Blogging 101 | Getting Started


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POST EDIT: This post was originally written in October of 2017 and since much of the information is still relevant I decided to edit and re-post for my BLOGGING 101 series. 

I recently started Blogging 101 to help answer questions about blogging for those who are interested in starting one themselves, or those who are just curious about how it all works. The first post, "Working With Brands And Making Money" addressed all of the questions I received on Instagram about how I made blogging my career. 

Today, I'll be talking about Getting Started! Questions to think about before you start, the technical logistics to starting, how to manage a full-time job and a blog, some tools needed, and a fun walk down memory lane! Below you'll find some of my blogging equipment that I think would be helpful - you can read a full post about everything HERE.

SHOP MY BLOG EQUIPMENT


SO... I thought, before we get into the questions, it might be fun to show you what my photos looked like in the beginning. I think there is always an assumption that where people are NOW is where they have always been. And that's so very far from the truth. Trust me, if you take a walk down memory lane in anyone's blog you'll quickly realize we all learn as we go. Pictures get better, and writing gets longer, and more and more help is usually provided. It's a journey just like anything else!


When I first started blogging (June 2014) I did it as a hobby, for fun. My photo quality was quite bad and I had zero help from anyone around me. Not because they didn't want to help but it was really just me, alone, on this journey. And in the beginning, I really didn't have a reason to justify the help. Most of my photos looked like the one above OR I would use photo collages to show products.


I saw this photo while going back to the beginning of my blog posts and literally almost deleted it. But then all I could do was laugh, and include it in this post. Along with product photos and collages, I took A LOT of selfies. It had nothing to do with me "being all about myself" and everything to do with not having anyone else to take my photos. Not sure how it actually translated but in the beginning you do what you gotta do - and I'm sure at the time I loved this photo haha.


In all honesty, I don't hate the photo above but as you can clearly tell, it needs some help in the area of editing. Which is another thing you learn along the way. I feel like almost five years in I'm just now really getting the hang of fixing up my photos for both my blog and for Instagram.


This was my very first collab! I remember asking a friend to take these for me outside my apartment complex. I felt so awkward and every time someone would walk out of the building I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. Which by the way COMPLETELY changes. I almost don't even notice the people around me now when I take photos - because it's just part of the job!


In May of 2016, I decided to revamp my blog and to try and take it more seriously as it takes a TON of time and effort to keep things going. This was my first "real" photoshoot and Justin took all of the photos on his smartphone (which btw we used all the way up until 2017). I think we took several hundred photos just to get a couple I liked. We had no idea what we were doing but I still have really fond memories of this day, this babydoll dress, and my bob (oh, I miss it some days!)


Once Justin and I started taking photos regularly for the blog I needed five - seven outfits photographed every weekend. J will admit to you honestly, he hates taking photos, so for a long long while we would take them outside our very old rental in front of a very old white garage. It's all I really had and I knew the only way I could get Justin to take the photos was to run in and out of the house, so I made it work. Note: It didn't hurt my engagement, readership, or "likes" on IG to have photos that weren't just perfect. People really want to get to know you and everything evolves over time.


Fast forward to our move back to Virginia in October of 2017. I knew I needed to find help and I knew I needed to up the quality of my blog so I finally found a photographer! She's absolutely the sweetest and we still work together now. We can get through six - seven outfits super quick now because she understands my style and what I like... and I can usually read her mind when she needs me to change how I'm standing or to move in or out of the light haha.  This series of photos is still one of my favorites! I can't get enough of a chic black and pink outfit combo!


BUY YOURSELF A TRIPOD AND REMOTE FOR YOUR PHONE! Sorry to yell, but if you do anything, do this. It's so inexpensive and so easy. I don't know why I waited so long but I finally had to help myself. It's impossible to take photos every day with a professional (and also pricey), and even if your significant other likes to take photos, they probably work a 9-5. The tripod + remote allow me to take photos anywhere at any time without the help of someone else. 95% of my Instagram photos are taken by myself with a tripod. I wrote a post all about it HERE.


And here we are... January 2019! (btw my photographer is Cricket Maiden)


OKAY! Now onto some personal words of advice and things to think about...

ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU WANT TO START A BLOG. I feel strongly the first step in your blogging journey should be to ask yourself "Why?" Do you feel passionate about sharing knowledge or stories with your future followers? Do you enjoy the creative aspects of technology... taking photos, editing photos, writing quality content, incorporating SEO into your posts, using Photoshop, etc. (I'm not saying you need to know HOW to do these things right now, but would you enjoy it? Because these are things you'll definitely be working with or doing along the way). Do you have a niche that will set you apart from the rest of the pack? Do you want to blog solely to get free stuff and make money? (If the answer to this is "Yes" then go ahead and stop here.)

Blogging is something you HAVE to enjoy... or LOVE rather because you're not going to write your first post and suddenly get inundated with hundreds of emails about collaborations and sponsored posts. You probably won't even get one. I don't say this to scare you or to make you feel defeated, but like all good things, they come with time and lots of effort. You have to show companies and brands that you're in it for the long haul and that you have established a substantial engaged audience. These things take time and everyone is different. Depending on your income and resources it's totally possible to go full-time in one year. Or you may work full-time and it takes seven. We are all running our own race, and that's important to remember! 


THINK ABOUT YOUR CONTENT. Content is crucial. Pretty pictures and a cool web design are wonderful but the content is the meat of your brand. Content is the true purpose behind why you're creating a blog in the first place. Thinking of content isn't always easy. Everyone has writer's block or times of un-inspiration but that's totally normal. To make things easier, try creating some sort of schedule or lists of different topics you will cover. Just make sure you aren't copying your content off of someone else. Researching other bloggers can be very helpful but coming up with unique content and ideas is what will help you to succeed. The blogging community is a small world, so if you steal content or photos people will know.


HOW OFTEN CAN YOU BLOG? Think about how much time you have to devote to writing a blog. Most bloggers post 3-5 times a week and you want to make sure you're consistent. Try not to bite off more than you can chew... at least at first. You can always ramp up later! Keep in mind that most companies and brands look for consistency and blog post frequency. Answering this question may also be a good indication if starting a blog is right for you. 


COME UP WITH GOALS AND A GAME PLAN. Goal setting is going to be your best friend! Especially if you already work full-time, part-time, have a family, etc. because it can be really hard to juggle everything. At first, you may not think so, but 24 hours in a day is seriously never enough once you start a blog - at least I don't think so. I've always worked multiple jobs while blogging and suggest making yourself a monthly list of posts, goals, and even a time schedule. That way you know what is coming and you aren't stuck the night before trying to think of things to write about. I also like making a daily time schedule so that I can stay on task throughout the day. Even if you don't stick to it exactly, you'll have important things to do at the top of your mind. And finally, goal setting - increasing your blog views, Instagram followers, etc. It's a great way to stay motivated! 


CHOOSE A BLOG NAME AND MAKE SURE IT'S AVAILABLE (and that you like it - a lot). This is IMPORTANT. Your blog name is your brand. It's going to stay with you for a very long time and is a representation of you and what you'll be writing about. And here's the thing... you may think of some awesome blog names, but most of them will already be taken so make sure to Google them before doing anything else like buying a domain. You also want to make sure your name isn't too similar to anyone else's so you can stand out. I use GoDaddy - you can go to their website and plug in website names to see what is taken or how much it will cost. Using your name is always a great idea too since it's unique to you. Granted, some names are more common than others but it's a good place to start. Also, try to make your blog name specific to your content. For example, if I was writing about food I wouldn't call my blog Amanda Fashionista lol.

Again... try to be creative... no one in the blogging community wants to be copied and bloggers spend a lot of time, money, and energy creating their own unique brands. 


CHOOSE A URL AND MAKE SURE IT'S AVAILABLE. After you have a blog name make sure it's available as a domain. Cost varies depending on the words you use. The most unique to you, usually the cheaper the cost. You can also try putting "blog" after the name in the URL if needed. Again, I use GoDaddy and have been very pleased. I renew my blog domain every year for a very affordable amount and it's as simple as that! Note: you don't have to buy a domain name but it looks more professional. On Blogger (see blog platforms below) it will automatically give you a ".blogspot" after your blog name as a URL but you can switch this after you purchase from a domain site. 


