From the moment you start out as a new blogger you’ll constantly come across blog posts and How To guides and ebooks (and maybe even real books if you’re super dedicated), all about how to be successful, how to get views and likes and engagement and followers, and how to make people like you and more importantly like your blog.
First of all, success is subjective.
Each person has their own definition of success.
To some, success is 10 views a day, maybe a handful of likes and a comment every once in a while. Others see success as being approached by brands and companies who want to work with them, receiving invitations to events and parties. To a few big dreamers out there success is a 6-figure salary earned just by blogging about new shades of lipstick once or twice a week from the comfort of your own bed. We can all dream, right?
For me success is simply having people read and more importantly enjoy reading what I write.
Likes are nice, and comments are super nice (love me some blog comment chatter) but nothing can beat just knowing that somebody out there is reading and enjoying what you have to say. That there are people who actively type your blog address in their search bar to see if you’ve uploaded anything new recently. That’s a nice feeling – better than a thousand likes and maybe better than Ellen Degeneres personally inviting me to be her date at the Oscars.
There’s no two ways about it – if you have a blog, you want people to read it.
This is where people come in with “No, I write for me”, “I don’t care if anyone reads it, I just want to write”, but to be honest nobody’s going to believe that. If that’s all you wanted, then you’d just write a diary, or have a private blog. Not everybody wants a particularly massive audience, but everybody wants to be heard or seen at least by someone. Which is why every blogger at some point or another, be it accidentally or with intention, has come across your standard “How To Get More Folllowers”, “How To Get More Likes”, “How To Grow Your Audience” articles and posts.
Honestly? Most of the time I find these articles to be absolute BS. Because what works for one blog, and for one blogger, may not work for another.
I like the blog posts written by actual bloggers who tell you what actually worked for them, but still they drill in the message that just because this worked for them doesn’t mean it’ll work for everybody – these kinds of posts are nice, and they’re honest and I really do appreciate and admire them. But these generic How To articles people write purely because they know it’ll drive a lot of traffic to their site? Yeah, I’m not one for them.
My main issue is that 99% of the time they’ll state that the most important thing any new blogger has to do is FIND YOUR NICHE. Which is probably an important thing to do if you have a niche, or if you want a niche. But what if you don’t have one? What if you don’t want one?
Yesterday I took a 7 hour bus with no light to read my book, no phone battery to listen to music and I was sat on an upstairs bunk which meant I had no people to talk with. This gave me a lot of time to just think. I thought about everything: what to have for dinner that night, what to buy my family for Christmas, when and how would I finally learn how to make welsh cakes, the names of the Sound of Music kids, whether or not I should go to Warner Bros studio in 2016 or 2017, my future as a rabid half monkey half human, and finally the blog.
I thought a lot about my blog, and I thought a lot about other people’s blogs, the ones I particularly like, which I find myself going back to time and time again. I thought about why I like them, why I go back to them, why I will read and like their posts even if it’s about something that ordinarily wouldn’t stir an ounce of interest in me. Like Thailand. Thailand has never appealed to me and other than when I thought I could get an Indian visa there, I’ve never wanted to go there. But if my favourite bloggers write about Thailand, I will sit and read it and enjoy every single word. And what I realised about the blogs I regularly read is that other than generally being travel-related, that’s where the similarities end between theirs and mine.
It made it more obvious than ever that you don’t need to have a niche to find your place in the blogging community, and achieve your own version of success. I certainly don’t have one.
Yes, my blog is mostly about travel. But that’s because right now I’m travelling and right now I like writing about travelling. Maybe one day when I’m more settled in one place the blog will slowly move away from travel and more towards homebody things like baking and how to grow cress in an egg. For now, other than being able to stick one big generic “TRAVEL” on the blog, that’s as far as I can go when it comes to labelling it.
I’m not a solo traveller.
Although I do *mostly* travel alone and tag some of my posts with ‘solo female traveller’ (because #girlpower and all that), I’m not predominantly a travel the globe on my lonesome and sing kumbaya to myself at the campfire kind of traveller. I wish I was, and although I do think I’m the funniest person alive and can get lost in my own thoughts for hours on end, I also like companionship and having a sense of belonging. I like to be able to have a conversation with someone familiar over dinner, to be able to call somebody up and be all like “hey, let’s get coffee, meet you in five minutes” or to just have someone there to take my photos. It’s also nice to split the bill sometimes.
