Tuesday, 6 November 2018

How To Run A Blog While Working Full Time

I always describe blogging while working full-time as a rollercoaster. When it's good, I feel like superwoman for bossing my day job while pursuing my passion. But when it's bad, I feel overwhelmed and like my side hustle is a burden rather than a passion project that brings me fulfilment. 

Last September, I was definitely going through a bad patch. Between launching a global brand during the day and trying to plan for London Fashion Week, writing and shoot blog content during the evenings and weekends, I was utterly exhausted. Nevermind trying to keep in touch with friends, remembering to eat, wanting to exercise and needing to sleep too! I had too many plates spinning in the air and I felt like I wasn't spinning any of them well.

I tweeted about how I felt and was overwhelmed by the number of people who shared similar experiences. After some reassuring Twitter chats and realising that I was far from alone, I planned to write a blog post about the challenges of working full-time and blogging as a side hustle...but it's taken a whole year to finally put pen to paper. Ah, the joys of having too much to do and too little time to do it in! 

I've been working full-time whilst blogging for a decade. There was a time when I used to blog every single day after finishing work, after attending events, after meeting friends for dinner. I was averaging about four hours sleep a night, it was utterly exhausting and not rewarding in the slightest. Sometimes I was simply writing words for the sake of writing words. I was uninspired and grew to resent blogging. The crazy thing is, no one put this pressure on me. I put it on myself. 

Kenzie from Lemonade Lies can sympathise with the effect of putting too much pressure on yourself, stating "there are so many ways you can do both [working full-time and blogging] efficiently, just don't burn the wick at both ends because it can make you resent things. If push came to shove most would give up their blog over employment so make sure you keep your love and passion for it and do what works for you". 

I soon realised blogging daily while working full-time was completely unsustainable and stopped putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Actually, I took the pressure off completely by taking a little haitus from blogging. I felt so demotivated and needed time to figure out whether I still loved blogging and what I was doing it for.

Jazmine from Jazzabelle's Diary also admitted that motivation is something she struggles with, as she works in social media and marketing for her job, the last thing she wants to do in her downtime is...social media, writing and marketing! She told me "lacking motivation can be frustrating, as I would love to post more, however right now the most important thing in my life is maintaining a healthy work/life balance, and if that means spending less time on my blog, then that's something I'm happy to do." 

After taking a little sabbatical, I  came to the realisation that I really love blogging - the creativity, writing, connecting with people around the world and sharing my perspective. I just didn't like putting myself under a ton of pressure and losing my passion and motivation. This was a real lightbulb moment for me. I decided to figure out how to pursue my passion without killing myself in the process.

Over the last couple of years, I've reached a happy medium where I aim to blog once a week. If I don't manage to find the time, I'm ok with that - and hope you are too! Sometimes I still struggle to find a balance but 80% of the time I have it down. The key has been being smart with my time and realistic with what I promise myself I will deliver. 

Laura from Lelore also struggles with finding the time to manage working and blogging side-by-side but she maximises her commuting time to "keep on top of emails and social media, and also to schedule tweets. I tend to do the majority of my writing and photo editing at the weekend so that if work gets a bit hectic during the week my content is still ready to go".

After finding a healthy work/blog balance and renewing my passion for my side hustle, I wanted to share five tips which have really helped me. 

1. Create an achievable plan
When I was blogging every day, I had no one to blame but myself. When I took a step back and looked at what I wanted to achieve through blogging, it was storytelling and communicating. My goal was not to be a one-woman content factory! I cut down to blogging once a week as I felt it was achievable but still pushed me to create blog content with a regular schedule. I also set boundaries for Instagram content, aiming to post once a day. 

2. Embrace the power of lists
Now that you have a plan, it's easier to figure out how and when you're going to create your content. Sarah from Sarah Jayne Potter's top tip for managing her time efficiently is "a lot of lists!! I also now don't promise coverage or blogs asap. I set dates and deadlines and give myself enough breathing space to be able to take photos, do the write-up and still manage to have a social life! If I get ideas on the go, I make sure I document it on my phone so I don't forget." 

3. Become a time management ninja
With a plan in hand and a list of tasks to whizz through, the next step is finding the time. After working all day, I protect my evenings as my sacred time - to catch up with friends, work out or just potter around my flat. I would rather carve out some time at the weekend to do my blog-work and allow myself some time to decompress in the evenings. 

