Series: How to Start Beauty Blogging -- Setting Up, What You Need, How to Get Readers

Setting Up, What You Need, How to Get Readers

If you promise not to share it with anyone else, I’ll give you the magic secret to having a successful beauty blog! Are you ready? Remember, don’t tell anyone — I could get into big trouble for spilling all.  Okay, the secret is high quality content and hard work pay off. Usually. Sometimes you need something called opportunity.  For me, opportunity was coming in like gangbusters during a time when beauty blogging was just gaining its feet; not so early on that brands had no clue what blogs were, but early enough where there were fewer beauty blogs.  Opportunity is often seeing what is needed and meeting that need before anyone else does.

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It’s a tough nut to crack now. Sometimes, I just want to tell someone not to get into beauty blogging and find another niche that you’re equally passionate about.  It’s completely saturated (and some argue over-saturated), which means that becoming successful takes longer and requires more work than it used to.  It is not impossible, but it’s unlikely you’ll be an overnight sensation, or even an over-year sensation.  If it’s a hobby, just a place for you to periodically share your thoughts, go for it; but if you’re really looking to make something out of it, just be prepared for an uphill battle.  If you stick with it, the outcome is totally worth it! Beauty blogging is rather addictive 🙂

What can you do differently?

I ask myself this question all the time.  I’m interested in how can I do something differently or better. What’s my spin? What’s my advantage?  Some bloggers are funny and witty, others are great storytellers.  Do you love all high-end beauty products? Only products you can score a great deal on?  Maybe you’re really into base makeup.  Perhaps you have a skin tone that is underrepresented within the beauty blogging community.  If you think about what you bring to the table, and you can’t really think of anything, you might want to re-think starting a blog until you do figure it out.

Technically, how do I set it all up?

The two most popular systems to use are WordPress (which is what Temptalia has always used) and Blogger (which I have never used, so I can’t help you at all).  I would highly recommend securing a domain name, and I would say the shorter, pithier it is, the better. I’ve been going by “Temptalia” for over ten years on the internet, so it was natural for me to have the domain name at the time, but it’s also enabled me to build more of a brand.  If you get a domain, you need to host it somewhere, and I’d recommend Dreamhost.  We used them for a few years, and for the price, nothing beats it–the support was excellent while we were there 95% of the time.

Once you’re hosted, you can get free and/or inexpensive themes (or layouts/designs), and some places will install them for you–it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either; maybe $20 to $100.  It’s good to get an idea about how WordPress functions, so you might look into a WordPress for Dummies book.  Shaun has always handled the technical side of the blog, including WordPress, plug-ins, design, and so forth.  It’s a more straight-forward system than you think; it’s intuitive, and it doesn’t take long to learn the system without having to get into lots and lots of code.

When you have your name settled, you may want to secure that name on various social networks.  Temptalia uses Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instragram, and hopefully nothing else that I’ve forgotten.  In the beginning, it’s not necessary to manage all of those social networks; you’ll want to concentrate on building up one or two.  The reality is a lot of beauty bloggers aren’t full-time bloggers, so they have full or part-time jobs (or go to school), so spending a lot of time managing social networks isn’t going to be efficient. It’s more important to spend that time creating interesting content than tweeting about creating interesting content!

What do I need?

If you plan to photograph anything, you’ll want a decent camera (and no, it doesn’t have to be a fancy DSLR) and to find an area that has good lighting.  For beauty, a camera with a macro function (which is a fairly standard function) is sufficient. Are DSLRs better? Sure, they can be, assuming your lighting isn’t terrible.  Lighting is more important than equipment.  You can make a DIY light tent (just google it), purchase a small one ($20 to $50), or just take two bright lights and shine them on the product and play with that set up for a bit.  I recommend a tripod if you aren’t shooting with flash or excellent lighting.

  • What do I use?  I use a Nikon D3s DSLR with the following lenses: 35mm, 50mm, 18-85mm, 60mm, and 70-300mm.  I primarily use the 60mm, as it is my macro lens. At this time, I really only use lenses that are full-frame, but if the DSLR is not full-frame, then Nikon makes excellent DX lenses that are much cheaper.  For lighting, I use two AlienBees B800s along with soft boxes, beauty dishes, reflectors, and other stuff I don’t understand.

