marketing

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement by 400% Without Really Trying

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement 400% Without Really Trying | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog post for a while now. Here’s why: I think Pinterest is a bit of a mystery to a lot of people, especially woman-owned businesses. They might use it personally (nearly every woman I know has a Pinterest account), but they might not be using it for their business. And if they are, they might not be using it effectively.

This blog post isn’t just for bloggers looking to increase traffic, by the way. This blog post is for:

  • Business owners

  • Anyone selling a product to women between the ages of 18-45

  • Bloggers

Here’s the rundown of what I’m about to tell you: I increased my engagement on Pinterest by 400% without…

  • paying for Tailwind (too expensive)

  • spending hours on Pinterest

  • more effort than checking in once a day

I noticed this increase most starkly this month, but it’s been steadily building for the past 6 months, ever since I put in renewed efforts to build a strategy. I am cheap, however, and didn’t want to pay for something like Tailwind. This is all just me, Pinterest.com, and the Pinterest app.

Let’s jump in.

(Pst, if you’d like to check out my Pinterest, you can do so here.)

Analytics

Here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of July:

July 2019 Pinterest Analytics

And here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of August:

August 2019 Analytics

Between May and June, my impressions varied between 19,000 and 21,000 per month. (For whatever reason, I don’t have full analytics for those months on Pinterest. It may be a switch in their built-in analytics programs.)

That’s a pretty significant jump over 4 months, right? And like I said, I didn’t spend money on it and I didn’t dedicate hours of my day to it.l

So what did I do?! Let me tell you.

Methods

When it comes to me and basic methods for social media, there are no secrets. I realize a lot of people would put this information behind a paywall and it’s one of my biggest annoyances. I’ve signed up for tons of free Pinterest (or Facebook or whatever) webinars and sat through them, only for it to be 10 minutes of basic information (like “make a Pinterest account” DUH!) and 20 minutes of selling me a bigger webinar or e-course.

Sorry, not interested.

Here’s what I did over the last 4 months:

  • For each blog post I posted (which admittedly wasn’t a ton), I created 3-4 additional Pinterest graphics. This was because I was testing what worked best on Pinterest. I don’t have a concrete answer on that, by the way.

  • I then pinned each blog post at least the week it was posted. Usually, I did this all as one on Saturday morning. Then I would schedule the different Pinterest graphics over the next few days. All of these pins initially went to my specific board for my blog posts.

  • From there, I pinned each blog post pin to my group boards.

  • Throughout the week, I would check each day and pin each varied Pin as it posted to my group boards.

That’s literally it! That’s all I did! I just kept up this weekly and daily task list every single week for four months.

It does seem time consuming. But let’s break it down.

  • On average for the past few months, I’ve been posting maybe 2 blog posts a week. In total, each blog post might take me 2 hours.

  • It might take me an additional hour to great 8 different Pinterest graphics.

  • On Saturday, it took me on average about 2 hours to write unique Pins for each blog post and Pin/schedule.

  • Every day, sharing pins to my group boards took maybe 30 minutes.

In total, that’s 7 hours for writing blog posts, creating graphics, and posting on Pinterest. However, 4 of those hours I’m already doing anyway in the form of writing and scheduling blog posts. Then, in total per week, I spent 3 1/2 hours on Pinterest throughout the week. That’s definitely less time than I spend on Twitter and Instagram. (Is that embarrassing?!)

Here’s a few additional things I did throughout these 4 months as well:

  • Checking daily Pinterest trends (if you press the search box to type, you can see trends for you specifically as well as trends throughout Pinterest). If I saw any trends that correlated to blog posts I had, I immediately repinned those blog posts to my group boards.

  • If I had seasonal posts that I thought might be relevant, I would also repin those. In mid-August, I started to notice a steady increase in engagement on my Blogtober pins from 2018 and 2017, so I began sharing those Pins to my group boards as well.

