These are some pics from the other day! I loved this mural so we had to stop and take pics 😉
You guys had SO many good questions about blogging! So many that I have to divide this up into two posts. There were also a lot of questions that require long answers and for those I will be doing stand alone posts that have more in detail answers that I hope will help more than the paragraph in this post! Also – anytime I do posts for this blogging series, I am only talking on behalf of myself as a blogger and not any other blogger. Each blogger has their own system and way they do things so what I do could be completely different than another person 🙂
Q: What platform should I start my blog on?
A: Lots of you asked this and question #2 so here are long answers for both! Ultimately you’re going to have to ask yourself what you are trying to get out of your blog experience, what your budget is, how much customization you want, how easy you want it to be, etc. If you’re new to blogging and don’t want to break the bank, maybe start off with a more user friendly cheap option.
I started on Blogspot, google’s platform (it’s called Blogger now.) mainly because I didn’t know where else to go. But there are a ton of options, all with their pros and cons. I ended up switching over to wordpress.org, not wordpress.com (I’ll explain below) in 2013 and have been very happy with the switch.
First, wordpress.org vs wordpress.com.
WordPress.org is free self hosted (see the next question) platform, not to be considered by new-comers to blogging, unless you’re looking to shill out big bucks to a designer to create a website for you from scratch. it’s the backbone of your website, with which comes a lot of responsibility including self hosting, figuring out your own design, build, and security. The trade off is that it allows you much more in terms of customization. It’s doesn’t offer a quick set up. It’s a foundation on which you can either personally design and create your own site, if you’re a web builder, or have someone do it for you. You can choose from some themes, but there is no easy quick setup. I’ve had my blog designed and redesigned multiple times over the years by web designers and developers who have customized it to look and function the way I want. Some of my designs have been hundreds of dollars, other re-designs have costed thousands of dollars. It’s a great tool, but if you’re looking to just dip your toes into blogging, it might not be the best start.
Worpress.com is different for a variety of reasons that hosting is free up to 3gb of space, after which you have to pay for your hosting. You’re also able to use a subdomain name for free, but if you want a custom domain, you’ll have to pay for that. The tradeoff here is that it’s much simpler, doesn’t require a background in web building, and with a few clicks of you mouse, you can have a blog running. You don’t have to worry about your own web security or maintenance. There are tons of themes and quite a few plugins, but over all not great if your goal is to have something custom. It’s a great option if you’re looking to dip your toes into blogging with limited investment.
If you need more information on wordpress or wordpress.com, there are some great blogs including this post that go over the pros and cons to each and more detailed information.
Blogger is similar to wordpress.com in that it’s a free platform with limited customizability. They provide the hosting, the subdomain, and the interface to create a simple blog with themes provided. Another great option to try out blogging with limited investment.
Other new great options that weren’t on the market when I started, but are on the market now are companies like Wix and Squarespace. They’re platforms that charge monthly membership fees. They’re also one stop shops like wordpress.com. You host your blog through them and the provide the security and maintenance. They have a lot of sharp themes and with a little bit of time and effort you can create a really beautiful website.
Q: What is hosting? Why do you need hosting? And what hosting company do you use?
A: Web hosting is your storage space for all your content. Just like your computer, or phone, your website takes up space. A LOT of it after you’ve been running it for years. You can imagine how many photos I have on my website from posting 4-5 days a week since 2010. That has to be stored somewhere, which is where your web host comes into play.
For this you’ll need to consider the size of your audience, they type of content you’re displaying and your budget. There are different kinds of servers, on which your host stores your content. This might seem confusing, but just keep in mind that your web host will be able to tell you exactly what you need based of your traffic, content and budget.
At the beginning when I left blogger, I used a shared server, a cheaper option to a dedicated server. In other words, my website shared storage space with other websites. But because it was shared, it also didn’t perform as well as a dedicated server, so I outgrew it quickly.
Think of it this way. Your content you have stored on a server is a dynamic thing. When it’s being accessed, that requires processing, and the more people are accessing it, the more processing is required. And when that happens, it can slow down your website. Occasionally I would have a post that gets shared more than others, and it would shut down my site. For example, when I shared both of my birth stories for Atticus and Rosie, my sight crashed. The problem is, on a shared server, other website’s traffic can affect your performance. So if someone else’s website with whom you share your server, crashes, it can affect your website performance. There are safeguards to prevent this type of thing, but it’s never as good as dedicated. The tradeoff is that it’s cheaper.
