So you want to start a successful blog, huh? Good luck, kid.The Internet
That’s basically the impression I get from the internet when I ask the question how do I make blogging a serious thing? Not only is it a saturated market, with over 500 millions blogs currently online as of 2018, but it’s also a competitive one. Like any business, most blogs never make any money and will eventually fold and go back to being a hobby. From my research, (which is, ha, from blogs and also from people trying to sell you courses about blogging) the first step in successful blogging is to find a niche. Think you want to just start a travel blog? Of those 500 mill, I’d wager that at least a few hundred thousand are travel blogs. It can’t be as vague as I love traveling, I’ll blog about travel, oh no. There’s a blog for everything, and it’s crucial, they say, that your blog have a niche.
Here are my two main questions:
- How do you find your niche?
- If you do find it and somehow manage to carve out a space for yourself on this thing here called the internet, how do you do that without being a total self-absorbed dick?
I’m tempted to say that your niche for your blog/YouTube channel/etc, is in a strange way akin to your “life’s purpose.” We’ve all heard of that I’m sure, the idea that all of us are destined to do something. It is engrained in our culture; it’s romantic right? Well, it’s romantic if it’s something creative. Most people probably would be a bit forlorn to discover that their life’s purpose is to be a water plant engineer or a bus driver (not that those aren’t important things). I haven’t the faintest clue of what my life’s purpose is, just like I have no fucking idea what my blog niche is or how to find it.
When tasked to think of my niche, I list all of my passions, as one blogger suggested. I think that’s important, because if I’m not passionate about it, I won’t care enough to write about it. Not with any sort of consistency anyway. This was strangely tough, because as anyone who knows me will tell you, I generally am passionate about most things. The list is pretty extensive, but to cull it down to the top few:
- Sewing: I. Love. To. Sew. I started sewing about ten years ago so that I could cosplay, and quickly found that I took to it easily. It became my main hobby, and has remained my main hobby ever since. I’ve dabbled into running wardrobe, costume design, seamstress work (i.e. alterations and some custom stuff), only to find that at the end of the day, I didn’t want to do any of it as a career. I just love to sew for the sake of it, and it makes me happy. It makes me feel zen, and productive, and I get to flex my creative muscle. It has also taught me an enormous amount of patience, and serious life lessons about doubting myself and what I’m capable of. Occasionally I take on a project for someone else, but mostly I just like to make things for myself. I also love textiles and handwork (embroidery, etc) and take a weird pleasure out of throwing myself on top of nice-feeling fabric bolts at the store.
- Travel: As previously stated, traveling has been basically part of my DNA. There’s something about going somewhere new and taking it all in that really just blows my dress up. I kind of live for that feeling. I also love to try new things, and what better place to do that than in a different place with a different language, history, and culture? As I’m discovering now, satisfying travel doesn’t have to be solely a 2-day flight across the world, but can also apply to your own backyard. This planet is full of curious things and experiences, and I want to get all up in them.
- Writing: Every day I wake up with a goal to write something. Whether it’s writing a short story, a letter, a blog post, or a poem, I need to do something every day. Even on my slowest days, doing some writing makes me feel like I’ve done something and put something out into the world. Sometimes I feel like when I write, I’m physically removing the thoughts in my head and putting them onto the page. It’s a bit odd I guess, but I’ve always had that feeling and so continue to write nearly every day.
- Languages: So I got my bachelor’s degree in French. In hindsight, I should have double-majored in French and Chinese, with as many language minors as I was allowed. I love languages. Oh god, do I love them. If there is one thing I could say objectively about myself, it’s that I’m really good at learning languages. Honestly, if I made it my mission, I do believe I could be comfortably conversational in any language in 6 months. I speak Spanish, French, Persian, and a fair shake of Korean, Portuguese, and Swedish. If I could learn every language, I would, and while I don’t think it’s possible, I’ll die trying.
- Performing: Along with writing more often, I’ve recently taken to writing songs. I’ve always loved music, and love to sing and play guitar. I started actually trying to learn guitar about 5 years ago, and while I’m no Prince, I can carry a tune. Not that that really matters, because ultimately, I just love to do it. Even if I never became some famous musician (though that would be sick, am I right?), I will still do it for the love of it. Along with performing music, burlesque holds a special place in my heart. Tying into my love of dancing, costumes, and fashion history, it is where all of my performance-related passions meet. I’ve performed a few times over the years, and loved every second of it, but have never made it a priority to pursue (but I want to!).
