Great Self-Hosting Offers and Opportunity

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Brand For Success – Blog and Writing Tips

Online branding, branding, social media, website, online, blogging, writing,

image credit – Pexels

Online Branding For Success

In this age, online branding is what people see when they search your name. Online branding is the equivalent of traditional ‘Dress for Success or Dress As You Want To Be Addressed.’

You won’t turn up for an interview or that important meeting in your hair bonnet, scruffy bum shorts and cut off T-shirt likewise, your online abode shouldn’t look like a dumping site for rejected literal vomit.

First impressions do count. Google is at everybody’s fingertips and anybody who Google’s you or takes the time to visit your site is a potential investor – maybe as a reader, partner, book buyer, agent, publisher etc.

With all the challenges and variables connected to online success, your personal branding is the one thing that’s totally under your control which you must harness to your advantage.

Maintain a consistent branding across the social media platforms that you use. This shows your professionalism, your confidence in yourself as an author and in your creativity. Your site is your strategic piece of online real estate that must be a hub for your online presence.

When you Google your name and ‘author,’ your website should pop up in the search result, followed by your social media profiles and your books on Amazon, Smashwords or Goodreads – if you are published.

If someone clicks on those links do they lead to your profile? Are your profiles consistent? Do they look professional?



Recommendations

Use same author photo or logo across board your social platforms

Create similar descriptions or about you.

Maintain similar, readable fonts and colours that are easy on the eyes.

Can someone read your profile on mobile devices?

Keep your graphics minimal. Simple and classy trumps messy and over zealous.

Maintain your platforms branding with periodic audits.

Keep your writing stellar.

Remember that the image you project is what the reader takes away.

 

How To Write Scannable Content to Retain Readers Attention – Blog Bytes

How to Write Scannable Content to Retain Readers Attention.

Content, Effective, Attention, Retain, Audience, Scannable, Blog Tips, Skimming, Social Media Strategy

One of the challenges of this age of abundance and overflow of information is that people no longer consume and absorb information like they used to. People pass through your blog, but they do not stop to read your content. It’s the harsh truth but the truth nonetheless.

With the plethora of social mediums and the constant distractions that we have these days, the attention span of the audience keeps reducing because we are all in a hurry.

We are all racing to churn out more posts and keep up with the pace. There are a thousand things beckoning for people’s attention.

This raises the bar for you as a communicator to find effective means of communicating and retaining any reader’s attention (they scan through – only few would read an entire paragraph).




Tips to help keep the attention of skimmers and the hurried gentry.

  • Keep your blog posts brief and sweet: 300 – 750 words
  • Break your contents into chunks and use sub-headings. This way they can skim from one slot to the other seamlessly.
  • Keep your paragraphs between 3 – 4 lines. Space them out.
  • Use bullet or numbered points. It creates an impression of efficiency – skimmers are efficient with their time – and it’s fun to read.
  • Create list posts. They go straight to the point.
  • Use your formatting options effectively and sensibly. Your bold and italics to highlight succinct points.
  • Don’t write your posts in 50 shades of different colours. It’s disturbing to the eye’s and too distracting.
  • Make your posts conversational. Let it flow as if you are having a chat with your friends. It’s not the Daily news that is serious and dour.
  • Add clickable related links to your posts – old posts that’s worth a second eyeballing due to their great content.
  • Encourage discussion Phrase your sentences in such a way that offers the invitation to take part.
  • Shake things up. Now and again, write in long-form – 1,000 words upwards – and write posts that illuminate, disturb or provoke thought.

Check this link for more blog tips.





Content, Effective, Attention, Retain, Audience, Scannable, Blog Tips, Skimming, Social Media Strategy

Leave Them Out – Essential Writers Tips

Leave Boring Parts, Writing Project, Writers Tips, Essential Writers Tips, Good Story,

Leave Those Boring Parts

As an aspiring writer working on that anticipated bestseller of yours, a vital writing tip is not to start writing a story simply because you think that the genre would sell or for the sake of other odd reasons that leaves you struggling to fill the pages with thick, unnecessary prose that would bore your readers to sleep.




