Four Years of Follow Your Sunshine: My Blogging Journey and a Brand New Direction

As I sit down to write this post, it’s four years to the day since I opened up a new Blogspot account, cobbled together a rooky blog design using one of their ready-to-go templates and a little artistic flair optimism, and wrote my very first blog post. Needless to say, my writing, photography and overall approach wasn’t going to win me any awards back then, but in Follow Your Sunshine I found something which was about to become a fundamental piece of the jigsaw puzzle; it filled a space that I didn’t yet know I was missing.

What I've learned in four years blogging

This corner of the internet travelled halfway across the world with me, from my attic flat in Clapham, London, to the bright lights of Doha, Qatar where it became my online diary, and a space to share my favourite eats, travel highlights, expat highs and expat woes, my engagement and wedding excitement, my rocky pregnancy journey and eventually the deep dive into motherhood.

This page was my outlet. It kept me company during the long, lonely nights when Rich was working, before I knew anyone in Doha well enough to ask them round for a drink. It helped me to feel connected to people back home. It was a creative escape from reality.

It was never my intention for Follow Your Sunshine to catch anyone’s attention, let alone the attention of PRs and brands. I certainly never set out to earn the label ‘influencer’ (a term which makes me recoil slightly to this day). Yet, there have been so many incredible opportunities that blogging has opened up to me, that I am so grateful for the path that I ended up taking and the way that things turned out.

The very best thing that has happened so far on this journey is of course YOU! Yes you, reading this blog post right now. Your comments, emails and support are what have kept me going for four years and what help me to get out of bed every morning with a renewed sense of vigour, and a desire to get better at what I do. Most importantly of all, Follow Your Sunshine has helped me to develop some of the best friendships I have ever had, in some of my fellow bloggers, some of the PRs that I’ve worked with, and even a couple of readers (you all know who you are!).

All of that being said, I have had some real serious self-doubt about the future of my blogging career lately, and it’s been crippling my productivity, just at the time when I’m desperately willing it to flourish.

As some of you know, I recently took the decision to take my blog full time, which was slightly forced upon me a little earlier than I had planned. When big life changes are thrust upon you like this, I think it’s important, in both a ‘growing as a person’ and a ‘growing in a business sense’, to have a bit of a period of self-reflection, to double check that you’re heading in the right direction.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. That, and watching a lot of the Michelaks on YouTube and eating my bodyweight in biscuits.

And you know what? For once, I’m not sure that all of this introspection has been entirely good for me. I’ve spent hours fretting about whether I’m cut out to make blogging a career, whole evenings consumed with whether I’m going to be able to keep up with brands’/people’s/hell, my own expectations, and God knows how long worrying about what people are saying and thinking about the whole thing.

Funnily enough, my thoughts about my blog, which used to bring me so much happiness and warm fuzzy feelings, have taken a somewhat downward spiral of late.

Confession time. I’ve really struggled with the growing focus on numbers and social media followers (and all of the angst associated with that damn Instagram algorithm!). I’ve watched in dismay as bloggers with purchased followers have been handed opportunities, while honest bloggers flounder. I’ve found the competitive nature of the industry difficult to find much enjoyment in, and found the nastiness that comes along with it positively repellent.

Don’t get me wrong, the blogosphere isn’t all like this and there are many many good things and incredible people in this unique world, but as I’m sure you’re beginning to get the gist of by now, I’m growing less content with the blogging bubble these days.

Luckily, my passion is still burning more brightly than my fear, so rather than simply throwing the towel in and shutting down my website like I have threatened to countless times over the past three months, I am going to be making some changes around here.

You know what the most wonderful thing about the internet is? Nobody else out there is you. All of you aspiring and established bloggers, you need to keep reminding yourself that nobody else can do you as well as you can. So trusting your gut, focussing on the things that make you feel alive, and writing about what makes you feel truly, unashamedly you is the best thing that you can do for your brand. And this exactly what I am going to do.

What I've learned in four years blogging

So what does this actually mean in practice for Follow Your Sunshine going forwards?

More focus on the things that I’m passionate about. This means more exploration of Doha’s food scene with my family. More exciting travel (and staycations), as well as travel-themed posts. More personal posts about myself and my journey into motherhood.

