Wow, I cannot believe that this post marks my second blogiversary! I really find it so surreal that today my blog turned two years old and how far it has come since my first ever post. So, in light of Stark Raving Chic turning two years old today, I've decided to change the pace a little bit and get a tad bit more personal with you all today. To do this, I've decided to feature the top ten and a half things I have learned since I began my blog, along with featuring some of my favorite photos/posts from the last two years and how each of them have helped me get to where I am today.
1. Quality Not Quantity
Throughout my two years of blogging, I have read so many articles with so many differing opinions on how much is too much in a blog post. Personally, I've learned that there is no right answer to this question, however it is up to the discretion of the author. For instance, my Style Guide posts tend to be more lengthy, consisting of 1500-2000 words. The reason this is, is because unlike my personal Outfit of the Day posts (usually anywhere between 500 and 800 words) they are more in depth and cover five or six different outfits opposed to just one. The key to having successful blog posts is not simply finding the magical number of words, but is to have quality writing skills and to engage your audience. If you have compelling posts, it doesn't matter if your post is two paragraphs or two pages, people will want to read it because they enjoy what you have to say.
2. Quality Photography is a Must
One day I swear I'm going to write a blogging for beginners book and one chapter will be titled "PHOTOGRAPHY, PHOTOGRAPHY, PHOTOGRAPHY!", and not just because I have my Bachelors degree in photography. You see, the reason the photos on your blog (especially blogs relating to fashion, beauty, or lifestyle/travel) are so important is because much like having quality writing, you want your images to be captivating. You also want your photos, of you or your subject, to be styled and flattering. For instance, nobody would subscribe to Vogue if the photography was not stunning and the models did not look attractive. Hence why you always want to show yourself (or your model) in the best light because that's what will reel people in. Not to mention, if your photos look like garbage, it gives the impression that you do sloppy, last minute work which in turn makes your brand look like garbage.
3. Copyright & Protect Your Work
And we have yet another chapter title in my book, which would be "Protect Your Intellectual Property" simply because within the two years I have been doing this, I have been amazed at how little my peers in the blogging community actually know about protecting their brand, when in all reality it is quite simple and inexpensive. As we all know the internet can be a great place for creatives, but it can also lead to many issues, such as people stealing your hard work and claiming it as their own. However, the best way to prevent this is simply by working with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), whom monitor and protect your work from potential copycats online, and if by some chance someone does steal your work, the DMCA will have the fraudulent work removed. This service is only $10 a month (or $100 per year), which if you ask me is a small price to pay for protection.
4. Keep A Positive Attitude
If I'm being honest, sometimes keeping a positive attitude can be very challenging especially when you have an online presence. The reason I say this is because when you do have a public presence online, everything is out in the open for everyone to see, and not everyone is as nice and kind as we would like them to be. However, when/if you ever come across something that is negative about you online (note, if it is something serious, such as defamation and could actually do damage to your reputation, then I would suggest contacting the DMCA), simply take it in stride and ignore it. The truth is not everyone is going to like you, and sometimes the things that hurt us the most when we hear or read them, hurt because there might actually be some truth in it, so instead of being upset, simply take the criticism and use it to your advantage and better yourself.
5. Sponsored Posts Are Key
Though building a reputation and finding brands to partner with can be tricky at first, sponsored posts really do boost your credibility and online presence. So, you're probably wondering how to get your posts sponsored, and my best advice for beginner bloggers would be to sign up for Influenster ASAP! I'm not going to go into all of the details here, but feel free to read up about it in this post. However the reason sponsored posts are so important to a blogger (especially if you want to make some money blogging) is because when you do sponsored posts, you can sometimes make commission on the products/clothing you are featuring. Also, the more sponsored posts you do, considering most are on a deadline, this builds your credibility as a blogger and social influencer, which just makes more brands want to work with you.
