It’s Agent Athletica’s blogiversary-birthday thing!
One year ago today, I registered this domain and started down my blogging journey. Since its inception, AA has been visited over 1 million times by over 150,000 users around the world. I’ve posted over 900 times and read over 3,000 of your comments. I’m not going to sit here and try to sell you some “secret to success” to growing a blog*, but here are 7 things I’ve learned and observed that have helped me along the way.
*Here’s the “secret”: create content some group of people cares about, then figure out how to find the people who care about it. Boom, done.
1. Keep your eyes on your own game.
This has been one of the most important for me, especially when I was starting out. People have written a million times about the comparison pitfall, and it’s still true. While there are valid lessons to be learned from others’ successes and failures, keeping too close an eye on what others are doing is a quick way to self-sabotage your creativity and replace it with worry-filled copycatting. As someone who is prone to anxious thought patterns, it was important for me to learn very early on to avoid things that would trigger worrying that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Swim in your own lane and focus on doing your own thing. By focusing on what’s happening in your own space, you’re better positioned to be more authentic to who you are and to better serve your audience.
2. It’s ok to not be perfect.
Yeah I know: “gee thanks Captain Obvious.” But really, it’s ok to mess up from time to time. Yes, there are times when I’ve been a few hours late posting about upload or something. Instead of letting myself drown in a downward spiral of omg I am the worst and my site will NEVER BE SUCCESSFUL, I have had to learn to accept the occasional “tardiness”, error, or omission. Life happens, and I am not always a perfect encyclopedia of information. Even this past week, my plans interfered with my usual posting schedule and I started to get a little tense about it. I had to consciously remind myself to cool my jets. You all are still here! The world did not spin off its axis! I have slowly gotten better at accepting this and not letting posting here completely dictate my life and my emotions. Consistency and usefulness over the long run do far more for your reputation and trustworthiness than the occasional blunder.
3. Content creation is only a part of the puzzle: loving more about blogging will take you far.
Some of the most rewarding parts of blogging for me has been everything but creating content. Don’t get me wrong, I also like to write posts, but some of my longest and most satisfying blogging blitzes have been spent doing other things. I love to read about things like design, branding, and blogging strategy. I love to brainstorm ways to improve and grow this site. A big downfall for many blogs is that they don’t put enough effort into things besides content creation, so even if they have great content, people don’t read it or don’t take it seriously enough because some other aspect isn’t quite up to par. Bloggers who have created some of the most successful blogs out there have to wear many hats and be knowledgable about much more than putting interesting images and words in a post. If you can embrace this as a blogger, you will not only be more likely to succeed, but you’ll be happier doing it.
4. Figure out what works for YOU, even if it goes against conventional wisdom.
There is no shortage of blogging advice on the internet, and I’ve read quite a bit of it myself. That said, since this blog is pretty esoteric in both structure and content, a lot of advice I’ve encountered just didn’t do me a bit of good. While there are definitely a lot of smart people with a lot of smart things to say, it’s important to weight that advice against the context of your own uniqueness. All blogs aren’t created equal, so there’s never going to be such a thing as one-size-fits-all advice. Don’t be afraid to throw out advice that just isn’t a good fit for what you’re doing.
5. Experiment like your life depends on it, because it kinda does.
On that note, there is tremendous value in ongoing and ruthless experimentation. This is one of my favorites parts of blogging. It’s important to take stock of what you’re doing, look for ways it could be improved, and be willing to pivot and be flexible when the need arises. Lulu problems, which started out under the rather opaque series name “Gif Sunday”, was the result of one of those experiments (well, two experiments, if you count the name change), and has ended up being a very popular part of the blog. Of course, for every lulu problem, there’s been an experiment that’s been scrapped and you’ve probably never heard about it. :) Although obviously dramatic changes to a site every other week is not going to make people want to stick around, being content with the status quo and being unwilling to adapt and evolve will surely stunt growth.
6. People don’t care about you. …Except for when they do.
Another piece of extremely common (albeit rather blunt) blogging advice: no one actually cares about you. As someone who reads blogs in addition to writing one, I have to agree. No one wants to read a blog full of navel-gazing, except maybe your mom. That said, most people don’t really get to the second part: there are times when people actually do want to hear about you. The key is that people only tend to listen to your stories and experiences once you’ve made yourself valuable to them. Help someone first. Prove you’re worth paying attention to. Then you can talk about yourself, and people might be interested to hear about it, especially if you can spin it into something helpful for others instead of simply aimlessly rambling about something you did.
7. Haters gonna hate.
I don’t know if things are similarly intense in the blogging universe at large, but at least in the realm of lulu/fitness wear, holy crap, people can be kind of insane. I’ve been insulted, undermined, and sent literal hate mail. This kind of negativity has been disappointing to experience. You don’t have to have it all figured out to provide something of value to people (see #2), and there’s enough room in the great big internet world for everyone to be knowledgable and successful in our own individual pursuits. There’s no benefit to tearing others down when everyone brings something different and worthwhile to the table that different people will appreciate for different reasons. And anyway, for every less-than-gracious person, there are dozens of supportive and positive readers for whom I am so grateful.
But wait, there’s more!
As part of reaching my 1-year blogiversary, I’m working on some exciting changes and additions to the blog. I’m finishing up a fresh new site design that will make navigating current and archived content easier, not to mention provide a clean and beautiful appearance. I’m also working on new and innovative strategies to bring you more helpful, streamlined, and relevant content that I hope you’ll love. Part of this will be content on the blog itself, but on top of that, I’m working on an Agent Athletica YouTube channel that will be an especially helpful resource for product reviews and information, since pictures aren’t always the most effective way of conveying information. (And on that note, do feel free to note any feedback you might have as you start seeing new and different things around here.)
Stay tuned! I can’t wait to show you what all this looks like over the next few weeks!
Again, many thanks to all you wonderful readers for helping make this blog into what it is!!