Blogging 101: Guide for beginning fashion bloggers

Friday, February 22, 2013

First off let me say that I am probably in no way qualified to write a post with a title such as that, but I have been seeing so many fellow bloggers with no more success than myself writing tips for beginning fashion bloggers. I wanted to write “hold no punches how-to” from a barely-making-it-in-the-blogosphere fashion blogger.

Let me start with my qualifications. I have been blogging for two years, and my first year was an entire flop. I had no idea what I was doing and basically jumped in the pool with all my clothes on. To be fair, I also did not know what my expectations were with my blog, so it’s hard to move forward, if you don’t know where you want to go.  After two years, I have written over 385 posts. I have over 25,000 monthly page views and over 4,000 unique monthly visitors. Till this day I have made very little income from my blog. I put in at least 60 hours a week on my blog, it seriously consumes every free thought I have, but that’s okay, because I love it!!

So, on to what I think every blogger should know before they take the plunge, or perhaps you’ve done what I did and need a little guidance…


The first thing people ask me when I tell them I am a fashion blogger is “how cool, how do you make money at that?”


My answer is always the same, “I’ll let you know when I figure that out.” You see, you cannot begin your blog with the expectation of getting rich. I would love nothing more than for someone to pay me millions of dollars for my thoughts, but that’s probably not going to be the case (at least not in my near future). You must only start a blog because you are crazy passionate about something and you have the drive to tell the world about it.


Passion
As I just stated you must really be in love with the topic in which you want to blog about. There are millions of blogs out there and the only way yours will even attempt to stand out is if you are 100% committed to your theme. Blogging is a full-time commitment and if you are going to spend hours upon hours discussing something, you better love it. If you choose to blog about something you are only marginally interested in, your readers will notice, your desire will wane and eventually you will give up.

Research
I cannot stress how important it is to research everything pertaining to blogging before you start a blog. I did not do that, thus my growth curve was not as steady as other bloggers. I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet and I thought it looked simple. I am so glad I began blogging, but I wish I would have known more about the industry before starting my blog. I have learned so much in 2 years and there is no way I would have known all of that before I started, but I seriously went at this blind. Google needs to become your best friend. Here are a few topics to research heavily before starting a blog:

Market Place in General
The first thing anyone does before starting a business, is to research what the climate is and whether or not there is another company doing the same thing. You don’t want to recreate the exact same idea as another blogger. You do want to take a good look at what is happening in the blogging industry in general. What types of blogs are out there? What category would your blog fall under? What is the average growth of a blog? What can you expect within your first year of blogging?

Competition

When I was in college, I used to have to write competitive analyses all the time. How that pertains to blogging, is to research all the blogs in your genre. Look at blogs both big and small, analyze their content and their writing styles. Read their background, see where they came from and listen to their success stories. No one becomes a viral blogger overnight, track their journeys and learn from them.

Different Platforms Pros/Cons

Before you even begin to write content, you need to figure out which blog platform you want to use. There are a variety of free blog sites out there; the two most popular are Blogger and Wordpress. I have used both and each has it’s own benefits. Spend some time examining their platform and then choose which one seems easiest for you to use. Honestly, the platform you choose is not going to be what makes or breaks your blog, but if you pick one that is difficult for you to navigate, it will be really frustrating.


Branding 
Name
Your blog name is probably one of the most important things to decide before you begin blogging. Your name needs to tell people what your blog is about in an instant. I’ve heard a lot of advice on picking a blog name, you can Google that topic too if you want. I have to tell you, (this is my own personal opinion) I don’t care for nondescript blog names. Things like “my red apartment” or “little dog blue” are stupid in my opinion. Unless you’re blogging about your apartment or you have a blue dog, I think you should come up with some more ideas. There are blogs with bizarre titles that have been wildly successful, but I think they are the exception, not the rule. Also do not pick a title that is too long, I can’t tell you how tired I am of writing “My Thrifty Chic.” But it’s mine, and I’m committed, so I’ll get over it. Also, the most important tip when choosing a blog name, check to see if someone already uses it! If someone already owns that domain name that does not mean you can’t use it, I would just personally reconsider.

