shut up and work

by grechen on February 14, 2012 | RSS | FOLLOW ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK |

I’ve noticed a trend lately among bloggers where they’ll make a big announcement of a coming change or a proclamation that they’re going to do something “different” and “BIG” and “profound.” Sometimes the “BIG” thing fizzles out, and sometimes the announcement backfires. And I think: if a blogger makes a change on her blog and doesn’t make a big post about it, does anyone actually notice? Like if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s there to hear it…

What’s wrong with just shutting up and working? Not every change or new initiative requires an announcement – just do it. Start or stop taking advertising on your blog if you want, re-design your site, cut down on blogging, stop buying crap if that’s a decision you’ve made – just do it instead of writing about it. Your readers will notice the change over time, good or bad, and will adjust accordingly. You don’t need to prepare them for it, or ask them to please click on the ads. You DO need to respect your readers and only do things on your blog that will benefit THEM (because if it benefits them, it’ll benefit you…), but you don’t need to ask for input at every turn, or look for compliments & reassurance that you’re doing the right thing.

But this is just my philosophy; perhaps it doesn’t work for everyone. In the 6 years I’ve been a full-time blogger, I spend most of my time with my head down, just working. I don’t make a lot of noise about what I do, and while this may be why most bloggers or media have no idea who I am, it IS how I have built up the best & most loyal readers, a strong base of advertisers, and an effective affiliate marketing mechanism. And it’s how I can continue to make a good living doing what I do. Which is good enough for me – I know I’m doing it right.

What do you think? How do you work?

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wordpress essentials: vaultpress

by grechen on February 10, 2012 | RSS | FOLLOW ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK |

How often do you backup your blog’s database? Files? If you blog everyday you should be backing up your database at least once a day, or more often if you blog several times during the day. And generally, whenever you edit theme files or other files on your site, you should back them up immediately.

There’s really no excuse for NOT backing up your site’s database; with plugins it’s easy to automatically backup your database however often you choose, and it’s also easy to restore your database. For years, I used the WP-DB-Backup plugin on all of my sites, and it always worked fine, except for on grechenscodes.com (I wrote about my experience in this article). Periodically I would go to grechenscodes.com and find all the content GONE. DISAPPEARED. All I needed to do to fix it was use the “Repair database” function in the plugin, but that never “solved” the problem. Sometimes the content was gone for hours and it caused disruptions in my RSS email newsletter going out. It was a mess. And it turns out, it was the plugin itself. Maybe it was conflicting with other plugins I was using; honestly, I didn’t take the time to disable and go through all the plugins to see which other one was causing the problem, I just signed up for Vaultpress.

When I started using Vaultpress for grechenscodes.com it was invite-only and they did not have an “easy” way to restore your database. Now, anyone can sign-up for $15/month and they’ve added a quick & easy database restore function, which I have had to use once, again on grechenscodes.com, and it went smoothly; so painless & easy. Now they also backup files and can restore them with “one-click” (although I still use FTP to backup all my theme files to my hard drive. just in case). I will never go back to another database backup plugin (Vaultpress IS a plugin) again and although right now I only use it on two sites, I may start using it on more.

For $30/month (I’m using it on two sites), I am more than happy with what I get from Vaultpress and highly recommend it to anyone who has had problems with other database backup plugins, or if you want something that also backs up theme files, etc. And no, they’re not paying me to say that ;)

What do you use to backup your wordpress database? files? Do you have any other tips for bloggers?

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bloggers are people too

by grechen on February 7, 2012 | RSS | FOLLOW ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK |

Personally, I don’t get recognized a lot, but when I do, I’m always so honored that a reader took the time to speak to me that I will always spend time talking to them. I actually find it very humbling, and the most important reminder of why I blog. I mean, I’m not curing cancer or anything, but if I can inspire someone to try something they might not have otherwise, step out of their comfort zone with regard to their wardrobe, or save money, I’ve accomplished a little of what I set out to do. I hope this is the way most bloggers feel about meeting their readers; after all, without our readers, who are we, really?

