As I’m coming up on three years of blogging (you can read my very first post here), it’s fun to look back at some of my earlier work and see how much I’ve grown this little space since it all started. Truth be told, I created this blog initially as a resume. I’d been out of the working world as a stay at home mom for five years and thought a blog would be a great way to keep one foot in the door and sharpen my writing skills. I had no idea that there were a million blogs out there or that monetizing one was even an option. I just wrote about what inspired me and was beyond thrilled when someone other than my husband or close friends commented. It wasn’t until about a year later that I decided I wanted to take my blog from a hobby to a business. That’s when I realized I couldn’t simply produce content and publish it but that I would have to somehow set myself apart as a brand and market myself effectively. I am always so appreciative when other bloggers generously offer advice and suggestions on how to get to the next level so I thought I’d share my two cents on lessons I’ve learned along the way.
- Choose Your Blog’s Name Carefully: You may start blogging when you’re 18 but what if you’re still going strong ten years later? Make sure it’s nothing too cute or trendy because you may regret that choice as your taste and your voice matures. I chose Taffeta & Tulips after a lot of contemplation. Sure, there’s a ton of blogs that use alliterations but I felt confident with this title because tulips are obviously my favorite flower and taffeta is such a classic, timeless and elegant fabric and that’s a reflection of my personal style.
- Clearly Define Your Voice and Your Brand: This one is tricky because it takes a while to get your sea legs but unless you’re clear about who you are writing for and what you are trying to say, your blog will fall flat. I struggled with this for quite some time but ultimately, the value I try to bring to this site is offering my readers easy and effortless fashion choices, quick and healthy recipes, safe and effective beauty products, creative and affordable ways to improve your living space and a sprinkling of travel and local Long Island things (I plan on developing the Long Island aspect this summer….stay tuned!). I’ve learned to be flexible as I’ve gone along because sometimes the things I write about don’t get a big response and other times I’m pleasantly surprised that some posts are received so well.
- Create a Clean, Crisp Site: I started out on Blogger for the first year and once I was ready to move to WordPress, I didn’t mess around. I signed up with Blue Host (which I love) as my host site and paid to have them transfer my material. Well worth it! Their customer service is top notch! After a few months, once I was ready to elevate the look of my site, I reached out to Megan of Lush to Blush. She was incredibly helpful (I had no idea what I was doing) and affordable so I highly recommend her if you’re looking to create a polished, professional site without breaking the bank. Megan is my go-to person whenever I’m looking to tweak my site here and there which I’ve done over the years. My advice when designing a site is to make sure it’s not too cluttered. If a site has too much going on, it’s a turn off because it loads slowly and can be confusing to navigate. When I reach a site like that, I generally click away so always go by the mantra of less is more!
- Invest in a Good Camera: This is something I wish I had done sooner. I was hesitant to splurge on an expensive camera and only did so recently and wow, what a difference! After a lot of research, I decided on this version and I also bought this lens. It has made my food posts look much more crisp and professional. I also plan on taking this course to really learn all the ins and outs of my camera and take the best photos that I can. High quality photos are crucial to your blog’s success. That’s also why I recently started working with a local photographer. I wanted my looks to stand out especially when I’m working with a brand. I meet with my photographer once a week and we shoot two looks per session. It’s much more convenient this way because now I don’t have to take outfit photos over the weekend which used to cut into family time. Plus, my photographer edits my photos so it’s a huge time saver!
