As a baby in the blog game, I had Grand Plans to totally nail everything I attempted. I’m still loaded with unwavering optimism, but I definitely did not nail everything.
I’m naturally analytical, so I am constantly evaluating my progress and looking for ways to kick bad habits. But everybody knows that hindsight’s 20/20, so I can easily look back and pinpoint my biggest blogging faults. Even with my amateur status.
We all know time management is key to busy schedules. And with so many things to accomplish with a blog, these are the top time-drainers that sneak their way into my schedule. This list serves the purpose of being my reminder of how to NOT spend nap time every day.
*This post may contain affiliate links. Have no fear! I’d never suggest products that I do not whole-heartedly recommend and/or use myself. Please see my disclosure for more information.*
1. Never-Ending Theme Customizing
This is a guilty pleasure of mine, and it has completely hijacked perfectly productive DAYS of my time…. I can’t even tell you how many hours I have wasted fumbling around my tech specs…
Back in the myspace days, I was one of those that ‘coded’ and customized my layouts over. and over. and over. I remember being 14 and thinking “wow! I can’t believe I’m doing this on a Friday night…”
And here I am, over ten years later… ‘coding’ on a Friday night. Oh boy.
Instead, I wish I had taken my time shopping for themes and cataloguing EXACTLY what I liked about other blogs/websites. Not having a clear vision of what I want my blog to look like has allowed it to evolve indefinitely! Ugh. Step One, People! Idk what’s wrong with me…
I finally made the investment in a well-reviewed and obviously successful theme for bloggers. I recently cashed in on an Elegant Themes Divi Layout and it is exactly what I need! These themes are so easily customizable, I don’t waste hours with trial and error. I used to find an error and jump into finding a solution and perform a lobotomy on my source code. This usually ended with me reinstalling the original theme and losing any good changes I had made…
Now I just jump into the editor and the problem is solved within 2 minutes. AND it’s beautiful. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The hype is real! And the best part? Elegant themes are one of those digital products with a 30-day refund policy which is pretty hard for me to pass up. Try it here!
2. Get your Brand off the Backburner
You know that branding is key to any successful business. I know that too, and yet my personal brand has completely escaped me for YEARS. I have avoided the subject of identifying a brand for my online presence. The reasons probably require a professional, so I will spare you. But this is not something I should have put off.
After spending years with bad social media habits, I feel myself drowning in a kiddie pool full of 12 year old Instagram stars. I can’t be alone in this. Some of these kids have unbelievable skills, and I’m over here like “look at this terribly lit picture of my dog doing nothing”.
Just figuring out a color scheme should have been handled immediately. Rebranding is a thing, but it shouldn’t be done often.
It’s not perfect, but consistently combining my VIBE with the same colors and fonts will build a clear foundation enough before I truly find my brand. Because let’s be real, a brand wasn’t built in a day. I’m sure it will continue to evolve, but for now I’m going to stick with my “starter brand” until I have a fully drawn out idea of my blog.
Now, I have a phrase that I use to bring out the same vibe in every photo I choose and each post I draft. It’s still in the early stages, but you will start to see things in a more cohesive light. This is not a whole picture of my brand, but it gives me the direction I need to keep unrelated content off my handles (and blog).
I’d hire a professional, but frankly I don’t trust myself to not waste my money and end up feeling disconnected from something so personal. I do plan on reevaluating my brand each year. Find out what’s working for me and what needs to be replaced. Eventually, I will definitely be hiring a branding specialist.
3. Finding my NICHE
I shouldn’t really call this a time-wasting task, because it is a necessary part of the process. But I have had so many ideas and interests, and dialing it back is tough! I still find myself wanted to write about things that just aren’t suitable for my “official brand” above.
Finding a niche takes a lot of thought, and there are so many strategies to work in, it’s a gradual process. This is definitely something I wish I had in place before even bothering with a brand and theme.
Let it happen. But I need deadlines.
