Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category
Premium WordPress themes come with so many advantages, and usually at about 40-75 bucks, so I decided to take my blog design to the next level and search for the perfect WordPress theme for my blog.
I looked at the usual suspects first, like Studio Press and Elegant Themes that are recommended by a lot of respectful and tasteful bloggers. I have seen many blogs that use these themes and make them look just right for their brand,
And I looked at Wpexplorer, themefuse, themeforest, and to quote a U2 song I love, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Basically, I want full control over everything. I want to easily change whatever I want without knowing any sort of coding. I’d love to have a SEO-optimized theme, as well as one that comes decorated with all the important social media sharing buttons.
Problem? Either the color scheme feels wrong or the patterns don’t seem right. I tried the demos of all versions available, but none solved the key problem.
It’s kind of like being set up on a blind date by a good friend, isn’t it? You have a lot of things in common, and your friend knows what you want, but what feels right on paper doesn’t match what happens in person. Lack of chemistry and passion. Personalities not matching.
I’m all for an easily-readable, professional looking blog. I’m also sucker for full, easy control over every element. But so far, this free theme I picked (after days and days of searching all free themes, mind you) still remains a favorite.
And “a 50 dollars/month for all themes” packages don’t tempt me because I only found one theme that I might sort of want.
So have you found “the one” when it comes to themes? Any premium themes you might suggest for someone who doesn’t want white or black to dominate? Who wants neither extra-plain nor overtly colorful?
And as it’s apparent from the this theme you see, I do love the look of a writer’s desk. I like the overall look, and not just one shot of a coffee mug (and premium “coffee mugs” usually belong to restaurant-appropriate designs) or one computer (and they seem to have been developed for tech bloggers or creative agencies)?
Suggestions and personal experiences are always appreciated.
And happy hunting to those who are still looking for “the one” amongst WordPress themes…
Raspal Seni is a freelance blogger specializing in WordPress and technical computer stuff that a lot of us dread. You can learn more about him through his blog I Write About Blogging where he helps out beginner bloggers.
Having been blogging for over 4 years, I frankly didn’t think I’d be finding more than one or two blunders on my part. I was wrong. I thank my friend Raspal for making such a thorough guide. This is a review of the highly useful e-book.
There’s a chance you are making at least several mistakes yourself, so let’s go over the contents of the book:
1. Comment Form Blunders
From moderation to allowing comments at all, this part covers everything you need to check for a more user-friendly blog. You may not agree with everything, or you might have to commit some of them due to the popularity and/or topic of your blog (such as not allowing comments at all).
I enable comments on my blogs, but despite warnings, some threads might get too heated (and not civil!) and you might be better of disabling comments on certain posts.
However I’m a big believer in community, and interacting with your audience through comments, as well as letting them interact with each other, usually does work wonders for your authority and blog engagement levels.
So make sure you aren’t making any unfortunate mistakes when it comes to your comment form.
2. Security Blunders.
You are probably way too past the need to be reminded to make your password tougher to crack, e.g. not using obvious stuff like your age, birth date, your name, your pet’s name…etc. But what about changing the username from admin?
I tried to change my username from admin, and it got so complicated that I had to quit. But with Raspal’s method, it’s no hassle, and your WordPress blog you worked so much for is more secure. Isn’t it fun making hackers’ lives more difficult for a change?
3. WordPress Plugin Blunders.
I love that WordPress comes with so many Plugin options, but this means you need to update them regularly (for security reasons, and for the plugins to work properly with your constantly updated versions of WordPress.)
But there’s more upkeep you need to do, such as getting rid of useless plugins, testing new ones, avoiding certain ones and more. Raspal covers them all in 9 different subsections.
4. Image Blunders.
At this point, even the newest bloggers know they need pictures. And many know they need good pictures. The problem is, quality pictures can take up a lot of space, leading to slow uploading of your site. You might also get in trouble if you’re not crediting them properly, or using pictures you aren’t allowed to use.