  • I created Pinterest-specific graphics for my affiliate codes, announcements, and sponsored posts. These included information that people needed without having to jump to my blog; it helped increase uses of my affiliate codes as well as my traffic. I was slightly worried that giving away the free bit wouldn’t help my traffic, but I was wrong. It helped a lot!

A Note on Group Boards

As you can see, I rely on group boards a lot on Pinterest. I am hesitant to make suggestions for group boards, as these aren’t ones I own. I don’t necessarily want to be held responsible for the rules or content should anyone disagree! However, if you would like suggestions, please don’t hesitate to send me a note and I’ll send a few links over.

As well, if you would be interested in a group board with me, let me know.

Do I expect to see results forever?

“Forever”—what a funny way to phrase that!

To I expect to see these massive increases in engagement (and subsequently, my blog traffic) forever using these methods? No. I think this was a good way for me to get started and get the ball rolling, so to speak. As I continue to tweak my methods, I expect to have to change things and, eventually, I know It will be beneficial to me to start using different methods, including paying for tools and streamlining my methods.

However, I wanted to share this method I’ve used because I see so much advice about Pinterest that literally boils down to “pay for this tool!” I don’t know about you, but I am so hesitant about paying for things that I feel I can do for free, at least for right now. In the future, that may not be the case, but it is for me right now at this moment (given being recently laid off!)

Now, it’s time for you: do you have questions about Pinterest?

Blogging & Business: I'm Going Freelance (& You Can Too)

Blogging & Business: I'm Going Freelance | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve sat down to write this blog post over and over, not knowing really what to say. Originally, I knew it was basically going to be all about what happened to me, and my job (which I loved, as most people knew), and how I am now seeking out different opportunities in order to keep doing what I love. But I realized that when it comes down to it, it’s not just about me: it’s about me, and what it’s like to work for a business as a woman or a mother or both.

Every mother I know has looked for ways to work from home, or work for themselves, in a way that is meaningful. Working full-time, or even part-time, as a mother is incredibly challenging. But I don’t think this is confined to just women who happen to be mothers: I know lots of women, from college age into their 40s wonder if working for themselves would be more beneficial. It’s something I toyed with—taking on freelance clients if they specifically reached out to me, but not actively seeking them out—for years before now.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s start at the big bad: what happened.

As I’ve alluded to in posts, and written about on Instagram, I got laid off mid-way through July. July 17 to be exact. It’s definitely going to be one of those dates I remember forever, you know? July 17, the day the company I worked at for 5 whole years closed forever. It was devastating. I spent most of that day sobbing off and on. We’d only been aware for a week in total that it might happen and thought we had more time; until the end of July at least! It’s the worst position to be in: to know you’re going to get laid off in the future, then have it happen about 2.5 weeks early.

Before we knew it, it was over and we were out of jobs and everything felt very up in the air. Everything is still very confusing and there’s a lot going on.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is this: I knew it was time for something different.

Sometimes, we all know when our time with a company is coming to an end. It might not be a big thing that happens—it might not even be totally negative. It’s just a moment where you think, it’s time for me to move on or this isn’t working for me, even though I love my job. I had had lots of little moments like that before being laid off, but I loved my job, I loved my boss, I loved what I did… and going freelance scared me. Really bad.

Changing jobs scared me too. I was so used to working for one company: I understood my boss and my coworkers and all the processes I needed to be successful.

No matter what, I was in a position where I was going to be incredibly uncomfortable. I got laid off—that sucked! Now I had two options: go freelance or find another job. Both were scary. But both were my only options.

So on July 18, I put on my big girl pants and went for it. I dove in. I sent emails to all the contacts I had. I started posting blog posts and regular posts and articles on LinkedIn (and interacting on LinkedIn in ways I never had before. I even impressed myself, honestly). I made phone calls and signed up for a CRM (seriously). I let people send emails for me, connect me to other people. I got a lot of Nos in the first week. And then in the 2nd week.

