HOW DO BLOGGERS MAKE MONEY?
There are a few different ways bloggers can make money and I can’t pretend to know all of the ways, but I will share how Sequins & Things generates an income.
• BRAND PARTNERSHIPS: Another way Sequins & Things generates an income is through brand partnerships that are set up directly with a brand or through agencies. Agencies are companies that are essentially the middle man between me and the brand, who have campaign managers who essentially manage the campaign for the brand and acts as the middle man between the brand and the influencer. Before the campaign begins, they help both parties work out a deal that is mutually beneficial and throughout the campaign, they ensure everything is running smoothly and the influencer is upholding their end of the contract. Last week’s post with Nordstrom was a brand partnership, which is indicated through the disclosure at the end of the post.
• ADVERTISING OPPORTUNITIES: There are many different ways to make an income through advertising on a blog, and I can’t begin to act as though I know them all. One time, a company asked if they could use the imagery I created for a previous campaign with them for their own online advertising. We worked out a deal that worked for both parties and set a time limit on how long they could use the content. There are many other ways, though, I assure you!
I AM A READER WITH NO INTEREST IN STARTING A BLOG BUT HAVE BEEN INTRIGUED BY HOW IT ALL WORKS. NOW THAT I KNOW, WHY SHOULD I CONTINUE TO SUPPORT YOU KNOWING IT IS ESSENTIALLY A BUSINESS?
Absolutely! We spend our days scouring the internet to discover new products, buying them for ourselves [I buy 97% of the products you see on Sequins & Things; I’m very particular about the partnerships I enter into and the free product I agree to receive from brands & PR companies] and paying for someone to shoot them for the blog or Instagram. Not to mention the time it takes to edit those Instagram photos, analyze when it should be posted and link it up prior to the post time. I didn’t start my blog to make money but when you start to realize that you’re using your time and resources to provide a service to your audience in many ways, and you have no other source of income, then you have to start thinking about it all from a business perspective … while also staying true to YOU, which is super important!
HOW CAN A READER SUPPORT YOUR BUSINESS?
Honestly, this job isn’t about the money for me. Sure, I’m able to afford some nice things that I never imagined I would ever be able to and, yes, I have to make money to keep it going but, above all else, I do this because I GENUINELY LOVE IT. [I did this for an entire year without making a dime!] It’s so fun to style outfits, shop, brainstorm new topics and content to cover, and share the latest steals & deals. I have shared before that I am a natural SHARER so, above all else, being able to share this love with you is a serious dream come true! So many of you blow me away with your kindness in comments, likes and emails. I’m so blessed by you all … truly! And I am thankful you have engaged so much so that I can continue to do this for you! If you do want to support Sequins & Things, follow my social channels, engage in the content I share by liking or commenting, and also go to the blog to check out what’s going on over there! If you buy something, great! If not, that’s great, too! I just appreciate you taking the time to see what I’ve been up to and what I’ve created for you to enjoy!
HOW DO YOU GET ACCEPTED IN TO THE REWARDSTYLE PLATFORM? WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HEAR BACK?
rewardStyle allows online influencers to submit an application through their website HERE. I applied back in 2013 and it didn’t take long to hear back from them. However, they didn’t accept me right away. They highlighted some areas of improvement that I needed to work on over the course of a few months before they felt comfortable welcoming me to the platform. They wanted to see consistency in posts, high quality imagery, interesting content and a unique voice. After heeding their advice, I reached back out to my contact and asked if she could take a look again and see if I’d be a more eligible candidate. She liked what she saw and I’ve been using rewardStyle for a little over three years now. Miss you, Margaret! 😉
I’m personally not sure how it all works now [being that I’m more of a veteran publisher and I’m sure things have changed a bit] but, from what I’ve heard, it does take a little longer to be accepted and they are a little stricter. The blogging industry is very saturated at this point and they want to make sure they have the means to invest in the publishers that they do bring on and accept in to the affiliate network. But, don’t be discouraged! Work hard, do it for the right reasons, invest in your content [they say, CONTENT IS KING!] and they will be more apt to bring you on board! You can do it!
WHAT ARE THE IN’S AND OUT’S OF LIKEtoKNOW.it? DO YOU REACH OUT TO THEM REQUESTING TO BE A PART OF IT OR DO THEY CONTACT YOU?
LIKEtoKNOW.it was created by the tech geniuses within rewardStyle. Once you’re accepted into rewardStyle‘s affiliate network, you also have access to enable your Instagram posts with LTK and, furthermore, be eligible to be regrammed on the LTK Instagram handle. The posts are simple to set up through rewardStyle‘s app, which you can only login into with your personal rewardStyle credentials. I’ll let your rewardStyle rep take you through that once you get to that point! Hey, I have to leave some things for you to stay excited over, hah!
