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Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 7 of 26

Your Unique Style and Voice

April Bowles-Olin

Build a Successful Creative Blog

April Bowles-Olin

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Lesson Info

7. Your Unique Style and Voice


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Know Your Ideal Reader Duration:52:03
3 Put Fun Back into Blogging Duration:35:03
4 Best Practices for Success Duration:26:50
5 Developing Your Content Plan Duration:46:24
7 Your Unique Style and Voice Duration:31:49
8 Design Tips Duration:21:38
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Writing in Your Voice Duration:34:10
2 Exploring Different Voices Duration:28:23
3 Copywriting 101 Duration:19:45
6 Visuals For Your Blog Duration:30:04
7 Photos For Your Blog Duration:55:35
9 Promoting with Social Media Duration:39:29

Lesson Info

Your Unique Style and Voice

Now we're gonna be digging into some really good stuff. Distinguishing yourself with style and voice. And I know that this is a biggie for so many of you that are watching. You feel like you need to be different than everything else out there. And it's true, you do need to be different than everything out there, but you already have it in you. So we're gonna pull it out of you and get it onto your blog. It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn't online, it doesn't exist. We all have the opportunity to use our voices, to have our say, but so many of us are wasting it. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share. And this is another quote from Austin Kleon in Show Your Work! I think it's a great one to start out this segment because you've got your voice, so many people say, "I want to be heard" or "I want people to see my art" or " I want them to see my jewelry". You have a way to do this. You've got a blog o...

