A Day in the Life: When Blogging Is a Desk Job

A Day in the Life: When Blogging Is a Desk JobI get frequent requests for day-in-the-life blog posts but I never do them because honestly I feel like they’d be so boring. Anyone remember the MLIA (My Life Is Average) Internet sensation back in 2009/2010? (I think it was a spin-off of My Life Is Awkward.) I feel like my day-in-the-life blog posts would be one long #MLIA tweet. Wake up, teach, blog so hard muhfukkas wanna fine me, work out, make dinner, watch Netflix on the couch with my boyfriend, go to bed. #MLIA

But I get it. I have an unconventional job and even my family members don’t quite understand what it is I do all day. With blogging, I have hands-on, active days where I’m shooting workout videos or making recipes and then I have “computer days” where I sit at my desk all day editing/writing/scheduling/answering emails/etc. Some days are a mix of both, but I’m definitely more productive if I just focus on one at a time. For this day-in-the-life mini series, I decided to document one of each type of day and we’re starting with the boring one so that it can only go up (in entertainment) from here. 😉

This was my day yesterday …

A Day in the Life: When Blogging Is a Desk Job

5AM | Wake up

img_5706I wake up at 5AM on days I teach at Btone‘s Back Bay studio. I throw on some workout clothes, drink a glass of water, grab a snack in case I get hungry teaching, brush my teeth and am tiptoeing out the door twenty minutes later. I’m a Dunks fan (stereotypical New Englander), but unfortunately the only coffee shop open on my quick walk to the studio is Starbucks so I stop in for a cold brew with almond milk. It has to be below 40 degrees outside for me to order a hot coffee. pre-breakfast

I’m at the studio no later than 5:40AM which gives me enough time to open up, get the music going, and test out any crazy exercise ideas that seem good in my head but probably won’t work in class. Some mornings I don’t eat until after teaching, but I was hungry yesterday and ate a banana on the walk over.

6-8AM | Teach

teavhing-athletaOn Thursdays I teach two classes back-to-back, which feels like nothing compared to my usual three in a row. I swear I blink and boom–done teaching for the day. I’m obsessed with these new Athleta leggings–cute cutout detail on the back, high waist and super comfy. Scarf is CALIA and sweater is from my latest Stitch Fix delivery (brand is RD Style).

8:30 | Breakfast

rainy-fall-boston-public-gardenMy walk home from teaching always puts me in the best mood. It was a rainy fall morning but the Public Garden still looked gorgeous.

oatmealBreakfast was this big, boring (but delicious) bowl of oatmeal. Usually I’d top with fruit but we didn’t have any at home so I went with quick oats + unsweetened vanilla almond milk + cinnamon + a drizzle of maple syrup. I drank another big glass of water and took my daily vitamins (yesterday it was multi for women, multi for healthy bones, turmeric and blood builder all from MegaFood). I’m weirdly obsessed with that grapefruit vitamin dispenser I found on Amazon. As a side note, I’m a MegaFood ambassador, but this post is in no way sponsored by them. Their supplements are rad. I love them and take them daily even when I’m not being paid to blog about them. 😉

9AM – 12:30 PM | Prepare and publish the week’s workout video/post

start-workAfter breakfast, it’s time to werk. My desk is in a little corner of the bedroom by a big window and I love my tiny, sun-filled workspace (it needs some decorating still or else I’d post a pic). Each day I take a second to determine what priority #1 is and then I don’t even let myself think of anything else until its done. When I try to multitask, nothing gets accomplished. Yesterday’s top priority was finishing up, publishing and promoting the biceps and triceps workout. I kept my email inbox closed (screenshot of my browser tabs below as proof haha) so that I could focus.

These workout posts are BY FAR the most time-consuming thing I do for the blog. On Wednesday I filmed the workout and edited the video so yesterday I just had to … do a million more things for it.

