Hi guys!! I’m back today with another post to celebrate my third Blogiversary! If you missed Monday’s post, I shared a whole bunch of fun numbers and statistics about the blog and myself. I like to share these types of posts each year to see how my blog (and a few other things) have grown and changed over time. I definitely was so surprised to see how much certain numbers for the blog have grown since my last blogiversary!
Another thing I like to do each year is reflect on the previous year, and set some goals for the upcoming year. I think this is a perfect way to consciously think about the blog each year, what direction it is taking, and what I’d like to work towards accomplishing. I also love taking a peak back at previous years’ goals to see how well I did at reaching them. As always, putting my thoughts and goals out there in a post to you guys keeps me accountable, which I so appreciate!
This past year has been the most wonderful year of my blogging career, full of so many blessings and opportunities. Just about this time last year I was quitting a full time job that I was absolutely miserable at. I had a small amount in savings, and I was planning on taking a few months off then returning to working full time outside the home. Well almost a year later and I still haven’t had to go find a new job!
I could not possibly put into words how grateful I am to you guys for making this possible. This blog has absolutely changed my life, and has made my dreams a reality. I hope I say this enough, but I am so grateful to each and every one of you, and you are all so truly special to me <3.
I have also had a few other extremely exciting opportunities over this past year. I was lucky enough to be a contributor on Pretty Well Organized (we miss you Wendy!). I also made the huge decision to switch from Blogger to WordPress, and rebrand as Label Me Merrit, and could not be happier with that decision. I was asked to be part of Studio L2E’s Making Planning Fun Creative Team, and still pinch myself every time I get to play with another amazing stamp set designed by Kanani!
I did a fun little interview for Lyn over at Plannerbug for her Friday Feature series. Planner stickers were officially launched in the Merrit Elizabeth shop (which also received a name change and rebranding of sorts this year). I was lucky enough to be asked to be a Rocksbox ItGirl (which came with an awesome freebie code for you guys!). Finally, as I said above, this has been my very first year working full time for myself with Label Me Merrit and the Merrit Elizabeth shop. Whew! Like I said, it has been quite a year, and I am just blown away!
Lessons Learned My Third Year Blogging
The first thing I like do is each year around my blogiversary, is start to think about what I have learned from blogging over the past year. Since each year is so different, and brings with it so many fun and exciting opportunities, I like to really think about what I learned from each one, and how I can incorporate those lessons further into my blog and my life going forward.
I also know that I loved reading posts about lessons learned from experience by other bloggers when I was first starting out. So I hope by sharing my experiences I can help some other bloggers who may just be starting their blogging journey! You can see the lessons I learned the first year I was blogging here, and the lessons I learned my second year here.
1. Authenticity to Yourself is the Most Important
One of the most important things to remember as a blogger is to stay true to yourself. Don’t do something just because it’s trendy or you see all sorts of other bloggers doing it. If something is not right for you or your blog, don’t do it.
This is a lesson I really learned slowly over time this year. I always knew as a blogger I should be doing what I thought was best, and just be myself, but knowing is much different than doing. In my first couple of years I would constantly be looking to others to see what they were doing, or what was trendy, and then trying to make it work for myself. Not copying any individual blog per say, just more following everyone else’s lead and going along with the crowd, instead of creating my own best path for my blog.
In my opinion this held my blog back, and prevented it from being all it could be. While I wasn’t focusing on being true to myself, and unapologetically being myself, my blog was suffering. Following the crowd in decisions that weren’t 100% me was insincere and inhibited the growth and development of my blog. Once I started making decisions that were true to myself, by trusting myself and not being afraid to truly put my heart into my posts and my brand, did Label Me Merrit start blossoming.
2. Be the Purple Cow
In recent years, the blog ‘market’ has become completely saturated. There are millions of blogs out there, and if you aren’t careful, there are hundreds or thousands of blogs exactly like yours. With all this competition for readers’ attention and time, it’s important to make your blog stand out, and give your readers a reason why they should read your blog over any others. Be the purple cow, in a sea of black and white cows.
In the last year I have learned that the best way to do this is to be uniquely you. There is no one quite like you out there, so no one will be able to write a blog quite like yours. Unfortunately, figuring out what makes you stand out, and marketing yourself using this uniqueness, is definitely easier said than done (at least in my experience).
I still don’t feel I’ve perfected ‘being the purple cow’, but it is a saying I try to keep in the back of my mind, to pull out whenever I feel intimidated from standing out among the crowd, or afraid to try something new and scary. When making decisions for my business, I have always tried to keep at least a hint of daring in the process, and attempt to be different, stand out, get noticed.
3. It Will Always Be a Work in Progress
My blog will never be finished. That is not a bad thing. There will always be things on my to do list, always tasks I’ll get around to “when I have the time” and it will always be a work in progress. I really struggled with this one the first couple years of blogging. I hated having tasks hanging over my head, that just didn’t rank in priority to get completed. So they would sit, and sit, and sit on my to do list.
