5 Ways to Supplement Your Blogging Income (Without Getting a “Real” Job)

Most hobby or part-time bloggers have the big dream of being able to quit their job to blog fully time. It’s an admirable dream, but turning this dream into reality can be… problematic.

The vicious cycle goes a little something like this:

I can’t quit my job to blog full time until I am making a livable income at it…

To make a livable income with blogging, you need to work at it full time…

To work on my blog full time, I need to quit my job…

I can’t quit my job to blog full time until I am making a livable income at it.

You have to make a leap of faith. To become a full-time blogger, you have to be honest with yourself about your stats, income, and potential, and then you have to dive into the deep end. You have to quit your job to blog full time without being 100% sure it will actually work out.

Today, I want to help you feel better about this dive into full-time blogging by giving you a few ways to supplement your blogging income outside of your blog (and without going back to working for the man).

That way, as your blog is still growing, you don’t have to panic about how you’re going to pay your bills…

…but you still have enough time to focus on your blog.

All of these money-making ideas could be used to supplement your income even if you keep your job too, but remember: if you want to actually build a blog that makes measurable amounts of money, you need to focus on that task, not going to a 9-5 every day when you could be blogging. The side-hustle is only going to distract you more if you don’t also quit your full-time job.

5 Ways to Supplement Yout Blogging Income

Without further ado, here are my best ideas for earning a little extra income on the side so you can feel confident working on your blog full time.

1. Become an Airbnb host.

This is one of the BEST ways to make a little side income, in my opinion. I’ve been an Airbnb host for nearly three years now, and during the summers, it 100% pays my household bills. (I live in a beach town, so don’t get as many bookings during the winter, unfortunately, but we do still get some bookings.)

Some people think that you need a beautiful rental property to make money with Airbnb. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! We rent out our spare bedroom, with limited access to the rest of the house. I know others on Airbnb rent out basement or attic bedrooms, couches, air mattresses, or even tent.

Here’s what you need to succeed on Airbnb:

  • Somewhere for people to sleep
  • A bathroom (can be shared)

Literally, that’s it.

Now, you can charge more money if you rent our a full apartment or suite, but why not let someone sleep on your guest bed or on your couch if no one else was going to use it for the night. It’s free money!

When you first join Airbnb and have no reviews, you might need to charge a little less per night. I remember when I first started, I only charged around $20 per night until I got 3-5 positive reviews on my profile. As a comparison, today, we charge $45 – $85 per night depending on the season and whether or not it is a holiday.

2. Promote affiliate products on social media.

You probably already talk about the products you use. Why not get paid for it?

For example, whenever I talk about Airbnb and how much I love it, I use my affiliate link, which earns me travel credit whenever a friend signs up using my link. I also use an affiliate link when I post pictures of myself in Gwynnie Bee dresses on Instagram, and when I talk about how much I love PicMonkey. Occasionally, I also promote Julep, certain kitchen products, and social tools I use.

Some products allow you to earn credit such as Airbnb, but others allow you to earn actual cash.

Here’s the thing: These affiliate products you promote on social media do not have to have ANYTHING to do with your blog niche. On your blog, you might be more limited as to what products you can successfully promote, but on social media, you are freer, because people follow your social accounts not just to learn about your niche, but also to get to know you as a person.

The key is to be authentic. Only promote products you actually like, and don’t try to hide the fact that you’re using an affiliate link.

My best recommendation is to work with programs that allow your to sign up for multiple affiliate promotions all through a single system. I personally like ShareASale and eBay Partner Network. Using these programs means that you’ll be paid sooner. Almost all affiliate programs have a payment minimum set at $50 or $100, and until you reach that minimum, you don’t get a check. So, by promoting products that are all from the same network, you’ll reach that minimum sooner, instead of having $34 sitting in once account, $19 in another, $29 in a third, etc.

3. Do sponsored posts on social media.

Affiliate ads via social media can bring in a lot of money if the post goes viral… but that’s a big, big if.

With sponsored posts, the amount you get paid is guaranteed. Instead of earning a percentage of every sale, you’ll simply earn a flat fee.

Now, to do this, you need to have a relatively large number of social followers. How large? That’s going to depend on your niche. But if you aren’t already, you should work on building up the 2-3 social media profiles that make the most sense for you. (Here’s a guide on how to get your first 3K followers on Instagram if you need it.)

Once you have a few thousand followers (this should take 1-2 months tops, even if you are starting from scratch), you can start charging for sponsored posts. You basically have two options:

  • Reach out to companies directly and ask them if they are interested in a sponsored social post.
  • Work with a network such as Clever Girls Collective to find sponsors interested in hiring you for a social post.

