Showing posts with label tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Things I wish I had known before I started blogging

The recent fall out and gossiping over a certain site got me thinking about all the things I wished I had known about before I started blogging.  My blog is by no means perfect and from my first initial post, to the ones I post today, I do feel like I have learnt a lot, but I obviously don't know everything there is know.  

Blogging for me is a constant learning curve and I pick things up from new bloggers just as much as those who have been doing it a lot longer than I have and I suspect many people do the same thing. 

That said, I do see things on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and so one which make me think "Oh yeah" and "If only I knew that when I started out as a mere newbie blogger", so with that I thought I would list some of those valuable insights, tricks of the trade, secrets or whatever you want to call them in my first year of blogging and I would be really interested to hear your thoughts and comments too.

It is okay to miss posting daily!

When I started blogging I would be constantly writing one after another to ensure that I had at least 7 posts a week or one for everyday if you will. 

Sometimes I would really have to burn the midnight oil to juggle being a wife, work full time, spend time with the Hubby and friends, not to mention all the chores that need doing at home or in the office.  In the first few months I put a lot of pressure on myself to be consistent and whilst it is good to have a schedule that everyone comes to know, there are times when life just gets in the way and you have to learn to deal with that because it is inevitable that there will be days that you simply do not have the time to post.  

If this happens, what should you do?  Well never feel you have to apologise, we are all human and non of us are perfect, life is too short to worry about it and it isn't as though you have just abandoned your blog, people will understand. Don't stress about it, write your next post at the next available opportunity and continue with life as normal, it is unlikely people will click that unfollow button because they haven't heard from you in one whole day.

It's not about the 'free' stuff!

I have for the last ten or so years always had a platform online where I share my views on the products I use and those profiles are still open and online on sites such as Ciao and DooYoo. For me blogging was the next step up because I felt life had become quite sterile on both sites, though I am still fairly active on one of the sites.  I didn't start blogging to get those free things, infact I never knew PR companies sent things out to bloggers until I was contacted.

Anyway, as PR Samples is one of those topics which pops up on twitter every now and again with moans, whinging and gripes that so and so gets lots of samples whilst others don't, some don't declare it properly, others do and so on. I hold my hands up and say that frankly this doesn't interest me one iota, I couldn't care less who gets what, it is their view I am interested in and whether or not I need it in my life.   Take the last lot of Benefit products which got sent out, now I had flagged Big Easy as a product I thought I would love after reading about it online, turns out after reading 5 or so reviews from bloggers I like, that I don't think it is for my skin tone and I therefore haven't bought it, but do I think less of Benefit because they didn't send the product to me? Not at all.  Would I stop using Benefit products because I didn't get sent something? Not at all.  

Relationships with PR's

For me this is really really important because I have been lucky enough to receive some absolutely brilliant products and I am always grateful for those opportunities and I do take my time to properly use those products and blog about them. I have also met some fabulous PR representatives who take have made a real effort to form a relationship, naturally there have been some awful ones which I am sure is par for the course.  

However, despite those relationships, I am not one of those people and nor will I ever be, someone who gets a product and writes about it three days later claiming it is the next wonder product.  Sorry that isn't me, how can I tell you if a shampoo is amazing after using it twice? I can't it is that simple, it takes a good few weeks for your hair to get used to using the shampoo and over that time there will be certain changes which take effect and I will want to write about them and include them in my review.  

All of this takes time and a lot of effort, so whether or not a product is really 'free' is for you to decide, but reviewing things for brands does throw up a lot of questions:
  • What do you do if you don't like the product that you've been sent? 
  • What do you do if your skin had a bad reaction to a product?
  • What if the shade you were sent doesn't suit your skin tone at all?
It is quite simple - Be honest and have some integrity.  I never want to offend a PR company/person, a brand or even another blogger but there are always going to be some products that are not right for you and it is far better to be honest about it than to simply state everything is fabulous when it isn't.  I personally couldn't do it and when I have been sent a product I didn't like, I have always told the PR exactly why, sent them my review and we have taken it from there, you won't get your head bitten off and they won't think you are ungrateful, total opposite infact.

Constant improvement is a good thing!

