One of the most common questions I get is “how did you start your blog?” A lot of people think that blogging is just taking pretty pictures and posting them to Instagram, but it’s really so much more than that. I try to shoot at least once a month, and each shoot takes weeks of prep work to plan and execute my personal vision. I’ve been blogging a little over 2 years now, and I still am learning and growing and evolving.
Let me start by explaining WHY I started my blog. For a quick overview: I began as a model several years ago, and I found that I loved being a creative director for photoshoots – meaning that I planned the shoots, styled the outfits, did my own hair and makeup, picked a location and a team and fully executed my own vision. I also loved to write (English class was always my favorite growing up) and I decided I wanted to combine my love of writing and modeling, and my blog was born!
I actually originally started my blog as a petite fashion blog called “The Urban Petite”. After following a ton of other bloggers and diving head first into the fashion world, I realized rather quickly that I didn’t like it. I found that I was constantly comparing myself to other bloggers and, to be honest, they made me feel pretty awful about myself. I didn’t feel like most of the “influencers” in that niche were actually promoting anything of actual importance or value.
It was during that time that I really started to lean into my yoga practice. Yoga was one of those only places where I didn’t feel like I was being judged or compared to anyone else. My instructors would tell me that I was enough – one of the only times I had heard those words spoken in a long time. There was no judgment, no pressure to be someone I wasn’t, just me and my breath. In fact, yoga was one of the only things that got me through my worst days and changed how I looked and felt about myself. After I went through yoga Teacher Training, I realized that yoga inspired me to be my best self and to live a healthy life – and I wanted to share that with the world. I decided to pivot, and focus my blog specifically on yoga, fitness, fashion and living a healthy lifestyle. That was the start of the blog you know today as XoStephMorgan (Stemming from my personal signature line).
I didn’t go into blogging hoping to make money – I just wanted to write about the topics I loved and design and execute creative photoshoots where I could bring my visions to life. If you’re going into blogging hoping to become a super famous and make a ton of money immediately, this is probably not the path for you. Although you absolutely can make a decent income being a blogger, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes lots of work, time to plan and money (yes, sometimes you will need to spend your own money before you get paid) to get started.
If you’re still interested, here are some of my top tips for becoming a blogger:
Find your niche – know who and what you are trying to “influence”
Before you start a blog, I would take time to really think about what it is that you want to influence in this world. Believe it or not, all of us are “influencers” and people listen to your opinions and ideas, whether it’s your friends and family or thousands of strangers on Instagram. What you post and how you live can truly make a difference in other people’s lives – so I recommend choosing wisely. Do you want to promote your perfect, flawless life, weight loss pills you don’t actually take, and a $5,000 pair of shoes that you and most of your viewers can’t afford? Or do you want to share your real story, your flaws, your inspirational ideas, body positivity and living a happy life? I’m not saying one is right or wrong, but just be mindful of what you’re trying to convey.
It’s also important to consider who your main audience is going to be for your blog. If your blog is about fashion, for example, what age are the people wearing the clothes you wear? Are they wearing these clothes to an office job, or to the bar? What is their average shopping spend? Where do they live? These specifications will help you narrow down your niche. This will also help advertisers create targeted ads for your blog (if you choose to go that route) and can help increase your value for potential collaborations with brands that align with your target market.
For me, I realized that I was not the ideal image of a “fitness model” and I wanted to show that all bodies, all shapes, all sizes could do yoga and be into fitness – even if you don’t have a 6 pack! I wanted to share the joys and learning of how yoga has affected my life, what I’ve learned in my time as a teacher, and other fun things like cute workout outfits to feel confident in the gym, as well as some of my favorite vegan recipes, etc. My main goal is to encourage and inspire others to follow their dreams and to find new levels of possibility in their minds and bodies, by bringing their practice off their mat and into their lives!
Create a brand name and build a website
So why build a website if you want to blog? Can’t people who just have an Instagram be bloggers? In my humble opinion – no. A website adds a lot of backing and validity to just a free app where you post pictures. It is a professional place where you can actually send companies to see your full portfolio, rather than just an abbreviated version. A lot of brands I work with love to have actual reviews posted to my blog, rather than just a short caption that most people don’t read. Instagram has a complex algorithm and is ever changing (example: how we’re losing “likes” from all of our photos soon). Instagram is an “influencer” platform, not a “blogging” platform. Ask yourself, if Instagram disappeared tomorrow or you got hacked and all your photos disappeared, would you still be a blogger?
When it comes to choosing your blog name, it’s easier to pick a name once you’ve picked your niche and your desired audience. As I mentioned before, my original blog was called “The Urban Petite” as I was mostly just focused on city fashion for petite women. However, with the change in my content and focus, I decided to make the blog name a bit broader and more focused mostly on me as the center of the blog, rather than just fashion or fitness. Remember to be aware of how broad you want your blog topics to be if you’re going with a name that is centered on a certain subject!