You can expect to make anywhere from $10 and up per social post you do, depending on the size of your following.

However, keep in mind that if all you post are sponsored posts and affiliate posts because you’re trying to make a buck, people will unfollow you. You have to give them valuable, interesting content first and foremost. It’s a balancing act between promotional and non-promotional content.

4. Sell items on eBay.

Okay, enough about social media. Let’s switch gears!

Last summer, I cleaned out my house and started putting items on a pile to have a yardsale. However, we noticed that we didn’t really have any big items, like furniture or baby stuff, which is what traditionally makes a yardsale effective. All we had were smaller items like DVDs and clothing.

In other words, stuff that was easy to ship…

So I jumped on eBay and started looking up prices. What I found was that over half of the stuff we were going to sell was going for a lot more on eBay than we’d get at a neighborhood yardsale.

One dress, which I bought on sale for $35 sold on eBay for over $40! And I had made the sticker out for $5 for our yardsale.

Now, once you get your feet wet, you don’t have to regulate yourself to just selling items you own. You can also start selling items you find at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets. You just have to be able to sell it for more than you buy it for, with enough profit to justify your shopping time.

It’s actually easier than it sounds.

I have especially found it easy to sell clothing. All I do is go to the thrift store and find clothing in good condition that has a name brand lable… do a quick search on ebay for the same article of clothing… and buy/list it if it is selling for at least twice as much on eBay. Easy peasy.

You can also do drop-shipping, but this takes a little more time, so it isn’t always easy to focus on your blog if you’re involved in the world of drop shipping. Basically, what this means is that you find a source for an item that people will want to buy (a pair of jeans for example), and then list is for slightly higher on eBay or another site where users can sell items. When someone purchases the item from you, you take their money and use it to pay for the item on the other site, where it is cheaper, and ship it directly to the buyer.

5. Become a mystery shopper.

I know, I know… mystery shopping totally sounds like a scam.

But actually, if you work with the right companies, it is a great way to supplement your blogging income! Notice I said “work with the right companies.” 🙂

I signed up as a mystery shopper several years ago, and right away I was turned off because of the 5 companies I signed up with, 4 of them emailed me back about a fee. You should never, never have to pay a company to do work for them! If they require a fee, they are more than likely a scam.

Once you sign up for a reputable company, though, it’s all about doing the job to the best of your abilities. You’re going to be asked to purchase certain items, order certain meals, and make certain notes. If you do not follow the instructions completely, there’s a chance you might not be paid… and you could also get booted out of the network. As a mystery shopper, you are only valuable to the company if you follow the rules and turn in the proper reports.

Before you sign up with any company, always make sure they are reputable, and the easiest way to do that is to see that they are a member of MSPA, the governing body for mystery shopper organizations. I recommend IntelliShop, but this is not the only reputable mystery shopper company out there. It really depends who is most active in your area and what type of shopping you want to do most.

Are you looking for even more side-hustle ideas you can do outside of your job?

I highly recommend this article from The Penny Hoarder, which does list some more common side jobs, like freelancing, but also weird stuff that I didn’t even know were things… like…

  • Carving walking sticks
  • Charging people to cuddle with them
  • Officiating weddings

Basically, if you want to make a little extra income to supplement your blogging income, it’s time to get creative! Think about the skills you have, which could be anything from creating items to sell to parenting, and then think about what other people might pay you to do.

A word of caution, however. Don’t get so involved with your job on the side that you start focusing on it instead of your blog. I mean… do that, if you love it. But if you want to grow your blog, don’t just replace one full time job with a second full time job. Use a side job as a security blanket, but make sure your main focus is your blog. If it’s not, it will be extremely hard to grow.

How to Get Your First 3,000 Followers on Instagram: A Complete Guide

I have to admit it… when I first signed up to Instagram, I didn’t get it. I didn’t see the point in growing an audience on a social network where you can’t even give people a link to your blog.

But a few months ago, some friends told me that they were seeing some interesting results on Instagram, so I decided to commit myself to it. I would give it three months. After that, if I wasn’t seeing results, I would give it up and go back to focusing on Pinterest and Twitter.

It’s been just over two months, and I’m hooked.

Not only am I accumulating a following on Instagram, but I’m actually seeing results. Instagram is now a measurable source of traffic for my food blog, but more importantly, I’m starting to draw the attention of brands (i.e. sponsors) and bigger bloggers who want to partner with me.

For me, 3000 followers was the tipping point. And, I worked really hard for those first 3000 followers. When you’re huge on Instagram, going from 170,000 to 173,000 is nothing. It’s a long weekend, a few extra posts. But when you’re starting from nearly nearly, you have to celebrate every single follower.

