Once being a beginner to blogging myself, I can tell you now there was definitely a huge gap where I was stuck, confused, and blogging just seemed like the biggest mystery in the world. Like, HOW did people make money from this nonsense?! It was beyond me. I thought bloggers were people with too much time and money, wanting to flaunt their belongings on social media for likes and followers as if they were somehow important. I thought REAL bloggers were underground individuals who wrote about 100% original topics and just somehow magically went viral when a stroke of luck came along. Little did I know, blogging was an actual business. A well paying one too if you knew what you were doing. And there is a HUGE community of people that love reading them! I started my blog in 2012 and it was strictly informational. Writing has always been a passion of mine. Then I dabbled with the occasional "fashion post of the day", and it just took way too much energy for me to keep it going and not make any money from it. It was discouraging and I did what someone who is uneducated on the subject would usually do, gave up, not knowing that blogging was not an overnight money maker and there was no such thing as instant gratification in this career choice. It took me 5 years to realize that. I wrote here and there, updating it when I could for fun... But oddly enough, I still wanted to pay to keep my website up for whatever reason. I knew in my gut that one day I'd figure it out. And I knew when I did, I wanted to help others get to where they want to be as a blogger as simplified as I could make it as I learned along the way. So, needless to say, here I am, sort of, kind of, starting to figure it out y'all! And I wanted to give you 10, simple, straight to the point tips for beginning bloggers that I would have LOVED to know when I was just starting out. So pay attention, take notes, and please SHARE the love with your fellow blogger babes! If you know someone who needs a push in the right direction, send them this link. It will make all the difference! So get comfortable. We're going to be here for a while.
1. Take the time to build a really nice website
I use Squarespace. I use this platform because it is extremely easy to use and is intuitive on the back end. SEO is already built in, its super clean and pretty customizable, and to boot, you don't have to code it or hire someone to help you build it. You can monetize on your website as well which I know on some other platforms you can't. There are so many capabilities, and it's very easy to use. Which when you aren't in a position to build a $5,000 website with a million different plug-ins, its a gold mine. And extremely affordable. If you don't want to spend a DIME on a website, it will look like you haven't spent a dime on your website. But you can always use Wordpress or Wix, even Tumblr or Bloglovin' (One of my FAVS) for a free website platform to get your thoughts across. I'll get into Bloglovin' a little later. The reason I say build a really nice website is because your website is almost like a resume. When you hand someone your business card and they like your personality, your style, etc., you want to keep their attention when you're not in the room. Which will be when they head to your website. It's like a second "first impression" but this time it's digital. And trust and believe me when I tell you, the caliber of your website matters. Especially when you're trying to build brand partnerships through pitch emails and network with people by telling them you're a blogger, you're presence must leave a strong, well built foundation in their gut and subconscious about you. Same goes for a business card. If you have a poorly designed business card on crappy paper, it'll make it into the "I don't even remember who this person was" pile in the corner of peoples bedrooms. But if your physical presence is appealing, your business cards say "nice to fuckin meet me", and your website says "who's your mama?", then people will remember you, 100%, guaranteed. I suggest zazzle.com for chic, minimlistic, well priced, quality business cards.
So, you know when you go on website (even mine) and you see all these ad banners and links to outside websites all over the page? Okay. The person who's website you're on is getting paid to have those banners on there. Whether it be per click, per sale, or per banner (renting space on their website), they're getting paid. These are called "affiliate links". And these are crucial for when you have a blog, especially when you start to get high traffic. There are some bloggers that make around $1000 a month solely on affiliate links, not including promotional collaborations or other sorts of income. Thats a lot of money for simply copying and pasting a little square box on your website. So how do you get these links? Sign up for the Rakuten Network & Amazon Associates. With these you can sign up for a number of companies to be an affiliate for their brand, post their ads on your website, and make commissions on your sales/clicks. Another AMAZING tool for shopping, sales, clothes that you buy/wear, and making money is the Shopstyle Collective. Its perfect for displaying wish lists, or what you recommend in your posts for people to buy! You get paid per click as well as commission. Its clean, chic, and SUPER easy to use. Here's an example:
2. There is no competition if you have your own style. BE ORIGINAL.
Sticking out and having your own swag is so important. Why? Well, would you wanna follow people that do things all the same way? Or do you follow bloggers or have a favorite influencer that you love because they're just SO unique and different that they stand out from the rest? I bet I can guess. So its the same with you and your readers! Of course, have inspirations. Of course, learn and apply whatever you want. But learn to twist your own DNA into whatever you're trying to create. Because it's your consistent style thats going to draw in your niche market.
