Feb 1, 2017 | Blogging
This is a series of posts about blogging as a business (with a focus on the craft/DIY/lifestyle/fashion blogging niches). Designed to help other bloggers and creatives, from setting up one’s own blog to growing it, monetizing it, scaling it, and optimizing it, and all the business details you want to know. Leave any ideas you have for future topics in the comments, and you may see your topic discussed in a future post!
Hi friends, I’m experimenting with a new post series: Blog as a Business.
As many of you may know, I’ve been blogging for 9.5 years now, writing content for other blogs, consulting on blogging, SEO, and marketing, and designing and setting up other people’s websites and blogs. I’ve learned a ton in this space simply by doing it (which was enough for me to first get a job as a Social Media Manager and Content Marketing Manager, then as a Marketing Director, and now as a Marketing Manager, which is what I now do full-time). I figured that all this could help out other people if I start sharing about what I’ve learned over the years, especially when it comes to the unique niche of DIY/Craft, Fashion, and Lifestyle Blogging. So here goes….
After 9 years of running Chic Steals, I felt at an impasse. I felt exhausted, burned out, and uninterested. Not only did my blog not look like how I wanted it to anymore, but I was just not truly passionate about the content I shared. Times had changed, and I felt a growing disconnect with my blog. The fun hobby had now become a burden.
I’m sure there are other people out there like this, who are reaching a stage of burnout in their endeavors. As life and circumstances change, it becomes more and more difficult to keep your original interests up with the same fervor. Everyone likely reaches a point where they say:
Is it Time to Quit?
Here’s how to figure it when it’s time to call it quits, or keep going with your passion project:
Figure Out Where the Disconnect Is
- Make a list of why you began this endeavor in the first place. Hint: You MUST be brutally honest. List all the reasons why you started, however big or small. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you will never be able to move forward, and will constantly remain in a state of limbo.
- Add to your list any reasons that you have, over time, discovered to be good reasons to keep going with it. Again, brutal honesty is key.
For me, my reasons for starting my blog back in January 2008 were:
- sharing the crafts and things I made with other people to help/inspire/teach them to make similar things
- connecting with other people about our similar interests (crafts and fashion) even while being a stay-at-home mother
- share my thoughts and ideas with other people and discuss things
- stay on top of fashion trends I am interested in
- be a fashion icon like other fashion bloggers <*cringe>
And further reasons I discovered over time:
- becoming a somewhat known blog in the DIY/craft niche
- becoming an authority on DIY, specifically DIY fashion, sewing, construction, and craft
- honing my skills in writing, photography, SEO, HTML, CSS, marketing etc.
- steadily making money from my blog after monetizing it in 2013
- challenging my DIY and branching out in my crafting skills
- the connections and collaborations I created with other bloggers, magazines, websites, and brands
- free stuff!
- and my really, really awesome readers!
- Okay, now you have your list of reasons, Original Reasons and Additional Reasons. Here is where the truth lies. Go through each one and rank it in how important it is to you at this point in time, with 0-5, 0 being not important at all…5 being super-duper important now.
- Once you’ve added a ranking next to a reason on your list…write a reason why you gave it the rank you did.
My example continued….
ORIGINAL REASONS I STARTED A FASHION & DIY BLOG, RANKED
- sharing the crafts and things I made with other people to help/inspire/teach them to make similar things (2 – I still like sharing, but I now have so little time to create lots of DIYs to share. I don’t DIY or craft much anymore in my day-to-day life.)
- connecting with other people about our similar interests (crafts and fashion) even while being a stay-at-home mother (2 – I’m no longer a stay-at-home mother, and crafts and fashion are not my most passionate interests right now)
- share my thoughts and ideas with other people and discuss things (2 – I have a day job now and discuss things with other people on a regular basis)
- stay on top of fashion trends I am interested in (1 – I barely pay attention to fashion trends anymore, I’ve developed my own sense of style and am uninterested in the consumer forces shaping fast fashion)
- be a fashion icon like other fashion bloggers <*cringe> (0 – this stemmed from a feeling of inadequacy I had. I don’t care about being a fashion icon, I am uninterested in other fashion bloggers’ style. I’ve finally accepted myself, and I no longer have anything to prove.)