Logo

When creating your logo, please pick something with clean lines and a legible font. I see so many blog headers in beautiful cursive scripts and I CAN’T read it! There are millions of gorgeous fonts out there, but pick one that readers will be able to read. On the same note do not use pastels. I have seen a ton of bloggers use light pinks, blues and yellows and you simply cannot read their links and titles. I understand wanting to personalize your logo, but take it from an amateur logo designer... black is the most legible color!

 
I have changed my logo/header at least 5 times in 2 years, so if you have to change it up because you realized it wasn’t the best logo you could create, that’s okay. Just remember once you get a large following you’ll want to stick to one theme. If you want to build your font library, you can download free fonts at dafont.com.

POV

POV stands for “Point of View” and every blog needs a specific point of view. No matter what your POV is, you will need to carry that theme through every post. For example, my blog is based around thriftiness. No matter if I am writing about current trends, new products, or my own personal style, I always interweave my POV. I would never write about a $1,200 purse because that is simply not in line with the brand of my blog. It is very beneficial if your POV is authentic to your personality as well. I have been a bargain hunter my entire life; so writing about being frugal comes naturally. For example, I could never write about deer hunting, I would just be grasping at straws for ideas.

Content

Images
Almost all fashion blogs center around images. No one wants to read about fashion without seeing the garments you’re writing about. Luckily in this day and age, anyone with a cell phone can be a photographer. You should consider reading up on a little photography 101 and consider how you will take your photos. Do you have a friend who will snap your shots, or are you going to use a tripod? A lot of personal style bloggers begin by snapping their photos in their own home. That is fine when you are starting out, but I would challenge you to strive for more out of your photos. Get outside; show your readers where you go and what you do. If you give your readers more of a bird’s eye view into your world, it becomes more personal, and that is how relationships are formed. The more personal you become with your readers the more intrigued they will become by your life and thus more likely to become repeat readers. 

Creative Writing
You do not have to be an amazing writer to start your own blog. Lord knows I am not. I have read hundreds of blogs and rarely do I find one where I am completely enthralled by their use of the written word. That does not mean you shouldn’t at least give it a really good effort. Utilize all the tools you were taught in English class and proof read at least three times. When I first started blogging, I would have my husband proof every post. As I became more comfortable and confident in my writing abilities I no longer needed his assistance. I would also suggest brushing up on some creative writing tips, it will help you develop your own voice further and build up your confidence too.

Personality
As I stated when discussing your images, you want your personality to shine through everything you do on your blog.  Your personality is what will set you apart; so let the world get to know you. I would strongly recommend interjecting a personal story into each post you write. It doesn’t have to be a long story; perhaps it’s only an opinion. Your blog is after all purely your opinion, so give your readers bits of yourself in every post.  I find when I use humor, I receive the best feedback from my readers, so don’t take yourself too seriously!

Consistency/Frequency
Consistency and frequency go hand in hand. Before you start blogging you should nail down the type of schedule you want to keep. For example, when I first started blogging, I only wrote once a week. I would strongly advise NOT doing that. I would recommend you start with at least 3 times a week. The more content you generate the more often readers will visit. In my second year of blogging I vowed to blog at least 3 times/week.  By the end of my second year I was up to 6-7 posts/week. I have to tell you my traffic has grown dramatically once I began to produce more content.  As for consistency, you want to make sure you are posting on the same days each week, it will help your readers know when to check in for new content. If your readers check in on your blog and you haven’t updated it in multiple days, they will loose interest over time.

