22 May 2015

The unspoken blogging rules everyone's talking about

I've wanted to share this post for quite some time now, but knowing how to word things and get my point across in the right way has been quite difficult! Grab a cuppa, because this is going to be a long one...

First off I want to make it very clear that I adore blogging. I've had this blog for over 3 years now and it is a huge part of my life. My blog means a tremendous amount to me and it's such a daily habit, I don't know what I'd do without it. I know there are bloggers who have been around a lot longer than me, bloggers who have been sharing their favourite beauty products from the very beginning when beauty blogging was still completely new to the UK, even to the world. I have a huge amount of respect for these bloggers, because they've seen beauty blogging grow from the very beginning.

In the 3+ years I have personally been blogging, the 'blogging world' and community has changed immensely, so much so that to me, it's nothing like it used to be. Maybe a lot of that is down to me growing up and getting older; I don't have as much time to indulge in daily and weekly blogger chats, I've finished University and now work 7 days a week so I don't even have a lot of time to dedicate to the more social side of blogging that I used to. When I first started blogging I used to go to any event I was kindly invited along to, and I used to arrange blogger meetups both in my home City of Nottingham as well as London, where I went to University. I just had more time back then, so getting stuck in was easy. Now, not so much, and maybe that's why everything feels different to me now, but it's certainly not the only reason.

There's no denying that beauty blogging, alongside YouTube, has revolutionised the way we look at beauty. No longer do we have to rely on biased magazine features or celebrity endorsement, splurging on products with little to no knowledge on whether they'll work for us other than what the brands and advertising tells us. Now we can search for a certain product on good old Google and be met with hundreds if not thousands of beauty reviews from real people, real men and women who have tried the products themselves and whose opinions and reviews are straight to the point, detailed and most importantly, honest with no bias of being employed by that brand to say the product is good. For me, beauty reviews from bloggers and YouTubers has given me a whole new confidence when it comes to picking and choosing beauty products; I can't even remember the last time I bought a beauty product without checking out at least one review first.

The amount of blogs being started daily is both amazing and scary. Hundreds of new blogs are cropping up everyday and it's fantastic to see so many people wanting to share their love and passion whether that be in a beauty blog, fashion, lifestyle or any other genre. I think the rise of popular bloggers and YouTubers has played a massive part in the amount of new blogs being started, people with dreams of becoming the next Zoella, of being world famous overnight. But Zoella didn't get famous overnight, she has been on YouTube a lotta lotta years and blogging even longer than that; her success is amazing and opens up a lot of doors for other bloggers and YouTubers to be taken more seriously, but it'd be naive to think that didn't come without a lot of hard work, or that the same success is reachable for anyone else in such a short space of time. It's an attractive idea, isn't it? Start a blog or a YouTube channel, and you'll become famous, release your own beauty line, release books, be adored from all corners of the world. For me personally, I'd never want that. I'm far too much of a home-bunny who likes to sit in with a cup of tea watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer or binging on Netflix. But there's a lot of people who aspire to be the next Zoella.

As blogging has become more popular, so has the rise of 'advice' posts and 'how-to' guides. Unspoken blogging rules that we say don't exist, yet with so many people giving advice and telling you how to run your blog, do they? Are there rules we 'older' bloggers who started many years ago, simply weren't told about when we started blogging? Have we missed a trick here? With so many people asserting themselves as blogging gurus, have we being doing this all wrong? Have I been doing this all wrong, for over 3 years? Should I have had a guide book, telling me what to write and when, how to share it and how to make my life look? Should my blog look a certain way, read a certain way, share only certain content, in a certain way? I'm going to go with a no here.

I don't have anything against advice posts or even how-to guides for blogging. I think if you're a new blogger starting out and you want some great tips and advice from people who have been doing it longer than you, then they can be super helpful. Personally? I love that I started this blog without a single clue what I was doing, that I had to learn every single thing along the way and I'm still learning now, constantly on a daily basis. An advice post or a how-to guide that offers tips and tricks in a fun and friendly way, which makes suggestions and shares ideas, well that's one thing. But is anyone else noticing the amount of advice posts or how-to guides which sound a little gospel? You know the kind, the ones which make you feel as if you have to do this or that, and if you don't, your blog won't be up to standard, it won't be good enough? Yup, those posts I don't like so much. Share your advice, share your tips, share what has and hasn't worked for you; word it right and your post could be a life-saver, word it wrong, and you could leave someone feeling rubbish and unworthy of being a blogger.