Today, I’m going to share with you my TOP TIPS for growing your Instagram account if you are brand new. If you follow these tips, I guarantee you can get your first 3,000 Instagram followers too. 🙂

How to Get Your First 3,000 Followers on Instagram: A Complete Guide

It Starts with Great Content

The very first thing you need to do if you are serious about growing your Instagram following is to get your content up to speed. Instagram is all about the photos, but it takes more than pretty pictures to grow a following on Instagram. Here are my best tips for getting your content up to speed:

  • Focus on one topic.

When I first started using Instagram, I posted pictures from my everyday life, without much of a thought about what people would actually want to see.

It’s time to get honest about what you’re posting. Yes, your biggest fans like to see a slice of your life now and then, but they don’t necessarily want random pictures you take whenever you feel like pulling out your phone.

I saw a massive difference in my follower growth when I stopped posting random pictures and started focusing on my topic: food.

Occasionally, I throw in a quote image or a selfie, but the vast majority of what I post on on Instagram are food pics, and I’ve even narrowed my topic even farther – most food pictures I post are attached to a recipe, either on my blog or someone else’s blog. Every now and then, I’ll post a picture from a dish I get while out at a restaurant, but that makes up maybe 5% of my posts.

  • Think about how your photos are working together.

I’ve focused on food, but that is still a large niche, so I try to make sure there’s something for everyone. I make sure that I don’t post 15 cookie recipes in a row, because that’s going to alienate my fans who are more interested in health. Even if you narrow your focus more and do, for example, health food… a bunch of breakfast recipes in a row will alienate your followers who do not love breakfast. Or, even if you only post healthy breakfast recipes… six egg dishes in a row is not a good thing.

Instead, vary what you post, while still staying within your niche. So if you do food like me, you could post a great burger, then a gooey cookie, then a drool-worthy smoothie… you get the point.

  • Edit your photos so they look cohesive.

I’ve tried several photo-editing apps, and I have to say that I personally like using the Instagram in-app editing best. But it doesn’t really matter if you like to edit your images in Instagram or using another app… come up with a formula so to speak and stick to it.

For example, on my Instagram account, I typically only post images that are more jewel-toned with darker backgrounds. My images tend to be cooler and have vignette (dark edges). When using a pre-programed filter, I typically stick to 2-3 options only.

If I need more robust photo editing, I almost always use PicMonkey. Super easy to use, and you can do a lot for free. Photoshop is of course good too, but you really need to know what you’re doing to make your photos sing using Photoshop. Some people also like the app VSCO for editing their pictures, since it integrates with Instagram.

You want someone to look at your profile and see a cohesive look and feel. If a photo doesn’t really fit right with my personal Instagram style, I don’t use it, no matter how pretty or cool a photo is. When I started thinking of my feed as more of a magazine, I instantly started getting more followers on Instagram.

Take this photo for example:

These beauties are #ontheblog right now! Link in profile or go to http://thepintertestkitchen.com/boston-cream-pie-cupcakes/ for the full #recipe bet you can’t eat just one! #cupcakes #foodblogger #foodblognation #sweetmagazine #feedfeed @thefeedfeed #chocolate #boston #sweet #droolclub #yum #dessert #eeeeeats #yahoofood #buzzfeast

A photo posted by Allison {ThePinterTestKitchen} (@allison_boyer) on

 

I posted this same picture with different editing previously and a much lower percentage of my followers liked it, and it had no comments.

  • Add an awesome caption.

On Instagram, some people focus so much on the image that they forget all about the caption. While your text on Instagram isn’t as important as it is on Twitter or even on Facebook or Pinterest, you should maximize every letter.

On the main feed, your followers will only see a few lines of the caption, so make sure you lead with what is most important, and also entice them to click the more link to see your entire caption. For me, the name of the recipe is important, and people like to get a link to the full recipe.

Whatever you do, don’t leave the caption empty.

Depending on your audience, you might have luck with a “call to action” in the caption – a request for your current followers on Instagram to like or comment. Personally, in the foodie niche, I’ve found that asking for a comment doesn’t increase my rate of comments. Asking for a like does increase the number of likes I get, but it also increases the number of people who unfollow me in the hours following the posting. I want to encourage you to do your own research when it comes to writing a great caption, so you can find what works for your audience.

How to Use Hashtags the Right Way

When you are new, hashtags will be your best friend. It doesn’t matter how new you are or how low your following is… hashtags can help you get seen.

