How my blog gained its first sponsored content – it was simpler than you might think

How my blog gained its first sponsored content - www.alliepottswrites.comMy story begins in June in London.

I was there to participate in the Bloggers Bash, an international meet-up and conference for bloggers from all walks of life. Suzie of Suzie Speaks approached the front of the room. I’d followed Suzie for a while, I knew she’d walked away from a teaching career and had begun blogging professionally out of necessity as much as interest. I’ve applauded her courage, admired what she’s achieved and was thrilled to finally meet her in person.

I opened my notebook as she began her presentation eager to record all the secrets of the professional blogging universe. Then she said something that made my note-taking hand pause in mid-motion.

Size doesn’t matter…

I blinked. I looked around the room. Light shone down through stained glass windows depicting images reminding me I was far from home. I couldn’t have heard that right, I told myself. It must have been the accent, but did she really just say that a blog of any size (or style) can gain sponsors? Even one like mine?

Well, yes … just don’t expect them to call you first.

Emboldened, I set out to try to find a sponsor.

Earlier, I’d joined Massive Sway where I published a guest piece on logo design through their sister site, The SITS Girls, so I knew they provided a list of companies looking to amplify their reach through social media and were willing to pay for it. All I had to do was fill in a profile detailing my interests and list my social media links. Then they would send me a list of companies willing to pay for posts, tweets, or other social amplification.

Dog condiment coat

Her Royal Highness was not amused. (affiliate link)

For example, one campaign listed was for a flea collar and all you had to do was purchase the product, take a picture or two with your furry family member and write a story. I have a dog, neither of us like fleas and I write stories. It was perfect.

Except for one catch. You had to be on Instagram too.

I wasn’t on Instagram at the time (I am now). So, I let that opportunity pass me by, excited by the possibility that adding sponsored content would be easy, confident that more would come. The next one to catch my eye was for wine. Not a brand I was hugely familiar with per se, but I do enjoy wine. This was it. My first sponsored content … I hit the button to apply.

Then nothing.

A few weeks later I learned my application had been declined. My profile hadn’t been enticing enough to the brand. A red flag should have gone up the moment I thought it might be easy.

…It’s what you do with it.

It was disappointing, but as I read through more and more corporate pitches I realized something else. Just as I wasn’t a fit for that earlier company’s strategy by the numbers, many of the easy pitches coming my way weren’t a fit for me or this blog by the content either.

Pinterest fail truck cake - www.alliepottswrites.com

One of the many reasons I am not making a killing on Pinterest

My blog isn’t about handcrafted lipstick or yogurt made from the milk of a coconut, nor is it about hidden uses for deodorant or strappy sandals that perfectly compliment the color of your favorite cough syrup. (I’m sure that last one comes in especially handy.) I have nothing against those sort of sites. In fact, I use them all the time. This site just isn’t one.

I realized I had been going on about this all wrong. I was wasting time waiting for the ‘perfect’ opportunity to appear in my inbox when what I really needed to do was create that opportunity on my own.

As almost every business today has contact information somewhere on their website, I decided to use it.

How did my blog gain its first sponsored content?

Simple. I sent an email.

In it, I made my pitch which included the following:

  • Who I was
  • What I wanted to do to promote their product on my site (post length and content bullet points)
  • Where I was active on social media
  • When I would post
  • Why they should take me up on my offer, making sure to provide monthly blog stats, social reach, and audience engagement
  • How much my proposal would cost

I then prepared myself mentally for their response (because as an author I need more rejection in my life). I reminded myself I had nothing to lose and only acceptance or experience to gain.

And would you know it? We reached a deal!

All I had to do was ask.


For those who are interested, Suzie also offers help growing your blog and social media presence and really knows her stuff. And no, she is not paying me to say that (though she’s welcome to). This is just my way of saying thanks to her for giving me the confidence to take that first step.

My Secret Addiction and 6 Amazing Photo Apps

My secret addiction - www.alliepottswrites.com #photoeditingtoolsIf you’d asked me a few years ago if I had any addictions, I would have said no. I told myself I didn’t have an addictive personality. It turns out I just hadn’t found my drug of choice – photo editing apps.

