Pro Blogging Mini Series – Answering Some Of Your Questions

Hey everyone!

Happy Wild Wednesday! I’m back again this week with another segment of the Pro Blogging Mini Series.

Pro Blogging Mini Series by thescrapmaster.com

I am going to have one more post in this series next week. If you have any additional blogging questions that haven’t been covered yet in this series, please leave them below & I will try to cover them.

Today, I’m just going to try to cover some of the questions I see popping up. Some I’ve seen asked a bunch times & some I’ve only seen a couple times but I thought they were excellent questions 🙂 And some of them I have grabbed from various online forums I have frequented.

How do you take photos of your scrapbook layouts?

This is all about lighting!! I have a big window in my scrap space that has two Expedit shelves sitting right under them. Click here to see my scrap space! When the lighting is softly shining through that window (usually mornings for me), I take my photos by setting the layouts right on the Expedit shelf. Then I try my best to line up the layout straight in my camera. I always take 2-3 photos of the full layout to make sure I get a clear one. Sometimes I end up with a blurry looking photo that’s unusable.

I take my photos with my iphone mostly. Occasionally I use an old Olympus DSLR.

After I take my photos, I edit them in Photoshop. I brighten up the color if needed, crop out all of the background, resize, sometimes sharpen the image. If the layout is crooked, I use the ruler tool to straighten the top part of the layout. If once of the sides doesn’t look square, I use the transform tools to make it square. I also add a watermark.
I’m not going to go into details on all these editing steps, but you can google them or search on Youtube to see how to do them. For me it was all trial & error trying to find out what editing I liked. It really is all personal preference of how you want your layouts to look in your photos. Sometimes I can edit the photo in one minute or less. Sometimes the photos aren’t that great & it takes me more like 5 minutes to edit the photo. Sometimes I have to use every step listed above, somteimes I just have to crop & add a watermark.

My best bit of photo advice I have is to make sure you have enough lighting! If you don’t have a bright window, get some lamps or a light box. If your photos are too dark, no amount of editing is going to improve the photos that much because darker photos end up more grainy & less sharp.
NOTE: If you do use artificial light, be sure to invest in some daylight bulbs or else you will also need to edit the white balance on your photos (regular lightbulbs are yellow tinted & some of the newer types of lightbulbs can be blue tinted. The daylight bulbs are supposed to be more like natural light). When the natural lighting isn’t very nice, I use my studio lights to make sure my projects have enough light.

Here’s a look at a before & after. The before is the raw photo. It’s only been resized & watermarked but nothing else was done to this photo:

How I take photos of my scrapbook layouts

As you can see, I am still wearing my PJ’s! LOL. The window is positioned on the opposite side of the shelf from where I am standing. I just stand there & hover over the layout to try to line up the layout in the photo. This photo ended up with the layout being pretty diagonal so I did have to straighten this photo with the ruler tool. You can see the layout is well lit because of that soft light from the window.

And here’s the after photo:

Scrapbook layout from thescrapmaster.com

I shared this layout a few weeks ago. To see more details about this layout, click here!

What version of Photoshop to you use?

I use Photoshop CS5 (Creative Suite 5). It is now an outdated version, but the programs are so expensive, I don’t have any plans to upgrade anytime soon. I got the full CS5 when I was in college & took some graphic design courses at a community college (while I was also enrolled in my last semester at a university where I double majored! LOL That was the same semester I started my company. Man, I was nuts!). Students get a huge discount on software. Most people could definitely get by with Photoshop Elements, which is a less powerful version of Photoshop, but it is MUCH more affordable!!

 

What is a Direct Link? URL? And how do I find them?

When someone says “direct link”, they mean the link that goes directly to a certain blog post rather than the link that goes to your blog main page.

For example, my blog link is http://thescrapmaster.com. The direct link to this blog post is http://thescrapmaster.com/2014/04/pro-blogging-answering-some-of-your-questions.html

A URL is just any website address/link. My blog link is also called my blog URL. URL’s usually start with http:// or https://

URL’s are shown in your browser toolbar.

To find the direct link to a blog post, you have a couple of options usually:

  1. Go to the blog. Find the blog post you are looking for. Click on the blog post title & then the URL/direct link will appear in your browser toolbar. Then you can copy & paste that where ever you need it.
  2. Go to the blog. Find the blog post you are looking for. Right click on the blog post title & then click “copy link location”. Then you can paste that where ever you need it.

