I can’t believe it’s officially been one year since I started my blog! There’s no handbook on blogging… but it sure would have saved me a lot of time and effort if there was! This is such a passion of mine, and I’ve put in hours upon hours of research through Podcasts, other blogs, messaging other bloggers, you name it. I’ve found that you really have to dig to find some of these relatively straightforward tips, and for some reason it seems like some of them are kept very secretive. So here are the most important things I wish I knew sooner:
Launch a website! You may think it won’t help you, but trust me, it will
There are a lot of things I said I wouldn’t do when I first started my fashion Instagram, and first on my list was launching a website. I had no idea where to start, and I didn’t think anyone actually read blogs. But it’s so important! I get way more views from searches than I ever would have imagined, and it actually brings almost an equal amount of views to my links as Instagram. How often do you google search random questions? You likely end up on blogger’s pages when you do! Some brands will also only work with you if you are able to post on your site.
One of the most common questions that I got on Instagram was how to monetize your website. Here are my top tips:
- Use your affiliate links wherever you can. If you work with any brands, always ask for an affiliate link or discount code (or both) that will track your sales or get you a commission.
- Reach out to brands that you already love (or work with) and ask them if they would be interested in sponsoring a blog post. Blog posts are worth more than Instagram posts because 1) they take longer to write and are more in depth, and 2) are searchable and permanent on the internet. Which brings me to my next point…
- Write about things that you know well and think would be helpful to others, especially if there isn’t much info already out there. For example, my most viewed post is the comparison of the Barefoot Dreams and Styled Collection blankets. This is something I always wondered myself and couldn’t find much info on, so I knew other people must be wondering too! That post still gets a pretty decent amount of views every day from google searches, which drives more people to my site.
Another question I got was what platform I use. I use WordPress, and while (not gonna lie) it was a learning curve and I was frustrated in the beginning, I find it pretty easy to use now. They have a lot of templates to choose from which makes it a lot easier, and I upgraded to premium to get some more design option.
Side note if you use LikeToKnowIt – the widget is not compatible unless you upgrade to add Plugins. This isn’t a huge deal, but the widget definitely makes things look nicer and easier to shop. I might upgrade eventually, but for now I just put in my own photos of products and add links to them.
Don’t accept sponsorships that don’t fit you or your brand
Going off the blog sponsorships, I just wanted to highlight that you shouldn’t accept sponsorships from brands that don’t fit you, your style, or your brand just to make money. You will most likely get offers from companies that you either don’t like, or just don’t fit your style. I have turned down money from brands that weren’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t feel like they were my area of expertise. For example – I got a paid offer from a CBD company. I have very little knowledge on CBD or how it works, so it wouldn’t really make sense for me to promote it. I want to be a helpful resource, and make sure my followers know I’m trustworthy. While the money may be tempting, it will help you more in the long run to stay true to yourself. That’s not to say you can’t share about things that aren’t strictly related to fashion (or whatever your niche may be), I just make sure they are things I’m interested in (gluten free/vegan food and drink options that I love, for example).
Don’t accept collaborations just to get free things
This is related, but a lot of offers will likely come through from companies you haven’t heard of. Be very careful and do a lot of research. I got an offer from a boutique on my second day of Instagramming, and felt so special and accepted it right away. I also got an affiliate code so I could make money off of sales. The clothes showed up about a month later, looked nothing like they did on the website, and were terrible quality. Luckily I didn’t have to post in them, but if you sign any kind of contract or agree to post, it could become a sticky situation. I would certainly not feel comfortable recommending that brand, and you never should post about a brand you don’t like. That was a hard lesson for me, but I have been so careful about who I work with since.
Also – don’t buy or share things just because “everyone” has them. Stay true to your style! I definitely think I got wrapped up for a while in buying the things that “every” big blogger had, but I’ve been actively working on making sure I’m staying true to my own style, and I’ve been having so much more fun!
Don’t use a third party link page!
