I may be considered a full time blogger, but that does not mean I can spend all my time on my blog. I am just like you – time challenged. So here are my tips for getting more done in less time. And my tips for how to spend your blogging time.
Time management is an issue that comes up regularly as one of the biggest challenges that growing bloggers face. Day jobs, families, obligations outside of blogging, actually living your non-blog life.
It might surprise you to know that my position is more similar to you than you think. I have to work extremely hard to work efficiently on my blog within the time that I have to spend on it.
So in this post, I’m going to share with you everything that I “do” so you can see that we are in fact pretty darn similar with regards to time constraints. And breakdown how I work on my blog to ensure I get as much done to the best of my ability in as little time as possible.
WHAT I DO
Here is a list of everything I “do”. The percentage of time I spend on each is based on the month of September which was just after I launched The Food Photography Book so is more representative of “normal” workload.
- RecipeTin Eats (20 hours per week*) – I do 3 posts per week. My main tasks are: photographing, writing, answering emails, blog comments/questions and promoting my content (NOTE: I do not do much promotion at the moment but read on to find out why).
- Food Bloggers Central (15 hours per week) – blog posts, Facebook group (50% of FBC time), graphics, responding to inquiries, FBC Conference (LA 14/15 November 2015, tickets sold out!), pursuing partnership opportunities to facilitate work opportunities for bloggers as well as marketplace resources (e.g. discounted tech support, graphic design tools)
- Ebook matters (I have 2 books) (~4 hours per week) – ongoing purchaser queries / support, answering feedback emails / questions, set up affiliate program (graphics, E-junkie, promoting it etc)
- Freelance work (3 full long days per month, average 7.5 hours per week)
- Industry Events, Work Related Meetings (around 2.5 days per month, average 6 hours per week) – For example, meeting with Agencies, prospective & existing clients, industry / launch lunches and events
- Business Development and profile (~10 hours per week) – researching and planning for growth opportunities for both RecipeTin Eats and FBC. Meetings/negotiations with prospective partners etc. Pursuing work opportunities, book deals etc.
- Learning & Development (~10 hours per week) – Across all facets of what I do, thinking about new ways to grow my blog, monetisation, studying and practicing photography.
* I exclude cooking time from time analysis because I eat what I cook so it is time I would have spent cooking anyway. This is one of my efficiency tips – see below.
Out of all these things, my blog is not my priority. Does that shock you? 😉
To me, the number 1 priority is clients, followed by industry events and meetings I have committed to attend, important opportunities I pursue and eBook matters because eBooks have become an important part of my income source.
Then my blog comes next. Though right now it ranks equally with getting everything organised for the FBC conference.
So you see, I do have to work very efficiently to fit my blog in, maintain the standard that I’ve set myself and my posting schedule of 3 posts per week as well as answering reader questions and promoting my content.
My Productivity Tips (for blogging)
I’m no organisation expert but quite a few people have commented that I seem to “do a lot” for one (short) person (with abnormally small hands). 😉 I never really thought about how I work, I just do it. The way I approach my new work is no different to the way I used to operate in my former life in corporate finance.
So here is how I keep organised, focussed and maximise my efficiency.
1. Editorial calendar / planning & organisation
I cannot stress this enough. Having an editorial calendar makes a huge difference to getting organised and being efficient. In particular when I’ve gone through rather busy patches, having an editorial calendar (being a forward plan for my posts) is what kept my blog alive.
Knowing when and what I plan to post means I keep really focussed and can get organised to shop and cook when I would ordinarily be shopping and cooking anyway (for day to day purposes) and plan my posts around that. (PS Having nifty garnish back ups is a lifesaver!).
I use this plugin (free) -> Wordpress Editorial Calendar. I love it because you can drag and drop to move posts, and quick edit scheduled posting times. It’s also handy to easily browse back over what you posted in the past.
After my blog statistics and comments, it is the most visited page in my WordPress Admin.
An editorial calendar keeps you focussed. Which = efficiency.
2. Cook Multiple Dishes Ahead
By using an editorial calendar, I am able to plan my cooking schedule to cook/ prepare ahead 2 to 3 dishes I plan to blog and shoot them at the same time. I am typically able to have 2 to 3 dishes going at the same time in the kitchen and I would cook in the evening during “normal people” cooking times, then shoot them the next day.
