Previous Client Work: Bespoke Brand Photography for Travel Blog - Live Learn Venture

Travel Blog Brand photography by CGScreative bespoke brand photography for creatives, bloggers and business owners

Just before finishing up our final year in South Korea, I had the pleasure of working with Natasha, the lady behind the popular travel blog Live Learn Venture.

Natasha had gotten in touch with me to work on her brand photography for her travel blog, and was in the middle of a rebrand. She needed beautiful, high resolution images for her to use on her blog posts, as part of graphics for the main layout of her website and also wanted some updated headshots. All of what she needed forms part of Creative Headshot package (click here for more info) and we got started straight away on the planning stage of her shoot.

I also worked alongside my stylist friend Samantha (find her over at There She Goes Again) who is incredible at what she does. I've worked on lots of styled shoots with Sam and always love the energy and creativity she brings to shoots. 

The Live Learn Venture brand is feminine and fun, but Natasha wasn't sure what her brand colours would end up being, and so we used the shoot to determine that for her. Using the backgrounds and textures of the various locations we shot at, it was very clear that shades of peach, grey and brown would form a big part of her new brand.  A big part of my work is ensuring my clients feel 100% comfortable in front of my camera, and this is how I am able to ensure I capture the personality and essence of each client and their brand. I loved working with Natasha, and I have loved seeing her brand develop and evolve since this shoot. She has put all of her new brand images to use on her new website, and it's incredible how the images have helped  her develop a wonderful cohesive style.

Below are a selection of the images I created exclusively for Live Learn Venture. If you're interested in finding out more about my headshot packages, then please feel free to get in touch. Each package includes a good mixture of styled stock type images as well as pretty portraits.

Enjoy!

x


Find out more about working with me on your own brand images by clicking the button below. I'm so looking forward to hearing from you!


Want to see more of my previous client work? I've worked with florists, skincare product designers, copyrighters, yoga enthusiasts, life coaches, bloggers and just about everyone in between. Click here to see more of my previous work.


Wondering whether you need brand photography and how you would even use it?

Click below to find out more:

Free Stock Photos to help you beautify your brand - Welcome to the CGScreative Resource Library

Free Stock Photos to help you beautify your brand - Welcome to the CGScreative Resource Library

What do you do if you just can't seem to figure out your camera? What happens when you spend hours and hours snapping photos on your phone for your latest blog post, but all the photos you've taken leave you feeling frustrated?

This is where I step in my friend!

You see, I understand that we can't do #ALLTHETHINGS when it comes to our blogs, and so, I created the CGScreative resource library.

I created the library to help creatives, just like you. When I first started blogging, there was nothing like this available to me, and because we all have to start somewhere, I have made this pretty online space, absolutely free.

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Why you need to build an email list: Email Marketing for Beginners

Why you need to build an email list: Email Marketing for Beginners

If you've been blogging for some time and especially if you've been looking into how you can make money from blogging, I'm sure you will have come across the term 'email list'. I'm sure you have heard loads of other bloggers and business owners talking about 'list building' and how 'the money is in the list' but perhaps you've been wondering not just why on earth you need a list for your blog but also what on earth you'd be sending those people. Can't your readers just follow you through Bloglovin' or Feedburner? Why do you need to invest your time into another form of marketing?

If you're anything like me, you've been pondering those questions. It's time to stop wondering and start doing & so today I'm going to tell why you definitely DO need an email list for your blog or business, plus I'm going to show you how you can start building yours today.

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My Favourite Tools for Blogging - Awesome Programs, hosting, apps and software to help grow your blog

My  Favourite Tools for Blogging - Awesome Programs, hosting, apps and software to help grow your blog

I'm coming up to my 6th year of blogging (what?!) and so I can safely say I know a thing or two about tools that help you blog better. Most of what we need to know about growing our blogs can be found on Pineterest, right? This is all very well, and I don't know about you but whenever I head to Pinterest to search for blogging resources I get sucked into images of beautiful quotes, cute puppies and ways to save space in my home (tell me I'm not the only one?). 

So I thought I'd create this post for you, with a list of all the resources and tools I use when blogging. I've also created a useful printable cheatsheet of all these resources for you to print out to help you in your blogging journey. You can get your paws on this checklist in my *FREE* Resource Library (which is filled with stock photos and loads of other blog & biz resources) and which you can join below.

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Beautiful Free stock photos for bloggers and business owners

Beautiful Free stock photos for bloggers and business owners

When I first started blogging back in 2010 (6 years ago...eeek!) I used to shamelessly copy and paste images from We Heart It, which was kind of the OG of the visual world before Pinterest came along. I had no idea about copy-write (in fact, I couldn't even really spell that word properly) never mind understand the legal ramifications of using someone else's work without giving them full credit.

It wasn't until 2012 when I came across an article from a blogger who had been sued for a HUGE amount of money after using someones photograph on her blog. The blogger had actually given the photographer credit in her blog post, but she hadn't asked him for permission to re-post his image and so she ended up going to court and was found guilty of intellectual property theft! Can you imagine being charged with a criminal offense for using an image on your blog? Madness!

I was terrified after reading that blog post and promptly set out to learn how to take my own photographs so as not to have to worry about image copy-right ever again! I ended up falling in love with photography, and have since gone onto to freelance and now go under the title 'professional photographer'. I understand that not everyone has the time, or the desire, to pursue photography full time, especially if their interests lie somewhere else, in writing for example or making or drawing or painting. This is where stock photographs come in and this is where I wave a little (pink) flag that says I've got you covered and have FREE STOCK PHOTOGRAPHS JUST FOR YOU!