3. Learn how to work photoshop or editing apps
This is a big one because as a blogger your job is to create visuals. Whether that be in words, or in photos/videos. People are going to be LOOKING at your content, so it must be aesthetically appealing and must be able to capture the attentions of whoever the viewer is. I edit almost all my photos on my phone believe it or not. Though, I do take them on a professional camera (Canon Rebel T6i with a 18-55mm lens), the camera I own has wifi capabilities and I can transfer the photos immediately into my phone as I'm out and about, and edit on the go. My GO TO app for editing is VSCO, and I use the same filter EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Why? Because if you look at my Instagram & blog, it gives you a certain vibe. It's consistent. Your website and Instagram are supposed to be your own personal magazine curation, in a way. And there are two different types of people. Those who are attracted to busy, gossipy, unorganized magazine covers, and those who are attracted to aesthetically beautiful, organized, high fashion, editorial magazine covers. That's where you need to decipher what you want your aesthetic to be and stick to it. You have to grasp the attention of your viewer statistically within 3 seconds, or you've lost them. So you have to strategically map out your visuals and put some thought into each post. If you are into a little more photoshopped look, I suggest Facetune for iPhone and Photoshop (On Adobe Creative Cloud you can download all Adobe programs for a monthly subscription instead of breaking the bank buying one license) for desktop. As far as graphics are concerned, I suggest OVER for iPhone and Canva.com for desktop. They're easy to use and are perfect for creating ads, posters, graphics, logos, Pinterest posts, or titling posts.
4. Make Pinterest your BFF
Pinterest. If it isn't already your favorite thing, MAKE it your favorite thing starting NOW. A friend of mine told me she learned everything she needed to know about blogging through Pinterest. And she was not kidding. I went digging through Pinterest and MAN! There is so much amazing free knowledge and tips just floating around on there, it's ridiculous. There are media kit templates, content calendar templates, advice on advice on advice, and so much more. Just type in what you want to learn about and absorb it all in girlfriend. ABSORRBBBB. Also, learn to use the graphic apps I told you about and make a pin-able pinterest image to post regarding every new blog post you have. Learn the ins and outs of pinterest and you could go from 30 views on your website a day to 50,000 a day over night. (IM NOT KIDDING.)
5. Invest in yourself
I personally don't like to shop all the time. I literally don't have the time, and I already have a lot of crap I don't need so I don't like to add to it if I don't have to. BUT- what I suggest is subscribing to sample sized beauty products through websites like IPSY Glam Bag, Birchbox, Scentbird, etc. And pay a monthly subscription to get in a random selection of new products every month and do reviews/giveaways with them for a FRACTION of the cost if you were to go out and buy all that stuff on your own at retail price. These companies include smaller companies in their boxes as well and you could maybe even reach out to them and pitch yourself into a promotional collaboration! (Ill get into how to do this later on, so keep reading!) Also, I suggest buying from sales and clearance on websites that you like, wearing them in a post, and then reselling them on Poshmark (use code: BBFUP for a $5 credit) and post it for the sale price you bought it for or a little less! You can gain a large following on Poshmark pretty fast and everyone on there is LOOKING to buy your clothes. So if you got cute stuff, but know you'll never wear it again or maybe its not in your budget to keep it, why not SELL IT?! And then use that money to buy more stuff! Geniussss.
Moving on, I highly suggest signing up for the Style Collective if you're a fashion blogger. Its $10 a month or $99 a year, and you get a TON of insight and love from the members on there. There's group forums and discussions going on that will help you excel, e-books, an entire community of likeminded individuals that will show love on your page, and you can be featured as well on their blog! Which will give you exposure and experience. Not to mention, you're pretty much apart of a sisterhood and they're always there if you need them to help you with something. It's pretty amazing and totally worth the money. You spend $10 on candy, ice cream or a even makeup you don't need in a month I'm sure. Save it, and invest it into something that could potentially give back to you in the future.
UNDERESTIMATED TOOLS OF THE TRADE: So, every blogger needs a set of specific tools to make sure the content you're supplying your readers with is quality and worth their time. Other than your wonderful brain and writing skills, you need a computer, a camera, and passion. I'm sure you know this already. But besides the obvious, you also need PEOPLE. Which I will get into on the next topic.
