Getting Started on Youtube

If you had asked me back in January of 2015 if I ever thought I’d be on YouTube, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. No offense meant, but I’ve never considered myself comfortable on camera or even with the physical act of recording and editing video. Yet somehow, here I am a year later with a YouTube channel of my own. Armed with a love of books and an inexplicable surge of courage, I dove in headfirst, not having the slightest idea of what I was in for.

Vlogging and YouTube channels are certainly taking off in every corner of the blogging world these days, but knowing how to start can send any new vlogger’s head spinning. Do you have to memorize everything and record it in one go? Are you going to need fancy sound and lighting equipment? And don’t even get started on cameras…

Luckily, getting started with YouTube is ridiculously easy. In fact, you could record your own video of surprisingly good quality right after reading this article, I kid you not.

Getting Started on Youtube

Camera // There’s a surprisingly low barrier to entry into the world of Youtube. These days, a decent camera is something that most of us already own. Look no further than — your phone.

I can only personally speak to the iPhone, but the quality of recording on the device is crisp enough to film good quality audio and video with no other equipment necessary. You could certainly invest in a more high-tech camera, but if you’re just getting started and don’t want a costly commitment, an iPhone works just fine.

The only piece of equipment I would recommend buying is a tripod or stand for your camera or phone. For filming with a cell phone, I recommend the GripTight GorillaPod* stand. It’s portable (making filming on the fly easy as can be) and can easily stashed in your bag when going from place to place.

Backdrop & Lighting // While you and your content should be front and center, blank white walls aren’t the most interesting subjects when it comes to backdrops. Find a designated space to film and set up your space with relevant and/or interesting decor. It doesn’t have to be extravagant (it shouldn’t be cluttered; simple is fine!), but adding background decor can instantly elevate your video, making it more inviting than a sterile while wall.

Some Youtubers who have killer backdrops?

As far as lighting goes, there are plenty of professional lighting kits out there, but all you really need is a place that is well lit with natural sunlight. Photography tips transfer nicely to the realm of video recording, so make sure you’re not filming in the dark. Natural light is best, though it can be understandably capricious depending on what the weather is doing.

Stay on topic // It’s easy to get flustered or go off on tangents. Make sure that you choose a topic for your video, however, and stick to it. Just like with a written blog post, you wouldn’t just put fingers to a keyboard and unload a massive, rambling brain dump on your readers. Same with a vlog: have an idea of what you want to cover ahead of time. It’ll make your video easier to follow as well as make your video feel less like a teenager’s video diary and more of a polished piece of content.

Make a script // No, you don’t have to memorize what you want to say, nor do you need to record your entire video flawlessly in one take.

You should probably not, however, wing it. Have an idea of what you want to say ahead of time to make sure that you cover it all without rambling. I tend to make a list of points I want to make and keep my list off camera. The great thing about video is that you can stop and start, or edit out the bits where you pop over to check your list. No one will ever know.

tripod for youtube GorillaPod

Learn video editing basics // Until I started filming for Youtube, I had never opened iMovie. It was a beast of a thing that I just assumed would pulverize me with fancy video editing terminology the minute I opened the software. Breaking news: it did not. I am still alive and well, and iMovie is surprisingly easy to use.

There are surely more sophisticated editing programs out there, but for my purposes, iMovie got the job done as a new YouTuber. You can cut out the bits where you stumbled over your words or rushed over to check your notes, making it easy to edit down your video into something slightly more seamless. Aside from removing unwanted bits of video, learn your way around your editing program so you can become more familiar with all of the features it has to offer (editing video doesn’t have to be scary!)

Once you’re feeling comfortable, play around with adding a catchy theme song to your videos (YouTube has jingles you can use for free) or logo to the opening.

This list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can do with Youtube, but hopefully it gives you a place to start. Delving into a new medium can be terrifying, but it’s easier to get started with vlogging than it looks. Sure, it takes a while to get comfortable on camera and there’s plenty to learn along the way, but the first steps are all it takes.

Thinking of starting a YouTube channel? I’d love to see what you’re vlogging about (leave a comment with your channel!)

