This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for quite a long time. I receive a bunch of messages from people asking me for blogging tips whether they are considering starting a blog or are a small local business looking to grow their social media channels. I love getting these messages because I remember 3 years ago I was the one messaging bloggers who I looked up to and asking them for advice. Honestly, when it comes to blogging, social media, or anything tech-related really, the learning is never-ending and “growth” is so relative. I still have so much to learn each day so I am continuously doing research online and signing up for courses online and in person to try and gain as much knowledge as I can! I hope to write more posts featuring blogging tips so if you have any recommendations for topics, let me know! For today, I’m answering some of the questions I’ve received in my Instagram messages and emails.
Q: How did you get started with your blog?
A: I remember sitting at my desk at the time (at a job that I was very unsatisfied at) a few years ago and feeling like something was missing from my life. Up until that point, I had put ALL of my eggs into the “dental school basket”. As I put more and more eggs into that basket, I felt like I needed to just fill it up even more and more until I reached my goal without even stopping to think “why am I doing this/am I meant to do this?”. For 4-5 years straight, I focused on one thing and one thing only… how can I get into dental school? I volunteered my life away at clinics, jobs, studying, etc. and slowly but surely I realized that there were other talents and skills of mine that I had been hiding. I also started realizing that the main reasons I was interested in that profession were a) the idea of being able to provide someone with self confidence with a beautiful smile and b) also the financial aspect (nobody ever says this but you know they are thinking it). I eventually “let go” a little bit and started enjoying my weekends without studying, persuing hobbies I had always been interested in (photography), stopped worrying so much about my applications and my future, started attending a local church, and started to put more of my trust into the hands of God. It was hard for me to stop “planning my future” but it was necessary.
For as long as I can remember, I had a strong interest in style. Not just fashion and clothing, but interior style, beauty, and finding ways to help with self confidence. When I was little, I was very much into saving photos of outfits in magazines (Limited Too) and creating collages of outfits I wanted to recreate. I would buy every book relating to DIY beauty at the school bookfairs and I loved reading about beauty tips and style in general. I remember my dad would find strange jars of DIY chick-pea face masks in the refrigerator I had learned how to create.
One day in June of 2014, I was having dinner with TJ and my family and I asked them, “Do you think it would be dumb to create a blog based on fashion?” They said “no, not at all” and that was what I needed to really go for it. I don’t know why I needed someone else’s confirmation but I knew that I would eventually receive criticism and judgement so I felt like having my family’s support would be helpful. Next, all I needed was a name and a website and the rest would just be learning as I go. I wasn’t sure where the blog would take me, I just knew that I needed some sort of creative and fun outlet to escape my job that was providing zero creativity.
When I was thinking of my blog’s name, I wanted it to have something to do with where I was from and also relate to style/beauty. Within minutes of thinking of “Pretty in the Pines”, I had emailed someone to create a simple logo, purchased the domain name, and asked TJ to go outside to take a photo of my outfit I was wearing to a bridal shower later that afternoon. Ever since then, I’ve been posting weekly updates on outfits I’m loving, beauty finds, home decor, travel experiences, and more!
Q: How do you get people to find and follow your blog?
A: Social media! For me, mainly Pinterest (although Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social channel), Instagram, and Facebook. Here are some ways I use them:
Pinterest: For each blog post, I make sure I schedule the best images from that post and use key words when typing the Pinterest descriptions. When I see that a pin is gaining some traction and being re-pinned over and over again, I will continue to re-schedule that pin through a scheduler app. I try to stay as active as possible on Pinterest and really look into the Analytics section to see which pins are going “viral”. It is impossible for me to get on Pinterest multiple times per day so that is where a scheduler comes in handy! Sometimes it is important to edit a specific photo JUST for Pinterest, especially a travel guide cover photo or other infographics. For outfits, I will crop the photo to be 16x9 which, for some reason, seems to work the best for Pinterest.
Instagram: Before Instagram changed it’s algorithm, it used to be easier for people to find you. However, there are still ways! Engaging through searching hashtags, locations, brands, etc. Instagram is still a great tool to drive people to your blog. Instagram stories is cool too and allows you to really tell your audience why they should go click a link in your bio. IG Stories also is a good way for people to see more of your real life and not perfectly edited pretty pics. I really love engaging with other people over IG stories, honestly. Collaborating with others (bloggers and businesses) will also help get your name out there. Tagging brands and other pages in your photos that correspond with that image is also a good way for brands to notice your image.