Quality
Just because I have been harping on cranking out a lot of content, does not mean you can simply post junk. I would strongly advise against posting a random meme, or quote of the day. If you don’t have anything of value to add, don’t write anything. However, if a cheesy video has something to do with a story you’re sharing that day, then fine, but I have seen quite a few space filler posts. Treat your blog like your job. You wouldn’t hand your boss an image of a cat hanging out a window in replace of a quarterly report would you? Then, don’t put that junk on your blog. 

Work ethic
Commitment
You must be committed to your blog and willing to take the necessary steps to improve it. I am as committed to my blog as I am to my marriage, I might even give my blog more attention. On the same note, the people in your life must also be supportive of your goals. If my husband weren’t as committed to my blog as I am, it wouldn’t work either. Make sure you have a really good support team to help you; it makes a world of difference. If you haven’t already gotten the memo, blogging is hard work, and a lot of it. There is no need to start another web page to sit there for eternity if you’re not committed to it.

Man-hours
Blogging is a hobby for 90% of people, but you must treat it like a job. If you want to be successful you cannot treat it like a leisurely thing. You must dedicate over 40 hours a week to it, yes I said 40. Good bloggers, spend over 80 hours a week either blogging or promoting their blog via social media. If you think blogging is something you can do a couple times a week you are wrong. Wait, that’s a lie, you can half-ass your blog, but then you’ll never gain any exposure. There isn’t a free moment in my life where I don’t think about my blog. If I am not tied up with my actual job, or family engagements, I am writing, taking pictures or researching for my blog.  I am trying to make a business out of it, and I treat my blog as such.

Accountability
No one is going to check in on you and make sure you are blogging, you must hold yourself 100% accountable and give it your all. Otherwise why waste your time?

Organization
Calendar
Organization is crucial. You have to plan what you’re going to write about, and when you’re going to do so. I keep a calendar with the month's events/posts mapped out. After you really get going with your blog there will be lots of things to keep track of. I like to map out what posts I am going to post two weeks in advance. I also make sure I write down what engagements I have committed to with other bloggers. I keep my calendar visible near my workstation and I check it daily. Some people prefer digital calendars, but I am old school and I like to see my agenda everyday.

Files/Folders
My laptop is filled with folders of styling images, DIY tutorials and copious amounts of resource materials. You can get lost in the sea of files you will create for you blog, so I strongly recommend being very organized. Label your folders/files clearly and put everything into an overall blog folder. I also recommend backing up everything with an external hard drive in case your host site goes down, or you have a freak accident with your computer. 

Social Media Management
Social media management is going to be your key to success. It is the way the world communicates and it will be the way you show the world your blog.  Just below, I have listed some social media sites I recommend using, but you will need to decide which ones are right for you. For example, every time I make a post I put the link on at least 4 different social media outlets. In the beginning it helps to have a checklist of which sites you use. As you grow you will begin to recognize which sites are helpful in driving traffic and which ones are just time consuming.


*Some of these you can link to automatically update with your blog, so research how each one works.

Email/Correspondence

I strongly suggest creating a new email specifically for your blog. I set up my new email account the day I claimed my domain name. Having an email dedicated to blog correspondence is very beneficial because you know every email you receive is strictly in conjunction with your blog. I would also suggest updating your contact list within your email. I have made the mistake of not updating a new contact and then having to go back search through 300 emails for the contact I needed. Do as I say, not as I did.

Socializing
I’ve said it time and time again, I didn’t realize the power of socializing when I first began my blog. I mean, I knew that I was going to start a Twitter and Facebook linked to my blog and that I would use those sites to promote my blog, but I didn’t know about the individual relationships I would need and want to build with other bloggers. Blogging is a close-knit network actually and it’s best to get to know everyone. I have made some really cool friends, and we use each other for advice and as a way to gain exposure.

Ways to engage with other bloggers
1. Weekly Link Ups - A lot of bloggers host “link ups” or “blog hops” which basically just means you add your URL to their site. In return you link back to them and you both gain exposure. I have doubled my traffic since I began linking up with other bloggers! 

