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Blog Tip: About Page Photo Idea

I have a blogging tip that I think may help those of you looking to pretty up your About page on your blog while also keeping things comfortable from a privacy perspective. I am currently immersed in teaching my online class, Blogging Your Way, and my students are keeping me on my toes for sure! It’s amazing to me how C R E A T I V E my brain becomes when I’m surrounded by curious students – their questions challenge me and for this I am grateful. It’s so easy once you been doing something like blogging professionally for 8 years to stick with what you know.

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For instance, one student recently asked about online privacy. She wants people to see what she looks like but isn’t entirely comfortable posting her photo on her blogs’ About Page (bio). I totally get it. You may want to grow your readership and you know to do this, readers enjoy seeing you in some form – even if you’re not looking straight into the camera, because it helps build trust and credibility online. So, how do you maintain a bit of anonymity while still fostering an environment of trust if you’re going to show your photo – doesn’t that sorta blow it? One way, as I explained to her, is to work with an illustrator to create a fun sketch to show who you are without filling in all of the details. It could be watercolor, pencil, whatever… As long as it matches your blog template and overall vision. You are still sharing your identity but also, in a way, you’re not. And that can feel really good for some people and I respect that.

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These examples are illustrations that are both affordable and not super-detailed that I think could work, by Todd Borka. Based in Lyon, France, he creates the sweetest custom portraits and ships worldwide so you can frame them, etc but also you can talk to him about obtaining a small digital file that you can use on your blog. In his Etsy shop, you can see the images each of his illos are based on which I also liked and helped me to see that though they are close matches, they’re not identical so most likely, your blog cover wouldn’t be blown since an illustrated version of you is not the same as the real deal.

What do you think, do you like this blog tip? Have you already done something similar that you’d like to share? If so, leave the link to your About page in the comments section so everyone can have a peek.

Happy Friday!

(images todd borka)

Posted in blogs on November 08, 2013

Who Are These Bloggers?

I know, I know… This news has already hit the internet like a hurricane and yet, the waves continue. And of course, these types of things always hurt the most when delivered from someone with whom you have the ultimate girl crush on. If no one cared about Martha Stewart, no one would care about her comment, right? But since so many do and it is understandable why, some have asked me – Do I think she was right or wrong? I think she was voicing her opinion and you have to be ready to hear both the good and the bad from others in any field that you’re in. It’s not always going to be rosy, glowing and dripping with sticky sweetness. Sometimes we have to listen to criticism in our communities, not blame the source, but really THINK about where this is coming from. One thing I learned from my favorite psychology professor that stuck with me for years, that I try to teach to my own students today, is the value in criticism. Most people RUN from it. Don’t. This isn’t to say that someone calling you lazy or dumb is valuable because often, people tell you what they think about themselves – you are just at the wrong place at the wrong time. And other times, maybe you were being dumb or lazy about something and that’s good to consider because you may need to learn more about something or work on your tendency to flake out. All constructive things that, although came in a very ugly package, can still be a gift.

Who are these bloggers?

I thought that for all of the bloggers out there who felt offended by the recent comments made by Martha Stewart about bloggers, that we could think about ways to become even better at what we do. Because as my grandmother always told me, “That which doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger”. Self-reflection can be an invaluable tool of growth that can literally transform you along with your blog and your business.

Another thing I thought about it that maybe we can, as a community, answer her question, “Who are these bloggers?” through our own blogs – you know, writing better bios on our sites, speaking more openly with others about our backgrounds, having more courage. I’ve met thousands of bloggers through my e-courses and I try to challenge them to think about who they are and what their intention is, what they’re best at and how they can really showcase that online. So many bloggers are way too shy in their bios. I remember a workshop that my adorable friend Steffi Luxat and I taught together in Hannover last winter and one of the students was terrified to write in her bio about the ribbons and things that she designs that are sold ALL OVER GERMANY. I couldn’t understand this and Steffi asked her WHY and she meekly replied that she didn’t want to make others feel jealous or like she was showing off. In speaking with many bloggers, this hasn’t been so uncommon. Lots of women, especially, tend to devalue their work. Do you?

