In Part 1 of my Blogger Burnout story I shared about how my 5+ year blogging career was blown apart. In Part 2, I shared with you the work I put in to learning some big lessons. Now, in Part 3, I’m going to share what happened as a result of my blogger burnout and absence, and what the future may hold for The Plastic Diaries. I have some important blogger burnout advice and let’s not forget, like all trilogies, the third instalment is the best, right?
I can’t talk about the future without being honest about what impact my blogger burnout had on my business. On the negative side:
- Professional and personal relationships ended. All the brands and industry people I had spent years building relationships with went completely silent. I hadn’t heard from them and they hadn’t heard from me. Of the ones I have reached out to since my return, I can count on one hand the number that have responded.
- My social media numbers are low. I’m pretty much an early adopter so I join social media networks when they first start. I started using Pinterest when it was in beta and Instagram when it wasn’t even a year old (August 2011 for those playing at home). I built strong numbers for the times but as these networks popularity rapidly grew in the last 2-3 years I have been mostly absent. My channels went dormant and un-updated, and thus I was not attracting new followers or retaining old ones. When I returned to Instagram in October 2016 I had approx 2,300 followers. In the last 6 months I’ve grown to approx 4,400. Had I been active all those years I would have been at a far greater number now.
- I’m practically unknown. New consumers of blogs and digital media, those who came to them in 2015 onwards, haven’t heard of me. I haven’t been present, publishing new content, attending events or putting myself out there so I haven’t been exposed to new readers unless it was via organic search (SEO).
- I’ve lost authority. While I still remain very much in-the-know about the Australian beauty industry and beauty blogging worlds, it’s my absence that has put me on the back foot. New leaders emerged in that time and while I’m quite comfortable not holding that torch anymore it does have an impact on my ongoing presence.
Thankfully, the 5+ years I spent working myself sick did seemingly secure my survival during such a long absence. These are some of the positives that I’ve been able to take from it:
- Traffic remained steady. At times during my absence my website traffic even grew. I can thank heavens for having a really strong SEO game and years of content already published to account for the continued flow of inbound traffic.
- Timeless content. I always strived to deliver a healthy dose of timeless content that would be useful to people at any time. Beauty reviews and sale info is always well-received, but they have a very short shelf life. The mix of content I had created ensured there were still relevant information for future readers. I love writing thought-provoking beauty features and I’m glad that has paid off for me.
- Unique offerings. It’s no secret that I wanted The Plastic Diaries to be more than just another website for an opinionated beauty addict. By offering my own unique creations (The Shopping Directory being the most popular) I was delivering a solution that sat outside editorial content.
- Investing in a good website. Ok, so my current look is outdated and needs a fresh coat of paint but the structure that lies beneath the surface is solid. My website is a custom-built theme with a lot of additional tweaks. It was expensive and it involved a ridiculous amount of work, but it paid off because it needed very little maintenance or attention to keep running. There were a fair few hiccups and some things I wanted changed throughout my absence but they were dealt with somewhat easily. I’m grateful for the steady foundation that has served me well for the past few years.
In September 2016 I became one of thousands of victims of the Mode Media collapse. I lost 6 months of advertising revenue and was left with absolutely nothing I could do about it. Now let me be clear – I never made 6 figures from this blog but I made enough to cover the bills and keep the show on the road. I didn’t start The Plastic Diaries to make money and in the grand scheme of things money was not a motivating factor for my continued running of this website. However, all the advertising on this website, albeit only a few units, was served by Mode Media. The few dollars I was making from affiliate links was never going to cover all that had been lost when Mode left us in the wind.
Mode’s shutdown hit me very hard. It wasn’t just the financial loss that upset me – it was the feelings of loss and confusion over my future that came about from it. The loss of funds forced me to return to The Plastic Diaries a little earlier than I wanted to because I had to make some tough decisions. Do I shut the website down, knowing that every day I’m running it I lose more money and the prior 6 months of earnings was now never going to come? Do I join a competitor ad network and hope that I magically earn enough to cover the loss and my ongoing expenses? Is all this upset even worth it and does it risk undoing all the progress I had made in the prior year? For nearly 2 months I was left feeling disheartened and ready to call it quits. I was ready to shut down the site, not say a word and disappear into the black hole of burnt-out bloggers that had come before me.
