Now that introductions are out of the way, let me take you through my blogging journey.
I got my first article published in print when I was 16. I was interning at Women’s Own Magazine, and the article was more of a fluff piece than an editorial wonder. But seeing my name in print for the first time was a high like no other. The same magazine offered me a sub-editorial position after, and that’s how I graduated from byline to masthead.
I wanted to pursue a degree in journalism but Karachi had no suitable universities for arts back then. So, begrudgingly, I enrolled in CBM for a bachelor’s degree in Economics (whaaattttt?); working remained a priority over studies (a big mistake in hindsight).
Journalism, however rewarding in many ways, is one of the worst paid jobs. And that is why I decided to switch lanes (bad idea). I switched to Brand Management and Digital Marketing (wish I had chosen PR instead), with a freelance piece here and there. It was during those years that I started this blog, hosted on Blogspot, and called ‘Introspective’. I shared previously published pieces, along with rants. Lots and lots of them. It was my online diary. It was then rebranded to Shaheen Rajan, and finally Cherry Cross.
Life went on, and we moved to Dubai in 2013. This is when I realised the true potential of Cherry Cross and available opportunities for a micro blogger. I was working as a PR manager and local buyer for a multi-brand fashion house, and had access to the exclusive part of Middle Eastern fashion industry. I used it to create articles for the blog and tap into opportunities.
Cherry Cross picked up pace and had a tiny following and readership. Then came ITP Media, one of the two largest publishing houses in the UAE, where I worked as a journalist for their hospitality portfolio. Another horizon lay ahead, and Cherry Cross was at most restaurant openings, hotel launches and travel press trips. Life was good, Cherry Cross had found its feet and content on the site was reaching more people than ever before.
Then, I moved to Germany. In 3 weeks, I realied that I had ventured into a market very different from the one back home. English blogs were non-existent and PRs worked with a closed network of bloggers. There was no luxe in lifestyle, fashion was dismal, and backpacking was the favourite travel mode. I was completely out of my element. I took my first break from blogging then, in 2016. I just had nothing to say.
After a couple of months, when I had somewhat settled in, I restarted. I wrote about my life, settling in as an expat, the many visits to Bürgeramt and Ausländerbehörde, travel, food and relationship. Life as an expat is not always easy, especially where your finances are concerned. For example, one of my friends recently moved to Germany after having lived in the USA all of her life and she was so confused about what to do about her taxes. Fortunately, there are now websites such as Expat Tax Online where expats can get the financial support and advice they need. But the issue remain unresolved – I had negligent readership. That’s when I discovered Facebook groups and started sharing my content there. It worked! Some people liked what they read, and shared. Things started to look up again.
Then I moved to Berlin, and got busy with a fulltime job that needed two of me to get things done. I would write on and off, connected with more people on social media, and just sailed through 2017-2018. Cherry Cross was fun but not rewarding. And I was too busy for just fun.
In mid-2018, I moved back to Cologne and restarted. This time, the response and readership was a whole lot better than 2016, though nowhere near 2014. I continued creating content, sharing, connecting with expats, only to burn out by the end of year. I couldn’t do this uphill push any longer. I needed a return for my effort and resources. I took a break again, this time to decide if I wanted to give up on blogging altogether.
Bless my friends who gave me space for sometime and then kicked my ass back in action. And just fyi, some of those friends actually came into my life from this very platform – Instagram and blog. I returned on 26th Feb 2019, with a much better mindset and direction, and have created content every single day of the week since then. I take most weekends off, like every working professional. I have a dedicated desk and take lunch breaks. I do a lot of work behind the scenes, which takes up a good part of my day.
And that leads us here, today, with you and I connected – one writing and the other reading.
Thank you, for being here ?