I used to love the month of December. It used to bring me joy that another year has come to an end. That it had Christmas, New Year and my birthday in it.
While my enthusiasm for celebrations has definitely simmered down, I can’t help but not think about this year.
To put it in a line, 2016 has been one of the most testing years of my adult life. And I mean this in every way I possibly could. Since I’m not too comfortable in speaking about my personal life, I’m going to speak about my venture—what it takes to be an entrepreneur, a blogger, a wannabe start-up in today’s world.
Grouses and Setbacks
Let’s start by cutting the bullshit. I am not a person who gets things easily. The last thing I got easy was my name in the first list of a distinguished college.
I didn’t start a blog to write about my thoughts and feelings and write in broken English (if you’re one of those bloggers, I’m really jealous if you even have a following!).
I didn’t start this blog when I was 24, thin as a stick, sans responsibilities. (I had another blog then which had an awesome readership BTW!)
I started this blog when I paid my bills, had a full-time job that sucked the life out of me, and has made me everything I am. In fact, one of the reasons I quit my job was Be for Beauty. So taking this blog forward is very important to me.
And it wasn’t easy.
I am not one of those bloggers who’ll say that success just came with a selfie. Oh, a duck-face pout and those glasses from Dior broke the internet.
No. No. Nope.
You can probably take better selfies and you probably live in more picturesque locations than I do.
Neither do I have a Dad or a Sugar Daddy who’ll invest all his dough in my project just ‘coz he loves me!
I meet a lot of bloggers who are younger and being funded by their folks who are more than happy to buy them 120,000 followers on Instagram—along with their camera equipment.
I’ve put in all my savings (a few pennies here and there) into the blog, a 10-year old career in journalism at risk—to be in an industry that’s just beginning to start in India.
How is it to blog in India?
It’s unpredictable, unfair and sometimes rewarding.
Back in 2014, when I told people, I blog, they thought I was a crazy person. I thought going digital would work and soon enough, my magazine shut down. Offline publishing was great—it’s still great, I miss it, but digital is where the action is.
Being online is the safest choice to make right now. Being a blogger? Not so much.
Every time I attend an event, attend a tasting session or even go to Amazon India Fashion Week, I meet them. The bloggers. They’re multiplying. Just like photographers and graphic designers. They’re out of college, have decent aesthetics and are attractive. They say they want to start a serious blog and see how it goes—how they really want to make a difference…but most of them are doing it to tell others how awesome they are. They just want a fan-following. Who wouldn’t?
Blogging in India can be a little unfair, to say the least. I know amazing bloggers, who put out great content: great writing, good pictures but they don’t get hits. And I know people who just happened to be there at the right time, who got leverage and became popular.
Blogging in India seemed quite unpredictable. So I sat down and had a talk with myself. My strength (or whatever you may want to call it is my content). So I made a plan: a plan to gain some knowledge from players who had been around for decades. I decided to target a global audience and to turn my strengths into viable business opportunities.
Be For Beauty: Goals and Achievements
It was on January 1, 2016, that I’d gotten a very upsetting email. It was from WordPress: a synopsis of the year gone by. It seems I’d written a quarter of posts I’d wanted to.
No more screwing around, I told myself. I mean, if this is really what you want to do—then you need to take charge.
Here are a few things that helped me:
- Sticking to a blogging schedule and calendar. I used a plugin called WP Calendar.
- A healthy mix of editorial posts (what I want to write about) and brand collaborations. Of course, this number can go up and down any month but I was more conscious of what I was doing.
- I only wrote 113 posts last year out of which only a few were classic. Classic means something a reader can value in years to come. Most of them were topical and current and lost their worth after the event ended. We wrote 217 features (and counting) this year and I’m happy to say we produced more relevant content this year.
- In order to start new verticals and also change the voice, we encouraged a travel special. This gave a voice to avid travelers, fellow bloggers, and writers from around the world. This also gave Be For Beauty a chance to add new content.
- We made most of our expertise and did a 30-day beauty special. That was the tip of the iceberg.
- I spoke to a few bloggers in India and realized it was too new to have a strategy here—unless you’re booming on YouTube (in which case YouTube helps you out after you reaching a certain number of course!) So I expanded my base to USA, Australia, and Europe. I spent hours every day and subscribed to writing, marketing, social media experts endlessly.
- I saved money and time—and spent time on learning a lot from pros like Jeff Goins, Darren Rowse, Ryan Biddulph, and Melyssa Griffin. I became a part of Indian and International blogging communities, read more e-books than I can count. I attended free webinars and podcasts a few times this year.
- I wrote endless pitches and sent them to my PR and marketing contacts in the industry. I’m positive that no other blogger sends them as many ideas as I do. Most of our concepts are even unheard of, and that’s OK. Rejections are OK, focus on the approvals.