Starting a blog is a big undertaking and a long, gradual process. My niche has evolved and feeds into my evolving brand. I’ve decided to stick with my three primary talking points, while dabbling here and there to see what sticks. I gave myself 6 months to figure out which avenues I should pursue.
One that helps, one that inspires, and one that motivates.
4. Signing Up for Email Fatigue
I am very quick to give my email address to bloggers (or anyone). I know the rules, and I know that I can unsubscribe at any time. So I subscribe to anything that piques my interest. Needless to say….
My inbox is exploding! It has given me serious email fatigue, and depreciates the value of the information I receive. I find myself reading long, well-written landing pages, only to be pumped to partake in the free course/webinar/group, but never follow through.
Not only does this waste time clearing out my inbox, but it’s wasted time hunting the stuff down. AND it makes it WAY too easy to miss critical emails from clients! This is absolutely a black hole for me, and going on my list of things to NOT do in 2018.
I haven’t really found one. Have you? I need all the help I can get.
I’ve become much more particular about how many awesome incentives I opt-in to. I’ve dabbled with different organization techniques, but there just isn’t enough time in my day.
5. Rushing through setup
Plug-ins, mail providers, SEO, and everything in between. They all get installed/registered for so easily, and it can start to feel like it’s all the same story. Hard NO on this one.
With all the super helpful bloggers (and I mean no sarcasm), we all fall into the “5 best plugins for a perfect blog”. But just taking anyone’s word for it and not properly integrating or installing a plugin can make a huge impact. How would you feel if I told you there was a full 2 weeks with no google analytics attached to my site?
Would you be sick? I was. The worst part? My “best day ever” occurred during that time. No audience analysis for me.. yay.
This is a big one, a properly prepared site will have less trouble establishing itself as a web authority and rank higher with SEO.
I spent close to an entire day reactivating plugins. One. By. One. And digging into the settings as deep as I could understand. This is absolutely one of the scenarios that require the difficult (read: draining) approach.
By taking your time and wasting what feels like hours, you will actually save yourself from spoiling your precious blogging foundation. Without the right tools in place, so many elements of your hard work can be overshadowed by errors and glitches and yikes.
I hope these can spare some baby bloggers from the same pitfalls I fell into. Please share any other things to avoid. I am always looking for ways to improve efficiency and productivity, so fire away!
As a blogger, filling your tax return and sorting out your tax-deductible expenses can be the bane of your life. But, even as a hobby blogger that makes a minimal and sporadic income, it’s exceptionally important that you register as self-employed and start declaring your income as soon as you’ve got one, however small it may be.
Most bloggers find that their first tax return is nowhere near as complicated as they expect. As long as you keep track of your earnings with the use of both a Pay stub generator and a spreadsheet, it’s incredibly easy to work out your income for the year. My favorite accounting software is Freshbooks because it is sooooo user-friendly.
But, one area many bloggers neglect is their tax deductibles. They think that because their blog earns less than their tax allowance, it doesn’t matter. Or, they fail to realize that they are purchasing things for their business.
It can also be confusing.
New bloggers or small business owners often make the mistake of thinking that when they claim an expense, they get all of that money back. As this is often how it works as an employee, you claim back the money you’ve spent on travel from your company. It’s a little different when you are self-employed.
- Say you spend $100 on equipment for your blog.
- You declare that $100 as an expense and the tax you paid on it gets taken off your taxable income.
- So, you’re taxable income goes down and so does your tax bill
At the end of the year, deducting the right things can save you a fortune, or even mean that you don’t have to pay any at all. (!!!) This is even more important if you’ve got another job, as your self-employment will be classed as a second income and the tax that you pay will be higher.
Here are just a few of the things you ought to be deducting:
If you blog at home and your blog makes money, you work from home. This means that you can claim back some of your homes bills. You need things like gas, electric and a phone line to be able to work.
In most cases, this is a little different to simply claiming a purchase. You usually get a set allowance for the year; this changes all of the time, so check what you are allowed before you file.
Monthly Blog Expenses
Blogging is hard work, and exceptionally time-consuming. So, many of us use services to make it easier. These can all be deducted. Think of every subscription or service you pay for regularly; this includes things like hosting, cloud storage, automation services and domain charges.
