How to Take Advantage of Holiday Sales to Build Your Business

Now that we have entered the holiday season, our inboxes and feeds are full of holiday sales as well as Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. In addition to saving money on your holiday gift shopping, you can take advantage of these sales to help propel your business forward.

How to Use Holiday Sales to Build Your Business and Save Money

You will hear a lot of chatter online from influencers looking to make end of the year purchases to help offset their income for tax purposes. Now, I am not an accountant (nor do I pretend to be one – I was an English and Philosophy major, not accounting!!) so please check with an actual tax professional about any large purchases, tax deductions, or other accounting topics before doing anything drastic! But once you have cleared it with the powers that be, here are a few ideas on how you can make some strategic purchases to help build your business and save some money:

Purchase hotel gift cards or book ahead for next year’s conferences.

Do you know that you will be attending a specific conference in the upcoming year? Grab a gift card for the hosting hotel now to be used to offset the cost of attending next year. Or check and see what special deal you might be able to grab by booking on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. For example, right now Loews Hotels is offering 20% 0ff bookings for Cyber Monday. Book their Stay and Fly package and grab 10 days of parking and a night at the hotel before you fly out for that conference!

Stock Up on Credits for Royalty Free Products You Use Often

Do you use a lot of royalty free photos or music? Check the sites you purchase from regularly to see if they are offering a deal. Even if they aren’t, you can add credits to your account which will be billed now to be used in the upcoming year. One of my favorites, Envato, has a great deal going (like 50% off great) on many of their royalty free music clips and $120 off their Envato Elements. But hurry as this sale ends TODAY.

Purchase Courses or Products to Help You Grow

There are a number of courses offering great discounts right now. Once of my favorite bundles is the BC Stack. I’m not usually a fan of huge bundles, but this one has more than proved itself to me year after year. Released in July, it usually costs $37 which is still a huge bargain. If you preorder TODAY, you can snag it for $17 and be one of the first to receive it in July when it comes out.

Pro Tip: Create a special email just for this purchase as you will be receiving a lot of different emails from different Stack contributors and it helps to have them all in one place. 

Businessese is another one of my favorites for courses and/or templates. Businessese is like having your own personal lawyer to help you run your business without the hourly charges! You can grab generic contracts to use over and over as well as courses to help you maximize your brand relationships. Save 40% off of any one purchase through 11/30 with the code CRANBERRY17 here.


Speaking of courses, there aren’t many that I recommend but one that I cannot say enough about is Pitch Perfect Pro. It’s one that I’ve taken myself and absolutely loved. I was already making a full time income from blogging and was concerned that the course would be to “beginner” for me. I was wrong!! While the course is absolutely helpful for beginner bloggers (I wish it was around back I when I started!!), it also has tons of info for those of us who have been doing this for a while. When I put what I was learning into practice, I finally broke through and had two five figure months!! While the course isn’t open right now, I suggest you sign up for the wait list here and also download the Pitching Checklist to get a head start on some of the things that the course will be covering.

Purchase Photography Tools You Will Need

Whether you need to update your camera or purchase a lighting set to help take your photography to the next level, purchasing now may give you a tax advantage. Some of the items we have purchased in the past that we felt were really helpful were:

Lowel EGO Digital Imaging, Tabletop Fluorescent Light UnitLowel EGO Digital Imaging, Tabletop Fluorescent Light UnitPhotography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio, LMS103Photography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio, LMS103LimoStudio Photo Video Studio 10Ft Adjustable Muslin Background Backdrop Support System Stand, AGG1112LimoStudio Photo Video Studio 10Ft Adjustable Muslin Background Backdrop Support System Stand, AGG1112Neewer 5x7ft/152x213cm Light Grey 100% Polyester Wooden Backdrop Background for Photography Studio Video Shooting (Backdrop Only!)Neewer 5x7ft/152x213cm Light Grey 100% Polyester Wooden Backdrop Background for Photography Studio Video Shooting (Backdrop Only!)Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM LensCanon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM LensAmazonBasics Wireless Remote Control for Canon Digital SLR CamerasAmazonBasics Wireless Remote Control for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

Update Your Website

Now is a great time to grab a new theme. You can save big on themes at Theme Forest or Restored316 themes (one of my favorites!). And if you need help installing or customizing any theme or moving your site from Blogger to WordPress, you’ll want to head over to Heart and Soul Studio where Debbie will take care of you and make it seem easy peasy!! If you’ve been putting off moving to https, now is the time to get into Debbie’s cue and get ‘er done!!