From formatting to attribution, from keywords to resizing, he goes over everything you need to know and do when it comes to using images on your blog.
This part has 15 subsections.
All in all, The 50 Beginner Blog Blunders And How To Avoid Them (affiliate link) is a highly practical e-book you need to have if you still have doubts and complaints when it comes to your blog uploading speed, security, traffic and more. The book will help you tackle a lot of these issues and improve your blog.
You can follow Raspal on Twitter too!
Some things in life are just amazing and should be experienced, such as:
– A rocking stadium concert by an artist you adore (and by that I mean you know pretty much all the songs), where you are ideally close enough to the stage so you don’t just watch things from the big screens.
– Writing at least one story where you pour out your soul. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction is irrelevant. And since you are a writer, chances are, there’ll be tens of stroy ideas where can you share bits of your soul. Don’t hold it in;)
– Dancing to one of your favorite songs without caring about anyone or anything else.
– Finding your favorite spot/city/country.
And probably the most important one for us writers:
– Making a living writing about a topic you truly enjoy. And most of us love traveling. We just happen to run out of money or time to do it as often as we’d like.
What if we could make enough money travel writing? Whether it’s from your own travel blog(s), writing for others or a combination of these, you can start your travel writing career. But if you feel stuck, or not quite sure where to start, I’ve just the resource for you.
Travel writing is easy – if you are writing for yourself.
It’s writing with the right voice, for the right audience and with the right structure that’s hard. Finding ideas and the right markets for them can be challenging, just like any other writing market.
Finding unique slants can be even more difficult in this niche. After all, it has existed for a long time, and pretty much everything has been covered. Luckily, no one covers anything like you. It does help, however, when you can take advantage of a savvier writer. It makes the climb to success less daunting, and a lot more fun.
One of those savvier writers is the lovely Kirsty Stuart, and the recommended resource is her e-book How to Start a Travel Blog and Make Money. This e-book comes with 69 pages featuring:
- practical tips and experiences from other expert travel bloggers,
- Kirsty’s own story,
- how to start and run your travel blog (including which pages you should have and what information each page should contain),
- examples of thriving travel blogs,
- how to find ideas,
- how to find an audience,
- how to manage and deploy social media for your travel blog,
- earning money with information products (including tips on how to market them),
- earning money with affiliate marketing,
- sponsored posts and paid trips,
- advertising on your blog (along with pros and cons),
- how to pitch to publications and other clients,
- list of some travel writing markets,
- earning from blogging for others (as well as additional services you can offer),
- writing an awesome travel post,
- finding work when you need to,
- inspirational quotes,
- tips to kill your fears and feel encouraged.
Why I loved the book (besides the awesome content, of course):
- it’s great for anyone who wants to write full-time about a topic they love, not just travel. The tips can be applied to any niche, but it is a lot more specific if you are interested in travel writing and blogging since she provides so many relevant tips, resources and first-hand experiences.
- the lifestyle mentioned, and how she came to choose travel writing, is easy to identify with: she calls it the struggle to adapt after you’ve been traveling a long time. I call it post-Erasmus depression. (or blues, if you are having an easier time.This shall be one of my future travel posts!)
- it’s honest.
- it’s comprehensive. It fills you in about the effort level from the beginning. And you don’t need to be a beginner blogger to take advantage of it.
- it’s fun. I’m big on fun.
- it offers places/ways/markets you can find travel blogging work.
Oh, did I mention the price is £2,99 ? You can check out Kirsty’s site Freelance Writers Online for more useful tips on freelance writing. And you can check out one of her own travel posts: Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai.
She was also kind enough to answer my questions on travel writing.
Kirsty on writing about politically “hot” countries:
“I personally write travel articles for companies like Viator and Flight Centre, and while I’m sure they wouldn’t want me to cover up any truths, their business is promoting travel! They want people to travel – it’s in their best interests – so for clients like this I don’t really write about political instability or anything of that nature. They’re not news sites so it’s not really relevant.”
