Goal Setting – Blog Business

Overcoming obstacles in blog business.Sometimes the things that you think are holding you up, really aren’t. For years, I’ve felt stuck with my blog not growing like I want it to. I’ve blamed it on my branding needing to be redone. I’ve blamed it on the fact that my head doesn’t understand all the backend, coding, SEO, type stuff. I’ve blamed it on my kids and the fact that I don’t have enough time to really focus on the blog. And those things are all true to a certain extent. But recently it hit me. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the commitment to really take it to the next level. And the possible failure. Fear really is an m effer.

After Bash Conference I had such a clear picture of what I want this blog to be. Finally, after at least 2 years of struggling with it. But it wasn’t anything revolutionary. I simply discovered I was afraid of so many things. Of putting myself out there, of not measuring up to what other people are doing and to not succeeding. I excel at everything I do (or at least I’d like to think that I do). So the thought of putting work in and still coming up short was paralyzing. I think of all the whining I’ve done about not knowing what I wanted the blog to look like or why I’m not being contacted by more brands and I feel sad. Mostly for my friends who had to listen to the whining, but also sad that I couldn’t see what was really going on.

I really credit Coryanne Etienne with helping to open my eyes. In her Bash session, she was able to lay out goal setting in such a way that it wasn’t daunting or scary. Her goal setting comes from a really personal place. And that was exactly what I needed to hear. Success is different for everyone. My numbers don’t have to match another blogger’s to mean success for me. My business goals are directly linked to the things that make myself and my family happy. Once I figured that out I felt ready to tackle my business. This is all still very new and I’m working through obstacles, still. But I feel like I have things that I am working towards and that feels really good.

I am currently trying to come up with a new name for the blog. It is a huge task and I can feel it slowing my progress. It is SO hard to come up with a name that not only shows your personality and won’t pigeon-hole you (because currently people think I either make cupcakes or only blog about food). But I’m not going to let that stop me from moving ahead and working towards my goals. It’s so exciting! By setting goals and taking the time to really think about what would make me happy, I have really demystified my content, what I want my brand to be and SO much more! I have never been happier, even though my numbers could be better.

I can’t wait to share the real ME with you as I move towards my new direction. It’s not all the different from what I’ve been doing, I promise!

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A Baby Shower Playlist for Melissa!

melissa_shower-image-revisedSurprise!!! Today is a surprise online virtual baby shower for my dear friend Melissa, of Melissa Creates! She’s expecting her first sweet baby in February and I couldn’t be happier for her! She’s going to make the best mom ever and I can’t wait to see her raise this little guy (a boy!)! Carmen and I gathered some friends to help celebrate Melissa since we are spread out all over the United States and couldn’t attend her real shower. I hope you’ll hop around and check out all their fabulous posts!

baby-shower-invitationCarmen and I talked a little bit about what the shower should look like. I knew that I wanted the theme to be this song lyric from Paramore, one of Melissa’s favorite bands. We quickly discussed colors and then Carmen took that information and passed it along to Sarah, of Sarah Hearts, who created what is my most favorite baby shower invitation ever which was also used at a real baby shower held in Melissa’s honor. We’re just going to ignore my remedial Photoshop job of hiding important info…

The other gals will be sharing a variety of things from gift down downloads to printable quotes to cocktail recipes. I’ll have links to each gal at the end of the post!

Spring Boy Baby Shower Idea. Iced Tea Bar! If I got to throw Melissa a real life shower, this is what it would look like. I took my cues from the invitation and pulled out some “boy” colors and mixed them with some brighter, spring-like colors. I’d set out an iced tea bar (full post on this coming soon to Babyshower.com – I’ll link up when it’s live) but have a special cup for the guest of honor. And while some people won’t be drinking, I’d make sure there is a little something special for the people who want to.

Serve easy foods at a baby shower.For the food, I’d keep it really simple. I’d serve snacky foods, because who doesn’t love snacks? Popcorn is always a hit. And my fave goat cheese appetizer never disappoints. And when you have Firefly Confections doing your favors, you better order some extra to have out on the tables. Sandy’s caramels are so stop you in your tracks delicious that EVERY single person will be talking about them. No exaggeration. And Sandy might be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I’d round out the food with a delicious dessert and maybe a salad of some kind. Maybe. Salad just isn’t that exciting.

