Happy Wednesday and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BLEACHED CURL!!!
I can't believe it's already been one year since I started blogging. It felt like just yesterday I was up until 4am countless numbers of nights designing my site, writing posts, and getting ready for my launch. Like, excuse my French.....but holy shit lol.
It has been an amazing year full of so many amazing blogging moments, accomplishments, and more. From launching my blog, to converting my Instagram account, to getting accepted into rewardStyle, landing brand collaborations and more...it's been a whirlwind.
Since I've been blogging for a year now, I wanted to share with you all what I've learned from my first year of bogging. This post will be full of tips and tricks I have that I have found worked for me personally that I want to share with you babes whether you're a fellow blogger, looking to begin a blog, or just tagging along for my journey. I want to warn you right away, this post is looooong. This is by far the longest blog post/article I've written ever, but I have so many tips for you guys that I can't leave some out.
Regardless, before I jump into it: THANK YOU. I seriously could not have done all of this without your support on the blog, my social media platforms and more. You, my readers, will never have even the slightest bit of ideas of how much your underlying support means to me...this is all for you! So thank YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
Now let's begin. I'm going to be splitting this post up a little bit so it's easier for you to follow my advice and strategies. I want to start right from the beginning (the process leafing up to the launch), move into my first few months of blogging, what happened when I transformed in Instagram account, and my thoughts now a year later. *all advice/tips are bolded*
The Process Leading up to the Launch:
I officially clicked "Publish" on The Bleached Curl on March 20, 2018. The process leading up to that one tiny click though was so exhilarating. I'm the type of person that loves to see my ideas come to life--whether it's in the form of something creative (like this blog), a paper I'm writing for school, a project I'm working on, or anything...I'm a very visually-minded.
A lot of bloggers may say the process of leading up to their launch was exhausting, a lot of work, and very time-consuming...and that's because it was. But I promise if you're a new blogger or looking to start a blog, it's worth the payoff.
When I first began creating my blog, I really had no idea about anything blogging-related. I knew the existed, I read them, but I had no idea what really went into it. Granted, it would've been helpful had I known ahead of time what in the hell I was doing, but learning as aI went and teaching myself I've found really helped me in the long-run.
My first order of business to begin The Bleached Curl was to research hosting sites to find on that was suitable for me, and also find one that I was able to easily figure out all features on.
So, most bloggers tend to use WordPress (which I'll eventually transfe r to) but I went with Wix because I had used it before, was familiar with the features, and found it the easiest platform to build my site from scratch on. YES, I BUILT THE BLEACHED CURL FROM SCRATCH! This leads me to my next piece of advice...
I knew from the start I wanted to make The Bleached Curl from scratch. There were templates available for me through Wix, and there are also hundreds of website templates available for purchase online, but I started with a blank white page. Once you decide a hosting site, decide if you want to use an already made template, or draft your site from nothing. This decision is based off of your personal preferences, originality, and your time commitment. If you want to spend more time on making your site and want it to be 100% original to you, I'd suggest starting from scratch. But if you're on a time limit and want something already set and stone for you to tweak, go with the templates.
Since I started TBC from scratch, I put well over 40-60 hours of time into designing the site alone before I started even writing posts to have on there before the launch. This was a huge trial and error process, so if you're looking to start a log, be prepared for that. It's an unbelievably huge time commitment always, so the process of designing your blog actually prepares you for that.
I have so many drafts of my blog, you'd cringe if you saw the very first versions of it. I laugh every time I look at them. Keeping an open and creative mind when designing your blog is so key, I cannot stress that enough.
Choosing a blog name was hard. And I mean hard. I had lists of so many names, and it wasn't until I was sitting in marketing class about three weeks before my launch that The Bleached Curl came to mind. I was sitting there writing down words that related to me....bleached (cause I'm a natural brunette with bleached blonde hair) and curl (cause of my curly frizzy mane) were both written on the sheet and it kind of just came to me. The minute I thought of it it stuck. I would recommend not pulling a me and choosing a blog name well before you start your design process cause I had to go through and add in my title everywhere to my finished (but not yet published site).
Another thing I did before launching my blog was writing all of my automated email campaigns....email campaigns should be your blogs BFF! These help drive traffic to your site and easily contact visitors to your site and/or subscribers. My first two automated emails created were my subscription and "thanks for contacting" emails. These templates have relatively stayed the same throughout the blogging process (aside from when I changed my logo, updated pictures, etc).
Once I had everything for my blog design and ideas figured out, I began drafting posts that would be available the day my blog was launched. And on March 20, 2018, I clicked publish.
