July 22, 2014

The Skinny of Blog Sponsorships (Part I)

Growing your blog is hard work and serious business. There are hundreds of posts out there exploring different angles on the most effective way to generate page views and interaction with your content. While I'm no expert, I have seen a huge traffic increase over the last six months and I want to share one of my secrets to that success: sponsorships.

Every blogger approaches sponsorships differently. Here are some tips to making the most out of your blog sponsorships:

Size matters.
I find them most beneficial to sponsor blogs with similar content and a similar or slightly larger-sized reader base. Why? I've sponsored some larger blogs and my personal feeling is that overall, I paid more for the sponsorship than it was worth. If the blog is too small, I don't think I get the reach necessary to generate any new traffic. Finding that happy medium is important.

Be realistic.
Let's be honest, a button on someone's sidebar isn't going to generate a ton of hits. Even sponsorships that include guest posts and social media shout outs will only generate minimal traffic. Don't expect your page views to double overnight, or you'll be extremely disappointed. What you are doing is getting your name out there. People are noticing you and you're building brand recognition. Remember building an audience is a jog not a sprint.

Know what your looking for. 
When I sponsor a blog I have a certain formula I like to follow. I evaluate the blog for the following criteria (listed in order of importance):
  • Blog Content - Will this particular blog appeal to my readers? Will I appeal to to their readers?
  • Blog Size - That happy medium I mentioned earlier.
  • Price - What's the ROI?
Money. Money. Money. Money. (I'm signing the theme song to the Apprentice)
When it comes to blogging you have to spend money to make money. But for me, blogging is truly a hobby; a way to connect with other women, a place for me to put my words out there and hope that someone can relate. The rest is just bonus. So I'm not trying to spend hundreds of dollars each month because I'm also not making hundreds. Typically I'll spend between $4-$15 for a sponsorship. Sure I might splurge and spend a little more but that's not the norm. Here are some additional quick tips for purchasing ad space:
  • Don't pay full price if you don't have to. Most blogs are willing to offer some sort of sponsorship discount - look on twitter, Facebook and through recent blog posts for promo codes. 
  • Check out the handle @PassionfruitLuv for flash sales
  • Button Swaps are the jam but don't swap for a 100x100 space - it's way too tiny for anyone to notice. Make sure it's an even exchange. Guest Post exchanges are really the bee's knees - take advantage. 
Have a Plan.
Don't go wild one month and be completely dormant the next. Keep a consistent presence in the blogosphere. Building an audience takes time plan out some sponsorship options 2-3 months in advance and track your progress and growth so you know if a blog is a good fit for the future. 

Speak Up. 
Blog sponsors aren't mind readers, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for what you need. You're paying for a service so make sure you get what you're expecting (remember to be realistic with your expectations). If you want more images Pinned or more tweets directing to a post you wrote 3 months ago, just say something. 

Followers Don't Equal Readers.
Giveaways are great. I mean who doesn't love a J. Crew gift card, free ad space and Etsy goodies? I'll raise my hand for all three and when opportunities present themselves to cohost one of these giveaways I can usually be counted on to contribute something here and there. But I know that the spike in traffic during giveaway time does not lend itself to faithful readers. Oftentimes people sign up for their chance to win and you never hear from them again. If you do participate in giveaways don't expect a lot of engagement from those new page views and don't expect the spike to last. Flank giveaways with great content to try and inspire new readers to engage and connect.

Show off.
The true purpose of a blog sponsorship is to give readers a flavor of who you are and encourage them to visit your blog. Button and giveaways won't do that for you. I encourage you to select sponsorships that include a guest post. While guest posts can be scary, they give new readers a true sense of your writing style and personality. Readers that you gain from guest posts might be scarce but they are typically very loyal and repeat readers. Q&As and write ups are also good secondary choices but for me Guest Posting is the business!

Find the Right Fit.
This can be tough and it's oftentimes a game of chance, a brief description of a blog sponsorship is all you really have to go by when determining if the blogger will truly live up to their promises. You can find blogs to sponsor a variety of ways. I've found some via twitter, others came about because I'm already a loyal follower and some even started when I found them in the Passionfruit Marketplace. But the best way to find blogs to sponsor is by asking other bloggers, that you know and trust, who they'd sponsor again. And you might be thinking, "Brittany, who would you recommend sponsoring?" Well, it's funny you should ask because I have a list of five of my favorite blogs to sponsor and that's what I'll be talking about in Part II tomorrow, so stay tuned.

