Three Years Blogging: Is it Time to Throw in the Towel?

three years blogging
Blogging onboard the Spirit of Tasmania in early 2017.

Well, happy birthday Birdgehls. This blog is officially three years old, which makes me feel a range of emotions.

The overriding emotion is admittedly confusion. This year has been the most successful one I’ve had whilst blogging by far. This is something I largely owe to this post about finding your niche. In a pissy mood earlier this year about this whole blogging thing, I sat down and dealt with my feelings through writing an outpouring of emotions into Wordpress. This has turned out to be a most effective strategy funnily enough, which has led to some of this blog’s best performing posts this year.

Yet, the overriding question I have asked myself is – after three years, after 36 months of dedicating time to working on this blog pretty much every single week – should I keep at it, or throw in the towel? The hours spent on writing, editing photos, social media promotion and the like… is it all really worth it?

three years blogging
It’s good to have some new destinations to write about, along with old favourites.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

When I first started blogging in 2014 (after thinking about starting one for several years), I admittedly had no idea of the windows of opportunity that could be opened by having a dedicate space online.

I had just moved to London and was bored, unemployed and truth be told, going through a bit of a life crisis of sorts (typical “I’ve just turned 25, what am I doing with my life” type-rubbish). Needing a distraction, I thought “Oh, remember that time when you thought running a blog might be fun? Maybe now is a good time to start doing something about that.”

So, Birdgehls was born. And by golly, did I have a damn good time running this site in those early days, writing about whatever I wished and sending it out into the world. I remember my excitement when I received my first “stranger” comment, from when people started signing up to my newsletter and when a post got over 100 views in a day. It was a good time to be blogging.

Yet, how I wish I knew then what I know now… and had the time to implement this knowledge (something that I still struggle with to this day). If you want to blog and do “well” (whatever that means) you have to be in it for the long haul. Unless you’re very lucky (or super tech savvy and a social media maven) it might take you years to reach whatever your blogging goal may be – hitting a certain amount of views, monetising your site, partnering up with tourism boards to create killer content – whatever.

And knowing what your end goal is is often half the struggle. At least for me, the lack of clarity has been a hindrance in more ways than one.

On Blogging While Not Travelling

It’s been a bit of a head spin to go from travelling every few weeks (as was the norm in 2014-2016) to largely staying put in one place for the majority of this year. Not only because slowing down abruptly is a bit of a difficult thing to do – it’s weird when your life goes from being this whirlwind of travelling to new places, meeting new people, trying new foods etc, to a scenario that feels more… familiar. And sometimes as the saying goes – familiarity can breed contempt.

I love living in Melbourne and I’m happy to be home, but I do often wonder – is my life exciting enough, to warrant writing about what I’m doing (as blogging is generally a personal thing)?

I worry about running out of things to blog about, or being dismissed as a travel blog because I’ve chosen to stay put in Australia for now. At the very least, it’s given me an opportunity to write more content about the country I know and love best, but the need for new stimulation is often in the back of my mind.

three years blogging
Why are you so hard to write about?

Blogging and Melbourne

The obvious solution would be to write about this new city I’m living in, my own backyard as I had planned to do at the start of this year. Yet, I have developed a weird mental block when it comes to writing content about Melbourne.

This is largely because I want to come at the city from a fresh angle – I don’t really fancy writing about the “top cafés and bars”, “free things to do” here or the suburb of St Kilda at all, because they are the articles that I see time and time again.

Some places are incredibly easy to write about, some need time to soak in. Melbourne has been like that for me – it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to live for a long time (years, I tell you!) and it’s a city that has become very special to me.

We’ve had a few months of getting to know each other, to see how our relationship would pan out but now that I know I’m in love, I want to scream it from the rooftops. It’s time.

I always feel inspired to write when I’m in Newcastle NSW… and is it any wonder? LOOK AT IT.

Most popular posts

It’s interesting, seeing what does well on the interwebz. Honestly there are posts you’ll write in like two point five seconds and fling out into the universe, which will go off the hook. Others you’ll essentially pour your bloody life force into and publish to the sound of crickets.

My favourite posts/posts I wish people would read

three years blogging
I’ve learned I’ll probably never stop writing content about London.