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#FromBlog2Biz My journey from Blogger to Business Owner: Let's start at the very beginning

#FromBlog2Biz My journey from Blogger to Business Owner: Let's start at the very beginning

Hi everyone!

In case you're new around these parts and have stumbled across this blog series, I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself.

My name is Roxy and I am the blogger, photographer, planner, crafter, maker, designer and general busy-bee behind CityGirlSearching. I am South African, but have been living in South Korea with my husband and rescue pup (Shadow, who yes, has his own # and Instagram account and FB page because that's what you do these days) for the past 3/technically 4 years.

We are about to wrap up our final contract and will be heading home to South Africa at the end of June...yippeee!

In this series #FromBlog2Biz, I am going to be sharing with you my journey from blogger to business owner. In this post (Part 1) I want to share with you my blogging journey so far (it's been a good number of years) and to set the scene for you for where I am at right now and how I have been making money from my blog and how I plan to monetize moving forward from here.

I do hope you'll join me on this journey as I share with what I've done so far, what has worked and what hasn't. It's going to be an awesome adventure so let's get started right away.

 

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#FromBlog2Biz - Come and join My Journey from blogger to business owner as I take you behind the scenes of my business journey

#FromBlog2Biz Journey From Blogger to Creative Business Owner

Dear friend.

I have lots of big changes coming up in the next few months. The first of of those big changes being my move back to South Africa after being here in Korea for a total of 4 years. Farmboy and I are headed back to sunny SA at the end of June with our pup #ShadowTheJindo (in case you were wondering what was going to happen to him).

Our plan, after returning here to Korea after a year living in Daejeon in 2010, was always to spend 3 years traveling as much as we could (click here to see our travel guides for places like Borneo, Vietnam, Bali and so many more!!) saving as much as we could, and just enjoying our first few years of marriage together. It's been an amazing adventure so far and we have loved ever day of the past 3 years.

Throughout this time, and actually going all the way back to 2010, I have been an avid blogger, sharing photographs of our lives, useful information on everything from rescuing a dog in Korea to how to take better photographs for your blog. And so, armed with nearly 6 years of blogging 'wisdom' I am embarking on a new adventure...to turn this blog into a full time business! 

You can read the other parts of this journey here:

I am going to be using the #FromBlog2Biz hashtag for all social media posts (because who doesn't love a personalised hashtag, right?!) and by doing this I hope to make it easy for you to follow along on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.

#Blog2Biz journey from blogger to business owner

It's a journey I am equal parts squealing with excitement over and absolutely terrified about. I have had a few smaller businesses over the past 6 years; my stationery store, freelance social media services, a vintage collectables store at the I Heart Market in Durban, South Africa and my photography.

I am still in the beginning stages of this journey and will begin my first post RIGHT back at the start...ie December 2015 and my thoughts and ideas and processes that have led me to be where I am today, and have shaped my ideas going forward. I have been wanting to document this journey in some way, and thought I'd do so here on the blog so that you can follow along. 

I'm going to be sharing with you everything I've done so far, what has worked, what hasn't worked and what I plan to do moving forward. EEEK! I am rather nervous about all of this, blogging about makeup reviews and sharing my photography portfolio is far less scary than sharing what I've had success with and what I've failed at.

If this journey sounds like something you'd like to be a part of/learn from/watch from a distance, please do leave me a comment below. I haven't quite decided on the format for this series yet (I am thinking about doing a mix of videos, live streaming on Periscope, emails and blog posts). This is why I've created the mailing list below for you to join and I would love for you to be a part of this adventure with me.

The #Blog2Biz mail list (which you can join below) is where I'll be letting you know the exact format for this series (whether I'll be creating videos, when/if I'll be on Periscope etc), as well as it being a place that to connect with you all. By joining, you'll also be able to gain access to the #CGScreative Resource library which is filled with loads of blogging resources, printables and what has made my list famous...beautiful stock photographs for you to use to grow your blog. 

Simply pop your email in the box below to join us & click the little check box  if you aren't already a CGScreative member and want to get access the resource library

If you too have been wanting to make money from your blog, turn your passion into a business or want to read more about all the nitty gritty details of what goes on behind the scenes of a blog turned business, then make sure you enter your email below.

I am SO excited to share in this journey with you! From the wins to the losses, the successes to the failures...Here's to the start of the journey!

x

A beginners guide to Blog Photography & Styling - What you need to get started

A beginners guide to Blog Photography & Styling - What you need to get started

I've been blogging for about 6 years now, and I do so because I genuinely love providing free, useful content for people. This blog is not a diary showcasing my life but rather I hope that it is a platform for you to learn new things (like my blogging tipstravel guides and posts about owning a dog in Korea) as well as a place to be inspired (by my travel posts, recipes and my photography). 

One thing that I have learned from all these years of tapping away at my keyboard is that the images on your blog can make or break your brand. 

These days technology has advanced so much, there really is no excuse for anyone to have poor quality images on their blog. This doesn't mean you have to own the fanciest camera on the market, your cellphone/ipad/tablet will work just fine.

In this post I'm going to be sharing with you what I use to style & take photographs for my blog. 

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Introducing the #BeautifyYourBlog Handbook for Bloggers

Introducing the #BeautifyYourBlog Handbook for Bloggers

I recently created and launched #BeautifyYourBlog an easy to follow, free online course for bloggers. Alongside this course, I created a handbook which I'd love to share more of with you today.

Making your blog look it's shiny best can be a difficult process...But it doesn't have to be.

When I first started blogging, I wish I had had someone show me the ins and outs of branding and what it means to build a brand around your blog.

I fumbled my way through the first 4 years of blogging, making so many changes and wasting so much time creating graphics for my blog that really didn't fit my style.