So to recap:

And now for a shameless plug: if you're interested in growing your blog, I'd love to help. You can check out all my sponsorship options here. Plus us promo code THIRTY to save 30% off an ad of your choice.

Be Blessed,
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July 17, 2014

Acknowledging Death

In some ways I think I was unlucky. I knew death at a fairly young age. At that time it wasn't the visitor of a car accident or a heart attack, those would come later. The first time it fell from a tree, not a whole lot different than the leaves fall when the weather turns each autumn. I was only in the fourth grade when an afternoon at the park ended tragically for one of my classmates. It was the first time I was faced with the indisputable fact that our time on earth has a real beginning and an real end.

Since then death his lurked in the shadows throughout my life, the uninvited guest to many parties. Two classmates who committed suicide before ever experiencing high school and then a high school classmate who never had the chance to go to college. One of the hardest instances was a college teammate who took her life the day before my 19th birthday. My grandfathers, my best friend's mom, my parent's friends, extended family and family pets. I know that death is imminent but I don't know that I've really given my own personal end much thought.

I narrowly escaped death once when I was in a car accident. I was 15 and it could have been my last day but that wasn't God's plan. I've seen so many sunrises and sunsets since that day and while I realize that it could have been my last I never really came to terms with what that meant.

Maybe it's taken me becoming a wife and mother to put death into perspective. To bring it out from behind the dark corner so that it has a real presence in the room.

I found out last week that a former coworker's been diagnosed with breast cancer. She's only 37. She's a wife, and mother to two precious boys, ages two and five. And she's pregnant. This time with a little girl. The news stopped me dead in my tracks. I mean I literally could not breathe. I learned that she's undergoing chemo treatments and that she's losing her hair. She wore a pink wig on her 37th birthday. She seems in good spirits considering the tremendous obstacles she's facing and I'm left in awe and admiration.

The news has really got me thinking - what if it was me? What if I had had to sit my husband down after a long work day and break the news to him that I'd received a cancer diagnosis? I'm not really prepared for news like that at this point in my life. I don't know that you really ever be really prepared for that kind of news. I don't know how she handled telling her family and frankly I don't want to imagine how that conversation unfolded.

As I reflect on everything this woman is facing the thing that stands out to me the most is that I don't think I've come to terms with the fact that as I get older my friends, coworkers and family will be in battles to defend their life against illness. Before now the death I've known has been immediate and in those times when it has been a battle it's been met by someone who's had a long and full life. Not someone relatively close to my age, which I still consider young. Not a pregnant woman. Not a mother with toddlers. Not some one that could be me.

I don't think I'm scared of dying. I can accept that it happens to all of us eventually. But I am scared for who I'll leave behind. My son is almost 18 months old and I can't imagine not being there to instill values and help him navigate through childhood and then his teenage years. I can't imagine him not having a mother here on earth to stand by him after his first day of school or when his high school sweetheart breaks his heart. I can't imagine my husband navigating through life as a single parent, playing the roles of both mom and dad. I can't imagine not being there for the man of my dreams when he battles sleepless nights because our son is sick and he can't rest because he's full of worry. Or standing by his side when our little guy grows up to walk across the stage for graduation. I can't imagine my parents burying their child. I can't imagine my sister being an only child. I simply can. not. imagine.

Death, I know you're coming for me and I'm not scared but please be kind to those I leave behind. I know that whenever my time comes, I'll forever be with them. Watching down from Heaven with my Savior in my eternal resting place.

Until then I'm going to be praying for those who are facing these struggles. If you find it in your heart, please pray for my former coworker and her family as she battles cancer and pregnancy simultaneously.

Be Blessed,
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July 14, 2014

Bite-size Breakfast Frittatas

I've been making a real attempt to eat breakfast more often. It's terrible but I just never make any effort for breakfast besides hitting the "Brew" button on my Keurig. I need something quick and easy which is why I'm loving these Bite-size Breakfast Frittatas, loaded with veggies and packed with flavor. 

