To blog or not to blog
We all follow some of the huge bloggers and influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers, sponsorships with major brands, and they get to travel across the world. I think it’s easy for people to assume that if you take pictures like them, dress like them, and edit pictures like them they’ll be just as successful.
So here’s the thing, I think the best way to successfully start blogging is by being real and being yourself, expressing your personal style, and focusing on what you’re good at. People often have a favorite blogger and think, “I love the way she edits her pictures, her blog, and everything about her brand. How can I make my blog exactly like that?” and I think it’s great to admire some of the major successful bloggers out there 🖤
The best advice I can give regarding this is to start a blog for yourself, not because of anyone else. Being a stylist throughout and after college is partially what lead me to starting my blog. People were coming to me to style them, for fashion advice, and for my opinion on a variety of things. I realized I had built up a small amount of influence and I had a trusted opinion. You have to ask yourself (and maybe your friends) what industry you would be most influential in or what your strengths are. Before I started my blog I had quite a few messages/comments asking where I got things, girls asking for advice on what to wear to weddings, even guys asking what they should get their girlfriend for Christmas, so I knew there was a demand for this type of blog. So those of you who reached out to me even back then were what really what pushed me to start this! You definitely have to consider your inspiration behind blogging. I didn’t want to be like other bloggers, I actually hate the name ‘blogger’ and ‘influencer’ lol and I don’t really call myself that. If you’re admiring other people and hoping to start your blog to end up like them, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
If you love fashion but haven’t really worked in the industry to gain any kind of experience, start a blog just for fun. Don’t worry about growing your following or how much engagement you get. Over time you will learn how this whole thing works and figure out your niche. Having a niche is HUGE, but most people don’t know what theirs is right away. Most bloggers aren’t successful right away either, that’s also a huge myth. It takes time, which is the number one reason you should start your blog now if you’re serious about it. I wish I would have started mine so much sooner!
You can literally create a blog about anything, it doesn’t have to be about fashion or travel. Regardless of your topic, document as much as you can, take tons of pictures, notes, and write down all of your ideas. I keep notes in my phone so as soon as I get an idea for a post, I type it in my phone. When I started following bloggers, I noticed a pattern in their style – boho, preppy, feminine. I felt like none of these specifically applied to me; my style is a total mixture depending on the day and my mood so I had a hard time finding fashion bloggers that could incorporate a mix of different styles into one page. Think about what there is a need for in the blogger world, or maybe within your local bloggers. What kind of blog or style is missing? For example, I wish there were more local bloggers that focused on specific types of food or cocktail bars. You could focus on the best donut and dessert spots in your area (I would definitely follow you lol), best local spots for drinks like coffee & cocktails, or find all of the Instagram worthy ‘things’ in your area and start a blog about that. The more specific, the better! At least when you first start out.
Prepping for your blog
Consistency is major. Starting out you want to focus on maybe one or two topics, so that people know what to expect when they follow you. If your page jumps around from fashion, to cooking, to hair and makeup, to art, to photography, to fitness, readers can’t understand you or what you specialize in. You build trust by proving that you’re knowledgeable about each topic. Over time as your following increases, there will be a demand for other topics. I now get requests to cover everything from hair, makeup, skincare, travel recommendations, social media, fashion advice, and even blogging. I just suggest narrowing down your niche as much as possible and not covering a wide variety of topics right away.
Don’t be afraid to be active on social media! If you’re only posting once a week and wonder why you’re losing followers and not gaining them or why nobody is going to your page, it’s because they definitely forgot about you. Yes, it takes a lot of time and work to plan out your blog and social media, but that’s part of being successful at it. Why start a blog if you’re not willing to put in the work to make it amazing? I take a ton of pictures and sometimes don’t even post them until later, or never post them at all. It’s easier to worry about it later when you have free time rather than being on your phone and posting 24/7. I feel like most people spend at least an hour a day on social media anyways. Replace half of that time with creating content and becoming more active, rather than just scrolling.
