Blogging

  • Guest Post: When Blogging Took Over My World

    A month or so ago, I signed up for a scheme called Big Bloggers, Little Bloggers. It’s a scheme that matches up newer bloggers or those that want to take their blog to the next level, to those with a little more experience. I’ve been working with the lovely Ashley Stallings from Flats to Flip Flops to help her (although she’s teaching me lots too!) Her blog is a wonderful mix of fashion, parenting and philanthropy.
    Here, Ashley explains a little more about her blogging journey (with a poetic edge).

    So it all happened one night in September.
    I threw some shoes on the lawn, snapped some pictures, and my blog, flats to flip flops was born.
    If you know me, than you know that when I get an idea I kind of run with it.
    Actually more like marathon with it, I guess.
    A fashion blog?  Geared towards mom and real life women?
    Sure, I can do that, what the heck?
    Little did I know the world I was entering.
    Late nights stressing out over posts.
    Signing up for Facebook and Twitter and Bloglovin and Instagram and Hellocotton and Pinterest and the list goes on and on.
    HTML, who?
    I swear I had never goggled so much in my life!
    And balance?
    There was none.
    My kids were left to their own devices.
    My husband came home to a disaster and a crazy stressed out wife.
    Blogging had taken over my world.
    So how do you reign it in? ; ;
    How do you stay at home, take care of your family and blog?
    Here are just a few of my tips to taking back your world:

    1.  Set a schedule.

    I only do the bare minimum amount of work in the morning. ; All my posts are pre-scheduled so they pop up all on their own.
    All I do is Tweet and Facebook that day’s post out to the world and I am done.
    I save all of my other work(writing posts, commenting on other blogs, returning emails, etc) for naptime.
    I make a list, do the most important things first and I get done whatever I can get done during naptime.
    The rest of the evening is family time.
    I occasionally work at night too, once the kids are in bed, only if my husband isn’t at home.
    He deserves my time and attention when he is home.
    Figure out what works best for you and your family.

    2. Ask for help.

    Oh goodness.
    If only I would have asked how to write a guest post in html format.
    It would have saved me a super late night, a fight with my husband and a few tears.
    If you don’t know don’t be afraid to ask!
    The blogging world is full of super nice, super helpful bloggers who are willing to take the time to help (like Miss Emma, for example)!

    3. Take A Break

    Can’t think of a topic to write on?
    Didn’t have time to link up to your favorite linky party?
    Don’t have time for that guest post?
    It’s ok! You don’t have to write every day, you don’t have to link up to every link party known to man or comment on every blog every day.
    Take time for a break.
    This whirlwind called blogging can pick you up, twirl you around and never let you go if you let it.
    Even if you want to take a week or a month off, it’s fine.
    Your readers will understand and your posts might just be better for it!

    4.  Enjoy it!

    For reals people.
    If you don’t enjoy it, it is not worth it!
    Decide what you love about blogging and stick with that.
    Let the other stuff go to the wayside.
    Do you.
    Be you and all the other stuff will fall into place!
    So if you already blog, are thinking of blogging or are wondering how to make blogging fit into your world, those are a few of my tips.
    Just make sure to enjoy your world, first and foremost because you only get one.
    Happy Blogging!

    Thanks Ashley!

  • Five essential freelance and blogging reads this week

    This week’s been an interesting one for news. Facebook have finally got their butts in gear with scheduled posts for pages (although as Hootsuite has offered this for a while along with multiple accounts, I’m not entirely sure they haven’t left it too late). They’ve also added multiple levels of admin permissions, which could be handy if you want to give others the ability to see your stats or admin notifications but don’t want others to post.

    Editorial Calendar planning

    There’s a great post over on Savvy Sexy Social all about editorial calendar planning to make sure you’re posting regularly. Check out Amy’s long list of blog post suggestion too, which is great if you need a little inspiration.

    Google+ goes local

    Great news if you’re a local business. Google has launched Google+ Local, for users to find local businesses easily. Google+ Local takes it’s info from a range of other Google products like Maps, Places and Plus, so it’s even more reason to get your business on those pages and maximise your traffic.

    What should your day rate be?

    Judy alerted me to this great post on freelance day rates and what the right price generally is. It’s not easy to find decent guides for how much you should charge, and this gives a fairly realistic idea.

    Save 2% when you get paid: Don’t end up in the workhouse when you retire

    If you’re freelance, it’s easy to forget about pensions. Especially as you don’t have a boss paying into it. But Rosie from One Man Band Bookkeeping makes the valid point that you should put 2% of your income away to make sure you’re ok for the future.

    What have you been reading this week?