 

How can I make money blogging/crafting?

This is just a basic rundown of some of the money making options there are out there for crafty folks who want to turn their crafting into a business. I’m not going to go into further details on any of these subjects as there are tons of resources out there in Google-land. Just Google any of these if you’d like to learn more about any of it. My personal comments/opinions regarding each money making options are in pink!

  • Add Google Adsense to your blog (banner ads) – With Adsense, you make money based off of how many people visit your site & see your ads + more when people click on your ads. My thoughts: In my opinion it takes a LOT LOT of visitors to make any money through adsense!! And I have a bunch of visitors & I still don’t make very much through these ads.
  • Become an affiliate for your favorite crafty stores – Many larger online scrap stores like SVGCuts, Scrapbooks.com, and Scrapbook Steals (all affiliate links) offer  affiliate programs. The basic way they work is you have special links that you can use on your site. Those links are trackable & when people click those links and make purchases from those websites, you receive a % of the sale price off of those items. Usually affiliate programs have certain standards (# of followers/visitors, etc) for what affiliates they let join their program so if you are just starting out, you might not be able to get into their programs because you might not have enough of a following yet.
    My thoughts: I haven’t been promoting affiliate companies for very long (or very well actually! LOL) so I can’t give much of an opinion on this one yet. I think if you are good about knowing how/when to post affiliate links, then this could be a nice way to make some money. There are entire books written about how to make money through affiliate programs, but I’ve never really looked into it very much.
  • Start selling products for a Direct Sales Company – Direct Sales companies like Stampin’ UP and Close to My Heart have demonstrators/consultants. These people are not employed by the company, but they are independent contractors. You purchase some sort of starter kit & sign some agreements in order to sell the company’s products. Sales can be based off of home parties you host or online sales through your demonstrator website. You receive a percentage of the amount of items that you sell. The direct sales company handles all of the packing & order stuff. Usually there are quarterly sales minimums that you have to meet to remain a seller.
    My thoughts: I guess I “started” my scrappy career as a Stampin’ UP Demonstrator before I launched my own stamp company. I was able to make a little money at it, but there is a lot of pressure to buy buy buy for yourself too. There are plenty of demonstrators out there making a career out of direct selling. It still involves customer service/book keeping/promoting, but you don’t have to worry about any order fulfillment stuff which is AWESOME!
    There’s also sort of a sense of community among the demonstrators for direct sales companies. Sure some of them can be ultra competitive and catty, but overall they are all very helpful & having a lot of other people running similar businesses as you can be really helpful.
    Coming from being a sole store owner packing all my own orders & managing every single aspect of design/order fulfillment/manufacturing. . . well, direct sales sounds like such a better idea than owning your own store. I think if I get too bored once my store is finally shut down & if I feel like I have nothing to do, I’ll seriously consider joining Stampin’ UP again somewhere down the line.
  • Open your own etsy shop & sell your finished products or handmade embellishments –
    My thoughts: Some people have great stores on Etsy selling their cards or pre-made scrapbook pages. Personally, I sold die cuts on Ebay before I even started blogging so it was kind of similar. It takes pretty much all the same stuff that running any store would: making things/order fulfillment/bookkeeping/customer service,etc, except the website design & shopping card feature is pretty much done for you, which is nice.
  • Start a scrapbook store or scrapbook company selling products wholesale or designing your own products to sell (retail or wholesale) –
    My thoughts: This is what I’ve been doing for the past 3.5 years and it is NOT EASY! It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it can be done. It costs a TON to run a business & get products made. Way more than you ever estimate. And most businesses don’t turn a profit until sometimes their 3rd, 4th, or 5th year. It isn’t for the faint of heart. And it definitely wasn’t for me. I consider my store experience very successful because I turned a profit in my first year, but it was hard hard hard work. Running my own store & doing everything alone almost made me lose my scrappy passion so that’s why I decided to close down my shop. I’d say this is the most complicated, most costly, most time consuming of all the options listed here, BUT it is incredibly rewarding to build something so amazing from the ground up.
  • Join a for pay design team – most design teams only offer product as payment & not cold hard cash so this one might be difficult to find.
    My thoughts: I’ve been on for pay & for product design teams. In my experience, joining design teams should be purely for fun because you do a lot of scrapping work for not a lot of “pay” either money-wise or product wise. I join design teams because I love the products & would be buying them & using them anyway. I’ve seen plenty of people try to join design teams for the fame & fortune & they are usually the members who end up getting kicked off the team or who leave before their terms are up because IT’S A LOT OF WORK & they are expecting to just get a bunch of free stuff or get famous quickly. Well, it just doesn’t work like that most of the time! LOL!
  • Design products for a scrapbook company – You would definitely need some sort of graphic design background for this.
    My thoughts: I don’t have any experience with this, but I assume it would be much like any other “real” job for the fact that you would be employed or contracted by the company.

