Hello, friends! Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
At the end of January of 2013, I pulled the trigger on starting a blog after multiple requests for one had rolled in on my Instagram, after spending much of 2012 sharing my personal style there. It was a little nerve-wracking, venturing into something I knew nothing about, but truth be told, I was hungry for connection and suffering from boredom.
See, about six months prior to the launch of Sequins & Things, I had just moved back from living in Denver, Colorado. During my time there, I wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the ladies I had met in the circle of friends I found myself in. It was a time in my life where I had never felt more surrounded by people yet so alone at the same time. I’ve always been a little bit of a shy person but, through the years, I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin and inquisitive around new people. After challenging myself to say ‘yes’ to everything and venture outside of my comfort zone, which is always necessary when you move somewhere new, I constantly left feeling like it was all for nothing. I had never been so blatantly disregarded and rejected before and it was, honestly, one of the most hurtful experiences I’ve ever been through. Of course, everything happens for a reason. I ended up back in Jacksonville and I truly believe it was so that I had the opportunity to spend the last 15 months of my Mom’s life with her, under the same roof. More on that in this post! But, as if that wasn’t enough, it seems like it was for more than that, as well.
As I was sifting through and dealing with the feelings of rejection that my time in Colorado left me with, I decided to focus on things that I really enjoyed and brought me fulfillment and happiness. I had grown to love sharing my interests in shopping and personal styling through my posts on Instagram. I had grown to love interacting with the women who found my account through those posts, all of which had similar interests as me. And, I had become increasingly intrigued by the idea they kept throwing out to me about starting a style blog, which would make sharing the details of my posts much easier, as the links to everything would be all in one place. I thought it was a great idea. It also seemed pretty fun. I have always had a bit of a knack for the creative side to things, and thought … how hard could it be?
If you had told me five years ago that the blog I was starting as a hobby would end up being my full-time job instead of nursing, I’m not sure I would have believed you! At the time, I wouldn’t have understood how that would even be possible. At that time, I understood that the blog posts would be of service to people who were looking for style inspiration but it never crossed my mind that a blog could generate an income nor did I have a concept of how a blog could be beneficial to these brands I was wearing and stores I was purchasing from. In hindsight, I was pretty naive but I’m pretty comfortable blaming my nursing major designation for this as it, shockingly, didn’t afford me the ability to take classes on marketing, digital media strategy or business. So, you can imagine
my surprise the anxiety mounting as these concepts started presenting themselves as things I should know and understand in order to do this whole blogging thing well.
The truth is … there’s a lot to learn when it comes to running a blog, much more than I ever imagined. So, today, on the first day of the next chapter in my blogging career, I thought it might be helpful … and fun! … to share some of the most important things I have learned over the past five years!
• You’re not going to be for everyone. You’d think I already learned this from my ‘friends’ in Colorado, huh? No. Sadly, this is something blogging has reminded me of many times. As much as my blog is a place where I feel at ‘home,’ it’s also a place where people sometimes stop by to offer their unsolicited opinions about me, my appearance or how I choose to run the blog. Thankfully, this doesn’t happened too often but, the experiences I have been presented with have helped me strengthen my IDGAF muscle. Excuse my ‘language’ there but, it’s true. It’s a waste of energy for me to try and please everyone because it’s truly impossible. Everyone is wired differently and for good reason! There would be nothing special about the connections we have with certain people if we were all made the same and made to connect the same way. There are people out there who are going to rub you the wrong way and I might be one of those people for you. You might be that person for me, too. It’s cool … we’re just different but, there’s no need to shame the other person over it.
When I get these unsolicited opinions, it’s helpful for me to remember this quote:
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world,
and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” Dita Von Teese
This same lesson applies to brand partnerships. Whether we bloggers want to believe it or not, the truth is that you are not going to be a good fit for every brand, whether you’ve worn their clothes for years or not. It’s important to align ourselves with brands that not only respect our place in the industry but also value our voice in the market. So, if a brand isn’t biting, don’t get yourself down! There are plenty others out there that will!
Let’s take this out of the blogging world and apply it to everyday life. Remember: There is nothing wrong with the way you are wired and who you are as a human being. Does humor tend to be a quality that MORE people gravitate toward than, say … the ability to play devil’s advocate? Maybe. But, if you kept that unique characteristic about yourself from other people, wouldn’t it be a shame if someone you came across really needed someone with that ability? You just inadvertently robbed them from a blessing. My point is, don’t only share the sides of you that are the ‘most likable’ and the ‘most appealing’ in order to gain popularity. There are people out there that are looking to connect on the level that maybe you crave, as well. So, get out there and be yourself … no matter what that looks like!
“Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else.” Judy Garland
• Quality over quantity. As the blog has expanded into more than a style blog, I have found that the time it takes for me to put certain posts together is considerably more than the amount of time it takes for me to put together one outfit post. Yet, I still schedule five blog posts to go live a week and, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how inconsistent my posting schedule is. The truth is, I have a strong desire to get five posts to you a week but I also have a strong desire to make sure that those posts are up to my standards and, often times, they wouldn’t be if I did actually post five times a week. It took digging deep into my analytics from this past year to show me just how important quality posts are compared to the number of posts I share. I used to prioritize putting energy into posts that y’all didn’t even ask for, and push back the ones you begged me for, because the one you didn’t ask for was going to get done quicker. I prioritized my desire to get a post up no matter what it was and was met with a rude awakening, that I honestly should have expected. The analytics made it very clear that those posts I threw together for the sake of having a post up had considerably lower traffic than the posts I shared that more in-depth, personal and, overall, better quality. Those resonated with y’all so much more. It made me realize that my blog is turning into something different and I need to shift how I plan my content and my idea of a ‘successful’ week in terms of blog post content. I want my blog, now more than ever, to be a place where you can go to get answers to your questions and genuine opinions about places I’ve been and products I’m trying. If making sure that’s what I’m giving to you guys means that I only get three or four blog posts out most weeks, I think it’s going to be okay! 🙂
• Don’t be afraid to take a step back from the action. This has been a lesson I’ve been learning in a couple of different ways over the last couple of years.
– While living in London in 2016, I had to take a bit of a step back because living there was a once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of being there and I was dating someone who wanted to take advantage of the fact that we weren’t long-distance anymore, and rightfully so! Living in London challenged me to stop chasing success so much. I’ve learned that that life, chasing success and numbers, is nowhere near as fulfilling or life-giving as investing in your relationships, saying ‘yes’ to spontaneous outings and adventures, and not being ‘on’ all the time and, instead, being ‘present’ with who is in front of you. The truth is whatever success, or goal, you’re chasing is never going to be enough. It’s like the handbag you ‘have’ to have. Once you have it, it’s not as appealing as it once was. I’m not saying that bloggers should be ashamed of themselves for wanting to be successful or setting goals for themselves. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that getting caught up in this industry happens and it can be really unhealthy so, it’s important to be aware of when you’re potentially reaching that unhealthy level. Taking a step back and assessing your personal health, mentality and wellness is important. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner and kindly call you out when they think it’s time you take a break. Doing life outside of the online world is important. Investing in your real life relationships, sans your phone and sans asking for outfit photos to be taken when you are in a cute brunch spot, is important. Yes, bills need to be paid and all of that but, really, truthfully, I think we can afford to go without posting from time to time. We all can, whether we’re bloggers or not.
– This year, after my Eastern and Central European road trip in January, I made it a point to focus on the organizational back-end of what is now Alyson Haley. I’ve been busy putting together new spreadsheets in place, organizing files, brainstorming new processes and employment positions with Justine, analyzing data and reader behavior from last year in an effort to learn what you want to see more of from me, and getting ready for this massive launch. I needed to take a step back and get those things in place without also committing to [and putting so much pressure on myself to] also have four or five blog posts up a week and multiple Instagram posts a day. Is that considered best practice? For some, yes. For me, yes … it is what I am aim for … as long as I’m not taking a step back to work on something that is more important in the long run [i.e. this new rebrand and site redesign] or brainstorming where we go from here, what’s next, etc. If we never take a step back from the day-to-day rat race that we always inadvertently fall back into, how can we ever move forward? There needs to be room for analysis and strategy and the room you make in your day, in your week, for that time to brainstorm has to replace something that is already a part of your everyday, unless you want to add another couple of hours to your workday … which, to me, screams burn out! Sure, it’s always hard to not be ‘on’ and posting as usual. Sharing what I’ve worked to create for you guys is one of my favorite parts of what I do but, I’ve learned that trying to do it all only leads to unhappiness and feelings of failure. You have to set realistic expectations but, as scary as it may seem, I can promise you that for every step back I’ve taken, there was a huge success that wouldn’t exist if the break hadn’t taken place. And, although I realize success isn’t everything, I can enjoy it because I made room for balance and realistic work flow. It might not be what everyone does but I’m convinced that my best work comes out of me allowing myself to take time away from what everyone else is doing.
• Your worth does not equal the number that everyone else sees: I don’t think there is a blogger that exists that has ever NOT been negatively affected by their numbers before. Whether it’s the number of likes they’re getting on a photo, the number of page views they got last month on their blog or the number of people on Instagram who unfollowed them yesterday, numbers have made us feel invincible and they have made us feel like a failure. Numbers can have such an unfortunate power over us. I’ve seen it bring out some pretty ugly sides to bloggers. I’ve seen it dictate who certain bloggers will allow themselves to go on trips with or become close friends with. It’s so sad to me how it easy it can be to forget that these numbers do not equal our worth on a number scale and that these numbers do not make us better than any other individual. It’s important to remember that we’re all just human beings doing the same job, in our own way, to the best of our ability. So, why not just be friendly? Why look down on her because her influence and her Instagram feed aesthetic isn’t ‘as good’ as yours? Why only gravitate toward the people that can somehow benefit you? Why not tell her she’s doing a good job instead of seeing her as a threat or seeing her as inferior?
