Hello and welcome to Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really! While I am no expert, I thought it might be helpful if I posted a few of my experiences and tips this week, with posts including tips and tricks, design and much more. Let's kick the week off with some basic tips whether you're starting a blog or just looking for some ideas on what to do ...

Starting a blog is a big step, but the thing to remember is that it really should be fun! You should enjoy posting and look forward to every post you're doing. So let's see some of my basic blogging tips, beginning with brand new bloggers ...

Choosing a domain & name
My blog is Blogger based, and I would really recommend this platform. It's free to use and very user friendly – you should get the hang of it pretty soon. When you are creating a blog, think carefully about the name of it as it will be hard to change it later in the game. Things to take into account: do not use the name of a copyrighted origin. For example, song lyrics, product names from big companies and so on, all these are things you'd ideally want to avoid. Also, I would strongly recommend Googling your chosen name to see if a company/blog with that name already exists. You wouldn't want that, would you? Finally, create an e-mail account with the name of your blog. Make sure it is the same as your blog name to avoid confusion!

Choosing a design for your blog 
While you can create a basic design in Blogger, I would advise getting a blogger template to make your blog stand out a bit. Since you're only starting, don't splurge on a custom design, you don't know if blogging is really for you. Instead, opt for a premade template. There are absolute tons on Etsy and you will definitely find something you like there for a good price ($15-$25 is a good price for a premade template). Leanne, who made my template, has a shop on Etsy with absolutely gorgeous templates. My favourite is this one for $25. When you buy this template, you can download it instantly and it has instructions on how to install it. When you're choosing a design, I'd say go for something clean & simple - you can choose classic black and white, or throw in some color. It's nice to have a header that stands out a bit. Don't forget to link to your social media!

Photography
Do you need a DSLR to write a beauty blog? No! I have a regular digital camera and it takes perfectly good photos, and you could even take some with your phone if it has a nice camera. My number one tip would be to play around with the ISO on your camera - even my digital one has this option. I usually alternate between ISO 400 and 800 - this sets the brightness of your photo, makes backgrounds brighter and is great for photography in natural lighting. I used to use and abuse flashes, but I am so over it - natural light is the way to go. Try taking photos outside or in front of a window. As far as backgrounds and props go ... I like a clean background in a solid color, preferably white. The focus is on the products, not the background, so steer clear of prints and such. As far as props go, I'm going to be the cliché beauty blogger and say I love flowers - they're just so pretty! But feel free to experiment with things you have at home - how about your shaggy white rug? Pretty printed bedding, candle holders, a plate or platter, some scattered flower petals, even a knitted and braided sweater can work. If you need a surface to take photos on, go to your local crafts store and check out their collection of paper. Get a thicker kind in a white or pastel color.

Photoshop
I do like to edit my photos a bit. Mainly I use the general Photoshop functions, like Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color. You can fade the effects as well. I also like the Variations tab in Photoshop to change the color up a bit - Selective Color is great for this as well. For a quick sharpening tip, duplicate your layer, set the mode to Overlay, then go to Filter, Other and High Pass. You can lower the opacity if it makes the image too grainy, but I find it can really improve photos. Another option is to duplicate the layer, change the mode to Screen/Overlay depending on whether you want your image brighter or darker. I also like to play with the Contrast/Brightness setting.

Content & inspiration
Post about what you like, what you're passionate about. Don't blatantly copy other bloggers because that's quite disrespectful. If you are inspired by someone, mention them in your post & share the love. Don't limit yourself - if you like beauty, fashion, cooking & books - why not include a bit of everything? Don't make your posts too dry either - let your personality and humour shine through. For inspiration, I like to pin and write down things at any given chance. I have a few secret boards on Pinterest where I pin inspiring images from across the web and post ideas as well. A good browse through Cosmo, Allure or Glamour will give you plenty of post ideas as well, and you can also check out my 15 beauty blog post ideas.

Promoting & networking
You may want to get your blog out there, and for this I would recommend advertising on other blogs. Some tips - I find just a button in the sidebar does absolutely nothing for me, I get around 5-10 followers from that. Try to get a package on another blog similar to yours that includes a shoutout on Twitter, Facebook on Instagram as well as a chance to be featured in their advertisers post. A guest post is an even better idea - maybe try to exchange them with a fellow blogger you like. Bloggers I've advertised with before include Andrea, Jen, Annabel and Jennie, and I loved doing it as well as getting a few new readers. As far as things you can do by yourself - use social media! Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, even Google Plus - just choose, or use all of them. On Instagram, include a link to your blog in your bio. Facebook is great for promoting if you use it right, though beware of people who only 'like' because of the giveaways. Pinterest - pin your own images with a good description and a link back to your blog. I'm not very familiar with Google Plus, but I love networking on Twitter. Check out the twitter chats (I like #bbloggers for beauty bloggers on Sunday & Wednesday evenings, as well as #lbloggers for lifestyle bloggers) and when you're tweeting about a new post, tag the companies whose products you've featured. Use hashtags as well!

Monetizing, receiving items
It's not really wise to start a beauty blog with the intention of receiving free things, but if you eventually want to consider that option, here are a few tips ... As far as monetizing goes, I would recommend selling ad space. I personally do this, but don't expect it to pay a ton, we're talking about 20€ per month. As far as free products go, I've emailed companies before and they've emailed me as well. Personally I find nothing wrong with emailing a company - you've got a gorgeous blog, you work hard on it, why not show it off a little bit? :) When you're emailing someone, don't demand free products. Build a relationship with a brand. Sometimes I email someone just to tell them I've featured their products, ask about a new release, or compliment them, ask about availability and so on. You can also ask if they have a blogger program or mention you'd like to review their products. I always include samples of my photography, but it's also a good idea to make a media kit. I'm in the process of making one currently and I can do a post on it if you'd like. Also, take the time to write an individual email to each company you email. I sometimes get emails started with 'To whom it may concern' or 'Dear blogger', which annoys me a little bit!

I will elaborate on many of these topics this week, so please stay tuned if you're interested to find out more. I'd just like to add that starting my blog was one of, if not the best decision I've ever made. It has made me happier and given me so many opportunities, so if you are thinking about starting a blog, I would strongly encourage it.

Please leave me a link to your blog in the comments, I'd love to check it out!