Later this week we will be celebrating our four-year blog anniversary! It feels like yesterday, but also long ago that we started Sincerely, Spain. When we set out on this endeavor we both envisioned the project turning out the way it has and…not. Things have certainly grown and evolved over the years and so have we. If we could share the wisdom that these four years of blogging have bestowed upon us with newer bloggers, this is what we would tell them:
Building a Community is Important:
One big thing that we were perhaps not prepared for when we first set out on this journey was the importance of building a community and forming relationships. We understood that we would need to create a presence on social media to interact with readers, but it was only with time that we realized it was important to form connections with other content creators too.
There is both a logical and sentimental side to this sort of community-building. On the business-minded side of things, it’s a great way to find and reach new people. When others read a guest post you’ve written for another blog or listen to a podcast interview you’ve done they will be more likely to learn about and check out your personal content.
On the other hand, if you embark on these kinds of collaborations with a genuine interest in the other content creator’s mission and success, then you’re likely to come out of it feeling like you’ve made a friend. Although we have only had the pleasure of meeting in person one of the many content creators we interact with online, we feel a real sense of camaraderie with the people we have in our social media community and this is so important.
It makes a difference when you have other people in your corner because, in today’s day and age, we’re all more likely to trust the recommendation of someone we already follow than a random recommendation or ad. As such, actually getting to know others in the same or adjacent niche as you (for us, this includes other Spain bloggers, Spanish language teachers, travel bloggers, and expat coaches) can help more people find you. It also helps YOU as you have others doing something similar who you can reach out to with questions. You’d be surprised just how supportive most people in this space can be.
Diversifying Your Content Helps, But Take it Slow:
When we first set up our website, we had one main goal in mind: to create an expansive, value-filled backlog of blog posts. For more than a year, we posted four distinct articles every week! Our focus was on having the answers to as many questions as possible, and our medium was blog text.
Now that we’ve been at this for four years, we’ve certainly expanded our horizons. We now offer one-on-one coaching, regularly create video content to post to YouTube (and include directly in blog posts), host live chats on various topics on Instagram, and send out a monthly newsletter with updates that vary from what we share elsewhere. (Later this week, we’ll be announcing a new form of further resources we have too!)
We are very proud of the diverse range of content we currently offer, but we would also acknowledge that each new type of content came with a steep learning curve. Between the additional equipment you sometimes have to purchase to the new skills you have to invest time into acquiring to the unavoidable mistakes you’ll make along the way, it’s not always a worthwhile investment at the beginning.
For that reason, we would highly recommend only starting out with one main medium and expanding to others when you feel ready. It’s better to write great blog posts and nothing else than to have a subpar blog, video, and podcast presence. Take things one step at a time and don’t be discouraged if you don’t see much engagement on new content at the start. We posted our first video in September 2018 and it probably wasn’t until the last year or so that we really saw consistent action on our YouTube channel.
Set Your Own Goals, Aligned With Your Own Intentions:
It’s very important to remember that what YOU want to achieve with your blog is specific to YOU. Other people may read what we just shared about our YouTube channel and say “wow, that’s not very good” but, for us, it is! We created the channel not to go viral but to supplement our blog and so to now have over a hundred followers and people commenting regularly feels like a well-deserved bonus.
You need to decide what it is that matters to YOU and go after that. We’ve certainly fallen into the trap of wanting to do it all and following all of the advice about being on all of the platforms, but at the end of the day, that was not (and is not) sustainable for us. We only have so much time to dedicate to Sincerely, Spain and so it’s important that we dedicate that time to what matters most to us. That’s to say that, just because “everyone says [insert social media platform here] is the place you have to be” doesn’t mean YOU actually have to be there.
Again, every new thing you try is going to require time and learning so make sure you’re ready to commit to that investment before taking on something new. If it doesn’t genuinely excite you, maybe it’s not the right move for your particular blog, regardless of what ‘they’ say.
Your Expertise is Valuable:
Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned throughout these four years of blogging is that our expertise is real and valuable. We knew there was a market for people looking for information about Spain because we already had people reaching out to us personally with questions.
Still, it’s normal to start out thinking “Okay, we can answer these twenty common questions, but then what? Will we run out of things to say?” Surprisingly, we never have! With over 500 articles currently on the blog, we’re produced a lot of content. Still, each time we’ve come up with topics we want to write about, we realize that they could really be turned into series.
When something is your passion and a part of your everyday life (as living abroad, language-learning, and the Spanish culture is for us), it’s easy to forget that what might feel mundane or obvious to you is actually really valuable information for someone who is interested in the same thing, but not yet in your same position.
It took us a while to step into our authority and call ourselves “expat experts” and “specialized in Spain” but when we finally grasped just how much we had to offer in terms of this niche market, we were able to value our content as it deserved to be valued. Believe in yourself and know your worth—you have a lot to offer!
Be Flexible and Fair to Yourself:
Another important thing we’ve learned over the years is to take breaks and be flexible with ourselves. Like most bloggers, this is not our full-time job and so we often get busy with other aspects of our lives. We don’t always manage to post on social media as often as we’d like or get out new resources as quickly as we first intended and THAT IS OKAY!
Similarly to what we said in the section about setting your own goals, it’s important to set expectations for yourself that are fair. At the beginning, posting four times a week felt reasonable. However, as we went on and continued to write longer, more in-depth posts and add more and more to our plates (i.e. social media engagement, video production, and coaching), we needed to take a step back and adjust our expectations. With each passing year, we opted to pull back a bit on the quantity of content we put out in order to ensure we were proud of the quality.
Still, we have been resolute in the expectation to always get our blog posts out on time. We are flexible with our social media and other ‘add-ons’ but we both treat the blog as serious work and the weekly postings we set for ourselves are non-negotiable. Have there been occasions when something went wrong and we forgot to schedule the post or needed to ask the other person to pick up the slack for us? Of course! And we are always understanding with each other when it happens. It’s important to set clear expectations for yourself and treat your blog seriously, but you have to also be flexible when life throws you curveballs.
Working as a Team Makes All the Difference:
Building off of that thought, we believe our success is directly correlated to the decision to embark on this project together. While we can’t speak to the experience of having a larger team, our partnership has provided us with such important accountability, support, and level-headedness. We have commented to each other numerous times that we don’t know if we would have made it this far if we were doing this solo.
Running a blog takes a lot of time and effort. If we didn’t each feel accountable to the other, there would have likely been more times when a blog post went out late, we dropped the ball completely on promoting content, or we just didn’t create anything at all for a while. Sharing the project with someone else who you can count on truly doubles the joys and halves the headaches!
It’s so wonderful to be able to split up responsibilities and thus only have to deeply learn half of the new skills you seek for your blog. It’s also been important for us both to know that if we are having a really difficult week for whatever reason, the other person can step up and ensure everything still goes as planned. Likewise, it’s important to have someone else to check our expectations and, trust us, we regularly stop each other from taking on too much. Sometimes it can be difficult to see your own patterns, but having a partner who has been along for the ride with you can really ease the stress and help you keep realistic expectations.
There are so many more things we have learned over these four years running Sincerely, Spain but we believe these six lessons are among the most important. We would also be remiss not to mention how fortunate we have been that sharing this experience has brought us closer as friends. As you may remember from the story of how we met and what we’ve shared elsewhere, we weren’t actually that close and were more like friends-of-friends for a long time.
However, taking on this big project together has meant that our friendship has been able to grow alongside the blog. Despite now living in different countries, we are closer than ever because we actually have a video-chat meeting every week and talk often in between those calls. It is thanks to this blog and YOU, our cherished readers, that we have been able to cultivate this community—starting with our own friendship.