Time Has Flown: My Blog is One!
On May 22nd, 2017, I took the major plunge and launched my blog. I don’t have a rhyme or reason to the date. I just knew that I needed to do it. Did I ever feel ready? No! Did I feel like my site was perfect? No (and I still don’t). I’m an extreme over thinker and I spent hours on end–no–days on end working on my site, looking at other sites to see if mine was just as good, finding inspiration, determining what my site needed… At that rate, I was never going to get my blog off the ground and running. So I did!
Before I Started
Before I actually launched my blog, I had to think about a few things. I had to invest in a few things. I did a lot of research. Was my blog going to be solely a hobby, or did I want this to be a source of income? My background is in marketing so everything had to be perfect. What a year it’s been! I have learned so many things along the way and I’m learning everyday. I want this post to be helpful and inspirational. I’ll talk about how I manage my time with a full time job.
What–you didn’t think you were going to spend some money? Yes-you have to invest in yourself. Especially if your goal is to make money. Here are the first few investments I made before I began my blog:
- A good camera: I shoot with the Nikon D3300. It’s a DSLR camera and it was the most expensive purchase I made for my blog. HOWEVER, one thing I always knew is that cell phone cameras can take great photos if you know how. I chose to go ahead and buy a camera because it would be much easier for me to take my own photos with a tripod. I did learn that you don’t necessarily need a camera with interchangeable lenses. High megapixels, and great zoom capabilities is what’s important.
- A URL: you need this for your website. A URL is very inexpensive. I recommend that it’s the name of your blog, which should be short, memorable, and relates to you and your topic. As you know, my blog’s name is Candice Ann (for now). I spun my wheels for months trying to think of the coolest blog name ever. I think one of the most important factors for me was that the name needed to be timeless and grow with me so I chose my name! Lots of people do it so I figured it could work for me. If a name comes to me that I love, I’ll definitely be open to changing it and updating my URL.
- Website hosting: this is a yearly commitment (at least with my plan). My site is hosted through WordPress and they offer a few different website hosting options. I pay about 95 dollars a year.
- Photo editing software: I pay a monthly fee through Adobe. I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos. I also have Photoshop. Primarily, I use Lightroom and only use Photoshop if I’m creating icons or adding graphics to my pictures. I pay about 15 dollars per month on my subscription.
Naturally, I knew that I wanted my blog to be a source of income for me. Is it a major income generator today? No, it isn’t. I have made some money through commissions and I’ve also received in-kind gifts that have monetary value so I’m proud of myself! How did I achieve this?:
- Quality photos: I take online photography classes any time that I can. There was no way in hell I was going to buy an expensive camera and not know how to use it. I take my own pictures because I choose to. I can take as much time as I want without feeling rushed (because…over-thinker).
- Consistency: You have to be completely dedicated to the content you want to cover and you have to write about it all the time. I still battle myself with this because I currently have a full time job. I’m learning how to manage my time and find creative ways to fit time in for my blog. I work on this every single day and I’m improving.
- Good content: creative writing skills are so important. You have to find fun and quirky ways to get your audience to hang onto your every word. For me, relatability and realness are my mantras.
Like I said, I’m not making enough money to quit my full time job. In order to make lots of money, you need PATIENCE. This is so important because before you can make money, you need a lot of followers. Not only do you need a lot of followers, your followers have to engage with your content. All of that takes patience. Thank your followers all the time for their support. Respond to comments on your posts, “Like” follower photos and interact with their content as well. Have contests and spend a little bit of money on sponsored posts to reach more people.
Besides taking great photos and writing good content, being a blogger requires a lot of networking and footwork. Being a blogger also takes a thick skin. People are going to tell you no. As a matter of fact, people tell me no every single day simply because I don’t have the numbers YET. For every ten no’s I get about four yes’s. Sorry ya’ll–a pretty face with lots of potential doesn’t get you yes’s.
