How To Make Smart Blog Investments

A few years ago I wrote a post titled How Much Should You Be Spending On Blogging where I talked about making practical blog investments based on your income from blogging. Today though, I will be talking about how make investments that work for your blog because we all want to bring in more readers, more customers, and more traffic. Making a smart blog investment can really catapult and help your blog even if it doesn't make financial sense at the moment of purchase.

1. figure out what you want to focus on

It seems like there are literally a million ways you can invest in your blog from blog retreats to courses and workshops to software like Adobe Photoshop. Some investments are more expensive than others and require a bigger time commitment. Figuring out where you want to focus your attention and where you think your audience will grow the most is important. Do an audit of your blog to see what investments might work best for you.

The first big investment I made for my blog as far as courses went was Pinfinite Growth, the amazing course by Melyssa Griffin. I knew that I needed to learn the tricks of the Pinterest trade. When I first started Melyssa Griffin's course I had 1,100 Pinterest followers and I desperately wanted to learn how to utilize those followers to the best of my ability and gain more followers. I knew I could grow my Pinterest even more if I put more thought into it, but I had no idea where to begin.

Since taking that course I am at 3,000+ followers which means that I have gained almost 2,000 followers and I made that investment at the end of December! I have had a Pinterest account since at least my freshman year of college. In 4+ years I had only gained 1,100 followers. In the last 7 months I have gained nearly 2,000. If that is not a sound investment, I don't know what is.

2. Get to know the leaders in that space

The next thing you need to do when you choose a part of your blog that you want to focus on whether that be growing your Pinterest, making better blog graphics, growing your list, etc is to find the leaders in that niche. When I want to learn more about a topic, my first instinct is to Google it or run a Pinterest search for it. Get to know the leaders and take advantage of their free resources. Check out their social media profiles, join their Facebook groups, watch their webinars, read their blogs, sign up for their email lists, etc. This will give you a good feeling about whether or not you should invest in them.

Melyssa Griffin talks about this a lot in her courses and webinars––offering amazing free value only leads you to believe that their paid content will be a million times better. If you love going to their webinars, reading their blog posts, interacting with them in their Facebook groups, etc it's only fitting that you will also love their paid content. If you can get to know them on a deeper level than just reading one blog post the trust will grow and eventually it will make sense for you to want to invest in them as a blogger.

Be cognizant of how you feel about the potential people you want to invest in. You could love them as a presenter/teacher, but not as a blogger. I think the most worrisome combination though is loving them as a blogger, but not as a presenter/teacher. If you go to their free webinars or take an email course with them and you don't love it, don't invest. Even if you adore their blog posts and find the person to be amazing, it doesn't mean their teaching style and you will get along. Be aware of the bias you may have to support them even if you don't get a lot from their presentations and teaching material.

3. Find reviews

Reviews are important. Reviews help you make important decisions about the courses that you choose to take. You can usually easily find reviews on social media, in Facebook communities, on their project landing pages, and more. Reviews are really important to look at in my opinion because it allows you to see what other people who were in your position think of the course. Would they spend the money on the investment all over again, or would they pass? Figuring out those things will help you make the best possible decision.

If you know someone in the blogging world who has taken the course or made the investment that you want to make don't be afraid to ask them about their experiences. Bloggers are usually pretty open about their opinions on a course and you can find out so much information just by messaging back and forth with someone you know well.

Often times course creators and e-book sellers will provide success stories on their website. Do some further research on those success stories. Do they live up to your expectations as far as what the course is concerned with? For instance, if you are selling a course all about Facebook, go check out how the students are doing on their Facebook page. Do they have a highly engaged audience? Do they post a lot of content there? Are they killing the Facebook Live game? Do they totally have thousands of likes on their page? While you may not be able to point to all students to see how they are doing, you can point to success stories.

they are success stories after all.

