Lessons learnt from the Meruti blog.
A little over a year ago, 1st June 2015 to be precise, I hit ‘publish’ and the Meruti blog went live. I had been mulling the idea of having a space to share my views and ideas on things that excite me, which included a blog on tall style and home decor as well as an online store that would be anchored by the blog. While that was a desire, I was also very ‘scared’ of revealing myself. No, it was not going to be a personal blog, but the idea that my thoughts would be online for the world to see, scared the hell out of me. In truth maybe just 8-10 people in my circle knew about it (helps to have a large family), and I pestered them to come online and check it out. Needless to say, I survived the first year and right glad I am, that I took that step, stayed the course and we are here celebrating that journey!
How it all started
I started the Meruti blog whilst I was recovering from major surgery in 2015. The timing was weirdly perfect. I had been thinking about starting a blog for over a year and I just never seemed to have time for it. The surgery sort of made that possible. Because I was not able to do much physically, this was a perfect time. For me, being able to ‘do something’ even though I was horizontal for about 6 weeks was a great boost. My mind was occupied and so engaged, with the ins and outs of starting a blog, I didn’t have to dwell too much on what my body was going through.
I have to say though, that I could not have done it without the love and support of my husband B. He cooked, cleaned, cared and coded for me. He is a genius-in my opinion, when it comes to computers and this helped me a great deal when I could not understand what was going on and there were and continue to be many times like these. I am eternally grateful. So this ‘blogiversary’ is more than just one year of Meruti, but it is an appreciation of the immense support from my spouse and family, as well as the healing that has happened in the last year and I couldn’t have imagined this would be the outcome.
I’d would like to share with you some of the lessons I learnt during this amazing journey. Though they are lessons, it does not mean it’s over once the ‘test’ is done. I continue to make mistakes and apply these truths through trial and error. It has been well worth it. Read on for what I learnt in this process.
Blogging is no joke. This is hard work
Let no one fool you. While it is great to know that you want to blog and write about what is precious and dear to you, it takes work to do it and keep doing it. I keep reading how some people are able to churn out posts in a few hours, and I envy them. This doesn’t happen for me and I have to come accept that it’s alright. However I need to adjust accordingly to maintain the momentum. If I need more than a day to organize my thoughts and ideas then I need to plan for it.
I also have to factor in editing which is very very important and check and check again that my message is clear and resonated with whoever will come across the blog. Thereafter there is the component of sharing or promoting your blog and your message on the all the platforms that need to be targeted if you want to grow. This is an interesting landscape and you ought to jump in. It has taken me time and I am still learning this whole thing. I confess that I haven’t jumped into Snapchat yet. I think my issue is, just don’t know how I would use it at the moment so I am on the other fence, but I am not against it altogether. It’s time will come.
I work full time and so the blog and the Meruti store is a side hustle. However, I imagine that the day it will become a full time gig means, I will have to put in much more than I am doing now in order to get the kind of results that will be sustainable. That means thinking about the blog strategically and putting in the work, just like any other job or undertaking. Only when I started blogging, did I really appreciate what the successful bloggers have had to grapple with. I realize I have only scratched the surface, but I am looking forward to giving it more and more. I have learnt and continue to learn from many wonderful bloggers on how to work on my blog such as Darren Rowse of Problogger, Andrew Youderian with a podcast called E-commercefuel if running an online store, Fizzle team and Sonia from Sonia Styling. The first 3 form part of my daily podcast routine as I walk to work and these sessions have been life changing, inspiring and very insightful. They have been a great resource.
Tip: If you haven’t yet already, start listening to podcasts in your area of interest. There are many who have gone before you, tried and tested the waters which you won’t have to, if you listen to them. If you want to start blogging, Darren Rowse has a great podcast on the first 30 days of blogging where he takes you step by step on how and even what to blog about it. I finished it and still going back to it for revision. That whole site is a gem for sure. I would just spend my learning time there. Find it here.
Change is the only constant.
When I started the Meruti blog it was about a concept store that dealt with Tall style, Home storage and Decor. These are my loves. I am glad I came across the term ‘multi-passionate’ because it describes me to a tee. If there is one thing that I grappled with the whole year was whether or not I needed to change from concept store idea( multiple niches) or stick to one niche. The blog experts all tell you to niche-down and there is a reason for that because you are able to concentrate on your craft and what your voice is when you are clear about what you want and why your blog exists. You can target a particular market and it resonates with them.
My problem was that, I felt almost equal parts about talking about tall fashion as I did about Home decor. Being tall is something I lived with all my life. Home decor is something that has grown over the years and I feel really strongly about it. ‘Niching’ aside, I also learnt that if you do your job well and craft your message your market can be people who traverse both aspects that you may want to express and this brings us into the ‘lifestyle’ category of blogging. I grappled with this to and fro. Some weeks I was like, ‘yes we stay with both’, other weeks I was like, ‘let go of one, concentrate on it and then start the other’. It took a while and there were great arguments for both sides. The podcasts also helped me deal with this indecision.
