I’ve been blogging for just over two years now (what! so crazy) and although I keep finding new tools and ways to do things I do have a few that I’m currently loving so I thought I’d share my favorite blogging and business tools today.
For starters, I have this blog and my business website both through WordPress. I know a lot of people swear by Squarespace, but I’ve never had a reason to switch away from WordPress so I can’t give any opinion on that. For me WP has been fantastic – easy to use and learn, lots of template options (I started with free ones before I committed to buying the ones I really wanted), and it does everything I want.
If you read any blogging advice articles out there you’ll notice that most of them swear by having an editorial calendar. I’ve done this in different ways from writing it down in a notepad to excel spreadsheets, but by far my favorite way of keeping track of it now is with Evernote.
Evernote is a free app that you can sync on your computer, phone, and other devices. You can “save notes, tasks, ideas, inspiration, images, or anything you find online” as they say on their website. And you can even share your notes with other people so that if you blog with someone else you can both have access to and edit the same notes. It syncs between your devices automatically too so you never have to worry about having an outdated or multiple versions.
I created a note with check boxes for my editorial calendar that looks like this:
This way I can see when I’m supposed to post, and make sure I’m not posting a bunch of the same type of things back to back. The first check box is for when I schedule a post and the second is for when it actually gets posted.
If I miss a post date I mark it in red mostly just so I know I missed it, and if I throw in an extra post for that week I make it blue so I can feel good about my overachieving self ;)
Some other notes I have in there are future post ideas and my 30 Before 30 list.
To stay on the topic of planning and being organized: the Get to Work Book.
I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this in depth before, and I’m constantly recommending it to people on Instagram whenever someone is looking for a new planner, but it really is awesome. Instead of talking about it again I’ll just say that if you love being organized, making goals, and are looking for a new planner then check out the website! There are video walkthroughs of the book and if you search the hashtag on Instagram you can see how other people use theirs too which I found really helpful before I got mine.
I know there’s always the debate on electronic vs paper so here’s my take on it: iCal is fantastic for work schedules between Matt and I since we often shoot together or just need to know what each other’s schedules are in general, but a paper planner is still my favorite way to go, and most effective, for my own personal plans and to-do’s. I am all about sitting down on Sunday and taking the time to figure out what I’m going to do in the week ahead. Writing things down makes it feel more concrete to me. And then there’s the satisfaction of getting to check things off – can’t beat that ;)
Inspiration – aka how to come up with blog post ideas
As a photographer, blogger, and person who loves creative things I know that trying to get inspired can go two different ways. Either you see/hear/read just the right thing and you get on a roll of ideas and enthusiasm OR you get totally overwhelmed and discouraged by all the things that everyone else is doing and just want to quit. It’s a hard balance, but one that I think it’s important to recognize.
Like most people I love me some Pinterest browsing. So many gorgeous images flooding the screen and calling your name! It really is a fantastic place to get lost in sometimes. But you also need to be careful to not let it suck you in. If you’re starting to feel more envy or discouragement than you are creativity and good things then it’s time to close it down for a while. Even a few days if that’s what you need.
There are some really great looking courses out there on how to increase your Pinterest followers and use it to grow your business or blog, but I’ve made the choice to keep mine for personal use instead. That might change one day, but for now I love having at least one social media thing with zero expectations or work attached to it.
Another way that I get the ideas flowing for blog posts is simply to start writing things down. I grab a good old notebook and pen and just start writing everything down. Whether it’s good ideas or bad, fully thought through or just a simple word, I write it down. I definitely don’t go ahead with everything, but there’s usually a couple things that really jump out at me at the end and those are the things I go with.
The key to this one is staying away from all screens for a while. Don’t let other things distract you. Just you and your thoughts are all that’s needed. And maybe a cup of tea :)
I’m someone who is 100% okay with being by myself for days on end, and I have to really make an effort to go out and do things with people. But I have learned that when you find a group of people that are like-minded it is so encouraging and motivating to keep doing what you’re doing.
I think in “real” life it can be super hard to find those people, so thank goodness we have Instagram! ha! Earlier this year I found The Gram Gang, which essentially started as an Instagram challenge type thing but has grown into a collective of creative people all with the same goal of growing their business.
I have found a lot of fantastic people through the hashtag (#thegramgang) and love how interactive it’s made Instagram for me. Instead of just scrolling by and liking random photos I actually stop and read people’s captions and learn a bit of their stories. In a world of 2-second attention spans it slows things down a bit if you let it. It gives you a glimpse of the real people behind the pretty photos and can help connect you with people you might not have otherwise gotten to know. I’ve even gone for coffee with some people in real life that I met through Instagram!
Another thing that I’ve mentioned before is the Rising Tide Society. If you’re looking for a group of creatives and entrepreneurs in your city then you should check out the website and find the chapter that’s close to you. They have monthly meet-ups where they chat about a different topic each time, and you can get to know other people in your industry.
Full disclosure: I’ve only been to one meeting in Ottawa since it started up here earlier this year. Oops. But I did photograph a styled shoot in August as a result of meeting a fellow blogger there, and in turn that introduced me to even more people in Ottawa. So I think it’s a win :) Now I just need to stop making excuses and head out to another meeting one of these months….
This is something that often gets overlooked when talking about business and blogging, but I think having an inspiring workspace is so important!
Whether you work from a home office, shared space, your living room or your kitchen table there are always ways to make it more “you”.
Here are some simple things to make your work space even more lovely:
Make an inspiration board aka real life Pinterest // I used to love tearing pages out of magazines, writing down quotes, and collecting pretty things that just made me happy. If you have an office or designated work space why not put these things out for you to see every day? Plus it’s easy to switch things up whenever the mood strikes.
Get some on-brand stationary or office supplies // is it just me or does and Instagrammable workspace make you happy? Also, stationary makes me happy so maybe it is just me ;) Get some cute pens, notebooks, folders, phone case, mouse pad, or whatever is relevant to what you do! Sometimes it’s the little things that can make you smile and encourage you to stay motivated. And if you already have your branding figured out then stick with those colors to really tie everything together.
Plants! // I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t keep them alive… BUT when I do have an adorable little succulent or some fresh flowers beside my computer screen as I type away it really makes the space sunny and happier. If you’re like me and succulents die just by looking at you (I swear this happens) you can get some inexpensive fake ones that you can pass off as real.
Change of scenery // sometimes you just need to get out and be somewhere different to find motivation. Find a new coffee shop to work at – what’s better than someone bringing you a latte and pastries (yes, plural), beautiful window light streaming in, and a floor that will probably make it into your Insta. Or if the bustling coffee shop isn’t your scene then venture out to your local library or park and enjoy the quiet for a while. Wherever your happy place is find that and let yourself enjoy it for a few hours.
I’d love to know some of your can’t-live-without tools you use for your business or blog. Where do you get inspiration or motivation from? Let me know in the comments below!