Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Start A Beauty Blog: Advice from a Pro...

If you’re a beauty fan, you’re already in the best possible place to start a blog because writing about what you know and love is essential. Passion and enthusiasm shines through and it’s always a wonderful experience for a reader to feel that through your words.

Never be afraid that your writing isn’t good enough – blogs aren’t about skilled writing and immaculate spelling; the origins of the word ‘blog’ come from web-log, an on-line diary. It’s your place to be you. However, if you know your spelling isn’t your strongest point, always run a spell-check.

There are many beauty blogs now; thousands, in fact, and yet new bloggers can still shine through. If you want to blog about beauty and be noticed, you’ll need to use Twitter to help spread the word. Find your favourite bloggers and follow who they follow – hopefully, you’ll get a follow back and in time, you’ll start to become known. You can also join in discussions on the #bbloggers hashtag which runs on Twitter on a Sunday evening between 8pm and 9pm, or pop in to just say hello.

Always look for a niche that isn’t already filled – there aren’t enough hair bloggers, for example, or blogs specifically aimed at older women. Make up blogging is very crowded, and brands are crying out for hair bloggers to work with! If you do decide to opt for a common theme, try and make your posts a little bit different. Always look out for unusual products to test and talk about and give honest and fair feedback.

There aren’t enough samples for all beauty bloggers so being inventive is crucial if you’re on a budget. Borrow your friends’ make-up to test on yourself – even if it’s not yours, it won’t matter – readers will want to read how the product lasted, smelled and looked and won’t care whose make up it actually is. The same with fragrance reviews – you can review from one sniff! Pinch a spritz of friends and family favourites and review those – you can find images all over the internet to illustrate your post.

Magazines are great for giving away samples on their front covers – some months are better than others, but it’s a very easy way to get a product to review – or better still, that’s two posts! First a post about the magazine give-away, because that’s great information that others will want to know about, and then a second one reviewing the product. Always look out for samples in department stores, between magazine pages, and also, while you’re out and about if someone offers you an in-store fragrance spritz or make-over, take them, and then blog the experience.

These days, you have to think outside the box to grab an audience share of beauty fans, but ultimately you have to want to share your passion and want to work hard at regular posts. Readers expect almost daily updates now, so it really will be a labour of love!

British Beauty Blogger is a beauty writer for both online and offline publications. She is an author of 4 books and started Britishbeautyblogger to provide a place to talk honestly about products. She felt consumers had a right to know if they were buying something that didn't work as well as promised and her many fans thank her for her authenticity.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Accidental Blogger… My Journey into Writing by Margaret Schlachter of 'Dirt in My Skirt...'

In May 2011, I found myself just having amazingly enough qualified for a 24 hour Obstacle Course Race, World’s Toughest Mudder. It had been years since I was in training and the 10-mile Tough Mudder was the longest race I had ever run. I was a 27 year-old ski coach, dorm parent and recruiter for a ski academy in Vermont and hadn’t trained seriously since college. Knowing you can fake a lot of things in athletics, I knew you couldn’t fake a 24-hour race. I needed something to hold me accountable to the training needed for this event. That’s when I came up with an idea, a blog.

 Dirt in Your Skirt ( was created initially as an online training journal, each morning I would post on the website’s Facebook page my workout for the day (WOD) then do the workout and write about it before I went to bed each night. Out of this simple idea a movement was born. I did not go to school to write, in fact my business degree and decade of coaching did not lend to literary prowess. As I began to get deeper and deeper into my training the blogs started to become more descriptive and entertaining. Stories started to emerge of run ins with animals while running, musings on life, and training tips.

 As I wrote more my writing started to improve and people started to read my daily blogs. Some were funny, some were sad, all still are brutally honest. Each post is a little part of me. I found the more I wrote the more I was able to write. My blog was born just as Obstacle Course Racing was starting to gain momentum and as the sport began to grow so did my blog and followers. In many ways I grew as a racer and a writer at the same time. Writing blogs for me seemed and still seems the best way to close out a race or major life adventure is to write about it.

In February 2012, Dirt in Your Skirt became the recipient of the 2012 International Weblog Awards – Best Sports Weblog. More and more people began to be engaged in the story of one woman’s journey into an extreme fitness world. The simple blog about daily workouts has grown into a full website offering blogs on training, racing, gear reviews and life experiences as well as online coaching, an online shop, and the first public forum dedicated to Obstacle Course Racing and endurance sports.

