This post is sponsored by Basic Invite. I received compensation and a complimentary product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Two years ago this month, I finally put pen to paper (er finger to keyboard) and started blogging again after a very long, very emotional, and very challenging 9 month hiatus (you can read more about it here). I had just quit my day job, moved my family back home to Houston, and literally had no clue what my life would look like 2 months from then, let alone two years. One thing I did know though, was that I finally had my future, my career, in my own hands for the first time since that wide-eyed 20-something took her first steps off the plane in NYC ready to embark on a whole new adventure (another story, for another day). So that’s what I decided to do – look at this new chapter in life as an adventure. I’d been given a second chance to write my own story, and pursue something I was truly passionate about, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity – since who knows when I’d get this chance again.
So I finally starting putting things in motion with my blog that I’d been only talking about doing for years. The first and most crucial was to finally get my site self-hosted, which I did through Siteground and highly recommend. Next, I knew I needed to step up my photography game. Well, it just so happened that one of the new mama friends I’d just made was looking to launch her photography business and was willing to swap photos sessions for my blog – if you’re in the Clear Lake area you’ve got to check her out! Then came the part I knew was going to make the most difference when it comes to actually earning an income with my blog – creating a media kit and joining influencer networks. All that probably sounds easy enough, but I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what to do all on my own. Nope – I have the wonderful guidance of bloggers far more knowledgeable than myself to thank for that. And because that’s what I love the most about being a part of this whole crazy blogging world – I’ve decided to share with you the 10 things I learned in my first year as a “successful” blogger. I put “success” in quotes because I truly believe it can be defined in so many different ways, and in the simplest terms – I mean I’ve been successful since this was my first year where I made a consistent income with my blog. My dad always used to say – we make our own luck. Well I hope this post inspires you to “make your own luck.” Whether you’re looking to launch a blog, your own business, or pursue that promotion that seems just out of reach – go out and do what you were meant to do and I guarantee you won’t live with any regrets 😊
1) Be your own boss
I realize this may seem like a given, but I don’t mean it in the literal sense. I mean, treat your business like a boss would expect you to. Be prompt. Meet your deadlines. Hold yourself accountable. But most of all – prove a strong work ethic. Part of this is being organized and I know everyone has their own preferred way of managing tasks – some are old school and some prefer to use the latest apps to keep everything streamlined. I’ve always liked to do a little mix of both, so I’ve linked various options below that I’ve adopted and sourced from other bloggers on the best way to manage workflow, checklists, calendars, etc.
2) Be professional
I could say this one til I’m blue in the face. Y’all, it’s like when I tell my son to have good manners. It’s essentially the same concept, and equally as telling of a person’s character. So if it helps to think back to what mama always preached, then so be it. Always treat clients with respect, be polite, and use your manners. I’m telling you, it’s a small, small world in any profession, and reputation is everything. I’ve worked with brands on both the client side and now influencer side. If you treat people with respect and communicate like a professional, it will take you far.
The second part of this is less about manners and more about protocol. You wouldn’t expect to start a new job and not have an email set up for you, or business cards waiting on your desk. Well, the same goes with running your own blog/business. Set up an email account and make sure it’s added to all your social channels/bios so that brands know how to reach you. It’s the main reason I started getting emails from brands I never would have been able to find on my own – all because they came across my Instagram profile and emailed me about a collab. As for inexpensive business cards – I just recently got introduced to Basic Invite and y’all, I’m obsessed. Talk about a one stop shop. I don’t think I’ll ever look anywhere else when it comes to custom business cards. Foil cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold. You can choose flat or raised foil on all of Basic Invite’s foil designs. Check out the one I designed on their site below, and right now Basic Invite is offering 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51.
