If I wrote a post entitled “Everything you need to know about starting a fashion blog” then this post would probably take you hours and hours to read it.
In fact, it would probably end up being a book. And that’s probably why many bloggers have written books on the subject… I’m not at that stage yet (though as many people say: there may be a book inside me yet)!
However, the post I decided to write today came about because I often receive emails from lovely ladies who have either been thinking about starting a blog, or have just launched one, and are looking for advice. Occasionally I tell them to stop with X and think instead about doing Y and/or Z – in other words, I give little tidbits of advice to help them avoid making some of the mistakes I made when I first started my blog seven years ago.
The rest of the things I suggest are what follows here.
What I’ve ended up with is a list of what I think are the most important things to start with when creating a fashion (or lifestyle, or beauty) blog: Believe me, the list is nowhere near exhaustive! As someone who still gets stuff wrong even today and is constantly discovering new ways to do things, I think there are a few pointers that will REALLY help newbie bloggers. They could be the difference between doing something badly (or just not at all) for, say, 12 months – and doing it properly and efficiently straight off the bat once you’re up and running because you’ve read it here.
It’ll avoid that cry of “Why did no one tell me this before…?!” which I’ve heard myself shriek many times over the years!
I’d love to know if these tips help you with literally starting a blog from scratch (or anyone you know, so please forward them a link if you know they’ve been thinking about it)! There is SO much to learn when it comes to blogging, and as there are no official industry guidelines it’s easy to get things wrong.
HAVE THESE TIPS HELPED YOU START (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW STARTING) A BLOG? COMMENT BELOW…!
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My top tips for starting a fashion blog, a beauty blog or a lifestyle blog
1. Choose the right blog name
This is the MOST important piece of advice I can give you: take your time to choose a name before you do ANYTHING. The last thing you want to do is to either come up with a name that someone else has or choose a name you want to change later down the line. Rebranding/renaming your blog is not impossible, but it’s a massive pain in the you-know-what and can cause lots of niggly problems and admin you don’t want to be dealing with later. Get it right straight away and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
What I can’t advise you is what to actually call your blog, though I am quite good at coming up with names for others…! Brainstorm by getting a huge piece of paper (flipchart size if possible) and a marker pen. Scribble down all the words that describe you, then all the words that describe things you’re interested in, then all the things you aspire to be. Look at how words can come together to make a phrase or be mashed together to make one word. Made-up words like The Sequinist, or your name – if it’s unique and easy to spell – work brilliantly. How about your first and middle names, like Keiko Lynn? Keep it as short as possible.
As you think of good names, immediately check they’re free across all platforms – use namecheckr.com to do this. If you think of something that’s taken on a dotcom, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter (namecheckr will tell you) – think of a new one straight away, and forget about that great name you thought of. You’ll only get mixed up with other people, and you don’t want that to happen even if you think you won’t use e.g. Twitter straight away.
Finally: Avoid used-to-death keywords in the name like fashion, style, beauty, etc., especially at the beginning. And make sure your blog name is 15 characters or less as Twitter only allows a maximum of 15 – and it’s a good measure of how short to keep it.
2. Buy the dotcom of your blog name
Once you’ve chosen your blog name, buy the dotcom, even if you’re not ready to set up your blog yet. I’d also advise immediately registering it on the key social media platforms of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter (and Youtube if you’re considering doing video). This means that while you’re setting your blog up, no one will take that great name you’ve come up with. Of course, your name WILL be free at this point because you’ll have chosen something that’s available on namecheckr, won’t you?! Even if one of the social media platforms doesn’t appeal right now it might later, and you don’t want it to go to someone else in the meantime.
Godaddy and 123-reg are two of the main domain hosting sites that people buy from (I use the latter), but read reviews to choose which one suits you the most.
3. Choose your blogging platform wisely
Although there are many blogging platforms to choose from, to make it simple there are two main ones (which are also the most popular): Blogger (Blogspot) and WordPress.
