Planning

Blogging

20 Ways To Get Serious About Blogging


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1. Think long & hard about your blog categories

Your categories are the main sections or “magazine columns” that you feature on your blog. Your categories can be a drop down menu on your sidebar. They should be simple and logical. Use hierarchies to organise your ideas better. Try think of a catchy angle for them so you peak your viewer’s interest and stand out from the rest.

2. Design your site as simple as possible

Keep your design simple and appealing. Make it intuitive and well-structured. People should intuitively know how to navigate your space. Make pages along the top for sections you want to highlight. Use a category drop down menu and a follow widget wouldn’t hurt. If there are other platforms you want your viewers to know about, include those widgets also. A direct link to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram invites viewers to connect with you.

3. Operate it like a real magazine

Decide on your target audience just like Cosmo or House and Garden does. This means deciding:

+ Who you want to appeal to (age group, gender, interests)

+ What your content will be (which topics you choose)

+ How involved you’ll get in your articles (short, long, lots of resources)

Plan out each piece well. It’s always a good idea to think about a catchy title and invest time into each piece. Edit and format your posts and add great designs to them. Write in a natural tone and keep it simple. Decide on your intentions with each post. Publish often (weekly is great). If your favourite magazine missed a few issues, you’d eventually find a replacement.

4. Share each post into infinity

You write and publish something once, but who’s to say you can’t share that post once per month on Twitter, a couple times a year on Facebook or every other month on Google+? Pinterest is a lovely fresh platform with a constant stream of ideas. It’s a great way to advertise your blog. Make a board dedicated to your blog and pin your stuff to it! It will make it easier for people to find you and re-pin your stuff. Due to the “timeline” nature of most social media platforms, if you only share something once, it will only be seen by a small percent of your followers. It’s also a good idea to make an advert with your heading and URL on for sharing purposes.

5. Make sure you know what  your audience wants and needs

Your readers/clients have specific questions, desires and needs. You can start to figure out these needs by putting yourself in their shoes. What would you want to read about if you were them, visiting your blog? What tools can make things simpler for your viewers? Why do they come to your blog? Read more about figuring this out here.

6. Post frequently + consistently, with quality as your best friend

Remember to keep your material current and up-to-date. Try cater for a blog audience while maintaining your brand goals and sanity. This is, of course, if you are operating your blog like a business.

7. Invest in your blog

The things you spend money on are the things you want to get value out of. The things you spend money on are the important things that you care about. The best things in life are free, but some of the things that help you create your best life cost money. Invest in marketing your blog online or elsewhere if you want the traffic that will get you money in the long run.

8. Format your posts to be read by busy, lazy humans

This means short titles, bullet points and headings. Also, it means blog posts which aren’t too long.

9. Create a content calendar

….One that includes suggested post dates and categories. Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin is great because I like a visual representation of when I should post. Without a calendar and some type of plan, you’ll get around to that one post about that one thing on the 10th of NeverEver.

10. Add in promotion & maintenance tasks

Sponsored blogging (getting paid to publish promotional stuff) must be scheduled into your usual blogging routine. A lot of the time, clients/sponsors need a date for publishing. It’s good to plan ahead so you can give them an exact date.

11. Establish a writing routine that gives you time to think

Creative people are always thinking. Sometimes I have great ideas that pop into my head which I jot down. When I get around to writing a post, I’m always excited to publish it straight away. But I’ve learnt that it’s better to save the draft and give it an ‘incubation’ period in your head. Trust me, you’ll think of different things to add over a period of just 24 hours which will add value to your post.

12. Be you. We won’t like you if you’re being someone else

Enjoy your own space online. Add photos of your life. Write the way you would speak in real life. See how you do this in my post Find Your Voice Online.

13. Get high quality photos of yourself

It’s a good idea to have quality photos of yourself. These will come in handy for your “about” page, as well as any articles you write where you have personal experience. Allow your readers to connect with you! Keep a professional flavour by getting nice photos taken. It’s good for you and will be a plus for the photographer. There’s power in collaboration!

