Blogging is a very complex topic regardless of how often it’s discredited and discussed. I’m going to be honest, it’s not easy and can quickly suck up all your time between photo shoots, writing, strategizing, and building relationships. I know many of you would love to do this for a living and I would encourage all of you to try it! That being said, I realize my readers come from different backgrounds. These last few “blog tips” posts have been catering to those who already have a blog or Instagram. So, I wanted to do something different today. I’ll be getting back to basics and talk about how to start a blog from scratch.
If you google this, you’ll find various guides, but I think fashion blogging, in particular, is quite a niche and what other sites have to say may not be entirely applicable to you. So for the sake of sifting through a word-laden guide, I’m going to focus on my experience starting from scratch as a fashion and lifestyle blogger.
Platforms: WordPress vs. Squarespace
One of the biggest questions I hear asked these days is, “Should I start my blog on WordPress or Squarespace?” This isn’t a one answer fits all response, so I’d encourage you to do a little research on the pros and cons as well as see which one best fits your budget and technical expertise. To break it down in the most basic form, I’ve shared a few pointers below.
I personally run my blog on WordPress (self-hosted). I like WordPress because it's robust and can easily be modified to fit my needs in terms of coding and functionality. If tomorrow I decided that I wanted to revamp this whole thing into a completely different platform, I would have the flexibility. Using WordPress itself is free; however, you have to pay separate fees for hosting and domain registration. If you're new to the world of blogging or web design, WordPress can be tricky, confusing, and frustrated to navigate, but it's not impossible to learn.
I think of Squarespace is a one-stop shop that provides you with templates, a CMS (content management system), hosting, and even a domain. Sign up and get started by paying an ongoing monthly fee. I haven't used Squarespace, but from what I have seen and heard, it's great for those who aren't super web savvy and don't have time to navigate the technicalities of managing a site.
So, the bottom line is, assess your strengths, have a vision, check your budget, and then make a sound decision.
Affiliate Programs: rewardStyle vs. ShopStyle
After platform, I’m often asked about affiliate programs. There are several out there now, including Amazon Affiliates; however, the two most popular amongst the fashion blogging community are rewardStyle and ShopStyle. Both will allow you to make a commission through sales or clicks when you add links and widgets to your site. If you’re wondering which one is best for you, you might need to test them out! Here’s a quick summary of the two:
rewardStyle allows you to earn commissions on sales generated by a link on your site. It's popular among bloggers because of the LikeToKnow.it function, which allows your followers to shop your outfits off of Instagram. (I'm sure you've seen this before.) If you know you can convert your clicks into sales (meaning your readers will follow through and purchase a product you like/recommend), this might be the right option for you.
Unlike rewardStyle, ShopStyle allows you to get paid on clicks rather than sales. This is great if the purpose of your blog is to inspire others but they don't necessarily buy anything. Another great feature is that anyone can sign up even if you're just starting out and don't have a ton of traffic.
I recommend you experiment with both before deciding to go exclusively with one. By doing so, you will better understand your audience's behavior in terms of whether they're browsers or buyers. You can then make an educated decision on what's in the long run.
Picking a Niche
So moving away from basics and more into the nitty gritty… How do you pick a niche for your blog?
There’s no one answer to this because everyone’s formula is so different. Simply put, you have to make an honest assessment of your strengths, interests, and desires. This is the best place to start and don’t over or underestimate yourself! Next, put your content out there, test it, and change the course as needed. I know this sounds really generic and repetitive, but there’s literally no other formula. It’s all about putting in the work, measuring the results, changing it up, and then doing it all over again!
A few good places to start would be here:Analyze the competition – If you’re interested in starting a blog, chances are you’re following a few influencers who inspired you to get started. I don’t suggest copying anyone’s content, but figure out what it is you find so captivating about their content and use it as a starting point for your own. Pick something you won’t get tired of – Blogging wears you out quick! As a result, I urge you to pick something you can talk about forever and ever! I know fashion seems amazing, but I have been doing this for years. If I’m being honest, talking about fashion all the time can get old. But it’s the passion and desire that drives me to make old things new! Decide who your audience is – You can’t write or produce content without an audience in mind. And usually, you can best relate to those who fit your own demographics (e.g. age, location, gender, etc). So, have an ideal reader in mind, decide what their interests and hobbies are, and create for that person. Pay attention to data – When people leave comments and engage with you on your blog or social media accounts, pay attention to what they’re asking for. A niche can be ever-evolving, but you need to give your audience what they want to see. Since numbers don’t lie, get on Google Analytics and use your Instagram Insights. If likes are higher on certain photos over others, figure out why and do more of it. Is it the color? Composition? Subject matter? Context? or All? Learn to read between the lines – Don’t just look at numbers, see what people are saying about you. If you intended to be a fashion blogger, but people start asking about your beauty routine more often than your clothes, they’re telling you something! Read deeper into the compliments you receive because you may have thought your style is trendy and edgy meanwhile people resonate more when you’re cute and feminine.
This post got way longer than I expected, so stay tuned for a Part 2 of How to Start Your Blog From Scratch next week! Let me know if this was helpful and if there’s anything basic you want me to touch on next Thursday!Blog Tip