Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blogging Behind The Scenes

Sometimes I feel like I've been blogging forever and other times I still feel like such a novice. I'm not sure if blogging will ever be something that I will fully understand and in all honesty I'm not sure I'd want to since that would mean it has stopped evolving. I've been blogging for over 5 years now and can be the first to tell you that it is much more than meets the eyes. I am by no means an expert and owe google just about everything when it comes to figuring out different aspects of blogging. Just the other day I was researching how to edit my blog's code to make sure that when y'all click a link it doesn't take you away from the blog but instead opens it in a new page (I was successful and oh so excited about figuring that out). Without youtube videos and wikipedia posts on the matter I would be completely clueless. So, while it may look like I've figured it all out and have it together there is a lot more that goes into getting a single post live than you may expect and since it has become second nature to me, I thought it would be fun to sit down and share some of the details with y'all. 

If you're looking for more details on how to start a blog or other logistics of blogging then be sure to check out the "blog tips" label in the sidebar of my blog for posts like that! 


While most of the time it's just me working on things for Prep In Your Step this past summer and school year Nell has become a huge help in making content on Prep In Your Step the best it can possibly be. If you don't know her, Nell is my best friend and roommate (both freshman year of college and now) and she even recently started her own little guest post every other week titled "Novels with Nell." So, when you see her mentioned in different sections of this post now you have a bit of context! She deserves a lot of credit for an increase in the quality of posts over the past 6ish months and is always the first to hear and think through new ideas I've come up with for Prep In Your Step. 

Brainstorming

time frame:
Ongoing. About once a season Nell and I will sit down (typically I have some coffee in hand) and I will pick through her brain about different ways to improve my blog. We talk about different things that draw her to certain blogs and what sort of gaps there are in content. While these are super informal they usually bring me lots of new ideas and a renewed sense of passion when it comes to working on posts.

how it works:
Brainstorming is one of those things that I am constantly doing. Whenever I think of a new post idea I like to write it down in a note on my phone so that I can revisit it when I am sitting down to write ideas or plan out when posts are going to go live. I would consider my blog to be a southern lifestyle blog which allows me a lot of flexibility in the type of posts I publish. I love mixing a variety of fashion with southern lifestyle, advice and inspiration, as well as things I'm loving with what is happening in my own life. The idea is that through reading my posts you can prep for anything in your life while stepping into mine. Balance is a huge part of the brainstorming process for me as I strive to mix up the type of content you'll see in a given week. I try to bring you a healthy mix of product based posts (like outfit ideas or shopping posts) with content heavy posts (ones that focus on advice or experiences). While that balance is hard to maintain every week I hope that it is evident to y'all that I am in no way trying to make you feel any need to have material items and instead sharing those product based posts for your own personal inspiration and because those items may have caught my eye.


Post Writing

As much as I'd like to say that this is me sitting in bed with a big cup of coffee with words just coming to me that is far from the reality most of the time. Writing posts can be more time consuming than one thinks and it really depends on the type of post as to how long this may take me.

time frame:
outfit posts - The text for outfit posts usually takes about 30 minutes for me to write. When doing outfit posts I like to include a bit of a story or more of my own individual voice alongside with the images and product links. While I know not everyone loves seeing outfit posts they have become an addition I really love that allows me to share some of my personality both in the text and the products and pictures I feature. Since the text in these posts aren't usually as lengthy they tend to take less time to write than content heavy posts.

content heavy posts - Content heavy posts definitely take a lot longer but often I'll break up when I am writing them to make them seem like less of an undertaking. This post for example took upwards of 2 to 3 hours to put together and that doesn't include outlining what exactly I wanted to include. While I wish that these were posts I could do more frequently I tend to only do 1 or 2 a week due to the time I have to put into them. That's what makes outfit and product posts such an integral part of PIYS since they allow me to spend this extra time on these posts.

how it works:
Ideally I have all of my posts written the Sunday before the week they are going to be posted. This is a self imposed deadline that I often fail to meet. I've started telling Nell that this is my deadline since she edits my posts and hopefully that will help to keep me accountable. Weekends tend to be a little bit sacrificed since the rest of the week is spent teaching and lesson planning and Friday and Saturday are the best days for me to get ahead on blogging. In a perfect world it would be nice to have my posts for each weekday done on that weekday a week in advance. For example, it would be ideal if I were putting the finishing touches on next Wednesday's blog post today so that I wouldn't feel pressured to work through all of them over the weekend. In reality, sometimes my posts don't make it to Nell to edit before they go up and I'll stay up a bit too late or wake up even earlier (5:20 is my usual wake up time...) to make sure a post is finished and ready to go live.