HOW DOES REWARDSTYLE AND LIKEtoKNOW.it WORK FROM THE BLOGGER PERSPECTIVE? HOW ARE YOU INCENTIVIZED?
I covered this in the ‘How do bloggers make money?’ question under AFFILIATE LINKS. LIKEtoKNOW.it, since it’s powered by rewardStyle, essentially works the same way. All of the clicks generated from the app and emails are tracked through rewardStyle‘s cookies and, if purchases are made, we generate a commission on the sale before tax and shipping is added. Again, you don’t pay anymore out of pocket for this … the company pays us for directing sales to them.
HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO AFFORD ALL THE ITEMS THEY FEATURE THAT AREN’T C/O?
Remember, bloggers who run their blog full-time [typically] run it as a business. So, I purchase merchandise within a budget that I have set for myself and my business based on my business performance and monthly business expenses. If bloggers are running their businesses smart, they are styling items that they do genuinely love that they know they will be able to make a good return on investment on. If you’re a blogger and you are unsure about what items will make a good return on investment, you should be looking at what posts typically generate the best engagement and what products from those posts your readers are clicking on the most. This can tell you what price points to look for when making your business purchases. If you see bloggers who feature a wide-range of price points, or ‘high-low’ outfits, it’s typically because they know their audience engages in a wide range of price points.
HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO TRAVEL SO OFTEN?
Just like merchandise, my travel expenses are based on my business performance. If your business can afford the flight and accommodations for the trip, and you think your posts from the trip will generate traffic or help you gain a following in an area you want to be known for … then you can typically write-off the cost but I only encourage you to do this if you have the means. There are always going to be risks involved in starting your own business but I think some aren’t worth taking until later on. Generating an income from a blog does take time, so be patient!
** Please speak with your accountant on the in’s and out’s of business write-off’s. I am not an expert by any means. My accountant is well aware on how inept I am on this topic, hah! **
In regard to blogger travel, it’s also important to note that sometimes bloggers’ are offered sponsored trips in order to get a particular resort or destination on people’s radar. Every trip is different in what they incentivize for the blogger but sometimes their travel and accommodations are taken care of in exchange for a blog post and social media promotion of the trip. It may sound glamorous and I am not complaining about the opportunities I’ve been presented with but … you have to keep in mind … we are working the whole time. We are only offered a set number of days and we have to use that time wisely. I’m often scurrying around trying to find the best way to capture the destination and the place that is hosting us, while also styling looks to share on the blog. Sometimes the photos you see in bloggers’ blog posts took an hour to find or they’ve endured frigid temperatures to get that shot. You’ll see me enjoying the water in a bathing suit in my upcoming Bermuda blog posts, but I can assure you that’s the reason why I lost my voice and spent the last day in bed. We definitely get to enjoy some beautiful places but it’s not the ‘vacation’ some readers may think it is. You know that weight that feels like has been lifted when you clock out of work after a crazy day or week? Honestly, that weight is always on bloggers’ shoulders because we don’t have set hours. We are always working and a lot of bloggers feel guilty when they take time ‘off’.
WHEN YOU SHOOT, ON AVERAGE, HOW MANY POSTS ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR?
In the past, I would try and shoot as many looks as possible to minimize the number of shoots I would have to do because it used to be extremely time consuming. I would style all the looks and pack them up in my car along with shoes, makeup wipes, multiple lip colors, jewelry and handbags. Miguel lives about 30 minutes away from me so I would meet up with him near his place so that while I’m changing in the car, he uploads and edits my images and exports them to my Dropbox account. It was a pretty seamless system and I loved the turnaround time, but it would literally take a total of 6 hours to get myself ready, pack everything up, drive over to him, shoot 5-6 looks, get everything repacked up and organized, drive home, lug everything back upstairs to my apartment then unpack it all. It was seriously exhausting and, of course, there was more work to do when I got home, whether it was taking Fish out, checking the mail, getting back to emails, putting posts together, or running errands, etc. And, honestly, as my travels and the number of items on my to do list grew and grew … I talked to Miguel about switching up our system a bit to where I was giving a less time to the shoot days and he was giving a little more. He agreed that it made sense to make them a little more ‘even’ in terms how much time we’re putting into them. So, now, he comes out to Jacksonville Beach to where I live and we shoot approximately three looks each time.