When I first started blogging, I was offered a product to view and I eagerly replied saying yes please I would love too, only to be told that on reflection my viewing figures were not high enough and my Google Analytics figures were not good enough either, the same thing happened with a well known advertising company, they approached me first, I filled in their questionnaire form thing and again I was told "Sorry you don't actually meet our requirements".  To be told that crushed me, why offer something then take it away and why not do some proper research first? and for a few weeks I did debate whether or not my blog was any good and was I wasting my time if I wasn't good enough.

Having chatted with a few friends, they gave me some tips and pointers and my backside was well and truly kicked into looking at my blog properly.  Since then I have always compared my blogs to others, instead of finding it quite daunting and depressing, I find it quite helpful.  I always have these questions in my mind when doing so:
  • Why is it that some blogs have lots of followers and others don't? 
  • What is it they do that I don't do? 
  • What can I do to improve?
From there I have learnt some valuable lessons about fonts, photo sizes, labels, alt-tagging photos, blog post titles and buzz words to name but a few. I am sure I still have a lot more to learn and I have no doubt that there are many things I can do to improve my blog, but for me they are all things I am learning about at my own pace.

You don't have to have a million followers to be a good blogger!

There is a lot of pressure out on bloggers to increase their readership, it is a simple fact and the point above demonstrates why in one example. But readership and followers are two very different things for me.

I do love it when people follow my blog,  I get quite excited when I am alerted to a new follower and I always go and check out who they are, have a quick read and follow them back (if I can find out how) if I like their blog.  I never do follow for a follow, I think that would demean the whole point of blogging and be a little unfair because I value each and every follower that I have and I do spend time reading their blogs.

Readership on the other-hand is more important.  If you have spent hours writing a post and no-one reads or comments on it, it can be quite deflating. I have been there and done it, it still happens from time to time, but I use it as a learning curve to see what people like to read and what they don't like to read on my blog.

Google Analytics

Yes the dreaded GA.  When I set my blog up, for the first 6 months or so I had no idea what GA was or how I could install it and I always got confused when people asked for my figures, I assumed they were the ones you saw when you logged into your blog, clicked page-views and had a nice little set of figures. No, apparently not.  

Instead of spending hours reading about it, I came across a really fantastic help guide by fellow blogger Georgina or Makeup-Pixi3 as you might know her and it was so well written and easy to understand that within half an hour I had it set up, correctly and it is still working right now.

Why do you need it? Well if you want to work with PR Agencies it is helpful because they will more than likely want those 'figures' such as unique page views and followers and for yourself, I really like looking at how each post performs, which ones get more reads and which ones barely get noticed.  It has also helped me find the perfect time for posting to get the most exposure on certain days and see where my traffic is coming from.

People can be cruel

Going back to my first point really.  Sadly there are in life nasty vile trolls who take it upon themselves to have a dig, say nasty things, put you down, poke fun and so on.  There is nothing you can do about these people, they are trolls who thrive on negativity and as a blogger you need to develop a thick skin pretty quickly because no matter how hard you try or how much effort you might put into something, there is always someone who has an 'issue' with it. 

However, please don't let that discourage you and stop you from blogging, everyone is entitled to their opinion and for every negative comment you get I am sure there are ten times the positive and supportive comments and if you don't everyone to see the comment, you are the one in the driving seat - delete it.  I have had one or two comments from people and a few facebook messages which said my blog was "Boring, dull, useless and that my posts were truly awful" and yes it did upset me at the time and it did make me question whether or not I should continue.  That was however one persons view and I took a look at their blog and didn't particularly like what I saw either, only I chose to not tell them and instead move on.

Network and make friends with other Bloggers!  

Blogging is not a competition, there us plenty of room for all of us, even though at times it feels as though it is and there isn't. Bloggers make great friends, infact since I started blogging I have been lucky to meet quite a lot of you at various events and have made some amazing friends and it is such a valuable friendship to have. Why? because they understand where you are coming from, it is likely you have similar interests, they read your blog, they can give constructive criticism, they want to see you do well and if you are falling out of love with your blog and are wondering whether you should continue, they are the ones who can tell you to get over it and get on with it.