Linking

Linking products is one of those things that has increased with importance over time. When I started my blog I had no idea that bloggers could make money. It took a few years before that ever became a part of the blog process for me and 5 years later it still baffles me that I can make money doing something I love. I'll be the first to tell you that making money blogging is not easy and I have a ton of respect for bloggers who are able to make a living from blogging because I am nowhere near that. That's not to say that it isn't nice having a little bit of income from blogging but that means that I have to be strategic and continue putting more time into it.

time frame:
Typically this depends on how many things I need to link for a given post and how much prep work I've done in advance. I use rewardStyle to link products for y'all and it serves as a good hub for me to save any products I force myself talking about in future posts. I would guess that I spend about 10 minutes doing this for each post and usually some f that time is spent searching for the item I'm featuring on different sales to ensure that it is on sale I am sharing it with you at the lowest price.

how it works:
rewardStyle has set this up to make linking products incredibly easy for bloggers. Usually when I am looking for items to feature I screenshot them to put them into a graphic on the blog and go ahead and save them to my rewardStyle favorites page. From there I copy the link and paste it as a hyperlink of the item it will take you to!

Post Editing

This is one part of blogging that is super easy for me because for the most part I don't edit my posts since Nell does that for me.

time frame: ???

how it works:
As I mentioned earlier, I try to get my posts for the week to Nell the Sunday before they are going to go live. She edits them and emails them back my way. After I get them back from her I get everything set up in blogger and preview what the post would look like when it goes live and check for any other edits to be made.

Scheduling

One of the most common misconceptions that I think my friends and I'm sure other people have is that I have to be sitting at my computer in order to have a post go up. Personally, I use blogger and the scheduling tool is so easy to use. I am rarely ever at my computer when a post goes live and instead schedule all of my posts in advance.

time frame:
 Maybe 1 minute per post for the actual scheduling on blogger. As for real life thinking through the schedule in which I want to post content that is usually worked through in the planning stage!

how it works:
After I've made sure that a blog post is ready to go all I have to do is set it to go up on a specific date and time. This semester I've started making all of my posts go live at 7:00 am EST. I type in the information and then click publish when I am finished which means that it will be ready to go live when I have told it to. Super easy and I am very thankful for this feature as I can't imagine adding "click publish" to my to-do list each morning.

Photography & Image Editing

For every post-worthy photo you see I can assure you there are 3 or 4 that absolutely do not make the cut. Whether I am fixing my hair, talking, or Nell is making me do something weird with my hair I could start a separate blog full of these outtakes and I wouldn't be surprised if it became more popular than this blog. Nell takes most of the blog photos that I am in although on occasion when we aren't able to shoot together whip out my tripod and remote and take the photos myself. As for other photos that I am not in I usually take those photos. I really love taking photos so this is one of my favorite parts about blogging. I have this camera and typically use this lens for all of my shots!

time frame:
About 15 minutes per outfit max.

how it works:
Blog photo shoots tend to start with Nell and I figuring out a good time for both of our schedules. We have to keep in mind the weather, lighting, and location we will be using and take that into account as well. Nell likes to make fun of me for wanting to avoid shooting photos with other people around considering I publish the photos we take for thousands of people to see but I like shooting photos at semi-secluded locations if at all possible since I get embarrassed when there are lots of other people around. After we've decided on a time and I've made a list of outfits to shoot along with which accessories go with each look it's time to make sure that my hair and makeup are "camera ready." Usually this means I spend a little bit of extra time trying to cover up how tired I may look but for the most part I follow my typical getting ready routine. We put all of the clothes we will need to shoot multiple looks in a single day in the back seat of my car which serves as the changing room and always ends up messy by the end of a day of shooting. Each outfit typically takes no more than 15 minutes to get and oftentimes takes much less time. Nell tends to get what I am looking for in my images which makes it easy and we usually pause in the middle of the photos to make sure that we are getting good content. She is definitely a trooper with these as I can be picky about what I want and am always asking her to tell me jokes so that the photos look more natural. Because we are busy and don't want to do this every weekend we usually knockout a bunch of outfits in a single session so that we only have to do this about twice a month.