I slowly returned to The Plastic Diaries at the end of 2016 to try get some clarity around the decisions I had to make. In doing so I had a new lease on why I created The Plastic Diaries and why I wanted it to continue. A refreshed vision emerged and as a result I temporarily suspended accepting sponsorships, collaborations or advertising. I replaced my existing ad units with Google’s AdSense (a solution that offers extremely low earning potential). I stopped working with brands, agents and all the other in-between people who could leverage my work to benefit them. I essentially put a stop to the money-making aspects so that I could focus entirely on making some decisions about my future.
I entered 2017 with a clearer than ever vision about what to do now.
One of the hardest parts of having this blogger burnout experience was working out if I even have a place in the blogging landscape anymore. The influencer market is now over saturated and anyone with an internet connection can now be one. With just a few dollars you can go from starting an Instagram account to hundreds of thousands of followers, likes and beautifully shot images. So do I even have something to offer now that isn’t being offered elsewhere?
The great thing about my vast media experience, even prior to blogging, was that I saw how traditional and corporate media was run and what the general consumer disliked about it. I went into blogging to offer an alternative to that – to offer a real persons opinion and insight without being held back by corporate red tape, advertisers, clients and other industry expectations. What is it I offer?
- Honesty – My reviews and opinions are always truthful, honest and moral. I’m not writing to please anyone. I’m sharing an experience exactly as it occurred. I find dishonesty really uncomfortable and I don’t see much point to it. I’m no saint, but in general I see no purpose to lying or being anything other than 100% honest.
- Reader Profile – I write only for my readers and myself. What brands, retailers or other bloggers/influencers think of me and The Plastic Diaries is of no concern. I don’t write something to please a brand, or because I feel I owe them. When I sit down to write I think of the 3 people I created for my reader profiles and myself.
- Integrity – I know I’m really old-fashioned for thinking this way but I personally do not believe buying followers, likes or page views is a blogging good practice. I also don’t believe in using bots or automated engagement. This is where it comes in again that I’m not producing content for anyone other than the readers/followers and myself. If I wanted a brand to see me as more popular than I am, or if I wanted to charge more money for sponsorships and ads, I could easily boost my numbers with just a click of a button. The going rate is on average $5 for 1000 new Instagram followers, so you can see how accessible it is to gain a massive (but fraudulent) following.
- Ethics & Morals – No one can buy my opinion. Whether a post is sponsored or not, my actual opinion cannot be bought. If I accept a sponsorship (and it’s rare!) the brand is only paying for a guarantee that I will write about their product – but whether that post contains a positive or negative outcome is not influenced or impacted. If someone wants to control the message they share on my website they are welcome to buy display advertising (like the banner ads you see at the top and in the sidebar of my page). If I were to accept payment for someone to influence the message I’d be no different to traditional and corporate media. Cash-for-comment is a very real and booming practice in the blogging world, but I will have no part of it.
- Research – I do my research and know what I’m talking about. One of the biggest reasons I felt compelled to blog was because I was sick of the smoke & mirrors that beauty brands use in their marketing and advertising to tell us a story. Sometimes they are wonderful, believable stories but there is always more to them. If we were to believe all the ads we see than we would find every beauty product is a joy to use and the results outstanding. That is simply not true and even if it’s just a simple product review, it tells a wider story of the product than we gain from the beauty brands themselves. Simply by writing about something I’m aware of the inherent approval I apply to a product, even if that’s not my intention. In doing so, a level of responsibility is automatically applied. I feel it’s a bloggers duty to understand and accept how our words can impact someone else’s decision.
- Law abiding – The laws and rules for bloggers are slowly developing but long before there was anything official I had my own “laws”. I believed clear disclosure was essential, pay my taxes, and apply standard small business laws to my own business. I even developed a reputation as the girl who will write competition t&c’s because others didn’t know they were required. It amazes me how many influencers and bloggers still run illegal competitions and giveaways, but even if it weren’t illegal I feel it’s common sense to run a fair and equal-opportunity giveaway.
- Empowerment – I often talk about how I’m a packaging whore and a marketer’s dream. I’m that way because I’m enticed by a softly-spoken promise and a pretty package, but at the same time I get fed up with it. I wanted to be an empowered, informed consumer who makes choices based on factual information, my needs and my values. I believe every person has the right to all information, not selected parts, and I hope that I can provide it to them so they too can be empowered to make the best choice for themselves. I offer an alternative to what advertising and marketers tell us.
