Optimize your images for SEO

Every week I share no more than 3 hands-on resources that I carefully handpick from the top-experts and best practitioners in SEO and digital marketing. You won’t find FOMO inducing theories and convoluted predictions in these posts. I want to help you build long-lasting SEO and digital marketing strategies with proven methods you can implement today. Previous editions can be found here.

⏰ #Now - What I have been up to

As I am now settled in Strasbourg, France, I’m getting back on Meetup to find new networking opportunities and ways to connect with other freelancers. Networking has always been a tricky thing for me so I’m definitely working on it for 2020!

I tried a hack for Google My Business posts this week. I read about it on Reddit (couldn’t find the post, sorry). Apparently, posting just a photo and no text would be seen by users as a huge image, thus giving more visibility to the post. Unfortunately it did not work for the listing I manage and I believe it was just another UX test from Google. It’s all trial and error, right? Please let me know if you try this too and how it turned out 😉

On another note, I have also been making one gingerbread a week for the past month, and never took time to post it on #SEObread 🤦🏻‍♀️

👓 #Focus - The one thing you should check out

A big part of SEO is content, and an important part of content are images. They attract users and make your page more accessible and engaging. They are also responsible for acquiring organic traffic, especially in niches where infographics, step-by-step pictures and product photography are essential.

In this guide, Isaac Justesen provides 9 Steps to Optimize Images for SEO, guiding you through tools to resize your images on several platforms, good practices in files names, alt tags and titles as well as ways to improve your captions.

🤓 #Read - The best of SEO blogs

In one of his famous Webmaster Hangouts, John Mueller gave hints on Dealing with Low Traffic Pages. Roger Montti summed up the key elements in his article on Search Engine Journal.

In a nutshell, there are two approaches to this:

  • Remove non-performing content
  • Improve existing content
Both approaches are valid, but choosing one will depend on your data. Speaking of data, John Mueller also recommends considering other metrics than just Page Views, as those can be misleading on low-traffic pages.

🤓 #Read - The best of Content Marketing blogs

When it comes to content, quality is king. But that doesn’t mean you should compromise on your formatting, as this will affect how long your readers will spend on your page (and your bounce rate). In her article about 9 Painful Blog Formatting Mistakes That Will Ruin the Best Content, Gill Andrews goes through the common mistakes in blog formatting and best practices for your content.

Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.

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Improving Technical SEO Audits

Every week I share no more than 3 hands-on resources that I carefully handpick from the top-experts and best practitioners in SEO and digital marketing. You won’t find FOMO inducing theories and convoluted predictions in these posts. I want to help you build long-lasting SEO and digital marketing strategies with proven methods you can implement today. Previous editions can be found here.

⏰ #Now - What I have been up to

I recently started working on local SEO for a client and diving deeper in Google My Business. I also made some interesting contacts with last week’s post… More on that in a few weeks. I am preparing an article looking back at my 2019 form a marketing standpoint: things I did, events I participated in and key moments for my professional activities.

On that note, I am looking for new projects! Feel free to contact me if you hear about an SEO/digital marketing consultancy opportunity. 😊

👓 #Focus - The one thing you should check out

Barry Adams explained his methodology for Technical SEO Audits at the Optimisey Meetup. He focuses primarily on the technology and relevancy of the website, meaning how the website is crawled and then indexed. In his presentation, he drives us through the different steps he takes for his technical SEO Audits and what elements are important to take into consideration.

The emphasis is made on how audits are useful to clients, where they come in the process of improving the website, what data sets will actually be useful and what tools you can use to improve your technical audits.

🤓 #Read - The best of SEO blogs

In one of his famous Webmaster Hangouts, John Mueller gave hints on Dealing with Low Traffic Pages. Roger Montti summed up the key elements in his article on Search Engine Journal.

In a nutshell, there are two approaches to this:

  • Remove non-performing content
  • Improve existing content
Both approaches are valid, but choosing one will depend on your data. Speaking of data, John Mueller also recommends considering other metrics than just Page Views, as those can be misleading on low-traffic pages.

🤓 #Read - The best of Content Marketing blogs

When it comes to content, quality is king. But that doesn’t mean you should compromise on your formatting, as this will affect how long your readers will spend on your page (and your bounce rate). In her article about 9 Painful Blog Formatting Mistakes That Will Ruin the Best Content, Gill Andrews goes through the common mistakes in blog formatting and best practices for your content.

Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.