The Things You Need
When you write some blog posts, you don’t need anything. It all comes from you. But, for other things, there are expenses.
If you write a recipe, you have to buy the ingredients. Try to shop for these separately to your other household shopping, so that they are on a separate receipt. This will make it easier to prove they are a blog expense if ever you need to.
Most blogging will be done online. But, you may need notepads, paper, pens and other supplies. Big one-off purchases like laptops or cameras are also tax deductible if you use them to blog.
That’s a wrap on tax talk. Be sure to check out Freshbooks for a simple jumpstart on your blog and side hustling finances. What’s your method for tracking expenses?
Hey “reader”! Strap in, because this is a long ride.
EDIT** I’ve renamed this post. I saw a lost opportunity and decided to take it. This is my BLOGRESS REPORT. And these will forever be my blogress reports.
I just realized it has been a full 3 (and a half) months since I started this blog. Crazy exciting, and I can’t believe how fast that went. But I wanted to write a blog prog (progress report, get it?) for you all to see how this journey has been going, and for me to document progress, set new goals, and hold myself accountable. No turning back now, it’s on the internet.
July was quiet. Very bloggy. Very learn-y. I’d been working with some copywriting clients, and that is where the bulk of my efforts were placed. August, however, got busy. More clients, more work, my kid brother moved in, and I prepared to send my husband back to school and simultaneously taking on single mom life.
At the end of August, we moved my husband up to New York for school.
During that moving weekend, one of my cousins passed away. I’m not trying to throw a pity party, but this absolutely shook me. It was very tragic. Transitioning to single, working mom life couldn’t have come at a worse time. But we pushed through, and the following weekend was the vigil, out of town. I had back-to-back blog free weekends. Not great for business, but understandable. I owed myself a break from some of my more ambitious #BlogGoals.
The weekend after that was then reserved for Hurricane Irma…. Need I say more? All of my local friends and family were unscathed, but the weekend (plus several days before and after) were shot. Altogether, September was off to a bad start.
Then I practically lost my mind. I almost broke from the stress of my husband being gone, my cousin passing, working full-time (and hating every minute of those 40+ hours), and being the only one caring for my baby, my dog, my house, and myself. There are a few extra details in there that I am leaving out, but basically… I quit my 9-to-5 and took on full-time motherhood. Luckily, I had been plotting my escape for over a year because this is where I wanted to be all along. I can honestly say I am so happy to [finally] be with my baby and spending my energy in a way that doesn’t make me absolutely miserable.
I launched this bad boy on July 2nd and worked on it at my office job. I can’t lie, it was pretty awesome to get paid to blog while I was stuck there anyway. Things were very slow. There were A LOT of distractions, and blogging isn’t THAT easy. The juggling act was pretty tough, and I’m a DIYer which didn’t help me on that learning curve.
But it was nice to take my time. I love to learn, so it was (and still is) hard for me to pay someone to do something that I could figure out on my own. Even if it does take several months. That probably isn’t the most profitable route for a blogger to take, but I can see myself loosening up on the reigns in the future!
Since I quit, things have been going NUTS. My traffic began to really pick up at the beginning of October, so I’ll save that for next quarter haha!
Mistakes I made
- Waiting to get on Facebook was probably the biggest blogging mistake I’ve made yet. Yes, pinterest is the biggest traffic driver, but my traffic started to SKYROCKET (on a baby blog scale) once I began connecting with bloggers on Facebook. The only thing that stopped me from making the leap onto the book was my own insecurities. Putting my blog out there for friends, family, and acquaintances made me uncomfortable, but I had a glass of wine and created my Facebook Page.
- When I first got this thing, I bought a theme through Mojo Marketplace. One word: waste. There are sooooo many free themes, and my paid theme ended up having so many bugs and crappy features that just held me back from my full potential. I am now using a free theme (suggested by Suzi at Start a Mom Blog) & I love it. I’ll probably get a new one eventually, but for now I’m focusing on what really matters in blogging: content!