If they choose to highlight these particular stories you should be able to check out the people behind these stories to see if their success is real. Fact checking success stories will give you a greater confidence that you are investing in the right program. If you cannot look up the success story and be blown away, what is the point of a success story?

4. Don't make decisions based on price

The worst thing that you can do when you are making decisions for your blog is to make decisions based on the price of the product. Instead, save your money up so that you can make a sound business decision based on the merit of the program and the people behind the program instead of the price of the program. Earlier this year I made a decision for a course based off price instead of the actual value of the course and the people behind the course. Sometimes you have to stop, breathe, save, and make sure that you are investing in the type of person you want to invest in.

Stop. Breathe. Save. invest.

Price alone isn't the only thing you should base an investment decision off of. Think about how that person had made you feel in the past, if you feel they have delivered on the promises of their content in the past, and if you feel that the investment will be a good decision. Don't brush off doubts for a price tag.

5. investments take more than money

The biggest thing that I want you to get out of this conversation is that investments take more than money. You don't just get to invest dollars and then get a fairy to do the work for you. These investments take time, work, and energy. Implement what you learn, watch the content over and over if you have to. Don't just hoard investments without acting on the content of the investments.

If you have an investment use the system and really work at the system that they try to show you in the course. Don't just do a few modules and the put the course on a backburner. In my opinion it's really important to use the course and it's techniques in the first few days of buying a course which leads be to #6...

6. Don't be afraid to ask for a refund

I know, asking for a refund is not the favorite thing of anyone to do, but I think that sometimes it is necessary. If you are trying the system out and it doesn't feel quite right to you or the course doesn't work as well as you thought it should don't be afraid to ask for a refund for your purchase. It's okay to not be satisfied with the product you are spendings hundreds of dollars on. If they have a refund policy understand that before you go into the course and ask for a refund if you think it is necessary. If they are not offering you the services they promised or you don't think the teaching style or content will work for you it is best to get your money back and move on.

So often we stay in situations just because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings by asking for our money back––but if a program is not working for you, you need to get out of that program and find one that does grow your blog. I am not telling you to get out of every single program you are ever in, but if the program just isn't working, don't try to force it to be kind. At the end of the day, kindness doesn't get you a course that works for you or the money from your investment back.

Final thoughts

Making an investments for your blog is important. It's not always based on how much money you currently make, sometimes it's based on how much money you could make in the future. It's okay to make thoughtful, informed decisions about your blog investments. It's also okay to request refunds within reason for investments that don't work out. What investment are you looking forward to making in your blog?

10 Things College Students Can Do to Become More Career/Adult Oriented

Today on the blog I am sharing 10 things that college students can do to become more career/adult oriented. This summer is my first summer where I am living more of an adult life (hashtag working instead of sleeping in all summer...what?) If you want to be more career/adult oriented check out the ten tips I am offering below.

10 Things College Students Can Do To Become More Career/Adult Oriented | College is a great time, but eventually you have to pivot into adulthood and career life. Click through for ten things that college students can do to become more adult and career oriented.

1. Join an Academic Organization

I have talked about this on the blog before, but I adore academic organizations. I think they work really well for college students especially because joining as a student is usually much cheaper than as an adult. Get to know your major related academic organizations, especially right now when it makes the most financial sense, and use their resources to the fullest. 

The academic organization that I am a part of now (the American Sociological Association) is great. They have lots of free resources, journals, and e-books for members; they are well renowned in the sociological community; they have things like job banks that make searching for jobs within sociology easy; and they are just fantastic. I really go in detail on these types of organizations in the post linked below, but there are some organizations that you can only join as a student that you need to take advantage of now (especially if you don't plan to continue education into graduate school.) Having honor society membership with your major is so important, and will give you a leg up in the career world, so think about that as you are working on your undergraduate degree.

