4 Years Of The Northernist - How Have I Changed?

2 Jan 2020

The turning of the new year is always lovely, not only because you get those infectious 'new year, new me' vibes, but for me, it also symbolises The Northernist's birthday. Yes, I started this little corner of the web way back in 2016 (which doesn't actually sound so long ago when you say it out loud, until you realise the year is now 2020), and that makes my blog four years old! It's getting to that age where it's developing a sassy attitude, wanting to destroy your makeup collection to make artwork on the walls and floor, and only wanting to eat beige foods. The fabulous fours!

Now, I've done a few of these blogiversary posts in the past, and they tend to be kind of lengthy and a bit of a bore to the present Olivia. I would usually talk about the whole of 2019 from my blog's perspective and go into each month, but for this post, we're out with the old, and in with the new. So instead, I want to talk about how much The Northernist has developed, where we're at now and what I'm hoping for going forward.

Why did I start The Northernist?

I know that there are a few readers of this blog who have been around since the beginning, but for any newbies, I figured a good place to start is right at blog conception. Before The Northernist was born, I wrote on Olivia's Notebook (woooah, blast from the past), which was actually a pretty popular blog, mainly because I stuck to blogging trends and copying content ideas.

However, I wasn't happy with doing that. I didn't take pride or joy in what I was writing, despite the numbers that were coming in. I wanted a place where I could write whatever the heck I wanted, whether I was raving about a new bit of makeup or sharing far too much information about bodily functions. And so, The Northernist came into being. It took me a little while to get to a point where I felt comfortable with sharing uber personal things online, but I think it's safe to say we're at that point.

A lot of things have changed from 2016 and that's probably because I've changed. There was no way that my blog was going to stay the same while I was growing up, and so I've dragged my blog along with me, kicking and screaming, to the place that we're in now.

I've developed a brand

This is a thing that makes me feel a little bit icky sometimes, but also really quite cool. Over 2019, I came to terms with the fact that my blog is a thing that actual, real life people read and it kind of needs to have it's own identity. It's gone through a fair few makeovers, most of which were mainly monochrome in colour, but now, we've got a modern logo, a fun pop of colour that I like to fondly call 'The Northernist teal' and a bit of a pitch on my about page that I like to use across all my platforms.

My blog feels so much more like me and like a place that I would want my content to be seen. Along with the branding refresh came a lovely new layout from Templates By Kate. If you're on Blogger, I would highly recommend checking her out! Her templates are easy to use and Kate is really quick to reply if you've got a problem. But the one I chose gives The Northernist a much fresher, more magazine-style layout, and I'm obsessed with it.

I've developed a writing style

I'm a total nerd for style guides, both reading and writing them, because it's fascinating to see how a business wants to be received. One of the key elements of a style guide is the writing voice and style, and mine is something that I've been working recently so much more than I did in the beginning.

I was so keen to sound like me and what's really lovely is that people I know can read something now and say, 'that sounds exactly like you.' It's still something that I'm tweaking, but I feel like I'm managing to get my smoggy-tinged accent and ridiculous quips into posts more and more. A great example, in my opinion, is my 'first pill-free month' post. Sure, it's not for everyone, but I want my personality to come across in my writing, so you'll be seeing more of the real me over 2020.

I'm experimenting more with photos

It's so easy to look at Instagram and other people's photos and think, 'why don't mine look like that?' But I'm sticking two fingers up to that way of thinking and taking photos in my own way. Sure, I still love my white wooden background, but I just can't do those perfectly-organised-but-effortlessly-messy flatlays or those candid outfit shots, and I own that.

I pride myself on how colourful and kind of chaotic my Instagram is because it's totally unique and mine. I pride myself on the photos that make it into my blog posts and if I didn't like a photo, it wouldn't be in the post. I used to take photos to try and fit into that typical blogger look, but now, I'm just not giving a damn and doing it in my own way.

I've got more confidence in my content

I'm not entirely sure if you've noticed, but my content has been kinda ballsy as of late. 2016 Olivia would never ever dream of talking openly about discharge on here, but 2019 Olivia is a totally different lady. I'm so open to talking about the more taboo topics now, which I absolutely love and it seems like you guys do too! I'm talking about the topics that I truly want to talk about and I'm finding it easier to hit publish on more personal posts.

I've joined Grow & Glow

Grow & Glow (affiliate) was a pretty big name that was being thrown around in the blogosphere and I was interested from the get go. After seeing so many rave reviews in its first three months, I took the leap and bought myself a membership, and it's totally changed my whole perspective on blogging and the way I blog. It's been totally invaluable to The Northernist, as well as my day job, and I've learned a lot about branding, audience, SEO, Instagram and so much more.

For me, I think joining this community was definitely the turning point for this blog. After engaging with the G&G content, I was able to get a clear vision for The Northernist and I could start to pinpoint a path for it to follow. It's something that I could rave about all day long, so if you've been considering joining G&G, I 100% recommend it. It'll completely change the way you see blogging and social media!

I've learned to understand the importance of staying in your lane

While I truly believe that blogging and writing the content that I want to read helps to bring out the best in me, there have been more than a few times where I've had a bit of envy and the green eyed monster has come out. I'm not the type of person to publicly rant about things on social media, but in the comfort of my own home, I have had a good grump about blog-related things.