Finding Making Time for my Blog
I want to give you some insight on how hands-on I am with my blog. I don’t have a website developer, I don’t have a digital marketing specialist. In addition to taking my own photos, my website is completely maintained by me. I have a little understanding with css coding, and WordPress knowledge from previous marketing agency experience. All of my blog posts are optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) and I also keep a close eye on my Google Analytics. I highly recommend installing Google Analytics to your blog site. A lot of people will ask you for your analytics before granting you a collaboration opportunity so this is important. Furthermore, you need an understanding of the data that Google Analytics provides. I learned how to analyze my information and find ways to improve on the areas that need improvement.
As I mentioned, my background is in marketing so I’ve learned to understand the importance of not only keeping my visuals solid (the stuff people can see), but also keeping my data solid (the stuff people can’t see). Is every single blogger on the planet doing it this way? I’m not sure. On the back end of my site, I have installed a plugin called Yoast. I love this plugin because as you are typing your post, Yoast gives you a live update as to whether or not your content has good readability, and good content for SEO. It also gives you feedback on what you can do to improve your content so that it’s more searchable on the web.
So, how do I make time for this thing anyways? I work on this every single day. I give myself at least two hours a day to: reach out for collaborations, plan my outfits, plan my locations, write content, brainstorm new ideas and find inspiration. Two hours a day is not a lot of time; therefore, I keep a notebook in lots of places (my car, my purse, my work bag, underneath my mattress and my gym bag) because I write down every idea that comes to mind. If you want to make money, you absolutely have to think of your blog as a business, which means that your blog has to always be on your mind and ideas always need to be flowing in that groovy brain of yours.
Weekends are for
My entire week is always filled with the planning and logistical parts of my blog. My weekends are made of executing on all of the planning I did during the week. For example, lets go through what a Saturday looks like for me:
- Wake up at 6 am and get ready: hair, makeup and gathering outfits (about 4 outfits on average). I give myself about an hour and a half to get ready
- Map out my locations
- Spend about an hour at each location taking photos
- Photo editing: no–I don’t remove stretch marks, wrinkles or anything like that. All I do is work with lighting. Photo editing can take about an hour per outfit
- Write content: I draft content for social, and for my blog. This part takes me about 3 hours-sometimes more
Guys–this is approximately a 13 hour workday. I can’t say that this is what a typical day looks like for a blogger who doesn’t have a full time job, nor can I say that this is what a typical day looks like for other bloggers who also have full time jobs. This is simply how I make the time for this business.
FUN FACT: The two photos below were taken in the same day
Your Questions Answered
Some of ya’ll had some great questions on blogging and I wanted to make sure and give you some good answers. Please don’t feel like this is your only opportunity to reach out for questions. I am seriously an open book when it comes to this.
What factors you use to distinguish yourself as a lifestyle brand instead of getting pigeonholed into a category, i.e. fashion, food, etc.
The beauty of reppin’ the lifestyle blog space is that it’s not a niche, but at the same time, can include a lot of different things as it pertains to your life. Yes, lifestyle categories can (and do) include things like fashion and food. I consider myself a lifestyle brand because I’m not strictly a fashion blogger, but I touch on it a lot so I pull that category out of “lifestyle” and consider it as its’ own niche because I write enough content for it to have its’ own space. On the flip side, a blogger might consider themselves a lifestyle and food blogger because they primarily write about food, but they also touch on fashion–just not enough to consider themselves a fashion blogger.
Lifestyle blogging is all about the way your lifestyle is and the possibilities are endless. It’s your own lifestyle that helps you kind of make your own distinction of what lifestyle is.
How do you get the actual blog posting/social media balance right? I know you need to keep folks interested but writing content takes a lot of time and can also blow right through content you spend days curating if it’s not balanced. How do you know how to break things up to maximize interest and not kill yourself at the same time?
This is such a great question. With every single photo I take, I think about whether or not there is enough potential for an interesting blog post. I ask myself if it’s something I’d click on. If I can’t produce at least 300 words (the minimum recommended number of characters for SEO purposes) I do not write a blog post. I’ve partnered with a few brands where I have to write a blog, which is great because it takes the guesswork off of my shoulders for producing topics. By default, my goal is to post 5 times a week and 2 or 3 of those posts need to link to a blog post.
