Being a new blogger in a world when pretty much everyone has a blog or proudly calls himself an influencer is really confusing. “How to score the first collaboration?” “What are the possible income sources?” “WTF is Instagram algorithm and how to crack it?” And of course, the most popular – “am I really that good and special to succeed despite the highest level of competition in this field?” I see these questions all the time.
And while discussing some blogging secrets with Hayley James from Not Just A Pretty Face recently, we came up with an idea – what if she shares the most confusing things she faces as a new blogger and I’ll try to give an advice based on my experience? So here it is, a post of questions and answers. Hope, you’ll find it useful!
P.S. Different experts have already shared their tips on some of the questions above, if you’re curious to read them, you’ll find the links throughout and at the end of this post!
Hayley: “I am a very very new blogger so I’m still figuring out how this whole thing works, how to appeal to an audience, how to get into the swing of posting regularly and just trying to write content that I’m happy with (perfectionist alert!) and that I hope inspires some people. I’m going to write about 3 things I find confusing as a new blogger in an industry already chocka-block with amazing content creators.”
Hayley James (Not Just A Pretty Face)
ISSUE #1: THE BLOODY INSTAGRAM ALGORTITHM, WHAT’S WITH THAT?!
Instagram, once you are no longer using it for personal use and are trying to promote yourself as a “brand” is one of the harder parts of having a blog. Knowing what to post, when to post and what to hashtag are things I’m still working on everytime I open the instagram app.
As confusing as it is, I do still believe that you should be posting what you love, be authentic with your following (no matter how small) and always trying to make as much content as possible to get your name out there. Instagram should still be fun, I always find the content creators that I watch on Instagram stories, or look at their content regularly are ones that I relate to (duh, i know) and ones that are real and show their stuff ups or things that go wrong, instagrammers aren’t perfect and it’s something I try to remember everytime I post content.
My opinion: Don’t want to disappoint you at the very beginning of your way, but Gosh, things NEVER get easier with Instagram! Look at my engagement rate: I can get 800 likes on one image and then hardly reach 150 on the next one. There are tons of really useful articles on Instagram growth and engagement online, some tips might work for you, some won’t – tough as it is, but you just have to experiment with them all. Here are some tricks that I personally find really useful:
- Keeping your style consistent. Having a recognisable style or colour theme really helps. What do people normally see before hitting “Subscribe” button? That’s right – your feed, 3 photos in a row, 3-5 rows one under another (depends on the size of their device). They might have no idea what is your main topic yet, nor do they know how cool and hilarious your captions are or how healthy are your recipes. What they do know by now is whether or not you put enough efforts in turning your account into a “professional looking” one (which today means, yup, having a consistent style). I use the same filter for all my photos, but it doesn’t mean I simply apply it by hitting one button in Lightroom. The light and the colours are different every time, so you can reach that goddamn consistency only by additionally adjusting every single photo. Great examples of people using the same filters all the time are tezzamb, ohhcouture, debiflue, gypsea_lust, travel_inhershoes. Another way to reach consistency is to make sure you use repetitive colours – this trick works really good for “flatlay” accounts (food, beauty). You might want your photos to have white background and pops of bright colours like RealRadFood does, or stick with healthy green-pink-yellow fruit colour theme, like tastefullytash, or (the best option) – choose the colours that you personally like the most. To check whether I achieved the goal or not I use the app called “Preview”. I try to schedule 6-10 posts ahead – that way I can see whether my feed is looking the way I want it to look or should I delete/add some photos, change places, etc. By the way, if editing photos in Photoshop or Lightroom is not your cup of tea, combined usage of Snapseed and VSCO does miracles to your photos! Especially since VSCO now edits raw files as well! My fav VSCO filters are A6, ACG, HB2.
- Long captions. There are two versions of why long captions work better than short ones. The first one is technical – the more time people spend on your image, the better you’re ranked. So it’s always great to make your readers “hang around” longer than they do while mechanically double-tapping latest updates. Reading a long caption is a perfect proof for an Instagram algorithm that your photo is engaging and worth being shown to more people. The second version is more…hmm…humane – people simply feel more connected to you, when you share long, interesting and personal stories and thus will subscribe, like and comment more willingly. Either way long captions are a must, if you want to grow your Instagram!
- Posting lots of Stories. Stories are pretty much the same as long captions – they make people attracted to you as the person by allowing them to see a little behind the scenes of your “Insta-perfect” life. I personally find, that there are lots of accounts I might never see on my feed, but simply can’t miss their Stories and I even feel sad, when they don’t update Stories for half a day:) Stories is also a great way to let people know you’ve just posted a new image.
- Using “small” hashtags. I find, that massive hashtags like #beautifuldestinations, #foodporn are not working at all anymore. Using smaller, niche hashtags is way more effective. First of all, they are not updated with million photos every single second, so you get more chances to get noticed by occassional visitors there. Secondly, small hashtags, started by local magazines, travel companies, bloggers, etc. are a great way to be re-posted, which always brings you new audience. And please, please, please, do never forget all the possible geographical hashtags – the name of the restaurant on the photo, the name of the town it is in, the region, the country. Geo hashtags seem to still work as well!