*affiliate link

Periscope with Confidence! What I learned from my first Periscope broadcast

Host Your First Periscope Broadcast with Confidence

If you asked me what Periscope was a month ago, I would’ve said, “The thingy that sticks out of a submarine?” Clearly, I had no idea just how much of an impact this social media tool would have on the world of blogging and small business.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and Ampersand Creative and I found ourselves sitting at The Point, filming a Periscope broadcast about the future of blogging. More viewers attended than I imagined would show up for my first broadcast (though, I’m sure our backdrop of Heinz field across the river and beautiful bridges didn’t hurt either.) Thirty minutes flew by in a flash, and before I knew it, I was addicted.

Periscope is a simple, candid way to share your content and engage with your readers.

We all love great content, but getting to interact with the person behind the computer screen elevates your brand to a whole new level. (tweet this)

Periscope is still in its infancy, and I’ve seen users experimenting with unique and creative ideas left and right. From The Thinking Closet‘s #MondayNightDanceParty to Chris Ducker’s personal and candid #Duckerscopes, there’s truly so much you can do with the app’s live broadcasts.

A live broadcast can be scary at first, especially if you’re not used to creating video content. But coming from someone who didn’t know the first thing about Periscope when I clicked ‘broadcast’ for the first time, the fun quickly takes over and your intuition as a content creator will steer you in the right direction.

But we’re all overachievers who (unlike Kristin, apparently) like to be knowledgeable about what we’re getting into beforehand. To spare you the fumbling of figuring it out from scratch, I’m passing on what I learned from my first Periscope broadcast!

Host your first #Periscope broadcast with confidence! I made the mistakes so you don’t have to! (tweet this)

1. Have a topic // Don’t go into a broadcast without a focus, or else you’ll be a ramble-y mess. You wouldn’t write a post about “Oh, I don’t know, just whatever comes to me…”, so don’t make a Periscope broadcast like that. Choose a topic to talk about and write down some notes if you need to. It doesn’t have to be planned to the max, but at least figure out some talking points. This also helps you to…

2. Optimize your title for Twitter // Because you can share your broadcast on Twitter both during and after, it helps to have a title that incorporates hashtags, which can make your content easily discoverable. Your title should say what your broadcast is about and include any keywords, just like a blog post title, as well as relevant hashtags.

Guess how hard it’s going to be to write a title, period, if you don’t have a general direction for your scope? (see step 1)

3. Invite your friends // Once you’ve written an enticing title, share away! Your Periscope followers will be alerted to your broadcast so long as they have notifications enabled, but invite your other followers by spreading the word on social media. Marissa and I did our Periscope broadcast completely impromptu, sending out just a few tweets minutes beforehand (which surprisingly got us a fair number of viewers), but you can plan and announce your upcoming broadcast as far in advance as you want!

4. Start out strong // Broadcasts start with a shot from your rear-facing camera (and there doesn’t appear to be a way to change this), but once you hit ‘start’, you’re live! Take a minute to introduce yourself and say hello to your viewers, but don’t sit around and wait for more people to show up. Start talking right away so that people see what you have to offer, and don’t get a video of you just twiddling your thumbs as your wait for a bigger audience.

Better yet, start your broadcast with a shot of a handwritten note or title card so viewers know what your broadcast is about (and so they aren’t staring at a blank wall.)

5. Ask questions // Whether it’s a simple “Where is everyone tuning in from?” at the beginning of your broadcast, or a reply to a question that’s come up, asking questions gets viewers involved in the conversation, which benefits both you and your audience, but don’t forget to…

6. Give people time to respond // It takes a minute to type a response to a question you’ve asked, plus you need a moment to read your viewers comments and reply. You’ll start seeing comments from viewers pop up at the bottom of your broadcast as you’re talking, which requires some multitasking. Pay attention to these, and give your viewers that time to digest and respond because…

7. People want to ENGAGE with you! // Yes, people want to hear what you have to say on your topic, but most viewers are excited to have some more one-on-one style interaction with you. While you certainly don’t want to go off on a tangent, don’t be afraid to take some time to engage* with your audience and show your personality! Be courteous (remember, you are the face of your brand) but be you!

*I ended my second broadcast on Proofreading Strategies by taking video game recommendations. Because why not?

8. Tell viewers how they can connect with you // While it’s not as formal as a call-to-action in a blog post, you don’t want your viewers to become blogging one-night stands. Remind them of your website’s URL (it helps to put this in your profile for easy reference), ask them to follow you for future broadcasts, or just to swipe right and share the broadcast itself.

