Thursday, 5 January 2017

9 Ways To Take Your Blog To The Next Level

I learned a lot about blogging in the year I closed my business to become a full-time blogger.

Blogging was something I was doing almost every day since 2011 alongside running my shop, so when the time was right (in the Spring of 2014 to be exact), it felt natural to make the jump. It was a smooth, seamless transition that happened overnight. I was happy with the decision and I was positive about the change.

But it became really tough when I set myself such unrealistic goals and along with the pressure I put on myself, I realised that my expectations were too high and unreachable. 

It is always a great idea to have ambition and drive, but the thing is, I was comparing myself to the super bloggers who were gaining 10,000's new followers a day and hitting a million every month. I continued to work really hard, creating more content than ever (content that I am proud of), jumping through hoops and trying to impress people - but it didn't go far, or that was how it felt at the time.

In reality, I was doing just fine and things were growing steadily. But when I didn’t hit a certain goal by a certain timeframe that I set myself, or achieve the results I wanted, I’d rack my brain to come up with solutions.

I must try harder. I must hit my target. I must do this. I must do that. Must not stop. Can't stop. Go. GO GO GO.

Looking back now, I realise that I was setting myself up for a fail.

Instead of letting it get me down, I took a step back in the beginning of 2015 to set myself some blog resolutions and I think that now is a great time to look back at them. I want to reflect on the past two years as a blogger and take a look at whether I've taken my own advice.

Have things improved since then? Have I become a better blogger?

How To Take Your Blog To The Next Level

The Numbers Game

When you're not so bogged down by the numbers, I can't tell you how enjoyable it makes blogging. BUT... it is essential to keep track of your stats if you're taking things to the next level. 

Numbers and the amount of followers aren't the end all and be all, it really isn't - but when you work with other businesses, it can sure feel this way. One of the first questions that brands and clients will ask you, before they've even looked at your website and assessed your skills, is about your statistics - how many monthly hits do you get and how many followers do you have? It is sad that our skills and hard work is often overlooked just because we don't have a gazillion followers, but that's business. Not just in blogging, but in most industries. It makes total sense,  of course, since they want a return on investment. 

My advice is to set yourself a target (for example, 10,000 unique hits) and when you've reach it, keep that as steady as you can. For me, unique hits is the most important stat of all.

For an easier way of keeping track of things, check out this tutorial on how to create a Google Analytics Dashboard for bloggers by Kate at Small Paper Things (which I found via Fee from Makeup Savvy). It is amazing and it's really easier to set up. Anyone can do it!


Don't Overcomplicate Your Content Plan

I don't like spreadsheets so when it comes to my blog, I use the old fashioned notebook diary to plan my content. It's not at all a complex content plan, just some ideas I've jotted down on a month-to-month basis to keep me in the right direction. 

I am not strict with sticking to my content plan because so many last minute opportunities pop up to throw things out of wack. Plus, sometimes I like to draft blogposts spontaneously as ideas and inspiration comes up when I least expect it. But as long as I've got at least 2-3 weeks worth of content noted, then I'm happy. 

Set it out the way you feel is best for you. You might set out your content plan quarterly or by month - but if a daily or weekly plan helps, then that's great too! Whatever works for you! In theory, I should be thinking about content for Spring but I can't think that far ahead - so personally, month-by-month works best for me.


Organising and Schedule

If you've never tried Trello before, I would demand you give it a go right away! It is so good for helping to organise anything. You can create as many boards as you want boards, for projects, personal life, work, events, wedding, parties, basically anything! It is fully customisable and you can invite members to your board, so this is particularly great for projects and events.

See the screenshot below of my blogging board currently looks on Trello, it scrolls left to right with lists titled: Received Parcels, Photography, Blog Content (write up), Complete Jobs, Admin, Social Media, and finally, Completed Jobs. 

Each of the white boxes ('Cards') can be labelled with extra notes and a deadline, and can be dragged from list to list. 

For example, using the screenshot above, once I've done photography for Jurlique's Brand Focus, I can slide it over to 'Blog Content To Do' list. And once the blogpost has gone live, I can drag it over to 'Completed Jobs'.

