Hi everyone and happy Friday! On Tuesday, I put out a call on my Instagram stories asking if anyone would be interested in a Q&A type post. I did the same thing on my post on Wednesday. I’ll be honest, it was mainly because I didn’t have an outfit ready. Blogger fail (maybe you shouldn’t be taking any advice from me)! Anyway, I got some great feedback from you all. Thank you! It is always such an honor and so exciting to me when you all respond. I still get giddy over it. I love interacting with you and connecting with you. It’s what makes this all so fun. I got questions on motherhood, budget, beauty, and blogging. If I covered all those today, I think you all would quit reading. Ha! I may break this up into a few posts, but I promise to cover it all. I’m planning a six month update on little miss Ivy Jean in May, so I will probably add more motherhood stuff then. I’m excited!
Okay back to the point of this post. The majority of the requests were for blogging related information both generally about how to start a blog and specific to my schedule, etc. Before we go any farther, I have to say that I feel far from an expert when it comes to blogging. I like to call myself an accidental fashion blogger seeing as how I actually started blogging in 2010 about anything and everything, and didn’t officially start Straight A Style until 2015 when I realized fashion really was what I loved and wanted to focus on exclusively. That being said, I think I have learned a lot along the way mostly by doing things wrong. Let’s get down to business with some blogging tips and tricks.
Blogging Tips and Tricks Q&A
General Blogging Information
- Plan for the blog you want to have – I started on a hosting site with a domain name I didn’t buy that I ultimately changed, and I used my personal social media. ALL WRONG – don’t be like me.
- Come up with a strong blog name that explains what your blog is about
- Consider buying your domain. Even if you don’t, pick one that you’ll stick with for the long haul.
- Set up your social media channels
- Get a good, professional looking theme with your social media buttons readily available
- Images make all the difference – Sometimes I wish it were different, but we live in a visual world. The appearance of your blog and your image quality are probably the two most important things. If you are trying to sell clothing or convince a brand you are a good person to represent them, your images need to look good. Once you have good images to post on your blog, you will also have good images to share on your social media platforms.
- Invest in a good camera. We just bought a used Nikon D610 with a 50mm 1.8 lens on Amazon, and I love it.
- Find a good photographer. Bonus points if you can talk your hubby into helping you (I’d be lost without you babe). Though some people can master tripods and taking photos themselves, it’s really hard. I think having a good photographer is important. You might be able to find a local blogging buddy and take photos for each other.
- Take photos in good lighting in professional settings. We avoid direct, harsh overhead sun. Professional photographers can shoot in these settings, but they are harder. For us, shady spots near large buildings are what work best. Ideally the golden hour is best, but the reality of that just doesn’t always work.
- Engage with other bloggers in your content area – This is hands down my favorite part of blogging. I have loved getting to know other bloggers. I feel like I have friends all over the country even if I only virtually know them. Sometimes when I travel, I am even lucky enough to meet some of them in person. Besides being fun, engaging with other bloggers really provides a support network. I have learned so much from other bloggers, been encouraged by them, found collaborations through them, and more.
- Participate in weekly blog link ups. You can see a list of the ones I participate in on my daily reads page. Basically you add the link to a recent post of yours to help get it out there. You visit others and just generally support one another. I have found other awesome blogs through participating in these.
- Join groups on social media outlets. There are group Pinterest boards to help share your blog pins (see the ones I am in here), Instagram comment pods where bloggers engage with each other to support Instagram posts, Facebook groups to share ideas and questions, and more.
- Comment, comment, comment. I spend a lot of time visiting other blogs and commenting on their posts. Besides being fun, inspiring, and challenging (getting to see what others are doing and learning from it), it also helps drive traffic back to my blog. I also have gotten to know some awesome bloggers this way.
- Consider ways to monetize your blog – This is one of the hardest things, especially when you are first starting out. It does take time, and as your blog grows it will come.
- Consider joining an affiliate network. There are a lot of these, and often times brands even have their own. I personally cannot keep up with multiple networks, so I have chosen to join one. I am part of rewardStyle. It works well for me, but it did take time to start making money and seeing it come in regularly. If you have applied and been rejected, they typically look for an engaged and growing audience, consistency in posting, quality and original content, and clean design. I’d be happy to refer you if you’d like. Just send me an email. This is how I make the majority of my money through blogging.
- Work with retailers for sponsored content. Whether a sponsored post or social media share, this can be a good way to make a little money. Determining rates can be a little tricky, and I think it is something you need to decide at an individual level. There is a guide here that has been published that might give you a good starting point based on your following.
- Many retailers consider gifting product as the payment. For me personally, I typically weigh how much I want to work with the brand and how much the item costs when deciding if I will accept product only as payment. For example, if I am being gifted a $300 item from a brand I’ve always wanted to work with, I am much more likely to do the collaboration without additional payment than I would be to take a $30 item from a brand I feel only lukewarm about. I also consider how much I think I might be able to make in commission on an item.
