How to monetize your blog, partner with brands, & more: The do’s and don’t of blogging

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

» How to start a beauty blog

1. The do’s and don’ts of blogging

2. Working with brands

3. Monetizing your blog

4. Branching out from (or into) beauty blogging

The do’s and don’ts of blogging

Burberry Beauty launches Canada Vancouver Nordstrom

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 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.

new camera 2014 copy

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!

cats cats cats

My special interest is cats. My special interest has always been cats.

Working with brands 

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.

stop being greedy

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.

Moody pastels - YSL Spring makeup look

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. 

Graphic sunset eye look

Monetizing your blog 

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.

Keep reading! »

How to start a beauty blog (and what to expect once you do!)

Monday, January 18, 2016

theNotice layout screenshot

The #1 question that I get asked is how to start a beauty blog. Sure, there are variations, like “How do I transition my current blog into a beauty blog,” or “How can I start making money off of my beauty blog,” but what seems to be on everyone’s minds is how you do the whole, y’know, blogging thing. 

My answer is always the same: don’t. 

Behind the blog - Nov 2015

1. Make the commitment

Now, it’s not that I don’t love beauty blogging, and it’s not that I don’t want to see the community grow — I very, very much do. But I don’t think that anyone should start a beauty blog on a whim. It’s more like adopting a pet than eating a sandwich: you have to be ready to make a huge time commitment, and if you want to blog seriously, you need to be ready to keep it up for years.

We’re talking anywhere from 15 hours a week (for a casual blogger) to 40-60 hours (if you want to make a living off of it) for the next 10 years of your life, with no “paid vacation time” or sick day coverage.

The first step in starting a beauty blog is putting in the time. After that, everything else is easy.

Wordpress Dashboard

2. Pick the right blogging platform

Choose WordPress. 

No, but seriously — it’s not up for discussion. WordPress is a little more intimidating right out of the gates, but it’ll give you the room to grow that Blogger simply doesn’t. With a WordPress blog, each little bit of styling is made to adapt with your layout; with Blogger, each bit of styling is made to be particular to that post only.

I made the mistake of starting out with Blogger back in 2007, so please, for the love of god, learn from my mistakes. 

(The only time you’re not required to choose WordPress is if you go with Squarespace, but that’s a whole other can of worms.)

BlueHost - host recommendation

3. Get your own hosting plan & domain name

Your HOST is where your site lives; your DOMAIN NAME is the url that readers will use to access it.

My other “must” for new bloggers is starting out with your OWN domain name and hosting plan. Paying for your own little space on the web is surprisingly affordable (my current web host offers plans that start at $3.95/month, which is the price of a single freaking coffee), and it offers you a level of credibility and flexibility that “.blogger.com” and “.wordpress.com” just can’t give you.

With a free site on Blogger or WordPress, you’re limited in the kind of ads you can run, the kinds of plugins you can use, and sometimes even the types of content you can publish (Blogger haaates sex bloggers, and WordPress.com doesn’t like it when bloggers make money, too.)

BlueHost control panel

I currently host with BlueHost, who I absolutely love. They make hosting your site super easy, with a control panel that’s basically designed for dummies and excellent (free!) 24/7 tech support online and by phone. I’ve found that Bluehost’s rates are equal to GoDaddy’s and lower than HostGator’s, and since switching over from GoDaddy, I’ve noticed a lot less downtime and faster loading times on theNotice.

» If you’re thinking of signing up with BlueHost, I would love if you could use my affiliate link to show them that I sent you!

You can also buy your domain name through BlueHost (use the widget above to see if your dream domain name is available right now!), but Namecheap also comes highly recommended by bloggers, too. (Namecheap is–you guessed it–a little cheaper, but sometimes having an integrated web host & domain registrar can be handy!)

WordPress org vs com

wpbeginner has a great infographic on WordPress.org (self-hosted) vs WordPress.com (free) here.

4. Make some contacts

In the beauty blogging world, your #1 asset is your friends. If you really want your blog to take off, don’t focus on making money or hooking up with brands — focus on finding bloggers who you respect and admire, and build actual relationships with them.

My favourite thing about the beauty blogging world is the people, and those people are going to be the exact same ones who will help you grow your own blog. Comment on others’ blogs, start chatting with strangers on Twitter, and make sure you send good vibes back out into the blogosphere.

There is no limit to how many blogs one reader can or will read, which makes blogging one of those rare, wonderful industries where supporting your peers wholeheartedly will only ever help you reach your own goals. Take advantage of it: form blogger crushes, collaborate with them, and most importantly, don’t be afraid of learning from others & telling them when you think their work is awesome!

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5. Get writing!