The end of the year is a great time to start planning ahead for the upcoming year. By planning strategically, you might even be able to save yourself some pretty big money on top of starting the year off with a bang!!

While I may earn a little money from you clicking on my links, it does not affect the price of the goods and services you purchase.

Exclusivity Clauses – Should You Sign Them?

Exclusivity Contracts - Should bloggers sign them?

Exclusivity clauses seem to be one of the new trends that is gaining steam in 2016. Several of the blogger networks are including them in their campaign agreements and they vary from lasting for 30 days to several months. Several that have come across my desk were not mentioned until the negotiating was done and it was time to sign on the dotted line. Suddenly an exclusivity clause appeared in the agreement and I was faced with a decision.

What is an exclusivity clause?

An exclusivity clause is a section of a contract that stipulated that you will not work with certain brands for a specific amount of time after a post goes live. Sometimes the clause will be general and forbid work with any competing brands and sometimes it will name specific brands you may not work with. The clause will spell out the time frame where working with competitors is forbidden.

Should you get paid more for a campaign with an exclusivity clause?

In a word, absolutely. You are agreeing to turn down future work and future pay in exchange for working with this one brand. You have no idea what opportunities might be offered to you in the next few weeks or months. If you choose to sign the exclusivity agreement, you should be compensated for any lost opportunities you might have to give up.

But the new trend seems to be to ask for a period of exclusivity at the same rate offered for a standard post. We are not taking about ambassadorships or paid spokesperson agreements, just standard one-off posts. And a lot of bloggers are beginning to push back.

What arguments are networks using to justify exclusivity clauses and how can you respond?

The brand is paying for advertising on your blog and doesn’t want competitors sharing the same space. 

Okay, I get that they might not want a competitor’s ad showing up in the middle of your post, but asking that you not work with any other brand, even in a separate post, is very different. Are they asking the same of any magazines they where they are running print ads? Are they demanding any TV stations that show their ads not show any other brands? No, they’re not. And they are paying a heck of a lot more for those ads too.

It seems inauthentic for a blogger to post about one brand one week and another brand the next week.

If the blogger is claiming that the first brand is their absolute favorite and the only one they use, this makes sense. But most bloggers are just people telling the story of their life and how different products fit into it. Take my pantry for example. If you open my pantry and look at the top shelf, you will see four different kinds of cereal from three different brands. The fact is that the various members of my family like different kinds of cereal, and so we buy a number of different kinds. Honestly, I vary which one I eat based on my mood or craving on that particular day. There is nothing inauthentic about that. In fact, it would be inauthentic for me to make it look like we only purchase ONE kind of cereal and eat it every. single. day.

The brand is paying for your loyalty.

This is where the amount of compensation comes into play. If the brand would like to purchase my loyalty, then that comes with a fee that is higher than a standard post fee or an ongoing relationship like an ambassadorship. Is the brand agreeing that any campaigns that come up in the next 30 days will only go to you? Nope. So the loyalty only goes one way apparently.

Imagine this: You are single and navigating the dating world. A guy comes up to you and asks you to dinner and you accept. As you are getting ready to walk into the restaurant, he whips out an agreement that states by allowing him to buy you dinner, you agree that you will not have dinner with any other guys for the next month (or two or six). This comes with no promise of another date or even a phone call after the date. But, you are not allowed to require the same of him. In fact, he already has several dates with other gals booked for the upcoming week.

dating couple

Does this sound okay to you? Of course not. That type of agreement comes when you have gotten to know each other better, had a few dinners, and are ready to make an arrangement that works for both of you – like an ambassadorship. If brands really like it, they need to put a ring on it!

What are your thoughts? Have you been asked to sign exclusivity clauses for your posts? Would you?