9. Use a tripod; your arm will get tired // The thing that sucks about an impromptu broadcast is that you don’t realize how tiring holding your phone in front of your face can get. Do your arms a favor and find a place to prop up your phone, or better yet, use a tripod (I use a GorillaPod for recording all of my videos and I love it!) If you want the bicep workout, by all means, keep holding.

10. Save your broadcast // It’s important to remember that your broadcast is only available for 24 hours after it goes live, so if you want to save your content you have to save it to another source, such as your camera roll or the cloud.

I had a blast during my first Periscope, but there’s still lots to learn. Some of these tips I wish I knew before I hit “broadcast” for the very first time! There’s always next time for me (and you know there will be many more broadcasts to come!) but you can get started with these tips right away!

Don’t miss my next Periscope broadcast! Follow @mylifeasateacup for the latest writing & productivity scopes.

Happy ‘scoping!

P.S. If you’re looking for a comprehensive how-to guide for getting started with Periscope, MissTrenchcoat has a live demo to walk you through the steps!

How to Organize Your Content with an Editorial Calendar

How to create an awesome editorial calendar for your blog with Trello | My Life as a Teacup #blogging

Editorial calendars are a necessary evil, but little did I know just how much organizing content plagues bloggers until it was the topic of Kayla Hollatz’s #createlounge just a few weeks ago!

Editorial calendars can range from a pen-and-paper planner to a color-coded Google calendar (and even a plain ol’ Excel spreadsheet, which I used back in the early days of My Life as a Teacup!) These methods all have their merits, but finding the system that helps you to plan, schedule, and organize all of your content outlets in one place can be a nightmare of a process.

Enter Trello.

Trello is a visual-based project management tool that lets you organize large projects in a number of ways. I initially dismissed it as an app geared toward collaboration (a feature of Trello I’ve grown to incorporate), but have since embraced it as my go-to editorial calendar.

My setup still isn’t perfect, but utilizing Trello has been the best thing for my blog! Here’s a peek at how I use it to manage my content across all of My Life as a Teacup’s channels.

An Overview of Your Media Channels

Setting up Trello “categories” will set the foundation for how you use your editorial calendar. There’s no right or wrong way to list these; it simply depends on what content you want to organize. My current categories are based on my main content outlets, and look a little something like this:

Create an Editorial Calendar That Works for You

Think about how you would divide up your content. What kinds of content do you create? A blogger might include a ‘blog post’ stack, as well as a ‘newsletter’ stack to plan how content will be divvied up between the two. If you create video tutorials or content, a ‘Youtube’ stack might be fitting. Youtube has been a big area for me; I pencil in what reviews I have in my queue, as well as that month’s 5 Fandom Friday topics (but obviously if you don’t use Youtube you can skip this stack altogether.)

If you record podcasts, you could start a stack for your planned episodes. Create a list for Instagram content you want to publish, if that’s a key component of your brand. The possibilities are endless.

Micromanaging Your Content

Each of the white squares you see in the stacks above are referred to as ‘cards’ in Trello. But organizing a card into a themed stack isn’t super helpful on its own. Trello lets you go further by integrating individualized management features into each card.

Manage blog posts and content with Trello

Due date — Exactly as it sounds.

Description — Add reminders and notes to yourself or even use the space to draft your post.

Subtasks — You all know this is my favorite part! Trello lets you create a checklist so that you can break down each card into smaller subtasks and check them off as you complete them.

Labels — My second favorite feature; you can set up a series of color-coded labels to mark each card. Currently, I use them to indicate what stage my content is in, from draft to scheduled. You have full customization over what your labels say and how you use them.

Activity — This is a great feature if you’re collaborating with another blogger or are part of a larger group. I don’t personally use this status update-like feature much, but it’s been helpful when Marissa of Ampersand Creative and I are working on a project together.

When you’ve done all you want to do with your post, or ‘card’, simply hit ‘archive’ and Trello will clear the completed task from your busy blog calendar.

With so many customization options, this is the part of Trello that really lets you configure your calendar in a way that suits your needs.

Social Media Scheduling

One common worry many #createlounge-goers expressed is the difficulty of incorporating social media planning into their content calendars. Some bloggers are adamantly against planning social media, usually because it can feel contrived or is too hard to organize, but I’m going to argue for creating an editorial calendar for your social media just like you would for your blog posts.

On one hand, some social media can’t be scheduled. Take reader interactions and Twitter, for instance. It’s impossible to know to whom and about what you’ll want to respond, so that form of social media isn’t conducive to being scheduled. You’ll just have to reply on the fly.

