OUTFIT DETAILSGray Cashmere Sweater, Distressed Denim, Pearl Hoop Earrings c/o
Monogram Mug, Marble Laptop Skin, Floral Planner, Marble Phone Case
The New Year is the perfect time to put in the work to achieve the goals we set. We’re fresh and ready to tackle anything. I get so many questions about blogging, including how to start, best practices to follow and more. While I don’t consider myself a big blogger by any means, (there are blogger babes killing it with triple my following!) I do think I have a successful blog. Big dreams are my thing, so I’m nowhere near my peak, nor do I want to be. There is so much I want to accomplish in blogging, my career as a journalist and in life. I truly hope my advice on how to start a successful blog can inspire you to take the plunge!
This post is going to be lengthy. I want to make sure y’all walk away feeling like you can actually start a successful blog! I’m also including resources, programs and equipment I use to make my blog a reality. Let’s dive in!
Why & What
Ask yourself why you want to start a blog and be honest with your answer. Everyone has passions and an idea of what they want. However, if you only want to start a blog for free things and money, that’s not the right reason. I started because I love to style clothes. I also love to write and be a creative storyteller. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to be a TV Journalist and I knew it wasn’t glamorous. Blogging gives me creative freedom and the ability to do something a little more lighthearted. The three things I’m most passionate about, TV news, blogging and figure skating all have one thing in common: It looks easy, but behind the scenes, there is a lot of grit. Yes, companies do send me free things and I’m beyond grateful for the perks of blogging. But there are nights I’m awake until 3 a.m. finishing a post after I get off work at midnight. I have mornings struggling to find a photo to post because I worked all weekend and couldn’t shoot.
Next, figure out what you are looking for. My advice on how to start a successful blog will get you started. But you have to decide what you want. Success is defined differently by each person. Lock down a vision of what you’re hoping to achieve and remember that. I always think big picture because the long-term game is where you will find true happiness.
If pageants taught me anything, it’s to know who I am and what my brand is. When readers come to your blog, they should be able to figure out what you’re about in less than 10 seconds, ideally. Blogging is a saturated market, but there are niches out there to be filled. Plus, people are always looking for great content. A name for your blog can be hard. Think of what you love and want to showcase. Your real name is also a great jumping off point or could be where you end up! Once you establish a brand, you need to stick with it. Of course, your blog will evolve, just as you do. But when I say stick with it, I mean only work with brands and companies you truly love. I believe you are defined by your “no’s” and not your “yes’s” in this industry. If I talk about a brand on my blog or Instagram, I truly love it and stand by it. If the collaboration feels off, I politely decline the opportunity. No matter the amount of money, if I don’t genuinely love it or think it’s something my audience will enjoy, it’s not going on my blog.
Quality content should always be part of your brand. I think about it this way: if I wasn’t in or didn’t take this photo and it came up on my feed, would I still like it? Is the work I’m producing something I’m proud of? If the answer is no, I don’t publish it. Through my years of blogging, I have scrapped tons of photoshoots or re-shot something because I wasn’t proud of it. This is one piece of advice on how to start a successful blog I always refer to. Also, I recommend always proofreading and double-checking your grammar and punctuation. Make sure words are spelled properly and you are using there, their and they’re properly. Personally, this is a huge turnout when I’m reading a blog.
One thing that should never be part of your brand is a fake readership. In their rush to start a successful blog, some people are buying fake followers, likes and comments. This isn’t just on Instagram, this is on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Beyond this being morally wrong, those “fake” followers can be stolen social identities. A New York Times investigation shows that in this great piece of investigative journalism.
OUTFIT DETAILSOutfit Details Here
Building an engaged readership can be hard. This is something I’m honestly still struggling with. However, this ties in with quality content. Does your content provide value to your readers? Is it something they will want to share? When someone looks at your content, is there an emotion tied to it? Engaging in the blogging community genuinely will also help increase your exposure. I spend hours liking and responding to comments. I believe if someone took six seconds out of their day to leave you a nice comment, you should return the favor. You can also team up with other bloggers and do guest posts, collaborations and more to increase exposure.
