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.