A good photo (and possibly video, if you also go that route) editing program is helpful to have.  The standard is likely Adobe Photoshop, but here’s a great post on several viable alternatives to Photoshop that are free.  If you’re a student, you might be able to snag a student copy of software you need, which would save you a bundle.

  • What do I use?  Adobe Photoshop CS6.  I know Shaun also uses Adobe Premiere (video editing), Illustrator, and Dreamweaver.

You might think you need to have a closet full of beauty products, but you don’t–though chances are if you’re thinking about beauty blogging, you already have quite the stash!  You can write reviews on products you already own, holy grail products, talk about product disasters, and how best to use a product. Maybe there’s a blush that just works with everything–well, you could show us that!  You can also go to your local counter/store and play with displayers, get quotes from makeup artists, and the like.

How do I get more readers?

The superficial matters.  When someone comes to your blog, you want them to stick around for more than 0.003 seconds.  This is why design, layout, and load time can be really important.  What will be the first screen that readers see?  Have you used colors that a majority of people will find blinding or difficult to read on? Is it obvious where your content is?  We are always reevaluating our choices to see how we can improve upon them, so it’s not a process that ever stops.

Content is king. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it several more times before I’m through: content is king.  In order for people to have a reason to go to your blog, there has to be content worth reading.  If you want readers, these aren’t just passer-bys, they’re regulars, which means they need regular content to read.  If you only post once a month, it’s going to be hard for readers to come in droves. As a reader, if I come across a blog that hasn’t updated a couple of weeks, I assume the blogger has lost interest or abandoned their blog.  The harsher reality is that there are hundreds of blogs who post content multiple times a week, if not daily. Readers can read more than blog, but most aren’t able to keep up with 100s within the same niche.  If you only want to post once a week, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it; just figure out what you can do on your end to make that one post worth the week-long wait.

Join beauty blog networks, link lists, etc.  Some blogs participate in link roundups, which include links from a group of bloggers.  I’m sure you’ve seen a roundup or two on other beauty blogs, so you might ask to join that particular list.  If you’re not able to join, you can consider starting your own with other similar blogs.  I’ve heard from others that this is a great way for newer beauty blogs to get their name out.

Time.  It takes time to build up a readership, so just keep at it.  You can periodically ask your readers how you’re doing, what kinds of things they’d like to see in the future, to get a gauge on who is reading.  Just because they never comment doesn’t mean they’re not reading, but sometimes when you ask specifically for feedback, you’ll get some of your most loyal [lurking] readers to leave a comment!  You can also try asking for feedback through polls, which makes it easier for people to weigh in without leaving a comment.

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I’m so glad you shared this with us. I started my blog about 2 years ago and it is continuous work, I have to say, but I just love every comment and feedback I get from my readers.
I always check out your new posts, even if I don’t comment much. I love how professional you’ve become over the years, I checked the first posts you made and you are becoming better and better by the day 🙂 Long live Temptalia, I love your work!

I don’t have a blog – would love to start one but as you said I feel like the market is saturated and I’m not sure I could do anything unique. I follow about 10 blogs and love reading them with a cup of tea when I get into work!!  As an avid reader I find this fascinating! thank you!

Thanks for the post. I love beauty blogging and I do it as a hobby. I wanted to get a domain and I didn’t know who to go with.

