I get asked questions about how to start and grow a blog often.
In lots of ways I am not at all qualified to answer that question. I am still so lost on so many things and I get very overwhelmed with all of the “other stuff” (you know the backstage stuff that has nothing to do with beauty or writing..)
In other ways I feel like what I have learned (mostly through trial and error) would have been nice to know from the start, so in hopes that any of you who are wanting to start or grow your blog can benefit from some of what I’ve leaned.
Picking the name…
If you haven’t already picked one I don’t envy you the task. It took me literally months to come up with mine…and it wasn’t even me who finally did think of it. I asked the opinions of family, friends and random strangers. The ideas ranged from pretty decent to pure garbage. Most of the pretty decent ones didn’t have available dot.coms or else I probably would have settled. During one particularly desperate brainstorming sesh Rachel threw it out as if it wasn’t the best thing I’d ever heard in my life. To which my response was something like…WHAT?! WAIT WHAT!? MASCARA WITH A K!? YOU ARE BRILLIANT!! There’s no way that has a dot.com right?…IT’S AVAILABLE!!!….Anyway, I guess that sweet little story won’t help you much in finding yours except that, it might take some time and some serious thought and you shouldn’t settle on anything you aren’t totally smitten over.
Buy your .com
Even if you are having a graphic designer help with creating your site I recommend buying your own URL. You want to have access to it at all times. I had a friend help me with mine and he had all the passwords for my hosting as well. My site started growing very fast and I needed to upgrade my servers but he was out of the country! I can’t tell you how much I appreciated his help in setting me up but I wish I had made sure from the get go that I had access to everything on my blog. I was being lazy and pretty much whenever I do that…I pay later. You can buy it at godaddy.com, there might be better places but that’s where I bought mine.
Have a Mission Statement.
There is a reason you want to blog, right? So spell it out. If I had done this early on I think I would have saved myself from a few miss steps because I would have seen that they were not in line with my overall mission. The mission I finally put into a statement is:
Help women see how beautiful they really are inside and out.
Knowing that is my main objective makes a lot of other smaller things simple. Will I post about something for money? Duh, no. Simply because it contradicts the goal. If I didn’t have that mission statement it might me more difficult to turn down offers like that which could lead me in an entirely different direction than I intended.
Be Honest, be yourself.
Don’t cover up who you really are. I am not saying you need to air your dirty laundry or be a Debbie Downer, just be you. That is what people want from a blog. The rest of the internet is peppered with commercials and airbushes and sugar-coated everything, we have enough of that. We want someone real, someone we can relate to.
I am a big picture kind of girl. I like to dream big and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Although, getting to those big goals doesn’t happen all at once, it takes doing small things consistently.
It is so easy when you’re excited about something to get carried away. Take working-out for instance. You get a wild hair that although you have never stuck to your work out schedule before, this time, you will! So you go out and buy all new work out clothes, new shoes, sports drinks, weights, a gym pass & a bike. You decide to wake up at 5 am (even though you’re SO not a morning person) and you start hashtaging everything #gymrat.
Then $1000 dollars and two weeks in…you burn out.
You’re exhausted, out of money and feeling like a total failure.
Wouldn’t it be better to ease in? To do the work first and reward yourself later for meeting goals? Run for a month straight and you get a pair of new shoes! Now that you have been running you’ll know exactly the shoes you need and you’ll feel like you really need and deserve them. Since you feel confident with your run you can add some weights…this way of moving toward a goal is far more realistic and long lasting.
I hope that makes sense and translates into whatever you are blogging about… On to the next!
Take good photos
The images you take are incredibly important. I have asked Jim Harmer, owner of one of my very favorite photography sites to give his best tips for blog photography and he was nice enough to oblige Here is what he had to say:
Most non-photographers believe that knowing the camera settings is the key to getting a great looking photo. While the wrong camera settings can definitely ruin a photo, it is more important to get great lighting and poses.But if you feel like you must have the perfect camera settings for your shoot, and you have a DSLR that will allow you to adjust the settings, then I would suggest putting the camera on aperture priority mode (the “A” or “Av” on the mode dial), f/7.1, and ISO 400. That’s at least a good starting place for general photos for your blog.
2.Remove all distractions from the frame
If you pay close attention to the photos you see on professional blogs and magazines, you’ll notice that they stand out for their simplicity. All of the distractions and extraneous material have been removed so the photos look clean and simple.For example, if you’re shooting photos in your home, move to an area where you can have a clean background without lamps, furniture, dirty dishes, etc in the frame.
Not only must your backgrounds be distraction-free, but also your clothing. If the person you are taking pictures of is wearing clothing with large graphics or text, it will immediately divert the viewer’s attention away from the focus of the picture.
A proper photography studio will usually hold thousands of dollars worth of lighting gear, but you can get similar results by just spending a couple dollars on a lamp.
Soft, even lighting is THE KEY to a great photo. To achieve this, I recommend pointing a lamp at a white wall near the subject. The light from the lamp is spread across the surface of the wall and creates nice lighting on the subject. This works whether you’re shooting people or objects for your blog post. To do this effectively, you will need a bright bulb and remember to place the subject of the photo close to the wall.
If you’re a more serious photographer and you’re ready to spend a little money to buy flash photography equipment, I have a very handy list of recommended gear here, and it’s HUNDREDS of dollars cheaper than the name brand stuff!
5. Use daylight balanced lighting
Most of us have taken pictures indoors and seen that it creates UGLY yellow lighting for the photos. While a white balance adjustment on your camera can fix the yellow color temperature from the lights in your room, it cannot fix the fact that the color of your lightbulbs is different than the color temperature of the outside light coming through your windows.
The simple fix for this problem is to buy daylight balanced CFL lightbulbs. These lights will match the daylight coming from the windows so all the photos you take in your home will be perfectly white balanced, which will go a LOOOOoong way to making your photos look more professional.
6. Shoot on a white background
White backgrounds in photos always look clean and professional. In fact, notice for the next week as you look at magazines and advertisements how often the backgrounds are pure white. You’ll be surprised just how common it is!
You can get a white background very easily. One trick that works well is to buy a $1 piece of white matte foamcore or poster board. This simple background can make a huge difference in the professionalism of your photos.
I know this isn’t for every blogger but I really like adding fun graphics to help illustrate my point.
I usually use different brushes and fonts in Adobe Photoshop.
These are some or my favorite resources: