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tips and tools for creative blogging, oh my handmade

I’ve been publishing a post on OMHG almost every day for 3 years now and have hit publish on nearly 900 posts in that time (we are coming up on our 1000 post next month!). Along the way I’ve learned a few things about how blogging creatively can help you to build community, market your work and collaborate with new friends from all over the world.  Blogging changed my life in ways I never would have expected when I first purchased OMHG and I learned through a pile of trial and error. I wanted to share some of my tools and tips with you for our marketing theme and hopefully these short cuts help give your blog a little boost. Your path for creative blogging might look totally different, I don’t believe there is a formula for building a blog you love! The beautiful thing about blogging as a medium is that it changes based on our input and there are endless ways to express yourself or evolve as you grow. If you have blogging knowledge to share come meet us in the comments and add your voice to this list!

tips and tools for creative blogging, oh my handmade

  • Plan ahead. An editorial calendar is my very best friend! I started out lo-tech with Google calendar/iCal, and now couldn’t function without my WordPress editorial plugin.
  • Themes are awesome. Having a topic, theme, or regular post makes planning your content a million times easier. Brainstorm a list of 50-100 potential themes & watch the inspiration start flowing. Don’t limit yourself only to topics in your business niche-we spent a whole month talking about gardening and it was one of our most inspiring themes.
  • Set a date. Having a deadline for that theme/post/project keeps you accountable to your grand plans. Mark it in red and either get it done before or come screeching in just in time, but stick to it. You don’t have to publish every day, or even every week, but if no one is keeping you accountable to a schedule it will become so easy to put it off if you don’t commit.
  • Start anywhere. Every post is a blank page and it can be overwhelming if you think too hard about what you are going to write. Once you have your topic start anywhere-magic usually happens. I tend to edit a post multiple times from my initial stream of consciousness but would rather have too many ideas then not enough!
  • Create conversation. Blog posts that don’t end with a question or invitation to engage don’t usually get comments-if you want people to participate you need to invite them in! When you notice visitors who come back regularly build relationships with them by reaching out-they will become your biggest supporters.
  • Be consistent. Consistency means showing up regularly, not wildly changing your offering or language from day to day, and letting your readers get to get to know you so you can build trust with them. If one day you are sporting a mohawk and the next show up in a business suit people might get confused…unless that is your whole thing in which case, carry on.
  • Avoid predictability. Try not to get too comfortable with a pattern that works and stop pushing yourself to create original content. If you are bored your readers will feel it, so if something stops working or feels stale, change it! Experimentation is always more exciting than stasis. Not all posts or ideas are going to take off and I’ve found quite often that the posts I slave & worry over get less interest then the ones I type up on the fly because I’ve got a hole in the calendar or want to respond to another post.
  • Make it pretty. Great images are key to a beautiful, engaging, and unique online home. Carefully choose & credit the images you use and always try to create as much of your content as possible. In my list of resources I share my favourite places for finding images and crediting sources but I’ve moved to taking more and more photos or designing the images myself like the graphics used in this post (I used the font Trend Handmade from MyFonts).
  • Ethics are everything. Be conscious about the language you use, the way you share and consume online content, and what you send out into the world via your online presence. Your blog is a mini-community and its up to you to lead it in a way that is respectful, honest, and kind regardless of the tone and style you choose.
  • Build friendships not followings. If you genuinely reach out, interact, and engage the world explodes with new friendships and opportunities. Your blog can become a leaping off point to amazing new adventures but you’ll never get started if you don’t reach out and say hello or tend to the friendships you begin. I spend very little time on outreach and have never paid for advertising instead I focused on finding opportunities to collaborate using OMHG as the vehicle to bring us together.  I welcome and cherish new friends and connections but I don’t spend a lot of time searching for them!