  • Upload video to YouTube. It takes about 90 minutes to upload a 20-minute long video so while that does its thang, I work on everything else.
  • Edit video thumbnail. If I had fancy lighting for filming, I might be able to just use a still as the video thumbnail, but since I don’t I take a photograph of one of the exercises, edit it in Lightroom and then add text to it in Photoshop for a bright, eye-catching image.
  • Write the blog post. I have a word doc with written explanations of exercises so if a post contains moves I’ve already blogged about, I can just copy and paste the description. This saves a ton of time!
    • Add links. The only links I typically need to add to workout posts are to equipment and outfit details. I then make sure they’re “nofollow” links if affiliate and specify that they should open in a new tab.
  • Make the pictorial. Even though I do YouTube for workouts now, I still make the pictorials for Pinterest traffic and those readers who don’t want to watch a video.
    • Take screen grabs from video. Instead of taking pictures of each step of the exercise, I just use screen grabs from the YouTube video. The quality isn’t as good though so I may have to go back to self-timer pics.
    • Edit screen grabs. Crop, adjust brightness and contrast, etc. etc.
    • Assemble in Photoshop. I have a template I use already saved so  I just drag in the pictures, assemble nicely and edit the text. I then match the color scheme to whatever I’m wearing in the workout (has anyone ever noticed this or am I just a huge loser?? haha).
  • Make videos for social. Once I have the full-length YouTube video edited and assembled, it doesn’t take too much time to go in and cut it down to short clips of each exercise with written explanation for a 1 or 2-minute long Facebook preview video. I export that and then cut it down even more for Instagram (typically just a montage of the exercises–no longer than 45 seconds).
  • Promote post on social. Once the blog post and YouTube video are live, I share the links on all my social networks.

By the time I’ve done all this, my eyes are starting to cross. Time to take a break for food.

12:30PM | Lunch

roasted-veggies-pestoI kept lunch simple, but not quite as boring as breakfast. I roasted some veggies I had on hand simply in olive oil, salt and pepper (375 degrees F for about 30 minutes). I had cooked quinoa and some leftover pesto in the refrigerator so once the veggies were fully roasted, I just mixed everything together in a big bowl (I microwaved the quinoa for a few seconds first to warm it up). Delicious, easy meal and I washed it down with another big glass of water.

1-3PM | Emails and client reporting

My email inbox is a constant catastrophe. I just can never seem to get on top of it. I spent a little over an hour working through it and then took care of some performance reporting I had to submit to a client.

3:30PM | Hair cut & a snack

hair-cut-marc-harrisIt had been almost a YEAR since my last hair cut and I was in desperate need of this appointment. My hair was so long it was just constantly in the way and the ends were completely dead. My girl Christine at Marc Harris saved my hot mess of a mop. It’s still long (every time I’ve gone short I’ve regretted it) but a million times healthier. Yay! cashew-cookie-larabar

On my walk home I stopped into CVS and grabbed a Larabar for a lil’ snack.

4:30-7PM | Plan tomorrow’s class and write post draft content for a client

I don’t normally teach on Fridays but I subbed for another instructor this morning and spent about 20 minutes planning the class. I then spent the rest of my work day on a post draft I have due next week for a client.

7:30PM | Dig Inn for Dinner

Dig Inn Boston DinnerWhen Joe got home from work we decided to go out to dinner. We always start out with the intention of trying out a new restaurant and then without fail just end up at one of our go-to fast-casual spots (Sweetgreen, bgood, Dig Inn, etc.).

10PM | Bedtime

I try to go to bed at 9pm when I’m teaching the next day but it rarely happens (oh boy do I feel glorious the next morning when it does though!). I don’t see Joe in the mornings because I’m out the door early so the evenings are the only time I see him during the week.

No workout …

Yesterday wasn’t an intentional rest day. I had a lot of blog work to do and as it got later and later in the day I just got tired and lost motivation–something that’s uncharacteristic of me as I truly love working out and typically prioritize it. Honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a workout rut the past few weeks. I’ve still been working out 5-6 days a week but just haven’t been excited about my routine at all.

