When Lucy suggested the idea of monthly meetings purely about blogging, I was a bit scared at first. We’re housemates who talk about pretty much everything, but for some reason I tried to avoid it and deflect her with things like ‘Look I’ve cooked a chicken!’
Eventually she tracked me down on one August afternoon. I was fearing the worst because my stats had dropped and I thought the advice would be something like ‘Give up blogging’ but fortunately I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Working in isolation a lot can give you a warped sense of reality and if you add Instagram to the mix, it can be like freelance kryptonite.
I soon realised that keeping all of my worries to myself was damaging and this simple monthly meeting has helped me reflect on positive achievements, understand data and realise that things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’s what any business would do after all, they constantly review what they’re doing and make the appropriate changes. Since I’m all about that karma life, I thought I’d share the rough structure and why it’s so useful.
The monthly meeting
Find a buddy
The most important thing is to find someone who completely gets what your blog is about. You get on well, they’re tactful, non-judgemental and willing to give constructive feedback. I’ve known Lucy for almost seven years, she’s a pretty good judge of character and we’ve discussed many employment dramas, blogging highs and brand fails.
‘As a friend and housemate, I’m very close to you and recognised that it’s really hard to motivate yourself when you’re freelance. I found it difficult when I freelanced and since we’re quite similar, I recognised the trap you might be falling into. In my job, I constantly feel the pressure from my manager and the need to impress someone else, so I felt that you could benefit from this. Selfishly, I wanted a bit of a project and testing the role of me as a manager was quite appealing. Also you’re my friend and I want to see you succeed. I want to help you and impart my knowledge.
Working at Boden has also made me really aware of business objectives and understanding the wider marketing activities of a company. We always look at KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), how campaigns did and any lessons learnt. I’ve tried to bring that into our monthly meetings, so that you’re always looking back and using those insights in order to drive what you’re doing forward. I knew you weren’t really looking at stats, so I wanted to get some clarity. With the successes it’s important to feel like you’re achieving something.’
Schedule a date
It’s best to schedule your meeting as close to the 1st of the month as possible. This just makes it easier to have a fresh start for the month ahead, plus you have accurate data. I’d allocate a morning or afternoon if you’re going to take turns, with 1-2 hours per person. I’d say that pairs are preferable, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a bigger group if you have the time.
Prepare & Discuss
Stats from the past month
I know a lot of us record stats (I used to have an Excel document around 3 years ago that fell by the wayside), but I’d never discussed them with anyone else. Analysing data and implementing new strategies with your buddy means that you’re held more accountable.
I’ve made a spreadsheet with my Pageviews, Unique Visitors and social media followers across every platform. You can even get super-detailed, I look at how many blog posts I produce per month so I can see if it makes an obvious difference.
Write 1-3 points of analysis on your blog and social stats.
This is pretty much what it says on the tin, I look at each channel and determine why my traffic or followers may have increased or decreased. Sometimes it’s clear, say if a brand has featured me on their Instagram or I’ve written a post that has resonated with a lot of people. A decrease can be down to a particular time of year or just a general shift of the way people consume content. Either way it’s best to analyse and look forward.
Think about how you feel about each channel and what some of your goals might be
Most of my notes mentioned my Instagram frustrations and growing dislike of Facebook Pages. However my mood improved when I did a Boden Instagram takeover and felt like I was getting into the swing of things in terms of content. Any goals get converted into actions in the table below.
Honestly, how are you feeling in general?
This is a new addition. I’m trying to pinpoint my motivation levels throughout the year and minimise the impact on the rest of my work, like this ‘How To Get Out Of A Funk’ podcast suggests. Things tend to dip for me around May-August, which is crazy because Summer, but it can be a quieter time of year when people are away on holidays. There’s less of that collective focus that you get in months like January.
Create a list of your best performing posts from last month
Again, this can be as detailed as you wish but I look at 3 successful posts on my blog and social channels. In terms of the blog, I look at how well things have done in terms of stats, comments and Bloglovin likes. I also list my 3 favourite posts, a lot of the time this tends to correlate as people pick up on the posts that you’re the most passionate about. I felt so happy when I finished my post on part-time blogging, as it was 10 months in the making!
This is split into Small/Personal, Small/Public, Big/Personal and Big/Public. At first I struggled with this, I didn’t feel like I was achieving anything, so an outside perspective is definitely beneficial. Lucy highlighted most of what you see in the table above!
Another recent addition! I have a pretty good memory, but I’m now going to note down anything that went a bit wrong and any reflections I’ve made. It can be hard at the time, especially if you’ve missed out on a project or mesed up a certain situation, but I can always go back and add things in. If I’ve let anything slip, then that gets included too. A recent example is posting my a makeup video at 2pm on Christmas Eve, it didn’t perform as well and I need to get my act together earlier next time.
What actions are you going to take?
Lucy loves a table, so I make clear actions each month and update on the progress. I struggle with this too, the list seems overwhelming at times and there are things from August that I still haven’t sorted. It definitely takes time to establish a new way of working, but I’m trying to prioritise and organise my lists in a manageable way. I use a combination of my bullet journal, Trello and good old fashioned post-it notes. Just do what works for you!
After doing this for 6 months, we’ve figured out a clear structure and I’ve added in more elements that make sense. I also pop things into my Google Doc as and when I think of them and I’m now quite excited to have a full-on discussion every month. Sometimes we disagree on certain things but it keeps things interesting.
You can be really flexible with your meeting and even if your blog isn’t a full-time hustle, it’s still great to have a plan and focus. I know blogging is tough at the moment and this has made a world of difference to me.
‘These meetings have been really positive for the both of us. You’ve been disciplined, implemented a structure and I’m quite impressed. As a freelancer you can lack structure, it’s too easy to plod along doing the same thing and you don’t grow. It’s so important to stop and think. We’ve put a lot of actions in place and it’s working well.’
Right now I’m finalising my 2016 report (!) and making some concrete goals for 2017. I didn’t hit the 2016 goals I made but I now realise why (though I did hit my 10k Twitter goal 9 days late, so maybe that warrants a doughnut or something). I’ll let you know what I realise after a full year!