Promote your content on social media, but also remember each platform is unique. Don’t share the same photo, caption and call to action on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. These are all very different platforms and don’t think of them as places to funnel your blog posts. Post content natively and give readers a reason to check you out there.
SEO or search engine optimization is crucial. This is something I’m really working on improving this year and I’m currently working with Chloe Digital to help me tackle this. I have the Yoast SEO plugin installed and work to make sure my posts hit the green checks.
Brands & Monetization
Some of my most asked questions revolve around working with brands and how to start a successful blog you can monetize. Blogging is a lot different now than when I first started years ago. However, I think this message still holds true: put value out first. In some cases, I would talk about brands and tag them in my photos on social media for a year. Sometimes, more! Then, I would reach out by finding a PR contact on their website, using LinkedIn, PR Newswire or sending DMs on Instagram. This helps to build a relationship with that brand and they can see my work with their product. Many times, a brand will actually see my photos and reach out to me, which is super exciting! I’m not going to lie, I blogged for years without making a dime. I was spending my own money buying clothes. Now, I still buy clothes, but it’s nice when brands I already wear reach out to me.
There are a variety of ways to monetize your blog and social media channels. However, I want to make this point: just because it appears someone is making a ton of money, doesn’t guarantee they are. Something I learned from skating is the 1/3 rule: You can’t control your competitors and you can’t control the judges and how they are perceiving your competitors. But you can control yourself. Comparison can be the enemy. Focus on you.
Sponsored Posts & Collaborations
This is where a brand will pay you for work completed whether it’s a blog post, Instagram post or mix of the two. When figuring out what to charge, consider the scope of work involved and your readership. When I first started, I didn’t charge brands to work with me. Instead, I was thankful they were willing to send me something for free. I zeroed in on creating content I was proud of, developing a relationship with that brand and growing my following. When pitching a brand, be specific about what you can offer them and what you’re looking for. If a brand reaches out to you asking for your rate, you should ask them what their budget is. Then, based on what they say you can send them your rate card or negotiate. Personally, when I was still growing, I would rather wait to have a bigger audience or higher quality content and charge more than start out with a lower rate. Whatever you decide, be clear on what the brand is getting and make sure to ask for a contract. If they are sending a contract, read it thoroughly!
Regardless, no matter what you do, make sure you’re proud of your work. Are you properly fulfilling the obligation? Are you meeting the brand’s expectation? Make sure you understand whether the brand is looking for exposure, brand awareness, sales or something different. I also spend time going over the creative brief to make sure I’m able to share the brand’s message while it aligns with mine. Finally, if the post underperforms, you best bet I will do something to make up for it. Sometimes, I’ll throw in added content value with stories or a week or so later, do another post if possible.
Finally, don’t forget to say thank you. It can be a simple email or a nice gift/bouquet of flowers but make sure you take time out of your day to thank the brand/agency for the opportunity to work with them! They could have chosen anyone else but they chose you. Make sure you let them know they are appreciated.
Affiliate links are where you can get paid per sale or click. I work with rewardStyle, where it’s pay per sale. Some brands will have their own affiliate program as well. I recommend experimenting and figuring out which one works for you. When it comes to affiliate sales, you have to really hone in on what performs well and be on the offensive to be successful. Tapping into your analytics, posting more of what’s selling and thinking ahead a season or two will help you make more sales. If you love something a blogger wears, please support us by purchasing through our link. This allows us to continue creating content you read!
