21 Tips To Take Your Blog To The Next Professional Level

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OK, so maybe I’m not an expert on this. I *could* have more social media followers. I *could* have a glossier design. I *could* have more experience at blogging every day. But that’s the thing with anything you’re insanely passionate about isn’t it? You always see your own flaws and downfalls because you want to want to improve, be better, be THE best.

So I’m writing this post for all the people who have emailed me asking for advice, asking for words of wisdom on starting a blog, developing a blog, making their blog better, becoming a professional blogger.

The last year and a bit has been a MASSIVE learning curve. I used to put weird filters on photos for FFS and take photos at night time and it took me for FOREVER to work out how to monetise my content properly. Sob.

So here’s everything I’ve learnt – in list form, because obviously. Hopefully it’ll help you too.

1. There is NO set figure on what you can earn from blogging. There just isn’t. My main source of income is from advertising which comes through Handpicked Media and they take 30 per cent. There are some bloggers like Hayley from London Beauty Queen who go alone, without an agency, which means they take the full cut. This is where a media kit comes in handy – essentially a PDF with blog stats as well as fees charged for social media mentions, sponsored posts competitions etc etc.

2. You can’t just Google ‘blogger agencies’ either. It’s not that simple. Handpicked Media, Mode Media and the WAR network are the ones I know of, and the ones under which most popular UK bloggers fall under. For you to be considered you need to be bringing in about 20k views a month – but this definitely isn’t a set figure.

3. Going self-hosted is an absolute bloody nightmare, but it has to be done. Going self-hosted basically means you no longer use the free version of WordPress (I have no clue about the other blogging platforms – soz). Under tools on your WP sidebar is something called ‘export’. I ended up paying WordPress to export my site from WordPress.com over to .org and now pay a company called Pagely every month to look after my site and effectively ‘host’ it for me.

4. You have to go self-hosted because a) it means you can have access to Google Analytics which is much more trusted than WordPress Analytics (and tends to show slightly lower figures) and b) means you have the ability to customise your design and run advertising.

5. You *could* spend infinite amounts of money getting the design right – someone quoted me £1,000 for everything I wanted the first time round. Seriously. In the end I went with Squeesome, and paid about £120 – they basically just tinkered with an existing theme and put my spin on it.

6. Making sure your layout is easy to navigate and looks clean is pretty much the MOST important thing when it comes to your design. Don’t worry about it looking overly jazzy or flash – I don’t go back to certain blogs because they use a featured image of have pretty scrolling snaps at the top. They’re nice but they’re not a necessity when it comes to making your blog a professional success.

7. It’s seriously important to link up your social media accounts with your blog – as in, have the buttons in an obvious place, and promote the different accounts accordingly. For example, I won’t tweet out every damn thing I Instagram because it’s boring for my Twitter followers – but I will every other day or so, so that they have the option to follow me there too.

8. This is ‘seriously important’ because advertisers and agencies will take your social media following into account, not just your blog stats. I got turned down by one agency last year because my Twitter followers were still under the 1k mark. True story.

9. Get the right balance on Twitter. I’ll be honest, I unfollow people who *only* tweet out links to their other social media accounts on different platforms and their blog links because it’s dull. I follow them on Instagram ALREADY. I follow them on Bloglovin ALREADY. I’ve seen it all 58346278 times. Mix it up. Tweet about actual things going on in your day, funny things you’ve seen on the internet, links to other websites/blogs, retweets. You get the idea. Be an actual interesting person to follow. Interact.

10. Instagram every single damn day. Maybe twice. Maybe three times. Hell, if you’re on holiday or at like the Brits or something seriously exciting, do it five times. People care, you can get away with it if there’s photos actually worth uploading. Don’t take photos in the dark. Use bright sunlight, do flat lays, do outfit shots in a full-length mirror, take photos of your shoes and the floor, photos of cool buildings and pretty flowers. Do a mini haul shot on your floor, do a date night selfie. I look back at my uploads even a few months ago and I’m like WHAT IS THIS BLEURGH RANKNESS? Learn from the people you follow on Instagram because you actually like their photos.

11. It took me forevs to realise that not only does every piece I write on my blog need a good, strong image at the top (uh huh, even the rant pieces – people are easily enticed by a nice, glossy photo), but it needs to be your own photo. OK, some people take snaps from Pinterest and Tumblr and credit them, but you get the idea – NICE PHOTOS WILL MAKE PEOPLE LOOK.