When you reach out for collaborations, people want to see content. They want to see how involved you are with your blog. They also want to see posts you’ve done in the past that are similar to what you can promise them as part of a partnership with them. Being a blogger means finding creative and fun ways to talk about a restaurant, review a product or show how an outfit can be worn multiple ways.
How do you get started? I’m trying to think of things I like to see and things that are relevant. I’d like to stand out a little.
I really can’t say that I had a full strategy to starting. I just decided it was time. To prepare, I determined what I wanted to write about and just did it. If I waited any longer, I would have just over-thought everything and never gone through with it. From there, it was just trial and error. I grew my blog as I grew, and I made changes where I felt it made sense.
I looked at the websites of some of my favorite bloggers and found inspiration for how I wanted my blog to be. In order to stand out, you still have to stand on the shoulders of the great ones. From there, your blog will just take on a life of its’ own because it comes from your own heart. Keep in mind that relevancy is relative. What may not be relative to one person, might be totally useful information to someone else.
What challenges have you faced when you started your blog? What challenges do you have now with keeping everything moving in a forward direction? Did you decide to blog on one specific thing, or is being open to blogging about multiple things better? What kind of camera do you recommend for the best photos, and photo editing software?
I think the one thing that challenged me when I started my blog was being crippled by over-thinking. Nothing felt perfect enough to share with the world. I looked for flaws instead of seeing things for what they are. You have to remember that if you’re going to talk about something, you better damn well know your stuff because people are going to trust your opinion. My tip for getting started is just to do it. You’re going to make mistakes and learn along the way. Remember that anything can be fixed and that this is going to be your baby. Your blog is not meant to be constant because you’re going to grow if you work hard at it.
My challenges now? That’s a great question. My challenge now is retaining my followers. For every 10 follows, I’ll get 8 un-follows, and this is how it is with everyone. It’s discouraging at times, but that’s the game of social media. I haven’t purchased a single follower and all of my growth has been accomplished organically. I’ve figured out the time management aspect of blogging while having a full-time job so I’m now just tackling my retention and I can’t lie-it’s been the most frustrating thing ever. Patience and consistency is key so I just have to keep going and keep reaching.
I like a lot of things so I felt that I could have a better blog if I write about my lifestyle. Lots of bloggers have mastered the ability to write about one thing and I think that’s just as great. It really depends on you and how much time you’re able to dedicate on a certain topic. Be realistic with yourself. I thought I was going to blog about food WAY more than I actually do and I learned that I don’t have the material, nor do I dedicate enough of my time to it. Therefore, food falls into the lifestyle category for me.
As far as purchasing the right camera, megapixels and zoom capabilities are key. Don’t buy a camera that has a lot of bells and whistles on it like I did (unless you’re going to take on photography) because it will take a lot of time to learn it. There are a ton of point and shoot cameras out there that will produce great photos for you.
For photo editing, I primarily use Adobe Lightroom. I have Photoshop, but I rarely use it. Lightroom is great because it’s easy to use and the only thing you’re manipulating on your photo is lighting. I don’t think it’s a wise use of my time to re-touch things like dark circles, pimples, etc. There are so many other things that Photoshop can do, but I don’t consider myself enough of a photographer for me deem it necessary.
Keep on, Keepin’ on Honey
This has been an amazing year for me and my blog. I feel that I’ve accomplished a lot in just a year:
- Landed on the cover of Plano Magazine
- Started with 200 followers, and now I’m at almost 1,200 and counting…
- Got invited as an influencer for the Like To Know It app
- I’m a paid affiliate for LOTS of brands (here are a few):
- Fit Life Tea
- Que Bottle
- Too Faced
- Lots of clothing boutiques
I’m just barely scratchin’ the surface and I just can’t wait to see where this baby takes me. I am so grateful for all of my followers. I’m also grateful for all of these super groovy brands that give the girl a chance to thrive in this space. I am open and available to offer help and answer any other questions that anyone has. I hope that this post has inspired future bloggers to get out and do this. Always remember that it’s so important to have faith in your abilities and never sell yourself short. When there is a will, there’s always a way.