Kirsty on whether or not great stories have an expiration date (because what if you had a breath-taking experience years ago and you are only writing about it now?):
“I don’t think travel stories have an expiration date, no. Those tremendous experiences and stories need to be told! If there are details that I feel could have changed – the cost of a visa at the land border between Thailand and Cambodia springs to mind – then I’ll just say that. Something like, “It cost $20 USD (at the time of writing)” should cover it. If there’s a good story there, don’t let the passage of time prevent you from telling it.”
Even though some of the first articles I sold in my freelancing career were travel articles, I had somehow gone into a writer’s block-induced hiatus. But after going over the book for the second time, I made a plan, and made my “returning” travel pitch. It’ll hopefully lead to other ideas and acceptances.
Let me know what you think about traveling, traveling writing and the e-book
While writer’s block can be one frustrating ordeal, it’s not that hard to get rid of. I have some great suggestions on inspiration in this post: Finding Article Ideas & Writing About Them: 30 Inspiration Tips for Writers.
But if you are suffering from a physical condition that prevents you from writing, especially if it’s hand/arms-related, I recommend you head to Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger and read my post there. (Yeah, I’m quite psyched about being published there!:))
For more on writing inspiration, you can check out these posts:
Are you fiction writer? A non-fiction writer? Or both?
If you truly love writing, want to make a regular income from it (or you are already making a living writing) and/or can’t wait to share what you have learned and experienced with the rest of the writers out there, chances are, you are both into writing fiction and non-fiction.
Stephen King wrote a book on writing, simply called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Now, that’s the kind of writer I want to learn from. Not because I’m a horror fan, but because I admire his success, productivity and ability to write in diverse genres (Shawshank Redemption, for instance, is based on a story of his) and write in a variety of formats (novels, short stories, non-fiction books…)
Some novelists get to adapt their movies to screen themselves and writing magazines love publishing advice articles from published writers. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, anyone?
But sometimes, one takes priority over the other, usually because of deadlines and where your productivity is gravitating towards at that moment.
For the last couple of months, even though I did my best not to neglect my blogs, I’ve concentrated polishing my screenplay and a TV pilot for competitions. I read even more about formatting, selling, contests’ reliability. I found great resources on both writing and selling, and I’ll be sharing them here soon.
But it’s safe to say I was lost in a world of fictional characters and story lines, and reading up on how to make them come alive.
Of course my non-fiction ideas didn’t stop flowing. So I noted them down, and after having taken care of 3 competitions with the nearest deadlines, I’m ready to immerse in non-fiction once again.
Getting back to real life is fun, though your mind and writing might take a while to adjust. So below are a few tips to make the transition easier and quicker:
1) Go through your old ideas. Having worked on different projects might have provided you new insights and angles. Use them. Brainstorm with your just-back-from-fiction mind. You might be surprised.
2) Keep writing new ideas down. Also make a note of what you have learned about writing/selling fiction. There are a million stories there.
3) Not getting hit by a new load of ideas? This post is bound to ignite some quality inspiration: Finding Article Ideas & Writing About Them: 30 Inspiration Tips for Writers.
4) Check the websites/publications you follow, including the ones you have written for or wanted to write for. They might have gone through editorial changes. Their submission guidelines or how they work with freelance writers might have changed. Is this still a place you want to write for? Update your market list accordingly.
5) If those websites are still up your alley, study the new articles. You need to know what they published recently. You don’t want to waste the editor’s time, or yours, by pitching an idea that was recently covered.
6) Do a “markets” research. There are probably new writing markets you might want to catch up on. Make notes of the ones that interest you.
7) Write. It’s like switching between rollerblades and your bike. Both are fun, both are you. They just work a bit differently.