  • My favourite freelancing reads

    There are certain books that always sit on my desk. Some are very work-based, while others are for inspiration (or just for picking what I’m going to do for lunch). Sometimes I just prefer to read an actual book with pages rather than scroll, scroll, scroll (although I do have a rising collection of ebooks – but that’s another blog post)

    Starting from the bottom:

    Blogging for Dummies

    C’mon, we all have a ‘…for Dummies’ book tucked away somewhere don’t we? This is great for checking a few things or brushing up on blogging skills. Also, it makes a great laptop stand…

    BUST DIY Guide to life

    A recent addition, but one I’ve had my eye on for ages. It’s got DIY guides for pretty much everything – from putting up shelves to sorting your finances. As I write for a number of different clients, it’s handy having a general guide to hand if I need some inspiration.

    Domestic Sluttery

    Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of the blog Domestic Sluttery. It’s ‘The home and lifestyle blog for women who have better things to do’, and the book follows the same theme. I tend to dip into this for recipes and general advice (there are some great cheat sheets in the back for size conversions and washing instructions, which is handy for when I write about fashion).

    My Grammar and I (or should that be ‘Me’?) 

    This is my go-to grammar book, and I’ve got a dozen post it notes poking out the top for bits that I regularly come back to. Very readable too, considering the topic.

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves

    I occasionally flick through Eats, Shoots & Leaves for grammar advice too, as it seems to be the industry standard for anyone that writes for a living.

    The Wonderful Weekend Book

    LOVE this book. I tend to dive into it for inspiration when I have a rare day off and want to do something (I have an inability to laze around since going freelance, feels like a waste of time). It’s all about reclaiming your weekends and doing something interesting, rather than spending hours in the supermarket or watching SATC reruns.

    The Thrift Book

    Freelancing is a feast or famine business. So for times when money is a bit tight, I turn to India Knight’s The Thrift Book. India outlines everything from how to make your own cheese to what make up you must splurge on. I’ve folded the corners of half the pages. This is why I’m not allowed to rent from the library anymore.

    Thesaurus

    Well, there’s only so many times you can call a bag gorgeous, cute or pretty before you lose the will to live.

    What books do you always keep on your desk? 

  • Ten signs you’re addicted to blogging

    Think you might be an itsy bitsy teeny little bit addicted to blogging? Let’s see how you fare on this checklist..

    1 ) Every time you go out, you take photos as “it’ll be great for your blog.” Even if it’s just a trip to ASDA. You don’t even notice your family rolling their eyes any more.

    2 ) In fact, you rarely go out unless it’s blog fodder

    3 ) You work from home but plan your outfits meticulously, take a snap for WIWT…then change back into your PJs.

    4 ) Your dinner is often cold as your spend so long Instagramming it.

    5 ) When a friend wants to catch up, you direct her to your latest blog posts.

    6 ) You refer to your blog followers as your fans. Without a hint of irony.

    7 ) You no longer buy things. You put out PR requests for them. Even your groceries

    8 ) You allow an extra half an hour when applying make up, so you can snap your look step-by-step for your blog.

    9 ) You check your blog stats three times a day  once an hour  every five minutes.

    10 )  When you meet people who don’t blog/Tweet/Instagram/Pin/Stumble, you wonder what they must do in their spare time. Or on the bus. Or in super-important-but-dull meetings. Or on the loo.

    How many are you guilty of?

  • 2012 so far

     

    Hands up, who made New Year’s resolutions to give their blog a kick-start this year?

    *Raises hand*

    Everyone knows New Year’s resolutions don’t really start until February though. Right? (Along with Frugal February. Obviously)

    Here’s what I’ve done instead of blogging here.

