Last Updated on July 29, 2020 by Jeremy
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It seems like not a week goes by where someone in the new media landscape hits a breaking point. This can either be very public or be behind that scenes such that only friends and peers see what is going on.
In some cases, they are overwhelmed from wearing too many hats day-in and day-out for years. In others, it is based on dismay at the direction the industry is going (lately around the new and absurd Instagram influencer culture). In even more cases, it is simply the result of working hard and seeing no return on the numerous hours invested (which, for any business, can never really be guaranteed).
I'm not immune to these effects either, and to be quite honest I find the blogging industry to be quite exhausting more often than not.
Thankfully, I've found a way to help keep this in check, and it isn't that big of a secret. I simply walk away from the community.
I Love the Blogging Community, But Not All of It
Before diving into this one, it is worth taking a moment to discuss what I mean by the community because there are two distinctions to be made.
The first is that I look at the blogging community as the collection of anyone and everyone you engage with in regards to your business. This includes fellow bloggers, influencers, PR firms, CVBs/DMOs, conference attendees, businesses/brands, wannabes, and more. If it is a person involved with any aspect of what you do that isn't a genuine reader, that is the community I speak of.
The second is that I quite enjoy being part of this community overall. I've made long-lasting friends and valuable business connections in just about every category of individual mentioned above. I've never felt more welcomed and comfortable than around others who ‘get it'. I've also learned many valuable tips that I would never have picked up had I ignored it all completely. We are a tribe, as annoying as that term is, and I am eternally grateful for the closest connections in mine.
Too often, advice to new bloggers includes the statement of “participate in the community,” and I would say this is indeed good advice. Those who have been around (independent of capacity above) are indeed valuable resources in providing advice to help new bloggers succeed (often around what not to do). If you sit out on the fringes and prefer to go it alone, well, I wish you good luck- being part of the community at large helps you avoid many mistakes we all made early on.
Unfortunately, as far as mental health is concerned, the community at large can also be the worst.
There are many reasons to celebrate new media's positive attributes, but we also are a community of benchmarking- and this is one aspect I absolutely hate.
Benchmarking Will Drive You Mad
What I mean when I say benchmarking is quite simple- it is the act of comparing yourself, your business, and your “success” to that of others in the community. While not everyone does it, it happens in large enough numbers that it has become a real problem.
Bloggers do this in numerous categories, be it in discussing page views, site speeds, income, and freelance assignments. We all want to work to get to that next level and often fail to celebrate our own successes for where we are now.
Influencers do the same, but over likes/comments, follower growth, and yearning for whatever is the hot freebie of the day. Take all of the components that you think are fake in blogging and amplify it by 10, and that is influencer marketing's benchmarking of perceived popularity.
PR firms and CVBs/DMOs often muddy the waters by placing unrealistic expectations on any potential partners. In the past some have wanted bloggers to be influencers, some have made horribly unrealistic demands, and many go into conversations with set expectations while ignoring real value right in front of them.
The list goes on, and it has all come together to create a culture where we have unreasonable expectations thrust upon us from all angles and are unable to sit back and accept what we have right now. Regardless of what any blogger does personally, we are in an industry where we try to fit into someone else's measurement of success, often just out of reach where we currently are, which makes this benchmarking awful for mental health.
Once you check that box, it is always onward to something new and different to appease whichever master has set the goalpost of the day- be it a fellow blogger, brand, PR firm, DMO, or other nonsensical standards we tell ourselves are important.
Sometimes these standards are good, we all need goals for our business. In other times, it is unrealistic. For those who are unable to break free from the cycle of working towards someone else's expectations, the above frustrations will build and build until you crack.
And many well-established bloggers have in recent memory.
Thankfully, many are starting to move away from these stresses altogether, and that is where I see more and more bloggers going in the future.
The Solution? Passive Income and Getting Back to Your Roots
When it comes down to it, people get into blogging and new media think that working with brands, PR firms, CVBs/DMOs, etc is the pinnacle of a career. Years of bloggers (and now influencers) have perpetuated a poor stereotype that participating in the community and getting comps, freebies, and paid advertising is what makes you successful working in this industry.
