So, you have been thinking about starting a fashion blog for a while now, but you are not quite sure how to make it happen. Maybe, the whole process seems scary and overwhelming and you are worried about falling flat on your face. Whatever the reason, you have put off this venture and decided to stay in your “comfort zone.” Here is a Step-by-Step guide to get your blog up and running!
STEP 1: Answer the Following Questions to the best of your ability:
(a) Why do I want to start a fashion blog? Do I want a new hobby or do I want this to be a real, lucrative business venture? Is your expectation to create a fun side-hobby from your real, full-time job OR is this your ultimate passion that you want to invest in and treat like a real business? Only you can answer this question! If this is a side-hobby and you care nothing whatsoever about making money, skip to Section 2, “Let’s Get Started.”
(b) How many fashion bloggers are currently active in my market and region? Is the market under-served or over-saturated? When you start this blog, will you be competing with 200 similar-style blogs or 5 in your surrounding local and regional market. It is important to know up-front how challenging it will be to gain the attention of readers who already have 50+ local/regional bloggers they loyally follow. There are thousands upon thousands of fashion bloggers –FEW are high quality and professional. I am not saying to steer clear of it all-together if you have a ton of competition in a saturated market –just that in knowing this, you should be able to clearly define your niche.
(c) What is my target market? A real target market clearly defines a particular segment of people. For example, “my target market consists of women between the ages of 22-36, highly-educated, in the Southeastern United States.” The more specific your target market, the more fine-tuned your strategy can be in how you market yourself and design your product. If your target market consists of young high-school girls, should your price point be $50 for a pair of jeans or $200? WHO are you selling to and what do they want? Really, you should be able to consider the following –what is my Price, Product, Place (market area/geographic), and Promotion (strategy). I will cover all of these in future segments.
(d) What is my product and why should people care? What are you selling? Are you selling fashion and styling advice, premium products at below-market prices, or style influence (or all three)? You do NOT have to be a Fashion Expert or have years of experience to be a successful fashion blogger, but you do have to have some sense of style and feel fairly confident that others look to you for advice and inspiration. How many times do people ask you what you are wearing, or where you found a particular item?
(e) Are you in a place in your life where you have the Time, Money, and Support to start a fashion blog? The blog does not appear out of thin air…it is hard work and trust me, we make it look easy! Do you have 2-4 hours per day to spend on your blog, the money it takes to do a launch, and the family/friend support network you need to take such a risk?
TIME: A normal day as a blogger can consist of the following: determining what looks you want to feature in the coming weeks, shopping and hunting down these items, negotiating partnerships with retailers and brands, editing pictures and blog posts, staying active on social media such as Instagram and Twitter, writing new content, modeling in photo shoots on a weekly and/or bi-weekly basis for 1-4 hours. A blog is a living & breathing organism that must be nurtured, daily. It is a high-volume business that lives and dies based on the quantity and quality of the content you publish. Think you can take a few days or a week off? Think again…taking a week off is like taking a year off in the world of social media. Most successful bloggers post anywhere between 2-4 professional-grade Instagram pictures a day (Selfies Discouraged).
MONEY: How much money does it take to start and run a fashion blog? Well, starting the actual blog and getting a site up is not terribly expensive. You can get hosted and find a nice, professional template for under $500-$1000. However, if you want a custom-site with your own logo and design/layout, that could run you upwards of $3,000-$5,000, depending on the designer you choose. I used Designer Blogs, but there are several others you can go with. Now, who pays for all of those outfits? This is probably the #1 question that I get, albeit, not really in those words. When you are just starting out, brands and retailers are not lining up at the door to loan or donate goods –at least for the first month or so, expect to pay for your own. How much you spend on each outfit post depends on several variables, including your budget, retail opportunities, and your target market. Successful bloggers who have been in the game for a while are sent free clothing and paid “big bucks” per post from brands. The idea should be to keep you overhead low and your commissions high! Lastly, photography is usually around $50.00 PER outfit; however, you should try and negotiate a discount, given the amount of free marketing you are providing – say 2 hours of photography for $100.00.
Web Hosting + Blog Design + Retail Investment +Photography + Editing Software+ Quick Books= Make Yourself a Budget
SUPPORT: Starting a fashion blog is the same as starting any other business. There will be late nights, early mornings, and everything in between. Having the encouragement and support of your family members is important. Also, communication is key –many of your family members may have an expectation that you will start making full-time salary within the first few months. Just like any other start-up, making serious bucks is just not a reality for most fashion bloggers within the first year. The first year should be about launching a high-quality blog, establishing and growing your audience, and gaining new partnerships with retailers and brands. Of course, you could be one of the lucky ones, but most most bloggers work very hard to get noticed within the first year. Having an understanding and supportive family is everything –you will have times when you are unsure of yourself and scared of failure and it is great to have a friend or family member who reminds you to keep going! You can do this — you just need to keep believing in yourself and remind yourself every day that you deserve true happiness!