    • I got engaged to Pete on Christmas Day (that’s us on the right). If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, you’re probably bored silly of me discussing dresses and buffet food. Mainly the latter. Who doesn’t want a freakin’ pie on a stick? (above ). So I’ll try not to talk about it too much on here. Besides, I now have somewhere else to discuss it….
    • Thanks to Sian, I’m now blogging about weddings for The Times online. The Times has a paywall (although it’s very cheap, around £2 a week!), so if you are subscribed you can see my posts in the Wedding Section.
    • I’m launching a 30 Day Freelancing Challenge with Nikki Pilkington soon. Nikki’s 30 day challenges come in book and email form, and they’re usually around £4-£8, depending on when you order them. You can follow the 30 Day Challenge guide on the Facebook  group.
    • Things at The Bag Lady, and Aigua Media in general, are busy but there are plenty of exciting things coming up. I love this company.
    • I’m going to be more involved with Dork Adore this year, coordinating our lovely team of writers as well as writing for them myself. If you have a geeky area of expertise, it’s probably on Dork Adore (and if it’s not, why not write about it?)
    I’ve also been..
    • Reading Eat That Frog. I’m not usually one for motivational business books, but I adore this book. Its message is all about common sense – get the biggest, hardest job out of the way first thing (Eat That Frog) and everything afterwards will seem much easier. I’d really recommend giving it a read, or downloading the audiobook (my preferred method)
    • Learning French. By audiobook. Not entirely sure how much is sticking, but I’m hoping to go to Paris later this year to put it into practice.
    • Taking a day off every week. Might not sound like much, but I really struggle to switch off and then work myself into the ground. The combination of trying the Eat That Frog method and accepting I’m never going to get everything done seems to be helping me reach that goal though. And actually, I’m really enjoying time off, and feeling much better for it the rest of the week. Progress.
    • Researching an idea for a new website and ebook.
    • Inventing. I’m slightly addicted to Quirky, a site that helps people turn their ideas into a reality. You submit an idea (and pay $10) and they’ll put it to the community. If enough people like it, they’ll get their design team on it. So I’ve put forward my idea – a pair of shoes with an unscrewable or flip-in heel, so you can go from killer heel to comfy flat in seconds. Feel free to give it a vote or a comment!

    Still here? Marvellous. Tell me what you’ve been up to so far in 2012.

  • Blogging common sense

    Just a quickie today to let you know about a wonderful post by A Thrifty Mrs on the Blogging Rules. It’s basically a set of must-read rules for anyone starting out in blogging (or a great reminder for those who have been doing it for a while).

    I particularly like her points about blog disclaimers and blogger jealousy (haven’t we all has a bit of the green-eyed-monster when we look at super-pretty blogs?)

    Go read a Thrifty Mrs’s guide to Rules for Bloggers

    *Toodles off to do some blog commenting*

  • Five ways to blog daily

    It seems like a post pops up in my Google Reader every week raving about the benefits of posting on your blog every day.  And I completely agree with them. During the 30 Day Blog Challenge (which you can see here), I saw my traffic and subscribers rise substantially.

    But posting every day is hard. I write for eight or nine blogs, and I post on half of them daily. On top of that, I work three days a week as a social media and web co-ordinator, so finding the time to post daily on my own blog tends to slip down on the priority list.

    However, I’ve been working on a few ways to increase my posts on this site, at least to several times a week.

    Build an online scrapbook for ideas

    I often come across a post, image, infographic or video that I’d love to feature on the site…then forget all about it a day later. Now, I use Read It Later (a toolbar addon that allows you to save a page quickly to read later) and Springpad (to grab all sorts of urls and media for later use). This way, I save time and collect lots of potential post material.

    Both of these tools have iPhone apps too, and Springpad also has an iPad app.You can also view your Read It Later items on the personalised magazine app Zite for the iPad, and save items from Flipboard onto RIL.

    Calender for WP:RADIOWP, July 2008
    Image via Wikipedia

    Create a scheduled spreadsheet

    Popping all your posts into a spreadsheet is a bit like unloading your brain into something a little more organised. You can see what you need to publish that day, which gives you goals and targets to work towards. If you’re using WordPress, the WordPress Editorial Calender is brilliant for this. Otherwise, a simple Google Doc/Excel doc will do the job nicely.

    Set themed days

    If you find you’re lost for inspiration sometimes, it’s worth having themed days for your blog posts. For example, every Friday could be the day you do a mini-summary of your recent blog posts/activities, and Silent Sunday is also a popular theme (and quick too!)

    Posts don’t need to be long

    For ages, I’ve been fighting the mindset that a good post has to be a long post.  But some of my most popular posts are simple infographics, videos and images. Variety is key, so a mix of long and short blog posts makes your content look interesting and stops you going a bit mental about the idea of writing a 500-word post every day. You might also want to consider video blogging.

    Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
    Image via CrunchBase

    Write on the go

    Most of us have smart phones now, and with tablets becoming more and more popular, there are more opportunities to write on the go. Even if you don’t have the tech, you can still jot down any ideas or draft posts when you’re on the go. This is one of the few reasons why I like getting the train – it’s the perfect time to write a distraction-free post.

    Do you post every day? Any tips you’d like to share?

  • 15 things you need to know before becoming a freelance blogger/writer

     

    Hello! This blog post all about becoming a freelance blogger is an oldie, from back in 2010. You can find more up to date info at the following links. 

    freelance blogger

    Blogging has grown in leaps and bounds in the last ten years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the industry for the last 18 months. I’ve blogged for sites covering topics like fashion, beauty, slow life, opinions, gadgets and social media, and I’ve never loved a job more.

