Blog in Between

How She Did It: 0 to 17k Instagram Followers in 5 Months

Social MediaHelene SulaComment

Over the past few months, Cassidy, of @Justeatdallas, has gained thousands and thousands of followers in just a mere months. I had to find out, HOW?! To be up front, Cassidy is a friend of mine. When she was growing her new Instagram she reached out to me to ask for help. Many of the strategies she used were from my course, Instagram for Success.

I interviewed Cassidy to find out just how she did it! Cassidy has now gone on trips and used her Instagram to propel her in the media and online!

How She Did It: 0 to 17k Instagram Followers in Months

1. Why Did you start this Instagram Profile?

It actually started out as a secret from me-Jackson saw a need for not another food critic but food enthusiast.  As a couple we eat out at least once a week, if not more and felt that we had the exposure and experience to share the best of Dallas food.  Eventually I took over a majority of the Instagram posting while Jackson writes for the blog.  It is SO fun to work on something together as a couple-outside our children!

2. What was your vision for this instagram?

Just Eat Dallas has a goal to only share the best of Dallas food and food experiences.  Like I mentioned, we are not critics but enthusiasts which means that when we have a good experience-we will share it with our followers.  We take our influence very seriously and opt to just not post about a poor experience than share it-we understand everyone has an off day and would never want to hurt someone based off one experience.  

3. How long did it take you to reach your instagram following of almost 17k?

In August of last year, we ran a giveaway "Race to 500" and were aiming to hit 500 followers by the end of the month.  To our complete and total shock we have grown to 17k followers over the course of five months.

4. What was your main tactic in gaining a following?

Comments, comments, comments.  The Dallas foodie community is awesome and by searching #DallasFoodie I was able to find like minded accounts to follow and build a relationship.  I would (and still do) spend hours commenting on other accounts and I have built some amazing friendships.

5. What would you recommend to instagrammers for growing an engaging following?

The standard advice is to ask questions on your own posts to get feedback but I find myself doing the opposite.  I try to comment on the people I follow as often as possible-at first it felt forced but over time I have grown to really know some of the people I follow and enjoy "talking" with them.  Also, even if I don't have time to leave an incredibly engaging comment on a follower, I have found that even taking the time to leave a couple words means a lot and leave the opportunity to spark further conversation later on.

6. What do you look for when following someone new?

I seek out other foodies, (especially if they are located in Dallas) chefs, restaurants, basically anything food related!

7. Where can we find you? (your instagram handle etc)

@JustEatDallas

 

Interested to learn more about Instagram for Success? Click here to get a free preview of the course!


I'm so confident you'll love my Instagram eCourse, I'm giving you a peek inside. Just click here to find out more
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How To Publish a Book (even if you have no idea what you're doing)

Writing, bloggingHelene SulaComment

Do you like to read? Love books? Have always secretly dreamed of writing your own book one day?

Excellent. You are in the right place. 

How to Publish a book (even if you have no idea what you're doing)

 

You and I have a lot in common. Learning how to read was one of the most joyous experiences of my childhood. I was hooked as soon as I discovered that books could give you everything: Friends, adventures, wisdom, entertainment, an escape from reality. 

As many passionate readers, I would sometimes sit there after just having finished a book, staring dreamily into the distance and picturing my future: Sitting by an open window on my old wooden desk, coffee cup sitting forgotten next to me, writing furiously. "One day", I would whisper to myself, "I will be an author...".

 

20 years later 

 

Did I ever do anything to make this dream a reality? Nope. It was a lovely fantasy, to be dug out when sitting around a camp fire with friends, talking about unfulfilled dreams and lofty life goals, that we all knew we would never put into action. 

 

But what if we did? What if I did? 

 

On the eve of New Year's Eve 2014, I sat down and wrote myself a list of everything I wanted to achieve in the new year. My number one item was to write - and publish - a book.

I had absolutely no idea how to do it. I have no writer's friends, no experience in publishing, no job that has even remotely anything to do with books. 

 

And yet, I found a way to publish an ebook in 2015 that is available on Amazon, and I'm going to show you exactly how you can do it, too!

 

My (not so-) secret weapon is Blurb, a self-publishing and marketing platform. It is free, versatile, and gives you not only the tools to create print-or ebooks, but also the opportunity to sell your book through their website, in addition to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more than 39,000 online retailers.

 

Are you ready to get started? Let's go! 

 

1. Download software.

I chose BookWright, a free software that includes several templates, unique ISBN for your book, and a huge variety of fonts, layouts, text- and photo-containers you can place wherever you want, and a bunch of other stuff that I haven't figured out yet. Does it all sound overwhelming? It sure did for me. 

So I decided to keep it as simple as possible. After downloading BookWright, I came across the Novel Starter Template Guide. When you scroll down, you will see several different templates you can choose from.

 

 

2. Important your files as Rich Text Format.

I don't have any fancy book writing software, so I simply wrote my book in word document. To important your word document to BookWright, you have to save it in Rich Text Format. To do that, you select "save as", and then "Rich Text Format".
 

 

 

The next bit is going to be a bit technical (aka boring), it's only interesting to you if you want to use it. Feel free to skip to #4!


 

 

3. What the heck are "reflowable text containers"?

By far the biggest challenge for me was figuring out how to actually use BookWright. I'm sure that's due to my ignorance and not the software's fault, and I did figure it out in the end. 


The beginning is easy:

 Start new book? Yes, please!


 

The first few steps are easy, honest. You click on "Start a New Book", select the format, and then save it under the title you want. Now you have a blank slate, ready to get filled with your words:

 

The first thing you do is save every chapter individually as a .rtf (Rich Text Format) file. 

Then you add them all to BookWright. 

Now all you have to do is choose as layout (you simple drag and drop), and then drag your first chapter onto the page. 

 

More than likely, you will encounter a yellow triangle at this point, which will become the bane of your book-making experience:

 

By clicking on it, you will learn what's wrong. It warns you if the font is not eBook-compatible (that's easy to change, there are 50 fonts that are eBook-compatible), and the most common one:

Flowable text not displayed within book. 

For the life of me I could not figure out what they want from me, and got really frustrated. 

Until I stumbled across the solution accidentally:

 

When you hover the cursor of the mouse anywhere within the text box, a grey frame will appear around it. In the bottom right corner, you will find a square with a T in it. By hovering over it, this message appears:

Click this icon and then into another container to flow text.


 

Left-click on it. 

Then go to the next page and left-click on the grey frame there. 

The next page of your chapter appears! Once I figured that out, the rest was easy. 

 

4. Upload your book

Finally, we are getting to the fun part: getting it ready to be printed! 

 

Once you have it uploaded, Blurb offers spell check (you can skip it if you want), and the chance to go over it again. When you are happy, you upload!

 

5. Sell your book

This part is fun. And unreal. Also frightening.

I won't go into too much detail about the selling and distributing part, because it's surprisingly straightforward. 

If you decide to sell through Blurb, click here

If you want to sell through Amazon or other online retailers, click here

If you want to publish an eBook with Kindle Direct Publishing, click here

 

And just like that, you are a published author.

Now go and make your dream come true!

 

Miriam is a dog-loving eternal optimist, known for laughing loud and often (frequently at inappropriate times), overusing parentheses, and not taking herself too seriously. She likes to keep it real on her blog Farm Girl, (over-) shares her yoga journey on Instagram, and floods Pinterest with too many pictures of her animals.

 

 

 

The One iPhone Setting That Will Save All of the Data

BloggingHelene SulaComment
The One iPhone Setting That Will Save All of the Data

 The title of this post should really be "I'm about to change your life" but I thought some of you might expect a post about figuring out time to shower or how to make your home brew taste like Starbucks. Sadly, I can't work miracles but I can tell your about the easiest change of all time that will literally cut your data usage by gigs each month without changing any of your phone habits. As a bonus, it will also save your battery life like a boss.

