Starting a vlog for my business was a HUGE goal I had for years that never quite seemed to happen. I dabbled in vlogging as part of various ventures, but never quite managed the powerful weekly post schedule I envisioned. When I decided I needed to refocus my business exclusively on writing, and started TWCG, I decided ‘This is it, you’re doing it!’.
And then I procrastinated for another six months, just for good measure.
When I finally got around to starting The Write Copy Girl vlog the very first video I recorded was a post on procrastination. And for months after that, everything went swimmingly. Business was booming, the vlog really boosted my existing blogging efforts, I tripled my income last year off the back of nothing but my content marketing strategy.
In fact, I got so busy that I no longer had time to vlog. The client work stacked up, there was so much to do, and then some health issues came along, whacking my level of productivity. I started skipping weeks of my own content to make sure I could keep pace with my client work, and before I knew it, the year was almost over and I hadn’t recorded a video in 3 months.
I blocked off three weeks over Christmas and New Year to batch a load of content…and ended up working solidly throughout on client work.
More health issues cropped up, and six more months soon rolled by. I’m currently writing this post at the end of June 2018, and I still hadn’t got back to vlogging.
Well I’ll be honest…now I’m just procrastinating again.
All of this got me thinking – why haven’t I started recording again?
Am I really too busy, or am I avoiding it, just like I did at the start?
This also got me thinking about the thing that finally pushed me out of my fear of recording and got me in front of the camera to start the vlog in the first place. In 2016 I was contacted by the BBC about appearing on a film they were making about Bipolar Disorder. They’d read one of my articles on The Huffington Post and wanted to get me involved.
It was a huge opportunity for me, in particular because it game me the chance to talk about mental health issues, which is a subject that is incredibly important to me.
And yet, it was far, far outside my comfort zone.
Should I do it, shouldn’t I?
Eventually I got over myself and went down to London for the day. Here’s the short film we created…
And here’s what I learned while filming it…
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#1 Do Not Fear The Camera
I’d wanted to create a vlog for my business for years but didn’t have the confidence to actually do it. I was too afraid of what people would think, that I’d be judged on my appearance rather than my words.
It took a lot to force myself onto that train to London and into that studio but I’m so glad I did it.
I’d developed a bit of a fear of the camera, largely due to that whole ‘the camera adds 10 lbs’ thing. Somewhere in my head I had the very self-conscious notion that I simply looked ridiculous, and wondered what on earth would possess me to immortalise my own stupidity for all time.
Honestly part of me was worried I’d get down there and be politely asked to leave again, because they’d made a terrible mistake and I really didn’t belong in front of a camera.
The reality was just the opposite, and once we got started I didn’t feel self-conscious at all. Once the film was out I expect that self-conscious fear to return, and when it didn’t it was a huge confidence boost.
I realised I really didn’t need to fear the camera.
Because when you’ve sat and filmed with BBC professionals and come away from it with a great film everyone loves, it’s damn difficult to worry about recording videos in the comfort of your own home.
#2 The First Thing People Think Isn’t What You Expect
Given how many views this film got I expected a lot of comments about my weight from trolls and people who don’t actually understand enough about bipolar to know the medication you often need to take has serious weight gain as a common side effect.
I wasn’t expecting them all to be negative, but I was braced for negativity as well as ‘Where’s the question for the fat girl about why she’s fat?’, because honestly I felt that was one question that should have been included.
‘Oh, so that’s why you look like that?’ is something I’ve heard a lot (or some variation of it) especially from guys who like my personality but can’t get past the fat suit.
For the record, that’s no me being self-deprecating, it’s how I see it. I used to be slender, I got ill and lost a few years while I was getting better. When I was finally aware enough of myself to see what I looked like again, I was suddenly 13 stone heavier. It’s a horrible feeling of dissociation, because from my perspective it seemed to happen overnight. One minute I was a size 10, running every day, doing yoga, the next I was morbidly obese.
For that reason, I refer to my current weight as the ‘fat suit’. Because it’s not me. It’s a weird disguise I accidentally put on and can’t take off again. And this is a common problem among people with bipolar – both the intense weight gain, the awful dissociation that comes with it, and the difficulty other people have in comprehending that it’s not something you’re entirely in control of.
So to say I’m very self-conscious about my weight is an understatement. I’m as self-conscious as any overweight person is, with all the added baggage and confusion that comes with the cause underlying it.
I assumed the first thought everyone would have was, ‘Wow, she’s really fat’.
The fear that people would say all the things about me that I think about myself was overwhelming.
When they didn’t, it honestly shocked me. Turns out the thing you think first isn’t what other people think first at all. Rather than comments about my weight, I got nothing but positivity.