I’ve seen some people give the advice not to use more than one or two hashtags because it clutters your caption and potentially makes you look like a spammer. This has not been my experience, and I wholeheartedly disagree with this advice. I always use at least 10 hashtags with every single photo, and since I’ve started doing this, my follower rate has increased drastically.

There are three types of hashtags you should use:

  1. Broad hashtags
  2. Narrow hashtags
  3. Regram/community hashtags

A broad hashtag is one that a lot of people are using, like #love or #cool. Because so many people are using these hashtags, you won’t stay on the recent feed long, but it does expose you to a large audience for that short amount of time. I recommend using 1-2 broad hashtags with every image. (For purposes of this advice, I’m going to say that anything with more than 5 million photos is a broad hashtag.)

Next, you have narrow hashtags, which are hashtags that are used by fewer people. They are closely related to the specific topic of your image like #taco or #blackandwhitephotography. I recommend using at least 1-2 of these hashtags, at minimum. When choosing narrow hashtags, make sure you’re looking for hashtags with at least 10K photos. Anything lower than that, and no one is really looking at the feed. I like to find hashtags that are in the 500K ranger personally, because I find that’s the “Goldilocks” sweet spot in my niche – enough people following that I get some new followers on Instagram, but not so many that my post disappears in a split second.

Last, I strongly urge you to find some regram or community hashtags that people in your niche are using. These are hashtags that band people together, and tell others that you want to potentially be regrammed (i.e. you want other people to repost your picture). Usually, these hashtags are curated by one or two accounts, such as another blogger or a major media publication. For example, in the world of food blogging, #buzzfeast is the hashtag you can use to tell Buzzfeed that you want your recipe featured.

Here’s an example of one of my recent posts that used a variety of hashtags:

Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler… Sometimes the old #recipes just hit the spot! I can remember my mom making this for me ever since I was little. What family favorite recipes always hit the spot for you? Comment! Link to this recipe is in the profile or go here: http://thepintertestkitchen.com/old-fashioned-peach-cobbler/ #peaches #peachcobbler #dessert #eeeeeats #bhgfood #yummy #droolclub #sweet #sweetmagazine #homemade #memories #comfortfood

A photo posted by Allison {ThePinterTestKitchen} (@allison_boyer) on

Not sure what hashtags to use? Here’s what you do: Find a few other Instagrammers in your niche who have 100K+ followers and go back through their feeds. What hashtags are they using? When you get a lot of likes, you will show up on the “top” posts for a hashtag, not just the most recent. This is KEY for getting more followers. It’s way I like to go for some of the more narrow hashtags; there’s a lot less competition for the top spots.

Iconosquare is the best way to track your hashtag performance, along with other analytics (I’ll mention them again later). They do have a free trial and a free version, but if you actually want analytics for Instagram, it will cost a few bucks per month.

Getting More Followers with Follows/Likes

The method I like best for getting more followers on Instagram when you are new is to follow others and like their photos. It seems so simple, right? But if you just start following people willy-nilly, that’s not really going to be effective, and you’re going to have a feed filled with crap (which is going to hurt you later with the regram method I’m going to cover below). You want to keep your feed tight, and filled with awesome people, and you don’t want your follower count to go through the roof.

What I recommend is following the people who follow accounts that are similar to yours. These are the people who are already interested in your niche, and many probably post about the same topic themselves. You can do this manually by simply going to other accounts, clicking on their followers, and then clicking through one by one to follow them.

There are also some programs out there to help you automate this system, the most notable of which is Crowdfire, which as a “copy followers” tool. Using this system, you do want to unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you back after a certain amount of time, unless you really love their account. Otherwise, you’ll see your “following” number skyrocket higher than your “followers” number, which might make some people think you aren’t a legitimate account. I like to keep these numbers even, worst case scenario.

My biggest piece of advice with the follow method is to BE CAREFUL. If you’re following people too quickly, following and unfollowing really quickly, etc. Instagram may flag you as a spammer, which could mean that they throttle your activity or even *gulp* shut down your account. Make sure you are growing consistently and posting great content every day so you don’t have random spikes in your follower accounts. That’s what I’ve done, and I have not had any problems with Instagram so far.

Using Follower Apps to Grow Instagram

If you search for “Instagram followers” on the app store, you will find dozens of third-party apps that claim to help you grow your Instagram following fast. Some of them work. Some of them don’t. All of them are filled with fake accounts, so you need to proceed with caution.

