I’m writing this post today because I’ve had so, so, SO many people writing into my e-mail and my DMs asking how I got started blogging and if I had tips. I have had people even ask if I had a team or assistants when I started blogging so I’m pretty excited to share how natural & simple my blogging journey was – I’ve written about it a lot but my assistant and I decided to compile a full post so we can send the link to all of you inquiring.
I started my blog on Blogspot.com [free & owned by Google & super easy and user-friendly – I used that platform for 5 years!] and when I started it – “blogging” was not what it is now. My sister and all of her friends when to the same private Christian college I went to but they were 8 years ahead of me – thus before Facebook so they all started blogs when they graduated as a way to share their lives with on another. When I was in college, FB was only allowed for people in college so I read my sisters blog each week. All blogging was back then was like “Facebook” albums really. Just photos of kids on Easter, Christmas, etc. and little updates – nothing more than an online journal for just family and close friends. Anyway, once I moved from Arkansas to Virginia to be with John during medical school, I thought I would do what my sister was doing since I was 14+ hours away from home and had my first job out of college and I was also planning our wedding. We lived near the resort where Dirty Dancing was filmed so we would go there and go on hikes and I would snap photos on my Point and Shoot camera and then post about it and send to my family and friends. I actually did this 1-2 times a month really and one day I looked up and realized I had “page views” that were not just friends and family but strangers too. I was not trying to get an audience – in fact- that was not even a ‘thing’ back then. I was also getting e-mails from girls asking “what mascara are you wearing?” and “what curling iron do you use?”. It took several months but eventually I decided to write a blog post that was not just a journal, instead it was a post sharing drug store favorites and answering the questions I had been asked. I was nervous to do it really because it felt almost “vain” to write about things like this but I also knew I was just answering questions. I prayed about it a lot and honestly I had a peace about it so every couple of weeks I would do a post answering questions. Eventually I got an Instagram account and I would occasionally post there. Really & truly – it took off and grew very quickly. I have a Masters in Business so I had the knowledge that something cool was happening and that I could monetize it. I remember a boutique e-mailing me and asking if I wanted free clothing in exchange for a tag on Instagram  and I was like OMG YES! I though I was so cool!! And we were broke newlyweds with crazy amounts of debt piling up [medical school loans]. I knew when I married John that we were going to have it tough seeing as he was in medical school and could not earn any money until residency. Also, we had to move month to month for his audition rotations during his fourth year so not only would that be very expensive, but I also would not be able to get a job. We did not take out any loans like most medical students do for living expenses because I’m very anti-debt and I would rather work 2-3 jobs then have to pay back interest later. That being said, we put our belongings in my parents home town in a storage unit and we lived with them any chance we could. We lived in basements of peoples homes, we lived apart for several months so I could stay in my parents home and work as a substitute teacher and earn money and John would stay in the little apartments the hospital had for the rotating doctor. None of the situations were ideal or great. Some were awkward for him but looking back I’m so glad we did it. During those months I decided to blog FIVE days a week and set it to go live at 5AM daily. This is consistency and this does a number of things. It provides a lot of content for a reader, it tells the reader you are scheduled and dedicated, it answers their questions, it works for SEO, etc. Again, we did not have money – just what I earned and what I had saved through working retail in college and grad school. So I did a lot of posts on #medschoolbudget outfits. I posted affordable outfits and restyled items a lot. Eventually I had 52k followers on Instagram and I started getting offers from big brands offering to pay in exchange for a post. This is where I want to make a point – even at 5k follows on Instagram – I was already selling boutiques out of clothing with a single Instagram post. I did this for FREE for the boutique because I wanted to show that I could do it and I know how hard it is to run a small business so I wanted them to get something out of it. I essentially worked for free for months and months outside of my other jobs and I look back and I am so glad I went this route. I knew I was not entitled to anything and that I needed to work hard AND BE AUTHENTIC to make it work. Nowadays, no one wants to put the effort or grind in to even write a blog post. I wrote blog posts 5 days a week for 4 years straight and that is where I believe it all paid off. Right now, it is more common to skip the blog and just do Instagram and be an ‘influencer’. I think that is really smart and a TON less work but you still need to be consistent. Consistency is key. On that note, it is also ESSENTIAL to be real and not copy content or start blogging only to earn money. A lot of that happens now and it is very transparent from the outside. I can always tell when someone is re-making other creator’s content and then just pushing it to earn a dollar. The key is bringing something NEW to the table – not looking like everyone else. Why do I need to follow someone who is copying content when I can follow the real deal behind the outfit?! So be consistent, do it because you like it and are super talented at it, and be original.