Stop caring what people think. The #1 thing that holds people back is the fear of being made fun of. Sorry but, IDGAF if anyone looks at my blog and wants to make fun of it. LOL the reason I don’t really care is because I do this for myself, not to impress anyone else! Most people aren’t afraid of their family/friends making fun of them, but they’re more so concerned about strangers or acquaintances judging them. Which is ridiculous when you really think about it. Who honestly cares?!
Get over taking pictures in public, too. This is another thing that definitely stops people from starting a blog or from posting on social media. Yes people might stare at you for taking pictures of your food or in a restaurant but who cares? Lol you will probably will never see them again anyway.
Your Instagram page has to be public at all times if you want your blog to get noticed. When you’re private you have no chance of being featured on the explore page, under any hashtags, or location tags. All of these things make it easier for people to find your page.
I recommend switching to a business page on Instagram before launching a blog. It will make you link your Instagram to a Facebook business page, so create a Facebook ‘page’ with your blog or IG name and make it private if you want. Business pages on Instagram have access to a ton of statistical data about your followers and engagement on each post or story.
Look to other bloggers and influencers for inspiration, not to duplicate.
Creating a blog/website
“I’ve always wanted to start a blog but don’t know where to start! Do you have any tips? How do I get started and grow my page? What do I need to start?”
I get this question a lot, and I completely understand why. I’m sure every blogger or influencer gets this as well. If you’re wondering where to start, there really is no definite answer. We all start somewhere different. I had literally no clue what I was doing or how to get started but I knew what my blog/website would be called, so I started with purchasing my domain (www.bro0ketini.com). Bro0ketini has been my Instagram name for about 7 years and I knew that I wasn’t about to change it! I learned later on that if you’re going to pay for a company to host your WordPress site rather than using WordPress as a host (which I’ll explain later), you can wait to purchase your domain name with your hosting site. First, I’ll explain all the steps to starting an actual website. If you’re ditching the whole website part, skip down below.
The next thing I did was YouTube EVERYTHING that had to do with starting a WordPress blog, WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, layout themes, self-hosting, etc. I learned a lot from this because I didn’t rely on anyone to help me or tell me what to do – I wanted to educate myself and figure it out on my own, which I did. You can pay experts to start your blog and create your website for you, but it’s more rewarding to do it on your own. It’s also nice to be able to customize and edit things however and whenever you want.
I decided to use WordPress.org as my platform and self-host my site, meaning I pay an outside company to host my website/domain rather than using bro0ketini.wordpress.com (I’ll explain the difference down below). I did some research and decided to go with SiteGround to host my WordPress site. Btw- it was so hard to find unbiased opinions on hosting sites, most bloggers are sponsored by them! But I’ve never had an issue with SiteGround and have actually never had to deal with them. Everything is done through the back end of your WordPress site.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
Like I said, I ended up creating my site with WordPress.org. This means that I pay a small monthly fee for a 3rd party (SiteGround) to host my website, rather than WordPress.com hosting my site for free. What I learned is that WordPress.com is free and good if you’re creating a personal website just for fun and not making a business of it. It offers limited customization, limited website themes, no advertisement opportunities, and less control over personal branding options. After a ton of research I learned that most people end up switching from WordPress.com to .org anyway, so I wanted to start with .org from the beginning. I have full control over themes, customization, ads (which I don’t currently use), and plugins.
Once I had the foundation figured out, I logged into the back end of my website. It looks super basic at first, so you have to play with different themes. I ended up purchasing a theme by Georgia Lou Studios on Creative Market for less than $40. Creative Market is a great place to search for and buy WordPress themes, fonts, LR presets, and all kinds of media-things. Even after purchasing and installing a theme, there’s a ton of work to do to get your site where you want it. This takes a lot of time and YouTube tutorials!
