Blogging With Intention

Quality Over Quantity - Blogging With Intention Tips Plus Free Worksheet

With the new year comes a new set of goals you promise yourself you’re going to reach this year – you’re going to simplify, organize your life, grow your business and make time for what matters most. 

But when you’re trying to expand your small business, you can get stuck in the everyday muck of catching up on emails, putting together proposals, planning your blogging calendar and putting the finishing touches on that blog post you wanted to have up yesterday. It’s hard to keep up with the everyday stuff and make time for the big things you want to accomplish too. 

While blogging is an important aspect of growing your small business, blogging without passion just to have a post up on your site is the wrong way to go about growing. Lucky for us, there’s a trending idea in the blogging world: blogging with intention. 

It’s writing posts that contain all original content, it’s researching the topic and coming to your own conclusion and it’s blogging only when you devote the time and passion it takes to write a great post, even if it’s only once a week or once a month. 

Here are some ways to craft a quality, well thought out, intentional blog post: 

1. Do Your Research

When planning out your posts, draw up an outline and schedule in time to do some research behind the topic you’re writing about. The more you can share with your readers, the more they’ll feel like they got something out of your post.

For example, if you’re featuring a certain artist on your blog, do some research on their story – share how they got started, the idea behind their brand and what their design process is. If they use a particular technique with their work, research the technique and share that with your readers as well. Reach out to them to get the answers to those questions, or do your own research to find those answers.

Anyone can share an image of the artist’s work, but if you can get the story behind that particular piece, you’ll add more value to your post. Make sure you cite where you found your information and give credit wherever you can. 

When you add research to your process, the quality of your posts will increase and you’ll be providing your readers with real information they’ll want to bookmark and share. 

2. Only Write About Topics That Inspire You

If you’re not inspired by the posts you’re writing, it’s time to take a look at the type of content you’re blogging about. One way to fix this is to go back to the beginning of your business and ask yourself some questions. Why did you want to get started? What inspired you back then? Has that inspiration grown or changed at all?

If you go back to the root of why you started and what inspired you most back then, you might be able to come up with some great blog post ideas that won’t leave you procrastinating to get the post written. Focus on just writing about topics you like to talk about or are interested in exploring more, and go from there.  

3. Use Your Own Photos

One way to really slow down and take your time with blogging is to create an entirely original post – sharing both your own ideas and your own photographs. While throwing together recap posts or inspiration boards with other people’s images or post content (while properly crediting them, of course) is still very popular, when you create an original post you’re putting something out on the web that hasn’t been seen before.

I’ve noticed that the posts I’ve provided original content for have been pinned and re-pinned more times than any of my themed inspiration boards or style posts – pinned DIY projects and design projects I’m working on bring more people to my website than just about any other source. 

THE WORKSHEET

Download the blogging with intention worksheet here to help you get started!

 Coming up with all original content for your posts definitely takes more time, but your readers will be able to tell that you spent more time on the post and it will hopefully bring some additional traffic back to your website after it gets shared around the web.

When you’re blogging with purpose about topics you really want to talk about, you’ll add value to your brand, contribute some amazing new things to the internet and save yourself the stress from trying to throw together 5 posts a week.

The first few months of the new year are a great time for starting new habits, slowing down and focusing on what you really want to accomplish this year. If you’re blogging with intention you’ll have better chance of accomplishing your goals, and you’ll enjoy blogging even more.

What are your blogging goals for this year? How will you slow down and blog with more passion and intention? Share your ideas in the comments! 

Baking A King Cake

Carnival season is in full swing here in New Orleans and king cakes are for sale everywhere! When I was living in Boston I really missed Mardi Gras and king cakes, so one year Zander and I decided to try baking one. I meant to post a recipe and photos to the blog but never got around to it even though I took pictures of the process. So I’m resurrecting the photos for y’all today! It came out pretty messy and lopsided, but it tasted great and made me miss home a little less!

Baking A King Cake From Scratch

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Colored Sugar

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For Bloggers: WordPress Plugins

My Favorite WordPress Plugins

I’ve been asked a few times what WordPress plugins I use to do certain things on this site, so rather than respond to individual emails, I thought I’d share with all of you guys!

First, a few notes on plugins in general: they are super easy to install and great for adding features to your blog even if you don’t know how to code BUT they can slow down your site. To prevent this, only add the ones that are necessary and delete plugins if you decide not to use them. Sometimes a plugin can cause conflicts within your site so always install one at a time and backup your site regularly.

Comments

I try to reply to every comment left on my blog to keep the conversation going so using Comment Reply Notification is a great way to make sure that the commenter sees my reply. It automatically sends an email to anyone who has received a reply to their comment. 

Pin It Button

You’ve probably seen this in action a lot by now, a pin it button that hovers over images making it convenient for readers to pin images. I use jQuery Pin It Button For Images for my pin it hover image. The reason I chose this plugin is because of the customization options and that you can use a custom image to match your branding.