2. Start a LinkedIn Profile

You need a LinkedIn profile. Just investing in a free profile on LinkedIn will give you so much more credibility online. I wrote up a great how to on LinkedIn a few months ago that I love and have gotten great feedback on. If you are interested in learning more about how to be a LinkedIn rockstar, I definitely encourage checking out the button at the end of this segment.

Why is a LinkedIn profile so important? It helps you have a professional presence; expand your network of professional connects; collect recommendations and endorsements; and connect with a wide array of people you never knew you could connect with based on things like having mutual friends, going to the same college, and being in the same groups. There are so many cool things you can do on LinkedIn and the best way to start exploring is to create a profile and work on creating an awesome one.

Get Professional Head shots

Now, in my post above I say you don't always have to have professional head shots and I stand by that. If you can get professionally done head shots though, that would look amazing on LinkedIn (or any other platform where you want to give off more of a professional look. (If you can't do professional though, I give my tips in the article above.)

Recently I got the great opportunity to get my head shots done for pretty cheap. At my sororities convention, GreekYearbook with the help of the Sigma Sigma Sigma Foundation came and did tons of ladies professional head shots. Luckily, I was one of them. They had a suggested gift to the foundation as compensation for the head shots and I donated $20. Talk about crazy right? Now I have three professional head shots that I have full access to whether I want to print them on business cards, add them to LinkedIn, print on a canvas to hang in my room (I may or may not already have a a small canvas picture of myself above my bed...), etc.

Below are my new head shots. I am obsessing.

3. Keep Up with Current Events in Your Field

In the adult world you always want to learn more and more about your field. There are many ways that you can do this. You can sign up for weekly newsletters in your niche; search the articles shared on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. for accounts in your niche; check out blogs from people in your niche; etc. Keeping up with current events is so important, especially if you want to position yourself as an authority in your field. You can start simply by starting to keep up with events in your field now instead of later.

Google Alerts

Lately, to keep up with current events in my field I have been obsessed with using Google Alerts. Google Alerts are amazing because they are a simple way to keep up with news in your field, or if you have a really complex name, news about you (or your blog.) Right now I am really interested in learning about the protests going on in the world so I currently have a Google Alert set up for the word protest. Every time Google catches something for this word across the web they catalog it and at the end of they day they send me a Google Alert about it. They also compile stories, which for me as a sociologist is fun, so that I can see how different media outlets frame the same protest event.

4. Dress Well for Class

I have talked about the importance of dressing up for class on the blog before, and I think it sets up a good precedent for your career. In most office settings you cannot get away with wearing leggings and a ripped up t-shirt. Starting to dress for success now will only help you down the road (and you can start stockpiling fun dress clothes that you can continue to use once you get a big girl job. You don't have to start big right away. I encourage you to dabble in nice jeans/dress pants, blouses, and having a couple of cute dresses on hand for classes. This will help you make a great first impression on your professors because you are taking the initiative to look nice for class.

Updating Your Wardrobe (On A Budget)

Are you on a budget but you want to update your wardrobe? I have a couple of suggestions for that.

  1. Shop for things on sale: Sales are really important, especially if you already know you will be shopping for something––might as well save a few bucks in the process. Old Navy is one of my favorite stores for sales, it seems like they always have something really cute on sale and they sell a lot of nice clothes for the office.
  2. Shop factory/outlet stores: Another great thing to do is to shop factory stores. Stores like J. Crew Factory, VF Outlet, Guess Factory, Nike Outlet, etc are great places to go shopping. My favorite outlet is J. Crew Factory. I own a lot of high quality items from their website and it's like J. Crew quality for half the price. Factory/outlet stores are your friend, good deals are always welcome.
  3. Shop secondhand: The next thing that is great is shopping secondhand. You can find some gently used and amazing quality stuff at secondhand stores. People love to take care of their clothing and you can find some real gems if you have a few minutes to go looking around at secondhand stores. You may want to avoid some places like GoodWill (depending on the area your store is in) but I adore places like Plato's Closet as well as looking online in certain thrifting groups or sites like ThredUp and eBay.