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Set your priorities straight for International SEO

Every week I share no more than 3 hands-on resources that I carefully handpick from the top-experts and best practitioners in SEO and digital marketing. You won’t find FOMO inducing theories and convoluted predictions in these posts. I want to help you build long-lasting SEO and digital marketing strategies with proven methods you can implement today. Previous editions can be found here.

⏰ #Now - What I have been up to

This week was an admin week, dealing with a bit of taxes and some upgrades on this website. Thanks to some great feedback I got from Amelie Sörensen, I made the links a bit more readable, and I updated/upgraded some backend plugins. Next step is to add a subscription option to this blog post series and have it automatically sent as a newsletter.

I also had a great time reading about The Metaphysics and Linguistics of Emoji in an article shared by Jamie Alberico. The use of emoji through our everyday communication with one another is a topic I have been exploring and learning about since 2014 when my classmate and best friend started working on this topic for his Master’s thesis. If you have ever wondered how the different styles of one emoji on different devices can impact the emotion created within the conversation, this is worth a read.

👓 #Focus - The one thing you should check out

Aleyda Solís participated in the latest edition of PubCon and presented her list of Top Do’s and Dont’s for International SEO. Below are a few of her recommendations.

All the details for these recommendations can be found in Aleyda’s slides from the presentation.

PS: Aleyda also has a YouTube channel you should check out 😉

📺 #Listen - The podcast you should listen to

Competitor research in SEO can be a great opportunity for you to adapt your content. In this episode of the SEO SAS Podcast, Sarah and Hannah discuss what are the benefits of competitor research from keeping an eye on their performance to identifying new ideas for your content. They also talk about the items you should look at when doing competitor research, from featured snippets to backlinks and topic clustering.

Get right into the heart of the podcast at 2:50.

🤓 #Read - The best of SEO blogs

A few weeks ago I shared a post about removing URLs from indexing to optimize the crawl budget. Kevin Indig shared a step-by-step guide to pruning your URLs with SEMrush.

The guide is very thorough with helping you understand which URLs and underperforming and what you should do with them. Apart from setting them to meta=noindex, you can also merge similar content, have 301 redirects from one page to the other, or work on updating/upgrading the content.

Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.

How to use Google Analytics to track your SEO efforts

Every week I share no more than 3 hands-on resources that I carefully handpick from the top-experts and best practitioners in SEO and digital marketing. You won’t find FOMO inducing theories and convoluted predictions in these posts. I want to help you build long-lasting SEO and digital marketing strategies with proven methods you can implement today. Previous editions can be found here.

⏰ #NOW - WHAT I HAVE BEEN UP TO

Last week was a creative week for me, I helped a friend who’s a Raceboard World Champion design communication material to help her raise funds for next year’s competitions. It was fun getting back to traditional communication work!

I started sharing this blog post to the Women in Tech resources Slack channel, and plan on adding LinkedIn and a couple of Facebook groups to the mix too this week. If you come from one of these: Welcome! If you have ideas of where I should share this project, please leave a comment below 🙂

I also participated in last week’s #SEMrushchat on Twitter about targetting the right keyword for SEO and was featured in their roundup of the best tweets from this chat. 👍

👓 #FOCUS - THE ONE THING YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT

Google Analytics is a very powerful tool for digital marketing, but it is also a strong asset for SEO. Elise Dopson walks us through different uses of Google Analytics to better understand where to put your SEO efforts. In a nutshell, my favourite elements Elise writes about are:

📺 #WATCH – THE VIDEO YOU SHOULD HAVE A LOOK AT

Stacey MacNaught gave a talk at the Optimisey Meetup in Cambridge about link acquisition tactics.

She focuses on very practical ways to build clean, reliable links to your website that will help your ranking strategy in the long term.

I particularly liked how Stacey makes a parallel between PR and SEO and how much the two fields are related. As SEOs, we heavily focus on keywords and what our customers search for and PRs work with stories about real people and how they overcome their challenges. Writing content about the people in your company and their journeys is likely to get you some links from important publications in your niche.

She also gives great tips on how to find what magazines are going to write about in the next months or year. As it turns out, a simple research can get you this information for some of the top international news outlets! You can even find data on how much Condé Nast’s readers spend on interior design. 😲

Details of Stacey MacNaught’s talk, transcript and slides can be found on Optimisey’s website.

🤓 #READ - THE BEST OF SEO BLOGS

Organising your content is critical for SEO and there are many ways to do it. Kane Jamison wrote an article showcasing 5 different approaches to content hubs and over 30 examples from various industries.