Phase 2: Let’s Get Started!
(a) Get Hosted: Sign up at Blue Host to create your web domain and hosting service. You will select a monthly plan that meets your needs, then it will direct you to the “domain name” page where you will pick your domain name. You may already have a name in mind for your blog, and then will do a Google search, only to find that someone else already had that idea –keep thinking! What is in a name? A word of advice –keep it short and sweet. Readers do not need to struggle to remember your name…is she the one with “Glitter, Glam, Gorgeous” or “Glitter, Pearls, and Sequins,” or wait….”Sequins, Sunshine, and Sparkle?” How will your name help you stand out from the pack? If they can’t remember your name, you won’t stand out at all. Remember to register as ‘.com” domain name.
(b) Install WordPress: Once you are logged in to Blue Host, just hit the “Hosting” tab at the top left corner, then scroll down to the “Website” tab and hit “Install WordPress.” Then, just let the Installation process go through and BOOM you are done…haha not quite! PART 2: Go ahead and secure your unique email and social media accounts with your blog name before someone else does…hurry, hurry!
(c) Designing Your Blog: Now, you have a BlueHost/Wordpress ready site, but a blank page. Get your imaginations revved up and start dreaming up your blog. What are your favorite color combinations and what about your personality do you want the design to reflect? Are you feminine, modern, vintage, classic, or city-chic? Find a few blogs that you love and write down what you like about them…is the flow practical and user-friendly, pretty logo design, etc.? Having a few blogs that you like will come in handy if you hire a designer. Now, it’s time to refer back to your budget. Do you have the money to go for a fully custom-designed blog or are you watching your budget and in need of a ready-made template?
Here are a few good sites to scope out for the Ready-Made Template Option: Studio Press is great because they have professional-grade WordPress themes with the Genesis Framework. Another one to try is Theme Forest because they have thousands of themes to search and choose from. A Themes has a pretty unique collection of fashion themes, as well. Who should try this option? If you have a small budget or if you are not quite sure if the fashion blog is a long-term thing for you and don’t want to spend so much money up-front, a ready-made template is a good road. OH, I almost forgot, The Fox and She also has a great collection of pre-fab themes!
Custom-Designed Blog: If you want a truly unique look and feel, custom is the way-to-go. You will have a say and be able to work with a designer one-on-one to create exactly what you are looking for –your own logo, colors, layout, add-ons, widgets, and so on. This process took only 3 weeks for me, start-to-finish. I provided my designer with some very good examples from other blogs and we quickly communicated with each other via email what changes needed to happen. I am so happy with the finished product. Having a professionally designed blog can be worth the investment in the long-run. It has helped me gain new partnerships and followers and I do not regret it –it would have been much faster to choose a template download, but I am glad I saved the money and got the best final product possible! I used Designer Blogs but there are a few other notable firms to choose from: Holly Wang, Leap Marketing and Design, SMD Web Design, Gad*A*Bout Creative.
(c) Order Photoshop, Illustrator and Quick Books: You will be needing these, trust me. Here is a link to a “Guided-Non-Expert” Photoshop application and Here is the Link to Adobe Illustrator, which you will need to edit and create professional photo collages. It would also be smart to download Quick Books for Small Business (2016 ed.) so you can keep up with expenses. You will need this come tax-season to take advantage of tax credits for small business. You should record all business-related purchases, travel expenses and mileage. For the mileage, just create an Excel workbook detailing your to-and-from charges. For instance, if you go out of town for meetings or blog shoots, record your mileage.
(d) Find an Editorial Photographer: Do a Google Search for “Editorial and/or Fashion Photographer” in your area. Many family and wedding photographers have no experience with editorial quality photography and this will not give you the same product. A good editorial photographer will be comfortable guiding you through the “modeling” and “street-style” look and feel. Most fashion bloggers are not models –we are most normal gals starting out pretty uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera. You will be needing mostly vertical images for the blog; horizontal pictures are best for up-close detail and accessories shots. Also, this photographer needs to be someone who is available for a shoot once a week or for a longer period of time once every two weeks. You should try and do 3-5 outfits per week or 6 outfits bi-weekly. I try to post a minimum of 3 outfits/week. They should also be able to give you a quicker-than-usual turnaround on the photos (3-4 days max); the pictures you take this week should go up the following week so you have time to edit and write up the actual posts, linking to clothing details. If I am going out of town or we are in the middle of holiday season, I may try and shoot more outfits than usual. So, quick recap: 1) Editorial Photographer Experience Required, 2) Available once a week or for longer period bi-weekly, 3) Quicker Photo Turnaround 4) Negotiate a Discount in return for Free Marketing on Social Media and Blog.
Coming Soon….How to Successfully Launch your Blog and Gain Followers