I’ve been blogging for about a year, and I still sometimes find myself in an existential crisis over what I want my “voice” to be online. What is and isn’t “on brand” for me? What’s my Instagram theme? Do I Snap? YouTube? Blog on a particular topic? Does it even really matter? How curated does my online presence really need to be?
The advice I hear time and time again for people who are trying to make it as a blogger or social media influencer is this: “Yes, you need a theme/brand for your voice. You want people to automatically be able to spot your post or your work without having to look at the attribution.” I’ve also been told it helps to post often and include videos (this, I suppose, is something that helps with all those algorithms that either make or break you as a content producer). I’ve tried a whole lot of things while trying to figure out my voice: I’m used the same filter on every photo and a theme for my grid, I’m played with hashtags, I’ve posted at around the same time EVERY DAY, I’ve blogged about lifestyle and fashion, I’ve created a YouTube channel, I’ve tried networking with other bloggers, I’ve upped the amount of blog posts I write, and I’ve started posting way more photos of myself (fun fact, that is very difficult me because it can be a triggery, slippy slope to hyper-sensitivity over what I look like). Some of these things boosted my online popularity; some of them did very little.
After a full year of trying all sorts of different things, wavering between being burnt out on social media and excited over social media, I’ve found myself coming back to an overwhelming question: Who am I online?
It’s tough sometimes to not get wrapped up in all the different things I could potentially be. It’s easy to get influenced by what you see other creators are doing online—after all, that’s the whole point of influencer marketing isn’t it? As someone with a wider variety of interests, I often have an internal debate on if I’m covering “too many topics” on my blog and need to be more narrow in my scope. Will people know what to except from my posts if I’m too broad and how much do I care about fitting into some blogger box? Should I be doing unboxing and fashion content? Should I being doing cooking? Or lifestyle content? Where’s the crossover? How much of my private life do I really feel like sharing? When I feel myself starting to fall into a sinkhole of questions over “who am I really?”, I find it best to stop, breathe, and go back to the only three questions that really matter.
I started this to have a project that makes me happy (and to give myself a steady writing project/structure while I was job hunting over summer 2017). Getting back to my original purpose, I’ve decided to pair down to the content I really enjoy creating and do way less of the content that just doesn’t feel … me? For me, that is mostly centered around one big topic: Food. Cooking food, creating recipes, baking, food photography, entertaining, and my complex relationship with eating (it was pretty f-ed up for a while and I’m still working on rebuilding a healthy relationship with food). So with that in mind, you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of food-centric content. That doesn’t mean I’ll do away with all my other content (though I wouldn’t expect any fashion posts anytime soon). I’m still doing Gretchen Tries Stuff challenges, Portland Picks, attempting to live a less wasteful life, and being open about mental health. Though you might notice a far amount of this tying back to food in one way or another.
Further more, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably notice a few tweaks to that as well. I’m taking back my Instagram as something I do for me and less as something I do for growth. My Instagram as grown into something that causes me an immense amount of stress and after lots of thought, I realized that the direction my Instagram has been heading doesn’t really fit into my over-arching goals, creatively or career-wise. So why am I putting so much pressure on myself to excel at it? It was a pretty eye-opening moment for me when I was scrolling through other bloggers feeds and realized how much I didn’t want to be doing the same things they are. (I really don’t have much interest in spending my free time photographing my outfits. I’d much rather drink coffee and read.)
Going along with keep my intentions for blogging and creating content positive, I’ve been trying to check in with myself a lot more about why I’m working on a particular project. Am I take a photo of myself because it’ll go along with a blog post or because I’m having fun at an event or am I taking a photo so it “fits” into my grid pattern or because it’ll traffic well? Am I posting because I’m excited to share or because I want the self-confidence boost of getting likes on Instagram? Does what I’m posting relate to my long-term goals? I wrote a post a while back about social media fatigue and my issues with it have only gotten worse since. Call it self care or simply prioritizing my mental health over Internet popularity, but I’m making a conscious effort to only post content (social media, blog, video, or other wise) that I’ve created with the right intentions.
Back when I hit my 1 year anniversary of blogging, I wrote a post reflecting on the changes over the past year and what to expect from my blog going forward. Does this new post make the goals I outlined in that irrelevant? Not exactly but I am becoming more focused. I’ve been taking some time to really reflect on my long term goals. An upside of dating apps and being single is that I’m constantly answering the questions: what do I do for a living and what my goals are? This helped me recently realize I’m not really doing a great job on focusing on my end game. Similar to other writers, one of my biggest career goals is to write a book. Over the past few years I’ve worked on a a few children’s books and outlines for a David Sedaris-style book of personal essays. I’ve also toyed around a lot with the idea of creating a cookbook (are you noticing the theme of my love of cooking coming back up again and again?). It’s been recently suggested to me that I somehow connect my idea of amusing personal essays and cooking, creating a cookbook that is also funny. We’ll see if anything come from that, but in the meantime, you can expect me spending more of my energy into projects and posts that aline with my long-term goals.
Figuring out my voice or “brand” has been a year of trial error, lots of self check-ins, and a heart-to-heart conversation with myself about what I love, what I want my future to look like, and what I’m doing now that makes me either miserable or doesn’t serve towards my overall purpose for creating content. And oddly, being single and having to distill down, honestly, what I’m looking for in life and career has been a very useful exercise for all this. (It’s a lot like that commercial with the women who preps for an interview by having strangers “ask her anything.”) I highly recommend practicing articulating what it is you want in life. Whether you are an established blogger, a hobby Instagramer, or an aspiring influencer, remember you don’t have to be like every other influencer out on the internet and don’t lose sight of what makes you you.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.