Before the Paparazzi – Kristy from Hyphen Interiors

Today’s post will conclude the series, “Before the Paparazzi.” It will feature yours truly.  I hope you don’t mind and that doesn’t sound like I’m full of myself. I know I’m still a newbie blogger, so I don’t have a ton of blogging wisdom to share, but I’ve learned a few things so far.  No doubt a constant learning process, from the technical to the etiquette.
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How did you get started?
As I became more and more interested in design, friends began encouraging me to charge for my work and that is how my business was born. Several months later, I also succumbed to their pressure encouragement to write about design via a blog.  They were interested in tips and projects.  I’m sure, though, that many of those people just thought it may mean that I blab less about fabric and spray paint to them!  After only a few months of becoming an avid blog reader myself, I decided to give it a shot.   I’ve been blogging for 3.5 months now.
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What was your biggest fear?
I was afraid of three main things – that I wouldn’t be very good at it, that no one would want to read it and that I would not keep up with it.
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Perhaps the last one haunts me most.  On most weeks it’s easy to keep up with and something I look forward to doing.  But, there are still weeks that are super busy with clients, personal projects and life and it gets hard to post as often. Being hard on myself, I usually feel guilty for not being able to do it all, but then I remind myself that no one is standing over me making me blog daily. And, I remind myself that I am allowed to take breaks or skip days. This helps me get my head back on straight.
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Not allowing yourself breaks is the fastest way to blog burnout. And, allowing guilt from feeling behind squelches creativity. Elsa, author of Casa Greer and a participant in this series, is taking most of the summer off. I admire that she knew when to take a break and gave herself that freedom.
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What surprised you most about blogging?
I was shocked that others wanted to read what I wrote. And, even more shocked when I painted a chair as a last resort and suddenly so many became interested in that process. I was asked to guest post through that about three weeks into blogging and I didn’t even know what guest posting meant yet! What I learned is that any silly project, especially one with tons of risk involved, could really take off.  You just never know.  I think I’m like a one hit wonder now, as people always think of that one project when they hear Hyphen Interiors.
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Though I love blogging, I’m also surprised at how much time blogging does can take. I should specify, design blogging.  I think other types of blogs may not be as time consuming.
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If you try to keep up with 40-100 blogs, like many do, that can easily take a couple of hours a day. Then, if you are also doing projects that you will talk about on the blog, that can take multiple hours, days or weeks, depending on the project. In addition, you respond to comments, visit some of the blogs of those who comment and actually write posts. Perhaps you also take the time to join link parties and answer emails from readers. And, perhaps you get asked to guest blog for others on occasion. Then, there is the technical stuff that you spend time learning. Later, you can add to that advertisers and promotion.
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For the first time, I realized how blogging could actually be a full-time job! I had no idea! None. At first, I allowed it to take up quite a bit of time, but I’ve been trying to limit blogging to 1-3 hours a day when possible.  Only incorporate projects that you’d do anyway.
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Lesson to be learned is – know why you blog (for me, for a business and even more so for fun) and give yourself a break!  Don’t put pressure on yourself to post daily, read every blog in your reader, and so on.  Relax and enjoy… unless you are trying to become a full-time blogger, perhaps. But, even then, don’t let it get overwhelming. (I’m reminding myself as much as all of you.)
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What advice would you give to newbies?
I loved all of the advice from those who participated in this series. Here is what I came up with.-
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1. Be aware that Blogger can delete your blog.
When I chose which blog platform to use, I just used what I had heard of and what was most popular – Blogger/ Blogspot. A couple of months into it, I woke up one morning to find that my entire blog (every post, template, stat, and so on) had been deleted. No explanation. Of course, I didn’t have a backup.  My bad.  I had not been aware that Blogger can falsely detect spam or have a false report and shut it down. Technically, they own the material. I was in shock. Thank God, four hours later, my blog was reinstated.
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In the process, I found that there is no one at Blogger to contact. You are completely helpless when this happens.  Many never get their blogs back.  For fear that it could happen again, I quickly began the process of moving to a self-hosted WordPress blog. It did cost me both monetarily and with my time, as it was pretty complicated.
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I am not saying not to use Blogger, but to be aware. I wish I had known. I’d hate to lose years’ worth of work. So, if you are new and contemplating platforms, it may be worth considering. I am not being paid to say this.
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Be sure to backup your blog, especially if you use Blogger.
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2. Keep your blog clutter free.
Don’t put a ton of ads and widgets/ gadgets if possible.  Make it simple to use and simple for the reader to find what they need.  Add pages if needed rather than clutter on the sides.
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3. Avoid huge header graphics.
You want your readers to get to the content as quickly as possible.  Avoid header graphics that take up most of the screen forcing the reader to scroll down before seeing the bulk of the first post.
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4. Followers vs Subscribers.
This may be too simple for some, but I just figured this out recently.
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The concept of “followers” was created by Google and relates just to an internal Google product called Google Friend Connect (GFC).   See my GFC on the right under “Follow Via Google.”  It’s essentially a reader program that collects new posts from all blogs that you “follow” in one spot so you don’t have to visit each one separately.  The idea behind this particular Google reader is for easy reciprocal linking (you like my blog, I like yours) and so you can see who is “following.”  However, not everyone has a Google account and “follows” that way.  Some just subscribe.  When I say subscribe, I mean that they use a reader other than GFC.  The difference is that these other readers do not offer the “followers” aspect.  That means you cannot see who is following through them.
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To see the difference in numbers, see “Subscribe Via Any Reader” on the right of my blog.  Click the link to see how it looks if you are curious.  I also added the chance to “Subscribe By Email.”  You can see there are definitely additional people following those ways.
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So, be sure to give your readers alternative ways to subscribe, according to what works best for them.  Not everyone wants to use GFC.  When I personally subscribe, I prefer an old fashioned RSS feed that I set up to show up in Outlook.
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How can I give them other subscribing options, you ask.   I started using Feedburner for that.  Feedburner is easy to set up and will give you the code you need.
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The ultimate conclusion, though, is that the number of readers that you have is not linked very tightly with the number of “followers” that you have.  So relax!
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5. Watch your word count.
I’m totally breaking this rule in this post, but generally, people will not read lengthy posts.  Thank you if you are still reading this one. This especially applies to design blogs.  If the post is long, they will just scan it for images. So, use the word count feature on Word, WordPress, Live Writer or whatever you write your posts in. Keep your posts less than 500 words when possible. We are all usually in a hurry when reading posts. This helps respect that time.
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Instead of lots of words, use lots of images.
6. As Cassie said, don’t get discouraged if your blog doesn’t grow at what you determined to be a fast pace.
It’s vastly different for everyone. As long as you stay true to why you blog, you can remain content. Some blogs get lucky breaks, others have just the right eyes noticing them and still others may have more time to devote to DIY projects which seem to be a great catalyst. It’s not about the number of followers. And, less followers does not mean you are not appreciated or loved. Don’t compare, just keep moving forward.
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7. Be thoughtful when responding.
Always be friendly, but also be thoughtful about how you respond.  When people ask a question, don’t only be sure to answer it, but answer it in a way that the answer will make it back to the reader.  What I mean is don’t respond under your own comments and expect the reader to remember where they asked the question and check back daily until you happen to respond.  Only respond that way if you are using something like the replyme plugin in WordPress.  That plugin actually sends an email to the person you responded to on your blog comments, alerting them to your response.  Otherwise, just email them or reply directly to the comment alert you got in email, assuming they aren’t a no-reply commenter.  Another way to respond is to go to the commenter’s blog, if they have one, and write your answer on it.  Make it easy for them to get your response.
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8. Schedule posts.
Don’t force yourself to write posts on the fly.  Instead, write a few at a time and schedule them to post on the days you want them to appear. This helps on those extra busy days.
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9. Fix your no reply comments.
Be sure that your profile does not hide your email address. This applies mainly to Blogger users and Google commenters. If it is hidden, when you comment and the blogger gets your comment via email, that comment will say “no reply.” That means they cannot just write you back and thank you for the comment or answer a question. Turn that on. It helps promote community.