I’m not your typical budget traveller.
Whereas I do try to keep costs to a minimum, this is more through necessity than anything, mainly because my bank account is looking very grim right now. Trust me, if I could afford to stay at the Hilton every night bloody hell I’d be there in a flash! I do have a tendency to fly with budget airlines and stay at the cheapest accommodations, but I did also go all fancy and fly with Emirates once (albeit economy – I’m not swish enough for premium or business class yet) and am quiet partial to a night or two in 4*+ hotels every once in a while. For me, safety and comfort comes before saving money 100% of the time. So yeah, that grotty looking hotel in the dodgy alleyway behind a brothel might only cost £3 a night, but do I really want to wake up with bed bugs and one less kidney?
I’m not a luxury traveller either.
A restaurant could be recommended in every travel guide under the sun, a world-class chef and the best damn paneer masala in the Galaxy, but if a two-course evening meal for one person (including drinks) comes to more than £10, I’m outers. Which is quite funny given the fact that I’d be more than happy to spend £15 on one measly medium pizza that doesn’t even taste like real pizza back home. Likewise, a rooftop infinity pool to destroy all infinity pools, unlimited high speed WiFi and jaw-dropping views of the Eiffel Tower aren’t enough to persuade my bank account to part with more than £15 per night. Unless I’m in one of my aforementioned let’s spend all the money and stay in the hotel with all the stars moods, or if I’m in LA because damn accommodation is expensive there, or if paying more is my only option.
I’m not an off-the-grid, spend two weeks in a wigwam type traveller.
Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while switching off from the world and his wife and disconnecting from this whole technology bubble we’ve become accustomed to is fan-bloody-tastic! Says the blogger and freelance translator who literally makes a living from the internet. Which is exactly why I can’t do that anymore. Not on a whim, anyway. These days having a few stress-free, Internet-free and technology-free days actually requires a lot of forward planning – notifying my clients, letting agencies know I’ll be out of touch for some time, out-of-office emails, scheduling blog posts etc., which if anything just makes life more stressful. So sometimes it’s easier just to stay on the grid.
I don’t have a specific expertise.
I’m not a city break extraordinaire, a guru in all things beachy or a whizz when it comes to wintersports. Don’t bother asking for my advice on camping or trekking – I once tried to climb a volcano the size of Kilimanjaro with only 2 litres of water. I couldn’t give you definitive guide on where to find the cheapest flights and accommodation. I couldn’t recommend the best ashram in Kerala. Just as I’m not an expert on a ‘type‘ of holiday, I’m not a know-it-all on a specific part of the world. I travel to far-off, often unheard of by many places with my backpack and no plans, but I also go to Disneyland California and Six Flags Mexico. Yeah, a considerable amount of my time spent travelling has been in South America, but I’ve barely even touched the surface. I adore South America, but I equally love the Indian Subcontinent. So just like I’m not going to focus my travels on one part of the world, I won’t focus my blog on one part either.
I’m not a foodie.
Whereas I do try to eat local food as much as possible, I’m also the first to say yes to a good old McDonald’s veggie burger or poached egg on toast for breakfast. Hold the avocado, I ain’t about that mushy green nonsense. I mostly let my stomach and wallet dictate where I eat, as opposed to guidebooks and personal recommendations, although sometimes recommended eateries are just too good to miss out on. My blog will never be the Holy Mecca of all things travel and food related because a) my vocabulary doesn’t extend beyond the word delicious to describe food and b) I hate salt and can detect even the tiniest extra pinch added to my food. It’s like my secret super power. And if there’s anything Ratatouille and Hell’s Kitchen has taught me, it’s that you can’t be a food critic if you hate salt.
I’m not a Dear Diary, this is what I did today kind of blogger.
I do often recount travel stories and things that happened to me when I feel they’re particularly amusing or interesting, like my most recent monkey incident, or if there’s a lesson hidden away that could help somebody else who finds themselves in a similar situation. But if nothing interesting happened, I sure as heck won’t write it down. Like today, for example. Today I slept until 1:30pm, stayed in bed watching YouTube videos for 2 hours then went out with the intention to explore some of Udaipur. Less than an hour later I was back in my hotel room under the blanket, feeling sorry for myself because I still can’t feel my injection arm and I have a headache to end all headaches that makes the sun look like a demon. Worth writing about? No. So should I write about it? Other than using it as an example in this paragraph, no.