Ingredients (for 12 Frittatas): 
2 Cups finely chopped broccoli 
8 Eggs
1/4 Cup cheddar cheese  
1 Tablespoon milk
Salt and Pepper to taste 
Cooking Spray

Preparation Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a regular-sized muffin tin, with 12 muffin molds, with cooking spray. Fill each muffin mold about half way with the broccoli or filling of your choosing.

Note: You can use any combination of meats or veggies - zucchini, onion, pepper, sausage... 

In a separate bowl scramble the eggs, milk, salt and pepper with a whisk. 

Pour the egg mixture into each of the veggie-filled muffin tins. 

Until they are about 3/4 full. Top each Bite-size Breakfast Fritata with a pinch of cheese.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes before removing from muffin tin. 

Tip: Put individual Bite-size Breakfast Frittatas in sandwich-size baggies and then put them all in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Freeze them for later. To reheat set out to thaw for 10 minutes and then cook in microwave for 55 seconds, or until warm throughout. 

What are your favorite breakfast recipes?

Be Blessed,
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July 10, 2014

Truths about the Ladies Room

the ladies room is not a place I like to frequent while I'm at work. I personally try to avoid it altogether if I can do so without causing havoc on my kidneys. when I do pay the powder room a visit I expect there to be certain level of ladies room standards upheld by all. Here are a few truths, a bit of ranting and some basic observations about the ladies room. 

the bathroom is no place for a cell phone. I do not want to contribute to ambient noise on your call so please take your calls elsewhere - plus your voice echoes and just ewww 

if you do not wash your hands after leaving the stall, I will judge you 

we don't share space with the boys so keep it neat - you know what I mean 

if you drop toilet paper on the floor pick it up - it will end up on someone's shoe

if you know there's someone else in the restroom and they aren't making any noise - do your business quickly and leave - it's a common courtesy - no need to reapply all your makeup - comeback another time

there are 5 other stalls open - why do you need to use the handicap one?

hairspray - NO!  

cleaning lady - why are you in there all day long and can you please leave while we're doing our business? 

unless we walked in as a group please don't talk to me - in fact no eye contact would be preferred

Anything I'm missing? I can't be the only one that has these kind of pet-peeves.

Be Blessed,
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July 9, 2014

Five Makeup Must-haves for a Fresh Face

My morning routine is simple when it comes to makeup. I like to keep it light and fresh during the work week and I do that with these five make-up must-haves for a fresh face:

1. Tinted Moisturizer 

I typically like to start out my makeup routine with a tinted moisturizer. But for me it MUST HAVE SPF. Right now I'm using the Sonia Kashuk Radiant+ Tinted Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 15. I love it because it goes on light, stays throughout the day, protects me from harmful sun rays but it also gives me a little extra color on my face and with that a little boost of confidence.

2. Concealer and Brightener

I'm pushing 30 and I'm running after a toddler so and need all the help I can get to help me appear fresh faced and awake each morning. I've been using Bare Minerals Stroke of Light Eye Brightener under my eyes each morning like a concealer. I also use it to touch up imperfections or red spots and I think it gives me a more youthful, renewed look. 

3. Mineral Veil or Powder Finish 

I'm not that girl that's going to retouch her makeup during her lunch hour so I want something that allows me to set it and forget it. Adding a finishing powder like Bare Minerals Mineral Veil helps ensure that my makeup stays where it's intended. 

4. Mascara 

I can't go anywhere without adding a little mascara to make my eyes pop and it's a must-have if you want a fresh face. I'm really loving the Covergirl Bombshell Curvaceous by Lashblast. The long-lasting mascara helps elongate my lashes but it stays put all day.

I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing and review purposes but all opinions are my own. 

5. Lip Gloss 

Last, but far from least, I finish off my look with a lip gloss like the Mary Kay Nourishine Lip Gloss in Fancy Nancy. I'll be honest I've had this for years and I don't think they even have this color any more but I just love it and I hope it never runs out. It's the perfect finishing touch for a fresh but made-up face.

What are some of your makeup must-haves that give you a fresh face?

Be Blessed,
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