Ok, wanna know the secret?

It's all in the Background App Refresh.

What is Background App Refresh?

Well, it's a sneaky little setting that allows your phone to constantly refresh all open apps whether or not your are connected to WIFI. That means that all of the apps you forget to manually shut down are constantly sucking down data by refreshing themselves to be current, even when not in use. Sound scary? Imagine if you leave your map open - it will be constantly (and I mean constantly) pulling data to refresh your current location as you go about your day. News apps will be pulling headlines, gossip sites will be loading the latest celeb nip slips and Facebook will be constantly running those cute little videos of cats riding Roombas all while you blissfully fold the laundry or pretend to pay attention in that meeting.

And here's the real kicker: Apple and the cell providers are no fools and have that bad boy automatically set to full blast. Luckily, it's a super simple fix to turn off but you have to know where to look and that you need to manually squash the refresh action. 

To turn off Background App Refresh:

Open your Settings App -->

General



 Background App Refresh 



Slide the green button to the left






and then it should look like this:



Note that you can turn on individual apps to utilize Background App Refresh if you so desire but swiping them all to No Way, No Thank You will save your data and battery usage without you missing a beat.

Bonus Tip: you can turn off the cellular data per app - I turn the data off for apps that I really don't need to waste gigs on like E!Online. If the data is off, it literally cannot load on your phone unless you're logged onto WIFI. 

And in case you don't realize it, you need to manually close all of your open apps in order to prevent them from draining your battery. To do so, double click on the home button and swipe each open window up. Otherwise, the apps are running in the background and kicking your battery life to the curb. 


Now go forth and use that data on things that really matter like stalking the best guacamole recipe on Pinterest and then never making it.

Stephanie is a Starbucks fueled wife and baby boy mama who finds complete joy in a generously poured glass of red wine under reasonably clean white sheets at the end of the day. Stephanie loves run on sentences, silence and fondly reminiscing about her pre-baby boobs. You can find her overly honest account of life on her blog, Olive and Tate or follow all of the crazy on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

SUPER Quick Tutorial: How To Find Your RSS Feed Url

blogging, BloggingHelene SulaComment

Finding your RSS can be useful for a number of reasons. But many bloggers are confused at how to find it, understand what it means, and why it matters. Today, I have a super quick tutorial on RSS and how to find it.

How to Find Your RSS Feed URL for your blog


RSS stands for "really simple syndication" and it's used to add your blog to directories such as Bloglovin or use it to update your Newsletter feed (some people have an email system set up and you can choose to receive their blog posts via email every time they post.) Basically, it's the way that your blog lets people know you've updated it.

It "pings" or notifies the server to say hey, I've got a new post! It lets Bloglovin, or any other RSS reader know that you have a new post and it pulls information from that post.

So here's how you find your blog's RSS feed URL:

1. Go to your blog (example, www.bloginbetween.org/blog)

2. Right Click, and click "View Page Source"

find_blog_rss

3. Hit: CTRL + F

4. Search for "RSS"

5. Find your RSS feed. It should look something like this:

title="RSS Feed" href="http://www.bloginbetween.org/blog?format=RSS" />

6. Your RSS feed is the link, starting with the "http". For example, on my blogger blog it looks like this:

http://www.heleneinbetween.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

 

That's it! I told you, this is a super fast, easy tutorial!

It’s Not About You! Tips for understanding and engaging your target readers

blogging, BloggingHelene SulaComment
Tips for Understanding and Engaging your target readers

If you want to have a successful blog, it’s essential you learn it’s not about you. As a first-born child, this was a hard pill to swallow early in my blogging days.

 

I thought if I created great content on topics I was interested in, I just had to sit back and watch the traffic come in. Yes, I was presenting well-researched, interesting information but the problem was that I wasn’t telling my readers why they should care and how it was relevant to their lives.

 

Whether you offer e-courses or the promise of delicious recipes, your value is in what you sell to readers.  Even if you haven’t monetized, realize that they are your customers. Successful bloggers know what their readers want, need and can’t live without.

 

If you’ve ever done a free e-course from Helene you know she’s got this down. Even though intellectually I know what she’s doing, every time she says something like, “I can’t believe all I’m telling you in my new course…” before I know it I’m getting my credit card. So how did she hook me?  Simply put, she has something she knows I want because she knows who I am (a newish blogger who is clueless about SEO).

 

So how can you do this on your blog?

 

First things first, you have to understand your readers. In the beginning, they’re hypothetical people, and you create personas for them.

 

 For example, if you run a health and wellness blog like me, a persona might be Kate, an active young 20 something whose getting used to working 9-5, struggling to pack healthy lunches and often laments choosing happy hour over workouts.

 

When I write an article about easy, healthy lunches, I write it as if I were talking directly to Kate. As you gather actual data from your readers (surveys, newsletters, social media), you can tweak your personas to accurately represent your readership.

 

From what I can tell, my readers right now are young, health oriented women between 18 and 35 who want tips on nutrition and health that they can actually use.

 

Sure, a smoothie recipe is great, but they want help on the days they’re hungover, have cravings they can’t kick, struggle with unexplained bloating or are tackling adult acne.

 

In short, they want help for when life feels like a hot mess, which is why I’ve created and my Get Real Guides available every Monday.

In less than 4 minutes, you can learn valuable tools to successfully tackle relevant (and inevitable) life challenges. Because let’s be real, if life was all rainbows and kale salads, I’d be out of a job.

 

Anna is a blogger at The Posh Body where she shares personal experiences, nutrition tips, recipes, problem-solving techniques and research on health conditions and healthy living.

Follow Anna's Blog, check out her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

 

Your Guide To A Daily Pinterest Schedule

Social Media, BloggingHelene SulaComment
I think we can all agree that Pinterest has become a pretty darn important tool for bloggers. Because it is built to show our title images, it encourages us to make those images snappy, beautiful, and eye-catching, which in turn benefits us on all of our other social media platforms. And best of all, Pinterest allows us to get a ton of return on a small time investment.

Your Guide to A Daily Pinterest Schedule
But many of you ask: how do I make the best use of my time spent on Pinterest? What pins will attract the most people to my profile, and when? Well, readers, I'm here to answer those questions for you today. I am going to break down for you exactly what to pin and when to pin it to get the best results from the time you spend on Pinterest.

I will break this down hour by hour, and explain my reasoning behind each one. I have spent months perfecting my schedule, and I really have seen a great increase in traffic since I started following this "schedule".
These tips are universally helpful and can certainly be used without a Pinterest buffer, but if you choose to use a Buffer, I highly recommend this one. You don't have to spend all day on Pinterest, making sure you hit each category: just use this as an outline of what to pin at different times during the day! Pin as often as you can from the "popular" category on Pinterest...these pins are proven to get interaction so you definitely want to use them! And of course, remember to pin your own posts, too!

6-7 AM: Breakfast Recipes

I don't know about you, but when I wake up and haven't fully gotten out of bed yet, I typically will pull up Pinterest on my phone and browse a little bit.  So this is the best time to pin breakfast-related posts.  Chances are, your follower is thinking about breakfast so these pins will appeal to them, and you're more likely to get some sort of interaction from them. Bonus tip: Smoothie recipes seem to be especially popular at this time of day.