I’ve thankfully managed to sign a few clients for the month of August and into September so far. But thankfully, I already had the groundwork covered (by being 25% focused on freelancing even before deciding it was going to be my 100% set up)and I had some contacts who I could thankfully turn to when I needed help.

On Instagram on Tuesday, I asked for any questions people might have about going freelance, or working for myself. I wanted to share a few of them and answer them here to give you a better idea of how I make it work (so far—I’m by no means an expert at this point!) and if you can make it work yourself.

1. What skills do you need to freelance?

This totally depends on what freelance work you are actually doing. I am a freelance content strategist and copywriter. That means, I need the following “hard” skills (that is, the skills that actually allow me to have the expertise to offer my services):

  • Copywriting for digital marketing

  • Copy editing

  • Knowledge of all aspects of copywriting I’m offering (social media, blogs, email marketing, and website content)

  • Strategy writing for all aspects of marketing I’m offering

However, in addition to these hard skills, freelancers universally need soft skills too. Soft skills are not related to the services you offer whatsoever, but rather area entirely focused on customer service and prospecting. Here’s a few examples of soft skills:

  • Networking

  • Customer service

  • Invoicing

  • Sales

Yeah, unfortunately, freelancing includes a lot of sales skills. Thankfully, by working at an agency (and before that, in sales-focused businesses), I have absorbed some basics of sales by osmosis. It’s definitely not my forte, but it is something I know I need to do. Networking is a secondary part of that that has also never been my cup of tea, but is becoming increasingly necessary as time has gone on. And again: sometimes trying something new means being uncomfortable for a while.

2. What do I need to know about getting clients?

The truth is, getting clients is hard. You will have a ton of people reach out for services if you network, advertise yourself, and make an effort—but if those people all end up paying you, I’ll eat my hat. And my socks. And my whole house. Because it’s just not something that happens.

I’ve had a lot of prospects that I was sure would be immediate Yes’s. Without going into too much detail, the first people I reached out to were clients of my work, who I already helped with their marketing writing. I thought it would be a slam dunk to sign them on for at least a few months, even with me as an “interim” solution while they found another agency. Every single phone call went like this:

Me: So the amount I would charge would be $xxx each month, and that includes writing, graphic design, and scheduling.

Them: super sharp intake of breath followed by an intense gasp

Every. Single. Time.

A younger version of myself would have immediately said, “But it’ll be less for you! Ha ha ha! I was just joking!” But I set my rates in a very specific way to ensure that I would have the money I needed to 1) live and 2) pay for all the tools I need. (More on this later.)

I guess what I’m saying is: even if you have everything set up correctly, getting clients can be really difficult. But you can’t let yourself be discouraged. That’s easier said than done, obviously.

Getting clients that work for you requires knowing what kind of clients you want to begin with, knowing how to talk to them, being firm about what your prices and what you need from them to succeed, and perseverance. You know, simple things.

3. What’s the tax situation?

First things first, we’ll found out in January.

Just kidding. The tax situation is this: I found a (freelance) accountant almost immediately and asked a ton of questions. Then I called my local Chamber of Commerce to ask if they knew the process. From there, I was able to determine how to set up my business (as myself) in a way that made sense.

I highly recommend that if you’re thinking of going freelance, and you’re reading this blog post, you call local people to help you. Don’t follow the advice of some random article you find on the internet that tells you what to do specifically. Not only will you make connections with your local government and another local business, you will be able to better understand what you need to do.

Long story short, talk to people you trust about the situation and that means professionals in your specific area. You don’t want to mess up this portion. (I know I definitely don’t; it’s been my number one concern.)

4. How do you set your rates? / How do you budget for a family?

Oof, isn’t this the biggest question? I got probably 20 different versions of this question:

  • How do I set prices?

  • How do I know what to charge?

  • What if I charge too much?

  • What if I charge too little?

The truth is, what you charge will depend on the market rate for services in your area. Unfortunately, that means having knowledge of what other freelancers charge and potentially what agencies are charging. As well, what you charge will depend on your own personal budget. Here’s what I did.