 

How could you afford to start your company? Are you rich? Does your blog bring in a lot of money? How much money do you make blogging/on Youtube/with a store, etc?

This one kind of makes me chuckle because I get comments sometimes that makes me think that some of you think that I am rich or something & that couldn’t be further from the truth!

I have been asked these questions outright as well. Of course I am not going to tell you how much money I make! But I don’t like you guys thinking we are rich because we totally aren’t! I started my store when I was in college & we actually were just broke college kids. We even lived with my mom. We sacrificed a lot to start my business while my husband was going through grad school (free time, extra fun money, starting our family), but we chose to start a debt free business. We spent some of our savings to get the company going & then I expanded as my profits allowed for that. I worked as a nanny to help get my company off the ground after I graduated college. It wasn’t easy, but it was so much better than building up debt trying to start a company.

Last summer, my husband finished grad school & got a job so now we’re just an average family trying to get by, stick to a budget, & live within our means.  It’s always helped that we are actually really cheap, lol!! I spend more on my scrapbooking stuff than I spend on anything else for myself.

We spend on the things that matter to us & it’s really all about priorities. I spend a ton on scrapbook stuff while others may spend a ton on designer clothing, eating out, or expensive  handbags. You just gotta do what works for you & what makes you happy.  I don’t spend much on ANYTHING EXCEPT scrapbook stuff.

  • I hardly buy makeup or beauty products (my wonderful mother-in-law has been giving me Ulta gift cards or I really wouldn’t spend much on those things either because I’m too cheap lol)
  • I’ve bought one cheap knockoff handbag in like the past 5 years or more (I think it was $39.99 and I almost didn’t buy it because I thought it was expensive for a handbag!). All my other handbags are the cheap ones from Target.
  • I hardly ever buy new shoes (my most recent pair was probably about 2 years ago).
  • I hardly ever buy new clothes -I bought 2 workout shirts on clearance last month & that was the first clothing purchase in many months. The only other clothes purchases I have made within the last year were because I don’t fit in my larger clothes anymore since I’ve been losing weight 🙂
  • We don’t have cable.
  • We don’t go out to eat a bunch.
  • I have a 10 yr old car that’s doing great & don’t plan on buying a new one until I absolutely have to.
  • We don’t go out very often to do very many expensive things like go to movies or concerts or take vacations, etc. If we do, we budget for them.
  • I pack my hubby’s lunch almost every single day for work & I eat my lunch at home almost every day.
  • I pretty much cook every meal we eat aside from a weekly trip out to eat & an occasional lunch out (at most once a week for that). And even those times, we budget for it!

We live pretty frugally. We actually don’t spend a lot on “extra” stuff really. We spend money on scrapbook stuff, dog stuff, and good food at the grocery store & that’s about it! Oh, and we got the nicest house that we could afford, but we didn’t get something out of our price range. We’re CHEAP (aside from my scrap addiction).

I don’t make very much money directly from just my blog or just my Youtube channels. I make money primarily though sales in my store, but that’s an indirect result of having awesome readers/subscribers/customers of my blog & Youtube channels. And I’m about to make significantly less money soon since I am doing away with my physical store offerings 🙂

 

If you had it to do over again, or if you were just starting out, what would you do to make money in the scrapbook industry?

