I have been blogging full time for 14 months now, making money from blogs for over two years and in total I have been a blogger for over five years. I work anywhere from 30 to 60 hours per week depending on my workload, and that workload can fluctuate considerably. One minute my email inbox is empty and I’m on top of all my collaborative work. I breathe a sigh of relief but I know it won’t last long. Plus even when everything appears to be done, there is always something I can be doing whether that’s producing my own content, tweaking my website, chasing late invoices, removing dead links, balancing the books or repurposing and updating old content.
The next minute I check my email inbox and I have over thirty emails out of nowhere, payments received to log, enquiries about my services, ten blog posts to write with short deadlines and several PR queries. All of a sudden there is so much to do and organise again and it can be overwhelming when working this way. Often the blog posts can’t just be typed and job done, but photos need to be taken or sourced, topics researched, a professional blog post written and uploaded, keywords researched, SEO implemented, social media shares across all platforms created, scheduled and then marketed in various group boards and so on. Often blogging as a job requires a great deal of multitasking and prioritising to stay on top of it all. The best thing to do is to create an organised blogging working environment that helps you stay on top of your game, productive and professional at all times.
On top of blogging I have a household to run, husband to organise(!), two young children to chase after, eBay reselling, matched betting and various other side hustles taking my time and topping up my income each day. I’m sure many other bloggers are in the same position and staying as organised as possible is key.
In no particular order here is almost everything you need to stay organised and productive as a professional blogger:
Fast internet connection
A fast and dependable internet connection is a must. When we moved into our home we chose a rather cheap internet provider and it was awful. It often didn’t work and we even had no internet for a whole three week block! It’s frustrating enough when you can’t have the internet for personal use, but when trying to run a business it’s essential it works. Most of my blogging work is done online so I need the internet to work. Needless to say we switched to a much more reliable provider with the fastest connection available in our area. It makes all the difference when you run an online business and ensures work can always be completed on time.
Reliable email provider
Originally I had a Yahoo email address and emails to my @lyliarose.com were simply forwarded to Yahoo. This was easy and great at first until there was a glitch and I realised I hadn’t been receiving all my emails for a couple of months. Luckily this was before I went full time so I could sort it. I now use Zoho so I have a proper @lyliarose.com email address which is integrated into my website. It’s free for one domain and I highly recommend it. I use two different blogging platforms, one with a company called Create and one with Wordpress. I have emails with my domain name set up for both for a small fee. If you only have one domain though, it’s free. There are instructions on both Zoho and Wordpress with how to link the accounts. It looks very professional to have a proper email address with your blog’s website name at the end.
Decent laptop with long battery life
There’s nothing more frustrating than a broken laptop or one that does not perform efficiently. Believe me I know, I’ve been there! I’ve probably had four laptops in five years! I’d recommend finding one with a nice large screen, installing Office and making sure there’s lots of RAM so it works quickly and can handle multiple applications open at once. I sometimes have 30 tabs open at once on my internet browser from different emails, to social media, image editing software, banking, research and so on. Then I have 1-3 spreadsheets open and lots of Word documents with blogs in progress. It’s worth spending a little more on a laptop with higher specs that can handle all this if it’s how you work too. Before I had a lower spec laptop and it kept freezing up and going slow as it couldn’t handle how many things I needed open. My new laptop works like a dream! I also love a long battery life in case I want to work on the go whilst travelling or in a café or business lounge for the day. Even at home it’s great to be able to move location with ease.
A website that works
I can’t offer much advice on going self-hosted with Wordpress or anything as I’ve never done it! My main blog (this one) is with a company called Create and it’s very basic. It works fine for me though and I’m happy with the simplicity of the blog platform. It does everything I need it to do. Plus their customer service is outstanding. My other blogs are hosted by Wordpress. I pay for one of their plans. It is quite expensive, but for now I am happy with the fee. I do see a lot of bloggers having issues with their hosts so do your research and make sure you are happy with them. If not then change as there’s nothing worse than a website that is not speedy or doing what it should. Make sure you think of the future when choosing a website and ensure it has all the functionality you need.
