Sometimes it’s hard for me to spend money on my blog. Especially for things that people can’t readily see. But for the last few months, I’ve been paying for a monthly maintenance package from Hearts and Laserbeams. And it’s the best money I’ve ever spent! But let me tell you how I came to know that I HAD to do this.
I’ve been blogging for a really long time now. There have been times when my numbers have been great. And there are times when my numbers have totally dropped off. The blogging industry as a whole has changed as have the ways that PR companies and brands want to work with influencers. It’s super important to always check yourself and stay grounded. Just because you think you know what you are doing, doesn’t mean you actually do and you could be setting yourself up for failure. It’s ok to have the eye of the tiger when you are setting your blogging goals. World domination is on most of our lists, is it not? Full disclosure, my numbers have been dropping consistently for the last year. I think this is due to a number of factors including only blogging 3 days a week, not having a good social media plan and neglecting my tribe. In my opinion, my content is better than it has ever been. And I got a blog refresh, with a new crisp and clean look, that should be bringing me all kinds of sticky traffic. So I wasn’t really taking responsibility for my numbers and social media reach not being amazing. I was just feeling snotty and thinking that people would come to me, especially if they are the “right” people. But then I watched this video with Tiffany from SITS Girls/ Massive Sway. She tough-loved me out of my stupor. It was hard to hear. But it was something I needed to hear. You have to do the work to be successful. Simple as that. Check your ego, amigo. I did and oddly, it’s taken away stress even though my new to-do list is 8 miles long (que Eminem…) And you need to look at what you do well and what you don’t do well with. Then teach yourself how to do it all well. Don’t be complacent. Keep working and learning.
In the recent past when brands would reach out to me, I was only pushing to get the rate that I ‘deserve’. You know the rate, I came up with back when my numbers were awesome and I had better interaction…I’ve learned that while I shouldn’t sell myself short, I also should be willing to be flexible and understand what I can truly give to a brand. Do I miss an opportunity because they want to pay me only $200 and I would rather have $600? No, especially if they aren’t asking for the world but it’s a type of post you can pop out (while still turning out great content) in a short period of time (but your sponsored posts should always be in line with your brand, and something you feel good about – not just about the money). Also, if there is a brand, product, service that you love, want or need, I’m totes cool with taking it for free. Others may not be, but for me it works (once in a while – on a case by case basis).
Also, my numbers aren’t going to grow themselves. I need to create a plan for sharing on my social channels. I need to be an active part of the community to grow the relationships which ultimately help you grow your traffic. I need to attack my goals the way a normal business would. I need to put as much energy in to the backend part of blogging as I do to making pretty content. And to do this, I may need to sleep a few hours less. I need to work harder to learn the things like affiliate marketing and SEO that my head doesn’t readily understand. I shouldn’t just ignore those things because they don’t come easy to me.
With the blogger market so saturated, you have to be flexible, keep re-evaluating your worth and be innovative in ways that you can work with brands. But nothing is more important than working hard for what you want. It’s not going to come to you. You have to go get it. So get off your high horse and look at your process from the ground up. Use a fresh perspective and humble yourself. Then, with fresh eyes, create a plan. Do the work. Work hard.
P.S. If you aren’t part of SITS Girls or signed up for their newsletter you need to do that ASAP. They are a great way to get brand opportunities and also shares tons of great blog business articles. I’ve learned a ton from them. And you can too.
Hey there, hey. In this age of Pinterest, it is really hard to tell if I have actual regular blog readers or if they are just popping by to check out one project they came across while browsing. Bounce rates are through the roof. And if you know what that means, this post is for you. People like to see pretty images and while they may have come over for a specific post, you want your content, when they click over to the home page to see what you are all about, to grab them and make them stick around. Pretty pictures don’t have to be hard to produce.. For some people, styling photos for blog posts comes super naturally. For me, I have a huge hurdle I have to over come. Laziness. Oh and I have two kids and only a handful of hours where I am kidless to get the work done, but more importantly, I’m lazy. Producing a gorgeous series of blog post photos can be a big undertaking. For a really long time, I didn’t put a ton of effort in to it. But over time, I figured out ways to create better, more visually pleasing images, without exerting a ton of energy. Granted, some photo shoots are more grand and take more time and money to put together, put for consistently good content, here are some tips that will save you effort and hopefully give you more Pinterest worthy photos.
