25 lessons from 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for two and a half years now! From what started as an idea buzzing around my head whilst I was supposed to be relaxing in the bath, it’s been an interesting journey and I am really glad that I now have this little corner of the internet for writing. Writing is quite a big part of my job, but I really wanted to do something that would get me away from thinking about work for a while – which is basically how Unseen Beauty came about.

Here are 25 things that I have learned since setting up the site in January 2017.

1. As time goes on, you’ll change what you want to write about

At the beginning I thought it would just be a beauty and skincare blog, but I found this too narrow a niche, and also some of the people who read my articles couldn’t care less about that! Also, there are so many beauty and skincare blogs out there. What makes people stand out is when they bring something new and different to the table. So I still have my product posts about once a month, but Unseen Beauty has become more than that.

2. Sometimes it’s surprising what people want to read

It’s that thing – you never know which posts people will like. You can spend ages with your finger hovering over “publish” thinking “shall I just bin this?” and then when you finally click the button because the indecision is getting too much, you find that people really relate. Or, you can spend ages on a piece of content that you’re really proud of, and barely anyone reads it! You just never know until you send the posts out into the world!

I’m never going to be the kind of blogger that bears her heart and soul to the world, but I have found that the posts where I share a bit more honestly are the ones that people respond to. I think there’s a lot of generic content out there, so people want something a bit different.

3. If you set out with the idea that it’s not about the photos, the right people will come

On my work blog I wasn’t that bothered. It’s an educational blog, and people come for the educational content.

In the whole lifestyle arena, photos have a more important role. Instagram invaded the blogosphere and suddenly much higher importance was placed on the photos – which is an issue when you’re blind and can’t take them yourself.

Blogging has always been about the words though, and I didn’t want that to be taken from me. So I was just honest about it. If I’m talking about a place or a product, I’ll try and get someone to take a picture. If I don’t manage it, you get the article without. Blogmas is enough work anyway without stressing out over images, so you may just get my stock Christmas photo.

And you know what? On the whole, people are fine with that. My articles tend to be on the longer side, and people come because they want something to read.

I’m grateful to S and my mum for helping me out, and I know the photos add value. But it makes me sad when I read that people don’t want to publish posts because they don’t have the right photos.

4. Blogmas is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun too

I’ve done it twice now and will probably be doing it again this year! Posting every day in December until Christmas Eve, coming up with the content, and not reusing ideas is challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Readers who engaged with the posts kept me going, and it’s also good to be part of the community of people who are doing it as well so you can see what content they are creating and encourage them too.

5. You’ll meet some cool people through blogging

Yes, there’s drama if you choose to get involved in it, but generally I steer clear of it and it stays away from me. I’ve found the blogging community to be really friendly and had some great conversations with people, either via the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or privately.

6. Ideas will come at the weirdest times!

In the bath, when out running, in the middle of the night … Never when I’m at my laptop ready to write them down!

7. It’s ok to take a break

Having a plan and a schedule is good, but sometimes if you’re running on empty, the best thing to do is take a break. Give yourself space to think about other things. Then the ideas will come again.

If you try to force it or churn out posts when you really don’t feel like it, you’ll lose the sense of enjoyment, and a hobby blog is supposed to be fun!

8. Blogging is about community

It’s not all about only communicating with your own readers. You can make some great contacts through interacting with others and also discover new blogs by seeing who comments on things that you find interesting. You may well have things in common with them. Apart from that, community = the chance to do interviews or guest posts – and perhaps my favourite, swap boxes!

Also, knowing that my genuine recommendations have helped someone else feels good too.

9. Things change and you have to come up with new plans

When I was reading my notes, I couldn’t remember why I wrote this at first, but it was in relation to WordPress. Sometimes the platform changes. Horrid new editors are forced upon you that are inaccessible for blind people. You have to come up with a solution or give up. I didn’t want to give up, so yay for plugins that disable the new editor!

10. The internet can be a mean place, but it’s often not as bad as you think

I was really anxious about posting some of my content because I know some of my opinions are unpopular. Not with the people I know, but particularly when criticising the disability community or things that challenge the accepted way of thinking – they can bring out the trolls! It’s not that I particularly care what some troll on the internet thinks, but things can spiral out of hand quickly and it takes time and energy to manage. Fortunately I haven’t had to … yet!

