August 29, 2012

how to be a blogger: getting started

For some time now I've had it in the back of my mind to share some blogging tips and tricks with you all. I've been blogging for two and a half years now so feel now is as best time as any to start with these types of posts. I intend to go to the depths that no blogger has ventured before in terms of the detail I'm going to include in the posts, the posts will all have a clear theme and some that are also coming up will be: photography tips for beauty blogging, information on 'sponsored posts', how to get invited to events as a blogger, designing a header and index page etc.

I'm going to kick the series off with a post on how to get started as a blogger.

Buy a domain

- Once you have come up with a name for your blog (try to make sure that it's unique and doesn't include many numbers or x's) find 'settings' from the Blogger dashboard. From here, click the 'basic' section and find the 'publishing' heading, you should then see a section that says 'need a domain? buy one here' and it's fairly straightforward from then on. If you decide to purchase a domain after already trying your hand at blogging, don't fear as your readers will all be redirected automatically. Having a custom domain means that there will be no '.blogspot.co.uk/com' at the end of your URL, and overall looks much more professional.

Have a clean looking and easy to navigate template

- Make sure that you use 'labels' in your posts so that people can easily find what they are looking for on your blog. For example if you do a couple of posts on different nail polishes and label the posts with 'nail polishes' your readers can see all nail polish related posts in one place. To do this: click 'labels' on the sidebar to the right-hand side of where you edit/create a post.

- Create an index page or use a label cloud in your blog's sidebar. This relates to the point above and is a place where all the labels that you have tagged your post with can be clicked. To do this: click 'layout' from the blogger dashboard and then click 'add a gadget' and finally click 'labels'. 

- Have an archive, visitor count and 'popular posts' displayed clearly in your sidebar. Google translate can also be a handy addition for any foreign visitors to your site. To do this: add these as gadgets to your sidebar in the same way as above.

- Adding pages to your site is a good way for your readers to check out information on things that they are particularly interested in. This can be anything from an 'about me page' down to a 'PR and advertising page' for companies to head over to. To do this: find the 'pages section' from your Blogger dashboard and create the different pages that you want. After you've created your pages, add them to your layout as a 'gadget' in the space that you want the list to appear. You can either place it beneath your header (like mine) or as a column list in your sidebar.

Be honest, engaging and use spell check in your blog posts

- The first big 'turn off' to readers is bloggers that are easily swayed to give a glowing review of a crappy product. I'm not saying you have to be brutally negative about everything either, that is just as much of a turn off. Put products through a thorough test as best you can and just share your thoughts and feelings of how you got on with them, it's as simple as that. Be sure to be aware of the amount you waffle on about a product too, you wouldn't want to have a massively in-depth review of a nail polish and a rushed review of an expensive moisturiser for example.

Contact PR companies

- One of the questions that I get asked most is how to approach PR companies in terms of getting sent press samples for reviewing purposes. I've even had a few people tell me that they feel 'rude' contacting PR companies about this as a blogger. To be completely blunt: if you don't ask, you don't get. Now I don't mean send an email to every company out there in a 'give me freebies' tone. It takes time to build up an established blog and also a fair amount of reputation with PR companies to get to a level where you are being sent out samples regularly. It personally took me around a year of blogging before I started to work with PR companies and once I did I made sure that I completed my reviews in good time. It's good practice to send them over an email once you've received the products in the post and then another with the link to your review once it's up. Also don't feel like you are being done a huge favour, your honest opinion on the product and views from your readership on the review is just as much of a good deal for them as it is for you. To do this: Have a search on Google for Beauty PR companies or have a look on twitter to which companies other bloggers work with.

Set up a Twitter and Facebook page to connect with your readers

- In my opinion, I find Twitter crucial for helping my blog to grow and develop. If you have done any reviews featuring a certain brand then make sure you send a tweet out to your readers including the link to you new post and @ mention the brand in question at the end of the tweet. You can also see what is the current obsession in the beauty world by following other beauty bloggers and see tips and tricks on blogging by following #bbloggers. And Facebook is also a great way to get your blog known about, set up a page and get all of your friends to 'like' and 'share' it. You can also update your blog's Facebook page with your new posts and statuses about beauty offers and deals, or even set up little giveaways.

Gaining a readership

- Nothing is more disheartening than putting time and effort into a blog that you think no one reads. We've all been there, even the most established bloggers out there all started off with '0 followers' on their Google Friend Connect. Leaving comments on other blogs, hosting small giveaways and tweeting to your favourite bloggers can all help with this but the most important thing to remember is that getting your blog well established takes a lot of time and effort.

- Also make sure that people can follow your blog via Blog Lovin', Hello Cotton, Google Friend Connect and even add an email subscription option to your blog's sidebar.