Equipment & Gear
Another popular question when it comes to advice on how to start a successful blog is what equipment I use. To create quality content, you’ll need a quality camera. In 2012, Johnny and I purchased a gently used Canon 5D Mark ii and it’s what we used until August 2018. Now, we use a Canon 5D Mark iv. Another great option is the Canon EOS 6D. The 50 mm 1.4 USM lens and Sigma 35 1.4 Art are what we use a heavy majority of the time. When we need a wide-angle lens, we use this 16-35 mm lens. Since Johnny and I are long-distance and I’m doing more collaborations and partnerships on my blog, I previously worked Jessie, in Norfolk and as of summer 2018, started working with Morgan, who is an awesome photographer! I also continue to work with my good friends I’ve met through this crazy journey who are also incredibly talented. They are Mae Small, Toan Chu and Brandon Hill.
Now, with technology improving, cameras on our smartphones are becoming incredibly good. Tons of my photos on Instagram are taken on my iPhone X (as of its launch date). Portrait mode is a lifesaver and proves you don’t always need a professional DSLR to start a successful blog. Also, many of my VLOGs are taken on my phone in 4K!
To edit my photos into the light, bright, airy and colorful tone my readers and I love I use a variety of apps and programs. DSLR photos go into Lightroom where I use presets the lovely Mae gave me. On my iPhone, I use the Lightroom app, VSCO (05-07, A5-A7, C2, E1-E6, H6, HB1-HB2), FaceTune and Snapseed. Also, play around with what aesthetic you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to toggle the dials to get the look you’re going for!
OUTFIT DETAILSFloral Pajamas
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you juggle a full-time job and blogging? This is a big reason why I say you should truly love blogging and the content you create is because when I’m not at the station or finding new story ideas, I’m working on my blog. I spend mornings, late nights and weekends shooting, writing and answering emails. To get this blog post on how to start a successful blog done, I’ve been staying up until 2 a.m. each night this week! However, this isn’t a chore to me because I love it. We all have 24 hours in a day, make the most of it. Ask my coworkers what I do on the weekends, they’ll answer truthfully 😉
What content-management system powers your blog? I use WordPress and it’s been incredible. It’s very easy for me to go in and edit blog posts and make Color & Chic look the way I want. I also work with Chloe Digital to create custom things here and there or make my site better. If you are serious, I recommend using WordPress to start a successful blog
Can you meet up and help mentor? Unfortunately, I run an insanely tight ship and time doesn’t allow me to do this. Also, while I love to hustle, I do need time to myself and to “do me” every once in a while or I’ll burn out. However, if you have specific questions that aren’t answered in this blog post and email me, I will do my best to get back to you!
What inspires you? Oh goodness, honestly everything. I know that sounds so cliche, but I can be walking in downtown Norfolk, see a historic building and be inspired. I’ve gotten the chance to move a bit because of TV News, so I love to showcase each city I live in.
How often do you post? On the blog, I do a minimum of two posts a week, although recently I’ve been aiming for three. On Instagram, I post at least once a day, sometimes twice. I will say posting consistently right off the bat is key and will help you start a successful blog.
Resources & Misc.
Applications & Tools
CoSchedule – Not just a scheduling app. Great headline analyzer and more
Dropbox – Great for file transfer, backup storage, etc.
Google Analytics – track your blog’s audience, time on the blog, etc.
Grammarly – Bloggers shouldn’t make grammar mistakes. This will prevent it.
Hootsuite – Schedule Facebook & Twitter posts
Paypal – Invoicing and receiving payments
Planoly – Planning your Instagram feed
Tailwind – Scheduling Pins on Pinterest
Tweetdeck – Schedule Tweets
Chloe Digital – This changed my blogging game! Great for helping with optimizing and designing your site to what you what.
By Stephanie Design – I use her templates for media kits and then tweak in Photoshop for exactly what I need and take out what I don’t.
Gary Vaynerchuk – Amazing entrepreneur with incredible advice on business and marketing. Find him on all social media and take his brutal honesty to heart. He changed my life.
Drink with James (Fohr Card) – The Founder of Fohr Card drinks a shot of whiskey, dressed in a chic suit and gives away valuable information about blogging.
Goal Digger Podcast – For all goal diggers who want to succeed.