge to create a post around a specific theme – or using a pre-determined product – that I love above all. These opportunities have forced me to think “outside the box” and step away from my comfort zone of baking/gardening/shopping and try something brand new. And then write about it!

The work I’ve done with Collectively has been some of the most non-“me” work on these pages. And I mean that in the best way. Through working with these lovely folks I’ve had the opportunity to use power tools, learn how to make sushi, and create original popsicle recipes using a brand new protein shake (what, ME? recipe create???).

But the greatest gift has been the chance to prove to myself that I CAN DO IT. Like, REALLY do this blogging thing. While that congratulatory “you’ve been selected…..” letter has the initial net effect of causing a massive wave of anxiety, once I respond with “I accept”, I have no choice but to face down that challenge. And that is something that never grows old. Something that we should never stop doing.

So thank you Collectively – for looking beyond “the numbers” when we work together, and helping me to stretch and grow professionally.

Check out Collectively’s brand new site, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And I’d love to know – how do you define success for yourself, and has that changed over the years?

Note: I was not compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are – as always – completely my own.

2 Responses to “how do you define success?”

  • I have found this very helpful for me.

  • I missed this one. As bloggers, it is SUCH a thing to figure out your why and your how. And to allow for the time to figure these out. For me, it was developing my writing. People ask how I make money. I say I don’t. But the fact that I found my voice is my biggest accomplishment.And improved my picture taking skills! And that voice will write a book and talk and get paid eventually. The do what you love and the Money will follow thing. Your blog is gracious and interesting and I say, You Win! Thanks for the thoughts!
    Love,
    Shalagh

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