r you can build a blog pretty easily. So let's dig into this. I wanna know what you think makes them great. Your favorite blogs. So in your workbook on page 31, write down the names of your top five favorite blogs. And what is it about each one that you love? I want you to get as specific as possible with this. Don't just write, "gives me good advice". Get really specific. Why do they get your attention over the millions of other blogs out there? Cause you could be spending your time so many other places. What is it about them, get so super specific as possible. I'll tell you about some of my favorites while you are brainstorming and writing this down. Ashley Ambirge from The Middle Finger Project, I've already said that I love her blog so much, but I love her snarkiness, her attitude, how she makes me laugh out loud every single time I read one of her posts. And if I see a quote from her somewhere else I don't even need to read who wrote it because I already know. When I get an email from her in my inbox, I get a little excited. Get a little happy because I know I'm gonna laugh, I know I'm gonna enjoy it and I know I'm gonna learn something, but it's not just that she's teaching me something, it's the style, it's the voice that she uses. It's the way that she says things. It's the way that she has this attitude of I don't care, this is how it is, like it or not. And I like that. Another example is A Beautiful Mess. There are lots of blogs that publish DIYs, that publish recipes, but I love A Beautiful Mess because of the style of their DIYs. And they're very unique, they're not like your average DIYs that you're gonna find other places. They have a very unique style, if I see one of their DIYs on Pinterest, I know it's A Beautiful Mess DIY without even having to click. Another one of my favorites is Mayi Carles. Her blog is I love her Panamanian accent. I love her style of humor and her voice. I love that she uses the sparkly microphone in her videos and wears these outrageous glasses. I love that the style of her site is hand-painted, she hand-painted it. It's beautiful. I love her for these very specific reasons. So I'd like to hear from your guys. Share one of your favorites and why you love them so much. Who wants to go first? Yes. (mumbles) Okay and why? She is so honest and she puts she's closed her audience and she talks about all the trials and tribulations. And pitfalls and it's her honesty, but she also has good... she knows how to write. Okay. And she spends a lot of time editing and all that sort of thing, but it's her craft as well. Okay alright, so it's kind of the style of what she shares and the honesty of what she puts out there. Mhmm, mhmm. Okay. Alright. My favorite is Kathy Cano-Murillo she's the Crafty Chica because she just makes it seem so doable, she's an artist and she puts tutorials on her blog that makes it seem like anybody can do art and make it look good and even when she fails she still posts it, so it seems totally authentic and real. So I just love her. Alright, so it's also that it's the specific DIYs that she does. Mhmm. It's the specific, She has a specific, if I could talk, style. Yes she does. Yeah, okay. Amanda Sue actually has a comment, she says, "Every time I read A Beautiful Mess, "I want to dye my hair red, gorgeous." (laughing) And then and then we also have Konsu who says, "The Jealous Curator" she, Konsu likes it because she discovers amazing new artists and her tone is really funny. Okay. The voice, right? Mhmm, yep, okay. What else, let's get another one, one more. I've got one more. Alright. If nobody does. Kris with a K says, "I love You Are My Fav because of the "tone of her site, the flavor, and the beauty of her posts. "It's a very specific feeling, I can feel her brand." Awesome, alright. So all of this makes my point very clearly. That it's the style, it's the person's voice or the things that they choose to share in the way that they share them, that's what makes them so great. So what makes you different, this is page 32. Share your uniqueness. What do you offer that others don't? So you just thought about your favorite blogs and what they offer you that other blogs don't. What do you offer that others don't? Specifically thinking about your competition. How can you combine things that you're passionate about to differentiate your blog? A lot of times it's about pulling the pieces of us together in a unique way and showing our personalities in a very different way. An example of this is Marie Forleo. If any of you have been on her site, many of you have yes. So she loves hip hop and she loves dance and she includes that in her business videos. So she publishes videos on helping you improve your business, on marketing, on productivity. And she's in there doing some hip hop dancing. Michelle Ward, she's the When I Grow Up Coach. She uses her ukulele to make her videos stand out. She sings, she has an intro where she sings and sings at the end, it makes her very different. She's not your average life coach. Mayi Carles is known for her love of props. She will dance with a blow up t-rex in her videos. And she has her funny glasses and her sparkling microphones. These are pieces of her, right? The same with Michelle, her ukulele and her singing, these are pieces of her that she brings in to her blog. With Marie, the hip hop dance, this is a pice of her that she doesn't leave out, she brings into her blog. And this is a really interesting point, it's about sort of rising to the top and making people aware of your difference and also causing sort of a polarization, sorry Chris, VA Creatively, Erika, says, "I love, I'm jealous of her lifestyle "and I love her humor and her food porn". And then Maybe says, "I hate Pioneer Woman." (laughing) Yes! Alright a healthy debate. Yeah! Right, yeah. So it's like causing this sort of like I love it, I do not, I would never go there. Yeah. I'm clearing my history. (laughing) Yes, exactly, exactly, that's what you want. You want people to either love you or you're not for them. You don't have to go as far as absolute hate and wish you weren't on this earth, but you want to, you wanna have people that love