I recently quit my day job in education and decided to make racing and writing my full-time vocation. With help from athletic sponsors Gaspari Nutrition, CW-X Conditioning Wear, Mocean Mate, Garuka Bars and training partner UTE CrossFit I have been able to transition into this new life. With the help from these sponsors I have been able to rise up to the #1 ranked woman in the Spartan Race World Points Rankings and have several ultra marathons in my 2013 season. It is amazing how a good run, workout or race can teach you impactful life lessons. I am just lucky to be able to share these experiences with an audience and I thank blogging each day for that opportunity.

People often ask me how you become a good writer; I truly think writing is the same thing as athletics, if you want to be good you must practice. I practice my writing just as I practice pull-ups, push-ups, or runs; I just do it, over and over again. The more I write, the better I become and more I find my own voice. This is the greatest gift blogging gives you, your voice, unfiltered and free.

Margaret is the author of Dirt in Your Skirt... For her full bio, click here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of a 21st Century Blogger by Lucy Robinson...

‘Blogs are disgusting,’ I announced. It was 2004. ‘They are an exercise in unforgivable self-promotion. The ultimate depths of vanity publishing. Literary masturbation.’

It’s now 2012 and I’ve been blogging for several years. Worse still, I have a successful writing career because of my blog. The hypocrisy is intense.

Fortunately, I am no longer in agreement with my angry twenty four year-old self. Why shouldn’t everyone have a go at writing online? Who cares if it’s dreadful? Space is not exactly an issue on the world wide web.

I do think it’s rather British to avoid dabbling in creativity unless one is a pro. But I suppose Britain is still under the cultural hegemony of its arts critics. Just. The hegemony is in its dying days though, and the last of the bearded megalomaniacs who once ran it – they of smoked salmon breath and quills of spite - will die of gout soon.

I once lived in Buenos Aires where pretty much everyone takes might classes in art. After the classes end, most students go off and paint for a few weeks. And then they hire a little art space and exhibit their work. Which (while admittedly better than anything I could produce) is generally atrocious. But who cares? No-one’s paying an entrance fee. Everyone drinks free Malbec and updates their facebook status to say they’re ‘At an opening’ and they all get to feel better about their own artistic abilities.  It’s win-win!

Researchers have more than confirmed the psychological benefits of creative writing. A self-indulgent poem here, a poorly-informed polemic there. All easily uploaded onto the greatest exhibition space in the history of mankind. And you can even turn disable the comments box! What’s not to love? Really, everyone should have a blog.

And yet (*pause, sigh*) me and blogs are uneasy bedfellows.

I’ve just launched my own personal blog, on my own personal website, after three years blogging for a major women’s glossy. And the long-awaited freedom to write whatever I want is . . .
. . .Terrifying. I have no idea what to do or how to do it. How do I market myself? What am I writing? Who for? And, most of all, why am I writing the damned thing in the first place? I’m a writer already! I spend all day writing! Why on earth would I want to write more?

Since I first started an online journal in 2006 (for a different women’s glossy - I got sacked for swearing too much) I reckon I’ve done over £14k’s worth of blogging.  I’ve missed out on spectacular mountain climbs because I’ve been trying to upload from some tiny South American hostel, I’ve had readers call me a ‘puerile, selfish loser’ and – the icing on the cake - the C4 exec who commissioned an entire documentary on my blog told me she thought that what I was doing was immoral. (I was writing about my experiences internet dating.)

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. But the cost-time benefit of writing a blog is . . . well, there hasn’t been one for me. Yes, I got a book deal, but I earn less as a novelist than I did in my previous job. So, like the other 92% of bloggers who will never earn enough from blogging to support themselves, I ain’t in it for the money.

Fortunately, another writer took care of the ‘why’ question for me. ‘You should blog because it’s important that your book readers know what a moron you are,’ she explained.  Apparently it delights readers to discover that the person wot wrote their book is just an average, broke girl who still can’t spell omelette and has no interest in owning twenty pairs of Monolo Blahnik shoes.

So that’s the ‘why’ sorted. Leaving me with the question of how on earth to market my fledgling blog. I am one of 42 MILLION blogs (that’s on Wordpress alone) being read by some 329 million people. I am competing against political activists and prostitutes; prime ministers and pastry chefs, peace campaigners and parrots. Yes, even parrots have blogs. The blogosphere isn’t just noisy, it’s a deafening cacophony.