It is also nice to share things with your blogger friends.  If I get invited to an event that I think someone else would love, I tend to ask if I can bring a friend and if the answer is yes, I ask that blogger if they would like to come with me. 

If you do get to go to events, talk to other bloggers, don't stand there in a corner on your own, be bold, be brave and go say hello.  Not everything you read about bloggers in true and I am yet to meet a nasty horrible one!  Same can be said for Twitter chats, they are invaluable.  You don't have to do them every week, but I would advise you to do as many as you can to get yourself and your blog known.


Yes one of the issues I have with my own blog is how awful my photos look alongside other bloggers. I feel the photos I take are as important as the words I am typing, so with that in mind, I am constantly striving to improve them and be more creative to make them stand out, look professional and be better than I ever imagined they could be.

I have been spending some time learning how to use apps like Picmonkey to see how hard/easy it is to play around with some of the photos I have taken to make them look better.

Social Media is Important!

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Digg, G+, Stumbleupon and so on, you name it they are important to your blog and driving traffic and this is one area that I am still leaning about.  There is now so many social media sites that I have come across of late, I have them written down in one of my notebooks to look at and learn about.  

When I first started blogging, all I ever used was twitter and instagram, two things I had for 'Real Life' that I adapted to blog life.  In reality, I wish I had been more clued up on how to use them all in the beginning because things might have been so different to how they are now, that said, I am getting there slowly. 

How do I contact you?

Bloggers are nice people, PR people are lovely, brands have some lovely staff and non-bloggers are also on the whole lovely.  However, more often than not I come across a new blog that I like reading and I can never find a way of contacting them.  Make it clear on your blog how I do this, where I can find you and possibly most importantly how you want to be contacted.  

On my blog I have a contact page which lists numerous ways in which you can find me - email, twitter, facebook being the main ones and I have symbols for each of these displayed clearly on my blog page constantly under my photo. If you want to hear from people, make sure they can find you easily.

Those are the things I wish I had known before blogging, not that it would have put me off, but it would have made my life much easier.

I would love to know if there is there anything you wish you'd have known before you started blogging?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Blog V Working Full time - how I stay organised!

I often get asked by fellow bloggers how I manage to run my blog, post most days and work full time.  As a blogger you all know how much hard work it is, it isn't simply a case of going to Boots, buying three items and writing about them, for me it is a case of getting the product, writing some initial thoughts no matter how trivial they might be, using the product for a few weeks and then having taken photos, I write some more notes before constructing my final masterpiece and yes I work full time, I am a wife and mummy to three cats, not to mention a tank full of fish, so how do I do it?  

For me the key is not just to be organised, it is being really really organised and these are my tips.

1. Notebooks 

I always have a notebook with me, whether it is on my bedside table, in my handbag or on my desk, I always ensure one is close to hand. I am a huge fan of stationary anyway and love pretty notebooks, so this also helps with that addiction.  

However, having something and somewhere to write down those thoughts, ideas, notes and pieces of information you might need or find useful at a later stage is something I find super handy.  I also find having a notebook handy when I go to events, product launches and meeting other bloggers, you absorb so much information that you sometimes just need to write things down, either there and then or on the way home when things bounce in and out of your head.

For me having a notebook or five is one way of keeping myself organised as well as a Filofax that I use for invitations and event notifications.

2. The to-do lists

I hold my hands up and admit that I am a list writer, I always have a to-do list whether it is in my filofax, on a post-it note, a document at work on my computer or in one of my many notebooks, I have a list and I use it.  My to-do lists aren't in any particular order, like my notes they are things that pop into my head and I add them onto my list and as I work my way through that ever-growing list.  I also have a list of products that I am reviewing whether I have bought them or they have come from a pr company, it serves as a timetable land a reminder all in one.  As I work my way through those lists I feel a sense of achievement as it gets smaller and more things are crossed out.

Like notebooks, for me lists are another way of staying organised, it is is rare I forget to do something, though I am not perfect and writing lists is something that really works for me.

3. Blog post writing

Do you have those days when you just want to sit there and write posts, one after another? Make the most of them and do it, where you can. I often find that if I am in the mood to write, then I can create numerous blog posts with minimal effort and it is less of a strain throughout the week.  

