A beauty & lifestyle blog.

Friday, August 8, 2014

International Blogging

This post is a part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

You may not know that I am actually from a small country in Europe called Slovenia. I've mentioned in a few times and I also sometimes post in two languages, but I'm pretty sure a lot of my readers think I'm from the UK! I actually really love it here in Slovenia, but the blogging situation is quite different for people from across the sea, so I decided to write up a quick post on blogging from a location that is different than the usual UK or US. I've prepared some tips as well some information. Let's see what we have ...

Customs & Taxes
I wanted to mention something that you will come across sooner or later when you're shopping online in foreign stores. I'm going to be speaking for Slovenia here, but I assume it's similar with other countries in the European Union ... So basically, if you're ordering from a store in the EU, you're good - you'll pay the price and the shipping on the site. But when you're ordering from the US and Asia, for example, you'll have to pay taxes and even customs duties. If you'd like to avoid that in Slovenia, keep the value of your purchase under $22 (excluding shipping). This applies when you're shopping on Ebay, Amazon in the US etc.

Receiving gifts as a blogger
Another topic I wanted to touch on. I've received items for review from many countries, and I've had problems mainly with Asian fashion stores. I've been charged customs duties as well as tax even though the company sent me the items as a gift. Once, I received some skincare and they tried charging me well over 50€ just to get them! I would advise warning the company to send the item as a gift, and if you're charged, it's your decision whether you'll accept the package or not. I generally do if the amount is under 15€, but anything over that seems excessive, since I am on budget.

Working with overseas companies
I've generally had an amazing experience with working outside of Slovenia. Actually, any partnerships with brands for me are usually from overseas (though this has been changing recently). As long as they're in the EU, you're good, but make sure to let them know you're an international blogger! I have had companies write to me and decline to work with me when they found out I was from Slovenia, which is a real shame, but I do understand how expensive shipping can be.

International beauty products
You may feel a little sad because you cannot get items that other people get across the sea. Worry not - online shopping is your best friend! First of all, I almost exclusively buy fragrance online since it's so much cheaper, and I also like to order some makeup. I can do a post on my favourite online shops if you'd like! You can always check Ebay, Boots now ship internationally, and I also love Fragrance Direct. You can also shop at Sephora which ships to the UK now. But if you don't have the option of shopping online, utilise the goodies you can get in your country! I love seeing new and regional products so I know what to stock up on when I travel.

Feeling inadeaquate
I often feel excluded just because I am an international blogger. I feel like whenever I sign an e-mail and I have to include my name, which has a foreign letter in it, I've basically sealed my fate - no one will want to work with me or even acknowledge me! I really urge you and myself not to feel that way. You are never, ever allowed to feel unworthy because of your nationality. I personally love being Slovenian and I would not change it for the world, in my opinion I live in the most beautiful country in the world. Please have a different outlook - be proud of your country and try to work even harder and celebrate your nationality! I really think we should be proud of our roots and I believe we can all make a name for ourselves and proudly state where we are from at the same time.

There we go - some tips for international bloggers. I really hope this was helpful, I know I'll try to follow my own advice for one.
Which country are you from?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How To Be Organized - Notebooks

This post is part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

Remember when we were still in school and the best part of going into class again was buying all the stationery? Well, you can make that work for you. Whether you're a blogger or just want to organise your life a little better, you might find some of these tips quite helpful.

I am a very stressed person. Every single thing makes me worry and lose sleep over it. I've found, however, that being organised really helps me with that and I always do my best when I plan out my duties. My way of doing this is by writing things down. It always helps me to see a list in colour and written in my own hand, so I know what I have to do and have something to get back to. Regarding blogging, I have a way of making my notebooks work for me ... I keep a few of them, including the following.

1. To-Do Notebook
I really recommend writing to-do lists, they're complete life saviours. I like to write them every morning or sometimes even in the evening for the next day. I put my most important tasks on them, number them, then use markers to outline them in different colors (in pink, yellow and orange which stand for try to do it, should do it and must do it). Then, I also add some mini goals connected to those, for example if I have to prepare three blog posts, I'll add mini goals of taking photos, writing the post and scheduling it. It feels really good to tick it all off, and at the end of the day, I like to see how much I've gotten done that day.

2. Blog Post Ideas Notebook
You can also do this on Pinterest, which I also do. Carry a smal notebook with you or just take down any ideas in your phone, then put them in a bigger list at home. I have colour coordinated my ideas in different categories (lifestyle, beauty etc). Then I tick them off when I'm done. I also like to add ideas about how I'll take the photos for the posts, throw in some magazine cut outs and write with different colours so everything just jumps off the page.

