How To Start A Blog

How To Start A Blog

Two years ago when I started The Alma Chronicle, I remember being overwhelmed by all the information I came across on the internet. I spent countless hours trying to make sense of words I had never come across and somehow never figuring out what exactly I wanted or needed to do. Over the years, I’m proud that I’ve managed to single-handedly grow it to what it is today.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing a series called “Owning your blog”, sharing pointers from how to get started as a blog/website owner to creating compelling content and even content management. There’ll be 4 engaging posts to this series published every Thursday in the month of March and I hope at the end of it, someone’s work will be made a lot easier.

Domain Name & Hosting:

This is the first step to owning your website. When I started, I remember being confused on the meanings of a “domain name” & “hosting” & why they were necessary. A domain name is a unique address to a webpage or in this case, your blog. It is essential to your brand identity as it’s what you will be known for years to come so please take it seriously. After deciding on a name, check for its availability & register it with a Domain Registrar for a fee. The most popular ones are GoDaddy & Bluehost.

Next thing is to integrate this domain name with a blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger. Luckily, the domain registrars mentioned above have a simple, free, one-click installation process. Spending on a domain name and hosting is not necessary for everyone. I recommend it if you want a more professional looking site. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to try out blogging with no intention of committing, I suggest starting with a WordPress.com (e.g xyz.wordpress.com) which is free.

(Tip: Domain registrars typically go on promotions from time to time so be on the lookout to get a desired domain name at a cheaper price)

Update: In partnership with websitesetup.org, I’ve included an easy tutorial on how to get a registered domain name with Bluehost. Watch below!

 

Choosing a Theme/Blog/Brand Identity:

A theme sets the tone for your blog and overall brand. This is the first thing users see when they click on your link and you want to make sure it represents you and your brand identity to the latter. Before picking a theme, do an overall blog/brand analysis and make a mental picture of what you want your brand to be known for. Think colours, name, overall aesthetics, fonts, photos, layouts, etc.

Most platforms come with decent pre-installed and free themes that I advice people to take advantage of when they’re just starting out. You know, get a hang of blogging and decide it’s something you want to do/commit to before you start throwing some major bucks into it. If you decide to go a step further to make your blog look more personal and professional, I recommend purchasing a pre-made theme from a theme developer and customizing it to your preference. That way, you don’t stress with the technicalities behind web design and focus on tweaking the theme to your taste; and creating content. You can purchase themes off a lot of websites but my favourites are Etsy,  SquareSpace, & Theme Forest to name a few.

Blog Content:

This varies depending on what your blog is centered around. Contrary to popular belief, blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. A lot of work and thought goes into creating content, especially when it’s done for a living. Overtime, analyze your audience demographic and be intentional about every content you put out. Be it be entertaining, inspirational, educational, etc. Make sure it adds some sort of value to the person on the other side of the computer screen.

Have fun & be consistent:

Just like everything else in life, consistency is key to growth; but blogging shouldn’t be a chore. It’s important to view your blog as your brand and have fun nurturing it so it can grow. For me, I’m happiest when I’m in front of my computer editing photos or creating compelling content such as this one for you guys. It’s also amazing how many opportunities and doors this platform has opened to me and I’m forever grateful.

(N.B This post is monetized with affiliate links from Bluehost. They are published in accordance with this site’s the terms of use policy)

*Originally posted on The Alma Chronicle 

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Reasons Why You Should Stick With An Instagram Theme

Reasons Why You Should Stick With An Instagram Theme

Ever looked at your Instagram feed and thought it looked overwhelming? Well, this is the post for you. A few months ago, I thought the same way and took it upon myself to change the aesthetics of my feed.

What are the benefits? 

Aside from the fact that you feel the ultimate satisfaction when you visit your feed, I’ve realized that Instagram themes are an easy way to give your brand its own visual identity. This is important because your followers are able to identify your work wherever they see it (Dude! You have no idea how helpful this is when someone steals your work). Additionally, your followers have an idea of what to expect from you every time, which not only gives them a sense of inclusiveness and excitement but also benefits you because you automatically cultivate a loyal following that comes back for more. Isn’t that amazing? Damn! I think it is.