5. Wake Up Earlier (Even During The Summer)

I know, I know, this is madness. What does waking up early mean during the summer? During the summer you lose a lot of time during the day due to sleeping in (I am definitely guilty of this). Summer only truly exists during your school years, so especially as you get older, spend some days during the summer where you don't sleep in until 12 PM. You don't have to wake up early every day, but doing this a few days a week might help your body get primed to waking up early during the school year and as a career woman. 

6. Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals is a really great skill to have. Planning your meals allows you to save time in multiple ways. You can save time by making a grocery list and only having to go to one grocery trip during the week. You can save time during the week by batch making your meals and storing them in tupperware so that you can easily grab your meals and go. Batch making things like salads, soups/stews, meats that you can use in multiple ways, etc can be really great. Making things and then freezing them for later (like handmade pizza, soups, casseroles, lasagnas, etc) can also be really beneficial because all you have to do is thaw them and heat them up when you want to cook them.

Drink More Water

Water is an essential element to any adults life, so how do you drink more water? There are many ways you can do it:

  1. Download an app: There are tons of apps that can help you track how much water you drink each day. Apps are great because it's always on your phone and you can easily check in throughout the day.
  2. Use a planner to track water intake: There are tons of cute sticker companies that sell water intake stickers so you can track in your planner how much water you drink if apps aren't your thing.
  3. Use a motivational water bottle: There are tons of cute water bottles out there like this one that provide lots of awesome motivation throughout the day to keep drinking water by labeling the time of day that you should have a certain amount of water consumed. I think having a cute water bottle or tumbler on hand will definitely help you drink more water.

7. Buy A Planner (And Use It)

Planners are everything and they can be extremely beneficial for college students and adults alike. I currently will be using two this fall: one for my blog and Facebook group (my Erin Condren planner) and an academic daily Simplified Planner by Emily Ley for my school work and job. Different planners work for different people. I really encourage you to go around to see which one would work best for you. I have used Lilly Pulitzer planners in the past and I have heard great things about The Happy Planner and Day Designer planners.

The lovely Kayla Blogs just released a mammoth of a planner post that features over 14 different awesome planners that you might be interested in taking a look at as you are deciding what planner works for you.

As much fun as it is to get a planner––the most import important part is that you use the planner. I really encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day each day to use your planner or an hour or so every Sunday to really plan your week so you can use your planner effectively as a student and as an adult with a career. Make sure that your planner has plenty of space for you to break your tasks down and enough space to handle your handwriting.

8. Read (or Listen to) More Books

Oh books, as college students, we don't read enough of them. Lately I have been really into audiobooks. I currently have a $14.95 Audible subscription and it is heaven. I get one audiobook a month and I have downloaded everything from business books to books about social justice to comedy books. I don't have as much time as I'd like to actually read, but listening to audiobooks has been really helpful so that I can listen to new arrivals and stay current without reading a lot of extra books.

Podcasts

If books aren't your thing but you want to stay current, I really encourage you to listen to podcasts. There are so many fun podcasts out there on a variety of topics. I recently got into podcasts because my favorite brothers on Youtube Hank and John Green have a podcast called Dear Hank and John that I love to listen to. Podcasts can be a fun way to get into all sorts of current events so I encourage you to listen to them.

9. Have A Saying

Affirmations are great to have and I really encourage you to come up with your own affirmations in life. What is it that you want to have happen in your life? What do you want to be known for? Make it into an affirmation or saying so that you can repeat that to yourself daily and begin to believe those things about yourself. You will be a happier, healthier person the more you share positive messages with yourself daily. I have a great inspiration board on Pinterest filled with fun sayings so definitely go check that out and find your saying.