The reason why we don’t shoot as many outfits is because I am much more diligent than I have been in the past about planning my content ahead of time. To answer this question, in short, is that Kaylee comes by once or twice a week to shoot one or two lifestyle posts and then Miguel will come by once a week or once every other week to shoot 3 to 4 looks. I can fill in the other days with Instagram Round-up’s, travel content I already have imagery for or style boards that are aimed at helping you shop for the season a little easier!
Your editorial calendar will help you not overspend on services from contractors, like your photographers, and help you utilize your time more effectively by only shooting what you NEED to shoot. I’ve found that keeping an organized editorial calendar [like I’ve been told I should since I started blogging] is WAY better on so many levels!
I hope all of this makes sense. I feel like I’m just rambling but I feel like a lot of girls do what I used to do, which was just shoot as many as you can and post them until you need to shoot again – which is fine! Not hating if you do that! I totally get it! – but my process for shoots has changed so I thought it might be helpful to highlight that past and bring you in to what I’m doing now.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO YOU PLAN YOUR CONTENT?
Now that I stick to an editorial calendar, I make a consistent effort to plan content 4-6 weeks out.
WHAT IS CO-SCHEDULE AND HOW DO YOU USE IT?
Co-Schedule is a program that links to my WordPress and allows me to create drafts that populate into a digital calendar. It is, essentially, how I plan out my editorial content. The posts can be moved around to the date you want them to go live and you can color code your post to represent a category that you have set for the type of content you typically share. For example, my BEAUTY posts are ORANGE, my TRAVEL content is YELLOW, my OUTFIT POSTS are BLUE, etc. [The only downside to that is you have to make a little note as to what each color represents for your content. You can’t create a label for it.] You can create to-do lists to live within the post, and you can check things off as you achieve them. It makes it super easy to stay on track with what posts are coming up and what I need to be planning for. You still have to hold yourself accountable for actually planning the content and starting the draft posts within WordPress, but since it’s linked in the sidebar of WordPress … it’s super easy to get to. Planning posts typically takes me about 15-20 minutes every few weeks and it saves me so much stress and money in the long run!
Another thing I love about Co-Schedule is that my assistant, Justine, has access to it, as well. I’ve shared in the past that her & I both work on the posts to get them ready for you to view. We have a standard ‘blog post to-do list’ and we each have tasks assigned to each of us. She is typically responsible for downloading the images for blog posts from Dropbox, renaming them in a way that increases SEO, uploading them into my MEDIA folder, creating the shop-able widget for the post and linking all of the products underneath the widget and placing the photographer credit underneath, as well! The content will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be styled by me and written by me. Some bloggers, as they get bigger, opt for a ghost writer to write their blog posts, but that will not be the case for Sequins & Things.
You do have to purchase C0-Schedule to use it in the capacity that I do but, it’s a business expense that is well worth it, in my opinion! It’s been the only thing that has kept me focused and organized in terms of blog post content! Some weeks I severely miss the mark but others I do pretty well and it’s because of this program!
** Also … this is not sponsored. I don’t get any kind of deal on Co-Schedule for this shout out! **
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH NEW CONTENT TO SHARE?
There are a few ways! First, and foremost, YOU help me come up with content and I absolutely love how responsive y’all get when I ask you for help in this department! Honestly, y’all are constantly sending me post requests and it is really helpful to know where y’alls head is at and what y’all want to see from me! I can’t do them all as quickly as I’d like but when I am able to post something y’all have been requesting for awhile, it’s extremely rewarding to see y’all flock to it and get so excited!
I also keep a BLOG POST IDEAS note in my Notes on my laptop and I refer to that when I’m doing my content planning every few weeks. I also like to think about what season we are buying for and think up ways to cover the season to make shopping a little easier for you! In a few weeks, I’ll be doing a Spring / Summer Sandals review and also a 10 Things You NEED To Bring With You on a Trip Abroad post because a lot of people take vacations over the summer!
Another way I come up with new content is through remembering years past! Sometimes, I’ll really want to put a post together and it just never comes to fruition so I keep it on my BLOG POST IDEAS note so that I can remember to put it in the mix for the next year and put more of an effort in to making it happen! As the years go on, you’ll understand how this can happen more and more 🙂
Pinterest is always a great source of inspiration, as well!
DO YOU NOTICE A DAY OF THE WEEK OR TIME THAT GETS THE BEST SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT?
Yes! I definitely do! But, I’ve found this to be completely different than other bloggers I’ve talked to. The days and times I get the highest engagement will be the complete opposite of some of my girlfriends in this industry. It’s kind of funny but, it makes sense because everyone’s audience is different so they all interact differently! It also changes periodically, as well, so it’s not something you can rely on to be the same as the months go on and on. It’s important to play around with different times to see what works best for your audience. We also analyze our engagement with app’s, like Iconosquare!