8) Promote your writing. Remind your readers you’re alive and well. Of course this works better if you’ve kept up a presence in the blogosphere during your fiction marathon.
9) Read non-fiction: blogs, magazines, books, twitter feeds of the people that inspire you, entertain you and/or piss you off…new and old stuff. Read.
10) Read some of those awesome e-books you kept for referencing, and some new resources you found. Some of my new favourites came from Sophie Lizard’s Another 52 Free Resources for Freelance Bloggers post, for instance.
11) Keep reading fiction, but don’t make it the priority.
12) Exercise. Seriously. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the wonderfully exciting worlds you have created, but we need to be healthy. And exercising gives you even more ideas.
13) Eat healthily. Yes, you always need to do this, but if you have gone on a binge to make the deadlines, get a grip on your eating habits before your immune system decides to punish you. I’ll be posting about this too, so stay tuned.
Welcome back to the lovely world of non-fiction! If there are any tips you’d to add, comment away…
If you don’t have time for the whole post, don’t let me keep you. You probably already do this. It’s one of the most important steps of querying: Being personal and specific in your customized pitch – as in sending a well-targeted, well-tailored query to the right person and not bulk-querying haphazardly.
By now, this tip should be saying like vampires have fangs. Common knowledge. It’s not. It’s, for some reason, blissfully ignored by a number of bloggers and writers. How do I know it? From the impossibly generic guest post pitches I’ve been receiving since I launched my blogs.
I don’t generally accept guest posts for my sites. I don’t advertise for guest posts. Because I can’t pay writers at the moment, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask, especially when I distinctly prefer to write for sites that pay.
That said, if a writer was completely OK with this fact, didn’t need the money and had something he couldn’t wait to share with my audience, something that was right up this blog’s alley, I wouldn’t necessarily turn him down.
But even though there are no pages or posts here (or any other of my blogs) that ask for guest posts, I frequently get pitched by e-mail and I can’t believe there are so many bloggers/writers out there who don’t seem to have read any tip on pitching someone, ever. Apparently, they have read all the titleson the benefits of guest posting, however.
I’m saying “titles” because they haven’t gone through the entirety of any solid article on guest posting (or querying) either. Because almost all of them underscore similar things. Some of the shared tips are: Address to the right person, make sure you read the publication and show this in your pitch.
I tend to get several generic pitches a month for the different blogs that I run. Some pitchers haven’t even tried: as in they don’t even have my blog’s name, my name or even the blog’s URL in the pitch. I still read them anyway because I want to give them the benefit of a bad subject line. I also like providing myself with material for future posts.
Some spice up the generic up , and add my blog’s URL in the subject line. Not the worst move but it screams “bulk” and that’s never good. The glaringly important issue here: My blog URLS and my blogs aren’t the same. It might not be the smartest SEO move on my part but trust me, there was some strategy involved in it. Anyway, the pitcher was too lazy to write (or even possibly check out) the blog’s name. Ouch. Seriously.
One blogger, the most recent pitch that prompted this post, has taken bulk-pitching to a whole new level. The subject line doesn’t mention anything about me or my blogs. The greeting doesn’t include my name. The post doesn’t have the name of the blog the writer wants to write for. I know which one through an educated guess because she has at least mentioned the topic.
She has, however, proposed a relevant topic with a suitable title, using a decent language.
I haven’t returned the e-mail. I don’t think that will hurt the blogger’s feelings much since she probably has sent the email to a couple hundred other bloggers as well. Besides, I don’t want to mess up with the statistics. When the pitch is generic, you will most likely get no response.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind. Editors, some of them are also writers, are busy people. Many are busy to the point they can’t even respond to the to-the-point, personalized and timely pitches if it’s not what they need at the moment.
It’s kind of funny. You’d think that it’d be common sense to check out the name of the person you are querying. And my name isn’t a secret. It’s even in the e-mail I use for writing-related correspondence. It’s also on the About section. Even on blogs where I have occasionally accepted guest posts (from writers who pitched well and for blogs I unfortunately can’t always produce content regularly for), my name is on the 98% of the posts.
