2017: Recap, Reflection, and What's To Come

Whoa, whoa, whoa! I cannot believe that the new year is only four days away! And though 2017 hasn't been the best year ever, considering it has definitely hit some ultimate lows, it has also had some great highs too. From the #MeToo movement empowering women to Prince Harry proposing to Meghan Markle, 2017 really did have some positive points minus the cloud of negativity overshadowing it. So, hopefully, 2018 will end this cycle of negativity and will continue the positive aspects of 2017, which I think we'd all agree that we need. (Not to mention, the new year starts on a Monday, so what better time to rejuvenate and make positive changes?!)

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As many of my long time readers know, 2017 has not been an easy year for me either. Early this year, someone I cared for, and still care for, deeply, ended our romantic relationship, and though we are now still friends, the breakup was not easy on either of us. And as a result of this I took a hiatus from blogging to just do me for much of the first half of the year. However, after spending sometime traveling and practicing a great amount of self-love along with positive thinking, I came back to the blogging game and my blog is now stronger than ever and is continuing to grow rapidly (more on this in the "what's to come" section of this post)! So, much like the year 2017, I myself have had some low points, but I feel the high points have surpassed them, so I just wanted to take a moment to recap my "Best Nine" of 2017, and share what I have planned for the new year.

Lovely In Lace (Feat. StyleWe)

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My top ranking post this year was actually this little number from StyleWe, who has now been one of my sponsors for over a year now, and I actually have some more upcoming collaborations with them next year. Which thrills me because I'm sure you know from my past posts that I absolutely adore their clothing. 

Autumn Hues (Feat. StyleWe) 

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Speaking of StyleWe, my next top ranking post was actually of this fabulous dress from them as well! As you can see, I'm sure it was a favorite due to its lush color and assmetrical cut.

Summer Vacation Style Guide 2017

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My next follower favorite was actually my style guide when I showed off my vacation packing list for my trip to New Orleans this summer. 

Partnership With Sally Hansen

Next up, if you follow me on Instagram I'm sure you saw my post about my exciting collaboration with Sally Hansen and you got to see my awesome manicure featuring their new InstaDry nail polish.

Elegance Underneath (Feat. PPZ Lingerie)

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My fifth highest ranking post was actually my partnership with PPZ, which featured this gorgeous set of lingerie plus a kick-ass body positive message.

Style Steals & Holiday Deals 

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Much like every year, my holiday steals and deals posts are always a hit! So I wasn't surprised to see that this flat lay made the list.

Warm & Fuzzy (Feat. SheIn + Rocksbox)

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My next ranking post, featuring two of my longtime sponsors SheIn and Rocksbox, took the seventh spot in my Best Nine. And I have to say that though these two sponsors have been with me since the very beginning, I'm still thrilled to continue to work and partner with both of these wonderful companies.

Holiday Gift Guide

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Much like my holiday steals posts, gift guides have also always taken a top spot and the year 2017 is no different! Aside from featuring some new sponsors.

Let's Get Knit Started (Feat. StyleWe)

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Last but not least, my final photo in my Best Nine is yet again, another lovely dress from StyleWe.

What's To Come for Stark Raving Chic in 2018

Even though 2017 had a few ups and downs, I have to say after looking back at all my achievements (along with some non-blog related ones such as going back to college and getting a 4.1 GPA after my hard work this semester), 2017 actually wasn't all that bad of a year and I am so happy with how far my blog has come and am looking forward to it continuing to grow. So, what's next?

Well, starting next year, now that I am more acclimated to being back in the grind of college, I plan on going back to posting once a week opposed to biweekly because I missed writing (and all of you) tons! So, going into the new year and next semester I am working on managing my time better and have re-broken out my trusty editorial calendar to keep me better organized. And speaking of blogging and staying organized, due to the high demand for more blogging tips posts, I will also be trying to do more tutorial style/blogging for beginners posts along with my typical style posts.

And lastly, along with adding more insight about how to blog successfully and keeping organized, I also have a bunch of exciting new material that I will be sharing with you all within the next year. These things will be ranging from some awesome new collaborations, along with some more lifestyle/travel posts, and to top it off, you know there might even be a giveaway (or two!!).  And of course, I will be continuing to work with my favorite sponsors, so you'll be seeing new material from them too!

Needless to say I am so stoked for 2018 and am looking forward to what's to come. But I would also like to take a moment to thank all of my followers, readers, and loved ones, because without you guys I wouldn't be the success that I am today. So thank you all, and I wish you the happiest new year!

What are you guys excited for in 2018? Let's chat about it in the comments below or you can tweet me at @StarkRavingChic. And be sure to follow me on Instagram at @StarkRavingChic to stay updated on all my latest posts. Later, babes!

