Recently I feel as though I've gotten a little bit smarter in how to make this blogging thing a tad bit easier, more efficient, and less ulcer inducing. I could just stop at wine for how I've completed the above, but shockingly enough there are a few other items that have helped as well. Today I thought I would share those with you. In no particular order, let's crank through these little nuggets of goodness.
1. A good camera, a tripod, and a remote control.
We all know that photos are a huge part of your blog, whether you like it or not. Blogs while made for writing, are also very visual little creatures. People like looking at nice things (example: channing tatum). I would highly recommend investing some money into a camera that takes quality photos and that you know you will use regularly. For me personally, I love the SONY NEX-5. It's compact enough to throw in my purse, allows me the option to change out the lenses [this one is my favorite for product/fashion shots], and produces photos that I can be proud to call my own. I just recently, like within the last week recent, purchased a tripod and remote for my camera. I am now bashing my face on the cement for not doing it sooner. Do you know the freedom this brings? No longer do I have to beg and plea for my husband to take my picture in sub zero temperatures, I can do it all on my own. Lucky me, I know. Or say when I want to take a head shot of me wearing no make-up for a skin care post coming soon. Wham bam and done.
2. Easy (and free) photo editing software.
I learned very quickly that I didn't have a shot in H when it came to figuring out PhotoShop. Way too many layers and buttons and lack of buttons and gray freaking hair. That's when I turned to PicMonkey and never turned back. Every single time I use the auto exposure option, crop, possibly resize, and then sometimes select a filter. This is how I also add overlays and text to my pictures. Be careful to not over-edit your photos, I've fallen victim to this trap and it is one ugly trap to look back at. Many times, less is more. For all of my photo collages (example above in item numero uno) I use Picasa. Another beneficial tool I have found, which isn't free but is worth it, is BlogStomp.
Why I love this program is because you can re-size all of your images at once, apply watermarks all at once, sharpen all photos at once, name all of your photos at once, basically do everything ONCE. It saves ridiculous amounts of time and sanity.
3. A Day Planner.
#freakingobsessed. That's how I feel about my Day Designer from Whitney English. There is a lot to keep track of when it comes to blogging, life, work, etc. This is the only planner that I have found which truly works well for all. Each day has it's own hourly schedule, a to-do list, a spot for tonight's dinner, a place to write your top three priorities, daily gratitude, your daily budget, any thoughts that pop into your head [ie: items to use in this post], what's due (I write down the daily blog post topic in this section), and also a don't forget section. As you can see, each day packs a lot of punch.
Along with that, Christine just shared with me two forms that are awesome for keeping track of your sponsors and planning out your daily posts <--click both links to download the forms.
4. Google Drive.
excuse the poor photo quality
Without sounding too dramatic, I don't know how I lived without Google Drive. I use it for nearly everything these days. Within the past 24 hours I have used it to upload the documents in item number 3 above that you can now download and save to your own computer, I created a registration form for the #1800MinuteChallenge, I applied for a Pollinate Media Group campaign, and I typed out a recipe on a google doc that can now be used on my food blog for a printable version. I love embedding google forms into my blog posts to gather information such as the demographics of my blog, your opinions on love, yellow, creating email subscriptions, and so on. The possibilities are endless with google drive and your blog. The best part? It's internet based so that you can access any of your google drive information on any computer.
Speaking of being able to access your information anywhere--Dropbox allows for exactly that. I love this for when I upload photos, files, and documents. Because I use several devices to work on blogging related items [desktop, phone, chromebook, tablet] this is muy importante. You just save whatever it is you want into your Dropbox and then you can access it anywhere. Perfection my friends, perfection.
While I know that phones and tablets are great devices to stay connected, this Toshiba Chromebook is the best piece of technology that I have found for blogging purposes. It is internet based but luckily for me, everything that I do is on the internet. It is Google based so that means it comes loaded with Chrome, Gmail, Google Hangouts, Google Drive, and then of course every app that is available through the Chrome store. I can upload my photos, do all of my editing, write my blog posts, answer emails, access all of my social media sites, host my consultations, view all of my files via google drive and dropbox....all from my couch. It is light, compact [but big enough to see and work on], and is hundreds of dollars cheaper than a regular laptop. One of my best blogging purchases yet.
Being active on social media is a huge part of creating a community around your blog. However, it's not always easy to be connected 24/7. This is where Hootsuite comes into play. With Hootsuite you are able to schedule out your tweets, facebook posts, etc in advance. I personally only use this for sponsored content, but for that use alone it is so beneficial. Within a few minutes I can have tweets stored for the next several months.
8. Business Cards.
Blogging is a business and with any business, networking is a main component of that. Get yourselves some business cards to hand out at a moments notice. I don't know how many times I have found myself in a conversation with somebody here locally and the topic of my blog gets brought up (typically after asking "so what do you do?") and wish I would've had a card to give them. Hand them out at blog conferences, hand them out to businesses that you hope to partner with, mail them with any packages you may be sending out, if you are single drop one on the floor in front of the cute guy standing at the bar, just get the things out of your hands and into somebody else's. I hired my blog designer, Melissa Rose Design, to make mine and then had them printed at Vistaprint.
9. Photo backgrounds and props.
This is one of the simplest things that you can do in changing the overall feel and professionalism in your blog's photos. I bought the above white foam boards at Walmart (one is a tri-fold and one is just a flat board) for a few dollars. All you need to do is set it somewhere in natural sunlight, and then position whatever it is you are photographing onto it. The difference it makes is incredible. Think how different this picture would be if it was laying on a normal dining room table compared to the white board. The product becomes your main focus.
Another option is to purchase photo canvas backdrops which I have done through Ink and Elm. Notice how it makes this card come alive.
As far as props go, hit up your local Target dollar spot, purchase cute banners from Sunflower Paperie, just stock up on items that would be good for dressing up your photos a bit. Here are some examples of what I mean.
candle from lilypad candles [yellow15 for 15% off]
10. And last but not least, alcohol.
No further explanation needed.
What is your favorite blogging tool?