14. Audit your blog regularly

That post you wrote three months ago? It totally needs a link to the post you published earlier this week because they’re heavily related and your readers will be happy to have guided/quick access to both. Always keep in mind that no matter what order you write things in, any post or page on your website has the potential to be the first post a visitor sees. P.S. Blog audits are also a great way to make sure you’ve included your affiliate links and product/service links in all the organic ways possible.

15. Check your grammar

Make sure to double-check your articles.

16. Be available + interactive

No one likes a person who never responds to anything. Granted, you may be so “big time” that you can’t get to every blog comment or tweet, but none of them? I’ll accept that when you become the President of the United States. Even then, you can hire some people to help you out!

17. Pay attention to the questions your readers ask

There may be a new blog post you’ve written, a new eBook you can sell, a problem you can fix or a service you can offer that is lingering in questions from readers. Cultivate community around your blog so people feel they are in a safe space where they are supported and encouraged. Grow a family around your blog. You do this by being attentive to your readers.

18. Guest post like a champ

Once you have a healthy collection of quality content to lead people back to, pitch to some sites that fit your brand (or that are frequented by your ideal readers) to do a guest post. Think about larger online magazines and websites as well. These guest posting opportunities will help you build relationships and will lead new readers back to your site.

19. Accept guest posts like a champ

If someone else is willing to say some valuable and entertaining stuff on your blog, let them. Make sure each post fits your blog, fits your readers, and is the type of quality content you want your blog to be known for. Make sure to promote your guest authors and show them love. They will likely spread the word of their guest post, which can potentially give you lots of new readers.

20. Stay focused

We creatives like shiny new projects and get distracted easily. When you have lots of ideas racing through your head, stop and focus your energy on one thing at a time. Make a list. Lists are great.

Photo: Death To The Stock Photo

Entrepreneurship

Meetings: How To Schedule & Prepare


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Last month was one of refining processes, contracts and efficiency. I have many projects happening simultaneously. One thing I’ve started to see is that I’m constantly in meetings. Here’s some things to keep in mind about meetings:

1. Carve out certain days of the week to meet

Be intentional about what days are good for you to meet people. Make committments and stick to them. I always think it’s a good idea to schedule meetings a week or two in advance so you don’t do things last minute. That way you can be prepared. If you work for yourself, planning the use of your time wisely can be tricky. Make sure to pen in appointments and keep your diary close at all times!

2. Set an agenda/itinerary

Ideally, you want to stick to an agenda which you set. Get through the business first, then you can move onto the fun stuff if you still have time.

3. Let people know how long you can meet

Time is precious. If you have lots to get through, make sure you structure your days well and stick to your goals. It’s always a good idea to set out the time you have available when organising meetings. Literally say to yourself (and your client) how long you have for the meeting. 1 hour? 2 hours? Put a lid on how much time you can spend working on something with someone. If you don’t do this, you may just run over time and disappoint yourself when you can’t achieve your other goals for the day.

4. Keep the location in mind and be intentional about it

Where inspires you? Where is there free wifi? Do you need a plug point for your laptop? Do your research when you schedule a meeting with someone. If it’s not in an office, ensure you’re somewhere that has the resources you need and also makes you feel good (and has good coffee!)

Tamika Doubell

Creative Inspiration

How to Plan a Birthday


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I’ve found I’ve been asked to help out with the planning of a lot of stuff lately. Something I realized was that most people are terrified when they hear the word “party” or “birthday” because they know that this means they  have to throw something. Let’s breathe! From my experience, our fears of what our guests expect on our big day are way disproportional to their actual expectations.

So here are my pointers / rules:

1. Start Early. It’s horrible running around days before the party. Make sure you begin your planning about 3 weeks in advance.