3. Keeping Track Notebook
This is where I keep all of my notes - where I'm advertising for each month and how much I paid, how many followers I gained in a certain period of time, how I liked a post I did and what I would change or keep in the future ... I've found that this is incredibly helpful! You can also throw in e-mails you need to write or respond to, a list of brands you're working with ...  This will keep you on track and you'll have everything in one place.

4. In My Mailbox & Shopping Notebook
This one is so useful. I write down a wishlist each month, and then also add items I've ordered online, and the date I ordered, the date it shipped and when it arrived. This makes it easy to know when my next order will arrive, since I can calculate the average shipping time. This way, you can also keep track of your expenses and really see where you're wasting money and where you need to spend more!

I have a few other notebooks, but don't think I'm some crazy stationery lady - I just find these help me so much in everyday life and I manage to get so much more done. I would really strongly recommend keeping a notebook and writing to-do lists as well, because you will feel accomplished by the end of the day and get a lot more done.
Any organising tips?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blog Design 101

This post is part of Blogging Week on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

I wanted to discuss all things blog design today. I think it's quite an interesting topic, and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I've had quite a few different designs over the past two years in a half. I'm here today to share what I learned and hopefully help you to get an absolutely gorgeous blog. Let's start with some ...

General tips

1 - My first piece of advice is to go for a clean design. Personally, I dislike seeing busy designs where the background and banner deter from the posts themselves. I like a nice, light background, preferably white or pastel, dark text and a really interesting banner which stands out.
2 - Make your photos big. Photos are one of the two key parts of your blog along with the text, and personally, nothing turns me off from a blog more than tiny photos. You spent your time on them, you're proud of them, so show them in all their glory!
3 - Don't use too many fonts. It's good to stick to two or three main ones, because if you use a lot of different ones, it will all become jumbled and confusing. Stick to one for your posts and one for your titles. Make sure the fonts are easy to read.
4 - Use tags to your advantage. Tags are really useful for readers of your blog, because by clicking on them, they will instantly be taken to all of the posts you've tagged with that keyword. Don't use too many, but keep it varied and interesting and don't forget to tag all of your posts.
5. Add gadgets and pages. The ones I really think you need are search, GFC followers and an about page. An archive is also great! This helps readers of your blog navigate the site and makes it easier to follow. If you use Bloglovin', I would strongly recommend adding their button because it's many people's preferred choice of following blogs.

Tips when buying a design

1 - Search on Etsy. It has an amazing selection of gorgeous templates. Some of them are pre-made. A few that I really like - this gorgeous watercolour premade Blogger template for only $30, an interesting soft coloured template, and a very clean and simple design. When searching around Etsy, try adding keywords, like the colour you want, or phrases like minimal, minimalistic, beauty blogger ...
2 - If you're going for a custom design, do your research when finding a designer. I've worked with Leanne on both of my blogs and I couldn't be happier with what she has done with both of them, so I'd warmly recommend her. Brittany also makes lovely templates, and Baggle is super popular with beauty bloggers.
3 - Create an inspiration board for your design. I made one on Pinterest, you can see it here. Definitely show it to your designer as well, or take it into consideration when you're choosing a premade template. I pin everything from colours to textures I like, fonts, ideas, photography I like ...

Tips when doing design yourself

1 - Make a really nice header. It's the first thing people will see when they arrive on your blog, and you can also use it for business cards and blog buttons when you advertise on other blogs. Keep it clean and simple - write the title of the blog and add a brush in Photoshop or a small photo. Make sure to save the photo as PNG, because otherwise the background will not be white, but grey!
2 - Turn off 'Auto-Enhancing' in Blogger. If you use Google Plus, go to your settings and search for the aforementioned term, then disable it. This is supposed to make your photos prettier, but actually messes it up most of the time, at least for me!
3 - Make sure everyhing works and looks good. If you're not too familiar with HTML, ask someone for help. Check your blog on a tablet or mobile as well to make sure everything looks good. Fix broken links and make sure to fill out your pages so they don't stay empty!

Those are all of my tips! In general, I would strongly encourage you to get an inexpensive premade Blogger template when you're starting out. It will really make a world of difference, and those $25 you'll be spending really aren't that much if you want to commit to blogging. I recently launched another blog and I got a premade template instead of a custom design, because I'm not sure how committed I'll be to it! I really hope this was helpful and apologize for not including more design DIY tips - I like to leave it to the professionals!
What kind of blog designs do you like?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blogging on a budget

This post is a part of Blogging Week here on Nothin' Fancy. Really.

