business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros

So You Think You Want To Blog?


As small business owners, entrepreneurs, or hobbyists, if you are considering adding a blog to your business the first question that you should ask yourself is:

“Why am I blogging and what do I hope to gain?”

Read This Before You Start a Blog

Bloggers are:

  • Writers
  • Developers
  • Librarians
  • Social media managers
  • Intellectual property experts
  • Editors
  • Graphic designers
  • Advertising execs
  • Marketing gurus

Blogging offers lots of amazing rewards but comes with a great deal of responsibility, and each time you put a post, a tweet, or an email out into the blogiverse you are representing yourself or your business… that’s a lot of pressure!

Sit down to think for a moment about the blog you hope to create, the audience you want to reach, and the true reason you want to start a blog.  Make a pro/con list.  Consult your business plan.  Read other people’s blogs to get an idea of the audience you may want to reach and the network you want to join.  Then ask yourself…

“Am I qualified to blog about _____?”

Whatever your chosen topic, you should be a subject matter expert in that field.  Your field may be yourself.  It may be your business.  It may be your own taste.  Clearly you are an expert in all of those!  But let’s say you want to start a blog about gardening.  What can you add to the gardening blog industry?  Do you personally garden?  What do you know about growing specific plants, vegetables, or flowers?  Are you prepared to answer questions from readers and advise them on making their garden grow?  If the answer to these questions is no, stop here.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and do not start a gardening blog.  But if you’re a bona fide gardening pro, then the last and most important question is…

“Do I have time for this?”

For many of us, blogging is a full-time job (on top of our full-time job).  It’s a huge commitment.  You must take the time to realistically assess whether or not you will have the time and energy to devote to your site.

If you’re a brave soul and are ready to jump in feet first, I’m going to be doing a series of posts to help you get started building your WordPress blog. I remember vividly how it feels to be brand-new to the blog world and tackle the setup of a website, so we will go back to basics, answer all of your burning questions, and you will be blogging in no time.

If you’re on the fence, well, that’s OK, too.  Starting a blog is not a decision to be made lightly, and we’ll have much more discussion on the realities and benefits of blogging, and why it may or may not be for you.

For all of you experienced bloggers reading, what other factors should those who are thinking about creating a blog take under consideration?

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The Midas Whale


Several seasons ago, there was a duo on the Voice by the name of Midas Whale. Legend has it, one member of the duo asked the other if he wanted to form a band, and he replied “Might as well”, and thus the name was born. From then on, in the office, each decision we made because we “might as well” was referred to as a Midas Whale.

The Midas Whale

Photo: © Dreams by the Sea / Etsy

Over time, I’ve come to the realization that though he may originally appear cute and harmless, the Midas Whale is a dangerous predator. It’s so easy to follow the Midas Whale that the best alternative may be left by the wayside.

Perhaps:

  • You’re going down the path of least resistance.
  • You might not truly want to take the route, but you can’t think of a reason not to.
  • Your first choice wasn’t available, so this is the next best thing.
  • Other people are doing it, so you think you should as well.

Before following the Midas Whale, ask yourself:

  • Is there another course of action with a higher potential upside?
  • Am I doing this because it’s easy, or because it’s best?
  • What do my instincts say about the choice?
  • Am I swimming with the current (pardon the pun) or simply being carried along?

Have you followed a Midas Whale? How did you feel about your decision?

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What Is WordPress Anyway?


Although there are several blogging platforms available to you, we’re mainly going to discuss the technology and coding behind just one of them here on Edit and Post, and that is WordPress. WordPress is currently the most flexible and powerful option out there and it’s the platform I use for Edit and Post, Entouriste and Elizabeth Anne Designs.

What is WordPress

What is WordPress, anyway?

WordPress is an open-source content management system.  Open-source means that the code for the software is freely provided and can be altered and built upon by anyone.  Why is this cool? Because that means there are thousands upon thousands of people working every day to enhance WordPress functionality by creating themes and plugins to be used with the basic code (we’ll chat more about themes and plugins soon!).

WordPress requires a MySQL database to run, along with a web server.  Your WordPress database is made up of several tables.  Each table holds a specific element of data, such as your posts, comments, and settings.  Your web server holds your image files, theme files, plugins, and WordPress admin files.  You can think about things this way: if you upload it, it goes on your web server.  If you write it or input it, it goes into your database.

How do the web server and database talk?

They use a language called PHP.  Every time WordPress needs to “get” something from the database, a PHP script is run.  There are several default PHP functions in WordPress, and you can also create your own.

PHP = “get”
Want to get the post title? <?php the_title(); ?>
Want to get the content? <?php the_content(); ?>
Want to get the author? <?php the_author(); ?>

Depending on the data you are gathering, the WordPress PHP function may default to “get and display” or simply “get”.  Both are useful!  We’ll talk about PHP a lot more in the future, but for now, just remember that PHP is how WordPress gets data from the database.

How does the PHP function turn into results?

After the web server has received data from the database, it turns it into HTML.  HTML is the language that your browser uses to display a website.  An example:

In WordPress, I have a PHP function that says: <?php the_title(); ?>

Once my web server has processed that script for the post you’re currently reading, the database will return: What Is WordPress Anyway?

The web server then displays to you: What Is WordPress Anyway?

You never see the PHP script and neither does Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE or whatever other browser you are using!

How do I style those results?