As you work on your writing project, make your book one that you would equally find exciting to read. Think of those books that you loved reading. Those one’s you got lost in, then compare them to those novels that you skipped out chunky parts of the book.

What are those parts that you skipped when you read the novels – those paragraphs that had too many words and didn’t add much to the story except more pages? Pay attention to such details and avoid adding such parts to yours.

Check here for more writing tips.




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I, You, We All Love Ice-Cream – Photo Theme

I, You, We All Love Ice-Cream

I am yet to meet anyone who didn’t enjoy this sweetened frozen confection taken as snack or dessert. I love ice-cream and literally have to hold myself in check from indulging far too much.

Ice-Cream, Food Photography, 10 Fun Facts Ice-Cream, Digital Photography, Taking Great Photos Ice-Cream

Some of my fondest childhood memories center around the occasional treat of the frosty delight from an ice-cream truck at Polo park so, between looking for an object to isolate and indulging in a scoop or two of ice-cream as part of photo research for the letter ‘I,’ choosing ice-cream was no hardship.

 10 Fun Facts about ice-cream

  • Ice was made from ice before milk based ice creams started in the 10th century.
  • The industrial production of ice cream started in 1851 in Boston, United States.
  • The World’s largest consumption of ice cream is in the United States. Statistics show that on average one person consumes 48 pints of ice cream per year.
  • The most popular flavor of ice cream is vanilla. After that come chocolate, strawberry, cookies n’ cream, etc.
  • One of the most unusual ice cream flavors is hot dog flavored ice-cream made in Arizona, US.
  • One dairy cow can produce enough milk for 9,000 gallons of ice cream in her lifetime!
  • Most profitable day for ice cream sellers is almost always on Sunday.
  • It takes 50 licks to finish one cone of ice cream.
  • One cup of vanilla ice-cream has 273 calories.
  • Ice cream comes in many varieties: plain vanilla ice-cream, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, reduced-fat ice cream, sherbet, gelato, and much more.

Ice-Cream, Food Photography, 10 Fun Facts Ice-Cream, Digital Photography, Taking Great Photos Ice-Cream



Tips for Photographing Ice Cream

I learned through several scoops and efforts that though photographing ice-creams may seem simple, in reality, ice-creams are not easy subjects to photograph. If you are not fast enough, it melts into a puddle and without proper preparation, your composition will not turn out as you want it to.

Prepare in advance. That scoop of ice cream won’t wait for you before it melts away and except your target is to take snapshots of puddles of melted sweetness prepare your equipment – camera, tripod (if needed) lenses etc – ahead of time when the ice-cream still looks great.

  • Adjust the camera to the settings you need and once you are ready, grab your ice cream, place it in the place that you want and take as many shots as you can for some minutes.

 

  • Always check your lighting ahead of time. Aim for adequate natural lighting as much as possible. Too little light will make your ice cream seem insipid, while flashes can create harshness and shadows to the texture of the ice cream. If you are not using natural light, set the white balance setting on your camera otherwise the ice cream can take on yellow or blue hues. The automatic light balance rarely gets it the way you want it.

 

  • Check your background. Some backgrounds work well with food photography such as wood texture which evokes homeliness. A white background allows the food to stand out without crowding it and it also provides a lot of background light that shows off the food better. A garden backdrop creates a sense of relaxation and contentment while a dark background is also perfect because it allows you to focus on the ice-cream without detracting from it.

 

  • You could try the trick of putting your display bowl in the freezer for at least half an hour before the shoot if you are in a convenient place to do so. This way the bowl for the ice-cream would stay cold for a while and keep the ice cream cold. This would give you extra time to make necessary adjustments before it begins to melt.

 

  • For freestyle photos on the go, have your camera ready for those blissful moments of people and their ice-creams and do remember to ask politely before pointing your camera in people’s faces.

 

  • Take a lot of photos from different angles within the few minutes that you have. This way you will end up with images that are worth your effort.

To join the photography theme challenge for practice, check this link and you can find other photo tips here.



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Quit Worrying Over Losing Subscribers

Losing Subscribers, Subscribers, Social Media Subscription, Reasons, Focus, Email Updates

What’s Your Reaction To Losing Subscribers?