6. Go to as many events as you can!
So this was something that I really had no idea was going to be such a powerful tool when I first started blogging. I'm social, but to an extent. I can talk and be personable, might even make people feel as if we've known each other forever! But in all honestly I hate being around people and in public settings, period. lol. Don't get me wrong, I am not fake nor do I put on a "mask" to survive in the public eye because I don't need to. I have a natural "people person" talent. But what I mean is I'd much rather be at home relaxing and watching movies or reading or working on my blog opposed to being in a crowded space with a whole bunch of strangers. It might be because I have extreme anxiety, but I do what I have to do to ensure my business thrives. And as a blogger, you really need to be in the right place at the right time to meet the right people. So how do you get into these events? Okay, listen closely. Something that has changed the game for me has been the Blogger Babes forum. It has a million different opportunities and a slew of information on meetups in the LA area. If you aren't in the LA area, it's ok! Sign up still, and take advantage of the literature on the website. They aren't always in LA, just so you know. Sometimes they take matters to Paris, New York, Miami, and more depending on the "fashion season". If you want more opportunities for your area, look up the app "Meetup" and have it search for events in your area. Look for "girls nights out", "brunch & mimosas", "entrepreneur lunch/meetup", etc. These are the type of people you want to be around. Because they're potential readers, fans, and possible brand owners you can work with. And the business owner events are very educational and inspirational.
Also, make sure to reach out to beauty brands, fashion brands, designers, and whoever you can to extend your appreciation, and that you would be honored to attend any launches, events, or campaign parties they happen to throw in the future. Include and invite yourself pretty much without being rude or presumptuous. Their marketing rep will put your email on the invite list and throughout time, watch as the emails roll in. You'll get exclusive invitations to all kinds of events and make sure you GO. I've driven HOURS just to go to an event for an hour. And every time it's completely worth it. I go in with a different mindset than just going to a party though. This is strictly business and I have strict guidelines. These are what I live by in any public situation and they might not work for you but there are reasons behind every single one. They are as follows:
- I DON'T DRINK OR DO DRUGS AT ANY EVENT. EVER. - I don't usually do these things anyways because of personal choices, but in other peoples cases drinking is a regular and social thing to do. And I don't recommend it at all if you're going to try and impress brand owners, get connections, network, and leave a positive impression on other professionals. You want to be alert, in your right mind, and not leave any room for mistakes which alcohol always seems to enhance. I cannot tell you how many times I've caught the attention of important people strictly because I was the ONLY one not drinking and it made me stand out from the crowd. I was able to be aware of my actions, and have a sophisticated conversation with whomever was speaking to me at any given time. This is a secret weapon of mine and has been for a very long time.
- I DRIVE MYSELF- I do this for a couple reasons. 1) I can leave whenever I feel like it without having to depend on someone else if I don't like the situation that I'm in. I usually don't stay the entire time anyways, and don't feel like relying on someone else to get me to and from anywhere, at all. And 2) it forces the idea of being the Designated Driver no matter what. Because now I'm driving. Theres no way I'm going to drink and drive, so it helps make rational decisions no matter the temptation.
- I DRESS FASHIONABLY TO THE NINES EVERY TIME, NO MATTER WHAT- You NEVER know who is going to be there, where these photos are going to be posted, and should I state the obvious? YOU'RE A FASHION BLOGGER. YOU are your best billboard. You should be a walking advertisement of your brand and aesthetic. It's important that you live, breathe, eat, drink, and shit fabulousness. So, just do it.
- I HAVE A HANDFUL OF BUSINESS CARDS WITHIN A 1 SECOND REACH AT ALL TIMES- You don't want to be talking to a well known brand owner and be in deep conversation, then they get interrupted and don't have much time to talk before they leave you. You might not ever speak to them again throughout the night (or forever in this case), and they ask you for a business card. Are you going to go DIGGING through your purse & wallet to find the shit for a good 45 seconds?! NO. And if you do, it will show what kind of person you are. Unorganized, and not ahead of the game. Which subconsciously won't sit well with any entrepreneur worth the effort. Why are you at an event to NETWORK and don't have your CONTACT info within a blinking range? No girl. NO. You're gonna be that badass bitch that's like Clint Eastwood with them cards, and you're gonna whip out a well designed, gorgeous, high quality business card and hand it to them like you've just been waiting for them to ask all night. And you're ALSO going to be equipped to do it multiple times throughout the night and not waste ANY time. Because you're organized, well planned, thoroughly thought out, and have your shit together.