I won't argue this one because it is a milestone worth celebrating (even if it is still work- a point many people often forget). But lately, more and more bloggers are starting to take a different stance. This new(er) view is that the above is simply a means to an end, and relying on it is a bandaid on a bigger problem in the industry.
The truth of the matter is that many bloggers are starting to realize is that there is too much of a dependency on brands, DMOs/CVBs, and PR firms in order to get assignments for content generation. In fact, it is an integral part of so many blogging businesses that if you get rid of this style of partnership, many bloggers will find themselves not sure on what to do next. Cue the stress we mentioned above.
Even if partnerships will be a thing for the immediate future, the risk of things changing is always there. Cue the stress we mentioned above.
Lose out on one big partner that you've been with for many years? That could ruin a blogger's entire business. Cue the stress we mentioned above.
For those who have been around the longest, we simply find it all exhausting and are putting it all behind us en masse. We are leaving Facebook groups, pulling away from social media other than our daily updates, minimizing the conferences we attend, and moving away from partnerships almost entirely. To put it bluntly, we no longer want that stress.
How are we doing this? By putting all of our efforts into earning money via passive income streams (namely ad and affiliate income) and paying for the things we want to do and cover- not by what others encourage us to do via comps and paid assignments.
In a manner of speaking, doing this results in a blogger going full circle back to their roots. You got into blogging for the love of your topic, start utilizing the industry as a means to grow, get stuck in a rut repeating the nonsense that the industry has adopted as the standard, and, if you can make the leap, freeing yourself to go back to why you fell in love with blogging in the first place.
The only difference between the starting point and ending point in this scenario is where the money comes from, with the start being nominal investments for a hobby and the end being a fully functional business that sustains its own expenses through passive means.
When you finally do this, you can start to drown out the noise, tell the PR firms to shove it, and continue doing what you love without being beholden to anyone else except yourself and your readers.
Once I sat down and realized this for me, many of my frustrations of blogging slowly started to disappear. I care less about how other bloggers think of me. I care less about the nonsensical demands of PR firms. I only barely care about my social media performance insofar as I'm genuinely helping out my followers. All that being said, I still care about the direction my sites are going, and I still have goals for the future and work hard to achieve them.
But the one thing I learned after hitting my passive income goals is just that- my business goals are finally mine and mine alone.
Everything else still exists and comes knocking, regularly, but it is much easier to drown out when you are no longer a slave to them. Most may not be able to avoid it altogether (even we can't at times), but the key is to separate yourself and focus on what is important for you. Unless you're using it to your advantage, it'll only be noise that brings you down.
I, for one, became sick of it all and wiped my hands with it. My mental health with regards to my business has never been better.
A Final Note for Those Who Aren't Quite There Yet
I understand that the vast majority of those in new media likely are not to the point where passive income drives their business. I also understand that by stating so for me that I'm likely contributing to self-depreciation and the feeling of not being good enough for those who are not there.
I've been there, I get it, and that irony is not lost on me.
In this article, my main goal was to emphasize a few key points, namely:
- The blogging community is valuable for advice, but also is the source of many unrealistic expectations that brings individuals down. Set your own goals, utilize others for advice, but do not benchmark yourself against them (or even me). If you do, you will always want more and will never be happy with what you already have. Sometimes stepping away from it all is needed.
- Passive income is freeing. The more money I've made from passive income streams, the more I can tell all the negative people in my life (namely PR firms and businesses) to get lost. My work is finally for me, and not trying to satisfy others who control the purse strings.
- If you have any concerns about #2, revert back to #1. What works for me may not work for you, but finding what works for you (and you alone) is the best path towards maintaining your mental health in blogging. Passive income is one goal I've seen work for many, many bloggers recently, and I am a big proponent of it for the freedom it brings.
While we can still have goals and work towards them in our businesses, I've found that the biggest source of my frustrations are around the idea of whose goals I'm working towards. The more I've figured out my own rather than trying to morph into someone else's ludicrous views of my business, the happier I've become.
I can't tell you what your business goals need to be to achieve that your end game (that is up to you to figure out, mine was passive income but everyone is different). Once you get there, stop worrying and start enjoying what you've built for yourself!
We all need that from time to time.
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About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.