There is no criteria to being a blogger. There is no job description you have to fill, a set of boxes you have to tick. If you want to start a blog, you start a blog. It's as simple as that! Of course somethings have shown over the years to work better than others; most people prefer large, clear and infocus photos on a blog, most people prefer an easy-to-navigate layout to make getting around a blog quick and easy, most people like posts that flow nicely and are presented well. Does that mean you have to do any of that? Nope. Your blog, your rules. Yes, it's nice to take into account what your readers might want to see when they come to your blog, but did you start a blog because you wanted to start a blog, or did you start a blog for people you didn't even know existed yet? I'm constantly changing the look of my blog, playing around with navigation, adding and removing pages, etc etc etc. Partly because I want my blog to be as easy to get to grips with as possible for readers, but mostly because I want it to look a certain way. It's me who writes this blog, no one else - the readers I am both extremely lucky and also extremely grateful to have, are always at the forefront of my mind when I write a new post or change something, but ultimately it's how I feel about this blog that counts towards my final decision when making changes.

It worries me how many people are being led to believe that their blog is only worth reading if they abide by a set of unspoken blogging rules. I for one find these posts (not all, just the ones which are worded to sound authoritative and headteacher-y) a little stressful if I'm honest. Since the beginning of this year they have become more and more frequent, I've seen blogs change their content entirely to be purely based around posts of this nature and if that's what those blogs want to do then I fully support that, go for it, blog about what you want to blog about. But when they leave people second guessing everything they do, are they really all that helpful? Sure, these posts must bring a hella lotta views to those writing them, but just like any type of posts that has become super popular over the years, they'll soon fizzle out, or Google will become so oversaturated with them, that will they really be worth it?

I don't think there are any blogging rules. I don't think there needs to be a handbook on how to blog. Don't copy content (plagiarism is always outed in the long run), sure, don't steal someone's idea, give other bloggers credit and a link-back where it's due, sure. But that's common sense and human decency, not a rule. Blogs started out as online (sometimes private only) journals and over the years the niches have expanded and people share literally anything and everything. For me, blogs are about personality, about a unique view or opinion on something, about what that one specific person writing that blog thinks. If we follow these unspoken blogging rules, we all become carbon copies of each other, we lose our voices, we lose our personalities that used to shine through our content so much so that readers could imagine you there, talking directly to them, preferably over a nice hot cuppa tea.

If you want to start a blog, go for it. If you want some help, advice, ideas, look for it. But don't feel like you have to blog a certain way, or that your life has to fit a certain criteria to be interesting. Whether it's 1 person or a million, someone will enjoy what you have to say, someone will want to see what you think. First and foremost, blog for you. Because god knows the time and effort that goes into blogging is not easy, and if you're not doing it for you, if you're not enjoying it, what's the point?

What do you think to advice posts and how-to guides? Do you think the way they are written and put across makes a difference? Do you think they can be helpful, or have they left you questioning everything you do? I'd love to know what you think, whether a reader who doesn't blog themselves, or a fellow blogger. 
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38 comments

  1. I'm so glad you wrote this post. I find the 'blogging rules' type posts so patronising, like if you're not copying how that individual chooses to blog then you're not good enough. I actually read a post by one blogger who said she refuses to read blogs that aren't the same layout as hers because they're too 'busy'. Shame really because she's probably missing out on some great content.
    I love your blog and have enjoyed watching it evolve over the years. There is no reason why you can't blog to your own time scale, chat with fellow bloggers when it's convenient for you. It's not just about getting yourself out there, it's about it being part of real life and that means that it's not always going to be a priority. Ah life.

