Hey guys! Can you believe it’ana been 7 years since I started this blog? Over a thousand DIY projects, (what feels like) a million photos and approximately 583907503 minutes spent obsessing over this little corner of the internet.
It’s crazy to think that such a huge chunk of my life has now been dedicated to writing here for you guys, and in that way you’ve been with me through so much. Whilst it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, it has naturally come with serious ups, and serious downs. Not only that but the destination, or where I thought I was going, has continuously changed as time has gone on.
Let’s just say I’ve learnt many (many) lessons in the process – mainly the hard way! I’m not sure about you but I love a trip down memory lane, and so thought it would be fun to share with you one major lesson for every year I’ve been blogging. Here we go.
Ok so let’s set the scene – it was 2010, Ben and I were living in London, I was working as a town planner in deepest East London, helping to design the 2012 London Olympics. Work wasn’t that demanding, and so I had plenty of time to read blogs, which were only just starting to be a ‘thing’. In May that year, I decided to start one myself, and straight away knew it would be where I shared my passion – making runway inspired DIYs. I launched it on blogger and was completely anonymous… I didn’t share it with anyone because blogging was either unknown (at best) or dubious (at worst) at that point. Oh and the content was pretty cringe worthy, mainly photos from other blogs that were DIY inspiration and poorly lit photos of my own. But I was blogging prolifically, a few posts everyday, and eventually started posting weekly DIYs. This is the first one. Note the head chopped off to maintain my anonymity, which was probably a good thing considering my eyebrows were criminally thin at the time. Towards the end of the year I dropped in to London Fashion Week (solo – looking back I must have had a lot of guts), and was snapped by Vanessa Jackman. After she shared the pics on her site I got a huge number of new readers. I also spoke to another blogger who told me I was crazy to be anonymous on my blog, so shortly after that I came out!
Lesson Number 1: Don’t sit on your hands for years waiting for the timing to be perfect to start your blog, just do it and don’t worry if you don’t have a clear plan. Base the content on what you’re passionate about and just begin. If you’re looking for a sign this is it! Oh and don’t be obsessed with perfection.
It Won’t Be Easy, But It’ll Be Worth It
Around the second year of working on my blog, Ben started a new interior design business in Hong Kong and we moved (a decision we made in 3 weeks). After I arrived I got a job at a private firm designing new cities in India and China. Let’s just say I was pretty miserable there (long hours, poor morale blah blah blah). But blog life was amazing – moving to Hong Kong had exposed me to amazing craft supplies so I was inspired and my projects were getting more creative. Ben also bought me a new sewing machine for my birthday which took things to the next level. I was dedicating every free moment to blogging and on the one hand it was absolutely exhausting, spending hours every night and both days on the weekend prepping content, but on the other I could see real gains with the community and that fuelled all the long nights. I produced a few projects that year that were shared a lot online – including the silk wrap dress and the rug body con skirt. Looking at them now they make me nostalgic in their simplicity.
Lesson number 2: Getting something new off the ground – whether it be a blog or new business – takes time and requires all your dedication. Chances are you’ll be juggling another job and at times it might feel too hard but know that every bit of effort you put in now will pay off ten fold later (read my tips on juggling your passion project and day job here).. And don’t expect it to happen overnight, or feel bad if it doesn’t…. Things take time!
Trust Your Gut (and also your ability)
After a while I got a call (yes… on the phone!) from a publisher who wanted to create a book based on my website. Without labouring over the decision too much, I decided to take the advance, leave my job and write the book. It was the beginning of the biggest (and most difficult) year to date. I was completely thrown in the deep end ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But looking back it taught me so much. I had taken only a handful of photos in my time, but was suddenly required to produce a whole book full! There were very tight deadlines on delivering the content and, because the publisher was in the UK, I would often work late into the night and respond to emails at 3am. Poor Ben had to deal with tears and freak outs. But once it was done I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment, even if it wasn’t perfect (another lesson: things rarely are).
At the same time as this was all happening, blogging as an industry was starting to well and truly take off and the rise of Pinterest (DIY mecca) meant that my blog audience was growing. Because a large chunk of my audience is in the US, and the US industry took off first, I signed with a blogging talent agency there (they found me via this which was shared a lot online). I got my first sponsored post, and also went to NYFW with Coach. All of this I did in sort of daze – I couldn’t believe it was happening!
Lesson number 3: When opportunity comes knocking, answer the door! Have the confidence that whatever it is, you can do it. It’s so easy to feel scared when new experiences and challenges are on offer, particularly when you feel underqualified for the job… But you need to back yourself. Know that you can learn what you need to know along the way (hello google) – and whatever doesn’t kill you makes you
Treat Blogging Like A Business
I had originally thought I would go back to working as a town planner after I finished writing my book, but life had other plans. In truth the idea of going back to my old career was so off putting to me that I was willing to do anything to avoid it – and so I worked from home side by side with Ben getting the odd project through my agency. After a few months I was motivated (mainly by a dwindling bank account) to go whole hog and treat blogging more like a profession – develop a media kit, writing proposals to clients, networking and putting myself out there. And then delivering on those promises with good content. I left my agency to manage myself too. I finally started to develop a routine of regular working hours, and delineating between home and work… I designed a collection of shoes for Tony Bianco and launched DIY kits and craft supplies. I guess I really started to treat my website as a job. *As a side note, I had a few stress related health issues that started in 2013, and so for the first time health and balance became really really important to me.
Lesson number 4: Just because blogging is fun, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it as a professional business. In fact, if you’re going to make any profit from it at all, you need to. Develop a media kit, think about branding, messaging and your logo. Go out and pitch for work! Track down contacts, develop proposals, put together mood boards. Treating it as a business is the first step to it actually being one.
