Alright ladies, it’s time for another round of Honeybee Q+A and today I’m tackling all things BLOGGING! I can not believe I have been blogging for almost 10 years now- where has the time gone?! You girls sent in such great questions about blogging, getting started, and how to make money as a blogger, so I was happy to answer alllll those questions. Warning, this is a long one but hopefully it answers everything you girls ever wanted to know. So let’s just dive right in shall we?!
How did you stay motivated when you were just starting?
Honestly, I think when I first started it was a much easier time. I had zero expectations of making money or turning it into a business (which wasn’t even really heard of back then). It was purely just a hobby sharing snippets of our life and my finds along the way so there really wasn’t a ton of pressure. It was more about just interacting with my readers and I enjoyed finding and sharing things with them!
The fear that’s holding me back is my fear of my life just not being interesting enough. What are some tips for standing out when you are just getting started with an “average” life?
You know, I have received this one a lot over the years and honestly, I truly believe there is something out there for everyone so don’t play yourself down. Think about the people you follow. You probably follow several different kinds of accounts, right? I know for me I follow people all across the board. I follow mom bloggers, high-end fashion bloggers, food bloggers, everyday style bloggers, etc… etc… Each one of them is so different and yet I follow them because they all offer something that I relate to in one way or another. So never feel like your life isn’t exciting enough because there are people out there looking for everyday relatable aspects too (probably more so than the people that are jet setting all over the world taking over the top pictures that they can’t really relate with).
If you’re just starting out, just share whatever it is that you are passionate about and give it time to grow. Whether it’s your style, food, home, or funny personality..be yourself, be consistent and offer value to your readers!
What are the first/most important things you’d recommend bloggers do/don’t when first starting out?
Set your expectations low to start. Sounds like a downer right?! There’s a huge misconception that blogging is super glamorous posting pictures and getting free stuff. The truth is it’s A LOT of work. While it does have great perks (after you’ve established yourself and have a legit audience) prepare to put in a lot of time, energy and money without any return for quite some time. I think a lot of people easily get discouraged when they start a blog or Instagram and don’t see any traction right away.
I started about 10 years ago and honestly didn’t make a dime for probably the first 3-4 years! Yup, talk about a lot of work with no monetary return. Now the industry has changed drastically and brands have crazy budgets for influencer marketing so maybe it wouldn’t take 3-4 years like it did for me 😉 so that’s a plus!
Think about all the girls you’ve seen at that same photograph worthy coffee shop, or that have the same eating a bowl of pasta shot, or wearing the same giant pearl hair clip (sorry! but true). It gets boring and uninspiring when you’ve seen everyone else doing it. I’m all for trends, checking out the new hot spots and saving shot inspo too, but whatever you’re doing, try to make it your own and be authentic.
Invest in your business
If you have the money and you are prepared to dedicate yourself fully to the industry, then invest in your business. Higher a photographer, invest in the camera, editing programs and designing that website. I started mine with iPhone photos, self-timers and a free website platform (blogger, although I would highly recommend WordPress instead-it took me years but finally switched over a few years back). So don’t feel discouraged if you can’t afford those things – it can still be done! In fact, there are rumors now that Instagram actually prioritizes camera phone photos over higher quality ones in the algorithm.
Don’t Compare Yourself
The thing we all struggle with right?! It’s so hard not to but honestly try your best to keep your blinders on and focus on you. Everyone is at different stages so you can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, right?
and lastly SAY NO!
Once you do start landing paid partnerships don’t be afraid to say no! Honestly, I can’t stress this enough. I know it can be hard to pass on some of the paid content but ultimately if you’re not truly a fan of a product and wouldn’t use it yourself, just kindly pass. I see so many bloggers out there that you can just tell take EVERY sponsored post that comes their way and then they start to lose their audience’s trust. It’s painful sometimes because brands come at you with GOOD budgets but I can’t tell you how many collaborations I’ve passed on because it just wasn’t a good fit with my brand. Be hungry, not thiiirsty. 😉
What are your tips for growing your IG when starting out?
Above all else create the best content you can create! If you’re constantly shelling out quality content and inspiring things, people will check back and continue to follow along.
Be consistent. Once you start gaining readers, they expect to see something pretty much every day so consistency is key!
Interact with other accounts and hopefully they will check yours out too. Use specific hashtags so you attract the right audience you’re content pertains to.
You can also try to team up with fellow bloggers you really like and think your audience would like too. The goal is if your feeds and content are similar, the people that are following them will also like following you. If you do those dreaded loop giveaways (been there before), most tend to drop off after the giveaway is done so, in my opinion, they’re not really worth it.
