Lovely Favorites

    Blog Lessons Part 5 – Finding Content

    So you’ve started blogging and have some great posts rolling out, and then at some point, your content ideas start wearing thin… now what? Where are you going to find some content ideas?

    This is why I think it’s important to map out your posts in advance. Once you see all the posts fitting together it’s easier to plug in the holes. You’ll be able to flip through and see the last time you posted about Subject A or Subject C. Even better, keep a running list of companies, websites, boutiques, artists etc. that you want to feature. Anytime, you get stuck in a rut, consult the list.

    Far better than a written list (you knew I was going here, right?), there’s Pinterest. And far better than normal Pinterest boards, there are secret Pinterest boards. In case you’re afraid of spoiling your content by pinning ideas for all of your followers to see, create a secret board for blog content ideas. I actually do this ALL of the time. Make sure you’re following your favorite bloggers and brands to get the most relevant pins. Following people who pin recipes and cute animals is not going to help out your content board!

    * Etsy has a similar system that keeps track of all of your favorited items and makes it easy for you to find them again.

    Start up a blog roll or Google Reader list. It’s always been really helpful for me to have all of my favorite blogs and websites just a click away. When I’m feeling less than creative, they always seem to get me back on track and motivated. I’m definitely not saying rip off someone else’s content idea, but you might see a product or outfit on another site that will help jump off a new idea of your own.

    And last, be alert. Blogging is more than just sitting behind a computer screen – so start taking notice – there are content ideas all around you. Keep a list; constantly jot down/pin ideas, and you’ll never be stuck without good post material!

    Lovely Favorites

    Blog Lesson 4 – Financial Planning

    A common misconception about blogging – it’s free. One would think…

    When you start blogging, you’ll most likely begin at no expense of your own. But depending on where you want to take your blog and what you’d like it to achieve, there are expenses that will present themselves. The four items below are just the tip of the iceberg but the most relevant when starting a new blog:

    How about domain names? You could either keep the .blogspot or opt for purchasing your own .com domain name for easier search recognition. Luckily, domain names do not cost much at all, and you can reserve them for years in advance. In my case, I have that currently serves as a routing page for all of the social media links and sends readers to whichever one they want to see.

    What about pretty photos? One of the largest (and most worth it) expense I’ve had so far is my DSLR. Fortunately, I’ve already taken photography classes since I was a studio art major, but for some, they may need photography lessons to figure out the different settings. The only other option would be hiring the help of a professional. Either way, get ready to fork over some cash for those nice photographs!

    What about blog design? Not everyone has Photoshop and HTML knowledge. Platforms like Blogger and WordPress have plenty of free templates to choose from, but honestly, they lack the personalization you might want and the features you need to stand out. There are bloggers out there that offer blog templates, custom headers and sidebar buttons. Their design fees vary, so do some research before you decide. A few that I love are Fabulous K, Blog Milk and Leap. (Think you can handle it yourself? Chances are you’ll need a program comparable to Photoshop.)

    Content costs money. Whether it’s a food blog, clothing blog or craft blog, remember that your materials are typically an expense. (A tax deductible expense if your blog is a business.) Chances are you will have an idea for a post that will require you to go buy something for it. Make sure to keep track of those expenses to keep yourself from splurging too often.

    I hope this helps you potential bloggers out there with monetary expectations. I learned this all on my own, and wish someone would have passed this on to me in the beginning!

    Lovely Favorites

    Blog Lesssons Pt 3: Finding Balance

    Today’s topic is one that I still have issues with – balancing my time. Although I would love to be a professional blogger, I am not. I have a full-time job, and everything associated with this blog is treated as freelance. Because of this, it can get difficult prioritizing my time.

    One way to do this is to have planned posts. Believe it or not, the posts you read here are not written spur of the moment but rather, are planned at least a week in advance. I keep a monthly calendar with all the potential posts mapped out in pencil, so I can easily move ideas around. I also have certain topics that fall on the same day each week – Tuesdays are invitations, Wednesdays are outfits. I like to keep the other three days in rotation. In addition, most posts are made and written in advance. They’re usually compiled one or two days before they’re actually published.

    A giant help has been the Blogger app on my iphone. It keeps a list of all my drafted posts, and from there, all I have to do is click publish. I can publish to the blog from anywhere at anytime. Depending on my morning, I’ll publish before I get to work or wait until my lunch break. It’s been a trial and error process of figuring out when to post, but it’s finally getting more consistent.