- My Tailwind and Board Booster free trials ended… I will probably end up paying for them soon. I’m sad that I wasted my free trials so early on 🙁
Since I quit my job to blog/write/mom full-time, things have been busy. Maybe a little too quick for comfort. I purchased Suzi’s Blog by Number course to get a framework and find my focus, & she is AMAZING. I absolutely love her personality and teaching style. She has such an effective methodical approach to blogging and that is EXACTLY how I work. I’m so glad I found her. I had been very hesitant to purchase courses or anything, but it is truly awesome to see how much value some bloggers create. Much more than I expected.
I am a member of several affiliate groups, but I haven’t cashed in on anything yet. I’m still working out a lot of my content ideas/outlines. My inspiration has been out of control since before I began blogging. Big Magic has definitely gotten me fired up a bit too. I don’t let a single idea slip my mind, which makes focusing on the tasks at hand pretty difficult. With a new full-time gig as a work-at-home mom, I’m still learning how to use my time effectively.
A couple achievements: I was nominated by a Liebster for new bloggers and I was ranked alongside some of my fave millennial mom blogs. I was ranked #20 out of 30 & I couldn’t be happier! Utter insanity, if you ask me. I am so surprised and excited they found me through an organic search. Those weeks of studying SEO are paying off, I guess.
*excluding my copywriting gigs. I purchased a separate domain for my services, AshleyDicarlo.com!
I made $0 blogging, and I’m not even upset! It is a marathon after all.. I’m building up my stamina right now, and that is a lot of work.
Traffic: 1,107 views
From July through September. Not awesome, but I had to start somewhere! As I said, very learny… I find myself getting upset reading reports from others, but I realized we are at completely different places in life let alone blogging. No more beating myself up. I’m just happy to be here!
And as you can see, October is taking a turn in the right direction. This makes me sooooo happy I left my job, even if it is just a new form of stress.
Goals for Next Quarter
Build my email list
- I have a couple awesome opt-ins brewing in my mind. Creating them is another animal. Then I need to have the associated posts put together, but we’ll see which one happens first. I’m not opposed to rearranging the order of operations.
- I really just want to get to know the people who find me, and find a way to help them. Having said that….
Expand my focus to more topics that interest me/my readers
- I realize it isn’t advised to have a niche that is too broad, but I am still figuring out what works for me. Besides, I’m here to have some fun.
- Hopefully this lures in some more readers that I can get to know!
- My original traffic goal for the quarter was 2000 views. And I already passed that! Even before I hit it, I told my husband I wanted to increase it to 5000. He told me not to, but now I have to. So 5000 it is! 🙂
Work on my brand identity
- Enough said. I don’t know who I want to be when I grow up! Forgive me.
Improve my social media presence
- My instagram is mostly personal, but I’ve officially made the switch! I officially have over 500 followers! I’d like to reach 750.
- My facebook page is still about a month old, but hasn’t hit 100 likes yet. I’d like to set my goal at 200 likes by the end of December.
- Pinterest is my home, and I have almost 300 followers. Apparently that doesn’t matter. Ha! My pinterest goal is to organize my boards and join new group boards. As well as limiting my efforts with a scheduler/strategy.
Overall, I’m not super impressed with my first quarter performance, but I’m going easy on myself. Life is hard, and that’s kinda why I’m here? I’m excited to actually have goals written out this time around, and I can’t wait to update in January! No matter what, I’m here to stay I really love the community and all of the things I am learning. No one can take that away from me, so I’m gonna soak it up.
Thanks for reading!
All the best –
I feel like my blog-stars are aligning, and just in time. Since I quit my job, I’ve been committed to my online presence and this little biz I got growing. I can honestly say I love it here (on my couch, on the internet ha)!
But I owe this one to Taylor at Simple Living Nursing Mama! (Thanks girl :)) She has such a wholesome and honest perspective. It’s so nice to see real nice people sharing real nice (& positive) stories. Go check her out for a daily dose of appreciation!