Xx, Bree

Blogging Hiatus: 2017

Hi everybody! Though I really was not planning on taking a hiatus this year (And don't worry, I won't be gone for months on end like my last hiatus, I'll just be away for 10 days!)  but due to some recent emotional trauma, I feel that it is best to take a short break and regroup. Though this is a hard time for me, I assure you all that I will be okay, and am trying to remain positive though I am currently devastated and heartbroken. I just need sometime to heal and get my head back in the game. So I'll see you all in a little over a week. Later babes, I can't wait to get back on track!

Xx, Bree

rewardStyle + LIKEtoKNOW.it : How To Use It

For those of you who have been reading my blog since at least last month, I'm sure you have noticed that in my little post script notes, I mention two of my affiliates rewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it. I'm sure you've also been wondering what's up with the little heart emblems that have been showing up in the corners of my more recent Instagram posts:

So, even though I generally leave you guys little links that takes you to each party's respective page, I've never actually went over what each of them are and how to use them, and due to some recent changes to LIKEtoKNOW.it (like, they have an app now!) I figured I would do a quick little post about this topic today, just to clear some things up!

First of all, what is LIKEtoKNOW.it?

For you non-blogging readers, LIKEtoKNOW.it is an awesome service that is here solely to make your life easier (or your shopping addiction worse--but I promise, I'm not judging!). The thing that makes LIKEtoKNOW.it so nifty is that if you see a photo of mine on Instagram that you just absolutely adore, whether it be an outfit or lifestyle post, all you need to do is "like" my photo and you will have my whole outfit/post content delivered to your email inbox complete with shoppable links! How does this magic work you ask? It's easy! Just follow these steps below:

  1. Head on over to www.liketoknow.it and watch the little tutorial video that pops up when you first enter the website, just so you can get a quick feel for how to use the service.
  2. Next, if you decide that this awesome shopping tool is for you, simply register and set up an account--this is 100% free, by the way.
  3. Next, you can start liking mine as well as other blogger's Instagram posts who are sponsored by LIKEtoKNOW.it and get the shopping deets delivered right to your inbox within five minutes!
  4. You can also shop directly from LIKEtoKNOW.it via your "my likes" or "my screenshots" (I'll get to that exciting news next!) tab, or if you want to shop a specific bloggers feed, all you need to do is add their handle after LIKEtoKNOW.it's website (E.G. to shop mine you would go to www.liketoknow.it/starkravingchic, or you can just click here!)
  5. Lastly, LIKEtoKNOW.it also has an app now with new screenshot technology that allows you to shop your screenshots! All you need to do is screenshot photos that you like on social media (As well as all over the mobile web!), and  the app will send a push notification to your phone with all of the shoppable links in one place — no matter what platform or site your screenshot comes from. Pretty rad, right?

So now that I gave my non-blogging dolls all the details that they need to use LIKEtoKNOW.it, I'm sure my fellow blogger babes want to know how they can become a member and utilize it as well, and here's how!

LIKEtoKNOW.it For Bloggers

So I gotta admit that utilizing LIKEtoKNOW.it as a blogger isn't quite as simple as it is for our audience. In order to make your own posts shoppable through LIKEtoKNOW.it, you first have to apply as an influencer through the company rewardStyle. And though I can't tell you the exact steps as to how to get accepted in to the program, here are a few tips of my own:

  1. Quality not quantity: Though this is something that I covered in my blogiversary post last month, I have to stress that quality writing is more important than the quantity of your posts. Sure, you can write 5 posts a week, but if they are riddled with grammar and spelling errors, or have little depth, they won't be attention grabbing, thus making them unimpressive to brands and/or potential sponsors. Which leads me to my next point...
  2. Consistency: This is a topic I actually covered last week in my editorial calendar post, and much like providing your readers with a consistent schedule, brands like to see that as well. Like I said last week, don't post non stop for seven days and then go silent for three months without warning or explanation, simply because it can make you lose readers and make potential sponsors/brands question your ability to stay on schedule.
  3. Quality Photos: Another point I covered in my blogiversary post, but still is just every bit as important here and that is quality photography! If your photos look sloppy and poorly put together, chances are brands will think that is how all of your work is and will not want you representing them.
  4. Professionalism: Lastly, one thing I have noticed about rewardStyle is they seem to consistently work with blogs that are clearly treated like a business. Sure, sure, I slip up and have an occasional curse word in my writing, but never to the extent of throwing them around in every post. This also goes hand in hand with yet another point I made in my last blogiversary post, and that is be kind to your fellow bloggers and radiate positivity. Nobody wants to work with a grump.

So everybody, do you use LIKEtoKNOW.it or are you a member of rewardStyle? Let's chat about it in the comment section below, or you can tweet me about it at @StarkRavingChic. Later, babes!