How to Keep your Identity Safe as a Blogger

protect your identity blogging

Working online, it’s easy to have your name, picture, and possibly even location plastered all around the Internet. It can be a problem, however, if you want to keep your identity safe. This issue becomes even more important if you are a mom blogger who talks about your kids.

Here are a few basic steps to take to help protect your identity and still enjoy blogging.

  1. Don’t post your exact location online. When blogging, there is no need to share your address or even your hometown with the world. If you want to get local opportunities, giving out the closest large city is enough information for brands and reps to find you. If you live in a small town, avoid using Foursquare/Swarm and similar apps for checking in.
  1. Have your mail delivered somewhere else. Along with keeping your location private, a post office box will further prevent your home address from being found online. If you have a newsletter, most services require you to add an address at the bottom of each email. A PO box keeps your readers from learning your residence. Need an actual physical address (some companies will not deliver to a PO Box)? The UPS Store gives you a physical street address without the restrictions of a PO Box. They also allow you to sign up for text or email notifications so you only have to stop in when you actually have a package. And they are much more secure than having boxes of products left on your front step when you are not home.
  1. Be careful when posting photos. If you take a lot of pictures outside your home (such as in the front yard), make sure not to capture your house in them (and especially not your house number). This could lead local people to your front door if you aren’t careful. Check your phone to see if you have location settings turned on – this could broadcast your exact location with every photo!
  1. Ask around before giving out your info. Most PR reps that contact you will be legit business people looking to work with you and your blog. However, the internet is also known for scammers. Post in FB blogging groups or ask your friends before you give your address to someone over email. Be even more careful with who you send a W-9 form to, as that will contain your social security number.
  1. Apply for an EIN. Your Employer ID Number (EIN) works as your social security number. When you need to fill out tax forms for a brand, you can give them this number to help keep your identity private. It is free to get an EIN number.

Apply here:

  1. Watch out for phishing scams. As a blogger, you likely get hundreds of emails each week. It can be easy to open a message, skim the contents, and click a link. However, you want to pay attention when it comes to emails that deal with your money or other personal information.  Scammers are known to send phishing emails, which are messages that look legit but the links are misleading. If clicked, they can retrieve your personal information. Paypal phishing scams are among the most popular – there will be a message about needing to log into your account, but the link provided will not actually take you to PayPal. Clicking on links can also unleash malware onto your computer. Do not click on links without knowing exactly where they came from!

We don’t want to scare you – just help you think ahead and avoid any situations that you might regret later!

How to Come Up with Blog Post Ideas

How to come up with ideas for blog posts

You’ve already figured out how to start your own blog, but now you need to know what to blog about, right?

When I do searches like the ones I’m going to tell you about, these just serve as inspiration for new blog post ideas. Never take someone else’s idea and copy it. Always link back even when you just get an idea from another blogger (or even a news article). Linking back gives you good juice while providing traffic to their site, too. It’s all about karma. 🙂

Google Trends. I love Google Trends! It lets you see what’s trending in the internet world. You can do a general search, or get specific by selecting a region, time frame, etc. It’s up to you, and searching in different ways will generate more ideas!

Google Keyword Planner. This tool will help you plan keywords, show you how well they’ll rank (and how much competition you’ll have if you use them), and is overall just a great brainstorming tool.

Blog Post Idea Generator. Plug in words, get ideas. Easy peasy!

Social media pages. I’m talking Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google Plus! Watch all of your pages to see what everyone is talking about, and follow suit.

Bottlenose. Discover what’s trending in real time. Use the “Sonar” tab to check out trending topics similar to your search topics.

Read other blogs. ProBlogger is a favorite!. Create a list of other blogs in your industry – either as an Interest List on Facebook, or in a Bookmarks Folder on your web browser. Use their posts as inspiration, or link to their posts and discuss how you feel about the issues they are discussing. Always be positive, or at least diplomatic. While trash talking another blogger might get you some temporary traffic, you’re going to lose some of your fan base (and respect) at the same time.

Basic search. Head over to your favorite search engine or Q&A site, and type in a topic. Whether it’s “paleo diet tips” or “social media”, once you start typing, other ideas will auto-populate. Write these ideas down! They’re all potential blog post ideas!