What on earth should I do to make people choose me over the 41,999,999 other offerings?
Write about sex, for starters, I guess. My Marie Claire blog was at its most popular when I wrote about my experiences as an internet dater. I held back little. I was candid about my online stalking habit, about the fact that I once actually vomited with nerves and about the humiliating knockbacks I received. (‘I already have a girlfriend,’ was one of the more memorable ones. ‘I just wanted to sleep with someone else . . .’) No more did I hold back in my descriptions of the dreadful men I encountered. And my readers loved it. They posted message of outraged frustration if I didn’t post a blog within 24 hours of going on a date: ‘IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I CAN’T GO OUT UNTIL YOU TELL US HOW YOUR DATE WENT,’ one shouted.

But I’m no longer internet dating; I live with my partner. Will I start discussing the sordid details of our relationship to get more hits? Of course not.

What else hauls the readers in?
I’ve been pondering this daily.

And have finally come to the conclusion – since I started writing this blog that you’re reading now - that I just don’t care. Not enough, anyway. I could run off and try to get half a million readers but to achieve that I’d have to, I don’t know, have sex with David Cameron or something. (Thank you; I appreciate the offer, but no.)  And I could live online, operating twenty twitter accounts, forty websites and about ten billion blogs like so many people seem to do these days. But I don’t want that either. I want to smell the grass and eat spicy squid and make finger puppets with my boyfriend and get eight hours’ sleep.

The joy it brings me when one of my readers contacts me to say how much they enjoyed my blog/novel/feature is unparalleled. I don’t just smile when I get these messages, I glow. Madly. For hours. And I suppose that’s the difference between me and someone who’s going for the big blog league – I don’t need to get fifty of those emails a day; one is more than enough. In fact, one is positively wonderful.

So I think for now I’m going to stay in the slow lane. Let the power bloggers blog powerfully. Let the mega tweeters twit megally. I’m going for a walk.

Lucy Robinson is a novelist and blogger. Her debut novel, The Greatest Love Story of All Time was published earlier this years and is soon to be followed by her second, A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Leanne MacDuff of 'Tailor Made Social' - How Social Media Changed My Life...

How social media changed my life... 
From the way I communicate my friends, family and the community around me, the format of which I write, and the level of communication I make on a daily basis has increased dramatically.

 My first social networking account was with Bebo, back in 2005, which was the year they launched. My first blog was with blogspot, or blogger as its known now, which I started in 2006; Sharing photographs, writing posts, and checking out friends profiles skins to make sure I stood up to the test of coolness that had become the norm for me.

 Social media wasn’t a phrase I was aware of back then. Bebo was very much in its boom time, and particularly popular within my Scottish Community.

  After spending a few years in the North of England, I finally succumbed to Facebook’s way as it became the growing trend with all my English friends, and very soon it would have all my Scottish friends too.

 Twitter came a few years later for me, although I had opened an account back then, it pretty much lay dormant for a year or so before I picked it up again. So you can see, it was natural and gradual movement, one that changed a lot of how I think and view the world. As each network updated and changed it opened up more untapped pockets of information and insight to people that you would have never before got access to, unless you were close friends with them.

  The most intriguing aspect of social media for me is the ability to reach a world beyond your community and build your own, with video, photographs, your own content and a layering of various network sites.

 My first blog reached over 10 countries, in a few short months with over 2000 views without any SEO or PR behind it at all. I had no clue what SEO was back then. My only interest was sharing relevant and helpful content that people could gain encouragement, or inspiration from should they find my blog.

 In 2011, I was given my first paid role as blogger, which quickly grew to sole social media strategist and copywriter for an international marketing company.

 For the first five months I pretty much studied every waking hour, finding an underlying passion for branding, business and marketing only stirring me on to commit and know more. I learnt a lot in that time, and over the next year began teaching some of those ideas both to clients, and in-house staff as we began to take more help on board. 

 One of the biggest challenges for people was understanding what social media meant for their business. Many understood they had to have a blog now, and some social presence, but time and losing the purse strings of speech within their organization has continued to be a sensitive subject.

 I believe social media marketing is so fundamental to any business that it should be taken care of by the business itself, and as my life was radically changed by it I knew there were ways I could help them do this too without robbing the bank, and essentially giving away the heart of their business to an outside source, with no contingency plan.

 A year later, I set up Tailor Made Social as a cost-efficient solution to social media marketing using my own online and offline programme. I believe I can teach businesses to focus on bridging the gap between their business, their consumer and their employees, which at the moment there is still a real disconnect between all three.