Once you have your website set up for the most part, start writing. I didn’t even promote my website until I had a couple blog posts published. Also, save some photos that haven’t been posted yet to use during the launch of your blog. Try to make your blog fresh & exciting. Nobody wants to look at pictures from the same vacation for 3 weeks straight 🙂
The best way to bring readers from your Instagram to your blog is to create value that can only be found on your actual website. Make sure the link to your blog is in your IG bio at all times. Set up Google Analytics immediately and link it to your website so that you can track the amount of viewers you are getting each day. Blog posts should always be informative and helpful, or nobody will waste their time reading them. It’s sooo time consuming sometimes but try to publish blog posts regularly to stay relevant and keep your blog interesting.
Not looking to create a website?
If you want to go the easy route, skip the website all together and use Instagram as your blogging platform. This way, you can do everything from your phone. A lot of bloggers do this because it’s quick, easy, and actually increases engagement on your Instagram page. Did you know that Instagram tracks how long people stop and read your post while scrolling through their timeline? Longer posts that people have to stop and read rank higher on Instagram, and they are more likely to push those types of posts to a wider audience. Encouraging readers to comment will also increase engagement and push your posts to be ranked higher.
I feel like the Highlights feature & IGTV take Instagram to a whole new level. You can do so much with them, but if anything ever happens to your Instagram you could unfortunately lose everything. Plus you are limited by the amount of photos and text you can add per post. For example I could have never posted this entire blog post on an instagram caption. Having the website lets you go into detail and share as many pictures as you want per post.
Photos and editing with Lightroom
Do you need a good camera to start a blog? Definitely not! Most of my instagram and blog pictures are taken on my iPhone, some with my camera. Unless you have a Samsung, because I personally hate how those phones take pictures lol. Blogging and creating an aesthetic is much more about the editing, not the quality of the pictures. All of the newer iPhones are super high quality already.
I think most of the questions and messages I get are about photo editing/Adobe Lightroom. Lol yes I do use LR to edit all my pictures *thank you Kayla Mills for putting me on ;)* but for years I was just using mobile apps like VSCO and Afterlight which you can definitely do!! I only started using Lightroom last year. I think a lot of people download the LR mobile app and wonder why the free presets on the app don’t look like the ones that bloggers use, so let me explain:
To get professional looking photos, most people purchase presets to apply to their photos in LR. A preset is really just a filter – it’s a set of adjustments to the lighting, colors, etc. that someone has created and grouped together. Presets offer a lot more detail and customization than filters do, which is why people sell them. Quite a few bloggers sell their presets and they usually range from $20-$70. Sometimes you pay for a pack of a few presets, and sometimes you’re paying for just one preset. Another thing to note is that most of these presets were designed in the LR desktop version which you do have to pay monthly for, just like any other Adobe program. To purchase and install most presets, you have to have the desktop version of Lightroom. However I’ve noticed that some bloggers are coming out with mobile LR presets now which you can install on your phone and import them to the mobile app. I installed most of my presets on the desktop version, then transferred them to my mobile app. I do most of my editing from the app now since all of my presets are in there.
Ok so let’s say you purchased some mobile presets and imported them into your LR mobile app, you apply the preset to one of your photos in LR, and it looks horrible. You will always still have to do some work to each photo and adjust little things like exposure, blacks/whites, shadows, colors, etc. There is no preset out there that’s going to look great on every photo with one click because each photo has different lighting and color tones. I have a ton of Lightroom presets and many of them I ended up hating on my photos. Unfortunately there’s no way to test them on your photos before buying.
So I would only recommend Lightroom if you’re willing to put some time and money into it. Otherwise don’t waste your time and stick to quick & easy apps like VSCO or Snapseed. Just try to stick to the same filters to give your Instagram a cohesive look if that’s what you’re going for! Decide what aesthetic you like, and keep it cohesive. I like to switch up my presets every now and then because we all get bored with something after months of the same thing.
And that’s all I have as far as getting started in the blogging world and the basics you should know. Hope this helps answer some of your questions.