I’ve been blogging for close to 6 years now (how in the world has it been that long??). While my blog has certainly changed over the years, not to mention changing names a few times, I can honestly say that I didn’t fully take it seriously until about 3 years ago when Sweet Horizon really started to take shape. It’s only been within the last year that I’ve been able to set realistic goals and remain consistent with my posting schedule. Part of that is due to the growth of my business and my comfort level with blogging as a medium.
I should also note that blogging is not my full time business, though it does help facilitate my graphic design business by connecting me with other amazing entrepreneurs and bloggers.
But throughout these years of trial and error, and now helping others create their brands and websites, I’ve really come to understand the ends and outs of blogging and what it takes to turn a hobby such as blogging into a fully fledged business. It’s now more possible than ever to create a blog that is professional right from day one. Don’t wait years to become a serious blogger like I did. Get started asap and make sure you have these 5 things in place from the start.
An Established Brand
It’s no secret that there are millions of blogs currently on the internet and more launching daily. We are really in the peak era of blogging. But the last thing any blogger wants is to get lost in the crowd. An established brand will help your blog stand out and become recognizable to your readers on every platform.
It’s a misconception that branding just means a logo. Branding is in fact the story and meaning of your blog or business visually represented using logos, patterns, colors, typography, and photography. Everything attached to your blog and presence online should look “on brand” and remain consistent to match your overall aesthetic and style.
If your blog uses dark colors and moody photography, but your newsletter uses a basic template with none of your colors or font choices, and your social media accounts use bright, overly saturated colors, not only will you confuse your followers because they won’t know what your style actually is, you’ll actually prevent people from following you because they’ll see your content as being sloppy. The WORST possible thing is for a follower to see a post of yours and think “now who is this again?” or “This looks nothing like their last post.” Chances are that follower won’t stick around long.
The most popular bloggers have such consistency in all aspects of their brand that readers know within mere seconds of landing on their website or social media accounts whether they identify with what the blogger stands for and if they want to see more of that type of content. The only way you will be successful is if you have an established brand that your followers can get excited about and invested in.
Another big way to stand out in this overly saturated blogging market is to make sure your blog looks as professional as possible. A dead give away that a blogger is still an amatuer is when they are still using a free platform like wordpress.com or blogger. Thankfully there is an easy remedy to this: Get a domain and self hosting. You don’t have to sink a ton of money in right away if you don’t ever plan on making blogging a business, but even when you are ready to take the leap into self hosting there are plenty of affordable plans out there.
I recommend Siteground to all of my WordPress clients because they are very affordable and their customer service seriously cannot be beaten. They will help you move all of your blog content to your new site with almost no downtime and can answer any question you may have.
Self hosting means that you have more control over you blog content, you can upload a theme or hire a designer to style your site (which is not allowed on many free sites), and again it makes your blog look more professional to both your readers and to companies that you may want to work with.
Start taking your blog seriously and others will too.
A Good Planner
I don’t know where I would be without my planner. I could literally go on for days about why every entrepreneur and blogger needs a good planner, but I’ll save that for another day.
You may have heard bloggers talk about batch scheduling posts or planning months of posts in advance and honestly none of that is possible without a good planner.
Even just keeping a weekly todo list will help you plan posts in advance so that you can write, edit, take photos, and schedule all your posts long before they actually go live. This will help you plan better content and keep to a regular blogging schedule as well. Consistency can make or break a blog.
I created a weekly planner just for you!
I have a planner that holds my life, literally. It has things like fitness goals, business goals, business expenses and invoices, social media tracking, blog post planning, full content creation checklists, months at a glance, daily to-do lists and everything in between. This helps me track progress, plan way in advance, and see what’s working and not working in all aspects of my business and life.
No planning leads to sloppy content or inconsistency in posting, both of which are suicide for a blog. If college taught me anything it’s that putting something together last minute is always a bad idea as it’s never my best work. The same has definitely been true while running this blog. If I want to put together quality posts that are worth reading then I have to take time and plan out the content, create the necessary elements, and leave myself time to write and edit everything. I try to have everything done at least 2 days prior to publishing a post so that it’s done well and that my posting schedule stays consistent.
Quality over quantity is key when running a blog so always take the time to plan and do things right.
A DSLR Camera and Good Lens
I know that there are bloggers getting by with iphone photography or even just using stock photos, but if you are a fashion, beauty, decor, or lifestyle blogger (which covers most of you I’m sure) then you really need to invest in a good camera and lens, learn the basics of operating both, and learn a few quick editing tricks.
I don’t care if your preference is Canon or Nikon, but a dslr is going to give you the highest quality of photo, while a good lens is going to help you achieve a professional look that still isn’t possible with phones.
Most blogger use a fixed lens with a wide f-stop. This 50mm 1.8f is by far my favorite lens. It almost never leaves my camera. The 1.8 f-stop is going to be what gives your photos the blurred background or shallow depth of field that you so often see in fashion blogs. It really makes the subject stand out and can make even the most amatuer photographer look like a pro.
For editing I also recommend learning Lightroom as it can make batch editing a breeze so that all of your photos have a similar look and color profile. If you can’t seem to find an editing style that you like, there are many great presets available for Lightroom for any style of photograph you are going for.
A Media Kit
A media kit is a must for any blogger looking to really monetize their blog. Think of a media kit as your blogs resume that tells a company everything they should know about your blog before working with you. It helps companies see your stats, bio, pricing and awards at a glance, making it easier for you to land contracts for product endorsements, giveaways, and sponsored posts.
Most companies will request to see a media kit, especially if you’ve cold emailed them to see if they will sponsor a post. While some companies are happy to send out samples or pay for a post even for fairly new bloggers, most want proof of your stats and the value you can bring them before paying for an endorsement. Either way, it’s a good thing to have a media kit on retainer, and updated regularly, so that it’s ready to send at a moments notice.
If you’ve worked with a designer on your branding or website, see if a media kit is something they can include into your package so that it stays on brand and is professionally styled. If you are on a smaller budget, there are media templates available to customize, just make sure to make any changes necessary to keep it on brand.
I’ll be totally honest with you, I think there are many more items that I could add to this list but I’ve capped this post off at 5 to keep this post from getting too long. If nothing else, this is a good place to start when you are ready to take your blog seriously. Blogging is not as easy as people may think, as it takes planning, dedication, time, and creativity, but with the right tools in place it can honestly be a dream job.
What things are a must for you while blogging? Anything that made blogging easier when you first started?