More sideline projects. Let’s face it, blogging isn’t going to make me my millions. Watch this space for a few creative projects that I have lined up outside of the immediate blogging world.

More honesty. Follow Your Sunshine is a positive blog about the good things in life, but that doesn’t mean that life is perfect all of the time. Expect a few more chatty, personal posts in the coming weeks and months (I promise not to make them too rambling!).

More content about blogging itself. With four years of blogging under my belt, while I am still confused every day by a lot of things (Pinterest traffic, HTML, the ins and outs of SEO…I could go on), I also have a few pearls of wisdom to share too. I’ll be starting a new series of blogging posts shortly (please let me know if there’s anything in particular that you would like to see!).

Less time spent worrying, and more time spent improving my game. The addiction to success that is rife in the blogging community is the most fabulous of things if it’s harnessed in the right way. Let it consume you, and you have a recipe for disaster. Anxiety, competition, blogger bashing… we all need to keep reminding ourselves that everybody has their own definition of success and has the freedom to decide on their own path to get there. Let’s support each other in doing so.

So, this is my chosen path, and I’m going to take it unashamedly (although I can tell you now that I’m definitely going to make mistakes along the way).

I’ve given myself until the end of 2017 to see if I can turn things around, and I hope you’ll stick with me as I continue my journey. It’s been four fabulous years, and I would be absolutely, utterly, incredibly ecstatic if I can make it to five.

Here’s to understanding ourselves and what makes us tick. Here’s to trusting in the decisions we make to try to make the best out of difficult situations. Here’s to new beginnings which open up exciting opportunities. Here’s to having the faith in ourselves to work out which direction to head in, even if we feel as though we’re feeling around in the dark half of the time.

After all, faith moves far more mountains than doubt can ever create, right?


<!– end InLinkz script —

33 Comments

  1. November 1, 2017 / 9:11 am

    This is a great post for someone like myself! I am coming up to my one year mark in blogging soon and have just launched my Facebook page. It is easy to get consumed in the numbers, and trying to ‘promote’ your blog etc. But at the end of the day, just getting your thoughts out there is what matters.
    I would love to read more on the technical and analytics side of blogging. The SEO, traffic, etc.

    • November 2, 2017 / 9:44 pm

      I’m the exact same – it can be a bit much can’t it. I find the instagram algorithm a big headache as well, a little bit like I’m trying to run up a downward moving escalator haha. I would also like to hear some technical bits and how to increase traffic too please,

      www,jettravels.co.uk
      J.E.T
      xx

  2. Cristobal Galit Jr.
    November 1, 2017 / 9:12 am

    Great read Polly,

    BTW, there is a blogger that mentioned your name, she said she will visit you later… and show the video again…

    haha!

    I am very proud of you, and hopefully we crossed our paths again internationally!

  3. November 1, 2017 / 9:46 am

    Thanks so much Polly for sharing your open and honest reflections. Sounds like you’ve got some exciting plans ahead – can’t wait to hear about them! All the best for it all.. x

  4. November 1, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Go you! I wish I had that guts to make the most of my blog and find ways to make it slightly profitable!

  5. November 1, 2017 / 10:15 am

    “Confession time. I’ve really struggled with the growing focus on numbers and social media followers (and all of the angst associated with that damn Instagram algorithm!). I’ve watched in dismay as bloggers with purchased followers have been handed opportunities, while honest bloggers flounder. I’ve found the competitive nature of the industry difficult to find much enjoyment in, and found the nastiness that comes along with it positively repellent.”

    I couldn’t have express this any better!
    Look forward to reading your upcoming posts .

  6. November 1, 2017 / 10:16 am

    I couldn’t have express this any better!
    Look forward to reading your upcoming posts

    .”Confession time. I’ve really struggled with the growing focus on numbers and social media followers (and all of the angst associated with that damn Instagram algorithm!). I’ve watched in dismay as bloggers with purchased followers have been handed opportunities, while honest bloggers flounder. I’ve found the competitive nature of the industry difficult to find much enjoyment in, and found the nastiness that comes along with it positively repellent.”