8-9 AM Kids' Activities or Parenting

Now, breakfast is over and working parents or people without kids are more than likely at work.  Now's your chance to appeal to the stay-at-home moms or homeschooling moms.  Pin activities for kids or parenting tips.  That way when these moms settle into their computer after getting the kids ready and are enjoying their first cup of coffee, they'll see your posts and be ready and excited to interact with them.  Bonus tip: This is also a great time to pin ideas for kids' birthday parties.

11-12 AM: Lunch Ideas

People everywhere (at least in your time zone) are starting to think about lunch.  They're getting hungry.  Even if they're at work, they're probably starting to get a little distracted, and may be dallying on Pinterest a little instead of working.  That's great for you, because you thought ahead and pinned a bunch of great lunch ideas.  Anything from quick sandwiches to which fast-food restaurants offer the healthiest choices, they will all get people's attention.  Bonus tip: You can also pin lunch ideas in the evenings around 7-8 PM for the people who pack their lunches in advance: if you do this, be sure to pin recipes more than restaurant tips!

 

1-2 PM: Travel

To be honest, I don't really know why this one works, but it does.  Whenever I pin travel-related things at this time, they get a lot of hits.  My theory is that people are still easing back into work after lunch, and so anything that appeals to their sense of adventure will grab their attention.  It may also just be that most travel pins have really pretty pictures.  That's always a good thing.  Bonus tip: You can also pin travel-related items at 8-9 PM with good results.

 

3-4 PM: Dinnertime

Just like with lunch, you're hitting them when they're hungry with this time frame.  People are starting to ask themselves (or get asked by their families): "what's for dinner?"  You will help them answer that question!  Pin great ideas for main courses, sides, quick meals, luxurious pastas...whatever appeals to you will most likely appeal to others, too!  Bonus tip: pin a main course idea immediately followed by a side that would go well with it.  People watching their feeds will see both at once and will often like/pin the two together since they seem to pair well.

 

5-6 PM: Cocktail Hour

This is pretty obvious.  People are looking for something to drink now that the work day is over.  Oblige them and bask in the glory. Bonus tip: Try pinning drink recipes that involve few ingredients, or that use ingredients that are commonly found in most homes.  Fancy drinks are exciting, but many people are going for something they can actually make right this second.

 

7-8 PM: Health and Fitness

After a long day, your followers are probably tired and wondering why they don't feel better. Maybe they're hoping tomorrow will be better.  Or maybe they are just looking for a new exercise to try this evening or in the morning.  Share your favorite health and fitness pins to catch their attention.  Bonus tip: Any pin that lays out a fitness plan without having to be clicked is going to be very popular.  The irony of the fact that people are lazy about these kinds of pins is not lost on me.

 

There you have it!  This is the general schedule that I follow, and it has really paid on big time for me.  I get a ton of re-pins, likes, and followers by following this schedule.

 

One last note: you'll notice I don't say anything about blogging pins.  But it is super important to pin those!  People love blogging tips.  The thing is that bloggers are all on such different schedules that so far I have not found a time frame that was any better than another.  Pin these types of things all day long: they are always popular.

Do you follow a pinning schedule?  How do you make it work best for you?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Want to optimize Pinterest for your Blog? Check out how to verify your website and make Pinterest work for your blog!


christinephot.jpg

Christine blogs at Christine Everyday where she is a rockstar by day and wine ninja by night. Follow Christine as she talks about blogging, life, and more!

Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest // Twitter

The 10 Best Apps For Bloggers

Blogging, Social MediaHelene SulaComment

People use their phones to cruise the Internet and view social media apps more than they use it to call or even text. Smart phone apps have become essential in our daily lives. From fitness trackers, social media channels, and so much more, it's easy to get carried away. For bloggers there are some really great apps to include in your toolbox.

The 10 Best Apps For Bloggers

1. Snapchat

In addition to the main apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, bloggers will find Snapchat is a great tool for showcasing an unfiltered view of their lives. Brands have begun to understand the power of Snapchat, so don't miss out on this awesome tool! See Why Bloggers Need Snapchat. (Follow me, username: helenesula)

2. Evernote

I use Evernote daily to store my blog post ideas and organize information about my blog, my courses, and anything else I have coming up. I love that whatever I type on my phone will also be there when I get to the computer.

3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp has an app! It allows me to check on my newsletter and subscribers directly from my phone. I can check and edit campaigns from the app and even send it out if I want. Sign up for Blog in Between's newsletter right here.

4. Bloglovin'

I use Bloglovin' to organize the blogs I follow into folders. I love how easy the app is to use. You can read and comment on the blogs you love straight from the app.

5. Snapseed

Snapseed is a photo editing tool. It's my favorite to use before I post photos to Instagram. This powerful tool for editing images includes some really cool tricks!

6. Audible

While this might not seem like an obvious tool for blogging, it addresses the fact that most bloggers stay inherently busy — often too busy to read books. Audible allows you to listen to audio books on the go. I "read" or listen, to more books than I ever would if it wasn't for Audible.

7. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media scheduling tool. I use it to share and schedule all my social content. The app allows you to check, edit, and schedule posts from your phone or when you're on the go.

8. Paypal

Most bloggers have to have a Paypal account if they want to be paid on time or work with other bloggers. Having the iPhone (or Android) app allows you to pay on the fly or check into your finances.

9. Instapaper

This is a great way to keep track of useful or interesting content you find online. You can simply save ideas and articles you find interesting.

10. Writeroom

If you ever attempt to seriously write from your phone, you need Writeroom. It provides a distraction free space to write — for your blog or anything else.

If you'd like to see all the tools I use to streamline my social media strategy and organize my blog, check out my eCourse, The Blog Detox. Click here to read more.

Are there other apps you would recommend?

10 Tips For New Bloggers (And Some to Avoid)

BloggingHelene SulaComment

We all make mistakes with our blogs. Especially when we're first starting, there is such a huge learning curve- how can you make sure you know what's working? Especially as you first embark on blogging (or if you're already a seasoned pro) to help you feel more comfortable with your blog.

Today, I have a blogger who's newer to help tackle some of the first hurdles you encounter when you first start a blog.

10 Tips For New Bloggers (and Some to Avoid)

Here are 10 tips for new bloggers, along with some you should avoid.

1. Know that it’s going to take time to grow. Figuring out what works best for you and your blog is a process that takes time.

AVOID: expecting lots of growth right away - I have been so discouraged over this, but you must just do the best you can and find what works best for you. You will start seeing growth, it just might not be fifty new followers each day until a while.

 

2. It is very important to invest in your blog. I know a lot of people are very hesitant about investing in their blog, and I can understand that, but it’s still important. We all spend money on our other hobbies, like a sport or reading. It doesn’t matter how much you spend but just that you are investing in it a little bit to make it even better. Want to invest in your blog in 2016? Check out The Blog Detox, to help you organize you blog and achieve your social media goals.

AVOID: not investing in it at all - to gain more readers, you’ll want to make your blog more professional. There are things you can do that are cheap, like buying a custom domain name or paying extra for more photo effects on PicMonkey. (Check out: Using PicMonkey For Your Blog). You could also go even farther and purchase a blog template or design. It’s not that it’s totally impossible to be successful without putting no money into your blog, but it will be a lot harder.

 

3. Blogging is time consuming, so make sure you plan ahead. Blogging can often times be like a part time job. Actually, it is for a lot of people, and a lot of people actually have a full time job blogging. Blogging can be very time consuming, so it’s important that you learn to plan ahead and schedule things. I schedule all of my blog posts on the weekends including the posts for social media that week ahead of time. That works best for me, and you have to find out what works best for you.