    On top of planning posts (and here’s where I’m lacking), you’ve got all the social media outlets that need to be updated. Facebook helps by automatically updating the Fan page whenever a new post goes live, but you still have Twitter and Pinterest to maintain. Once again, those two things are done either on my lunch break or after work. I’m quickly learning that a social media plan is just as important as my post calendar. I desperately need to start mapping out tweets and pins depending on the post that day. (Working on it!)

    Here are a couple of social media tips that I’ve learned from working with brands like

    • Images pinned on Pinterest after 7 pm (EST) on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday evenings get the most re-pins.
    • If you want the most amount of people to see something on Facebook – post it on Wednesday at 3:00pm (EST).
    • “Please,” “check out,” “help,” “vote,” or “buy” always get more clicks.

    One last note on finding balance – take a break if you need one. If you skip a day or two or posting, it’s not the end of the world (just don’t let it turn into a habit or your readers will lose interest).

    Anyone else have some words of wisdom to help find blogging balance? Please share!

    Lovely Favorites

    Blogger Lessons Part 2 – Picture Perfect

    So after you’ve caught your reader’s attention with your awesome blog name (see last week’s post), you’ve got to keep them interested. One way to do that – and the most obvious way – is to have good, quality images in every post.

    I started this blog with a point and shoot camera, but eventually, I knew it would be wise to invest in a DSLR. I’m not saying you cannot have awesome images with a point and shoot, but if your posts are going to rely heavily on your photography instead of text, it will be largely beneficial to bite the bullet and get yourself a big girl/boy camera.

    Whatever camera you decide to use – point and shoot, DSLR or even your phone – learn how to properly use it. Experiment with different settings, apps and angles. Look at other successful bloggers, and note why their images are both noteworthy and pin-worthy. Do you pin from other blogs to Pinterest? You want your readers to do the same from yours. Pins = traffic and new visitors. Readers will only pin from your blog if your images are noteworthy.

    One not so obvious tip for blog images: stick with a consistent size. For example, all of your photos should be the same width for every post. Height can change, but your width should all ways stay the same. What happens when you have a post with images of all different widths? It looks disorganized and scattered. You can achieve consistent sizing by resizing your images in a program like Photoshop. In the end, it will make a huge difference in the overall design aesthetic of your site as well.

    Last, if possible, seek out some photographer friends for advice. Hey, we can’t all have photographer boyfriends to take outfit photos. For some posts it’s always good to have a helping hand or advice on shooting in low light. (I hate that!) If you don’t know anyone – there are a ton of photography tutorials online to help you out as well!

    *I use a Nikon DSLR. 

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions regarding blog images!

    Lovely Favorites

    Blog Lessons Part 1 – What’s In A Name?

    One of the most frequent inquiries that I receive is from people who are thinking about starting their own blogs. They’re looking for insight and a little bit of advice on where to begin. I’ve decided to start a multi-part series on the subject in case more people are interested as well. I’ll be covering eight major lessons that I’ve learned along the way… today I’m focusing on the importance of a name.

    The first and possibly the most important thing you should do before starting a blog – commit to a name.  A lot of people think they can pick out a quick name and then decide later on a permanent option. This is could become troublesome for so many reasons. Your blog URL address should include your official (and permanent) blog name. If not, it’s confusing to readers when they try to find your site (especially if you haven’t developed a solid readership). In addition, it can be quite the headache to switch your posts over to a new URL if you’re not knowledgeable of the process. Additionally, with all of the new social media platforms, it might prove difficult to move over followers/fans to a newly named account. Avoid the issues – stick to a name, and commit to it!

    Of course there are bloggers who have successfully rebranded. I’m just suggesting it’s more work than beginning bloggers might bargain for.

    So how to do you come up with a name for your blog if you’re unsure? Brainstorm, people. Write down colors, adjectives, synonyms… any word that you’d like associated with your blog or embodies your personal view point. From there start combining words into phrases, and make a top five list. To whittle down those five name options: 1. Google to see if any of the names/URLs are already taken;  2. Cross out any that aren’t short and sweet; 3. Establish which one is most memorable; 4. Get feedback from friends and family.

    Now you’ve got a name, reserve that URL immediately. After all that brainstorming for your blog name, you don’t want to just sit on it and have someone scoop it up before you. Even if you’re not ready to actually post yet – reserve the URL. In fact, go ahead and reserve the Facebook Fan page, Twitter handle and Pinterest login if you plan on using social media. Then, once you’ve gotten your first couple of posts mapped out along with a social media plan, you’ll be ready to post worry-free.

    Does anyone have anything they might want to add? Anyone with a personal experience in changing URLs and blog names?