This article is a great resource if you have a bunch on content you don’t know how to sort, of if you are working on topic clustering on your website.

Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.

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Remove 72% of URLs? A crawl budget case study

[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Every week I share no more than 3 hands-on resources that I carefully handpick from the top-experts and best practitioners in SEO and digital marketing. You won’t find FOMO inducing theories and convoluted predictions in these posts. I want to help you build long-lasting SEO and digital marketing strategies with proven methods you can implement today.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

⏰ #Now – What I have been up to

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”small” position=”left” color=”#ffd219″ thickness=”3″ width=”100″][vc_column_text]I got a huge response to the launch of this weekly blog post from the SEO community on Twitter. So thanks to you if you read this, your support means a lot. 🥰

We have most of the basic furniture and appliances we need in our new home, and we know the IKEA catalogue by heart now. I also improved on some handiwork skills, like drilling holes and setting up drawers.

I participated in last week’s #SEMrushchat on Twitter about PPC and SEO and was featured in their roundup of the best tweets from this chat. 🎉

This week’s #Focus section is quite technical, so if you are more into content, keep scrolling![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”64px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

👓 #Focus – The one thing you should check out

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”small” position=”left” color=”#ffd219″ thickness=”3″ width=”100″][vc_column_text]Crawl budget. In a nutshell, optimizing your crawl budget is to make the best use of the resources Google decided to allocate to your website. In his article, Vasilis Giannakouris explains in a very detailed case study how they optimized their crawl budget for Skroutz.gr by removing 72% of indexed URLs.

If it might sound like a bold move, at first sight, it was, in fact, the result of an in-depth analysis of their e-commerce website that was initiated by the following issues:

  • Difference between the number of indexed pages VS the number of pages they had
  • An increase of the time it took for a page to be indexed and to rank high
  • An increase of the time it took for metadata to be refreshed

A technical SEO audit was then conducted and recommended to work on optimizing their crawl budget.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=””][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

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🤓 #Read – The best of the SEO blogs

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”small” position=”left” color=”#ffd219″ thickness=”3″ width=”100″][vc_column_text]Have you ever heard of Squeeze Pages?[/vc_column_text][qode_simple_quote text_title_tag=”p” simple_quote_text=”A squeeze page is a type of landing page marketers use to collect just email addresses from visitors. You persuade or “squeeze” visitors to provide this info by presenting a special offer, gating valuable content, or restricting access in some way.” quote_symbol_color=”#ffd219″][vc_column_text]In this article, Luke Bailey sets the record straight on what is a squeeze page and what you should include in one to boost your lead acquisition, along with four examples of squeeze pages you can get inspired from.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=””][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

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📺 #Watch – The video you should have a look at

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”small” position=”left” color=”#ffd219″ thickness=”3″ width=”100″][vc_column_text]In this episode of SEO Mythbusting, Martin Splitt and his guest Suz Hinton explain how Structured Data replaced micro-formats, how they can help you enrich your content and how to test them.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=””][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Je6G4IUYcGI”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The documentation mentioned in this episode:

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_separator type=”normal”][vc_column_text]Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”64px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Latest posts of The Pragmatic SEO

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Optimize your on-site search

Welcome to the very first edition of this weekly blog post about SEO and digital marketing.

I have mentored interns and entry-level coworkers in digital marketing and SEO, and have worked with inspiring and entrepreneurs interested in SEO as a means to grow their business. The two questions that always come up are:

  • Where do I find valuable, hands-on information?
  • How do I avoid getting overwhelmed by the ever-changing nature of digital marketing?

The purpose of this blog post is to answer both questions every week, more likely every Tuesday, with no more than 3 resources carefully hand-picked by me from the top experts and best practitioners in the field, guaranteed with hands-on advice and methods for your digital marketing strategy. I promise you the information you will find is applicable and pragmatic, away from the FOMO inducing theories that won’t get you anywhere. I want to help you build long-lasting digital marketing and SEO strategies with proven methods you can implement today.

This format was inspired by Stéphanie Walter‘s Pixels of the Week, a weekly post full of brilliant links around UX and UI that I highly recommend checking out. 👍

⏰ #NOW - WHAT I HAVE BEEN UP TO

Well, first of all, I started this new weekly project and it is very exciting! A few weeks ago I also got LASIK surgery and I just moved back in Strasbourg. We still have no internet and no plates to eat on, but we do have new desks in a dedicated home office room! 🏡

👓 #FOCUS - THE ONE THING YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT

Did you know that customers who search for information directly on your website are 5 to 6 times more likely to convert? JP Sherman, Head of Findability at RedHat, gave a talk at the Optimisey Meetup about How to Optimize Your On-Site Search.