- Dance: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost,” is what Pina Bausch said. Dance is life. I’ve studied a few dance forms over the years, though I started with Raqs Sharqi, and I can’t imagine my life without dance. There was a moment there where I considered even pursuing it professionally. Why I didn’t, well, I don’t know. I can ask that question about basically everything on this list.
So that’s basically where my heart lies. Seems a bit scattered aye? Welcome to my life, vague at the best of times. Can’t I run a sewing-travel-writing-language learning-burlesque-and-music blog?
It then occurred to me that I love to try new things. All of these things come together because I tried them all, and frankly, I come across new things almost daily that I want to try. I have very little shame (if any?), and so I am always up to try something new at least once. I feel like I have historically had a hard time honing in on one particular passion, because I really do have a strong zest for life, and if I try something and really love it, I am naturally inclined to bring it into the fold of my life in some way. That actually happens with surprising regularity, and it will be a cold day in hell before I’m focusing on one, and only one, thing.
What if I just try things? What if I never quite find my niche, but just keep exploring this world and seeing what it has to offer along the way? These blog-related questions are eerily similar to the questions I have asked myself about my own life on the whole. I think that’s fine. I have no idea what my life’s purpose is, but you’ve got to try things out and see what comes of it. As they say, do something every day that scares you (they didn’t really say that, Baz Luhrmann said it in that one song, but it still holds up).
The second question now comes into play. How do you become seriously involved in social media/online presence and not be a total disingenuous dick?
We’ve all seen the clickbait headlines. You know what I’m talking about. I Tried Living Off of a Fistful of Chicken for 30 Days and This Is What Happened or I Lived with Vegans for 1 Week and This Is How Annoyed I Got. Personally, while I know why websites do this kind of marketing (because the truth is, people do click on it), I hate it. Hate is a strong word, but even in our digital world and social media, where only the brightest and shiniest things are on display, I don’t like my content to be dumbed down to make it “easier” for me to digest. I also think people can sniff out insincerity like fish stank at a Long John Silver’s. It is repellant.
I can’t count how many people I’ve seen online, whether they own a business, or are their own business, who are always on. They have nothing but inspirational quotes to dispense, get-rich-quick ideas, and are always (and I mean always) trying to push you buy something, whether it’s an actual product or their own knowledge. These people annoy the hell out of me. It’s like when celebrities have social media accounts, but their assistant posts on it and it is only marketing for their upcoming project. I think, in a strange roundabout way, people are so involved in social media because they want to connect in a sincere way. Quite strangely, I have found the most interesting, engaging, and trustworthy social media people that I follow are makeup vloggers. Some (definitely not all) are funny, don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and most importantly, actually appear to be enjoying what they are doing.
You can take all of the beautiful photos, or wear the most glam outfits, but where is the human element? More importantly, where is the story?
In an ocean of bloggers, vloggers, influencers, and whatever else the new thing will be, there is still a place for sincerity and honesty that doesn’t feel contrived or gross. Like when Nikkietutorials went off the map for a few weeks last year, and then came back to tell us that her little brother had died of cancer. I had no idea he even had cancer, because she wasn’t brandishing it around like some plea for sympathy. Sichen, another makeup vlogger, was off the grid for a while, and she just recently posted a video a few weeks ago about how she had recently been diagnosed with lupus. Gloria from The Blog Abroad told us her story about how she had been growing an ovarian cyst the size of a small watermelon, and had to have emergency surgery in a foreign country. For me, what makes me follow someone with any degree of regularity is when I can see that they are human, quirks and goofiness included. You can take all of the beautiful photos, or wear the most glam outfits, but where is the human element? More importantly, where is the story? My aversion to the Kardashians isn’t that they are always done up, always contrived, so much as they don’t share their humans elements and they have nothing to say.
I may end up being one more no-name blog, along with the other couple hundred million others. But I’ve got an absurd amount of confidence and am sticking to my Why Not, Just Do It philosophy. So far, I have tried to be nothing but sincere and frankly, just human, with what I have posted. I am insecure as hell. I deal with that on the daily. I’ve got enough baggage to fill the cargo hold on a Boeing. But I really believe in my heart that authenticity is how you connect to others, whether in person or online. That’s the belief I’m sticking to at any rate, and hopefully something comes of that, and that niche will appear somewhere along the way.
Happy trails x