Track your stats

- Using Google Analytics is pretty much essential in running a professional blog so make sure to keep an eye on your stats. Once you get the hang of using it properly it's really easy to check every now and then which are your most popular posts, where your traffic is coming from, what keywords people search in google to find your blog, the total amount of visitors to your site and which countries they are coming from, pretty amazing right?

I hope that this post was helpful to some of you wanting to start up a blog or even those of you that are no stranger to blogging!

vaseline mystery lip therapy blogger challenge

Recently I was set the challenge of identifying the mystery flavour of an unbranded tin of Vaseline and to design my own tin based from this, every girls dream right? I was sent an exciting package which was filled with sequins, glitter and diamantés to decorate the tin with, also included were a few clues to the flavour such as Charbonnel et Walker Pink Champagne truffles, a pink celebration balloon and champagne bubbles. After having a nibble on the truffles and trying out the lip balm for myself I put my beauty brain to the test and came up with the flavour:

In terms of a lip balm flavour I think this is a fabulous idea, it tastes and smells amazing and I'm not sure that many girls would be able to resist a Pink Champagne flavour on their lips. After realising the flavour I then put my creative hands (cough) to work and glued a pretty design of diamantés onto the lid. It wasn't the easiest of tasks and without going into detail (I certainly did not super-glue my fingers together) lets just say the end result is all that matters. I'm really quite pleased with my little blinged up tin and think that it will make a lovely addition to my make up bag. I then raided my bedroom and found a leftover violet ladurée macaroon and a fuchsia mini Eiffel Tower to include in the pictures.

The best part of this blogger challenge is that the person who creates the best post wins a trip to Paris (oh la-la) for not just themselves but a chance for their readers to win the same prize too! I have all of my fingers and toes firmly crossed that I'm in with a chance, Paris is my favourite city in the world and I'd be honoured to host a giveaway for one of you to win this amazing prize too.

The clues

The creation

The next day I decided to dip the lid in some iridescent white glitter to make it even more sparkly. I really like both of the versions, as the one above looks more simple and classic but this version looks so glittery and girly..

The new Limited Edition Vaseline Lip Therapy will be available exclusively at Selfridges from 5th September costing just £3.49. Click here to check out the Vaseline facebook page and keep up-to-date with exciting product launches. To give me a helping hand in winning the trip to Paris and a chance to host a giveaway for you to win the same, pretty please answer the following questions in the comments..

What lip therapy flavours would you like to see from Vaseline? Does the pink champagne flavour take your fancy?

August 21, 2012

candy striped nails

Just another quick nail art post today, featuring pink and white candy stripes. I'm certainly no nail art expert and am prone to smudging my nails before they dry and having a bit of a shaky hand however I found this look fairly easy to do as all that it requires is a base colour of your choice and then using a nail art pen create thin stripes with the brush and then seal with a topcoat. I think that square shaped nails look best for this as they have an even defined edge and make it easier to get the stripes painted on right. 

Topshop 'Milkshake' Nail Polish
Stargazer White Nail Art Pen 

August 18, 2012

sleek true colour lipsticks

A couple of days ago I was kindly sent a £30 discount code from Sleek so that I could have a try of their new website and make an order for myself. I found that everything went smoothly and completed my order within a few minutes and received it in the post a few days later. I hadn't tried any of the new True Colour lipsticks up until that point so thought they would be a good thing to spend the money on as they are just £4.99 each. The lippies come both in sheer and matte shades and the colour pay off is excellent and comparable to more high end lipsticks, the only shade out of the bunch which was a slightly disappointment was 'Mulberry' as I found it too sheer and the colour looked blotchy. My favourite shade of the bunch is undoubtedly 'Heartbreaker' which is a matte bright coral pink. Having said that I was very pleased with all of the colours and would definitely repurchase most of them.

Have you tried out Sleek True Colour Lipsticks yet?

August 16, 2012

how to: dip dye/ombre hair

In this post I'm going to go through how I dip dye my hair step by step. I know that the whole dip dye/ombre look has almost been slightly overdone now in the blogging world however I don't really care because I think it's a really nice way to dye your hair if you manage to do it right. Hopefully the following steps will help any of you out that are hoping to try out the look!

My hair has already been dip dyed a couple of times but the last time was around 6 months ago so I figured it was time to refresh the colour with more blonde through the ends.

For the first layer of dye I used the decolour stripper to remove he natural dark pigment in my hair. A couple of days after I'd let my hair have a rest I then used the same routine again with the Schwarzkopf blonde dye. The reason I dyed my hair twice was so that I could both achieve a lighter colour and to have a mix of caramel and light blonde shades going through my hair. I found that both dyes worked really well and didn't leave my hair orange toned as I feared. If you are apprehensive about using blonde bleach on dark hair then one coat of the Decolour stripper would be the best option for you as it promises to be ultra kind and gentle to your hair. It's also worth keeping in mind that bleach will probably effect the condition of the hair that it is used on so you will probably want to nourish the ends of your hair with oil regularly after using it.

