Tough Love & Advice for Struggling Bloggers

Someone once said “Your dream job does not exist, you must create it” and never is this more prevalant than in the blogging game. There are few rules, there are limited guides and the most sucessful players are those that forge their own paths and do something unique. So how then, can you know where to turn when you start to feel sluggish? When the dreaded plateau hits? Or when you feel fresh out of ideas?

I read an interesting article by Penelope Trunk, entitled, “Reality check: You’re not going to make money from your blog” last week. In it she said, “Almost everyone should forget about making money directly from blogging. It’s so unlikely that it’s a total waste of your time trying. I am actually shocked at how ubiquitous the idea is that blogging is a get-rich-quick scheme. Or even a get-rich-slowly scheme. It’s not. Blogging is a great career tool for creating opportunities for yourself.”

Whist on many points I wholeheartedly agree (a very small percentage of bloggers will be able to reach that holy grail of earning enough to quit the day job and the fact that people still think it’s ‘easy’ or a ‘get rich quick’ scheme baffles me). But I also want to give you some hope… Or maybe the kick up the backside you need if you’re sat there wondering “why isn’t it ever me?”

Blogging is hard work. The internet is littered with disregarded and abandoned blogs. Blogs that have been dropped as soon as the expected rewards didn’t come flooding in after 6 months. Let me give it to you straight. Blogging is not easy and making money from blogging is even more difficult. I work harder and longer than I ever have but it’s wonderful. I have the best job in the world and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. You have to have passion in this game. Without it you’ll give up in no time at all.

But I know for many of you, you see no end in sight. You wonder how you can possibly elevate your blogging from a hobby blog to one that actually makes you money or gives you the notoriety that you crave. So today I thought I’d give you some tough love, and share with you some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

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Let’s Make the Web Faster – Images

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

Beautiful photographs are our bread and butter. They’re eye-catching, enticing and transcend language barriers. But they are often the heaviest elements on a web page and so they’re the focus of today’s article on speeding up your site.

Resizing

When uploading photos to your blog you typically don’t need to preserve the original resolution. For example, the main content column of Rock n Roll Bride (i.e. this bit you’re reading now) is only 576 pixels wide while a JPEG from a 15MP camera is over eight times that. If you’re simply embedding photos in-line with the blog post, make sure you are resizing the images before uploading. WordPress will do this auto-magically leaving you one less thing to worry about but other blogging platforms may vary. I dug around and found an old photo which was saved straight from the camera, the filesize (and therefore download size, to your visitors) is 3524KB (~3MB). If you look back at last week’s article on measuring your website you will see this is around the same as our entire front page, just for a single image. However, after resizing in Photoshop to 576px wide it shrinks to just 210KB, a 16-fold reduction.

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Let’s be Frenemies

Work friends are a strange concept. You’re thrown together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and expected to not only get on but to combine your differences to work together. And then you’re expected to want to hang out in your own time, go to office parties… oh and add each other on facebook too. If not you’re bring rude right?

I guess that’s why, no matter how much we say it won’t happen, when you leave a place of work you rarely end up keeping much contact with these people. There are exceptions of course, but as harsh as it sounds, when the inevitable does happen it usually becomes pretty obvious that the friendships were never really that genuine in the first place.

As weird as it is in employment, I’ve found that the issue can be even more complex when you run your own business. In a highly competitive market like the wedding industry, it can be all to easy to accidently fall into the frienemy trap. You chat to these people on twitter, you congratulate each other on achievements, you maybe even recommend them to clients or socialise at industry events… but let’s be honest with ourselves, some of these people you probably can’t stand.

Frenemies are a dangerous thing. Surrounding yourself with people that don’t really like you (or who you don’t really like) is not a healthy way to live or work. Someone usually ends up getting hurt when they find out the friendship they thought was genuine really wasn’t (which usually only happens when one person is being fake), or you eventually end up having an almightly public bust up (when you both can’t really stand each other). To me, there is nothing worse than fakery (except when it comes to hair colour!) If someone doesn’t like me I’d rather know now that find out later. There is nothing more hurtful than finding out someone you thought you were close to has been bitching about you behind your back. To me, that’s a hundred times worse than just avoiding the person all together.