Okay, so I know that I said making the commitment was going to be the hardest thing, but–um. It’s not. What makes that commitment hard is following through on it, not just wishing with all your might.

The beauty blogging world looooves a heavy poster, and while it’s not make-or-break, it’s definitely important. I always chuckle when I see a tweet from my sex blogging friends being all, “oooh, I posted twice this week, kneel before me!” because while that’s an awesome posting frequency for the adult industry, it’s really low for the beauty industry.

If you wanted to blog occasionally, you should have gotten into electronics or types of ash instead. The beauty world lives off of bloggers who post 3-7 times/week, and those making a living off of their blog usually need to post at least twice a day (if not more.) So grab your camera, give up all of your future Saturdays to photo-taking, and start by reviewing the products that you already know and love!

theNotice logo

Still think you’re cut out for beauty blogging? Awesome! Come back on Wednesday for tips on how to partner with brands & more.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to leave ’em below and I’ll answer as many as I can in my next post. 

Design crush: Vice & Velvet | Small Business Saturdays

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Vice and Velvet - Mei Ong

I’ve been looking for indie brands to review and feature on theNotice recently (if you have any suggestions, hit me up in the comments!) and yesterday night, I came across a cute little Australian soap company called Vice & Velvet. It’s a brand that anyone who spends a lot of time on Instagram (guilty) will recognize, but did you know that Vice & Velvet is a one-woman brand?

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As crazy as that sounds, this gorgeous little soap company is run and operated by Mei Ong out of Melbourne, Australia. The line is cruelty-free and vegan, and features small-batch products that are “cut, stamped, and wrapped by hand” — all by Mei, who also does all of her own formulating, production, graphic design, photography, and bookkeeping. 

What I think is really inspirational about Vice & Velvet, though (I keep wanting to call it V&V, which is my nickname for my girlfriend’s cats), is that Mei isn’t just an Asian-Australian woman who’s totally making it on her own, although honestly — that shit is hard. But no, it’s the level at which she excels at all of these things.

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I am completely smitten with Vice & Velvet’s minimalist-hipster packaging; with its unique Jewel Soap Gift Set and whimsical Cloud Soap Bars. I am enamoured with the fact that each bar of soap is lovingly hand-stamped for an ultra-chic, ultra-luxe look. I am obsessed with the way that each bar looks different (but perfect), and with the way that Mei’s photographic style is recognizable from a mile away. 

You never have to check the caption to see if a bar of soap was made by Vice & Velvet, you know? All you have to do is glance at the image and you just know. 

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Check out Vice & Velvet at their online store here, or click here to see their goods on Etsy. 

Pur Minerals Double Ego Liner, Eye Polish, Wake Up Brow, & Volume Vixen Mascara review, swatches

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pur Minerals makeup review

The products: Pür Minerals Double Ego Dual-Ended Eyeliner in Milan, Wake Up Brow in Hello Bright Eyes and Espresso, Volume Vixen 4-in-1 Mascara, and Eye Polish Eye Base + Top Coat in Satin

It’s no secret that I’ve fallen hard for Pür Minerals, so here are four (yes, four!) more mini-reviews of Pür products that I’m loving. I hope you guys are all having an awesome Friday so far!

Pur Minerals Double Ego Eyeliner review

Double Ego Dual-Ended Eyeliner ($21 USD/$23 CAD)

All of my favourite pen liners come only in black, but Pür’s Double Ego Eyeliner Liquid/Pencil 2-in-1 Liner comes in a ton of shades — everything from violet to jewel-toned teal. The Double Ego liners come with a short, stiff brush tip on one end and a creamy mineral pencil on the other. 

I really love the formula and opacity of the liquid liner half (I can easily get 15+ hours of flawless wear from it), but I think the applicator itself is a little too hard. It can draw super precise lines, but the stiffness also pushes up on my eyelid and draws in little folds!

As much as I love the liquid end, though (I think it’s actually the best pen liner that I own), I think I’d pass on these pens — the pencil liner smudged within three hours on my lids, and I just couldn’t get quite enough intensity from it.

Pur Minerals Wake Up Brow Brunette review

Wake Up Brow ($24 USD/$23 CAD)

Pür’s Wake Up Brow Dual-Ended Brow Pencil is, like the double-ended liners, kind of hard — but I love it.

The Espresso end of this pencil makes it easy to draw in super-sharp brows (if you’re seeing too many hard lines, the brow brush on the other end blends this formula out perfectly), and the glowy, pink Hello Bright Eyes end adds noticeable lift to the brows and inner eye.

My only warning? Pür doesn’t do any really cool-toned browns, so skip this one if you’re really worried about your brows looking too warm!