  • I knew that I had to charge what would 1) cover the cost of my workflow products, 2) cover my own bills (aka pay myself a wage that is livable), and 3) allow me to save enough to cover any potential tax burden.

  • I knew I had to charge competitively, but as only one person, I also could not charge as much as a full-scale agency.

  • I knew I needed to charge differently for one-time services versus on-going retainer-type services.

My prices are based almost entirely on how many hours I think something will take, plus how much I think I’ll need to retain for taxes; my hourly rate is based purely on making sure that after taxes, I have enough leftover. I realize that sounds more complicated than it needs to. For the sake of transparency, as of right now, here’s what I charge for everything:

  • $500 full SEO audit for up to 1,000 pages (any huge websites will cost more, obviously)

  • $800 for social media strategy & workflow

  • $800 per month for on-going social media content creation, scheduling, and reporting

  • $500 for blog strategy, plus $250 per blog post including keyword research

  • $50 consult fee to discuss needs

These prices allow me to determine how many things I need to do each month to pay myself a livable wage. Let’s say that at the very least, I need $1500 pay to pay my own bills; that needs I need at least $3000 in client services. That means I have space for:

  • 6 SEO audits

  • 3 social media strategies

  • 3 total social media clients

  • 6 Blog strategies

  • or any combination of them

If there are spaces on my roster, I will post about them to LinkedIn; let’s say I’m at $2000 for the month of September in booked services. So I’d post on LinkedIn that I have space for: 1 social media strategy and 1 blog strategy, or 2 SEO audits.

I hope that makes sense.

(As a note, if I get any comments telling me that my prices are too low/too high, or I shouldn’t share my prices, just an advanced warning: I don’t care what you think!)

(If you’re interested in freelance services, you can send me an email here. I do offer some need-based discounts.)

5. How do you budget for a family?

This is the number one question I got and I totally get it. I have a family, a new house, a car payment, everything. How can I feel secure and stable as a freelancer with that? Knowing that my income is based entirely on my work ethic and hustle for the month before.

The truth is: right now, I don’t really have an answer. Right now, I don’t feel super stable in my freelance business, because it’s very new. I’m sure I will eventually as I get into a rhythm and find a way of making it work for me. The best advice I can give is to set your prices to be fair to you and your business; don’t lower prices just because someone says you should or says they can’t afford you; take jobs that you think will be beneficial to you and your family. And most importantly, work hard and do good work so you get more high quality clients.


Well, that’s it!

Is freelance the right career for you? I think it so depends on you and your circumstances. Only you know the answer to that, but if you are, I’m here and ready to chat. Send me a DM on Instagram, I’d love to hear from you!

How to Write Better Instagram Captions

Instagram is a social media platform that I really struggle with. I don't like themes (expect a post on this soon) and I don't really get the need to make my house, or life, or child, or self, seem perfect. Sometimes, I feel really jealous over curated Instagram profiles because it just seems to take so much work

One of the most challenging parts of Instagram is writing captions. Seriously, captions. I can have a good photo and a good idea. But then I'm stuck, staring at that caption box. Like, what do I put here? What works? 

I gathered up a few resources to come up with a few ideas. Here they are. 

1. Write to engage. 

This is something I struggle with. When I post photos, I try to post something I think is funny or related to the photo. But on Instagram, when it comes to getting people's attention, there is a benefit to writing something that engages other people. This is a great post on doing just that

2. Be brief. 

Does this feel like it is at odds with that first point? A little bit. But here's the truth: it's possible to write engaging captions, without going on for sentences. I definitely try to keep my captions two sentences or less. Although I follow some great accounts (like my friend @poesyross) who use longer captions to great effect. For more about writing with brevity, click here

3. Make sure to edit. 

This goes without saying: before you hit post, make sure to proofread. I've definitely hit post before write as I notice a glaring, huge typo on my post. Oops. Not the most professional looking, for sure. For more on editing for length & more, click here

4. Use a quote. 

Here's the thing: sometimes, there just aren't words. You have a great photo. You know what time you need to post for maximum engagement. You have everything ready. Except words. Grab your favorite (related) quote, add a question, and post it with your favorite hashtags. Easy peasy. Pinterest is a great source for great quotes. Click here to view some

6 Tips for Surviving Internships

As you all remember, internships were my bread and butter for several months of my life after graduating college. At one point in time, I was working part-time at a grocery store deli and doing three (yes, three!) internships at once. It was exhausting. 