- I GO BY MYSELF- Of course it sounds fun to go with someone to an event, a brunch, a gifting suite, or runway show. But in the beginning, this isn't wise. And I'll tell you why. You're ONLY focus when going to these places should be to walk in, get ahold of the right people, network, and walk out with more than what you walked in with. And when you have other people to entertain, this goal can be hard to meet. You depend on them to hold space for you while you feel a little awkward for being there in the first place and not knowing anyone. They take up all your attention when you could be sparking up a conversation with someone that you don't know yet, but should know to take you to the next level. Also, I don't like the idea of anyone knowing what my next move is. Even if it's your best friend, sometimes when you are on the rise and doing big things, letting people know what you're doing before it happens can dilute the positive energy surrounding the prize. You may be completely oblivious to it as well. But behind everything there is always one person who knows just a little too much and can feel envy or jealousy towards you. So eliminate that option all together and handle your shit by yourself, for yourself. Get in, and get out. Make new friends. But know this is a business.
- I BRING MY CAMERA- I want to make sure I capture moments of my growth and the steps I took to get there. Including some of these events. I've met some of the most important people in my career at events, and to capture that with quality photos is amazing. Also, take photos of whats going on, and maybe cover the event on your blog! People can repost, share, like, and comment and you may even be featured on the brands page if they like your article! Great opportunity for exposure.
- I KEEP MYSELF COMPOSED, PROPER, AND MODEST- So this goes with the "you don't know who will be there" & "jealousy/envy" categories. Meaning, you don't want to show up to an event showing cleavage and asscheek all while cursing up a storm to a stranger you don't know. And you know it is primarily made up of young professionals who probably will find that distasteful. It can deter people FROM you instead of flocking them TO you. You want to be invited back, not 86'd. Also, the blogging industry is primarily made up of women. And it's NO secret that women can be insane, petty, crazy, psychotic, jealous, envious, catty, low frequency individuals. BUT- we need these creatures as well to grow. So instead of activating those characteristics, avoid them at all costs by dressing and acting appropriately. You want to show up feeling confident that the owner of your favorite brand would feel comfortable introducing you to their husband if the opportunity arose, and you want to feel confident in yourself while leaving that everyone thought highly of you and that the aftertaste of your vibe was a good one. Not a bitter one. Because remember, you are representing your BUSINESS. You can be Sloppy Sally all you want at LIV on a Sunday with your homegirls. Not at a networking event. Though, I also have run into situations where I could be dressed in a potato sack and reciting the bible, yet women will still have the worst looks towards me and acting bitter because they're insecure with themselves. Can't be loved by them all! But it definitely helps to not have a target on your ass- erm, back.
7. Create a powerful media kit
When you are pitching yourself to brands, I really hope you aren't sending "Hey I want to work with your brand. Can you send me some free product in exchange for post? LMK. Thanks!". Because I will die right now if this is what you think is a pitch email. You must take into consideration that these brands get HUNDREDS of emails form bloggers all around the world daily. So you must stand out from the rest in ways that make you unique, well put together, convincing, and give them reasons why working with YOU will help their brand. As a blogger, your job is to market other brands, sell your image and the pieces that make you up in your image, and to be in a constant state of growth so brands see you are really on your way to success. Brands LOVE success stories because if they're on board when you succeed, THEY succeed. So, what is a media kit? A media kit is your blogs "resume". Its a lay out of all factual information about you and your blog. It includes a bio, statistics, social media links, who you've worked with, your ad rates, and your contact information amongst other things you can add to make it more detailed. Now, this is a type of resume but it should NOT look like a frikkin resume. It should look like a badass, stylish, and super clean presentation. There are ways to make this happen.
Here is an example of my media kit. It's clean, easy on the eyes, it's made up of all my own original photography, and it's detailed. I send it as a PDF with live links in the file so whoever I send it to can just click on the link they wish to learn more about and it will open up in their browser. I bought this template on Etsy for $15 and it was built to be edited on Microsoft Word. And where did I find this amazing deal? You guessed it. PINTEREST. Its a magical place, I'm tellin ya!
So, this is something that I was struggling with whether or not I should do it or keep it to myself for a little while longer... But since I'm starting to do a more in depth section on my blog where it is specially aimed towards bloggers & advice in the field, and I want you all to get a little taste of whats to come- this will be my first gift to you all. A FREE Brand Pitch Email Template! I know, I know... I'm amazing. You're welcome <3 Now this template, is very close and dear to my heart. I went through about 150 different email variations before I landed on this one. And this one, for sure, 100%, works. This email is a guideline, and is meant for you to take and run with however you like! I like to go along these lines but change it up and customize it per client/brand I'm contacting. I like to be personable and include certain details that pertain to the brand or industry I'm pitching to at that moment, but for a lot of people they don't even know where to start. So, because I love you, here is a look inside how CheyMina.com works! And its yours to use now, too.
8. Follow a content calendar religiously
A lot of people don't even know what a content calendar is, so I don't expect them to know how to use it correctly. So, what is it? A content calendar is a tool for marketing & scheduling content ahead of time so you can prepare accordingly. Staying organized is crucial for up and coming bloggers to get used to because when things start to pick up & you start to build a team, you're going to want to have your ducks in a row and know whats going on at all times. If you have no idea whats going on, neither will your team, or even your readers. That means special events will be planned last minute, posts will be winged and not done properly or in a timely manner, etc. amongst a whole slew of other things you don't want happening. It's just all bad news. You want to have a game plan going into anything that you take seriously unless it's just a hobby that you don't plan on making money from. So if that's the case, skip this completely. But I'm pretty sure if you're this far into my post, you are serious in your blogging craft and you like the idea of making money. So let's continue.
I like to think of a content calendar as a "blog to-do list". And I don't put EVERY single thing on there, but I put the most important tasks under a 'MAJOR" label. I do this weekly. Then I put smaller tasks under a "MINOR" label daily. I also color code them so I can visually differentiate what I'm looking at. For example:
- Shoot 3 Fashion Looks to Post (on specific day)
- Film makeup tutorial (on specific day)
- Post Youtube video (on specific day)
- Write / edit blog post (every day)
- Events (on specific day)
- Update media kit (when needed)
- Post OOTD on Blog
- Edit photos
- Edit videos
- Email "so & so" for promotional collaboration (at least 3 x a week)
- Reply to emails/direct messages (every day)
- IG Post (at least twice a day)
So you get the idea of what I'm talking about. I like to use a hand written planner to do this, but a lot of people like to do their content calendar on Google Calendar or use CoSchedule when they have a team working with them and need to share their tasks and oversee the operation. I'm not there yet, I am still currently a one woman army! So I do things in ways that work for me! But CoSchedule is AMAZING for teams and for people that like their schedules and lists on their devices/computers. I highly recommend it. Below are some prices if you are interested!
9. Build meaningful business relationships/partnerships
One of your tasks as a blogger consists of making sure you can get as many people look at your blog content as possible, which means you have to really get OUT THERE because you need stuff to talk about obviously if you want to make content & keep things interesting. But when you are just starting out, you aren't going to be making money. And if you're tight on money, that means no shopping and new products to talk about or use. Because your money will come when your numbers come. Just being completely honest. People think if they just start posting pictures and tagging people that they'll make money quickly somehow. And thats not really how it works. In the first year of blogging (unless you start blogging when your social media following is already at 200K just ignore me) you have to do things for free. Yes, FREE. And depending on how you look at things, you are actually getting paid but in product. So this is where building relationships and partnerships come in pretty heavy. Start practicing your pitching skill and pitch your new email and media kit (above) to multiple brands. Just a heads up, even though your media kit looks amazing and your email pitch is LIT AF, always expect a 20% response rate and a 5-10% of the brands to actually want to work with you out of all the emails you send. This is just how to world works. So don't feel discouraged or rejected if you aren't getting every brand you email to respond to you.
As a blogger, your job is a SERVICE to other brands. You are a marketing tool to them. So you have to start working on your S.E.O. skills, your aesthetics and social media engagement, and start building up your list of brands you've worked with so when you're ready to start putting a price tag on yourself, you have amazing examples to show and brands behind you to vouch for you. You will start to get featured, you will organically get followers and interested readers/viewers, and you will be getting free stuff! (YESSSSS) But you have to make sure your presentation, approach, and presence as a brand is professional and well thought out for brands to even consider wanting to work with you. Which is why I'm trying to help ya out sista friend! So for the first 6-12 months, really work hard on making your connections, going to events, keeping up and staying true to your promotional collaborations, all while keeping organized. YOU GOT THISSSSS.
10. Be yourself!
There is nothing worse than a self proclaimed creative stealing someone else's style and hard work. It's frustrating, upsetting, distasteful, and straight up disrespectful. And the best way to get ahead of the game, is to be YOURSELF. Bring a swag to the table that hasn't been done before. Get creative, have fun, let loose, and show the world what you're made of! As a blogger, there are no rules. Just guidelines that make it easier to survive as a full time blogger. I have faith in each and every aspiring entrepreneur. I have faith in each and every aspiring blogger. I want nothing more than to see people succeed and never have to work a day in their life because they're doing what they love! And if I can do anything to help it, I will do it. I hope this post was informational to you all, and you apply these pieces of advice to your career.
Please leave me feedback if you found anything here useful or if you'd like to add your own advice to others who will be reading this post! I hope you all have a great weekend and start working on your new ventures now that you have some new knowledge :)
Love, Chey xo