Fake accounts are basically “dummy” accounts that have few posts (if any) and follow a ton of people. Some of them post nothing but spam, trying to get you to spend money. Others look almost real, but they have a HUGE number of followers compared to the amount of content they’ve posted. Instagram typically shuts down these fake users pretty quickly, so it doesn’t really matter if they follow you, because they’ll be gone again inside a few weeks. Follower apps typically work like this:

  1. You get coins by liking pictures from other users or following other users’ accounts.
  2. When you accumulate enough coins, you can “buy” followers with these coins. You just put in your order, and your account starts to show up for other people to follow (and they earn coins for following you).
  3. You can earn bonus coins by watching videos or completing offers.
  4. You can buy coins with actual money.
  5. If you unfollow people you’ve followed really quickly, the app recognizes that and takes coins away from you as a punishment.

Okay… now for the reality check. I tested out several of these follower apps, and AT BEST, my estimate is that only 10-20% of the followers I got from them were real.

Seriously, at best.

Some apps are better than others. I tested out a bunch of them, and the best I found was InstaFollow. It seems to have the highest rate of real users, plus other features that I like (keep reading).

Now, this is advice you’re not going to hear from many people, but I actually think that using these apps to boost your follower numbers is okay when you are first getting started and as long as you don’t overdo it. When you’re a complete newbie, it’s hard to get people to follow you, because they look at your account and think you must not be worth following, simply because you are so new and you have such low follower numbers.

And, if you use a good app, you are going to get some real followers on Instagram. That’s a good thing!

If you do use a follower app, make sure you pick one that allows you to earn coins through likes instead of follows, like InstaFollow does. Otherwise, you will quickly find your stream filled with crap. If you just have to like a pic to earn coins, you aren’t committed to following the person.

I do not think you should 100% rely on follow apps, and once you get a few thousand followers, follower apps really aren’t worth your time anymore. They’re just good for giving you that initial boost you need to look like a worthy account to follow.

I will mention that there is one tool out there (that I’ve found) that is a little different: IG Wildfire. Instead of being an app that works on the coin system, this is a service that will get you more followers by using the like/follow method I talked about previously. When you sign up, they actually ask you for your target market and whether you want to follow or just like, so using IG Wildfire is going to be a lot better than follower apps that us a coin-based system. IG Wildfire isn’t free, though. You’ll pay a monthly charge, based on how fast you want to grow and the other features you want. They have a free trial so you can see if it is worth your money.

Growing Your Instagram Community with Shoutouts/Regrams

When you repost someone else’s image on Instagram, it’s called a regram. Good etiquette says you should always credit the regram by saying who took the original photo, and there are actually apps that allow you to easily regram someone the same way you would retweet on Twitter.

However, I like to do my regrams in a different way, and this has become an AWESOME technique for growing my community. Instead of just regramming using an app (which copies over the person’s original caption and credits by including their username), I actually use my phone to take a screenshot, then I turn the regram into a shoutout.

On Instagram, a shoutout is when you tell everyone why another user is so cool, and encourage people to follow him or her. So, for example, I might see a cupcake that looks awesome, posted by another food blogger. I’ll take a screenshot, then repost, and in the caption I’ll say who took the photo and that everyone should go follow that person for more delicious recipes. I usually also tell people to click the link in their profile to visit their blog, since that’s what every blogger wants – traffic! I also always tag the person in the photo (instead of just including their name for credit in the caption).

Here’s an example:

 

So, my method works really well for a few reasons.

  1. It puts me on the radar of the person who I’m promoting. If they aren’t following me already, they usually do. +1 follower, woo!
  2. More importantly, it means we can start building a relationship, so we can work together in the future to do mutual shoutouts, round-robin Instagram contests, etc.
  3. They almost always like the photo and comment to say thanks, which means anyone following this person will potentially see me on the screen that shows your followers’ activities.
  4. The tag means that the photo (and thus, my account), show up on the other person’s profile, on the list of photos where they have been tagged.
  5. Other people see that I do shoutouts all the time, so they interact with me in the hopes that they will get a shoutout too.
  6. Occasionally, someone will do a shoutout in return. I don’t ask anyone to do that, but it’s nice when it happens! Wheneven someone does a shoutout to me, I get at least a few new followers.
  7. Because I’m being really complimentary in the shoutout and encourage people to follow and click their bio link, people never request that I take down the image. I have never had a single take down request. Sometimes, when I see other people doing regrams, the original poster does come back and ask for the photo to be removed, because they feel like they weren’t properly credited.

In short… shoutouts are awesome!

When I do a shoutout, I don’t go wild on the hashtags, especially the “community” or “regram” hashtags that I mentioned before, because I don’t want to imply that I’m giving someone else permission to post another blogger’s work. I only use a few more general hashtags that describe the photo when I post a shoutout photo.

In addition, I also do shoutouts in a second way… I give what I call “like shoutouts.”