I shoot my blog images once a month, packing a little suitcase of outfits to shoot all in one go rather than trying to shoot weekly. This really helps me plan ahead as my images must have cohesion with my written content. Planning a month in advance helps to capture all of my ideas so that when I sit down to write, I have a rough outline of what I want to cover. 

Instagram content is much trickier. I'm just not very interesting Monday-Friday and it's dark by the time I finish work so I can't capture any content during the week. To remedy this, I create content during the weekend that I can post throughout the week. In the depths of winter, it's easier to shoot IG content on Saturday and Sunday morning and write blog content in the evening. 

4. Automate as much as possible
I'm a huge advocate of scheduling content. Being a blogger is more than just writing and posting to a blog, you have to think about Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too. Wordpress and Blogger both have in-product scheduling which makes queuing up blog content super easy, though I rarely have more than the next blog post ready to go. 

There are a number of different tools available to schedule tweets on Twitter but I prefer Hootsuite. I first started using it years ago when I managed social media for brands so it feels intuitive to use. I use it to schedule tweets promoting my blog posts throughout the day but I prefer using the app to actually use Twitter and engage with my community. 

I personally don't like or trust the in-product scheduling on Instagram. On more than a couple of occasions, I've been logged out of the app and all of my scheduled posts have disappeared. I have recently started using Planoly to schedule IG posts. It's an official Instagram partner and you can add a location and tag accounts in your image. It allows you to save groups of hashtags to upload to your images. You can also drag and drop images to see how your feed looks to make sure you're happy with your grid. 

Now, I know Pinterest is a tricky platform for some bloggers but I really love it both for inspiration and driving traffic to my blog. I only have 3k followers but my monthly views are currently 85k! I've achieved this by pinning little and often, that's the key to seeing growth. I use Tailwind to schedule my Pins however, they have recently launched an in-product scheduler which I'm going to use now. 

5. Blog support system
Last but not least, I find it super important to have a blog support system. This is a mixture of blogger and non-blogger friends who I can vent to or turn to for comfort. With all the planning and will in the world, it's still very difficult to manage to blog alongside a full-time job. Blogging is a graft and a hell of a lot goes on behind the scenes. Make sure you have plenty of people to both cheer you on and pick you up when you're down. This is true of life as much as it's true of blogging. 

And there you go, my top tips to balance your work/blog/life balance. I'd love to hear your tips so leave a comment below! 

Suit - River Island, top - Mango, heels - No.21

Photography by Adorngirl

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Why Your Own Platform Is Your Most Powerful Channel As A Content Creator

Back in 2008, I started this blog and began to call myself a blogger in a somewhat sheepish manner - this was in the early days of blogging when no one really knew what a blog was. Explaining that you had a website where you wrote about fashion and took pictures of yourself with a self-timer in your bedroom felt a bit weird but over time, blogging started becoming mainstream and "acceptable". What started as a few dozen people carving out a little corner of the internet for themselves quickly turned into a blogging army of thousands in the UK. 

It's been incredible to see the industry evolve over the years. What started off as a little hobby or passion project has evolved into fully formed businesses and a profitable industry. In turn, the term blogger has filtered out and was replaced with influencer or content creator. I prefer the latter as we are now creating content across multiple platforms - full posts on the blog with horizontal images, square images and witty captions for Instagram, snippets of everyday life for Twitter, engaging videos for YouTube and inspo/mood boards for Pinterest. A stark contrast to the days of self-shooting in your bedroom with bad lighting and zero editing! 

Instagram is undoubtedly one of the key channels for creators, so much so that many have either given up their blog to focus on Instagram or completely skipped starting a blog in fave of IG. As longer captions and galleries started to become popular, blogs started so seem a little redundant - what's the point in creating long read content when Instagram posts are quicker and easier? IG is also the first port of call for everything, from doing a quick background check on a potential Bumble date to discovering a new brand; your Instagram profile is your new business card

However, focusing solely on Instagram puts all of your eggs in one basket and you're limited to the whims of the algorithm, which we all know is as fickle as the weather. I was an early adopter of Instagram, back in the days when it was a fun channel full of Valencia-filtered snapshots of real life. As it evolved into a super important, super filtered channel, I was slow to react and grow my following. I'm now stuck in a weird IG void, full of creators who are putting out good content, using hashtags and engaging with their audience but seeing zero pay off. Growth is slow or non-existent and I'm constantly having to chop and change my strategy as the algorithm changes all while watching people who I know use bots to grow. It's a little disheartening, to say the least! 

