All photos except Instagrams courtesy of fabulous Femke Leemans
As you know, this past weekend I spent the most incredible two days with 3 multi-talented blogging powerhouses, two professional photographers, and 29 other bloggers extraordinaire. I felt like I had walked into a dream world the moment I arrived at the inaugural Blogcademy hosted by (from l-r below) Shauna Haider of NubbyTwiglet.com, Kat Williams of RocknRollBride.com, and Gala Darling of Galadarling.com. Needless to say, my fellow students and I made up one big room of fangirls but it was clear by the end that we had all become one great mutual admiration society.
Gala, Shauna, Kat and their special guest, professional photographer Lisa Devlin, had prepared a packed weekend of everything they know about blogging. Realize this: they have a combined expertise of over 30 years of blogging – so it was a lot of take in. I took copious notes but some golden nuggets stood out and I’ve recapped my favorite below.
♦ Smile while you write. People can read the difference! 🙂
♦ Re-frame a hardship you’re going through into something inspirational that others can learn from rather than moaning on your blog about it.
♦ Showcase what you want more of – you will be attracting the right readers in the process.
♦ Focus on your strengths, outsource the rest.
♦ Prioritize the relationships that influence you positively.
♦ To get inspired, get off the computer!
♦ A blog is a springboard, not an end in itself.
♦ People love a good list.
♦ Eat That Frog.
♦ If people are coming to your blog, it means they like it! Find creative ways to give them more.
♦ Some things you try will work, others won’t. Both are ok.
♦ Don’t over commit: There is no faster way to disappoint people than to not do what you said you would.
♦ Book deals won’t just fall out of the sky…unless they do.
♦ A brand is a gut feeling. Your audience’s gut feeling, not yours.
♦ Build your blog with room to grow. Think: collaborators.
♦ Your content should be meaty & sticky.
♦ Learning photography is like learning to drive.
♦ The dirty little secret is that your blog will never be perfect. Accept it and move on.
The totality of what we learned will be with me for months to come and my mind is swimming with ideas. Not to mention, Lisa Devlin, UK Photographer of the year, lead us through an enormous section on Sunday afternoon about imagery, photo shoots, DSLRs, lighting, props, editing and more. We even went outside for a quick photo shoot of our own to put our new skills to the test. We had a blast, Lisa is hilarious, and I learned so much. I wish I could put her in my pocket and take her everywhere!
Gala and Lisa Devlin
Scenes from the first day. I loved hanging out with the other bloggers and learning from their expertise and enthusiasm.
In addition to the many many many takeaways that filled my notebook, I also jotted down a few inspiring quotes when I heard them. In the back of our Blogcademy magazine Gala, Kat, and Shauna added a full page of quotes that always inspires them. I enjoyed reading through the quotes while I waited for the subway on my way home just as I hope you’ll enjoy reading these!
♦ “You will never be a leader in your niche by following everyone else.” – Shauna
♦ “You will never find your style. Style will find you.” – Jonas Peterson
♦ “You can’t just stamp a logo on it and call it branded, branding is the whole of who you are.” – Kat
♦ “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
♦ “You are a mash-up of what you let into your life. Anyone can be creative if they surround themselves with the right influences.” – Austin Kleon (from a RocknRoll Bride interview, March 2012)
♦ “Slow and steady wins the race.” – Shauna
This photo caught me Instagramming which was happening about 79.93 % of the time.
All weekend we were ‘gramming away (as bloggers do) and some of the funniest photos are the ones that capture us all with our noses in our screens at the same time. You can follow me on the ‘gram at @natanyahaviva.
I made some great new blogger friends. I love this shot of me with my *almost* twin Latanya of Sprinkles and Booze.
Veronica Varlow of Danger Dame is such a sweet heart! We had quite the selfie photo shoot!
Stephanie Marie of The Fête taking shots outside during Lisa Devlin’s photography lesson. She became my go-to coffee buddy. Can’t wait to take her out for a latte when I visit Virginia!
This is the photo that won best #bloggerface of the weekend. Gala even called it “Epic” 😉 Click the hashtag to see just how much practice we had all weekend at making the perfect #bloggerface!
Chatty bloggers during a break.
I’m an official graduate! Thank you to A Fine Press for the gorgeous letter pressed certificates!
Instax happiness. Me with my heroes.
What I Learned
I signed up for The Blogcademy with the intention to find clarity. You see, I love everything about blogging: writing, photography, social media, learning new skills, building community… I just wasn’t sure why I was blogging. I hoped that The Blogcademy might be my golden ticket to the answer. And in some ways it was.
♦ I remembered that nothing I put out has to be perfect. I will always be growing, learning, changing, and that means my blog will be growing and changing right along with me. I don’t have to be afraid to get it all down pat the first time. Not everything we do will be “aces” but over time, with practice and attention it will improve.
♦ I learned that everyone is in their own race. There is nothing I need to try be other than exactly who I am and there is always an audience for every unique voice. In fact, the more I stick to my unique identity, the faster my blog will grow.
♦ Before the start of the weekend I had been nervous that perhaps I wouldn’t “fit in” with the other bloggers whom I imagined to have perfect blogs and be wearing perfect shoes, combing perfect hair. Clearly I had the voice of the gremlin on my shoulder! I’m so glad I ignored the voice because I met the most unique, kind, supportive, fun, silly, ambitious, generous, ladies and I know we will all be in touch way after the light of the weekend dims. Basically, I learned the gremlin is always a sourpuss and ignoring it is always a good idea.
♦ Any blog can get better with strategic initiatives. Great content is rather simple when you break it down.
+Blog frequently, and your unique voice will shine.
+Take your time to take great photos. Quality imagery is the fastest way to draw attention to your blog.
+Collaborate. Hire people to do the work you don’t like to do or aren’t good at.
+Guest post if you want to, or invite others to guest post for you. It’s a great way to exchange fresh content and bring in new audiences.
+Think of your brand in iconic ways and it will be timeless. But even the best blogs can use an update or a re-brand after some time.
+If you’re stuck, ask your readers. They will lead you right.
+Be honest, be genuine, be you!
Other Blogcademy Recaps
Want more more pictures, more learnings, more fun? Check out what my classmates had to say about their experiences!
The Fête Blog
Danger Dame Diary
Condiments on a City Life
The Alchemy of Hustle
Me and My Ego
Little Bear in a Big World
Recaps from the Trinity themselves:
Rock N Roll Bride
And the official Blogcademy blog quick ‘n dirty recap:
Annnnd…more pictures of the weekend on Flickr!
Ok! that should keep you busy for a while. 😉