Monetizing & working with brands
What was your first paid blogging job?
Omg my first paid job…I want to say it was working with Windsor store. They were one of the first brands that saw potential in me (probably 7 years ago) and paid me to post. I literally worked with them consistently for about 5 years.
Would love to know when you started to reach out to brands to collaborate and how to go about it. I don’t have many followers so I always assume brands won’t want to work with me.
I would say establish your Instagram first. Once you have a solid feed going and can show brands the type of work you can create for them then send them a DM. If they’re interested they will mostly like send you free product in exchange for posts (depending on your following size) and then once you have a larger following you can start charging per post. Bottom line is you don’t want to oversell yourself. Show them you can convert and then you’ll have more negotiating power in the future. If they keep coming back every month to work with you, you’ll know you have leverage.
How do we make sure you get $$$ when we buy your recs?
First of all, you are so sweet to even think of this! It does take a lot of time and effort to research, link, photograph and post everything (as well as respond to DMs) so I appreciate each and every one of you girls who make an effort to shop through my links. Anytime you read a blog post, watch my stories or click on one of my links… it’s a way of letting brands that I work with know my value. You can shop through my liketoknow.it app or click on any link in my blog posts or story and I usually get credit. If you find something on my site, then go and buy it in-store, I don’t get credit from it but that’s okay too. It’s life and I totally get that some of you like to shop in store. xo
How do you monetize the blog? How did it become a source of income/your job?
There are several ways… you can run ads on your site (I used to when I first started and it brought in a decent amount of income). I stopped running them once I redid my website a few years ago as I didn’t love the look of them. The majority of blogger income usually comes from brand partnerships/collaborations (where a brand will pay you to wear pieces from their site) and affiliate sales (where you receive a commission on pieces you recommend and people purchase).
How do you get affiliated with companies to collaborate from them for your posts?
Luckily most of them have reached out to me and some I received through affiliate networks that work with RewardStyle or ShopStyle. If you perform well for them, then you can become a brand ambassador and will work with them on a consistent basis, which I luckily have been able to do. As mentioned above, you can always reach out to them directly (ask them for the info of the person who handles their PR and Marketing and get in contact with them to see if you’re a good fit).
At what amount of followers did you start to get sponsorships and ads? Do you feel it was because you talked a lot about your favorite brands anyways?
Wearing and mentioning the brands you already wear and love is ALWAYS a good idea. It will help to create a relationship with the brand and hopefully lead to some sort of partnership in the future. I’m not sure what the standards are now but I think about 15K+ you could probably start getting some free pieces in exchange for posts depending on the brands, but paid stuff I would say probably 50K and up.
Do you have to have a blog or could you be as successful with just an Insta? I have always wanted to do something like this, but sometimes it seems a little overwhelming putting yourself out there.
You could start with an Instagram account and see how it goes before creating a site but honestly, I always prefer to have something that I own. If Instagram went away tomorrow and the next big thing came up, I would still own my site and be able to make money from it. That being said, a lot of lower level agencies and brands do do some campaigns where it is Instagram only, but honestly having a website is the best bet if you want this to be long term.
Is it weird to start with an Instagram first instead of a blog? I struggle with writing content.
I don’t think so. As mentioned in the above comment, I think starting out with Instagram (which is free) and playing around with it for a while to see if you think it’s something you can stick with and are passionate about is fine. Eventually you will want to have your own site though so you own it and brands also like to see page views.
What do you feel was the best thing you did to make this a career and be successful at it?
Consistency, creating quality content and most importantly TRUST! The best advice I can give you here is stay true to you and don’t recommend stuff you truly wouldn’t buy yourself. You work so hard to build an audience that trusts you so TRUST WITH YOUR AUDIENCE IS KEY! Your audience is the reason you’re able to do this for a living, so interact with them and respond to their DMs. I will never understand why influencers don’t respond to their readers. I know it can be overwhelming and take A LOT of time but it’s definitely a key part of this business and your readers allow you to do what you do!
How much of your time goes into blogging and Instagram each week? Including taking pictures, doing research, etc.
Oh lawwwrd my first thought to this answer was “a shit ton” lol but that didn’t seem like a classy response. 😉 But it really does take a lot of time. I literally wake up and start tackling emails and responding to DMs before I get my first sip of coffee. I truly love it though so a lot of the time it doesn’t really feel like work. I would say at least 7 hours a day maybe more and it doesn’t stop on the weekends. I think that is the hard part about this industry – there’s not really a cut off time and it’s all about more, more and more. More posts, more behind the scenes, more sharing – it can be a black hole and sometimes you have to step back and say “hey, it’s okay not to share everything today”. 😉
Do you work alone or do you have people working for you? If so, what do they do?
