Happy New Year bellas,
I know it has been a really long time since I posted so welcome back and I hope you’re doing well. I though I’d start off this year with a summary of how 2016 went and also what I have set for myself to achieve in the months to come. This post is gonna be a super long one so grab a drink, get comfy and tuck in.
I’ve been reading a lot of reflection posts over the last couple of days and I’ve seen many people label 2016 as being a bad year. In some terms I’d have to agree but it’s also not great to just focus on the bad things in life. I believe everything happens for a reason so I try to uplift my spirits with the positive things that happen around me. At the end of every day I still come home to 2 beautiful kids which keep me very busy and a husband of almost 12 years that drives me crazy so I have a lot to be thankful for.
The year 2016 started off quite badly as I had left my previous company of 10 years to pursue a new prospect. This entailed being on a graduate program whilst studying and not earning a salary. This was only for four months but the rewards promised would be well worth it. NOT! The salary I was expecting to receive got chopped in half due to internal politics and last minute budget constraints. While I can still provide for my family, this means no awesome vacations away from home or as much makeup as I would have liked to buy. Apart from contractual constraints, my pride has also kept me from seeking greener pastures. Perhaps this was meant for me, a test of my strength and a chance to reflect on my priorities. I have not yet decided how I am going to tackle my career this year, but it is something I need to change to feel more content. Being 30 and not knowing what I want my career path to be is seriously stressing me out at the moment.
Alongside this new job, which meant sitting at a computer for the entire day, didn’t do well for my body. Laziness to make lunch, nibbling for boredom, coupled with fizzy drinks and lots of take-outs caused me to pick up 10kgs in the last year. I was already struggling to lose my post-baby weight so it just spiraled from there. I still love food so dieting is not something I like to attempt because I have tried and failed miserably numerous times. I’ve decided to cut out fizzy drinks and consume more water since my current intake is non-existent. I’ve recently started on some 100% natural weight loss pills so if it works, I’ll share that with you in the future. I’ve also signed up for ladies group fitness classes twice a week to keep me motivated. I find that when I exercise alone, I take my time and not push myself as hard. I used to attend boot camp sessions which I talked about here but it was close to where I worked. I feel getting back in to shape will make me feel more confident and love myself more.
Weight at start of 2016: 64kgs
Weight at end of 2016: 74kgs
Goal weight for 2017: 57kgs
Friendships & Relationships – The good, the bad and the ugly
So if you know me personally, you’ll know I’m really bad at keeping in touch. Whether it’s with friends or family, I usually don’t call or message unless they message me first. It’s a really bad trait but something I know I need to work on. I don’t do it intentionally but it is a problem. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to push myself to reach out because I value the friendships that I do have. I’ve always just been the type of person that would keep my distance but would come running if you needed me. Now I’m realising that I need to continuously nurture those I love and care about so that they know they can count on me. This past year I’ve made friendships that mean the world to me and I wouldn’t want that to change. On the flipside, I’ve also weeded out the fake and nasty ones because who needs that negativity in their life, right? I’ve learnt that there’ll always be haters, jealous cows and trolls out there but if you are a good person, good things will come your way.
My blog reached it’s 2nd year anniversary in August 2016. Prior to last year, my blog wasn’t as ‘organised’ as I would have liked it to have been. Because I have a family and a full time job, my blog must always come third. The kids are getting bigger and I’ve learnt so much in the last year that I finally feel like I know what I want and what I’m doing in terms of my blog.
So I started Belle Blushh as a makeup and beauty blog to share my thoughts and experiences with like minded readers. Over the last year I’ve had bouts of inspiration from food to crafts to travel and lifestyle and have sat down to write posts with images and everything. None of those ever got published because something always stopped me. Whether it was thinking “would my readers be interested in this?” or “would I scare away potential subscribers?”, something just didn’t feel right. I like that my blog has a specific niche and it’s something that I am wholly passionate about so why deviate. The health and beauty world has tons of categories from cosmetics to skincare so I’m happy in my little space and I know the people that come here love it too.
Branding and re-design
To mark the 2 years blogging in August 2016, I had a new logo made and my website underwent a full makeover. I was in good hands as Abangani Media helped me transition into my new theme. I found them by accident and it was so seamless and affordable I would recommend them to anyone looking for some help with a blog or website. I love the way my blog looks now although there is some tweaking I still need to do in terms of speed and loading times.
Scheduled posts and time management
To be honest, last year I probably only scheduled about 2-3 posts. I have been putting myself under a lot of stress the way I’ve been writing ever since I started my blog. I usually take blog pictures once I receive the product and then start testing it out. So I always have images on hand if the urge to write arises. If you’d noticed, sometimes I would post 5 times in a week. This meant deciding on a topic that morning, editing photo’s and writing my post during breaks and lunch and finishing it at home before hitting publish. If you’re subscribed to email newsletters, you’ll see they kinda arrived quite late at night. If I miss publishing before midnight, I’d usually leave it until the next day. Doing things this way has caused quite a bit of frenzy and stress because I want to write and tell my story when I’m most excited about it. Because I like my style of writing and don’t want my conversations to seem prepared or disconnected, it’s something I’m not going to change. I like chatting and relaying my story on the day that I write it so hopefully my mood and excitement (or repulsion) can still come across.