I learned a lot from doing internships and more than anything, I gained experience that made me seem invaluable to employers. With new graduates every year, there are a new league of unemployed and terrified graduates who have no idea what they are doing and no idea where to start. Hopefully, these tips can be a help to them. 

I'm certainly not an internship expert, but I do know a few things. These tips are for current students, new graduates, and anyone who is wanting to start a new career. 

1. Yes, you do need to do an internship or two. 

Or seven, in my case. In college, I did two substantial internships, but I was a rarity. A majority of the people I knew did one internship, or independent study, as they were considered the same thing. This, unfortunately, means there is a substantial portion of college students graduating with one three-month period of professional experience. That's... not great, guys. Do an internship; if you can, do two. If you really can, do more than two. Do as many as you can when you are in school and can afford it. An internship can be anything, really: writing articles on the side for a local publication, volunteering your services as a local animal shelter, or working the counter at a women's shelter. There are tons of internships out there that are not in offices. 

I realize this is hard for people who are paying for school, and housing, and everything else, entirely by themselves. You might feel you have to decide between part-time (or full-time) work or an internship: one benefits the now, one benefits the future. Which leads me to...

2. Do know that you'll have to make sacrifices. 

Something like 99% of internships are unpaid. And paid internships are basically like fighting a gladiator: the very, very lucky receive paid internships. That's not to say "don't apply for paid internships"; it's more of a "don't put all your eggs in one basket" life tip. 

If you need to work part-time, but you want to do internships to make sure you get a job after college (which, really, I hope that's why you're in college), know that you'll need to make sacrifices. This applies if you're a new graduate working a weird part-time job, as well. You'll basically be working over full-time, but only be paid for part of it. You'll be exhausted, but the experience is ultimately worth it.

One last note on this: I know this is an unfair and messed up system. But, here's the thing: it's easier to tear down a broken system from the inside. Once we're all the CEOs and leaders of the world, we can change this--and I'm 99% sure we will. For now, however, these are just the facts, as crappy as they are.  

3. Do know that you can use part-time job experience to impress employers. 

Do you worked through college, or the months after college, at a retail job, while doing internships? Don't tell potential employers you were just doing internships. Say the reality! "I was going to school full-time, working part-time at McDonald's, and then I did 3 internships in 6 months." Excuse me, but that's impressive. What did you learn working that hard? What did it make you realize? What skills did you gain (prioritizing, budgeting, time management)? These experiences can be used to your advantage. Don't be humble. Brag. 

4. Do know that you can consider blogging an internship or even a job.

I always include my blog on my resume. I always talked about what blogging and social media has taught me and how I could apply those skills to the job I was interviewing for. For this reason, keep your blog up: keep it professional and make it awesome. In short, make your hobby count for something and know how to talk about it, professionally, in interviews. 

5. Do know you can e-mail any business asking if they need interns. 

So, you can't find any local internship opportunities. What's stopping you from emailing local businesses to see what you can offer them? You're not asking for money. Ask if you can job shadow, or intern, for a week or two. Ask if you can at least meet them to talk. Mention why you're interested in interning for the company and what you hope to gain from it, and why only they can offer it. People love to feel special; make HR feel special when they receive that email. 

