Coffee is always a good blogging companion!
Behind-the-Scenes: Lessons from Blogging
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive via e-mail is, “How do I start a beauty blog?” or some variation on that theme—why do you blog, when did you start, how do I get readers, how do you manage your time, and so on and so forth. I thought with today being Saturday and part of the long, holiday weekend, that perhaps I’d take a post to try and give some advice to any aspiring beauty bloggers and some insight on the behind-the-scenes at Temptalia.
I do want to make a point that I take blogging seriously; this is not just a hobby to me. I believe that you get what you put in. With that being said, my advice is from that perspective—I plan my life around the blog, not the other way around. This is what has worked for me, but I understand many who want to blog more as a hobby and escape from their everyday lives. These are not rules but lessons I’ve learned from the past (almost) five years of blogging that I want to share to those who may aspire to blog or are already blogging but would like more insight.
From time management to content to motivation…
Plan ahead! When I had a big paper due or final exam to take, I knew well in advance what those dates would be, so I could do more pre-work and spend less time blogging when other parts of my life were busier. The only time I have ever not posted for the day was when I was sick with the swine flu (I have never been so sick in my life). I missed one day—a single post when up on October 10th, 2009. This is why having a few posts in your back pocket can be helpful when life turns upside down or you’re up against tight deadlines at school/work.
Keep organized! One of the biggest ways to waste time is by spending all your time looking for things, whether it’s trying to find your camera, batteries (or charging them!), files, or that one lipstick you wanted to write about. I could do better with file management after dumping my memory card on my computer, but I am pretty good keeping products organized. I have three major tiers of organization: to review, not reviewing soon but possibly in the future, and reviewed. Within each category, I organize by type of product, so I keep lipsticks I need to photograph together, while lipsticks that need to be photographed on lips are elsewhere. I take photos of all labels so I know which set of photos go with which product.
Write a to-do list! I keep weekly to-do lists that are broken down by day, and I give myself 5-8 tasks each day. I focus and stay on track better when I write out certain goals for the day. It’s also extremely satisfying to cross off each item once you have accomplished it! It’s important that you are realistic, though; you don’t want to write yourself a to-do list that just overwhelms you. You want it to be helpful and encouraging.
Posts: Length, Frequency, Content
Keep it short and sweet. Think about how many blogs and websites you visit regularly and how much time you might spend on each. The average person doesn’t have time to read a novel at each of the blogs they visit, and if they do, it has to be on just the right topic—one that truly appeals to them. There is nothing wrong with writing a lot, but presentation matters. This post is not short and sweet, because I know this post is meant for those who actually want to read the whole thing. I also don’t want to bog the blog down with non-beauty posts.
If there is a topic I want to write on at length, I will break up the posts and create a series. This allows for better, more focused discussion in the comments and helps me be more succinct with each post. Always keep your audience in mind, though—if you are known for your 1,000 word posts, there is no reason to drop down to 500. On Temptalia, I know the longer the review, the less it gets read, so I make sure to include bullet points when a review gets lengthy to highlight the important takeaways.
Is it a hobby or something else? Temptalia began as a hobby. I never thought it would be where it is today when I started it. I try to post between six and eight times a day, and this includes posts that aren’t written by me or review in nature (like “Temptalia Asks You”). I post on weekends, and yes, I post if I go on vacation (my philosophy is you should never know I’m on vacation unless I tell you!). You have to find a schedule that works well for you and what you want to make out of your blog.
If it’s a labor of love that you just want to enjoy, there is no need to force yourself to write everyday if you don’t want to. It’s important that you enjoy what you do. I enjoy daily posting—maybe I’m sick and twisted for it—but productivity is like a drug to me.
I can’t tell you what kind of content to post or not post; there is no right or wrong way to choose your content. The majority of the content on Temptalia is based on readers’ expectations and their requests. Sometimes I’ll have readers give input on what they would like to see specifically or poll Facebook/Twitter fans and followers about what to post next. I try to address the needs of my readers in a way that makes sense.
I shoot with a Nikon D90 and D3s and the following lenses: 18-55mm zoom lens, 35mm, 50mm, and 60mm micro. I shoot in RAW+JPEG, and I use Adobe’s Creative Suite for all of my post-production needs. My video camera is a Canon Vixia S10. I honestly know next to nothing about photography, lighting, lenses, cameras, etc. I really don’t. I can tell you that money doesn’t buy you knowledge, so if you can pick up a real interest in learning your way around the nuances of lighting and photography, more power to you. I always try but very few things stick.
Lighting is more important than equipment—it is the single most impactful factor that you can change. I don’t use a light box, just because I have never found them to work for me. I’ve built them, bought them, and always hated them. They work well for many others, though, and many people who do product photography extoll their values. I use a white tabletop (from Ikea, which was $40~), and there is a big window that is right above the desk. I wish I had more photography advice for you, but I have so much to learn myself!
If you start your blog, and the first thing on your agenda is getting product samples to review, you might want to rethink your approach to blogging. The beauty blogging community is saturated with hundreds and hundreds of blogs, from big to small and everything in between. Contrary to popular belief, PR firms are not stocked to the brim with products ready to be sent to anyone who asks. More and more brands are looking for audience, content, and quality. It’s not just a numbers game about who has how many visitors, but it’s as important to build credibility with your audience as it is with any brands you interact with.
Ideally, you love what you blog about, which means you already have lots of products you have bought in the past—why not write about those—and more than likely will buy more products in the future. Head to Sephora and swatch a few products. Ask for samples at local beauty counters. Lookout for good sales, GWPs, or value sets if you’re really set on writing about new products.
Edited: When you have established yourself with the beauty community, you can consider reaching out to your favorite brands. I have seen a lot of bloggers say that brands will find you, which can be true, but I contacted many, many brands myself in the beginning. Part of that was there was less emphasis on blogs as part of a brand’s overall marketing strategy. If you’re polite, smart, and savvy, you can establish relationships by you reaching out. Otherwise, ensure your contact information is easy to find on your website so that brands that want to contact you can do so.
Positivity = Productivity
Good feedback is valuable, whether it’s constructive criticism or praise. It’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of anonymity on the internet, which allows people to leave comments as they please without consequences. Dwelling on a comment like, “U R UGLIEZ!” is a waste of your time. Delete and move on—if necessary, re-read some of your favorite comments and emails from readers. There will always be comments that hit home, which is why having a good support system is vital, so don’t keep your blog a secret from your friends/family! Vent to them and move on; go for a walk and move on; watch your favorite movie and move on.
Readers motivate me. There is nothing more motivating than your very own readers. I save my favorite comments and emails and go over them whenever I need some encouragement—whether it’s just a bad day or I hardly slept and can barely function. I also like to take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, play with Mellan, or go for a walk. When I come back, I’m reenergized and ready to cross something else off my to-do list.
As mentioned earlier, to-do lists can actually be quite motivating, because as you cross off each item on the list, there is a sense of encouragement, satisfaction, and just that “I’m getting things DONE!” feeling.
Content is King
At the end of the day, content truly is king. Readers do not come back if there isn’t a good reason to come back. This is why your focus should be about creating enjoyable content for your audience. Temptalia regularly surveys our readers to find out what posts they love/hate, where we can improve, and what they want to see in the future. This feedback is incredibly valuable to determine what we do right and where we can improve. If you’re not sure readers like your content, ask them if they do, how you can improve, what they’d like to see.