I used to beat myself up for not being able to have a perfect site, to be unable to immediately complete every site update, project, or new venture that pops into my head. But in reality, I only have 24 hours in a day. And there are things that will just always take priority (and the majority of my time), pushing less important side projects down the list. I will get time here and there to slowly work at these projects, these never ending task lists, but I will never be done. Because as soon as I finish one, another five will pop up. And that is ok.
4. Finding Your Style is Harder than it Should Be
I have spent lots of time over this past year trying to find my style and develop a unique and perfect-for-me brand. And let me tell you guys, it has been a struggle. Truly this has been one of the single hardest things for me as a blogger. I don’t know if it takes other people just as long, but I have only just started to truly discover and be able to begin defining my personal style.
Unfortunately, the best advice I can give in this area is to just give it time, and it will come to you. Over the last three years, I simply kept experimenting with colors, and patterns, and aesthetics, and photography, and I slowly started to learn what I liked and develop a style. This was a slow, and frustrating process for me, just so incredibly rewarding once I started to get there.
5. Community Over Competition
Oh gosh I love this lesson. And I love that I am in a community that recognizes and encourages this lesson. Over the last year especially, I have met some amazing women in the creative and planner communities, and the love and support freely given just blows me away. I truly believe that we as bloggers, and creators, all benefit from promoting and supporting one another, versus tearing each other down with competition and jealousy.
I have seen first hand the immense and overwhelming benefits of this way of thinking. The number of amazing planner sticker shops on Etsy alone who all work so well together supporting and sharing one another’s shops truly shows that we can all succeed through community over competition. So as long as I am blogging, I will always full heartedly believe community trumps competition every time.
Another thing I like to do with my blogiversary each year, is set goals for myself and my blog for the upcoming year, as well as reflect on the goals I set last year. This again keeps myself accountable, and helps keep my long term goals in the front of my mind, so each decision I make throughout the year can put me closer to reaching my larger goals. So let’s start by seeing how I did on last year’s goals shall we?
How I Did on Last Year’s Goals
When I set my goals last year, I had just quit my full time job, with the expectation of getting another in 2-3 months. I had only just started writing more than 3-5 posts per month, and really had no idea how much I would grow and expand in the 2014-2015 year. Even though most of my goals weren’t directly growth related, I still credit having these goals to focus on with helping me get to the position I am in today.
1. Put Myself Out There More
As I mentioned in last year’s post when I set this goal, I am a pretty shy person. So stepping outside my comfort zone and putting myself out there can be a bit difficult for me. With a little effort, I believe I was able to successfully achieve this goal over the last year.
I was so nervous when I applied to be a part of Studio L2E’s Creative Team, and even more nervous when I was accepted! But by putting myself out there, I have not only been provided an incredible opportunity for my blog, I have also met some amazing friends along the way.
I have also consciously practiced this goal throughout the year in different, and more day to day situations. I have definitely been experiencing the rewards of continually putting myself out there, when I might otherwise stick to the sidelines. So I think I can get a big ol’ checkmark for this goal!
2. Continue to Let Go of the Perfect
I am also quite the perfectionist, so it is a constant goal for me to loosen up in that regard, and be ok when perfection isn’t reached. Because as we all know, perfection is an unattainable goal. So the more I have learned to be ok when something is not perfect, the happier and less stressed I have become.
I definitely feel like I did some good work on this goal this past year. It has also allowed me to be a little more free with ‘the rules’ when working on projects, which has allowed for some unexpected and improved outcomes! So again, not really a goal that will ever be fully complete, but one that I believe I succeeded on this year regardless.
3. Grow the Blog as a Business
As my first full year of full time self employment is coming to an end, I think I can safely say I completed this goal! This little blog and small business is my baby, and I am so thrilled and touched to see it grow. Again this is a goal I will continue to work on as long as the blog exists, but I am happy to check another goal as complete.
I did list a few specific action steps I wanted to take throughout this past year to expand the business, so I wanted to go over those real quick as well. I definitely succeeded with adding physical products to the Merrit Elizabeth shop, and the planner stickers have provided exponential growth to my previously pretty neglected Etsy shop.
I did not fully pursue opening up my blog to sponsorship this past year, because to be honest I have been on the fence about whether or not it is the right decision for Label Me Merrit. I’d love to hear your thoughts on sponsored content and sidebar ads, since your opinion is the most important around here!
As far as collaboration with other bloggers, while I have worked on a few projects with a couple bloggers, I would definitely like to increase in this area. I have one super exciting collaboration coming up, that I can’t wait to share with you guys, but other than that I’m hoping to add a few more collaborative projects to my calendar. If you have an idea and you’d like to work with me, please feel free to send me an email!
Finally, I set a mini goal for myself to re-brand and re-design the site. I am going to consider this half-completed. I was able to re-brand from Label Me Organized to Label Me Merrit, and I underwent a little re-design when I moved my site to the WordPress platform. However, I still do not consider this my permanent, long-term brand as far as site design and logo and such, and still have plans to finalize this aspect of my business as soon as possible.
