What I’ve Learned About Creating Digital Content in 2019
In some ways, 2019 has been a year of failed experiments (at least on the blogging, branding, and social media front). But to be honest, I’m not too upset over these failures. Because there were some things I really needed to learn at this point in my journey as a digital creator, and I feel like I learned a lot of those things this year.
So in a nutshell, nothing I planned going into 2019 has really worked out as planned… but we’ll call it progress.
Let’s recap, shall we?
The first half of 2019
I started the year 2019 unemployed. I had just spent six weeks solo traveling around Europe, and I had a ton of ideas that I had sketched out in sloppy handwriting in a little yellow notebook that I carried around with me everywhere I went. As to what all the sloppy notes should add up to long term, your guess was as good as mine at that point… but I decided to launch a new blog in December 2018 anyway.
To be fair to the inspired, excited creature that was January 2019 Sarah: she had noble intentions. Primarily, I wanted to share the process of building a new brand, blog and business from the ground up. Believe it or not, it is difficult to find actionable, free, high-quality content about starting something new online (not in a course you are forced to pay for… typically before finding out whether or not it is high-quality). I wanted to create free, easy-to-use content that others in my own situation could benefit from, and I thought that answering the questions I ran into as they came up would be a great way to do that.
Now you may be wondering why I felt it was necessary to start a new blog to address questions about blogging, branding, social media, business and side hustling when I already have Sarah Going. The short answer is that I bought into the blog niche hype. Since Sarah Going was originally established as a travel blog, I didn’t think that the Sarah Going audience would want content on these other topics. I have squeezed some money and lifestyle content in here occasionally, but the content on this blog is generally framed by travel: personal finance tips related to funding travel, how to save money for travel, how to balance competing priorities (like a fifties fixer upper) with a love of travel… you get the picture.
By the second quarter of 2019, I had a collection of brand new social media accounts to go with my new blog. At the peak of this madness, I was personally managing 2 blogs, 2 Instagram accounts, 2 Pinterest accounts, 1 individual Facebook page, 1 Facebook business page and 1 Twitter account. I was stressed, nothing was being done well, and I felt guilty about it.
Needless to say, this was not a sustainable long-term plan.
The second half of 2019
The problem with this story so far may seem more obvious to you than it was to me when I was living through it: I’m not really in this story at all. Sure, my blogs and social media accounts are in this story (and I wasn’t doing a great job of managing those)… but believe it or not, my blogs and social media accounts aren’t the only things I have to manage on a daily basis (a fact I seem to have completely forgotten when I was building this tower of blogs and social media accounts for myself to manage).
I went back to work full-time with a new company in mid-January 2019. I’m sure we’ve all started new jobs at some point, so we know (and I should have known) that at the very least, starting a new job involves learning new systems, learning the dynamic of a new company culture and proving to a new group of people that you are competent, helpful, and a team player. Throw all that fun new job stuff in with the fact that our team spent almost the entire year 2019 understaffed, and this year has been a bit of a madhouse on the work front.
As if a madhouse on the work front wasn’t enough, 2019 has also been a tough year personally. I turned 29, so it may just be the age, but many if not most of my best friends are starting major new chapters in their lives. Moving away from Nashville, pursuing graduate school, having babies, entering new relationships, getting engaged… there is a lot going on. I’ve also been dealing with some health issues this year, which have added an extra layer of craziness to the mix.
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, the second half of 2019 has been about facing facts. Because like it or not, wanting to run a social media and blog empire isn’t enough to make it successful. In addition to wanting to make it work, you also have to physically/mentally be able to make it work. Ultimately, I had to get realistic about what size empire I can manage as one individual person (with a full time job, a fifties fixer upper, an almost-30 social life, and an unwavering love of travel).
I won’t say it’s perfect, but I think that just running this blog, Sarah Going, makes the most sense going forward. I’ve also scaled back my social media accounts and rebranded them so that they are all under my name @sarahdsimp. No matter what type of content I’m writing, where I intend to ultimately share my content or what social media platform I use to advertise that content, I’m still just one person… so I think it makes sense to simply use my name on social media. The only specifically branded social media channel that will continue is the @sarahgoing Instagram page (Instagram will be the only platform where I have two accounts going forward). Since a large part of travel blogging is sharing travel photos, I think it makes sense to keep a dedicated account for those travel photos and to use my personal @sarahdsimp Instagram page to share whatever I want/everything else.
Does this mean that Going Places Media is going away?
For now, yes. There are still a variety of ideas I have that fall under the Going Places Media brand umbrella that will probably make an appearance at some point in the future… but what I have going on currently feels like the maximum amount of digital content channels that I can manage sustainably by myself. So for now, I’ll just be running the Sarah Going blog.
But what about all the branding, blogging and social media content (and everything else I’ve been writing over at Going Places Media this year?)
While I experimented with trying to keep all my content in strict little niche boxes during 2019, I realized that I don’t really fit into a strict little niche box… so it doesn’t feel right to make my content fit in boxes either. I launched Sarah Going in 2016 to tell stories of my adventures, and while those adventures may not look exactly like they did three years ago, they are still adventures. So I’m planning to go back to my roots as we kick off the new decade (and I turn 30) in 2020. I want Sarah Going to be my adventure story, whether it categorizes neatly into a niche, or it technically covers topics in multiple niches. At the end of the day, who really cares? As long as I enjoy writing this blog and people enjoy reading it (and get value from reading it), that’s what really matters.
I have made a few updates already as I plan to move the best of the Going Places Media content over here during the remaining months of 2019. I’ve added additional drop down menus at the top of the page to (hopefully) make it easier to find the content you are looking for. True to form, I also have some ideas for new content that doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve historically written about (like cooking!) that I’m really excited to try out here over the next year.
Sometimes, simple is best.
If I’ve learned anything over the last year about blogging, branding, and business it is that sometimes, the simplest option is the best option. I don’t disagree that having every topic I cover and every medium I create in separated into it’s own neat little corner may make sense, but it also isn’t very realistic… and it isn’t very me. I’m a person that wakes up and drinks coffee while reading articles on Apartment Therapy, works in finance all day, draws on her lunch break, and plans trips in the evening while listening to podcasts. I switch from one little corner niche to another all day every day, so it makes sense to me that Sarah Going should too.
With that being said, I would still love to hear your feedback on my content. If adding more variety to the topics I cover at Sarah Going bothers you, let me know. If you have ideas about something you would like to see me write about, let me know that too. I would love to hear from you in the comments, or on any social media platform @sarahdsimp. And as always, thanks for reading!