You make HTML look pretty using a language called CSS, which stands for cascading style sheets.

CSS tells your browser how to format things (fonts, colors, margins, spacing, etc).  CSS is very flexible, and you can style different elements of your page with different CSS markup.

Where do I put my PHP and CSS code?

Your PHP and CSS code goes inside your WordPress theme.  Simply put, your theme is how you want your WordPress data displayed to the world.  Several themes are installed with WordPress, and customizing your own theme is something that we’ll talk about in detail.

In the upcoming series of posts, we’re going to cover server needs, hosting basics, and the installation and basic configuration of WordPress.

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What The Bachelor Teaches Us About Business


Let’s face it, a lot of us are fans of horrible reality TV, including The Bachelor.  But we if dive in a little closer, we can see that we can actually learn something from the “journey”…

Business-Lessons-from-The-Bachelor

Photo: © ABC

Lesson 1: Not everyone is your soul mate

The Bachelor has 25 amazing women to choose from. Of course, his connection will be stronger with some than with others.

So how does this translate?

  • Not every client is your client.
  • Not every potential sponsor is right for you.
  • Not every guest blogger fits your aesthetic.
  • Not every blog/website/magazine/etc is a good fit for your advertising needs.

It took me a long time to come to terms with this. It’s hard to feel comfortable with saying no! But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to know your business or your blog well enough to make an informed decision about who you should work with and where best to spend your time and money.

Lesson 2: The popular choice isn’t always the right choice

Remember Bachelor Jake? Polls showed that most viewers wanted him to choose Tenley, but he followed his heart instead and proposed to Vienna.

There will inevitably be a time where you have to choose a path for your business. Perhaps it’s a price increase, a geographic move, or a new product you want to introduce. Your decisions won’t always be popular among the masses, and that’s OK. If you have evaluated and determined your course of action – stick to your gut and believe in yourself, because what’s right in everyone else’s eyes isn’t always the right choice for you.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to let go

Megan left Chris’s season of The Bachelor when she knew the “spark” wasn’t there.

One of the most difficult problems faced in business is when to let go – of an idea, of an employee, of a product line, etc. There is no right answer. It’s of course different in each situation, but the key is learning to recognize when it’s time to cut the cord, and when you make the decision, confront the problem directly, make an action plan, and follow through.

Lesson 4: First impressions are important

On episode 1 of Ben’s season of The Bachelor, the all-important initial first-impression rose went to Lindzi, who was also one of the final two ladies.

We all know the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Most first impressions are now made online, when someone is researching service providers or reading past reviews of products. Potential customers or clients may find your Twitter feed, personal blog, Facebook page, and of course your website.

  • How do you present yourself online?
  • How does your website/blog reflect on your business?
  • Is the branding consistent with your intended message?
  • Is what they see representative of what they get?

Lesson 5: It’s OK to admit you were wrong

Even if you aren’t a fan of The Bachelor, you may remember the absolutely wild After the Final Rose where Jason broke up with the winner, Melissa, only to ask Molly to date him again.  Jason and Molly have now been married for 5 years and have a daughter, while Melissa married a former boyfriend and has two children.

It’s inevitable that we will all make bad decisions.  Handling success is easy, but handling failure and accepting our bad outcomes is so much more important, in life and in business.  It’s OK to make bad calls, to admit you were wrong, and to try, try again.

Of course, there are many other life lessons we can learn from The Bachelor, most of which are quite obvious to non-reality-TV contestants!  What have you learned from watching The Bachelor?

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Images In Blog Posts: The Technical Side


We’ve talked about the legalities and etiquette of images in your blog posts.  Today, let’s chat about some of the tech tips for blog images.

Tech Tips for Images in Blog Posts

Size matters

High resolution images are a no-no.  Not only will it kill the speed of your site to host high resolution images, but it’s also bad blogging etiquette. Use WordPress’s built-in Media resizing functionality to help you out with resizing.  Under Settings -> Media you can supply a thumbnail size, a medium size (I use this for vertical images) and a large size (horizontal).  As you upload photos, WordPress will automatically create copies of the image resized to each of your specified dimensions.

Because most people are viewing your site on a widescreen monitor, portrait/vertical photos should be sized to about half of the width of landscape/horizontal photos.  This will help to keep the file sizes smaller, as well as keep each image within the viewable area of everyone’s screen.  For aesthetic reasons, this is why many blogs choose to “pair up” verticals in their posts.

What’s in a name?

A lot actually.  Search engines can’t “see” images, they simply recognize the caption (aka alt text), title, and image name and read those to index the image.  Name your images something descriptive and WordPress will automatically fill in the alt text with your image name.

When deciding on a file name, put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. “Juli and Jon Wedding.jpg” likely won’t produce any search hits. But “Yellow Sunflower Bouquet.jpg” might. Your alt text will also become your default Pinterest text when a reader pins an image from your site, so choose wisely!

A helpful hint

Using a Content Delivery Network (“CDN”) helps to speed up the delivery of images. A CDN makes copies of your images (along with stylesheets, javascript files, and the like) and places them on their servers worldwide. This way, your visitors are served up a file from the location closest to them. Cloudflare is a great choice for starting out with a CDN, as they have a free plan. WordPress’ Jetpack plugin also includes the option to use their Photon service.

In future posts, we’ll cover more advanced WordPress image issues, such as custom fields for image photography credits, media tagging, and the like. What other image tips and tricks do you have to share?

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