10. Always Take The Cookie

When I went to Tri Sigma convention last month one of the women in my sorority had a small talk during our national volunteer training. The statement she made that stuck with me was, "Always take the cookie," she had gotten this phrase from a woman she had met while on vacation and I adore this phrase. Sometimes we aren't 100% sure if we are ready for something but our family, friends, co-workers, professors, etc believe in us. They trust in us that we will be able to accomplish a goal or a task. As a student and a professional it's important that if you have the time and someone gives you a cookie––take it. Take on the task and do your best at the task. You are an amazing person and you can do so many amazing things.

Final thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this post about 10 things that you can do as a college student to become more adult oriented. What task will you take on today?

10 Mistakes College Students Make When It Comes To Writing Papers Part 2

Today on the blog I am bring you part two of my series "10 Mistakes College Students Make When It Comes To Writing Papers." Last week I shared part one which featured tons of amazing tips that I have learned as a student and graduate assistant, and this week I am coming back at you with five more tips to end this series.

6. Students Do Not Make Appointments With their Professors

Your professor is a very important person to make an appointment with, because they understand what they are looking for better than anyone. If you are stuck picking a topic, want someone to look over your introductory paragraph (see my tips for creating a kick ass intro paragraph here.), want someone to help you with citations, etc––call on your professor.

I really encourage that you make an appointment and that you make that appointment early enough for you to act on your appointment critiques (meaning no day of paper due appointments please!) You need to make your appointment as soon as you have issues, don't wait for those issues to fester, because the longer you wait the harder it will be to help you.

If you are working on a semester long project I really encourage that you make at least 1-2 appointments with your professor throughout the semester after you are given your instructions. Even if you understand the topic completely and know exactly where you want to go making an appointment can be very beneficial. Your professor will love your initiative, be able to give you feedback throughout the semester, and you may even find that your professor wants to help you publish your paper or help you do a presentation about your paper.

7. students are too repetitious in their papers

We have all done this. How many ways can you say the same thing? When you have a 10 page paper, it can feel like you will never take up that much room, so you end up being too repetitious. Your professors can see through this act, and you have to stop doing this.

So, what do you do when you feel like you can't make it to your page limit? Well, you don't use synonyms, you don't try weird spacing tricks surrounding your periods and margins, etc.

you go back to the drawing board.

I know, this sucks. There is some part of the writing experience you are not getting. You may have to add something to your outline, you may have to read more articles, you may have to look at the assignment again, and you may even have to make an appointment with your professor (le gasp!) I know, this is definitely not something you want to hear, but you have to learn how to make page limits without depending on spacing tricks and repetitive words. Classes build on each other. I didn't just go from writing a three page paper to writing a twenty-five page paper. This took time. If I didn't use my classes as practice, I wouldn't be at the skill of writing I am at now. 

At the end of the day, I am thankful that I took my writing assignments seriously. Big papers don't scare me as much as they used to when I was a freshman. The build up of papers was helpful for that. Don't try to trick the system by filling your paper with nonsense. Go back to basics and see how you can flesh out your paper the right way.

8. students do not have a good academic voice

Okay, the things that people write in papers never ceased to amaze me. One of the great things that I got to do while being a graduate assistant was read academic papers. Sometimes it can seem like your papers aren't as important. It may seem like the paper you are currently writing is more laid back because it is only 1-3 pages. This is just not the case. You need a good academic voice when writing papers for college. It doesn't have to be perfect right away, you are still learning, but you need to start making strides in the right direction.

Students do not write to their audience

Professors are going to be professors. I read a lot of papers that had a lot of slang in them, slang that made sense to me, but that I knew would never make sense to the professors I was working for. You need to write to your audience––just because you understand slang terms or the graduate assistant grading papers understands the slang terms, doesn't mean that you will be able to get credit for your paper.

Writing to your audience will help you be a better writer as well as help make sure you get all the points possible. You have to learn to write within the constraints of your audience. You wouldn't use college level language while writing a book for children, and you wouldn't use slang terms to write for your professors.