A Few Things I’ve Learnt This Year

Have a plan

Whether or not you hope to turn your blog into a business one day, you have to have a plan. This can range from a detailed, five year business plan to keeping a consistent schedule where you post at a certain time, every day of the week (like how I post every Monday at 9am UK time and definitely never fail to meet that deadline, cough, cough).

The things you can conceive of being “boring” and “icky” do matter

I know I’ve largely shied away from the technical side of blogging – I never realised the importance of things like SEO and site-speed until recently.

And it has been to my detriment. I know that my blog would be crunching bigger numbers if I invested the time into these factors earlier on. Blast and damnation. I may be playing catch ups now, but I’m making it count.

Keep your finger on the pulse

Things are always rapidly changing in the online world, faster than our puny primitive human brains can often handle. This time last year, social media was the way to get your blog seen and Instagram was king. With the changing platforms, now the focus is on longevity, through SEO. Things change all the time and you gotta keep yourself abreast of them (if you’re a blogger, there are some wonderful Facebook groups which can help with this, like Digital Nomad Wannabe).

You have to have a brand

Consistency is key. I know I’ve been all over the place with my branding over the years – churning through themes, fonts and colours like they’re going out of fashion. There are some blogs that have mastered this – like Christina of Happy to Wander, who has a consistent aesthetic to her blog as well as the way she writes, with her personality literally bursting off the page and smacking you in the face, or Ellie of Soul Travel who blogs passionately about sustainable tourism – plus I always immediately recognise her pins on Pinterest.

Have a network

This is the year when I’ve started to make pals online, like people I would dearly love to hang with IRL (living on the opposite side of the world to most of them largely gets in the way of this). Not only are they truly awesome people, but they’re often there to lend a hand when things seem confusing or need to be patiently spelled out (a particularly big shout out to Allison of Eternal Arrival who I pester, from time to time. I owe you like, twenty).

Proof-read, proof-read, proof-read! And fact-check!

It can be hard to edit your own work, but it’s necessary. I’ve read over posts three or four times before publishing, only to go back and find obvious grammatical mistakes later. Sigh.

And fact-check! If you don’t get the facts straight, someone will straighten them out for you. You’d think someone who has worked in the media for the last ten years would know this, but there you go.

Thicken up your skin

People are going to disagree with your points and even your own experiences (somehow) – it’s human nature for some weird reason. This has probably been the hardest lesson of the year, to just let things go.

It particularly pisses me off when I see other bloggers being patronising, either to myself or others. But I try to remind myself that that’s their beef and just try my best to not be an insufferable know-it-all when interacting with others in the industry.

Do you and do it well

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt this year – just be yourself. My favourite blogs are those where the personality of the writer shines through – those written with honesty, from the heart.

There’s no point trying to emulate what anyone else is doing. However would you stand out? The travel blogging world is definitely over-saturated, so find your schtick and stick to it! Some bloggers who do this well are Alyse from the Invisible Tourist who writes about the experience of travelling whilst literally refusing to put herself in the picture, or Rhiannon of Wales to Wherever, who has one of the strongest and most distinctive (and amusing) voices in blogging of all the ones I regularly read.

Snapped at Sydney’s Vivid Lights Festival earlier this year.

Notes on the Future

Ultimately, as I enter my fourth year of blogging (!), I finally have a pretty clear idea of where I want to take Birdgehls.

First she needs a bit of sprucing up – a new look, a new theme. I also have to dedicate the time to going through all of my old posts to give them a breath of new life (there’s almost three hundred to sort through, Lord help me).

I’m dropping back to publishing one new post a week, apart from the odd extra here and there – while I love writing and long to do so prolifically, realistically it’s hard to find them time around a 40 hour work week and there’s only so much time I can spend sitting at a computer before my hips seize up and head explodes, neither of which would be particularly pleasant.

And, it looks like Australia (and hopefully Melbourne) will continue to be home for the next few months. The year of backyard travel continues into two (along with a bit of overseas travel – I really need to get to New Zealand and Southeast Asia at some point in my life).

To cap off this epic navel-gaze of a rant, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts over the last year(s) and comment on them. Ultimately, my blogging goal has remained the same since 2014 – I wanted to connect with likeminded people and have a few laughs along the way. This is a goal that continues to get met with gusto and thank goodness for that.

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Three years blogging seems to bring with it a make or break point - is it worth continuing, or is it time to throw in the towel?