tips and tools for creative blogging, oh my handmade

  • Start a series or project. It can be as simple as Soule Mama’s This Moment photo project or a project series like Brett’s at IAMTHELAB. Share your favourite series & blog projects in the comments so we can check them out!
  • Host an online event & call for submissions. Give people a reason to flock to your blog & participate! Story of Mum is hosting an on + offline virtual exhibition, It’s A Banner Day is a global call for artists to collaborate, hosting our #OMHG chats built our community and traffic- post other examples in the comments & round up some great inspiration.
  • Team up on a post. One of the best ways to build friendships through your blog is to team up to create content for each others sites. We’ve had so many collaborative posts on OMHG like this wonderful one from the archives by Geri & Alison.
  • Interview your mentors/friends. Collecting the insight & expertise of friends and mentors is a great way to create content and connections at the same time like Allisa’s Finding Your Marketing Voice post or Nanako’s round up of effective Etsy photos.
  • Invite guest contributors. 90% of the awesome that is OMHG is thanks to our contributors, when you are first starting out you can connect with other emerging bloggers to build both of your sites and build up each others content. Be sure your contributors are in line with the mission and goals of your blog and you outline ground rules for the collaboration! When I took over the site in 2010 we had 15 contributors and we have swelled to over 45-managing this many contributors is almost a full time job so start small and add to your list when you are ready.
  • Post submission guidelines. Clear and well written submission guidelines are so important if you are planning to open up to guests, our guidelines have had multiple evolutions over the years to keep up with the changes to the site. Spend some time looking at guidelines on other sites so you can get an idea of how people manage contributions.
  • Plan a link up. People love to share what they are working on, give your readers a chance to be seen on your site by creating opportunities to link up-either in the comments, through blog features or via social media like our weekly #OMHG chats or our recent biz share #PinParty 
  • Go on tour. Blog tours can be a fun way to connect a group of bloggers around a common theme. I’ve seen blog tours for topics like the Things I’m Afraid to Tell You series or products like those often run by sponsors. Do you have any examples of creative blog tours?
  • Connect with sponsors. Sponsored posts can connect you with your sponsors community as well as bringing value to your own. Be sure to have an agreement that outlines mutual promotion of the post, depending on the size of your readership you might get product in exchange for editorial or you might be compensated. Beware sponsored posts take a lot of time, I typically spend 6 hours on a sponsored post like this or this & charge $175 (my shop rate for consulting & design is $120 per hour so sponsored posts sure are not all about the money!).
  • Promote your supporters! You would be surprised at how many people are so excited to have a feature published on OMHG who don’t promote it to their own community. If someone posts for you be sure to shout them out on social media and in your newsletter, the same goes for if you are featured elsewhere!

tips and tools for creative blogging, oh my handmade

tips and tools for creative blogging, oh my handmade

I would love to know about your ideas about how to use blogging as a platform to connect with your community and customers! Share a link to your blog in the comments and let us know: what are your biggest blogging lessons? Where do you find great images to use? Who are your blogging inspirations? Let’s turn this post into a resource for bloggers everywhere!

Jessika Hepburn

about the author

Jessika Hepburn has written 511 posts on Oh My! Handmade Goodness. A cheerful activist and community matchmaker I delight in using my connection superpowers to bring makers and entrepreneurs together in ways that lift us all up. I believe in cooperation over competition, relentless good cheer as an act of rebellion, and the power of using our hands to craft a brilliant future. OMHG is part social enterprise, part grand experiment, and all goodness-so pull up a chair or pitch in a hand to join in creating our supportive community!
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  • http://twitter.com/zoe_rooney Zoe Rooney

    Thanks for including me, Jess!

    As far as my own strategy for blogging, there are two main types of posts I write on my blog, the combination of which I find very motivating to write and keep me pretty stocked up on post ideas:

    1. Things I’ve learned/ bits of information I want to remember. In my case, these are tutorials, code snippets, and resource-type-posts. I usually post them in part because it acts as a library for me to go back to when I want to use something again and also of course in case it helps someone else. The technical ones build my image as an “expert” and the non-technical ones appeal to my primary client base of designers.