Basically, a day or two after I post a photo, I’ll go back in and give a random shoutout to 3-5 people who liked the image. I just randomly pick people from the list of likes and say thanks.

This has been awesome for both my rate of engagement and for my follower count. About 25% of the people I mention in a “like shoutout” comment back to say thanks, and I’ve noticed that those who are not already following me typically do. I’ve also noticed that when I give a shoutout to someone, they typically like future pictures. It’s really helping me build a community.

Even better, I’ve noticed that whenever I do a comment shoutout, I get other random followers and likes. People see that shoutout comment and want to be given a shoutout too, so they follow me and like my photos more often to be “in the running” so to speak. Instagrammers definitely consider shoutouts to be an awesome prize!

Running Contests for Even More Followers on Instagram

If you’ve been using Instagram for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen people promoting contests to get more followers. The good news about Instagram contests is that you can get a lot of new followers running them. The bad news? The follower quality isn’t very high, plus you actually have to pay for the prize.

It always makes me laugh a little. Some of the same people who are VERY vocally against Instagram follower apps run a lot of contests. Personally, I’ve found that the “fake follower” rate is about the same (at least 75%). People follow with brand new profiles they don’t intend to actually use just for a chance to win, and even the real followers often unfollow you really quickly if they don’t win.

The BEST way to run a contest on Instagram by far is to team up with other people in the same niche as you and do a round robin style content. Here’s how it works:

  1. You band together with 5+ other Instagrammers and you all chip in for one pretty good prize.
  2. Everyone posts the same graphic (or a version of the same graphic) on the same day.
  3. In the caption, person #1 tells you about the prize and to win, people have to follow them and person #2, who will tell you to follow the third person, who will tell you to follow the fourth, and so on until you’ve made the full loop and are back on the original profile.
  4. At the end of the contest, a winner is drawn at random, and all the bloggers involved make sure that the person played by the rules.

Typically, you have to be following ALL of the Instagrammers involved to win, and sometimes the rules state that you also have to like or comment on each post. Some contests that have really good prizes say that you have to tag a friend in the comment. People are pretty hesitate to tag their friends, so the prize has to be pretty good to get them to take that step.

The beauty of this kind of round-robin contest is that you’re reaching all the followers of the other participants, not just people who are following you already or people who find you via a hashtag.

In my opinion, contests aren’t really that great unless you do them in this round-robin style, because there’s such a crazy high rate of unfollowers after the contest is over.

My best advice if you do want to run a contest on Instagram is to KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The more you ask people to do, the fewer people will actually do it. I’ve seen contests running where you have to like, follow, comment, tag, and then go to a link to enter your email address. That’s really rough. People just aren’t on Instagram to do all that work. Unless the prize is AMAZING, stick to one or two things that someone has to do to enter. I recommend either follow + like or follow + comment.

If you do have a large blog following and want to get those readers to follow you on Instagram, Rafflecopter is the best tool I know for running this kind of a contest, instead of running the contest directly on Instagram.

Facebook Groups for a Landslide of New Followers on Instagram

There are a lot of people trying to build their follower counts on Instagram… so they’ve banded together on Facebook to help one another. Joining these groups has really helped me get more followers and they’re almost all real, active people who are interested in my content!

I have to admit: I don’t really like Facebook. But promotion groups on Facebook make it totally worth logging in!

The rules for every group are different, and I want to heavily encourage you to play by the rules. If you don’t, you’re a jerk, and it is only a matter of time before the admins delete you. If too many people act like jerks in Facebook groups, they close down because the admins get sick of it… so you aren’t doing yourself any favors in the long-term. But if you help the community and it continues to grow, your Instagram account is going to grow as well. Win-win!

So here’s generally how it works:

  1. First, one of the admins posts a thread that is for follows, likes, or comments (sometimes all three).
  2. You can drop your link on this thread if you do so before it “closes”.
  3. Within a certain amount of time, you have to come back and follow, like, or comment on the Instagram accounts of the other people who posted on the thread.

Sometimes, the rule is that you have to follow all, comment on all, or like all. These threads are awesome if the group is comprised of people who are mainly in your niche (i.e. people who you want to follow and who want to follow you). These threads are, on the other hand, not so great if you are in a more general promotion group, because it means you’re obligated to interact with everyone who left a comment, even if you think they account is crap.

Trust me: if you do not follow/comment/like all, people WILL call you out on it, and the admins will eventually delete you.

I personally prefer the threads where you have to follow/comment/like a certain number instead of EVERYONE who posts their link. For example, you might have a thread where the rule is if you post your link, you have to follow at least 10 other links that were posted in the thread.