Start with a white background. Any one will do. Even a door. Sure it takes a little bit to work around the frame and handles, but you can get really clean, nice shots and you don’t need to paint your walls or freak out because your house isn’t photo ready. I also have a photo frame, that I’ve strung a large piece of white plastic from, to give me a larger space to work with. I leave it up in an area of my kitchen so that it is ready to go when I need it. But this white door idea is super great when I’m feeling super lazy. Or if my work table, in front of my kitchen backdrop, is too full of stuff I haven’t put away from a previous photo shoot. Lazy. Also, any table will work, including a TV tray. Simply throw a cloth on it and get started. I know some people have bought wood and weathered it themselves to make great faux table looks. I ain’t got time for that. You can also get a large piece of wood and paint it white, like I have in the past (but then you have to store it and lug it around). And you can also use white foam core pieces from the local craft store. Prop it up behind your table and you’ve got an instant white background for a few dollars. Don’t think the big bloggers aren’t doing this. Sure, some of their houses have been featured in magazines. But I promise you that most of them do some sort of photo staging such as this.
Pretty pretty glassware. Get some. If you are shooting cocktails, pretty glassware will instantly elevate your photo. You don’t have to spend a ton of money and you don’t need to buy more than 1 or 2. You should also frequent thrift stores looking for interesting glassware. Or you can pick up inexpensive glassware, that you can modify yourself, to make a one-of-a-kind look. Also, glassware will fill out your photo frame. If you are shooting a recipe, but want it to look more like an actual dining situation, you can add some glasses in and it will enhance the feel of the photo. Leave them empty, or even just fill them with water. Or wine. Whatever. Also, consider a prop swap with your blogger friends. I don’t want to shoot every single cocktail recipe in the same glass but I also don’t want to buy expensive glasses all the time. Other local bloggers might feel the same way and it would behoove everyone involved to share their prop wealth.
I used to think it was cheating to use fresh flowers or leaves in photo shoots. I would get so bummed out when people would fawn all over someone’s instagram shot and think, you guys! It’s just flowers. I felt like it didn’t really require that much in the way of styling because the flowers did all the work. But people like flowers. And they are super easy to use in photo shoots. So now I use them and/or greenery. It requires less styling and adds SO much. I have stopped buying (when possible due to the season) and go walking around my neighborhood for flowers or branches I can “borrow.” It adds a really great pop of color and a more natural feel to the photos. Something living is always a good boost for a photo (this also includes hands so recruit friends on shoot days when at all possible!). A simple cut flower, next to a cocktail? Boom. Gorgeous photo. Minimal effort. They help to fill in spaces and add another layer to the photo.
Candles are another thing that are super easy to keep around and add a really nice quality to photos. Just make sure that you have burned them before hand so it comes off as a lifestyle-y “I live by romantic candle light at all times” rather than overly staged. You can use groupings of inexpensive candles like above, or look for really great looking vessels holding a scented candle. Or make your own. Also, there are a few photoshop tips you should know that will help you in your photo shoots. If nothing else, learn the “clone stamp” tool. In the photo on the left, you can see a blue mark and wrinkles. With a few simple clicks, I am able to get rid of both for my finished blog post photo. So instead of going to find another table cover or pulling out the iron, I can take care of those things after the fact. You can also learn to brighten your photos which is ideal when you don’t have awesome natural lighting.