Once you have a name, then it’s time to build your website! There is a TON of information online regarding website hosting and templates, but I wanted mine specifically to look professional and have strong atheistic. I hired a designer to build my blog from this website called UpWork – a site where you can hire freelance designers to build a website that you want. My designer was pretty reasonable, and it only took her about 7 days to get my blog up and running. This option is highly recommended for those of you who are not computer and tach savvy like me!
I purchased my domain on GoDaddy for less than $10 per year. I was also determined to find an available website name that had the same social media account handles available. That way it would be easy for people to find me on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!
Pick your colors/theme/editing style
Once you have a site built and are ready to begin shooting, you should decide on your aesthetic. Are you bright and bold and colorful? Or are you more grayscale and neutral? It’s obviously not a requirement to have a color scheme for your blog, but it does help your blog have more of a cohesive look!
If you have no idea what you want, try a bunch of different styles. I have tried everything from black, white and pink, to colorful and bright, to no theme, to my current grayscale/neutral theme. If you’re having trouble coming up with a theme, take a look in your closet or your life and see what colors pop up the most. My closet literally has only black, white, gray and blue – so it’s clear that I gravitate mostly towards neutrals. Stay true to what makes sense to you. There’s no right or wrong!
PLAN your posts in advance!
When it comes to what blogs I write, it’s super important to plan in advance. I currently have 7 blogs written in my pipeline ready to be published, and many more ideas for future blogs I want to write. This is helpful when I go to shoot with my photographer because I have a specific plan for what images I need to correlate with what blog. Same idea with Instagram and social media. Fun fact – I try to plan my Instagram images at LEAST 30 days in advance! This gives me time to make my layout look cohesive and flow together.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your blog each week if you want to make it successful. I probably spend at least 10 hours a week on preparing my social media feed, editing my images, creating blog posts, and communicating with brands. It is definitely time consuming, but I love every minute of it!
Find a photographer or someone to work with to create great images
Speaking of images, the content you create is probably the most important part of your blog. You can write the best blogs ever, but the images are what draw people in! Smartphones today have pretty amazing cameras, but I am personally a fan of professional images from a professional photographer. There is just something about image quality from a pro that makes photos pop! If you don’t have a family member or husband that is a photographer and you would like to use one, I would recommend reaching out to friends on social media to see if you know anyone who is a photographer and would be intersted in working with you. Be aware that a professional photographer may ask for payment – decide what you are willing to spend in advance and be open to negotiation. I’m very lucky to be able to work with my favorite photographer Shanti Knight. I highly recommended her if you’re looking for a photographer in the Chicagoland area!
No access to a photographer? No worries. Try having someone take your picture from different angels and distances to get a variety of shots for you blog. Try to keep some kind of consistency with your images, whether it be colors, locations or editing styles. It will help people identify your brand when they see your images.
Remember that this is your blog. Not your friends, not your parents – YOURS! Write about things that you are truly interested in! If it doesn’t feel authentic, it will probably show in your pictures and writing. Be aware of this too once you start collaborating with companies. For example, if you are a vegan blogger, and a beef jerky company wants to pay you to write a blog on their product, it probably wouldn’t be in your best interest as a blogger and to your followers to post something that is not something you would actually try, even if it is paying you a lot of money.
The same rings true for clothes you wouldn’t wear, pills you wouldn’t take, etc. You would be surprised at some of the companies who have offered me money to promote things that have absolutely nothing to do with my brand. In the end, you will start to see that authenticity is far more important to the longevity of your blog and to your readers than a quick paycheck from a company.
Most of my blog marketing comes from social media – specifically Instagram. Social media is a great (and free) tool to help spread the word of your blog. Apart from having a great feed, try using industry specific hashtags in your photos, “like” other bloggers images, tag brands in your pictures, and network!! I always have my business cards with me in case I meet a potential client when I’m out at an event, at the studio or even in an Uber (it’s happened before!)
If you are looking to get sponsored by companies, start sending emails. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. Most companies are excited to work with bloggers in their niche. Don’t be upset if you get rejected, just keep trying! I also recommend starting with small companies and working your way up to more established brands with practice. Work to get your name out there so brands will eventually start reaching out to you!
Blogging, more than anything, is about having fun and enjoying what you’re doing. If you find yourself dreading writing posts, maybe you’re focusing on the wrong topics. Find the things that you are most passionate about and you will be successful! Blogging is a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it!
Do you have any questions about starting your own blog? I would love to help. Send me a message or comment below!