Xx, Bree

Creating an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

A few posts ago, I celebrated my two year blogiversary and shared with you the top 10 ½  things I have learned during my two years of blogging. After that post, I received loads of positive feed back, as well as questions as to how I do it all. So to follow up and answer those questions, I've decided to share my work process with you all as well as how to make your own editorial calendar. 

So, if you're anything like me, you're constantly working out of at least 20 browser tabs, a yellow legal pad or two, a myriad of Post-it notes stuck around your computer monitor, and you probably have ran out of tabs to color code your calendar with on your phone. To the average person (and definitely to John) this scene looks like nothing more than pure chaos. Though to me, it's an organized system, erm, organized mess--at least that is what I continually tell myself. But nonetheless, it works for me and I never miss a deadline, even if it takes four to six Americanos to make that happen.

However, back when I started Stark Raving Chic in 2015, I wasn't quite as efficient with planning and scheduling for it as I am today, and you're probably wondering how I got here. Well, during my hiatus during the summer of 2016, I did a lot of regrouping and planning, as well as reading tons of articles about blogging productivity. (Which you can have a look at on my Pinterest board, here!) So, during that 6 month break, I learned so much on my own and by talking with other bloggers online. (One of the best people I got advice from is Brittany, of the blog Thrifts & Threads, I highly suggest you check out her "blogging tips" section.) And one of the things I have learned, and that has honestly been the biggest help to me, is how to make and keep an editorial calendar, which I'm now going to share those steps with you!

First Things First: What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar is more than just a calendar. You see, an editorial calendar helps you develop a blogging strategy. It allows you to set your goals and achieve them seamlessly as well as acting as a great organizational tool. Keeping an editorial calendar is a great marketing strategy due to the fact it makes your blog work for you instead of you working for it. By having an editorial calendar, you have all of your posts for an extended period of time, all laid out and scheduled ahead of time, for instance, I have posts ready to go all the way through the beginning of June. So by having all these things ready to go in advance, this puts less stress on you so you can pursue even more projects and collaborations, which really strengthens your brand. This also helps your business because it attracts new collaborators, builds relationships, and helps you get more recognition.

Step One: Set Your Blogging Schedule

When setting up your editorial calendar you need to decided how often you are going to generate new content. For me, I post roughly 2-4 times a week, but that is just due to the amount of sponsored posts and affiliates that I have, not to mention that I have the time to post at that rate. So my advice is to be realistic with your blogging schedule, for instance, if your schedule is hectic and you do not have the time to post daily/weekly, it is better to post consistently twice a month than posting every day one week followed by three months of silence. There are plenty of successful blogs that only post once or twice a month, and that’s because they do it consistently. Every. Single. Month.

Step Two: Identify Who You Are Blogging For

I’m going to make this easy and give you the answer: you are blogging for the readers within your blogging niche. Sure, of course you enjoy blogging for yourself, but to have a successful blog (which I honestly feel that is what most people set out to have when starting a blog) you have to keep in mind what your audience wants as well as the audience you want to have. For instance, if you have a monthly column (mine used to be "Wish-list Wednesdays") and you notice that your readers are getting bored with it, you then know it is time for a change or your readers will drop like flies and you won’t hook any new subscribers. So your job as a blogger is to keep engagement within your niche, so therefore you need to blog for your readers, and keep them interested.

Step Three: Determine Your Blog Categories

I actually did a post featuring some of my own changes involving this last month, and I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to set your categories, considering this is a key element of being successful within your niche. If you are anything like me, you probably already have blog categories, but they were probably randomly assigned based on whatever post you wrote at that time. To set your categories the right way, you need to start from scratch and determine the best categories for your niche. For example, I split up Stark Raving Chic into nine core categories that I cover here which would be, Personal Style, Style Guides, Beauty, Lifestyle/Travel, Blog Life, Interviews, Events, Miscellaneous, and Look Book. The reason I chose these specific categories is because they blanket many of the tags that I use, and because these nine things are what my blog is most known for, in that specific order.

So to successfully categorize your blog, you need to brainstorm 5-10 solid categories that you blog about consistently and that your niche has an interest in. For example, if you are strictly a beauty blogger, some categories you should have are a personal look book, client look book, makeup tutorials, product reviews, hair and skin care. The reason I list these categories is because though they are pretty broad, they are still specific to your niche and brand.

Step Four: Brainstrom Blog Post Ideas + Evaluate Upcoming Post Deadlines

Before you can actually create your editorial calendar, you need to brainstorm 5-15 post ideas (depending on how often you post to your blog) that you would like to cover on your own, as well as posts that you have to write on a deadline such as collaborations and sponsored posts. How I do this is I decide what topics I would like to cover within the next 3 months, as well as what ongoing sponsored posts and collaborations I have going on. I then come up with titles for the deadline posts and schedule them accordingly with their deadline, and then I think of topics I would like to cover in between.