    Great post :) x

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  2. This is such a great post, I completely agree. I seem to only be seeing blogposts on "how to be a good blogger" or things I SHOULD be doing, which is nonsense. I believe blogging is a creative outlet for an individual to write about whatever they like, when they like!! Don't get me wrong, I love posts on how to improve my blog appearance/html but advice on what the content should be...no thanks! Really fab post!xx

    Honeypot Blogs

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  3. I agree with you, I actually don't really like those type of posts. They certainly make me think about number of people, how much more time I should be spending on my blog etc. But reallity is that I blog for myself. It's my hobby and I enjoy it. I don't want to stress about numbers because it should not be about numbers. Where is the passion about writing? About sharing what you like? Where does that all fit in with the stats? I don't know, I think those type of advise posts are great if you need advise but I feel a bit overwhelmed with them and kind off put off. (If I say that only 3 people read my blog does it mean that I do something wrong and should I even be doing it at all?)

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  4. I'm so glad you wrote this, there has been so many of these lately and the whole blogging rules thing gets kinda tedious! - Blogging is a creative outlet to be done however you want to! People should be able to do whatever/however they want to!

    Through Chelsea's Eyes

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  5. I couldn't agree more! I blog about what i want and how i want too, it may not be some peoples cup of tea but its me. You shouldn't try and be like someone else x
    Emma | Emmys Blog

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  6. All of this is so so true. Thank you for putting this out there!

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  7. agree with you so much on this one Sophia! Great post xx

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  8. Thanks for this.

    To be honest, there is a great deal more that bothers me about a lot of blogs nowadays and the fact that I don't even believe many of the so-called Gurus anymore.A lot of them are starting to behave like magazines: coming up with often vague content, not being clear about their sources of revenue, not being clear of whether or not they actually purchased products with their own hard earned cash (and how do they earn their cash? If you look at some of their websites and instagram accounts it almost looks like they do nothing but drink tea and shop for makeup and have a lunch and then go to a market, which must be wonderful, but of course things do not work that way, they probably have many business meetings and accounting thrown in as well).

    It bothers me a lot as well that everyone seems to have the same text ready to rave about certain products.

    I often rather read a less professional blog with shitty pictures if I know these people really saved up to pay their Laura Mercier or their Lorac Pro and actually try to really work that stuff and have good value for money.

    What bothers me almost more is the hoarding behaviour that is being promoted. Lately I have been buying only eyeshadow colours I know I'll actually wear. Yes, I LOVE a purple eyeshadow, but I work at a financial institution and mostly wear neutral eyes during the week. However, why do these boggers buy one single thing in so many colour variations if you only ever see them wearing a pink lip and some eye liner in every single video and picture?

    Yes... I too started to unfollow a lot of bloggers because of this but on the bright side, discovered some new. Like I discovered thisblog about two months ago and have absoloutely been loving it even though I don't comment often.

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    1. I couldn't agree more with your comment! I also value more opinion on products from smaller bloggers, people who actually go and buy their own products and REALLY test them out. How can I even trust a review of a person who reviews tons of products on weekly basis, how is even possible to put to the test everything on your one face! I still check the big blogs for information on latest releases but, to be honest, I read regularly less known blogs.

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    2. I really love this comment, as a newbie blogger who is working my way through my own personal make up collection purchased with my hard earned cash - it is nice to know that is what some people want! what I struggle with, is how do I get my blog seen by real people, not just other bloggers?
      www.makeuplikekim.com

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    3. I love this post so much! I just started blogging and all these posts about how to do it started freaking me out a little bit! But you really reminded me that it's my blog and i can make whatever want of it :) xx

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  9. I absolutely love this post, I'm really not a fan of other people telling others how to blog. Just like you've said advice is great, but lessons and rules I don't like! x

    emily x ❤ | emilyloula

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  10. Great post Sophie! As a newer blogger I like to read and learn from other, more experienced, bloggers as long as their advice is valuable. But I also disagree there is only one way to blog and we all should do it same way, blog certain things, in a certain way, on certain days, etc. No, it's my blog and I decide what I like to do and what works for me. x