Confetti from The Flair Exchange.It’s not a party without confetti but I like to keep it a little bit more contained. Confetti is a great way to add color to a party table no matter how you use it. So I try to keep the mess down by keeping most of it in a vessel like this cup or even in small glass baby food jars. I like fun.  Just controlled fun.

(confetti from The Flair Exchange)

Caramel favors by Firefly Confections for a baby shower. I always do a treat favor at my parties. I’ve found guests love them especially because they know they don’t have to feel bad for throwing a tchotchke away. Most ladies will take their favor and say they are on a diet but you know they eat it the minute they get to the car. What’s even better is that these came ready to go, including gift tags so I it didn’t add to my work load. Reach out to Sandy to coordinate your next party favors. She’s amazing to work with and also a friend of Melissa’s. Favors are a great way to also play up personality traits of the guest of honor. If we had had more time, Sandy would have made butterbeer flavored caramels since Melissa is a huge Harry Potter fan. It’s all about making her feel extra special, right? And are you seeing a pattern? It would appear, from reading this post, that I’m pretty lazy about my party throwing.  And that assessment wouldn’t be wrong…But trust me if I was throwing this for Melissa for real, she would feel the love.  But I do not show my love through making layer cakes and scratch baked goods…Or even ironed tablecloths. :)

(Sea Salt Caramel Favors from Firefly Confections)

Baby Shower Playlist!! And because Melissa and I share a love of music, I decided that my contribution would be a baby shower playlist. To help me, I brought in another music loving friend of ours, Amy Belle Isle, to create the playlist with me. Amy and I met online when she had her own party planning blog. She has since left to work on event planning full-time for a non-profit but she has always kept in touch and supported us bloggers so I wanted to make sure she had a way to show Melissa the love also. We hope you enjoy it!

Head to Melissa’s site to see why we love her!

Attend the whole online shower!

The Flair Exchange  //  A Fabulous Fete

Aimee Broussard  //  Brave Creative Design

Casa de Crews  //  Giggles Galore

Kori Clark Designs  //  Live the Fancy Life

Sarah Hearts  //  Thoughtfully Simple

Visit Firefly Confections for all your caramel needs!

Head Shots in Palm Springs

New head shots by Tammy of Dez and Tam Photography.Before Christmas I got to take a super quick trip to shoot some new head shots in Palm Springs with my friend, Tammy, of Dez and Tam Photography! Not only is Tammy a crazy amazing photographer, she is an all around awesome gal. She, Lauren and I decided that the desert would provide the perfect backdrop for the photos. You know we love our time in the desert! We also shot a quick cocktail recipe and DIY post out there and I can’t wait to share those! They came out amazing!

New head shots from Tammy of Dez and Tam Photography! I was dreading having these photos taken. I HATE being in front of the camera. I am so grateful that Tammy is such a good friend and photographer. She was so easy to work with and was really able to pull me out of myself. I ended up with a bunch of great shots that I’ll be able to use in all different ways. Somehow she managed to capture me not looking like a lunatic, in between looking like a lunatic.

My fave furry coat.She really got me to be me and do things that felt natural (if standing in the middle of the desert in a furry coat can feel natural)…

New head shots shot by Tammy of Dez and Tam Photography shot in Palm Springs.If you need head shots done, you have to contact Dez and Tam! And totally go to the desert. The light there is SO good!

Desert head shots shot by Tammy of Dez and Tam PhotographyWhich one do you think should be my “head shot” head shot? Thank you SO much to Tammy!!!!!!! I’ll be sharing more work from this trip soon!

All images by Dez and Tam Photography

And go check out this great cocktail post that Tammy shot for Lauren while we were there. So pretty!