You don’t get as many followers this way because not EVERYONE will follow you. In fact, it is possible that no one will follow you. But if you have a high quality account, and get your link in there as soon as the thread goes live, it is likely that you will be one of the most-followed in the thread.

Here’s a little trick: Whenever I post in these threads, I always leave the preview up unless the admin/rules specifically say you have to delete your preview. It’s really easy to skip over a comment that doesn’t have a photo attached.

Here’s a second little trick: If you post in a thread where people get to pick and choose who they follow, always say what the benefit is for following your account. For example, I always say something like, “Follow my account if you are into yummy recipes and foodie pics.” I’ve actually tested this and I get a lot more followers when I say something about my account.

Promotional groups on Facebook come and go all the time, but here are a two general groups where I’m currently a member and that are active to get you started:

I also recommend that you look for promotion groups that are specific to your niche. Just search your niche + promotion or your niche + Instagram. I’m involved with several groups just for food bloggers.

Consistency on Instagram

Before wrapping up this crazy long post, I want to say a few things things about consistency. I know we already talked about having a consistent look and feel to your account, but it is also important to stick to a consistent posting schedule.

I’ve tested this, and for my audience, posting 2-3 times per day is what works best. I typically post once in the morning and once around dinner time, then if I want to post a third time, I do it sometime between 9 PM and 2 AM EST (usually closer to 9 than 2 because I’m almost never up that late on week nights). For my audience, posting more often than 3 times per day led to more unfollows than I liked, not to mention that it can get time-consuming and some days it is hard to come up with stuff to post! If you have a bunch of really great pictures, save a few of them for another day when you are feeling less inspired.

Now, your audience will change as it grows. I recommend doing a test of post frequency right now so you have a baseline of what is good for your current followers, even if that list is small. Then do another test for a few days when you have 1000 – 1500. Then do a third test at around 3000 people. From now on, every time I double my follower count, I’m going to test to see what post frequency works best.

As far as post times go, Iconosquare, which I mentioned above, is a great tool that will help you determine when your audience is most actively. HOWEVER…

Something to consider when you are growing your list is that you don’t just want likes and comments from your current followers. You also want new followers! So you have to care when certain hashtags are getting the most attention. The bigger hashtags are popular all day long, so I did a little test. For one week, I posted when Iconosquare told me to post. For the next week, I posted when I felt like it (but still spreading out posts during the day somewhat).

In terms of likes, I got more when I followed Iconosquare’s recommendations. It wasn’t a landslide, but it was definitely more. In terms of followers, Iconosquare just barely edged out random posting, and some days, random posting heavily outperformed the recommended post times for my account. So, instead of blindly following recommendations about post times, you should run your own tests and compare your actual results.

Whatever you do… be consistent. I can’t stress that enough. If you usually post once or twice a day, but miss the occasional day, yeah, you’re going to miss out on some followers that day, but its no big deal. However, if you post sporadically… say, three times one day, then not for two weeks, then once a day for a few days, then a big gap of no posting for a week or two again… well, it’s going to be an uphill battle to gain followers. Posting daily and sticking to a consistent schedule is really going to help you show others that you are a worthy account to follow on Instagram.

A Few Final Words

I am still growing and learning when it comes to Instagram, but I can say without a doubt that the first 3,000 followers were definitely the hardest. I have momentum now, and am continuing to grow, even though I am not quite as active with all of the above techniques as I’ve been in the past. I no longer have to use follower apps, and I am not as heavily participating in Facebook promotion groups. Still, I’m growing as fast if not faster than I was before. So, chin up! Once you get a few thousand, things get easier and you don’t have to grind as much!

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is this: Think about what your followers like, and then surprise and delight them as much as possible.

For example, on my own account, I once posted a full recipe along with a picture of a smoothie I had made. On Instagram, most bloggers only post links to their recipes, so people loved it that I actually posted a full recipe.

What do your followers want most? How can you give that to them in a way that most other people aren’t? If you can keep your followers smiling and make them feel good about their day, they are going to keep following you and interacting with your posts, which will in turn make others want to follow you.

What tips did I miss? Leave a comment with the tips and techniques you used to get your first 3,000 followers (or that you’re currently using now to hit that 3,000 mark).

How to Write More Content with Time Chunking

What do I do as a content marketer and creator? It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t do, since that’s a much shorter list! I bet that you feel the same way, especially if you’re part of a small team or work on a contract basis for several clients.

With an ever-growing task list, it can feel impossible to make headway. Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and thought, “Man, I worked so hard today, but I don’t know what I accomplished!” – because I know I have!

The solution – and the very best way to create more content – is to “chunk” your time.

