Guys! I’ve been meaning to share this post with you for some time, but I was unwell last week which always means my blogging goes out the window. I find it’s like skipping, when you’re in a rhythm it’s great, but if you break the rhythm it all goes to pot!
Blogging Workshop with Tails of a Mermaid (TOAM)
Two weeks ago I went to Jordan Wine Estate for the first time, for the Tails of a Mermaid workshop held by the lovely Natalie Roos. The focus of the workshop was to learn how to earn money from blogging. While I have made the odd cent here and there, I have been wondering how I could improve my blog to increase my paid work. The TOAM workshop was open to all existing and aspiring bloggers.
As many of you know, I blogged anonymously for the first 2 -3 years of Boring Cape Town Chick as I wanted a safe space where I could learn and develop my skills without everyone’s 2 cents. I loved it and learnt SO MUCH, but I have to say that I really do love connecting with others who enjoy blogging as much as I do. Having conversations about the blogosphere and exploring whether what I’m doing is right, wrong, better, needs improvement, etc. is so helpful. And who better to learn from in the South African climate than Natalie Roos? She’s been working as a freelance writer and blogger for years, so if there’s anyone who knows how to do it…it’s her!
Toam Workshop at Jordan Wines
The day started at The Bakery at Jordan Wine Estate, where we were warmly greeted with tea and coffee. There were LOTS of girls there, which I found rather intimidating. I thought there’d only be, like, 10 people! But Natalie, ever the professional, ensured that everyone felt welcome and ensured that it was focussed on learning and encouraging each other.
We all cozied into a little board room at Jordan and given note paper, pens and water to keep us going for the morning. I’m really glad they did as I was just going to use my phone to type notes, but sometimes a good ol’ pen and paper is the best.
The morning started with Natalie sharing her top practises for running a professional blog. It was really awesome for me to check off nearly all the things she’d recommended. Not because I’m trying to be a smart arse, but because it’s nice to know that my brain works and maybe my marketing guesses has actually been sound logic! When you’re working alone, you never really know!
After Natalie’s presentation, we all moved outside for lunch on the deck, overlooking the dam and the beautiful mountain rimmed valley.
Lunch was included in the price of the ticket. I ordered the confit duck (or was it chicken, I can’t recall now!), with mash. It was a perfect wintery dish and was delicious. I really enjoyed it. I sat with really lovely girls and enjoyed hearing about their adventures in blogging. While I look like a squished pumpkin in the picture, I’ll take the bad image to share the fun of the group!
Guest Speaker: Catherine Scott of Liquorice
After lunch we were spoilt by a guest speaking from Liquorice Digital Agency, Catherine Scott. It was SO awesome hearing from the ‘client’s point of view’. She taught us about the working relationship between blogs and brands and what we, as bloggers, can offer brands when collaborating. It was really, really great hearing from such a consummate professional. I need more of that in my life! (Working alone has it’s disadvantages!)
3 Blogging Best Practice Debates
Without compromising all the great advice that Natalie and Catherine gave us on the day, there were 3 points at the workshop that have stuck with me, that I feel differently about. I’d love your thoughts on them too. They are:
1. Branding Images
Natalie advises against branding your blog images as she feels it makes the images look ugly and if people want to use them then what’s the problem? My problem is that it’s my work. While I’m certainly no fantastic photographer, I create content for my blog, not for anyone else’s blog/website. Basically, I brand things so deter people from using my images. (They may still crop it off but at least I know I put up a decent fight, LOL!)
2. Only Writing Positive Things
This is a BIG one for me. So, while I totally agree that trolling and being negative online is so internet 2010, I do feel that it’s important to have an opinion and a voice. For eg. if every single thing I ever wrote on my blog was good, fabulous, wonderful, then what would be the point of people reading it? It may as well just be an advertorial.
I personally like to include any negative parts of my experiences (politely and within reason) so that people can get a proper sense of a product/service. Having said that, it’s a VERY fine line to walk when a brand is paying you, which is why it’s SUPER important to only take paid work for products you actually believe in and like. Slating brands online is NOT a good idea unless you’re 100% prepared to stand by your claims; something I’ve found most people shrink away from, unlike me.
3. Always Being Professional
It’s no secret that I’ve always had trouble with authority, inasmuch as that I’m a creative person and I’m not always good at staying inside the box (I’m not rude and, in fact, am very loyal to those who have faith in me). But a part of me does find it difficult to run my blog as a perfect space for brands. I like to inject personality into what I do and sometimes that may be seen as risky. For eg. If I go clubbing this weekend and I’m partying, I want to share that on my Twitter or Snapchat. I don’t want to compromise who I really am for the sake of future potential campaigns because it’s not corporatey/professional/safe.
A part of me just doesn’t want to be a slave to “the man” in a space that I created for my own freedom. If that deters brands from wanting to work with me, then that will just have to be a fact of life. Having said that, posting images of yourself puking out a taxi cab window is just bad behaviour and shouldn’t be shared with pride anyway. Again, it’s a fine line.
Doing a Good Job
Whenever I’ve ever created content I have always tried to think of it from a client’s point of view. After working in PR for a short time myself, I have seen some REALLY ugly blogs in my time, which is why I bought a professional theme and had a logo designed, so that PR’s can go back to their clients and say, “Look, here’s a great example of some online content” and feel proud when sharing my work. This just seemed obvious to me, but not many others have seen blogging from both sides of the fence. So before you do anything, think about how you’d like to be perceived by those you’d like to work with, and then make a decision.
I had SUCH a great time 2 weeks ago at the Tails of the Mermaid blogging workshop! A HUGE than you to Natalie for providing such a wonderful day and learning experience for those who would like to have successful blogs like Tails of a Mermaid one day. It really was so special to have Catherine there and I can only dream of being as talented and a ‘marketing ninja’ like her one day!
Thank you also to La Mere for the little sweets gift bag! The rosewater fudge was divine and I really loved the nougat too! Nougat can be really hard on my teeth, but the La Mere nougat is soft with toasty nuts, delicious! Thank you for that treat.
Thank you so much for reading and if you’re an aspiring blogger yourself, definitely buy a ticket to the next TOAM workshop so that you can learn from the pro’s. You won’t be disappointed.
To Jordan Wine estate, I will be back!
Thanks so much for this post. Loved it – as well as all your other posts (I’ve been binging lol)
I’ve only just started my blogging journey so I have a question for you… did you start with wordpress/blogger or did you have a website built? I’m so confused about what is best?
I bought a theme. Having a site built is expensive so I wouldn’t go that route, especially in the beginning where you want to do things nicely but not over-invest. Thanks for stopping by 🙂