This part of the series was probably the most fascinating to me. I’ve wondered so much about it. I still have some questions on your equipment and the whole process of taking such amazingly detailed, close-up photos. It’s one of the few things that has stopped me from venturing into blogging myself. Not the way you do it, of course, and not even necessarily for makeup but, rather, just as a hobby or to share things with friends.  
      So, my questions: Do you use a remote clicker thing in addition to a tripod? You have to, right? You can’t just be running back and forth to sit on some pre-ordained spot marked X, right? 😉  Even with a remote or just with a timer, you can’t know what is on the screen since the camera’s viewfinder is out of sight, so do you just take a ton of photos per shoot? How many would you say is the average number for a swatch post on eyeshadows? Sorry if those are silly questions but I really don’t know HOW you take such amazing photos of yourself, even with a mere Point-and-Shoot as on your recent holiday.  Also, and I hesitate to ask this because I normally steer clear of any questions pertaining to money, can you estimate roughly how much you spent on the bare basics for camera & lighting equipment when you *first* started out? Obviously, costs will be higher now, but I’m trying to get a rough ballpark idea of what is entailed at a bare minimum. If that is far too prying or personal, please forgive me and feel free to disregard it. 🙂 

 @Kafka I do use a wired clicker, since wired is still faster and more reliable than wireless.  I take around 5-6 photos per shot that I use.  When I spend sometime photographing (I usually don’t like to set everything up just for one product), I end up with ~2,000 photos or so.  It always ends up being around 5 per shot. I take far more photos when I’m showing nail polish on the nails (30-60 photos, depending on the finish), because it can be hard to judge just how sharp/in focus the photo is in the preview screen.
When I started, I just used the point and shoot I already had (I believe it was a Fuji Finepix E550), which at the time may have been a $300~ gift. Nowadays, you can get a great point and shoot for ~$150.  I have a Canon G11 that I hate, even though it’s supposed to be really good and a good mid-way point of point and shoot and DSLR (I prefer my DSLR over all things, but it’s not practical to tote around and a lot of $ to travel with if it’s not an extended trip).  You can buy hardware lights or desk lamps.  When I first started out, I just used flash, which is far more accurate than poorly lit natural light photos. I still use flash (but diffused) for some photos because it captures more detail than natural light (well, “studio light”).
I’d google for DIY light tent. Tons of posts on how to make one and lights to use with them 🙂 It never *quite* worked for me, but I know it works well for a lot of other people!  I think even Ikea has something.

 @Christine (Temptalia)  I really appreciate the detailed explanation here and your responses elsewhere in this series.  I just KNEW a remote clicker had to be used, esp. as one can’t see the viewfinder for the self-portraits. I have a pretty good Canon Point-and-Shoot but I can’t take photos of myself for the life of me, let alone trying to get a macro closeup shot with the clarity and precision that you do. And, obviously, a tripod alone would not solve that problem.  My father wants to give me his Canon Rebel, so I will look into some of the things you’ve mentioned. I have already done a brief Google search into DIY light tents.  Of course, I’m not planning on doing a blog even one millionth as seriously or as professionally as you are, but I have no doubt that your technical advice on the photography basics will help someone who is.  Again, thank you for your generosity of time in explaining.  xoxox

 @Kafka With flash, you can hand hold. I never used a remote for pictures of my face/lips/eyes until the past 4-5 months, actually 🙂
It was actually easier when I was holding, because I was better able to gauge where I needed to be, LOL!

All excellent points, Christine! What keeps readers on the page is of the most interest to me. What keeps us here? Why do we want to stay here? What else can be done to drive interest and click-throughs? It’s an ever-changing game. 

This is such a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing… I love your blog, and it is so neat to hear the “behind the scenes” of how you got started and what you do!

Christine, I know you wrote about the focal lengths (i.e. 50 mm) of the lenses you used. Is it possible for you to list the apertures (i.e. 50mm f 1.2) as well? I’m kind of curious. Thanks a lot.

Yes this is especially motivating for those of us who have just started out. I am constantly trying to find the TIME to blog, with my work and school schedule. My new beauty blog venture is slowly coming along, I just have to keep up with content, like you said. It’s nice to hear that we shouldn’t be too down if our readership isn’t there just yet. I constantly use your blog as a guide/resource on beauty blogging, and it was one of my major inspirations to start a blog of my own. Now with that burst of motivation I am going to work on some posts 🙂

Hi Christine 🙂 This was a helpful blog post. I have just started my own beauty blog and so I’m trying to look for all of the resources possible. You say to join networks…how do I find these?

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