Next comes the editing which I do entirely on my own. I use Lightroom to edit all of my photos and tend to do about the same thing to each in order to keep them consistent (lower temperature, increase exposure, check shadows, and increase saturation slightly). This can take me about 30 minutes per outfit which is time consuming but has become one of my favorite parts of bogging.




 


Image Creation

I pretty much never publish a post without some sort of image to go along with it. I know they say to never judge a book by its cover but I probably wouldn't read a book if it were missing its cover. In the same way, I am a lot less likely to click on a post that doesn't have some sort of image to go along with it. For posts that don't have a photo I've taken to go along with them I create my own images using PowerPoint. I know lots of people use Photoshop however, I've been using PowerPoint to make graphics for years and can use it without having as many questions as I would when creating a graphic on PowerPoint, it's all what you get used to. 

time frame: 
about 30 minutes per graphic. 

how it works: 
I'm not going to go into much detail here since I actually have an entire post dedicated to how I make blog graphics here

Emails

Emails are one of those behind the scenes things that I think a lot of people forget about. I get a number of emails each day and star the ones that need some sort of response. While I try to take a bit of time going through those starred emails each day sometimes that isn't the case. I've been much better about staying on top of emails this semester and find that allocating a bit of time at least every other day and then doing a check through over the weekend helps to make emails a little bit less scary.

time frame:
depends

how it works:
As I mentioned, I star the emails that I need to respond to. Many of those emails come from readers asking various questions, some are from brands looking to collaborate, and others are promotional emails or other various ideas or notifications. I like to make sure that each email gets the time it deserves and I'd rather be thorough than super speedy with my response but it is always a goal to get them done within a week of the time I've received them.

Social Media

time frame:
 3ish minutes per instagram and about a minute per pin.

how it works:
I feel silly writing "how it works" under social media considering I know a lot of my readers discover my site through social media and are therefore pretty sufficient in it. I definitely don't "promote" my posts as much as I could considering I really only use instagram and pinterest to share parts of my posts. My Facebook page has always been on the back burner and since I have never really put much time into it the only people that follow it are friends or people who already check out my blog daily. I try to promote each blog post at least once on instagram and pinterest so that I am able to share the content I've worked hard on with a wire range of followers.

One of the most asked questions I get and one that I ask myself frequently is how do you manage blogging with school?

Making it a priority has been crucial but more so than that having a plan to prioritize blogging has been the biggest thing this school year. A lot of my blogging for the week has to happen the weekend before otherwise it is really challenging to find time during the week when I am student teaching. I've also found that having an ongoing list of ideas for posts makes it a lot easier when I do have time to sit down and blog because I don't have to waste time coming up with content that excites me. Having a friend to help out with various aspects has also made a big difference. I know that I can rely on Nell to help me with photos which helps to ensure that photos get done and can be shared with y'all!

Favorite and least favorite thing about the blogging process? 

My favorite part about the blogging process lately would have to be photo editing. I started using Lightroom in September and have loved how much it has increased the quality of photos that I share with y'all. I feel like I still have so much to learn on it and that has been really fun for me to try out.

I think my least favorite part of the blogging process would have to be the lack of time I have to put into it. It is no surprise to me that blogging can be a full time job since there is always something else to be done and as a college student I often don't have time to do some of the things that would allow my blog to grow as much as I would desire.

Whew, so there you have it, a look at the blogging process for me. I hope this provided you with some insight and entertainment of what it takes for a post to go live here on Prep In Your Step. If you have other questions definitely leave them below and I'll try to answer them since I know this definitely doesn't cover every single aspect. 

8 comments :

  1. Thank you for sharing your blogger behind the scenes. I love learning about what other bloggers do and what their processes are like. Everyone has their little quirks that works for them!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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  2. I loved reading this. Linking takes me quite a while. I'm working on getting it down to a science. It takes me on average 20 minutes now.

    http://goldclutter.com

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  3. Love this post, Dorothy! Blogging is a lot more work than it seems and I loved reading about your "process" for blog posts!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

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