Friday, August 8, 2014

International Blogging

This post is a part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

You may not know that I am actually from a small country in Europe called Slovenia. I've mentioned in a few times and I also sometimes post in two languages, but I'm pretty sure a lot of my readers think I'm from the UK! I actually really love it here in Slovenia, but the blogging situation is quite different for people from across the sea, so I decided to write up a quick post on blogging from a location that is different than the usual UK or US. I've prepared some tips as well some information. Let's see what we have ...

Customs & Taxes
I wanted to mention something that you will come across sooner or later when you're shopping online in foreign stores. I'm going to be speaking for Slovenia here, but I assume it's similar with other countries in the European Union ... So basically, if you're ordering from a store in the EU, you're good - you'll pay the price and the shipping on the site. But when you're ordering from the US and Asia, for example, you'll have to pay taxes and even customs duties. If you'd like to avoid that in Slovenia, keep the value of your purchase under $22 (excluding shipping). This applies when you're shopping on Ebay, Amazon in the US etc.

Receiving gifts as a blogger
Another topic I wanted to touch on. I've received items for review from many countries, and I've had problems mainly with Asian fashion stores. I've been charged customs duties as well as tax even though the company sent me the items as a gift. Once, I received some skincare and they tried charging me well over 50€ just to get them! I would advise warning the company to send the item as a gift, and if you're charged, it's your decision whether you'll accept the package or not. I generally do if the amount is under 15€, but anything over that seems excessive, since I am on budget.

Working with overseas companies
I've generally had an amazing experience with working outside of Slovenia. Actually, any partnerships with brands for me are usually from overseas (though this has been changing recently). As long as they're in the EU, you're good, but make sure to let them know you're an international blogger! I have had companies write to me and decline to work with me when they found out I was from Slovenia, which is a real shame, but I do understand how expensive shipping can be.

International beauty products
You may feel a little sad because you cannot get items that other people get across the sea. Worry not - online shopping is your best friend! First of all, I almost exclusively buy fragrance online since it's so much cheaper, and I also like to order some makeup. I can do a post on my favourite online shops if you'd like! You can always check Ebay, Boots now ship internationally, and I also love Fragrance Direct. You can also shop at Sephora which ships to the UK now. But if you don't have the option of shopping online, utilise the goodies you can get in your country! I love seeing new and regional products so I know what to stock up on when I travel.

Feeling inadeaquate
I often feel excluded just because I am an international blogger. I feel like whenever I sign an e-mail and I have to include my name, which has a foreign letter in it, I've basically sealed my fate - no one will want to work with me or even acknowledge me! I really urge you and myself not to feel that way. You are never, ever allowed to feel unworthy because of your nationality. I personally love being Slovenian and I would not change it for the world, in my opinion I live in the most beautiful country in the world. Please have a different outlook - be proud of your country and try to work even harder and celebrate your nationality! I really think we should be proud of our roots and I believe we can all make a name for ourselves and proudly state where we are from at the same time.

There we go - some tips for international bloggers. I really hope this was helpful, I know I'll try to follow my own advice for one.
Which country are you from?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How To Be Organized - Notebooks

This post is part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

Remember when we were still in school and the best part of going into class again was buying all the stationery? Well, you can make that work for you. Whether you're a blogger or just want to organise your life a little better, you might find some of these tips quite helpful.

I am a very stressed person. Every single thing makes me worry and lose sleep over it. I've found, however, that being organised really helps me with that and I always do my best when I plan out my duties. My way of doing this is by writing things down. It always helps me to see a list in colour and written in my own hand, so I know what I have to do and have something to get back to. Regarding blogging, I have a way of making my notebooks work for me ... I keep a few of them, including the following.

1. To-Do Notebook
I really recommend writing to-do lists, they're complete life saviours. I like to write them every morning or sometimes even in the evening for the next day. I put my most important tasks on them, number them, then use markers to outline them in different colors (in pink, yellow and orange which stand for try to do it, should do it and must do it). Then, I also add some mini goals connected to those, for example if I have to prepare three blog posts, I'll add mini goals of taking photos, writing the post and scheduling it. It feels really good to tick it all off, and at the end of the day, I like to see how much I've gotten done that day.

2. Blog Post Ideas Notebook
You can also do this on Pinterest, which I also do. Carry a smal notebook with you or just take down any ideas in your phone, then put them in a bigger list at home. I have colour coordinated my ideas in different categories (lifestyle, beauty etc). Then I tick them off when I'm done. I also like to add ideas about how I'll take the photos for the posts, throw in some magazine cut outs and write with different colours so everything just jumps off the page.