Honestly, I would probably approach things pretty much the same way! I would start a blog! My husband and I live a pretty minimalist lifestyle so I think I would take a different approach to how I sold things so it was more in line with our lifestyle. My scrapbook overconsumption is in stark contrast to the rest of the way we live our lives – we buy what we need, we try not to waste, we use what we have. I’m always trying to tame my inner scrapbook big spender so that it is more in line with the rest of our ways lol.

I would probably still start out on Etsy or something similar, selling handmade goods or join a Direct Sales company. There is minimal financial risk involved in either of those. Even if you want to start your own company, those are both great places to start out & learn some ropes before you take that giant leap.

Having my own scrapbook company was a dream of mine & I am so glad I got to live that dream!! I would probably have done it all over again even knowing all that I know now, but I would have been much more selective with the products I chose to manufacture/design. I would definitely choose more digital product offerings because those fit in with my lifestyle better. I would have tried to grow slower than I did. I ended up going from a couple of great customers to hundreds and hundreds of customers in what seemed like overnight & I just couldn’t keep up with the demand. If I had fewer physical product offerings & was more selective, I could have grown at a much more comfortable pace.

 

What’s your favorite thing about blogging?

I love the sweet comments I get from all of you!! It seriously feeds my soul when someone says they were inspired by a tutorial or a project here. When someone says, “Thank you, I can’t wait to try that out!” I light up. I just love that anyone stops by & enjoys sharing in this passion. Watching those numbers go up is just mind blowing for me. Over 1 million visitors!! It’s been a while since then, but I still can’t get over it. I love y’all so much, you really have no idea!!

I was recently telling someone how much I love our little crafty community & how much all of my readers meant to me. And how I appreciated y’all even more now (if it is even possible because I always appreciated y’all so much!!) after moving to a new state & not knowing anyone in town. If it weren’t for you guys, I would have felt SO ALONE. So thank you for being here 🙂

 

What’s your least favorite thing about blogging?

Editing blog posts! Rereading what I’ve written & trying to correct grammar and spelling mistakes is just not my thing! I love to write, I love to make projects, I love to teach, but I do not like proofreading! My best advice is to not get bogged down in the editing process. Read over your posts a couple of times & call it done! You could spend way too much time editing each post & trying to make it perfect, and the few minor changes to your post really won’t make that big of a difference in the long term (and I say this on my 3rd and FINAL edit of this blog post, LOL!! Most of my blog posts only get one edit!)

Another bad thing is the negative comments/hateful comments. Mean people just suck! It takes guts to put yourself out there & open yourself up for criticism & unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of the hateful comments. If you have a following, chances are you’ll have some hateful people appear too.
I could definitely get up on my soapbox about this one. I just wonder how messed up someone has to be on the inside to spew such mean crap. Them just thinking those mean things to begin with is pathetic enough, but to actually take the time & write it out to try to tear someone else down. . . well it makes me feel really sorry for them that they are that unhappy on the inside. Mean comments say WAY WAY more about the person saying them, than they do about the person they are aimed at.

 

How long does it take you to make a blog post? make a video?

This varies greatly depending on what I am making. Not including the time it actually takes to MAKE a project, blog posts & videos can take me anywhere from 30-45 minutes to a couple of days to finish. This one has taken a couple of hours to gather my questions & write out what I wanted to say.

Scrapbook pages or card projects where I just write about the steps & supplies used are the quickest kinds of blog posts for me.

Tutorials or video tutorials take a lot longer. Process videos where I show a project from start to finish can sometimes take me days to make because of the amount of editing, planning, filming, voice over-ing, exporting, uploading involved. There are a lot of processing steps in which the computer has to just take time to do something to the video & there’s nothing to do but wait for those steps. I definitely set the computer aside and work on other things during those times & just keep having to come back to the video until it’s done & uploaded.

Blogging and video making is definitely a time consuming endeavor, but they are definitely incredibly rewarding for me. I just absolutely love being a blogger & youtuber!!

 

Conclusion

Alright, so I covered a lot of questions & I hope that you got some good info out of this post. I kind of had a mini rant on my “Are you rich?” question lol, & gave you kind of an inside look into our lives with that one.

The next Wild Wednesday blog post will be the last one in this Pro Blogging mini series. I plan on giving you some tips for growing your blog following. If you have any other blogging related questions, please be sure to leave them below so I can try & answer them next week for ya!

In case you missed any parts in this mini series:

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Have a fabulous day!!





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