AVOID: working too hard - I know I said blogging can be like a job, but everyone needs breaks in their jobs, or we’re going to go insane. We’ll, like, smash our computer screens or blow up our blogs or eat far too many bags of chips. None of those things are good (as much as I do like chips), so let’s take a break. Let’s live life. When you’re a new blogger, it’s easy to spend your entire life on your blog. I know chips are good, but you want to still be around to work on your blog LATER, so do yourself a favor and take a break. I promise, it will only benefit you.

 

4. Using social media to grow your blog is VERY important. This is the world we live in now, and social media is important in today’s world. There are a lot of ways you can use it to help you, and there are many great resources out there to help you. This is one of those things that you have to find what works best for YOU.

 

AVOID: waiting to begin using social media - it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing yet. It’s a learning experience, but let me tell you: it is important to use social media NOW. It might feel weird at first, because you might have only a few followers, but it’s okay. Start growing NOW. Start learning NOW. By doing this, you’re establishing your online presence and are going to help yourself later. Check out: Why You NEED a Facebook Page for your Blog.

 

5. Socializing and reaching out to other bloggers plays a vital role in growing your blog. First, when you comment on a blogger’s post or respond to them on Twitter, you’re getting your name out there. It’s also great to support other bloggers, right?! After all, you want them to do that for you. We’re all a community, and we’re all here to help each other out. It’s fine to comment more to get your name out there, but that shouldn’t be the main reason you reach out. You want to be genuine. Check out: The Art of Commenting.

AVOID: emailing other bloggers right away about collaborating without an idea - it’s awesome to reach out and share a post idea with a blogger, that’s how you get to know that blogger and get some opportunities. Make sure you have an idea or sense of direction or purpose when you reach out to them. Read: How to Collaborate With Bloggers.

 

6. You don't have to sponsor others. Sponsoring is a great way to gain influence and get noticed, but it's okay to not start it immediately. You don’t need to feel like it’s something you HAVE to do. There are alternatives. Being social with other bloggers is a big thing you can do to help your blog and so is swapping buttons with another blogger. Check out: Does Sponsorship work?

AVOID: rushing into decisions - when I started blogging, I was a mess. I never thought anything through. I’d see a blog design I like and immediately begin designing. I’d see something I thought I needed and my mind was set. Make sure you’re thinking things through. Just because one blogger said you needed to do something doesn’t mean you need to go and do that. Think it through. Read more opinions on it. Ask yourself if that is necessary.

 

7. A good blog design is important. Obviously not everyone is going to LOVE the color pink (like I have plastered all over my blog), and that’s fine. What I mean by a good blog design is that it reflects YOU and is organized, clean, and easy to read. That is what really matters.

AVOID: putting off branding - determine your style as early as possible and stick to it. If you ever go back and decide you change your mind, it’s not going to be very fun trying to catch everything up to your current style. Try to find a style and stick to it. Check out: 10 Things Every Successful Blog Needs.

 

8. Choosing a blogging platform is your blog’s house, and obviously that’s important. Switching platforms is not fun - I’ve done it. If you ever decide to switch, do it right away. I switched a couple months into blogging, and I thought that was long enough. The earlier you do it, the better. Research your platform, test things out, and decide which one will be best for you and then don’t wait. Read: Why I Chose Squarespace.

AVOID: going in with no knowledge of your platform - I feel like this is a pretty common thing new bloggers do. They just pick a platform to have one, and I get that when you start blogging, that’s what you want. But in the long run, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time and work if you decide which one is best for you right away.

 

9. When you first start, don’t try to do it all. I learned this the hard way. You don’t need to do link ups, giveaways, or your best posts in the first week of blogging. Get to know your readers.

AVOID: running out of content ideas. Here are 101 Blog Post Ideas.

 

10. Blogging is worth all of the effort. All of the learning blogging requires, all of the stress it can sometimes cause, I really do believe that it is worth it. Blogging can teach you a lot of life skills - like time management and collaborating with others. It is a great way to relieve stress and express your creativity. You have the chance to inspire people. Blogging is truly an amazing thing, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.

There are no avoids for this one, just avoid putting it off if you feel like it’s your calling. You don’t have to have it all figured out, none of us really do. Sometimes that’s the beauty of it.

What are your blogging tips for newbies?

ashlee.jpg

Ashlee Mae is a blogger at Sparkles by Ashlee where she shares her faith and big dreams in writing and helping others pursue their dreams. She is obsessed with the color pink and just wants to keep it real and look for the good in this life.

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest

 

 

My Favorite Instagram Hashtags to Gain Likes + Organically Grow Your Instagram

Social MediaHelene SulaComment

I remember when I first started using Instagram. It seems like forever ago now. The whole hashtag thing was a bit mysterious to me. I worked in marketing and social media, so I understood that a hashtag could lead people directly to others using the same hashtag.

But I didn't quite get how hashtagging would work for me.

Oh sure, I used a hashtag here and there. But they were never really helpful in helping me gain likes or followers. I laughed and thought for sure they couldn't really have an effect on my Instagram.

Wrong. So wrong.

My friend Sarah, over at Venus Trapped in Mars, wrote an incredible post about how she used hashtags to triple her likes. She's right. They work.

My Favorite Instagram Hashtags to gain likes and organically grow your Instagram

Why Should You Use Hashtags?

Not only do Instagram hashtags have extraordinary power to help you gain likes. They are also a great way to:

- Gain new followers organically

- Find new business/creative ideas

- Track how well your hashtag is doing

Hashtags provide a way for users to easily navigate to topics of interest. If you're using hashtags it makes it effortless for others to find you. In order to make hashtags work for you, you need a list of your go-to hashtags. Ones that you can use on the majority of your photos to gain likes and quickly copy and paste whenever you need.

My Favorite Hashtags

1. #photosinbetween

This hashtag was started by me! Since July, this hashtag has been used over 14,000 times. It's good for ANY PHOTO.

2. #Bandofun

This hashtag was started by the very fun Ban.do company. Their feed is filled with colorful images and pretty pictures.

3. #abmlifeincolorful

Started by A Beautiful Mess, this hashtag can be used on any photo, especially your colorful ones. I use this on every photo I post!

4. #MyUnicornLife

This hashtag is what it sounds like, gorgeous fun, pretty, colorful images.

5. #Candyminimal

If you're ever bored, just look up the #candyminimal hashtag to get inspiration for your next photo. SO many gorgeous images. This hashtag is perfect for

6. #HandsinFrame

Perfect if you're hands in the pic (okay to use if not!). Started by one of my favorite feeds @handsinframe and full of really cool pictures of, well, hands.

7. #TheEveryGirl

Started by The Everygirl, this hashtag is great for absolutely any photo.

8. #PeoplesCreative

Often used for creative imagery, beautiful outdoor scenes, and more. I always love to see what kind of perspective people use with these images.

9. #Visualcrush

We all get a visual crush every now and then, these images are definitely crush worthy. You can use this hashtag on any photo!

10. #PropToIt

A brilliant hashtag started by @alishylishy full of wonderful color and pretty things.

 

Bonus! use #BloggerVibes for all your favorite blogger pics. Started by @heleneinbetween. That's me!

How to Use Hashtags

Copy and paste the below hashtags and you can simply copy and paste them into your next post:

#photosinbetween #bandofun #abmlifeiscolorful #myunicornlife #candyminimal #handsinframe #theeverygirl #peoplescreative #visualcrush #proptoit #Bloggervibes

I recommend using at least 10 (you can use up to 30 per instagram post) on every photo you use. You can follow me on instagram @heleneinbetween.

Want to see how I took my Instagram account from under 4,000 to over 15,000 in just one year? Check out my free download, below:

5 Ways To Make Your Blog Stand Out (And One You Should NEVER Do)

BloggingHelene SulaComment

Can you believe it?! 2016 is around the corner. I'm so pumped for the new year and ready to make sure my blog is up to snuff. I'm planning on ensuring my blog stands out and I wanted to create a post that helps you create a compelling blog. After all, your blog is a reflection of YOU and with more than 64 million sites how do you stand out from the pack?