Most of the foods I share holds up well overnight or are freezer friendly. Because that’s how I cook – it’s the way I have always cooked. Then just prior to shooting, all I need to do is finish cooking or reheat / freshen up, put it together and style for the shot.
To do this, you need to be mindful of how the food will hold up overnight. Because 80% of what I blog is food I have made many times before, I know how it will hold up. For (the few) salads I share, I prepare all the ingredients separately, make the dressing, then put it together the next day.
For something like the Enchilada Rice Casserole I recently shared, I knew that the rice would become bloated overnight and all the sauce would be sucked into the rice. So I cooked the chicken and made the sauce the night before, then just before shooting I plonked the rice in to cook.
3. Default Shooting Set Ups
I have two default shooting set ups in The Food Photography Book which I urge you to use when you are pressed for time. As long as you use different vessels for the food and different props, the photos will not look the same. None of your readers will notice, trust me.
Have you noticed that I use my default shooting set ups for about 70% of the photos I share? 😉 Just got to get creative with the little touches to make them look completely different!
4. Social Media Scheduling
Set aside 1 hour per week to schedule out your social media posts. Doing it all in one session definitely maximises efficiency. For Facebook, you can even schedule posts you haven’t published yet by dropping in the URL of the unpublished post – just make sure you publish the recipe before the post gets published!
I use Hootsuite for Facebook and Instagram (free up to 3 social media platforms) and Board Booster ($20 pm) for Pinterest. You can read more about what an impact Board Booster has had on my Pinterest reach (with less effort!) in this post here -> How To Instantly Increase Blog Growth with Less Effort with Board Booster.
I don’t Tweet – I am not convinced it builds food blog traffic materially – and I don’t “work” G+ or Tumblr. It’s just a priority thing – I stick to the platforms that I think have higher conversion prospects for me.
Board Booster is largely automated so after investing a few hours setting it up, I barely have to do any manual pinning of my own stuff anymore and it promotes my new content as well as recycling old content.
For Hootsuite, I (used to) set aside 1 hour per week to schedule out posts for the week for both Facebook and Instagram. I am more relaxed with Instagram than Facebook – sometimes I don’t post for days because right now, Instagram isn’t a massive potential traffic source for me, it’s more about profile building. (Brands tend to go straight to Instagram to establish credibility and see what your blog is about + photography quality).
* For disclosure purposes: I now use a Virtual Assistant who helps me schedule Facebook posts and do some repinning, such as selecting recipes from the FBC Pinterest Board to repin to my boards and group boards. About 1.5 hours of work each week. It is not so much about the time as it is the convenience of not having to remember to do things. I’ve only just started, but I can say it is a weight off my shoulders and I’m kicking myself for not having started with a VA sooner.
5. Work in Bulk & Block Out The World
You will get more done reserving 2 hours of of interrupted time to work on posts for your blog rather than trying to do a bit here and there over several nights.
You will get more done scheduling all your social media posts in one session each week (see #4 above), and cooking and shooting several recipes at a time.
For every task on your list, reserve a block of time to focus on it. Close your inbox, shutdown Facebook, put your iPhone away. Just focus on the task at hand.
Be brutal with your time. I am. Probably to my detriment. But it keeps me productive.
6. Reserve Social Media Time, Stop Constantly Checking
Have you noticed that I (usually) come “alive” on FBC Facebook Group first thing in the morning Sydney time then last thing, and am silent in between?
Social Media can be a time drain. It is so easy to get distracted! I am fairly ruthless when it comes to social media. I reserve a block of time – usually 30 minutes to 1 hour per day, once or twice a day. I do social media to promote/check/analyse my content first, then I hop onto the FBC Facebook page, answer questions where I can, respond to messages etc.
And when the allotted time is over, I shutdown Facebook and am silent until the next session.
I am not one of those people who constantly checks Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. It’s a distraction, and ineffective too. Work in bulk! That’s my motto!
7. Creating Posts & Getting Photos Organised
Read more about how I create posts, the routine I’m in and how I get organised with my photos for social media in this post here -> Exactly What I Do: Creating Posts.
Having a routine for creating posts is pretty essential for productivity. If you are new to blogging, it takes time to settle in – but read my post as a starting point!
PS I have a post planned for “Exactly What I Do: Promoting My Recipes”. Right down to the exact timing of when I share things, how and also how I have Hootsuite and Board Booster set up.