*Just a tip, it’s also always smart to let your host know in advance if you’re expecting any excess traffic. They can allocate more resources temporarily if let’s say you’re expecting a certain post to be shared by a big website or publication. So you can let them know in advance to avoid having your site crash.
A dedicated server is dedicated to you and your site and will help with load times. Our first dedicated server was Blue Host. They were good and bad. Good because they were cheap but bad because our site crashed multiple times a year which was annoying. In the beginning (if you are broke like I was) you may just be looking for cheapest hosting site and that is okay. You don’t need the best of the best when starting out. Do what works best and upgrade when you can/need to.
I am now with WPEngine and have had a great experience. There are dozens of hosting options to look into, all of which, like blog platforms, have their pros and cons and vary greatly in price. I started off with web hosting that ran around $30 a month, but now it’s in excess of a few hundred per month. If you’re considering using WordPress.org as your platform, I definitely recommend WPEngine.
Q: How do you make a schedule with two kids around?
A: This is always so hard. At the end of the day my role as mom is my most important role and it always comes first. I am lucky that my kids both nap for about 3 hours. So I work during their nap time – usually 12-3 and then as soon as they go to bed I am working until about midnight. Days when we have to go shoot content or have work we need to do for our other business we have our sitter come over. It is really hard to find a balance and when I am doing really well at work I have guilt thinking “ah most of my thoughts in my spare time have been about work! I need to be thinking about how to be a better mom blah blah” and when I am in full mom mode I feel guilty for neglecting work. I am slowly finding a better balance. This is where I feel really lucky that I work from home and can be available to them almost all of the time.
Q: Are you paid to travel?
A: Occasionally, but mostly no. Sometimes a hotel will host us for free or sometimes a campaign we are working on will require travel and pay for that travel(for example my Beautycon conference in Roseville) but 90% of the time we are paying for our vacations/trips in full.
Q: When did you and David decide to blog full time together?
A: David was in law school in Alabama and I had Atticus and was blogging full time by myself. At that time my blog was really growing and I couldn’t keep up with everything on my own. I was having to say no to a lot of opportunities and I either had to hire someone on full time or I needed David. We decided together that it made most sense for us to give this blog all we have and that there was no better time than right then. We decided that night to move to NYC and within a month we were on a plane headed to the big apple. We haven’t looked back since and know we made the right decision.
Q: How do you get sponsors?
A: I will do an entire post soon on this and get more into it. The simple answer is, this is different for everyone. Most likely the company or a PR agency will email you or DM you. If you have just started your blog you probably won’t do paid sponsorships for a little bit. I didn’t do any for about 2-3 years. Mine started out as trade. How this came about was I had linked to ASOS and they saw traffic to their site from mine so they emailed me and one thing led to the next.
Brands, companies, or boutiques will recognize you and the content you create. So be creative and have your own unique voice.
Q: How do I get in touch with big brands?
A: This is different for every blogger but for me I don’t reach out to people for sponsorships. If you are wanting a brand to notice you, you could wear them and tag them and show them that you 1. love their product and 2. you make good content. I have never worked in PR so I can only speak from a bloggers stand point — but if you did decide to reach out to a brand (and this isn’t a bad thing – you can totally do this, won’t hurt!) I would just find the email for their marketing or PR and send a nice note saying you love their brand and maybe send a link to a blog post or insta you did. I wouldn’t be pushy and just try to send a friendly note and get you on their radar.
Q: What has been your biggest obstacle?
A: Honestly it was really hard for me to deal with mom shaming in the beginning when I was a new mom. It made me second guess a lot of what I was doing. I have grown to learn to listen to my gut with parenting and not stranger’s anonymous comments. Mother’s know best. Strangers who have never met the children they are giving advice for, don’t. I am much more confident in my role as a mother now but in the beginning I already felt so inadequate that the comments made it hard.
Q: What do I do when people make fun of me?
A: I changed the original IF to WHEN because it WILL happen. I don’t know a single blogger who hasn’t had some form of “hater”. Like I said before, in the beginning it was mostly just people making fun of me since I didn’t have a following and people who knew me thought what I was doing was silly and narcissistic. This was the hard part… because I have always believed it only matters what you and the people in your circle think of you. But sometimes the people in your circle won’t support you either and you need to have enough confidence to keep going anyways. You need to remember how YOU feel because at the time I had fun doing it – I enjoyed doing hair and saw nothing wrong with sharing that with the whomever decided to follow. I just try to listen to myself. This is where I have come to grow more as a person than ever before. I have had to give myself endless pep talks and really have good thoughts about myself to combat the bad. When someone says one bad thing I tell myself three good things. Don’t let people take up valuable real estate in your mind. Fill your mind with only the good and use the bad as motivation to work even harder.