My First Few Months of Blogging:
I'm not the traditional fashion blogger, and I don't think I'll ever be. One thing that I have always found very important throughout the process of blogging is staying original to yourself and your ideas. Starting my blog without really knowing anything about blogging (or promoting or advertising a blog/brand), I sort of just did it here and there. I wasn't as consistent as I am now (I'm still not on a set weekly schedule...I'll get into consistency later) and I looked as my blog as just a way to share ideas and to have un with it. I didn't really look into making money with it or landing collaborations with brands for the first few months, but that was okay with me because I allowed myself time to learn my niche and strategize.
Having a strategy when it comes to blogging is key....almost anyone knows that, but I'm just here to reiterate it. I started my blog as just my blog. I really had no strategy, I didn't have an Instagram business account (I kept the link to my blog in my bios of my personal accounts), and I really did pretty much nothing to really promote it in the way I do now. Sure, I posted to my feed and stories on Instagram and Facebook when a new blog post was uploaded, but it really was only to friends and family. I followed other bloggers on my personal Instagram account (three in specific that I really owe crafting my strategy to are Taylor Brown, Lo Meyer, and ClassyCleanChic ---all MN based, and all three I've looked up to from the start), but I didn't partake in the Instagram blogging world for the first few months of my blogging process. But, once October came around, my strategy completely changed.
My Strategy Change and Blogging from October to now:
I'm not quite sure what changed my strategy, but this part of this blog post is where the most of my advice and tips are going to be. Once October came, I transformed my personal Instagram account to a business account, and began posting my daily looks once or twice per day. I began following more bloggers, and really engaging myself in the blogging community. I began to become more consistent.
Changing my personal Instagram to a business Instagram was risky and very nerve-racking for me. I totally could have just began an entirely new Instagram account since friends and family and people from school followed my personal, but I took the risk and transformed it. I figured I'd lose my starting base from this (since it wasn't really bloggers), but I didn't. Around this time, I had only about 1,000 followers and have since grown to roughly 4.2k since I made this transformation.
My strategy completely took a 180. Like I mentioned, I started posting daily looks to Instagram once or twice per day. I storied more, and really developed my Instagram account into a platform in which I could influence and promote. Around the same time, I began using Pinterest more heavily to promote my blog as well. I attribute this strategy change completely to my growth and success so far because had I not began to strategize in a business-sense, I would've been where I was last summer just using my blog basically as a free-for-all post whenever I want type of thing.
Developing a strategy that works in your daily schedule is another key part to blogging. Finding time to get online and engage during your busy day can be hard, but it's the means of being consistent. Consistency really shows that you're dedicated and that you're here to stay (see below for more on consistency).
My said strategy lead me to getting accepted into rewardStyle mid-October. I remember the time so vividly when I got the email. I had tried to apply back in the summer, but because I was inconsistent with my posting and sharing my ideas, I didn't get accepted....one thing I want to point out here is to NOT be discouraged if you don't get accepted into rewardStyle the first time around. It happened to me, I was discouraged, and it sucked. The comparison game was really real once I got the email that I wasn't accepted and it's so hard to dig yourself out of that hole (we'll get into this more below). Buttttt, once I did get the acceptance email into rewardStyle, I was overjoyed. I was just about to go to bed after a long day of traveling home from New York City, got the email and called my mom immediately. Another thing I want to point out is that rewardStyle isn't for everyone! Do not succumb to the pressure of becoming a rewardStyle Infuencer if you don't want to be. It's not for everyone, but it's a way for me (and tons of other bloggers) to monetize our blog and Instagram content.
My developed strategy also lead me to my first ever Brand Collaboration with Ellis James Design in October (who I am so excited to be collabing with again this month!). Since then, I've had seven other collaborations with six more currently in the works (or going on as we speak...just posted one yesterday with Yeouth...check it out here).
Remember earlier when I said all of the time is worth the pay off? It seriously is.
Along with my strategy getting me into rewardStyle and landing brand collaborations, most of all I've grown my blog and created relationships with so many different bloggers from all over...and that's the most rewarding part of all.
Creating relationships with other bloggers is crucial as a blogger. This means you're engaging with your audience and that you're developing these long-lasting connections...it's what it's all about! My favorite part of blogging is seeing what the other boss babes are out there doing. We all tend to have the same ideas and same strategies, but we implement them in very, very different ways which is the beauty of blogging. Without the constant engagement and getting to know other bloggers, there really is no room for growth. Which is a hard fact to face, but it's true.
Since changing my strategy in October, I've spent between 2-4 hours each and every day on Instagram just solely engaging with other bloggers. Engagement is the most crucial part to growing your blog and I cannot stress this enough. It is a very, very time consuming process, because on top of your engagement there are: emails to respond to, blog posts to be written, campaigns to be worked on, and really anything else you do outside of your blog. But, setting time aside each day to engage is more than worth it because it pays off. You'll see growth, gradually or rapidly, it just depends on the time and effort you put into engaging.
