Before you read any further, if you haven’t read Pt. 1 of my blogging/IG story you can click here.
Let’s jump back in to where we left off… shall we? :)
Once I hired a website designer and finally had the chance to see my blog/website on screen, I was thrilled. As far as I was concerned, it was perfect. My blog has since changed (a ton) but in looking back, it was everything I had always dreamed of. It was full of color, it was organized and I loved finally having a space large enough to share all my thoughts and dreams. A place with more lines than my Instagram posts. As excited as I was however, I was also terrified. What did I know about blogging? I was staring at a blank canvas with no clear direction.
My website designer then gave me some homework. She told me that I would need 3-4 blog posts in order to set up my website. It’s hilarious looking back at those first posts now. My very first blog post was all about my obsession with throw blankets… (I’m writing this post with a throw wrapped around me if that gives you any indication of how much I love them) It was a small post based on how much I love throws… cute and funny. You can click here to read it. (remember… it’s my first post. I probably should rewrite some of my posts..?)
The point I would like to make is that many bloggers start off without knowing exactly what they want to talk about. Everyone has their first posts, their first month, their first year.
When looking at that first post of mine, a few things stand out to me. First of all – I didn’t use a professional camera. I used my Iphone for everything. My pics looked good at the time but the Iphone wasn’t what it is today. Now the pics are so much clearer. I used my Iphone for every photo of mine, up until December of 2017. I have no idea why I waited. I think I was simply comfortable with the Iphone.. The thought of using a big camera freaked me out. ;)
Another thing… I had no idea what SEO was in regards to my blog and the importance of having good SEO. For those unaware, SEO makes my blog posts searchable. SEO means Search Engine Optimization, and if you haven’t done it correctly – google/readers can’t find you. For the first two years I didn’t have any SEO and it was hard for me to get my numbers up without it. Click here to learn a little bit more about SEO & how to make your posts searchable.
So to sum it up.. my blog was a disaster. ;) No.. actually my blog wasn’t that bad. I’m soooo happy I ventured into the arena when I did. Even if I had no clue what I was doing. ;) The point I really want to make is – don’t be afraid to follow your dreams but be prepared to stumble and learn as you go. One important thing I have always done in regards to blogging and Instagramming.. (that I have mentioned before) is to reach out to those I admire for guidance and tips. It’s incredibly helpful. When doing so, I would recommend contacting them via email. It’s the easiest way to get a hold of anyone. (DM’s can get swallowed up on IG)
OK, back to 2014.. After a few posts were on the blog I was asked to take part in a blogger home tour. This helped increase my readership a ton…and I gained a lot of confidence from it. The home tours and blogger hops are such a great way to meet other bloggers and a new audience. While I still do the occasional blog hop – I participated in a gift guide blog hop around Christmas this past year, I have been receiving more sponsorships and partnerships that aren’t necessarily home decor related or blog hop worthy. Exciting and fun. I’ll discuss this a little bit more about this direction later on in my story.
As time passed, my Instagram continued to grow quickly and I made that priority one. My blog took a back seat as a result. Instagram basically took over my life. Taking pics for IG (some sponsored. some not), connecting and commenting to others in the IG community had become a major part of my daily routine. There was simply no way to possibly fit in writing quality blog posts like so many others were. At the time, I also found that I didn’t have the self-discipline with it as I did my Instagram. An important tip – make sure you have the time if you decide to start a blog. Writing posts can take hours out of your life, and sometimes – no one may ever read any of your posts. It can be frustrating and lonely. Blogging is a solitary job for the most part. No office, a team to help, etc. The good news? I have found a new love for blogging and it’s become so much more rewarding in a multitude of ways. More on that later.
Instagram. Like I explained in my first post, by the time I started a blog, my IG was growing at a fast pace. For example – I went from 3500 followers in June of 2014 to around 10,000 by August. It continued to grow quickly like this for a long time. There are a few things that contributed to this – larger accounts began to feature me constantly. My home was painted blue, and I had lots of bright colors. People loved it, and so many people shared my photos and tagged me. Accounts like Homegoods, Pottery Barn, House of Turquoise, and other inspiration accounts.