I finally decided to pivot and change the Meruti blog to focus on Tall style and slowly by slowly changing the outlook. It’s been about 3 months with this change and I am monitoring what effect this will have. It’s possible that I may have lost some readers due to this change, and it’s also possible that I gained some. It’s also possible that my indecision hurt my congruence and how I was communicating on the blog. Did people really know what I was about when they came to my blog? Probably not. I am not sure I can wholly attribute it to that. I’m not even sure I can figure that out.
The point I am making is this, change will always be constant when blogging and you need to give yourself time to make that change. Finding a niche takes time-you need that time so that you can find your voice. Don’t force the niche in the beginning, let it come to you naturally. Blog about something you know or are passionate about and it will fall into place.
Secondly, that change can only happen because you are going through it. Re-branding is ok and its normal. Work through the paces of why you need to change.When someone else changes their style or direction, don’t just change yours too. Feel the desire or sense of indecision welling up inside you, face it, argue for or against and finally weigh your options to change or not to change. I will say though, that because I decided to change, I concentrate fully on Tall style in Meruti for now and the Home Decor component is slowly being stewed in thought. At the appointed time it too will have a location/ home. Watch this space.
Your 1st year is a lab of sorts. There is freedom to experiment. Nothing will be perfect.
This point is closely linked to the one above about change. Because it’s your own spot you can experiment lost and find out what works or doesn’t. Know this too, it will not always be perfect. How do you want to communicate? What style do you want to be known for? What colours, pictures elements do you like or don’t like? To know what works or doesn’t you have to try and make mistakes and try again. This year has been great for that reason and it continues to be great as I learn and align myself closer to what I want Meruti to stand for. Blogging is a journey of mistakes and this is what’s amazing. You also need to be ok with ‘good enough’ If I’d waited to have the perfect blog (I wouldn’t even know what that looked like at this stage) there would be no ‘Meruti’ to talk about, let alone celebrating this blogiversary.
In a sense this freedom means that I don’t need permission from others to make changes because it’s my blog, but in a critical way the readers somehow wield the influence on what makes it on the blog, content and style-wise through the response and interaction that comes when I post. So it’s double-edged this freedom thing. But in order to grow, I think you need to have your ears on both sides of ‘divide’ so-to speak. Mistakes are a great teacher, embrace them, they are on your terms.
Be true to yourself. You can’t be like him/her (insert famous blogger)
How you operate, your processes and what makes you tick. You may have the ideals that most people starting a new website or activity have, as well as the best intentions. But, if these are not aligned to your truth then you will waste a lot of time doing actions that seem to be targeted to your overall goal but in essence are of no consequence. I struggled with this and I still do on some days. Yes I know myself and this has become even more critical as I put out content. This is also closely linked with this next point.
Imposter Syndrome is real
I also had to grapple with Imposter syndrome. This is the feeling that you are not adequate enough or even at times down playing your accomplishments and feeling like a fraud. What would I have to say that others would want to hear my point of view?
When I looked deep down I knew that indeed my journey wasn’t any more special than another person’s journey, but the unique thing about it-which was my story, was just that. It was my story. No one else knew it but me. The experiences I had and which in one or another would help others who I had the pleasure of interacting with were particular to me. I focused on what I was learning in the blogging journey rather than how competent I was to run a blog. In truth in the first year you will never be great! Some say it takes 2-3 year blogging to get there. So just chill and do what you need to do. Every. Single. Day. Don’t focus on the failure or the low numbers, no comments, no engagement. This was easy to do in the first year, because it was my reality. But it’s not the whole story. There was more to Meruti than the low numbers, engagement etc. My story. It is just going to take time to get there and now…..I am ok with that. It was also a good outlet for my thoughts and ideas and I am glad I took that step.
The beauty with blogging I have come to realize, we all can weave our own tale of our experiences and how we want to be perceived. It’s in our fingers and up to us to dictate what we want out there or how we want it said of our brands and platforms. That is my power as I blog on Meruti and talk about Tall style for women in Kenya and beyond. Question is what was I going to do about it? And the same question is posed to you if you are just starting out. Meruti is not there yet. To borrow a line from the Bible in Phillipians 3:12 ‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on toward the mark of the high calling’. Keep at it. Step onto that stage and own it. Tell your story, the only way you can. If you don’t believe you can do it, how else will you convince another person to come along with you for the journey? Lessons to self that I relive day by day.
Get out of the comfort zone.
In another life-which I thoroughly enjoyed, I worked in retail. It was a great experience and allowed me to understand customer psychology and even glean insights from there into how I interact with potential customers on the Meruti online store. In a physical store, people come in to your shop because they want something and even if they don’t, they get to know more about your products. They will either buy then, or an idea is implanted in their minds to know what you stock for their own future knowledge. You put it out there they buy it. That used to be the expectation. I say used because the way business was done back then is changing. The basic elements are the same, but nowadays with a discerning customer there is much more that business owners have to do to win their attention.
I had this same mentality with the blog and store because I have always thought that if you needed something you will find it. The advice to get away from the mentality of ‘you build it and they will come’ is so true. I had to learn something that I was always comfortable with- promoting the blog. Selling or promoting someone else’s stuff, I have no problem. But when it comes to my stuff? I have struggled with this during this 1st year and continue to grapple with it. However, I am not giving up and I am still learning because I am seeing that it has results. I am working to figure out why this is so difficult for me, but I also need to get over it so that I can see the results I desire.
Promotion can be ‘salesy’ or sleazy and maybe that’s why I struggled with this aspect. But, I have also learnt that promotion is very important if I want Meruti and tall style to be successful. I need to find a balance so that I am not what I dislike in other blogs that I have come across. It’s almost the same as growing older-you know what you don’t want. I am working to be more proactive and get the word out there, of the existence of a tall style store and blog in Kenya and beyond.
Take bite-sized chunks off of to-do lists.
When I started blogging, I have to say it was quite overwhelming. I had so many to-do lists. I think I even lost some. The hundred and one things you need to do to keep things going from technical point not mentioning the write-ups, keeping up with updates, making sure there is no spam on the site, monitoring the traffic (did I even have traffic?). Add on to that, all the bits and pieces of advice given by experts in the field. Some are really good, and some are just ripping off what others have done and trying to get you on their gravy train.
Seriously, it was and sometimes is still daunting. It was easy to think …nay believe, I could do it all, but this was so far from my reality. There was never going to be a time when I’d say I’ve done it all and checked all the boxes, thinking now we are at par with the best of them. My concession and pick-me-up after I fell from the high horse, was to do what I could in small manageable doses.
You conquer the mountain or the elephant by chewing it off in small pieces. There is Swahili saying ‘Haba na haba hujaza kibaba’ which translated sates ‘little by little fills the measure’. That has continued to be the way I have maintained some balance and sanity as I juggled all that needed to be done. We are not there yet, but I can see the benefits of small changes I make and achievements to the overall goal of Meruti. I continue to chew in small bits.
Do something every day. No matter the size, just do it.
This next tip is somehow connected to the one above and I heard it from a 19 year old entrepreneur during one of the podcasts that I listen(ed) to. He said, no matter how huge the task is, always try and do one thing every day. It can be as simple as clearing your inbox or making sure your widgets are working, always try and do something every day. It’s a simple decision to make and you may feel you don’t always have to adhere to it, but when you make a habit of it, there is a great outcome in the long run. Try it and pat yourself on the back when you see how much you managed to achieve.
Develop a blogging routine/work schedule and keep to it.
In the beginning I started with about 8 blog post drafts before the site went live (a great tip by the way if you are starting). I figured I could do 2 per week and felt the drive and excitement could sustain me throughout the whole blogging experience. But…Something just happened. I never did really drill down to find out what exactly caused this shift. I couldn’t keep up with my promise to myself. I started doing one a week and pretty soon it was almost one every 2 weeks or at one point, once a month. It’s better to be regular with once a month than have bursts of 4 a month and none the next month.
Now I try to plan at least 1 week’s content in advance and I am working towards 2 weeks in advance. I do this in bits and pieces over the course of the week prior to posting week. I take photos if need be over the weekend. I check emails daily and spread over morning, midday and evening. Because I am also working full time, evenings is when I settle into doing the work for the blog. I also have to make sure I utilize the time efficiently which can be difficult especially when I am not able to concentrate for one reason or another, or I am having a hard time switching between the day’s events and into Meruti-mode. The Medal box was an undertaking that I was able to realize by committing to doing something everyday. I am very happy how it turned out.
Networking. It’s a great community!
I am still working on this one because of my prior point, but slowly by slowly I am chipping away at it. There is a great blogging community out there. Find your niche and get engaged. There is so much to learn from those who have gone before you and others who are like yourself in your blogging journey. Bloggers are some of the kindest people I have come across and it amazing to find those who are successful reaching down to pull others up. They pay it forward and it seems to come back to them. Don’t forget when you get up there yourself (because you will) do the same for another in that journey.
Learn, learn, learn!
I have learnt so much from blogging it’s surprising. To think that one year ago I did not know what a plug-in or a widget or SEO was, is just mind boggling. I am learning about what my readers like or don’t like. It’s interesting how this actually influences your knowledge of your readers and how you tailor your posts-of course staying true to your message and who you are.
