My plan was to take a complete break from creating content, social media, emails - everything. Crazy, right? That I wasn’t going to even check in with anything for about a week?
I got back into the swing of things the day after I came back, but it was only last week that a blog post was published that was actually written by me. All I can say is the the break and the holiday overall were absolutely wonderful.
The trip had been planned since February and nearer the time, I had to decide what I wanted to do with my blog - keep it running or take a break. I chose the first option.
Then I got into a huge panic that I’d have too much work to do before I went away. Getting all the blog posts written up alongside my day job was going to be the most difficult thing, and that’s not to mention photography and social media scheduling. Managing your blog and online presence on a day-to-day basis is one thing. Getting it ready for when you’re taking a holiday is a completely different playing field.
Like many bloggers and small business owners, taking a break doesn’t always fit the criteria of what taking a break actually means. Even if we go away, we’re still checking our emails, responding to people on social media and watching snaps. I was determined that my holiday would not be like this. I wanted to take a break in every sense of what that phrase actually means.
Could my blog stop completely and still be OK? In a way. I mean, it wasn’t a huge amount of time that there was going to be silence. But I felt like I’d come so far with my blog in 2016 that I didn’t want it to go quiet. So I created a plan and boy has it paid off.
The same thing is going to happen again in August when this time, I’m on holiday for seven days. But now, I know exactly what to do.
So today, I wanted to share with you my step-by-step plan of how I kept my blog running whilst I was on holiday, along with growing my social following and hitting a record number of pageviews.
I've even got a free guide for you, that will guide you through this post and give you the templates and checklists that I used myself to make this process successful. You can download it, customise it and keep it for all your future holidays. Sound good?
Download your free guide here:
This is something that will make all the difference. The first thing you’ve got to decide is whether you’re going to create all your content in advance or if you’re going to enlist help in the form of guest posters.
Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to schedule that huge amount of content in advance so I chose to go for guest posters. First important decision made.
The next part is when it gets tricky.
As soon as I made that decision, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. It was sheer relief. But I still needed to dedicate time to format all the guest posts and schedule them all - and also factor in the possibility that I might not receive all the posts on time.
But there was something scaring me even more than that.
What if no one offers to guest post?
That was my biggest fear. Seriously. It put me off reaching out for so long.
But we’ll talk more about that fear shortly.
Here are the things you need to think about when you’re planning ahead:
- You need to give yourself enough time to reach out to people in the first place and set a realistic deadline
- You’ve got to give yourself enough time to edit, format and schedule all the content (trust me, this takes longer than you think)
- You’ve got to think about how many guest posts you actually need
The best thing to do is make a list of everything you need to do to get one single post up and running. Work backwards and then start with the first task.
So we’re back to the ultimate fear.
The longer you leave it to reach out, the more nervous you’ll be. The best thing you can do is just bite the bullet, ask the question and see what happens.
Start off by just scheduling a tweet at one of your optimal times (if you’ve not heard me talk about optimal times, you need this tutorial). This is an example of one of the tweets I used:
This screenshot is taken from my Twitter Analytics and it was one of my top tweets for the month of April
Notice what’s included in the tweet:
- I’ve worked out the specific number of guest posters I need
- I’ve asked a question
- I’ve included a popular hashtag
These three things all added up to make the tweet more approachable for people to reply to.
I needed ten guest posters. I didn’t even think I’d get one.
Overall, I’ve had about 40 responses.
The response completely overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe how many bloggers and small business owners wanted to write on ABOH.
But once you get over the initial happiness of having all these people on your list, you need to keep the relationship going. When I started getting replies to the tweets I was sending out, I realised I didn’t know what the next step was. I didn’t know what my next action was.
Which brings me nicely onto the next point.
You’ve got to let your guest posters know exactly what you want, and you’ve got to follow up. So if someone told me they were interested in writing for my blog on Twitter, instead of waiting for them to get in touch with me, I’d contact them straight away.
Here’s an example of an email I sent:
I saw you reached out to me on Twitter about writing a guest post for my blog, and I just wanted to send you a quick email to see if you were still interested.
I’m looking for posts that relate to inspiring people to get to where they want to be, focused around the motivation / blogging / social media / online presence or career categories.
I’ve got lots of slots to fill so if you’re still interested I’d definitely love to have you.
It’d be great if you could send me an idea over. Or if you need help putting an idea together, that’s fine too.
Look forward to hearing from you!
Let’s look into that email:
- Tell the person you’re emailing where you found their response. They might have left you a comment on your latest blog post or on one of your Instagram photos.
- Include the exact categories that you create content for, but not only that - describe the overall theme of your blog. You’re not just a beauty blog or a lifestyle blog. Your posts aim to do something and your guest posters need to know what that is.
That email was so important in terms of initial contact and also for making sure that you’re going to get the right content from these people. If you run a health and fitness blog, you don’t want to receive a blog post about the ins and outs of Wordpress.
After that, you’ll hopefully receive an idea and then you give them a deadline. And give an actual deadline - don’t be vague like ‘the end of the month’. Set an actual date that you need the post by. I went on holiday on 2nd June and I asked for all the guest posts to be sent to me by 22nd May. That might seem like a really early deadline, but combine that with my full-time job and the amount of work I had to do to get my blog ready, that was actually not as much time as you think.
Takeaway: always give yourself more time than you actually need.
You also want to make sure you send each guest poster updates throughout this process. So when I received a response to that first email and I’d scheduled everything (which you can read about further down), I sent them this one:
Thank you so much for sending your post over. [personal note about blog post]. I've finalised the schedule now so I can give you a few more details. Your post will be going live on Wednesday 1st June.
I'll be sending out updates on all my social channels to promote the post, and you can definitely feel free to share it on your own platforms too.