Maybe it’s worth considering for your own blog to have a stronger bio on your site, a better About Me page, that says who you really are. No need to be vague. What’s your mission? Here’s mine. I believe that bloggers have some amazing stuff to share and tell about themselves if they’d just demonstrate more confidence and go for it.

Why does this matter? Lots of reasons. It’s good for you first because it can help you value your own work more. It’s great for your current readers because you may reveal some things no one has known about you before, giving them more respect for what you’re doing online. It’s also good for the reputation of our community because it’s a way that we can all answer a question that not only Martha, but people active in magazines and even television often ask – Who Are These Bloggers? They know what we’re doing and how popular we are but trust me, more than Martha asks this question. Hundreds of people in the media ask and often, they don’t really know the answer. Why do you think so many of them approach bloggers to work for free – to write for their websites, to use their photographs at no charge, to attend their events and report on them without pay… They don’t know most of our backgrounds, our value, that some of us are really working very hard to produce our content and test our recipes, author books, design products, etc. When people KNOW you then respect is the next natural step if you’re good at what you’re doing. So take time to tell your readers today, or this week, just SOON — who you are and what you do and a little bit about how you got to where you are and you can do that by writing a better blog bio.

Am I upset at Martha? Nope. Does she owe bloggers an apology?  Nope. In fact, if she came back to apologize I would lose a bit of respect because there are too many people in this world who say what they mean then back-peddle just to save their skin and who needs more of that? One thing I’ve learned living among Germans (and Europeans in general) is to just call a spade a spade and move on. No sugar coating needed. It’s healthier to just say how you feel than to constantly live one way to the public and another way at home. Many of my peers sent me the video and when I first watched it, I honestly only felt surprised because I know how supportive she has been in the past to bloggers including me – I was on her radio show (proof!) as a guest when my second book released. I didn’t really understand where her comment was coming from. Then I thought that perhaps she is just frustrated for whatever reason and most likely, that reason comes down to not understanding the big picture. We all get frustrated in business – especially when we’re being forced to work with and understand people who are self-publishing online at remarkable rates who are changing how people digest information. Ten years ago, everyone ran to magazines for the latest content and trends but today it’s a different story.

One thing Martha said that was particularly interesting to me was a point she made about how bloggers are not experts. I want to speak to that point for a brief moment. I don’t think most of us really go online to hear what the experts think when it comes to the hottest new color for Spring, we’d rather see what our favorite fashion blogger is predicting because it makes us feel like part of something larger and we can contribute by commenting with our own predictions. There is this friendship thing that makes the expert thing not so valuable these days (to me, at least). I don’t need an expert to help me find a dress for a party or to recommend a lipstick. I need experts to give me medical advice and to help me with my taxes. See what I mean? Decorating isn’t rocket science, nor is fashion or art or anything else that most of us in the creative community share online. We mostly just want friends and support, people who care about us, not experts, to give us opinions so we can walk away with some new ideas that “our blogger friend in New York found”. I’m not online to learn expert opinions on topics that are so totally subjective anyway – I’m online to see what Sania is up to and what Bri is wearing and what Joy’s daughter Ruby is up to over on Instagram and whether or not Garance has posted any more of her fabulous Pardon My French videos. What do you think?

So bloggers, who are you? Maybe if you want to answer that question on your blog you can – and then link your BIO below. That way, I can learn more about you and so can my readers but mostly, because it’s just good that you do it for yourself.

Keep your chin up, my friends. Often criticism is gold in disguise.

xo

Holly

(image: holly becker)

Posted in blogs on October 23, 2013

Blogging Your Way e-course: Intention & Style – Now Registering!

I’m so excited to announce that we’ve opened registration for our mega-fabulous upcoming Blogging Your Way e-course called “Intention & Style. I’m 26 weeks pregnant so this is the last class I’ll be doing until next Spring, so catch me now before I begin nesting! :) For this online class, I’ve asked Photographer/Stylist Naomi Robinson from Bakers Royale and Better Homes & Gardens along with Lisa Nieschlag, who is a stylist, graphic designer and cookbook author with her fourth title releasing in January to be my very special co-teachers. (Psst: Lisa also helps produce these really great food recipe videos with her partner, Julia.)