If someone had given me this handbook when I first started blogging, it would have saved me so much frustration, not to mention time.  

This Handbook goes through the how's and the why's of branding your blog and most importantly, it shows you how you can do it yourself.

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My top 15 insanely useful tips for bloggers

My top 15 insanely useful tips for bloggers

I've been thinking of ways to condense all of the useful posts I've written on blogging, and so created this insanely useful list for bloggers of all niches and topics. Whether you've been blogging for years or whether you've just started your journey & are feeling a little overwhelmed, these tips are bound to help you on your way.

1. Read, re-read & update your About page.  

When I look at the traffic stats on this site, my About page is one of the most popular pages. And I know that when I visit other blogs, I always click on their about/welcome pages to find out more about who they are as a person. Don't let the thought that is has to be perfect put you off editing yours (or even making one if you don't already have one). I am constently updating and editing mine, adding in or taking out information that is no longer relevant to my blogging journey. Your About page should grow with your blog, as should your profile picture (mentioned above).

Here are some tips for your About Page.

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How to avoid the overwhelm in your creative business + a Helpful Checklist

How to avoid the overwhelm in your creative business + a Helpful Checklist

About 3 months ago I started dipping my toe into the world of online business and passive income, and goodness me, it's a whole other world out there.

The idea of online businesses isn't new, people have been producing online courses and selling information products ever since the internet first began in 1969. What has changed dramatically is the people behind the courses. No longer do you have to have a doctorate in computer programming or some other fancy sounding degree, regular people like you and me are making money selling their social media strategies in the form of webinars, workshops and coaching packages.

Sounds wonderful doesn't it? Being able to make money doing what you love. Isn't that so many people are striving to do? Striving to free themselves from their 9-5's to make more money and have more time to do the things they love?

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How to Create a Style Guide for your blog + Free Template

How to Create a Style Guide for your blog + Free Template

I know I know, blogging these days is definitely not for sissies. If you have a blog and want to stand out amongst the masses, you have to up your game & make your blog look as fancy & professional as possible.

That doesn't mean spending a fortune, or betraying you own personal sense of style. There is space enough for all of us (from the pastel pink lovers to those who go nuts for shades of neon yellow & black) and it's your own unique sense of style that you should be portraying through your blog in the first place. You just need to do it in the best way possible to make your blog stand out while still looking polished.

So how do you do that I hear you ask?

Well, apart from hiring a fancy smancy graphic designer to do your branding, you can start by creating your own style guide for your blog. I would still suggest getting a professional to create your logo (although you could definitely create something yourself using a free online design site like Canva).

Once you have your logo, it's all downhill from there! You can then work on the rest of your branding yourself and take your blog from drab to fab. Having a style guide as a reference for your branding will make your life so much easier, and will help you to keep your blogs look & feel cohesive.

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The #CGSCreative Community: FREE stock Photos & SO much more awaits

The #CGSCreative Community: FREE stock Photos & SO much more awaits

I've been throwing around the #CGScreative hashtag on Instagram & Facebook for a little while now, and I think it's time I told you what it's all about. 

If you're already a part of my special mailing list, you will already know all about it (and you would have already received your Love Inspired photo pack..yay!).

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about but like the idea of getting beautiful FREE stock photographs to use on your blog/Facebook Page/Instagram etc. then please do read on.

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How to easily make photo collages for your blog and Facebook: A Blogstomp Tutorial

How to easily make photo collages for your blog and Facebook: A Blogstomp Tutorial

In order to build a cohesive brand, it's important to make sure the images & graphics you share are aligned with the look and feel of your business. An easy way to do this is to share groups of images (collages) that tell a story. 

I use collages here on my blog when I want to share a lot of images, but I don't want to slow down my site loading speed. 

Using full sized images in a blog post means lots and lots and lots of scrolling for your readers. Creating beautiful collages is an easy way to make your blog posts look better, and it helps the back end of your site by making it faster to load.

In today's blog post I'm sharing with you how I create collages for my blog and Facebook page using Blogstomp.

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Help people find & connect with you on Disqus: Why you should update your Disqus profile

Help People Find and Connect with you on Disqus why you should update your disqus profile

Are you a Disqus user? Do you use Disqus as your comment managing system on your blog or website? I've been using Disqus to manage my comments for the past 4 years and just LOVE the interface (and the fact that its FREE!) as well as how easy it is to leave comments on other peoples blogs. I also love how easy it is to track and reply to comments left my own blog. Before Disqus I was using the standard Blogger commenting system which was terrible at dealing with spam, and was just terrible with 'loosing' my comments. Disqus has made my life so much easier, and worked flawlessly when I was on Blogger and works perfectly with SquareSpace.

https://disqus.com/home/

Apart from being a great system for storing and managing the comments on your blog, Disqus is a fabulous place to find and connect with other bloggers & readers. I haven't spent too much time delving into their voting system (you can recommend commetn discussions as well as 'upvote' comments) but what I do often is go through the comments on my site and click through to find the bloggers and lovely people who have taken the time to leave me a comment.

This is where I start pulling my hair out.

I can't tell you the number of times I've been left frustrated with people who make it so difficult for me to find and connect with them. Basically, if you don't update your Disqus profile and include links to your website & social media platforms, you are basically closing the door on future connections and possible business. And it's so easy to fix! 

If you're a blogger or business owner, you know how important it is to have all your links (website/facebook/twitter/instagram) in an easy to find place so that people can connect with you and ultimately contact you if they like what you are all about. If you don't provide them with your details how are they supposed to find you? The amount of time I have wasted copying and pasting Disqus usernames into Google, only to have to sift through hundreds of search results leaves me stone cold and ultimately I click away and forget about them. Not out of choice but out of frustration. 