• In the Analyze section of Iconosquare, there is a weekly calendar that highlights the times that have historically done the best for you so you can determine when you should post each day.
ARE BLOGGERS INCENTIVIZED TO PROMOTE CERTAIN ITEMS VIA REWARDSTYLE? I OFTEN SEE MULTIPLE BLOGGERS’ WEARING THE SAME ITEMS ON THEIR BLOGS BUT NONE OF THEM ARE C/O.
The only time the bloggers are incentivized to promote certain items from a brand / particular online retailer is when they clearly state that the post is being sponsored, whether that’s through free product [indicated by c/o] or monetary compensation. Typically, if a blogger says the post is sponsored but they aren’t indicating that the items were gifted [with c/o in the product details] then the retailer paid them a flat rate fee but the blogger had to purchase the items for the post.
But, if a post isn’t sponsored and you happen to see a lot of bloggers wearing the same items … it’s likely just because they all found it as they were shopping, liked it and thought their readers would, as well. Honestly, that happens a lot because there are so many bloggers and their audiences all shop at the same retailers.
AS A BLOGGER, DO YOU GET EARLY ACCESS TO THINGS, LIKE CLOTHES OR BEAUTY PRODUCTS?
Yes. Bloggers do receive free product from brands, boutiques and PR companies – and sometimes it’s in partnership or sometimes it isn’t!
When it’s in partnership, it means a PR company pitched you a campaign that a brand they represent wants to hire you to be on board with. If it is in line with your personal style, something you personally love, and something that you can organically endorse, then you can agree as long as you have worked out a ‘deal’, I guess you could say, that is equally as beneficial to your business as it is to the brand you’re agreeing to work with. Free product to use for your own personal use as well as product to use in the imagery within the post is often part of the deal.
An example of a partnership where I worked with a PR company to endorse and support a brand I personally love and honestly use is last year’s Follow Me For A Day post with Olay Regenerist. They wanted to raise awareness among women between the ages of 24-45 about the likelihood of incidental sun exposure in their day to day life and why their product would help them minimize that exposure. I loved this partnership because we were able to come up with an organic way to share the product, that I had had a positive experience trying out for myself before agreeing to the partnership, while also highlighting their campaign and answering a question I have been asked by my readers over and over again.
There are a lot of PR companies, though, that represent brands who opt for mass outreach with free product instead of putting together a structured campaign and targeting a limited number of influencers that hit an exact target audience. So, that’s why you’ll see a lot of bloggers Snapchat the same PR packages from L’oreal, MAC, Clairsonic, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, etc. They do this with the hope that you’ll work their products into upcoming content that you may have planned or that they’ll inspire an upcoming post on your blog or social media channels. For example, in last week’s post, I incorporated this Smashbox primer and these Bobbi Brown lipsticks into my Spring Beauty Buys post [that I had had planned for weeks now] because, since I received those PR packages, I decided to give those a try and thought they were great products I had never covered on the blog before that my readers could really benefit from knowing about.
• You can always tell if a blogger has received something for free by looking for a ‘c/o’ after the product is listed on their blog post, typically in the ‘product’ section of the post.
• If the blogger has been compensated for the post, it will say ‘BRAND NAME sponsored this post’.
I think that about covers this topic but let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know that I didn’t cover. I’ll get in to boutiques in the next couple of questions.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BOUTIQUE OWNERS WHO WANT TO BLOG?
This is a tough question. I personally think this is possible but it could get kind of messy. Boutiques are a full-time job in and of itself, whether it has a brick-and-mortar or it’s strictly online. If you want to start a style blog and fully focus on growing that, I would recommend doing that but making the main focus YOUR style instead of your style with the clothes you received from your boutiques inventory. You just don’t want to always be using your blog as a platform to promote your boutique. I think your readers should know you have one but I think they should also know what your style is like outside of your boutique. Does that makes sense? Your boutique should be able to stand alone and do just fine without your help. Also, I think it’s important to realize that you alone will not be able to run a successful style blog and online boutique. You WILL need help.
Christine Andrews is an amazing example of a boutique owner who just KILLS IT. She has a blog that has organic traffic, that knows who she is as an influencer outside of her online boutique, ILY, but is also VERY involved with bringing in the cutest products that you don’t see in any other online boutiques that her audience can relate to and get on board with! The items are good quality and they’re also reasonably priced! Obviously, this took time. I believe her boutique started first and her blog was a quick second, but now she has a team that runs ILY for her and I can imagine she has people who help her with the blog, as well! She seems very involved with everything but, obviously, she’s only one person and she’s a wife, a mom to three kids, travels a lot for work, etc. so yeah … use her as inspiration but I think it’s important to have realistic expectations and to pay attention to what you’re readers want from you and what your customers want from your boutique. They may not be the same things!
