I get e-mails and Instagram DM’s on the regular similar to this, “Hey Dani, any advice or tips about how to start a blog?” This is such a loaded question that sometimes I don’t respond because I don’t even know where to begin! But I love and care about y’all SO freaking much and I appreciate EVERY single comment and question you send me. You guys give me purpose in this crazy blogging world so I could not wait to write this blog post to answer your questions and help out in any way that I can!
I’ve decided to break this blog post up into 4 different posts and at the end of each post I will be hosting a Q&A. I will be answering your questions that you leave in the comment section as well as questions y’all have left me on instagram, so ask away! If you are wanting to hear the more personal side of my blogging/youtube journey, head straight to the Q&A’s. Here are the categories I will cover in this series,
- How to Start Your Blog – A Complete Guide
- 10 Tips for Curating Content For Your Fashion Blog
- How to Grow Your Instagram Following in 2017
- How to Make Money Blogging & Monetize Your Blog
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR BLOG. Waiting for a sign from the blogger gods for the greenlight in launching your blog may be the very thing setting you back on your goals, and postponing a really exciting journey and future as a blogger. One of the common misconceptions about starting a blog is that you need to be a great writer, expert on a certain subject, or have all the right equipment to get started. Nothing could be further from the truth. People read blogs to get a personal perspective on something. What I’ve found is; the informal, authentic type of information is valued!
For example, readers of a fashion blog don’t want to hear from and see images of a Victoria’s Secret model. They want to hear about the experiences and see outfit inspo from someone they RELATE to. Someone that has a normal body type, imperfections and all. Blogging is ALL about relating to people, not being better than them.
At its heart, blogging is about sharing your knowledge with the world. In my new series, “Things I wish a Sister Taught Me,” most of the topics I write about, “Feeling Lonely and Friendships” or “How I Deal with Body Image Issues,” are actually things I struggle with the most. Things I am the opposite of an expert in. I write about these experiences and how I deal with my struggles in hopes that I may connect, inspire, or relate with someone.
CHOOSE YOUR NICHE. Ask yourself what makes your blog different from everyone else’s. Choosing a topic or a niche that you are passionate about makes the process of starting a successful blog so much easier. Writing about more than one topic is totally fine too. As long as you are writing about things that you are genuinely interested in, your passion will shine through and keep your readers interested.
The blogging industry has become overly saturated but if you have valuable content and something to say, launch the blog! Just treat it like any other business. What is your competitive advantage, aka, what sets you apart from other bloggers? Be authentic, be authentic, be authentic, and BE QUALITY because there are too many other bloggers just like the next one.
So here we go! If you are waiting for that greenlight from the blogger God’s – you aren’t going to get one but maybe these steps will encourage you to get your blog goin’ and flowin’.
Step 1: Choose a blogger domain name
CHOOSE A DOMAIN. The domain name will be your site’s name. For example, my domain name is TheDaniAustin.com. What will your blog be called?! This is one of the more fun and exciting steps in creating a blog. Be creative and think about what type of blog you want. Will it be about your hobbies and interests? Personal experiences? A personal blog about your life? Once you think of a name, lock it down on ALL social media platforms so you are easily discovered across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. Social media is insanely important. We will get into this later.
PROS AND CONS TO BRANDING YOUR REAL NAME. I decided to brand my real name, “Dani Austin”(yes, Austin is actually my last name and I happened to live in Austin) but I remember playing with the blog name “If Shoes Could Talk.” After weighing the pros and cons, I went with “Dani Austin.”
The pro to a generic blog name like Lauren Conrad, Refinery 29, etc. is having the flexibility to expand and pivot into other types of content at different stages of life.
The con to a generic blog name, is that people may not know what they will find when they go to you blog. It takes more effort to develop a niche when you name is more generic.
Starting out, a blog name like, “If Shoes Could Talk” may have caught the eye of more clothing and accessory brands for me. It took weeks of only posting about fashion for people to see that was my niche.
A good blog name should be descriptive so that potential readers can instantly tell what your blog is about just from the name. If the name you want is already taken:
- Try a different domain extension. If the .com version is already registered you may still be able to get the .net or .org version of your blog name.
- Add small words. Words like “a”, “my”, or “the”. For example, DaniAustin.com was taken so I added “The” to create, “TheDaniAustin.com.” I check in once every couple of months to see if DaniAustin.com is available, still waiting!
- Add dashes between words. For example, Dani-Austin.com
Step 2: Choose a Web Host
Next you need a “web host” to register your domain name with AND keep your blog up and running! A web host is basically a company that stores your website, all the pics, blog posts, and files you upload onto their servers. In other words, there is actually a warehouse full of servers that store all of your pictures and the blog posts you upload.
I recommend using BlueHost. I actually use GoDaddy but have heard WAY better things about BlueHost’s customer service and reliability. Bluehost has great rates and will provide you with the domain name for free if you decide to use them as your host.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Once you’ve finished the blog host registration and have locked down a domain name, you’ll need to install WordPress. A self-hosted WordPress costs a little bit of money, but will give you much more control and flexibility than many of the other platforms out there like Blogger, Tumblr, or Squarespace. It’s absolutely what I recommend.
WP is a content management system that will help you manage the content you create. WordPress allows me to add a new post, delete a post, change the colors of my blog, add new photos, and update existing content. For example, when I had the idea to write this blog post, I logged into WordPress.org account and clicked “new post,” and here we are.
To install WordPress, log into your BlueHost account. Select “Hosting” and click on the “WordPress” logo. Hit the “Install” button. On the next page, select your domain, then hit the “Check Domain” button. The rest is pretty self explanatory!