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The Inspirations: Austin Kleon – Steal Like An Artist

I was introduced to the work of Austin Kleon by a reader who emailed me a link to his latest book, Steal Like an Artist, after attending my School of Rock workshop. She thought I’d like it (thanks Emily!) and she was right. I bought it straight away and devoured the whole thing in one sitting.

Austin uses drawings and simple analogies to share his vision of what makes an artist… theft. Sounds controversial huh? Well it’s not… it’s awesome… and hugely enlightening. I’d enourage you all to go out and read it right now.

I wanted to know more so I decided to interview the man himself… enjoy!

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Let’s Make The Web Faster

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

At the School of Rock Kat talks about the importance of serving up a snappy website experience to your visitors. A statistic from Mashable claims that one in four visitors will abandon a website that takes over four seconds to load. While visitors do tend to be more tolerant of slower websites in image-heavy markets such as photography the underlying message is still important for us to hear.

Personally, I hate waiting for really slow sites to load. If I need to see their content bad enough I’ll usually wait it out but I will rarely return and I certainly will not spend any time poking around the archives for more hidden gems, or checking out their advertisers. Instead, it’s right back to Google to click on the next search result.

The time you keep somebody waiting while loading your site on their computer is part of that first impression package, along with branding and layout. Most people understand the importance of the last two but rarely consider page speed along with them. I was looking at a photographer’s blog recently which actually took over three minutes to finish downloading, I’m not even exaggerating. I was so shocked I refreshed it to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. I’m a sucker for punishment, right?

The reason I bring this up is because I recently discovered our own page load times had gone from speedy to slouchy. This discovery flew in the face of our internal motto: Serve beautiful photography, fast.

I’ve since come to realise our website had been getting marginally slower month by month. But because Team Rock n Roll Bride has reasonably powerful computers and super-fast Internet access we never noticed it directly. It wasn’t until I was trying to load the site on a slightly outdated laptop and over a slower connection that I first became aware. And just think, as smart phones, tablets and 3G become more prevalent a light-weight, blazing-fast website is increasingly important.

So, over the last month I have been up to my elbows learning about the surprisingly complex world of page load times and I’ve picked up a few tricks which I think almost every small business could benefit from.

Benchmarking

To find out how fast (or slow) your website really is you need to gather some data. My two favourite tools for this job are Google Analytics and Google Chrome. This is where it starts to get interesting, or tricky… depending on your perspective.

Google Analytics

Around November 2011 Google Analytics started collecting page load times from approximately 1% of all visitors. This means, as long as you are using Analytics, you have some data available to you right now! Just go into your reports and choose Content > Site Speed > Overview to see the graph. The problem with this is, even with our not-insignificant traffic, a 1% sample rate creates a very erratic graph. A visitor from Uganda is going to have a much slow experience than one from the UK, for example.

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The Purple Cow: A Guest Post by Charlotte White

“Well, it doesn’t really have anything to do with cake. Shouldn’t it be something a bit more ‘cakey’?” he said.  I was really excited to be sat in my first proper ‘grown-up’ business meeting, up until this moment.

It was my first year as Restoration Cake and I was trying to get to grips with the concept of charging strangers for my creations. The afternoon was to be spent with a colleague who knew all the financial stuff. I went to the meeting with a website, a Twitter account, a growing list of orders, and a name.

“Restoration doesn’t really say ‘cake’,” he said.

The name Restoration Cake came to me in early 2009, as I sat at my dressing table (yes, I am totally spoilt) putting on my make-up to go to work in an office I absolutely hated. My boss didn’t like me and didn’t really attempt to hide this fact. I had just bought a house with the man I love and there was also this big thing looming called a ‘recession’ so I kept calm and I carried on.

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