I can’t believe it’s already been a month since Blogtacular! Since I wrote about my Blogtacular 2015 experience I wanted to write another post to compare and share what I learned as I know a lot of you were thinking about going.
Before I get started discussing the day I want to say a huge thank you to Kat, Kelly and the Blogtacular team for putting together another awesome day and making sure it ran smoothly. I am very grateful to have been invited back to not only attend but also be involved in the day.
Welcome to Blogtacular 2016
The conference kicked off on Friday with a photowalk around London and craft party at West Elm which I sadly had to miss but they both looked like so much fun. With an early start Saturday morning I arrived at the venue so excited for the day. The venue this year was just perfect for the conference. It was big, bright and beautifully decorated.
There was a huge breakfast laid out waiting for us in the morning along with fresh coffee and the Blogtacular team were ready to welcome everyone. The room started to fill up and everyone chatted over breakfast. The morning networking flew by and it was time to gather in the main room for the first session. What a start!
With many breaks (and delicious food) throughout the day there were lots of opportunities to network and meet new people who were all very creative and passionate about what they do. It was also great to catch up with the people I met last year and talk about everything that has happened since the last conference.
What I learned at Blogtacular 2016
With so many great sessions on throughout the day I marked out what I was interested in, having done a little research by reading the speaker pages and visiting blogs. I was ready to scribble down as many notes and ideas as I could, so here’s what I learned this year at Blogtacular.
Opening Keynote – Lisa Congdon
Lisa Congdon is an artist and illustrator who specialises in colourful abstract paintings, line drawings, pattern design and hand lettering as well as the author of six books. Her client list includes the likes of Martha Stewart Living, MoMA, Harvard University, The Land of Nod and many more.
Lisa, a self-described late bloomer, talked about how she got her start – she was in her early thirties and had just come out of a long relationship, someone asked her to join them at an art class on a Friday night and she did. “That class changed my life. Not overnight and not in a huge way” but it introduced her to a world that she would later be consumed by. She started blogging in 2004 and now publishes daily on Today is Going to be Awesome about her life, work and inspirations.
Lisa talked about the “Vulnerability Hangover”, that feeling you get after you’ve shared too much. She discussed how important love and connection is, that good relationships in our life keep us happy. She talked about burning out, how to continue loving what you do and shared her tips for living a good life:
- The way through anxiety and insecurities is understanding why it’s happening and knowing that you are not alone
- Be active everyday. Do it just for the joy of moving your body!
- Hire someone to help you, to work with you, to keep you company
- If you’re not excited by something and shouting “HELL YES” then say no
- Approach everything as a beginner, keep that inspiration, exciting and “I’m so lucky” feeling that you had when you first began
- Create space in your life for relationships and connecting with people
- Take time to chill and play
- Embrace your imperfections and get comfortable with them
I really enjoyed Lisa’s inspiring and relatable session, it’s hard to feel inadequate and have impostor syndrome but knowing that every creative online feels this too really helps you deal with it.
Workshop 1 – Blog Business
For the first workshop I chose to go to Kristabel’s session on blogging business. Despite having no desire to blog full-time, I was really interested in hearing from someone who does and Kristabel did not disappoint. This was one of my favourites from the day, being the most informative session!
Kristabel started her blog, I Want You To Know, as a hobby in 2008 and focused primarily on fashion. Six months into blogging she started getting contacted by brands and eventually branched out into lifestyle and travel topics. She then had an opportunity to start blogging full-time. Kristabel shared so much value about blogging as a business.
- Every scenario is different but if brands have specific details, deadlines, copy, etc. then charge for your work.
- If there’s no budget but you still want to work with them, make sure you are getting some real exposure and limit what you’re willing to do. For small businesses that don’t have much of a budget, figure out something that works for both of you. Maybe offer them a smaller package.
- Be clear about how you work. You can’t expect brands to know exactly how you work, as all bloggers will work differently. You need to be clear and honest upfront.
- Stand your ground and trust your instincts
- How does aligning yourself with that brand work for you? Does it fit your blog and your brand? Are you okay with being associated with them?
- Build relationships with everyone, you never know where they’ll be or what position they’ll have next year.
- Add yourself to niche specific databases. You’ll get a lot of crap emails and press releases but you just have to push through the noise.
- Build up relationships with brands. When pitching to brands that you have built a relationship with, make sure to give them the option to say yes or no.
- Include your stats, media kit, previous work, any previous posts you’ve featured them in and your ideas.
- When it comes to pricing, think about how long it will take you. How much is that a day? How can I scale up the price? By charging more you add value to the services for the whole community. Value yourself, your content and your industry. Get compensated for writing, editing, photography, videography, and anything else you’re doing. Think about your stats, views, seo, engagement, and so on.
- Always be learning and improving your skills. Invest in your blog, equipment, courses and training. Keep an eye on industry developments and utilize your network as much as you can.
