The First Steps to Turning Your Blog into a Business

Blogging is no longer just something we do to pass the time. It’s a way to make a real income. It’s a way to work from anywhere any time of day.

While I’ve been blogging for over six years, I didn’t turn it into a business until just over a year ago. I used to think becoming a blogger would be totally glam (I mean, why do I not live like Chiara Ferragni every day of my life?), but mostly I wanted to be a blogger because I love the FREEDOM of working for myself (which is why I started a second blog over here).

But it’s not all that easy. When I first started Collecting Labels just over a year ago I was totally at a loss. I joined every social media platform, wrote blog posts every single day, took tons of photos, dabbled in videos, and made a media kit that showed I had a whopping 50 readers a day. Then I just sat back and waited for the sponsored content to roll in.

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Obviously that didn’t happen.

Start with What You Know

What is your biggest passion? What do your friends always ask you for advice on? For me it was obvious almost right away. I am 4’11” (and 3/4) and I am obsessed with finding things that make my “athletic” yet petite frame look good. So I thought I should probably help other women who struggle to dress their petite frames.

Besides fashion, I’m a bit travel obsessed. I’ve been living abroad and traveling every few months (for several months at a time) since 2010. I get emails often from friends and family or friends of friends asking for advice about how to save money on this or where to go in this country. I knew a travel blog was on the cards too, which you can see here.

Do Something Unique

If you’ve read up on “how to be a blogger” before, you’ll have no doubt heard the word niche.

“Find your Niche,” everyone says. It’s pretty solid advice, but I’m not sure it’s the very best advice. And it’s definitely not as simple as just picking a niche and then suddenly being recognized as an expert in that niche.

We all want to write about absolutely everything all the time. I’m not going to blab on and tell you that you should only write about shoes or you should only write about travel in Africa or running marathons. There’s plenty of people doing that. I think more than finding your niche, you need to find your voice.

Why should I read your blog? Why should ANYONE read your blog? What do you know, what are you good at, what can you offer to readers that most other people can’t?

No one else can be you. You do that better than anyone. Figure out how you can help people, entertain people, change people in some way and do it to the absolute best of your ability.

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Build a Website

Okay now that you know what you’re going to write about, let’s build a website! Some of you have probably already gotten this far. Skip this part if you want.

In my opinion, if you are starting a blog with the hopes of turning it into your business, start self-hosting from the very beginning. It can seem daunting at first, but it’s much simpler than you think.

I use Siteground and really love it (I’ve tried both Bluehost and Hostgator in the past and have not had the best experiences). Their live chat has saved me so many times – I’m really not tech savvy. They are fast to fix any issues and my site has never ever been “down” due to problems on their end (only mine). Once you sign up for one of their hosting packages, they’ll walk you through the process of downloading WordPress.org.

If you already have webhosting and are thinking about switching, Siteground will do the entire thing for you for free as part of your sign up. They did it for me last year and it was smooth and quick.

Web Hosting

Build Your Email List from the Beginning

You know the best way to get people to come back to your website again and again? I mean, besides creating killer content and being a total fashion blogging boss. Emails. Emails are the life blood of any online business and fashion blogging is no different.

See the signup box on my sidebar? I also add it to the bottom of my blog posts and on my about page. I give people several opportunities to join my fashion tribe. Some people prefer pop-ups or widgets that show up on the bottom of the page. There are so many options for signup forms.

But first, create incentives. Why should someone sign up for your emails? What are you offering them? Some people like free ebooks or checklists. I prefer to taunt readers with my amazing storytelling and fashion advice plus exclusive access to the Petite Fashionistas Facebook group. When people sign up for my email list, they get immediate access to the Facebook group.

This also ensures that I’m getting readers who are actually interested in my content. If they’re not interested in joining a group about petite fashion, well, they’re probably not going to like my posts about petite fashion.

In order to do this effectively, it’s best to sign-up for an email marketing system like MailChimp or Convertkit. I recommend starting with MailChimp. Your first 2,000 subscribers are free. Automated emails are $15 a month or less for your first 1,000. It’s incredibly easy to use and organize your lists (if you choose to have more than one). They have easy forms to embed and you can even download a MailChimp plugin for easy use on your WordPress site. For those just starting out it’s the best financial decision, in my opinion, for managing your subscribers.