4. Continue to Build Relationships
One of my favorite parts of blogging is the people I meet and friends I make. I have been so blessed to meet so many incredible people over this past year, and I hope to meet many more this next year! This past year I have been introduced to so many new people thanks to wonderful opportunities like joining the Studio L2E Creative Team.
So while this is another goal that will never be finished, I am definitely checking it off as completed for this year. I would also love to attend a meet-up or conference this year, and may even be in the beginning stages of setting one up with another lovely planner girl – but you didn’t hear that from me!
5. Develop a Good Variety of Posts
Oh my goodness I’ve checked this one off in spades! When I moved from Label Me Organized to Label Me Merrit, I also made the switch to lifestyle blogging. This allowed me to write about many more topics outside of organization, without feeling like I was being unfaithful to the niche of my blog.
I do think I went slightly overboard with the number of main categories I planned to include in this new site however. And I have already since taken down one category that I just never got around to writing a post for, and really didn’t fit the overall feel or long term plans for Label Me Merrit (the ‘Fluffy’ section if any of you are curious).
I am really happy with the rest of my sections, and hope to beef up a couple of the newer ones (like Pretty, Blogger and Smitten) with even more content in the coming year!
Setting Goals for Year Four of Blogging
With most of last year’s goals completed more or less, I’d say last year was a smashing success! So now it’s time to set some goals for myself for my fourth year of blogging. I am so excited to see where this year will take me, and I hope working towards these goals will help Label Me Merrit to see another amazing year of growth and opportunities!
1. Solidify Full Time Status
First up, I would really like to up my business game. While I have been super lucky to be able to work from home full time this past year, I still wouldn’t feel 100% comfortable saying this is concretely permanent. Since my efforts of treating this blog as a serious business and having the luxury of full time to work at building my business, I still believe it needs time to really take root and be sustainable long term.
2. Expand Into YouTube
For the first couple years, if anyone ever asked me if I planned on starting a YouTube channel, they would get a resounding ‘no’ for an answer. I had absolutely zero plans of making video content, and was perfectly comfortable in that decision.
Over the past six or so months, I have started to slowly change my mind, initially going from ‘yea that might be cool, but I could never do that’ and transitioning to ‘oh my gosh I need to start one, I totally can’t wait to get this ball rolling’! With allowing myself to open up to more opportunities, and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have gotten so excited to start a YouTube channel, even though the idea scared the bejesus out of me before (and still slightly does).
And you heard it here first, I officially filmed my introduction video right before I went on vacation, so I’m hoping to get that edited and uploaded for you guys shortly after I get back. Yay!! After that I want to say I’ll start with maybe 1-2 videos a month conservatively, but we’ll really have to play it by ear since this is a completely new ballgame for me!
3. Continue to Build Relationships
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the best parts of this blogging adventure is the wonderful women and bloggers and planners and crafters I have been lucky enough to meet. I don’t think a year will ever go by that I don’t plan and hope to grow the friendships I have made, as well as make new ones.
As I teased above, I have possible plans of setting up a meetup with another planner girl. You guys know I’ll keep you updated as plans are made, and I am so excited at the possibility of meeting lots of planner girls in person for the very first time!
I would also like to start writing and sending more happy mail. I have dabbled in the past, but I’d really like to find a few regular pen pals to exchange letters and a few goodies with. If you’re looking for a penpal, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and introduce yourself!
4. Consistent Content Creation
So this is a goal I’ve already begun to work on, and I have gotten pretty good, but I still would like a little bit more improvement. My ideal would be blog posts up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (which is what I currently loosely aim for). I would also like daily Instagrams, and a YouTube video every other week once that is launched. I don’t plan to hold myself to perfection with this goal, I’d just like it to be more of a standard.
5. Design My Long Term Brand
So I have mentioned this a little previously in the post, but going into my 4th year of blogging, and I still don’t have a permanent brand design. Every since I have started my blog and my brand, I have always had ‘just for now’ designs. I have made temporary blog designs and branding stuff just so I had something until I could really sit down and figure out my finalized brand.
Well 3 years later and I’m calling time up. I need to get on a permanent brand, and I need to get on it now. While I do like the design of the site as it is now, it does not full reflect what I want my brand to be, and is in no way personalized to my brand beyond the temporary header I put together when I got tired of the stock text header. I want to finally get a real full branding that I love and want to stick with, not a ‘just for now because that’s all I have’ header image. SO… hopefully you’ll be seeing some pretty big changes in this arena in the coming months.
And that finishes up my loooong post about the lessons I learned my third year of blogging, and the goals I’ve set for the fourth. If you’ve made it this far, seriously, you rock. Over 3,500 words guys… I don’t know how that happened!
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed getting a peak into some behind the scenes stuff this blogiversary, and I hope you’ll help keep me on track with the goals I shared here! Again, thanks for all that you guys do around here, and for helping make my dreams become my reality! Here’s to another wonderful year of sharing everything I love with you guys here on Label me Merrit!