In my past few years of blogging, I've learned so much about what it takes to make my blog run like a well-oiled machine. I'm constantly seeking out ways to improve, and will always see my online space as a work in progress. After countless experiments and quite a few flops, I've boiled it down to a list of things that have really helped me blog easier, more effectively, and achieve the goals that I've set for myself.
I've separated these tips and essentials into categories, so you can better find the help you need!
Photos + Editing:
Do you ever wonder how your favorite bloggers achieve that crisp, bright photo with the beautiful slightly blurred background? What about that clean and perfectly curated Instagram photo?
When it comes to having beautiful photos for your blog, there are two avenues you can take. Most successful bloggers use a healthy balance of both methods. It's up to you (and your bank account) which you'd like to pursue.
Kind of a shocking before and after, don't you think?!
- Method 1: DSLR Camera - This is the "traditional" way to get beautiful photos for your blog, especially those big gorgeous ones with the bokeh background and crisp details. This undoubtedly takes more time, money, and skill than other methods of photography, but the results are definitely the most noticeable. If you're in the market for a DSLR camera, do some shopping around. Check out a few "late" models if you're looking to save money. I personally use the Canon Rebel with a 50mm lens for most of my blog photos.
- Editing DSLR: Photoshop - Just as you predicted, programs like Photoshop and Lightroom are the final step in taking blog photos from so-so to fantastic. They are quite an investment, but well worth it when you see the difference they make. Photoshop is also extremely handy in creating graphics for the branding of your blog, another essential!
- Method 2: Smartphone - When it comes to smartphone photos, quality is key. The cameras on phones these days often rival that of some of the best DSLR photos, but great photos don't just happen out of thin air. Even with a cell phone, one needs to understand framing, the rule of thirds, and what type of lighting they're trying to achieve.
- Editing Smartphone: VSCO - When it comes to smartphone apps that changed the game for me, VSCO is #1. The filters are such a step up from Instagram, and it even lets you preview the post on your timeline before you save it - something Instagram doesn't let you do. It's a free app and I totally recommend you download it!
Planning, Scheduling + Inspiration:
When it comes to blogging, being organized is definitely one of the biggest tasks to tackle. It's also one of the biggest challenges for me. I've never been one to be strict with my blogging plans, but having a little structure goes a long way.
- A Physical Planner - When it comes to planning blog posts, brand parties, and meetups with other bloggers, you've got to keep it all written down somewhere. Sure, you can keep it all in your phone, but I find that writing things down helps me immensely when it comes to accountability. I'm a big fan of the Lilly Pultizer agendas, but any planner can work for you!
- An Editorial Calendar - This one goes hand in hand with the agenda, but it's a little bit different. The way I came up with my editorial calendar was by writing down all the topics I usually blog about, adding in my recurring features (like 7 things) and choosing days of the week to post them. That way, I have a reliable schedule to follow, and I know what's coming up on the blog for the next month or so! I always work a few "free days" in there, as well as days where I don't need to post. It's really helped me feel more on top of things when it comes to the direction my blog is taking.
- A blog idea notebook - There's really something to be said about writing down all your ideas on paper, and if you're anything like me, you love an excuse to buy a new notebook. (I'm a moleskine gal myself) I started a blog idea notebook about a year ago, and it's the first thing I pick up when I hit a patch of writer's block. This notebook is also a great place to put to-do lists. I started mine with a list of long-term goals for my blog, so I see it every time I use my notebook.
- A blogging friend - This may sound cheesy, but some of my biggest inspirations are the friends I've made while blogging. Not only do we totally get each other, we keep each other accountable, and there's always someone there to proof read your new post!
Aesthetics, Branding + Design:
Another important part of a blog is the design! The best part of this is that the design is completely up to you, and that it reflects your personal style. Here are the things you'll need:
- Discover your brand identity - When it comes to branding your blog, you've gotta put the basics together yourself before hiring a designer or creating your blog design on your own. I suggest using a Pinterest board to compile color schemes, patterns, textures, and themes that you associate with yourself, your blog, and what you want your blog to be. Pick two or three colors you love, save examples of fonts you're into, and throw in a couple images that really speak to you. When you show that to your designer, they'll have a better idea of who you are, and what to make for you!
- A great design - Whether you're hiring a designer or creating your blog from scratch, you've got to have a design that catches your reader's eye, but also doesn't distract from your content. Think simple, but still keep your brand identity intact.
- An awesome layout - If you're having your blog put together by a designer, this should be taken care of already, but if you're doing it yourself you may have to shop around for a layout that really fits your blog. I purchased my layout on Etsy, and created the design elements like my logo and social media buttons myself. Once again, think simple. Layouts shouldn't distract from your content. That giant slider may seem tempting, but always keep your readers in mind!
But your most important blogging essential:
Content you love and a blog you're proud of!
What are your blogging essentials?