For those of you on your coffee break, here’s a snappy list of the do’s and don’ts of blogging!
Edit: DON’T try to monetize your blog in the form of monetizing every single sample offer from your contacts. I keep seeing newbie bloggers deciding to do this, and it makes me want to shake them and yell, “TWO THOUSAND HITS PER MONTH IS TINY. SIT DOWN.” Start instead by using affiliate links or selling banner ads (read below!), and focus on creating great content and building relationships, not squeezing naïve small businesses for cash.
DO leave lots of comments on other bloggers’ blogs, and DO leave a link back to your blog in the “url” form field, but DON’T leave a link to your blog in your comment text — I can’t think of a single person I know who doesn’t find that to be incredibly rude!
DON’T get into spats on social media. Someone is always watching, in the creepiest of creepy Big Brother ways.
DO be funny!
DON’T send your new followers automated messages.
DO use a blogging calendar to keep you on track. I’ve recently started using a sticky-notes-and-tape eyesore, and I love that I can touch it and move stuff around.
DO learn the difference between HTML, CSS, and PHP. My favourite resource for all three is w3schools.com, which is easy to reference for simple fixes & arranged like a textbook for those who want a crash course.
DO buy a good camera — and editing software. If you’re serious about blogging, I recommend a camera body that gives you room to grow, like the Canon T5 or Nikon D3200. I shoot with a Sony A6000 (the A5100 cheaper option with a 180˚ screen) and an old Zeiss lens, and then edit in Photoshop.
DO proofread. Accidents happen, but if you mix up your there, their, and they’res, I won’t be the only one quietly mocking you in my head.
DO nerd out over your non-beauty interests. This is the easiest way to find other people like you in the herd, whether your special interest is ramen noodles or alpacas!
My special interest is cats. My special interest has always been cats.
Okay, so once people start blogging, the big question always becomes, “How can I start collaborating with brands?” Which is a valid question, but like — you have no idea how gross it makes me feel to hear it. It’s like someone asking how to get into your ex-girlfriend’s pants: it’s not that you definitely don’t deserve to, it’s that you really seem like you’re only in this for the sex and you should really be proving that you’re good enough on your own.
I don’t make a lot off of theNotice, and if I had to buy every single product that I tested for the blog & featured here, I would barely break even. But while it’s awesome to have a brand validate your work by working with you, it’s important that you view press samples as a way to help you do your job better, not the reason for doing your job at all.
So: I’d recommend waiting for at least a year (yes, really) before reaching out to brands. If someone contacts you before then, awesome; if not, it’s worth the wait! That way, you can show brands your archive, stats, and social media following when you do contact them, and your reader base will know that they can trust you — and so will other bloggers.
Highlight whatever YOUR BLOG really excels at. You don’t have to be the biggest fish in the pond to show people that you’re doing great work!
Next, create a media kit in the style of your blog that includes your stats, your blog’s message, and a little bit about you, the person they’ll be working with! It’ll help give you a leg up in the PR department’s inbox, and it’ll work kind of like an online business card for your blog.
One of the best tips I’ve ever heard about creating a media kit is to highlight whatever your blog really excels at (I think maybe it was Natalie?), whether that’s the number of comments you get or the number of page hits. Your blog doesn’t have to be the biggest or the most polished to stand out.
I recommend starting on a brand’s website to look for contact info, or pitching in person if you can. I know bloggers who recommend contacting brands via their social channels or employees’ LinkedIn accounts, but I’ve always found that if a brand really loves your blog, a general email to the company will be enough. Let your work speak for itself!
The hard part about PR relationships, though is keeping that relationship going. If you want to stay in the loop, you’re going to need to review new launches quickly (most brands prefer to see features within 30 days, which is whiplash-and-a-concussion fast), forward links back to the brand after a review goes up, and always be reachable by email.
Once you’re in, remember that blog-brand relationships are a two-way street, and you do not work for the brand — no matter how well or poorly they treat you. Accepting product for a review is a fair (and industry-standard) practice, but make sure you don’t let your to-review pile overwhelm you. It is a real, breathing thing, and it will suffocate you in the middle of the night and hide the evidence.
Unfortunately for all of you up and coming beauty bloggers, ambassadorships and sponsorships are a rare thing in this industry. Sure, they exist, but it’s not exactly “cool” for a beauty blogger to post their Amazon Wishlist or have a Patreon.
Instead, beauty blogs tend to survive on the Golden Trio of advertising: sidebar ads, affiliate commissions, and sponsored posts.
Affiliate linking is one of the easiest and most common ways to monetize your blog. Simply put, if someone clicks on a link on your site and then buys a product, you get a small percentage of that sale. You’re not doing anything directly in exchange for cash, and if a reader really, really hates the idea of a blogger getting paid by mystical other-being to provide them with free content, they can choose to not click on your affiliate link at all.
(People, man. People are so weird.)
I think Rakuten Linkshare is the best affiliate program to sign up with for most, as there’s no minimum payout amount (unlike RewardStyle) and they won’t start pulling money out of your account if you go on hiatus (unlike CJ). I think RewardStyle has the best widgets and resources for bloggers, but Rakuten team is helpful and friendly, which is a big pull for me.
When I was talking about sponsored posts on Twitter last year, Sheila made a great point: if a brand or PR firm is approaching you about a sponsored post, they already see the value in your blog. Don’t let them talk you into doing it “for the exposure!”
— Sheila (@MaddyLovesBlog) November 14, 2014
Brands will often expect you to suggest a rate to them (if they can get away with paying you less, you bet your blog they will), but I’ve found $125 USD to be a standard rate for sponsored posts in the beauty world. (EDIT: Maybe $75 USD if your blog receives less than 5 000 UMV. $125-$175 is standard for blogs in the 20-90 000 UMV range, though, so don’t be afraid to ask for it if that’s where your blog falls!)
Estimating that you’ll take 3-6 hours to write, photograph, test, and email about a single post, that’s as little as $20 an hour for your writing/working time — and it doesn’t even factor in your blog hits or followers, so that rate should definitely go up over time.
This number will vary, but depending on the quality of your posts and size of your readership, but I find that it’s what most respectable companies will be willing to pay to a small to mid-size blogger. I know companies who will only offer $25 (which is a laughable amount, even if your blog is TINY), and sadder still, I know bloggers who who will accept, even though they could easily be asking for six times that amount.
Undercutting prices is a very slippery slope (if some bloggers will do it for 1/5 of the price, how long until that’s the new standard?), so when you’re ready to start accepting sponsored posts, think about this, first: would you rather wait to write one post for a great company at $X, or have to write five posts for companies that treat their bloggers like crap to make the same amount?
I touched on this briefly in my last post, but one of the things that you need to remember about the blogging world is that it touches more than one industry. A fashion blog is going to require a greater initial investment than a beauty blog, but it can deliver exponentially greater profits; a beauty blog is going to require more pictures than a personal blog, but it automatically provides an infinite pool of prompts that you could be publishing about.
To branch out into another industry, I’d recommend making friends in that industry first, just to get a feel for its discourse and size. When you’re ready to start publishing content, get a few really good pieces of work up first, and link to them when you reach out to brands. Make sure to show the versatility and duration of your blog, especially if you’re moving into a smaller industry (where your beauty blogging page hits are going to help you out a ton!)
A great blog is adaptive and surprising, so content that’s out of the norm (like this post!) can be a nice way to shake things up and get you out of a blogging rut!