“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” Erica Cook
• Comparison is the thief of joy. If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve had to remind myself of this. This is truly one of those things that everyone on social media had struggled with since having a social platform. It’s so easy to see what looks good in everyone’s lives that it’s hard not to compare it to what you know is going on in yours. As many have said in the past, remember that everyone shows the highlight reel because, really, no one wants to read depressing or pointless captions about something that is really not that exciting or groundbreaking. Remember: No one is exempt from struggles, heartaches, frustrations, setbacks, etc. We all get them! And, as it pertains to blogging, what looks great in a photo isn’t always reality, so stop wishing you had certain parts of someone else! We’re all beautiful and need to be confident in that! If you’re struggling with comparison, unfollow accounts that make you feel insecure and put a few sticky notes up on your bathroom mirror with self-affirming quotes! And, don’t forget … you ARE awesome, brave, strong, bold and beautiful!
• You can only do so much by yourself. It’s okay to open up and trust other people. There are good ones out there. I haven’t ever really been shy about the fact that the to-do list for a blogger is longer than one person can truly handle solely by themselves. Maybe it’s a bold statement. Maybe someone will comment and prove me wrong, but I’ll then ask what your house looks like and how much sleep you get each night. Just because you are running yourself ragged doesn’t mean you’re doing it right or you’re working harder.
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to move forward and get after the dreams you have for your blog is to find a team member to join you in going after those dreams. I hired my assistant, Justine, two years ago and it has been such a dream having her to work alongside. She is focused, rational, smart, and doesn’t get bogged down with the details. She is everything I’m not, essentially! It’s hard to believe there are people out there who want to work for bloggers who aren’t actually bloggers but, I can promise you there are, and I can guarantee you that this blog wouldn’t have ever of been able to expand into the travel vertical the way it has without Justine. This new website design wouldn’t exist, either. If you’re struggling with letting people into your circle and knowing what it takes to run a blog on the back end, consider letting someone in. It was one of the best lessons I learned [you’re only one person; you can only do so much] and one of the best business decisions I’ve made in the last two years!
Be sure to had back here on Wednesday! You’ll get to meet Justine!
• Enjoy the journey. Like other jobs, blogging can be stressful and frustrating but it is also a huge blessing. Whenever you find yourself feeling a little down about something work-related, think back on all of the things you’ve been able to achieve professionally. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough so we have to keep working toward the next thing but, other times, it can be extremely fulfilling and encouraging to remind ourselves how far we’ve come! So, embrace and enjoy the journey!
When I started Sequins & Things in January of 2013, I was wrestling with feelings of sadness, of rejection and of loneliness. We all want to belong, feel validated and loved somewhere. It’s humbling to me that while I was crying out for connection while living in Denver, God heard those cries, brought me home and, in part, used this blog to give me just that. Of course, I have the love of my friends, family and church to thank, as well, but, this little space on the internet has helped me understand how truly freeing it is to feel like you have a place where you belong: where your thoughts on a topic matter, where your interests cause others to reach out and say ‘me too!’, etc.
Interestingly enough, during this time, I found my faith in Christ, which helped me know and understand that my worth cannot be found in the acceptance of other people. I didn’t realize it at the time but this lesson would be extremely helpful throughout my blogging journey, especially when it came to the numbers game. Needless to say, the beginning of 2013 was a very enriching time in my life and thinking back on how monumental and strategic the timing was in everything makes it even easier for me to believe that God had to of had a hand in everything.
All in all, this blog has been a blessing to me in many ways but realizing that God used it do immeasurably more than I could have ever asked or imagined is truly humbling. Five years in, I feel like He has me right where He wants me … connecting with you, sharing my life with you, etc. and I can’t wait to see what is on the horizon!
Welcome to the new Alyson Haley! I hope you’ll continue to follow along! 🙂
In an effort to attempt to thank you for all the kindness you all have shown me throughout the years, even if you’ve just started following along, I’d love to give y’all a chance to be one of TEN winners who will win the following bundle: the adorable cross body handbag and tassel earrings [in either white, hot pink or light pink] I’m wearing in today’s post as well as a Gucci card case [in either dusty pink or light pink]!
Simply fill out the below entry form to enter! Giveaway ends on Thursday, April 5th at 11:59pm PST. Winners will be announced in Friday’s blog post! Good luck, ladies! xo.