… or whatever it is I am right now.
This is a post that kind of takes me out of food-blogger territory and puts me into regular-blogger territory (well, regular with a side of food photography, but I’m fine with that). It’s me, sitting at my desk overwhelmed by a bunch of things and inspired to just let me fingers tap away after a few emails I received this week.
The emails go one of two ways;
– “Can I have tips on how to grow/take better photos/why my growth strategy isn’t working”
– “How can I make my blog my work”
First; Disclaimer. I am not an expert, but I do love typing away.
On the first point… how did I grow/improve my photos/why what I’ve done has worked.
Well, I’ve been ‘Healthy Natty’ for almost 2 years now. 2 years is ages, and most of the time so far has been while I was doing a full time unrelated job. I have grown a bit and I am so proud of the work I’ve done and thankful that what I’ve done has worked and appreciative of the great connections and opportunities I’ve had as a result of being Healthy Natty. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I l.o.v.e this. 100%, all in, have found my passion.
Because it’s my passion and I love it as much as I do, before I left my day job I spent before and after work and half of my weekend online reading, or cooking, or practicing my photography (I still have so far to go). I used to spend every Sunday preparing meals for the week just so I could practise taking the photos in natural light and I’d have social content all week. Yes I went around Instagram having conversations with people and sharing ideas, but I knew that if the content wasn’t good then no one would stick around to see what I did next.
So the most important thing for me to grow was to create better content, and the most important path to creating better content is practise practise practise (which takes time time time…).
Then it’s how to turn your Instagram/Social Media/Blog into your work.
There’s so much information out there, but what I feel are the two most powerful tools is your ability to create great content (be it written, a recipe, art, photography, reviews, videos – whatever your thing is), and the ability to connect with an audience who is genuinely interested in what you’re doing. 20 genuinely interested readers or followers or fans are so much more powerful than 20,000 who have come via goodness knows what and will click away in seconds.
And how do you find genuinely interested people? It helps if you are genuinely, fully, passionately interested in what it is you’re doing. If what you’re doing is what you love, you will get better and people will find you.
If you’re not genuinely loving what you’re doing and just doing it because it seems like the right thing to do, forget it and start thinking about what it is you truly love and work on that. Even if it’s super obscure or you can’t imagine why anyone would care – do it anyway. Nothing is silly.
For what it’s worth, at the start, I never ever set out to make any of this my work. Ever. I just loved it and wanted to share my food and improve my skills. Not once in the first 12 months I was Healthy Natty did I think I could benefit in any way apart from getting feedback from other like-minded people and connecting with them. In fact the first time someone suggested to me I could do what I love so much as work (when I was, at the time, working a totally and completely unrelated office job), I was embarrassed. Beyond embarrassed actually – I was shaking which is so embarrassing to look back on. “No no no I’m not good enough for that” was my instant response – I’d never even considered it for a second. I just wanted to cook and take photos.
I actually had a fear of people (people I worked with at the office job, family, friends), finding out about “Healthy Natty”. I kind of felt like if they saw it they’d assume I thought I was some big-shot food blogger when inside I felt my photos were still average. The photos and blog, as public as it seems, were (and still are) so so personal to me and I was so convinced that people would make fun of it (and I couldn’t handle that), that I kept it a secret from almost everyone I knew for such a long time.
.. until one day when a large homewares store (Matchbox) had me in their stores on posters. My face, with my photo of zoodles hanging from the roof. I kind of had to tell people then, just in case they walked in and had a total ‘what the? Wait that’s Nat…’ moment.
Then, after that, someone asked me to take some photos for them just for the experience of doing something like that. I spent nearly a whole day taking photos freaking out about which ones were good enough, even longer editing them and then sent them off terrified I was about to completely embarrass (word of the day!) myself. But hey, I didn’t, and the rest is history.
This is a long and confused little write up and I am excellent at writing how I speak (which is frazzled and too fast. I am told allll the time I talk too fast!), but what I’m saying is;
– Do what you love, don’t do something you kind of like but think you can make money from. Just what you love, that’s it.
– Practise your skill. Paint/write/blog/photograph/dance/make more. Never ever stop learning and always listen to feedback and seek advice from people who have been there (people are generally awesome – just ask!).
– Know that everyone, including me and a lot of my food blogging friends with much bigger audiences, doubts themselves/wonders why they don’t grow more/faster/get more clicks/wonders if they should have posted that photo/art/sent that snap – everything. We’re all learning all the time. None of us ever stop.
– Stop caring about anything except yourself. Focus on you, your skills and what you love doing – forget what the world wants to see (it took me forever to take my own advice here). So what you work an office job for a while you figure it all out? Plenty of people are working the office job without a passion. In fact, in my experience, most people are still yet to find their passion. Be thankful you’ve found yours and take time honing it and practising it and enjoying the journey. Don’t wreck yourself trying too hard to try and make money from it and end up resenting what you love. Start seeing the day job as something that funds your passion and allows you the freedom to just learn and experience and test and try; it makes it a lot easier.
– Finally, once you’ve found your passion, you’ve practised and learned and honed and shared and gained some traction, don’t let fear be the only thing that stops you taking that last, final giant step.
That’s my 35 cents (too long for 2, right?)