A full year went by and this is what happened:
- We changed the look of our website. This was really important since my website (designed and what not) looked ugly AF. Instead of getting a template made for myself, I invested in a paid theme that comes with support. In fact, we may change it again.
- I wrote more—more honestly, more effectively, hoping to reach out to our TG.
- I made a team. I’ m not alone—my sister, Pragati has finally started writing and working on it, from SWITZERLAND!
- I bullied Pragati into reading as many e-books as I could. She’s a PRO + a management maniac+ an IT professional. She is now ruthless about blogging basics and kicks my ass when need be.
- Let’s talk about my biggest win so far. My traffic has quadrupled from 2015. In fact, it’s eight times higher than what it was in 2013-2014.
- Pragati’s stories about starting fresh in Basel, being a new blogger in a new country and her collaborations have been very well received.
- Our number 2 and 3 traffic sources were USA and UK. Now we can add Swiss people to it too.
- It makes me very happy to see we’re number 1 on Google if somebody types “beauty blog Delhi.”
- I have effectively started being active on platforms I actually give a fuck about: Huffington Post, Medium. I even made a profile on local information apps like Zomato, Roposo, Near Fox.
- I take my social media sharing very seriously. I take about an hour (if not planned in advance) to promote my post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Roposo, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. I made most of apps like Buffer, Hootsuite, Later, Repost.
- It’s all about good karma and new ideas: I spend at least an hour on blogging groups and communities (Indiblog, Blogloving, Blogadda) to like, dislike, comment on other people’s blogs, websites, brand and everything else.
- I improved the quality of images on our website: I fell in love with Canva, Fotor, Beauty Plus and more.
- I fell in love with Instagram. I create separate content for it every day and I’m desperately trying to be less lazy with it.
- Small Wins: I wrote an e-book, Look Beautiful This Summer and published it on Amazon. We’ve been voted amongst Top 100 Beauty Blogs Worldwide and Top 50 Fashion Bloggers in India.
- I turned my strengths in writing about Lifestyle journalism and my knowledge (and certification in social media marketing) into potential business opportunities. We have a roster with my past clients for whom I have produced great content (PopXo, Myntra, Be For Beauty) that were not only rewarding but added hugely to my portfolio. We currently have a portfolio of unique brands in India and Switzerland for whom we create and manage content and social media handles.
- We’ve officially started our Services and turned this blog into a brand!
Phew! Sounds like I did a lot. But if you were to meet me, I’d say I haven’t done shit. I feel like that. I feel like there’s so much to be done—so much that went wrong, but I keep going.
What Keeps Me Going?
I’d say stubbornness.
A bit of tenacity and the right attitude too.
Don’t get me wrong. There have been times: days and months when I’ve felt like it wasn’t worth it. That I should take the easy route: work with an established brand that allows me to sit in business class and spend money on company’s credit card.
This year, I even got my dream job. A job thousands in my place would take in the beat of a second. A job that could have opened multiple browsers and millions of opportunities had I taken it.
But it would have also taken Be For Beauty away from me.
It was an instinct.
That’s the thing—just when I’m feeling down, demotivated or just too fucked, there it is, a beam of inspiration.
A conversation with someone who looks up to me, a few kind words from my mother, or plain pig-headedness shown by others (blogging is a hobby!) that makes me so angry that I start fresh the next day.
We do have big plans for the blog (big enough!) in 2017—new designs, new collaborations, better content and a business strategy.
Even if they don’t work out, Be For Beauty will still be that accomplishment on my resume I’m most proud of.
Photographs by Abhimanyu Choudhary
Hair by Ashok Rana
Shoot Location Lodhi Garden, New Delhi
Sweater and Top, H&M India, Select Citiwalk
Rider Jacket, Chanakyapuri Market, New Delhi
Black Ripped Jeans, ASOS.com
Booties, Dune Shoes London
Watch and Sneakers, ASOS.com
Bag, Mast & Harbour, Available on Myntra.com
Sunglasses, Vogue Eyewear
Moisturizer: Vichy Aqualia Serum
Base and Liquid Foundation: Aveeno CC cream, Kiko Milano Unlimited Liquid Foundation Shade 45,
(Using BS Mall Face Flat Brush)
Concealer: NYX Above and Beyond
Pressing powder: The Face Shop BB Power Perfecting Cushion V 201
Eyes: The Face Shop Designing Eyebrow Pencil + Kiko Milano Gel Eyeliner (using Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow Brush)
Lips: Inglot Lip Liner 858, L’Oreal Paris Black Cherry and Deborah Milano Red Shade 20
Cheeks: Maybelline Cheeky Glow, Highlighter and Bronzer: Bobbi Brown Brick Compact
I can’t thank you enough for reading. But if you comment, I’ll know who you are.