Are you one of those who spends days in angst wondering why a subscriber unsubscribed or do you shrug, smile and move on?

One of the common challenges that bloggers face is losing subscribers.  Naturally, our goal is to gain subscribers, to keep them, and not to lose them and when we do lose subscribers we may feel inclined to know why.

I remember my earlier days of blogging when it seemed as though my eyes were permanently glued to the subscription stats and watching it go up and down was not the better part of how I spent my days. I learned that my focus is better spent on developing my blogging skills, networking to the best of my ability and worrying less about every Harry and Jane that left the scene.

I will categorically tell you that you shouldn’t over think subscribers choosing to stop receiving your updates or following you because worrying over it is not worth the sweat. Instead, concentrate on gaining new readers/subscribers who would stick with your random blather.




Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Worry

  • Note that each time you send out an email update, you would likely have some people who choose to unsubscribe. This an unavoidable part of the process. Even the most fantastic bloggers out there experience drops in their subscription.
  • Remember that people choose to sign up for any number of reasons and as time goes on, as their interests change so does their subscription.
  • There’s also the high possibility that those unsubscribers are passersby who are truly not your ideal audience and they are likely not going to develop better interactions with you.
  • Unsubscribers serve to help you understand your audience better if you choose to explore the reasons why they quit your platform.
  • Just for the fact that someone chose to unsubscribe does not mean that you will have no future interaction with them or that they are not visiting your site now and again.
  • They may follow you on other social media platforms because that particular medium works better for them and who knows as time goes on they may end up subscribing to your updates once again.

In the online world, subscription is not a fixed term – as a matter of humour, it’s not a marriage or divorce and some couples have been known to separate, divorce and passionately come back together 😉

So, when a subscriber leaves in search of blogs more suited to their interest, focus on writing for the readers who wish to stay connected on your blog because these are the ones that help to drive the growth of your blog.

This is my opinion about subscribers and opting out, what’s yours? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Next time, we’ll talk about the approaches that you could start to regain subscribers. For more blog tips, check here.



Write What You Don’t Know – Essential Writers Tips

Writing What You Don’t Know

Writing What You Don't Know, Writing, Writers, Writing Tips, Research

Most times, a budding writer is advised explicitly or implicitly to ‘write what you know.’ I’m not sure which writing guru started selling this idea, but you know what, in my honest opinion, writing just what you know is the most stifling sort of encouragement that I can think of and here’s why I think so.

  • Writing what you know’ works, but if you are seeking to grow as a writer, you would find out soon enough that it’s self-limiting.
  • The biggest part of the fun in writing is making things up. Learning new things. Approaching an unknown terrain and finding the truth in the unknown.
  • Writing the unknown is not easy and comfortable, but it would challenge you. It could probably scare you and you may not even know where you are heading with the story, but the journey into the unknown is always worth it because it builds the backbone of the writer in you.

 

Pushing Your Boundaries

You may not know everything, but you do know a lot of things. Of course, it is essential to take inspiration where you can find it, however, your experiences should liberate your imagination and not restrict it.

Set your imagination loose. If your personal experience constrains a story to the point of it becoming lackluster, then you must emancipate your imagination and sharpen it. That’s your job as a writer to keep your imagination relevantly sharpened.

A lot of times, a writers discomfort stems from subjects about sexuality, race, gender or class. The writer feels ill-equipped to write on such subjects because they are not familiar, they don’t resemble him, so he automatically keeps to writing what he knows and sticks to safer grounds.

When a writer finds a subject intimidating, that’s precisely when the writer should explore it. Write what pushes your boundary. Write what fascinates you. Write what you can’t stop thinking about even if it’s not a safe subject.

Tips to help write what you don’t know

Organize your work

You need to devise an effective means of organizing the material that you get from your research. There are a lot of mediums and software programs such as Scrivener, yWrite, Bibisco, Plume creator, Manuskript used to organize information.

However, you need to choose and stick to one for your project in order not to waste unnecessary time switching back and forth. I have used Scrivener. It’s inexpensive and well supported by its makers.