  7. November 1, 2017 / 10:17 am

    I loved this honest sincere article. I find it very hard to be open and personal on my blog which comes across as cold and factual. I have alot to learn from you.

    I enjoyed chatting to you and listening to you at the four seasons… maybe branch out into teaching people how to blog… you have the personality, approachability, zest and positive energy for it.

    I was on a aaargh moment last week when I was wondering if it was all worth it as I come to my 6months blog anniv. I Needed to read this.

    Good luck

    Take care
    Fatimah

  8. November 1, 2017 / 10:40 am

    Definitely stick to your words about you being you, there are so many blogs that try to be something not real and when it’s actually the real person it’s a pleasure to read – good luck, exciting times!

  9. November 1, 2017 / 11:29 am

    Happy 4 year blogaversary!! I’ve lost touch with my blog and have been stuck in a bit of a rut recently too but I think this is more from the exhaustion of being a new mama than anything else! I’m hoping I’ll get back on track some time soon but your positivity definitely helps. Well done on taking the plunge into full time blogging even if it was a little earlier than expected. I know you’re going to do really well – just stay full of sunshine! 🙂

  10. November 1, 2017 / 11:58 am

    I love this!!! I love the fact that we both wrote about our blogging journey! I was nodding my head along to so many of things that you wrote especially the bit about seeing people with bought followers being handed opportunities. At least we can keep our head held high and know we’ve done it all ourselves – with a little help from the Instagram husbands.

    • Lauren Hudson
      November 1, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      I was nodding along as well! I think we’re (all?) feeling a little jaded at the moment. Personally I love reading both of your blogs and will continue to do so again and again! Keep all of that lovely sunshine 🙂 and do shout if you ever want to talk! XX

  11. Themumtox
    November 1, 2017 / 12:02 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed your honesty. I too love writing and sharing my journey. However, I have a bad relationship with social media and I would be in and out a lot due to this. I find that sometimes I question who I am writing for, my intentions, and whether I should just write for myself and my girls instead. The more I post though the more I feel content I am helping or giving hope to someone out there, and it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something that day, pushing me further.

    It’s a tough one though. Wish you all the best.
    Always best to stay true to yourself and the reason why you started out in the first place..(If that makes sense).

    May your sun shine bright 🙂

  12. November 1, 2017 / 12:36 pm

    I can’t wait to see all the incredible things you’ll no doubt be up too!
    Sandra | Cake + Whisky

  13. November 1, 2017 / 12:46 pm

    So happy you’ve found your direction Polly, it sounds like a great path to take. It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers game but I’ve found that seeing as there’s not much I can do about it, its best to ignore and focus on my content. They say its king for a reason! And hell yes for watching the Michalaks! My fav vloggers 🙂 Eppie x

  14. Simon
    November 1, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    Happy anniversary Pol! I’m proud of the way that you have stuck at it, and steadily improved the quality of your output throughout. I know that it hasn’t been easy for you at times; but a bit of honest introspection such as that which you have just now displayed is both cathartic and cleansing. I’m looking forward to the next direction – and to some advice to me too please!Here’s to the next 4 (?!). Love Dad x

  15. November 1, 2017 / 3:17 pm

    what a wonderful post. It was great to read it, very relatable. we just started a blog, as a means to keep in touch with friends and family while we are on our family sabbatical. I love to armchair travel and follow many bloggers, so I thought I would start a blog but I have no real goal or direction. Just sharing our travel stories and hope that friends anda family ( and people who stumble across the blog) like it. Let’s see if we will celebrate a 4 year blog anniversary. One step at a time 🙂

  16. November 1, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Cheers to all of that Polly! I can well imagine how scary / nerve-wracking the jump into full-time blogging (etc!) must be. I’ve definitely had times in the last couple of months when I’ve wondered if it’s even worth continuing with hobby blogging, much as I love my little creative corner of the internet, given how much time it takes. But you’re inspiring me to jump back in… next time I have a quiet moment!