Pur Minerals Eye Polish Satin swatches, liner, brow, Mystic

Pür Minerals swatches: Eye Polish in Satin, Double Ego Eyeliner in Milan (liquid/pencil), Wake Up Brow in Hello Bright Eyes/Espresso, and Lip Lure in Mystic.

Pur Minerals Volume Vixen Mascara review

Volume Vixen Mascara ($21 USD/$23 CAD)

Okay. So the two products above are great but still skipable for some… But you NEED these next two.

The Pür Minerals Volume Vixen 4-in-1 Mascara with Keratin is perfect. It makes my lashes look super long, holds a curl like that’s its only job, and wears like it’s a freaking tubing mascara — all while feeling soft to the touch. 

The brush is awesome, too, with clumped nylon bristles (perfect for feathery separation) and a very slightly flat cross-section that holds just right amount of product every time.

Pur Minerals Eye Polish Satin review

Eye Polish ($26 USD/$32 CAD)

Aaaand last but not least, the AWESOME new Pür Minerals Eye Polish Eye Base and Top Coat in Satin.

This suff, ladies and gentlemen, is the shit. Its novel liquid-cushion format (think Stila liquid liners) is designed to be applied with a silicone paddle applicator (included in the price), and the pairing is just perfect. The silicone applicator is easy to use, and the formula blends out and sets like a dream.

I never end up with too much product with these (the brush picks up very little, which is exactly what you need), and the formula wears well — about nine hours with very light creasing, which is eight hours more than my lids usually get out of a potted eyeshadow!

I’ve been wearing this eyeshadow pretty much non-stop since December, and I would absolutely recommend it. It’s a little pricier than I’d like, but for the unique formula and considering how little you need, I think it’s worth it.

pur minerals eye polish nude swatch review

Wearing Pür Minerals Eye Polish in Satin, Volume Vixen Mascara, and Double Ego Liquid Eyeliner in Milan.

Pur Minerals Eye Polish review swatches

The verdict?

You guys, you *need* to try the new Pür Minerals Eye Polish line. They’re easy to apply, they wear really well, and (don’t pretend this isn’t a factor) they’re like, super cool.

I would also definitely recommend the Volume Vixen mascara (especially if you have trouble finding mascaras that won’t smudge on you), and the coffee-named Wake Up Brow and Double Ego liners are great — although they’re not a must-have, if you ask me!

Availability: Available at Pür Minerals, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Ulta.

Hylamide Sensitive Fix, HA Booster review, photos, comparison

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Deciem Hylamide Booster review photos comparison

The products: DECIEM Hylamide Sensitive Fix & Low-Molecular HA Booster Serums

It’s no secret that I love Deciem’s SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum, so when I heard about the line’s “boosters,” my interest was immediately piqued. The boosters are designed to be used as an adjunct to your skincare routine, applied after your serum and before your moisturizer, letting you customize exactly what you want out of your regimen.

I was sent the Low-Molecular HA Booster by the lovely folks at Deciem, but I liked it enough to purchase the Sensitive Fix Booster on my own — and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

Deciem Hylamide Low-Molecular HA Booster review photos

Low-Molecular HA Booster

The HA Booster contains 5 different hyaluronic compounds that target everything from lightweight surface hydration (hyaluronic acid ferment) to encouraging your skin to produce more hyaluronic acid on its own (HA precursor), but for some reason, I find that I get lots of little closed comedones when I use this.

The formula of the HA booster is a little weird, too. Like Fountain’s Hyaluronic Molecule, it’s very thick — not sticky, but almost… goopy? It dries to a “nothing” finish, but the application is a little weird!

Hylamide Low-Molecular HA Booster review photos

Deciem Hylamide Sensitive Fix Booster review photos

Sensitive Fix Booster

Okay, so this? This is where it’s at. 

I was a little disheartened with my experience with Hylamide’s HA booster, so I went and purchased their Sensitive Fix during the brand’s 20% off Halloween sale. My order came out to a tiny $16.80 CAD including 2-day shipping, and it was marked as shipped literally twelve minutes after I made my order, so yeah, you could say that Mr. Sensitive Fix and I got off to a pretty good start.

Hylamide HA Booster review photos

Sensitive Fix is meant to decrease irritation and redness with twice daily use. I don’t have a lot of redness and it doesn’t do anything for the redness that I do have (though I suspect those with serious redness will have different results), but what it does do is calm down my surface irritation. 

I have super-sensitive skin that sometimes feels like it’s burning for no reason whatsoever, but Hylamide’s Sensitive Fix kills the irritation almost immediately. It works much like the Guerlain SOS Serum does, with a very mild “hot” feeling followed by a dramatic decrease in irritation, except it’s $20 CAD, not (have mercy) $104 USD.