🎧 #LISTEN - THE PODCAST YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO

In Deepcrawl’s podcast Open Dialog, Sam Marsden interviews Areej Abuali, Technical SEO Manager at Zoopla and founder of Women in Tech SEO. They discussed the difficulty of having SEO recommendations implemented, the differences between working at an agence VS in-house and improving your coding skills.

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Do you need help with your digital marketing strategy? Are you planning to work on your website’s SEO? Would you be interested in having me talk at your conference or train your team?

Here are the links to read more about me, check out my former experiences, find out more on the services I provide and contact me.

A Freelancer’s guide to preparing a professional photo shoot


As freelancers, we have to be know how to sell our skills and personality. Most of us have a website or an about.me page where we explain briefly who we are and what we do for our clients. We have social media profiles on every platform, all promoting our personal brand in a way or another. But there comes a time in your freelancing career, where selfies at the beach or cropped group photos don’t represent your personal brand enough anymore. A time where you might want to be more public about your work, speak at a conference, write an ebook or start a course. In short, a time where your face will appear more often on the internet, and you might want some professional shots of yourself instead of your old portraits from the university.

I recently did my first professional photoshoot for work, and wanted to share the whole process I went through.

1. Why do you need a professional photoshoot?

As with any project, you should first define why exactly you are doing it. For me, I wrote down where I wanted to take my freelancing career and what goals I had for the next 2-3 years. 

In a nutshell, I want to speak at conferences, take on long-term projects that really appeal to me and stick to my values, and share my knowledge by creating a few online courses. As you can see, some goals will require some pictures of myself for communication purposes. 

In the case of conferences, it’s likely the communication won’t be done by me, so I won’t have much control over what image of me is being shared around the internet. I figured I might as well have a quality media kit to give away instead of having teams scrape pixelized versions of my old profile pictures.

I also believe that the key element of differentiation between 2 freelances with equal skills is their personalities, and what better way to show your personality than with a personal website with high-quality pictures of yourself?

Okay, now you know why you want to spend a couple of awkward hours with a huge lens pointing at you, let’s get move on to my next point: money.

2. Define your budget

Your freelance activity is a business, and you are going to invest in your communication. As with any business project, you should be budgeting your photoshoot wisely, as prices for photographers can vary a lot.

From my experience, I knew I wanted to use those pictures for 2 to 3 years. That’s how old my previous portraits are, that were kindly taken by a colleague in a coffee shop near our workplace. Given my current communication expenses – mainly consisting of this website, costing around 50 euros per year, and given my current earnings, I knew I could spend up to 200 euros comfortably for a photoshoot.

Now, that might seem a lot to you, or really not enough. As I said, prices vary a lot for photoshoots. You can easily have a beautiful set of portraits done by a skilled friend with a smartphone in a park, or head to a famous photo studio in Paris. I suggest looking a how much you can afford first, and then find a photographer in your budget.

3. Create a mood board

If I tell you to think of a nice portrait of yourself, you probably already have a very precise idea in your mind. Perhaps it’s a combination of photos, locations, and people you like.

What clothes are you wearing? Are you standing or sitting? Are you working? Do you have something in your hands? Are you eating or drinking something? Are you at a big or small table? Are you inside or outside? Are you smiling, laughing, or being serious? Are you alone or are there other people? Are you at home or in a public area? What colours do you see?

These are elements your photographer will need to know to make sure he or she gives you the result you expect, and it might be complicated to express in an email the idea you have in mind. That’s why you should create a mood board.

If you are not familiar with the concept, a mood board is essentially a collection of pictures, illustrations and colour palettes that reflect the ambience, the vibe of the result you want to achieve.

At first, I gathered pictures that resembled the result I was aiming for on Pinterest. I found it was the quickest way for me to build an easily shareable image collection, but you can use whatever tool suits you best. What I liked also about Pinterest is that they will suggest images related to the ones you already set up in your board, and you can add your own ones you found elsewhere on the internet also.

For extra clarity on my expectations, I split my board into two parts: Poses and Locations. I knew exactly what kind of attitude I wanted to show and the type of environment I wanted to be in. A lot of my inspiration came from Emma Gannon’s main photo on her website, where she seems to be in a cosy bar with a bright yellow jacket. I really loved the idea of a cosy place with a bright colour popping out. I am also very productive and happy in hipster coffee shops, so that’s the kind of place I wanted people to see me in.

