A question I get a lot is not where I got a particular outfit or what beauty products I use, but rather how did I get into blogging and what advice can I give for someone starting a blog themselves. I’ve been in the blogging/Instagram influencer hemisphere for a little over a year and a half now, and I can honestly say through this journey of a lot of trials and errors, I’ve picked up a lot of helpful tips that I’m happy to pass along.
The first thing I want to address is that there is a difference between a blogger (i.e., someone who posts on their own website like I’m doing right now) and someone who is an Instagram influencer (someone who doesn’t create posts on a website but rather makes their income/presence off of posting on Instagram alone).
While I follow many bloggers and influencers and a combination of the two alike, I feel like it’s important to know the difference between the two. I’ve personally fallen into the ‘IG influencer’ realm a bit more this year as I’m posting on IG frequently versus creating posts on my website but the reality is that is where the money is. IG is becoming the number one way people buy things, so as far as brand partnerships and sponsored posts go, companies care more about you posting on IG versus a separate website. Regardless, I think it’s important to have a website if you want to call yourself a blogger and want to build a brand. There is a whole word of content you cannot capture in an Instagram post or story (and something I want to become better at this year myself is creating more blog posts!)
TIP #1: MAKE A PLAN FOR CREATING YOUR CONTENT/PHOTOS
The number one thing I think people worry about when they want to start a blog is their photos. Who will take their photos? Where will they take them? What do they do in the photos? And this is your content, the bulk of what your audience will absorb so I can understand how it can be something to be stressed over.
When I was first launching my blog, I went online and hired the first professional photographer I could find that would entertain my idea of me changing outfits a few different times around Balboa Park in San Diego for a couple of hours at a decent price. Shooting day came and went and when I finally got back the photos, I was a little devastated that what I was envisioning didn’t quite come across IRL. For starters, the photos were taken at a time of day that direct sunlight was hitting me in the eyes, the angles didn’t quite display the outfits like I had hoped, and the backgrounds were a bit too bright and saturated for me like it was a shoot done for family portraits, rather than a cool fashion blog. I ended up editing the photos myself and using them, but it was a long ways from what I wanted in terms of my content creation.
The second time around shooting with a professional, I took my time doing a little more research and found a photographer on IG whose work and aesthetic I loved, rather than just googling local photographers for hire. I also planned my outfits around the location I was shooting at, and made sure to choose a location with backgrounds that was more inline with the vibe I was going for. For example, my personal style at that time was V Southern California/boho/beach vibes so I decided to shoot in a neighborhood by the beach in La Jolla, CA. Luckily, this photographer and I ended up clicking and creating magic together! It made me so happy to be displaying outfits and creating photos that I thought were genuinely good — it kind of reminded me of seeing photo editorials in fashion magazines when I was younger.
Ever since then, I have only worked with/hired photographers after doing my research to see the work they have done and whether it was in line with my aesthetic. I know paying for photos can seem like a gamble, but at the end of the day starting a blog is like starting a small business, and cost of photos is something I had to factor in as an investment to start this blog.
If you cannot afford to hire a photographer, there are still many ways to get your content! All of these which I have done, still do and been very happy with:
Ask your friends. I would drag my best friend all over LA to take pictures of me when I would go and visit her on weekends. True story: we were out to breakfast one day and there was an empty table against a wall covered with ivy which I thought was V cute. I took my chai and went over to the empty table and forced my friend to snap a couple of pictures of me while we were waiting for our breakfast to come. It may feel uncomfortable, but you honestly have to not give AF what people may think of you if you want to be in this industry.
Meet up with local bloggers. When I was desperate for pictures and I couldn’t afford to hire a photographer, I decided to reach out to another blogger who I had previously met at a blogger event. I just DM’ed her on IG and asked if she’d ever want to get together to take pictures for each other. Like me, she also needed content and was up for it! We started making it our weekly routine to do this just to have photos to post for the week as we both also worked full time jobs outside of blogging/influencing and it was great because it was someone who understood my need for a million different angles/options to choose from and I could reciprocate that for her as well! I also did this when I first moved up to the Bay Area and didn’t know anyone and ending up making a good friend out of it.
Ask your mom. Let’s be real, who will always be patient for you and there for you when you need something? Mom, of course. I still to this day ask my mom to take photos of me when I am back home visiting San Diego. She actually gets really into it now, giving me posing advice and what backgrounds she thinks will look good.
LAST RESORT: Ask a stranger. And if all of the above fail, ask a stranger. I know this may be really weird but that is the level of not giving a fuck being a blogger has turned me into. For example, when I moved to SF and didn’t know a soul but needed content, I definitely did this. I went to a Refinery 29 event alone and got tons of pictures by just asking random strangers that were walking by (luckily it was an interactive art exhibit so everyone was taking pics anyways). Another time I went to get a coffee and fell in love with the coffee shop’s aesthetic that I couldn’t leave without taking a pic. I noticed two girls in front of me taking selfies and asked them if they wanted me to take their picture. After, I asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a photo of me as well. And being brave paid off!
Once you have found a photographer and a set time you want to shoot along with a couple of different outfits, the rest you can have fun with. Play around with poses (standing versus sitting), incorporate lifestyle in your photos (like grabbing a coffee as I clearly like to do), and remind yourself how amazing you look — if you’re not feeling yourself, it definitely shows in photos.