I think the issue is that I actually want more of a routine. I’m all over the place because there are tons of different classes in Boston I truly do love but–and I never thought I’d say this–I think I’m over the whole studio-hopping thing and my days with ClassPass are probably coming to an end. The time-consuming scheduling of available classes (often at weird times), the trekking across the city to studios, the uncertainty of if a new class is even going to be worth my 45 minutes–I’m feeling unenthused by it all lately. But at the same time, I don’t want to give up access to this variety of classes. Do I keep ClassPass and also join a gym? That’d be expensive AF. Do I just do Btone and then workout from home? Will I have the self-motivation to actually do that after teaching all morning? Maybe it’s just that I need a goal to work towards like a half marathon? Gahhhh I don’t know. Bottom line: Not sure what the change will be, but a change is needed and coming. TBD …

Anyone else feeling blah about their current workout routine?
ClassPass users–will you be dropping the service now that the Unlimited plans are being taken away?
Bloggers–how do you divvy up your work days? Multi-tasker or do you focus on one thing each day like I (try to) do? 

If you like day-to-day stuff like this post, follow me on Snapchat (nicoleperr)! I’m always snapping the video editing process so that we can all laugh with/at me in the outtakes (I’m so awkward on film). If you thought reading this post was like watching paint dry, don’t you worry–just one more to go next Friday. 😉

Enjoy your weekend!

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Links to outfit details are affiliate.

Understanding Blogging: What Are Affiliate Links?

A Guide to Understanding Affiliate LInks

I don’t often blog about blogging, but I’m in the process of revamping my “About” section on the site (it’s painfully outdated–don’t even bother clicking on it haha) and want to have a mini resource section that explains how the content on this blog is or isn’t affected by the business of this blog. I’m all about that transparency, yo! My hope is that this post will be useful for readers confused about affiliate links.

How am I affected by clicking this? Is she being paid to place this link? Does this mean the post is being sponsored by a brand?

I hope there’s also some useful information in it for fellow bloggers who may be new to blogging as a business and in need of some monetization guidance. I’m by no means an expert here (so far from it!), but I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far in this bizarre blogging adventure I’ve been on for the past few years.

If you’re just here for the health and fitness fun, then this will admittedly be a boring post for you and you might want to skip it. 🙂

What’s an affiliate link?

An affiliate link is essentially a link to a page or, most commonly, a product that has a little tracking code on it. The tracking code gives credit to whomever sent over the traffic. So let’s say I’m part of the XYZ Sweet Potato affiliate program and my ID is PUMPS123. If I mention XYZ Sweet Potatoes on the blog and say “hey guys, I used XYZ for this recipe” with a link to the XYZ website, the link will have my ID info attached to it (XYZSweetPotatoes.com?/refID=PUMPS123 instead of just XYZSweetPotatoes.com)*. The tracked link still brings you to the exact same web page though.

*For the record, not all affiliate links are structured that way or even remotely close to that, I’m just giving an example.

Affiliate programs all have different terms, but let’s say with good ol’ XYZ that I get 2% of sales. If you visit their website by clicking my affiliate link and then make a sweet potato purchase from them (right then or, in most cases, within a longer specified time frame), XYZ would pay me 2% of whatever you spent. It’s essentially a referral fee.

Again, all programs vary as far as compensation structure, but basically affiliate links allow bloggers to get a small monetary kickback from purchases their followers make because of them.

Now let’s talk about why the hell you’re ordering sweet potatoes online … 😉

So basically I can’t trust anything bloggers recommend if they link to it with an affiliate link?

That’s not the case at all! There’s a big difference between a sponsored post and a reference to a favorite product using an affiliate link (although sponsored posts may very well include affiliate links).