Post Footers 

You may have noticed that at the bottom of each of my blog posts, I have the same call to action that points my readers to Facebook, Bloglovin etc. Instead of pasting this content separately into every post I write, I use WP Post Footer which allows you to create a library of code snippets and easily include them at the bottom of posts.

Editorial Calendar

I am a visual person so this plugin is one of my favorites to keep my posts organized. The WordPress Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts on a calendar and drag and drop them to manage your posting schedule.

Backup

This one is huge because you MUST backup your site! For backup, I use the WP Backup to Dropbox plugin, because it drops my files from scheduled backups right into a folder in Dropbox!

SEO

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to my SEO but the All in One SEO Pack makes it a little easier on me. It has fields at the end of each post for you to fill in to help optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization.

 

These are just suggestions and what works best for me. There are usually several plugins that do the same thing, so do your research and some testing to see which works bests for your needs!

I hope this was helpful! Do you have any favorites that weren’t mentioned here? Please share!

plug icon designed by Ben Johnson from the Noun Project

Snapshots of my Desk

I took these photos a while back but realized I never posted them here on the blog. So here you go, a little peek at my workspace on a clean day! A few things you can find on my desk on an average day are my glasses, a planner, notebooks and a Pantone mug filled with coffee. So now you know what I look like while blogging or working on a design project (except for the days when I work in my pajamas).

Ciera Design Studio - Desk In Workspace

Ciera Design Studio - Desk In Workspace

Ciera Design Studio - Desk In Workspace

Ciera Design Studio - Desk In Workspace

Jasmine snapped the photos of me.

The Made In Mind Social February Meet-up and Art Market

For our February meet up, we wanted to network with creatives AND feature them so that’s exactly what we did at L’Entrepôt on Saturday night during the Julia Street Art Walk! Guests got to view work from amazing local talent while sipping on delicious Passionfruit Sangrias from Carmo CafeThanks to all of the artists and to everyone who came out to support them! Here are a few of my favorite photos from the event and you can see the full recap over on The Made In Mind Social blog!

The Made In Mind Social Art Market and Meetup 2014

The Made In Mind Social Art Market and Meetup

Emily Lovejoy at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

The Made In Mind Social Art Market and Meetup 2014

Little Eli at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

Little Eli at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

The Made In Mind Social Art Market and Meetup 2014

Laurel Buras at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

Girl Looking at Art The Made In Mind Social

Girls Looking at Art - The Made In Mind Social

The Elizabeth Chronicles at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

The Elizabeth Chronicles at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

The Made In Mind Social Art Market and Meetup 2014

Erik Barthels at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

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Markette at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

Markette at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

Markette at The Made In Mind Social Art Market

Be sure to follow The Made In Mind Social on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss out on upcoming events! Interested in sponsoring an event or our blog? Find details here.

Event photos by Trevor Mark.

February Wallpaper Freebie + A Favorite Font Giveaway

Debi Sementelli just released a bold version of her beautiful Belluccia Pro font! She sent me over a copy and I was immediately inspired to create this soft, watercolor image for my desktop in February! This design is now available for free as a desktop and iphone wallpaper over on the Whimseybox blog!  

Love Is All You Need Quote - Ciera Design

Love Is All You Need Greeting Cards on Etsy

 I also added print yourself Valentine’s Day cards to the Etsy shop, including this design!

A VERY SPECIAL DEAL FOR CIERA DESIGN READERS!

All of you lucky ducks get 40% off of Belluccia Pro Bold with discount code “cieradesign” through March 15!

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Debi is offering one lucky reader a free copy of Belluccia Pro Bold!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!! Have any questions, feel free to contact me. If you are in a reader click out to access the Rafflecopter entry form. Please note that your entry will be removed if you do not complete it correctly. I received a copy of Belluccia Pro Bold c/o Correspondence Ink. All opinions are my own.

Back To Basics

I’ve been working to clean out my closet and create a more streamlined and cohesive wardrobe. My wardrobe has been neglecting for too long now! My sister and I had a huge garage sale last weekend and set up a shop my closet account on Instagram to clear old stuff out of our closets. When doing this, I realized that I’m missing a lot of simple black basics that would really help to tie my other pieces together! My black jeans have faded, I have never owned a leather jacket even though I’ve always wanted one and I’m in desperate need of a little black dress! Here are a few basics that need to make it into my closet ASAP! Do you have any basic items that you can’t live without?

Black Wardrobe Basics

Leather Biker Jacket / Studded Leather Crossbody Purse / Oversized Cashmere Scart / Wayfarer Sunglasses / Box Pleat Leather Skirt / Ponti Ruched Dress / Black Skinny Jeans / Leather Kinsey Boots / Scoop Tee

This post was sponsored by Scoop NYC but all opinions are my own. Scoop NYC is now an Ultimate Closet Warehouse Sale where some items are up to 80% off!