During this step in the process, don’t hold back and write down any possible ideas so that you have some variety to work from, for example, here are some posts in my drafts right now:

  • Easter Sunday style guide

  • Light In The Box + SheIn sponsored OOTD

  • StyleWe OOTD

  • LIKEtoKNOW.it User Guide

  • Easter Sunday Style Guide

  • A Day Downtown

  • Metisu OOTD

  • Soufeel Post

  • Easter OOTD

  • Coachella Style Guide

  • Spring cleaning series (3 posts)

  • Fourth of July party planning DIY

  • SPOILER ALERT

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Notice that these blog post ideas are not necessarily about my brand, but provide useful information to my readers and stand out within my niche which can attract new readers. (Especially if they’re interested in my *spoiler* point.) The reason this is, is because many people in my audience are my age, so they will be searching for cute outfit ideas for concerts this season, and people are always looking for party planning inspiration, therefore, for my fellow American readers, I will be doing a lifestyle post about fourth of July party ideas. So when people google these topics, they will land on my blog, discover all the info I share and potentially come back and read more!

Step Five: Identify Holidays + Events (AKA Personal Days)

This is where you determine what and when to post special topics to your blog. For instance, around Christmas time many people are interested in holiday themed posts. So if you are a lifestyle or fashion blogger like me, you’ll want to make sure that you have Christmas or other holiday related posts on your blog in December. You also want to take life events into account too, such as vacations. For example, if you will be away for an extended period of time (think back to my hiatus in 2016) you want to let you readers know that you are on a trip or will be absent for an extended period of time for whatever reason and let them know when you will return. The reason you want to do this is, is because if you simply go silent, people might be confused as to why you are not posting and just assume you have quit your blog, which in turn could cost you audience members.

Step Six: Putting Your Editorial Calendar Together

Now that you have organized your blog, brainstormed your post ideas, and now have the dates you would like to post your article in order, it’s time to put everything together and make your editorial calendar! First grab a physical calendar, planner, or your phone/tablet and bring up your calendar app.

Start by filling in you sponsored posts that are on a deadline, considering these posts should be your high priority posts. Next, fill in any of the posts that you chose to keep from your brainstorming session, though these are not as high of a priority as your deadline posts which are the backbone of your blog, these posts are the extra hooks you need to reel your readers back in. After you have those posts scheduled, you then want to schedule any upcoming holiday posts or make any notes of possible vacations or time away from your regular blogging schedule.

While you are organizing these posts, make sure to mix up the blog categories and types of posts to add variety. For example, you might have an outfit of the day post, followed by a product review, followed by a list of favorite life hacks for storing and organizing you clothing.

As I stated earlier in this post, I like to schedule posts 2-3 months in advance. This is because it gives me enough structure to keep my blog running smooth, but also enough flexibility to move posts around as needed. You’ll find a balance that works best for you the more you use your editorial calendar, but to start with I suggest only schedule on month of blog posts, until you get the hang of it!

Step Seven: Write Your Blog Posts

Now that you have organized your posts and have their dates set, it’s time to write your posts! Due to the amount of posts I do per week, I generally write 4-5 posts in advance. However, if you are only posting once a week or biweekly, I would suggest writing at least two of your blog post as a start. Most blogging platforms, like Squarespace and WordPress, let you draft and schedule posts in advance, so write and schedule your two most pressing blog posts on the days you marked on your editorial calendar, and there you have it, you successfully used an editorial calendar!

Step Eight: Consistently Check + Update Your Editorial Calendar

Lastly, in order for your editorial calendar to work, you need to keep up with it. To do this, you will need to check and update your calendar on a daily basis. For me, I check mine daily and update it about twice a week or as I complete and publish scheduled posts. The reason this is important is because this is the key thing that will keep you organized while using an editorial calendar. So, when you come up with new post ideas, schedule them as needed!

And in order to keep your post schedule running smoothly, set aside some time once a week to write and schedule a couple more blog posts for publication. And honestly, some days you’ll feel like writing more than others, and that’s okay. But my advice to you is, when you get into your blogging zone, write as many posts as you can, it’ll be totally beneficial in the long run and make less stress for you later!

What are somethings that you do to keep your blog posts organized and running smoothly? Do you keep an editorial calendar? Let's chat about it in the comments below or you can tweet me at @StarkRavingChic! Have an awesome blogging tips post yourself? Feel free to tag me in the comments of it's corresponding Instagram photo at @StarkRavingChic, because I would love to check it out. Happy blogging, babes!

Xx, Bree