I first hit publish on a blog post in November 2009. That’s almost almost six and a half years ago. That makes me a fully fledged member of the geriatric blogging society, or something 🙂 So very much has changed in the blogging and social media world scene since then.
When I started Love My Dress, blogging was all shiny and exciting and new; not that many people were doing it and certainly not as a full time profession. Wedding blogs certainly weren’t a thing back then, though they soon would be. I had no idea I’d end up doing this for a living when I hit the publish button on those first few posts, but my love affair with blogging was instant.Back then, the social media world was in it’s newborn baby phase. Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat – they hadn’t even been conceived yet. But Facebook was picking up pace as the all new super-charged and more sophisticated ‘Friends Reunited’ (rest in peace), and Twitter was enabling instant conversation with people all over the world. My first tweet was on 25th June 2009, almost 7 years ago. You can locate your own first tweet here by the way.
In the early days, blog commenting was huge – we would receive literally hundreds of comments on some blog posts. It was, at the time, the only way to really engage with a blog feature that you really loved – in a way that you say might do through Instagram these days. Watching a flood of comment notifications arrive by email was intoxicating – it really felt like I’d found my thing and connected with my tribe. I was hooked.
And so I blogged and blogged and blogged. And I truly did blog from my heart – opening up about all sorts of personal things like how I became a blogger, why I loved blogging so much, what it’s like to be your own boss and work from home with children, how I realised I needed to get healthier and exercise more, my thoughts on a successful marriage, my journey into motherhood and even how I’d managed to get on top of my utterly disastrous finances (still makes my mum wince that one).
But as my blog grew more successful, whisperings would arrive from well meaning friends and family members – people who were genuinely, lovingly concerned that because blogging had become my profession, that I need to put a more ‘professional’, shiny version of myself online. Not expose myself too much. Revert to a stiff upper lip version of blogging, if you will.
And so my personal posts kind of petered out and I guess at the time, it probably felt like that was what I was supposed to do. My business was taking off after all. In May 2011, I handed in my notice and stepped away from a full time, well paid job to pursue blogging full time. I now had rather more pertinent matters like tax returns and business development to think about. Personal posts and any notion of personal training pretty much disappeared off the radar.
Cut to the now, five years later, and I there’s a whole team of people making Love My Dress work. This includes an administrator working almost full time hours, eight copywriters, a social media account manager (though I still maintain our @lovemydress Instagram account by myself) a developer and a husband who is now my formal business partner and official director of our business. The transition to this stage of our business has meant I’ve had to take much more of a step back from day to day ‘blogging’ to focus on managing and driving my business forward. It was a new found role that I was relishing. That was until I started to get a few, dare-not-admit-it, almost actually undetectable ‘niggly feelings’. Feelings that were making me ponder over the same question night after night as I worked into the late hours over a dimly lit desk – ‘do I still love my job?’
Let me set the record straight right now incase there’s any misunderstandings. I adore my job. I am thankful every single day that I get to work for myself, with my husband, from home. I am full of gratitude that my job isn’t location dependent, so that if I fancy it, I can visit my Mum or work overseas whilst travelling. I will forever be thankful for this undeniably amazing opportunity that I’ve had to build a job and career around a lifestyle I love. But admitting that you might not be loving your job as much as you used to when you’ve been given such a chance in life is, well, all a bit taboo.
Do I still love my job?
It took months of pouring over the same question over and over again. ‘You’re just exhausted’, my husband would say – ‘for goodness sakes, remember, we’ve just moved house – that’s a major thing – and we were without broadband for almost a month! You’ve just lost you’re mojo – you need to stop being so hard on yourself’. He was right of course. But we were settling in now, so why was that question still the first thing I thought about every day and the last thing I thought about at night? And then earlier this year, I took a business trip to London. And everything changed.
I spent time with a number of inspiring women during my trip, a mix of friends and colleagues who I love and admire for running their own businesses. We chewed the fat over the challenges of being your own boss and how the advances in the social media world were like shifting sands. Then one friend asked me; ‘so what are you going to do to stay relevant as a blogger?’. ‘How are you going to keep up with all these changes taking place?’. During another meeting, a different friend said ‘you haven’t written a personal blog in ages, I used to love your personal posts!’.
It was like a million pennies dropping from heaven. That same sensation in the early days of blogging of shiny, new and exciting hit me out of nowhere and in an instant, the answer to the job satisfaction question that had been plaguing me for so many months was suddenly so clear.
I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved through Love My Dress and more recently, Little Book For Brides – of how my business has grown and adapted so well to those shifting sands of a digital media environment that we work in. But in trying my best to run my business in the ‘right way’, I’ve ended up taking a huge step away from doing what I love most. In repositioning myself as Managing Director and stepping back from the ‘front line’, I’ve ended up inadvertently creating a role whose time demands mean I have neglected the one thing I love so much about this job: blogging!