So why not make it easy for people to find you. Disqus allows you to include your Facebook Account (at this stage only personal profiles can be connected), Twitter & Google accounts, as well as your website. Not only does this increase your chances of connecting with other like minded people, but it's great for SEO! The more your brand name and blog/business accounts are online, the more exposure your brand gets. It's basically free advertising.

How to update your disqus profile

So what are you waiting for?

Pop on over to your Disqus dashboard and get to customizing your profile. Change your name, avatar (the little picture that shows up when you leave a comment) & try to keep it consistent with your brand. Add in your links (under the 'Account' tab on the left hand side of your dashboard), write a quick blurb (biography) about who you are and what you do and then you're good to go! Drop a comment below once you've done so as I'd love to pop over to your site and leave you some social media love too.

Here's to helping you connect with more people, and to making your site easier to find for others.

Happy blogging!

Why you need a 'START HERE' page for your blog

Blog Tips Citygirlsearching Why you need a Start Here page on your blog

Have you ever clicked a link for something on Pinterest, and then been redirected to the home page or blog of that site only to have no idea what you're looking at? So many times I get lost on blogs, looking for something in particular that I saw on Pinterest, only to give up a few seconds later and click away. You may think your blog is incredibly user friendly, but that's because you designed it and know where everything lives.

If someone was visiting your blog for the first time, would they know, just from the first few seconds, what it is you do and what you offer or sell? It's so hard to look at our own blogs objectively, so why not make it super easy for people to find their way around your site by adding a START HERE page (see image below):

Why you need a start here age for your blog

Your Start Here page is another opportunity (just like your About Page & Home Landing Page if you choose to have one) for you to tell your readers what is is you do, and to give them a brief summary of your business or blog. I use my Start Here page as a place to show my blog categories, and as a way to have people sign up for a particular email. I am starting a new email list of people interested in improving their photography for their blog or business, and so use this page as a place for them to sign up. Some people use their Start Here page to sum up their previous blog posts, to answer FAQ's or to share more about themselves.

A few months ago I found a platform called Peek that allows you to submit your website to a panel of random testers who visit your site and answer specific questions about your sites usability. Once you enter your web address and email address up (it's free!) you are then sent a 5 minute video of people testing out your site, their first impressions and their answers to a few questions about the functionality of your site as well as whether you can improve on anything. 

My site was sent first to an older gentleman who really had no idea what I was writing about. At first I was so frustrated watching him make his way around my blog, but then I realised that my site was confusing. He thought the beauty reviews I did were for products I actually sold, and kept trying to find where to buy them. As the first blog post he saw when he clicked on my site was a review for a beauty product, he thought I was a selling skincare & makeup.


PRO TIP: Your latest Blog Posts conveys a lot to your readers and can influence their decision to stay or leave your site


I was happy to see he was actually interested in buying the product after my review, but I was disheartened as I soon realised he had no idea what my site was all about. At that time I even had a Home or Landing page set up, but as I use a lot of images in my design, it took so long for the Home page to show the images that he quickly clicked straight to my blog. I realised very quickly that you need to assume everyone who arrives at your blog (whether they are first time visitors or returning visitors) needs clear instructions about where to click and where to find information...


PRO TIP: This is why SEARCH BARS are so important in your blog design!


The next person to view my site was a young woman who clearly was a blogger herself. She immediately found her way to my blog and my about page, and proceeded to navigate my site with ease. As much as she liked the functionality and white space of my blog design, she did comment on how long the images were taking to load and that she found it rather frustrating. I have since learned to decrease the size of the images I upload, in the hopes that the loading time doesn't scare off my visitors!

So, by implementing a 'Start Here' page on your blog, you are giving your readers one more place to be able to find out about you and what you can offer them. It also helps them to learn how to navigate your site, and in turn, will make them more likely to stick around and come back.

Landing Page Example SquareSpace Blog

I am STILL tweaking my blog design (that's why I love SquareSpace so much as I am able to customise so much without having to know ANY code) and I think I will continue to tweak the functionality of it as I go along. I have just added a Home/Landing page back to my site (see image above). SquareSpace gives you the option to add easy-to-customize landing pages to your site in just a few minutes.  I have chosen to introduce a landing page because I have been told me that this site has so many different things going on that some of my visitors feel rather overwhelmed and unsure of where to start when they first arrive. We can't assume everyone who lands up on our site will be a well seasoned blogger. 

Do you have a Start Here page on your blog? Have you ever tried a user testing site before? How do you feel about your sites functionality and user-friendliness? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

#TeaWithRoxy: My new LIVE weekly Periscope Series

Hello everyone!

I have been having so much fun on Periscope (click here to read the post I did last week on what Periscope is all about and how to use it to grow your blog or business). I want to share MEANINGFUL content with you guys, as opposed to just showcasing random streams of my dog and my Christmas Tree (although I will still be including a few of these as they are fun and a lot of you seem to really enjoy them). 

Incase you're new to the whole Periscope thing, Pericope is a free app (available on both IOS & Android) that allows you to live stream video footage. Not only can you live stream your own content, but you can also watch other peoples content, and share you support by giving 'hearts' while commenting & asking questions. It may seem a bit creepy and weird (and yes there are a few strange people on there) but it's a fantastic way to build engagement as well as me create real, live time relationships with people. I've met so many new blogging friends in the last 2 weeks and I can't wait to continue to engage with all of you through this exciting new platform.

TeaWithRoxy Blogging Tips Series

As a blogger and photographer, I want to do more for you than just show you the behind the scenes of my life. I want to stream useful content that helps you and gives you the inspiration you need to actually do what you've been dreaming about doing. And so, I'd like to introduce you to my new Periscope series; #TeaWithRoxy.