    Mummy’s Beauty Corner

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  11. This post is so refreshing. I’ve honestly had enough of reading posts that tell you how to run a blog, how you need a schedule, take part in all the chats etc. Some of us don’t have the time to do that, like yourself and it’s hard to feel included in the ‘community’ if you don’t. But I love my little blog and work hard to produce what I feel is nice content. Who knows! But I love what you do with your blog and reading your post like I said, has been refreshing. I hope more people take the time to read it. Emily x

    www.britishbeautyaddict.com

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  12. A great post, Sophie.
    It's nice to see someone address it in such a well worded way.
    I'm tired of hearing that if we don't go self hosted, we'll never succeed OR seeing posts on how to boost your blog following etc ...Totally not why I do this.
    I like seeing posts that help advise on certain html hacks etc but I'm certainly tired of the bloggers guide to blogging..
    I blog how and when I want to and there may be a million others out there doing the same things I do, but if I were to go by all these new how to guides, there would be even more of us doing the same thing.
    Lets just enjoy what we do, guys. <3
    Gillian xx EyelinerFlicks

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  13. Great post! I have read some of these posts and they have been helpful, however some not so much, some of it doesn't even work and I hate reading the ones that come across rude and authoritive. I believe every blogger should be and come across as them selves.

    Caroline xx

    www.thespottedfox.co.uk

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  14. This is a really motivating post. I often read posts about these rules you should be biding by if you want your blog to be successful. I also mither myself over if I am doing something wrong or why isn't my blog as successful as others, and it takes the fun out of it. I write and post about what I like and that it what I enjoy! Thankyou for the motivation :) xx

    Zoe Mountford x


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  15. Wow, that was a really nice and much needed Friday read. I feel like all bloggers are feeling the same. We all want to be genuine and simple and just do what we love, but somehow we end up following what others are doing. We try to edit and set up our pictures in certain way, we buy he same things ( like seriously, them white paper brush holders again? ) I hope there will be a lot people reading this post because it sends a really positive message! Thanks!

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  16. I agree with you on the 'blog tips' thing, I mean when did blogging become about blogging? It's about life and your interests, I barely read those blog tip posts anyways, they just all sound the same to me. Dont get me wrong, i LOVE tips, but more about life, beauty, fashion etc x

    www.leannewinters.blogspot.co.uk

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  17. I really agree with this. Whilst I have read some advice posts that have really helped me out, I've also seen some that basically say "if you don't do these tips you'll never get anywhere", which is so ridiculous. The one I see a lot is that you have to post everyday on your blog and social media, and while I agree that consistency is important, I don't think you have to post every single day. Heck, some weeks I can barely manage one tweet let alone a blog post! For me, I just enjoy being able to write, especially about something I love. I'd love to be successful like the bigger bloggers, but I'm also incredibly happy with my follower count. I never thought I'd get 1 follower let alone over 100! Blogging is different for everyone, and I feel like some people need to respect that everyone has different time/money situations! x
    ELEANORMAES

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  18. Yes. Just yes. I think blogging used to be more personal, i've never been dedicated enough to stick to blogging but i enjoy writing about what makes me happy. If that means no-one wants to hear, im okay with that.

    Cloey x

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  19. Absolutely agree with this. We all blog in our own way. If someone wants to make money from it, they will find their own unique way to. Following steps on a post doesn't guarantee more views or a sudden income. People need to realise this.

    For me, blogging is another way to express myself. Simple as. If people enjoy what I'm saying, then even more fabulous.

    A Little Twist Of…

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  20. I find blogging so formulaic at the minute and yet it's so hard when the formula works and I see bloggers having massive success while I'm stuck at 80 odd followers and floundering.

    Lizzie Dripping

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  21. I don't take any notice of any how to blogging posts as I just do what I want/enjoy! Which I'm pretty sure is the whole point in blogging. As long as you enjoy it and don't hurt anyone in the process who cares xx

    http://www.throughneweyesx.com

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  22. I honestly think there are certain blogs which are basically now 'blogs about blogging' and everyone seems to jump onto the bandwagon and I've read so many posts with useless or obvious advice. Then there are a lot of people who want to act like there's a right or wrong way of doing things and if you want to be a 'successful' blogger you should follow their tips. To be honest it's nice to have helpful pointers coming from a good place but at the end of the day I'm going to do me! xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

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  23. I do have a series called Blogging 101 that's advice on blogging but by no means is 'rules'. I enjoy reading blog posts like it as I do sometimes pick up ideas from other bloggers or a way of doing things I hadn't thought of myself.
    All in all your right though, you gotta blog for you and do what's right for you and your blog!

