Happy Sunday friends! I’m stopping in for a rare personal post today, because this week SBB celebrates our four year blogiversary (yay!). So I thought it was a good time to look back a bit, and also to give you all a little insight on some of the things I have learned in the last four years, about weddings, about business, and even about life.
I didn’t have a traditional path into the industry – most wedding bloggers are brides-to-be or newlyweds, but I started my wedding blogging career after a breakup. What? Weird, right? Well, not in a scary Miss Havisham kind of way, but a heartbreak – like a lot of life changes – is sometimes a catalyst that changes a lot more than you think it will. You start to question everything. You get shaken up like a snowglobe, and even when the pieces settle, they’re not in the same place they were. Or at least, that’s what happened to me. And you know what? That’s pretty awesome. Because five years ago, I would never have imagined that I’d be where I am now, doing what I do. And I LOVE what I do. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way.
‘Scary’ is not ‘impossible’
I swear, in my last job (as an educational publisher) I felt like I was the least tech-savvy person ever. Every time a meeting would turn to ‘digital’ it was like going back to high school maths – pretending to understand something that I was pretty sure was beyond my comprehension. What was a frikking “platform” anyway? So I did what any (in)sane person in that situation would do. Yep, I started a blog. Then I decided that I would code it myself. Which was totally terrifying, and totally liberating at the same time. I did the same thing with my first company accounts. Which was also mad, and in fact I’d definitely recommend hiring the pros for both these jobs. But what I did learn was that sometimes just jumping in and taking it step by step means that you can learn and accomplish things you never dreamed you could. Now, even when I hand these things over to the professionals, I know how my business works down to its very bones, and I’ll never be scared of what I don’t know again.
Your dream job does not exist, you must create it
I love this quote, because it sums up something I have known instinctively for years, but only really got to put into practice when I abandoned a more traditional career path I once loved but that had stopped inspiring me, and made this my job full time. For me, a ‘dream job’ is a collection of the skills and talents and interests that you have accumulated, and because of that it’s something that is evolving all the time. When I started to feel the need for change, there were two things I wanted – to find my writing voice, and to connect more to South Africa (I’d been living overseas for more than a decade). SBB turned out to be the perfect way to make both of those dreams a daily reality. Who knows where we’ll be in another four years? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.
Creating your dream job takes WORK
As I said, I dived into blogging, without a concept of how much work it would be. I’m glad, because otherwise I may not have done it! I can’t tell you the number of nights I’ve worked until the early hours, or the weekends I’ve given up (let’s just say both are in the majority). I’m not complaining, because the other creatives I know work just as hard and long – but that’s why you have to love what you do. Next on the To Do list? Working on that work/life balance. ;)
Done is better than perfect
I’m definitely still struggling with this one, but having daily deadlines has in many ways forced me to let go of my perfectionism. There are many things I would like to be able to do better – that I’m always working to improve (*cough* email) – but it’s impossible to do it all. And that’s okay. The important thing is to let go of impossible standards and keep plugging away. When I feel overwhelmed, I remember the Arthur Ashe quote: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Or, like one of my high school teachers used to say: How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece by piece.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Starting out, I had come from a very competitive industry, and I was joining blogging at a time where new ‘competitors’ were popping up every day. So I was lucky that very early on I came across the inspirational Lara Casey, in particular this quote: My personal philosophy is that competition doesn’t exist… if we all support each other through a common goal of inspiring brides and changing the market, we can accomplish so much more. I adopted that philosophy, and it’s the best thing I have done. Comparing your business and your work to someone else’s often comes from a small place, and what you create from that is small. So when I start to feel that way, I remind myself to be the best I can, focus on my own quality, and be generous in my support of others. As a friend recently instagrammed: I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.
‘Success’ is subjective
This one kind of goes hand in hand with the last. In a front-facing, personally branded industry like weddings (and especially wedding blogging), it’s easy to judge yourself against everyone else’s glossy exterior. But it’s worth remembering we’re ALL putting our best foot forward. Behind the scenes, we all face the same struggles, and setbacks and insecurities. For me, this is the lesson that is the most applicable to life in general, whether you’re measuring yourself against someone else’s business acumen, relationship, looks, parenting skills, etc etc. Don’t judge your insides by someone else’s outsides. And celebrate your own business milestones instead of worrying about what you have yet to achieve.
When I started blogging, I considered reaching out to one of the bigger bloggers (who were WAY smaller then than they are now!). I even wrote an email to one of them, but I chickened out from sending it, because I felt intimidated. It was later when I received similar emails from other newbies that I realised that people are always just people, and guess what, they want to hear from you! I’ve made such wonderful friends in this industry, but that only happened when one or other reached out. I’m not saying that people always have time to reach back (and sadly I don’t always), but what do you have to lose by trying?
Find your authentic voice
This was a big one for me, but came surprisingly easily. Before I was a writer for a living (something that still blows my mind), I was an editor. In other words, it was my whole job to take someone else’s words and make them good, to adopt someone else’s voice and polish it until it gleamed. It’s a skill I’m proud of (and still love using) but as a blogger, you really can’t try to write like someone else. For one thing, there’s just no time to be doing it. At first, I was worried that my random ramblings and the fact that I sound like a hyped up fourteen year old half the time wouldn’t work, but all the way through, I’ve had compliments from readers and suppliers on the fact that I write like I speak, so I carried on. It became one of SBB’s trademarks. And I think in some ways, writing is still helping me find my authentic voice in life too. (Now, how self-helpy does THAT sound! But it’s true.)
Don’t underestimate your potential to inspire
Despite knowing all the above, it still surprises me when something I say or do inspires someone, whether it’s a reader who bases their wedding design on one of my boards or incorporates my ideas from a shoot, or a fellow industry pro who gets something from talking business with me. That latter one really amazes me, because it’s just little ol’ me, right? When I started The Editorial Wedding last year, there was a part of me that worried everyone would go home saying “I totally knew all of that already”, but in fact the opposite happened. The EdWedders were truly inspired by what Anneli, Louise and I had to share with them (and some have gone on to inspire others themselves!). So whatever it is that you do, don’t let your insecurities get in the way of being generous with what you have learned.
Every story is beautiful
That heading started out as ‘every love story is beautiful’, because I was thinking of all the 300+ weddings we’ve featured, all the ‘how me met’ stories I have read over the years, all the moments of pure love I experienced second hand through the medium of film and video, and the stories told by brides and grooms. Each one is completely unique, and each one is special and wonderful, and I’ve been so honoured to be able to share in those stories and bring them to my readers. But you know, the principle applies to our lives as well as our loves. Whatever the twists and turns, each of our stories is unique and beautiful. SBB is a big part of mine. So THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing it with me these last four years!
Just for fun, I’ve put together a little ‘highlights reel’ of some of the SBB milestones. Enjoy ;)
Top image: Piteira Photography