I’ve been chunking my time for years. I guess I’m a natural chunker. But the first time I ever heard this term was from John Lee Dumas, creator of the podcast Entrepreneur on Fire. His claim to fame is that he releases a new episode every day. Every day. And we’re not talking 5-minute sound bites. He does high-quality interviews with some of the top entrepreneurs in the world.

When he first came up with the idea, some of the most influential podcast instructors were naysayers. They’ve all had to admit that they were wrong, since his podcast is a smashing success! But what eludes most people is the understanding of how John creates so much content.

How does he record, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of episodes every year?

How do I (and many other bloggers) write, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of blog posts every year?

How do we still have time for a life or…sleep!?!

The answer is time chunking. Essentially, time chunking is grouping like tasks to make them go faster.

Let’s think about this on simpler terms to illustrate how it works. Imagine that you’re an executive assistant for a high-powered CEO, sitting at your desk, and he gives you a list of five things to do:

  • Pick up my dry cleaning.
  • Drop off a batch of files with the secretary.
  • Call a cab for my 3 PM meeting.
  • Take my wife to the airport.
  • Read over the speech I’m delivering next week and make recommendations for changes.

He tells you that since it is Friday, you can leave when you’re done with these tasks.

Now, would you do these tasks one at a time, in the order given to you? Or would you try to “group” tasks in a way that makes sense? Let’s say that you just run down the list. Your steps would go something like this:

  1. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  2. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  3. Drive back to office building
  4. Walk upstairs to office and hang items in closet.
  5. Pick up files from your desk.
  6. Walk to secretary’s office and give her files.
  7. Walk back to desk.
  8. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  9. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  10. Drive to airport with wife.
  11. Drive back to office building.
  12. Walk back upstairs to desk
  13. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.

Finally done – you can drive home! Depending on traffic, it might take you all day to get these tasks done, and your feet are probably sore.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to do things this way:

  1. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  2. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.
  3. Walk downstairs to parking garage, dropping off files on the way.
  4. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  5. Drop wife off at airport.
  6. Drive back to office.
  7. Walk upstairs to drop off dry cleaning.

You just went from 13 tasks to 7 tasks – a reduction of almost 50%. Instead of working all day, you get to leave at lunchtime, simply because you re-organized tasks in a way that made more sense.

Most of us do this automatically without realizing it, but it often pays to consciously think about how to organize your day, because you can find ways to be even more efficient.

Chunking your time isn’t just about organizing your day more efficiently, though.

It’s about looking at the bigger picture and organizing your entire week – or even your entire month. As you’ll notice in our example, most of the extra time that can be cut out of the executive assistant’s day is spent walking or driving from one location to another. Your brain has to make this kind of mental “walk” every time you switch tasks. So, even if you’re doing the same number of tasks, reordering how you do them can cut time out of your day, since you don’t have to wait for your brain to “walk” to the next task.

Can you guess which list of tasks would take you less time to do? Is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Write Post #1
  3. Edit Post #1
  4. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  5. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  6. Write Post #2
  7. Edit Post #2
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

Or is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  3. Write Post #1
  4. Write Post #2
  5. Edit Post #1
  6. Edit Post #2
  7. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

If you jumped to say the second list, you have great instincts, but the right answer actually depends on what you’re writing about. If you’re writing two posts on similar topics, it might make sense to stick to the second task list – do all of your brainstorming, then all of your writing, then all of your editing, then all of your publishing and promoting. When you’re in writing mode, don’t jolt your brain out of it. Write, write, write!

However, if you’re writing on two very dissimilar topics – say, content for two different clients – it is just as hard for your brain to make the topic switch as it is for your brain to make the task switch. In this case, it might make sense to stick to the first task list, where you do all of the work for one client first, then all of the work for the second client afterward.

So what’s the catch?

The downside of chunking as a content marketer is that clients/employers are often not used to freelancers and consultants who work in this way. It makes them extremely nervous to see no movement on projects for days at a time, even if you know that you have your entire Thursday, for example, scheduled to work on their content.

When I start working with a new client, I like to explain this system to them and schedule time to start working on their project the very first day we start, even if it means rearranging my schedule a little. It puts people at ease to see that you’ve started working, even if you then don’t work on the project again until next week.

My best advice? Work with clients who “get” you and always remember – you are a contractor, not an employee. If a client starts demanding that I keep certain hours or work on their projects in a way that is counterproductive to the way I work, I remind them, politely, that I’m not an employee with benefits and an office. Don’t be afraid to part ways with a client who treats you like an employee, but refuses to actually hire you as an employee. Be accommodating, but firm, and schedule your time in a way that makes sense for you, while still allowing you to hit your deadlines.