With that in hand, your photographer should be able to understand your vision.

4. Find a photographer

I travel a lot and change home every couple of months, so I knew I couldn’t ask around for a photographer, I had to find one from scratch. The good news is we have the internet and finding someone to take pictures of you is not very complicated if you have Google and Instagram.

While you are searching for the perfect photographer, keep in mind the style of pictures you want. You can’t expect good indoor portraits from someone specialized in nature photography. Have a look at their previous projects and their style, and choose someone you resonate with on an artistic level.

Instagram

I started by searching by location, in this case, Vilnius, Lithuania. I mainly looked for fashion-related posts as I knew I needed a photographer used to working one-on-one with women. Sometimes the posts were made by the photographer him or herself, sometimes by the model, who usually tags the photographer somewhere in the caption. If the people I found had a website or portfolio, I would also check them out.

I contacted a few directly by DM, explaining clearly what I was searching for.

Facebook

I actually found my photographer on Facebook, despite the fact we both rarely spend any time of this platform. It turns out Facebook search works quite well and I was able to find at least two interesting photographers there. Since their pages are often linked to their Instagram profiles, it was easy for me to check out their work, websites and contact them through Messenger.

Upwork

I never had the opportunity to be the one hiring for a job, so I tried posting a job on Upwork for this project. I found a few interesting people, mainly art students searching for side gigs. Even if the people I found there were interesting, I didn’t move forward with them and found the process of posting a job quite tedious.

Google?

I’m really not sure Google is the right place to find a photographer. It will depend a lot on your location and you can’t be sure high-ranked photographers will be the best fit for you. In any case, a quick search is always useful so you might as well give it a go.

What should you ask them?

Here is the message I sent to photographers I was interested in:

Hi,
I am a digital marketing freelancer and I travel full-time around Europe. I am spending the summer in Vilnius and I am searching for someone to take photos of me for my professional website. Would you be interested by this kind of project? Alizée

Who was my photographer?

I ended up working with a talented young photographer from Vilnius, Lithuania: Elvinas Dalala. We met for a first contact a couple of weeks before the shoot and he was very attentive to what I wanted from the photo shoot. During the photo session, he was super professional and kind, helping me relax and look my best. If you are searching for a photographer in Vilnius or a photographer in Switzerland (he travels often there), I couldn’t recommend Elvinas more!

5. Find locations

When you established your mood board, you probably already had a few locations in mind. In my case, I knew I wanted to be in “my natural environment”, somewhere I feel at ease and where I like working.

For me, that meant no parks, beaches, office spaces, no super cliché digital nomad places you see in news articles. By the way, do people still believe you can work with your expensive laptop from a beach?! Not to mention the sun reflection in the screen, the lack of wifi and the dangerous sand that can ruin your machine…

I love working from home, but also from coffee shops. I find I am much more productive with a good coffee and the surrounding buzz of a good coffee place, so that’s where I wanted to be photographed.

I started looking for locations right after my first meeting with the photographer. I googled coffee shops around me, checked out their photos and, if the place wasn’t too far away, took a walk there. I met with one owner in person, to whom I asked what was their less busy moment in the week and if they would accept a small 2-hour photoshoot in their establishment. The response was positive.

In the following days, I made a list on Google Maps of places I liked, sorted them by preference and contacted them by phone or on their Facebook page one after the other.

Here is the message I sent to coffee places I was interested in:

Hi, I’m a French freelancer in Vilnius for a few months, and I’d like to come next Tuesday morning to take some professional photos for my website. It would be just myself and a photographer. Would you agree for us to come a take a few shots?

Side note: Tuesdays are usually the less busy day of the week for local businesses, and mornings between 10 am and 12 pm are also quite calm for coffee shops.

I would suggest adding the following information in your message:

  • Name
  • Activity
  • Why you want to have pictures taken, what is the nature of the photoshoot
  • Where these pictures will go
  • When you want to come over
  • How long it will last
  • How many people will there be

Also, always double-check with the person in charge once you arrive at the location. In my case, we always had a quick chat with the barista to make sure we weren’t causing any trouble, and of course, we always ordered coffee for both the photographer and I. A good latte art makes a great prop too!

6. gather your props

Having a few familiar objects to play around with and give dimension to your shots is a great idea. You will feel more at ease surrounded by “your stuff” and it will give the photographer some ideas to work with.