Also, like the Nike slogan says- just do it. I always tell people this. I get emails from women with Masters degrees and amazing resumes asking for advice and all I can say is “just do it”. What do you have to lose?!?! It can be a hobby or like me it can be a creative outlet. When I first stated I loved doing it simply to be creative since I was working a business job and John was always studying. You have nothing to lose, right?! If you are confident you have something to bring to the table then you should definitely do it! I do know it is crazy oversaturated but if you are really bringing good, new, fresh content to the table you will 100% stand out and people will have no choice but to follow you!
BOTTOM LINE: There is no ‘formula’ for being a successful blogger. There is not degree to get. You’ve either got the work ethic, talent, skills, knowledge, etc. or you don’t. I will say this, once my blog took off, many of those who made fun of me for blogging at the beginning suddenly started asking for advice. I gave them my spiel and shared my knowledge but I think they thought it was going to be ‘easy’. Almost every one of them quit within a month. I don’t blame them honestly because when you are treating your blog like a full time job outside of your full time job, you are truly having to hustle and grind. I was subbing at the school distract daily and then leaving the school to change outfits and snap my #ootd and then editing and linking. Eventually it grew to where I was having to read contracts, negotiate with brands, plan deals, have a complete editorial calendar, get a book keeper, research an abundance of topics, plan travel, flights, outfits for trips, etc. Now, after 7 years of doing all of this on my own, I have full time help. I went 6 years with no help + PREGNANCY/BABIES.😩 I worked the days of my C-section- rolled out of operating room and when they took Luke to do some tests I saw my email on my phone and had to answer e-mails and do edits. I have not take a vacation since I started blogging and I have always worked nights, weekends, and holidays. I don’t mind this thought because I love my job and I created this from scratch so I don’t ever want to take it for granted, ya know?
Now, here we are after 7 years and I have 2 virtual employees who work a 10-15 hours per week and a full time assistant [more like a manager] who works 45-50 hours a week and travels with us. I still work daily, weekends, & all trips, etc. but having an assistant gives me the ability to spend time with my babies and be present to my children. My first ’employee’ was my mom though. She has 3 masters degrees in education and taught for 34 years. She planned to teach for 5 more years but she and my dad saw how challenging it was to work my job and handle a baby. I tried to hire assistants but none had the work ethic I was looking for and I had one who stole from me. I knew I needed help but I could not trust just anyone with my baby, my work, etc. so I offered my mom a salary much larger than hers and she did it. She comes in only when my and John’s work schedules are super hectic. So she really is not with us much – I would say half of the year. This helped tremendously because on weeks where I had to be with a brand on a trip or go to a meeting in NYC, I just schedule it out with her and take the kids to her home. This also allows her to spend time with all of my nieces and nephews too- so my siblings are able to have a trustworthy babysitter when they need to travel or be somewhere. Of course, I am beyond grateful for my moms willingness to do this and for my dad letting her. My dad is also super helpful, too! [My dad is a the asst. superintendent of a school district so he can only help occasionally.] Anytime John is working a weekend or a holiday and I have a ton of deadlines he will come to my house and either take photos for me or help watch Luke and Sophia. It takes a village, truly.
My advice is to ‘just do it’. Provide new and fresh content – don’t repeat others content. Bring something new to the table. Don’t do it for money or you’ll quit quickly because it takes loads of dedication and working for free to ever see a dollar! Be a tortoise – don’t be the hare. I’ve seen lots of people do sketchy things hoping to become successful more quickly and they crash. There’s a reason why you see many big bloggers still going strong with BLOG audiences and not just an Instagram page. When I investigate a blogger [for a brand who is inquiring if they are worth the $$], I check their numbers on all platforms including Facebook, Pinterest, etc. If someone has only Instagram followers- that is a big red flag they do not have a real reach. NEXT TIP: Don’t expect to get things for free or get paid for things until you can sell someone out of something. I worked retail for years and years so I have always thought like the small business owner. Do I really want to charge a boutique a fee for promotion and then not move the product? No – that is a bad look. That will make me look bad and they will never work with me again. Make sure you have the power to sell product before you demand money. I’ve had meetings with executives of billion dollar companies and they don’t like to work with bloggers bc they have a bad taste in their mouths. I have heard the same stories over and over! You can not demand a payment for promotion if you can’t move a product off of a shelf – if you want to have a good reputation. You want to be able to make the business back what they paid you PLUS at least 20%. This tells them you are a good investment, they will tell other businesses and you will get more work. The word of mouth is HUGE and brands all talk. Again, slow and steady wins the race.