Over the years I’ve gotten countless questions about blogging and social media, so I decided to start a new series on the blog where I answer questions and provide my readers with resources, how to start a blog or improve their blogs and social media, or just answer general inquiries about the industry.
This will be Part 1 of your blogging questions. If you don’t see your question here, don’t worry! I’m working on answering all of them one post at a time. If you have any additional questions, the easiest way to reach me is by DMing me on instagram or leaving a comment on this post.
Q: Any advice you’d give to a newer blogger on growing their brand?
A: If your ultimate goal is career oriented blogging, sit down and make a plan. Treat it as a business, but make this your second job. Don’t quit your day job until this is your day job (unless you’re lucky enough to have a lot of money saved up), and don’t treat it as a hobby unless you want it to remain a hobby. Treat it as your second job, and be prepared to put a lot of your free time and energy into making it work. It will take time — the overnight successes are exceptions to the rule, not the rule. Figure out your brand identity and what your main focus will be (we can go more in depth about that in a dedicated post) and then plan out a series of posts before rolling them out, so you’ll have consistent content and don’t have to fly by the seat of your pants. Network. Create a community with other bloggers with similarities (whether it’s style, focus, location, or reach) and help each other out, cross promote, bounce ideas off one another. Find a niche and make it your own.
Since this is a very broad question, I feel like this could have several dedicated posts with different strategies, but the very general advice I have is: 1. pinpoint your identity 2. plan and create content around that identity 3. be consistent 4. network 5. be patient and persistent, because it takes time. Many people give up before they truly give themselves a chance. It can be frustrating to put so much time into something that seems cast off into darkness, but give it time, strategize, promote, and keep going. It won’t come overnight.
Q: What’s are good resources to create/design a webpage/blog that’s not generic or cookie-cutter for introductory bloggers?
A: I think the first step is figuring out which content management system (CMS) you’d like to be use. I usually recommend going with WordPress for blogs and WordPress/Squarespace for businesses. I use WordPress for my blog and Squarespace for the Brooklyn Brigade site. If you’re using WordPress, there are tons of free themes you can install on your site for a customized look; just search online for what you’re interested and thousands of options should pop up (ie: grid layout, masonry, portfolio, minimalist.) If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend browsing colorlib, since they compile lists of free WordPress themes.
Q: How do you figure out what to post and how to engage people?
A: I started my blog as a personal blog, so I still keep that in mind when I’m working on any new posts. Some of them are almost like a diary entry. I genuinely love sharing what I’m excited about, whether it’s a vintage find, a new lipstick color, or the podcasts I’m listening to (which is…all of them). But I also engage my readers with content they will hopefully find valuable, such as makeup tutorials and travel tips/guides. Another good way to measure engagement is setting up Google Analytics (GA) and seeing which posts your readers are most engaged with. This is helpful when I want to start introducing new content and see how my readers are responding to it.
Q: How do you prepare and plan a post?
A: I work off a content calendar (with varying success — some weeks it’s harder than others) where I try to plan out my upcoming posts a few weeks ahead of time. To be honest, I’ve been doing this so long and it’s difficult for me to give myself structure, because I’ve always been more of the spontaneous post kinda gal — I treated this like my personal diary. But as I’ve gotten busier with my studio and shoots and dedicated projects, I’ve tried to put myself on more of a schedule. This gives me time to prepare, shoot, write and edit each post, and helps me organize any sponsored posts I need to include into my posting schedule. I try to post three times a week, and those days are broken down into a few different verticals: style, beauty, and lifestyle. Depending on the type of post it can be quick and easy, or it can be labor intensive. For my link roundups, I just save links I come across during the week and those fun posts are really quick to compose. Meanwhile, for my beauty posts, I usually have to plan these out a little bit more in advance, since I have sensitive skin and eyes. If I’m doing lip swatches or multiple eye looks, I usually have to split it into multiple days — I have no idea how those YouTube beauty gurus can do it. They must have invincible eyes and skin! When we are doing more involved shoots, like our hair tutorial series with my friend Erica, my studio manager will produce/direct the videos and handle all the logistics for the shoot. We have some fun shoots coming up for Halloween, and my friend Erin is helping me build some sets – so those posts take a good amount of planning and there are many steps in between ideation and publication.
Q: How do you stay motivated to post?
A: I think it helps that I have various topics I can talk about, whether it’s the ordinary, day to day personal stuff, outfits, beauty, travel, etc. Since my blog is pretty personal, I feel more comfortable floating between topics that relate back to my life in some way. It keeps me from getting bored. If I did nothing but daily makeup posts, I think I’d run out of things to do. Same goes for DIY — I’m just not creative enough to solely focus on that. But when you combine everything, there’s always something I want to share. As for staying motivated, I treat it as a job — because it is one. If I’m not motivated, I kick myself in the pants and make it happen anyway!
Q: I am really interested in how sponsorships work, I found out that some bloggers have agents. Do you have one, or do brands contact you directly?
A: I am with an agency called Digital Brand Architects. It’s listed on my contact page, but some brands will also reach out to me directly. However, any paid collaborations go through my agency. It helps on so many levels (negotiations, contracts, scheduling, invoicing, pitching, you name it), but that’s not to say that you need an agency to be successful. I know many people who are completely independent and do very well! I just know my weaknesses, and learned early on that I need someone to help me in certain areas. It gives me the freedom to focus on making my content and not have the awkward conversations about numbers.