At any one time I have between 10-20 draft posts, admittedly not all of them are complete, but at the top of those draft posts I will have a to-do list to finalise the post before it goes live, such as taking photos, sorting my labels out, adding my links in and so on.  In doing thing this way, I find running my blog much simpler and easy to do, even of that draft post only consists of a few lines, paragraphs or even thoughts to help me write it.

4. Photos

I have admitted in many posts that this is perhaps on of my main weaknesses but I am taking steps to improve.  However, if there is a glimpse of that yellow ball in the sky known as the sun and you have time to take photos, take as many as you can at once and upload them to your computer so that you have a natch of photos you can use when the time comes to writing that post.  I often take quite a lot of photos that I haven't got round to blogging about yet and that serves as a reminder to get on with it.

5. Scheduling your posts and your tweets

I know some people have a real issue with this, but I don't.  If you have a really busy week, try and schedule one or two posts during that week to keep things moving and relieve some of that pressure. I often schedule one or two posts a week and set reminders in my diary to tweet about them and add them to a few of the Facebook Groups that I am a member of.  

The same can be said of tweets, you can use applications such a Hootsuite to schedule some of your tweets to give yourself a bit of breathing space.

6. Organised Inbox

Like most bloggers, I get a lot of emails flying into my inbox and I don't always have the time to sit and read them as soon as they arrive.  

I use Gmail for my emails and I have a lot of folders set up to drop emails into once I have read them, even if I haven't replied yet.  So some of my folders are for PR Contacts, I have one for each brand I have worked with or am working with and within this folder are any updates to products, I also have information on product launches I am going to or have been too because they might contain some information I need when it comes to writing a post and so on.  

The other thing I also do is that if I am going to be away for a day or so, I have an 'Out of office' message set up to let those who are emailing me know why they have not got a response.  I tend to reply to emails within 24 hours because I think it is polite to do so, but if for any reason I am unable to do that, I would like the sender of the email to know.

7. Task-setting

If you look at your to-do lists you might panic that there is just soooo much to do, my lists are massive as I have already said and for me that has the reverse affect, it makes me feel much calmer. However, when it comes to blogging, I decide what I am going to do each day, so for example this week:

  • Monday - Finish Heaven Eye Make-up post add photos and post Five Amongst Friends post
  • Tuesday - Post GlamGlow Youth Mud post and finish labels
Then once I have done those small tasks, I might decide that because the weather has been really nice that I will take photos of some of the products I have waiting to be reviewed, then I have them ready for the posts and don't have to rush about doing them later in the week.

Anything is achievable if it's cut down into a smaller size. Rather than feeling like you have to write tetake photos, reply to emails and schedule your social media content all at once, cut down each task into smaller section and move onto the next when it's complete. 

8. Blogging Space

Finding somewhere to sit and write is really important.  For me whether I am writing a penpal letter or a blog post, it has to be done somewhere I am comfortable, can access all the things I need easily - plug sockets, USB, Camera, Phone and so on.  

Sometimes that place is in the lounge in front of the TV (which isn't always on), sometimes it is sat in bed and other times I can be on my iPad on the tube writing a post.  I know others think having an office and/or desk is the place to blog from, but for me it is more about comfort than anything else.

9. Saying No

It is really lovely when you have an inbox full of offers from companies and PR people offering you things to review, it is such an honour to be asked. But, don't always feel you have to say yes.  If the product you are being offered doesn't fit within the theme of your blog or it is something you would never use and don't like the sound of, never feel duty bound to say yes, simply reply to the email and honestly tell them. Don't be afraid they will never contact you again, you are more likely to be respected for your honesty.

10. Product Directory/List

Whilst I am yet to have a brand directory live on my blog, it is a working progress, I do have one notebook dedicated to the products that I receive from companies and PR people.  
Within that book I write down what it is, who it has come from, the date I got it, whether or not I have taken photographs of it.  Then when the post goes live I put a tick next to it. This helps me remember what I have and haven't written about, posted and/or photographed and I find it less stressful to remember every minute detail.

Naturally it is not easy working full time, running a job, being a wife and blogging but it can be managed and most importantly it can be enjoyable and less of a chore.

Do you have any other top tips on how to keep yourself super organised?
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