what you're doing and when you do that, you're gonna have people that say, "This isn't for me," and that's a good thing. And there's not absolute hate for Pioneer Woman, she added an LOL on the end of it. Yeah, cool. (laughing) So tell me you guys, tell me your answers. What do you offer that others don't? And how can you combine parts of yourself that you're passionate to differentiate your blog. What are some of your answers? Yes, Kimberly. So I'm a photographer and I feel like so many photographers are wrapped up in the digital world and you can instantly put a picture up in a blog post, but I like having tangible photographs and even taking instant photographs or film photography and I feel like that's a way that I could explore the medium even more to kind of separate myself from just digital photographers. Yeah, definitely, that's a great one. Anybody else want to share? We have one online, Amanda Sue, "my uniqueness: "geeky, colorful, ex-military, home-schooling mom "and southern to the core, y'all's abound on my site." (laughing) I know Amanda Sue, hi Amanda Sue. I know her well, yes, yes. She's very unique and has her own style, absolutely. Yeah. Alright. The design of your blog matters. Right, so the design of your site, it definitely matters. You've got seconds to make a good first impression. So what does your design say about you? What does your design say about you, the design of your site? It absolutely matters. And it's okay if you have to make changes, but you wanna think about how you want people to feel, like we already talked about, how you want readers to feel when they come to your site and that's part of it. The design of it. And knowing what people think when they first land on your site, what those first impressions are. What you think that they are gonna think about your site just from your design. Because people are gonna decide within seconds whether or not to stick around. And that matters because you want people on your site for as long as possible. So if you've written this great blog post, and they come to your site and it looks like a mess, they may not even read your blog post, they may just leave. Often that happens and not only that, the design of your site is also a big deal because it reflects on your brand, it reflects on your business. So what do you think the design of your site says about you? What would you say, Sage? My site's design is very crisp, clear tutorial, easy to read, easy to navigate and it makes sense for me because I'm a life editor, I want it to look kind of like a newspaper, very clear and orderly. Alright, okay. So we've got a hot seat, but we're moving this one to the end so everybody get prepared for coming up here. (audience laughing) Suspense. Smart. Oh yeah. Don't copy, this is a big one, don't copy. It can be tempting to copy someone who's doing really well. A style that you really like. So you go to somebody's site, you see that they're really professional, you see that they have it set up and they're getting tons of comments and they're just like the style that you have, you're really attracted to it. Don't put up something that's very similar. And this is very tempting to do, but nobody's attracted to a second hand version of someone else and we've seen this before. I'm sure you've landed on a site and said, "Looks a lot like so and so's site, "that's weird." And when you do that, you're automatically turned off. Now here's a question for you because there is a lot of people out there that use templates for design and the fear sometimes is if I buy this template, is my site gonna look like every other site? Do you have any tips on that? Okay, so sometimes that's the downfall if you buy a template that is very has some very distinctive qualities about it that you can't change, sometimes you can buy a theme and change a few things up or get a web designer to change up a few of the things on it so that it looks different. There are also lots of themes that you can purchase that you can customize parts of it. Like my theme for Blacksburg Belle is very customizable. So no one site that uses my theme is gonna look the same because of all the customization that you can do. However, there are lots of themes that are just ready for you, ready to go and they're professional. And I'm gonna show you some of those themes actually. And... you often wanna move away from that at some point. In the beginning, I think it's completely fine to use a theme that is done for you, that's simple and clean so that you can get started and feel like it's professional and it represents your brand. However at some point you are gonna want to move away from that. And then a lot of our folks are looking forward to it. Our Wordsmith says, "my current site combines "really great information about writing "with a bit of spirituality and sophistication thrown in "and I'd like to bring more of that spirituality and "sophistication out in my design." So stay tuned. Yeah, yeah. So let's say you see a site that you really like. What can you do instead of copying? The blogs you're attracted to, they say something about you, they say something about your style. So you can use that when you're designing your blog. What you need to do is you need to figure out what you're attracted to and use that idea, matching it to your brand and style. So always ask, "What do I really love about this?" And use the concept of it. Now would this link back into this sort of creeping around sort of thing when you're looking for topics and conversations, would you might use some of those same words to sort of see what that looks like? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, absolutely, and when you land on a site that you love, that says something about your personality. You love it for a reason, maybe it's the color combination or maybe it's the way the person has set up the opt in or maybe it is the font choice or whatever it is, it may say something, you may be able to take pieces of it and pull it into something that makes you unique. For example, I've learned different photography techniques from A Beautiful Mess and infused those ideas into my style of photography. So, like I said before, I'm really curious about how certain people set up their photos and I'll take those ideas and try and learn from them and then use that kind of photography on my blog. However, in my style. Another example is if you've ever been on Kris Carr's website, she features photos of her laughing on her main page. I used a photo where I'm laughing for my opt in, but they're completely different. So you wouldn't look at Kris Carr's website and look at my website and say, "Wait a second, these look alike." But I used a concept from her site thinking, "I really like how she's laughing, "that looks really engaging, it looks like she could "be my friend, it looks like we could hang out, "maybe I'll use something like that "similar on my website in some way." And hers is a big one in her header, mind is a small photo in my opt in. She's in some sort of truck, like a vintage truck. And I'm just outside, so you wouldn't be able to put them side by side and say, "These are something that look like "each other," it's just using that concept. Yeah her website is amazing. Yeah. And it's changed, too, her brand has evolved and changed and we're getting a lot of comments in the chatroom about how many times people have changed their site. They're like, "Oh I've changed mine once, I've changed mine twice, I'm on my third site, I'm...". (laughing) Absolutely, yeah you evolve and that's good. That's a good thing. So in your workbook you'll find some questions on page 33. What do other blogs in your niche do that you don't like? How can you shake things up and do it differently? What do other blogs in your niche do that you don't like and how can you shake things up and do it differently? I'll give you an example. You can see this photo of me right here, this is a photo from a shoot that I did with my joint venture partner, Mayi Carles, who you guys are gonna hear from very soon. And you're all gonna love her. So we were setting up a business together. And our business was about taking your online world and putting it together with your offline life and how there's such a disconnect, usually between those two things and how we can connect them and make them work together a little bit better. And we have a course on productivity and it relates to your online business, but also your offline life. And when we did our photo shoot for the photos we were gonna use on our website, we didn't want stiff, we're in suits and we're experts, we're productivity experts and we didn't want anything like that. We wanted to be the extreme opposite. We wanted something playful, we wanted people to feel like even a little bit like are these girls a little crazy? (audience laughing) And tutus? And so I made tutus for us, so we were on a playground taking pictures, we had super hero capes made with our initials on the back that we wore and our ideal customer, they loved it. They loved all the photos we were sharing, they loved the video we had where we're walking off with our capes flowing in the background with our initials on them, it was perfect. And it was something completely different. It was something that not everybody in the niche is I have to be an expert and kind of uptight, but we wanted to move really far away from anything like that. So thinking about what do other blogs in your niche do that you don't like and how can you do it differently? I'd love to hear some of your answers and online if they have them as well. What do you guys think? Is there anything in particular that you don't love? I see lots of sideways glances, Rochelle? Well I don't like when everybody hops on the same idea. Like chalkboard paint is popular, so now everybody is doing crafts with chalkboard paint and it's like, you've seen one tutorial on chalkboard paint, you've pretty much seen them all. (laughing) Okay, so you like to stay away from what's super trendy. Well... Kind of another example is that keep calm and blank blank blank. At first it was kinda cute, but now it's like why are you still doing this three years later? You know what I mean? Yeah. I, yeah, obviously there's nothing new under the sun, but when you see that there's 50 tutorials for chalkboard paint crafts, maybe try to think of something different. Okay, alright so you want to have stuff on your site that's unique- Yeah. that you're not gonna see everywhere else. Right. Okay. Well obviously you're not, I mean like I said, perhaps I've been around- Right. Since the dawn of time and there are very few original ideas, but- Of course. At least maybe try to spin it a little bit differently, instead of just, "And here's what I did with chalkboard paint." Right, okay. Alright, Opt in forms, like how to get, how to capture addresses in a way that's just not like I'm gonna give you this for that. I don't know how to get creative about that one, yet. Okay, so we have an entire segment that's on your email newsletter and we'll talk about opt in forms and I'm gonna show you lots of examples of opt in forms that work really well that I think are great ideas. And so hopefully that will spark some of those for you. I've gotta share mine. Yeah. Arrows, like the arrows everywhere, you know like go here, look at that, look up there, go this way. (laughing) Distracting, it's too much. I was like stop it with the arrows! Yeah. You know what I'm talking about. Yeah I know what you're talking about, especially on sales pages. Yes. There's arrows everywhere. Yes. Yeah. (laughing) Anybody else wanna share? You guys good? We have some folks online. Okay. Sorry I had to get that one out there. (laughing) I have to tell you how I feel. Manila Girl said, "Doesn't like ads," and then we also have a general dislike for too many families that look like their life is perfect and that they're in a sunshine all the time. (laughing) Yeah we often share the perfect parts of our lives online. Yeah. And you guys have talked about how you like to see the other stuff, so we've had many examples already. Yeah Of people in the chat. And you guys saying I like when I see when something didn't work out or something failed and how you kind of got passed that. Yeah a few more are coming in here, Wok Star