11.The stats will never tell the whole story

I look at them. My number-crunching brain likes them. They are useful. But particularly when it comes to people who don’t have their own blogs, they may just read and won’t give you any idea of what impact your words had. That’s ok! We don’t all do the comment, like or share thing. That’s ok! It often amazes me how people come out with things that they can only know because they’ve been reading my blog – and I had no idea they were!

12. If you get bored with a topic, stop writing about it

I got bored doing some of the product posts, so I reduced them. People will know if your heart isn’t in something!

13. There is so much blogger junk mail

Every… single …week! Offers of high quality content directly related to my audience. People who love my blog about parenting, even though I’ve never written a parenting post in my life! People who think my audience would just love to see their infographic. Because blind people just love infographics – the clue’s in the name! Ugh!

14. Collaborations are fun

Whether that’s the swap box or the posts I did collecting views on a topic – involving others in a non-spammy way is a different way to create content and get to know other people at the same time.

15. Readers can be so kind

From comments that say “I know where you’re coming from” to those who regularly support the blog. From people who look out for things I might want to feature, to others who say the kindest things. Then there was the reader gift of new products to try that nearly made me cry because it was such a lovely thing to do!

16. You might think you’re the only one, but often many people can relate

I’m thinking about some of my opinion pieces now, and the things I don’t usually talk about…sensory difficulties, the disability-related challenges that we don’t talk about. Someone somewhere knows how it feels and might even be happy if you put it into words!

17.Blogger events aren’t actually that scary!

Admittedly I haven’t been to many, and I still think I’d find some of them a bit pretentious or be mistaken for someone’s mum, but there are low-key ones out there where it’s just everyday people writing blogs, rather than going after that perfect Instagram-worthy life that only really exists in people’s heads!

18. Beauty box fatigue is a thing

So I cancelled them all at the end of December and only restarted one in June. I’m up for looking at new and different things, but if there’s a lot of repetition and things you don’t really need, it’s not really a bargain!

19. Broken links are a pain!

I now have a plugin to tell me about them, but often shops will just pull a product and then you have a broken link. Or people will delete their site, meaning that any links to it from comments or linked posts will just lead to nowhere. This is not a great user experience for anyone wanting to visit those pages, but broken links are bad for your SEO too, so it is worth fixing them – even though it’s a boring task.

You probably aren’t surprised that I have a massive spreadsheet for logging them all!

20. This is not my job

And I’m happy about that! I have 2 businesses. I think some people put themselves under a lot of stress to monetise their blog, which sometimes leads to collaborations that look a little out of place or endorsing products that they normally wouldn’t. I’m not judging because we all need to get the bills paid, but this not being my main job means I can turn things down without measuring everything as a business opportunity. However, if I do make some money through the blog, it’s a bonus.

21. People sending out phishing emails seem to love bloggers

Your site, that you don’t host with us, will be taken down if you don’t give us your credit card details immediately! Your email address, which also wasn’t set up through us, is about to be deleted! Oh no! Give us your money quickly!

22. People don’t just read Blogmas content in December – who knew?

I think it’s because it’s linked – so someone reading a doggy post might also read dog-related Blogmas content. It just makes me smile to see those pages getting views in June!

23. You can use your blog to do good and support charities

I’ve done posts with two wolf sanctuaries, two donkey sanctuaries, and a couple with Dog’s Trust. I know that as a result, a couple of new sponsorships have been set up and that makes me really happy. I’ve found too that charities are happy about the publicity and willing to help with information requests.

24. You can reach people all over the world

Location data isn’t always accurate – people aren’t always where they claim to be – but it can give you a good idea of where your readers are. Most of mine are in the UK, but I sometimes scroll through the list of countries and am interested to see how many readers are based in other parts of the world.

25. I still have ideas!

Yes, there’s a spreadsheet for that too! I haven’t run out of ideas after 2.5 years and I still have plenty more.

Finally I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, supported me, or contributed in some other way to the first 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty. You’re amazing!

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey!

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