But there is plenty of social media that you can schedule to maximize your readers’ interactions and free up your time, all without feeling disingenuous.

Personally, I identify the types of social media I want to engage in each week, which typically includes at least one of each of the following: retweet, share someone’s link, promote a new post, recycle an old post, engage a follower, ask a question, etc.

From that list, I’ll simply add each task to Wunderlist so that I can check off each as I complete it. For the new content that I plan to promote, I’ll include a subtask in that post’s Trello card that outlines how and where I want to promote it, like so:

Use Trello as a social media calendar

It’s easier for me to associate the promotion of the new post with the post itself, while for other social media I prefer to set a recurring task reminder through something like Wunderlist. You could easily plan your social media endeavors differently, either through Trello (e.g. set up a separate column just for ‘Instagram’ plans) or another service, but I’m fond of my current method.

Month At a Glance

Trello's calendar view helps you schedule blog content

My favorite feature, by far, is Trello’s calendar view. Enabling just a few settings allows you to see your content in a true schedule-like format, which is great for visually seeing how your posts are organized over time. It’s easy to drag and drop cards to different dates on your calendar, making this a valuable feature for planning posts and making sure that you’re not leaving your readers in a content drought.

Whether you’re a pen-and-paper planner (byRegina’s Epic Blog planner is incredible!) or prefer organizing your content calendar digitally, there are virtually endless options out there for creating and maintaining an editorial calendar. And even within each type — take Trello, for instance — there are a variety of configurations you can use to set up your calendar in a way that’s best for you and your content. Test out some different systems and see what works for you!

Consider your own editorial calendar. If you don’t currently use one, why not? If you do, can you think of one thing you can do to improve your content organization or plan your social media?

How to Boost Your Productivity with Wunderlist

Wunderlist in Action

Many of you have asked how I stay organized and productive through all of the chaos of running a blog and editing business. I’ll admit — it’s not easy, but with the help of some apps, I’ve mastered a system of to-do lists that works perfectly for me. You’ve already met one of my favorite apps, Evernote, but now it’s time to meet the other: Wunderlist (the basic version, which I use, is free!).

Wunderlist is simply a digital to-do list, and that’s precisely what I like best about it — it’s simple.


Like any good app, Wunderlist is accessible on all of your devices, meaning your tasks sync instantly to your phone even when you’ve been working on the computer.

There is an option to upgrade to Pro and Business-level versions, but the basic free version has served me well for going on 3 years now.

You can:

  • Set due dates
  • Set reminders
  • Schedule recurring tasks
  • Break to-dos down into subtasks
  • Add notes
  • Create multiple lists
  • Organize lists into folders
  • Sort by hashtags
  • Turn your background into an adorable sleeping kitten (I never kid about kittens)

Though it can do quite a lot in terms of organizing and categorizing, the interface isn’t overcomplicated and is intuitive if you already spend a lot of time playing around with technology in general.

What’s the Difference?

You might find yourself wondering why I split my project management between two tools. There are a lot of apps out there, and surely it’s more convenient to keep everything in one place? But all apps are not created equal. The difference is in the type of brain clutter you want to store and how you want to display it.

While Evernote is perfect for capturing ideas and brainstorming sessions, it’s easy to get lost in the magnitude of it all. After all, it is more like one giant notebook.

Wunderlist is more useful when it comes to managing tasks, both on a short-term and long-term level. Schedule it, complete it, check it off.

Recipe for Success

Sure, Wunderlist does all this cool stuff, but where do you even start? Forming a habit with a new app or productivity system is hard work, I know. Depending on what other systems you have in place, discovering where Wunderlist fits into your life may take some getting used to. I tend to use it primarily for personal tasks as well as day-to-day scheduling, but there are loads of other ways you could incorporate Wunderlist into your personal life, or even into your business.

Let me give you an idea of my system…

Inbox & Daily To-Do

Subtasks let you manage to-dos

For me, Wunderlist is first and foremost a personal to-do list. When I wake up, I’ll tap open the app, add tasks that I need to complete that day — from picking up groceries to booking a vacation — and get to it. I can break tasks down further if I need. For example, ‘buy plane tickets’, ‘book hotel’, and ‘dust off suitcase’ can all go under ‘Book Vacation’ so that I can make sure to do everything on my list.

Often I’ll schedule my whole week in this way, which is easy to do from my phone while on the go. I can move things around if they’re more the tentative task type, or set a deadline for specific to-dos.