Those numbers^^ are where the disconnect is. Anything below a 3 is going to show you that you no longer consider the endeavor worthwhile in your current state. That’s why it’s essential you are completely honest with yourself and take a long, hard look at your past motivations for your endeavor. Anything at 3 or above is going to tell you that these reasons are still important to you now, and those are the reasons you should pay attention to.
So, let’s set about fixing it…
Photo from DIY Glittery Gold Geometric Pushpins tutorial
What to Do About Your Passion Project Now That You’ve Found Out Why It Isn’t Making You Happy Anymore
Now that you’ve identified any disconnect between reasons you began or kept going with your project, now it’s time to figure out if you want to forge on…or give it up. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are faced with the choice of barreling forward…or laying something finally to rest. Here’s how to figure out which path you want to take:
- Make a list of all that your project is right now. Just list them, big or small. It’s important here to be very honest and self-critical. Invite others you trust to share their opinions so you can get some perspective.
- Take everything that was 3 or above from the first Disconnect list, and imagine your life without them. What would your day-to-day look like? What would your weekends look like? I really enjoy lists (obvs), so I made a list of Pros/Cons for each 3 and above -ranked reasons.
- When you went through the above imagining exercise, for every 3 and above-ranked reason that you feel a significant emotional attachment to (like “oh no! I wouldn’t want to lose that!” put a star next to)
- Question to ask yourself: ARE THOSE STARRED REASONS THAT YOU HAVE EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO…ENOUGH TO KEEP GOING? Only you can answer this question. Think of future you and what s/he will say looking back on this moment and this endeavor. Will throwing in the towel bring relief, or regret that you didn’t have the drive to keep going at the time? What could lie in store for you if you pushed through this impasse?
- Finally, write a list of what you want your passion project to do. If you see enough discrepancy between what you want it to do for you, what it is now, and the emotional attachment you have to it, if the gap is big enough…it’s time to let it go. Let it go, say you had a wonderful time with it, but you have changed and it is now time to move on. Move on to the next – it is not a failure! – and find another passion project that does what you really want it to do.
BUT if there isn’t a huge gap…if with a little re-dedication and work your passion project could once again align with what you want, if you’re significantly emotionally invested in it…explore your options for keeping going with it. Can you redesign it? Realign it? Rebrand it? Rethink it? Here it is wise to have a brainstorming session with friends and people who have faced similar obstacles.
In my case, I talked a great deal with my friends who’d known me throughout my years of blogging, as well as consulting with my fellow bloggers and members of Portland Bloggers. I found that I was still emotionally attached to my blog, I didn’t want to abandon my readers, I enjoyed making money and getting free things (which really helps with my tight monthly budget), I enjoyed being an authority in this niche, and giving all that up would have felt like too much of a loss. So I decided to rebrand, redesign, and realign my blog more with my goals (which I defined more clearly in a separate exercise).
I found that separating out the process of asking whether it was time to quit or go all-in to my blog, from the larger question of what are my ultimate goals for it, helped clarify things better than just going around and around in my head on the larger issues. Working things out step-by-step in this way allowed me to finally break through more than 6 months of indecision and move forward in a positive, fulfilling way.
It is, after all, what we actually do – and not what we try to do or think about doing – that defines who we are and our contributions in life.
Have any of you ever dealt with a passion project stalling or losing momentum? How did you break through?
I’d love to hear about your questions or ideas for future topics! Leave a comment below and I’ll help you out 🙂
Jan 7, 2016 | Life
I’ve found that the right attitude is truly half of a chic life.