Blogger, A.K.A. blogspot.com, is Google’s free platform. WordPress (specifically wordpress.org – see the warning about wordpress.com below) hosts about one third of all websites in the world, which gives you an idea of how popular it is. The two platforms are very different: I’ve used both so am familiar with both. Like many bloggers I started on Blogger and upgraded to WordPress after several years as WordPress is far more professional than Blogger. It gives you so much more freedom and functions, and of course there are the plugins (pieces of software containing a group of functions to carry out almost any function you can think of to improve and aid your blogging). There are literally hundreds to choose from.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so it’s up to you to decide what works best for you:
Blogger – the advantages
- It’s totally free
- It’s user-friendly and quick and easy to get started
- You can have the default blogspot.com URL point to a dotcom URL of your blog
- You can migrate your blog from Blogger to WordPress at any time, you don’t have to be on it forever
- You can install Google Analytics on your site to track page views, visitor behaviour, referrals, etc.
Blogger – the disadvantages
- You don’t own your site with Blogger – if Google decides to shut down Blogger one day, you lose your blog
- It’s very limited in functionality and things like SEO optimisation
- You don’t have plugins available to you
- The designs available to you are very basic and amateurish, so you’d be wise to buy a template
- Migrating to WordPress can be time-consuming and a huge headache – or you can pay for an expert to do it (though it’s not as expensive as you might think)
WordPress – the advantages
- It is a far more professional platform 100% suited to blogging
- You have an almost endless choice with regards to functionality, SEO optimisation, plugins, etc.
- You are self-hosted, meaning you own your own site: it belongs to YOU (not WordPress)
- The design templates available to you are also endless and extremely professional-looking
- You can make money from your WordPress blog by running ads
- You can create an online store within your blog if it’s WordPress-hosted
- You can install Google Analytics on your site to track page views, visitor behaviour, referrals, etc.
WordPress – the disadvantages
- It is a more complicated interface to use than Blogger and takes some getting used to
- You have to pay a monthly fee to host your site
- You are responsible for running updates and backups of your site
A WORD OF WARNING: You are always advised to choose wordpress.org over wordpress.com – avoid .com at all costs. The latter is much like Blogger, only worse – it’s free, but you have limited functionality, you can’t upload templates, you can’t install Google Analytics, etc. Plus you can’t run your own ads on it: WordPress will run their own ads on your blog and you won’t make money from them.
Hopefully these points will help you decide which suits your needs the most. If you’re STILL undecided, I’ll make it simple and say choose WordPress(.org). No one regrets starting with or moving to WordPress.
4. Do you, and no one else
Now you have your blog set up, it’s time to start writing blog posts! But what to write – and how to decide what to write?
You probably already have an idea of what you want to write (otherwise why would you start a blog?). The best advice I can give for writing blog posts is simply to write about what YOU want to write about, from the heart and with honesty. Write like you talk. Don’t try and write like you think you should be writing. The whole point of a blog is that it’s all about you as a person, even if you’re thinking, I’m not writing about me, I’m going to write about interiors! And makeup! And this season’s trends! It’s still YOUR insight into those interiors, and that makeup, and those trends. So your personality has to come across. If you’re not writing from the heart (think, how would I chat to a friend about this topic?), then you might as well be writing for a magazine or other publication.
Let your personality shine through. Let the words just flow.
5. Be consistent
Once you’re up and running, it’s a good idea to be consistent with the day(s) you publish on your blog. Write at least once a week and publish on the same day and as near to the same time as you can (posts can be scheduled in advance whether you use Blogger or WordPress). Consistency is key to many things with blogging: in the huge of sea of bloggers you need to stand out if you want to reach more people. Being consistent in your timing, imagery, blogging calendar, etc. means they will know when to expect content from you and won’t get fed up visiting at random times and not finding anything new to read.
6. Teach yourself everything
This may surprise you: most bloggers are almost entirely self-taught. They’re self-taught in photography, coding, using a blogging platform, using social media effectively, accounting, website troubleshooting, marketing… You name it, a blogger has probably done it. The lucky part for new bloggers now compared to 6+ years ago? There are a ton more resources that will tell how to do EVERYTHING.