What does engaging entail? You may ask...
And to answer, it really depends on who you are as a blogger and what you want to put into your engagements. For me, I probably send out out over 100 comments on other bloggers posts per day. And that's not because I have to, it's because I want to. Whether it's to tell them I love their fit, or hope they're having a fun time on vacation, or just hoping their day is great, I engage with my audience. You have to want to do it, or else it's going to be extremely transparent that you're just doing it because you want more followers or traction to your blog. When someone comments on my posts, I comment back and typically head to their page to like and comment on a few of their photos. I also engage daily on my Instagram stories with my audience. I ask questions, do polls, and post videos of me just talking...that some people can get very annoyed with, but hey pal there's an unfollow button ;)... and I also use my stories to post things like sale alerts, favorite sale items, or anything that I've found my audience likes and would rather see on my stories as compared to my feed or blog. I also spend time each day watching and responding to others Instagram stories simply cause I wanna be in the loop of what my babes are up to!
Authentic engagement is key to becoming a successful blogger. Engaging with others is almost like a breath of fresh air because if you're ever feeling discouraged for any reason, there's almost always someone online who will motivate you to bounce out of that discouragement.
If there is anything that I've learned this last year that I absolutely must touch base on is to get out of that comparison game real quick and as soon as you can. The comparison game...it's so real you guys. Legit unbelievably real it hurts. Too many times can a blogger get caught in the loop of looking at others blogs, feeds, follower count, subscription count, etc. and get extremely discouraged because they feel as though they're not performing well enough to their peers. Oh that blogger has 10k followers and you only have 1k? AND??!?! IT IS JUST A NUMBER. That blogger is collabing with one of your favorite brands? ANNNDDD?! JUST MORE MOTIVATION FOR YOU TO WORK HARDER BECAUSE IF THEY CAN DO IT, YOU CAN TOO!
Comparing yourself to other bloggers will drive you into a deep, deep hole that's hard to dig yourself out of. We've all been there at some point, but the only thing that matters is that YOU love the content your sharing, YOUR AUDIENCE loves the content your sharing, and that your content is AUTHENTIC and 100% YOU. Nothing else matters besides that. Numbers don't matter, who's collabing with who, who is growing faster than who....literally none of that matters as long as you're being you. Changing your mindset from "I'm not performing nearly as well as they are" to "I'm performing in the best and most effective manner I can right now given EVERYTHING else going on in my life" will lead you to success as a blogger...and make you a pretty dang happy one because it's for you and your audience, nothing else. Remember...we show people what we want them to see. All that nitty gritty stuff is mostly always left off the blog, off the 'Gram, off any social media...and that's the case for every blogger. Comparing yourself will only hurt you in the longrun....so get out of it fast. Sorry to be really loud and real here, but I've seen it happen too many times and I know someone needs to hear it.
A few other tips I've learned this past year that I want to throw out like rapid fire to y'all (cause this post is getting REAL hefty) can be found below:
-Be CONSISTENT your posts (both on Instagram and the blog)....I still struggle with this, but that's solely because I've just never been that consistent of a person. This is KEY to growing and KEEPING your audience. I make it a goal to post on Instagram twice per day and have five blog posts per month. Sometimes I reach my goal, sometimes I exceed it, sometimes I fall short. LIFE HAPPENS! But if you're good with consistency, maintain it.
-Check your INSIGHTS. I cannot stress this enough. Your social media and blog insights will tell you what types of content your audience, and what content they could do without. Insights also help you get an idea of: best times to post, engagement rate, reach, and impressions.
-Use HASHTAGS. There is a 30 limit max--beware! But this will help your content reach a greater amount of people
-Pin DAILY. Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to your blog! I use Pinterest daily to post not only blog content, but also other inspiration such as style, accessories, shoes, travel, aesthetic and more.
-Invite people to SUBSCRIBE to your blog! I dealt with low subscriptions for a while....as I never really knew how to go about it until just recently. For the month of March, I offered an incentive that if you subscribe to my blog during this month you'll receive three free Lightroom Mobile Presets. This really seemed to help not only drive subscription levels up, but also traffic to my blog.
Annnnnd scene. You made it (if you read this far)! I wasn't lying when I said this was long, but I hope you can take away so much from this and continue to refer back to it as needed. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart. This whole blogging thing could not be done with out you.
You can head to Instagram, Pinterest and LIKEtoKNOW.it to follow me @abbygraf and subscribe below if you haven't already for Three Free Lightroom Mobile Presets.
Here's to another magical year.