Q: Which social media is most important?
A: All of them but I would focus on Instagram and Pinterest – at least that is where I get most of my traffic. I love all the social medias for different reasons. Instagram is nice because it is curated and shows all of your favorite photos – I think of mine as my mini journal. Pinterest is good for maintaining traffic to your site. I will do a post on how to utilize Pinterest later. Twitter is good because you can have quick back and forth with readers. I love to go through twitter and answer questions or chat with readers because it feels more personal. Insta stories/snap is nice for people to see the unedited side of your life and what is going on right then/behind the scenes.
Q: How did you design your blog?
A: I sooo wish I had screenshots of what all of my old blog designs looked like! They have just evolved over the years. I started out with basic templates for free. I definitely think this is something that you want to invest in and get a good custom design though. If this is not possible for you and you need to use a basic template – go with simple is best. Clean, white background and easy to navigate.
Q: Which camera/lens do you use?
A: My husband David takes 98% of my photos! He made a little video on most of the gear he uses which you can find here. The main change is that he has upgraded from the Canon 5d Mark III to the IV and almost always uses the Canon 24-70 lens. We started out with a Canon T3i and then years later upgraded to the Canon 70d. It is good to start at your experience level and work your way up as you gain more experience. Lenses make the biggest difference in my opinion though. We could take the same shot with a 20mm, 50mm, 24-70mm and get different looking images. But just remember to be patient with yourself! Seriously cannot tell you how many times we came home from shooting (when we first started shooting together) and I couldn’t even use the photos because they were either grainy, or blurry, or unusable in some way haha (sorry David!) but no really it is okay because you have to start somewhere!
Q: What do I need to do to start blogging? (what I think you should invest in.)
- Photography. If you or your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/whoever don’t have photography experience and you are really wanting to grow your blog I would either invest in a photographer or find a local photographer who is looking for trade. Good photography will make all the difference. Your site and social platforms will look much more professional.
- Web design. When people get to your site you have less than 2 seconds to capture their attention and make them decide to stay or leave. So I definitely think this is important. If you’re not in a position to invest money in web design, pick the best platform that allows you to create something unique.
- Time. You will invest a lot of time. This isn’t something that is just a quick start up .. for me it was 3 years of blogging before I made a dime. Now that blogging has grown so much you can grow easier but still it will take time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Q: How do I grow my blog?
A: As I mentioned above I am making stand alone blog posts for answers that are hard to answer in just a paragraph and this is one of them. I think the easiest way to do this is just to share YOU and to stay authentic. One of the biggest ways you can do this is to not accept too many sponsorships because I personally find it annoying when people have a product shot or sponsored post in every other instagram. For every one sponsored post I do I try to do at least 8+ non sponsored entries. Look at why you love following certain bloggers and note what they do and don’t do. I love to follow people who share their personal side and who I can feel like I have a connection with or people who inspire me. Don’t try to force this. Just be you and let people know that if they want to they can head to your blog to read more. If they like what they are seeing then they will 🙂
Q: What route should I take in schooling if I want to be a blogger?
A: I am not the best person to ask (college drop out over here haha) but I would say a public relations, advertising, or business degree would be helpful. Readers would maybe say I need an English degree with my spelling and grammar errors 😉 so maybe that too. I don’t think there is anything wrong with trade schools either. I am proud to have gone to hair school because if I hadn’t I would have never gained such an interest for styling hair. Styling hair led to my blog growing so I am thankful that I listened when something was telling me college wasn’t working and to try something else.
Q: How do you gain followers on social media?
A: For me I think a big part of my growth was having my photos shared by big accounts. When I was really small on instagram I remember being in San Fransisco with David and all of the sudden seeing my numbers jump by 15k. I was baffled then realized that @hudabeauty shared a photo of me and tagged me. A lot of other big accounts shared my photos and tagged me which helped a lot. I never sought to be shared by them, it just kind of happened. I think when you create unique content, others out there will want to share. Other than that it just happened on its own.
Q: How do you make money with a blog?
A: You can make money a lot of ways, but most of the money I make comes through sponsorships and affiliates. For example, when I say a post is sponsored it is because that company paid me to promote a product. We get 50-75 emails a day from companies big and small wanting to work together but only very very few actually end up being a good fit. We need to believe the brand and love the product. How much a blogger makes is based on their following, their platforms, content, engagement, conversion rates, and anything else the brand sees relevant.