    Becca
    QueenBeeBecca.com

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  24. You've hit the nail on the head with this post. There seems to be more and more of these advice posts lately but few are actually new and useful. I'm often surprised at how samey a lot of blogs are - even some of the big blogs. Personally I wouldn't feel comfortable writing an advice post because I don't think there any set rules. I don't have a big following, I don't make money from my blog but I publish what I want when I want, and that's the most important thing for me, otherwise it wouldn't be enjoyable xxx

    Emma
    www.style-splash.com

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  25. This is exactly what I needed to hear and what I need to remember!

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  26. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS POST! Thank you for hitting the nail on the head and saying exactly what so many of us are thinking! I definitely have noticed a massive change in content from some of my favourite bloggers and while helpful tips and tricks can be extremely informative as spontaneous posts, changing your entire content to tell people what they should and shouldn't be doing - and then charging people for it - isn't right!

    Heather, porcelainbeautyx

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  27. LOVE THIS!!! I've been looking up tons of blogging articles for weeks wanting to start but feeling like it won't turn out right and this makes me feel so much better. That it's okay to learn as I go, and to maybe not have the perfect layout or theme or posts.

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  28. I love this! I have only been blogging since the beginning of February but the 'how to write a blog' style posts are so intimidating! Blogs are supposed to reflect the person writing it, therefore they will all be unique. Xxx

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  29. I really enjoyed this post. I love this too. Sometimes I get too caught up in the blogger "advice" posts - and this helped set things back in perspective.

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  30. Great post Sophia. I do like blogging tips posts and occasionally write one myself, but as tips not rules. There are definitely no rules when it comes to blogging! xx

    Ramblings of a Beauty Bird | Beauty Blog

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  31. This is one of the best posts about blogging I read! I feel like blogs became so similar, I really am surprised when I see different design or really honest post like this. I started blog six months ago and I try to put my character in it as much as possible. There are people that are scared to be different but I am just afraid of being average and same as everyone else and I definitely project that on my blog

    sparklygoddess.blogspot.com

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  32. I really relate to all the points you made in this post. Blogging for me is just a hobby that I enjoy so I try not to take too much notice of the 'rules' type posts. As you put it, your blog your rules x

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  33. This is a wonderful post, I am glad I've read this, since my blogging experiene started to become somewhere "blah.. And I have started my log in such a optimistic mood. I guess, after few really bad reviews, I just forget, what I am writting and why I am writting for. I have never follow any rules, but always do look with admiration to other blogs and few weeks ago thought I should start to look for some tips and tricks for nice and attractive blog.

    But you are totally right about everythin you said, and I can not agree more. This was such and inspiring post.
    Thank you

    http://geleta-kosmetine.blogspot.com/

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  34. Love, love, love this post so much. I started my blog a few months ago, and since then I've come across so many of the advice posts you're talking about. I really like some advice posts that are actually really useful and helpful, but tbh I find some of them very patronising. I guess it's really easy to look back retrospectively after you've become really successful and try and "create" rules for blogging so that people can hope to achieve the same success - but they fail to realise that we're not all aiming for the same things so there's no real rules. The internet is the internet because it doesn't really have rules, and I think sometimes they forget that we all effectively start at the same place - trying to juggle our life and time so that we can produce content that we can proud of.
    I think some of these blogging workshops are really expensive too and I do think it's a little unfair since a lot of bloggers started their blogs because they were unemployed and now charge £100 for an hour or so to new bloggers that might not earn the same kind of money that they do. Plus... some bloggers give this sort of advice for free on YouTube.
    I actually was going to write a post on what it's like to be a new blogger in a world of intimidating posts like the ones you've mentioned, but I didn't want the drama so I'm glad someone said it - so thank you very much! xxx

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  35. I'm not a fan of advice blog posts - personally I think people should just run the blogs in a way that makes them happy. I don't really care for the chats as they seem to now just descend into please look at my blog chats rather than being engaging on a topic they want to talk about. Stephen :o)

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