1. Create Great Content

It goes without saying that your blog should focus on awesome, compelling content. But what does that even mean? Your blog content should be one (or multiple) of these things:

- Surprising (or controversial)

- Comical

- Inspiring

- Heartwarming or Pulls at the heartstrings

- Informative

What do all of these emotions do above? They invoke the reader. And that's what I mean by compelling content. Content that you want to read or share. When the content gives you a new way to look at something, a way to solve a problem, or incites a response, it's engaging. It will not only make your content interesting and shareable, it will keep the reader coming back for more.

2. A Simple, Directional Flow

What I mean is that it should be simple to find what I'm looking for. Yes, I want to see pretty pictures and your font should be something the average person can read, but it should be crazy easy. There should be a straightforward flow to your writing. It should be obvious to the reader where to go next or how to follow you. You're giving them direction.

A blog that stands out is a blog that has traffic. So make it easy for viewers to follow. Make the process uncomplicated and painless. If you have a newsletter, have multiple ways for people to access your newsletter.

Here's how our newsletter looks on our sidebar:

Here's how our newsletter looks with a pop up.

Newsletter Pop Up for Blog

I use Mailchimp to create my email list and I use Leadpages to create the pop up. (I also use Leadpages for other things like hosting my webinars and collecting email addresses.)

3. Engaging Headlines

While great content is important, it's essential that you create a headline that stands out. This is what makes people click on your post and read it, or move along. I know we often just want to hit "publish" and move on, but spend 5 minutes before you post and make sure your blog post title, or headline, is something clickable.

Here's a great article on creating engaging headlines. Buffer recommends that your headlines should follow this formula:

  1. Surprise – “So, Is Social Media A Lie?
  2. Questions – “Is It Okay To Lose Followers?
  3. Curiosity gap – “Fear is powerful. So are doughnuts. Here's how 1 woman is using them.” (Elite Daily  and Upworthy are MASTERs at this.
  4. Negatives – “Things You're Doing That Hurt Your Blog
  5. How to – “How to Take Better Blog Photos With Your Phone
  6. Numbers – “14 Free Fonts For Your Blog” (FYI, the magic number is usually 10!)
  7. Audience referencing – “Why I'm Reading YOUR Blog
  8. Specificity – “Google Analytics Tutorial

A blogger that always catches my eye with her headlines is Meg from Meg O. On The Go (bonus points for the gorgeous photos!). Here is an image from her most recent post on Bloglovin:


4. Teach Me Something

Do you want readers to stick around forever and ever? Teach them something! We all have abilities that we can show to others, so use them. My background is in social media and marketing. My blog posts center around using my skills and background to offer something new and useful to you.

Here's an example. Sarah is a graphic designer. She has blog posts that teach you how to utilize her graphic design skills to make your blog better. For example, her post on creating a custom post signature is easy to understand and you can implement it, simply. 

Wouldn't you stick around for a blogger that shows you something new? Or teaches you a skill you want? Heck yes!

5. It Should Be Something You Love Working On

We tend to do our best work when we care. If you enjoy working on your blog you will keep making it better and better. Yes, it should be all of the above, but it should also be something that you enjoy writing and creating.

For me, blogging is not just a hobby, but also my job, and I can't get enough of it! I am constantly learning and engaging and trying new things with my blog. I created a free webinar on how you can Blog Smarter, Not Harder.

I want to show you how to create an organized blog, with live video demonstration on how to use my favorite blogging tools to streamline the process. Click here to watch the replay.

On to the ONE thing you should never do to make your blog stand out and attract attention:

Not Be Yourself.

I know, I know. That sounds easy, right? But whatever you post about, whatever sponsorship opportunities you take, make sure it makes sense for you. Don't just blog about something because someone else is doing it. Don't just blog about something because it's popular. Blog about what you are passionate about and enjoy. Otherwise it's not going to make you happy, you'll stop caring, and you'll stop gaining readers.

How do you plan to make your blog stand out this year?

101 Blog Post Ideas

BloggingHelene SulaComment
101 Blog Post Ideas
Sometimes it can be hard to find a good topic to blog about. Sometimes you just run out of ideas or there's not much going on at a particular time. But, don't fear! Here are 101 Blog Post Ideas for the Lifestyle Blogger to help get you back on track! Plus, a free PDF download of the 101 Blog Post Ideas below!
  1. Write about your firsts. Write about your first date, your first day of college, your first day at your first job, your first Instagram post, the first blog post you ever published, the first time you filed taxes for your business, the first time you drove across country, your first trip abroad,  or the first time you saw your favorite band in concert. There's a first time for everything, write about yours! 
  2. Curate your most popular blog posts and why you wrote them.
  3. Share a story from your childhood. 
  4. A Typical Day in Your Life. Share some details about your typical day and a glimpse of what your daily life is like. BONUS: Share at least 5 pretty photos from your typical day!
  5. What was the first TV series you ever watched? Were you obsessed with a show before Netflix was even a thing? What did you like about the show?  What didn't you like about the show? Do you still watch it and reminisce?
  6. Talk about a time you've failed at something. Has there ever been a time where you did not feel like you did your best? Have you ever failed at something? What did you learn from it? How did you succeed in it on your second or third try?
  7. Name your top 10 favorite songs of all time. 
  8. Talk about your college experience. Where did you go to college? What clubs were you a part of? Did you study abroad? What was your field of study?
  9. Share some of your favorite blog posts and articles from around the web. 
  10. Review the most recent movie you saw in theaters.
  11. Share your income report. Do you make money online or from your blog? Share it!
  12. Share your favorite products at the moment. Are there any beauty products you really love right now? Any cool tech gadgets you've been playing with recently? Any apps you currently love using?
  13. Name 10 things you don't regret. 
  14. Create a bucket list. 
  15. How do you budget your finances? 
  16. A DIY post. Have you ever crafted something yourself? Share a post listing step by step how you did it, what you used, and how its been useful. OR curate a list of DIY projects on Pinterest that you want to try.
  17. Talk about your love life. Are you married? Single? Dating? Spill some details! 
  18. Share a story about a fear you've overcome. 
  19. Outfit of the Day Post
  20. What are your favorite places to shop online or in-store?
  21. How do you organize your blog posts? Do you plan your posts in advance? Have a special editing process?
  22. Talk about your morning routine. What do you do when you first open your eyes? Check your phone? Figure out what to wear? Look forward to a good breakfast?
  23. Write a letter to your teenage self.
  24. Write a letter to your future self.
  25. Talk about your favorite restaurants.
  26. Share a story about the worst date you've had. 
  27. What are some songs currently on your playlist? 
  28. List 25 things you're grateful for.
  29. Talk about your most memorable birthday.
  30. What does your family do for the holidays?
  31. Do a Q&A post. Ask your readers to submit questions through your social media channels, pick your favorite questions, and answer them in one AWESOME post. 
  32. Share what you've learned through blogging (so far).
  33. Write about something that motivates & inspires you.
  34. Interview another lifestyle blogger. Ask them inspires to blog? What their favorite things to blog about are? What goals they have for their blog? Document it and hit publish! 
  35. Create a blog post with no words just pictures.
  36. What equipment do you use to take blog photos?
  37. What apps do you use to edit photos?
  38. List 25 things you're looking forward to.
  39. Talk about your goals for the future - where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
  40. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  41. Do a flashback post. 
  42. Write a book review.
  43. Create a blog post with a video extra. Write the blog post out and record a video of you talking about the topic and turn it in to one epic blog post!
  44. Write about how you stayed organized daily. 
  45. What's on your wish list currently?
  46. Name 3 things you'd never ever purchase. Make this post a little comical. Is there any product out there that is so ridiculous that you wouldn't be caught dead ever buying?
  47. Create a before and after post.
  48. Share your favorite recipe.
  49. List 10 fun facts about yourself. 
  50. Give a tour of your workspace. 
  51. Give a tour of what your house looks like. 
  52. Name 5 things you could not live without. 
  53. Share your shoe collection. This could be a fun post especially if you're not a beauty blogger because it shows your sense of style. 
  54. Are you a morning person or night owl?
  55. What is your five year plan? Plan your next 5 years in a post about your goals, where you see yourself, and where you are now all in one!
  56. Share your best blogging tips and give your readers a free download. 
  57. What is one event you've always wanted to go to and why?
  58. Blogging DOs and DON'Ts.
  59. Talk about your blog and your brand. How do you want the blogging world to see you? How does your brand coincide with who you are? How is brand represented in your blog?
  60. What's on your phone? Do you download lots of productivity apps, games, music?
  61. Write a post about your pet and introduce them to your readers. 
  62. Talk about your hobbies that you normally don't blog about. 
  63. How do you unwind on a Sunday?
  64. How do you prepare for the week ahead?
  65. What's your favorite place to work or blog? 
  66. Talk about a city you've always wanted to visit.
  67. Talk about where you're from? What's your native nation?
  68. Introduce your real life friends.
  69. How to make money as a lifestyle blogger. HEY! THAT'S YOU! 
  70. Share your biggest dreams. 
  71. Name some things that make you laugh. 
  72. Share some of your favorite clothing or jewelry pieces. 
  73. Review a monthly subscription box. (Ipsy is my favorite!)
  74. What online software do you use to run your blog/business?
  75. If you're a WordPress blogger, share a list of your favorite plugins. 
  76. Talk about your siblings (and share some family photos too!)
  77. Share your social media routine. 
  78. Talk about your blogging income streams. 
  79. Name all your pet peeves. 
  80. Share a story about a bad day you turned around. 
  81. Talk about a class or course you've taken and loved. Helene has the awesome course, Instagram for Success (totally worth enrolling)!
  82. How do you dress up for a big event? I'm talking black-tie events. 
  83. Do a behind the scenes post.
  84. Share your opinion on the most controversial news at this time. 
  85. Talk about the last time you stayed in on a Saturday night.
  86. Share what you do when you finally have "me" time.
  87. Grab some of your favorite Pinterest pins and put it in a post!
  88. Create a series of tips. Example: Blogging tips every Friday.
  89. Share your weekend in photos.
  90. Host a guest post with another lifestyle blogger.
  91. Run a giveaway featuring your favorite brands.
  92. A day at the mall. Talk about your last shopping trip. 
  93. Host a link-up!
  94. Review a few articles in a random magazine. This post has lots of potential to be comical. If you pick up a celebrity gossip magazine and share your views, it could be pretty entertaining.
  95. Share some of the essentials in your purse.
  96. Create a movie theater ticket it or skip it post.
  97. Dealing with clients/sponsors.
  98. Share a story about a time you used public transportation. 
  99. Talk about your last job interview.
  100. Talk about your favorite Disney/Pixar movie.
  101. Create a gift giving guide. 
zobia.png