The sudden awareness that this was the case was a complete revelation. I realised that I’d become fearful of writing anything personal anymore for my own blog. It had been so long and I was afraid no one would be interested in what I had to say anyway. And in trying my best to run my business, I’d stopped investing in my own personal and creative development. If I wanted to ‘stay relevant’ and ‘keep up with all the changes taking place’, things would need to change. Immediately.
It can be a tough thing accepting change, and especially when that change forces you out of your comfort zone. I’m a geriatric blogger, remember – we don’t really ‘do’ Youtube or Snapchat. At least that’s what I’d been telling myself all this time. But how is this blog or any blog for that matter to stay relevant if we don’t learn to adapt to the changes taking place in the environment we work within? There will always be the generation of readers/supporters who were there from the start, who get it, but what about the new generations finding us for the first time? What does our online presence say to them? If we don’t adapt and make efforts to speak to them through the kind of visual and social media methods of communication that they love, then we fall behind, and future new generations of blog readers will move on to something else more relevant.
Over the past fornight, I finally got the hang of Snapchat and I am in complete and utter love with it – it’s just about to surpass Instagram as my favourite social media app ever. Not kidding. You’ll find me at ‘lovemydress’.
This week, I went to London to learn how to create film with the amazing Xanthe Berkeley. Below you’ll find a little 15 second film snippet that I created for Instagram. I filmed and edited every nano second of it myself, including those parts which feature me in my twirly swirly green dress. I’m visiting a designer today and will be pushing myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself to create a mini film from the day which I’ll share with you soon.
Today was one of those days in your life that you just know will turn out to be a complete game changer. I spent the day with the very talented @xantheb – just us two walking the streets of Shoreditch, me the pupil, she the teacher. I have wanted to learn how to create film for such a long time, not just so that I can document precious moments of my life whilst my children are still children, but to support my business too. Having been so inspired by the films Xanthe shares on Instagram, I asked if she would consider 1:1 training – I’m so very thankful she said yes. I honestly feel I could burst with how inspired and passionate and eager I feel to put what I have learned today to the test. Here is a little 15 second film I created today just for Instagram. I shot and edited it all myself, including the parts that feature me, using my Olympus Pen Camera. Xanthe you are a truly wonderful teacher and I have absolutely loved spending time with and learning from you today. Thank you so so much #makefilmscourse #minimemorymovies
I’m loving posting to a new personal Instagram account too – I’m at @annabelbeeforth – it’s lovely to be able to have the freedom to share and post about non-wedding, more personal things and to engage with such a visually driven creative community too. So inspiring.
Next up is conquering my ‘Youtube’ fear. And actually, it’s something I’m incredibly excited about. We have a lot of plans and ideas taking shape behind the scenes but I don’t want to rush anything just for the sake of it – I want to do it right. Watch this space.
If I were working for anyone else, I’d be receiving regular appraisals and training – these things can be overlooked when you are you’re own boss, but not any more. It’s time to up-skill and reinvest in myself, so that I can be the best version of a wedding blogger that I can – so that I can work more creatively and in a much more fun and rewarding sense with our wonderful family of sponsors and advertisers. So that I can regain that wonderful sense of creative fulfilment I had in the early days of blogging.
There are going to be some big changes here at Love My Dress over the coming months, changes I need you to be a part of. Over the next few days, we’ll be launching a 2016 reader survey and I would be incredibly grateful if you would take the time to respond. If we’re going to be working hard to enhance and develop Love My Dress then it must be in a way that truly works for you. We’ll be offering a generous cash prize for one lucky person, just to offer a little form-filling encouragement 😉
I hesitated in sharing this post today – felt nervous about putting myself out there after a rather long hiatus in personal content. But those cautious whisperings of my early blogging career are being silenced by a new found inner voice of confidence that is literally screaming GET OUT THERE AND DO WHAT YOU LOVE. And if there’s one single, incredibly valuable piece of advice I’ve come to learn in the past six and a half years, it’s that one should always follow their gut instinct in any aspect of running a business – even if this goes against what others are urging you to do – even if they are well meaning friends or family members. And even if it leaves you feeling vulnerable and open to criticism.
It felt like the right time to open up and share some honest thoughts with you and I hope these words make a connection with some of you today.
I’d dearly love to hear your thoughts and feedback – does any of this resonate with you? Are you a blogger? How long have you been blogging for and what changes have you observed and had to adapt to in this time? Are you a blog reader? What do you love most about blogs and how do you engage with your favourite blogs these days? Do you leave blog comments, or prefer to engage through your favourite social media apps?
Have a lovely, lovely Sunday everyone,
Love Annabel x
‘From The Heart’ is a new occasional Sunday spot on the blog where we hand the blog back over to our readers to write about all matters of love and life.
If you would like to contribute a From The Heart piece, we would dearly love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter what it’s about and it doesn’t have to be related to weddings at all – we’re looking for honest, authentic, personal, sad, happy, family, relationship, marriage, health, light-hearted, serious, baby, trying for baby, children, career, simple, complicated – real life issues. We just need you to write from your heart. Keep it upbeat and witty, or share your thoughts anonymously on a more challenging or emotional subject. Please drop me a line at [email protected]. Love