    But it’s not for everyone. So, if you’re considering starting the new year off as a freelance blogger or writer, there’s a few things you should take into consideration. I’m not an expert by any means, so this is purely taken from my own experiences.

    Normal hours go out the window…

    Full time blogging is rarely a 9-5 job, at least not when you’re starting out. Be prepared to work evenings and weekends to hit your deadlines. The fantastic thing about blogging is that you can fit it in around your own schedule. If you’ve got kids or prefer to work lates and enjoy lie ins, you can arrange your blogging around that.

    ….But setting hours is good practice

    It’s taken me quite a while to fully understand and implement this. Aim to stop working after a certain time, give yourself at least a weekend off a month and set time limits to get work done keeps you focussed, and stops you getting blogging overload.

    Working in your PJs is not productive….

    Personally, my most productive days are the ones where I get dressed and work at my desk. I don’t do it every day (Friday is my day working in my PJs on the sofa) but keeping some form of routine does help.

    Plus the postie stops making sarkie remarks when you greet him in your oldest PJs.

    ….Nor is working in front of the TV

    Again, it’s a personal thing, but working in front of the TV makes me less productive. I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise, but my work output confirms it: I work better with silence or just the radio on.

    Saying that, I like to think watching the Gilmore Girls provides me with the odd witty put down.

    British moneyImage by sirqitous via FlickrYou’ll need to gain experience. Possible for free

    I got my lucky break into blogging by writing my own blog, and doing unpaid (aside from travel costs) internship for a couple of lovely startups. That experience, the referrals I gained from it and the knowledge I built from them led to me starting a role with Miramus as a part-time editorial assistant, and starting several other blogging jobs.

    It’s not ideal, but there are companies out there who let you do your internship from home, meaning you can take on other paid evening or weekend work to support yourself. Otherwise, work like mad for several months, save up several months living costs, then fit in as many internships as possible.

    …But know when to charge

    You might get a few people emailing you with “We can’t pay you, but it’s a great opportunity to get a byline and get promotion.” Some of these are genuine and a good opportunity. In fact I write for free for a couple of blogs, like Dork Adore, out of love for the content. But don’t do too much free work, or you’ll devalue your own product.

    No one else in the creative industry would give away their services so freely, so try not to get into the habit of doing it.

    Get a contract and prepare to chase up the odd outstanding invoice….
    Hopefully it won’t happen too often to you, but there may be instances where a client can’t or won’t pay on time, or refuses to pay at all. Get a contract before you start to make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong.

    …Invoice systems will make your life, and your accountants, a whole lot easier.

    Freeagent makes my life roughly 47% easier. Probably. Creating an invoice is really easily and it can then be printed or emailed to your client. Then at the end of the year, when it’s tax time, you just need to hit print all and you’ve got all your invoices, payments and total income for the year. It’ll also import your bank statements, and fill in most of your self-assessment return for you. You can sign up using my FreeAgent referral link.

    Planning is key

    If you’re writing for quite a few blogs, a spreadsheet with planned posts and previous posts will help you keep ahead. Using sites like Evernote or Trello let you save images, files, links and videos, which can come in handy when you’re juggling several different topics.

    But blogging is fast moving, so be prepared to be flexible

    Blogging gives you the edge over the printed press as you can respond to something newsworthy straight away. So although you might have a top 10 posts planned, you’ll need to be prepared to drop it for the more urgent post.


    Social media and blogging go hand in hand

    I picked up a lot of my blogging work through recommendations and Twitter. If you’re a blogger, you almost certainly need to be on Twitter. It allows you to share your work, chat with other bloggers and build up a network. Plus it’s a great place to bounce potential blog post ideas of people.

    ...But don’t spam your followers

    Just don’t. Constantly spamming your followers with links to your blogs will only succeed in reducing your numbers and annoying people. A couple of links will do.

    You don’t need a journalism degree…

    Controversial perhaps, but I don’t believe all great bloggers have a journalism background. It’s a bit tougher, as I found with my business degree, but the other skills you’ve learned can be applied to this industry.

    …but it definitely gives you a headstart.

    When I started working at Miramus, I had a huge amount to learn regarding grammar and wording. And I’m still learning. I had some insecurities about my lack of journalism and writing knowledge. But I think if you’re determined enough, you can catch up with everyone else.

    Finally: If you want to be a blogger, create a blog!

    It’s the best experience you can get, and your blog is your portfolio. When you apply for blogging or editorial roles, you’ll often be asked to provide your blog URL. Get writing now and you’ll find your niche and discover whether it’s for you.

    Bloggers! What advice would you give to someone looking to become a freelance blogger or writer?

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