8. Live Task plan
This is actually my list at the moment. I have X’d out some names, but this is truly what my To Do list is right now.
I use the iPhone Notes app (standard built in app) which syncs to my Mac to manage my “To Do” list. It’s not high tech, but it works. I am constantly juggling my priorities because there is so much going on at the moment. So it’s important for me to be able to quickly access and change the list no matter where I am.
I realise my tasks and priorities might be different because of where I’m at with my blog and other things I do that are blog related. But it doesn’t change how this applies! The items on my “to do” list may have changed but the way I operated was no different 12 months ago.
9. Virtual Assistant
Having a virtual assistant will ease your workload because you can delegate tasks such as social media, submitting to recipe sharing sites and participating in recipe sharing groups on your behalf.
I’m going to keep this section brief because I want to share an entire separate post about virtual assistants. Don’t think you can just hire one and miraculously everything in your life is smooth sailing. You need to invest time into clearly briefing your assistant, have the time to be very hands on for the first couple of weeks during the start up phase, and continue to monitor their work as well as being there to answer any questions they might have.
So there will be more on Virtual Assistants – how to use them most efficiently, tasks you can delegate etc – in an upcoming post.
In all honesty? I would recommend anyone who is pressed for time (e.g. part time / weekend bloggers) earning $1.5k or more from their blog to hire a VA immediately. Your time is better spent elsewhere. You will instantly free up more time to focus on growing you blog, improving your photography, networking and reaching out to clients, and creating quality content.
The main thing for me is not that I did not have or could not make 2 hours of time for doing the tasks I delegate to my VA. It is the freedom of not having to remember to do those things. And now I can focus my energy on more strategic things, like actually growing my social media rather than just frantically trying to keep up with a posting schedule.
HOW TO SPEND YOUR BLOGGING TIME
Broadly speaking, here is my guide for how to spend your blogging time. The key point in this diagram is to ensure you spend as much time promoting yourself and your content as you do creating it. Read my (important) post on this here.
This does not include cooking, recipe development and testing time. My assumption is that bloggers with less time to spend on their blogs will plan their time wisely by working recipe development into your day to day cooking schedules.
Here is my order of priority for the key facets of blogging.
1. Client Work / Sponsored Posts (Content)
Put your best foot forward for creating the post (developing, shooting and writing) AND promoting it. Whether it’s freelancing or doing a sponsored post – no matter how small – if you’ve made a commitment and are getting paid for it, put in your best effort and prioritise it above all else.
2. Respond to (real) reader comments and questions (Promotion / Content)
Whether you received them by email, on your blog or on social media, respond to reader comments first. Readers are the foundation of your blogs’ growth. They are effectively your customers! And customers always come first.
3. Cooking, Shooting, Creating posts (Content)
Content is king, you don’t need me to tell you that. Put your best into every post you do, be proud of your work.
4. Promoting Your Content and Yourself
My golden rule which I stuck to religiously when I was focussed on growing my blog is to spend as much time promoting your content, or investigating / trying out new ways to promote your content as you do creating the content. You can read more about it here -> The 50/50 Rule: Making the Most of Every Post.
I cannot stress enough – stop churning out post after post and only spending minimal time promoting! More posts will not equal traffic.
5. Networking (Making Friends) / Learning
Possibly the most misunderstood and underrated facet of blog growth. YES I said blog GROWTH.
I have bundled networking and learning together because FBC is a place where you can do both. In fact, you can do networking, learning and promoting in the FBC Facebook group.
“Networking” refers to chatting to other bloggers online in forums such as the FBC Facebook group and/or in “real life”. Leaving encouraging comments, answering cries for help, requests for feedback, reading and commenting on their blogs, joining in group “activities” (such as our recent testing of each others’ blogs) – all of those things qualify as “networking”.
Basically, networking is just another word for “hanging out” and making friends with other bloggers. 😉
Why is it important? Well, it’s no different to the physical world. Certainly no different to the corporate world which is where I was raised.
Networking = you befriend more people
= more people who will help you, give you [secret] tips, invite you to social sharing groups, people to ask questions to, share your content, support your growth initiatives, spread the word about your new ebook
I honestly cannot stress to you the value of networking.