You’ve probably heard the saying that the first nine photos on your feed play a huge role in the decision-making process of your potential new followers. Now, while I’m not sure how politically correct this shallow behaviour (as I like to call it) is for the majority of people, I’d be the first to say I’m guilty of it. Lmao, shoot me but if I go to a person’s page and it looks a hot mess, chances are I’d most likely leave the page without scrolling down sooooo we want to make sure we’re keeping it clean and cohesive, Okay!

Finally, believe it or not, but having a theme makes it so much easier to plan what to post next. With a structured plan for your feed, (and by structured, I mean everything from your niche to your content medium to your aesthetics) you already know the nature of your content which helps you come up with dope ideas on what to post next, what products to feature and exactly how to present it to your audience.

Curating Your Instagram Theme

So now you know why themes are super important, let’s get into how to actually come up with your new popping Instagram theme. You ready?

Once you have your niche and content medium all figured out, I say the next step is to find some inspiration. The best places to go for this are pinterest.com (Seriously, this platform is probably the best thing known to any content creator) and your favourite Instagram accounts that obviously adopt this technique. After consulting the content doctors, you can move on to figure out what you like in terms of colour, style and editing styles. Here are a few examples:

How I Edit My Instagram Photos

I personally love a minimalistic look. It’s airy, white, has a bit of nature here and there, you know, It’s cute! I tend to play with negative space a lot (which is basically a blank area around your subject). I find that this helps prevent the overall feed from looking “unnecessarily busy”. I ALWAYS edit with Facetune and VSCO. I use Facetune to clean up my pictures and VSCO to plan my feed and add my signature filter; A5. I use this for ALL my pictures. Here’s is a more detailed video on how I do this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aticZK2pgfU&t=37s

I hope these tips have helped you understand Instagram themes and remember to have fun while at it. Xoxo.

 

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Pregnancy, Planning, and Paperwork

Pregnancy, Planning, and Paperwork

So, you’re pregnant. Congratulations!! If you’re like most new moms to be: excited, overwhelmed, and counting down the weeks left until you meet your little bundle of joy that you have been carrying for 9 months.

But, if you are also like most new moms to be, you’re also pretty tired from being pregnant and having to work long hours to ensure you are financially secure for your little one or existing family, even if you have a partner. Whether your self-employed, got a 9-5, 5-10, or managing a few side hustles all once, I’ve compiled 5 key points to remember when you’re a work ninja, but also expecting!

My company, Baby Steps Guru provides maternity and parental leave guidance, and saves parents a headache, hassle, and lots of time, knowing how to navigate through the business side of having a baby!
Time better spent on bonding with your newborn baby, instead of handling paperwork!

As someone with extensive knowledge and more than a decade of experience, when dealing with group benefits, human resources, and government agencies such as Service Canada, I know how to make the planning of your little arrival less stressful.

I’ve listed 5 tips no one ever tells you but is important to know when preparing for your little one and can save you a lot of prep time and unnecessary paperwork:

TIP 1:  If you are employed, make sure you review and/or update your group benefits prior to your mat leave. It’s way more time consuming and a headache to get it done on your leave. If your self-employed and have an independent plan, notify your agent directly to look into your family options

TIP 2: Speaking of self-employment, did you know that you could qualify for EI maternity benefits if you’re self-employed?? For more details on this, email me at hello@babystepsguru.com

TIP 3: If you have a medically complicated pregnancy and need to leave work early, ensure you utilize all your sick time, and vacation time if it can’t be carried forward to when you return. You don’t want to lose those days! FYI, you could also apply for sickness EI prior to starting your mat leave

TIP 4: You only need 600 hours to qualify for EI maternity or sickness benefits, but you need them within a 1-year period from your last day worked.  Hours worked prior to 1-year period do not get used.

TIP 5:  If your baby needs additional care and needs to stay in the hospital for medical reasons for 1 week or more, your mat leave period could potentially be extended for the duration of the period that your baby remains in the hospital before going home. For more info on this, feel free to send me an email.

Bonus tip: Did you know you could apply for maternity leave up to 8 weeks prior to your due date if you’re no longer working?

