I actually love the end of the year and the start of the New Year. I enjoy the process of reflecting on something and then planning for the future, and I find a new start exciting and energising. Yes, I know it’s only the middle of December, but I’m starting this now, as I’ve got loads of ideas and some really exciting projects in the pipeline for 2017, and I want to get working on them!
2016 has been a really good year for Life by Naomi. Last January, the blog existed, but I was still trying to find my blogging identify. I’ve spent hours on the blog this year, and have tried various things, and I think I’m a little wiser! So here are the things I’ve learned this year:
1. Going self-hosted is really important
I think almost all bloggers, if they want to be taken seriously and perhaps make some money from blogging, eventually make the step into the world of self-hosting. It is a bit scary, and it’s frustrating when your site goes down and you really don’t know why, but it gives you so much freedom. Probably most significantly for me, you have access to a much wider variety of themes, and you can install plug-ins, which do different fancy things. I still have a list of things that I want my site to be able to do, and I anticipate a blog-redesign happening sometime in 2017, but I’ve been pretty happy with how Life by Naomi has looked this year.
2. There’s a lovely community out there
I feel like I’ve really become part of the UK Parent Blogger community this year. Mostly, this is due to the Facebook group (I love Facebook groups), but also due to taking part in various courses and things. I’ve been quite intimidated by ‘successful’ bloggers in the past – those who blog for a living, for example – but actually, now that I’ve got to know a few, they are mostly really lovely people.
I’ve really enjoyed working with Rachel on our Mummy Meditations, and really hope this continues.
3. The posts that I am scared to write do well
My most-shared posts this year have been this one about Halloween and this one about online mum-friends. Both did really well in terms of page views, and they seem to have struck a chord. But with both of them, I was anxious about writing them. They were both quite personal, and I was worried about offending people. It turns out, I needn’t have worried! Lesson learned!
4. Competitions have their value
I’ve only run one competition this far – to win Urban Decay makeup. Yes, it was a good-value prize. But I didn’t anticipate how much traffic that one competition would bring me! I’m not going to run competitions very often, but I’ll certainly think about it when I’m offered one!
5. Reviews have their value too
I’ve done several reviews this year, from skincare to date-night subscription boxes to toys. I enjoyed doing these reviews, and I did work hard at them – several of the products that I’ve reviewed have a high retail value, and I wanted to thoroughly test them. I’ve done fewer reviews over the last few months though, since I’ve gone back to work. I wanted partly to refine my focus, and partly because reviews take a long time to do!
6. You need a Social Media strategy
Social media is actually much harder than it first appears! I have been experimenting all year with the best things to share and the best times to share, and the only thing I notice is that I don’t get much traffic from Instagram… Which pretty much tells me nothing! But I have managed to grow all my social media accounts quite significantly this year, and now my social media reach is over 6K, which isn’t too bad.
7. You can make effective, simple images easily
One of the best investments I made this year was Lifetime access to Depositphotos. I got it through AppSumo in the Spring, and it has really helped me. I’m not a great photographer, and far too often I need an image and don’t have the time, light or materials (or people) to create it. Depositphotos allows you to download images to use royalty-free (as you’ve effectively paid for them).
I then use PicMonkey and Canva to edit my photos. One day, I’ll get in to Lightroom, but I’m not there yet!
8. Writing a series makes you accountable
Over the last few months, I’ve committed to doing a few series – the Mummy Meditations with Rachel, and my own Christmas Countdown. These have been so good for me, as I’ve had to honour the commitment I made. It also means I’ve got material to keep me going! Although, to be honest, finding things to write about has never been a problem for me!
I have loved doing these series, and I’m going to be doing more over the next year.
9. It takes a while to work out what you want to write about
Early in the year, I made the commitment to writing about things that were useful and real. I completely stand by that, and hope I continue to make my corner of the Internet beautiful, useful and real. But I feel like I wandered a bit in 2016, trying on a few different styles and hats. I still have lots of things I want to write about, including some that I haven’t even come close to writing about before, but I think I’m narrowing my focus. Over the last few days, I’ve been asking on social media, and it turns out that the things I want to write about are the things that my lovely readers want to hear about. So that’s brilliant!
10. There will always be doubts
I’m a parenting blogger. A mummy-blogger (but I hate that term). I post photographs of my children on social media. I try to be respectful of them – I don’t shame them or over-share, I think. But I’m constantly wondering if I should, or if I’ll regret it when they are older. The Me and Mine series is a prime example of this: I love having the photos, and the memories, but I wonder if online is the best place for them? On the other hand, if I didn’t blog, would I ever have taken those photos? Probably not.
So this is making memories for us. The blog is giving me a way to serve and share with other parents. It’s helping me and others explore our faith. It’s helping my readers become more organised. Life by Naomi has even earned me a bit of money.
Blogging is really time-consuming. It’s not the posts so much (although I do regularly write 1000-word posts, so that takes time), but the photos, the social media, the blog-min. It’s about making it the very best it can be, and that is hard work.
But I love it. I have loved seeing your reactions to my posts; I’ve loved reading your comments. When a friend told me she had created her own laundry system based on mine, I was so happy!
Next year, I hope I’ll learn even more. I would love to know what you’d like to read about. I’m planning some brilliant projects, and I really hope you’ll join me. Be the first to find out by signing up to my newsletter!