12. And said photos can be from an iPhone. Honestly. My readerships hasn’t gone up since I started using a DSLR. A few more brands might be taking notice because maybe my photos look a bit more polished – but that’s it. I certainly would never EVER recommend investing in one just for your blog unless you’re already making a strongish income.

13. People like personality and ‘being real’. The whole being real thing is obviously what the bloggersphere is based on, and what perhaps separates it from typical online and print journalism (and makes it so much more popular with the younger demographic), but it’s about writing the way you actually think. When I spin out a sentence, I write like I’m texting one of my friends, not like I’m writing something for a magazine. It’s the former that people seem to enjoy reading because they can relate, and if people can relate with you then they will connect with you and want to come back to you.

14. Take blog photos on your phone. Turn on airplane mode – play around with the brightness (SO importsnt) and saturation in Instagram and then press upload. The edited version will save to your camera roll but won’t actually upload to your account because duh, no internet signal. It’ll also stop your photo doing that dreaded thing they do on WordPress where they appear sideways for mobile viewers. WIN, WIN.

15. Network with other bloggers – they are key to helping you grow. I admit this isn’t my strong point AT ALL. Take part in blogger chats over on Twitter and attend blogger-events and get your chatty, social-face on. I’ve seen people’s Instagram followings go up by like 1,000 just over fashion week alone because they’ve been so ON IT. So involved, so at everything. It sounds silly, but just getting mentions on other people’s blogs or being tagged in a selfie from a rooftop bar by a brand or fellow blogger really do help to spread awareness of your brand, srsly.

16. Make sure you have updated profiles on media sites like Gorkana and Fashion Monitor – most of them will create you a profile if you already have a bit of a following online. PRs DO FIND YOU THIS WAY. I sometimes ask people how they found me when they ask me to collaborate on projects or go on a trip and Gorkana comes up a lot – it’s no longer seen as just a database for journalists which is exciting.

17. Someone else once told me they found me from searching ‘UK lifestyle bloggers’ and there I am sitting snuggly on the first page. I only changed my blog header to include UK recently and I think it’s really helped me.When companies are looking to imporve their blogger outreach this is a really obvious thing for them to type into Google, dontcha think?

18. SEO is important especially when you’re doing something like a product review (and therefore should have xxx product review in the headline), as well as for things like ‘SS15 fashion trends’ and ‘Primark’s SS15 collection’, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t rely on it too heavily. We relied on it a LOT back in the earlier days of online journalism (and a lot of fash brands still do) but it won’t help you expand your reach as much as good headlines, brilliant writing and shareable content will.

19. Be consistent, post every damn week. It doesn’t have to be the same content – it’s fine to jump from a listicle to a beauty review to a fashion round-up. In fact the blogs that do offer a bit of variety are my favourite ones because you never know what to expect next from them. It’s fine to take a break because of holiday/illness/you just need some damn time away from the internet, but you’ll never gain a solid following if you’re a flakey blogger. Just sayin’. And you won’t feel good about it either.

20. Have business cards to give out – even if this makes you feel like you should be in a film wearing a suit with shoulder pads in whilst rocking a perm. Chris bought me mine (and some stickers) for my birthday last year after pestering me for a while and me just forgetting – because new ASOS clothes seem to ALWAYS be more important, obvs. I hand them out at events and people always seem to ask me for them – it’s always nice when I see new comments or tweets from people that would have only remembered to find me had it been for that card. Good work, Chris.

21. Cut yourself some slack. This is my final point and the most important. Sometimes I hear bloggers talk about how they pulled an all-nighter because they were just getting through loads of work and scheduling loads of post and OMG THEY’RE SO AMAZING, WHY DIDN’T I DO THAT?

We’re all different, and although I always like to be winning and I always think like is a competition – it isn’t. Don’t compare your blog to other people’s – you don’t know their situation. They might have been working on it for 6 years, or have had a bit of ahem, parental financial backing, to get it to where it is now. And you know the silliest part? Even the people’s whose blogs you basically wet yourself over spend an age comparing their blogs to others. It’s EXACTLY the same as the way we all compare our bodies against each other – it’s hard to be happy with what you’ve got.

Essentially, yes you might love blogging and it might be your EVERYTHING, but there will always be things more important – your health, your sanity, your relationship, your family, YOUR WORLD. So it’s OK to not get everything done, to not be as sparkling as you could ever be because some things are just worth a darn bit more.