If you are expecting and would like to discuss information in this post or other maternity benefit related question or would like to know about the services I provide, send me an email at hello@babystepsguru.com or visit my website, www.babystepsguru.com .

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Invitation Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts (Alicia Jenelle Events)

Invitation Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts (Alicia Jenelle Events)

Whatever the occasion—a social event, fundraiser or wedding—your invitation sets the tone for the event.

Regardless if you send your invitation via email as an attached PDF, use a digital e-vite service or platform, or choose to send a physical card stock version using snail mail, it’s important to make a mark and create an eye-catching invite for your next social event by using the proper invitation etiquette.

You want your invitation to scream, “This sounds fabulous! I can’t miss it!”

Instead of “maybe I’ll think about it.”

The excitement begins when your guests open your invitation. It’s the first peek they have of the special occasion that’s yet to come so make it memorable and complete by following the invitation etiquette do’s and don’ts listed below:

DO match your invitation to the style of your event. Is your event formal or a casual backyard get together? Is it a corporate event or a family and friends celebration? Is it Birthday party, Baby or Bridal shower for a friend? Or is your event a networking social where you’ll be inviting hundreds of people?

Your invites need to be polished and eye-catching, but they should also represent the overall theme of the event. Choose fonts, typography, colours and images that accurately reflect the event. Don’t forget to make sure your invite is also readable from a distance. I love working with my clients to plan out the perfect invitation “branding” to match the style of their occasion.

DO include all event details. This goes without saying, but you won’t imagine how many of my clients draft their event invite without including all the necessary information. Your eye-catching invitation might have great branding and colourful imagery but it will be no good if your recipients get lost on the way to the event because the address was incomplete. Trust me, it happens.

No matter the occasion or social event, your invitation should always include the following elements:

  • Name: You’ll want to include the business name, brand or hosts name on your invitation so people can identify who the invite is from right away. If it’s unclear who is sending the invite, the recipient might just toss it or think it’s sales. You’ll also want to include the guest name if possible.
  • Date: Make sure that the date is set in stone. There’s nothing worse than changing the date or specifying the incorrect date of the event.
  • Time: Similar to the date, make sure the time is set in stone. The time you include should be the exact time the doors open and the event begins.
  • Location: Be sure to include the location of the occasion including the name of the venue. This is a piece of information that guests use to determine if they will be able to make it. If you’re doing a digital invitation or posting it online, also take the extra step of including a map for the venue.
  • Contact: You always want to include contact information. Whether it’s a phone number or e-mail address, include your contact information so that you can easily be reached if guests have any questions.

Yes, recipients can always call and inquire about the event details, but when you’re in the midst of planning a major party for 300 people or worrying about the catering, having a million guest emails in your inbox won’t be cute. You want to make sure that everything is presented on the event invitation for the convenience of your guests.

DO include the appropriate dress code. If there’s a dress code for the occasion, include the details on your event invitations so every guest can wear the appropriate attire. Corporate events or formal galas might require special wardrobe and your guests will need to know this information in advance of RSVPing their attendance. Common phrases used to indicate a dress code include: Black Tie, Cocktail Attire, Casual or Smart Business.

DON’T send out your invitation at the last minute. Last minute invites receive last minute attention. The event may generate some positive responses but most people might already be booked on your event date. For smaller events invitations should go out six to eight weeks in advance. For larger conferences and higher-priced ticketed events, you could even launch your event three months in advance. Be considerate of your guests and think about if they have to travel from out of town to attend the event.

DON’T use abbreviation. When it comes to invitations, a general rule of them to follow when it comes to invitation wording is to avoid abbreviating names of places and street addresses. The invitation should list the full address including venue name, street address, city and province.

DON’T forget to acknowledge if the invite includes a plus one. If only the guest’s name is listed, then it is implied that extra guests are not appropriate. Make sure you list “and Guest” or even “plus One” if an additional head count is permitted.

Whatever the type and scale of the event, occasion or celebration you’re planning, these invitation etiquette do’s and don’ts are sure to help you create the perfect invite that gives your guests a glimpse of the festivities to come!