I only go on holiday on 2nd June so if there are any problems I'll still be around to sort them out, although I'm sure everything will be fine!
The only other things I need from you are a short bio, a headshot of you and also anywhere you'd like me to link to.
Hope this is all OK! Feel free to send over those things whenever :)
Here, you’re giving them an exact date of when the post is going live and letting them know when you’re going on holiday - this is a really important factor that lots of people forget.
Remember, throughout this process, you’re not just looking for guest posters. You can use this a way to authentically build relationships too.
Create a spreadsheet and master to-do list
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down, I’ll forget to do it. Seriously. I once got a email about a freelance writing deadline and because I didn’t actually write it down, I completely forget about it and ended up spending a Friday night putting it together last minute. It’s safe to say I’ve definitely learnt from that.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from hosting guest posters it’s that you’ve GOT to be organised. You’ve got to keep up to date with where they’re at, what follow up information you’ve sent, whether you’ve received the post and so on. For this you need two things - a spreadsheet and a master to-do list.
I started out with the spreadsheet. To start, I created seven columns:
- Follow up email sent
- Guest poster replied
- Post Idea
- Post received
- Date to go live
So when someone replied to my tweet, I noted down their name. Then when I sent them the email from above, I put an X in the next box. Then when they replied with their idea, I put an X in the next box, noted down their idea and slotted it into one of my categories. It was only when I had enough guest posters that I set them all an email with a date to go live.
This helped to keep me on track with the whole guest posting process. From that, I was then able to create two master to-do lists - one for making sure each post was ready to go and one for social scheduling.
Want these customisable templates and lists in an easy-to-access place?
Getting each post ready
For this to-do list, the format was as follows:
- Date of post to go live
- Name of guest poster
- First follow up sent
- Post received
- Second follow up sent (informing poster of scheduled date)
- Image taken
- Final confirmation email sent
So using an example from one of my guest posters, it would look like this:
First follow up sent
Second follow up sent (informing poster of scheduled date)
Final confirmation email sent
Then when each task had been completed, I crossed it off the list.
Social scheduling for Twitter
This wasn’t actually too difficult, because I’ve got a daily pattern of what content I share on Twitter. So I wrote down each day that I needed to schedule tweets for and exactly what tweets I was scheduling, so if it was the latest blog post, someone else’s post, a quote and so on.
Not only did this make scheduling all these updates a lot easier, but it also saved me a lot of time too. As I went along with my scheduling (I used Hootsuite to do all of this), I crossed off each one on my list until it was all done.
That way, all my guest posts were being promoted (I made sure to mention the blogger in each promotional tweet), and there was a constant stream of content being pushed out, which means more views to your blog.
During the holiday
Remember your out of office
This was something I remembered at the last minute.
So I was still accepting guest posters for my August schedule, which meant I had some ongoing email threads. I also get regular emails from readers and different opportunities that I might want to say yes to. I didn’t want to leave these unanswered for five days. That’s what an autoresponder is for.
This will be so easy to turn on through your email provider. It’s a great way to let people know that yes, you’ve received their email but you’re on holiday, so you’ll reply when you get back. It really does work.
Do a quick check
You know how I said my plan was to completely take a break from everything digital on holiday? Well I told Tom, and he actually made a good point:
“Don’t you think you should do a quick check each morning just to make sure each post has gone live?”
Probably a good idea ;)
I didn’t do anything else - I didn’t check emails or reply to social mentions. I just went onto my website, checked the post was there and went off. That was it. And thankfully, there weren’t any problems.
Go back to your to-do list
My guest posts didn’t just stop the day I got back from holiday - I’d scheduled them to carry on for another week, just so I had time to get myself back in gear.
This is a really great idea and I’m so glad I planned guest posts for a longer amount of time, rather than just the five days I was in Dublin. Thankfully, I’d made the to-do lists before I left, so I knew exactly what I needed to do when I landed back on the ground.
Take a break
I know you might think I’m contradicting myself here - Holly, you’ve just been on holiday! But when you come back from holiday, you just feel like you need another break!
Between getting worked up about the flight, getting *too* much sleep, having such a good time and walking 51 miles over five days (yep, 51!), we both came back feeling so content, but so exhausted at the same time. Thankfully, I’d booked the following day off work, so I allowed myself to take this time really slowly. I didn’t let myself feel guilty for not doing any work and I didn’t let myself feel guilty for just having a relaxing day. I knew I needed this to come back stronger, which is exactly what’s happened.
Say thank you
It’s probably a big deal to a lot of people that they’re getting the chance to guest post on your blog. A lot of bloggers said to me, “thank you so much for giving me this opportunity,” or “your blog is one of my favourites and I can’t wait to see my post on there”.
It’ll mean even more if you do something extra nice for them. I’ve got something special planned for my guest posters, so watch this space.
If you want a copy of exact templates and lists I used to create my successful guest posting schedule, just click the button below and a link will appear that you can click to get it straight away!
A FINAL NOTE
If you’re reading this, I know blogging is a huge part of your life that you don’t want to have to sacrifice. And the good news is, you don’t have to. Following this plan will make sure your blog sees growth even when you’re not actively working on it, and will allow you to enjoy the time off that you deserve to rest and grow in yourself as a person.
Now, I’m back up and running with ABOH and I can’t wait to share all the new things I’ve got planned for you all, some of which have even started. I’m feeling really optimistic about this online space at the moment, so much so that I want to branch out into video and even audio.
But in the meantime, if you’ve got a holiday coming up and you’re worried about your blog being silent, go through the steps in this post and use the free checklist too to make the process go even more smoothly (hint: it’s totally customisable). This works and it’ll help you to not only continue growing your blog but form meaningful relationships too.
Are you going on holiday soon? Will you think about inviting guest posters? What else do you do to keep yourself organised?