Get help for your writing

If you have a problem writing to your audience––get help! I know I talk about getting help a lot, but sometimes this is the best thing you can do. You can easily get a friend or family member to proofread your paper, especially for slang terms. Ask them to highlight when you use these terms so that you can go back through and better explain those topics.

If you aren't sure of the best way to academically explain your topic, get help from your professor or use the tutoring services on your campus.

9. Students do Not anticipate Technical Issues

Part of completing papers is turning in those papers. You need to anticipate any technical issues that may happen while submitting your papers.

  • Use Microsoft Word: Yes, you could potentially use Pages or Google Docs, but I really encourage you to simply use Microsoft Word. Sometimes page numbers in Pages/Google Docs doesn't always match up with the page numbers in Microsoft Word, so creating it directly in Microsoft Word is helpful.
    • Your campus may even offer Microsoft Word free to all students. Ask your campuses IT department or check your school's website to see if they offer this. If not, buy it. You can get Microsoft Office suite for about $7 a month. It's super cheap, and allows you to be sure that your paper will work with BlackBoard or any platform your school uses.
    • If paying for Microsoft Word isn't an option, use your campus library/computer lab to turn in papers. They usually have Microsoft Word and other Microsoft Office products on their computers. You can usually copy/paste your documents into Microsoft Word there, save it, and turn it in from there.
  • Make Sure That Your Paper Adheres To The Standards Your Professor Sets: Before you upload your paper you need to check everything form the font size to page numbers to citations. You may not be able to re-upload your paper if you catch a mistake, or your professor may not be able to help you re-upload the paper right away on paper day. Making sure that it is as perfect as it can be before you upload is important.
  • Give Yourself Time To Post Your Paper: Do not log on to your campus website at 11:59, when your paper is due at 12:00. What if your internet is down? What if BlackBoard is undergoing maintenance? You need to turn in your paper well before your paper is due so that you can make sure that you do not turn your paper in late. Most professors have their courses set up so that after a particular time the assignment is automatically taken offline. You could be just one second late and still not be able to turn in your paper.

10. Students do not utilize feedback

When students get back papers from professors, I see a lot of the same things, students stuffing their papers into their binders and moving on about their lives. They may not want to look at their papers in class or they may have gotten an A and decided that it was not worth looking into. When it comes to papers, your professors usually try to give at least a little bit of feedback. Go through that feedback and utilize it in your class. From the small one page assignments to actual papers––use that feedback to better your writing.

Especially once you get into your major area, there is a chance you may have a professor more than once. Even if this is the last paper you have for your class you can utilize any feedback given so you become a better writer for that professor and all your professors.

Feedback is so important and can help you go from a low grade to a high grade in a class. If your professor is offering you detailed feedback, use that feedback so that you can improve your writing skills.

Students do Not Ask For Feedback When It Is Not Properly Given

Earlier this year on the blog I told you why I fought for one point on a paper. Oftentimes professors may dock you one or two points, and while the grade doesn't affect you right away, it may affect you a lot when it gets down to the wire. If you find that your professor is taking of a few points or just doesn't seem to want to give you a 100%, especially if they offer you no feedback for how you can improve your score, ask them to provide you better feedback. You have the right to understand how you can improve.

Sometimes when you get a score that close to a 100% your professors may not leave you feedback or let you know how you can improve your score to 100%. Don't be afraid to talk with them after class and explain that you would like to improve your score and would like more valuable feedback on how to do so. Watch your tone when you ask for this feedback, and come at this from a genuine sense of wanting to improve your work.

Final thoughts

I hope that you all have enjoyed this series on mistakes that college students make when writing papers (and how to avoid those mistakes.) Writing papers becomes a huge part of your college career (especially if you are in a liberal arts major like me!) so you need to learn how to develop your writing skills. I hope this series was helpful for you as you write your papers.

Don't forget to check out my article: 5 Tips To Writing Great Papers!