Our e-course will focus on INTENTION as a blogger and will motivate you to really fall in love again with blogging in case you’re currently in a rut because let’s face it, we bloggers can get into ruts. We’ll also focus on STYLE because c’mon, the blogs most of us love have a specific style and really put a lot into their content right? So we’re going to help you to learn how to take professional-looking photos of crafts, interiors, food and more that you’ll be proud to share online and we’ll cover photo editing along with loads of styling how-to’s so you can style your photos in a way that gets your posts a lot more pins and social media shares.

Blogging Your Way e-course: Intention & Style - Now Registering!

 

In this online course we’ll cover:

Blogging Topics Include: How a successful blog is created and maintained, staying strong and true to your brand and vision, growing your audience (in a new way), how to make money as a blogger, pricing your services, why “free exposure” isn’t enough and how to demand payment when companies approach you to work for free, what’s hot in blogging today and what we predict will follow, how to turn your ideas into actions, how to outsource, working with others (including your competitors), how to deal with difficult people and situations such as blogger privacy issues and we’ll even include a case study to examine top blogs and why they work. Plus, we’ll include a bunch of bonus tips and ideas as we go so you’re head will be a-buzz with new and fantastic ideas that you can put into your blog today.

Styling & Photography Topics Include: Taking photos from set up, composition and styling to shooting bright, shooting dark & moody and post editing. We’ll also cover camera settings and talk about aperture, exposure, exposure compensation and white balance for natural light, artificial light and for mixed lighting. In addition, we’ll explain macro photography and show you how to set up and the capture details of smaller objects from floral arrangements to tiny finds from the flea market. Another topic we’ve included is photo editing and how to process Raw files using Adobe Lightroom 5. You can use a cloud version of this software via the Adobe website for Free for a 30 day period. For the styling portion of our class, we’ll take you from A-Z from how to choose a theme, location ideas, prop selection, planning your shoot day and how to  to set up a room like a pro along with setting up vignettes or objects on a tabletop, food styling how to’s and more.

Blogging Your Way e-course: Intention & Style - Now Registering!

 

Class: Blogging Your Way: Intention & Style e-course
Duration: November 1-29, 2013 – includes 12 months forum and site access
More details: HERE

REGISTER HERE – We’ll close registration when the class fills up!

Hope to see you soon!

xo,
Holly

Posted in blogs on October 23, 2013

What Blogging Means To Me Now + Tomorrow

Hello dear readers. I want to talk to you about something that I wonder if others out there battle with that I’ve been battling with A LOT lately. It has to do with blogging and my career as a “pro” blogger and deciding just where I’m at with it all. And I need to share this because it comes from the heart and I’ve always prided myself on being as completely transparent as possible because I think you deserve it as my friends and readers.

You're gonna here me roar

You may not have seen me a lot on my blog this summer. I was sick for months during my first trimester (thankfully that’s over!) and had a book to produce, then write. During my quiet pause, I’ve been blogging weekly but also mix in posts from some wonderful columnists whom I’ve hired to write on decor8, and they’ve been doing a beautiful job providing quality content covering everything from trend reports to home tours. And I love them so much because they are the best bunch of women ever. I feel so blessed!

But I miss blogging full-time, daily, tremendously. In fact I feel concerned over my lack of full-time presence here, not because I’m trying to be the queen of some popularity contest because frankly, my blog is still receiving amazing press coverage each month from magazines, newspapers and television networks all over the world. I’m not worried about advertisers or numbers or anything at all related to income. It has to do with JOY. You can ask my husband, I am one of those rare people whom success and money does nothing to contribute to my joy. I was as joyful before blogging as I am today, just in different ways, and I’m happy to report that I had little monetarily in my life ten years ago – I went from zero to financial hero thanks to starting my own business and I’m proud of that but it only makes me proud in the sense that I like doing what makes me, and others, happy. If it ever becomes miserable, or dishonest, or “selling out”, I will quit immediately and become a full-time interior designer or shop owner or whatever else – anything to avoid doing something that isn’t genuine and meaningful. JOY MATTERS PEOPLE. Really.