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FIND YOUR BLOG NAME / BRAND?
There’s no easy way to figure out your blog name. I think it’ll just come to you … something that makes sense for you, that describes or defines you and what you stand for or want to represent. Sequins & Things doesn’t necessarily resonate with me anymore, if I’m honest. I came up with it so long ago, when sequins were things I incorporated into my casual outfits to dress them up a little bit. J.Crew made a lot of those outfits possible, ha! I thought ‘things’ would be a good partner to it to stand for all the other things that I would decide to include and share on the blog aside from style as the years go on.
If I could give you some advice when you’re thinking about what to name your blog … I would highly recommend it be something that will grow with you, something that won’t grow stale over time to you. It’s not easy, I totally get it, but I do hope that helps a little.
HOW DID YOU JUGGLE TWO CAREERS AS A NURSE AND AS A BLOGGER?
It was challenging, I’m not going to lie. There was no strategy or technique. I was literally just living day to day, just trying to work hard and do it all. I made sure to show up to work on the days I was scheduled, on time, and focused on taking care of my patients. Then, when I would get home, I would take care of Fish, take a shower, wash my face and work on the blog. I was tired. All the time. But, you have to hustle if you want to make your dreams a reality. It’s not going to be easy.
HOW DID YOU KNOW WHEN TO GO FULL TIME BLOGGING?
I didn’t ‘know’ whether or not it was time. I just knew I had reached a breaking point.
As your blog grows, you are presented with amazing opportunities that make it hard to commit to when you have a limited number of days away from your corporate or, in my case, hospital job. I spent two years working more hours on the blog and traveling [whether it was to see my friends who are sprinkled across the country or for the blog] than I did at the hospital, and I worked there full-time. There had been absolutely NO free time on my calendar for two years so, in January of 2015 … I looked at my calendar and burst into tears. I was so tired of juggling it all and trying to figure out the jigsaw puzzle that was my calendar. I had told myself that I would seriously consider saying my respectful goodbye to nursing when I earned more from the blog than I did from the hospital for a period of 6 months. So, I went back and looked at my earnings from July 2014-December 2014 and put a check in the box. I did make more from the blog than the hospital.
I wasn’t sure if it would continue … you never know when you’re taking a risk going into business for yourself … but I figured I could probably sustain the income and hopefully see an increase if I was able to give the blog my full-time focus. I also looked at my expenses and saw that I would be able to take care of those without the nursing income. So, I feel ‘pretty good’ about the decision but I was still nervous and scared.
I’m so thankful that I am able to work for myself on something I love so much. I love sharing myself, my interests, my style, my travels, my puppies, and my life with you all. I will say this about going full-time as a blogger … you will never feel completely ‘sure’ but you’ll never know if you don’t go for it [after you make sure you’re making a smart financial decision, of course! I’m a slight control freak so that’s just naturally where my mind goes. If you’re not and you’re super gutsy, I applaud you, but you need to be able to at least pay your bills … duh!].
HOW DID YOU LEARN HOW TO WORK ON YOUR SITE?
Trial and error! I have said this many times but … Google everything! Use your hosting company to help you if you need help but also make friends with your developer! A lot of times they’re happy to help you!
WHAT LAPTOP DO YOU USE?
I use a MacBook Pro 13-inch laptop. I use to have the gold Macbook but I just felt like it wasn’t as fast and didn’t have as much storage. Now, I store a lot of old files and photos on external hard drives so I’m not clogging up my laptop and slowing it down but I personally like the MacBook Pro the best.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST PAID POST?
I started Sequins & Things in February of 2013. I got my first paid post in May of 2014.
DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE WORTH IT FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TECH / WEBSITES TO HIRE SOMEONE TO SET UP MY BLOG SO IT’S JUST READY FOR ME TO GO?
If you have the means to do that, then ABSOLUTELY! I am all about taking things off your plate that aren’t your forte and giving them to people who excel in that task.
But, on the other hand, if you’re trying to conserve your money, I think Etsy has some easy website themes or blog designs to purchase. Then, just Google how to implement it into your site. Honestly, there is a blog post or Youtube video out there for everything for beginning bloggers. Blogging has blown up and become such a huge industry … now is the easiest time to walk into it because a lot of people have already put together tons of resources on ‘how-to’ do things!
WHAT DID YOU DO TO BECOME SUCH A SUCCESSFUL BLOGGER?