I want this to be a a daily series (I am going to stream at the same time, Monday to Friday) with a different theme or topic each week. That's the plan, but I will be listening to you and your feedback and that will guide me as to whether it will continue to be a daily series or perhaps a weekly series if that's what you'd prefer. I am really excited for the first week's topic, as it's going to be all about blogging!

Here is the schedule for this week, starting tomorrow (Monday 14th December). I have tried to pick a time that will work for the majority of my readers who are all over the world, but if it doesn't work for you don't worry! The great thing about Periscope is it keeps your broadcast for 24 hours, so if you miss it, you're able to go back and re-watch it.

  • Monday 14th - Blogging: Where to Begin (I'll be talking about blogging platforms and which ones I love and use)
  • Tuesday 15th - Making your blog pop (I'll be talking about what I use to make my blog graphics and some tips and tricks to help you create yours)
  • Wednesday 16th - Pro Tips (I'll be sharing with you some of the favourite tools that I use to make my blogging life a lot easier)
  • Thursday 17th - Make or Break (I'll be talking about your 'About' page and why you need one, as well as how to make yours awesome!)
  • Friday 18th - Q & A (I'll be wrapping up the series as well as answering any questions you may have about blogging)

If this sounds like something you'd like to be a part of, all you have to do it download the app (it's FREE!), make a quick profile (you don't have to get too fancy with this, but try and include profile photo so I can see who you are) and then find and follow me @ROXYHUTTON. As soon as you follow me you'll get a notification of when I go live so you know when to pop on and start watching.

Citygirlsearching Persicope Roxy Hutton Blogging Tips

Like I said before, you'll be able to watch the replay for up to 24 hours after I have broadcast the stream, so don't worry if you can't make the time slot. 

I am so excited to have you all be a part of this series, and I can't wait to help you take your blog to the next level. Come and join an exciting community of likeminded people who want you to succeed with your goals. 


Want to make sure you never miss out on blogging or photography posts and freebies? Then make sure you subscribe to my Blogging & Photography email list by clicking the image below:

How to get your first 1k followers on Instagram (+ 2 Free Printables!)

How to grow your instagram and how to get your first 1000 followers

I've been on Instagram for about 3 years now, and have only seen any kind of noticeable growth in my following in the last 6 months. I KNOW how frustrating it is to put so much effort and time into something, and then receive the bare minimum amount of engagement (especially when you know that at least half of those likes come from family and your best friends!). It took me a long time to get where I am today (and I'm still a baby in the big bad world of Instagram!) but I want to encourage you on your journey, wherever you may be right now.

While there is no secret, overnight trick to go from 0 - 1000 over night, today I want to share with you my strategies over the past year which got me to my first 1k.

1. Start tracking your numbers

Free-Social-Media-Stats-Tracker-from-CGS.png

First things first. Grab a pen and paper (or even better, print out the free stats tracker I made just for you...it's waiting for you in The #CGScreative Resource Library) and write down exactly where you are right now. It doesn't matter if you have 5 followers on Instagram or 5000. You need to start somewhere and today is a good a day as any to begin YOUR journey.

I have also included place for you to write down your stats for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & your email list. It makes life easier having all your social media stats in one handy place. Then keep adding your stats every month (or even every few weeks). When I first started tracking my stats, I counted all numbers every week. It was very encouraging to see the numbers slowly creep up. I have included space for the 12 months of the year on the free printable above, but you can print a many as you need if you want to do it by week instead of month.

2. Write down your goals

As with any journey you need to know where you are going. You write down your 'dream' numbers and keep them small and easily attainable, or you can shoot for the stars and write down something outrageous. Don't get disheartened if you don't reach this number in a week, a month or even a year. The point of this exercise is to know where you are heading and where you want to be. You can put a date a date on your goals, but I find this doesn't end up motivating me, and I end up feeling like a failure if I haven't reached my goals by a certain date. I like to keep my goals open ended, as I want to keep growing and not stop what I'm doing even when I hit a target. Here's a free goal tracker printable to help you. You can write down whatever goals you have for your social media channels; things like hosting a giveaway/joining group boards on Pinterest are great goals to start growing your channels too.



3. Hashtags, Hashtags, Hashtags!

Hashtags WILL help you grow your following by making sure your photographs show up on searches. Before you tag your photo, think about what your photograph is showing/telling people. You want to make sure you use the right hashtags so that the right people find your feed. If you're little unsure of where to start, read this post on using different hashtags.

4. Be Social & Share the Love

If someone takes the time to comment on your photo, make sure to first reply to that comment, and then take a minute to head on over to their profile. If you like what you see, leave them a comment or two, or at the very least go and show their feed some love by liking some of their photographs. If you aren't actively engaging with other people, you're missing out on creating real, authentic connections with potential clients and potential business/blogging buddies. Think about your own feed. When someone simply likes one photo, how many times do you click on over to their feed? But think about when someone likes 5, 10, 20 of your images? How does that make you feel? Okay, it can sometimes feel like they are being a little spammy, but if they comment on your images as well as like them, chances are they genuinely enjoy what you are putting out there. So why not return the favor? It will increase your chances of being remembered by your followers as someone who is genuine and authentic, ie. they are more likely to then click over to your blog and read your content.

When you like an image on Instagram, that person gets a notification. If they have a big following, changes are they get so many notifications that your little like fades into the abyss. If you go and like 10 of their images, your name will appear 10 times in their notifications, making you stand out. I know that I click on profiles that leave me lots of likes (and I definitely click on profiles that leave comments). So why not use this to your advantage and make people want to click on your profile and follow you to see more.