Last year, I wrote a post on why I've decided to ignore the numbers and enjoy Instagram as a platform. It was liberating. And in the 12 months since I wrote that post, I've accepted that I'm never going to be a super influencer...and that's totally fine with me. I don't want to give up my life just to have a high number of followers. I want to enjoy my life and live it while sharing some moments online rather than planning my life around creating content to fit a certain aesthetic. 

Take travel for example, I'm super passionate about travelling to exciting destinations and sharing that with my audience but I'd rather enjoy where I am, immerse myself in the culture and create memories rather than slavishly trying to create the perfect moment. Recently, I visited Paris and while I dressed down in kicks, oversized tees and cycling shorts I saw other influencers in tutus clutching a bunch of helium balloons by the banks of the Seine. It seemed ludicrous to go to an incredibly beautiful city with an impractical wardrobe just to capture a shot and filter in a pink sky and Photoshop out all of the people in the background. That's when I realised that I just don't care enough to devote my entire life to a platform that makes me jump through ridiculous hoops and doesn't reward my hard work. 

Rather than being discouraged completely, I decided to reframe and focus on what I can impact - my own platform. The beauty of having your own platform is that you are in control. No one can tell me what content to put together, what I can write or what I can wear. I can do what I like on my platform and the work I put in pays off because the goal posts aren't constantly shifting. 

As a weekend creator, I have had to prioritise where I spend my time and while I've been posting weekly content to my blog consistently for over a year and posting to Instagram nearly daily, I've ignored the maintenance and upkeep of my blog. I'm not 100% happy with my blog platform and branding and I've totally neglected the SEO side. In hindsight, it seems crazy that I've ignored the nuts and bolts of a platform that I have control and ownership over! If I'm not happy with the performance, I can work at it and my changes make a difference, I'm not a slave to bi-weekly algorithm changes. Any tweaks I make to the site or copy is evident immediately while any SEO effects will be seen within weeks. 

So what am I actually working on? 

Have a blog-first mentality

I touched on this when I shared my blogging goals for the rest of 2018. I'm concentrating on creating authentic, meaningful content which resonates with my audience. I'm shifting my focus so that my blog is at the core of my content creation strategy and other channels follow the message and content of my blog. This means creating the content I want to and carving out my own aesthetic rather than following social media trends - you certainly won't catch me posing outside of Peggy Porschen!

I'm working on creating an editorial calendar I actually want to stick to. I've created several in the past but my renewed focus has crystalised that I need to put my blog at the centre of my plans. I'm hoping planning my content further out will help evolve my blog content and create a consistent voice. 

Optimising my blog's SEO

In the short-term, I'm working on SEO to help more people find my blog. I have already set up Google Analytics and Search Console to make sure Google knows my site exists. But SEO is more than just ticking a couple of boxes, you need to continually optimise your site and content to ensure you rank for the relevant keywords. 

As I neglected my blog maintenance for so long, I started with a deadlink audit and discovered I had over 500 dead links on my blog! Dead links are essentially sites that I have referenced and linked to in old posts which now do not work - this is usually where I've linked to an old product, brand, site or blog which no longer exists. This negatively impacts SEO as one of the ways Google rank websites is by crawling their links, a high number of dead links can stop search engine spiders from crawling your site and indexing it...which is bad. 

I have now removed the dead links and archived some very out of date posts. The next step is to make sure my existing posts are optimised for the correct keywords. Tools like Moz Keyword Explorer and KeywordTool.IO are invaluable for researching keywords which have high search volumes but little competition - it's much more effective to go after these longtail keywords rather than broad keywords which have high competition. These keyword terms need to be worked into the title of my posts as well as the first paragraph. They also need to be factored into images, which need to have descriptive alt tags and keywords. 

Rebranding my blog

I started my blog a decade ago and I've tweaked the branding over the years but I've been itching to completely overhaul my blog for a long time. The name and current look and feel don't really resonate with me anymore, I've grown so much as a person over the last ten years and it feels like there is a disconnect between me and my blog. I've started this task in earnest but metaphorically stripping my blog back to its bare bones to put it back together is a process that is taking time and I want to get it right. I can't wait to finalise my plans and share the brand new blog with you soon! 

Are you shifting your focus onto your own platform? Is blogging relevant still? What content do you like to see? 