You're gonna here me roar

I’ve seen a lot of blogs go pro and those blog authors change. Their blogs are like infomercials and peppered with links and sponsored everything (without bothering to disclose it) and while that works for them, I don’t read blogs like that because their voices have changed. I prefer to earn money through books, teaching, consulting and the many other ways that help me to personally monetize my brand without feeling like my advertisers own me. Lots of bloggers are doing very honest and lovely things to monetize their blogs and I’m super proud of them, some have great videos and gorgeous photos and work with sponsors to produce wonderful things but others are completely forgetting the values that made blogging successful in the first place – which is not only going to damage them in the long run but could ultimately damage all of us if we don’t fight hard to stay true to our own vision and voice. It’s okay to have ads, and sponsors and whatever else you can do to drive your business forward – I do it – and so do the best of the best on the web who write on their blogs. But we have to remember why blogging became so successful in the first place…

Bloggers became popular for ONE reason. Sincere, honest reviews.

Before bloggers were deemed cool and lonnnng before sponsored posts, ads and affiliate links, we just wrote stuff from the heart and sometimes, we even bitched and moaned about things we didn’t like which then motivated a lot of large companies to stop playing around with the little guy and to listen more to their consumers. Now that companies see the ENORMOUS income potential by working with bloggers, because frankly our audiences come to us FOR our honest reviews, they’ve entered our space and often try to change us to become more like them – a bit sly, thinking about our bottom line despite whether or not we feel good about it. And though I love working with companies that respect where I draw the line, and have partnered with some amazing companies on advertorials for magazines, etc. many of my own blogger friends have stepped wayyyy over their line of comfort to a zone that they cannot return from once going over “there”. But this blog post isn’t really about all of this. It’s about ME and where I’m personally at as a blogger. It’s about whether I’m blogging for money or blogging for me.

I’m blogging for me. Then for my brand, because blogging has given me a way to grow it out and reach more lovely people. Then for money because I need to earn a certain amount of money to survive – my husband and I both freelance, it’s not an easy life. So I wanted to level with everyone and tell you where I’m at.

So here’s where I’m at.

I will take a year off from book writing and from accepting a million projects that don’t fuel me and traveling a ton for the sake of booking speaking engagements – some of which I feel no personal connection to. I want FOCUS. If I get on a plane, it will be to connect with you or to teach, not to stand before an audience at a trade show where I often feel incredibly uncomfortable. In 2014, I’m not going to write a single book. I’ve been writing a book-a-year for the past 3 years and I’ve loved every second of it, and I can’t WAIT for you to see my next title set to release next Spring – we’re throwing a big party in London in May and hopefully a few more in America – and I’d love to see you. But you won’t see anymore books or book launch parties or book tours from me after that for at least another 1-2 years.

I want my focus to go back to where my heart really is which is RIGHT HERE with all of you and in my e-classes and teaching live workshops as time (and my new baby on the way!) permits. I have so much to give to you all, especially as I get older and just see MORE at this age than I did when I started 8 years ago, and I want to do that on decor8 more and through Blogging Your Way… And I have learned through all of the other wonderful jobs that I’ve taken over the years as a blogger, that blogging is my absolute joy. It’s where I can always be spontaneous, where I can be me, and where I have never cared what advertisers or sponsors wanted from me – and this will never change.

So that’s where I’m at. I’ve been quiet around here lately but I’m planning to be here a lot more the moment my book is finished, which will be in October, then I’m back daily to share with you along with my columnists at least until the baby comes, then I may be blogging with baby on my lap as he merrily taps on the keys along with me.

Remember friends and fellow bloggers – finding balance and joy trumps ALL other things.

Much love,
Holly

(image of me by thorsten becker, outtakes from my upcoming book)

Posted in blogs on September 26, 2013

Books:

Available now on Amazon

Further editions available include: Portuguese, Danish, Czech, Slovak, French

Courses:

Next dates

Blogging Your Way for Beginners
e-course, April 17 – May 15, 2014
Find out more and sign up now.

Styling With Holly Becker
London, May 2014 (Date TBD)