The Blogcademy, San Francisco

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The night before our first Blogcademy workshop of the year I turned to Gala and squealed “I AM SO EXCITED!” It had been nearly six months since our last class in Auckland and I was dying to get cracking again.

… And I wasn’t disappointed. I think this actually might have been one of the best classes ever!!

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The reason being that every single gorgeous creature that came along was enthusastic, driven, with a unique story to tell. Esme was a writer with some damn good style, Mariah passionately ran her organic skin care spa line (and had treats for everyone!), Erin was a sewing champion and Hannah paints her face everyday and posts photos on her blog!

Paula holds the world record for drawing Fred Flintstone (!) and blogs about fashion for the over 40s and Angela is a pastry connoisseur. I mean, goodness, what a diverse bunch ‘o babes!

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20 Ways to Keep Your Facebook Page Active

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Like most small business owners, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. We might all moan about whatever new development they implement next, but it is still, by far, the social media channel that brings the most traffic to my blog, and the one where the most reader engagement happens. Although the reach of your page may be decreasing due to whatever it is Facebook is up to at the moment, it is still a vital tool for any small business owner.

Here are 20 easy ways to keep your page active. The key with Facebook, or any social media outlet really, is to post things that your fans will want to engage with. Don’t just use it as a place to spam your latest business updates or blog links. Using a mixture of these ideas will help to naturally engage your fans, and over time, up your overall reach.

1. Update it regularly (at least daily)

2. Post funny, shareable memes

3. Ask questions

4. Run a contest

5. Share sneak peeks

6. Post funny, real life, stories that your audience will relate to

7. Post inspiring quotes

9. Engage with other people’s pages

10. Start conversations

11. Vary the lengths of your updates

12. Share trivia

13. Re-post old blog content

14. Run opinion polls

15. Share news stories

16. Give your fans special offers/discounts

17. Post infographics

18. Include videos

19. Remember who your audience are

20. Use Facebook Insights to post when your fans are online

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How to Email Like a Pro (or, How to Get a Reply from a Busy Person)

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Dear Kat
I’m a new blogger and I’m really struggling with getting my name out there… well, it’s not even that really, I’m struggling to get any kind of response from people. You see, I’ve emailed a bunch of people in the industry that I admire, sometimes to ask for a little advice, but mostly to just introduce myself and say hello… but no one is replying to me. I’m starting to feel invisible!

It’s so difficult to get a new blog or business off the ground as it is and I already feel like giving up. What am I doing wrong?

“Getting your name out there” can be one of the biggest hurdles for new bloggers and business owners. You have this great idea but no-one knows you exist! There must be an easy answer… right? Unfortunately you couldn’t be further from the truth. Effective networking and marketing need to go way beyond simply sitting behind your computer and firing off a few emails or tweets and hoping someone pays attention. I’m sorry to break it to you, but they won’t.

Emailing people you admire, or want something from, is a skill in itself, so today I thought I’d address this issue specifically.

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The first thing you need to realise is that the non-responses are probably not personal. It’s unlikely you’ve mortally offended any of these people.

To be brutally honest with you though, I hate getting messages like this. It’s not that I don’t want to help where I can, but sometimes it can all just feel very demanding. Like, they want me to do something for them (and as harsh as it sounds) there’s nothing in it for me.

Also, a lot of these emails feature the same irritating mistakes. Like most of the people I’d imagine you are emailing, I am very time poor. It’s actually quite presumptuous to expect a busy person to give up some of their precious time to help you “get your name out” when you’ve effectively just cold called them.

So what can you do to make sure the busy person you want something from might actually reply?

Your email is personalised and genuine

If you’re emailing someone you admire, either to just to introduce yourself or to ask for advice, then for goodness sakes make it personal. This is not the time to use the CC or BCC tool! A mass email stands out a mile and efficiency should never win over manners.

Always address the person by name. I get hundreds (I wish I was exaggerating) of emails a week from PR companies, small businesses or people wanting something from me that simply start with “Hi there”, or “Dear Sir/ Madam” (!) or even worst “Dear Blogger” REALLY!? To me this looks like you’ve either a) sent the same email to multiple people or b) can’t be bothered to find out what my name is (and for goodness sakes it’s IN my email address!) 

