Time for another blogging lesson post that you guys always love reading more about! I will be sharing with you 5 lesson that I’ve learnt this past year of blogging full-time. (*side note: No, I did not quit my job to become a blogger. I am still currently working full-time at an HIV/cancer research organization here in downtown Seattle. Full-time blogging to me does not have to be a 40-hour 9-to-5 type of work. I spend just as much time and energy (or even more) on blogging and other side projects weeknights, weekends, and anytime in between.)
Lesson 1. Blogging is a journey.
I dipped my toes into blogging 4 or 5 years ago. I had a free blogging account on Blogger and blogged about my outfits just to try it out for fun. At the time, I was pursuing my Bachelor degree in science but hit some heavy roadblocks in my personal life and finance. My relationship of 4.5 years also came to an end, and all that led to my decision to take a year off from school. I worked a lot! In case you don’t know, I was born and raised in Vietnam and moved to America when I was 19 years old. For others who have their parents’ trust fund and having a few scholarships in hands after high school, they finished school in four years, but it took me 5. My journey to self-discovery really began when I started to travel and started dating again at the end of my college year. Those difficult years really cannot be summed up in a few sentences. Basically, after I got my degree, I traveled a bit more and opened up new people and opportunities, that was when I started to gain the confidence in myself. Regardless of having relatives and great friendships that I had developed through the years, I knew I had to move out (of my aunt’s house) and away from Minnesota (from the crowd that was not motivating nor creative). I needed a fresh start, so I quit my job and flew to Seattle as fast as I could. Others were worried, but I found a job right before I ran out of money.
There is always a battle in my head to whether keep going on the science/research field or quit it to pursue fashion. Then one day I think to myself, what the heck, why not both?
Lesson 2: Blogging is not a one-person’s job.
I find that even though I am at a 2k following on Instagram, but I still get brand emails and modeling collabs all the time. I’m pretty sure the reason is because my photos are DSLR-high quality. Of course, I don’t take my own photos, so when others compliment my photos, I make sure to tell my boyfriend so. He takes all of those photos, and photography is his side hustle for a decade. He used to shoot for bloggers in the old days, but now he works with me. He does weddings, events, and creative stuff like designing and web development. To many others who have had a head start in blogging years ago and already had a huge following, they still get the same engagement regardless of what they post (iPhone or DSLR-quality photos). But for me, it’s the combination of my style and the photography. I get brand collab asking for content, and content is often time a photo or multiple photos in a blog post. A few recent collabs, brands are happy to pay when I ask them to help with the cost of photography and time. So imagine if you’re working with a photographer, it makes sense to give them extra if brands want the photos in higher quality for prints and emails, etc.
My boyfriend and I both have a full-time job, so figuring out the most efficient way to work out this blogging thing is very important to us. In the beginning, we struggle and fight all the time about a certain way of editing or while we’re out shooting and things don’t work out. All is for better content. We also struggle to cut off when is work and when is not, but well it doesn’t feel like work to us anyways. I feel like now we have mutually found a shooting schedule as well of the style of photography that I like, so I trust him completely with the editing. So yes, if you’re thinking about having a blog, make sure you shoot to test out with a few photographers. It is worth it to invest in a good camera and practice editing as well.
Lesson 3: I’ve figured out what works for me.
Daily posting on Instagram is a very demanding job. I’ve met other bloggers who have huge followings on Instagram yet struggle to work with photographers or finding people to take their photos the way they like. They rely heavily on editing apps or use the same preset for all of their photos. I find that is way too stressful and does not work for me. Every photo has to be edited differently because of different lighting, location, and time. I still use my iPhone for Insta-stories and occasionally compile them into a blog post, but a quick edit on VSCO does the trick. I use the UMUN app to plan my feed and decide what photos to post next, and that’s it. I don’t stick to any posting schedule either. I feel like by now everyone has a mutual understanding as to when and when not to post, ideally in the morning, noon, or after-work hour. This year with blogging full-time and having another full-time job, I stop feeling the need to document every bit of my life and only do it when I can. I stop worrying about the little things or try to alter too much about the way I look a long time ago. If you spend more time picking out a good location, shoot it when there is good lighting, and shoot it right, your photos won’t need lots of post-processing done. And that is literally me and my boyfriend, we are out on the street driving around like a maniac. It’s tiring but fun while we sometimes get to discover cool spots and unique locations.