Post Faves: DIY Macrame Wall Hanging, DIY Rope Bowl, DIY Leather Clutch, DIY Alexander Wang Inspired Barlette, DIY Crop Top and Skirt Set, DIY Balenciaga Inspired Crop Top, DIY Hand Lettering, DIY Mesh Pencil Skirt, DIY Balenciaga Inspired Ruffle Skirt.
Know When To Work With Others
At the beginning of 2014 we moved into our studio! Looking back this was the moment that I was able to take things to the next level, with content creation becoming a big part of the business. I started to get serious about the types and quality of content that we were creating. I also met Nicola and we just clicked – and started working together all the time. I hired my first staff member to help me with sourcing and shooting for the craft supplies side of the business… It was a steep learning curve all of a sudden having staff!
Around this time, Instagram was starting to take off as dominating platform for many bloggers, with lots of people eschewing their blogs for the ease of instant uploads on Instagram. I totally saw the appeal, I mean how much easier is it to upload a photo as opposed to a whole blog post? But I felt that it was a risk to put all your eggs in one basket, and in truth I love creating content for the blog and didn’t want give it up, and so treated Instagram as a offshoot of this blog as opposed to the main focus.
Lesson number 5: Find your people. Even if you can’t afford staff, knowing when to outsource or collaborate is key to getting better and better at what you do. No person has every skill, and working with others is essential to helping you grow and evolve.
Post Faves: DIY Ladder Wardrobe, What Do You Love? DIY Tulle Skirt, DIY Embroidered Jacket, Rules for Digital Downtime, DIY Scuba Skirt, DIY Boxy Pink Jacket, How to Pack A Hat, Tips for Moving To Another Country.
Diversify Your Offer
2015 was a big year for blogs, as brands started to dedicate more of their budget to working on digital content. However, experience had shown me that only having one stream of income isn’t a great idea – and so I looked at various ways to diversify what we were doing. We already had the product side with the DIY supplies but we started doing more workshops and styling. We also began to work behind the scenes with brands, creating content for their channels and helping to strategise their digital. This presented lots of different and new challenges, and I hired a few more staff to help with copywriting, photography and admin. We had great clients and also terrifying ones… But that’s business isn’t it?
The content on the blog was also evolving slightly – from pure DIY fashion to DIY and creativity across lots of different areas like recipes, entertaining, interiors (all with a DIY angle) and more travel. A brainstorming session in the studio helped me to see that the focus for the site was all about creativity, and I loved the idea of this as the key focus, and hoped you guys would like it too! I was also starting to split my time between Australia and Hong Kong more as we worked on more Australian projects. Towards the end of the year we decided to put the craft supplies business to one side for the time being and focus more on content. On a personal note, we also got our dog Ollie which made us so so happy!
Lesson number 6: Diversify what you can offer your clients. It’s important to test out different things to see if they work for you, and be able to offer lots of different services. And don’t be scared to carefully evolve your content too – everyone talks about owning your niche when it comes to blogging, but what they don’t tell you is that your niche needs to be flexible so that you can grow and evolve as your audience does. I like to think of it as a lens through which to see the world, and use that to unify the message and content.
Post Faves: DIY Crystal Cluster Earrings, How to Pack: 5,4,3,2,1 Guide, DIY Open Back Shirt, DIY Pine Make Up Vanity, DIY Copper Clothing Rack, Men’s Shirt Into Off The Shoulder Dress, How to Become A Morning Person, DIY Distressed Denim Techniques Roadtested, DIY Lace Bralet, DIY Lace Up Flats.
Play to Your Strengths
In all of our careers, there’s an initial period where you are a knowledge sponge, and then the next one where you try to focus more on what works and what you feel you are best at. Earlier on I was all about testing what I could do, and said yes to every new challenge and opportunity that came my way. By 2016, I was finally starting to feel like I had a more clear picture of what I wanted to do – more content creation, DIY workshops, video and creative travel. Based that, I also started to experiment with new areas too – like social media training and designing products. Admittedly it was hard to start some of these new things (there’s always so much inertia when you are getting started) but it was good to see the end results. We launched a new website aimed at making the content more creative – change is hard but it was time. We also designed and launched the simple sandal which was an exciting (and truly terrifying) moment.
Lesson number 7: Assess what works and what doesn’t, and don’t be afraid to stop doing something in favour of doing something else that works better. Remember that it’s not failure to stop doing something that’s not productive, it’s just smart. Take note of what your strengths are and look for lots of different ways to utilise them.
Post Faves: DIY Convertible Bodysuit, DIY Cheese & Meat Platter, How to Care For Indoor Plants, DIY Rope Rug, DIY Word Embroidery, DIY Stitched Up Gift Wrap, DIY Frozen Ice Bucket, DIY Strapless Off The Shoulder Dress, Wardrobe Rehab Series,
Where to next? That age old question…. I guess we’re already into the 8th year of this blog, and I have a few ideas for what I want to do, and a few new projects in the works (eek). But if the last 7 years (and the internet’s ability to change all your carefully laid plans) have taught me anything, it’s that this journey is a rollercoaster. All you can do is trust your gut and be confident that you can handle (most of) what life throws at you. One thing I do know is that I want this site to be a) more and b) better. Pretty much what you guys told me a few years ago in my reader survey. Time to get started…after I take a nap from writing this mammoth post! 🙂
I’m sorry for such a long post guys, but I hope that, even in some tiny way, it has equipped you for your own journey. I’d love to hear if you have any things you have learnt in your time blogging, or running a business. Or doing anything really! Thank you for your continued support. xxxx Geneva
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