Should you start a blog? Here is my advice.

akansha-agrawal-blogging

akansha-agrawal-blogging

I had the chance to catch-up with Anna Stern, community manager for Collectively Inc. and we both came to the simple conclusion that blogging in 2017 is fundamentally different than what it was back in 2009, or even 2013.

The online space is much more saturated now and as a blogger, you need something that sets you apart. These days it’s not enough to post your outfit of the day or your latest smoothie bowl.  What will you provide that separates you from the other thousands of bloggers out there?

I started my blog about a year ago and truthfully, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to share content around health & wellness from a South Asian perspective but did not have a strategy or method for getting there. I was overwhelmed and lost. Though I still have a long way to go, here are a few pieces of  blogging advice:

  1. Define your Mission and Stick to It: With a successful blog you need a clear focus for two reasons. Number one, to keep yourself accountable and number two, to give your readers a purpose. As a blogger it’s so easy to get distracted by the next shiny object and lose track of your original intent. Consistency and clarity will also help your readers understand what they will receive from you.
  2. Create a Community: I’ve created a successful community by creating a Facebook group for women interested in health and wellness. A Facebook group is more valuable than a Facebook page because your readers can participate in valuable, genuine dialogue. A community also allows you to conduct a bit of user research by finding out what matters to your readers.
  3. Approach Local Brands Proactively: Working with local businesses and brands is the way to go because you can lead with a warm approach by chatting in person. For example, if you are a fashion blogger, try hitting up your favorite retail store/boutique and discuss potential collaborations. It can be scary to take your blog from behind the screen to in-person but real life interactions can do wonders.
  4. Spend More Time as a Creator and Less Time as Consumer: I want you to do me a favor. Grab your phone, go to your settings, battery life and then check how much time you’ve spent on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Those hours could instead be used to create valuable content! There have been multiple weeks where I’ve felt exhausted, mentally drained from “blogging” but in reality, I had not published a blog post in weeks!  I was completely caught up in the noise of social media.
  5. Stay in Your Own Lane: I believe the biggest factor that hold bloggers back is their mindset. It’s easy to be discouraged and overwhelmed if you start comparing yourself to those who have been in the game for years. The quality of your content is important but you don’t need all the fancy production elements a professional blogger may have. Your reader wants to see you grow authentically so don’t be afraid to take them along your journey.

I hope my blogging advice is helpful! Do you have a blog or are you planning to create one? I’d love to learn more about your own journey.

Create & Cultivate Seattle With My Mom

sarika and akansha agrawal

create-cultivate-seattle

“Delegate when you can find someone who can do the task 70% as good as you.”  This quote was just of the few pieces of advice we heard at Create & Cultivate this past weekend. “We” you may ask? Why yes, I actually went to Create & Cultivate with my mom!

Create & Cultivate is full day conference for creative business women who want to “create & cultivate” the career of their dreams. As my mom and I are working on the recipe eBook together, this conference was a perfect way to kick-start the new chapter in our professional journeys. C&C was also sponsored by Microsoft, and if you recall, I just recently quit my job at LinkedIn – which happened to be acquired by Microsoft not too long ago. Life is funny at times.

It was incredibly meaningful for me to share this event with my mom. Back when I was a kid, my mom made the decision to stay at home to support our family and I knew it was not an easy decision for her. She had to forgo having her career which meant no meetings, events, conferences ( though we tend to complain about these things) to stay home with my brother and I. Create & Cultivate was my mom’s first ever large-scale conference! She’s a creative at heart, so I had a feeling that it would be a good fit.

sarika and akansha agrawal

The Feel:

While we are on the topic of firsts, Create & Cultivate was the first conference I attended specifically for women — that too creative women. With that, came a few interesting observations.

For example, while working in tech I was used to a very casual almost “vanilla” dress-code. However, the ladies at Create & Cultivate showed me a whole different side of conference attire with their finest and trendiest outfits.  It was kind of nice having an excuse to do my hair and makeup!

The conference itself was beautifully curated with fresh flowers and was perfect for Pinterest. Each sponsor such as Noosa Yoghurt, UrbanStems, and La Croix and each had its own booth with different interactive activities. And yes for all the Instagrammers there were a plethora of photo opportunities. Thankfully I brought my DSLR!

stella-dot-create-cultivate

As a health and wellness blogger, I noticed there was a CRAP ton of sugar at the conference. Does the “sugar n’ spice and all things nice” saying still apply to women? Breakfast was yogurt with granola or pastries, lunch was a sandwich with a tinyyy salad and then cookies. At our breaks we could stock up on candy and chocolate and then at the end there were cupcakes and more rose! Whew. I thought I had a sweet tooth but man this took it to another level.

Finally, based on my own observations at C&C – it seems like there are still relatively few ethnic minorities in the creative industry. At least at the welcome Happy Hour the night before I felt a little out of place (everyone looked the same!)  but luckily once we started chatting with people, that uneasiness was forgotten. Through our conversations we also learned that many attendees were moms which is not too surprising because the having the flexibility of running your own business is an attractive option when raising a family!

The Ladies:

We met bloggers, digital marketers, designers, and other small business owners from all across nation. It was interesting learning about the different stages each person was in with their businesses and what struggles and successes they have faced. It was comforting seeing that everyone has their set of doubts and struggles while trying to get their idea or business off the ground. Here are a few people I met:

Maxie Mccoy was the one who inspired to me to come to C&C in the first place.

maxie-mccoy

-So great spending time with my friend Neha, who is also a beauty blogger at nehabeauty.com

-I snapped a picture with Yvonne Orji from HBO’s Insecure!

yvonne-orji-create-cultivate

The Content:

At such a large event, I was not expecting to receive tactical business advice but to rather feel inspired and network with other women who had similar goals. Create & Cultivate served that exact purpose. The conference was divided into two tracks: Track 1 focused on growing your business and Track 2 was meant for content creators; my mom and I were in the latter. With the panels and keynotes we had the opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers such as Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere, Doree Shafrir from Buzzfeed and Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure!

Some panels were more helpful than others. For example, it wasn’t too helpful to hear advice from bloggers who started 10 years ago and admit they got lucky based on their timing. Nevertheless it was still interesting hearing their perspective. My two favorite panels were the one on snackable content: the intersection of food & digital, and one called “radically creative”. Here are some tidbits of advice we received:

  • “Delegate when someone can do it 70% as good as you” – Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon
  • “Saying no to this makes everyone say yes to something better “- Whitney Leigh Morris, The Tiny Canal Cottage
  • “I would encourage for us to charge double…if you delete creative from the world, it would become very boring.” – Anne Milan Alo, creative director at WE Communications
  • Always do things that scare you – Emily Schuman, Cupcakes & Cashmere

livestrong

Pro Tips for Create & Cultivate!
  • Bring healthy snacks! Nuts, baby carrots, protein bars. Although the food was cute, you are not going to get food with a lot of substance. As I mentioned there is a lot of sugar at the conference :).
  • Wear layers. Most of the conference was outside so if the weather is unpredictable, like it was in Seattle, you need to be prepared.
  • Ask questions during the mentor power hour and jot down your mentors email addresses after the session to keep that connection strong.
  • Take pictures, go to the beauty bar, drink some wine, meet new people, and have fun! It’s not supposed to be stressful.

Whew, I think this is the longest blog post I have written on Citrus & Gold but I clearly had a lot to say. I would 100% recommend this conference to anyone who has been thinking about going. I’d recommend to go with someone special and do your research to know what to expect! There really couldn’t be a better time to be in this industry :).