  17. November 1, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    Happy blog anniversary and know exactly how u feel but we can crack this!! <3

  18. November 1, 2017 / 8:23 pm

    The self-doubt can be crippling when you’re comparing yourself to others or feel compelled to ‘achieve’ a certain status… I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it, but wanted to say that you are not alone. I thought it would be great to have the chance to ‘blog full time’ during our travels, but then fell down the same rabbit hole you did for a while… and have decided to just travel and blog about it without any strings or stress attached. Which is what I started the blog for in the first place. Good luck Polly xx

  19. November 1, 2017 / 8:51 pm

    Congratulations on your blogging anniversary Polly! Keep rocking the blogosphere! 🤗 Stay awesome! ✨

  20. November 1, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    Happy 4th blog anniversary Polly! This is an inspiring article to read, full of honesty and sincerity.. Like you, I’ve been questioning myself lately, if what I’ve been doing for my blog is still worth it, but whenever I remind myself on why I started, it just keeps me going.. I’m so excited to see what’s in store for your blog and I am also hoping to meet you in Doha..

  21. November 2, 2017 / 12:09 am

    Again, I love your post. Have contributed to the linky and subscribed to your blog. You seem very down to earth and honest and that is so refreshing in the blogging world!

  22. November 2, 2017 / 5:19 am

    What a great post!! We have only been blogging for a year – and instagramming for a tad longer and this morning i was feeling so disheartened because of the Insta algorhythm and a lack of general interest in our blog. Onwards and upwards!

  23. November 2, 2017 / 10:45 am

    I’ve been blogging since 2008 and totally understand what you are saying. I still get excited every time I post something new, and now enjoy looking back at my blog which has become something of an online diary. Good luck with the full time blogging!

  24. November 2, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Polly, you truly are amazing. I love your blog posts because you are so genuine and uncut. In truth sometimes I get bored of reading the same old cookie cutter blurb and with you and follow your sunshine I know I get what’s real. What’s real is what inspires me. Excited for your journey .

  25. November 2, 2017 / 11:55 am

    Well you absolutely can’t stop blogging! I forbid it!!!

    In all seriousness you are one of the shining lights in my blogging world. I look at your blog and think maybe I could make mine do that one day too. You may not realise it but you are inspiring new bloggers like me every day.

    I am super excited for this new phase in your career and I’m thrilled about all your new changes which I think will be brilliant – not just for you but for us, your readers!

    Follow that sunshine xxx

  26. November 3, 2017 / 2:32 pm

    I was nodding along vehemently at every aspect of this post…especially the bit about the whole blogosphere becoming so competitive and instagram being the shitty thing it is now from the once fab lets just share because it makes me happy app! I started my blogging journey 4 years ago and I am still reeling in disbelief that bloggers with inferior content and instagrammers with bought followers get handed opportunities, and yet I spend hours mulling over my content and I am on no radar. In the last few months especially, I have started to blog for myself because that’s what makes me happiest. If I gain a loyal following and manage to inspire a few people to travel and work at the same time, then I will be happy. For now, at any rate! I’d follow along your chatty posts for sure, and would lap up any pearls of wisdom you have to share on blogging, seo and tips with enthusiasm! Thank you for being so honest and sharing your journey.

  27. November 4, 2017 / 12:03 am

    Woo how exciting! That is such a great decision and I bet it would help so much more with that extra time each day. I definitely wish I had more time!

  28. November 4, 2017 / 3:41 am

    I can related SO MUCH to this whole post! I get so angry every time I see people who bought followers/likes etc getting opportunities, I just wanna scream at the PRs to do their homework and stop being so lazy.

    Really hope everything works out for you with the blog! I’ve found it much easier to write by telling myself it doesn’t matter about followers or numbers etc, I started it to record personal memories and travel experiences, and that’s what I’ll continue to do, even if no one really notices it or cares for my posts!

    C x | Say Hello &
    Lux Life – Luxury Travel & Lifestyle Blog

  29. November 5, 2017 / 5:05 pm

    Ahh you and Angie on the same wavelength with this month’s travel linkup 🙂 Congrats on four years of blogging, what a journey. I am so happy that you are pursuing it full time, I think that gives other smaller bloggers like myself inspiration! I totally agree with you on the idea that NOBODY can be you as well as you can… there are so many generic blog posts out there, the market is really saturated, so I really agree with following your own passions and unique stance on topics because that is the most valuable! Looking forward to your new blogging series and personal posts coming up 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *