As long as I’ve been in the traditional workforce of public relations and communications, I’ve had wit & whimsy. Just under 10 years for both. Certainly the time I’ve spent on my blog has ebbed and flowed (I started it in college!) and the change in the industry I’ve seen has been quite literally unimaginable.
So while I’m not the most successful blogger out there and while I’m not seeking out making this blog a full time gig, I have learned a thing or two that I think may be beneficial to others for all those of you out there who balance (1) full time job with another (1) seemingly full time job called blogging.
I know some people preach finding a niche or dedicating all free time to your blog but neither of those have been for me. I love what wit & whimsy brings to my life but I also very much value my career and my personal life. So below are some tips I’ve gathered over the years that help me (attempt) to balance both.
1. Send emails during normal business hours.
We’ll start this off with a less than ground breaking tip but one that I can guess not everyone employs. Because I work a full time day job I used to keep a lot of my emailing till nighttime if responses weren’t super time sensitive. I’d draft my reply and hit send out of habit. But what I realized is that for the people you’re emailing they are often on that 9-6 schedule so your emails may very well get lost in their inbox when sent late at night. I solved this issue by drafting all my emails at night and then just saving them until the next morning when I would hit send once someone would feasibly in the office to see and reply to my note. Once I started to do this I noticed the response rate from people was nearly twice as fast!
2. Make yourself templates and trackers.
Operational excellence, my dears. Embrace it!
One of the things I so desperately wish I had done earlier on in my blogging years was creating myself templates and trackers so that deliverables became more turnkey and organized. Nowadays I have an invoice template, a proposal template, an expense tracker, a campaigns tracker and more. It ensures I’m always at the ready when it comes time to put things together and I’m not starting from square one. I save myself time by having these all in my Google Docs. And you know what? I also save money because not once, not twice but three times last year I was either A) paid the wrong amount that was not discussed with a brand or B) not paid at all during the payment terms. My tracker reminded me each time of these issues so I could properly follow up and get paid what I was owed.
3. Treat your blog like a business not a side hustle.
Oh man is this a biggie.
I think if you’re taking home regular paychecks from another job it can be so easy to just treat your blog as a side hustle or any income you have from it as supplemental. Don’t make this mistake! Apply the business skills you have (or read up on what other bloggers recommend for running your own business) to your blog and don’t underestimate your value! Determine what your time is worth particularly because if you’re spending most of your week in an office your “free time” is going to blog content. If a company wants to work with you and you’re committed to delivering quality content for them, determine how many hours it would take (+ any associated out of pocket / hard costs) and provide a proposal (in your new template!) on what you’ll be delivering and how much you need to charge for those deliverables.
Also track all of your expenses in a grid! (I also highly recommend Quickbooks.) In addition, keep a grid for any sponsored content that notes who you’re working with, what the project is, when the project is due, when you expect to get paid and finally when your W2 arrives. It will make your life at taxes so much easier.
Finally, consider getting a business credit card for your expenses and a savings or checking account for your blog income. I seriously wish I had done these two things long before I did.
4. Become a fan of the breakfast meeting.
I know this one won’t work for everyone as different jobs dictate different hours but for me I do a lot of my blog in person meetings over breakfast. It requires an early wake up call but not only does it allow for the oh-so-important face time with brands and PR reps but it also helps in feeling accomplished before you even get to your desk job! I have found that developing in person relationships with people has been one of the best ways to ignite creativity and expand my network so making time to do these meetings – albeit early by New York standards – is imperative for me. Plus, it allows for me to keep a portion of my evenings free and not fill them with drinks but rather with workouts or pen-to-paper blog work.
5. Be open to learning new ways of doing things.
Confession time: I have a secret Pinterest board where I just pin articles about how to be a better blogger. When I have some free time I click through and make note of anything worthwhile that may help me grow my blog. A few of my favorite resources have been XOSarah, Melyssa Griffin and Blog Brighter. Also podcasts! You know those moments in blogging when you’re ready to either A) totally give up or B) want to find every ounce of energy you have left to dial up what you’re doing and try even harder than you have been to try and be a bit more successful? When you’re teetering between those feelings (I have had them so many times in my nearly 10 years of part-time blogging), get on board with an inspiring podcast that makes you want to go the extra mile and do even better. I personally have been loving The Lively Show and The School of Greatness for this exact purpose.
6. Value your time as much as you value the time of others.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when you take a meeting or a conference call with a brand or agency and they get on the line and just want to shoot the shit (for lack of a better expression). I learned this the hard way and in the end when there isn’t an objective for the call or a brief to review, everyone’s time is wasted. Before you agree to speak with someone make sure you know exactly what you’re talking about and what both parties want to get out of the call.
7. Manage projects with transparency.
When you’re doing what often can feel like two full time jobs plus trying to have a personal life, it can be difficult to manage your time. I’ve learned that being upfront about it is best. This means setting realistic timelines for yourself and knowing what deadlines will work for you. Don’t want to spend all weekend working on your blog? Don’t say yes to too many projects in a short span of time. Prioritize which projects work best for your current schedule and work hard on those vs. trying to take on too much for your blog on the content side that you can’t keep up with everything else blogging involves (emailing; tracking expenses; taking meetings, attending events…the list goes on and on! It’s all the management stuff that you do in addition to actual content development.)
8. Don’t kill yourself.
I have nearly burned myself out from blogging on multiple occasions. I over-committed myself or stayed too plugged in and forgot to prioritize my life that happens away from a computer or iPhone screen. When you’re nearing what feels like burnout, I highly suggest taking a step back and reassessing priorities. I had to do this in the Fall of 2015 (I wrote about it here.) And I have to say going through that thought process and re-prioritizing actually ended up benefitting my blog in a big way. I stressed out less about things like when content went live (or live at all on certain days if we’re being honest…) and I just started to be energized about blog work more so than stressed. If you’re a regular reader maybe you even felt the shift? I started penning more lifestyle posts and more personal posts. I found renewed interest in writing in general and I started saying “no” more to things or actually asking for the fees that I felt my time warranted for sponsored posts vs. taking on multiple, smaller paid projects. If it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be I always told myself. And you know what? Things have gotten so much better since I started implementing this attitude and mindset.
What am I trying to say with all this? Well, in the end, don’t lose sight of why you started your blog or why you enjoyed creating content in the first place. When you’re feeling stressed out, hit pause and come back to that place of joy of when you first started out. Tap into your determined, motivated self and harness that creative and executional power you have inside of you. Surround yourself with family and friends and then get back at it. The world will not end if a post doesn’t go live when it is supposed to or if you felt you were taking on too much so you had to push back. It’ll actually just benefit you in the long run. And never forget the beauty of being present with yourself, too.
So there you have it! A very long winded post but one that I hope you’ll find helpful! Do you have any tips I didn’t touch on? If so leave them in the comments so we can all benefit! And you know me…always looking at ways to improve!
[Bekka Palmer Photography and illustrations by the oh-so-talented Laura Palmer of XO LP. Check out her shop – her greeting cards are the cutest and I’m lucky to call Laura a new friend. I hope you’ll check her out!]