 

I’m not sure if this has been helpful in any way, or maybe a bit repetitive from bits of info I’ve mentioned before in other posts? Gimme a tweet and lemme know babies @hannahfgale.

 

  • Hey Hannah
    Thank you so much for this great advice!
    I love your blog and totally agree with what you said about writing how you would speak – that’s what makes your blog stand out, its honesty.
    I’ve just relaunched my blog and all these tips will be so helpful in my attempt to make it a success! 🙂
    Debs x

    http://www.theyounglondoner.com

  • Love this – such a helpful post! I’ve been umming and ahhing about going self-hosted for a while and I think you might have just given me the kick I need…
    Sophie Cliff

  • Find out our Latest men and women Fashion tips
    http://fashionmakeupfitness.com

  • Thanks Hannah, lots of great tips and much more readable than the generic blog advice posts that seem to be everywhere atm! x

  • Thank you for writing this post, I found it really helpful. It’s nice to hear when really successful bloggers are still comparing themselves to others, there is no need but we all do it. Some great tips that I’ll definitely be taking on board.

    Kristy | http://www.thevioletblonde.com

  • Great post. I would say though for 4. that you don’t need to be self-hosted to have google analytics. I’m not sure about WordPress.com but you can install them on a Blogger blog really easily (Blogger has its own analytics but they’re way way off).

    Also re Instagram, you don’t necessarily need to be in airplane mode (or at least not on my Samsung Galaxy), if you get it to the bit where you have to write something about it, tag it etc then it saves to my camera roll.

    After nearly two years I finally ordered business cards, I’m so excited about them.

    • sophie

      I was thinking the same thing, Blogger is run by Google so it must be compatible with google analytics

  • I LITERALLY set up a WordPress account last night out of pure frustration at my life and the ache I have to improve it. Cant even imagine anyone reading my blog, but I feel its a self help step for me anyway.I adore your blog, although I admit, I tend to read it on my email, but I’ll make sure to click onto your blog from now on.

    The timing of this post is just FAITH for me, thanks so much xxxx

  • Some great tips, Hannah. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had gone self-hosted earlier! So are we not supposed to use filters on our images? Oops! Haha x

  • Definitely agree with using your own photos even on wordy posts – when I first started blogging it seemed like a “thing” to use other people’s photos from Tumblr / Weheartit (does that even exist now?) but own photos are so much better! x

  • Thanks a bunch for this seriously helpful post. I’m kinda new to the whole blogging thing and I’m all like ‘Gahhhh where is this going/am I doing it right/What are this?!’

    So this has been hugely helpful

    Ta 🙂

  • This has honestly been the most helpful blog advice I have read…and I have read a lot.

    thank you Hannah, as always 🙂

    Nicola

    httpp://www.nicolabhamra.com

  • amy

    Its useful information. My personal blog is a few yrs old, I have 500 visitors a week and I have no intention of monetizing it. But I am considering starting up another blog with the plan of making money. So far I know from my personal blog that FB is the best for getting new readers, I am unsure how to get new followers quickly on TW, but I would rather have quality over quantity when it comes down to it all. You say you need to bring about 20K visitors a month to be classed as a pro (I think this is a nice target to have). I have no intention of making a lifestyle blog, so instagram is not really needed. For me the problem is now how do I set up a new business when I am already working full time!

  • em
  • I found this post to be the perfect balance of informative and helpful, whilst also really encouraging when you feel like you are already moving in the right direction with lots of them!

    I know I am guilty of over-promoting on Twitter for sure but we live and we learn right?

    Love Sophie x

    http://www.fashionnomads.com

  • Brilliant advice! This is defo one of the better advice lists I’ve seen and way more informative than your standard ‘get to grips with SEO’ bla bla bla stuff…
    I’m still a blogging newbie so I’m looking for ways to slowly increase my readership stats as I’m no where near ready to start posting every day! I do however try and Instagram and tweet once a day as it makes me feel productive even if I have nothing to write a full post about. Thanks for all the info, I really enjoy how down to earth all your posts are

  • Hello Hannah,

    I was thinking of sending you an email asking for some tips when I saw this post.

    Love it, thank you so much for your insight. I started blogging a little more seriously since last month, I really would love to be able to earn an income from it.

    Earning doing the thing I love.

    Anyways love your blog, you are going to be in my favorites.

    Thanks,
    Marta

  • Isobel

    Loved this Hannah ! Any advice on coming up with a blog name ?

