Blogkeeping // Collaborations with Bloggers

Blogkeeping // Collaborations with bloggers // Elembee.com

Last week, a number of people said they wanted to start collaborating with other bloggers, so I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned working on At the Moment, Across the USA, guest posts when I went on vacation, and guest posts for other bloggers. As mentioned, collaborations are not only a great way to make your content more original, they can also help grow your readership and the readership of the blogger you work with by introducing your readers to each other! The great thing about collaborations is that once you come up with the concept, there isn’t as much work for you content-wise as there is with writing your own post, but the trade off is that it requires planning ahead — these are not the kind of posts you can get done the night before (and you know we’re all guilty of that!).

For a little background for those of you who are new around here, At the Moment was a weekly interview series featuring what each blogger was crushing on, dreaming about, and doing at the moment (I cut it when I went from posting five days a week to three). Across the USA is an ongoing weekly series featuring a different state each Friday with a blogger interview as well as tips and photos from other bloggers (you can learn more about participating here!).

Create guidelines

The first time I asked other bloggers to guest post on my blog, I simply said I was going on vacation and needed guest posts. In some cases, I told them which of their regular series I really liked, but for the most part, I left it up to them. While the posts were still good, there was a lot more back and forth figuring out what the post should be about, and there wasn’t anything that really tied the posts together that week so it seemed a little random. The next time I went on vacation, I picked a theme for the week and came up with a few questions and photo guidelines so guest posters would know exactly what I needed from them. That time, I got quick “yes” responses and received the information in plenty of time to put the posts together before I left.

I like to think of it like you’re asking someone to housesit for you — unless they are your best friend, you wouldn’t leave them without at least a few instructions, like who to call in an emergency, how often the dogs should be fed, etc. It’s the same for your blog — whether it’s for your vacation or an ongoing series, you’re asking people to do you a favor, so you should make it as easy as possible for them to give you what you need.

The other great thing about creating guidelines is it allows you to still keep your voice in the post, because you decide just how much input is coming from someone else. For my At the Moment series, this meant that I asked people to provide images for what they were talking about, but I put together the layouts myself for consistency. What you set as the guidelines is up to you — you want to make things clear enough that people understand what you’re looking for, but flexible enough that the guest gets to add their own voice and creativity to make it special.

Set due dates and give plenty of lead time

If you don’t really have an editorial calendar, it can be easy to say you’ll just post the information when you get it back. But again, it’s a lot easier for your guests when they know exactly what to expect — they can give you a definite yes or no, or offer an alternative date if their upcoming schedule is too busy. Set the due date at least 3-4 days before you actually need the information, just in case, and ask people at least 3-4 weeks in advance of the due date so they have plenty of time to work it into their schedule. I have asked people on much shorter notice, but if you’re going to do that, make sure you know the person well enough to ask such a favor, and be willing to return the favor when they need you on a short notice.

For At the Moment, I would usually sit down at the beginning of the month and figure out who I would ask for the following month, and email everyone then. The posts ran on Mondays, and I would set the due date for the Wednesday before. Things come up, and I did have people email me a few times that couldn’t meet the deadline, but because they still had a weekend before the post went live, there was still time for me to get the information.

Now, Across the USA is a whole different ball game, but I thought I would include some details in case you’re interested in starting a larger project. I created a spreadsheet to plot out the order each state would appear (starting with Maine and working my way west), with a column for publish dates, and another column for due dates set one month before the publish date. Then I set up a form with instructions and put out a call for contributors two months before the first post would be published. Now, I just go down the list each week and email the next person a reminder one month before the due date, and I have extra columns to keep track of when I’ve emailed reminders, and when I’ve received the information. I have a notebook in Evernote for the project, with a note for each state to store the information, as well as any travel tips and photos I receive.

Be personal and send all the information they need

When you’re reaching out to bloggers, keep in mind that just because they are your favorite of all time doesn’t mean they actually know who you are. I’m of the opinion that unless you talk to them all the time, through Twitter, comments on each other’s blogs, etc., you should pretend they don’t know you and introduce yourself, and also explain why you would like to work with them. That way it’s not just some random request for them to do you a favor.

I also think the least amount of email is the best — we all have overloaded inboxes, so why send two emails when you can just send one? It may seem like the nice thing to do to ask first and send details later, but it’s just easier to give them all the information at once. I usually say something like: “Is this something you would be interested in? If so, I’m including the details below,” and then include the guidelines, when the post will be published, and when you need the information. I also set up email signatures for this, so all I have to do when reaching out is add a personal note in the beginning and fill in the due date and publish date.

These are just my personal experiences, and I haven’t worked with an ongoing collaboration with another blogger, so please feel free to share your experiences and tips — I’m sure someone out there can benefit from hearing them! And if you have any questions about starting your own collaborations, feel free to leave them below as well!

Meet Lisa Butler

Hello! I’m Lisa M. Butler, and I offer straightforward web guidance for making it happen online. I got to where I am because of my website, and I want to help you get where you want to be. As a web designer and developer, I’ve guided my clients through the tech-y stuff, step by step. I’m here to share that same advice and guidance with you so you can get your website together and be awesome online.