I’m not going to say that all publications make it easy. They don’t. They post almost encrypted guidelines or don’t post at all. Editors’ names might need some minor detective work like calling the publication or asking other writers. Some publications ask you to contact for questions but often don’t return with the information you requested. But when it’s right out there, and you don’t use it, it’s on you.
Grammar and spelling are important. A creative subject line can work, so is crafting a concise message. But it all starts with at least trying to hide the fact that it’s a bulk offering. There might be several publications that cover similar topics with similar angles, but it’s up to the writer to make each pitch sound personal.
The upside of these e-mails, in addition to inspiring post ideas (and/or case studies), they help you get in the shoes of the editor/publisher, and show you why you have to work diligently on your pitches. Not that we didn’t know before, but boy is their job difficult…:)
I can’t resist saving funny and inspirational writing-related images whenever I run across them, and I love sharing them with you. So let’s have some laughs and smiles:
Much funnier if you have also seen the Friends episode where Ross and Rachel sing “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” to their baby daughter Emma.
This just might be my favorite.
Found this gem via the Facebook page of Page Writing Awards.
I have to admit it’s not exactly writing related. But it’s strangely motivating:)
This is all for today. If you want more funny and inspirational stuff, you can check out the other two posts on the blog:
Write Where the Money is one well-rounded resource that can, and will explain pretty much any question you might have about any stage of writing for a magazine or a website. It was written by veteran writer/blogger Robert Earle Howells.
There are many amazing resources I’ve found about querying, contracts, formatting, writing and such, but I don’t think I have seen all of together, and written so well, in one place.
It’s a must for beginner writers, although it has a lot to teach and/or remind all levels of writers. And even if you’ve been writing and getting published successfully for years, it is still a handy resource to have because it does cover pretty much everything.
It’s a 154-paged PDF document, but it reads as fast as a page-turning work of fiction. Honestly. First time I was reading it, I almost forgot to get off at my bus stop.
But let’s give you more details on why you might need it too.
Below is a breakdown of basically what the book covers, though I interpreted chapter headings to give you a better idea. For the actual chapter names, take a look at the book’s sales page. (Yep, it’s an affiliate link. I stand by the book, and wish I had purchased it much sooner. It’s $47.)
I should mention that all chapters include quotes from other writers, editors and publishers, as well as experiences of Robert, and stuff he used for his own queries. And each chapter ends with a summarized action plan for you.
Here we go:
-How you know if you can write (or know about what to write)
-How to organize your ideas
-Why experience/clips don’t matter as much as good ideas
Now, technically, this is common sense. But it’s easy to get intimidated by our lack of experience in one area even if we have experience in others. So keep in mind that great ideas (and how well you present them) are what matters. And we were all beginners in a niche once.
Just keep brainstorming, and studying publications.
- How/where to get valid experience
He guides you on different strategies to get those first clips.
- What to pay attention to when choosing how to get your clips
- How to write something editors would want (aka how to write well)
- How to study and pitch a publication
- How to understand/interpret writer’s guidelines
There’re some very useful, but not-always mentioned tips on how to read a publication’s guidelines, what to believe and what (not) to take seriously, and what is said vs. what is meant.
- Tips on how to really write a successful query letter
Again, unless you’ve just started writing (congratulations, this is a resource that will get you very far without you having to collect all the information you need about writing, submitting and publishing from a hundred different resources), you are familiar most of the tips. But it’s practical to have a solid checklist.
- What comes after the query, deciphering contract terms, negotiating, rights
The book doesn’t leave you high and dry after sending the query letter. It features insights on how to follow-up, when to give up, how to react to similar ideas published in the same magazine that rejected yours and so on.
Then there’s the breakdown of not just rights, but other terms as well.