Trello is free and is available on desktop and mobile. Sign for it and tell me how much it has changed your life.


Brand Collaborations

I'm talking about the paid collaborations here. I could write for days about this but I'll keep it short for now.

There are going to be times when you will get approached to create branded content and this is a fantastic! HIGH FIVE TO YA! It demonstrates the blogging is on the up and we, as a community, are being taken seriously. 

It will be overwhelming to take on work at first but you'll soon come to realise that your blog is something YOU have built through hard work and you won't be letting anyone take advantage. Don't undervalue yourself, don't work for exposure, and have confidence in that you have been chosen because of your talented skills, strong voice, and influence.

The general rule of thumb is that you must be to stay true to yourself and remain in control of your own blog. Working with brands may sometimes involve a brief which outlines requirements and guidelines which is totally fine and totally the norm when it comes to sponsored/branded content, but make sure that the overall vibe is 100% YOU. Because if it's not, your readers will switch off, the post won't gain traction, and you'll have an article that you don't actually want on your blog, which might be shared on social media.

I have had a couple of terrible experience, you can't avoid it and it's all a learning curve, but 99.9% of the time, the people that I've had the pleasure of working with have been absolutely AMAZING. They have allowed me to work in my own way and I really appreciate the trust they put in me. And ultimately, that's what a collaboration is all about. 

The best kind of blogger/brand collabs are when it's a two-way thing, two heads are better than one, as they say - so if you feel like something isn't right, or if you think you approach things differently, bring it up for discussion before you move forward. They would appreciate your input (after all, it is your blog) and it's a fab opportunity to learn new things from each other.

A photo posted by Sarah • Blogger (@tempsec) on



Media Kit

Have you ever been asked for a media kit and wondered what the hell a media kit is?! It's sort of like a CV for your blog where you list who you are, what you have achieved, and the all important stats. You may consider adding in rates, and various options or packages you offer. But generally, a media kit is a form of showing how bloody awesome your blog is in pdf format!

Would anyone like me to do a blogpost on this and show you how I've designed my media kit?

In the meantime, you can find lots of examples and tips on how to create an amazing media kit on Pinterest, but if you're not a wizz at Photoshop, you can get free media kit templates to get you started.


Helping Other Bloggers

No point in beating around the bush, blogging is tough. What makes it tougher is the so-called 'hieracrchy' which divides us (in more ways that one) into categories; big bloggers and small bloggers. 

To me, we are all on the same level. Most of my friends have never even heard of blogs, so when I go to events, I am keen to meet and get to know to other bloggers. I will go over and say hi. It's as easy as that.

I strongly believe that helping one another enriches the blogging community, and makes us stronger and more successful. I make sure that I reply to every blog-related (usually photography) question I get from fellow bloggers and it is something that I am quite keen to do because 1) it doesn't take long to answer a question or to explain something to someone, and 2) you're spreading the love and knowledge. 

I would like to do more blogger advice content and How To's on my blog, but I never know what people want to learn about apart from photography, so please do not hesitate to suggest something! I have so far:


A photo posted by Sarah • Blogger (@tempsec) on


Social Media

With all this talk of strategy (which sucks the fun out of social media), I'd say that social media is a job in itself, but it's a job that goes hand in hand with blogging to drive traffic to your site. 

I haven't implemented a strategy, but I do the basics such as promoting your blog across social media when a new post has gone live, repurpose old content when it's relevant to, post previews on Instagram, and all the other stuff I wrote giving advice on how to promote your blog on social media.

A great way to keep on top of things is Hootsuite and Buffer. They help you schedule tweets and Facebook posts which is extremely handy if you're at work and don't have time to log in to Twitter/Facebook.

For Instagram, I use UNUM and Preview For Instagram which are both free apps that allows you to plan, schedule, and edit your Instagram grid. I help manage the social media for a local business, and I use it to schedule the week's content. It allows you to see what your Instagram profile looks like before you have post the image, so this is particularly useful if you have a themed Insta (which I don't. I've tried, but failed!).




Photography

There has been times when my images would turn out like total shit but I remind myself that all I need to do is take a step back and try again tomorrow. And guess what? It always turns out better the second time round.

