photography by Justin James

I'm so obsessed with this lilac color right now. I've worn this top twice this week and now I want all the things in this purpley pinky goodness! This top is also a fantastic fit and not see-through, so no need for an extra layer underneath. I'm also equally as obsessed with this faux suede jacket. I love the light cream color for spring, and it is able to stay surprisingly clean! I even spilled berry baby food on it the other day while I was feeding Eli. The fabric kind of repelled the liquid, so I was able to get it off no problem. The arms also have a stretchy knit strip running down the inside, and it makes the jacket super comfy and easy to move in. I highly recommend it!

If you've been following along with me on Instagram, you probably saw that I was in Texas this weekend at a big Reward Style conference for bloggers. It was so much fun, and I came away from it feeling recharged and rejuvenated. I jumped on a quick Periscope yesterday and shared a few great things that I learned (I'm leannebarlow over there) and I thought I would add them onto this post since my scope isn't available any longer.

Here are my Top 8 Major Takeaways from the conference this weekend:

1. If you can find someone that can do it 80% as well, hire out.  I used to have Garrett take all of my outfit photos, but with his work it was too crazy trying to fit in photo shoots. So for the past year or so I've been using a photographer, and it's made my life so much easier! I also hired an assistant, and it's made a world of difference! It's so nice to invest my time and effort into creating content and allowing others to help me out with emails or scheduling. Letting go of a few of the reins can be a bit scary, but just make sure you hire wisely. Ask for a resume and references, and have them sign a non-disclosure agreement so that all parties are protected. If you are too busy just trying to stay afloat with your current workload, hiring people to help you will free up your time so that you can focus on growing and expanding your brand. 

2. Invest in your website more than anything else. Don’t rely on social media only. The new Instagram algorithm change threw a lot of people into a panic, and made us all realize how unstable social media can be. But your website is your very own, and nobody can take it away from you. Use social media to help promote your blog/brand in order to draw readers to your site. Newsletters were also stressed as an important way to communicate with your followers. Email newsletters go straight to your readers' inboxes, so you don't have to worry that people will miss content if they don't scroll down on their feed far enough to see your posts.

3. Make sure your site is mobile friendly. So much web browsing is done on our smart phones, so it's crucial that you have a mobile site that is just as beautiful and well functioning as your main website. One of my classes recommended getting an AMP plugin for wordpress because it helps your mobile page load faster, and Google places AMP sites higher on their search engine.

4. Spend time cultivating your brand/aesthetic. This is super important. Take a look at your feed and try to get a feel for your own aesthetic. Is it full of high contrast, darker moody images? Bright fresh and colorful images? Is there a color scheme that is easily visible? One thing I learned was that the nine images a viewer first sees on your Instagram account should represent your brand. So for me, I want to make sure that I have at lease three different outfits showcased, an image showing my kids/family, and a few lifestyle photos showcasing my home or clothing that I've made. You want your readers to be able to jump onto your profile and instantly know who you are and what you're passionate about. 

5. Positive thinking is real, and it works! I made it a goal to attend the Reward Style conference in 2016. Last year I wrote down that goal and always had it in the back of my mind as I worked and grew my brand. Believing that I could actually do it played a big role in accomplishing my goal. So if you want to grow your readers, write down the number of readers you want to have by a certain date, and then work hard to produce good content and connect with your readers as much as you can to help hit that goal. Also, be nice to people. Helping others along the way will help you in the long run. And don't help others expecting something in return. When people know you to be a kind and generous person, they will be loyal to you and your brand forever. 

6. Be yourself. Use others for inspiration, but don’t look to others to see what to do next. For example, I started freaking out about the new Instagram algorithm because everyone else was. I asked my readers on Instagram to turn on my post notifications, because that's what I thought I needed to do. That actually wasn't the approach I should have taken. I don’t need or want to beg people to follow me. I want them to like and comment because they want to! I want them to know that I think of them as friends and I value their comments and thoughts, rather than thinking of them as "just a number." I should have been true to myself and not jumped on the bandwagon asking for people to stick around. 

7. "What do you do for work?" As a blogger I sometimes cringe when I get this question. The term "blogger" just sounds a little funny to me. My friend Cori said that she tells people she is a ”Digital Publisher," and that she works with brands to promote her interests on her website. I think that is a clear, sophisticated way of explaining what it really means to be a blogger. It helps to really think about what you do and why you do it so that when you get this question you can fully explain the purpose behind the work you do.

8. You aren’t as behind as you think you are. Plan as much as you can, but don’t get discouraged. Many people who are very successful don’t have everything perfectly organized, and that's okay! That's life! When you get overwhelmed and stressed, relax and regroup. Take a break from your work and refresh yourself with some personal or family time. Small breaks throughout your day and week will help recharge your focus and motivate you to tackle the tasks you know you have on your plate.

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