ISSUE #2: FINDING INSPIRATION/POSTING REGULARLY
This is something I’m finding increasingly confusing and difficult as I keep trying to do this blogging thing. I work a full time job as a beauty therapist which I absolutely adore, but working 5 sometimes 6 days a week with 2 late nights thrown in there can make a gal rather tired and I find it very difficult to balance time to wind down and relax after work and working on my blog and the goals I have for that.
Content creating, and actually coming up with solid ideas of what you could write a whole (hopefully) three paragraph post on as well as photos that would go with that post is. I find this quite overwhelming, usually to the point where I step away and don’t post any content, which is definitely not the way to go.
Makeup and travel are usually my go-to as I love chatting about both of these things to death but always finding fresh new ways to give my audience information can get difficult.
My opinion: Planning ahead is a thing in that case! I recently had a post on how to plan ahead and be more organized as blogger, , by the way. I try to plan updates for a month ahead. I usually use the last weekend of the previous month to draw a beautiful calendar in my journal and to sort out future updates. If I didn’t come up with all the particular headers yet, I might at least point out the general topic I want to write about on this or that date – international travels, or fitness, or blogging tips, etc. I also have a separate list of “Blog ideas” – I write down all the random topics that come into my mind, all the people I want to interview for my blog. It might take a year to finally write some of them, but at least I always have “plan B”. For example, I was planning to write a massive New York City guide (it took me a week to write that monster, I know what I’m talking about!), but got trapped in my job and daily routine, and today is the update day – I’ll have a look through my “Blog ideas” list and pick something that doesn’t require that much time and effort. In that case, I’ll have a quicker update, instead of not writing anything at all.
Having regular formats is also a way to avoid lack of inspiration. You can post “things you loved this week” every Friday, “destination of the month” every first day of the month, etc. Think of all the formats you might have according to your niche. For example, for beauty bloggers it might be: review of a product you have tried, announcement of a new collection/ product launch, skincare tips and recommendations. For fashion bloggers they are: look of the day, describing latest trends with an examples of items you can purchase in different online stores, your favourite lookbook or campaign. Think of 5-7 regular formats and make sure to use each of them at least once per month.
And finally, there’s nothing like that sweet feeling of achievement you get once you press the “Publish” button. Oh wait, there is actually something like that – the feeling of a completed HIIT workout:) But we’re not here to talk fitness today! I often feel too lazy or tired to post something in blog, but I try to imagine how happy and satisfied and smart (and omg absolutely perfect – I can go on with these descriptions for ages) I would feel after sitting in front of my admin page for an hour or so. I definitely can sacrifice one movie in bed in favour of that, can’t I? Especially, since I’m in bed with my laptop and loads of food already anyway.
ISSUE #3: PHOTOGRAPHY, POSING AND EDITING!
This is one where you are always learning, whether you’re a new blogger or have been around the block and back. There is always something new and creative you can be doing with photography and trying to keep up and find your niche and how you like your photos to look is really hard.
Whether or not you can afford to shell out the cash for one of the best cameras on the market or are just using your iPhone, photography is probably the most important part of your blog… so where do you even start?
Luckily I have a wonderful boyfriend who has recently gotten into photography in a big way so he is doing all the learning for me, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to not look awkward on camera. Learning how to look confident and charismatic on camera is actually a surprisingly hard thing to do, believe it or not. Getting confident in front of the camera is hard but the only way to do it is take as many pictures as humanly possible and keep learning how to take professional looking photos.
There is always something new you are going to want to learn, but working hard to keep your photos to a high standard and keeping up with the current trends can really help you out.
My opinion: Oh yassss, I wonder how all these Ohh Couture and Gypsea Lust manage to look so effortless and natural in front of the camera and to NEVER be spotted in the same pose twice. Do they have a special coach for that? Are they just naturally talented? What secret online courses of posing am I missing on? The only trick to improve your posing and to look less awkward on pictures I have is to… look for an inspiration (ahem, it is not called copying, right?). I created several albums in my “Collections” on Instagram, where I save photos of different bloggers and influencers I liked. Some of them might have unusual angles or crops we don’t normally use, others might be cool in terms of posing, the way some objects are placed, face expressions (ok, is it becoming really creepy now?). As you should have figured out already, I then try to repeat them, whenever there’s a proper occasion. But because we also have another rule – try to take as many pictures as possible, I keep on moving and changing poses, so I normally never end up choosing that very photo, where I was (awkwardly) copying someone. Because what suits slim blonde girl doesn’t necessarily suits…me. But at least I had somewhere to start and ended up with a nice series of photos showcasing my personal style and my own way of posing.
Here are some advice on how to take pictures of yourself if you don’t have a patient partner (lucky us!) by your side and also some mistakes you might be making as an amateur photographer – excluding them from your photoshoots would really help to improve your results!
Hayley: “Thanks so much for reading! As a new blogger in the industry I’ve always kinda thought I’ve got into the industry far to late, and these are the few things that I see everyone on my insta feed and the blogs I look at doing and nailing and it’s good to remember they probably had all these feelings and thoughts of doubt as well but they carried on through and now look how amazing they have done for themselves. I hope that these problems I have come across and some of the advice given in this post can help you on your way to achieving your wildest dreams of blogging.
Lots of love,