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Grow + Connect With Your Audience

Social Media – Start small. Find one or two that you click with, where you can connect with your readers. For me that’s Instagram and Twitter. I love having chats with my readers and these two really create that sort of environment. Maybe you’ll prefer Facebook or Snapchat. Devote your time to really building those up before moving on. Even better – build up your email list and then simply get in touch. Tell them where they can find you on social. If people are will to let you into their inboxes, they probably want to follow you elsewhere on the web.

Pinterest – Don’t listen to what people say. Pinterest is not a Social Media platform, it’s a search engine. When was the last time you went onto Pinterest and looked specifically for your favorite bloggers? I never, ever do that. I go onto Pinterest and I use the search bar to find the perfect shade of blonde for my hair, what to pack for Japan, and what cookie recipe will really wow my pals. I give a complete breakdown of how to use Pinterest like a boss in this post: The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Fashion Bloggers.

Create a Group (not a page) – Pages are what most people first create when they build their blog. In my opinion, pages are one-way communication. People might comment on your photo or ask a question on the latest link you post, but it’s not a place for major interaction. Groups on the other hand, are places on Facebook for collaboration, connecting, chatting.

While having a Facebook page is a great way to have a personal presence on Facebook and usually a great way to bring traffic to your blog, creating a GROUP is a way to truly connect to your readers and hear what THEY want. It’s a great way to get people in your target market (like my Petite Fashionistas Facebook Page) talking about what their problems and concerns are.

Think about Income Streams

Say WHAT? I didn’t even know this phrase, income streams, before this year. I mean, it’s probably pretty self-explanatory, but let’s delve a little deeper.

Simply blogging and getting social and having an email list and having tons of adoring fans isn’t going to pay the bills. You have to think about how you want to make money. For whatever reason this makes some bloggers feel icky. I mean, do you feel icky when your office job pays you for your time, knowledge and experience? Why should this job be any different?

There are tons of ways that bloggers make money. Here are a few.

Affiliate Links – Most companies have affiliate programs these days. The most popular is probably Amazon, but fashion bloggers will probably be familiar with Shop Style Collective. Affiliate Window is another great one. It’s a very simple concept, but can be quite difficult to implement in a successful way. You recommend a product to your readers using a link that is connected to your account. If someone clicks on it and buys that product, you get a small commission for it. This often required very loyal readers and very honest and open writing on your part. No one is going to buy something if it seems sort of half-assed. You have to put your non-slimy salesperson’s hat on.

Sponsored Content – This is one of the most popular ways to make money in the early stages of blogging at the moment. Usually a company finds you (or you reach out to them) and you agree to promote them, write a blog post, post an Instagram photo or Facebook post in exchange for a fee. Some companies want loads for very little, some are happy to do tons of the work themselves and pay handsomely. Be sure to work with brands that you feel fit your niche and will actually help your audience. Remember what I said earlier about needing readers that trust you? If you write about fashion and then do a post about cat food, people might be all “whaaaat?!?”

Brand Ambassadors – This is where a brand pays you a flat rate over a chosen period (sometimes just a few months, other times a year or more). In that time you are basically a brand representative. You’ll use your outlets to promote them in a positive light to your audience and sometimes you’ll also create content for their website and social media as well.

Information Products or Services – This is becoming more and more popular as a way to earn sustainable income. Do you know things that can help people that they might actually want to pay for? Whether that’s a course, a coaching service, an ebook or simply your face and ideas over a Skype chat, you’d be surprised what you have to offer. For instance, I offer Social Media services as well as travel planning services. It keeps me busy, is a great side income, and it gives me an opportunity to really connect with my audience. Triple win!

Have Patience and Perseverance

You’re not going to be an overnight success (I mean, maybe you will be, but prepare for a tough slog). Blogging is harder than most people originally think. I mean, it’s not HARD. Like I’m not lifting heavy things, getting yelled at by anyone on the phone, I’m not getting blisters or heat stroke or anything.

But it is work. Sometimes you’ll think you have a great idea, you’ll work your butt off and publish something that took hours and hours. And no one cares. No one reads it, never mind comments on it or shares it. Sometimes you’ll reach out to a hundred brands and not hear a single thing back from them. It’s a game of constant re-assessing, constant tweeking, constant working on your brand and building your tribe. It can crush your ego sometimes (basically at least once a day), but if you really love it, if you really do everything you can to get out there and share your knowledge, your silly jokes and your unique view on things with the rest of the world, I truly believe you will succeed.

This post contains some affiliate links, but all products and services are things that I use and love and that help me make my blog the best business that it can be.

Laura Bronner

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