Well equipped with stationery
Though I do most of my blog related work on my iPhone and laptop, I still have some stationery that I couldn’t be without. It’s important to have the right stationery and supplies to hand to help your working hours run smoothly. I have a pot of pens and highlighters within reaching distance on my desk and an open notebook ready to scrawl down any ideas that pop into my head. Sometimes it takes time to open the laptop or locate my iPhone if left in another room and I’m bursting to write down an idea before I forget it. It’s also super easy to take a notebook and pen when travelling to jot down blog post titles or to make notes at blogging conferences.
I have a calculator which is useful for organising my accounts or working out fees on the spot if I need to add them to an invoice. I find an actual calculator easier to use if I’m working on the laptop, though you can use one online or on your mobile phone.
Whilst much of this can be done electronically, you may prefer to have physical diaries and planners to make your life easier. For some people it’s easier to see your blogging schedule up on the wall on a planner or in a week to view diary next to you on the desk. Give both options a go and see which way you work best. I always kept everything written down, but I now use my email inbox and a spreadsheet to keep myself organised. That works best for me personally.
When blogging for money, even if you only make a penny, you will need to register as self-employed with HMRC in the UK. You’ll need to complete a tax return each year to declare your income and pay any taxes due. Start documenting your incomings and outgoings from day one and research what you can class as an expense.
I use a spreadsheet to keep a note of everything and I also have a separate bank account and PayPal to keep it all in one place. This makes referencing items much easier and will make any audits smoother. I document every incoming or outgoing as it happens so my spreadsheet is up to date. Others make this a weekly or even monthly task, but for a few minutes here and there each day I’d rather stay on top of my accounts as it all happens. You’ll also need to keep hold of any receipts for several years to prove your outgoings in case you are ever audited.
There is bookkeeping software available to make it all easier and I’ve seen bloggers mention Quickbooks several times. You can also hire an accountant to do it all for you and they’ll even fill your tax return on your behalf. It’s worth looking into if this part panics you. I prefer to do it all myself on a spreadsheet which I cross reference with my bank accounts every week or so, but you don’t have to do it yourself or this way. Find the way that works best for you.
The government GOV website has so many useful guides on self-employment. This is a great link to let you know how much you can legally claim towards your homes energy costs and so on: https://www.gov.uk/simpler-income-tax-simplified-expenses/working-from-home
Set working hours
My family and work life often overlap and it’s not the most efficient way of working. It was a challenge working when my youngest was here all the time, but luckily he gets 30 childcare hours a week free as we’re both working parents. I also pay extra for the kids to go in the holidays. This means I now have the school day to dedicate to work. The morning and after school hours are for house chores, cooking and getting the kids things ready for school or homework done. Then I can work from 9am-3pm whilst they are at school and nursery. I then work again in the evening for a couple of hours or so when they are in bed. Having set working hours can enable you to focus on the tasks at hand and not be distracted by anything else, as you know there is a time slot for you to do that other thing later. Without set working hours it can be a bit overwhelming as there’s so much to do it’s hard to know where to begin.
Desk or office space
Having a dedicated working space makes me feel more productive. I definitely work better and can concentrate more when sat upright at a desk, compared to slouching on the sofa trying to balance a laptop on my knees! Setting up a healthy workspace with lots of natural light, a house plant and keeping it clean and tidy is great for boosting productivity.
An organised inbox
I mostly use my email inbox to organise myself. I keep work I need to do in the inbox and work through this first prioritising the oldest paid collaborations. I then have lots of subfolders such as ‘In Progress’ which I use whilst negotiating with a brand or waiting for more details or payment. Every now and then I will go through my In Progress folder to see if I need to chase anyone up or if I can move it to my Completed folder if I’ve had a response and completed the work. Organising my inbox in such a way saves me having to write out a blog to do list as I can always see the highest priority work. If an email in my inbox is paid work and I have all the details then I will flag it with a red flag so I can easily spot which emails and work to concentrate on first.