I could go on, but I think this is already long enough.  God bless you for reading it!
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Hope that was helpful!  This officially concludes the series. If you missed any posts, be sure to click the “Before the Paparazzi” tag below to see them all.
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8 Comments :

  1. great post K! I am a testament to your followers not equaling your pageviews per day, I only have 800 something Google followers, but avg 10,000 pageviews per day. You can’t focus or get discouraged by the ‘followers.’ You are one of my favorite people, and I am SUPER glad I met you through blogging! ps- hows hawaii these days? lol xoxo shel

  2. All your points are so true. I have gone in and scaled down my reader because of the time it takes to read so many blogs. Some blogs I just follow on Facebook. I like staying under the radar with my blog, I feel like if I had a big following the pressure for content and regular posts would be over whelming. I don’t want to blog for money, just for pleasure so I don’t do advertising. But I love your content, your personality and your style. So you are a keeper for me in my reader :)

  3. very well said, kristy! all of it! and yes, change that darn no reply first thing! :)

  4. Thanks for all the information you shared!! My friend and I started a design blog a few months ago, and these tips will really help. I love your work, and read your blog often… keep it up!!

  5. OK, that is pretty scary that Blogger can erase a blog! Eekk! Thanks for the info! And I think your blog is wonderful…you are super talented and it shows! :)

  6. Very interesting post, I have to go through and read this slowly and thoroughly. There’s loads of information in here that I need to know! Thank you :)

    Suzy xxx

  7. I am so glad that you participated in this series yourself! It’s funny… I’m a bit behind on reading my blogs I follow, so I read the painted chaise before this one, and I think my exact words were somthing like “you really set your legacy with your first painted blue chair.” I hope you don’t take that the wrong way! I think it IS what most people will associate Hyphen Interiors with, but only as a HUGE wow factor- not your one hit wonder. It (for me anyway) simply established you as incredibly creative and one who thinks outside the box. I, for one, love your blog- and all of the different things it gives!

  8. Thanks for the mention! :-) What a great way to end the series. It’s amazing how quickly and how much you can learn from blogging…it’s a whole ‘nother complicated world :-) You are so incredibly talented and creative, I can’t wait to read more about your amazing ideas.

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