However, I've learned that that's not me and that it's so important to stay in your own lane. I'm paving my own blog's path, not someone else's, and what I'm doing with this blog is right for me. Sure, there are so many things that I'd love to be doing with it, but I will get to that point in my own time and when The Northernist is ready.

I've learned which collabs are right for my blog

This is definitely a process that a lot of bloggers have gone through - when their blogs start to get noticed and they get those super exciting emails pinging into their inboxes. But there needs to be a line where you think, 'hang on, this lederhosen collab doesn't seem quite right for my audience'. It's taken some time, but I like to think that I'm there now. There'll be no lederhosen on this blog.

Over the years, I've definitely made a few mistakes with collabs, but I can comfortably and respectfully turn things down now if I'm sure that they won't work for me or my readers. I won't just take on any old thing, whether it's paid or not, and I reckon that's something to be proud of. On the other hand, if you're thing is to just do a million collabs, then that's fine, do your thing and own it, but for me, I have a clear vision and I know what would or wouldn't work.

What does the future look like for The Northernist?

I'm really excited about the way things are shaping up for this blog. It sounds so stupid, but because of Olivia's Notebook failing so epically, I didn't expect to love The Northernist for as long as I have. We've had our rough patches, like every relationship does, but I'm so happy with the way things are right now. I love the way the blog looks and I love the content I'm producing.

Going forward, like I mentioned in my 2020 goals post, I want to do a lot more Teesside-based stuff. I have such a passion for supporting independents, so I'd love to do a lot more of that on here, and build up a bit of a directory with places to eat, events to go to, things to see and places to shop in Teesside. I'd also love to keep doing all the female lifestyle content that I've been creating recently. It's possibly my favourite thing to write, mainly because it's so easy to write about things that are personal to you, but also because I get incredible responses from other women about the posts too.

I'm going to start pitching more instead of waiting for businesses to find me, so keep your eyes peeled for cool collabs this year (hopefully!). I also just want to keep posting when it's right for me. Sticking to a rigid schedule when you're working full time is kind of hard and I know that having a solid schedule is kind of key, but posting whenever works for me, so that's what I'll stick to.

What were my favourite posts of 2019?

Ok, I'm not going to delve too much into last year, but I always like to talk about my favourite posts in these blogiversary articles. It's just nice to cast your mind back over the past year and sort of refresh your mind about the best bits, so take a look and see if there was anything you missed!

  • Baking With Kids With Baking Agent Kits - I won a baking kit on an Insta competition and decided to put it to good use by getting a little helper involved. Not only did it make for cute photos, but Baking Agent went on to use this post as part of a pitch to Ocado!
  • What It's Like To Be In An Age Gap Relationship In Your Twenties - this remains one of my most popular posts to this day and I think it's because people love to be nosey. I enjoyed writing this post and while it's kind of lengthy, I think it's a pretty good read
  • The Iamsterdam Card: Is It Worth It? - not only was this post a good way to look back on our Amsterdam trip, but it was also a really critical post that I thought long and hard about. I try not to do negative reviews on my blog, but this was one of the first where I kind of warned readers to think long and hard about whether this card was necessary
  • My Favourite Place For Sunday Dinner In Middlesbrough - The Chairman - like I say, I love supporting independents, so it was only right that I write up a post about one of my favourite eating spots in Boro!
  • Why Is There An Audience Stigma With Love Island? - I went on a bit of a rant in this post and kind of allowed myself to really be free to say what I wanted. I was sick of being picked on for watching Love Island and I made my feelings known in this post
  • Unwinding With Crafts At Make & Mend Festival 2019 #AD - while this was a paid ad, I had a total blast at Make & Mend in the summer, and I'm so excited for the festival to return this year. It's an absolute pleasure to get the chance to attend and write about events like this in our local area, so keep your eyes peeled for more like it
  • Why I Want To Stop Taking The Pill - this was a really interesting post because it was the first time that I'd really gone all out with something so personal. I got some incredibly supportive messages after publishing and it's something that still seems to resonate with lots of people!
  • 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Festival Of Thrift - Thrift is something that I write about whenever I go along, but this post is probably one of the best that I've written about it. I was so chuffed when the organisers shared it on social and it felt so good that the post was appreciated, especially because I'd done it off my own back, rather than being paid or asked to produce something
  • Middlesbrough's Newest Hidden Gem, The Prickly Pear Bistro* - I was invited along to preview this restaurant after I wrote about the owners' other eaterie (not gifted or paid), and I was so incredibly honoured. I was so touched that they liked what I had written enough for them to involve me in their new venture!
  • Why I Haven't Had A Smear Test Yet #DontFearTheSmear - this was probably the most personal post that I've ever written and I was absolutely terrified of hitting the publish button. But I'm glad I did and I'm so pleased that it was well received because it totally could've gone the other way

As you can see from this little list, pretty much all of my favourite posts were lifestyle-based, so you can definitely expect more in this category going forward!

I've got quite the knack for writing lengthy posts, haven't I? If you made it all the way through, then well done you! It's been a total joy to author this blog and while I love writing my life away on it, it's the people that read, comment and chat to me on socials that make it. I've met some brilliant people and been involved with some incredible things, and I'm so grateful for it all.

Let's meet back here in a year to celebrate my fifth birthday, shall we?

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