The Pleated Poppy Has a great blog hop every Wednesday and What Jean likes has a really successful one too on Fridays. Once you start paying attention, you’ll see that a lot of bloggers participate in weekly link-ups.

2. Write Guest Posts – Offer to write for other bloggers. It’s a great way for you and them to gain exposure with each others audience. You can also seek out other bloggers to write for your blog as well. I’ve seen quite a few bloggers take vacations and have guest bloggers the whole time while their away. That way you are not missing content, but you’re also don't have to generate it yourself.

Here is an Example from when I did a guest post for Shabby Chic + Cheap

3. Comment on other blogger's posts- most of the comments people receive on their blogs, are from other bloggers. I’m not sure why but comments denote some form of popularity and everyone wants more comments. There is a kind of unspoken quid pro quo in blogging and usually when you comment on other people’s blogs, they will comment on yours. Additionally, when people don’t know about your blog, the best way to gain direct exposure is by commenting on other blogs and letting them know you have a blog too. I once read (on a rather successful blogger’s page), that she commented on at least 20 different blogs everyday. I have tried to live by that but it’s hard. I will say, the more I comment on other blogs, the more my traffic increases. Coincidence?


4. Ask other bloggers to swap buttons – buttons are synonymous with advertisements. Most bloggers have buttons that are linked back to their blog. Often times, bloggers are willing to swap buttons with you and you both gain more exposure. If you want to know how to make your own buttons click here for a tutorial.


5. Collaborated with other bloggers – find ways to work with other like-minded bloggers. Perhaps you could do a clothing swap where you restyle the same garment. You could put together different challenges where each writes about a specific theme. For more examples check out these 2 posts: here and here.



Equipment/Services

Camera
In the beginning I didn’t think that the camera one used mattered all that much. I saw tons of bloggers taking pictures with their phones, in their hallways. So, when I started, I was using a Canon point and shoot. When my new iPhone ended up having more megapixels than my Canon I switch solely to it. For over a year, I took all my pictures with my iPhone 4s, and sometimes they looked good and other times they look like iPhone pictures. I just recently blew the wad and bought a Canon Rebel T3i. My pictures look so much more professional now! I would suggest you start out with a good camera. I mean, if you are going to put the time and effort into you, you should do it right from the start. I also suggest brushing up on your photography skills and your modeling skills. I know that sounds crazy, but how many times can you put your hand on your hip? I think I hold the record.

Photoshop
If you do not have Photoshop on your computer and/or you do not know the basics of the program, I suggest you learn it. There are other photo editing programs out there but I use Photoshop for everything. I love that I can change the lighting, I can crop and image, I can add a vintage filter… you name it, Photoshop can do it. Something to think about!

Domain Names
Buying your domain name isn’t necessary to start a blog, but I suggest it. It’s my own personal opinion that a website seems more legitimate if it doesn’t have a .blogspot or .wordpress in the middle of it. Buying your own domain is not very expensive and often times they provide hosting services so you don’t even have to use Blogger if you don’t want to. If you do want to buy a domain name, you need to check the availability of it when choosing your blog name. I suggest having your domain name and your blog name be the same thing, that way readers will not get confused when they are searching for you. True story I have seen this web URL www.(insert blog title)xx0033.com ...what is that?

Web Designer
You do not need a web designer when you first start to blog, it is absolutely unnecessary! Blogger and Wordpress have some really great per-fabricated templates that will do any new blogger justice. I do suggest seeking out a web designer as your blog grows and your needs grow. You can essentially Google how to write code anytime you want to change a layout issue and you can teach yourself web design if you’re that into it as well. A web designer is one of those things you don’t need to think about until you’re blog really takes off and you decide you really want to stick with it.