5. Be Consistent with your brand

This step is the most important. Maintaining a consistent feed is what will help you stand out amongst the million of other users out there. Branding is a whole other kettle of fish, but on a basic level, if you want to convey your brand (whether that is the brand you are growing for your blog business or even just your own personal brand of who you are) you need to be consistent. 

When I first started using Instagram I was all about the Valencia filter; you know that brown, sepia filter that gave a vintage edge to every photo? That was all very well and good, but since then my own style has developed into something more feminine, clean and pretty. I now use a white (or at least a light) background for all my photographs and put more thought into what I want to share. If you are serious about growing your brand, you need to think hard about the image you want to convey to your followers. 

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about I want to share with you what happened to my Instagram followers a earlier this year.


At the beginning of May this year (2015)  I decided to take Instagram seriously. I wanted to use it as a tool to grow my blog, not just as a place to share photos of my dog. I started styling my photographs, using a white background, and just putting a bit more thought into my images. I also started to introduce more of my own photography work (you can see this in below image on the left). Slowly, I started gaining lots of new followers. By the end of July I had gained about 200 new, actively engaging followers. 

Then I went on holiday to Borneo

I wanted to share the exciting places we were seeing and things we were doing with my readers. I changed the hashtags I was using to fit in with travel, and even though I was getting more likes on my photographs, I lost nearly 50 followers in 2 weeks. I had no idea what was going on. Yes, Instagram does go through purges where they delete inactive & spam accounts, but to loose so many people had to mean that my followers weren't interested in what I was posting.

You see, people were following CityGirlSearching the lifestyle blogger who posted photographs of makeup, stationery and other pretty things. They hadn't chosen to follow CityGirlSearching the global traveler who posted photographs of beaches & exotic foods. 

It was hard to realise how fickle people can be, and to see such a decline in followers when I thought I was posting interesting new content. I realised I had to start thinking about my Instagram account as an extension of my brand, and not as a personal account. 


Lots of bloggers I follow have ended up creating multiple Instagram accounts to use for different purposes and I have been contemplating doing the same. They have one account for their blog or business, and another one to share personal photographs for family and friends. Right now I have enough social media channels to juggle without adding in a personal IG account, but it is something you may want to consider to help streamline your brand.

How to Grow your instagram following plus free printables by CityGirlSearching

There are a number of free apps to tell you how many people follow/unfollow you but I have just found they make me feel horrible about Instagram. I downloaded Trackgram which has a paid and free features, and I found it took all the love out of Instagram for me. When I actively see who has un-followed me, it makes me want to unfollow them, regardless of whether I like their Instagram account or not.It leaves a bad taste in my mouth being able to see who un-follows me, and it has made me feel very negative towards certain bloggers who I used to love and admire. So I would say us it with caution, or rather, don't use it all. You don't need to be reminded who exactly un follows you, you can get a broad overview of this yourself by looking at your Instagram numbers on your profile yourself.

I hope this post inspired you to tackle the big bad world of Instagram! If you have any questions about it, please feel free to leave me a comment below, I promise to get back to you.

Periscope & Blogging: Using Periscope to Grow your Blog

how to use periscope and using periscope to grow you blog

Hello. My name is Roxy, and I'm a Periscope addict.

I downloaded the live streaming app on Sunday night, and feel rather sheepish to say I have put myself out there, in live time, at least twice a day. It's only Wednesday and the fact that I have 11 broadcasts in 4 days is rather crazy. I had no idea that it would be so addictive, and SO MUCH FUN. I starting 'scoping' (yes, that's a thing) on a whim and hadn't put much thought into it but I have realised it's potential as a powerful tool for bloggers & business owners.

So what is Periscope?

Periscope is an app (recently purchased by Twitter) which lets you live video stream from your smart phone or tablet. It also lets your audience engage with you through a chat system, that you can respond to in real time. Viewers can also give you 'hearts', much like the Facebook 'like' button, if they agree with you or are enjoying what your are saying or doing.

Using Periscope to grow your blog

Your 'scopes are available for 24 hours before they are deleted. This means viewers can catch up anything they missed, and new viewers can watch you if they missed your broadcast. People can still give you hearts on the replay, which then get added to your overall heart count. The more hearts you get during a broadcast, the more chance you have of being featured. But please don't be that person who spends their entire time online begging for hearts, that's just not cool.

How to use Periscope to grow your blog

Here is a snap shot of my profile. Even though I only have a small following so far, I have received loads and loads of hearts...I told you there were nice people out there. Also, make sure you utilise your profile space well. When you first create your profile, you can choose to log in with Twitter. If you do this, it will automatically upload your twitter profile. Just like twitter, Periscope has a limit on the amount of characters you can use in your profile. Use them wisely and tell people what it is you do and why they should be interested in following you. 

What I have loved so much about Periscope is the fact that it's live, real, and not staged/edited/rehearsed like youtube videos. This means you literally just press a button, and you're live! There is no editing, no hours spent making a studio etc it's literally you and your phone and your viewers. This means people can ask you questions right then and there and you can answer them on the spot. 

As with any social platform, there will always be the trolls (those people who have nothing better to do than to write obscene comments and just be generally annoying) but it's super easy to block people with a swipe of the screen.

There are A LOT of Russians on Periscope, as well as many Eastern Europeans who ask me things in their language and I have no idea what they are saying, but for the most part I have had really nice people join me for my 'scopes'. 

How can Periscope Help Grow your Blog?

There are so many ways that Periscope can be used as a tool to help you grow your blog audience and readership, as well as a tool for growing the rest of your social media platforms. Here is a screen shot of my blog stats for the past month. 