I thought I would touch on the topic of blogging on a budget today. It's a subject that really should be discussed more, and I've also read quite a few posts on the topic, it was also the topic of one of the #bbloggers chats, so I thought I would include it here! 

Basically when you're a beauty blogger, you can fall into the pitfalls of spending money for your blog pretty fast. Be it the design or the constant need to buy every new makeup product that arrives on the market, you might find yourself searching for those lost pennies when the end of the month rolls around. I've been there before and it's a constant struggle for me as well, so hopefully I'll learn to listen to my own tips. Let's see what they are ...

Minimize your makeup stash
It's great that you own 56 lipsticks, but realistically, are you ever going to use them up? Take photos of all the ones you don't really use and sell them. You could have a blogsale, or even go on Depop or Moj Butik for Slovenian readers. You'll earn some spare cash and make a bit of extra room in your beauty cupboard. If you have items you can't really sell, consider doing a swap or just gifting them to family and friends. It's better that someone uses them instead of them just sitting in your drawer, right?

Don't keep buying the same items
This is something I'm very guilty of, be it fashion or beauty. I always find myself reaching for the same items, so it's gotten to the point where I own about 10 statement lipsticks in various shades of neon and a bajillion jackets which I'll never really wear. Stop buying the same things, wait until you use up a similar shade and then buy a new one.

Try new things
To keep your blog fresh, don't just settle for products that are okay and you keep repurchasing them just because you're used to them. Switch it up! Instead of going for that Lasting Perfection Concealer once again, why not try something in a similar price range and mix it up? You'll be able to write a whole new post about it, review it and include it in other posts as well. Don't limit yourself to a certain brand. That being said ...

Don't buy things just to blog about them
Another one I'm very guilty of - I've stopped counting the times I've grabbed a product off the shelf and thought, ooh, this would make a great post! It's okay if you need that item, but buying things just for the sake of posting about them and then never using them again is really not advisable if you're trying to stick to your budget. Instead, recycle the items you have at home. Already reviewed it? That's fine, why not write a comparision post, or maybe a brand overview, make some swatches, review it in action? So many options, and you can do a lot of posts with just a select stash of products.

Utilize your products
As I've mentioned before, one product does not mean one post! There are so many things to write about - of course you can do a review, or a first impression, do some swatches, add a comparision of similar products, write about your must-haves from a brand. So many things and you can keep using the products you have, no need to do a huge haul just so you can post about your new buys.

Save on design
You don't have to spend tons of money on a cutom blog design when you're just starting out. You can easily search Etsy and find some premade Blogger or Wordpress templates, and just add on a custom logo. By spending $20-$30, you will have a pretty template which you can easily customize and will work for at least the first year of your blogging experience. Don't throw a bunch of money into design when you're not even sure if you're going to stick to blogging.

Save when you can
If you are on a budget, it's really smart to save whenever you can. Take advantage of offers in your local drugstores - in Slovenia, drogerie markt often has different offers and Müller gives you a discount everytime you make a purchase. Boots also has amazing 3 for 2 offers and other special prices on their website, and they recently started shipping internationally. Make the drugstore work for you. I did a huge drugstore haul back in April because my local store had a discount on cosmetics, and I'm only now running low on some makeup I got back then! Finding dupes is also a great option, and you can google them and easily find great drugstore colours that are really similar to others from more expensive brands.

There you go, some of my quick tips to make blogging on a budget easier. I hope I'll follow my own advice more in the future, I'm mostly guilty of those 'blogging drugstore trips', where I convince myself I desperately need the latest release just so I can post about it ... Hope you found this helpful!
Any blogging on a budget tips?


Monday, August 4, 2014

Tips for writing/starting a blog

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!

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.

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!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Best Drugstore Skincare Under 10€

They say to save the best for last, and I tried to do that with this post, which is the last one in my Skincare Week on the blog! I decided to put together a list of my favourite skincare buys which you can get from your local drugstore, and they're all under 10€! I tried to make it as international-friendly as possible, so we have some European drugstore goodies as well as Boots favourites. Let's see what I chose.

Let's start off with Yves Rocher. It was hard to choose one favourite from the brand, because I used to use an entire line of their products for oily skin, but they recently revamped it and I haven't tried any of the new bits. So we have the Chamomile Cleansing Gel, which costs around 6€ in Slovenia. This is an amazing gel, you can even remove makeup with it, or just use it for cleansing your face.