Hi, I'm Zobia Alvi and I'm a blogger, entrepreneur, and web developer. I blog about business and how to make money online, develop websites and design blogs, and create courses helping others kickstart their own badass online businesses. 

Follow along here: Blog | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Want to learn more about getting it all done? Check out the free webinar: Blog Smarter, Not Harder.

How to Accomplish All Your Blog Goals in Less Time

Helene SulaComment

As a blogger, you have a lot on your plate. Most of us don't just blog: we work full time, we have a social life, kids, spouses, bills to pay, errands to run, the list goes on. On top of that, blogging can take up a huge chunk of time. We not only write a blog post, we take pictures, share on all social media networks, respond to comments, update old content, host a newsletter, comment on someone else's blog, etc.

So how can you possibly do it all, successfully, without spending all of your time doing so many tedious tasks? Because there are so many blogging tutorials and tips and tricks and strategies out there, here is how you can actually put those into action!

How to Accomplish All Your Blog Goals in Less Time

How to Accomplish All Your Blog Goals in Less Time

Break it Into Chunks

It helps to have a to do list, that way you can tick off what needs to be done. I try to squeeze in the small tasks whenever I have a spare minute. Things like:

  • Sending a tweet about my latest post
  • Like posts on Instagram
  • Commenting on a blog post
  • Retweeting someone
  • Answer comments on my blog
  • Share a win (or something going on in my life) on Facebook
  • Ensure all my links are working
  • Edit a blog post
  • Update a graphic on one of my posts
  • Reply to a company about a sponsored proposal
  • Take a few photos to use on Instagram

When I break it up this way, and I try to fit these tasks in when I have a break, it makes it much easier.

Set Realistic Expectations

We can't do it all, all the time. So before you say "I'm going to write 100 blog posts today." Think about it. Write down the amount of time you have, think about how much time it will take and then create a goal. When you're more realistic you end up achieving more! Make sure to set realistic, specific goals.

Create an Email List

A lot of people are worried to create an email list, my thought? JUST DO IT! You don't have to push it, just have a link on your sidebar. Squarespace makes it super easy to have one, off to the side, where people can sign up if they like. No one says you have to be in their face bout it. Down the road you might be happy that you have a newsletter, and this way you get a jump start on it.

Schedule It

One of the biggest time savers is to schedule things in advance. I love Hootsuite and/or Buffer for scheduling out most of my social media. These give you a chance to schedule on your own time, and then post at the most opportune time to reach your followers.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed, so I wanted to create a FREE, live training to help you reach your goals. I currently run 2 blogs and manage 5 social media accounts. I've also worked full-time and blogged so I know first hand how hard it is to balance it all!

Click Here to Sign Up for FREE

This FREE, live training will take place next Tuesday at 8pm central time. (9pm eastern 6pm pacific). In this session you'll learn:


- How to leverage your time wisely and still make time for the things you love to do

- How to manage social media quickly and gain more engagement

- How to overcome "blogger burnout" and make blogging fun

- My favorite tools for blogging smarter (I'll show you live how I use them!)

- How often should you really be posting per week. + My workflow to write, edit, and publish a blog post. 

+ Live Q&A 

The training I'll show you live is what people usually pay for. I'm doing it for free!

Here are the details:

When: Next Tuesday, December 29th at 8pm CST // 9pm EST // 6pm PST

Where: Live, online, Register here (I will be the only one on camera, so you can be in PJs!)

How: Once you're registered, I'll email you will all the details

Cost: $0.00

Get pumped: Use the hashtag #BlogSmarterWebinar to share!

I know that the end of the year is busy, so I will be sending out a replay to all those that can't attend. But if you can, don't miss the live session for the live Q&A. For many, that's the best part because you find so many new bloggers to connect with.

Click here or the button below to get exclusive access to this awesome training! Can't wait to chat next week. 

How to Look Like A Professional Blogger, Cheaply

BloggingHelene SulaComment

When you start a blog it's easy to feel intimated with all the options: blog designers, graphic designers, fonts, colors, themes, oh and that whole writing process. I remember, when I first started my blog I had the ugliest blogging template you've ever seen. It was bright blue and splattered with images and links and polka dots.

How to Look Like A Professional Blogger (Cheaply!)