3. Keeping Track Notebook
This is where I keep all of my notes - where I'm advertising for each month and how much I paid, how many followers I gained in a certain period of time, how I liked a post I did and what I would change or keep in the future ... I've found that this is incredibly helpful! You can also throw in e-mails you need to write or respond to, a list of brands you're working with ...  This will keep you on track and you'll have everything in one place.

4. In My Mailbox & Shopping Notebook
This one is so useful. I write down a wishlist each month, and then also add items I've ordered online, and the date I ordered, the date it shipped and when it arrived. This makes it easy to know when my next order will arrive, since I can calculate the average shipping time. This way, you can also keep track of your expenses and really see where you're wasting money and where you need to spend more!

I have a few other notebooks, but don't think I'm some crazy stationery lady - I just find these help me so much in everyday life and I manage to get so much more done. I would really strongly recommend keeping a notebook and writing to-do lists as well, because you will feel accomplished by the end of the day and get a lot more done.
Any organising tips?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blog Design 101

This post is part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

I wanted to discuss all things blog design today. I think it's quite an interesting topic, and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I've had quite a few different designs over the past two years in a half. I'm here today to share what I learned and hopefully help you to get an absolutely gorgeous blog. Let's start with some ...

General tips

1 - My first piece of advice is to go for a clean design. Personally, I dislike seeing busy designs where the background and banner deter from the posts themselves. I like a nice, light background, preferably white or pastel, dark text and a really interesting banner which stands out.
2 - Make your photos big. Photos are one of the two key parts of your blog along with the text, and personally, nothing turns me off from a blog more than tiny photos. You spent your time on them, you're proud of them, so show them in all their glory!
3 - Don't use too many fonts. It's good to stick to two or three main ones, because if you use a lot of different ones, it will all become jumbled and confusing. Stick to one for your posts and one for your titles. Make sure the fonts are easy to read.
4 - Use tags to your advantage. Tags are really useful for readers of your blog, because by clicking on them, they will instantly be taken to all of the posts you've tagged with that keyword. Don't use too many, but keep it varied and interesting and don't forget to tag all of your posts.
5. Add gadgets and pages. The ones I really think you need are search, GFC followers and an about page. An archive is also great! This helps readers of your blog navigate the site and makes it easier to follow. If you use Bloglovin', I would strongly recommend adding their button because it's many people's preferred choice of following blogs.

Tips when buying a design

1 - Search on Etsy. It has an amazing selection of gorgeous templates. Some of them are pre-made. A few that I really like - this gorgeous watercolour premade Blogger template for only $30, an interesting soft coloured template, and a very clean and simple design. When searching around Etsy, try adding keywords, like the colour you want, or phrases like minimal, minimalistic, beauty blogger ...
2 - If you're going for a custom design, do your research when finding a designer. I've worked with Leanne on both of my blogs and I couldn't be happier with what she has done with both of them, so I'd warmly recommend her. Brittany also makes lovely templates, and Baggle is super popular with beauty bloggers.
3 - Create an inspiration board for your design. I made one on Pinterest, you can see it here. Definitely show it to your designer as well, or take it into consideration when you're choosing a premade template. I pin everything from colours to textures I like, fonts, ideas, photography I like ...

Tips when doing design yourself

1 - Make a really nice header. It's the first thing people will see when they arrive on your blog, and you can also use it for business cards and blog buttons when you advertise on other blogs. Keep it clean and simple - write the title of the blog and add a brush in Photoshop or a small photo. Make sure to save the photo as PNG, because otherwise the background will not be white, but grey!
2 - Turn off 'Auto-Enhancing' in Blogger. If you use Google Plus, go to your settings and search for the aforementioned term, then disable it. This is supposed to make your photos prettier, but actually messes it up most of the time, at least for me!
3 - Make sure everyhing works and looks good. If you're not too familiar with HTML, ask someone for help. Check your blog on a tablet or mobile as well to make sure everything looks good. Fix broken links and make sure to fill out your pages so they don't stay empty!

Those are all of my tips! In general, I would strongly encourage you to get an inexpensive premade Blogger template when you're starting out. It will really make a world of difference, and those $25 you'll be spending really aren't that much if you want to commit to blogging. I recently launched another blog and I got a premade template instead of a custom design, because I'm not sure how committed I'll be to it! I really hope this was helpful and apologize for not including more design DIY tips - I like to leave it to the professionals!
What kind of blog designs do you like?
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