When I first graduated, I spent hours applying to jobs and emailing local businesses -- mostly PR and marketing firms, some publishing companies -- I wanted to work for. I heard back from some; I never heard back from others. But it was a way to introduce myself and set myself apart. If they do have job openings in the future, I can always slyly mention that I emailed them as a new graduate and how I'm still so excited to have the opportunity to work for them. Sneaky, huh? 

6. Don't think internships are magic job machines.

They're really not. I did seven internships after college and it still took me eight months to a get a job that didn't include orthopedic shoes. It took me another nearly two years until I got a job in my field. An internship is never going to magically get you a job; you'll still have to work for it, remain interesting, and interview well. And sometimes, the timing has to be just right.  

In short, when it comes down to it, internships are an important stepping stone for entering the real world; you can't ignore their importance, but they certainly aren't magic. Work hard, do your best, and no matter what, do things that will set you apart from the crowd, whether it's starting your own freelance business or managing an amazing blog.

How to Get Experience in Content Marketing

I sort of accidentally fell into content marketing. When I graduated from college, I had the dream of being a copywriter or copyeditor. I was a bit crushed to find out that copywriting and copyediting jobs are extremely rare where I am--I had to accept that and readjust. I ended up focusing on social media writing for a while and my first jobs were very focused on writing social media. 

As I got more into my current job, I fell more and more into the content marketing world--not that I knew it was content marketing or even what that term meant. It was all an accident. When I finally decided to become an expert at email marketing (a request from my boss that I took to with gusto), I had no idea that what I was doing was learning as much as I could about content marketing. 

But that's what I was doing. 

For those out there wanting to have careers in blogging, marketing, or writing, content marketing is something you should know about, understand, and have experience in. But when it comes down to it--how do you actually get experience in content marketing? 

I was hired at my current job because of my blog. Do I have the most popular blog out there? No. Do I have a curated Twitter or Instagram? Absolutely not. But I produce content, consistently, every single week and I interact with my followers. These two things, when it comes to real content marketing for real businesses, are what matters. 

Here are a few tips for getting into content marketing. 

1. Subscribe to a few newsletters. 

I really love Contently newsletters. I learn so much about content marketing from them every single week. However, I actually get about 20 content marketing newsletters every week--Contently just happens to be my favorite! You'll find your favorite eventually. Google, subscribe, and read them every day to learn as much as possible. 

2. Put time and energy into personal content. 

If you're a blogger, looking to get into a marketing job, dedicating time to good personal content will make a huge difference. Showing that you know how to publish consistent, high-quality content will go a long way. 

3. Write your own content marketing plan. 

A content marketing plan, for me, includes a few things: your blog schedule and plan, your social media plan, and your email marketing plan. I'd venture to say that most bloggers don't have an email marketing plan, but you can certainly write a plan for your blog and social media. These plans will cover the types of content you like to write about (lifestyle, fashion) and the style you use to write (what kind of images, graphics, tone, etc). I love writing content marketing plans, so if you'd like help, send me a tweet

I Suck at Writing Subject Lines (But It's Ok & Here's Why)

Writing emails for content marketing purposes is, hands down, one of the most difficult things I've ever learned how to do. This is coming from someone who cried in their sophomore geometry class because proofs were so difficult and complicated. Well, sophomore-year-in-high-school me, you're in for a shocker: a writing task (writing! your favorite!) is even more difficult. 

Thanks to all the content marketing resources out there, I've gotten better (perhaps even "good") at writing email marketing. I wouldn't call myself an expert, necessarily, but I get the job done.

Most writers will tell you that subject lines (or titles or headlines) are the most difficult part of writing: how can you sum up everything in an article, a book, or an email with one succinct phrase--and still inspire people to open the email, click the article, or buy the book? 

The short answer: you shouldn't. 

Subject lines are my writer Achilles's heel: they are my ultimate weakness. They are my greatest challenge when it comes to writing. 

I've read every article in existence on writing better subject lines, how to write subject lines to get clicks, to get opens, to change the game. Trust me, I've done the legwork. I've attended webinars and signed up for email newsletters on the subject. I've done A/B testing; I've completed worksheets; I'm written and rewritten and rewritten again. 