- Working with editors
This part informs you about how to react to edit and rewrite requests professionally; as well as developing long-lasting relationships that will land you assignments without querying (much).
- How much you earn, and how to know an article’s actual worth, what to do when the payment is late
Plenty of magazines do in fact pay a lot better than blogs. Even the publications that pay for both print and online content pay more for the print articles. However, they also happen to expect a lot more in terms of research, experts and interviews.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your best when you are writing for the web. You definitely should. However you will see that sometimes an article that pays 3 grand won’t have paid as much as the 50 bucks you got for that 500-word piece for a blog. He explains how.
This section also gives you ideas on how to re-slant your articles and what more you can do with them. Moreover, there’s detailed information service articles vs. feature pieces.
- Defining/finding markets
Different types of publications are explained, along with tips on what to expect from them. Job boards are analyzed. And there’s also information on how to monetize your own blog.
- Qualities you need to become successful: This is divided into two chapters.
And it’s not just about clear writing or being more productive (though they are obviously covered). It pretty much tells you what you need to manage your business, writing and life properly so that you will be a successful writer.
- Wisdom, tips and experiences of fellow writers
This part is great for gaining (and keeping) you faith and confidence.
– Glossary for the writing business terms
- Resource Listing: from markets to associations.
All in all, it is a book to keep as a resource as long as you are writing non-fiction. It should be kept where you can refer to as fast as you need, whenever you need it.
Sorry about the absence.
I’m publishing my new post very soon, and until then you might want to head over to Sarah Russell’s Write Your Revolution blog to read my article 9 Simple Ways Writers Can Find Paying Web Markets. The article lists how to create your own ever-growing list of web markets in any niche since when it comes to web markets, we don’t have a definite resource.
And hopefully this month will be the month when I’ll turn bulk-writing a habit. I’m good at taking notes and brainstorming in bulk when ideas hit from north and south, but maybe because I’m good at with the brainstorming, I end up writing one post at a time.
Do you occasionally take posting breaks without wanting to?
Tom Ewer is enjoying his well-deserved popularity as he runs the popular and authoritative blog Leaving Work Behind where he writes about quitting your job and building a career that’s right for you.
While his posts aim to help you realize your goals of quitting your job and running a successful online business, he focuses a lot on freelance writing/blogging which makes it very relevant for writers.
But another thing that makes Tom’s posts relatable is that he is not so far gone in his freelance income that he’s doing $500/hour copywriting gigs or $1/word magazine writing jobs.
Yes, he could accomplish that if he wanted to but with his current schedule he has the time to work on other projects. And flexibility is one of the best things about working for yourself.
He encourages you to take well-paying, respectable jobs but he knows that if you’re just starting out, you might not want to pass up on $30/piece blogging gigs, especially if it is from a growing, respectable company.
He started taking gigs on the side before he left his full-time job.
He’s all for passive income, but he suggests you improve your writing, and start making money through it because passive income streams take a lot of time and effort to develop.
Tom also offers useful additions to topics when you think you’ve heard it all before.
Below are 3 of my favorite posts:
This is primarily a video post, and I’m usually more into reading than watching or listening. But he makes great points on how to pick the best jobs on job boards by actually following all the links, looking at and analyzing the employer’s site and giving you the pros and cons, including educated guesses on what the pay might be.
This is by far the most comprehensive and useful post I’ve encountered about job boards.
This post isn’t just for freelance writers. It points out how internet marketers/online business owners shouldn’t disregard the power and potential of blogging. Even if they don’t get paid for it, writing good web copy plays a crucial part in making money online.
But if you could, why not get paid for it?
This is a great guide that covers how/where you should go about looking, how you should apply (including the template of his application) and how to handle the project once you land it.
Tom Ewer’s Leaving Work Behind is informative, easy to relate to and fun. Established writers are following him too, so I suggest you take a look if you haven’t already.