My Blogging Journey + Your Questions Answered

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Hey friends. I’m super excited for today’s post. My two friends, Arin (Arin Solange at Home) and Navy (Navy Berlin), are hosting a fun series with different bloggers each week this summer and today is the very first link. I’m so glad they asked me to be part of it.

Arin and Navy got a lot of requests and specific feedback from followers about what topics they’d like to hear a group of bloggers talk about and today’s theme was one of the most requested: to share our blogging and Instagram story.

I’ve been blogging since May of 2017 but had been talking and dreaming about it long before then. Ahead of ever publishing my first blog post on May 1, 2017 I spent a good four months or so building my website, teaching myself some CSS code, and researching everything I possibly could about this industry. Before I get into what the last couple of years has looked like and taught me, let me back it up even further and give you some more context.

I graduated college with a fashion degree in 2013 and immediately started working in the footwear business with a wholesale/manufacturing company that is based in my hometown of St. Louis, MO. I worked in product development, basically meaning that I worked alongside a designer to build a seasonal line of shoes. I also worked directly with buyers of major companies and retailers across North America and quite literally worked in an office where I was surrounded by shoes. Sounds like every girl’s dream, right? It was an incredible first job and I got to work for and with some amazing people, while getting to travel to places like New York and China.

After a couple of years, I got the itch to do something more entrepreneurial and had an opportunity fall into my lap that I couldn’t pass up. So I went from the footwear biz to owning a professional organizing company. Still got to work with lots of shoes, but this time I was organizing them for other people in beautiful closets. It was during this time that I started following and reading a lot more fashion and beauty, which ignited a desire inside of me.

I ended up leaving professional organizing behind once I had decided to pursue becoming a certified teacher at Pure Barre while continuing to dream of and plan for starting my own blog. I remember the very first time I ever brought up the idea to Michael, my husband. We were sitting in his parents’ hot tub when I casually mentioned it to him. I had this hope and dream that I could create a space on the internet where I could share my love of fashion, travel, and all things “girl” while also having the opportunity to share real life moments and my faith. I wanted to use the voice that I felt God had given me. Little did I know how this platform would truly allow me to share and connect with other women on such a personal level… more on that later.

Now that you know more of my why and how I first got started, let’s answer some more specific questions about blogging and Instagram in general! Some of these are pretty general, some are from Arin and Navy, and some are questions I’ve received from my own followers.

How long has it taken to grow your Instagram?

Considering I just hit 10k followers on Instagram earlier this month, I would say two years haha. I’m sure I could have grown faster sooner but I had a baby this past October and my priorities of blogging and growing my social media following were quickly replaced with being a new mama and soaking up all the newborn baby days. I do not regret that for one second! Working towards 10k (and beyond) has been a major goal and milestone to be met, but nothing is more important than my family. At the end of the day, I can say with complete confidence that I grew organically and honestly. I didn’t buy followers or likes, didn’t have any secret ways of gaining followers, and truly just allowed things to grow on their own. It’s been a labor of love and a test of my patience, for sure!

What is your number one Instagram tip?

Engagement is key. You need to be on the app and engaging with others for your posts to receive views, likes, comments, etc. Again, everything I’ve done has been very organic, but I spend A LOT of time each day engaging with other bloggers, my followers, answering questions/DMs, replying to every single comment I receive, and creating content for Instagram stories and liketoknow.it. I think one key to Instagram success is definitely a “use it or lose it” mentality.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting a blog?

Think really hard about what that’s going to look like and do your research. Truthfully I had no idea how much time or effort was put into blogging and being an influencer (more on that below). If you’re wanting to start a blog, I would think long and hard about how much time you’re willing and able to sacrifice, especially in the beginning. How much money are you willing to invest in your business? What will be your niche? And honestly, what is your “why”?

I’ve had a couple people tell me they want to start blogs because they want free stuff or because they think it looks like fun. That stuff is nice but it’s not at all what blogging or making a career for yourself is really about. Do your homework on what it’s going to take and then you have to decide if it’s still something you’re truly interested in.

What has surprised you most about blogging?

The amount of time, effort, money, etc it takes to invest in and grow your business. I am constantly surprising people I speak with when they realize how many hours I spend on my blog and Instagram each day/week. I am thinking about, planning, or working on content every waking hour. My brain has a very hard time of shutting off from that because it takes so much effort and work. Being a new mom, this is especially tricky and I’ve had to find a balance of how to work more efficiently. Long story short, being a blogger isn’t as glamorous as a lot of people think it is!

How do you balance being on social media all the time while not letting that interfere with family time or people in your life who don’t understand or like social media?

