Whether you’re a blogger, an aspiring blogger, or an entrepreneur, you know just as well as I do that this shit ain’t easy. And there’s a lot of things a lot of people don’t tell you, especially when it comes to starting out. When I first started 5 years ago, I didn’t even really know what a blog (yet alone a blogger) was. True story, this blog was started per the suggestion of my mom. (I had all the ideas, she just helped me find the vehicle in which to express them.)
The reason my brilliant mother suggested I start a blog was because originally I wanted Love & Loathing LA to be a book. (Book TBD… I still so badly want it to happen, trust me.) At the time I was in-between jobs, trying to make big career changes, trying to figure out who I was and what I was going to do with myself here in LA, and the idea of a book came to mind. I was inspired by a book written by David Lebovitz called “The Sweet Life In Paris” (highly recommended if you haven’t read it!) and finishing that story if you will was the catalyst to starting Love & Loathing LA.
I’ll be honest, heading into starting a blog seemed so simple at the time; I knew what I wanted to write, why I wanted to write it, who I wanted to write it for – and I had the time to commit to it. The first steps I knew I needed to take were: 1. establish intention (what was I going to bring to the table that would be useful, different, and impactful). 2. create social media accounts to support the site. 3. give the impression I was quite established already.
I knew that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to take it seriously. That meant spending the money on a properly designed website that made me look legitimate (despite barely having a dime to my name). That meant committing myself to a certain amount of blog posts a week. That meant saying “yes” a lot more often than “no”. That meant trying to meet as many of my peers as humanly possible. It meant spending the money on a camera and doing my best to create quality content over quantity. And that meant giving this thing my absolute all, despite what people thought of me, how much money I wasn’t making, and diving head first into something I knew very little about.
I’ve always been relatively pleased with the fact that I personally entered the blogosphere somewhat “blissfully ignorant”, but I will say that also meant I had to learn a lot of things the long and hard way. In the beginning I didn’t really have fellow bloggers I felt like I could reach out to, I didn’t have PR friends, no managers or tough talkers – no one really to teach me the ropes but myself. (Excluding of course my incredible support system of friends, family, and followers.) So from two perspectives this is what I want you to know from my personal experience:
Things I am glad I did in the beginning:
- I still stand behind first impressions, and that meant spending the money on a proper and professional website. I have since had 2 website facelifts, with another one coming next week (WHAT!), but make the investment in yourself if you’re serious.
- I spent 1/2 my time marketing myself, and 1/2 my time creating. I was trying to build a “portfolio” of sorts that I could be proud of. I’d had 6 weeks worth of content on my site before I even went live, and that definitely helped me feel more established. In terms of marketing though I made a point to connect with like-minded people, introduce myself to potential followers, get on the radar of businesses I wanted to partner with – so on and so forth.
- I bought a camera, learned how to use it properly, then learned how to learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom. Again with the first impressions. Your content in the beginning might not be your crowning achievements but you’ll be further along than most simply by trying, and caring.
- Once I had been blogging on my own for about a year or two, I hired someone to help give me an evaluation of my site and brand. These days I am not sure that’s something I’d recommend; I feel like if you’ve got people you look up to, ask them for their opinion. You’d be surprised how many bloggers out there are willing to lend a hand or some advice when asked. BUT – if you want professional advice, I guarantee you can find it. You can even ask me.
- I made a manifesto. I outlined exactly what I wanted to share with people, why I wanted to share it, and who I wanted to share it with. I still come back to my intention every single day – especially when I am feeling lost, which I still feel from time to time.
- I went out and met as many people as I possibly could in the beginning. I went to just about every event I was invited to, it was exhausting but I made the friends, connections, and partners that have helped build my business up to where it is today.
- I created a media kit – which today is a simplified one-sheet – as soon as I started speaking with PR/media. If you don’t know how to make a one-sheet, hire a graphic designer!
- About 1-2 years in, I decided to create a newsletter. This is one area I still struggle to find the right medium with, but I am so glad I know where to find my most loyal following to this day. You’ll always have control over your blog and your email list – you might not with your social media.
- Since day 1 I have treated this blog like a business. Yes it is my passion, but I’ve been able to turn it into a 6-figure job by hustling my ass off, being kind, being respectful, and being professional. I genuinely believe that I have been able to turn my passion into a business because of all of the above. It takes talent, perhaps, time, sure, but I’ll be honest, being human has really worked out well for me – in every sense.
All the things I wish someone would have told me in the beginning:
- I actually knew this going in, but it’s important to know that it’s not a job worth going into for the money. Someone actually told me “you won’t make money for the first 5 years”, and while that didn’t exactly happen for me (took me about 2-3), it’s just simply not the reason to start a blog. You start because you have something to say, and something important to share from your unique perspective. Start with the genuine reasons and the money will follow.
- You don’t have to have a large following to make an impact. Whether you’ve got 100 or 100k, these people aren’t just numbers, they’re people. Focus on the ones you’ve got not the ones you don’t.
- Don’t make it a race to the bottom. Know your worth. Be realistic, sure, but don’t cheat yourself either. If you don’t know what you should be charging, ask your peers. Rates don’t need to be announced or discussed publicly, but I have gained so much personal insight myself simply by asking my influencer friends and talking about it.
- There are more people and resources out there to help you along your journey than you think – you are not alone. Make those friendships, build those relationships, ask for help when you need it, and do your research!
- Always. Be. Learning. I have lately found a lot of value in listening to experts on the matter such as Julie Soloman’s “The Influencer Podcast” as well as tuning in to FOHR’s youtube series “A Drink With James”. Listen to the podcasts, attend the conferences, take the Photoshop classes, read the books – half the battle of blogging is intention, you can set it right here by learning and deciding what to take away from simply listening.
- Figure out what “consistent” means to you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “be consistent and you’ll be successful”. While there is undoubtedly truth in that, consistency isn’t the same for everyone. Figure out what you can commit to and commit to it – whether that means you blog once a week and post to Instagram 3-4x, or you blog 5x a week and post to Instagram 7-14. There is no correct formula, just keep up with what you can realistically stick to.
- You’re going to want to give up a lot more than you think. I still have days when I want to give up. But what keeps me going, is knowing that every day is different, and most of what ales me is in my control. Just. Keep. Going.
“When I thought I couldn’t go on, I forced myself to keep going. My success is based on persistence, not luck.” – Esteé Lauder
On another serious note, I have clearly never done a post like this before. Was this at all helpful? Do you want to see more like this? If so please tell me if there’s a specific topic you want to talk about in the comments! I would love to know!