PICK A BLOGGING PLATFORM. Next, you'll want to choose a blogging platform. The two most popular are Blogger (what I currently use but am changing over this year) and WordPress. Here's the simple breakdown: Blogger is FREE and very intuitive, meaning you'll have an easy time figuring out how to create your posts. You can also design your own layout but I encourage you to use a service that specializes in this and offers skilled graphic designers (I didn't want the stress of figuring this out). WordPress comes with a yearly fee and is more technical BUT you can do much more in the way of search engine optimization (people finding your content online) and have more creative liberties. I suggest starting with Blogger if you aren't super tech savvy and aren't 1000% sure you want to blog forever as it's a good place to get your feet wet without the financial commitment. You can always switch over to WordPress at a later date and transfer over all of your previous content. 


NETWORK APPROPRIATELY. Networking, like most industries, is crucial in the blog world. I've met so many amazing, beautiful, smart ladies through blogging and social media - some have even become great friends! Having a network of other women (and men) who understand blogging is huge and they can become a fabulous resource for you along the way. A good sounding board or a place to ask questions if you are unsure of something. It's also important to network with companies and brands so you can acquire collaborations and sponsorships down the road. 

I don't advise asking or "forcing" other bloggers to follow you. I've had this happen to me and no one wants to get guilt-tripped into following someone they didn't form a relationship with organically. Also, when it comes to companies, keep in mind they want to see that you have an engaged, ever-growing following before they'll agree to work with you. Reaching out day one for free stuff or money may not be the best idea. I like to use brand outreach that comes my way as a measure of organic growth. 


NEVER STOP LEARNING. Blogging and social media platforms are ever-changing so it's good to try and stay ahead of the curve - there is so much I still don't know! I could read articles and posts for days on how to become a better blogger and on technologies to use. Take note of things others are doing well and try to incorporate those things IN YOUR OWN WAY... best practices are "best practices" for a reason. There are also lots of webinars and accounts that send out tips and tricks that are really helpful! 


BE CONSISTENT! Consistency is so important! I can't emphasize this enough. In order to grow a loyal following, you need to give your readers and subscribers content to look forward to on a regular basis. Another reason why you want to be committed to blogging before you take the plunge. You don't want to leave your fans hanging when you don't feel like writing, or you aren't feeling well, or you have too much to do. This may also change over time and that's okay but communicate with your audience. If I'm traveling, or sick, or change my posting days, usually I put it on Instagram! 



YOUR QUESTIONS

HOW OLD IS TOO OLD TO START BLOGGING? You are never too old to start blogging! Why? Because blogging is all about your life, your personal journey, and the things that you enjoy. Most likely the people who start to follow you will be in the same stage of life, enjoy your personal journey, or have similar interests. It's all about sharing who you are with the masses - like-minded individuals will follow! Always remember to stay true to yourself, you'll never be a better version of someone else.


HOW DO YOU MANAGE A BLOG WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME? Until January of 2018, I was working a full-time job, a part-time job AND blogging five days a week. Granted I'm not married and don't have children yet, so that will definitely determine how much time you can devote. Previously, I was the marketing manager for a four-hospital health system and worked as a Pure Barre instructor. Then after our move, I worked as the marketing manager for a home health tech startup and part-time for Stitch Fix. I had very little free time, but I ALWAYS looked forward to blogging. For me, it was cathartic and a great creative release!

In my opinion, if you really love it you can make it happen! Most of my blog posts were written during my lunch break, or late at night before bed. I also utilized weekends by taking all of my photos Saturday and Sunday since during the week I was too busy and I'd usually miss all of the natural outside light. In the end, you have to set a schedule that works for you and prep prep prep ahead of time. Set alarms each day to post on Instagram, and if you can only write one or two posts a week, do that and be consistent!


AT WHAT POINT DO YOU  HIRE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER? There are some amazing templates available for blogs - many are super affordable - like $15 affordable! I originally bought a template from Designer Blogs and then later worked with a graphic designer from their company to tweak and change certain things so that it looked unique and unlike someone else's site. I would strongly recommend buying an affordable template in the beginning while you are figuring out if you like blogging or want to commit. You can always pay money and invest in a designer later down the road. I'm almost five years in and am just, this year, having my entire site redone.


