Some things in life are better in moderation… Like me and public speaking.
I’m candid. Really candid. I’m a woman with too many thoughts and questions and things to say.
I always wonder if people realize what they’re getting into when they ask me to speak openly at their panels and conferences. Like, LOL! They trust me? Do they read the weird shit I write and project onto the Internet?
Okay, then. It’s cool if I say exactly what’s on my mind and make no apologies for potential discomfort, right?
Last weekend, I had the unique opportunity to speak on a panel about blogging at HerCampus’s annual #HerConference.
Since a good chunk of c+c readers are bloggers as well, I thought I’d relay some of the conversation here. (I’ve written a similar post in the past, and it ended up being one of my most popular reads.) Don’t worry if you’re not, though — there’s interesting tid-bits on time-management and whatnot in here, so read on.
So, to set the stage: Last Saturday, after too many snoozes and a morning SoulCycle class, I hopped on the subway and headed north to Columbia University (where I took a 20-minute public nap, which we’ll get to).
My PIC’s (Panelists in Crime) — Jess, Mackenzie and Carly — and I collectively spoke for about an hour, sharing personal experiences, predictions for the business of blogging and thoughts on work/life balance. I’ve shared my most Frequently Asked Questions before — which entails a few of my personal best practices and time management secrets — so I won’t repeat those in this post. (You can read it here.)
Our panel was very conversational and led by a moderator, so that’s how I’ll relay it back to you. The discussion went a little something like this:
(Moderator:) Introduce yourself. It’s likely that you and I have “met” prior to today. (Yes, you — reading this — and Twitter counts!), so I’ll spare you the intro. But if you’re wondering, you can learn more about me and my shoe collection in this post or this recent interview.
For those who manage your blog full-time, take us through a typical day. Carly took this question, as Jess and I have other full-time jobs and Mackenzie runs her store, Design Darling. Accordingly, she spends half of her day creating content for her blog and for social (photographing, writing, editing, etc); the other half answering e-mails and business inquiries.
For those of you with a full-time gig, how do you balance blogging too? My daily schedule varies (at the moment, for example, I’m in the air on my way back to NYC from San Francisco). Ultimately, though, with so many unique blog- and work-related responsibilities, I’ve found it’s best to channel focus on one or the other. When I’m at work, I’m working. Afterward (often until 2 a.m.) and on weekends, I’ll work on my blog-related tasks. Multitasking can be distracting and ultimately, a total time-suck, so wherever you are, be all there.
For more on how I stay focused at work (and my “10 before 10” trick), you can read this post.
Where do you do all of your blogging work? Anywhere with free WiFi, coffee and/or wine. If I’m at home and it’s after work, I’m usually standing in my kitchen at the counter (in these Minnetonka slippers) eating take-out. Weird, I know, but I’ve been sitting all day and I’d prefer to NOT feel my ass expand more than it already has. Sexy!
Where have you seen the most growth in the blogging world in the last year? Video, hands-down. The ease of filming/uploading video content online is exploding, and as a result, more people are ending up in front of the camera. If you’re not already thinking about how you can incorporate video into your content strategy, you should be.
How did you build following? By using social media as a conversation and platform for engagement/relationship-building.
What social media platforms did you focus on? To drive site traffic directly, Pinterest and Twitter. For sharing stories and pretty visuals (that are an extension of my c+c brand), I use Instagram. Carly’s really good at Tumbler; she was an early adopter to the platform and that’s where a key component of her audience is (teens and tweens), which is why that’s her best tool. Each should have a unique communication strategy, which is why I don’t auto-sync my channels. For example: Twitter is a dialogue — you should be balancing broadcast-style tweets (“New post!” LoOoOvE this [rewardStyle link]!”) with interactive/conversational tweets, too.
Logistically, though, is there anything else? Yes, comment on blog posts with thoughtful sentiment. Start conversations with people on Twitter. Proactively work the brands you want to work with into your content proactively — don’t wait for them to approach you.
Where do you think bloggers have the most room for growth? Personally, I think we’re spreading ourselves to thin. Pick one or two or four social platforms (which are now essentially micro-blogs) and be really good at them. Be a goddamn expert. My core social platforms are where I curate my strongest content and build robust, real relationships with readers (friends).
What is your favorite part of running your blog business? The people, man. Always.
How do you handle blogger competition? That’s the funny thing about competition — in the end, you realize you’re really only competing with yourself. Why try and be “better than” someone else? Focus your energy on being the best possible version of your lovely little self so that brands and bloggers and people can’t imagine not working with you.
What’s been your favorite brand partnership so far? This is impossible to answer, but Jess and I recently did a fun collaboration with MZ Wallace. It’s one that I’m proud of because we had the idea, we put it on paper and we pitched it. You can’t just sit around and expect opportunities to come to you. In the words of Bone Thugs, you gotta “Get up, get out and git (get) it.”
Is there anything you would’ve done differently in the beginning of your blog? Nope — and I have some really embarrassing archives. (Don’t look through them!) There are no mistakes in blogging (and life) if you can learn from your experience and course-correct.
What is the most important quality someone who wants to turn their blog into their full-time gig should have? Know that there will be 3 a.m. mornings, excessive coffee drinking, money down the drain, and a handful of Internet haters, so be deeply, whole-heartedly in love with your craft. Like, head over high-heels in love with that shit.
Do you want to be a full-time blogger? No. I’m happy where I’m at, but I do want (and believe that) corals + cognacs will springboard into something else just as fulfilling. (Consulting, blog coaching, etc — time will tell. Suggestions?) Don’t worry, whatever that may be, I will still be blogging — just not only blogging.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known when you first launched your blog? Yes, actually — I answered that question in this post!
What advice would you give to a blogger who is just starting out or is trying to take their blog to the next level? There is no definitive recipe for success; however, I believe that… Online, it’s all about authenticity and consistency. Establish your blog’s voice and stick to it.
Remember that people want to interact/get to know you as a person, not you as a dot-com. Offline, it’s about building and maintaining your relationships. Like I’ve said, though, don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
After the panel, most of the questions that I personally received were related to writing and “staying authentic.”
For me, blogging is all about storytelling — sure, I’ll show you what I’m wearing, but I know you’re more interested in the story behind that. So, for one, let me tell you: On my way to the conference, I slept on the subway. Legit slept. on. the. subway. You’ve gotta get it in while you can, you know?
I also wore this red dress and a killer pair of stilettos to the conference — but up until the minute I walked into the door? This. And my favorite summer flats. Nothin’ to hide here, my friends.
Blogging is so glam, huh? Haha, hey — at least we’re in this together.
Now tell me your story.
Photos by Hallie Wilson; Portraits taken by Jessica Sturdy