Like any drug dealer, these developers hooked me with the easy fix. Here – try this free download, it will turn your photos into amazing pieces of art in seconds. And boy, did it ever. Soon I was applying effect after effect to my favorite photos, but there was a problem. I liked too many of the results. I got into the habit of saving multiple versions of the same image, albeit with different styles, rather than just stopping at one.

As my camera roll filled up, I tried to regain my self-control. I forced myself to only save the best of the best. Unfortunately, this created a whole other problem. I wouldn’t save anything until I’d applied and seen everything. Over time, seeing the same effects applied over and over, I grew less impressed with the results. Sure, the app would release a new style now and then, but it could no longer keep up with my desire for a new, bigger, wow factor – for more, more, more.

I realized my one source for fun with photography was no longer enough to satisfy my needs. I decided to venture into a place I knew could provide more. I joined Instagram.

Suddenly, I found myself taking photos of the most random things. An empty park bench. A rusted bridge. Cherry blossoms separating me from a brilliant blue sky. My kids, long used to their mommy whipping out her phone to capture the moments of their childhood wondered why the lens was no longer exclusively focused their way. ‘Mommy might need this for her website or for a book cover,’ I’d reply, somewhat embarrassed.

My kids don’t read my blog, or they might wonder why they haven’t seen much crossover yet.

I may be a lost cause now, but I thought I should provide a list of free apps to avoid in order to protect yourself from a similar fate.

Prisma (www.prisma.com)

simple as pie photo effects - www.alliepottswrites.com

Simple as pie artistic effects

This was my gateway app. Once you grant the app access to your camera and your photos, all you have to do is select or take a photo and then press a single button to apply an artistic effect which makes your photo look like it was painted in the style of an artistic master. My personal favorites are the Gothic, Candy, Dreams, and Composition styles, but there are plenty of others to choose from. You can also control the intensity of the style with a finger swipe.

When I originally downloaded the app, it automatically cropped photos into a square image typical of what is posted to Instagram, but now allows for a full-screen image. Additionally, Primsa has launched their own social sharing site.

Canva (www.canva.com) / PicMonkey (www.picmonkey)

Canva before and after - www.alliepottswrites.comIf realism is more your thing, but you still like to add some oomph to your photos, Canva and PicMonkey both offer filters to adjust lighting, contrast, color, and intensity. However, both have their limitations, especially for the free versions. I use Canva if I am trying to also incorporate clip art, stock photos, or text. I used to use PicMonkey if I was trying to soften, sharpen, focus or otherwise add a zoom effect to a photo, but they’ve taken steps in the last few months to make more and more of their better features only accessible to premium users.

Which brings me to my most recent find:

Adobe‘s suite for the Creative Cloud. http://www.adobe.com

You may be more familiar with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, both of which are a far cry from being free, but Adobe also has a few ‘lighter’ apps which are powerful enough. Even better, you don’t have to have a paid creative cloud monthly subscription to use them.

So far I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Fix, Adobe Photoshop Mix and Adobe Spark Post.

Photoshop Fix

After

Before

This app does what it says. It can fix your photos via subtle tweaks. With built-in face detection, it can instantly smooth those pesky wrinkles away, boost your smile, and remove unwanted composition elements such as logos on t-shirts or photo bombs such as bunny ears through its spot healing tool.

Photoshop Mix

This app is designed to make it easy to swap out backgrounds or merge multiple images into a single composition. Want to make your friends jealous with an impromptu trip to an exotic destination, but short on funds? Simply take a picture of yourself lounging on your couch and replace it with a beach front chair.

Actually, it’s not quite as simple as the tutorial would lead you to believe. You have to pay extra care as you trace around the image you want to keep otherwise your results, with their jagged digital edges, will scream photoshopped. After spending far too long with less than ideal results, I recommend leaving this trick to the professionals.

Spark Post

If you are editing for a blog post or social media post, this tool packs some serious punch. I specified my preferred image size and uploaded a picture. The tool automatically suggested a color palette for my text based on the background image. From there I was able to change out layouts, adjust filters, and even add animation to my text with a few simple button presses. The only issue I had with the app is that it adds a watermark to the bottom of your graphic unless you also ‘share’ it with a friend.

How to write with kids under 10 without losing your mind

How to write with kids under 10 without losing your mind

image courtesy of pixabay

Okay, so my headline is somewhat misleading. If you are attempting to write more than the occasional thank you note or note to the teacher about how very disappointed you were to learn of your normally charming daughter, Jenny’s decision to cut friend Mary’s hair in class, or why the teacher shouldn’t be alarmed when your son, Danny demands an extra seat at his desk for his imaginary friend, Mr. Hinklesworth, chances are your mind is already a little. . .well. . .off.