I just wanted to set up shop, so to say, so I could focus on the important part: writing. That should be what we want to work on anyway! I spent hours upon hours, sleepless nights (and even part of work) trying to make my blog look professional. But it still looked like this:

Old Blog Design

While this isn't terrible, I can tell you I spent hours upon hours of creating and then implementing this. If I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself so much time and effort! Today I wanted to write a post on how you can create a blog that looks professional without spending tons of time and money.

Use a Custom Domain

When you have a blog you want to make it easy and memorable for people to find you. Having a custom domain kills two birds with one stone. You can get them for as little as $3! Not only does this look good, this gives you instant credibility without setting you back monetarily.

GoDaddy is a great find for custom domains that work seamlessly with your blog.

Buy a Template

There are some great blogging templates you can buy online that you can simply import yourself. As soon as you upload them, you have a professional clean design. I love these templates and they are so inexpensive.

I recommend starting with a lower priced template because as you blog, your tastes will change. I don't recommend starting out with an expensive designer (or template) because eventually you'll want to tweak how things look. When I first started Helene in Between it was actually called "Do Dallas Cheap." Once I started blogging I realized my true passion and purpose and so my blog changed with me. Make sure you leave room (and budget) to grow and change.

Design it Yourself

If you have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS you can design your own. This usually takes the most amount of time and effort and can go wrong. But if you know what you're doing, go for it. I always suggest a clean design. Especially when you start out. Keep it clean and this will work better for you and look much more favorable when you first start.

Use a Platform That Does it For You

I've mentioned some of the benefits of Squarespace but one that I truly love is that you look like a professional blogger, instantly. With multiple templates to choose from and drag and drop design, they make it fool-proof to have a blog that looks (and works) properly.

In addition, I'm a sucker for blog posts where all the image widths match up, Squarespace does this for you automatically. Also, when you decide you want to add a tab or remove an image or change up your sidebar, you can do this easily (and on your own!) with Squarespace.

Have The Right Pages

I need to know how to contact you and who you are. So many people look over the "about me" page, but it's the number 2 page people go to (after your home page). So make sure it's easy to find and easy to read. I always prefer about pages that direct me to somewhere else, or somehow, keep the conversation going.

Set up Commenting

No one wants to have to confirm their contact details, make sure they aren't a robot, or jump through hoops to leave a comment on your blog. Set up your comment system so that the majority of your readers can comment. A great option? Disqus.

Along with that, make sure you're not a "no reply commenter". That means you leave a comment (typically on a blogger blog) and it goes no where since the blog author can't respond. Here's an excellent tutorial on how to ensure you're a "do reply" commenter.

Make Your Photos Pop

You can tell almost instantly when someone is a newbie blogger: their photos are all wonky. Either grainy or blurry or just sized all wrong, or all of the above. A quick fix is to make sure all your photos are the same width. Edit your photos to make sure they are up to snuff. Don't want to pay (or learn) Photoshop? No problem. Check out A Complete Guide to Editing Photos without Photoshop.

Make Small Tweaks

It's crazy how small changes can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your blog. For instance, make sure your blog post title comes before your blog name. Check out how to do this in a snap (and why you should!).

Add a favicon (that's the small square graphic that shows up in the tab of a browser). It helps to have a favicon to look professional, instantly. Squarespace makes it super simple (just upload and go) but here's a quick tutorial for a blogger blog.

Make sure you offer a "search bar" so that people can find specific information on your blog. I suggest adding it to your Navigation bar (the bar that links to your various pages; ex. About me, Popular Posts, etc.) or on your sidebar.

 

So there you have it. I really think these 8 changes help your look like a professional blogger, without having to spend a fortune.

Want more? Check out 10 Things Every Successful Blog Needs

How To Never Run Out Of Blog Post Ideas

blogging, Blogging, blog post ideasHelene SulaComment

One of the best ways to keep people engaged and interested in your blog is with fresh, new content. We all get stuck with writer's block and have a hard time finding new post ideas. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about what to post.

Here's how I narrow down what to post and figure out how to never run out of blog post ideas.

How to Never Run out of Content Ideas for Your Blog

Cruise Pinterest

I have a secret Pinterest board on my Pinterest where I pin my next ideas for blog posts. Whenever I feel stuck, or need to flush out an Idea, I look there. Pinterest is a wealth of resources.

Check out how to utilize Pinterest for Your Blog.

Read, Read, Read

The smartest people in the world read everything. News, blogs, books, etc. Reading helps to keep your brain active. My Dad (the smartest person I know) reads more than 3 newspapers a day and goes through a book a week (at least!). Reading will help you start churning out those creative ideas.

Listen to Music

I find music so creative. I love listening to lyrics and the story behind them. It really gives me so many ideas for blog posts and even my writing in general. As someone who's been trying to write a novel for her whole life, listening to music helps to loosen the stress and be more creative.

Ask Your Audience

Your readers and followers are some of the best resources to come up with blog post idea. Simply ask them what they'd like to hear from you. Or, check out which are your more popular posts and write an update to this. You'll feel more inspired just by asking and reading your own content.

Join Online Groups

Having a blog buddy to bounce ideas off is great. Try joining various Facebook groups or Twitter chats to find out what makes the blog world tick and what people are interested in.

Research

Even if I have a blog post idea, I like to research the topic to see if I can come up with an even better idea or to flush out my current content. A great FREE resource is Google Trends. This is also a great way to see what's popular and how you can come up with content ideas. For example, take a look at what's popular right now, then come up with a blog post around that. For instance, when I looked at the Google Trends today there was a lot of talk about the new Tina Fey and Amy Poehler movie, "Sisters." You could write a blog post about why you love those two, how bloggers can learn from them (since they're such excellent writers), or How comedy makes for a great blog post, etc.

Look at Your Past

I already talked about looking at your most popular posts, but if you've been around for a while, take a look at what you posted around this time last year. Is it time to do a refresh of that post? Could you turn that into a series? For instance, on Helene in Between last year I talked about my most popular posts of 2014, you can bet I'm going to do that again this year!

Instagram

I not only like looking at Instagram for the pretty pictures, I get inspiration. Take a look at the "Explore" page on Instagram to find even more fresh content and new ideas. Sometimes scrolling through these images gives me ideas for blog posts! Follow Blog in Between here: @bloginbetween.

Collaborate with Other Bloggers

I'm a huge advocate for reaching out to other bloggers. I truly believe we can all succeed and I whole heartedly believe in reaching out and working with other bloggers. Not only does this help grow both your blogs and create friendships, it also helps you to put your heads together to brainstorm even more content!

Check out: How to Collaborate with Other Bloggers.

Have Contributors

You don't have to do it alone! You can ask others to submit to your blog. You should give them a way for their content to shine. Plus, having a contributor helps give new and fresh opinions to your blog. You can contribute to Blog in Between right here.

Switch Up The Format

Getting bored with the same way you produce content? Switch it up! Create a video, come up with an e-book, have image friendly posts (aka Word-less Wednesday), draw out what you think, put it in graphs, or make an infographic. No one says you have to do it one way!

When Inspiration Strikes

Always have a way to write your ideas down. Whether that's in the notes section of your phone or you carry a notebook, it's a great way to not let the ideas escape you. Be aware of the world around you, it's a great resource (the best) to find new content ideas. Start thinking like a writer and piece together what's around you to write your ideas out.

How do you come up with content ideas?

Why I Chose Squarespace

BloggingHelene SulaComment

After making the decision to start a blog the next question is often: which platform do I choose? In the past, your main options have been Wordpress and Blogger. But now, there are more options and I knew I had to give Squarespace a try.

A few months ago, I decided to test it out. I was hooked almost immediately. Why? Because it was so dang easy for me to manipulate and control my blog the way I wanted to without having to talk to a blog designer each and every time I wanted something changed. But wait, there's more.