Oh and total side note, but anyone who knows me knows I have never done a family Christmas card. I know, shaaaame. Well, Basic Invite has answered all my prayers with their address capturing service that allows you to simply share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. requesting your friends and family’s addresses . Genius, I tell you, genius. All the addresses are then stored in your account and can be selected during the design process. Plus, Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all holiday card orders. So now I have no excuse to not plaster y’alls fridge with my kid’s faces this Christmas – you’re welcome 😉
3) How Not to be a slave to social media
Ok y’all, not gonna lie. This one’s a toughie. I think it’s safe to say – every blogger has a serious love/hate relationship with social media. It’s like – you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Ok, you get the idea…So how in the world do we invest time in something that we secretly loathe, yet know it’s the crux of the matter. Because without it, we’d have literally zero chance at getting anyone to view our content. One thing I do to ensure I’m not constantly on my phone posting to IG, FB, Pinterest, Twitter – is to find the peak times to post and be consistent. For me, it’s either early morning before our day gets too busy or late at night after the kiddos are down. I know most bloggers try to post at least once a day and take the weekends off as a break from Instagram at least. There are also some awesome scheduling tools like Planoly and Tailwind as well as photo editing tools like VSCO and A Color Story that help lay out your IG feed to create a cohesive look. Presets also help with this and can be free or bought through these apps as well as Photoshop’s Lightroom. One last thing I’ll say – if you’re not on Pinterest or you aren’t sure if it’s worth it, get on it and it is. Not sure where to start? I know some local blogger gals that offer workshops!
4) Community over Competition
This is hands down my favorite motto and why I feel so proud to be part of the blogger community. Sure, there are bad eggs in every group, but for the most part the blogger community really strives for this, especially when it comes to mentoring newer bloggers. I’ll never forget when one of my favorite Houston bloggers Elly Brown reached out to me when we lived in LA and introduced me to her blogger tribe. When we made the move back home, I was so excited to be able to meet up finally and they’ve all been nothing but inclusive from day one – which is exactly what community is all about. If you’re a blogger looking for a way to network and learn the rules of the trade – one of my favorite groups on Facebook is “I’m So Blogging This!” It’s run by some bad ass blogger babes that’ll give you major #squadgoals y’all.
In the same vein as the above lesson learned, I’ve always felt strongly about the notion of karma or “paying it forward.” I’ve learned so much from other bloggers willing to offer up advice, or better yet, what not to do. So when a fellow blogger reaches out to me either directly or via a mutual group, I’m always happy to help answer any questions within my realm of experience. Let me be clear though – there’s a big difference between asking for help, and asking for a handout. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s totally fine to ask someone what influencer networks they’ve joined or how they have the most success reaching out to brands. It’s a whole other thing to ask for someone’s contacts, and/or all the details on how they landed a particular partnership. If we all respect those boundaries, no one gets their toes stepped on and everyone benefits learning from each other. Deal?
5) Involving my Kids
This one can be a sensitive subject, and one that I have gone back and forth on quite a bit. In the beginning, when my son was first born and I was just starting out blogging, I kept him as far away as possible. Partly because when I started blogging I was mainly focused on fashion and beauty, and didn’t really start writing about mommy stuff until he was a little older. The other part was that the privacy thing freaked me out, and it took me months to make my Instagram public. Fast forward to four years later, and you’re probably well aware that my kids are pretty much the subject of every other blog post in some way, shape or form. But my son and I have a pact. I tell him when I have a sponsored blog or social media post coming up, and ask him if he’d be ok with taking some photos with me for it. 9 times out of 10 he’s usually all for it and nowadays has even stepped in as my resident blog photog, since the hubs travels so much. As Cha Cha gets older, I plan to communicate the same way with her about what I do, giving her the option to be involved or not. But something tells me my little ham will probably eat it up 😉
6) Know Your Worth
This is both the easiest and the hardest thing to master when you first start blogging. It’s easy because there are tools like Social Blue Book that will take your viewership, engagement, reach, etc. across all your social platforms and suggest a rate as a starting point for negotiations with brands. The operative word here is “negotiate” – only you know your worth. You know what amount of time it takes for you to write, edit, shoot and promote a post – and you have to come up with a value for that. So for example, I have a rate card that has package options that includes 1-2 blog posts, social media promotion as well as a video option. Most bloggers agree to hold off on sending rates until you know what a brand’s budget is, and if a brand is only willing to pay a certain amount – don’t be afraid to say “No.” I’ve learned along the way what instances I’m comfortable accepting product-only as payment, which is very few and far between, and when it makes sense to negotiate. I’ve found, as long as you are able to concisely show what you are able to offer a brand and what they will get for “X” amount/rate – then chances are they will respect your work and be excited to partner with someone who knows how to manage their expectations, and ultimately deliver on that promise.