Here is the complete list of the props I took with me:

  • Blue Moleskine notebook
  • Red notebook
  • Beige notebook (I really like notebooks)
  • MacBook Pro 15″ because that’s what I work with, I have a case on it for extra safety at airports security that I took off obviously
  • Black Magic Mouse 2
  • A nice coaster I have and use every day for my coffee mug
  • A leather pencil case
  • Pens, lots of pens with different textures and colours
  • A hardcover book
  • My Kindle
  • Bose QC 35 headphones
  • Swell water bottle
  • Second pair of glasses
  • A pair of sunglasses

We ended up not using most of the props I brought, but I was glad to have them with me just in case. I also brought a second outfit and some accessories like a scarf and jewellery.

7. Be at your very best

Of course, you want to look your best on the day of the photoshoot. Preparation can vary from one person to another, but to give you an idea, here are the different things I did to prepare.

Hair and makeup plan

I planned my makeup and hair ahead of time and tried a few options at home before going to the shoot.

Here is what I planned:

  • Nails: simple manicure with a simple light nude pink shade
  • Hair: washed on the morning of the shoot, then blowdried and lightly straightened
  • Makeup: light and natural, yet concealing my blemishes

I also took with me my hairbrush and bobby pins, my lipstick for on-site retouches, some chapstick and concealer.

What I did before the shoot

3 days before:

  • Do my nails
  • Pluck my eyebrows
  • Iron my clothes
  • Get to bed early
  • Drink a lot of water and no alcohol
  • Eat healthily
  • Pre-order the Uber to get me to the photoshoot location

The day before:

  • Moisturizing facemask
  • Clean all the accessories with a microfiber cloth (especially screens)
  • Prepare the bag with all I need for the photoshoot

8. The day of the shoot

R-E-L-A-X. If you are like me, the idea of having someone focused on you for a few hours is highly stressful. Being the centre of attention is not easy and I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror figuring out poses. I suggest checking out Sorelle Amore’s videos of posing in photography. Have a chat with your photographer beforehand about your fears and insecurities. Be transparent with him/her about that elbow you think looks wierd or that little tummy everone finds cute but you hate in photos. You might also find you have a favourite profile and that your hands are such an asset for your portraits!

If your photographer is anything like mine, he/she will start by taking a few random shots to get the lighting right and to get you comfortable in your new model career. Have fun with the poses and situations, keep in mind a checklist of the shots you want, and ask for feedback. It really gets on my nerves when people say “Just be yourself“, but in that case, it’s true. Work on your laptop, tell an anecdote, have a laugh, take a sip of coffee and write something in your notebook, grab a book, look outside, and enjoy life!

I would also suggest having a quick hair and makeup check-up once in a while as moving around can mess things up.

My photoshoot lasted 2 hours and I was exhausted at the end. Turns out being self-conscious is quite demanding in terms of energy levels!

9. After the shoot

A few days after the shoot you should get your first edits from your photographer. We had settled with my photographer that he would send me a few different versions of the edits for 5-10 photos so I could tell him which kind of edit I preferred. I also made a selection of the shots I preferred – there were over 300 pictures taken! He then edited the shots I had selected and I paid him.

The editing process can vary depending on the photographer. I suggest discussing the terms of the editing process with him/her beforehand to avoid too much back and forth.

10. Share your pictures to the world!

Now you have tens of beautiful pictures of yourself, it’s time to share them! Update your profile pictures on social media, update your website, and post in the comments on how the process went for you!

Venice is like Vegas

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I was lucky to visit Las Vegas in 2016. I found the city just as crazy as it was sold to me for years on TV shows and other American movies. I arrived there by plane, and the sight of this city coming from nowhere in the middle of the desert was completely surreal.

You see, cities are often placed in logical areas, where first populations had access to resources like fertilized land and water. Vegas doesn’t tick the boxes. It wasn’t meant to be, yet here it is, in all its extravagance.

I visited Venice in December last year, and I had a similar feeling. Not that the city wasn’t meant to be: Venice is built on islands of a lagoon which provided protection for the city and important commerce opportunities. This time, the surreal feeling came from the constructions. You see, most of the city is built on stilts. One of the churches near San Marco’s place is built on 1 million wooden stilts. The church is magnificent and decorated with tons of marble.

If Las Vegas could be built in the modern ages by bringing water and resources in the middle of the desert, I still have a hard time to imagine people over a thousand years ago building a magical city on wooden stilts, that is still up to this day.

Venice is sinking in the lagoon, slowly enough so that you should be able to visit it before you die, provided global warming hasn’t drowned it before. Also, starting next summer, there will be a tax for all tourists entering the city. The ancient city is slowly but surely turning into an open-air museum, but the trip is well worth the money, believe me!