Deciem Sensitive Fix Booster review photos

Now, this is a total over-share, but when I read that the Golden-Eye Grass Complex in this serum balances skin pH to reduce sensitivity in the immediate and short term, I, uh. Put it on not-my-face. And then I re-tested it on not-my-boyfriend’s-face.

That’s all I’m going to say about that, but trust me on this one: if you’re experiencing pain on pink skin due to dryness or irritation, this stuff will calm it down in literally seconds. 

But I mean, don’t try this one at home, kids.

Hylamide Sensitive Fix Booster review photos

The verdict?

You NEED the Hylamide Sensitive Fix Booster. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first, but now that I’ve tried it, I really believe in its ability to calm down surface sensitivity in the short term. It was easily my best purchase of 2015, and I’ll likely be stocking up with a second bottle before the end of 2016!

As for the Low-Molecular HA Booster? My skin is really dry, so it doesn’t always slough off its layers correctly (hence the clogged pores), but I think those with oily, dehydrated skin will really like it. It does a great job of hydrating my partner’s face without feeling heavy or greasy, and unless it’s really dry outside, he can actually just use the HA Booster and nothing else!

Availability: $20 CAD each with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!! (the caps lock is definitely necessary) at Deciem.com. Also available at the Hudson’s Bay Beauty Underground.

Keep reading! »

2015 favourites: My makeup & fragrance must-haves

Monday, January 11, 2016

2015 makeup favourites

2015 was, for some reason, a major skincare year for me. I didn’t fall in love with any new makeup products until December, and while I do love those with a passion–well, it makes for a favourites list that is much the same as 2014’s.

Which was the same as 2013’s.

You can see where I’m going with this, right?

My favourite everyday products

2015 must-have makeup products

For me, “the basics” begin with a black eyeliner that never smudges (I rely on Annabelle SmudgePaints and Marcelle Double Extension eyeliners for that — I think I’m on my third Marcelle pen) and an eyeshadow base that can keep you totally crease-free (the cheap-as-dirt Wet ‘n Wild Fergie primer or Pür Mineral’s awesome new Eye Polishes, both of which perform, for me, leaps and bounds better than Urban Decay Primer Potion or NARS Pro Prime.)

You’re only as good as the number of people who fear you, after all, and raccoon eyes don’t usually make for terrified weeping.

Best products of 2015

I also couldn’t live without my Revlon Lip Butter in Sugar Plum (the perfect medium-coverage MLBB shade), a few matte eyeshadows to contour with, and a basic lip balm.

I’m currently fixated on Burt’s Bees’ Refreshing lip balm, which is only moderately hydrating. It smells like pink grapefruit, though, so I mean… Really.

Add in a ‘cone-free face powder (no one does a satin finish like Marcelle) and a flawless foundation (thank you again, Pür Minerals, you radiant, beautiful unicorn) and I’m all set.

My favourite colour products of 2015

Makeup colour product favourites

I discovered a lot of absolutely stellar brow products last year, but only a few made the cut for my favourites: Stila’s, which is glorious but outrageously overpriced, and Annabelle’s, which is as wonderful as it is budget-friendly.

My eyeshadow favourites haven’t changed at all–always Clarins, and always their flaky-shimmer quads–and neither have my lip and everyday mascara favourites: Imju Fiberwig (all hail the glow cloud magic of tubing technology), Burt’s Bees, and Clinique Chubby Sticks.

Cheek and eye favourites 2015

Brow and lip favourites 2015

I did add two totally new favourites to my repertoire last year, though, and I couldn’t be happier to have found them!

Annabelle’s Blush On range is awesome (for some reason, I always reach for them before my Clinique Cheek Pops), and the new blue and purple Clinique Chubby Lash mascaras wear like a champ. I don’t think the black shade is a must, but the blue? Totally.

My favourite tools of 2015

Makeup Brush favourites

My do-everything powder brush, Senna’s Powder Point Brush #33, is my only new favourite this year — but it lives at my partner’s house, so I’m afraid I couldn’t include it in this photo! I feel like that speaks for itself, though: it’s my only powder brush at his place, and it does a good job of applying foundation, powder, contour, blush, and highlighter. It doesn’t do an amazing job of any of them, but for that kind of versatility, I’ll live.

My favourite fragrances of 2015

2015 fragrance favourites

And last but not least… The perfumes that I couldn’t get enough of last year. I looooove Aerin Waterlily Sun (I’m wearing it right now, actually!) and Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur, as I’ve talked about at length on theNotice, but I’ve been using Leila Lou by Rosie Jane a lot, too — it’s great for smelling really, really clean in an instant.

(And–ahem–it’s excellent for directing attention to certain areas at close range.)

What were your favourite products of 2015?

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