Be Prepared to Dig Deeper

Don’t rely solely on online research. Plug into Amazon and get a list of relevant books. Look beyond your local library and check out University libraries. You may have to spend a bit to get some specific materials. Listen to local channels or international channels that talk about your interest, read, read and read some more. Check out documentaries relevant to your search and don’t shy away from contacting a publisher or writer directly to double-check information.

Research the source and background. 

Before spending valuable time or money on any material, take the time to research the author and the work on the Internet. Look out for reviews and abstracts of their work, check out their social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or website. Your findings would help you decide well ahead of time if the author has the perspective that serves your purpose.

Take note of the little details

You are writing about Africa or India, but you need to know more than the books and articles that you are reading is telling you, use image searches on Google, on YouTube, documentaries and other sources you can lay your hands on. Magnify and freeze-frame the images where possible and study them carefully, the paths, roads, nature, etc. Take note of the date of these images and videos as well as all the publication that you refer to, to avoid attributing something to a period to which it does not belong.

Make your own contacts and tap into others

Google search for related clubs around you and contact them. Consider visiting the place and talk to people. Start asking questions even before you know what exactly you are narrowing down to. People love to talk and they’ll tell you things you could not have possibly imagined. People love talking about their lives, professions, passions and sometimes even their unique stories. This is a free medium that’s fun and offers firsthand unexpected results.




Become an online eavesdropper

Dig into personal blogs, online groups, organizations’ websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc. For a fiction writer, these are powerful resources, however, always cross check critical facts.

Ask for help from far and wide

Don’t restrict yourself to asking for research information from only people you know. Local tour companies and guides are a well of information about a particular place that you are writing about and you can write an email requesting information about the area or better still a phone call conversation could answer a puzzling question even as far as New Zealand.

In Conclusion

When you want to break out of a writing rut, remember to take a closer look at your past work. Are your characters typically the same? What of the plotlines, time periods and setting? Are they similar?

If you often find yourself writing about characters who are just like you with plotlines narrowed down to your experiences – though there’s nothing wrong with that –  open your mind to discover something new, fresh and fun.

You just might surprise yourself by pushing your pen beyond the edge.

Check here for more writing tips.

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Hands and Their Stories – Photo Theme Challenge

H for Hands 

It is said that one’s hands can tell tales about the owner, from details of their background to character, health, relationship bliss, future and fortune. Therefore, it’s no wonder that hands are fascinating appendages of human structure that’s worth admiring and photographing.

For the H letter of the photo theme challenge, it was a tussle between doing photos for History or Hands. I love history and I am one of those who haunts museums and soaks up stories of long past history, but I settled for Hands in this case.

Close-up portraits of body parts can be magnificent. They can also have a meaning and send a strong message. Such photographic portraits imply which sex the part belongs to, the possible age of the owner, their social condition, and a lot of other things. Our body parts portraits reveal many details than one would be tempted to believe.

 

Photographing The Hands

While photographing these hands, my main interest is to tell the person’s story.  For example, the first photo is the cobbler that I pass by occasionally. His hands were always busy repairing shoes and I wanted to take shots of them whilst he worked.

Photo, Body Parts, Hands, Photo Tips, Subjects Story, Photography




The second photo is a perfumer at work. She makes fragrance from natural ingredients and always had some henna painting on her hands. I wanted to capture her painted hands as she worked and filled the bottles.

Photo, Body Parts, Hands, Photo Tips, Subjects Story, Photography

My focus is on my subject’s story. I wanted the character of their hands to show their reality and not glamourous images.

Tips & Recommendations for photographing hands:

  • Try to tell your subject’s story that anyone looking at the photo later can interpret the story that your image portrays.
  • Think about your lighting and use it to enhance the story.
  • Place continuous lighting on the side of your subject which will show the lines of the skin better.
  • Use a tripod when possible for best shots.
  • Use your macro lens for close-ups.
  • Have fun and be creative. Play with a variety of positions.

To join the photography theme challenge for practice, check this link and you can find other photo tips here.

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12 Effective Ways To Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking.

Public Speaking

 

Public speaking comes with its own fair share of challenges. One of the terrifying aspects of public speaking is addressing a crowd.