Facebook: Facebook is tricky and don’t take it personally when your Facebook posts don’t get a lot of likes! For your Facebook posts to get a large percentage of your followers to see it, they have to gain traction and, honestly, sometimes you’ll have to boost the posts/sponsor it to get thousands of “views”. However, Facebook is a really great way to inform people of a post you’ve just published. As people “like” it, you will notice that the Facebook post will get seen by more and more people which will help in website traffic (if they are interested in what they see).
Q: How can you make money off of your blog?
A: There are several ways that blogs can generate revenue. Blogs can be seen as an advertising space for brands and can be a good way to get their product in front of a very specific audience in a (hopefully) authentic way. As you share content on your blog more and more, you might receive emails from various brands including some who want to “gift” you products to write about and some who are offering to pay you for a specific campaign. This brings me to the first way that blogs can make money:
Sponsored Posts: It can be exciting when a company offers to pay you to feature their product in a blog post but it is super important to make sure that it is a product you would normally use and not just something you are using for money. I remember telling a company that I would write about their sunscreen in exchange for payment and, after using it after a while, I couldn’t bring myself to actually write about that sunscreen. The product just didn’t blow me away! I had to tell the company that I wasn’t going to be writing about the product and I think it totally caught them off guard but there was just no way I was going to tell people reading my blog to use that sunscreen. Be very specific when working with companies and only say yes to ones you would recommend even if they weren’t paying you. Otherwise, you lose credibility.
The second way…
Affiliate Programs: There are a bunch of affiliate programs you can sign up to use including some you have to apply for. rewardStyle and ShopStyle are two of the most popular ones. Some reward you based on the number of clicks a link got and others reward you based on the number of purchases made through a specific link.
There are other ways that bloggers can make money (such as events) but these are the two main ways that I have seen.
Q: What is your blogging “routine”? How do you manage it on top of your job?
A: With my full-time job during the week, I only have nights and weekends to work on my blog leaving little to no room for a social life except maybe on Saturday evenings. I will try to only take photos one time per week because it can be time consuming! Usually on Thursday nights or Fridays, I will plan what I will have to shoot that weekend (to be posted the following week) including outfits, products, etc. On Saturday morning, I’m normally up by 6:30am getting ready for photos attempting to be completed by mid-Saturday. On Sundays, I’ll do more organizing, planning, and going through emails (I’m trying to be better about this!). During the week days, I’ll normally work on a post after dinner. I try to post at least 3 times per week. It usually isn’t the same three days, just whenever I can make it happen. I’m still trying to be better about time management and work/life balance but I definitely still have a ways to go!
Q: What camera do you use and who takes your photos?
A: I recently wrote ALL about my camera here so you can click that to read all of those details! TJ, my husband, is the one who takes all of my photos. I know it is super rare to have a significant other who is down to do that though so I’d encourage you to look up local photographers in your area who is trying to start their own business and see if they would be able to! If you’re just starting your blog, there are also ways to just get by with a camera phone or a tripod and a camera. My photos did not always look good…. if you look at my very first post, you would be surprised! Just like most things in life, practice makes perfect.
Q: How do work with brands? Do they find you/do you reach out to them?
A: Brands can come across your blog and/or social media channels, like what they see, and then consider you for a future campaign of theirs. I was once asked to go to the Outer Banks with a company and I asked them how they found me… they said that they pretty much got stuck in an Instagram hole and eventually found my Instagram which led them to my blog. The people who are in charge of marketing for these companies have their own personal accounts on social media too so they could already read your blog! Some of the coolest opportunities I’ve gotten have been a result of me reaching out to them though. If you do enough digging, you can try and find contact info online for the right person. I would only recommend doing this though if you have a really unique idea that they haven’t heard before; otherwise, they will probably not respond.
Q: “If I am just getting started with blogging, what are your top pieces of advice for growth?”
A: If you are just starting a blog, there are a few things I would focus on: actually they all start with “c” so I am going to call them the 3 C’s… Content, Consistency, and Community, in that order. Make sure that what you are writing about is something you are passionate about. If you are not passionate about it, nobody else will want to read it. If you have great content, then focus on consistency. If you post once maybe every other week, your blog will have a hard time growing (growing in pageviews, unique visitors, etc.). If you are just starting out, maybe try for once a week and then slowly increase that. Another important factor is community. Reach out to other bloggers and comment on their posts, ask people for advice or recommendations on Instagram stories, or ask a question in your caption to start a conversation.
Hopefully this helps a little bit. If there are any other questions, let me know in the comments and I will add them to this post.