- Blogging as a business is about balance. Understand your industry and be adaptable. Know your worth and be aware of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Keep an eye on Blogtacular for videos because this is one I recommend checking out. I do a lot of what she said in my business already, but it’s helpful to know how similar blogging is to other careers and it was so good to hear a blogger speak about all aspects truthfully.
Workshop 2 – Content Is King
Andrew Trotman (Head of News at Microsoft UK) and Ella Williamson had a chat about content. I have to admit that this was my least favourite session of the day, but perhaps that’s just because I’ve been doing this for so long. I think it would be really helpful for new bloggers.
Andrew made some great points on making sure to fact-check your work before publishing which is so important! They also discussed the importance of bouncing idea’s of other people, getting somebody to read over your articles before publishing, keeping post titles short, sharp and SEO’d as well as making sure your content easy to read.
Workshop 3 – Writing Workshop
I was so excited for this workshop with Laura Jane Williams. Having attended her #IRLPanel in April, hearing so much about her book online and speaking briefly to her at the Blogosphere Cover Reveal, I knew this workshop was going to be a good one and it was. Laura Jane had the most engaging session of the day and made the environment really comfortable and friendly which was needed for her writing tasks.
Laura Jane opened with a brave statement “blogging is dead”… and micro-blogging is where it’s at. She explained that at the moment her preference is using Instagram to not only share a photo but also a story, something more than just a caption.
She recommended adding value to your content. If you are expecting people to follow you, it better be valuable to the person who reads it. She does this by “using feelings”, she wants people to feel something when they leave her blog or social media sites.
Laura Jane read a passage from her most popular blog post and then gave us a few minutes to write about the moment we first met someone special. Something she had us work on throughout the session and eventually asked a couple of people to share their stories.
She then shared her writing guidelines, good things to think about for blogging and social media updates.
- Memory isn’t perfect but that’s okay
- Chronology is boring, play with time. Share things as you would when telling a friend.
- The fourth wall is your friend, feel free to break it sometimes and invite the reader in.
- Sentences are like bottoms, they come in all different shapes, sizes and weights. They have rhythm, don’t be afraid to vary your sentence length.
- “Parla Come Mangi”, keep your language as simple as Roman food. Speak the way you eat.
- The reader doesn’t need to be spoon fed the story, they don’t need to know everything but they need enough to know the story.
- Sometimes the writer does need to just move the “plot” along
- Know the difference between showing and telling
- Ask yourself “am I telling the reader too much?”
- Don’t overtell the reader what your point is, allow them to take their own point of view away from the story
- Get used to sharing your work and getting constructive feedback. It will improve your writing. Don’t feel the need to justify why you did something a certain way.
- The role of a writer is to engage the reader in their own creativity. When you tell your truth, you’re allowing the reader to access their truth, their own story.
- Edit, Edit, Edit! Reduce your word count by half and then edit some more. The shorter version may not be the best version but continue editing, make it short and concise. Tell the story in as few sentences and words and possible. If needed, you can add back in a sentence if you feel the story needs it.
Closing Keynote – Enid Hwang
Enid Hwang has been the community manager at Pinterest since 2011 when she was hired as the sixth employee at the company.
I found the story of Pinterest’s growth so inspiring. Enid shared a photo of the Pinterest office in 2011, a two-bedroom apartment full of desks and computers. It’s crazy to think about how far they’ve come in such a short space of time.
Pinterest now has more than 100 million monthly active users Enid shared that Pinterest really struggled, for a lot of real reasons. It was created by outsiders, who didn’t have a huge amount of experience in tech but luckily Pinterest grew and that was all because of bloggers.
Enid shared some tips from her time at Pinterest
- Write a vision. Define and have a focus for what you want to create/build
- Create a process to deal with change
- Get comfortable with analytics and set goals. Evaluate, analyse and check-in with your goals. Ask yourself “is this strategy/platform working?” and “is it taking away energy, time and so on that could be spent elsewhere?”
- Be an early adopter but be wary of chasing new things. Try it out and then think about if it’s working towards your goal and if it’s working for your brand.
Creative Genius Bar
As well as the speaker sessions and workshops there was also a Creative Genius Bar that was open throughout the day where attendees could get one-on-one advice from designers, creative coaches and Pinterest ambassadors.
I was answering questions on blogging, blog design, coding and so on. I was amazed at how similar a lot of the questions I was getting were, I’ll definitely be turning those into blog post’s soon. One thing I really liked about being on the Creative Genius Bar was getting to meet everyone and hear their story, how they started and what their goals are.
After a long day I arrived home at 8PM starving and completely exhausted but I was absolutely buzzing with inspiration. I woke the next morning at 4AM eager to work harder – ready to tackle my goals, work on new ideas and write as much as I could.