Comments

  1. These are great guidelines, Lisa! Off topic, but I was wondering- have you ever done a post on the costs of starting up on wordpress? Not necessarily the “hiring a designer” part, but the other costs, like themes and plugins and hosting and whatnot? At some point, I’d like to switch over, and it would be great to have some idea of what I should be budgeting for. I tried the search box, but didn’t get anything, so I wasn’t sure if you’ve covered it before or not. Thanks!

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      Here are all the posts I’ve written about WordPress: http://elembee.com/tag/wordpress/. Some of those talk a little bit about what you’re asking, but I haven’t written one specifically about the costs — that’s a great idea! The basic info for now: hosting depends on the provider but is generally $5-$10 per month and usually must be purchased for at least 6 month terms, so budget $120 a year on the high side. Installing WordPress is free, and you can probably find plugins and themes for what you need for free. But if you are planning to move everything yourself and don’t have coding knowledge, you might want to budget for a premium theme like Thesis that has a design options panel where you can change colors, fonts, etc. yourself without coding knowledge. Those can range from $70-$200 depending on what license you choose.

      Posted on February 13, 2013
      • Thank you so much- that’s very helpful! And good to know on the Thesis theme being easier to use. You’re the best!

        Posted on February 13, 2013
  2. As a contributor to the “At the Moment” series, I have to say that it was a very smooth process.

    Now that I’m pregnant, I’m thinking about getting some guest posters when I take a mini maternity leave from blogging come May or June. Definitely marking this post for future reference!

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      How did I miss that you’re pregnant?! Congratulations!!!

      Posted on February 13, 2013
      • Thanks!! Can I put you down as a potential guest poster? 😉

        Posted on February 13, 2013
        • Lisa says:

          Of course!!

          Posted on February 13, 2013
  3. Allyssa says:

    Lisa, this is great! This information will really come in handy when I decide to collaborate. Thanks :)

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      Happy to hear that, can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      Posted on February 13, 2013
  4. Kait says:

    I have been brainstorming blogger contribution series ideas so this post couldn’t have come at a better time! Thank you for all of the helpful advice

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      You’re welcome, and good luck with your series!

      Posted on February 13, 2013
  5. Please tell all of your readers to come to me in the case of a housesitting emergency. I know the locations of all of the closest Banana Republics and Anthropologys. Anthropologies. Antropologys.

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      Hahaha I think “I know where all the closest Banana Republic and Anthropologie locations are” would work best — then you don’t have to try to make the store names plural! Sorry I’m such a grammar nerd, haha.

      Posted on February 13, 2013
  6. This is REALLY helpful. I’ve actually been thinking about how to approach inviting guest bloggers and you’ve now assured me that having a focus or a guiding question is the way to go. It makes sense. We find freedom in form, oftentimes, don’t we? Asking my students to go create a piece of theatre leaves them staring blankly. But if I say, “Go create a piece of theatre that has an entrance, an exit, a moment of surprise, a moment of despair, and 7 seconds of slow motion….” they’re suddenly inspired. (Sorry, that’s the theatre teacher analogy that made the most sense in my mind.) I’m loving your blogging tips, Lisa! You’ve got a lot of wisdom and I am continually learning from you.

    Posted on February 13, 2013
    • Lisa says:

      That is exactly it — we do find freedom in form! I think as creative people, we have so many ideas that without some sort of guidelines we struggle to focus on one because we’re off on the next one before we can flesh out the first.

      Happy to hear you are enjoying the series, thanks for the kind words!

      Posted on February 14, 2013
  7. Awesome tips! I’ve done guest posts, but have never asked anyone to do one on my blog, just shy and not really knowing how to go about asking, etc.

    Posted on February 20, 2013
  8. Alice says:

    I’m slowly developing ideas for possible collaborations, but I’m just so afraid no one will want to do it.

    I want to start an interview series, monthly at first, but because I’m fairly new my blog doesn’t have as many views as other more known established blogs, so I’m afraid that if I write to those that I like, that they will refuse because my readership is smaller. And consequently I’ll have no people to interview.

    Do you have any advice?

    xx
    Alice

    Posted on March 2, 2013
    • Be very clear on what you need from them, make sure you don’t take too much of their time, and ask at least 3-4 weeks in advance. It’s a lot easier to answer a number of questions than write on an open-ended topic. Also, when you ask people, a kind note goes a long way! Don’t just straight up ask for the favor — introduce yourself, and tell them why you’re asking them to participate (a sentence or two is fine). It can also help to ask people who have about the same readership as you do, that way you can grow your blogs together, but don’t be afraid to reach out to someone more established if you really love what they do. Good luck!

      Posted on March 4, 2013
      • Alice says:

        Thank you so much for your advice! :) I feel so bad for not thanking you sooner, I guess I just read this in my email notification and didn’t actually hop back on the blog.

        I think that when you want to work with someone, you should tell them why you want to work with them or what you like about their blog, and definitely not just ask for a favor. Which is what you pointed out and I totally agree. I also hate those generic “dear sir/madam” emails, I got one of those and you clearly see that the person writing it didn’t even check out your blog. Weird.

        Thanks again!
        xx
        Alice

        Posted on March 14, 2013

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