But sometimes you still need to use an iron. A lot of my photos are straight from the front of the table or shooting down from above. But it is always good to get a wide shot, to show the full set up, especially if the focus is on entertaining. This Rowenta iron is crazy awesome and has a vertical steam option so I can get out the wrinkles, while my table is set up, and not miss a beat. And keep in mind that you don’t need to use a tablecloth. You can use anything that gives off the vibe you are after. I’ve used shirts, skirts, towels, blankets, etc. Be creative. And a large piece of muslin fabric is always less expensive than a tablecloth. Grab a few different colors and textures that you can just grab when you start setting up your shot.
I hope these really simple tips will help you to not feel so overwhelmed with photo styling. I hate extra work, but I love traffic. So making a few of these changes might help you increase your traffic as well. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but as you start to develop your look and find your groove, putting a great blog post photo together won’t feel like work at all.
If you are a blogger and you are willing to share your quick photo shoot styling tips, leave them in the comments!
*Iron provided by Rowenta. The Rowenta Pro Master Iron features a precision tip which is awesome for crafters, vertical steaming for use in the upright position on hanging clothes, drapes or tablecloths (works best on hanging fabric with nothing behind it – do not use on the top of a table as the steam might damage the wood). It has variable steam settings and an anti-drip system which prevents spitting and leaking when set on lower temperatures. This is huge! And the iron has a 3-way automatic shut off system that is crazy awesome including shutting off if the iron is knocked over and lays flat for 30 seconds. So you won’t ruin your fabric or burn down your house (probably – this is not a guarantee).
A lot of you probably don’t know this but I spent a lot of my life being an avid ironer (made up word alert). I ironed my full outfit, every single morning, all though high-school and college. And in to my adult years. Even jeans. Even on vacation. Thank you for supporting the brands, like Rowenta, that let you share a little bit more about my loves and quirks with you. A good iron can change your life.
*This post contains affiliate links. Read more about my editorial policies here.
It is my favorite thing ever when Tori calls herself a blogging dinosaur. She’s this super cute blond gal, who is super business savvy and I know she just means she has been blogging a long time, but the image of a dinosaur just doesn’t fit her. Her strengths are so different from mine. Sometimes I am jealous of all the SEO and marketing knowledge she has but then I stop myself. We are all suited to certain things. And instead of spending my time wishing I could be more like Tori, I need to focus on my own strengths. The coolest part of finding your “tribe” is that they want to help you. They are willing to share their expertise and knowledge with you. Tori is there for me in a second if I need her help on something or have a question. These relationships aren’t one-sided, though. You have to bring something to the table too, but your friends will help you figure out what you are good at. They will ask you for help in certain areas that you never thought you could provide any value. They will lift you up when you are feeling down and will provide invaluable advice in all kinds of areas. And you will do the same for them. BTW, you NEED to check out all the business articles on Tori’s site. She knows what she is talking about.
If you are a blogger, and haven’t formed a community, move this to the top of your to-do list. Sometimes the relationships evolve naturally and sometimes you have to work to find them. Some of my blogging friendships (which shouldn’t be just pigeon holed as most of these relationships have grown in to full-fledged friendships with these ladies) started out with a simple email letting them know that I admire what they do and think they are doing an awesome job. Some were formed at blogging conferences. There are tons of ways to meet other bloggers. Finding your tribe won’t always be easy, but in the end it is something you will cherish.
There are so many bloggers out there and we all fall in to comparing ourselves to them from time to time. But if we can look at it in a different way, like a vast pool of potential friendships, maybe it would seem less daunting. We are all very different, but together we make beautiful music. On our own we are awesome, but together we are even better.
Do you have a “tribe”? Leave a thank you and link to their blog in the comments so we can all go say hi!
*I took this image in Palm Springs last year on our creative retreat. One of the gals, Tammy, wrote out this song lyric (Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’) for me. She’s ridiculously talented and I consider her to be part of my tribe. Thank you, Tammy for always being there to support me and for collaborating with me on photos and with your awesome writing! I heart you!
Go check out her Letters To You site!
You can download just the lyrics here: