I get asked questions about how to start a blog a lot and figured it would just be better for me to put a post up so it’s in one neat place. I used to write essays on the subject to anyone who emailed me because you know—I’m kinda talkative and like to help people but then when people wouldn’t write back to say thanks, I felt like they stole from me so I stopped doing that so much..lol. (Seriously, I’m not looking for a Nobel Peace Prize because I answered my email, but c’mon, if I’m writing you paragraphs you could hit me back with a thanks or something, man!)
So anyway, this isn’t a steadfast plan or anything nor do I think I’m an expert on blogging (there’s far too many other expert bloggers out there that you can Google for you to be listening to me anyway), but after doing this for the last seven years (ok it’ll be seven this November), I did pick up a thing or two so I figured sharing is caring so here goes. And while the focus here is on beauty and style because this is what I know and write about, most of the advice here can apply to other genres as well. Happy reading!
P.S. This is so not in any order—just things I’m jotting down off the top of my head.
1. You won’t make any money from beauty blogging
Good—I got your attention. If you think you’re going to set up a beauty blog today and make money by next week you are wrong. OK—a week is pretty early, but basically what I’m saying is if you get into this wonderful world for the money or all the free products you think we’re all swimming in, you are W-R-O-N-G and I bet you’ll close your blog down after like a month. Blogging was built on people being passionate about a subject—enough so they were willing to do it for free. Can you imagine? Just loved a subject so much they wrote about it consistently even when no one was reading it. But that’s the kind of work ethic you have to have to get into blogging (unless of course you have a HUGE trust fund and can pay a media company to start a blog for you and if that was the case, you SO wouldn’t be reading my advice right now…lol).
Yes, you CAN make money from blogging and it doesn’t have to take as long to make it like it did in the olden days (I started this blog in 2007 while I worked full time as a licensed banker and then a commercial banker, quit the full time job to pursue writing this blog full time and currently have like a gazillion gigs going to make ends meet). But the chances of you becoming the next Michelle Phan is very slim—shoot, I’m sure you saw her Diet Dr. Pepper commercial—she says that mess herself.
2. Just start it already
No shade, no tea but whenever I see someone calling themselves an aspiring blogger I chuckle. No I’m not trying to crush your dreams, but an aspiring blogger? Girl, just start the blog already! Unless you have an extensive background with creating content for the web, you’re not going to get it right at first and that’s okay. Heck, I don’t even get it right all the time but you have to take some risks in order to find out what works and what doesn’t. Take that aspiring mess out of your vocab and just do it already.
3. Be consistent
Chile, if your last blog post was three months ago, you are SO not a blogger. You’re just someone who posts sh*t sometimes. *sigh*
Now you don’t have to post everyday or multiple times a day like the nut that I am, but do find a schedule that works for you so your readers know what to expect from you. This also helps keep your traffic consistent. And consistent traffic is good.
4. Clean up your social profiles
I mean, I thought this one was pretty straightforward and EVERYONE knew this, but I guess in this day and age when PR professionals are getting fired for crap they put on their Twitter accounts, I guess people need to be told.
YOU ARE A BRAND. Everything you do reflects your brand. PLEASE keep that in mind before you hit submit (I bet if Johnny Cochran was still alive I’d bet he’d be all “You must commit before you submit!” you know—commit to whatever it is you’re about to publish).
I like to curse. A lot. But because I hate the way curse words look typed out on the internet AND because I feel like my brand is not potty-mouthed beauty girl, I don’t use them on the interwebs or in professional settings. I only used the s-word above and censored it because I couldn’t find another word to drive my point home. Maybe because I was extremely paranoid about what I put on the web because when social media and blogging started to flourish, I was a licensed banker who had to reveal any and all outside activities (to prove I wasn’t inside trading and stuff) so I always would think “What if I get taken to court and they pull a transcript of my tweets?” I mean you see stuff like that on the news all the time—people pulling someone’s social media postings. Look at what happened to Weiner and that stuff was supposedly “private” messages. smh.
You NEVER know who’s watching you—you could be standing in your own way of getting that next collaboration because a brand who was considering you for a project took a look at your social timelines and felt like they were watching an old 2 Live Crew video.
BUT this is not to say if your brand is edgy you should be praising kittens on your timeline. Just know your brand and your audience.
5. Bring something different to the table
There’s like, I don’t know, like 320,456,899,321,135 beauty blogs out there. Naturally at some point we may all be talking about the same new invisible lipstick or magic weave. What’s going to make someone a reader of your blog is what YOU bring to the table. Do something different—bring out your personality, take your own artistic pics, find an angle that most others may not be talking about. Admittedly I don’t get a ton of time to read blogs or watch Youtube videos or even go down my Twitter timeline, but the people who I remember the most have the best personalities. These people are either hilarious, super thoughtful, lead really interesting lives, talk about stuff I’m interested in constantly and they post really great content.
6. Google stuff
This is not to say you should refrain from asking other bloggers how to do something, but many of us figured stuff out by just heading over to dear old friend Google. You really don’t want to be that draining person constantly asking your peers something you could easily look up.
7. Be nice to everyone and network, network, network
One of the best things I learned at one of the banks I worked for during a sales class was “People do business with people they know and like.” OMG—that phrase practically changed my life. Not only did it help me win clients back then, but it stuck with me in other aspects of my life. I’m that schmuck who walks in stores all chipper chatting up EVERYBODY. Not only does it make my day to have thoughtful conversations with people (mainly because most of my day is spent behind my computer in my bedroom talking to no one…lol), but also because you never know when you need someone to be on your team. When people feel like they can go out and have a drink with you (assuming you’re not downing like 8 glasses and being all belligerent)—ok maybe the drink analogy isn’t the best—let’s just say if someone could see you as their friend—you’re winning. People have to feel like they can trust you (or in some cases if you run a gossip site, hate you) and once they do, they’re pretty much yours forever.
You also need to get out and network. And yes, living in NYC and LA has it advantages when it comes to mixing it up with decision makers but is the world wide web and social media not meant to connect people no matter where they are in the world? Start MEANINGFUL conversation with the major hitters in the field you’re in—if that’s beauty you might want to become active in the beauty world—follow a bunch of beauty bloggers, PR reps, writers, and editors, comment on blogs, respond to tweets—participate in the industry. (Just please don’t go doing mess like @mentioning Allure magazine talmbout “are ya’ll hiring?”)
8. Create your own content
OK—take this next sentence and make sure you run tell everybody: you CANNOT just take any image you find on the internet and slap it on your blog. You run the risk of getting into some major financial trouble in doing so. For one the copyright holder could sue you for infringement (*SIGH*). A lot of us bloggers learn lessons like this the hard way especially since our industry is relatively unregulated.
Also, no fair copying other bloggers work—if you see something cool and you want to share it, just link back. Don’t copy and paste everything and slap it into WordPress and hit publish. Share a small excerpt (a line or two) and then link back.
9. Promote your posts, but don’t be THAT person
Ugh, no ONE wants to have someone else’s blog post spammed at them. This means don’t go @mentioning everybody on your timeline to check out your latest post. And don’t go tagging people in pics on Instagram that they’re not in just because you want them to see your post (I’m such a nice person, but I swear I’ll block you if you do this to me). Especially if it’s not something life changing for the person to be looking at anyway. (If it’s the start of the zombie apocalypse, then yes @ the mess outta everyone).
Determining which social networks are best to share your content sometimes takes trial and error so give it a go. Also try different times of day to promote—typically before 9 AM in your timezone (when people are waking up and scrolling through their phones before work), 12 PM in your timezone (lunch time!), 4 PM in your timezone (zone out time at work because it’s almost quitting time), and after 7 PM in your timezone (depending on traffic and what not) are typically good times to post. Also learn the nuances of some social networks when it comes to posting—like I swear I’m gonna have a stern talk with Mark Zuckerberg about the way his Facebook SEVERELY limits how many people who like my page see my content unless I pull out my debit card *eye roll*
10. Learn SEO
I’m gonna refer you to point #6 in this post when it comes to SEO because it’s a lot to type out, but just know that you need to know it.
11. Miscellaneous points
There’s a lot of other questions I sometimes get that don’t really need their own sections, but I figured I’d just jot them down here.
On how to contact PR people: first make sure it’s easy for them to contact you—put your email clear as day on your blog. Get rid of contact forms because those things feel like bottomless pits and sometimes people have like 10 seconds to reach as many bloggers as possible and guess who ain’t got time for your clever little contact form on your site?
If you want to contact PR people directly, it’s actually not that hard to find contact info. For one almost every brand you can think of has either a Twitter or Facebook presence—you can just ask. Second, just about every brand has a website with a contact page that either has the PR info on it or you can send them an email. You can also Google and easily find info.
Now once PR people do start contacting you or vice versa, there’s some things to know. While yes we all do think we do a great job writing about beauty products, we’re not entitled to getting product all the time. Most times PR agencies aren’t stores with unlimited stock to send to us. And don’t forget they still need to send to magazines, television, celebs, etc. and sometimes those outlets rank higher than we bloggers.
And then when you get product, many times it’s for editorial consideration meaning you’re accepting it because you’re considering posting about it. It’s not a guarantee you’ll post about it (unless it’s a sponsored post, but that stuff is something you can easily read more about on sites like IFB) but you also do NOT want to be in the habit of requesting products and not writing about them. I imagine there’s a list they put repeat offenders on :/
Also don’t think that you have to have PR people sending you products all the time to be a successful beauty blogger. Many of us started when NO ONE was sending us anything—not even a press release and guess what—we managed. But I’d have to question anyone who says they’re obsessed with beauty yet says they can’t find/afford any product to write about—start in your stash, boo! To this day I still buy a lot of product even though I get a lot sent to me—likely because I’m a fiend who needs help, but I get tons of inspiration when I go out to the counters and discover what catches my eye. I enjoy the experience and then writing about it ;)
On how to make this a career: I just don’t have enough manpower to type that out in a post. I started this blog in 2007 while I was working in finance full time—I didn’t even have my own computer when I started and would be up until the wee hours of the morning working on posts and then have only a few hours to sleep before heading to work again. I’ve been doing this full time for almost four years and everyday seems to bring something new. I would say that another quote I read in a financial magazine is what helps me stay afloat—rich people (and I’m not saying I’m rich by NO means because I surely AIN’T) are rich because they have multiple streams of income—many of which they don’t have to put too much of their own blood, sweat, and tears into making. Multiple streams of income is how you’ll be able to possibly turn blogging into a full time job. When I quit my job to blog and write full time, I also had a job working at an Estee Lauder counter part time and wrote for other sites. I had like 6 jobs…lol. In the last almost four years I’ve worked with brands on social campaigns, freelanced at MAC (still on their freelance list, too–girl ain’t saying no to a check), wrote for magazines and other sites, and hosted events. This is on top of ad revenue, affiliate referrals, sponsored posts, etc. When you work for yourself you have to get really creative with how you’ll make your money because you will not be clocking in and out.
Also be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have—I’m almost ALWAYS working on my brand—getting up early in the morning and going to bed really late at night—working even when I’m traveling. It never ends. And be sure your finances are in order—the only reason I was able to quit when I did is because I had finished paying off a huge chunk of debt and then lived like a pauper. The first year was ROOOOOOOUGH. Be prepared to really downsize on your spending and always make sure to have savings. It also helps if you have family to lean on—my family didn’t get what I did at first, but without their support I’d be in a cardboard box digging crayons out of the garbage and trying to use them as lipstick.
OK—I think 11 points makes a good place to end this post. I’m not an expert and you should of course be using other resources when it comes to blogging, but hopefully I helped some. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!