But sometimes, even if life isn’t getting us down and we aren’t depresssed per se, we can get into a rut of wake up, go to work, go through the motions, come home, go to sleep, and do it all the next day…without even feeling present in our own lives. We can feel complacent and bored; tired and irritable; or just flat-out burnt-out.
To feel that you are indeed RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE living a chic life, full of abundance, comfort, and happiness, requires a massive shift in focus. But it can be a very tiny change in what you think, to start a cascading ripple that emanates out to all other areas in life. So often we focus on minutiae: what hasn’t been done, what lacks in organization, never-ending home repair projects, the tediousness of daily life. In order to rediscover the minutiae that bring happiness, sometimes it is as simple as writing it down.
How to Start a Gratitude Journal
To Start Small:
Write one thing you are grateful for down in your place of choice before going to bed.
What makes you smile, what are you glad to have? What couldn’t you do without? How is your life blessed? Focus on each one as you write it, truly feeling thankfulness as you write it. Write it on paper, spell it out with scrapbooking stickers, leave a note on the mirror in lipstick. Any way to permanently record something that you are aware of that makes your existence better in some way.
Write down ONE. Just ONE. One thing, little or big – from that you’re grateful to have a roof over your head to you’re grateful for your best friend to your grateful that it’s tangerine season because you love snacking on those little suckers. Challenge yourself to write something different each day (doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering)
At the end of a week, re-read everything you’ve written and feel it wash over you like a wave.
Upgrade your journaling habit to include what you will do to show this gratitude to the person/thing referenced when you note it down at the end of the day, as a To Do for tomorrow. Feel it tonight, create some action tomorrow. Whether it’s calling your Mom to tell her you love her, slipping a note under your neighbor’s door, complimenting a coworker, texting an old friend out of the blue. Write…then show. And watch how these actions create bigger ripples of positivity and happiness in your life – and the lives of others.
You have abundance. You have many things. You have many friends. You are living a full life.
This lovely Gratitude Journal was given to me by my friend, Lex Casciato (also known as the musician Little Warrior, who put together a lot of cool curated Spotify playlists for this site awhile ago). I am filling it daily with my gratitude – and my first entry was all about my bestie and how talented and thoughtful she is!
Here are a couple of my favorite Gratitude Journals:
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 (aff. links)
And there is even an app for that! TheGratitudeApp
Do you keep a Gratitude Journal? Has it helped your outlook or mood at all?
P.S. The gold bangle in the top 2 photos is my DIY Free People Wrapped Quartz Bangle – click for the tutorial!
May 5, 2015 | Life
Portrait photography is definitely not my strong suit, and it’s even harder when YOU are taking a photo of YOU. It’s so much easier to work with someone who knows what they’re doing and can make you relaxed enough to take a great fun photo for your blog headshot.
I’ve had the same sidebar headshot for 3 years (above, taken by Dave Lim) simply because I liked how I looked in the photo. I’ve also had another photo on my About Me page (if you recall, that particular photo was pretty horrible) for about 5 years. I’ve been going through a brand audit of Chic Steals and felt that my head shots didn’t really reflect my blog topic and focus. They needed to be lighter, brighter, closer – and more depicting chic, creative, crafty living instead of just my head in front of a forest. So after playing with a couple different ideas, I settled on a photo of me in my home office in front of a wall that I decorated with gold washi tape in a triangle pattern. (Similar to what I did with my DIY Geometric Bathroom Makeover wall here.) I chose on a white-and-gold palette since I felt that was in line with my blog branding. I did make a little sparkly gold prop as the silhouette of the diamond in my logo, and utilize the DIY paper glitter diamond paperweight I made in this post here. For the overhead and sitting at the desk laptop shots, I styled the desk with my DIY Gold Succulents in Geometric Origami planters, the origami diamond paperweights, and a variety of crafty materials to touch on the “making” theme of my blog. The only piece of jewelry I wore was the DIY Free People Wrapped Quartz Bangle that has been really popular online since I shared it.