Another thing that helped was that I made a conscientious effort to be on the App constantly. Pretty much 24/7. Where many devoted that much time to their blogs, I devoted this time to Instagram. (This was before stories, so it was all about commenting and liking!) I noticed that the more I commented and liked on a personal basis, people would respond and follow me. I think they found me to be genuine and my posts and comments came from the heart – which they did. That has played a huge part in how I gained so many followers. To be real, I do this to this day. I try and spend a certain amount of time each day to comment and like on other people’s posts – not only to see what others are up to and sharing, but also because I want to stay active in the community regardless of the number of followers I have.
Another thing that really helped me was when I began branching off from sharing only my home. I decided to share photos and accounts that I love.. besides just my own. There are so many amazing accounts full of beauty, not necessarily home decor related either. I began to share photographers, travel spots I loved, gardens, architecture, and so much more. There are so many special moments that people shared on IG that I loved. I found that featuring others made me happy. It was at that moment that I decided I would always have a mix, no matter what.
From that point forward, from August of 2014 to January 2016 I grew my following from 10,000 to 100,000. As quickly as that may seem.. it was a steady increase. I would gain, then lose a few, gain, then lose a few more. I always tended to gain more than I lost (thank goodness) and that helped significantly. I paid attention to what people liked to see from me. I did my homework and kept pushing on..
For me, it has been extremely important to keep my Instagram honest and authentic. I have never bought followers or likes.. although I know many do it or have done it for business reasons, etc.. I just won’t.
Back to the brands. When I started my blog back in 2014, Homegoods reached out to me rather quickly. They had been following me on Instagram for a while (when I was a tiny 3400K account) and they featured my photos a couple of times. I was obsessed (and still am!) with Homegoods. I would shop there constantly, purchase something, take photos of it styled in my home, then I would post the pictures on Instagram and tag Homegoods. They in turn would repost, and knew from my posts that I was a genuine fan.
When they first reached out to me I was floored. It was my first brand collab! They sent me gift cards so that I could shop and feature all the items I found on my blog and Instagram. They even asked me to occasionally write on their blog as a guest blogger too, and they paid me for it. It was my first paid collaboration. I was so excited.
The hardest part to beginning working with brands? There just aren’t very many paid opportunities. You need to prove yourself first. For about a year, there wasn’t any money thrown my way.. which is why I tell people to always start blogging with a part time job or to make sure it isn’t your sole income. It’s not a free for all money situation at first. But when you do get paid, you feel like you’re on the top of the world!
It’s important to know that many of the Instagrammers and bloggers who you may admire.. may be struggling more than you know. It’s tough learning how to navigate this business when noone talks or shares about how well they are doing. It’s a huge hush hush industry and I’m not sure why. None of us are the same. We have different talents and attributes that we can offer to brands so why treat it like a competition? It’s a great big world out there… there is plenty to go around for everyone.
From 2014-2015 I worked primarily for product exchanges in return for content on my blog and Instagram. Things such as home decor, rugs, lamps, pillows, bedding, etc. were sent to me. I staged them in my home and talked about why I loved them. The more my numbers grew, the more UPS packages arrived at my door. Brands such as Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs, and Boll & Branch were sending me products that I loved. I pinched myself. But when it came to actual money? It was still small amounts and not often. Fashion bloggers and Instagrammers reign in that department. People love clothes and will fork out for shoes but when it comes to their homes? They never want to spend as much. That was also a hard fact to face.
A different direction…
One day, back in 2015 I received a DM from another IG friend who I had gotten to know through the app. She was a talented Interior Designer who I adored and she asked if I could help her photograph an install on a job she had just completed in the Bay area. She’s now a huge IG influencer with over 700k followers. At that time however, she only had 40,000 followers and I had a whopping 75,000! Suffice it to say… I drove out to meet her and my life changed in an instant.
Part 3 is coming next week but this post is getting too long to finish! Ahh I hate ending on these cliffhangers with all of you but let me reassure you that it will be worth it ;)
Let me know in the comments if you are looking forward to a part 3 – and if anything is interesting to you about my journey!