That’s A Wrap: January

Wow y’all, January was kind of crazy… I found out that my sister is moving to New York, had a huge stylin’ garage sale, started a shop my closet account on Instagram, New Orleans had a snow day and I planned my first art market (which is tomorrow!) for The Made In Mind Social. And that doesn’t even include anything that happened in the studio or on the blog…

Popular Blog Posts in January

On the Blog

I’m Ready To Take On 2014
Out & About at Homestead
Valentine’s Day Freebie
Make Your Own Bloody Mary Bar
How To Expand Your Small Business
Sweet Tea & Co. Logo and Branding
The Font Feast Presents Kale Berry Smoothies
The Most Popular Fonts of 2013

In the Studio

I wrapped up the logo & branding for Sweet Tea & Co., a unique tea party experience for little girls. The client and I are both thrilled with how it turned out! I’m currently taking on new clients! If you know what you need feel free to get a head start by filling out a project request, or just email me!

In the Shop

I added a new art print and some new Valentine’s Day items!

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

I shared what it’s like in my kitchen on Lulu the Baker, check it out! January’s desktop wallpaper freebie available for download on Whimseybox! My DIY Geometric Coasters were featured on The FriskyVery Shannon included my DIY Air Plant Globes in a very beautiful roundup!

From The Archives

Superbowl Related:
DIY Football Jersey
16 Amazing Grilled Cheese Recipes
Pico de Gallo Recipe
Homemade French Fries

Valentine’s Related:
Red Hot Valentine DIY
Love Potion Font
Brand Spotlight: One Love Organics
Desktop Freebies here and here

Click here to find out about sponsoring the blog!

10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

Today I’m excited to join the Jump Blog Tour, hosted by Stephanie Hall and Ashley Wilhite, the co-creators of Jump: Into your business, your life, your dream, a must-have digital guide for new coaches and creatives. They believe in the transformational power of taking the jump and creating a business you love. This all-inclusive eBook will teach you how to start a business, find your niche, brand like a pro, and make the jump with confidence.

10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

For those of you who don’t know how I made the jump, I’ll give you a little background. I got a job right out of college at a great advertising agency and gained a lot of experience in my four years there. However, a time came when I was no longer growing or enjoying the type of work I was doing so I decided it was time to move on. Rather than looking for a position at another agency, I decided to go freelance and pursue the type of work I was interested in. I started getting connections by doing pro bono work while I still had my agency job and it transitioned into full-time freelancing in 2010. 

Over the years, I have been slowly branching out and really trying to perfect my dream business. First of all, I don’t want to have all of my eggs in one basket. If I happen to have a slow month with custom design clients, I want something else ready to supplement my income. I’m also not just going to sit around and wait for people to come to me with work. Each year I continue to branch out and expand my business. Here are ten things that can help you to expand your small business:

1. Grow your offerings, products and services

Think of new and different ways can you serve your customers. Maybe you can add entry and advanced levels to your current options. Think of logical extensions of what you currently offer. You want to keep your clients coming back for more, so what else can you offer them?

2. Take a class

I am continuously learning about design and striving to be better. Taking local classes also doubles as networking but if you don’t have access to any, there are some amazing resources online! My favorites are Skillshare and Lynda.

3. Create a passive income stream

It’s really great to have some income, with little effort required to maintain it. You could sell products on Etsy, use affiliate marketing, sell digital files, downloads or ebooks.

4. Start a blog or new blog post series

Blogging not only helps with SEO but is also an amazing way to get your business out there and position yourself as an expert in your field. Guest blogging is also a great way to get your name out to an expanded market. Not convinced? Read Why You Should Have a Blog For Your Business.

5. Network and collaborate

While online networking is great, you should also really get yourself out there and network in person! Attend a conference or find a local meet-up. Networking is also a good way to find people to collaborate with. If your city doesn’t have a local meet-up, see how to start your own here!

6. Do Pro Bono Work 

As I mentioned, I started my business by doing pro bono work. This made me realize that I love helping my community, small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs. So I continue to work with clients that I stand behind and that have a positive impact on the community. Not only has this given me a great deal of personal satisfaction, but also so many new connections!

7. Step out of your comfort zone

If your client work doesn’t allow you to do this, start a personal project to spark your creativity. I use my blog freebies to explore design techniques and new ideas. Take on a project that may be out of your comfort zone if it’s something you’ve been wanting to learn about. Remember that you don’t have to add everything to your portfolio just because you did it.

8. Ask for help

You can’t do it all, hire people to do certain things for you and learn to say no to the things you are not interested in. This gives you the time and energy to do the things you love!

9. Teach

This could be as simple as writing a blog post or a more extensive option like writing an e-book, teaching a Skillshare class or even speaking at a conference.

10. Expand client base

Your small business may have great brand awareness in your community, but what’s involved in expanding that awareness to a much larger market? Getting new customers is essential to growing your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. Testimonials from clients are important because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website. Here are a few ways to get really great testimonials

Jump Blog Tour

Tell me in the comments below how you are thinking about branching out your business.

P.S. I got to check out a draft of the ebook and it has some amazing stuff in it y’all! Learn all about Jump: Into your business, your life, your dream and pre-order today!