Strategizing
I’ll be honest with you, my knowledge in strategizing is lacking, because I am just now dedicating more time to it. When I first started blogging I wasn’t concerned with making money. I mean I had hoped it would turn into something but I wasn’t actively seeking out sponsors and advertisers. After two years of blogging and watching my site gain exposure, I am ready to delve into that next level. I’ll briefly summarize what I know about strategizing, but I am not a professional at this point. I am simply a girl who has worked my way up from the bottom. Everything I have shared with you today I learned first hand in the past 2 years.

How to increase traffic
Throughout this post I have given tips to increase your traffic, from quality posts, to networking to social media; all of those tools will immensely increase your traffic. And then, there’s the luck factor. Some bloggers just get lucky and maybe an online publication features them, and the next thing you know they’re a household name. Trust me, every blogger crosses their fingers for that, but it’s a long shot. The only way to increase traffic is by putting in the man-hours. If you build a good quality blog with a unique POV, people will come. It may not be over night, it might take 3 years to really see a large growth numbers, but it will happen. Think about it this way, most businesses don’t see profit for 5 years.

SEO’s
Once you begin to research blogs and traffic, the acronym SEO will pop up everywhere. SEO means, Search Engine Optimization.  There are a ton of articles dedicated to how to write better SEO’s, which one’s work, which one’s don’t, and everything in between. I cannot even begin to educate you on them; you’ll have to put in the time yourself on that one. I myself am still trying to figure it all out. I will tell you, that to this day, my highest viewed blog post is a DIY on gel nails with over 26,000 views. My title is straight forward and apparently something a lot of people Google. That was luck though, I didn’t know that post would end up being so popular.

How to become an affiliate
When you begin to research how to monetize your blog, the term affiliate will come up and that is just another way of partnering with specific brands. There are a ton of affiliate programs out there and you’re going to have to weed through a lot of crap to find the program that works you. I’m the process of doing so for my blog. Hopefully in the next few months I can bring you more information. Until then, here is an article about affiliate marketing.

How to work with retailers for product reviews and giveaways
This is also another fun topic in which I am learning all about as well. When I started blogging I thought retailers would seek me out for product reviews and giveaways… that was pretty naive of me. Once you have substantial traffic, yes, retailers will seek you out, but in the beginning they won’t have a clue who you are. Although, I have done a few product reviews, no one has ever approached me for a giveaway and I am pretty bummed about it. I have reached out to retailers and offered them a feature post in exchange for a giveaway to my readers. I have not had any luck thus far. I have asked around to other bloggers who seem to host giveaways routinely, and they’re suggestion is to contact the brands you want to work with directly, let them know who you are and what your strategy will be for promoting their brand. There will be a lot of un-returned emails but keep at it, someone will tell you yes. I also think that once you have hosted a couple successful giveaways, other retailers will seek you out.

How to make money
Oh the million dollar question! If I knew the answer to this, I’d be writing a book not a blog post. Blogging is a trial and error process and no single strategy works for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work, a boat load of patience and a little luck. Don’t get discouraged by the “luck” part because all luck is, is when opportunity meets preparation. If you stay focused, work hard and open yourself up to every opportunity, luck will find you.
• • • • •


I hope this has not been too long and drawn out for you and I hope you found it helpful! I have put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears in my blog and after two years this is my memoir. I don’t have a fat checking account, or event ticket stubs, or memories from NYFW, I only have continued knowledge and hope that I am doing the right things. I am moving forward everyday and that is all that I can ask for.

A little more wisdom before I let you go, remember that “comparison is the thief of joy.” You must not compare your growth to other bloggers, your journey will be different and therefore not equally comparable. I am guilty of getting discouraged by other people's success stories, but after I search their blog I realize they’ve had a different jumping off point. Some bloggers start out a head of the pack due to financial help, a larger network or experience in general. Do not get suckered into comparisons, they will not benefit you or your blog. Instead research successful blogs, analyze them and see what makes them successful and learn from those who have paved the way before you!!





Link Ups: #Yolo Mondays


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