  • This was really helpful! Blog advice is always appreciated. Definitely need to get to work on my instagram game! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

  • Absolutely love this post. At the risk of sounding like a real brown noser, yours is one of my favourite blogs and I love how down to earth and straight talking your advice always is!

    Rachel | http://www.currentlyrachel.com

  • These are great tips! I do need to work on my SEO and definitely need to do better with other social media! Twitter can be weird.

  • yes! down to earth and easily understandable *hi five* 🙂
    http://thewanderlusthasgotme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/sky-garden-london.html

  • Hallelujah! A straight talking realistic guide, not just telling us to be “positive”!
    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve recently written a post about the blogging world in the eyes of the new blogger!

    Maisie x
    Thoroughlymodernmaisie.wordpress.com

  • Cheers for this Hannah, enormously helpful! Immy x

    http://www.immymay.com

  • Omg this is the first post that I’ve ever read that has so many things that we actual think about when starting a blog… You gave some excellent tips and figures which gives us an idea of were we need to be at to even think about working with brands and getting ads etc…
    I started my blog for the love of beauty and makeup etc so at the moment I’m just enjoying being so busy with my blog and writing content Thanks for this x

    http://www.beautyfyingbeauty.com

  • And your right, I always try to write as though I’m speaking to someone as that’s what interests me when I’m reading other peoples blog!! So that’s hopefully one thing I’m doing correct:) but still a lot to work on and a long way to go!! Wishing everyone out there starting out in blogging (including me! Hehe) a lot of success x

    http://www.beautyfyingbeauty.com

  • Number 13 is sooooo true. That’s one of the main reasons I followed your blog in the first place. I love the fact that you sound like a real person, not a promo video for Estee Lauder. You even swear for pity’s sake, which as someone who can give a sailor a run for their money in that department, is seriously refreshing!

    Thanks for the insight.

  • Super helpful post! I’ve finally got around to setting up a blog, something I’ve been meaning to do for AGES, so these tips were really helpful 🙂

  • These tips were really helpful, thank you! 🙂

    Simply Shell xo

  • Amazing advice Hannah! This makes me a little better that my blog is going in the write direction and that perhaps one day I could hit it! xx

  • This was lovely, thank you so much. I have been worried about posting out of my niche which I have no idea what it is exactly lol

  • This has gave me such a confidence boost and helped me a lot seen as I only started my blog last week!! So thank you Hannah! Your great! x

  • Great post! The tips are really going to help me with my website!

    xoxo Nikki
    http://NikkisHaven.com

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  • Sooo helpful! Thank you! xx

  • Thank you for this post! The first actually useful and insightful piece I’ve read on blogging advice. I’ve read so many generic ones that don’t tell me anything new or are actually helpful or inspirational. Some points were possibly not relevant for me as I have a more specific environment themed blog but still good to know. Thanks for breaking the mould! Always a joy to read your posts 🙂

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  • Such a helpful post! I have been debating going self-hosted for so long, I’m just not sure whether to take the plunge or not…it seems like a big step & a lot of work but would probably be so helpful in the long run!

    Bxx
    http://www.b-jolly.co.uk

  • This was great. I definitely agree with writing in a style that is relatable and casual. I have always written my posts as if I’m chatting with a friend rather than doing an essay and I much prefer to read that style too.

    Where did Chris get your stickers from? I’ve seen them in your photos before and they are super cute!

  • Great post Hannah, thanks!

  • Congrats, Hannah, this is a very useful guide. Indeed, being active on as many social networks as possible is super important. Right now Instagram is the go to social platform, at least in the fashion and beauty niche, and posting several times a day is the key to getting noticed.

  • Kia

    Thank you so much for those tips. They felt very real and I could relate to them 🙂 I just started blogging and now I can improve some things for sure! Thank you!

  • Hey! Love your blog. I use Tumblr to host my blog but have my own domain through GoDaddy. Is this going to make things complicated if I ever want to get advertising etc? I’m not very clued up on all the tech-ness of things!!!

  • on Kate. This is by far the most wonderful coenmmt we have ever received here and I am so touched by your words. Trust me: we felt honoured to be a part of their day and have the task of telling their story. It will remain one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.Thank you for dropping by and watching this. It means the world to me.

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  • After sitting staring uselessly at my computer for ages wondering what to do to polish my blog a bit, I rummaged around to pull out your post and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed, so ta Hannah. Got myself a facebook webpage up now and I plan on brainstorming how to keep it, twitter and instagram working in happy harmony. Always a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.

    http://preludesblogofwords.blogspot.co.uk/


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