Dress - ASOS | Heels - Nicholas Kirkwood

Photography by Adorngirl

Monday, 17 July 2017

Outfit Post: Let's Talk About The 'Gram

I think it's time we settled down with a cup of tea and talked about Instagram. As one of the blogging elders, I've been on Instagram for more than half a decade and I've seen it evolve from a sea of Valencia-filtered snaps documenting the ordinary to its current airbrushed and editorial. Change is good, particularly when it means no more blurry Starbucks pics in your feed but Instagram has changed so much over the last few years, I can’t help thinking its current landscape is problematic for a few reasons. 

As a blogger/influencer/content creator (what are we calling ourselves these days?!), Instagram is arguably the most important channel to promote your work. Despite not being able to include links in posts, it offers influencers the opportunity to visually communicate who they are - after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. A quick scroll of someone's feed gives you a snapshot into their style, lifestyle choices last holiday and even what they had for breakfast. This is why its’ such a key form of social media for content creators, it's invaluable to promote who you are and who you stand for.

This is particularly important for fashion bloggers. Fashion is a visual form of self-expression, so of course, Instagram is vital for the entire industry, not just fashion bloggers. I work for a brand that uses Instagram to establish a visual identity, using obscure art references or archive imagery alongside current product images. This helps to build substance behind the brand, establishing a personality and point of difference - which is exactly what influencers seek to do on the ‘gram. 

Learning about Instagram and how to harness it to build an audience is all well and good until Instagram decides to rewrite the rules. This happened last year; the infamous algorithm change which saw the feed change from simply displaying images in chronological order to a feed which uses an ever-changing algorithm to determine which content is displayed and to how many people. The upshot is brands and influencers alike have struggled with plummeting visibility and engagement ever since. For people who make a living from Instagram, it’s been disastrous. 

Influencers have had to start taking Instagram "seriously". By that I mean the fun has gone and it's now become increasingly strategic, laborious and stressful to maintain a decent presence on IG, both in terms of engagement on individual posts and to grow your audience. For brands and agencies, it’s all about the numbers. First and foremost, they judge influencers on how many followers they have. Engagement on posts in a secondary consideration, mainly to ensure there’s no discrepancy to indicate that an influencer has bought their followers. 

From hashtagging to comment pods, influencers have tried various different tactics to increase engagement and attract new followers. Perhaps the most extreme act is to engage bots to comment, like and follow/unfollow people in a bid to grow your audience. This is problematic, as brands will engage and pay for bloggers' services based on false inflated figures it essentially boils down to fraud. But I think it’s important to ask why people resort to such lengths for social media.

The pressure on influencers is insane. When I started blogging there were a few dozen fashion bloggers, we all knew each other pretty well. Nowadays, there are literally thousands. Everyone is vying to be the best and partner with brands or agencies, who only see the numbers. Instead of valuing micro-influencers, who have smaller but much more engaged audiences, it’s only ever the huge bloggers who are selected by brands - which is exactly why there’s so much pressure on numbers Bloggers also perpetuate this issue by judging other bloggers on the number of followers. We’ve all become obsessed with chasing a number which ultimately means nothing in the grand scheme of things. And Instagram keeps changing the goalposts make it harder and harder to reach that number. Isn’t that crazy?! 

For a while, I was obsessive about the number of followers and likes each picture got. I was invited to a couple of comment pods, I focused on making my Instagram look prettier. And honestly, I was adding a bunch of needless stress and worry to my life. Instagram began to rule my life, it was ridiculous. I've now given up chasing numbers, trying to keep up with comment pods, being a slave to a theme and all the other needless stress. I'm so much happier for it. It's liberating to take a step back and not put unnecessary pressure on yourself to live up to someone's expectations. 

Tshirt - Theyksens' Theory
Jeans - Zara
Belt - Off White
Heels - Aquazzura

Photography by Adorn Girl

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Why blogger awards don't matter...

Dust off your finest gown and drop that gorgeous cocktail dress off at the dry-cleaners, it’s that time of year again – awards season! The awards season is definitely a marathon rather than a sprint, with the Globes, SAG, Oscars and BAFTAs coming up in short succession. All eyes are on the red carpet to dissect the attendees sartorial choice and decide whether they were a hit or miss. Over the last couple of weeks though, the spotlight has been on bloggers. Two major weekly glossies have announced their shortlist for fashion and/or beauty bloggers. How exciting for those who have made the cut; time to rally up the troops (readers) and get your hard earned community to vote and spread the word, right? Actually, you might want to think twice about that.

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