No matter what, I come to the same conclusion: I suck at writing subject lines. And that's ok. 


I can hem and haw over a subject line, or title, for hours potentially. I debate over how to perfectly sum up what I've written. Then, I have to take into account everything else: what will interest people? What will get the most clicks? Or opens? I can debate for hours. I can download all the ebooks and read all the articles. I can do as much as I can to avoid actually hitting send or publish. 

But the truth is: a subject line is just a subject line. You can do everything right and still not get as many opens as you wanted. There is no perfect formula to the perfect subject line or title.  Sometimes, something works and you have no idea why. Sometimes, something just clearly does not jive and you won't know why. 

That's ok. 

We want to believe that marketing can be brought down to pure math, that you can determine everything by numbers. But when you combine the power of words with the rigidity of math, it's never going to be perfect; add in the subjectivity of the average human and it's never going to make 100% sense. We can only know the basics of what works and even that is iffy sometimes. 

I'm always going to suck a little bit at writing subject lines and titles, mostly because I get overwhelmed at how important they are. And that's ok. It's ok to not be perfect at everything (as tough as it is to admit). It's also ok that sometimes subject lines flop, despite killer content; it's ok that sometimes you need to A/B test, tweak a title once it's published, or experiment. 

It doesn't have to be perfect from the get-go. Take the pressure off and allow yourself to experiment and find what works for you and your audience. But don't get too set on any one method or style: it will probably change tomorrow. 

5 Must-Have Blogging Resources

I've been blogging since 2007, at the latest. You could say I was blogging before that, if we count Livejournal and Xanga. That's almost 10 years of solid blogging experience. Does that make me an expert? 

Who knows!

Over the years, I've tested and tried, loved and hated tons of blogging tools, from photo editing software to social media networks. Some tools (Lookbook and WIWT, anyone?) I've moved away from. But some, I just keep going back for more. 

Here are 5 things I think you'll love for blogging. 

1. Canva

Honestly, I could sing the praises of Canva all day, but I won't. (I wonder if they'll get annoyed with me on Twitter though!) What is Canva? It's an online resource you can use to make gorgeous graphic design content, from social media posts to hero images for blogs. I know, I know. A free online resource for that? It has to suck. But it doesn't! The fonts and free elements are amazing, and you can upload any image to use. It's the greatest tool available to marketers and bloggers on a budget. 

2. Free stock photos

I've written about free stock photos before. Stock photos are notoriously awful (seriously), but more and more excellent free resources are popping up. I know some bloggers had stock photos, and that's fine, but I think they can be a valuable resource for when you don't have time to do your own photography. (I know I never do anymore!) My favorite sites are Unsplash, Life of Pix, PicJumbo, and Gratisography. 

3. Hootsuite

This is one of the first things my blogger friends mention when they talk about must-have blogging tools: Hootsuite, that fancy-schmancy social media post scheduler. I've tried to use Hootsuite in my personal life--really! I have--and I have to confess: I just hate it. I just hate it, guys! It's so ugly! I hate the way it shortens links! But that being said: scheduling posts is an incredibly valuable tool that works for approximately 65% of bloggers. For the rest of us, we'd rather just set reminders and do it ourselves. There are other tools like Hootsuite out there, but Hootsuite is the most integrated with "big name" social media platforms. It's totally worth a try. 

4. Pinterest

I remember when Pinterest first started (back in December 2010, I believe--at least, that's when I signed up as a beta user!) and how strange it seemed. It took a while to figure out how to use it, but when I figured it out--it was magic. Pinterest is one of those platforms that emerges and fills a niche that we never even knew existed. The best part is that Pinterest is primarily a young, female platform: women between 16 and 40 make up most of the users. That's really cool because it makes marketing really easily. Are you a young woman running a lifestyle blog of any kind? Then you need Pinterest; you need to have options to pin your content to Pinterest; and you need to be optimizing Pinterest, like, yesterday. The returns on Pinterest are insane. Even with the limited amount of time I spend on Pinterest, approximately 40% of my traffic comes from Pinterest. 