- How do I reach out to brands – I was so nervous about this in the beginning. It is something that I have gotten more comfortable with over time and definitely something that just comes with blogging territory. Most brands have a contact email on their website if you look hard enough, though not all. If you cannot find a specific PR/blog email, start with a general. They will often pass it along to the right person if they are interested.
- Make it personal! Why should the brand work with YOU? I have a general email I created a while back that I use and customize each time I reach out to a brand. It starts with an introduction, why I think working together might be a good fit (i.e. I have long loved the brand and have a lot of it in my personal collection), explains a little about my blog, highlights other recent brand work, and mentions blog/social media highlights and engagement.
- Have a media kit.
- When reaching out to brands in the beginning, I heard no a lot (still do) or just didn’t get a response back. Don’t be discouraged!
- One tip I have is to pay attention to brands that are working with bloggers. Some are more receptive and used to working with bloggers than others. If you see a brand working with bloggers regularly, chances are they will be more willing to work with you too.
- Blogging takes time and hard work. Give yourself grace and enjoy the process. – I’ll be honest with you all, I play the comparison game. I struggle with feeling like a failure too. When you all asked for advice, I thought “from me?” The truth is, blogging is hard work and growth, for me at least, is sometimes slow. I have to remind myself that I do this because I genuinely love it. I love the creative aspect. I love getting to know and be inspired by other amazing women like YOU! Give yourself grace and enjoy the process. Remind yourself why you started.
Personal Blogging Information (some of which I covered above too)
- What is my blogging schedule and when do I take photos?
- I post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have found that three days a week works well for me at this stage. It also helps me know what I need to have ready and hopefully helps my readers know what to expect.
- In general, I take three sets of photos on the weekend with Russ. By Sunday, I try to have all my photos edited and Monday’s post ready and scheduled. I also try to have at least a shell of the other posts started if not fully done. The more I can have done by Sunday, the more time I have during the week for other blog related tasks.
- During the week, I use Ivy’s naps or evenings when Russ is with Ivy and I don’t feel like blogging is taking away from our family time to respond to comments, blog email, and tend to social media.
- It is definitely a balancing act that has gotten harder since Ivy was born. It’s far from perfect. Some weeks it works well, and some weeks I feel way behind and stressed out by it. In general though, I feel so fortunate to be able to do it!
- How is working with a professional photographer different than shooting with Russ (my husband).
- I’ve only worked with a professional photographer a couple of times. It’s always been really fun and a great way to challenge myself. I am so comfortable with Russ, and photos with him are easy. The pro would be that I get new and different shots and ideas for the future. Plus I get to met new people!
- The con would be that for my life right now, it’s hard to schedule a time to meet with a photographer. Outfit photos with Russ literally take 10 minutes per outfit. We have it down to a science. We just leave the house on the weekend whenever it ends up working best for us and are done quickly. Sometimes I am also waiting on a product to come in at the last minute to shoot.
- Does your blog come up often among your real life friends and acquaintances? e.g. do your co-workers all know about your blog? What do you tell them about it? e.g. do you say it’s a hobby or a part-time side job…or something else? Is it ever awkward or is it past that now that you’ve been doing it for a number of years? All my close friends and coworkers know about my blog. I work as an Admissions and Enrollment Coordinator at a university. I’ve been there for six years, so by now everyone knows. My blog is definitely not something I bring up when I first meet people. I still feel kind of awkward about it (does that ever go away?!). It usually comes up after some time when someone I am with who knows mentions it to a newer acquaintance or someone asks about some clothing I have on which kind of brings it up. I do typically refer to it as a part time job. At this point, I see it as more than a hobby. I still enjoy it like you would a hobby but I work at it like you would a part time job.
- Your photos are always beautiful. How many hours per week would you say you and Russ spend just taking photos for your blog? Thank you! Really most of the credit goes to Russ there. And to a good camera. I touched on this above, but we usually take three sets at a time. Each set only takes about ten minutes each, and then I awkwardly change in the back of the car. All three probably take about 50 minutes to an hour. I don’t edit my photos in the sense of making any physical changes to my person. I do change lighting if necessary. I would say I probably spend about another hour doing that on all three sets. In total, if you include driving (which adds about an hour), I spend about 3-3.5 hours on photos each weekend. I also plan out my Instagram photos using Planoly. If you haven’t checked out the app, I highly recommend it. It’s the only thing I have ever paid for.
- What advice would you give someone who told you they wanted to become a full-time blogger? This is a tough one! I think I would say that realistically it is very hard to make blogging a full time career. There is also a lot of unknowns about the future of blogging. I totally get it, there is a piece of me that would love to do it full time. When you can turn your passions into a career, it’s a dream! I would say to aim for it while also being realistic about the work involved and the chances of it happening.
I hope you have found this helpful! Let me know if there is anything I didn’t cover that you would like more information on in the future. Background image free via PinkPot.