 

Branding and Social Media : Be True to Yourself

Beastie Boys quote found in the studio of Design Love Fest.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThere is one big struggle that I have recognized over my blogging career.  Being true to myself.  You can get so caught up in the business side of things that you forget to let your personal style come through.  Or you are afraid that the readers that you have built up so far won’t like the real you.  So I found it SO fitting, when I first walked in to the shared space of Design Love Fest‘s studio in Los Angeles last weekend, and saw this quote on the wall.  Boom.  Right there in my face.  “Be true to yourself and you will never fall,” Beastie Boys.  I was there for Bri’s Social Media Class but I instantly knew it was going to be about more than that for me.  This is the first time I have seen Bri in person and she was charming and delightful.  She’s super funny and made learning about something as dry as social media enjoyable.  I can totally see why she has found big success with her other classes and workshops.  But Bri is the epitome of being true to who you are at all times, across all platforms.  And it is she who has really lead me down this path of self discovery.  Remember this post here where Bri came to me in a dream?  It’s like, how many times must she tell me to be myself?  I’m finding that is truly the way to discover what your brand is.  And branding and social media go hand in hand.

The @designlovefest studio is bright and gorgeous.  Duh.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThis class came at a great time for me.  Last month I pretty much dropped most social media in favor of spending more time on my content.  And also because it can feel like a full-time job to make sure you are posting to every platform and see no real benefit.  Bri showed how often and where she posts to social media and it is totally manageable.  I don’t think I have to choose one or the other.  And while there was a lot of basic info, which was great since there was a wide variety of creative types in all stages of social media in the class, I also gained some new knowledge as well.  I also loved that even though the focus was on social media, it was also a lot about personal branding.  The crossover was very welcome and I came away with a new clarity.  I have a to-do list that I made for myself of things I want to clean up or edit.  I have an achievable social media plan, that demonstrates my brand.  And I have a renewed desire to put my whole self in to everything I do.

Donut Snob donuts and polka dots from the @designlovefest Social Media class.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI feel like my content in the last few weeks is getting closer to my style.  My numbers have dropped a little.  It can’t be all about the numbers and I won’t let it become about the numbers again.  The day before this class I had met with a gal who is going to be helping me with a new logo and look.  I’m excited for what is ahead.  And I look forward to taking more classes from Bri.  She’s legit.  My branding and social media feels more real to me right now than ever before.

Seriously, if she rolls out a new series of Social Media classes you NEED to take it.  OH HEY, SHE DID!   This is not sponsored in any way.  Although she did share these radtastic Donut Snob donuts with us.  These are my opinions and just so you know, I can’t be bought with donuts.

 

 

 

5 Blogging Rules I am Breaking

Some rules are made to be broken.  Especially when they stress you out and make you compare yourself to others. I recently came to a conclusion about my blogging career.  It stresses me out too much.  I feel like there are a ton of us out there in this same exact stage.  We have decided to take our “hobby” and turn it in to a business.  But for a lot of us, it isn’t easy.  What once was my creative outlet is now a chore.  And while some of the “rules” are self-imposed (especially since I am my own boss – and trust me, I can be a total bitch), the to-do list to achieve success is never-ending.  After a few months of really spinning my wheels I decided to look long and hard at what the heck I’m doing here.  Things needed to change.  Here are the rules I am currently breaking.  In the name of happiness, I encourage you to do the same.

Sometimes your notebook stays empty a long time when you are deciding on what you want to do with your blog.Your Brand Identity is Everything.

I struggle with the branding for my blog and how to best get across who I am and what I am all about to the readers.  The branding leaders within the blogging realm will tell you that everything needs to be cohesive and well-defined and blanket all media channels.  Each and every thing you post, utter, share should perfectly reflect your brand.  People blog for different reasons.  And all of them are right.  For me, I blog because I enjoy sharing the things I like and what I am experiencing.  I just can’t commit to the idea that when I am on Pinterest I am only supposed to pin the things that perfectly reflect my brand aesthetics.  Guess what?  Not every super delicious sounding recipe comes with a great image.  Of course I want my boards to look nice but I like what I like and I’m not afraid to show it.  Especially for Pinterest, I am breaking this rule.  What “brand” has two thumbs and a home to manage?  This gal.  So if I want to pin a toilet bowl cleaning tip, I’m going to.  If that makes someone not want to learn more about me than so be it.  But guess who’s toilet is going to be cleaner…(Oh! and I found this great article that breaks down the difference between your brand and your identity.)