Using Periscope to grow your blog

I usually hit a spike in traffic on days when I publish a blog post. I published a blog post on the 30th November but yesterday (1st December) I did not. And yet I saw a HUGE jump in traffic from my average of 377 page views a day, I got 539 yesterday. That's nearly double the amount. 

The only thing I did different? I placed a white board behind me while I was 'scoping which had my website & Instagram profiles written on it. Nothing fancy, literally a piece of white foam board with my details quickly scribbled on it. 

So you can see the potential right? 

I am really excited to delve deeper into Periscope and to start using it to grow my blog and my online stationery store.

Live streaming can be very daunting. The first 'scope I did I really had no idea what I was doing. I was in my pyjamas, in bed, with the camera facing my dog for most of the time, answering questions people were asking me about life in South Korea. The most asked questions was definitely 'Where are you from' as people were trying to work out my accent. But on that 'scope alone (ie the first one I ever did) I had nearly 300 people watch me. I had no makeup on, there was nothing interesting about my background, it was literally me in bed, drinking tea, and my dog sleeping on the floor. Now imagine I was doing something interesting like putting on makeup, walking around the streets in Korea, showing off items in my stationery store, imagine how many people would join me then?

In my third 'scope I had my husband and friend join me while we ate baked apples and drank tea. I named the broadcast  Apple Pudding & Zombie Brains as we were about to watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead (every time you go live you give your broadcast a title so people can read what your 'scope will be about...ie make it interesting!).Within 5 minutes we were TRENDING! This means that out of all the thousands of people online, our broadcast went to the top of the list! And we weren't doing anything other than eating food and talking about Zombies.

Some tips of what to talk about on Periscope.

So apart from talking about zombies and eating, there are lots of other things I'd suggest doing on Periscope. Things that can be used for actually growing your blog or business. Periscope is not like the other social media platforms. It's also not supposed to be scripted, it's supposed to be raw and real. Here are some things you can use it for if you're a blogger or business owner:

1. Q & A session.

Ask your viewers to ask you questions. Talk about where you are, what you do, what you blog about and let the conversation happen naturally. You'll be surprised how many people will be interested in knowing what you just ate/what your favorite colour is or why you chose to paint your nails electric blue.

2. Behind the Scenes

Use Periscope to show your viewers some behind the scenes footage of where you work. If you have a work studio where you put together stationery orders/take photographs/package orders/cook/teach show your viewers. It's always interesting seeing the other side of the creative scene. The side where everything is a mess, people will be able to relate to you and you'll be showing people a much more authentic side to you and your business.

3. Show off your pets

If baring your face to the whole wide world terrifies you then why not start by sharing your pets? Everyone loves animals, so why not share with the world your furry friend. I was amazed at how many people were interesting in seeing my dog, I even had requests from viewers to bring him on camera. 

4. Show off your products

Do you sell physical products? Show them to your viewers, ask them which ones they like best. Show them how they can use your products and how your products can be used around the house. This gives people a much more in depth look into what you're selling, making them more inclined to buy from you.

5. Show off your talents (or what you love doing)

Do you love baking? Are you an illustrator? Put on some music and invite people to watch you draw/cook/bake/paint your nails. It gives you something to do rather than staring into the screen blankly and people can enjoy your broadcast and still ask you questions.

Some general Periscope Tips

  • When you download Periscope, spend some time customising your profile. Include a link to your website/blog/online store and use an eye catching profile picture to help you stand out.
  • Spend a few minutes watching other people to get a better idea of what to do and what not to do.
  • The first thing you point your camera at when you start broadcasting will be the thumbnail for your 'scope. Make sure your camera is pointed at something interesting and eye catching. You can even make use of your branding/logo here to build up your brand. Your camera will, by default, be pointing away from you. This is why you should use a placeholder image (like your logo) or point your phone at something interesting rather than having it pointing at a blank wall while you wait to be able to turn the camera around. The blank wall will then be what people see when the scroll through their feed. 
  • Use interesting titles for your broadcast. Your title is super important as it is the first thing people will see when scrolling through the feed. Use emoticons and capital letters to draw attention.
  • Ask people to share your 'scope with their followers. You'd be surprised how many people will do this. It's really easy to do and just involved swiping to the right (for IOS ro swiping up for Android users).
  • Greet people as they join your stream. It's polite and helps them feel appreciated.
  • Follow other users and share the love by giving them hearts. 
  • Double tapping your screen while broadcasting changes the direction of your camera, so you can show people your face (if you want to) and you can show people what you are looking at. 

Most importantly have fun. Periscope is meant to be a fun platform for engaging with people. Don't get so caught up in trying to sell your blog/product that you forget about your audience and why they are there. People want to be entertained (and I don't mean the dodgy way here) so be real, be you and just relax. My first scope I was a shivering wreck, I couldn't even keep the phone straight as I was shaking so much. Within a few minutes I realised that it didn't matter if I said the wrong things. It takes a little while to warm up, so play some music in the background, and just have a good time.

Come and find me on Periscope (@RoxyHutton) and join in the fun.

5 ways Buffer will change the way you blog forever!

How Buffer Will Change The Way You Blog Blogging Tips

I've been using Buffer for about a year now, but it's only been in the last few months that I have come realise just how powerful it can be when fully utilised to grow your blog. For those who have never heard of Buffer, let me break down what exactly it is.

"Buffer is the best way to drive traffic, increase fan engagement and save time on social media" Buffer

Basically, Buffer is a platform for you to schedule twitter statuses & Facebook posts (LinkedIn & Google plus too and Pinterest for their paid upgrade) ahead of time. For those of you who wonder how it is that I am able to post things on all my social media platforms while living in a different time zone to the majority of my readers this is how I do it. Once I publish a post on my blog, I head straight to buffer to make sure it gets posted to my social media platforms at times that are optimised for my chosen time zone.