Here’s the thing about my sponsorships work: the majority of my posts are not sponsored (although I use affiliate links), and I will always let you know if they are sponsored, so you will never have to guess. I’m never trying to pull a fast one on anyone. Those sponsored posts give me the freedom to supplement with all of my other content, keep a roof over my head, and keep my photo studio up and running! The details of a collaboration will vary from project to project — from hosting events to “modeling” (I use that term loosely, as I’m clearly not a model) for commercial shoots, demonstrating how to use a product in a tutorial, styling something from a brand’s line, or designing a special piece for an existing collection (for instance, my BonLook frames). Each project is unique.
Q: How do you handle a sponsored review in the most honest way possible when you’ve had a negative experience with it?
A: I actually turn down a lot of sponsored opportunities, if I’m not a fan of the brand or it doesn’t align with my personal taste or lifestyle. I also generally don’t do a ton of typical “review” posts, because that’s not really my focus, but I think it’s so important to share your honest experience if you’re posting a review. Work it out with the brand so that you can try the product before you agree to do the project, and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. It’s not worth it. It can be hard to turn down opportunities when you need the money and it’s being offered up on a platter. We’ve all been there at some point! But I swear, it’s not worth it. Don’t give a good review for something you don’t actually like — your readers will no longer trust your advice.
Q: When do you think it’s worth signing up for conferences? For example, I remember you were on the lineup for Create & Cultivate. Another blogger and I talked about investing in the cost of travel / hotel / and the actual conference itself. We decided if we made it another year or two consistently blogging, then we’d meet up at the next conference! Do you think conferences are worth the investment for small bloggers or is it geared and more beneficial for popular bloggers?
A: I can’t speak to all conferences, but since I have experience with Create & Cultivate, I can say that it can be very helpful…depending on what you’re looking for and what you make of your time there. If you’re looking for inspiration, motivational speaking, and to network with other bloggers and small business owners, this is the place to do it. But be realistic, because it won’t change your career overnight — you have to take it for what it is and use those tools at home. Don’t go in expecting to network with major brands (although that can happen, too) and land a deal — go in and meet the kick-butt people in attendance and network with them. You’re surrounded by people who want the same (or a similar) thing as you, so get in there and build relationships, because you’ll all be able to help one another on the way up. Choose a track (speaking panel schedule) and a mentor that best suits what you’re looking for, introduce yourself to other attendees, take lots of notes and keep in touch with the people you meet.
If you’re looking to learn specific skills, this is not the place. Focused workshops and e-courses will be a better place to learn those (photography, photoshop, web design, building a media kit, SEO, etc. come to mind). Conferences, in my opinion, are more about networking, being inspired, and general knowledge of the overall industry.
Q: What promotional technique did you use that gained you the most amount of traffic to your blog?
A: Pinterest is my most popular traffic source, but not just from my own promotion. I’ve gotten lucky and had many of my tutorials, outfits, and Halloween costumes pinned and re-pinned, which lead people back to this very blog. Pinterest is a *great* tool to promote your content. Make sure your descriptions are detailed when pinning your images — what users search for will determine what content they see, so something a photo of red lipstick titled “23.jpg” will not show up when someone searches for red lipstick. Instead of pinning it with that title of 23.jpg, edit the description to say “The best matte red lipstick: (insert name and brand here).” That way, when someone searches “red lipstick” or “matte red lipstick” or the exact name of said lipstick, your photo is more likely to show up. Which means they’re more likely to click through, re-pin, and so on.
Otherwise, cross promotion. Social syndication can prompt people to check out your new content. I link via twitter, pin my content, promote on facebook, instagram, and instastories. I tailor everything to its specific platform so it’s not repetitive. For instance, sometimes I’ll post photos from my blog on my instagram, but the two have mostly unique images on each. It gives readers a reason to click over, since they won’t be seeing the same thing across the board.
Q: Wondering if you knew how to code/photoshop/build a website when you started blogging? Did you learn on your own or have training?
A: I learned basic html (via online forums) at a young age, and always took templates and customized them here and there, but that’s about it. I think a lot of people feel pressured to have a professionally done website from the very beginning, which can be a costly investment, but a clean, basic template is a great place to start! As for photoshop, I taught myself when I was in college. I used to buy these magazines at Barnes and Noble that had cd-roms with dedicated photoshop tutorials and projects to complete. It was so helpful! Of course, now I’m sure there are youtube videos and e-courses for that:)
Q: How important is it to find a niche? I love interiors, lifestyle etc. So I’m wondering if you think it is ok to bring all that in?
A: Having a niche can be a great asset, but it’s not the be all, end all. Just don’t be too scattered. There are plenty of bloggers who provide a nice balance between several areas of focus, with a cohesive aesthetic. A friend of mine has a great tip for those looking to flesh out their brand. First, narrow down your categories — you don’t have to paint yourself into a corner, but you shouldn’t have a million categories or it will just be too scatterbrained. Then, pick three adjectives to describe your overall identity, and make sure each post fits one of your categories and your adjectives are represented. Are you dreamy, colorful, and happy, with beauty, interiors, and style as your focus? Easy breezy. There are loads of posts and photos that fit within those boundaries while still giving you flexibility that will keep you from getting stuck.
Q: I want to start blogging but have a hard time focusing the topics. I like and do may different things but nothing in specialty. How could I approach that?
A: I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain (You 2.0: How Silicon Valley Can Help You Get Unstuck) that was so spot on, I just want you all to go and listen to it, because it will explain it better than I can. It’s all about building a prototype (not literally), trying it out, and then trying something else. Make a few plans of action. Pick one, try it out, learn from it, and keep going. You don’t have to figure out the exact right solution from the start…you can treat it like you’re in beta mode.
Do you have a specific question you’d like to ask? The easiest way to reach me is by DMing me on instagram or leaving a comment on this post.