 The reality is, within the marketplace today, we are spoilt for choice. To survive in today’s market you must offer something completely unique, or much cheaper than anyone else and you must be able to build a relationship with your customer before they even hit your shop floor. In my own opinion, there is a real opportunity to connect with people in places we were never able to reach before on our own, or without a rather large bank account; in a nutshell that is how social media has changed my life.

Writer, blogger and passionate business woman, Leanne MacDuff is helping businesses in the UK bridge the gap between their consumers, and their employees online and offline via her social media training business, Tailor Made Social
When Leanne is not working on the business she can be found speaking, or writing on motivational topics that include, leadership, customer service, social media marketing, and woman in business. Recent speaking engagements include the Scottish Ruby Conference 2012, and other top agencies in UK where she works as a freelance social media trainer. 
You can connect with Leanne on Twitter @leemac85, or over at The Social Exchange

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Authenticity by Katherine Baldwin of From Forty with Love...

At the end of a recent blog post in which I shared that I’d been feeling anxious, had been sobbing in the bath and was carrying an unopened box of anti-depressants around in my handbag, I added a footnote.

In a short, italicised postscript, I questioned whether I’d taken my honesty too far, whether I should have kept some of my inner ramblings to myself and whether I’d ever be employed again.

But despite my trepidation about my future career prospects – a girl’s got to eat – I concluded that if I couldn’t be employed as my authentic self, then what was the point?

A few days later, I was stood before a room of 100+ women (and a few men) being just that – my authentic self.

I was delivering a workshop on blogging, describing how I launched myself into the blogosphere and the very personal topics I write about, along with some less personal tips on how to increase visibility and monetise a blog.

My blogging career began in March 2011, on the eve of Lent and in the throes of anger.

I’d been attending a seminar on women, eating disorders and body image and I was furious – primarily with myself. I was angry that despite a good degree of recovery from my own eating disorder and the fact my body was finally what I deemed to be an acceptable size and shape, I still hated the way I looked.

Determined to find some freedom from the daily mental beatings, I decided to abstain for 40 days from negative thoughts about my body, appearance and, for good measure, my achievements – and to blog about my progress every day.

The result was my first concerted attempt at authenticity in print: Just As I Am, An Experiment In Self-Acceptance. Then, as Lent drew to a close and my 40th birthday passed, I launched my current blog, From Forty With Love.

I’d been writing for many years, working as a journalist for international news agencies, flying with the prime minister into war zones and reporting on politics, economics, natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

But my authentic self was absent from those stories. Any opinion was backed up by expert quotes and the style and tone were dictated from above.

My writing wasn’t the only place where I’d camouflaged the real me. Beneath the confident, competent exterior, behind the smart trouser suit and the lipstick, I was a vulnerable woman who didn’t feel good enough and who relied on a crutch.

None of my former work colleagues knew that I was bingeing on chocolate, sweets and bread in those beautiful hotel suites in Hong Kong, Seoul or Beijing as the prime minister dined downstairs. Nobody was aware that I ate constantly to survive those gruelling, global trips.

 I had two faces – a public and a private persona. Only a privileged few saw both.

It’s been four years since I left my post as a political correspondent, gave up my desk in parliament and began the slow process of taking off the mask – four years of trying to align the real me with what I write about as a freelance journalist.

On blogs, authenticity has come easy but in the world of newspapers and magazines, where I have to ‘sell’ my stories and ask to be paid, it hasn’t been a straightforward path. I’ve discovered that it’s scary to be me. Rejection hurts more when it’s the real you who’s being rejected and not some invented self. We wear masks for a reason – they soften the blow.

Without the mask, one big question inevitably surfaces: is the real me good enough?

At the end of my blogging workshop, I got my answer. And it was an overwhelming ‘Yes’. I received words of praise and encouragement, invites to lunch and tentative offers of work.

But while I ended that day on a high, it didn’t take long for my doubts to resurface: is the real me really good enough? Can I make a living being my authentic self? Will my stories sell? And will the book I’m working on ever be good enough to make it into print?

My conclusion, though, is simple. I don’t have a choice. I’ve tried the other way. I’ve tried pretending to be someone I’m not. It was painful and it didn’t work.

So my only option is authenticity. The only way forward is to be true to myself.

Katherine Baldwin is a journalist, writer and blogger who has written for national and international publications including The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Psychologies Magazine and Time Magazine, following a nine-year career as a Reuters correspondent. She is working on her first book on women and life choices around careers and motherhood and blogs regularly at From Forty With Love.

Katherine is an inspiring speaker on topics ranging from eating disorders and addictions to authenticity and career change. She also works as a journalism trainer, writing coach and media consultant.