If you are just diving into the world of social media marketing for your blog, you may have noticed that some of your posts are getting more attention on different days or at particular times of the day. According to research, weekdays at lunchtime are said to be the best time to post content on Facebook ('best time' meaning your posts are more likely to get the most likes, shares & comments).  This is quite a simple thing to understand if you think about your own personal use of Facebook. When do you spend the most amount of time on Facebook? Most people are asleep/busy in the early morning and so it makes sense that the lowest engagement on Facebook posts is before 6am right? Buffer has all sorts of fancy tools to do all the hard work for you, suggesting optimal posting times for your social media platforms based on your timezone and your past reader engagement.

Here are 5 ways that Buffer has changed the way I blog. Buffer itself is free and I think if you're serious about your blog, this tool can really help you take it to the next level. 

Blogging Tips CityGirlSearching

Analytics

Once your post has been published on your chosen platform, Buffer will give you a breakdown of how well it did. It will show you how many likes/shares/comments/retweets you got. This helps you to see what sort of content your readers are engaging with, and especially what you are posting when. Buffer also adds a little star to posts that have done the best (calling them 'Top Posts') so you can easily scroll through and see what has worked best for your content. This helps you to determine when your followers are online and when they are engaging.

In the image below you can see how the following Facebook post performed (you can see how many comments/likes/clicks on the link I posted/shares and also how many people the post reached). From this post I can see that it only reached 380 people. I know that I have 1800+ fans on Facebook and yet only 380 of them saw this post. Interesting. Some of the analytical elements are for paid for members of Buffer (such as the 'Most Popular' tab but I have yet to need any of their added features and am very happy with the free version so far!).

Buffer review CityGirlSearching

For me, I have readers in many different timezones; I am South African (so many of my readers are there), I live in Korea (a lot of my makeup reviews are seen by people in Asia as these products are more widely available here) and finally a lot of my readership is based in the US and Europe too. This means in order to make sure that everyone sees my content, I need something that allows me to schedule my posts for these different timezones (refer to point 3 below!). I use the free analytics section of my own blogging platform (Squarespace) and I use Google Analytics to get a better breakdown of the countries where my readers are based. Once I know where they are based, I can then schedule my posts for optimal times in those timezones.

Scheduling

I mentioned this at the start of this post but scheduling is what Buffer is built to do. Buffer has a new tool for optimizing your posting times. You can either choose your own times and how often you want posts to go out for your different platforms or you can let buffer do the hard work for you with their Optimal Timing Tool. When you add content in the 'Content' tab, those posts will then be added to a list that will publish those posts at the times you have chosen above or let Buffer choose for you: 

Buffer App Review

When I click the above 'Want Buffer to optimize your schedule? Try our Optimal Timing Tool' I get directed to the following page where I can choose which platform I want my optimal times to show:

Once you choose your platform, and the number of times a day you want to post, Buffer uses it's fancy algorithms and spits out a graph like this: 

Buffer App review

From the graph above I can see that if I want to post to Facebook twice a day, the optimal times are between 2pm & 8pm for my chosen time zone (Asia/Seoul). You can then have Buffer automatically replace your exisitng schedule or you can do it yourself in the schedule tab in your dashboard.

Buffer is super easy to add content to. Simply choose which profile you want to add content to, click on the 'Content' tab and begin writing and uploading images. Right now you can see I have zero posts scheduled:

Buffer App Social Media Scheduling review

What's also handy is you can write one piece of content and set it to be posted to all of your social media platforms linked to Buffer. I usually schedule short posts for twitter, and more image based content for Facebook. Although I have noticed that the images I have shared to Twitter get more re-tweets than my written posts (thanks to the analytics tab!).

Buffer Blog

One of my favourite features of Buffer is, funnily enough, their own blog. They have such great articles and guides to all elements of social media and constantly post tips for making the most out of Buffer. Their blog is definitely worth checking out if you want to learn more about the science behind social media. It's a no-frills place to learn more about Social Media.

Blogging Tips CityGirl Searching

TIME SAVING

Because I can post my content ahead of time, it saves me from having to be at my computer and manually post each bit of content, as well make sure I have an image for each one. My brand is very image based and so being able to sit down once a week and schedule social media posts to go out throughout the week saves me so much time. It also means I can turn my phone off when I am out and not worry about posting content. Buffer does all the work for me.

SHORTEN LINKS

This is a big benefit to Buffer. I was using Bitly to shorten my web links, especially for twitter. I actually still use Bitly on the odd occasion when I want to manually post something to Social Media but having a platform that shortens links and schedules posts for me just saves me more time, and that's the point really isn't it. Shortening your links helps you keep to the strict 140 characters for Twitter, and it also helps Buffer to provide you with analytics for the number of people who clicked on your link. And to be honest which of the following looks better on the eye and more 'click worthy':

https://sticky9.com/?pid=117&referral_code=FRIEND2JNT&utm_content=buffer17f3b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

or

http://buff.ly/1JumpJ9

Blogging Tips Tricks CityGirlSearching

I have more thing to say about Buffer. While scheduling your posts is a massive time saving tool, do remember that social media is about being social. It's about engaging with people. Don't just set up a bunch of posts and then hope your blog will grow magically. As with any blogging tool, it is designed to be used in partnership with you. You are the person behind the blog and you are not a machine. Here is a really great guide to Social Media automation by the Buffer Blog. It's definitely worth a read. 

Do you use Buffer? Have you found that it's saved you time and helped grow your own blog or website? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Happy blogging!

*I have not been asked by Buffer to write this post or been paid to do so. I simply want to share with you how this great site has helped me become a better blogger.*