summer vacation.  girl's trip.  leopard and tans.Pick a Blog Category

It has been said that readers have a hard time following lifestyle bloggers because they really don’t know what to expect in the way of posting topics from day-to-day.  I totally understand that.  But this gal is in to a lot of different things.  All of which I want to share with you.  I get that all of you don’t enjoy Abe Lincoln as much as I do but this is my place to share my love of him.  Some days I want to share what my kids are doing.  Some days I want to talk about cocktails.  And I think that is ok.  I don’t think I have to pick just one avenue.  I realize that may hinder me in some respects (I’m guessing a lot of food companies would love to work with food bloggers).  And maybe a wine company doesn’t want me to post about their wine and then my kids the next day (truth: they go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong).  But I am ok with that.

Fabric floral tassels with gold fringeAnalyze your Analytics

I look at my blog traffic numbers once a day.  And then I don’t do anything with them.  If I stressed about hitting certain numbers I think it would take me so far away from what I want to do that I would eventually hate blogging and want to fight it in an alley.  So I take my numbers with a grain of salt.  While my traffic has gotten me more in the way of  affirmation from other bloggers and more notice from brands, it is not everything to me.  I need to create content that I enjoy.  If I followed what my analytics said were my readers favorite posts, I would be doing crafts all day.  My kids do not allow for many craft DIY style posts.  They are too time consuming and require a lot of pieces and work.  I would much prefer to make a cocktail.  Or something I can eat right when it is done being photographed.  Of course I want to keep my readers happy but I need to be happy too.  The times when I have really focused on my traffic I have been able to grow it.  Then I get burnt out and take a break and they go back down.  What really is the point?

Sometimes we get so caught up in blogging that the world literally passes us by.Blogging is all About the Money

Sometimes you make money from blogging.  Sometimes you pay an awful lot of money to keep your blog going.  When I decided to make a push towards turning it in to more of a job, money was a big bench mark for my success.  Given the number of usable hours I have in a day (I’m useless before the hours of 5 am and after 8 pm plus whatever time my family needs my attention) I found that I couldn’t do it all.  Either I created good content, or pitched new business or updated a social media platform.  I have to choose.  And right now I have to be ok with that.  Those two little boys above are not going to wait for my blogging world to get sorted out.  I literally started to feel like the world was just passing me by.  It can’t just be about the money.  It has to be fulfilling too (in whatever way you deem it so).  At my blogging level, we are encouraged to never work for free, never take a free product without further compensation and ask for triple what you have been getting.  I think it needs to be up to each person to decide what is right for them.  I was on a high horse about this for about a month and then realized I was being stupid.  Once I figured that out the heart palpitations stopped and I felt some creativity coming back.  A few day drinks to help celebrate a friend’s birthday helped too.

a mess of brightly colored macarons.Put your Best Photos Forward

I have loved photography since I was in high school.  I think it is an amazing way to tell a story and is an artistic medium that I feel pretty comfortable with.   But sometimes I think we get so stuck on the fact that something isn’t a “good enough” photo that we don’t want to share it.  The other night I was making a yummy shrimp recipe.  I had already started cooking it when I decided it would be something I thought my readers might enjoy.  With a styled photo shoot out of the question, I took some simple photos of it on my plate – my normal dinner plate not one from my prop closet.  But they aren’t the prettiest.  Do I share them knowing that some folks wouldn’t find them pinnable?  The amount of time it would take me to set up that recipe just isn’t worth it.  Especially since the recipe is a quick meal!  I’m going to share it.  Maybe next week.  It would be dumb for me not to share it because it isn’t styled as pretty as some of my other posts.  That is not a choice that all bloggers will make but for me I think it is right.  I don’t see it as putting out a lower quality post.  I see it as being practical and real.  It would be awesome if all my posts could look perfect.  It just isn’t always possible.

Thanks for letting me share this with you.  I have been really stressing about it for a while and feel like talking about it has let some of the tension go.  Are you willing to break “the rules” to be happier?