I am also surprised at my capacity to take on something totally new, different and dive head first in. It is very closely linked to doing something that you love and enjoy doing. I knew I had a ‘message to preach’ but I did not know the ins and outs of making that happen. I am also appreciating that the brain really is a muscle that can be trained. My late father used to say ‘there is no end to learning’, and I find this truth being played out day by day, as I navigate the blogging and e-commerce waters. My penchant for knowledge in this totally new arena is crazy. I sometimes wonder where my energy comes from. I actually look forward to my morning walks because I get to hear new stuff. I look forward to the weekend because that’s when I write content besides ofcourse resting. I have had to put a cap on how much ‘reading’ ‘inspiration’ I gather. Sometimes it leads to inaction and this needs o be managed so that I am not so ‘informed that I am paralysed by what I need to do next.
Tip: Pace yourself with regards to how much you read for learning/ inspiration in comparison to getting the work done. If you feel that all you do when you start is read on this and that (which is all good), identify one resource that you feel resonates with your learning pace, learn and apply the concepts. Over time you can add others as you see fit and as is reasonable to handle. Don’t let analysis paralysis be your excuse.
I grew. Personally.
In this year I also grew on a personal level. Maybe in part because I had to examine what my truth was/is. Why do I feel the need to have a site about Tall style and especially here in Kenya? What do I want to communicate? Am I helping someone in the process? When I shared of myself I realised I was also very careful that what I shared was something I could be held accountable for. I could stand by it and this was strengthened by what I had experienced growing up. All of which I am truly grateful for and glad to share with others. It was also important to me not to take my audience’s visits to my site for granted the fact that they came by was something I truly appreciate(d) because they could have gone to any other site at that particular time. My response to that is to make sure that the visit is worth their while. I have learnt to be patient. It’s easy o get discouraged and down when you put out your work and no one seems to read any of it. Like many others say, you hear nothing. Only crickets. But I determined to keep going and if not for anything else, I have seen the change on personal level and a capacity to stay this course which I chose very carefully. I will continue to do it even for the one person who comes by.
I have learnt to be flexible and let go of things which I thought would work but alas failed royally! There was no response to it. Not even a negative one-that is still needed feedback. The biggest mindset shift ? Understanding that it was not even personal! Why I would even think that in the first place is because, this was so precious to me and I assumed everyone would find it precious enough to flock to the site. Wrong! It’s a lesson because I now manage my expectations. But I also know when I can expect some reaction. It’s when I have worked hard at something and put something of value to my audience. My response has been to get back to the drawing board tweak it here and there and put it out. Again and again. The Lean Start Up was a great read and I continue to refer to it often. Putting something of value to the audience also helps me deal with feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome when it rears it’s head. I know I can weight what I am feeling against what I have given.
Last but certainly not least……
Make time for your relationships.
With the consuming nature of blogging- and I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, I have learnt that I need to make time for my relationships. It’s very easy to slip into the mode of work while the relationships suffer silently. There have been times when I felt guilty for wanting to do this so much at the expense of chill time. What has helped is prioritizing and setting aside solid blocks of time for what needs to be done when, having non-negotiables in terms of spending time with my husband and family and friends. I also know I need to do this in the early days so that it’s not a consistent aspect in years to come. Suffice it to say the challenges in the early days are different from those in the growth and expansion phase but hopefully by that time I will have carved out a proper system of dealing with that pressure.
There you have it!
That pretty much sums it up for this first year. It’s been an amazing journey of ups and downs and I have loved every moment of it. Going forward what do I hope to do in the second year?
What’s in store for Meruti in the 2nd year?
- Learning some more about coding-in bite sized chunks. I have been fortunate to have my husband help me in this but I know I need to get some basic understanding for myself. This is something I never thought I would say I want to learn, but look what blogging does! I have learnt so much and look forward to much more.
- Sticking to my schedule. I already set it out, I just need to keep to it.
- Growing the community and traffic to the site. No pressure.
- Interacting more with other bloggers and influencers, and especially locally.
I have had a wonderful year and I look forward to another great year. As the adage goes, ‘there’s more where that came from’. Starting a blog and writing about tall lifestyle is something I had mused about for a while, but never really made a concrete step towards, mostly because I didn’t know how. There still so much I am looking forward to sharing with you all as well as many changes coming up and I am super excited to share them with you as they unfold. I am looking forward to interacting with you right here on any other topics.
Last but not least thank you for your readership.
Writing for you keeps me on my toes and that’s a good thing(even on health side of things). But to add on to that, it’s been a great pleasure and I would still push that publish button-perhaps even earlier.
On that note, what’s a celebration without goodies huh?? not memorable. So look out for some offers that will be coming out as we celebrate this milestone.
Here’s to many more!
With love, hugs and appreciation.
PS: As usual, if you found this helpful like it, leave a comment here and share it on your platforms. It will go a long way in helping a tall girl who is yet to know Meruti and helps us get the word out there.