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  1. Hey LC, loved this and can relate to so much of what you’ve written. For me, my blog is kind of like my lifeline and a purpose, of sorts, ever since I moved abroad. I think I’d feel lost without this self-imposed work over at Oui In France. It’s given me an outlet, hope, and something to come back to every week. It’s a constant for me and I’ve found comfort in my blogging routine. Blogging has grounded me in the craziness of life abroad.
    I think your last line says it all and is why I, too, continue to blog: “I wanted to connect with likeminded people and have a few laughs along the way.” I’ve found some real gems mixed in with all the unsupportive takers out there and I’m so grateful for them.
    Great read!

    1. Thanks Diane! So glad you can relate. Agree with your sentiment of it being such a comfort when you’re living overseas – it’s nice to have a constant outlet and routine that you can stick by, some normalcy in your life!

  2. Great read, LC, and I’m very much in the same boat as you. I basically took a hiatus this past year to reconsider my direction. There’s a lot I HATE about the blog scene (ugh, there’s hardly anyone actually creating worthwhile content), but I’m going to try to focus more on the positive. Glad you’re sticking around!

    1. Thanks Candice! I have noticed your absence and would love you to stick around too (come back, please)! And yeah, I hear you about the worthwhile content thing, but I suppose that’s a conversation for another post.

  3. Don’t throw in the towel, your blog is one of a handful that I genuinely enjoy! And my inner narcissist is so happy I read your post, thanks for the mention love <3 TBH, I'm having a bit of a blogging crisis myself – not in danger of throwing in the towel, just wondering what the hell I'm doing / that whole niche thing, and feeling a bit uninspired of late. Wish we could meet up for some wine & whining 🙁 <3 but FB messenger will have to do!

    1. Haha I promise I’ll stick around for a bit longer at least! And no problem – thanks for letting me bend your ear. Hope the crises passes soon! x

  4. Completely agree with Allison – no way can you throw in the towel now! Things are about to get interesting in our little travel blogging world so you need to stick around. Plus, on a selfish note I would totally miss reading your posts! Thank you so much for the mention as well, that was so kind of you 🙂 I’m really looking forward to when you find your preferred angle to tackle your upcoming Melbourne articles so I can stalk them – Melbourne is one of my favourite cities EVER!

  5. The short answer is no, it’s not time to throw the towel in! Ever! If you ever do, I will fly over to Australia (or wherever you are at that time – still gutted I was out of the country when you came to London!) and make you stand there and recite random blog posts to me so I can get my Birdgehls fix.
    I’m also way too late to the “SEO is important” party. Even bought SEO for Dummies to try and wrap my head around it but the book is so big I get a headache just thinking about reading it! I’ll stick to my 3-second visits from Pinterest for now haha.
    I think in situations like these it’s important to remind ourselves why we started blogging in the first place. And not to push yourself through the motions if you’re not feeling it. Even if you have to take a few weeks off from posting (which I’m certainly guilty of doing on more than one occasion!) to refresh the enjoyment you feel when you write and share with others, it’s worth it!
    And finally, your eco-friendly packing list was actually one of my favourite of all your posts I’ve read (and at this point I’d say I’ve read most). The illustrations are amazing.

    1. I am also gutted that we never got to meet! It will have to happen in the future. Although maybe I should stop blogging in order to force you to come visit me? I don’t want to hear any more of this “I want to go to NZ and hunt for hobbits” rubbish – Australia needs to be your southern destination of choice.

      SEO is hard but then also seems rather simple and easy at times – it must be because I accidentally managed to rank top three for so many random posts without knowing what I was doing at the time, haha. I didn’t know they had an SEO for dummies, but am not surprised at all by this piece of information.

      Yeah, breaks are good, I reckon. Definitely feeling a bit more inspired now post holiday and what with the ridiculous sunshine we’ve been having (it’s Melbourne, it wont last). And thanks – I am so proud of that post. Hopefully will have a few more illustrated ones publishing in the future, they’re just ridiculously time consuming.

  6. Love this – love the honesty you always bring to your writing! It’s definitely difficult in such a crowded market to decide whether to bother or not – but ultimately if you still get something out of it then it’s worth it regardless of income or numbers or whatever!

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Ellie! I think that’s ultimately the thing too – to do it until you don’t enjoy it anymore, or until it becomes a chore. Thankfully that’s not yet the case for me at least.

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