My best content generating tool is my handy dandy notebook! I keep a small notebook with me everywhere I go, so when a creative idea pops in my head, I don’t lose it. You can also use a notepad on your phone, or an app like Evernote.

What are your best tips for generating blog post ideas? Leave them in the comments!


How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level


You’ve scoured the net for blog tips, and you’ve been spending lots of time improving your blog, but the money still isn’t rolling in. Why not? There are many factors to consider, but I’m hoping these tips will help you get on the right track to making money with your blog this year!

1. Vlog. Step outside of your comfort zone and start vlogging. Even if it’s just once a week, even if it’s just a few minutes long, get in front of the camera and get comfortable with it. Monetize your videos on Youtube and you can easily double your current income!  Create a account and get even more views by tapping into that audience as well.

2. Sponsored posts. Sponsored posts are a great way to make money and get more traffic. If you do an amazing job, the brand might share your post! Can you imagine a brand sharing your post to millions of their customers?!

Tip: Make sure you’re creative with your sponsored posts. Even brands don’t like to read boring articles! So, make it fun and engaging for everyone, and you’ll be on your way to making more money because other brands will want to work with you, too!

3. Think outside the box. If you usually vlog, try writing an article. If you usually write articles, try vlogging. Tutorials do well. Even if you aren’t used to writing “how to” posts, you can throw one together – trust me! Break it down into as few steps as possible, and use lots of photos! Even something simple like “how to teach your child to tie their shoes” can get you thousands of pins on Pinterest! Pins equal traffic.

4. Increase your traffic. If you haven’t yet, study up on how to increase your blog traffic.

— Add your most popular posts to your sidebar. This will lower your bounce rate and increase pageviews. A lower bounce rate and good pageviews are good for many reasons – plus, it looks great on your media kit (which means brands pay you more to work with them).

— Focus on content. If you are just writing stuff nobody wants to read, no amount of promotion in the world is going to help you increase your blog traffic.

— Utilize social media to the fullest. Don’t just focus on Facebook. Include StumbleUpon, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

— Create an email signature with your link. I send out dozens of emails each day. If even half of the recipients click on my email signature, that’s another handful of pageviews every single day.

— Include a bonus in your email newsletter! If you encourage your readers to share your newsletter, and offer them a free printable (or ebook, or whatever) in exchange, it’s going to get shared like crazy!

5. Interact with your readers. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to actually care, and interact with your audience! Don’t be fake – be real with them. If you’re having a bad day, feel free to talk about it. Chances are, some of them are having a bad day as well. Even if they’re not, they’ve had a bad day before and they will most likely tell you about it!

An interactive audience is worth gold to sponsors. When you connect with brands for sponsored posts, be sure to mention how engaged your audience is. Show them screenshots of your posts, high number of likes, and posts that get lots of comments.

What’s your best tip for increasing your blog traffic and income? Leave it in the comments!

5 Essential SEO Tips for Your Blog


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search engine optimization basically means making your content easily found and understood by search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  Making sure your content can be found by search engines means more visitors to your site, which is kind of the whole point of writing it, right?  Here are 5 tips to help you have the best SEO possible on your blog.

1. Install an SEO plugin.

There are many options when it comes to SEO plugins, but a few ones that do it really well are:

WordPress SEO by Yoast
All in One SEO Pack
SEO Ultimate

When using Yoast, under “General”, you’ll just need to fill in your focus keyword (sometimes it will auto populate if you use a popular term), and then fill in your title and description. The key to Yoast is turning everything green. Green means go!

You will see a heading titled “Page Analysis”. Click on that to get into the more advanced stuff. It will tell you exactly why your post is or is not green. The second arrow points to the “Page URL” section. Because most of our permalinks have dashes in them, this won’t usually be green and that’s okay.

Just getting your post “green” will help increase your search traffic almost immediately. If you are just starting out with SEOing your posts, you should go back through and properly SEO a few of your older posts each week. This one tip can double your traffic over the next few weeks.