Let me use Amazon as an example. Amazon has an affiliate program. Amazon also sells everything under the sun. So let’s say I fall in love with ABC Nail Polish after a friend recommended it to me and I want to include it in my monthly roundup post of favorite things. When putting together the post, I’ll see if you can buy ABC on Amazon. If you can, I’ll link to the product page on Amazon using an affiliate link; if you can’t, I’ll link to the product page on ABCNailPolish.com. So I don’t see that as disingenuous; I see it as a viable way to turn a passion into a career. Hopefully you agree! 🙂

Remember, with affiliate links, the brand isn’t paying a blogger to mention them (that’s a sponsored post). They are providing financial incentive by giving a percentage of sales (or flat fee), but to be honest here, the financial kickback from the majority of affiliate links isn’t big enough to motivate even the most corrupt of bloggers to recommend a product that they don’t genuinely like. I can’t speak for the entire blogging community, but I know what I would NEVER promote a product I disliked, regardless of monetary incentive. Period.

How much do bloggers make from affiliate links?

Totally depends on the size of the blog and social media following. For the average blogger, I don’t think you should expect affiliate links to be your biggest revenue stream by any means. They’re certainly not for me anyway. I do still think it’s a worthwhile monetization strategy, however, for top-trafficked posts and in the event a blog post goes viral. For example, if I use a sneaker affiliate link in the outfit details of one of my workout posts, that one link will probably generate me 10 cents over time. No literally. Ten pennies.

Now let’s say I use a Stitch Fix affiliate link in a review post on my latest delivery and that post goes viral on Pinterest. Now the reach of that link goes beyond my immediate following to all the non-Pumps & Iron readers who stumble upon the post via Pinterest. That affiliate link has the potential to generate a more significant amount.

My best advice for bloggers is to start by making a list of the products you absolutely love, use all the time in real life, and mention frequently on the blog. Research if the brand has an affiliate program. Apply to it if they do. Those are the affiliate links that are going to perform the best because they’re associated with products you constantly use and would be talking about anyway.

How does clicking an affiliate link affect me?

The most important thing to know is that purchasing via affiliate link does not cost you anything. There’s no added referral fee or hidden charges or anything like that. In some cases, affiliate programs actually allow bloggers to offer their referrals a discount. So from a monetary standpoint, you’re either positively affected or not affected at all.

Affiliate networks use anonymous info of yours to make sure your activity is credited to the correct referrer. Don’t freak out! We’re not talking about SSN, the names of your children, the passcode to unlock your iPhone or anything like that. When your computer uses the Internet, it has it’s own unique IP address. As far as it relates to affiliate links, the affiliate network can see that a certain IP address went from pumpsandiron.com over to Amazon.com using my tracked link and then completed a purchase.

A friend of mine was worried I’d be able to see how much she spent shopping online if she used an affiliate link of mine, but there’s no personally identifying information shared with me at all. I can see a purchase of X dollars was made and my kickback from it was X dollars but I can’t see anything about who placed the order. Fear not, your secret Amazon Prime addiction is safe. 😉

How does using an affiliate link on my blog affect SEO?

I’m not an SEO expert by any means, but if you’re a blogger using affiliate links, you should make sure they’re nofollow. This website is a really good resource if you’re new to the whole nofollow vs. dofollow thing. To really oversimplify things (because that’s about as deep as my understanding of it goes haha), if a company is paying you to link to them, Google doesn’t want to give them credit for traffic from that link. Even if the website is reputable and awesome, this is a good policy! Think about it: If crappy, unauthoritative websites can just pay for traffic to increase their ranking then your Google searches would be super frustrating.

By adding the nofollow tag to sponsored/affiliate links, you’re telling Google, “hey there Googz, don’t count the traffic from this link towards the site’s ranking–it’s a paid link.” If you don’t do this, Google might ding your website’s SEO ranking. Better safe than sorry!

Affiliate Networks & Programs I Use

Most brands use a third party to manage their affiliate programs. These third party networks act as a manager, streamlining the connection between brand and influencer. There are a ton–CJ, Impact Radius, ShareASale, the list goes on. Here are ones I personally focus on and utilize most frequently on the blog:

Amazon Associates

Because you can buy almost anything via Amazon these days, I use this affiliate linking program for general products (fitness equipment, beauty products, books, etc.).

