Behind the Blog: Starting a Blog
Hi friends! I have had a lot of people reach out to me lately about how I started my blog and interest in starting their own - which is so so awesome! Seriously, I love the DMs and emails about this because that is exactly what I did when I started. So if starting a blog is your dream, DM away! I will always help!
I did want to do a little Behind the Blog post (or posts depending on how much I have to say) to give a little insight into blogging. I'll be the first to admit that I was a little naive about this whole blogging world. Don't get me wrong, I'm so glad I did it and I am loving it, however, I do wish I thought a little more about it.
A bit of back story is that I've tried a few blogs in the past, but never found anything that I felt passionate about. After moving to Chicago and starting my first full-time job I realized I needed a creative outlet and started my blog. I didn't post consistently for about six months. At the start of 2018 I decided to go all in and try this thing for real. I figured if I didn't enjoy it or it was too much, I could always quit after a few months. But it has been so much fun and I'm so proud of how much I've grown - both in terms of this blog and personally.
It sounds silly, I know to talk about "growing a presence" or "building a following" or "working on Instagram" however, when you are a blogger, these are phrases you will hear all the time. The first thing you need to know about blogging is that it is a whole other world. First, the terminology. I never thought I would use the word "swimmy" to describe a swimsuit or literally mean "omg totes adorbs babe." I never thought I'd call anyone "babe" other than my fiance but yet, here I am calling all of these girls on Instagram "babe." Photos and captions become social media strategy, likes and comments are your daily work tasks and following is everything to you and your brand - and yes, as a blogger you have a brand. Let's get into some of the dirt and behind-the-scenes of this whole blogger world.
1. Starting Your Blog
Finding your brand - that's where I suggest you start. Once I thought of my blog as a brand and not a hobby, it helped me understand what content I wanted to create and how I wanted to manage my blog. It helped me decide to take on collaborations and to sign up with RewardStyle (we will get to this later). Deciding on your brand can be as hard or simple as you want it to be. I came from a marketing background so I did a whole matrix, word association, color, theme and logo branding session.
Once you have your brand, decide what channels you want to go live on. My blog was the main focus for me - I wanted a live site where I could write whatever I wanted (inspired by all the sites that rejected my freelance writing pitches) and design a site I loved and wanted to visit. From there, I created an Instagram and Facebook, mainly because for a business Instagram profile you have to link it to a Facebook page.
I also decided to dabble in YouTube and upload a few videos (more coming soon!). I would suggest 2-3 social media platforms, in addition to a blog, as these can help widen your audience. Don't overwhelm yourself - it's a fine balance.
Next, you need to actually create these pages, start building content and designing your site. Don't overestimate the design. I spent days on mine and did a whole re-branding a few months ago. I cried a lot when it wasn't looking how I wanted it to. Also, don't forget that website domains often cost money. Yes, I spend money to make my site and blog, but in my mind, it is an investment for my brand.
2. Growing your brand
This is something all bloggers constantly ask themselves and their blogger friends - how do you grow your following? Let me tell you - it's hard. You grow a little, lose some followers, spend hours trying to grow more and lose a few more followers before you gain another 1-2 followers. It's maddening. And then you see some girls shoot to 10K+ in the matter of days.
There are so many ways to grow, but there are two categories: organically and non-organic (paid). Yes, some people pay for followers. Trust me, I've considered it, but I personally feel that organic growth is more sustainable in the future. Plus for me, it's more fun and rewarding - knowing that I can build my following by my own efforts it's a great challenge to keep me motivated.
To grow organically, my advice is to 1) reach out to bloggers. Literally DM'ing people to introduce myself or seek their advice has been not only educational, but I've met some of my good friends through Instagram that way. 2) Engage, engage, engage! This means liking, commenting, following, responding to comments, etc. I will literally spend 2-3 hours per day doing this and it's been the most effective for me. 3) Post quality content consistently. This is the biggest key and what I'm striving for. 4) Hashtags 5) Comment groups - yes this is a thing. There are groups of bloggers where we support each other, like and comment on new posts and talk blogging advice when we need. Having these support systems in this crazy world of blogging has been the greatest thing about this bloggity. 6) Collaborate with brands and do giveaways. This really helps grow a following quickly - but if you don't have the other points in place, you will lose a lot of those followers right after the giveaway.
Alright, I think that's enough for this Behind the Blog. I hope you see how much work goes into the Instagram profiles you see on your feed. Next time, I'll talk all about photo shoots and editing. For the record, this is just from my experience and I know it's different for everyone. That's one of the hardest things I've had to accept - blogging is a personal journey. No one thing is going to work for everyone. Believe me, I wish there was a cheat sheet, but if there was, this wouldn't be half as fun!
Have specific blogging questions? Shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org