Next, a Balea favourite - you knew it was coming, I like me a little bit of Balea (or a humongous amount, whatevs). Aqua Serum is an amazing moisturizer for the summertime and throughout the year as well. Despite being very light, it provides a lot of moisture to my skin and sinks in very fast. You can use it under makeup as well. Price is around 3-4€ - awesome!

A scrub is also an important part of my routine, and I really like the Burt's Bees Deep Pore Scrub. The price for it is around 6€. It's Peach & Willowbark by the way, and it's quite a harsh scrub. I wouldn't recommend it for sensitive skin, but for my oily & problematic complexion, it's great. Use it once a week, not too much. I also like it for my body!

Dr. Scheller's First Wrinkles Reducing Care is also another one I like to use under my makeup. It's light and has a nice scent, sinks in quickly, and is supposed to help wrinkles as well. I don't really have them, but it's a good moisturizer for the price. I'd also like to recommend their Face Wash with Pomegranate, which costs 6€, but I couldn't find it for the photo!

Neutrogena makes this great face wash which you can also use as a mask. I really like it as a mask, because it draws out impurities very well (plus I like looking like a ghost). It's the Visibly Clear 2-in-1 Wash and Mask. It costs around 6€ and does a great job, it's amazing for problematic skin which I definitely have.

Weleda Skin Food has been mentioned a few times this week, so I don't think I need to ramble about it too much. It's a very potent natural moisturizer with a strong herbal scent which is great for dry patches. Price is around 9€.

Finally, we have a Boots item - the Una Brennan Superfacialist Rose Hydrate Facial Makeover Oil. I really like this for cleansing and even removing makeup, but I haven't tried it overnight as of yet. I really have to do! It has a very strong rose scent and feels quite pleasant on the face. This might be an euro or two over 10€, but it's often on offer, so that's my justification for including it.

That's it! I'd love to include a few more items, but I will try to do more budget friendly posts in the future.
What is your favourite budget skincare item?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

If You Only Buy 1 Thing This Week - Balea Shaving Gel

Another edition of this series, and today we have one of my best buys of the past few months. This Shaving Gel from Balea is a must-have! First of all, it's incredibly inexpensive at only around 3-4€. Next, it smells amazing, be it the Summer Garden edition with mango of Carribean Dreams, which smells of coconut. And finally, people, have you ever tried using a shaving gel? No? Then when you do, you shall ask yourself the same question I did after using it for the first time - what is my life? What have I been doing up until this point? I have filled a hole in my life, and I am happy. Also, my legs are smooth, so that's a plus as well.

I think this post is going to be quite short and sweet, but please, if you have a drogerie markt close to you, do consider giving this a go. It's amazing for shaving your legs, which I just think is complete torture, but with this product, it's so much easier and dare I say enjoyable, since it smells lovely!

What is your favourite shaving gel?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Holiday Haul

As you are reading this, I'm probably packing frantically! Today we leave for holiday and we'll be away for two weeks, so don't expect me to be very active on social media - I'll try to be as present as possible though! I thought today would be the perfect day for me to share my haul which was bought in anticipation of our seaside vacation. We're going to a Slovenian seaside town (more like a village) and I cannot wait to tune out and get my vacay on.

I went to drogerie markt and stocked up on some must-haves. I got another Balea Shaving Gel (post coming soon), this one is called Carribean Dreams and is coconut scented. Di-vine!

Next I also got a Balea Sun Spray Protective Spray, which my mom says does absolutely nothing, but I'm pretending it's going to protect my hair from the sun nonetheless - let's hope for the best.

I also got two sun protection moisturizers. I got a Sun Dance lotion with SPF 20 as well as a Hawaiian Tropic Spray Lotion with SPF 15. For my face, I'll be using my Vichy BB Cream with SPF 50, but I already have that in my beauty drawer. I did get an after sun lotion from Sun Dance also, and both this and the SPF are coconut scented, which I just love. Combined with my Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Capri perfume I'm set!

I got a shower gel, Carambola Lambada from Balea, and it's very fruity and sweet. A lotion from Balea ended up in my closet as well, it's the Summer Glam edition which has glitter and you know I love me a bit of sparkle in the summertime.

Finally, two makeup necessities. Essence Liquid Eyeliner which is waterproof (not really, but it's the best staying liquid liner I've found so far). I also got my new favourite mascara in waterproof, it's the Deborah 24 Hour Mascara - this stuff's amazing. I'll try to have a review up as soon as possible.

There we go, my summertime haul - very Balea heavy, as you can see - what can I say, I love the brand!
What is your must-have for a beach vacation?
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