If you’re planning for your next event and could use the assistance of a seasoned planner, browse my portfolio and use the contact form below to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Cover photo by: Brandon Scott Photography

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Breaking in Brand Authentic

Breaking in Brand Authentic

Wakanda Forever! That’s my default greeting for the rest of 2018, and it speaks to a few things – first my love for all things Black Panther, but also my love for the superhero world and the multi-faceted conversations that surround the world of superheroes and comic-books-turned-movies era that we get to live in.

This is part of my authentic self. I’m a young, black woman who’s always got an ear to news, spirituality, the Blerd universe (black + nerd for those who don’t know) and tools for adulting and achieving my goals.

This is the authentic part of me that I use to organize the stories I tell and information I share. It took some years to accept that my success wasn’t in changing the core of who I am, but learning more about it and pulling out the gems that help me to navigate the world.

Knowing yourself is an essential first step and ongoing course of action when creating a brand and deciding how you are going to communicate information. Here are some tips that have helped me to navigate being myself and the beginnings of building a brand:

  1. Discover who you are and lean into it

This first tip is simple – there are things that are going to resonate with you and not others. Find those things and lean into them.

  1. It’s been done before, but not by you.

With over seven billion people on the planet and however many people existed before that, it’s a sure bet that some version of an idea you have existed before now, but don’t let that stop you. Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a storyteller, first as an artistic performer- an actor or singer, and then as an English or history teacher and finally as a reporter in the vein of one of my favourite comic-book characters, Lois Lane. Relating information has always been part of what I like to do, and for many years I wanted to do a radio show, which then evolved into a podcast show. I gave up on the idea several times because it felt like everyone and their grandma was starting a podcast, advertising it on Twitter and discussing many topics I was interested in talking about on a show. I know that I always got stuck on that and just not wanting to do anything, but there’s only one of you, and only you can tell your story in the way it needs to be told. Today, I’m working on my podcast!

  1. Consistency is key. Yes, it’s true.

You’ve undoubtedly heard it before, but whatever you’re going to do, do it with consistency. Authenticity is word we like to throw around with hashtags or one-off blog posts, but that kind of “Brand Authentic” doesn’t often work.  For those who make their authentic work and thrive for their brand, it is because of their consistency in messaging and presence. When I think consistent, I think of Black Girl Nerds, their good morning tweets, and starting and engagement in Blerd conversations. I think of ChescaLeigh, and I think of my very own mentor, Pauleanna Reid.

There’s a lot voices in the world and in everything that I’ve learned while studying brands over the past year, it is that the consistent voices are the ones that gather followings and can share and promote more conversations.

For me, breaking into “Brand Authentic” means the development of a new podcast. This show, hosted by yours truly, is designed for the news-curious, spiritual-leaning, millennials who are figuring life out. Follow me on Instagram at @raqlionchaser to keep up with my next step in breaking into Brand Authentic and I hope to hear about your journey’s as well!

Raquel Russell is a writer and digital content creator. A proud alumnus of the New Girl on The Block Program, Raquel uses her writing and communications skills as part of the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Communications team where she helps report campus news. Follow and shoot Raquel a message on Instagram and Twitter @raqlionchaser.

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7 Tips for Aspiring Christian Millennial Girl Bosses

7 Tips for Aspiring Christian Millennial Girl Bosses

As a 21-year-old millennial woman, I was excited to start off this article by sharing all the statistics and success stories of our fellow millennials dominating the entrepreneurship sphere. I mean, social media – yes just like Nicki Minaj called out Miley Cyrus, I’m calling out Instagram and Twitter for creating this fairytale of entrepreneurship being a norm amongst millennials when it’s not. I’m not saying it’s nonexistent but according to Score.org we’re less likely to follow through on becoming an entrepreneur.  The interesting part is, 78% of us equate it to success and 62% considered starting a business. Mentally, we’re more entrepreneurial than past generations, we just don’t have much to show for.

Our primary setbacks are student loans and our lack of taking risks whether that is because our parents, especially if they’re immigrants conditioned us to be “practical” or the prices of cost of living. When womanhood is added, society alone tries to limit us from living our best lives.