- Promote Yourself: This is one of the most important aspects of blogging and can be quite discouraging at times. I was a fossil when I started blogging compared to the rest of the blogosphere. I was in my late thirties so my generation isn’t as adept at all the social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. The only thing I knew was Facebook and I only used that platform to keep in touch with my high school and college friends. It took me a long time to get the hang of Instagram and Pinterest especially. I was clueless how to navigate through all of it (and still am sometimes). But here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. DO NOT BUY FOLLOWERS. I cannot stress this enough! It’s pretty obvious when certain bloggers do (you can read more about this topic here). The bottom line is it’s cheating and you’re being inauthentic to your readers and to brands because you’re misrepresenting yourself. If you’re revealed, who will want to read your blog or collaborate with you? In blogging (and in life) there are no shortcuts. Slow and steady wins the race. So, do your research and find out tips and tricks to improve your following. I’ve found that some work and some don’t but eventually you’ll find your groove and gain true followers who are genuinely interested in you! Of course, the other way to promote yourself is to comment on other blogs. This can be incredibly time consuming so be sure to schedule time out of your day to do this. Also, when commenting, don’t just say “Great dress!” over and over again. Show that blogger that you actually read their post and are interested in his or her content. Treat other bloggers the way you wish to be treated #goldenrule.
- Learn to Network: This is another major aspect of blogging. Being a blogger is being a part of a huge, amazing community of creative and talented people who each have a unique voice. So, whether you reach out to fellow bloggers on a virtual level or you meet up in person for coffee or drinks, networking is an absolute must! I’ve collaborated with several bloggers whether it’s styling the same item two different ways (such as here or here) , featuring a recipe swap, or interviewing them for my Spotlight series. In addition, I meet up with bloggers in my area for certain events (Vanessa and I recently attended NYFW together) or just for dinner to catch up and bounce ideas off one another. It’s nice to know you’re not alone out there and that other people face similar challenges and dreams!
- Stay True to Yourself: This can be difficult when brands start reaching out and you’re tempted to say yes to every offer. I felt compelled to work with everyone who contacted me in the beginning. I was so flattered anyone knew I was out there! But, as time went on and the emails became more frequent, I realized that I needed to be more choosy when agreeing on collaborations. I receive emails everyday but I only partner with those brands that naturally align with Taffeta & Tulips. Otherwise, I feel phony and I think that’s transparent to my readers. A big turn off for me is reading someone’s post where it’s obvious they’re solely promoting a product for a paycheck. I only want to write about things I would buy and use myself. Also, I highly advise creating a media kit so you’re prepared when a brand reaches out to you or vice versa. Most companies would love to promote their products for free so it’s extremely important to make it clear what your rates are and stand by them. After all, it takes a considerable amount of time and money to photograph, edit and write about a product not to mention promoting it across your social media channels.
- Give Credit: You definitely don’t want to be accused of ripping someone off so always make sure you credit photos that aren’t yours and if you were inspired by another blog post, article or recipe link back to that site. It’s the right thing to do. Don’t be shady!
- Keep Learning: Whether you decide on a photography class, a seminar, or a conference, there’s always more to learn in this ever changing world of blogging. I’ve been meaning to get to a conference but as a mom of four, it’s difficult to take time out to travel across the country to one of these events. However, I’m thrilled that the Simply Stylist conference is coming to New York in October! (They also have conferences in LA and Chicago). For a list of more conferences, you can read about them here. If you can’t afford a conference, there’s plenty of webinars available as well as a plethora of bloggers who regularly share their tips and tricks. Some blogs I would recommend are A Touch of Teal, Poor Little It Girl and A Subtle Revelry who all offer a wealth of knowledge and experience.
- Remain Professional: This may seem obvious but the lines can get blurred when your brand is you! I love it when bloggers share pieces of their personal life because we all want to relate to someone’s journey but it is important to realize that the more you open yourself up, the more vulnerable you become. So, always be cognisant of the way you speak, the language you use, how you treat others, and the way you use social media. Snapchat is a prime example because it really gives you an insight into certain people. Some, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by while others I’ve been left scratching my head. I would advise against drunk snapping because it’s never a good look to your followers or to brands who wish to do business with you. I’m all for having a good time but that doesn’t mean it needs to be documented!
So, there you have it! My ten tips for beginner bloggers who are looking to elevate their brand. Here’s a list of blogs that inspire me to keep going even on those days I’ve wanted to give up. If you love what you do and you give it your all, you will see results. Believe in yourself!