But according to my headline analyzer, “How to write with kids under 10 without losing more of your mind,” was considered too wordy.

1) Set boundaries

Set aside a little place in your world where you can go where you write uninterrupted. It is best if the only way to enter this place is by passing through a mystic portal accessed only by answering a series of three challenging questions administered by increasingly menacing figures, but I suppose any office, bedroom, or garden retreat or closet nook can do too. Just make sure that everyone knows that when mommy or daddy go to write they have effectively traveled to China (unless you already live in China in which case Kansas might do).

2) Actually enforce those boundaries 

Children can sense when adults want to do something that doesn’t involve them and it drives them mad. The little buggers will let loose a type of wall piercing shriek the likes of which the Department of Defense would pay billions to develop. Fight the urge to leave your writing sanctuary with every ounce of willpower you possess. You are supposed to be in China/Kansas, remember. Besides, it can’t be all that bad. As long as they are screaming, at least you know they are still breathing, right?

3) Schedule your writing in realistic chunks that fit your lifestyle

Yeah, who am I kidding in that last tip? No mind can withstand more than a minute or two of that sort of mental assault before caving. But once you leave your sanctuary, it unlikely your little hellions cherubs will allow you go back anytime soon, so you might as well plan accordingly. If you thrive on two to three hours sleep, writing in the early morning or late at night may work for you, but for those of us who require a few more REM cycles, it is easier to break up a day’s writing goal into a few fifteen to thirty minute sessions per day and can be an absolute sanity saver. Another blogger, Sacha Black, introduced me to this tip, referring to these micro sessions as writing sprints. She has written up a helpful piece to help you determine what size sprint is best for you.

4) Cut your cable

Better yet, turn the TV off altogether, but if you are like me and still occasionally need to veg out, do it smart. While the EU limits the length of commercial interruptions to no more than twelve minutes per hour of programming in the US, commercials can make up about 30% or more of air time. As much as it pained me at first, I’ve stopped watching live TV. Thanks to streaming without commercials, I can watch my favorite hour-long show in forty-five minutes. (It’s magic!) I now have an extra fifteen minutes to write if I so choose. Sure, it means putting up with some delayed gratification and extra heavy spoiler evasion, but we all must make sacrifices for our art.

5) Keep your deadlines long and your notes close

Even with the best of intentions, you aren’t going to be able to hit your goal every day, even with micro-sessions. You’ll have summer break or have to deal with yet another round of the bug that’s so fun to share that everyone in the family gets a turn. These things happen. The thing to keep in mind is unless you were offered a contract, the only one who cares about your deadline is you (yes, I know – I have a hard time accepting this too. I am all twitchy just to write it). Sure you might disappoint a few fans by failing to deliver as quickly as they would like (cough. . .cough. . . George R. R. Martin, I am looking at you), but they aren’t exactly lighting up your phone with offers to babysit (for free) so that you can write in peace, now are they?

6) Back-up everything!

Say you do all of the above. The children are blissfully asleep. Even better, they’d gone down with hardly a fight. Your partner is off taking a run (or doing whatever it is he or she does when you go all writerly on them). The house is wonderfully quiet as you revise the third draft of your latest novel. Only a few more chapters to go. You are in the zone. Suddenly the cursor on your screen moves and an ‘a’ you know you didn’t type appears on the page. Then another. And another. Suddenly there is a whole line of ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas’. Panicked, you bang on the ESC key. The cursor blinks at you as if it is not only aware of your fright, it is amused. Then the whole room is blanketed in a bright blue light coming from your screen.

You feel like Darth Vader just told you he was your father. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Sounds horrible? Yes. It. Was. I was able to recover my file. That time. But thanks to the school system exposing the young to computer skills at a young age, I can no longer trust that my children won’t download a virus or click on a ransomware link. Heck, I can barely trust myself not to do that.

7) Remember why you started in the first place

Were you doing it for the money? The fame? The accolades? (If so, I’d love to see your marketing plan. Really – I would! Please contact me). Occasionally take a step back so that you can see how far you’ve already come. You can do this.