5. iPhone

Ooh--I know when people see this one they're gonna wonder what in the world I'm talking about. Hear me out: the iPhone has completely changed the way we live our lives... which means it has completed changed blogging. I had a Blackberry Storm before I got my iPhone 4s in 2011. I never took pictures with it and I barely used it for Facebook. Texts and emails. That was it! But after I got my iPhone, everything changed. Suddenly, social media was more accessible than ever. Without iPhones, I don't think modern blogging would be what it is--and I would argue that a modern smartphone, like an iPhone or Android, is crucial for keeping up with social media, photography, and networking. 


What's your number one must-have when it comes to blogging? Share with me on Twitter

Should You Use an Editorial Calendar?

"Use an editorial calendar!" How many times have I read that phrase in an article about better blogging? 

Too many times, to be perfectly honest. 

An editorial calendar is, essentially, a schedule for your blog. It can be complicated (a detailed spreadsheet or calendar of posts, needed pictures, and other steps) or it can be simple (a list of blog topics, potentially arranged on a calendar). 

If you're running a big business or a marketing company, editorial calendars make sense: with two-tiered editing processes, you need to have materials written far in advance to ensure they are posted on time. The practice of editorial calendars has traveled down to blogs: it has long been suggested that all bloggers use an editorial calendar of some kind to help plan their posts and keep content posted regularly. 

However, for a vast majority of personal bloggers, editorial calendars just aren't realistic. 

The reason for this is really two-fold. Firstly, editorial calendars remove the spontaneity from blogging, so if you're blogging purely for hobby or enjoyment, you're going to remove a part of the fun from the process. Second, editorial calendars can often start to feel oppressive, even for the most seasoned of entrepreneurs and those who use their blogs as a source of income. I don't know for certain that those who use editorial calendars are more likely to experience burn out, but whenever I've tried to strictly plan a month of blogging, I've found myself resenting it.

That being said, having a plan for your blog--either week-to-week or month-to-month--can be helpful in staying organized and always have something to post. If you're like me (and super busy with a job, a newborn, or an active social life), if I don't have content planned, my blog can be silent for days. 

There are lots of ways to keep content on your blog. An editorial calendar is just one method. Here's what I'm doing to keep content posted--but avoiding an editorial calendar: 

1. I write posts a week in advance at most.

I try to schedule all my posts for the week on Sunday, which means I spend the week before writing and editing them. I don't like to write posts more than a week in advance because 1) I end up really confused about what time period I need to write about and 2) I think it removes my voice from my blog too much. 

2. I keep a constant list of topics. 

I keep this list in my Happy Planner, where I write my daily journal and plan blogs for the week. This is just the easiest way for me to store ideas for future posts. Instead of trying to plan for a month or two months at a time, I plan for the week ahead (and potentially for major holidays). 

3. I don't do weekly features. 

Weekly features are great--I used to love Things I Love Thursday and the like. However, after a few weeks, I find it's easy to use them as a crutch: I don't plan content because I know I'll have a pre-set post for Thursday or Friday. Also, weekly features tend to get a little boring after a while. A few times a year is fine, but who wants to read a list of things you love every single week? 

4. If I decide I don't like a topic, I don't write about it. 

Last week, I intended to have this post written and posted on Friday. But I couldn't figure out an angle: what did I want to write about when it came to editorial calendars? I don't use one and I generally don't think they work for individual blogs. Because I couldn't decide what I wanted to post about, I waited--I didn't just churn out a post to have one. If you can't think of anything to write, writing fluff isn't the way to go. It doesn't benefit anyone. 


Some bloggers thrive on using editorial calendars. It entirely depends on how you write and how you run your blog. Do you use an editorial calendar? How do you keep content organized?