TIP #2: GET ORGANIZED AND PICK A PLATFORM
Ok, you have some content to put up on your blog now! Except for you have to make a website and that can be daunting. I tried a brief stint at blogging back in 2013 and ending up giving up on it because for the life of me I could not figure out how to configure my Wordpress site. In hindsight, that seems like such a stupid reason to give up but I really had no idea how to make it work and was fresh out of college so I couldn’t pay someone to design a site for me. Thank goodness the second time around when I gave blogging a serious try in 2017, I discovered websites like SquareSpace and Wix which make creating a website a breeze without having to know code or hire someone.
I use SquareSpace myself and personally love it because I can design my website directly on it, buy my website domain through them, and don’t have to use a 3rd party to host. I pay a monthly subscription to keep my website alive and it’s well worth it. There are different tiers of accounts you can purchase depending on what you’re looking for.
I also link my Instagram to my website (majority of how I get traffic to my site), and this brings me to the second part of getting organized as a blogger/influencer: creating your IG.
You can create a new IG account or convert your personal account to a business one (by creating and linking a business Facebook page) — I highly recommend having a business Instagram account as blogging is a business and you want to make yourself look legit in order to start gaining readers/followers and working with brands.
Once you have your Instagram up and running, download a post planning app like UNUM or Planoly so you can have a visual plan of what your IG feed will look like. I try to plan my feed a week in advance and space posts apart so that when someone new comes across my page, it looks aesthetically pleasing and they will want to follow along with my posts. For example, I try to break up my feed by having different sorts of posts next to each other. Maybe one where I’m standing showing off an outfit, next to a selfie, next to a photo of me sitting, next to lifestyle shot of my breakfast view or my purse and coffee. You don’t have to have this formula in place every time, but I personally don’t like it when it’s the same kind of photo over and over again.
I also try to make sure my photos all have the same filter/look/vibe to them. I use a number of photo apps to get the coloring on my photos to look how I want in line with my personal aesthetic and apply the same combo of filters to every pic I post. You can also use photoshop presets, but I personally don’t love the look of that for my feed. (See my post about the photo-editing apps I use here).
TIP # 3: BE AUTHENTIC
One thing I’ve discovered in this blogging world is that not everything is as it appears in a number of ways. Let me explain the reasons how and why you should avoid that:
Don’t (over) stage your photos: It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when something is outlandishly staged, like influencers who order 3 breakfasts just to get a cute shot with a bunch of food and end up eating none of it, or people who bring bouquets of roses to restaurants with them so they can get flowers in their photos and then end up tossing the flowers after they get the shot. Like yes, it looks nice but that will just never be me. I’m all for creating content and understand when you work with different brands, sometimes you have to stage your photos and add props but I also never want to come off as fake cause it’s personally a turn off when I see other bloggers doing it. If I do have photos with food in them, you can rest assured I ordered it for myself to eat.
2. Don’t buy followers/likes/comments: I’ve never understood buying followers on IG. Brands can see through it when you have 20k followers but all of your photos barely get any engagement and it’s also suspicious when in one day someone jumps 1,000 followers. I think instead of focusing on the number of followers you have, focus on creating quality photos and blog posts that you’re proud of. And when you do create good content, you can be reposted on bigger IG accounts and gain an authentic following that way — with real people who will continue to follow you versus robots that will get deleted every couple of months anyway. I’ve been at around 12.7k followers for about 2 months now. While it’s frustrating because I want to constantly be growing, I’m still getting amazing brand partnerships with brands I once could only dream of working with so it’s not something I’m going to compromise on.
3. Be picky with what you post. I think while blogging/influencing is a lot of fun and a great market to be in, it’s also a very over-saturated market and can seem like you’re seeing the same few bloggers posting about the same things in the same outfits. I think that it’s important to really find your voice and your brand if you’re going to commit to blogging. If you copy someone’s posts or outfits because you feel like that’s the road to success, chances are you’ll fail because, a) your audience has already seen it and probably won’t be super impressed and b) you won’t be able to keep up with that person’s aesthetic if it’s not something that comes naturally. And I say this speaking from personal experience!
Where I’ve found success in my posts and photos is portraying my personal style via outfits I like to actually wear and think are cute versus wearing something just because it’s trendy (but probably isn’t totally in line with my own style). I also find the same to be true with captions, and try to add value in my captions. Sometimes I’ll post a joke and try to showcase my humor to my audience, other times I just talk about my day or ask my readers a question. Either way, I never want to sound like an infomercial trying to push a product or be boring and be like “I’m wearing this cute dress!” and that’s all you get.
Another instance where I’ve found it’s important to be picky is accepting brand partnerships. Don’t agree to post about something you wouldn’t actually wear/buy/use IRL. For example, the same diet tea company has reached out to me to do a sponsored post multiple times. And while I’d love to make money off it, I’m not going to endorse something I don’t believe in or would write about to my followers. When I see some other bloggers or influencers doing this, it feels a little off to me. I can’t help but think if they’re actually using this product! Instead, seek out partnerships with companies you would shop from and want to tell your girlfriends about as if you weren’t even a blogger.
There’s so much more I could talk and post about relating to blogging/influencing — which I will continue to do in a series of blogging tips posts, but I think that about covers the basics. I’d love to get your questions in the comments!