It restored my faith in humanity somewhat, and reminded me of the huge difference between what you assume people think, and what they genuinely think.
#3 People Think I’m Funny
It’s one thing for family and friends to laugh at your jokes and sarcasm, but it’s sort of mandatory. My mother in particular thinks I’m the funniest person on the planet, but I’ve always put that down to the fact she’s inclined to think the best of me. I’m never quite sure how my personality comes across to total strangers, which makes the notion of being completely authentic in your vlogs quite terrifying.
I can do it when writing, but there’s a big difference between doing it on a page, and doing it in front of the camera – writing is anonymous. Recording is inherently a more personal and oddly intimate experience.
So I worried what people would think of me – would they think I was weird, boring. strange, stupid, egotistical, delusional, what?
Turns out, people think I’m funny.
People other than my mother.
Given that I highly value the people in my life who can make me laugh, I take this as the greatest of compliments.
#4 Blogging Is Astonishingly Powerful In Unexpected Ways
Like most entrepreneurs I have an ‘as seen in…’ banner on my website. Since adding the Beeb to that banner I’ve had more comments and questions about my work with them than I got when I added any other publication, including The Huffington Post, which was previously the one people were most impressed by.
I was in two minds as to whether I should include it on The Write Copy Girl website, because technically speaking the film isn’t related to my business. But I ended up on the film because of my blogging and it’s a very tangible win I can point to, that proves the power a simple blog post can have to open up the world for you.
It’s difficult to quantify how powerful blogging can be sometimes, of the inherent value you can get from a single blog post. But when I say ‘I was invited to film with the BBC because of a blog post I wrote’, that packs a real punch.
#5 People Appreciate Helpful Content
The response to this video was overwhelming. So many people thanked me for doing it, either because we discuss things they think and feel but can’t find the words to express, or because they have friends or family who have tried to find the words and couldn’t.
Creating content that has real value, that genuinely helps people – in a profound way – to solve things that they struggle with and are desperate for a solution for, is the greatest gift you can give your audience.
It’s also the greatest testament to your worth and value as a business, an entrepreneur, and an expert in your niche (whatever that may be).
#6 Big Numbers Aren’t Bad
On the day of filming the director told me one of the other videos in the series, on Down’s Syndrome, had recently gone viral and hit millions of views.
And I had a moment of cold terror at the thought of millions of people seeing me in all my bloated blotchy glory.
I got exactly the same feeling again when I first started vlogging and had to actually share my videos. They were uploaded and then just sat there, seen by very few people. The ones posted to Facebook got a reasonable amount of organic reach right off the bat, without any help from me.
But my YouTube hosted videos seldom hit 50 views or more.
Part of that was because I was purposefully waiting until I’d been consistently vlogging for a year, and had a backlog for people to binge on before paying for adverts (if you missed it check out my post on weird habits you can exploit to promote your content for more on that). Then the vlog ground to a halt and I still don’t have that bingeable backlog of content (at least, I don’t at the time of writing this). So there has still been no promotion, no real effort to get those numbers up.
Intellectually I know how important it is.
And I know how to do it.
But a big part of it is a big subconscious block I’ve been experiencing, one I only realised was there as I thought back to filming with the BBC. I experienced it then, and got over it when the film was released. I really didn’t think it bothered me any more, but apparently it does, so this was a good lesson to remind myself of by checking in on the current view count on our little film.
While it didn’t go as viral as the one on Down’s Syndrome, it has now racked up over a million views.
I actually avoiding looking at it after initially sharing it when it was released, specifically because I didn’t want to read any nasty troll comments, or know exactly how many people had watched it.
The one day a couple of months ago someone else shared it and it popped up on my feed. I saw the view stat before i could stop myself. It was at about 600K at the time.
I expected that to feel weird, or icky, or frightening.
Honestly it doesn’t feel any different to the videos I have on my own channel that have less than 100.
It’s just a number.
When I realised that, I realised I was no longer afraid of promoting my videos, or even remotely bothered by how many people have watched them.
Big numbers aren’t bad. In fact, they’re great.
All that being said, do remember that I got massive value out of my YouTube channel last year. It has petered out since I stopped recording, but that’s to be expected. The point is, big numbers might not be bad, and getting bigger numbers is good for your marketing, but it’s entirely possible to make money from a vlog even when your numbers are really very low!
#7 Consistency In Tone Is Vital
While I was very pleased to find my humour well received when we were filming, there was a downside to its inclusion in the film.
Namely, the fact they missed out out anything I said that was even remotely serious.
And I had a lot to say.
