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It’s now been more than two weeks since the last day at Alt and although I already posted my Recap – Round 1,  before I shared Round 2 I needed to take some time to mull over the things I learned .  I’ll apologize in advance for this word-heavy blog…I promise pretty pictures will be back tomorrow! In the meantime, here is a small snapshot of what I learned….

1) Your blog is your personal brand. It should reflect you and look professional.  There should be consistency with your header, fonts and icons.

I have come to realize that I need my blog to be re-designed professionally.  I’ve redesigned my header (and still I am not 100 percent sold on it), and need to get the sidebar in order.  I would love to do it myself but the reality is I don’t have time to learn code right now and my time is worth too much these days.

2) Always post the best photos possible. Most of the beautiful photos you see on blogs are Photoshopped, so learn to use a photo editing program and present the most professional looking shots you can.

I do not take great photos, but I am learning to use Photoshop to my advantage. At some point I think I should take a photography course but in the meantime, Photoshop is going to become my new bestie.

1) Post original content that reflects you. Content should be based on your research, your expertise, and your experiences.

Readers can find nice pictures and great home decor ideas anywhere, but they will come back to your blog because they like how your have presented it or like the story you tell about it. Ultimately, your blog should be a reflection of you.  I need to ensure that I’m spending equal time, if not more time, on the story/idea for a post as I do finding or creating the photos for a post.

2) Hosting giveaways, having a “if you liked this post, you might like these posts” sections on your blog, and linking to social media (Facebook, Twitter) will all help increase your readership.

I have been relatively active on Twitter and have recently started a Recreated Facebook page, but I have yet to host a giveaway. I have hesitated because I don’t know how to go about finding things to giveaway and I don’t know how to set it up. I am sure it is relatively straight-forward so the bottom-line is I have to just do it. However, another thing I learned is that there may be legal rules around giveaways and that you ensure should ensure that how you are conducting them is legal.  Also, I am switching to wordpress.org soon and then I will be able to get plugins, specifically a “related posts” plugin.

1) If you are going to monetize your blog and take on sponsors you need treat your blog as a business.  Things like creating a posting calender and a sponsorship kit are important.

Oh how I need a posting calender!  Not just to ensure that I’m operating my business well, but to ensure my sanity.  How often am I scrambling to put posts together at the last minute? Um, very often.  How often do I think “Oh, I wish I had posted about that last week?” Um, very often.  If you are posting about Christmas ideas a week before Christmas, it’s too late for anyone to benefit from that content. A schedule will help you plan your posts for when they will be most effective. Also, as I am about to embark on the world of blog monetization, I will need to learn how to sell my blog to sponsors in a professional way. I think creating a sponsorship/media kit will be a good first step.

2) Look for creative ways to obtain sponsors or to do guest posts on bigger blogs. Think about packaging a series of posts together on a related topic. When approaching companies or larger blogs, make sure you know their brand and their content and can articulate what your post or your blog can do for them.

For example, maybe you are thinking of doing a series of posts on sewing.  So package them together and approach a sewing machine company to sponsor that series of posts.  Or a maybe a series on your garden and you can ask a local greenhouse to sponsor. The key is to make sure you pitch in a way that is mutually beneficial.

1) The sock bun. There were a lot of buns at Alt…and I learned that apparently most of them were sock buns. A sock bun you say? What the heck is that?  Well, for someone like me with thin, straight hair this is a miracle my friends.  I too can get a full Princess Leia sized bun with the help of a sock. I tried it and, god dammit, it works.

2) Some no-no’s for styling a room for a shoot (via Miss Emily Henderson of HGTV’s Secrets of a Stylist): don’t use gerbra daisies unless it’s for a kid’s party (amen to that), don’t put twigs in a vase and use it as an arrangement, and don’t karate chop your pillows.

3) The only thing worse for me than getting my picture taken multiple times, is getting it taken multiple times in front of various cheesy backdrops.  It seemed everywhere we went there was a backdrop for pictures. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very cute and fun idea, but for someone like me who hates to get photographed, it was a little too much.You can see some of these awesome photos in Recap 1 and on Jen’s Alt recap here.

So that is a TINY snippet of what I learned at Alt, but the things that I think might be the most helpful to others starting a blog or generally new to blogging. Also, if you are interested in learning more, Alt has launched the Alt Channel that features online classes similar to those features at Alt. So check it out!

Have a great day!

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