Google “blogging tips” and you’ll get so many results you won’t know where to begin. Be specific in what you want to learn: Do you want to improve your outfit photos? Do you want to increase interaction? Do you want to increase your blog traffic? I’d recommend typing these terms into Pinterest for the best results and blog posts to read, not least because they’re more likely to be related to fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogs . For technical stuff try Youtube for step-by-step “How To” videos.
Read everything you can about how to run a blog. Absorb all the information you can, put it into practice and view every day as a chance to learn something new.
7. Remember we all started at zero
This is a hot topic at the moment: comparison. We’re constantly hearing about how young people and teenagers are feeling the pressures of social media. It’s all to do with comparison (“the thief of joy”), where you look at someone else’s Instagram feed (Insta is the main culprit, let’s face it) and think, I don’t have as many followers as her/I don’t get as many comments as her/I’m not as pretty as she is/My house isn’t as beautiful as hers/My life isn’t as perfect as hers.
There will ALWAYS be someone who will look at your feed and think, I wish my X was as great/as wonderful/as pretty as hers. It’s the same for blogs, where you could look at everyone else’s and think, Her blog is so much better than mine.
Remember what I said in point 4 – do you, and no one else. What other bloggers/Instagrammers can’t do is YOU. So they’re failing 100% at being you, and don’t forget that. For every beautiful interior you see, there’s a corner out of sight piled high with laundry and kids’ toys. For every “perfect” makeup look there’s a pair of old pyjamas and chipped nail varnish that you can’t see.Don’t give up before you’ve begun. We all have to start somewhere. Enjoy the process of improving and growing rather than expecting it to fall into your lap. Sure, Instagram CAN be a time suck and it CAN be frustrating when you’re losing as many followers as you gain, but it is what you make of it. As the best quote ever for bloggers goes, Don’t compare your start to someone else’s middle or end (we all started at zero)…!
8. Support your fellow bloggers
This is the big one to help you get your name out there and start networking (or just making online friends to be more casual about it). Being supportive of other bloggers is the most rewarding and ultimately helpful (to yourself) way to establish your blog and get it noticed. Think of it this way: if you’ve moved into a new neighbourhood and you want your neighbours to be supportive and friendly, you have to be supportive and friendly to them right from the beginning (after all, they were there before you)! Ask them what you can do to help them. Offer to do something for them without any strings attached. Then when the time comes for them to recommend someone to others, or to be a joint partner in some exciting new venture, who’s the first person they’ll turn to? YOU.
It’s the same with blogging. Don’t ask others to feature you on their blog – feature them first. Leave lots of comments on your favourite blogs and their social media platforms. Retweet their tweets and share their Facebook posts. Supporting the bloggers you love is your one-stop way to having good things happen to you.
9. Embrace social media
And finally – that love/hate thing we called social media. It’s pretty much true that you can’t blog without it these days – not effectively, anyway. It’s the modern way to market and advertise your blog.
The top four – Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter – are the ones to concentrate on (or at least have a presence on). Start with the ones you’re most drawn to and make plans to get onto the others as soon as you can. Depending on your niche, the different platforms have different gravitas (if you have a lifestyle blog and do a lot of recipes, you must concentrate on Pinterest. If you blog about fashion, Instagram is seen as the number 1 platform to run alongside a blog, and so on).
Again, read as many articles as you can about how to use them most effectively. I can thoroughly recommend later.com for regular, up to date articles about how to maximise Instagram’s potential (sign up to their newsletters to stay up to date).
Some small points to add:
Here are a few extra tips that I just couldn’t leave out…
- Make sure your name (even just a first name, or a pseudonym) is on your blog and clear to your readers
- Use a profile picture so people can picture who’s talking to them
- Create an about page so readers can get to know you
- Make sure you provide a contact email address (not just a contact form)
- Don’t add barriers to comments boxes, like captchas or mandatory logins
- Use the same avatar (profile picture) on ALL your platforms to ensure consistency
- Enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, there’s no point in doing it…!