This is a hard question for me to answer. I think someone who has followed my journey could probably answer this better than me.
One thing I know I did was work really hard. Over the past year, I have still been working hard but I’ve been trying to focus more on being better to myself and spending a little more time on the people in my life, my family, friends and puppies. So, if that means I don’t grow as fast or have as many blog posts up every week as I have in week’s past … so be it.
I think it’s important to have as much balance in your life as possible, although I’m not completely convinced you’ll ever get it perfectly balanced.
WHERE DO YOU FIND FASHION AND LIFESTYLE INSPIRATION?
Honestly, I don’t get to do this very often but I find a lot of inspiration from perusing Pinterest. Other sources of inspiration comes from travel and just shopping around online. Sometimes, I see a particular garment and I’m like ‘omg … that would be amazing with a denim jacket and booties and shorts …’ or whatever.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO BE A BLOGGER?
I have five main pieces of advice for people who want to be a blogger:
• Do it for the right reasons: I could see how there could be a draw for young women to want to start blogs because of the items that they see bloggers wear in their posts. I could see how the thought of ‘well, if blogging allows them to afford that and allows them to travel there … I want to start a blog!’ And, honestly, if that’s your motivation … you will not be able to sustain it because there’s no passion or drive keeping you going. Blogging is hard work. It takes dedication and a love for why you started.
• Have fun: Blogging is a really really fun job and I think you’re audience will be able to tell when you really love it!
•Know that it takes time: Yes, there are bloggers out there who start out, things are kind of slow or gradual for awhile and then BOOM … they grow like crazy. But that’s just not the norm, if I’m honest. So, just know that growth takes time. Don’t make growth your focus. Make creating GOOD content that is useful and attractive to your audience your focus.
• Be yourself: Don’t look at other bloggers and think you can be them. They are the only ones that can do them the way they do themselves. YOU can only do YOU, so DO THAT.
• Keep your eyes in your own lane: It happens. That comparison thing … where you look at another influencer and you’re like UGH. I want her hair. I want her kind of engagement. I want the filters she has on her photos on mine. Keep your eyes in YOUR OWN LANE … and figure out what YOUR style is in all the areas of blogging … your writing style, your photography style, your overall aesthetic, your voice, etc. It will help you stand out more.
WHAT CAMERA DO YOU USE?
I personally use a Canon 5D Mark iii. In terms of lenses, I have a Canon 24-70 Zoom lens, which I typically use for travel and I have a Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens, that is great for flat lays, interior shots and outfit photos! They are both amazing lenses. Highly recommend!
WHAT CAMERA DO THE PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT SHOOT FOR S&T USE?
They all use something different and, to be honest, I don’t know exactly. I know Miguel shoots with a Nikon camera but I’m not sure of the model. You can email him, though, if you’re really curious. Kaylee and Victoria both use the same camera as me.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NIKON AND CANON?
Photos taken with a Nikon typically make a person’s skin very smooth, backgrounds very creamy and everything that is in focus very sharp.
Photos taken with a Canon capture colors in a way that Nikon just doesn’t. I don’t really know how else to describe.
In terms of technicalities between the two, I am not the expert or person to ask. I think they are both pretty easy to use once you figure them out. I suggest reading the reviews.
WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU TAKE BLOG PHOTOS? DO YOU TRY TO PLAN FOR THE GOLDEN HOUR?
Golden hour is a beautiful time to shoot but I don’t shoot then too often.
For indoor shoots, the lighting in my apartment is best between 9:00 and 3:00.
For outdoor shoots, I like to shoot anywhere between 3:00 and sunset. It really just depends on when my photographers are available and we make that time work. The biggest thing is … I don’t like the harsh shadows that are caused when you take photos in direct sunlight. So, shooting at midday is less than ideal. Sometimes we have to based on Miguel or Kaylee’s schedule but we will tend to spend longer trying to find a shoot location that has a shadow I can stand in.
HOW DO YOU EDIT YOUR BLOG POST IMAGES?
I do not edit my own blog post images. My photographers take the photos and edit them. If I take photos while I’m traveling, I will transfer them to a separate hard drive, which I will then hand over to one of my photographers to cull and edit. Most of my photographers use Lightroom to do that.
WHAT COMPANY DO YOU USE TO HOST YOUR BLOG?
I use GoDaddy, but I think I’m going to be switching that before the year is up. However, I’m not sure what I’ll be switching to yet. I had someone recommend one to me and I was really interested in looking into but haven’t gotten there yet and forget the name of it off the top of my head.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR MEDIA KIT?