says that they don't like to see blog rolls and too many awards on a page. Viviane says, "posting too often." sometimes just too much content kinda turns them off. But yeah, it seems like the big one for people are ads. And sales messages and just kinda having that be in its right place, but not overdoing it. Yeah and the word clutter keeps coming up. Clutter. To not feel that clutter when you go somewhere because you have a choice where you go, right? Yeah. You can go somewhere else, you can go anywhere. Yeah, absolutely, we're gonna talk about clutter and you're all gonna get my opinion on ads. Yeah. I know sometimes when I look around at other blogs in my niche I see either the posts that have no images or they're the stock photos that kind of look very, I don't know what the terms is, but just very structured and very... Stiff. Stock, exactly. (laughing) Stock, stiff, exactly. Yeah. So I'd like to kind of mix that up. And I'm not a photographer, I've taken photography classes and I really enjoy that, so I'm thinking of incorporating more of my own personal photos and to my posts just because that's totally not the norm that you usually see on blogs in my niche. And I think I would enjoy that and I would bring that personal touch to my blog because people kinda get a little bit of a look inside my life and what I'm doing. And that might bring a different element to my website. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I like that. We're gonna dig into stock photography and all that goodness in the visual segment. Okay. Yeah? I mean I personally don't like really wordy posts. Okay. I mean I know we're talking about voice and stuff, but sometimes I mean that's and I think with crafty blogs too anyways you're there to see a lot of the pictures. So sometimes I just don't want, I don't read stuff. So I'd kind of write my blog that way figuring that people don't read. But if they wanna read it, it's there and it's good. Hopefully. Yeah, yeah for a lot of those DIYs you do just look at the pictures, yeah. And Or just- A little bit of the how to in there. Yeah, but even not a DIY, just even like a visual thing sometimes it's like... Yeah give me an example. I don't know, I can't think of an example, but... Okay. Just... Really- You, like showing jewelry or showing a craft or showing, not necessarily how to make it? Just, I don't know, just really wordy posts unnecessarily I guess. Unnecessarily wordy. Yeah. Yeah, okay. So you try to keep it short and to the point and use as little words as possible while still getting across what you want? Yeah and making it interesting in stuff. Yeah. Like not dry, hopefully you know. Yeah, yeah. Of course Look outside of your niche for ideas that will be fresh for your audience. So when you are thinking about what you want your blog to look like and the style of your blog, absolutely look outside of your niche. Because it's going to be fresh, it's going to be different, and you can get so many different ideas from looking at stuff that isn't your competitor's blogs. Kris Carr isn't a competitor of mine, so when I look at her blog and see the laughing picture and think, "Oh I wanna put something like that on my blog," it's not going to be something that people are seeing over and over again. And think about the brands that you really love. And what do you really love about them? Like I really love Anthropology. I really, really do. This is an Anthropology jumper that I'm wearing. I am their ideal customer. And the things that I love about Anthropology is that their dresses and their clothes are very different. When I go in there I feel like there's a very specific style that I'm gonna find. Everything that I look at, I want immediately and I love, one of the things I love are the little tags that they have on their clothes, the way that their styled, the font that they use, the tissue paper, the envelopes that come with the packages and I think to myself, "Okay, what about this can I use "in different things of my own business?" So not just even in your blog, but I have shipped out packages to individual consulting clients before and I've thought about, "Okay, if Anthropology was "sending out this package, how would it look?" And being able to take those ideas and pull them into your own business, so look outside of your niche if you're really struggling and you want something fresh and new. So let's talk a little bit about DIY design versus hiring a professional. If you do it yourself, and I know that there are so many of you watching that say, "I don't have "a three thousand dollar budget, I don't have a five "thousand dollar budget to hire a professional, "so I've gotta do it myself." That's okay. My suggestion is to set up a self-hosted WordPress site and select a theme that is close to what you want your site to look like as possible. And then when you grow and you want to have something that's more branded, you can do so. I'm gonna show you guys some examples of themes that I think are really great especially within the creative entrepreneur realm. This first one is by Bluchic. And it's just a very clean design. It's just something where you can plug in your own stuff easily and have something that is clean, simple and I think that the main point is simple. That you don't get too crazy when you're looking for a theme or doing it yourself if you're not a professional designer. Here's another one by Bluchic. This is the Chamomile theme. And it just shows you how you could easily plug in your own stuff and have a blog that looks really pretty. It's not so super difficult. Here's another one that's called Dorothy. It just shows you that if you put in your own stuff, how it could look. This is great for somebody who wants something a little bit modern, I see this for a modern jewelry designer, something like that. Here's another one, The Kensie. Very simple. And here's the last one, Gray lady Gray by Angie Makes. It's another one that's very simple, that if you put in your own stuff, you're gonna have a very simple, clean design to work from and it's one where you could set up and not feel like you're gonna look like everybody else out there as well.