2. Don’t Just Use Facebook. Use text also. Believe it or not, not everyone bothers to check their event invites on Facebook and it would be really terrible if you are missing guests because you presume they know about the party. I suggest texting and e-mailing if you have their e-mail addresses.

3. Always over-invite. You’ll be surprised at people’s priorities. They don’t all stick to their commitments  So make sure you add an extra five or so people to the list in case ‘life’ just ‘happens’ to some. It would be a shame to let all that good food go to waste  – or worse, if you planned seating, to have empty seats.

4. Plan on a colour scheme. If you don’t have a specific theme that can guide your decorating, try a nice colour. Colours are great and can provide a nice base for decorating the venue! It depends on what the event is and how personal you want to get, but you can use your colour scheme to guide you when buying plastic cups, plates, bowls, ribbons, banners, balloons, invites and even the clothes if you want people to get into the festive spirit. 

5. Arrange for music. Music is a really good ice-breaker and adds ambiance to the environment. Make sure you have some kind of stereo system set up, or even just a plain CD player. You can make a CD of music according to your crowd. It depends what kind of event it is, but jazz is always a great backdrop if you are having a dinner party. An alternative to music systems would be to get a live musician – a singer with a guitar is a great idea.

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6. Always over-cater. Try get a nice catering company if it’s a big event. Even if it’s a small one, I recommend you use a local caterer to make the food.  Unless it’s a dinner party where you are cooking yourself. Caterers are good with providing a lot of variety and you can use their experience to give you an idea for numbers. Catered food always looks professional, it’s fresh and if you get platters (savoury platters are always a hit), it arrives an hour before the party and there’s no fuss or cleaning up for you. In my experience, people eat more than you think!! You can also always take left overs home to enjoy over the following week.

7. Get wine and champagne. Again, it depends on the kind of event you are having, but (if it’s for adults) a must-have booze is red and white wine and a bottle or two of good champagne. You can also make punch – a great recipe for Sangria punch is HERE. A nice one for a Bloody Mary punch is HERE. Beer is also good if you know your crowd likes beer, as are basic ciders. But make sure you always have a non-alcoholic option like a soda or juice. There’s nothing more awkward than being the guest at a party which hasn’t catered for you. Another option if you’re having something more relaxed, is to tell your guests to bring their own booze. It’s up to you. This works nicely as they know what they like to drink. Most do anyway.

8. Balloons are nice! Okay, so what is a real party without balloons? Try and get 2 bunches of five balloons at least to fill up the room (hey, if you’re gonna do this, you may as well do it right hey?) 🙂

9. Give your guests a TIME. One of the worst things in my experience is to not know when to leave. Don’t put your guests in that position and give them a legit time to leave. Make it run for like 4 hours and then let them know via the invite your times (e.g. 7pm-11pm). This lets them know that it’s okay for them to say goodbye at a certain time viz. you won’t hold it against them. This time ‘says’ that there’s a designated time they can walk up to you and say: “Thanks so much for the great night, I’m going.” You can all smile and hug and say goodbye and everyone will be much more comfortable and happy. You can end on a high! Don’t let your party drag on. Besides your guests, this rule is for you; so you can feel that you’ve done your job and it’s finished. It will also force the stragglers who do like to hang around eating and drinking you out of house and home to leave!

10. Send out thank you’s for your presents. This is a huge rule for me that’s close to my heart because I know what it’s like when you have gone out of your way to buy and wrap a gift for someone with lots of love and thought put into it, and they don’t say thank you. I have had this more time than I care to remember; birthdays, anniversaries, stork parties, weddings – why do people do this? For me it’s the first thing I do when I open my gifts the next day. I write down a list of every gift I’ve received and who it is from. I then make it my personal mission to e-mail, facebook message or text them to say thank you. And I make it personal. I say; “Thank you for the soaps or for the perfume.” I personalize it to what they actually got me. This goes down very well and it makes then think fondly of you an remember the party with kind memories. 

Hope these help and that the event you are planning is unforgettable! 

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