Adulting through New Year wishes

Photo by Mockaroon on Unsplash

New Year wishes are daunting. This ancient tradition everyone expects but no one wants to follow, each year, just as you are in the rush for the holidays, running errands to find presents for everyone, digging up this old turkey recipe you left in a cupboard, cleaning the house for all the guests that will come over and once again walking barefooted on this Christmas tree needle on the floor (ouch!).

Yet, as a responsible adult, and perhaps also as a professional, you are expected to draft new year wishes for your contacts, friends, family, and so on. Last year’s resolution was to anticipate this task, for once, but it didn’t work, did it?

That’s how I felt all day. I started preparing my new year wishes for all my professional contacts mid-December. I drafted tens of personalized messages on a spreadsheet, listing all the contacts I should send my wishes to, the preferred medium on which we communicate (mail, What’s App, etc.) and the message. I naively thought I’d be able to send everything on January 1st. Turns out the annual hangover didn’t let me get off the couch.

I procrastinated until today, January 7th, first Monday of the year. I spent all afternoon sending emails, answering emails, and copy/pasting thoughtful notes. It was not done on January 1st, but it’s done. That must count for a couple of adulting points, right?

What I loved and hated about my full-time job

This Saturday will mark my first unemployment birthday. Well, my first “not-working-full-time-for-someone-else” birthday to be honest, because it’s not like I have been slacking for the past year, on the contrary.

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

So here is everything I loved about my full-time job, followed by all I hated about it, in no particular order.

  • Having a fixed amount of money on my bank account each month. What a luxury! Knowing you will get paid even if you didn’t perform as well this month as the previous one feels very reassuring.
  • My colleagues and our inside jokes, our little lunch routines too. I worked with extraordinary people who always supported me and helped me grow both as a human and as a professional.
  • The Friday free breakfasts and the free coffee. Each last Friday of the month we had a ginormous breakfast to enjoy, organised by our office manager. Those days, things went slowly, people stopped to chat and shared good food and a sweet moment, away from the stress of the job, even if most of the conversations were work-related anyway.
  • Friday afternoons. Yeah, you guessed it, Fridays were a special day for us. On Friday afternoons, we would have workshops organised by some team members. Most of the time, it would consist of a presentation about a specific topic related to digital marketing, or sometimes a discussion about a new design for a website. In any case, those were long moments dedicated to learning and sharing good practices, and I believe they were the reason why this particular team performed well.
  • The daily passionate discussions with like-minded experts. Related to the whole learning and knowledge sharing topic, having people super excited about their job and happy to share their knowledge daily meant a lot to me.
  • Teaching my interns about this ins and outs of the job, still with a strong sense of knowledge transmission. I had a great time sharing my work with my interns and witnessing their progress each day. Luckily, I still have great relationships with them, and I’m proud I was able to play a part in their training.
  • Being encouraged to innovate every day by my manager. In my team, we had room to try out new things and discover new ways of doing digital marketing, and I think this is very precious in any organisation.

I could go on, but those are the main things that made me wake up every morning. As you can see, they are very much related to the people I worked with, and in case I didn’t stress this enough, they were the reason I stayed working there for two years.