This is a serious subject.
While I may have kept things light hearted and cracked the occasional joke, I had a lot of serious answers to these questions, none of which made the final cut.
Like my thoughts on suicide, and the difficulties of dealing with strangers asking you really invasive questions, versus friends and family who are so incapable of talking about it they act like it never happened.
The question of whether or not I’d choose to rid myself of the illness if given the choice also came up. The pair of us recorded quite a lot of material on that one and the only word of my answer that was included was an incredulous, ‘Really?’ which in no way explained my reason for being surprised my partner would get rid of it, or my personal thoughts on the subject.
A discussion of the spectrum of emotions that come with the illness was also left out, along with the fact that bipolar bears feel all the things ‘normal’ people experience, we just tend to endure them at such extremes that they are crippling. This makes it difficult for people to understand why life is so tough for us because, ‘Everybody feels down sometimes’, and ‘Mood swings are normal’, and ‘It’s just your hormones’ are regular comments we hear from people. And they’re all completely true statements, they just aren’t relevant to our situations. And that isn’t the fault of the people saying these things – they have no frame of reference for the depth of feelings we experience, because we feel them as a result of a quirk in brain chemistry.
If you don’t have that quirk (or a similar one causing the same effect), you can’t understand it. You’ve never felt it. Yet we use the same words to describe the feelings of both bipolar and non-bipolar people. Feeling ‘down’ means something totally different when you have bipolar, but we slap the same label on it, and most people struggle to comprehend that it’s a completely different feeling and experience to what they’ve had.
So the advice and truisms that are accurate for them, have absolutely no bearing on our reality.
And our reality is something most people can’t understand, because they lack a comparable frame of reference. They use reference points that seem to be close enough, and assume that’s what it’s like, but they’re mistaken. Unless you’ve stood on the other side of that abyss and looked back at all the ‘normal’ people, you’re probably not actually aware of the massive gulf between these two ways of experiencing the world.
A lot of people can’t grasp that there’s a distinct difference between feeling ‘a bit down’, and feeling so overwhelmed by the world that you lose the your brain literally shuts down to protect you from all that overwhelming emotion and sensory input.
I had a lot to say.
But there were certain things I said early on in the filming that struck a chord, and struck a particular tone, and that tone was funny.
The analogy I drew between expecting a person with diabetes to spontaneously raise their own blood sugar levels is something people can immediately grasp. The way I phrased it was amusing, but simultaneously an effective way of demonstrating how stupid people sound to those with mental illness when they say things like, ‘Buck up’, or ‘Snap out of it’.
As if it’s a choice we make to feel the way we do, and we can instantly stop any time we choose, rather than needing to take medication to adjust the chemical imbalance we’re experiencing.
But with that analogy and the joking tone with which I delivered it, the tone for my character in the film was set.
I’m the funny one liner girl.
The one serious comment of mine that made the final cut was an observation that people often ask if you’ve committed suicide as a bit of a joke, never truly expecting the answer to be yes.
That sentence didn’t end with ‘like it’s a joke’, but something along the lines of ‘like it’s a joke, and they’re horrified when you say yes, and can’t change the subject fast enough.’ The cut lets the sentiment finish on the notion of humour, and keeps my funny girl character intact.
Now, despite appearances, I’m not complaining that so much of what was recorded was left on the cutting room floor.
Not even slightly.
We recorded a lot of material, far too much to fit into the time. Each pair filmed for an hour or so, and the final film is all of four minutes and 25 seconds long, some of which are credits.
We knew going in they would be cherry picking a few snippets and that’s all we’d get each.
Beyond that, the idea of the film was to raise awareness in an accessible way. Keeping the tone light was to be expected, and I don’t mind being the voice of amusement in the piece, and giving people a few good laughs.
Laughter and entertainment is important for learning, for helping people engage with your content, and it’s especially important for a topic like this, that can be very difficult for people to watch.
So I completely understood why it worked out the way it did, and it was a great lesson in tone; one I’m not sure I’d have learned easily alone.
When I came to edit my vlogs (which were unscripted for the whole of 2017) I was conscious of this lesson. If there were offbeat segues in the material I’d recorded, I cut them, even if it meant losing good material. I tried to keep my tone as consistent as possible throughout each of my videos, and maintaining a relatively similar tone from one video to the next.
So now I’m busy working on new videos, and reflecting on all the mindset blocks that caused me to delay starting the vlog in the first place, how I cleared them, and thought that was it – I was done with those hang ups, only to find they rolled around all over again.
If you haven’t already, do head over to my YouTube channel and subscribe so you’re first in line to watch all the fabulous content coming your way really soon…