I don't consider myself an expert in photography but I have found my style and it's a style that I will be sticking with for the time being. You don't need the fanciest camera or the brightest lights but you do need to get to grips with the equipment you have and it's also worth learning a few tricks. I painted my coffee table white, for instance, which immediately made things so much easier for me and it would be even better if my walls were white but I can't be bothered to do that just yet.

Buy some plain white foam board, be creative with props, shoot in the brightest area of your house, and experiment with flatlays, product shots, close ups, etc

Sometimes, the magic is in the post-production. I never edit to distort an image, and I keep the shade of beauty products as representational as possible, but honestly, what would I actually do without Photoshop and VSCO??



Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

Don't compare yourself to others. Just don't. I have spent so much time comparing myself to people on the Internet, people I had never met, and it makes you feel rubbish and unproductive. 

Take inspiration. Believe in yourself. Dazzle them with YOUR strengths and talent. That's what makes blogging so brilliant and unique! x



Share:

20 comments

  1. A brilliant post Sarah, I've bookmarked it for later to read it properly but you've put so much thought and effort into it! Hope you're having a wonderful new year xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some great tips here Sarah, I will definitely be taking these on board this year. Despite being a social media manager for my day job, I'm rubbish at scheduling my own updates - so will be downloading UNUM asap! x

    ReplyDelete
  3. These are great tips and ones bloggers always should remember! :)

    Lotte | www.lottebeautybox.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  4. So many great tips there! I'm not planning to go full time anytime soon, but I just relaunched my blog with a new design and added a French version of it, so I've been really looking to up my game. Good timing, eh?


    - Elodie x

    www.elle-yeah.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for such an insightful post! I really want to take my blog seriously this year after so many years of running it half-heartedly. I've saved this post to look back at when I need some tips! Xx

    Lucy x // http://lucy-cole.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  6. Trello used to be my arch-enemy when I worked full-time but it's a lifesaver for my blog and business! One of my goals this year is for my blog to generate 25-30% of my business income, would love to hear more tips (:

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow so much helpful information. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ohh trello sounds like a great application! I need it!

    Love, Turn it inside out

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really enjoyed reading this post Sarah! I'll never be a full time blogger but there's so many fab tips in here that I can take away and use - thank you! x

    Sick Chick Chic

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is actually such a helpful how to, especially for those of us working towards monetization and making a living blogging! Thanks a bunch babe! xx
    xx Heather | stormywheather.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. This was such a helpful post, thank you so much for sharing! I will definitely be downloading UNUM.

    Sara | www.saraspoke.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great Post, Great tips.

    I'm just starting out and this is exactly what i needed.

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  13. Full time blogging isn't for me, but these are really useful tips! x

    ReplyDelete
  14. Such a helpful post, thank you for sharing! I definitely need to experiment a little more with Google Analytics. UNUM is a life saver for Instagram! Haha ♥

    Amy // snippetsofamy.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sarah, I've always LOVED your photography! I've never heard of UNUM but I'm definitely going to check them out.

    T x

    ReplyDelete
  16. GOD I LOVE VSCO :D I'm using it constantly for all my Instagram photos that I don't really use the Insta filters anymore!


    www.upyourvlog.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. As a new blogger I found this extremely, EXTREMELY helpful! thank you so much for this post :) x

    ReplyDelete
  18. Brilliant tips - it's so useful to have them all rounded up here for bloggers new and old! I've been at it for 7 years but have still taken away some great tips from this, so thank you :)
    Sian xx Rebel Angel

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is probably one of the most helpful "blogger tips" posts I've ever read! I especially loved the point you made about helping other bloggers. Even as someone who is a fairly "small" blogger, I think other bloggers truly appreciate when you acknowledge them in some way, shape or form.

    Thank you for sharing in such an honest, sincere way.

    xo Leda

    littlegirlbiggerworld.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is a brilliant post! Thanks for this <3

    Arden | Missing Wanderer

    ReplyDelete

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on my blogpost! Please leave your comments and questions here, or feel free to tweet me with any queries!

© Temporary:Secretary | UK Fashion & Beauty Blogger | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig