blogging school


 Old Navy cardi (similar here and here!); Styelmint tee (similar); Target hat (similar); F21 pants (similar); Curious creatures necklaces.

I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a lot in the past year. Blogging is so much fun, it gives me a place to try new things fashion wise, pour my heart out and make new friends. I didn't know when I started (unofficially in April 2011, officially in January 2012) that this would become my passion. I hope someday to make this my source of income and a place where others can come and be a part of my world. 

Here are some things I've learned along the way:

1) Blog design. It's important. I have gone through several designs myself and constantly feel like I want to change it. I started with a ghetto one I made out of a template on Blogger. Big mistake. It looked awful.

My sister in law then helped me create a custom header and came up with my blog's name (formerly Coastie Girl Chic.) After that I used Melissa for a custom blog design and then finally settled on the design I have now from Blog Milk. I think it is important to keep things simple. No crazy backgrounds and no music, please! I think that a cleaner blog design looks best because it lets the content and photo's you post really shine.

I have also seen a lot of great designs  from this girl and recommend you head on over to check her out. Every design I see out of her looks amazing and unique.

2) Commenting. You must get yourself out there! Find different blogs (search blog rolls, sidebars, guest posts) and comment on posts that interest you. Word to the wise, please don't leave an, "I'm your newest follower, follow me back" or " Come check out my giveaway" comment. If a blogger gets a comment and is interested they can either click on your name and find you, or email you back.

Unless you are a no reply blogger. Are you?

Go here and fix it, please. I reply back to as many comments as I can and I can't do this if you are a no reply blogger.

Oh! And turn off your word verification! I can't comment on your blog if I have to squint and type away. I give up and you miss out on a comment.

3) Sponsoring. One of (if not THE) most important thing you can do to get your blog out there.
I admit, I didn't follow this rule at first. For six months I faithfully wrote and wondered, where are my followers? What am I doing wrong?
I started out slow. My first paid sponsorship was here and was so worth it. Erin is amazing and really grew my readership. After that I kind of messed around some more and halfheartedly did a sponsorship here and there. I saw results, but not what I was looking for.
Finally in November I stepped it up and began sponsoring at least two blogs a month, sometimes more.
I look for blogs where I can do a guest post or feature and a giveaway. I find this yields the best results. I work hard to find blogs like mine to sponsor and work for hours researching different blogs and setting up features months in advance (some of the larger blogs book months in advance, so think ahead!)

Here is a great post about what to look for when sponsoring other blogs.

As for opening up your blog for sponsorship? I have yet to offer sponsorships to other blogs, but I am creating a media kit and offer paid sponsorships to businesses that wish to advertise on my blog (as long as it its into my life and the lives of my readers.)

4) Pictures. I think the quality of your photo's really makes a difference. Some of my favorite blogs have amazing photography skills that I envy. You don't have to have an expensive camera, but it does help. I have a Canon Rebel T3 that I bought refurbished off of Amazon that I adore. I have a lot of fun learning to take pictures in new and fun ways. Here is a great post on using your camera in manual mode (my fave.)

Also, I think larger pictures look best. Try to keep your picture size consistent as it looks cleaner when scrolling down.
Note: I take my own (style) pictures using a tripod and the continuous shot timer on my camera in my backyard. You don't need a faithful husband home at the right time of day for the perfect lighting! It has taken some practice and works better sometimes than others, but you can take decent photo's alone.

5) Treat your blog like a business! I spend a lot of time analyzing my stats through Google Analytics, thinking of new ways to advertise, coming up with fun ways to post on Twitter, updating my personal life on Instagram and creating a vision for my blog. It is important (for me) that my readers get to know the real me and have different ways to follow and connect. I have a personal Twitter account for Because of Jackie as well as a Facebook page. I treat those as business accounts and spend time networking on both. I use Instagram as an inside look into my life for those that want to know me a little deeper.

6) Money. Unfortunately you've got to spend a little to get yourself out there. This blog has its own domain name and a custom blog design. I spend about $100 a month to sponsor other blogs. I have bought a camera, tripod, laptop, business cards, and countless articles of clothing (which may or may not have been necessary!) I don't think you have to spend money; you can create a blog design for free by googling it and use your phone to take pictures and create amazing looks with what you have. I just don't want to lie and tell you that you will make it big (and I don't consider this blog big....yet) without spending a lot little.

7) Time. I think most people that hang out with me are surprised by how much time blogging takes up. I'll break it down for you:

Taking photo's: 15 minutes.
Editing photo's: 30-45 minutes
Creating/writing blog posts: 1 hour
Posting and updating social media: 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Reading other blogs: 1 hour.
Commenting on other blogs: 30 minutes.
Replying to comments made on my blog: 20 minutes.
Social media posts: 1 hour.

This is an average day for me and doesn't include the research involved in coming up with fresh ideas, working on sponsorships, emailing sponsors, and the 1000 other things that pop up. I treat my blog seriously and fully enjoy all it takes to strategize and market it.

8) Lastly, be nice! I have found over the past year that some bloggers are nice and some won't bother with you. I know this: I will go out of my way to help anyone who contacts me and asks a question. I adore getting comments and interacting with my readers. It truly makes my day. I have never turned down an opportunity to work with another blogger (big or small.) I am so grateful to those that have followed me and have made friends with people I didn't even know existed a year ago. This blog is my passion! It uses all the skills I never thought I'd use in my life as a stay at home mom and gives me a creative outlet in my daily life. I love creating a little space in the world that I can share with others and love to help.

So, if you have any questions for me, leave them in the comments below and I will answer them!