Step 4: Make Your Blog Pretty
Back to the fun part! Most likely, you’ll want to select a new theme since the ones that come with WordPress for free, are pretty basic. You can hire a designer to design you a custom theme or you can find a beautiful theme elsewhere and install it yourself. So I made the huge mistake of hiring someone to code a theme from scratch. It took months, cost a lot money, and at the end of the day, the themes that were $19 were way better and had more options than the one we had created.
I found my theme from Themeforest.
On WordPress, go to “Appearance” > “Themes” > “Add New” > “Upload Theme”
QUICK TIP: Under your blog’s “Settings”, you can customize some basic things to make your blog look more professional. Under “General” Set your blog name and tagline — the default one is not what you want. You can also select how dates are shown here as well!
When you first started blogging, how did you afford all the equipment, clothes, make-up etc? It seems like without partnerships and sponsors, it’s a huge investment. @helloimkaitlin
I absolutely LOVE this question. You’re right, blogging is so expensive and my overhead to run my business is insane. Before I do answer, I want to say that I have been creating content for 4 years and starting out, I barely had any money and I barely made any money. Everyone’s journey is different but I know MANY influencers who are completely self made and like me, did not start out with the best equipment, designer clothes, or brand new makeup.
So I have three answers for you.
- First invest your TIME, and then you will learn WHEN and WHERE to invest your MONEY.
- Second, use your personal stage in life to your advantage.
- Third, collaborate with people to create mutually beneficial relationships.
INVEST YOUR TIME, THEN MONEY. I am a strong believer in treating blogging and youtube like any other business and with any start-up, whether it is your time or or money, it takes an investment. For me, at 19 years old, I invested HOURS of time editing, filming, and educating myself about content creation and influencer marketing. I pulled 2-3 all-nighters a week as a sophomore in college watching Youtube videos about how to use Adobe editing softwares, studying SEO optimization strategies, emailing companies asking for free product to feature (I literally pulled their emails from the “press” page of their websites and still do sometimes), and teaching myself what ISO, shutter speed, etc. all meant in photography. My GPA at the University of Texas went from a 4.0 to a….well, just not good.
Once I felt educated and prepared to invest my money, I did! I started a jewelry business called Keely D. Accessories and sold bracelets out of my dorm room. With that, I bought my first “big girl” camera, a Canon 6D + 50mm lens.
When “drugstore makeup hauls” were trending, I would use my babysitting money to go buy $40 worth of makeup and film a video, knowing one day, L’Oreal could be paying me to create content. I knew this because I did my research about which brands were investing in influencer marketing. When “Forever 21 Clothing Hauls” were popular, I’d go to the mall and spend $100 on new clothes knowing one day, Forever 21 could be paying me for sponsored content. I guess the extreme optimism kind of paid off because later on these brands would be some of my biggest, most loyal clients.
USE YOUR STAGE IN LIFE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. Be transparent about where you are in life, RELATE to people LIKE YOU, and then, GET CREATIVE! For example, if you want to be a fashion blogger but can’t afford new clothes and designer purses (yet), there are many people like you! Instead of blogging about 4 new outfits from Nordstrom, blog about “Favorite Basics in My Closet” or “Five Ways to Style A White Tee” or “5 Outfits Under $30.” If you have creative ideas, are relating to people, and your content is helping someone, what more can you ask for?! Your quality, clothes, style, and content will improve but you have to be patient till it makes sense for you financially. Everyone’s journey is different but patience is crucial. Once you know that your ideas are your differentiating factor, you will feel more comfortable investing in that $500 camera. I do value quality but starting out, focus on your content ideas and topics.
COLLABORATE TO CREATE MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIPS. When I had no money to hire a photographer, I would reach out to photographers who were looking to add to their portfolios on Facebook, Craig’s List, or through the University of Texas. We’d exchange a photoshoot for social promotion. Sometimes they just wanted the experience. At this point brands were not paying me, only sending me free product and most of the time, I offered to pay freelancers in product.
When I could not afford clothes, I would go visit local boutiques in Austin and ask to meet their manager to make a deal. In exchange for borrowing clothes, I let them use my photos on their website or social media.
When I could not afford the license to use a song in the background of my Youtube videos, I would tweet smaller artists and musicians and ask for permission to use their music. (Make sure you get an email from them, not just verbal permission).
I also reach out to other bloggers all the time to see if they ever want to meet up and shoot for each other!
What’s ONE thing you wish you would have known when you started blogging? @aheinsohnnn
The most important thing to focus on when you start your blog is earning people’s trust. You don’t need the latest and greatest to do so. I think some people will advise you to have quality content, be consistent, or create brand friendly blogs, (I mean these are all important) but at the end of the day, YOUR FOLLOWERS and your READERS, will be the reason you ever experience success on your blog. It warms my heart and I feel a responsibility to care for, inspire, and love the people that look at my content. I ALWAYS want them to trust me in talking about what I love, sponsored or not. It only takes one disingenuous sponsored post to lose someone’s (and then everyone’s) trust. I learned this the hard way in my early Youtube days.
What advice do you have for a new blogger on growing a genuine, engaged following? @chasingamyblog
Blogging is all about building relationships. Building relationships take effort on both sides! A lot of bloggers think they will post an informative, educational, blog and hundreds of people will receive it well and love them, but that’s usually not how it works! Building a genuine following is like building a genuine friendship, invest time getting to know your audience, ask them questions, be vulnerable with them, immerse yourself in their world, be there for them, and build their trust. Build a friendship with your followers.
There are many strategies that bloggers use to increase engagement but the best strategy is just to care about them. Here are some ways to do so,
- Ask people to message you something personal about them
- Ask your followers to comment
- Respond to your messages and comments
- Host giveaways to show your followers you care about them
- Be vulnerable with your audience
- I ask for some of my most dedicated followers addresses and sometimes randomly send them cards or gifts
- Host meet ups in big cities