Create a link page on your blog, and put it in your Instagram (or whatever platform you use) bio. I learned this the hard way after using a third party site for over 6 months! This drives all of that traffic to your own website, instead of a third party page. Don’t miss out on those clicks! Here is mine for an example 🙂
Use Canva and Remove BG
Remove BG is just about the best website out there for creating graphics – you upload a photo of an item and it takes out the background for you. Once I’ve removed all the backgrounds from everything I want to share in my graphic, I save them and upload them into Canva. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a very time consuming process, but it’s definitely easier than trying to photoshop everything!
I use the free version of Canva, and in my opinion you can create some pretty professional looking graphics using the free version. I start by picking the custom size 1080 x 1350 (this is what fits for LiketoKnowIt images, but if you don’t use LTK, you can pick one of the pre-set sizes for IG). I made my own template by choosing a background I liked, throwing on a border, and including my handle.
A quality Lightroom preset will elevate your feed bigtime
This is the absolute easiest way to take your feed from a personal page to a blog. The Lightroom App is free, and it will make a huge difference. You can find Presets online which usually range from about $5-$30 (it was very worth it for me to start with one, because I had no idea what I was doing), or you could create your own.
By the way, I know it’s a big topic on whether or not to start with your personal page, or to create a new page. I created a new page because I wasn’t ready for everyone to know about it, but honestly I don’t think it matters either way. You will start out with more followers if you keep your personal page, and people will most likely end up finding out about it either way.
Preview is great to help plan your feed
This is an app that I actually found out about more recently! You can put all of your upcoming photos in this app, and drag them around to plan what your feed will look like. This is another tip of mine – take a lot of photos when you can! If I have free time on a weekend or a weeknight in the summer, I try to bring clothes and take 3+ photos if I can. There’s nothing worse than having nothing to post and having to stress about it.
Create a media kit, even if you think you don’t need one
I was so intimidated by the media kit when I first started, and I swore I would never make one. But it really isn’t that bad! It’s kind of like a resume, but you get to put your own fun design skills and style to work. I just did a google search to see the stats and metrics that most of them included, and picked the ones I felt were most relevant. I started with a free Canva template and made it my own. Now it’s super easy to update. P.S. – this is the same thing I did to create an Invoice, which I also never thought I would do!
Cross-Promote however you can
Try to reserve your blogging name across as many platforms as you can! To be honest I neglect some of mine, but I was able to lock down Samanthastyleblog on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and I actually have it reserved on YouTube (even though I haven’t done anything with it yet! Maybe one day). WordPress shows you how many viewers come from from other platforms, and I have gotten quite a few!
It won’t be a linear process
I’ve had so many ups and downs in my first year. I grew so much at the beginning, and went through three months that I didn’t grow at all. I’ve accomplished things I never could have dreamed of, but there have also been days I’ve been down on myself for not hitting all my initial goals. Not falling into a comparison trap can be hard, but everyone’s journey is different 🙂 There have been plenty of tears, days I wanted to quit, and frustration. But in the end, it comes down to consistency, passion, and perseverance.
Some people won’t understand or be supportive, and that’s okay
I’ve been super lucky in the fact that all my friends and family have been very supportive of this hobby. I have gotten some weird looks and laughs while taking photos, which is definitely uncomfortable, but I’ve learned that this makes me so happy that I don’t really care what anyone else thinks.
I’ve also met some people who I thought were close friends through blogging, who it turned out weren’t actually quite as good of friends as I thought. It is unfortunately just something that will happen with social media, especially when you are trying to create a business.
It’s okay not to have your brand completely down
I literally think your entire first year is made for learning. I actually saw somewhere that if you don’t think some of the things you posted in the past are cringey, you aren’t evolving and growing. A lot of things have changed for me already in my first year! I absolutely recognize that I still have a long way to go, but I’m so excited about how far I’ve come already.
Finally, if you are thinking about it, just try!
I wish I started sooner, and every blogger I know says that! I’ve also made some friends through blogging who decided not to continue because it wasn’t a good fit, and that’s completely okay too. But if you never try, you’ll never know.
I actually had no idea whether or not I would like blogging and renew my website after the first year, but I couldn’t imagine stopping now! Overall this has been so rewarding and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me. Thank you so much for reading! ❤