I like this question a lot and think it goes along with the one above really well. Michael doesn’t use any form of social media, which is kind of funny considering it’s my job haha. He is extremely supportive of me and I think he understands the importance of being active online for the most part. But it’s still a balance that we have to find and something I try to be really respectful of when we’re together. The majority of what I do for my blog and on Instagram happens when Kennedy is napping during the day or after she goes to bed at night. I’m super lucky to get to stay home with her and that means I want to spend the hours she’s awake playing with and loving on her. These days go fast and I don’t want to miss them. If I’m working at night, I make sure it’s okay with Michael and try to over communicate if I’m working towards a deadline or something that truly has to get done right then. He is extremely supportive and understanding of that. It most definitely takes the support of your spouse or partner to be able to do this though, because without them, you can’t possibly keep up with it all.

The other thing I’ve recently started doing was taking Sundays off Instagram. We Sabbath on Sunday as a family, so part of my personal commitment to that is to stay off my phone and social media. There are occasional exceptions, of course, but it’s definitely my goal to unplug at least once a week!

How do you make money blogging?

There are a variety of ways bloggers make money. Here is a BRIEF summary of two of those ways:

  • Sponsored Posts - First off, these require a disclosure, so if I’ve gotten paid or gifted product to talk about something specific, you will know. I have to be upfront about that, so you’ll notice in a blog post I will say if I’ve collaborated or been sponsored by someone (same goes on Instagram with using hashtags like #ad or #sponsored).

  • Affiliate Networks - Best example of this is how bloggers, like myself, use liketoknow.it (which is part of a network called rewardStyle). Affiliated links are basically special links to products that bloggers create, which offer us a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through that link. I wrote a whole blog post about liketoknow.it and the ease of using their app to shop all sorts of products bloggers and influencers share if you want to understand it better.

Why should I shop with the links you (or other bloggers) post?

To expand on the above question, anytime you see me with a link in a blog post or sharing any content on Instagram where I say something is available via the @liketoknow.it app, that link is tied to me and if you shop that way, I will get a tiny kickback from each purchase. This process is pretty competitive because so many of us bloggers use this network to create income. It also has to do with the last link you clicked on/opened, so if you’re browsing from person to person before making a decision on what you purchase, there’s a good chance you’ll buy something you saw elsewhere but give a different blogger the credit for it. Very complicated, I know…

Some people take screenshots of products and then search for/purchase them on their own. Honestly, as someone who makes a living doing this, that’s a bummer to hear. I spend HOURS each week creating content, finding products I want to share, and creating links for yall to shop from. It’s defeating for influencers when we don’t get credit for what we worked hard to share with you. It sounds silly but you have to keep in mind, this is our job.

My girl @sa_anderson shared a bit more about this on her Instagram this week actually. I loved what she said here: “Look at it this way: if you like the blogger or influencer, support them. Swipe up on all the links, like and comment on all their posts. If you want to purchase whatever item they’re promoting, purchase through their link!”

I have found so many awesome things from my peers who are also bloggers and shop through their links when purchasing things they’ve helped me discover. I also try to give credit where credit is due. I’m all about shouting out my friends who work hard to find awesome stuff because I know how much effort they’ve put into doing so. If I’m sharing something with yall on Instagram, but saw it somewhere first, you better believe I’ll let you know!

Least favorite thing about this job?

I would say the hardest part about doing what we do as bloggers is the pressure to perform and dealing with constant comparison. The market is pretty oversaturated right now with influencers, making it really hard to stand out, so it’s a constant battle to not be discouraged by that. I’m a big believer in supporting one another though and think that there’s plenty of space for all of us, so I try very hard to push back any sense of entitlement or insecurity I may feel about my own performance. If I see a friend succeeding or scoring a big collaboration, I want to be the type of person who celebrates that for them!

Favorite thing about this job?

Being able to connect with and “meet” so many amazing people. I have Instagram friends who I’ve never even met but I truly feel like we’re friends and in this together. I’ve also been so blessed by getting to know my own followers on a much more personal level. For example, I have been very open about our journey of starting a family and experiencing two miscarriages in 2017. I can’t begin to tell yall how deep my Instagram community grew through sharing that. I’ve made real-life connections with so many incredible women who have shared their own experiences with me in return. All because I decided to be honest and share my faith publicly.

I also love just getting to connect in fun ways! I love nothing more than when someone messages me about a product or piece of clothing they tried because of me, or like when I get flooded with recommendations on what new Starbucks drinks I should try. The internet can be a mean place but I also believe it can be a place for real friendships to be made and fostered. I’m super grateful for the community I have through my blog and Instagram. If this is your first time here, I’m so happy you’re here and really hope you stick around!

Like I said, I’m a firm believer in supporting one another, which is why I was so excited to be part of this series with my dear friends, and am always very happy to share my journey - good and bad. I have learned SO much over the last two years. This whole career path has been entirely “trial by error” and I am constantly learning, growing, and changing my ways. Hopefully this has been fun to read, and for some, I hope it was helpful in some ways if you’re considering getting into this world of blogging for yourself.

Always love to hear from you, so please shoot me an email, DM or comment below if there are additional thoughts or questions you have after reading!

xx Alex

And be sure to check out all the girls who blogged about this topic today!

Arin // Navy // Chelsee // Liz // Jen // Alia // Chrissy // Noelle // Samantha