I did not understand it when I first started blogging. I did not know what to do, where to start, I was despondent because blogging Facebook groups I applied to join rejected me (hence why I have a massive hang up about FBC never being exclusive), and so many bloggers just never responded when I reached out to them.
There was certainly nothing similar to the FBC Facebook Group that I could find – and I searched high and low.
So I started my foray into networking by reaching out to individual bloggers who I felt I could connect with because their blogs spoke to me. And even today, we are still friends – in fact, my first blogger friends are the original 5 who I started FBC with!
But for you, it’s so much easier. All you need to do is spend a little bit of time each week getting involved in the FBC Facebook Group. Just like when you started a new school, you will find yourself surrounded by familiar faces very soon.
And guess what? When, for example, you see a cool new recipe index on the Orgasmic Chef’s blog, you can drop Maureen a message and ask her how she did it and she will respond because she knows you. See? That’s a result of networking. (In my simple terms, “making friends”. )
PS That cool new recipe index is called Easy Index and it’s the visual recipe index you’ve been dying to get for ages. What are you waiting for! Go get it here! And check out how gorgeous it looks – like on Carlsbad Cravings and The Spice Train.
Learning comes with Networking. You will naturally find that by keeping in touch with blogger friends on a regular basis and checking in on the FBC Facebook page every 2 to 3 days, you will always be kept ” in the know” about the latest happenings in the blogging world.
Like when a YOAST plug in upgrade kills your Google Analytics statistics and another member of FBC has figured out how to fix it. Or when there’s a cool easy new way to schedule Pinterest Pins (it’s called Board Booster, and if you aren’t on that train, you’re insane. Read all about it in this post – How To Instantly Increase Blog Growth with Board Booster.).
And in addition to the incidental learning you gain through networking, I thoroughly encourage you to take the initiative to do your own research too. That’s the only way you can make forward progress with your blogging – by learning! So don’t always wait for the information to come to you. Go out and find it for yourself too!
And don’t forget, learning also includes learning to become a better blogger. Improving your writing skills, your photography, how you write recipes!
5. Blog Maintenance / Tech
Every plugin upgrade, all the little things you do to enhance your blog like creating menus, changing placement of newsletter sign up boxes, back ups – it takes time! Especially if you are not a tech geek (me, me!) or do not have a tech-savvy husband (me, me!). Yes, you can outsource it, for a monthly fee starting at around $70 (with time limits). But even then, you will still need to regularly spend some time on blog maintenance.
BUT it’s the last priority (well, except back ups!). For me, it is always the last priority because my theory is that readers aren’t going to NOT read my blog just because my site is not set up 100% the way I want it to be. As long as people can read your posts, that’s all you need – fundamentally! As an example, I hate my logo/header. Not only do I hate the design, I hate that it is not crystal clear retina ready. But I refuse to waste any more time on it. I figure I’m not losing (many?) readers because of my logo!
Why I (Currently) Break My Own Rule
When I was very focussed on growing my blog to a scale to make an independent living from it, I religiously followed my 50/50 rule.
But right now, I do not spend 30 hours on my blog each week. I spend around 20 hours on my blog and promoting my content is what I have let slide. I do have a VA who does routine tasks. But I’ve seriously pulled back on promoting my content.
This was a conscious decision I made because I wanted to invest my time into improving the monetisation of my blog by way of eBooks and freelance work, and pursuing other opportunities. I felt that I would be able to increase my monetisation faster by other ways other than ad income which is largely tied to traffic (which proved to be very correct).
I made this decision when my blog hit a “tipping point” which was around the 1 million monthly views mark. The “tipping point” is when you still see some growth but at a slower rate (far less for me because my growth rate to 1 million MVP’s in 8 months was rather unusual) even without significant efforts promoting your content.
WHAT ABOUT MONETISATION?
Time invested into monetisation is in addition to the above. I can’t put a guide on it because it will vary vastly depending on your individual circumstance. And I can’t recommend a minimum or maximum number of hours to put into monetising your blog. More effort = high prospects. Simple as that.
I will say this though – do not waste too much time on ads. Here’s the quick set up for you: Join Mode Media (formerly GLAM), Gourmet Ads and Google Ad Sense. Put 2 x Glam ads above the fold with Gourmet Ads as the backfill. Place 2 more Gourmet Ads in your sidebar, then place 1 Ad Sense ad in your sidebar and one in your footer.