So to take some of the pressure off, I managed to take quite a bit of pics the last few weeks of the products I wanted to share with you in December. I figured lots of people would be off on holiday and lazing on the beach so it gave me time to prepare. I have managed to edit a lot of the images and crop them ready to be inserted to the relevant blog posts. I have tons of posts planned so as I write them I’ll be popping them out. Let me know in the comments below which products you’re most excited about and I’ll push them up the list.
As I said I’ve been taking quite a bit of photo’s recently and I’ve been happier with the way they’re looking. I invested in a led ring light which I purchased from Camera Stuff on special. It’s brightened my photo’s since I don’t have a lot of natural light without distorting the colours. It has different settings where I can dim the lights or change it between cool and warm depending on the look I’m going for. This means I don’t have to meddle much with editing except for cropping the photos and inserting my watermark. It saves loads of time and gives me leeway to mess around to improve my photos even more. I love reading posts on blog photography so if it’s something you’re struggling with you can check out my saved posts in this Bloglovin collection.
Brands, Press drops and collaborations
No word of a lie but 2016 was definitely the pinnacle of my blogging career. For years I’ve been planning to create a media kit to start contacting companies and be placed on their blogger/media lists. It’s something I’ve always put off thinking I already have so much to blog about and just being plain out lazy to put myself out there. Somehow, somewhere, someone found me and I’ve been contacted by the likes of Urban Decay and NYX which are the most notable mentions. I’ve received amazing press drops, some of the items I was already planning to spend my money on, and being invited to fun and spectacular events. Not only did this give me more insight to working with brands and fuel my motivation for blogging, but I got to meet some of the most amazing people, bloggers and non-bloggers alike which has been a life-changing experience to say the least. I am so appreciative of the opportunities I’ve received and can only dream of where it could go from here. I also got to do some amazing giveaways in collaboration with some of my favourite suppliers and without giving anything away, keep a look out because there’s some awesome stuff planned for you along the way.
Lastly I want to talk about stats. On one hand, some people think setting specific targets is a recipe for failure. In some instances I agree but since I’ve never done it this way, I’d like to try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board but at least I know I tried. Growing my blog, for me, means getting more views which I interpret as more people reading my content. In turn, the more people subscribed to each and every channel means they’re more likely to see what I’m posting because with the new algorithms on platforms and the fact that SEO and ranking is still pretty much foreign to me, means my content otherwise gets lost in the stream. I’ve decided to set some realistic targets based on current stats and hopefully I’d have achieved them when this year is over.
I remember when I started blogging, getting 1 000 views per month seemed like it was never going to happen. Over time, I realised the more content I pushed out, the more pageviews I had but it was like a hamster running in a wheel. The minute the content stopped, the stats would fall. I felt like I was in a neverending race to a destination that was out of reach. When I published the post about fake makeup, I never intended for it to be about views or publicity or wanting to be ‘that blogger’ that only talks about drama cos I ain’t no Karina Kaboom. That was just me ranting and I went from having at most 759 views in a day to receiving 5 837 views for just that day. That was more than I had ever received for an entire week. Like I said I didn’t want to be known as that blogger and I focused my content around reviews and what I love. The momentum from that post died down and I went in search of how to run a successful blog. Over the last year, I learnt a lot of things about blogging but the most important thing was to create content that was informative and timeless. Sure there’s new products being released every day, but instead of keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case the Jenners, there’s always someone who’s looking for a review of an older item that they purchased now. Since September, I’ve been creating lengthier posts with a lot of detail trying to put myself in the most noob position to write my review. I want my 60-year old aunt who knows absolutely nothing about makeup to read it and be able to decide for herself whether it’s good for her or not. I want my makeup loving friends and peers to read it knowing everything about makeup and trusting my opinion to help them make the best decisions and help people from wasting their money. Somehow I feel I’ve achieved this because even though it’s been weeks since I’ve pushed out content, I’m still hitting around 1 000 pageviews per day. People are focused mainly on reviews and for the coming year ahead, that’s what I’m going to be focusing on.
Monthly pageviews at start of 2016: 3 500 pageviews per month
Monthly pageviews at end of 2016: 25 000 pageviews per month
Goal monthly pageviews for 2017: 40 000 pageviews per month
I also want to focus on certain social media because I feel like that is a great way to market my blog and get people to click in to view my content. There isn’t a way for me to check my previous stats as I do with pageviews on Google Analytics so I’ll just give you the current count and my goals for the year.
Current followers: 4 851
Goal followers: 10k
Current followers: 647
Goal followers: 1k
Current followers: 595
Goal followers: 1k
Current likes: 491
Goal likes: 1k
Current followers: 80
Goal followers: 150
I know some of the goals such as Facebook Likes are meaningless and just a number, but setting these goals show me which areas I need to work on and find ways to market them better.
Lastly I want to show more love and appreciation to blogs and channels that I enjoy following. I’m guilty of reading blog posts and scrolling through social media without leaving comments or clicking the like button. For catching up with my favourite blogs, I use Bloglovin because I get a daily digest of the latest posts and I can read on the go using the app on my phone. You can see here the blog’s I’m following and perhaps some of them might interest you too. Please leave your favourite blog names below so I can find some exciting new ones too.
Thanks for making it all the way to the end. Thanks for supporting me all these years and getting me to where I am today. This would not be possible without you. Here’s to an amazing new year and here’s to you. Wishing you all the best. Love you lots.