After almost 8 years of doing everything on The Honeybee myself
I WE finally realized something needed to give and I started building a team. Now 10 years into this business, I have 7 people on the Honeybee team! There are several different jobs but a few of them are my two photographers I work with on a weekly basis, someone who helps me with SEO and backend website stuff, a graphic designer, someone who helps prep newsletters, a girl who runs my shop for me and my manager who brings in, negotiates and reads over my contracts and brand partnerships to name a few. I’m horrible at relinquishing control so still feel like I’m more involved in those areas then I should be and NEED to work on just letting them do their thang. 😉
Did you hire a photographer from the beginning and how often are you taking photos and working on content?
So, back in the day when blogging first started, there were only a few girls that were taking professional photos (that has clearlllly changed now). I didn’t think it was realistic and wanted my content to be more real than taking it to the streets for professional style photo shoots, which felt more staged. Fast forward about four years and those girls who started out taking those professional photos were way ahead of the game! I started out doing selfies in the mirror (which I always would hear that you girls loved more) but then eventually started working with a photographer to produce more professional content to mix in my feed. I still try to mix in both selfie shots and professional but, bottom line is if you want to work with big brands, they want to see that professional style content.
As for how often…I’m usually taking photos twice a week and the content is E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. Again with the “back in the day” phrase 😉 but in the early days of blogging you literally did a blog post, responded to a few comments on your blog and you went on about your day. Now things are so different. You’re shooting content, editing photos, searching for and linking items, creating blog posts, in-feed Instagram posts, creating and posting content for your stories, reviewing contracts, submitting drafts to brands, responding to your DMs, tackling emails and prepping future content.
It’s a constant juggle over here and always feel like there’s something I need to be doing but will always be grateful that I get to this for work and be able to be here for all my kids’ stuff.
Blogging & Branding
I can’t figure out a name for the blog and I don’t have a blog focus. I’m getting so hung up on it because this is going to be my personal brand. Help!
Oh my gosh! What do you guys think about the name The Honeybee?! Is it lame, does it stand out, is it cute, is it random, or is it just The Honeybee because you’ve just come to know it as that over time? The reason I ask this is because yes, once you pick a blog name you’re kind of committed to it. I picked this name literally 10 years ago because it was our street name! I couldn’t narrow down a name or exactly what content I would be sharing when I first started. I knew it would mainly be fashion but that I also didn’t want to commit my blog name to one category so I figured “The Honeybee” because everything is coming from Honeybee. lol SO there you have it ….nothing groundbreaking or super chic. 😉 My point of saying all of that is don’t overthink your blog name. What people remember the most is the content you create. Also, when you start an Instagram you can just use your name and same for your website address.
I’m brand new to blogging but my main motivation behind starting was to do something creative and that helps others learn about things I’m passionate about like fashion, healthy eating and quality lifestyle tips. In the beginning, did you feel as though you could/should only share certain things, like fashion posts, in order to find a niche, or is it OK to post heavily in fashion and some posts here and there about other topics, especially in the beginning?
I often ask myself the same thing. I started out sharing mainly fashion but also just lifestyle stuff too. They say you should find your “niche” and stick to it but honestly, I still share several different categories because my audience also seems interested in it. Play around with it. See what you enjoy posting and see what your audience responds to too and that should help you make your decision.
Platforms and apps
What’s the best blogging platform and host when starting a blog? Do you use WordPress or another site?Any recommendations for a free one to play with until I can build a platform or audience? Is paying for one off the bat worth it?
I started out using Blogger because it was free and literally had it way too long because I’m a creature of habit. WordPress is what I use now and is a million times better and helps so much with SEO.
What are your favorite photo apps and how to get that perfect “acting natural” shot?
I have a full blog post coming up this week on all the apps I use to edit my photos and stories because that has been a heavy request lately so stay tuned for that! As for the acting natural shot…find a photographer that doesn’t mind overshooting. Finding a patient photographer 😉 that will give you more options, the better! It will take some time to feel natural taking street style pictures so just keep at it. Also, try movement shots like walking, etc. You can usually catch some more natural options when you’re not focused on posing.
Okay! Hope this helped you girls and you can always ask me more questions below. 🙂