As a benchmark, that should deliver in the order of $2.00 to $3.50 RPM (i.e. the rate you will earn for 1,000 views on your blog) – and it will increase the higher your traffic.
And the minute you qualify, join The Blogger Network or Ad Thrive (this is what I use) to outsource your ad management. Ad Thrive has a minimum traffic threshold of 100,000 monthly views and The Blogger Network has a minimum of 10,000.
The reason I recommend this is because ad management is a time drain. It really is. I cannot tell you the hundreds of hours I spent optimising, tracking, monitoring, tracking down and blocking SPAMMY ads and analysing my ad performance.
It is a waste of time. Ad income is not significant until you build to a decent level of traffic so do not waste your time on ads. And when you have significant levels of traffic, your time is better spent elsewhere. Like on ebooks, sponsored posts, freelance work.
Trust me, outsource it. As soon as you can. We are food bloggers. Not digital ad experts.
And PS unless you are an ad optimisation expert, you are pretty much guaranteed to see an uplift in ad earnings when you outsource. I thought I had optimised my ads to the max but Ad Thrive was able to increase my earnings from ads.
Ebooks / resources / other products to sell
This is important. I haven’t included this in the base time to spend on your blog because it is over and above running your blog.
Creating an e-book or product to sell on your blog is something I strongly encourage but especially for those of you with limited time to spend on your blogs, it does mean going that extra mile.
Ad income is the most volatile, the most unreliable, the riskiest of all income sources because so little of it is within your control. And to make a good living from ad income, you need large traffic numbers.
Creating a quality e-product to sell on your blog is a far more effective way to monetise your blog. You can read more about that in this post -> Proof: Earn More with your Current Traffic.
I have created 2 eBooks. Baked Chicken Wings and The Food Photography Book. Best time investment I have made to date for monetisation of my blog. I have learnt many lessons about dos and don’ts and they are on the posting schedule to share on FBC in the near future!
What I Don’t Do
Here are things I do not do which again, helps me maintain efficiency and focus.
* GOMI. If you know what it is and you read it – stop wasting your time! If you don’t know what it is, stay pure and innocent.
* Stalking big bloggers – Inspiration and learning is different from obsessively stalking large bloggers because you have a perverse need to see what they are up to / because they irritate you and/or you have an underbelly of jealousy / annoyance that they are so successful when you know you are a better cook.
If you do this, you know you do and I’m telling you – seriously, stop. a) It’s not healthy b) it’s a waste of your time. I read the blogs of some big bloggers, but I think you’ll be surprised which ones. I can practically guarantee it is NOT any of the ones you read (if you are one of those stalkers! 😉 ).
* Blog Design – Do not get stressed out about having a blog that is not designed exactly as you dreamed it would be. Stop worrying about how your logo just doesn’t reflect “who you are”. Don’t spare a thought for the images that aren’t displaying perfectly in your sidebar.
Sure, if you have a spare half hour, spend some time on this.
But I’m telling you straight – you are NOT losing readers because your blog is not perfectly designed. You’re losing readers because a) you skimped time on creating quality, well written content so you could fret more over blog design or b) you didn’t promote your latest post because you were dying to get back into deciding what colours really reflect “you” for your logo.
PS I hate my logo, it’s blurry on retina and it does not “reflect” me. I have not spent a minute on fixing it!
* Blog Stats – Stop obsessing over your stats. You gain nothing by staring at the live Google Analytics real-time traffic for hours on end. At most, check your stats once when you wake up – a quick look to see your traffic for the day so far and the top referrals. Unless there is anything standout – like an unusual referral – move on with your day. Then check it last thing.
Checking my stats takes me 20 seconds – maybe 15 seconds. That’s about all it’s worth. So it doesn’t make it into my pie chart!!! 😉
This is the first in a series of Blogging Productivity Posts I plan to share. Forgive me, there was so much to talk about it was extremely difficult to make this as relevant and detailed as you want. I redrafted this from scratch 3 times before it was acceptable!
This is the start. The next phase is “Exactly What I Do: Promoting My Posts“. In that post, I’ll share with you exactly what I do to gain traction on social media for all my new posts as well as recycling old posts. And specifically, I will share exactly what I do now PLUS what I used to do – all the extra activities that I no longer do due to time constraints.
Tell me what you agree with, what you don’t agree with, what I didn’t cover enough for you. I WILL respond!!!
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