7) How to Land Sponsored Posts
I get asked this one all the time by friends who are generally interested to know how this even works, and it’s undoubtedly the biggest question on every blogger’s mind when starting out. I always tell people it’s three fold: brands reaching out to me with collaboration opportunities, me reaching out directly to brands and pitching ideas, and lastly joining influencer networks and being matched with brands. Each one of these holds its own value and I depend on all three to keep a consistent stream of sponsored posts each month. Some months I’ll have one or two opps that I landed by negotiating directly with a brand on a specific promotion either on social media, my blog, or both. Then I rely fairly heavily on networks like Linqia, Social Fabric, Social Native, etc. to fill in the gaps. Here’s a comprehensive list of networks to apply to – some have reach/social following minimums but the majority accept bloggers from all walks of life and followings.
8) Find Your Niche
I’m afraid this one I can’t help you out with much, just to say that everyone and their mom wants to be a blogger these days. Literally, I’m pretty sure my mom is the next “mommy blogger” 😉 But seriously, we all have something unique about us and it’s up to you to hone in on what that is, and how you see it manifesting through your blog content. For me, it all happened when I wrote my first “Mom Jean Confessions” blog post that has been so popular and fun to write, that it’s now a recurring post on my blog. It took me from your “everyday mommy fashion blogger,” to someone that other moms can relate to and hopefully be entertained by. So maybe you’re a boy mom, a girl mom, a mom who lives with a chronic illness, or someone who’s struggled with infertility. I encourage you to dig deep and think about why you wanted to start a blog in the first place, and use that as inspiration for telling your unique story. Cuz in the end, your readers and brands will always appreciate the authenticity and candor which will keep them coming back for more.
9) Never Stop Learning
I mean, this one might as well just be your mantra for life amirite? Because as long as we’re still learning, we’re still growing and evolving. Well, the same can be said for starting a blog or any other business. Never allow yourself to get complacent or comfortable where you’re at, because I guarantee there’s ten more things you could be learning right now that will take your blog to the next level. For me, right now it’s learning all I can about SEO and potentially hiring an expert to implement some strategies I’ve researched through fellow bloggers. The other part is really learning how to capitalize on Pinterest, and set up some sort of automation through Tailwind that keeps my blog traffic consistent from month to month. Just in the past couple of months I’ve more than tripled my traffic, so you better believe I’m doing whatever I can to keep riding that momentum wave. But that’s the exciting part of doing this whole blogging thing – there’s always so much to learn and so many resources at our fingertips, which I hope I’ve helped kick start that knowledge growth with this post.
10) Set Attainable Goals
I’ve saved goal-setting for last for a reason – because to me, it’s the most important. Some may call it a business plan, but I prefer to look at it in much simpler terms since that’s just how I think. So with each new year, I sit and reflect on what I’ve accomplished throughout the year and start to think about what I’d still like to achieve with my blog that I haven’t yet. This past year’s goal was all about video – how to do video, what equipment I would need, what content did I want to create or already creating that could be amplified by video? And you know what – a crazy thing happened. Just by putting out into the universe that I wanted to do more video – a month later, I got my first paid video partnership with a brand and have since filmed half a dozen on my YouTube channel. I filmed three video segments with my friend and former reporter for ABC13 local news showcasing my styling and beauty expertise. I partnered again with my friend who’s now a brand ambassador for blendSMART on a video where I got to marry my love for beauty products and helping to make moms’ lives a little easier. I’m so excited to see what this next year brings and am already thinking about what goals I want to set up for myself to have an even more successful year of blogging!