Well, I have made it! The 1 year mark. The very first milestone. And I couldn't have done it without every single one of you! :)
I've been thinking of what sort of things to write to celebrate today. An essay. A few short paragraphs. A story. But then I decided, nah, let's make this fun! Let's make a list! A list of things I have learned in my first year! I will list 5 things in each category. Why 5? Because I love number 5. It's the number that reads “ha” in Thai, so when you see Thai people write 555 at the end of their sentence, it means “hahaha“, which means something they're talking about is funny! It's my happy number. :D
Before we begin, I'd like to tell you that 1 year old is still very young and I don't consider myself a blogging expert in any way. There is still so much to learn and the knowledge will only come with time. For now, I'd like you to think of this as our friendly little chat rather than anything else. Hopefully you will pick up a useful tip or two from this post and use them to improve your blog upon. :) Now, first and foremost…
What I've learned about blogging
- It is a lot of hard work! Holy Bananas! If I had known it would be this much work, I probably wouldn't have started!! Seriously! I will admit, when I first started blogging, it was very casual. I blogged about what I pleased and when I pleased without any peer pressure from the outside. But then there was that one point where everything changed, where you noticed that people were actually watching (reading) you, that was the time when I started taking things more seriously, and that's when hard work started. From planning about what to write, to taking product photos, swatch photos, and portraits, to editing them. Then comes a whole series of writing, presentation, and translation. I can easily spend 5 hours on just one post alone.
- Passion. It is the only thing that keeps me going. I work full-time on top of blogging and I've been running on 5 hours of sleep a night for the past year but never once have I thought of quitting! Without a strong passion to do something that you love, I don't think you will get very far. It is true when they say “Do what you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” — well, only if I could afford doing it full time! How AWESOME would it be to beauty blog full time! I'd be the happiest girl. :)
- Connection is key. Same with everything else in life, without connection, it is hard to get anywhere these days. Doesn't matter what you do, it's more about who you know. Especially in blogging, if you want your blog to be successful, you have to reach out. I was so shy about my blog in the beginning, I only told a few of my friends about it and mostly just kept it to myself. And my blog was quiet for a really long time, until I reached a turning point where I wanted to take Hellojaa to the next step. I have put so much effort into it and I had better let everyone know about it! (LOL!) The first and easiest connection you can make is by not just reading other blogs, but leaving comments, too. Make yourself known. In a sea of beauty blogs, you have to do something to get noticed. Things won't just happen anymore, unless you try. I'm in the process of allotting time every week to discover and visit new blogs and get involved more in the beauty community.
- It's OK to be discouraged! Oh, we have all been there, haven't we?! There *will* be times when you compare yourself to other blogs. It's inevitable. It's only natural. I do get discouraged from time to time but I won't let it bother me too much. Do not compare yourself to other blogs to be discouraged, but to be inspired. Learn from them. And you just have to keep on moving, improving, and staying hopeful and positive, that one day, good things will happen to you, too. Find your uniqueness, what makes you special, and make it shine!
- Traffic and followers are everything. It's a cold hard fact. There is no way to sugar coat this, but in this day and age, the success of your blog seems to be judged only by high traffic and follower counts. It is actually pretty sad to realize that this is what we've all come down to. It doesn't matter that you have the best content, the best photos, the best webdesign, the best makeup skills, without followers, opportunities are quite limited. And this is when I told myself to not take it personal. It's all business, it's not about you. I have learned to pay attention to the numbers, but I won't let it dictate me and my blog.
Pheww… seriously, I did not plan to get so deep into this! Good thing I limit myself to 5 or I can go on and on forever! Ha ha! Let's talk about something else more airy and delightful! :D
Product photo tips!
- Clean up! Remove dust! Trust me, this can make or break your photos! There is a reason why we love shiny new things. :) The easiest and cheapest way I have found is using adhesive tape! It removes dust with precision. :D Alternatively, you can also use a dust removal spray! Cleaning cloths work great, too, but make sure they are lint-free.
- Try different angle. You will be surprised that a simple product can look much more interesting when captured from unusual angles. Move it around, lift it up, look at it from a different way you normally would and you will see that it doesn't have to be from the “head-on” or “look-down” angles only. Be different!
- Use non-distracting background. Unless you're trying to create a “messy artsy” theme, try to keep the background as simple as possible. The main focus should be the product you are presenting and nothing else. I find a simple one-colored background work the best but do not stick to it, change things up once in a while to keep things interesting!
- Crop and resize. I love cropping! It is the most amazing tool in the world of photo editing! Ha ha! Seriously! Crop so that your product stands out from the background, and resize so that it fits within your blog layout. I learned that photos that “fill” the width of the content area create much more impact than the ones that are smaller. Be careful when you resize your images, though, because some pixels will be lost. Try to select the best resizing option that will preserve the highest quality of your images.
- Invest. It's a fact. Good photos come from a good camera and lens. I started off with a cell phone camera, too, but I learned to invest early. If you are serious about your blog, then it only makes sense to start from the best possible. I know from the get-go that writing is not my strong suit, and my makeup skills are still far from perfect, so I have to focus on something else to make my blog different than the others. And I focus on photos. :) I'm glad it has become something that people think of when they think of Hellojaa. At least I've done something right!
- Make your site mobile-friendly. More than 50% of my readers access my site from a mobile device, so I have a “mobile” version of my blog to accommodate them. Keep this in mind the next time you are selecting your new layout! :)
- Select a reliable blogging platform. Hellojaa is currently run on self-hosted WordPress and I think it is the best blogging platform ever invented. There are so many free widgets and plugins that you can basically just drag and drop to where ever you please on your site. I've been using WordPress since it was still called “b2” — anyone remember? :)
- Web host. It is very important to choose a trusty and reliable web host especially when your site starts getting high traffic. You'll be using a lot of resources and there could be some downtime. I am not 100% happy with my current host because I've seen a lot of downtime on my site but the thought of switching scares me. So, do look for the best host you can find before settling.
- Ads. It is perfectly OK to monetize your blog. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You have to pay for your resources somehow, right? A cost of maintaining a website with high traffic is really expensive! I am already paying 5x more than when I first started (and my blog is not even popular!), so please forgive me if my ads are in your way! ^_^ I try to place them “strategically”, though, so that the content is still the main focus of the blog.
- Discover and comment on new blogs. Branch out more!
- Improve portrait lighting. The hardest thing that I still can't get it right!
- Write better. And more concisely!
- Tap into more Asian brands.
- Better time management. I need to set priorities!
Thank you and Giveaway
Most important of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you every single one of you for your friendship/readership throughout the year. I would not have made it this far without you. I am glad that everyone I met through Hellojaa has been so supportive and understanding; some of them I have even become good friends with along the way. I appreciate and look forward to reading and replying to every comment after I publish a post. I am just so grateful for everything and I sincerely hope that you will continue to support Hellojaa. I promise to improve and make my blog even better in the second year to come.
As a token of appreciation, I will be hosting a giveaway to celebrate my very first milestone. I cannot tell you about the prize until Monday after my current giveaway ends. I'm sorry about that. It's totally a miscalculation on my part! :)
Thank you once again for reading this far. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts with me in the comments! ♥