You need to show that you are genuinely interested in whoever you’re emailing, especially if you are asking for a favour. People are less likely to ignore you if they see your passion and personality coming through in your message.

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You Will Be Judged (Or You Will Be Ignored)

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Seth Godin once said “You will be judged (or you will be ignored). Those are pretty much the only two choices.” What he’s saying is that you’ll either be judged for being different, new, or wrong… or you’ll be ignored for being the same, boring, or uninspiring. Your choice.

Sure, not everyone will ‘get you’ if you take a different route. They might not want to follow you online or go on to book your services. But your journey is not for them. Being the same as everyone else is boring. Being the same as everyone else means you’ll blend into the masses.

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The Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me

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Last Thursday I heard the sad news that the shopping channel I used to work for went into administration. Everyone was called up that morning and told not to come into work. They all lost their jobs with immediate effect.

Although from the outside looking in it wasn’t a massive surprise (there’d been whisperings of it ‘being near the end’ for years, even before I left in 2011) I was genuinely gutted. Gutted for all my friends who now found themselves unemployed, but also really sad that the place that gave me my first ‘proper’ job was no more.

While speaking to my friends in the aftermath I started to think about what happened when I left. I was not only really lucky to have figured out what I really wanted to do, but this place gave me the opportunity to explore that whilst still having a job that paid the bills. I was the first producer to ever be allowed to go part-time. I worked nights over the weekend at the channel while I tackled all things Rock n Roll Bride during the week.

I then started to wonder what I’d do if I was in their position now. Would I go and find another bill-paying job, or use it as a sign to really start to follow my dreams? I’ve had endless talks with my ex-colleagues over the years about how they really wanted to start this, or try that, but there were always excuses not to… there was always a “but…”

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How to be an Artist

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When people asked you what you wanted to do when you grew up, I’d imagine that not a lot of you said “work in an office”, or “stack shelves in retail…” If you were anything like me, you didn’t quite know where you would end up, but you knew it was going to be anything but a boring career. Ballerina, artist, journalist and film critic were all on my list at one point or another… What about you?

Those of us that want to make a living from something creative often come up against opposition. From the guidance counsellor who says “well, that’s all very nice, but no-one actually makes any money doing that… ” to the concerned parents and friends who worry you’ll live your life constantly hungry or working at a dead-end minimum wage job while ‘following your dreams’.

This can all be intensely demotivating, but more than that, it can push us away from our passions. It can thrust us into doing a degree we don’t care about because it leads to a well paid job, or applying for any old thing listed in the back of a newspaper because we need to pay the bills. If this is how you want to live your life, than great, don’t let anyone tell you you’re less of a worthwhile person because of that. But for the rest of us, well, that just isn’t an option.

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When people warn you away from your dreams, although they are most probably doing so because they love you and are concerned for your welfare, it is their own fear that motivates them. They believe that a stable income, the guarantee of a P45 and an attractive pension scheme is the way to be successful. But we know that this isn’t the only choice. We know that living our lives based on our own belief system is the only true way to be successful, fulfilled and happy!

Sure, making a living from something creative is a million times harder than living a 9-5 existence. As an artist you are in charge of your own destiny. You need to have self-discipline, passion for what you do and the drive to make it happen for yourself. You need to put yourself and your work out there. You have to march to the beat of your own drum, and allow your work  to be up for public criticism or ridicule. It’s hard, really hard.

You’ll get paid in drips and drabs… and sometimes not at all. You’ll have months when you eat nothing but beans on toast or can’t pay your rent. You’ll have to work unusual and antisocial hours. You’ll have to be constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to earn a crust from what you do. Nothing about this path is easy.

Going to work in an office is much less difficult. You put on a suit, hop on the train and as long as you don’t do anything too terrible you’ll get paid regularly. But what would you rather do? Is living a commuter life really worth it? Wouldn’t you rather wear flower crowns on the train instead of pinstripes?

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