IS IT WORTH PAYING A PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE BEGINNING? If you can afford it, YES! Photo quality is everything, especially now that the blogger/influencer movement has really taken off. Companies, brands, and other bloggers will take you more seriously with quality photos. BUT, like you saw from my photos above, we all start somewhere and you'll still get readers and grow an audience even if you aren't paying for photo software or someone to take your photos. Don't let that hold you back from starting! I used an iPhone or Justin's smartphone for the first three years.


HOW DO YOU AFFORD IT? IS IT EXPENSIVE? I'm not going to tell you that blogging is cheap. Or inexpensive. You can absolutely spend little and still grow, but eventually, you'll need to make sure you're investing. For example, you'll probably want a more professional camera, clothing and accessories to photograph (as you won't be getting sent items right away), apps and software to edit your photos, etc. Now, that's not to say you can't pick up your iPhone and grow to 100K on Instagram by sharing what you love and being creative. BUT if you want to make blogging a career, and you want longevity, you'll want to invest. Most of my expenses now are clothing and this year, travel and redoing my site.


WHAT DID YOU DO DIFFERENTLY WHEN YOU DECIDED TO TAKE YOUR BLOG SERIOUSLY? The main thing I did was come up with a plan and goals. I had to ask myself why I was still blogging. I had been super consistent but what did I want the end result to be, and what was my purpose. I inevitably decided to go from blogging five days a week to three days a week (M,W,F) and to designate each day to a subject. Motivation Monday, Wear It Wednesday, Face It Friday. It gave me a clearer path and also helped me to decide what I wanted to talk about each day. I also decided to be much more consistent on Instagram since it's such a big driver of traffic to my blog and also because it's great exposure. I wanted to share more and more often on social media.


DO YOU HAVE A TEAM? Nope! It's just me!


WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF STARTING A BLOG? Getting started! If you think about it and contemplate on it and try to find the "right time" it will never happen. When chatting on Instagram with readers and followers about starting a blog the major hesitation is not being "ready." Not having the equipment, or the right feed theme, or the right ideas...

Y'all... 98% of bloggers didn't have these things when they started (btw this is not a true percentage...just my personal feeling). So many of us started blogs as hobbies and passion projects. It's not an overnight success... not even an after three years success sometimes. You have to love it enough to do it for nothing, and when nothing turns into something you'll have your dream job!


WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF BLOGGING? For me, the best part of blogging is waking up and not dreading the day. I never feel the Sunday blues anymore and I don't get a Case of the Mondays. I'm my own boss, I make my own schedule, and there is no glass ceiling to earn. But all of this doesn't come without sleepless nights, late nights, working through holidays, always "being on," and most importantly, the motivation to keep going. Because if YOU don't, your blog won't.


I really hope this post was helpful! I get so many questions about blogging and where to start. If there's anything I've forgotten or that you still want to know please shoot me a comment or DM. Just remember, there's no secret sauce to blogging. It all comes down to dedication, engagement, and consistency. Everyone grows at a different pace and you have to compete with yourself. If you love what you're doing and sharing, success will be sure to come your way. 



Some apps/online tools I recommend for blogging.
Photoshop Elements - for photo collages
LightroomCC + the mobile version - photo editing
FaceTune2 app - my favorite photo app!
kirakira+ app - makes things sparkle
InShot app - for Instagram movies
VSCO - see your photo grid before posting


Other blogging posts:
Blogging 101: Working With Brands & Making Money
Five Ways I Great To Following On Social Media
My Photo And Lighting Equipment
How I Take My Own Blog Photos


SHOP MY BLOG EQUIPMENT


2 comments

  1. Cannot stress the point about picking a name you like. I got inspiration from a bridal boutique that I used to work at. Now when I say my blog's name, everyone is always so confused lol. Do you have any advice for changing your blog's name? or any ideas for a new name?
    Thanks!
    Kate || KATE KOUTURES

    ReplyDelete
  2. Are there other ways to get your blog out there beside just your own social media. I have a lots of friends and people on my fb, but they are not the kind of people that really like fashion and beauty things :-)

    ReplyDelete