I came up with my media kit with much help from a graphic designer who is also a blogger. She doesn’t offer her design services to bloggers anymore, as she enjoyed working on her blog more, but it really helped to have her guide me through what needed to be in it and what didn’t.
I am actually in-between media kits right now and am looking forward to getting a fresh, new one made to go with my new site-design, which will go live later this year!
WHAT DO YOU INCLUDE IN YOUR MEDIA KIT? DO YOU INCLUDE YOUR RATES AND SERVICES YOU OFFER?
In mine, I have a photo of me, my blog’s official logo, an introduction to who I am, what my blog is all about, brands I’ve worked with in the past, quick blog statistics, blog performance numbers and services I offer.
I do have a version that includes prices because brands often ask for rates associated with your services, but I have one without, as well.
FOR ANYONE WITH A SCIENCE BACKGROUND, LIKE YOU, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT I TAKE ANY PR OR COMMUNICATIONS COURSES TO DO A BETTER JOB IF AND WHEN MY BLOG TAKES OFF ENOUGH TO DO IT FULL-TIME?
You certainly would learn a thing or two, so I wouldn’t negate it if you have the money to take those classes, but that wasn’t the route I took. I didn’t want to be held accountable for assignments when I wanted to run the blog and also had to work at the hospital. Time is of the essence, so you have to figure out ways to learn more about this industry but also get everything else done.
In my first few months of blogging, I sought out and applied for a conference called LUCKYFABB. This conference no longer exists but it was a way for me to get to know the industry and learn about the business of blogging without having to take a TON of time out of work. There are tons of conferences out there now like ALT Summit, Create & Cultivate, the rewardStyle Conference, etc. I also found blog posts about blogging that were written by experienced bloggers to be extremely helpful, as well. If you have something that is plaguing you, type it in to Pinterest and see what comes up! You may discover a blog that exists to help support other bloggers. [My old go-to blogger help site is no longer up and running, unfortunately, or I’d share it with you!] I’d also suggest looking into joining a Facebook group with other bloggers so you can have a supportive community that is willing to share information amongst the members.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A BLOGGER WHO WANTED TO GO TO THE REWARDSTYLE CONFERENCE BUT WAS NOT INVITED?
Schedule a call with your rep! You are your biggest advocate so take the initiative to figure out where your areas of improvement are – from their perspective – that would increase your chances of being invited next year.
WHAT STRUGGLES DID YOU HAVE WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED A BLOG? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
There was definitely a knowledge deficit that I had to overcome. My Instagram audience asked me to start a blog and, honestly, it had been a long time since I had had one. I had one in high school and I dabbled in very basic HTML back then but, fast forward 10 years and it’s like a foreign language and the industry has advanced so much. There were new platforms I knew nothing about and I had forgotten the coding I once knew. I had no idea where to start a blog, how to make it pretty, what a domain or host was, what ROI stood for, who was going to take my photos, etc. I did a lot of Googling to help me get the blog up and running.
I was without a photographer. So many bloggers have the luxury of a husband, brother or mom who have taken their blog photos from day 1. My family is supportive of the blog and lovely in so many ways but asking them to take my blog photos just wasn’t something that I could put on them. So, I had to figure out who could see the vision I had for this blog and help me bring it to life. I did this through asking friends to take my photos for me and, eventually, it led me to Miguel, who was my friend’s husband at the time. He wanted to start a photography business and he already had knowledge of photography so, we bartered for awhile to make it work for both of us. I promoted him through crediting him on Instagram, Facebook and the blog, and he took my photos for free. It was seriously a blessing for both of us. Our businesses grew together and eventually I was able to pay him for his services.
I had a limited budget. This is likely the case for a lot of bloggers just starting out. My saving grace was living at home with my parents for the first year and a half or so. I was able to save money, pay off some debt I had accrued while living in Colorado, and use the money I was saving by not having to pay rent on buying a few more items to style on the blog. I know that’s not possible for everyone but it is important to cut corners where you can to give yourself a little lee-way. I also didn’t go out very often, either. I was very content using the time I had away from the hospital just working, working, working on creating content and working on the blog. Look at your particular situation and cut corners where you can!
DID YOU RECEIVE NEGATIVE COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE / FRIENDS FOR STARTING A BLOG?
I didn’t have anyone who blatantly told me that it was a stupid idea or that they didn’t / couldn’t / wouldn’t support it, however, there were a few friends that I think thought it was a little strange at first. To be honest, I could understand. Blogging wasn’t what it is now back then. It wasn’t well known or the ‘hot thing’ to do, and I think that’s why it seemed weird. As time went on, as my audience grew and as I was presented with some amazing opportunities, they were able to understand and respect it a little more. Sometimes, you just have to do you even if people you love don’t get it or understand. They could / will eventually come around!