Public Speaking, Audience, Speaking, Effective Ways, Stage Fright

Many people admit to being nervous and developing stage fright of having to take a stand before others to make a speech, yet oratory skills are one of the most valued and profitable business skills.

If you want to develop your public speaking abilities, the fear of public speaking is controlled and overcome with practice and the right techniques.

A little thing I always say to myself that makes me smile and relax is, ‘while I’m here being busy worrying about not making a fool of myself before these people, they are probably busy admiring my new shoes and how good I look, they are just people like me.’




  • Expect to be nervous and admit it if need be

Bear in mind that even experienced speakers do get nervous. Don’t try to undermine your feelings. You can even admit to your jitters humorously to your audience. That way they are more accommodating to your errors and would not be expecting a World-class presentation. It gives you the opportunity to relax and be yourself to turn your jitters into energy that you can use to boost a delivery that surprises even you.

  • Redefine your audience

Our stage fright is usually based on self-preoccupied thoughts. Thoughts such as ‘I am going to suck at this, how am I doing, I am not good enough et cetera,’ keeps the focus on you and these thoughts only grow as long as your focus is on them. Take the focus off yourself and think of your audience. ‘Are you carrying them along? Is your voice projecting enough’?

Redefine your perspectives for assessing your audience. Probably, instead of seeing them as judges who are busy evaluating you, you could think of them as teammates who are genuinely interested in hearing your opinion and possibly learning something from you – what is that one thing you would want them to leave with?

  • Be Prepared

Every successful action requires preparation. This is your key to a successful presentation – speech. Knowing what you are going to say, who to, and why you want to say what you wish to say has a way of instilling confidence.

  • Practice does make perfect

Hone your skills through practice. These days opportunity presents itself in many ways. Start small. It could be through videos (vlogging) podcasting, speaking to small, supportive audiences where less is at stake. Find and join Toastmasters around you. Consider working with a coach or taking a Dale Carnegie course on Effective Speaking or working with a private coach.

  •  Remember To Breathe

Minutes before you step on to that podium to begin your speech, take several deliberate, slow, deep breaths through your nose, filling your abdomen and exhale through your mouth, repeat silently to yourself, ‘relax, be confident and vocal.’

  • Rehearse Your Speech

Stand up straight and tall, walk around as you practice out loud and use the right vocal pitch. Don’t yell your speech at your audience. Don’t memorize your speech word for word. Memorizing your speech means can lead to speaking disaster. Once you lose your train of memory, everything would likely go downhill from that point and you’ll lose focus. Talk through your speech, think it through point by point and listen to yourself as you speak. Imagine that you’re explaining your main ideas to a friend or a colleague and having a normal conversation.

  • Simplify Your Thoughts

Don’t try to put too much in one speech. Most times when a speaker tries to add too much in a speech, it burdens the mind over the fact that you could forget an aspect of your speech and lose your train of thought. Your aim instead is to communicate one basic idea. Keep your points short and straightforward.

  • Visualize A Successful Speech

Practice relaxation techniques days before your presentation. Find a quiet place to lie down or sit comfortably for a quarter of an hour. Take deep, slow breaths. Close your eyes and imagine your upcoming speaking engagement. Picture yourself connecting and addressing your audience with confidence.


  • Invest in visual aids

Think of presenting with engaging, well-outlined PowerPoint slides. Half of the time, this reduces your audience’s attention on you. They will focus more on reading through your interesting slides. With less attention on you, this would probably help you to relax and speak better.

  • Connect with your audience

Connect with your audience beforehand by introducing yourself and having a brief chat with some people. During your speech, look them in the eye and speak to one person at a time. That brief connection makes your job as a speaker easier. While making your presentation, if you can make them laugh and be more interactive with you, your presentation will have that casual feel to it which will make it more memorable than others. Ultimately you will find it easier to do.

  • Use opinion and anecdotes 

When speaking, add a few of your personal examples or opinions to buttress your points. Think of examples that relate to your speech well ahead of time. Adding your personal touch to a presentation rouses the need-to-know interest of your audience – because people just like knowing stuff about other people – it gives them that feel that they can connect with you or that your example resonates with them. This elevates your presentation and increases your confidence as well as that of your audience.