Now for the fun part, let’s move on to all the things I hated…

  • Not being able to earn more with more work. Even if I put in extra hours and outperformed, I couldn’t make more money. Well, of course, I would have to wait for my annual review to try and negotiate some extra income with my manager, who by the way didn’t have much of a say in this. In the end, pay raises when they were approved of were very low in this company and in no foreseeable future could I have earned substantially more.
  • Not being able to save money because I lived in an expensive city. Mind you I had a decent salary, but I was always on a budget. That’s one of the main reasons that pushed me to change my lifestyle. With a decent income in Paris, living with my boyfriend in a 28m2 apartment, paying out my student loan (which was quite low compared to what some close friends had to pay each month), without going out, no bars, no nightclub, the occasional pizza delivery, no movies, very rare drinks with colleagues after work, no smoking and a lot of home-cooking, I barely saved any money. After a year and a half of work and the occasional weekend at my parents, I wanted to go on vacation with my boyfriend, something nice and relaxing but not extravagant. We took a 10-day vacation in a hotel in Greece, at the very end of September, just before they closed for the winter. I paid for this vacation with money I had made on weekends from my freelance gigs, not from my 9-to-5 job. That was a wake-up call for me. This life was not sustainable long-term.
  • The politics of work and the tens of hours spent debating on someone’s behaviour at the coffee machine. The daily gossip and the fuss around minor events that happened around the office take away a lot of time in the day and don’t benefit anyone.
  • Having to shamingly ask for vacation days months ahead of time, feeling judged if you’re taking them when it’s not right for the company and stressing about whether or not they will be accepted. Also, not feeling allowed to take a day off without notice because you are unwell. You could go to the doctor to have a day off, but in France, if the doctor says you can’t work for three days or less, you simply don’t get paid. So if you need a day to get over the first day of your period, you better have a very understanding manager and thought of taking your laptop home beforehand to work from home. And be sure to be marked as “available” on Skype all day to avoid any criticism from co-workers once you get back. That little green dot has a lot of power.
  • Office hours. I am not a morning person, never was and never will be. After months of working for myself, I discovered my productive hours are 9.30 am to 1.30 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. I am useless after lunch, and won’t get anything useful done no matter how hard I try. But I wouldn’t go back home most of the afternoon to recharge right? Or leave the office to read a good book in a café nearby? No, I would stay at my desk, open some spreadsheets and suffer all afternoon trying to get something done, and suddenly, past 5 pm, when people are slowly starting to go back home, have a Eurêka moment and do all I had to do in a couple of hours maximum.
  • Open offices and their war to get the best chair or spot to work from. That’s the big issue with open offices and hot desks. You never have an ergonomic space to work from. People will use your chair if you are away for a day and change your settings. You will have to re-adapt your workspace each day. Also, you probably won’t ever get a high-end chair adapted to your needs or standing desk setup for the sake of uniformity. The ones that manage to negotiate for better equipment are generally frowned upon.
  • Like I just said, you can’t choose your hardware, and you have to select software to use that is in the not much up to date list from the IT department. Needless to say, if you wanted to try a new software — which happens a couple of times each year in digital marketing — you’d have to test it on your personal computer.
  • Having to wear makeup every day — not that I had an obligation to. Clothing and makeup are very important in the workspace, and any change you make to your style will be noticed and discussed. Not in a bad way. I have never heard of someone criticising someone else’s new haircut, but just the fact that it has to become a discussion topic is tiring. There is more to people than a new shirt.
  • The routine. Waking up every day at the same time, often super tired, taking a quick shower, spending time doing my hair, putting makeup on to hide the bags under my eyes — which will eventually receive some comment during the day anyway, choosing an outfit, maybe having a coffee if I am early-ish, running to the metro and squeezing in with other tired people, some of which definitely don’t live by the same hygiene standards as I do, running in the cold to my office and sitting at my desk after saying hello to some friendly faces while also catching a few judgemental looks because it’s 9.15 am, and I’m 15 minutes late, that’s not what I call a happy start to the day. Around 11.30 am comes the eternal question of “What will we have for lunch?” That moment when most people doubt where to go, no one wants to eat alone, even if that means spending 13 euros on a croque-monsieur and industrial fries you will stuff yourself with hoping it will bring you enough energy to stay awake for the rest of the day. By 4.30 pm things start to move gently. Young parents leave the office of tippy toes, on the verge of saying sorry for leaving early but at the same time eager to fetch their true purpose at the daycare. Around 5 pm, some confident guy will stand up and leave with a big smile, heading for the gym after a perfectly productive day. At 6 pm, a quiet rumble of chairs moving and tired “good evening” leaves the office too, ready to cramp in overcrowded metros and trains for an hour of a ride back home in the suburbs. And by 6.30 pm, only the ones working on massive projects, or the ones with different circadian rhythms and a sense of professionalism stay up to 7.30 pm. After that, if you are caught working in the open office when the top manager comes downstairs, you might get the chance to have a quick chat with him, and he might remember your name when the annual reviews come up.

As you probably have understood by now, I didn’t leave my 9–5 job because I hated it, but because I am not made for the way traditional businesses are run. A year ago I decided to stop sacrificing my lifestyle for safety nets I didn’t have use of. I re-evaluated my real needs and ambitions and took the leap towards a different future. Maybe not a better future, but at least one I have chosen for myself and on my terms.

I probably won’t have a collection of branded business cards to display on my big marble desk at the top of a Parisian skyscraper by the end of my career. I guess I won’t either ever receive a medal for my seniority in a company — yes, you can get those in France sometimes, like, proper decorations, like in the army! I suppose my path in life will be filled with ups and downs, turns and zigzags, but that’s okay. I don’t mind taking risks in my career if it means staying true to myself, to my values.