Why I Chose Squarespace over Blogger or Wordpress

But could I really do it? As someone who's owned both a Blogger and Wordpress blog I wanted to see if the Squarespace platform could really hold it's own. I scooped up the free 14-day trail and realized that this was the real deal. I'll explain.

Why I Chose Squarespace

First, I want to say that I'm a creature of habit. I use Blogger every.single.day. It's very easy and it does what I ask. I use Wordpress in jobs that I've held and I actually own a small Wordpress blog as well (betcha didn't know that!). So let's get down to it. Why I ultimately decided that Squarespace was the answer.

Blog Design

The first thing you do for a website is design it. You want it to look pretty when people read it, right? Well, I do. You want it to be easily accessible, aesthetically pleasing, and most of all easy to read.  (Check out 10 Things Every Successful Blog Needs.)

Squarespace knocks this out of the park and then some. I designed my entire site without a blog designer. Why is this so important to me? Because things change.

One day I might want to have a new tab that talks about Social Media. Or I want the sidebar to now be on the left. I can do that all on my own with Squarespace.

Squarespace Blog Design

Blogger requires that you have an understanding of some code. Really if you want your blog to look nice you need to either: buy a template that you cannot change or hire a designer that you'll have to then ask for all of eternity to make changes.

Wordpress takes it a step further. Wordpress isn't just a hosting site, it's a content management system that demands your attention to update regularly. Wordpress is one of the most challenging to manage since in addition to HTML and CSS there are also plugins. That's not to say that's bad, it's just not very user friendly.

I don't know about you, but I really like fact that this is all me and changes when I tell it to, without breaking. I am not a designer but Squarespace allows me to cultivate how I want my blog to look.

Pricing

Squarespace is not the cheapest thing out there. Blogger is well, free. Wordpress has two options of free or paid but in order to really use it's capabilities you need to pay.

Squarespace falls in the middle but there's also the added bonus of customer support. I contacted them with a question and they got back to me in 45 minutes. That is unheard of!

In this digitized age, it's rare to find a company that cares enough about it's consumers at that level.

Usuability

As I stated before, Squarespace makes it easy to design. But what about Blog? Of course, it take some getting used to, it's different than Wordpress or Blogger. But I like it.

My favorite part is that Squarespace sizes every single one of your images correctly. For me, this is huge. I spend a lot of time editing photos just to make them all the same size. Days of doing that are now gone. In fact, now I can edit my photos right from Squarespace, since that's already built in - cue applause.

Squarespace Image Editing

Blogger and Wordpress cannot do this. In fact, sometimes I plug in coding just to size my images in Blogger.

SEO and Social Media

Squarespace has SEO built in. Like I mentioned before, you can edit photos from the platform. But you can also add SEO friendly tags seamlessly. It works directly with Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You simply add in your social media and the icons work directly on your blog.

Squarespace Social Media

Responsive Themes

I's responsive. Squarespace automatically transitions based on the size of your screen. Whether it's a PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone or whichever. You can also see how it will look at any time, on any device.

Squarespace Mobile Responsive
Squarespace Responsive Themes
Squarespace Device View


The Game Changer

Squarespace does a few things that other sites don't do. The first is the announcement bar. Built right into Squarespace are announcement bars that you can enable quickly when you want to make something that catches reader's eyes immediately.

Squarespace Announcement Bar

Second are the Cover Pages. These are powerful tools that act as the host page of your site (go to bloginbetween.org right now and you'll see!) There are so many options and you can change them up whenever you need. Blogger and Wordpress just don't offer these tools.

Squarespace Cover Pages

Squarespace has really made it easy for me and I don't think I'll turn back! Would you ever try Squarespace?

10 Ideas for Blog and Instagram Photography

Social MediaHelene SulaComment

I'm a self proclaimed instagram addict. Why? Because it's one of the most beautiful and visually appeasing social media tools and because I find the majority of the traffic for this blog via instagram. (P.S. you can follow Blog in Between on Instagram @bloginbetween).

Styling your instagram can be a lot of fun but you're not always sure what to post or use. So, I came up with a list of 10 different props you can use, and most are under $20!

10 ideas for blog and instagram photography

Backdrops

Let's start with the base. This is one of the most important features of Instagram. Having a nice background can make or break the image. So, how can you find them?

1. A brick wall

Backdrop Ideas for Blog and Instagram Photography

Cost? Free!

Go around town or maybe the side of your house. This makes the prettiest backdrop for your hands (I love hand pics...) and makes your images pop.

2. White rug

instagram photography backdrop white fluffy rug

Cost? Around $10-$100 for a fake one.

I literally use this all the time. If you're looking to master the flatlay, this is the perfect backdrop. I have this one from Target for $45.

3. Your Desk

Blog Photography Background White Desk

Cost? Most likely free!

You probably have a desk or a table top works too. Love the look of white? Buy a $2 white foam board. (This is a secret that most instagrammers never tell you- they use a white board!)

4. Wood Background

wood backgrop photography

Cost? Free or $20.

Don't you love the look of the distressed wood? I do! You can buy this on Amazon or go to your local Home Depot and buy some more. I like this etsy option for $10.

Props

5. Candles

prop ideas for instagram candle

Cost? $4-$15.

Candles magically up your instagram game. Whenever I draw a blank on what needs to round out my picture I add in a candle. Lit or unlit, it's up to you.

 

6. Office supplies

Prop Ideas for instagram office supplies

Cost: free or uber cheap.

Chances are you have some post-its or pens lying around, begging to be part of your instagram photos. I love using scissors, planners, pens, notepads, and pencils. Pictured: my fave planner.

7. Fresh flowers

blog and instagram photography props

Cost: $5-$20

Want people to swoon over your instagram shots? Throw in some pretty blooms. I like to pla around with the full bouquet or just using a few strategic flowers here and there. Some of my faves? Carnations! They last forever!

8. Coffee

Blog photography ideas, coffee

Cost: $1-$5

Sometimes it's awkward to have a photo of just yourself, the solution is easy- a cup of coffee. Whether in your favorite mug or from a coffee shop, you really can't go wrong.

9. Beauty Products

How to style instagram photos with props

Cost: $1-$20

Need to add a bit of color to your image? Add in a pretty lipstick or pink blush. Beauty products are packaged the way they are for a reason, you might as well use them.

10. Books

write_that_book.JPG

Cost: $1-$15

We all want to know what you're reading! You can stack them, open them up to where you've stopped or just put it on display.

Want more on Instagram? Check out this free report on why Instagram is the most important social media tool of 2016 and get an in-depth look at how to transform your Instagram!

Welcome to Blog in Between!

BloggingHelene SulaComment

Over 6 months ago I started a secret instagram account: Blog in Between. I didn't use it too often but knew I wanted to have it on hand for when I launched this new site, specifically for bloggers.

Welcome to Blog in Between

 

Blog in Between is a resource for bloggers to create their best blogs, ever. Curated by myself, Helene Sula of Helene in Between. I'm inviting bloggers to share their tips, strategies and more. And I'll be sharing my own as well.

 

Blog in Between was started to create a way for all bloggers, no matter how big or small, niche or none, wherever they are, to share, get noticed, and collaborate with one another.

Blog in Between intends to be updated weekly with fresh content from around the web. Want to write for Blog in Between? Share your post idea right here. Your post will be featured and shared across social platforms.

 

So, how do you follow Blog in Between? There are 5 ways to be notified of new posts:

Instagram, @bloginbetween.

Newsletter.

Pinterest.

Facebook.

There are a lot of exciting things happening and only more to come! Seriously, lots more to come.