Q: What if people are annoyed of you doing sponsored posts?
A: I think there is a fine line between too many and a good amount. If readers feel you are posting too many sponsorships then try to listen to them and take a step back and see if there is a way you can space them out more. Sometimes people get annoyed about sponsored posts in general and I think people need to realize that blogs and social media are free entertainment and with that comes ads. Television has ads. Hulu has ads. Youtube videos have ads. Facebook has ads. Blogs have ads and its just the way it is. I don’t expect others to work for free. There is definitely a way to do ads organically though and that all depends on the blogger.
Q: What do you do on days when you don’t have new content?
A: This is a good question and I think its always better to NOT post than to post something you aren’t proud of or something that is thrown together. Especially with Instagram and social medias. Quality over quantity.
Q: How do you edit your photos?
A: I color correct my photos in Lightroom 5 – it is an Adobe software you can purchase. I love to play around with VSCO filters and create my own. The few that I use in all of my photos are ones that I have slowly created over the last few years by making small adjustments and tweaking little things. In lightroom you can adjust everything from just the oranges to just the pinks – make blacks darker – take away grain or add grain, remove noise, and selective adjust levels – etc! So fun to play around with it. I remember getting it and at first thinking – “I will never get the hang of this, this is sooo confusing!” Sure enough the more you play around with it the more it makes sense and starts to click.
Q: What are you blog photo sizes?
A: I export my photos at 75% quality and a width of 12oo pixels. I export at a little greater than the size of the displayed images on the blog, but do that just incase they are used, or shared elsewhere that has a larger display size. There are a lot of good online image optimization tools too like tinyjpg.com which can help keep your images optimized for web use.
Q: Do you use an editorial calendar to plan your posts?
A: Not really – I always have a list of posts I want to do. Which is always a long list and with two kids sometimes things stay on the list for a long time. I use google cal to plan some posts but a lot of times the night before I am just editing whatever I feel like. I don’t like to be too planned and just like to post whatever I feel like talking about or sharing in that moment.
Q: Do you use your iPhone for blog photos?
A: Generally not. Occasionally but I usually just use them for insta.
Q: Do you use social media to promote all of your posts?
A: No. Some posts I don’t promote at all. In fact one of my most popular posts ever that still drives constant traffic is a post that I haven’t ever promoted on social media.
Q: How do you maintain privacy?
A: This is one that is especially different for each blogger because everyone has their own definition of privacy or values privacy differently. I was always the roommate walking around naked and sharing TMI. It is just the way I am. Because of that I think I don’t mind having people know what is going on in my life. I like having the connection to readers and I like sharing stories and photos. With the blog I have learned to keep to myself certain things for certain reasons. Whatever I don’t want to hear someone’s opinion on, I don’t talk about.
Q: Do you need to have something unique to offer to start a blog?
A: I think each individual person’s thoughts, and how they express themselves, is unique enough. Add your own personal style or your recipes or whatever it is on top of that and you are good to go.
Q: How do you get free stuff like in the videos of bloggers opening gifts?
A: Giftings are different than sponsorships. A lot of companies or PR agencies like to just send stuff for us to try out with no strings attached. We are not required to post about or mention the product. Simply for us to try. This happens naturally as you grow and brands reach out to you.
Q: Do you buy all of your clothes or are they gifted?
A: A little bit of both but I buy 75% of my clothes, shoes, etc.
Q: How do you manage all of your photos?
A: LOTS of hard drives divided into categories by month and day.
Q: Do you feel like its too late to get into blogging?
A: Absolutely not! I think its great that now you can see what has worked and what hasn’t worked for other bloggers. It is never too late and I am a big believer in going for something in the moment – you never want to look back and wish you had gone after a dream.
Q: What were your costs of blogging?
A: In the beginning it was just time. I used and hustled as much as I could and did it for free. Then I bought my first camera for I think around $500. When we paid for our first blog design we paid $600. It can cost upwards of 15k depending who you use and how much customization is added. When we added hosting to help with load times we were paying around $30 a month. This was hard for me at first and felt like so much. But you kind of just have to do it as you grow more. We now pay a few hundred a month for hosting. Other than that we didn’t have many “start up” costs.
Q: Is blogging your full time job?
A: David and I run this blog and our other business, Barefoot Blonde Hair, full time.
Hopefully these help! If you don’t see your question on here, it is because there were so many so I divided it into two parts 🙂 thanks for reading! And leave any questions below you would like me to answer in Part Two. xoxox