This is especially true if you make any money at all off your blog – your readers represent your income, and they should always be treated with respect. In my opinion, among other things, this means interacting with readers on your blog via comments, on twitter, or facebook and offline as much as possible. And always be gracious.

All of the bloggers I know are always thrilled to meet and talk to readers offline, and not intimidating at all. So then why are readers, and even other bloggers, often afraid to talk to bloggers they meet in person? I’ve heard this so many times, myself or indirectly: “will {insert “famous” blogger’s name} want to talk to ME?” or “I was so nervous to say something to you!” Which always makes me cringe. Why? Why would anyone be afraid to approach and talk to a blogger?

Sadly I think it’s because so many popular bloggers are treated as celebrities now; they’re getting paid for appearances, they have agents. But ultimately they’re just women doing a job. They do it well, and they have influence, but that certainly doesn’t warrant putting them on pedestals and mobbing around them just to get a picture. They’re the same as you – with a lot of the same insecurities. That “famous” blogger probably spent just as much time in front of the mirror figuring out what to wear as you did; she has piles of kicked-off-in-frustration shoes & clothes all over the closet floor, just like you do. You think she just threw that outfit on, achieved “perfection” the first try, stepped outside to a beautiful day, and perfect lighting to start her photo shoot? Nope.

In some ways, this is why i like to look at fashion blogs that are NOT professionally photographed, and you can see that the person actually WORE what she was wearing. I can relate to that, not to an overly-staged, perfectly posed outfit picture. I think readers appreciate that too.

But I digress ;) Bloggers are people too. They don’t belong on pedestals. They are not celebrities (even the ones who think they are). And you should never be afraid to introduce yourself or talk to a blogger you read and appreciate; they are no “better” than you are.

So if you’re attending one of the blogging conferences coming up soon, keep this in mind. It’s hard enough being in a large group of people, and having to introduce yourself to strangers, don’t make it any worse by falling prey to blogger celebrity worship. I can’t guarantee that every blogger will be kind and generous with her time, but I know most will.

What has been your experience with this? Have you been afraid to introduce yourself to a favorite blogger? What happened when you did it? If you’re a blogger and are approached by a reader, how do you handle it?

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I was lucky enough to attend & moderate the Balancing Business & Blogging panel at the Independent Fashion Blogger’s conference last week. Since the video’s not up, I can’t link to what was actually SAID, but I do want to try and recap a couple of the most important points while they’re still (relatively) fresh in my mind.

If you watched the live stream of the conference, or followed it on twitter, of course you know that Ari Goldberg (StyleCaster) was the star of the panel; I knew the second I started talking to him backstage that I could count on him to pull out the big guns and tell it like it is, and he did NOT disappoint!! But I was also very impressed by all the panelists, including Coco Rocha, Kristina, Natalie, Aimee & Annie from bellaSugar.

Two points that I thought were particularly Important:

  1. You MUST be able to talk about yourself. Period. This came up in response to a question from the audience – she didn’t feel comfortable talking about herself & coming up with a mission statement for her blog. Ari suggested she crowd source her mission statement by asking friends/readers to help her craft it, which isn’t a bad idea, but at the end of the day, you WILL HAVE to talk about yourself and your blog. Which was a point I tried to make before moving on to the next question. There’s no way around it, if you want your blog to be your business, or if you want any sort of recognition at all, you have to have an elevator pitch for your blog (a quick statement that you tells someone about your blog in the time it would take to ride an elevator a floor or two), and you have to craft a mission statement, about page, and a media kit.

    As bloggers, we forget that we are also entrepreneurs. You may not realize it yet, and you may not want to turn your blog into your career, but when you start a blog and put effort into it, you are putting YOURSELF out there and taking a risk that you might fail, something that entrepreneurs do everyday. And as an entrepreneur, you have to be prepared to get out there, to put it on the line, to succeed, and the only way you’re going to do that is by marketing yourself.

    Ultimately, it shouldn’t be that difficult to talk about yourself – as a blogger, you’re probably already doing it. Why did you start your blog? What do you write about everyday? who is your reader? All these things should go in your mission statement. And as for getting up the nerve to talk about & sell yourself in person, sorry, but you’re going to have to just suck it up and do it.

    (and I thought all bloggers were narcissists ;) )

  2. Annie from bellaSugar made so many amazing points during the panel, I can’t recall all of them, but one that really struck a chord with me, and that we discussed afterwards is that we, as women, often undervalue ourselves. We don’t ask for raises, we do too much for free…basically, we don’t ask for what we want. Here’s the thing: if you ask for what you want, you may not get it. But if you DON’T ask for what you want, you will definitely NOT get it. Makes sense, but we always hesitate to ask – I know I used to. We think we don’t deserve that much money, or we’re just generally unsure of ourselves, so we don’t ask for what WE want, we settle for what we’re given, or what we’re offered.

    Of course, if you ask for too much, you probably won’t get it; you have to be reasonable, given how much time you put into the project and how much your readers are “worth.” And here again Annie made a great point on how to determine how much to ask for: think about how much you need to make per hour and use that as a guideline. For simple advertisements on your blog, this may not be appropriate, but for ongoing projects or giveaways, it can be very helpful to think in terms of an hourly wage.

    There’s no science to figuring out how much to charge for ads or projects related to your blog, it’s more of an art. For me, it involved a bit of trial and error; if you’re asking for too much, no one’s going to bite, but if you’re asking for too little, your supply will never keep up with demand, for example, if all your ad space is sold out and you have a waiting list, you’re not charging enough for your ad space.

Again, whether or not you want your blog to make money, or become your career or use it as a launching point for something else, it is a reflection of YOU and you should treat it as such. The design should be clean, it should look professional and be easy to navigate, have an about page, a mission statement or editorial policy, a media kit…you get the point. Only when YOU start to treat your blog like a business will other people start to SEE it as one. And even if you don’t want to turn it into a business, what’s the harm in others believing it already IS?

I will post more about my thoughts on the conference and the Balancing Business and Blogging panel this week, but in the mean time, here are some posts/pictures by other bloggers:

Citizen Rosebud
Dress with Courage
Grit & Glamour

If you were there, what did you think of the Balancing Business & Blogging panel? What were your favorite points?

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are you an over-30 fashion blogger?

August 19, 2011

I’m 38 (almost 39) and have run my network of sites (they weren’t always blogs!) since 2004, so I’ve always been a bit older than other bloggers in my niche. It’s never stopped me from doing my job, nor is it stopping me now, but lately I’ve been LONGING to interact with more bloggers my [...]

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follow-up: why i stopped reading fashion blogs

July 27, 2011

Wow. I’m still amazed by the response to my “Why I stopped reading fashion blogs” post a few months ago – thank you to everyone who participated in the conversation! I have wanted to do a follow-up though, since I did start reading some fashion blogs again after a few weeks off, but only a [...]

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why do you post outfit pictures?

May 18, 2011

I’ve heard style bloggers refer to themselves as narcissistic, full-of-themselves, egomaniacs, etc., just for posting outfit pictures everyday. Or they’re embarrassed to admit to friends/family that they have a personal style blog because they think it’s silly (or at least will be perceived as such) to maintain a blog full of pictures of themselves. So, [...]

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Independent Fashion Bloggers: Links à la Mode April 28

April 30, 2011

so excited to be included in the links this week!! Of course, every one of them is worth a click-through, especially if you’re trying to add fashion blogs back into your google reader More than Meets the Eye Edited by Fajr Muhammad at Stylish Thought   When you visit a fashion blog you often see [...]

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banner ads are still important

April 28, 2011

For years I’ve been hearing about the death of banner advertising as a way to make money on blogs. Sure, it’s not as lucrative as it used to be and it’s always better to have multiple revenue streams, but “traditional” online marketing in the form of banner ads is NOT DEAD. I’ve always said this [...]

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why i stopped reading fashion blogs

April 21, 2011

OMG. I just unsubscribed to every single fashion blog in my google reader. I’ll add the ones I truly miss back in after a while, but right now, I need a break. I look forward to reading through all the new items in my reader all day – then, when I’m done, I feel unfulfilled [...]

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