Shopstyle

I use this for activewear and general clothing items. In workout posts, for example, I’ll always list my outfit details and sometimes even include a widget with items to recreate a similar look. Shopstyle is like a one-stop-shop when it comes to fashion. You can search a database of TONS of brands all within the same interface so it really helps streamline things. Instead of joining a separate affiliate program for each individual clothing brand you wear, you can use Shopstyle for (almost) all of them.

A little tip for new bloggers–while Shopstyle makes things convenient, if there’s a particular brand you wear all the time, it may be worthwhile to see if they have a separate affiliate program. I’ve found that the commissions are usually higher going directly with an individual brand than through Shopstyle or rewardStyle (<–same idea as Shopstyle but it’s invite only and really more for fashion bloggers).

Commission Junction

I first joined Commission Junction specifically for Stitch Fix. I had done a blogger trip with Stitch Fix and shortly after they invited me to join their affiliate program via CJ. Once I joined CJ, I then had access to the countless other brands using their platform so I applied to programs with those that were a good fit for my blog. The two I utilize most frequently on Pumps & Iron (in addition to Stitch Fix) are Shopbop and Revolve. I’ve been a loyal (“obsessive” is probably the better word choice haha) online shopper with Shopbop and Revolve for years and years–long before I ever started blogging–which makes the promotion of these brands so natural and fitting.

What’s made CJ a favorite over other affiliate platforms is that they really go beyond just links and banner ads. I’ve had the opportunity to do some fun campaigns and post sponsorships because of them

One Offs

The other affiliate networks I use are really just one-offs that I’ll join specifically for a brand that I’m obsessed with who uses that platform. One example would be Fabletics. I have a ton of their workout clothing and wear it frequently on the blog so it made sense to join their affiliate program when they invited me via AvantLink. Is AvantLink ever going to be one of my major sources of blog income? Probably not unless a blog post about Fabletics happens to go viral. Is it worth the hassle of managing yet another affiliate network for one brand? In some cases my answer is no, but again, I wear Fabletics gear all the time. In this case, I think it is.

Some other affiliate platforms I’ve either used in the past or currently use:

And I’m sure there are another 100 out there that I haven’t heard of. This, my friends, is why filing taxes is such a disaster for bloggers (ha!).

Phew, ok, long post. And kinda boring. But it’s important to me to have all this information out there as I build up a resource section for my blog.

Any questions? Leave a comment! Have some info to add? Please do!

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5 Tips I Learned Making My First YouTube Video

5 Tips for Making Your First YouTube Video

real outtakes from my first video — not staged (LOL)

My first YouTube video actually never made it to YouTube. It was that bad. But far from considering it a failure, I actually learned a ton throughout the process. Nothing mind-blowing, just little tips for making the process more streamlined. My second go at the whole thing, it took me a fraction of the time and the quality of the end project improved tenfold. I still have a long way to go until I’ve mastered it, but I thought I’d share the little things I’ve picked up so far for any other bloggers and fellow YouTube newbies.

1. Outline the video before you shoot.

I had the workout I was going to shoot all planned, but I made the mistake of not planning out what shots I’d need. So then I got home and started editing and it was a choppy disaster. Visualize the flow of the final video and write down its outline. Think about transitions; what you want to see on screen during intro and outro titles; angles of shots; will you be talking or will you do a voiceover; what information do you need to cover when talking; and so on.

  • OPENING TITLE SCREEN fade music to
  • SHOT 1 | Close up talking
  • SHOT 2 | Side view of lunge (30 seconds) cut to
  • SHOT 3 | Front view of lunge *use voiceover*

That’s a very barebones example, but you get the idea. The second time I attempted to shoot the video, I knew exactly what material I needed to get and was way more efficient with my time. Having an outline made editing much more streamlined as well.

