After being featured in a Belgian newspaper, someone I know commented “Paola, this must be your 5 minutes of fame”. I answered, “I think the expression is ’15 minutes of fame’, but I’ll take 5!” There was, however; a deep-seeded fear I would very soon be back into obscurity without achieving any worthy fame. But why would I fear that?
My blog has been around for a couple of years now and a couple of months later, I was really excited at the prospect of being this uber popular blogger living off of my page. Living in Belgium gave me the advantage of a smaller market, but at the same time a language disadvantage coupled with its low blog readership. Blogging experts say you should have niche, too, which I also did not have.
My strategy was that of “Write-Advertise-Monetize” which means writing great content that generates lots of traffic, get advertisers and sponsors, get tons of money. I was well aware the process is not as simple as that, but I still very naive about how freaking hard it is to go from writing great content to having all these advertisers throwing money and free stuff at you. In this quest I stumbled upon this Guest Blogging course, which in essence teaches you how to write for other popular blogs as a way to boost traffic for your own.
I went through the majority of the lessons, but never really finished. I got stuck. I had no niche. AlI wanted to do was write about whatever I fancied in my quest for “reviewing life for my readers’ pleasure”. That made it difficult to focus my guest blogging efforts. What made the task insurmountable was my own lack of confidence. I’ve always felt a strong writer, but was afraid of harsh criticism towards my articles…. They were like my babies. No one wants to be told they have an ugly baby, right?
Only two years later I started making efforts to guest post. At this point I was going through bored phases where I had no inspiration to write. At the top of my game, I averaged 1000 unique page views a month. If stats could register negative numbers, my blog could’ve shown some at its lowest. One of my most popular posts gave me an idea of what to do next. This post was called “10 Reasons Belgium is both an Awesome and Horrible Country to Live in“. Most of my social media contacts are here or have a relationship with the country somehow so it made sense to me it was spread around quick. Several months after that post I stumbled upon a website called Cheese Web which features pieces on travel, photography and expat life in general. I worked up the courage and proposed the editor an article about the difficulty expats have in making friends with Belgians. She liked the idea, and that’s how I struck gold.
The only thing I expected the post titled 3 Reasons you don’t have many Belgian friends to do was to drive a bit more traffic to my blog. That’s it. The first hour it was published the post got 4 comments which to me was amazing because I may get lots of views on a post, but very rarely comments. By the end of the day it was around 27. But the real madness came the day after. The Cheese Web editor sent me a message about all the comments and congratulating me on how well I did with the article. 30 minutes later she wrote “So….the article made on a Belgian news website….hold on, this is going to be a bumpy ride”.
And it sort of was. In a timespan of 4 days I was contacted by 3 newspapers (Het Nieuwsblad, De Morgen, and De Standaard) as well as one radio station. The amount of comments the post generated exploded and the social media shares did, too. At the beginning of it all I freaked put a bit because of how quickly the press got ahold of my phone number and home address (which if you rationally think about is not that crazy for a journalist to do and quite common and un-freakout worthy). Every member of my family was proud, but at one point my dad did point out if I had thought of the potential negative ramifications of my post. I freaked out a bit more, but then I remember my dad is in the insurance industry where he is sort of paid to see risks everywhere, so I appreciated the remark and took a I took chill pill.
Within a week I received interview requests of another major newspaper, another radio station and a couple of smaller scale requests. One of those was from a group of journalism students from the University of Leuven who wanted to make their thesis about my article. Very nice guys, although they did make me feel a million years old (or they looked 12). The comments were mostly positive from the side of the press and the expat community. The general opinion was the article was well written and the tone of it was friendly (or at least neutral). But of course there were comments that could make you think I wrote some incendiary piece full of offensive remarks. If you want to read “incendiary toned by Paola” you should go here. Really.
At the height of this whole thing I got over 4500 unique page views a day. My bounce rate went down from somewhere in the 70% range to 50%. The “fame and fortune” I had once spoke about was closer than I thoght, the latter being the most elusive one. And then, it stopped. Eventually the comments stopped, the social media shares slowed down considerably and so did the press knocking on my door. It was a nice break because it had all been so hectic, but on the other hand I thought, is this it? Was that my mark on the world as a writer? If so, that was kind of lame, really. To be remembered as “the Colombian who wrote that article about Belgian friends”, that is, assuming I’d be remembered (this is the Internet after all). I’m pretty sure my best work is not behind me. I can do much better.
And just for the record, fame is not the goal. The goal is to be able to make a living out of something I’m passionate about, to inspire, entertain and make others laugh. Those who seek “fame” end up achieving “infamy”. Just look at every reality show star out there to give you an idea. My recent notoriety made me very nervous at the beginning, but it also showed me who my real friends and hardcore loyal readers are (You know who you are and I love you!). It is a sad thing to have found out some I cared about actually didn’t care back. It’s also a good thing because it means I don’t have to think about them anymore!
So there you have it! I hope this is only the beginning of greater things to come! Thank you for sticking up with me. I hope I can one day return the favor!