My good friend Josh of Joshua Johnston Photography took my photos, and though we shot in the late afternoon and the light was fading inside, his lighting techniques were still able to bring out all the little details and make everything white and bright. In all it took an hour and a half, and the finished photos were awesome – and, I felt, much more fitting with the look and feel of my blog.
So are you experiencing some difficulty with deciding on the perfect headshots for your blog or website? Here are 8 steps to get portrait photos you’ll love:
How to Take Headshot Portrait Photos for Your Blog That Reflect Your Brand
1) Spend some time looking at your blog. Are there colors or elements that you could incorporate into a shoot? Do you feature the same items over and over again? What “goes together” and what doesn’t? (like using a forest background for a crafty blog…which doesn’t make any sense)
2) How can you accomplish what you want in the least cluttered, most direct way? What would make sense as a background? Can you make it, fake it, or is there a place you know that would be perfect for the locale?
3) How about props? Would they be more specific and tie a photo of you into what you write about better? Reiterate your branding or logo somehow?
4) Sketch some ideas out on paper, having in your head a firm idea of the colors and layout of the elements. Where do you want your head to appear? Should you be looking at your content to draw people’s eyes to it? Looking at the reader to connect with them? Looking away so that you’re an object of admiration and having fun by yourself? What are you trying to sell with your head shot?
5) Allow enough time to be able to properly style out your photos and capture them in the best light. Do you need to shoot during the Golden Hour? How long will it take you for hair and makeup? How about styling your props?
6) Choose a lens that has the least amount of distortion for the face: ideally, 85mm. If not, 50mm will also do quite well and create that soft blurred background. Use a tripod if you can, especially in low light situations!
7) Unless you’re used to modeling (or modeling by yourself!), shoot with someone you know well and who you’re comfortable with, preferably someone who makes you laugh. That way your smiles will be genuine and your eyes light up in your photos, which is difficult to fake. You’ll also have someone to interact with which can come out in the final images, creating more of a connection with the viewer. Don’t be discouraged if you have to take a ton of photos to get any you like. Some the framing might be right, but you have a hair out of place. Some your expression might be weird. Keep them all and look at them later.
8) Go through the photos on a large screen, ideally after some time has passed. That way you can apply a fresh eye and be more objective with the ones you choose. Choose ones that you like a lot then compare them against one another. If you like them, your readers will too. Post-process, upload, and announce your new pictures!
Thanks, Josh – I couldn’t have done it without you! Check out his website for prints of cool landscape and nature photography – especially Oregon waterfalls!
Joshua Johnston Photography
Do you have any tips for good blog headshot photos? Please share in the comments!
I actually helped Josh build the website and optimize it for SEO, learning the Smugmug platform
[aff. link] in the process. I’d highly recommend it if you’re a photographer looking for a no-hassle way to sell your prints and photos
as digital downloads – since they take care of all the order processing and fulfillment for you!
Oct 29, 2014 | Fashion, Life
I’m a budget-shopper, you’re a budget shopper. But no one wants to actually look like they’re wearing a $4.99 blazer, no? They key to looking well-dressed is making sure you’re choosing excellent items for their value, that you can spice up with a bit of budget-friendly DIY prowess. Here are 7 ways you can look like a million bucks on a budget (even if you only spent $20!): (more…)
Dec 10, 2012 | Fashion
It’s the age-old question, even more relevant today when so many of us are engaged in multiple, simultaneous projects.
I worked a 54-hour week last week at work. We had a shoot at the studio, which went into a second day. Many other things also happened in my life right around the same time (kind of like how November 5, 1955 was the date the whole universe hinged on in the Back to the Future movies…Dec 6-9 for me was that same critical hinge-worthy time period). Last week was the most physically and mentally grueling week for me ever. (You may have noticed I posted one photo on my blog of me smiling on the set…and then nothing for 3 days.)