    2. Email replacers. These are posts that replace email responses to questions I get a lot, either from random people contacting me or from clients/ designers. Then, next time the topic comes up in an individual conversation I can just link to the post!

    The good thing about both these types of posts is that the topics come up pretty organically – I can just note the questions I get a lot, and copy my last emailed answer as the start of a post. Or, when I finish something new, I can just pull snippets of what I’ve done into a quick tutorial.

    • http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/ Jessika Hepburn

      I learn something new about how the internet works when I visit your site Zoe! I love the idea of using your blog as a way to respond to inquiries & build up a knowledge base that is more creative + detailed then a FAQ. I can see this being really effective for any kind of business-taking the feedback you get & translating it into content. I love when our contributors are inspired to write a post based on a comment/chat question or concern, those are always the posts that get the most engagement too!

  • http://www.lushyboutique.com/ Naomi

    This is a very useful post if you where near by i would plant a smacker on your cheek! i really needed that wordpress editorial plug-in i just installed it and filled some of it in all ready.
    Some great tips you have given here. I will go through your resource list.
    I would also add that automating your posts to your social sites like G+ Page (which is working good for me and i only put the page up this week), and twitter and facebook page will also get your blog noticed. If anyone need help doing this i would be happy to help.

  • http://twitter.com/grownandhealthy Homegrown & Healthy

    Oh my gosh, I’m pretty sure you just changed my life with that link to the editorial calendar. Thank you!!

  • http://twitter.com/MarisaEdghill Marisa

    I have found that DIY projects drive the most traffic for me – I don’t think you should teach how to make your products, but something complementary would work well. Sell ceramics? Share a well-loved recipe and shoot in on your beautiful plates. Sell jewelry? How about a hair tutorial that accents your hair clips / earrings in the images. Take really lovely photos that are Pinterest fodder and submit to sites like Craftgawker to further drive traffic. While most visitors won’t stick around and become customers, some certainly will!

    Also, behind the scenes pictures are always popular – show us your process. Give us sneak peeks of upcoming product lines so that we are excited for the launch. Or even just beautiful images of your life – if done well, these small glimpses help us to connect with you & your brand / are aspirational.

    My main tip would really be to create your own content / use your own photos. Make your corner of the internet a unique one and others will want to come and play!

    • http://www.joyfulroots.com/ Kimberly Kling

      Loooove these ideas, Marisa!

  • Nidhi Mishra

    Hi, Its amazing to come across a blogger like you! Thank you for the wonderful post….I have been blogging since 2005 and have quite a few blogs to write onto… Your tips are simply amazing & I can totally connect with them…..Had been searching on ‘how to get sponsors’ … I guess your tip will help me :)

    My tip is that posting the same articles on an articles base site like ezinearticles.com helps in drawing traffic! :)

    sunshinendewdrops.blogspot.com
    crayoncreatives.blogspot.com

  • http://www.iamthelab.com/ I AM THE LAB

    Thanks Jessika for the mention. My main piece of advice for handmakers is to build a Handmade Trifecta: A great shop, active and productive social media connections and a lively blog. Each piece builds a verdant whole and the most successful handmakers use all three. I’ve done a few posts on the HF and the folks I’ve featured are really skilled and worth checking out: http://su.pr/9MYgit

    Your list mentions two of my favorites: Design Seeds & Pugly Pixels. Both of these women have really mastered their fields and I get so much inspiration from both.

    • http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/ Jessika Hepburn

      Your handmade trifecta is the perfect concept not just for makers but for any business-if you have those three components anything is possible!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/giftrepsandy Sandy Dell

    I have been hosting my blog for 4 years and have found that curating articles gets lots more information shared than any other method I have ever used. Curating articles typically means finding other information or view points and sharing part of the article (with references and links to the original post) and giving your views or input on the info. I find my readers love this as they receive addition viewpoints beyond my own.