I find the best way to achieve a natural look is to pin back the top layer of my hair so that I only dye the sections underneath my hair. This means that when the top layer falls back into place it will cover any marks of where the blonde dye starts so you will end up with flashes of blonde rather than a block of colour. Backcombing small sections before applying the dye also helps to create a more natural look and means the dye will blend better with your natural hair colour. I got this idea from Four hair Salon in London when I had my hair dip dyed there just over a year ago.

Once you have mixed up your hair dye properly it's time to apply it to the sections of hair. It's easiest to backcomb a section, then apply the dye and wrap in tin foil bit by bit as it takes less time than doing each step separately. Wrapping your sections of hair in tin foil will help the dye to develop better and also makes it less messy whilst you are waiting for the colour to set in.

As you can see the blonde blends with my hair nicely and there are no noticeable signs of where the colour starts and ends, which is key in creating a natural looking effect.

hair removal roll-on kit

As a trained beauty therapist, I am no stranger to waxing which is why I was excited to try this roll-on wax kit that was kindly sent to me to try out. Having spent the last year of my life waxing away at client's legs I had yet to purchase my own kit for at home use. Waxing other peoples legs is one thing, but being able to grit your teeth and pull a load of hairs out of your own legs isn't very appealing. However that being said I opened up the kit and plugged the roll-on in to heat up (which takes around 20 minutes) and let the leg waxing commence. I had never tried a roll-on before as I was trained using waxing pots and spatulas which are both messy and time consuming so to be able to roll the wax onto my skin in one quick movement was dreamy. You then remove the wax using a paper strip as with normal wax in the opposite direction of your hair growth. When it comes down to the pain of waxing it varies from person to person but I can happily wax away all of my leg hair without much discomfort due to having thin and sparse leg hairs. The whole process of waxing both legs took me just ten minutes and given I'm not the speediest person in the world I was impressed by that. The cartridge that came with the kit was a standard size however you can also purchase a smaller version that is ideal for areas such as the bikini line (as pictured above). After the waxing was completed I applied the post-waxing oil to remove any stray wax from my legs and give my skin some nourishment. I am definitely a complete waxing convert and being able to have a kit like this handy means that I will stay away from razors in an effort to achieve smoother legs. The pros of waxing over shaving are that not only does the hair take longer to grow back (I find it takes a week or two) but over time if you continue waxing the leg hairs will become more sparse and begin to fade away as it were. I really would recommend having a go at waxing at home, you don't have to be trained to do so but make sure that you have a read of the booklet provided if its your first go. The cartridges cost just £2.50 separately and come in tons of options such as sensitive, tough hair, relaxing and so on, so there is no excuse for hairy legs as you can stock up for next to nothing. I found that the cartridge lasted for around 6 full leg waxes which is around a two month supply depending on how often you wax.

The kit costs just £35 which I think is really reasonable considering it includes:

- A Candy Vanilla roll-on wax heater
- A professional Honey wax cartridge
- A pack of 10 strips
- A bottle of softening post-waxing oil (125ml)

As the kit is shipped over from France you will also have to purchase an adaptor for the plug however these are cheap and easy to get hold of from supermarkets or tech shops.

10% discount on your order using the code: STARVIOLETBEAUTY

August 14, 2012

looking for something?

Just a very brief post to let you all know that I've just updated my index page to make it super technical and easy to navigate, it took me a few hours to do so I hope you take a look and have a nosey around. I'm on a bit of a mission to make my site as easy to navigate as possible and after the fourth day of web design I think it's getting there! Let me know what you all think..

August 12, 2012

neon yellow half moon nail design

Lately I've been bored with wearing just one shade of nail polish so I decided to mix it up a bit and try my hand at some nail art. I know it looks fairly basic and simple but you definitely need to have a steady hand and good eyesight to be able to pull it off, and a cotton bud soaked in nail polish remover at the ready to clean up any mistakes. It's also best to use a thin nail polish and not one that has gone tacky as it can make it impossible to draw a good line. Illamasqua 'Rare' is exactly the same colour as the one I used and is easier to get hold of in the UK.

American Apparel 'Cotton' and China Glaze 'Yellow Polka Dot Bikini'

August 11, 2012

blog update

Firstly, as you may have noticed I've given my blog a make over. I've been working on the design for the past few days and countless html codes and photoshopped images later it's all done and dusted. I much prefer this design to the old one as it has a more sleek feel and is easier to navigate, I hope you all like it too. Secondly I've made a bigcartel store for my blogger buttons so that it couldn't be any easier to purchase a space, and I've also reduced the prices. Last but not least my french skincare giveaway ends soon and I'm aiming to try and get 1k entries, if this happens I will include some extra prizes so make sure that you've entered!