When I’m under a lot of stress in one part of my life…I have to pull back on the other parts. Put the blog posting on hold, forget about that face mask, pile stuff into my corner of the office and leave it there. Stop answering email for a couple days. Stop paying attention to what I’m eating and just eat when I’m hungry. Put the workout routine on hold. It’s as if I just don’t have the head-space to deal with anything else except what’s going on in front of me, stressing me out. And many things fall by the wayside during that time.
If you’re anything like me, this might be how you deal as well. Here are some tips for keeping up with the things that do matter to you (even if they seem like added stresses whilst in the thick of things):
1. Make a List
Figure out everything that’s still on your plate besides what’s stressing you out, and designate it either:
- Keep Up With It
- Put It On Hold
- Drop It Completely
Seeing your task list written out like that, and giving yourself permission to do away with to-do’s (or even just delay them), can add some calm in a world of chaos.
2. Pull Back on Your Commitments
For your “Keep Up With It” tasks, further break them down into tasks that you can keep up with in only a minimalistic sense. If you have to be making daily dinners for your family, can you just heat up TV dinners or work with pre-cooked ingredients or dishes that take only 5 minutes? Can you plan out your week of dinners to make it easier? Can you post a single photo on your blog of a “wishlist item” instead of an entire post? Now is the time to pare down and to become a total slacker. What can you get away with by doing the bare minimum?
3. Talk or Hang Out With Someone Not Involved in What’s Stressing You Out
Your friends and family can often be a great source of help, even by just being around someone who isn’t caught up in the madness. Even if you’re just dishing about Kate Middleton’s latest outfit or your friend’s last horrible date, chatter that isn’t focused on your issue can help free up your mind from its mental hamster wheel. Even just 10 minutes can make a huge difference. Laugh, cry, shout, give advice…get caught up with what’s going on in someone else’s life for a few moments, to take a step back from what’s going on in your.
4. FORCE Yourself to Make Some Me Time
It doesn’t have to be a huge amount; just whatever time you can afford to spend on yourself. A nice bath. An episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. A chapter in a good book. A face mask (which I didn’t even have the presence of mind to do last week *ahem*) Even 10 minutes of exercise – a quick stroll a couple times around the block – is actually doable and will do wonders to improve your mood.
5. And, if nothing else, a deep, deep breath and some EFT
I’ve been using a 7-breaths technique to gain calm (breathe in for a 7-count, breathe out for a 7-count, seven times). Repeat as necessary. However, I’ve recently discovered EFT and have been absolutely amazed at the results. It works by stimulating nerve receptors in the skin by tapping them (the same as with acupuncture), thus creating an interrupt in the body’s creation of negative emotions (which are, in actuality, just chemicals released by the brain and other organs, flooding the body and affecting heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. negatively). Just try it and see. Even try it with a completely negative attitude, convinced it won’t do a darn thing for you. You may be surprised. (Read more about EFT here and here if you’re interested.)
Edited (12/31) to Add:
6. Ask for Help from the Important People in Your Life
Sometimes it’s really, really hard to admit to your friends/parents/significant others/kids that you really can’t do it all. Asking for help sometimes feels akin to admitting that your not superwoman/superman…but sometimes you just have to ask or else go utterly crazy. And the people who really care about you, whether they are friends or family or co-workers or the person you’re dating, will probably be okay with doing something to help you out. Hub can make dinner one night – it’s not going to kill him. Maybe instead of you sending a holiday card to your parents’ friend maybe they could just write a greeting from you into their yearly card. Maybe a friend could drop your Goodwill donation off instead of you doing it. Etcetera. It definitely takes a village, and if you’re at your wits’ end don’t be ashamed in asking for little favors from the people in your life! (But conversely, be prepared to return the favors at another time. 😉
How do you cope with major stress in your life? I’d love to hear your tricks for staying sane amidst utter insanity!