    Sandy Dell
    http://www.SellingtoGiftShops.com

  • http://twitter.com/ursularosien Ursula Rosien

    I just started blogging last month and I used these guidelines
    To design and build my blog. Here is the link :)

    http://www.avivadirectory.com/successful-blog-launch/
    It was very helpful and I followed the guidelines step by step.
    My blog is about party planning and paper crafting.
    My love for paper crafting started when I subscribed
    To Olive Box. Here is my blog :)
    http://kraftmint.com

    • http://www.joyfulroots.com/ Kimberly Kling

      Thanks for the resource Ursula! It’s very comprehensive and I see a lot of things I could change :) Your blog is lovely and I am adding it to my BlogLovin’ Feed!

    • http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/ Jessika Hepburn

      How awesome that Grace’s new business inspired your love of paper crafting, your new blog is adorable!

  • http://www.joyfulroots.com/ Kimberly Kling

    Jessika – This is a brilliant post! Hugs to you! I’ve been struggling a lot with the direction I want to take my blog and the content I want to provide. My blog often gets pushed to the wayside when work and life gets busy and I wish I would stop doing that! LOL. Your tips and all of the ideas in the comments are incredibly helpful and motivating.

    I would say that the biggest lesson I have learned is that having a few deep connections with other bloggers is much more important and rewarding than a lot of superficial ones. I’ve driven the most traffic to my site through meaningful connections, much more than by listing my blog on catalog and blog list sites, or just tweeting randomly. It’s hard to get noticed in places like that.

    Also, being a part of Oh My! Handmade and the chats has probably been my biggest success and most fulfilling connecting place. I feel so at home here. I’m always excited to see what’s new with everyone and to take part in meaningful discussions like this. :)

  • http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/ Jessika Hepburn

    Oh thank you so much Sandra, giant hugs flying to you all the way in Portugal! I remember you were having health problems last year and I hope you are feeling stronger and healthier. I am wishing you only the best for your new life and blog, please let me know if I can support you at all!

  • http://fanchimp.com/ Nicoletta

    This post is super interesting, thank you for sharing. I just started two months ago with my blog but I completely agree with your tips.

    Now I’m working on attract guest blogger and handmade sellers to write on it. It’s hard because my blog is pretty young, any advice?
    Is it ok to write them an email?

    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/ColleenAttara Colleen Attara

    Jess…love this helpful post. I so wish my thoughts could go directly into WordPress as I write posts constantly in my head. I know I need to be more consistent with my blog, but it is very much like creating to me. I get inspired and then I am off painting with words and photos. The very best posts are the ones where I share the most…expose some places that are more personal. And i have learned so much from you and your remarkable ability to engage. I see my art as my business and my blog as a window and portal to that world….

  • http://aeolidia.com/ Arianne Foulks

    I’m late to this party, but thanks so much for sharing my blog, Jessika!

    When trying to find ideas to post about for new blogs, how about just asking your readers? We had a successful blog launch by having a giveaway, and asking readers what they’d like to see on our blog in the comments to win. I have enough post ideas to last me for years now.

  • http://www.SewBeastly.com Citlalli

    Jess, always right on point! I have been a bit MIA lately, and needless to say: My blog has suffered :(

    One of the ways I have been able to connect with other bloggers is by providing info that is interesting to me as a maker/wanna be marketer/web designer; you know, the one woman shows. i have a blog series called Neat + Useful links where I share them. Here’s the link: http://www.sewbeastly.com/search/label/Neat%20%2F%20Useful%20Links

    Oh, and collaborations are not only fun, but have so much to teach you as well!

    Also, the OMGH community has been the best resource for me. The sense of community, the safety zone you have created for all of us is absoulutely priceless!! Thank you a million times!

    I will definitely stop being so MIA…hugs to you!!

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  • http://www.process-box.com/category/creative/ Lem Pearson

    Thanks for sharing these tools for creative blogging. A lot of bloggers are surely delighted with these. Cheers!

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