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS IN DEALING WITH CRITICISM AND INSULTS AS A BLOGGER?
If someone is being purposefully rude or mean with their words, I am so quick to remind myself that it says more about them than it does about me. Everyone has struggles. Some people just express their frustration with those internal struggles in an unhealthy way. I believe that there is always a way to say what is on your mind in a constructive, yet compassionate, way. It may still be hard for the receiving party to hear but I know for a fact I am much more likely to hear someone out when they come at it in that way.
WHY DO YOU HAVE AN ASSISTANT?
Bloggers wear many hats. It may seem like our jobs are easy because, I guess, it seems like an easy venture to get dressed and take photos of what we wear but we do so much more than that. We have emails to answer, packages to unpack, clothes to try on, products to sample and try, content to plan, projects to buy for, receipts to file, books to keep track of for accounting purposes, photoshoots to schedule, prep for and make it to, photos to edit, posts to write, errands to run, etc. The list goes on and on. A lot of bloggers have their boyfriend, fiancé, husband or other family member to help them with some of the things that need to get done. I don’t have the luxury of an extra set of free hands but the need for that set of hands is VERY clear so I decided to hire an assistant to help me our during the week for a lot of the tasks that I want to do but need to let go of so I can do the things that my assistant cannot, which leads us to our next question ….
WHAT DOES YOUR ASSISTANT DO?
Justine has been my assistant since last March or April, I believe. Having her on my team has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business. She handles a lot of errands that need to get done but take me away from writing posts [like Target + post office runs]. She helps unpack boxes, compiling trash and processing any returns that need to be sent back. She helps me keep my apartment organized. She manages my @shopalysonhaley Instagram account and keeps an organized inventory of the items available to be sold. She orders replacement items that she notices around the house and files receipts that she sees I’ve left around the apartment. She does a ton of travel outreach and planning. Once all of the planning is done, she puts together a travel itinerary for me and contracts for any photographer that I travel with. She helps put blog posts together by linking products and inserting the Shop The Post widget, downloading and renaming the edited images my photographers send through, uploading them into WordPress, and then I organize them in the post. Since I’ve been trying to write more lifestyle type of posts based on your requests, I have found that I spend WAY more time writing than I used to so her linking and doing those items has helped tremendously! Honestly, Justine is a God-send and I’m so thankful I am able to have her on my team. She has helped me bring S&T to a level I had been wanting it to be at for awhile.
AS A BLOGGER, WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD I BE LOOKING FOR IN AN ASSISTANT?
Personally, I would encourage you to hire someone who doesn’t glamorize your job, want it for themselves or want to benefit from your online influence [i.e. in terms of growth for their own personal ‘brand’ or ‘online identity’]. You should strongly consider hiring someone who respects that goals you have put in place for your business and shares a passion for helping you achieve those goals in any capacity that is needed. I’d encourage you to hire someone who is self-motivated, disciplined and highly efficient and who has strong communication, sales and negotiation skills. The person you hire is an extension of you and representation of you and your brand, so choose wisely. It should be someone that you don’t worry about in the least. You should be confident that once they know the job you expect of them, that they will do it well and do it reliably.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A BLOGGER?
Dressing up and getting to do the creative side to blogging is definitely up there but, I must say, connecting with y’all is absolutely, with-a-doubt, my favorite part! When you send me emails telling me what you have going on in your lives, I can promise you I cry because I am so touched you would take the time to reach out and share yourself with me, and I’m so happy that you’ve allowed me in your life in some way. It’s a special thing and I appreciate it so much. Having the ability to travel to some amazing places I never thought I’d ever go to is definitely up there, as well! Being able to be a travel resource for all of you is a blessing that I absolutely 100% do NOT take for granted.
WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A BLOGGER?
I am definitely not a numbers person so, although a necessary evil, the accounting / tax side of owning your own business is the furthest thing from fun in my opinion. I also don’t enjoy anonymous haters’ comments. I mean … who would enjoy that, really? I realize if you run a blog, you’re choosing to put yourself out there and there will be judgment but, if you don’t like what you’re seeing, be a decent human being. Unfollow and leave quietly. The misconception that blogging is ‘easy’ or that blogging is just some fake profession are also up there on the least favorite things about blogging list.
WHEW! Okay, that only took a week and a half to put together! Hah! Sorry for the delay on it! I initially told y’all it’d be live last week but there were just SO many questions that were really involved. I hope this post has helped you in SOME way! Let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve said! I did proofread it but I’m sure I missed a thing or two. Forgive me 🙂