Just remember: An SEO plug in does NOT make your content any more attractive to search engines by itself, it just “grades” how well you have done and hopefully points put how to improve it.

Bonus: Elegant Themes has a nice post that explains how to use each SEO plugin, complete with screenshots.

2. Link to others, and to yourself.

When you link internally, you’re going to lower your bounce rate and increase your traffic while improving your SEO. When you link to other sites with higher page rank (trusted ones like news sites), your site is going to be trusted. A trusted site floats to the top of Google search much faster than one that isn’t as trusted.

3. Be descriptive.

It’s very important to be descriptive when writing your blog posts. It’s also important to use headers and to name your images. Add alt tags with keyword-rich descriptions for each and every image on your site.

4. Do keyword research.

Make a list of post topics or keywords that you’d like to blog about. Then, head over to Google and do a search. Make sure you’re logged out, or your results are going to be dependent on who is in your circles, what you’ve searched for before, etc. You will see a list of related searched. Add those to your list.

Tip: Stay on top of Google Trends, and weave trending stories into your posts.

5. Work social media.

Instead of just link-dropping, use social media to your advantage. When you first publish a post, head over to Google Plus and add your link with a keyword-rich description. If you’re in a blog tribe, have your friends +1 your post – and then return the favor. Add authorities in your industry to your circles.

The day after you’ve worked Google Plus, start working other networks. You could do it all in one day, but spacing everything out will keep the traffic flowing in for weeks and weeks instead of just days.

Learning SEO isn’t something that will happen overnight. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but using basic SEO tips like these will help increase your traffic! Leave your SEO tips in the comments!

How to Get More Traffic From Pinterest

Get More Blog Traffic From Pinterest

Pinterest is a traffic power house for my blog, and many others! By pinning relevant content and participating in Pinterest groups on Facebook, I’ve increased my traffic tenfold. Today, I’m sharing my best tips with you. Please leave your tips in the comments! I’d love to read them.

Content is king. If you’ve read any blogging tips at all.. ever.. you know that content is king. Providing amazing, original content is the best way to get traffic from Pinterest. Not sure what to blog about? Think about what you like to read, and put your own spin on those topics.

Tip: Search Google Trends if you’re out of ideas!

Make an infographic. Whether you blog about fitness or food, you can create an infographic (for free, using PicMonkey), and it has the potential to be repinned thousands of times.

Tip: Vertical images do best. Think tall, not wide!

Get verified. Verify your website, and a little check will appear on your pins. Then, people know the pins are from a legit site instead of spam. To verify your website, follow these steps:

Log into your Pinterest Account. Go to: Settings, then Profile, then Website.

Click on ‘Verify Website’ button (it’s on the right).

Download your HTML verification file, upload it to your server, then go back to Pinterest and finish verifying.

Still have questions? Check out Pinterest’s Help Page!

Create a blog board. Pin each of your blog articles on a relevant board, but also pin them to your blog board on Pinterest. Each time you mention Pinterest on your blog, link to your blog board. This will not only get you more pins and repins, it will generate traffic back to your blog.

Engage. Pin original (and relevant) content on your boards. Be consistent, and pin often (several times a day – see which times work best for you!). When someone follows your boards, follow them back! If you see that someone has commented on one of your pins, try to respond to them in a timely manner. This isn’t always possible, but it’s something to strive for.

Add the URL to the description. Instead of just adding text, add the direct URL to the blog post to the description. Don’t use a link shortener – you’ll most likely be marked as spam by Pinterest if you do.

Have a call to action. Much like with your blog posts, your pins should have a call to action or at least a teaser. Make people want to click! “Pin now, read later!”, “OMG I need this!”, and “Woah, why didn’t I think of #13?? Genius!” are all great ways to get other pinners to click through. Some pinners will repin without changing the description, which means your call to action/teaser goes through to even more Pinterest users!

Pin at the best times! The best (high traffic) time to pin is between 8PM and midnight. However, I’ve found that my pins get seen by more people if I pin in the early morning. I think this is because my pins come in after the midnight pins, which means the early birds see mine first. Who knows if that is why it works, but I’ve had good luck with it!

What’s your best tip for getting more traffic from Pinterest?