Now, I bet you’re wondering where the Christian millennial woman has a place in all this. Girl, there’s a place in every market, demographic and area of expertise. I know the statistics makes it look like a place for tumbleweeds and not faith but that is where you back away and allow God to come in. A disclaimer before I carry on is there is nothing wrong with working for someone or having a “regular” job because our careers don’t define us, our proximity to Christ does, and therefore our character does too. As I was doing my research, majority of the sources acknowledged us for being genuine, more educated than past generations, innovative, creative, charitable and devoted to a life of a learning versus a life of wages. My observation is, the only thing we lack in is the fear of failure, but who can blame us?

First things first, God already has a plan for you, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV). As we all know, God created us with a plan to conquer anything through the power of love. His greatest commandment is for us to love Him with all our heart and to show that same grace and mercy towards others and ourselves. Entrepreneurship is a tool to help us get there while making a steady income. What’s great about God is He’s going to give you something your passionate about even if you’re unqualified. Here 7 tips to align your entrepreneurship endeavors with God’s will:

  1. Your business is a ministry.

As Christians, we live for Christ. Your business needs to live for the same thing. There needs to be problem you are solving whether that be creating a restaurant in an overlooked neighborhood to give them an option to having affordable wholefoods or making natural cosmetics. Be very direct on what you can accomplish. A mission statement and SWOT analysis shouldn’t be taken lightly, however don’t be concerned if you have to change them. Just make sure all your decisions are Holy Spirit led; don’t overcomplicate things.

  1. Don’t trip on yourself.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. Even if you’re broke, don’t have a degree or anything to fall back on, if God has called you start a business, you better work with what you do have and stop wallowing in what you don’t. Also setup a savings account for resources you may need, cut back on costs, ask for help, do research in your market and find out what your customers and/or audience need.

  1. No market is off limits…within reason.

 I thank God for DeVon Franklin because he is the first Christian I heard who is successful in film production while standing his ground in maintaining his duty to God. Not every market is for Christians; just use discernment and common sense to figure that one out. Perhaps if you don’t see Christians in a particular industry, it’s because you are the one to break that barrier. If God trusts you to do it, why are you limiting yourself?

  1. God, Family, Ministry.

Your first priority should be God. When you work on your relationship with God by becoming familiar with His word and following through with it, simultaneously you’re also loving on and caring for yourself because who knows you better than your Creator? Major key: God cares about your soul more than your ministry. Second is family, make sure your family is good before you advocate for others. Then ministry.

I’m a Christian Seventh-day Adventist; I follow the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), which means no work for the purpose of profit, I don’t cook or do house chores. I spend 24 hours resting from the complications of the world. I use it to read the Word uninterrupted, fellowship and exhale. Scientists say it leads to breaking toxic sleep cycles, restores your mental health due to stress, become more productive during the week to name a few. It’s also an act of faith to tell God, “You got this”! Also spend time taking risks, take a trip, go out with friends, and love your family.

  1. You better love yourself to health.

There’s mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health we need to keep up with. This may sound like a bold statement but I believe mental health is number one because it sets the tone for all the others. Millennials struggle more than past generations. In Canada, millennial women are the 2nd in the three high-risk groups for mental health issues. To maintain your mental health you should eat clean, drink lots of water, create healthy boundaries between yourself and your vices including every relationship you have, exercise at least three times a week to your comfort level, spend time in nature, set attainable short term then reach for the stars for long term goals and show love and allow yourself to be loved. Also read the Bible every morning, pray, journal and stretch!

  1. Use your schmoney wisely.

When money is funny and change is strange girl, give. Make sure you tithe and give offerings because the only thing you have to lose is the opportunity in gaining. Save for your passion project, pay your bills on time, if you don’t need it and barely want let the store keep it so you’ll have money for recreational things that will fulfill you.

That’s all! My last piece of advice is don’t police yourself. If you mess up here and there just get back up. And remember, you can only be a failure if your business becomes your idol. Don’t get caught up on what social media masquerades millennial entrepreneurship to be because now you know it’s mainly alternative news. Stop desiring entrepreneurship and finally take the steps to become an entrepreneur!

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