So from that list you are probably thinking, “sure, but isn’t that what every influencer/blogger does”‘. The depressing answer is, no, not anymore. Despite the Australian Beauty Blogging community having gone from barely 100 people in my first few years to thousands of people now, it’s unfortunately dominated by influencers who are offering nothing different to traditional and corporate media. The influencer of today has a variety of less-than-noble reasons for entering the industry – free products, fame or celebrity status, and even the unrealistic idea of easy money (it’s not as easy as you would think). Many of them tell me privately how they fear writing anything negative or that they are feeling overwhelmed by how many posts they “owe” to brands who sent them things.
The sad reality is that the influencer and blogging industry that once existed, both in Australia and around the world, hasn’t grown for the better. So long as honesty, integrity and morals remain a minority I will have a purpose in continuing to blog.
I think the most exciting part of this 14+ months of self-healing is the changes I’ve made and continue to make in my life. Now I get to bring changes to The Plastic Diaries and I’m so excited I’m giddy!
First and foremost, a new website is on the way, and it will look VERY different. My personal style has changed and it will be reflected in the new look of The Plastic Diaries. You’ve probably already seen a massive style shift if you follow me on Instagram. Unfortunately, website makeovers aren’t a quick process so don’t expect this to happen in the next month or two. There is a fair bit of work to do before anything new will be unveiled. But trust me, you’ll love it!!!
I’ve got help! No, I haven’t officially employed anyone but I have outsourced things like website maintenance and small tasks that I would spend hours doing and would bring me a great deal of stress. I’d love to get to the stage that I bring in other voices to share in The Plastic Diaries educational and experiential adventures. I believe more than ever I can do that and I can find a way to have it serve both the readers and myself for the better.
I’m being more open-minded to opportunities. I used to be so closed off to the many opportunities that came my way. There had been people in the past who wanted to buy The Plastic Diaries, and I wouldn’t talk to them out of fear someone would ruin my baby. There were countless job offers, and I turned my nose up out of fear I’d be perceived as a “quitter”. I’m done with making decisions based on fear. I’m open to anything now and to be honest I do miss working with other people and even having a boss (weird, aren’t I!) so I’m keeping my mind open to whatever the future may bring – but it will have to be the right opportunity. I’m open-minded, but I’m not a doormat.
I’m cutting my workload and refining my offering. I’ve had my hands in many pies over the years and I know it contributed to eventual burnout. I created widgets and tools, I wrote an eBook, I mentored new bloggers, I freelanced for other publications and I consulted on blogger outreach and digital media. It was all too much for me then, and still is now. Additionally, my interests have shifted. No longer motivated by the desire to please others before myself, I will stick to what makes me happy and the jobs that I can do without overloading myself. Now that I’m aware of my people-pleasing I’m not afraid to say no!
In my personal life, things are only getting better and better. My mental and physical health issues continue to be treated and I work very hard at maintaining the progress I’ve made. At the time of publishing this post, I still haven’t had a drink or a drug since January 30, 2016 and I’ve put on nearly 30kg (going from my preferred, stick-thin 40kg to an overweight 67kg). Continued therapies have helped me to learn that I don’t have a substance problem, I have an addiction problem. We’ve sifted through my life and found that I’ve always been addicted to something – shopping, beauty products, food, sex, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, travel, Pinterest, greeting card making …. the list is endless. My problems lie in not being able to deal with life on life’s terms. No single substance is my problem but I have the predisposition to use something (anything!) as a way of escaping my reality. So long as I don’t use something in place of facing reality, I will be ok. I have countless tools and processes to draw on to keep me on track and even if I do slip up, I now have the ability to admit my mistakes and get back on the path of being true to myself and my experiences.
The future is bright, my vision is solid and my head is clear. I’m ready to live life, face reality and accept both my assets and my defects. We are all just humans experiencing life. No one is perfect, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to live – I will just do my best to live each day to the best of my ability.
As a professional blogger I’ve been asked all kinds of questions over the years. I’ve always done my best to answer them but now, with this clearer-than-ever outlook I can dig deeper. I can be more honest than I’ve ever been before. If you pop over to leading influencer website, Husskie, you will find me sharing the 10 biggest mistakes I made as a professional blogger. If you are a blogger or influencer, you need to know these whether you want to or not! And if you aren’t one, go snoop for an inside look at some of the gritty details hidden behind the smoke-and-mirror world of influencers.
What did you think of my blogger burnout story? Can you relate or know someone who has experienced something similar? How do you cope with life on life’s terms? Let me know by commenting below!