I’m not a ‘here to inspire, travel will change your life’ type of gal.
Without a doubt travel has changed my life, but that’s not to say it’ll have the same effect on everybody. And I’m sure as hell not here to shove that idea down your throat and insist that even those who prefer to sit at home on a Saturday night in your PJs watching X Factor and ordering the exact same takeaway as every weekend would be changed by travel. Because just like success, happiness is subjective. To me happiness is a new place, a beautiful sunset and a big ole bowl of paneer masala (I’m such a cheeseball – kudos if you get the pun), but to others happiness is familiarity, cwtching up on your own sofa with a good book or a bloody great show on TV. I haven’t found my one true love ‘on the road’ yet, nor have I had an epiphany, bought a plot of land and started a ranch in the Andes. I’m not one of those always happy and on the beach Insta-travellers. This blog is real, but I’m not going to get all Elizabeth Gilbert up in your face. This blog narrates my life, and if it inspires even one person to buy that ticket and pack that bag, then that really is bloody fantastic, but that’s not what I’m here for and that was never actually my intention.
At the moment my blog is one big mixed up mumbo jumbo of life and travel and things. Sometimes I’ll have my serious travel blogger hat on and write the odd How To post, like the one about the Great Wall of China (which seems to be helping quite a lot of people so gold star for me!), then the next day I’ll go back to a nonsense post about my life and how it’s going right now and whether or not I’ve eaten too many veggie burgers recently. Sometimes I’ll write a post about how to have the perfect day somewhere, other times I’ll write about how I personally had the perfect day somewhere. Most of the time my posts will be about travel, because that’s kind of my life right now, but other times I’ll just want to go completely off-track and talk about cows or books or films or a specific news story.
The way I see it, labelling yourself, labelling your blog and defining yourself by a niche is like putting yourself in a box, or locking yourself in a room and giving the key only to those who match you. If I stuck a sign on my imaginary door that said “SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL BLOGGER WHO NEVER EATS THE FREE BREAKFAST, HATES AVOCADO AND ONLY SITS ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE PLANE”, I’m pretty sure the bloke who always sits in seat 18F and has avocado on toast every damn day for breakfast would just sidle on by without a second glance in the direction of my door. However, if I were to change that sign to read “SOMETIMES SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL BLOGGER WHO GOES ANYWHERE AND DOES ANYTHING AND LIKES PEOPLE”, that same guy from seat 18F would be all ‘hey, that’s a nice friendly sign, maybe we have something in common’ so will moozy on in through my imaginary door into my imaginary blogging room and be all “Oh wow! You’ve been to this place, I love that place! You want to go to this place? Let me give you the name of a snazzy but cheap hotel!” and voila, instant imaginary online friends.
The odd gender specific post every now and again is great, but if I limited my posts and ramblings to things specific to female travellers, people like the wonderful and hilarious Carl over at Dream Fly Discover likely never would have stumbled across me. If I limited myself to only doing things on a shoestring, I never would have gone to LA and had the time of my life at Disneyland and Universal Studios.
Please do correct me if you feel otherwise, but I personally don’t think I have a ‘niche’. I don’t want one. And even if the blogging Gods strike me down for saying admitting it, I’m mighty okay with that! I like the mish-mash of people that my mish-mash of blog topics brings; people from all over the world from all sorts of backgrounds. Older, younger, some who travel, some who don’t, some who I actually know (hey JessJames) and most who I don’t, some who come for the words and some who prefer the pictures.
The whole point of a blog is that it’s personal to you, which means you should write about what you want, what you feel like writing about, not what you think you should. I for one much prefer reading the kind of posts which it’s obvious the author has enjoyed writing, where their personality and humour shines through the words, than the prim and polished robotic-sounding posts that have clearly been published for the sake of publishing something relevant to what they think they should be relevant.
So this is me saying a big eff you to this ‘niche’ malarkey, and encouraging others to do the same. Write what you wanna write, do what you want to do, and I guarantee you’ll find your audience, you’ll find your people and you’ll find your place in the blogosphere.