I tend to work from my ‘Today’ tab, as I know those tasks are the most urgent. That also means limiting my to-dos for the day so that I don’t go overboard and lose my sanity. Some tasks are things I would like to get to, but aren’t imperative for that day’s schedule, hence…

Specialty Folders

List Organization in Wunderlist

Some tasks are simply longer-term “goals”, if you will. Rather than have that miscellany scattered around my daily dashboard, I file them into looser lists in separate folders for easy organization and less clutter. Unless they’re time sensitive, I don’t schedule a due date.

For instance, this winter I’ve got a few things on my “OMG so excited to do these!” list, like go ice skating and take a glass-blowing class. I don’t have exact dates for them just yet, and so until I sign up for said glass-blowing class there’s no need for it to show up on my daily task list.

Other Specialty Lists I Currently Have: TBR list, a checklist of video games I keep meaning to finish

Business & Blogging

Organize it All with Folders

Of course, just scheduling posts on my editorial calendar doesn’t mean that I’ll remember to do what’s necessary to publish them. I use Wunderlist to turn My Life as a Teacup-related plans into actionable tasks.

I created a separate folder called ‘My Life as a Teacup’ in which to organize my blog items. Within that folder, there is one list for the blog itself and another for Youtube.

The ‘Youtube’ list is a way for me to set recording reminders; I’ll start by listing all of the videos I plan to record, add them as subtasks with their own checklist, and then change the due date as I record each one. This way, the overarching task of ‘record Booktube video’ shows up on my daily dashboard when I have a video to record, and I can cross off the videos as I film each one.

The ‘Blog’ list houses long-term blog tasks which I can further break down into subtasks, set up recurring instances of (like “write newsletter”), and schedule as I decide to take on the bigger projects.

There’s no one correct way to use Wunderlist, but it’s a powerful task management tool when you can incorporate it into your productivity system. For me, that means combining its to-do list power with my Evernote Notebook of Everything, a combo that works wonders for me.

Share your Wunderlist tips + tricks in the comments or on Twitter and lets maximize our productivity together!

5 Photography Apps to Make Your Photos Instagram-Ready

instagram photo apps

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you all are familiar with Instagram.

Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk photography apps.

It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally found my groove when it comes to taking photos with my iPhone and sharing them on Instagram. When I look back at my early photostream, I cringe; there was no consistency to the photos I took, and the “editing” was horrendous! I’ve since fallen into a system that consists of running my photos through one of a handful of different filters and apps to achieve a more consistent style.

autumn leaves and starbucks coffee
How do I prep my photos to make them Instagram-ready?

Afterlight // My favorite editing app! You can crop, straighten, lighten; adjust contrast, saturation, temperature, and so much more. Standard editing options aside, Afterlight has tons of filters and film overlays for every occasion and type of photo imaginable. My go to filters are ‘relic’, ‘breeze’, and all of the season-specific options (though, they’re good at just about any time of year!)

VSCOcam // Why use one photo-editing app when you can use two!? I’m sure this makes life harder on myself, but I’m a fan of VSCOcam if only for the “portrait” filter. It’s great for a quick fix on a selfie, and a pretty great all-around editing app as well. You could easily get away with using either this or Afterlight, but I like the variety of editing options both provide.

TimerCam // I believe it was ruKristin who first turned me on to this app with her #Thursday3 tag. Taking a photo of yourself is hard, and your arm making an appearance in every selfie can make your Instagram stream kind of dull. With TimerCam, you can place your phone down wherever you’d like and snap a picture of yourself that’s not limited to how far your arm can reach. Hoorah!

Instasize // Sometimes I like to take normal-sized landscape photos (as opposed to square ones) but still upload them to Instagram. Instasize is great for uploading landscape pictures into a square format so that you can at least still share them on the photo-app giant. Exhibit A.

A Beautiful Mess // For when I need to add some text to an image or do my #currentlylist card digitally. I’m still perfecting my ability to minimize and rotate text (my fingers aren’t the most dexterous) but overall I’ve found this app to be the easiest way to customize my photos with words.

Bonus: Collect // Kam turned me on to this app after mentioning it in a Project Life post, I believe. You can set reminders to take a daily photo, and keep track of your photos in a calendar spread. Super handy for scrapbookers who want to keep their photos organized!

What are your favorite apps for taking photos on your phone?