5½. Sponsored Posts Should Be 100% Free
Okay so this is where my "and a half" comes in, simply because I did not just want to lump this point in with sponsored posts and figured this bit of advice is useful and strong enough to stand on its own. Firstly, unfortunately, much like the potential of having your work stolen, there will come a time that a fraudulent brand will try and take advantage of you. This happened to me within my first year of blogging, and though I won't name names, this brand ripped off hundreds of girls just to make a quick buck. How did they do it? Well, initially, I did not see any harm in paying $10 for shipping of one of their products (it was heavy after all and coming a bit of a way) however I came to find they were charging other bloggers $70+ dollars for shipping which is absolutely outrageous, and obviously isn't free at all, even if they were charging almost $300 for the product (which as it turned out, they were buying wholesale from China for mere pennies). With that being said, if a brand asks to work with you, they will send you their product 100% free of charge, including shipping.
6. Network, Network, Network
I mean it. Network with everyone you possibly can! Whether it be with brands, a local shop or boutique in your niche, or another blogger, get out there and meet people. This also rings true to messaging or emailing potential partners, which I know can be a little nerve wracking due to the fact no one wants to be rejected, but the worst that can happen is, someone declines your offer and you move on or try again at a later date. Trust me, the first time I applied for half of my affiliate-ships I was rejected but I simply just tried again.
7. It's a Community Not a Competition
Much like my point about networking, don't be afraid to reach out to other bloggers and help one another. Sure, there are some assholes in the blogging community, but for the most part, everyone tries to be respectful and help one another out. So if you like something someone did with their layout or coding and wanna try it out, simply ask for the plug in politely and chances are they'll help you. Though the blogging game can be competitive at times, ultimately most people aren't going to try and step on you to get ahead, and if they try to, that bad behavior is just a reflection of their character and chances are they are not secure in themselves and/or their own abilities and might see you as a threat. And much like what I mentioned earlier about negative comments, simply let it roll off your back and move on, it is their issue, not yours.
8. Do Not Speak Negatively About Other Bloggers
Though I feel that this point should be a no brainer, I know sometimes it can be tempting to talk negatively about someone--especially if you do not like them on a personal level. However, no matter how tempting it is, if you do not have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Talking badly about someone is just rude and unbecoming in general. And besides talking badly about somebody in the community is looked at as being tasteless, it honestly reflects poorly on YOUR character and comes off as unprofessional, which could cause many people to not want to work with you. Karma is funny that way, so just keep that in the back of your mind.
9. Take A Break
During my first year of blogging, I had many lingering mental and physical health issues due to my longtime battle with anorexia. Therefore, I decided that it would be best to take the summer off and start back fresh in the fall. I know many people fear taking a personal hiatus can reduce your readers, and it will to an extent, but honestly after my break I came back with ten times the motivation and grew my following tremendously in only six short months! So needless to say, it was the best decision I ever made, and trust me, if you feel you need a break, take it.
10. Most Importantly: Have a Strong Support System
This last point I can absolutely not stress enough simply because without my support system (Hi mum, dad, John, Nic, and McKenna!) I would probably be completely insane by now. Though it can differ for others, I know without the five people I named, I wouldn't be able to do it all. My mum and dad for giving me all the help and guidance I need (and my mum really is the world's most poorly paid personal assistant, in the history of personal assistants), to McKenna and Nic being there for me when I need a good venting session, as well as being my editor and IT department respectively. And lastly there is John, who is just such an incredibly good sport about helping me with photos and also making sure that I don't over do it and have a complete meltdown over my work load (he always has a glass of wine or scotch neat ready for me when I've had a bad day). He is also such an inspiration to me and really makes me want to push myself to do my very best. Each of them are just such wonderful people, and I can't thank them enough.
One Last Note
Lastly, I just want to say thank you to all of my readers for yet another fabulous year! You all are truly great and I really can't express how grateful I have been for this wonderful opportunity. I cannot wait to see how much more my blog will grow in the upcoming years, but I am sure it is going to be a great adventure, so please, by all means, stay along for the ride!