While having my boyfriend’s help with the photography helps a ton, I blog and handle many other things from content planning and brand emails. To keep things at perspective, I’ve set goals to focus mainly on fashion and do beauty and travel while adding many other things in between whenever I see fit. I only post DSLR-quality photos on my Instagram and blog. If you have something unique about you, make it your selling point whether it’s your amazing long and luscious hair, your bright smile or your perfectly white teeth, your job as a teacher, or your personality, etc. For me, it’s my style and my photography.
Lesson 4. Everyone is different. Let’s not be quick to judge.
Instagram is a great way to connect with new people in the new city. Since the beginning of this year, I have been trying to push myself to be more outgoing and open to things. Firstly because I don’t have any friends in Seattle prior to moving. Secondly, after meeting a few bloggers, everyone is just as eager to network and make real friends as I am. I’ve met with other bloggers before, and we talk about blogging and share a few things about our lives. And that’s it. Here in Seattle, I’ve learnt that people come from very different backgrounds and rarely share the same interest in things. We all are different in our lifestyle, diet, and living preferences. I also learn that it is okay to not have a deeper connection with people at this time and age. I have my close friend groups elsewhere, and so do they. I hear the same stories: everyone has stories to tell, has bills to pay, and struggles to connect or finds someone to be real friends with. Everyone has their own insecurities regardless of them having a huge number of following or not. That number does not pay our bills nor make us the happiest and fulfilled. I don’t know how others feel, but I’m just speaking for myself. Well, at least that is how I see things!
5. Yes, you can make money blogging without huge numbers.
A lot of bloggers talk about how it can take a few years to get big enough to work with brands and earn affiliate sales. While that may be true for some, it definitely isn’t the case for me. I have brand contacted me asking for referrals for bloggers with less than 10k and more than 2k followers before, so trust me, opportunities are out there for everyone. I’m currently at 2.2k followers on Instagram, a very small number I’d say. But I get brand emails for content collaborations on a weekly basis and lots of brands find me via Instagram.
My blog also gets good returning and new traffic, so that might be another good point to pitch when brands ask for blog reach. I use RewardStyle to insert affiliate links on my blog to earn affiliate sales, and I also use my own affiliate links to shop for myself and earn money back that way. RewardStyle pays out once the total payment surpasses $100. Some of my most used links are from brands that I wear often, so it’s humbling to see that you guys trust my recommendations and actually utilize those referral links. As I always say, I don’t like to force a sale or want to become a salesman. I get that all bloggers have bills to pay, but making a sale is not the reason why I blog. Many bloggers also earn income via the liketoknow.it feature on RewardStyle or rely heavily on advertising content. It can get annoying!
A recent platform I think you guys should check out is SocialFabric.us. I got an email from one of their reps for the Tide purclean campaign couple of weeks ago, and I was paid to purchase the bottle and for the Instagram post. I’m not sure if you can just make an account to sign in or get invited to join. But they are just one of the agencies that work with brands and influencers. There are brand advertising projects that they call Shoppertunities that you can apply for. They are quick in getting in touch with you if you are the potential applicant, and the pay is pretty good considering the brand opportunity you get (bigger brands like Proctor and Gamble and Amazon are utilizing these types of service to work with bloggers and influencers!). So definitely check it out, here.
‘If you want to grow your blog, you need to grow as a person.’
And that is very true! If you want to make it a job or a career, show up and post daily. Be prepared for sleepless nights and work even harder than ever before. I find blogging is fun and fulfilling in a very unique way. The key point that I want to make across here is that to not worry about the numbers and focus on what you can do and make it work. Make sure to always go a few steps above and beyond what is being asked regardless of it’s a paid or unpaid opportunity. And before saying yes to anything, always try to learn about the brands first, learn about the people, the products or what kind of service that they do. And of course, if they genuinely want to have a relationship first rather trying to make a deal, take it! I will have another blog post sharing how I work with brands in a few weeks, so be on the look out for that.
What are some of the reasons that you’ve found blogging works for you? If you’re not a blogger, share your reasons why you read and follow someone’s blog. Do you have a favorite blogger or Youtuber or Instagrammer that you follow and subscribe to?