Set realistic deadlines
It’s best to set realistic deadlines for yourself and to tell clients. There’s no point in telling every client you’ll have work complete by the end of the day if you are then sent five pieces of work and they take you five hours each. It’s just not doable. I work as efficiently and quickly as possible and give a 48 hour expectation to myself and clients. If work starts building up then I will increase this as I feel necessary to a maximum of 7 days. I haven’t yet had to go over this timescale as I will just work later in the evening if I get more work. Work out how long it takes you to complete blog posts, whether you’ll have a dedicated time to spend on them without any distractions and then give yourself a little extra leeway just in case. I find it best to under promise but over deliver. So if you say five days but return the work in two, then they are always pleasantly surprised and grateful. It also means if anything unexpected does pop up like an ill child or family emergency then you have covered yourself for this event.
Make use of your phone’s notes
I love my iPhone notes section! I have lists of hashtags stored here that I can quickly copy and paste for Instagram posts, pre-written responses to emails so I can email on the go quickly and easily, lists of titles for blog post ideas and more. It’s a great way to note something on the go and even to just ask Siri to create a note for you without even typing anything. Plus you can email the notes to yourself if you need to add them to your ‘to-do inbox’.
Learn to prioritise
Learning to prioritise is really important. I prioritise paid work and the shortest deadlines first. These are the first things I tackle every day. The rest can come later. I also keep half an eye on my phone where I have email notifications set up so I can see a quick preview of emails as they pop up. If any look very urgent then I can quickly see them and respond if needed without having to close the blog post I am working on.
Canva is an amazing tool for creating images for your blog and Pinterest in particular. There is a free version and I now pay for the upgraded package. This meant I could upload my blog font and save my business colours. It makes creating graphics much quicker and easier as it’s all there for me. Canva also save every image you create to their website so I have templates I can access straight away and edit in a few seconds to create a new blog image. I mainly use it to create pins for Pinterest as they have the exact size I need. There are templates for all sorts of social media image sizes that are quick and easy to locate.
Schedule with Social Oomph
I use Social Oomph to schedule my Twitter posts and it saves me hours! You can set up recurring tweets in all sorts of different ways which is great for evergreen blog posts.
Read How I save hours every week scheduling tweets with Social Oomph to find out more.
Use Tailwind to organise Pinterest
I love to use Tailwind to organise my Pinterest schedule and ensure I have regular content going out as well as using their Tribes function to promote my posts to others and help promote theirs in return.
Keep a list of monthly outgoings
If you have monthly payments for various blogging tools and even your blog itself, domain renewal and hosting, then keep a list in sight of your workspace with the dates of each payment. This way there is no surprises. Add it to your calendar and planner and even set up a reminder email nearer to the date. I always keep a bank balance of a few hundred pounds in my blog bank account just in case I accidently forget a payment is due. That way I’m covered and can make a note next month so I never forget again.
Block out distractions
This is a great piece of advice if you have a really important blog post to write and you need to concentrate. Shut yourself in a room with no distractions to complete the important task. Switch your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and leave it in another room. Ignore the door if it goes. You need to be in work mode. Sit away from everything and anyone so you can only work. If the deadline is looming then you need to do this. You can catch up on all your notifications once the work is complete.
Take a break
It’s really important to stay healthy when working for yourself and at home. I am guilty of working straight through and not taking a break as time often escapes me and I’m so busy. It is important though to schedule a lunch break into your day for nourishment as well as a break from the computer. Taking a break can help to reenergise your body and refresh a tired brain making you more focussed and productive as a result.
I share some great tips in this blog post about how to stay healthy if you work from home
Hire a VA
When you get to the stage that everything is too much all the time, then you may want to consider hiring a virtual assistant. I’ve started to reach this stage now and have just hired someone to do a couple of things for me a week to see how it goes. I can already tell it’s going to be a big help and hopefully I will pass some more things to my assistant to enable me to concentrate on the blog itself and less of the admin or social media side which is time draining!
Phew! That’s a pretty extensive list with lots of my methods and some tools to help bloggers be more organised and productive each day. I’m sure there are plenty more, but I will leave it there for now as the list is probably overwhelming itself! Learning the methods and organisation skills that work for you will take time as well as some trial and error to get them perfect.
Best of luck with your blogging business!
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