  • Act confident

Maintain eye contact and a friendly mien as you speak. To your audience, they will see a friendly and personable presenter. Most times people won’t see how nervous you are. They don’t know that the butterflies in your stomach have tripled and are doing somersaults and that your heart is about to pound out of your chest. Just breathe, smile, stand tall and look confident, even if you are feeling particularly small in that moment. You’ll sail through.

Related articles

 

Don’t Quit Your Blog – Just Tweak It!

Is Your Blog in A Rut? Don’t Your Quit Blog.

Blog, Successful Blog, Don't Quit Blog, Blogging, Methodical Approach, Social media, Statistics

No one told you that it would be a slow climb of grits, cramped fingers and the snail pace attention from your expected dream audience.

No one told you that finding fame or making money from blogging is not easy pickings and that there are many days the thrill would fizzle out faster than the time it took the ink of your words to dry.

No one told you when you started blogging, all awash with excitement and so much to say, that time might come when you find yourself writing terse sentences such as:

Sorry I haven’t posted for AGES, guys.

Don’t know what to say….blah, blah.

If you are contemplating tossing in your paddle and jumping out of the choppy waters of your blogging boat; I would say, halt!

As a matter of fact, according to online research, most bloggers struggle and 95% of bloggers give up and abandon their blogs within six months of starting.

They open a blog, post with enough enthusiasm to keep a steam engine running for a while, then they either find a niche and a particular way of expressing themselves, or they run out of steam, lose heart and walk away.

The highway of the huge worldwide web is dotted with blogs abandoned by their owners and sometimes, it gives one a reason to pause and ponder why.

  • A common reason beginner bloggers give up is because they become frustrated by the technical side of things. They find customizing their blogs tedious and coupled with other stress factors, they pack up their bags and leave the scene.
  • Following quickly behind this is the fast-moving, ever-evolving world of social media that requires tons of attention to grow and engage an audience.
  • The toll from trying to grow a blog in the sea of blogs is the number one reason why bloggers quit.
  • Running out of ideas on what to blog about, not knowing what to do about their blog and a hectic lifestyle add themselves to the steamy cocktail to make it more challenging.




Don’t Become A Statistic

We all want a successful blog, but the difference between success and failure lies in doing the needful to succeed.

Success in general, regardless of the area it is in life, requires dogged discipline and consistency. It requires applying the right strategies and sticking with it for the long haul. People don’t become successful by giving up too soon.

I know that there’s a huge difference between saying “be patient and keep going”, and the reality, but with a pragmatic approach, your blog can survive and thrive. It need not become a statistic.

Methodical Approach

  • Have a rock-solid Blogging Why. The why of your blogging is the reason that will keep you going and when you feel like giving up, focus on your WHY. Your Why must be continually self-affirming and before your eye’s.
  • When you’ve got ‘Why’ create How’ to back it up.   Set specific goals that are completely within your control, and don’t give up until you’ve accomplished that goal. This is how you make a successful blog.
  • When things get difficult, which is a certainty, take a step back, exhale and look at what your priorities are.  Are you able to cut back on your frequency of posting to once or twice a week until you can get a handle on things? It’s certainly better to scale back than to give up completely.
  • If you feel stressed or a burnout, take the time to refresh. Don’t go on a guilt trip.  Feeling guilty will only create more tension about it.
  • Search for inspiration from others, but don’t be fooled by the appearances that they’ve got it all sorted. They too had to struggle with their website design (probably still struggling), testing different methods, making mistakes in their articles et cetera.  Cut yourself some slack, cheer others on and you’ll find support.
  • Keep your eyes away from the statistics for a while. Enjoy the process of your blogging without allowing the rise and fall of traffic to decide the value of your article. Statistics are transitory and subject to change.
  • Shift your focus from how far you have to go, to how far you’ve come in your blogging journey.

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Don’t Forget

It is difficult to believe yet, but you – yes you – are making a difference. Someone else is watching you and learning from your attempts. So, don’t give up yet. Don’t let the lack of blog traffic and the monetization efforts that are yet to yield dividends discourage you.

Short of repeating ‘be patient’ again, like Dory, just keep swimming.

Check this link for more blog tips.

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