2. Big room + no mic = echo.

I’m all about making the most out of what you have when it comes to blogging/vlogging. Yes, the equipment helps–but it can be expensive! What works for me financially is gradually investing in equipment and then just MacGyvering workarounds for the stuff I don’t yet have. My next investment will probably be a wireless mic for these videos, but right now I’m just using a combination of my camera’s built-in mic and voiceovers that are recorded at a later date. The problem with using your camera’s mic is that if you’re in a big room (which I am for workouts), you sound awfully echo-y. The camera mic will also pick up all the little sounds around the room–from your feet hitting the floor with a loud thud during squat jumps to a truck driving by outside.

Voiceovers are a great solution because I can filmed the workout, remove the sound from the visual footage, and then just talk over it with audio recorded separately, and in a small, quiet room without an echo. When I want footage of me talking in real time, I set up a white background in a small room (my studio apartment works) and make sure to sit close to the camera.

3. You can use your iPhone’s voice memo app for voiceovers.

5 Tips for Making Your First YouTube VideoGame changer! Instead of recording audio for voiceovers using the mic on the camera (seems like a waste of memory if you’re not even using the visual footage, right??), I discovered the voice memo app on my iPhone works like a charm. Great sound quality and you can conveniently hold the phone right up to your mouth as you watch the video footage for which you’re doing the voiceover, talking based on what visuals will be on screen at the time. I then just send the audio file right to my computer and import it into Adobe Premiere (what I use for editing videos).

4. Use a stand-in to focus the camera before rolling. Just remember to move said stand-in out of the shot.

5 Tips for Making Your First YouTube VideoI’ll coerce my mom into helping me shoot these soon enough, but for now I’m making the videos on my own. It’s surprisingly not as big a pain in the ass as I thought! I set my camera up on a tripod and then put a chair or plant in the shot where I’ll be. I then focus the camera on the stand-in and start recording. I’ll then move the plant/chair and begin the workout where the plant once was.

Just make sure you move the stand-in completely out of the shot! I didn’t move it far enough the first time I tried to film and the result was half the workout material had a clean background and the other half had a chair in the back corner. Makes for choppy editing when you put the two together! Keep your background consistent.

5. Video drains the camera battery. Buy a backup or plan your shoot accordingly.

I have an older camera (I use my DSLR in video mode), so I’m sure there are way more battery-efficient models out there, but I was still shocked at how quickly my battery died. I had reserved a Breather (you can get an hour free if you use code PUMPIRON FYI) for two hours and my camera died a little over halfway into it. Womp wommmmp.

Spare batteries aren’t too expensive, and I think it’s a worthwhile investment if you plan to shoot for longer periods of time. I like to bang out multiple shoots/workouts/videos/recipes at once (I’m much more productive this way), so I just purchased two extra battery packs with a charger (under $30 — worth it!). These are the ones I got, but just go to Amazon and search for your camera model and the word “battery” and you’ll get exactly what you need.

Bonus Discovery: My left ear is apparently heavier than my right, plus other equally horrifying observations.

5 Tips for Making Your First YouTube VideoWait. That’s what my voice sounds like??! It’s a reaction I think we’ve all had at one point or another while listening to a recording of ourselves speaking. Multiply that shock and horror times a million with video. Why does my mouth do that when I say words that start with “s”?? Do I have a lisp?! The hell are my hands doing?? Why do I keep tilting my head to the left?? Do I need botox?? All questions I asked myself while reviewing the video I’d shot.

Just remember that your mannerisms are going to seem a million times more awkward to you than to anyone else. Don’t even sweat it. But if you’re a fellow Italian, maybe like, I dunno, handcuff your hands to the chair out of the video frame … 😉

Follow Me on YouTube

After weeks of talking about it … ok, months … OKAY FML, years … I finally joined the YouTube community! I’m going to upload my first video tomorrow (woohoo!) and from here on out, you can expect a new workout video every Tuesday. There’ll be a blog post to accompany it with all the descriptions and pictures you’re used to, so if video ain’t yo’ thang, no worries. 

The videos will hopefully increase in quality and decrease in awkwardness week by week. Bear with me through these first few! 

Fellow bloggers & YouTubers — any tips to add to my list?
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