Class Description

There are over 200 million blogs on the Internet, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd? A quality blog boasts great content, a powerful voice, and relevant, useful information. The problem is, putting all of those pieces together, understanding how to find the right audience, and marketing your blog is no easy juggling act.

Join the founder of Blacksburg Belle and author of Marketing for Creatives April Bowles-Olin for a comprehensive course dedicated to teaching you how to write, create, and market a successful blog. Drawing on the same methods she’s used to help successful entrepreneurs around the world grow their online presence, April will teach you how to find your own voice and get more comfortable writing like yourself. You’ll learn how to develop a strong editorial strategy, attract the right readers and write engaging headlines that will drive traffic to your site. April will also explore some of the key problems that hold bloggers back -- from writer’s block to boredom to insecurity about what you’re writing -- and explain how to overcome them. Best of all, April will teach you how to save time and have fun while contributing to the success of your blog.

After just three short days with April, you’ll possess the perfect foundation for better copywriting and creating a powerful, traffic generating blog.



This course is absolutely amazing. April is so enthusiastic and inspiring. It is clear she has spent a lot of time preparing for this course with a wealth of useful information in the videos and the workbook and the resource pack. Having just launched my new photography website, I have been looking for ideas and help with the blog- a new area for me. This has made me feel excited about my business. It's helped me plan my blog posts for the coming months and highlighted the importance of a good blog for keeping a website fresh. I found myself excited for each new video and sad when it was all finished! I've purchase a few courses through Creative Live but this is my favourite so far and April has a lot to do with that.

Kristina Zambrano

Where to start? ... Um I took my blog to the groomer ha! you guys must be thinking how on earth you take a blog to the groomer pretty easy actually you just go and click where it says "Build a Successful Creative Blog with April Bowles and you are taking it to the groomer. Now leaving my pet-related talking if you are creative and have no idea where to start in blogging this is your place to start she (April) will teach you everything about the blog world with a touch of joy, fun and creativity. She will take you from Zero, Nada, Nothing to Something or better say to a brand new groomed blog. And if you need more to convince you to get this workshop you just read April Bowles "26 post you gotta read - blog tour" and if that doesn't make you get it, then you are totally not ready to Blog. Thank you so much April for everything you shared with us.


This course gave me both the impetus to begin the blog whose domain I was sitting on for nearly a year and the skills to do it well. April was - and still is - supportive and helpful to all of the people who participated in the course. It became a community of people, supporting and helping each other to follow through with the amazing instructions that she gave us during the course itself. The resources she gave us are still useful, and the connections I made on her site and the sites she pointed us to have made my blog successful in only a few months. AWESOME course!