I get SO many questions about how I started blogging and what steps someone needs to take to start a blog, so I figured, “lightbulb!” Why not just write a blog post on it? Ik, I’m genius, no need to remind me. But feel free to anyway 🙂
I started The Laughing Blonde because I felt like I needed some sort of creative outlet. There are a few bloggers that I had been following on Instagram before, and it seemed so cool to me to get to travel and have new experiences and get paid to do it! I’ve always had a creative side to me, and I found it difficult to stay excited about my day job as a media planner, which is less creative and more strategic. There was just one night in late January when I got a little burst of energy and decided to actually go for it! I spent about two hours trying to come up with a name, which seemed impossible because literally every single one I came up with was taken already. Do you know how infuriating it is to come up with a genius name for your blog, only to see that some asshole has already claimed it and hasn’t posted a photo since 2013? UGHH. So once I finally found a name that was available both on Instagram and as a website domain, I was ready to go. To be clear, I had ZERO experience designing a blog. The last time I “designed” a website was when I was 12 and a psycho about customizing my MySpace page. Side note- remember when we all thought we were little mini Mark Zuckerbergs (before he was even a thing) because we would figure out how to slightly alter our profile codes on MySpace and made them look really badass? SAME. So anyway, here I am at 24 years old, feeling like an 82 year old who can’t figure out how to turn her cell phone on AKA feeling VERY FREAKING LOST. I picked a super basic layout and wrote my first post, and then published my photo on Instagram. It was truly about as bare bones as you can get. From other people that I’ve talked to, I’ve heard that people stress for MONTHS over perfecting their SEO strategy, or write like, 20 pieces of content before they even make their site public. For me, I just wanted to get something published so that I wasn’t putting so much pressure for perfection on myself. To be clear, I don’t feel like there’s one perfect way to do any of this – I just didn’t want to give myself an excuse to prolong it anymore!
Ahh, follower count. One of the biggest stress-inducing things in the blogger world. Gaining followers, especially in the beginning, is tough because you really have no content (so what are people following you for?) and because it’s unlikely that people are going to want to follow an Instagram page that only has 2 posts and 37 followers – there’s strength in numbers, and at the beginning it’s the struggle bus all the way. The key is to get support from the people you know first. At first I wanted to keep the blog separate from my personal life, which is why I have both two Instagram accounts – one is personal, one is strictly for the blog. I was slightly embarrassed that I had even started a blog, and didn’t feel like I wanted to be judged by my friends, colleagues or even old peers from high school for what I was writing about – especially because I knew there would be times when I would post things that were really personal and sensitive to me. I mean, if you’ve been reading my stuff for the last 6 months then you probably already know what kinds of things I’m talking about. I’m pretty deep sometimes- who knew!? But as I started writing more and more content, I realized that my close friends were going to see it anyway, and honestly, wtf do I care what the guy I had a crush on in 9th grade thought of me anymore? I mean TBH yeah I care a little bit – EW BYE – but not enough to keep me from proudly posting my content. Don’t like it? Don’t look!
So I built a base of followers around the people who knew me and would be at least minutely interested in hearing what I had to say. From there, I did the ~controversial~ move of the classic follow/unfollow. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best or worst way to get Instagram followers. I guarantee you that every single person reading this knows what I’m talking about – it’s the random follow you get from an account you’ve never heard of and you’re like, huh? How did they even find me? Let me tell you: they found you from going to an Instagram account that they like and following the accounts that follow that page. It’s truly a numbers game at first. And it’s a pain in the butt as well, because you can only follow like, 150 a day before Instagram blocks you. So building up your audience is NOT easy, and it takes time. I’ve also found that I need to be better about letting go of the people who unfollow me. It’s nothing personal, they’re just trying to keep their follower:following ratio on point, and for one reason or another The Laughing Blonde didn’t make the cut. It happens.
What I do NOT recommend is buying followers. It’s clear as day when a follower is bought, because they’re have little to no content on their page, have 7 followers and be following 52, 985 people. Don’t waste your money, babe.
I’ll keep it simple with this one: Post content that you actually enjoy writing about. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to write a piece when the enjoyment isn’t behind it. It’s all about writing what you know. Hands down, the content that performs the best for me is always the stuff where I’m being really vulnerable and honest about who I am and what I’m going through. Yes, I also like writing about cool restaurants to check out and what makeup I wear, but if you look back at my stuff, you’ll notice that I’ve cut back on those kinds of pieces recently because people don’t care about them as much. They’re reading your blog because they care about YOU. If they wanted recommendations for dinner, they’d just go to Yelp.
Another thing I’ve learned is that writing in my own voice is what allows my readers relate to me so much. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have texted me saying how hard they’re laughing because they can picture me saying the words out loud to them – that’s such a huge compliment! I try to keep it as real as I possibly can – that means sharing my accomplishments, as well as my failures. You’d be surprised how supportive someone you don’t even know can be! Click here for my favorite post to date!
I get photos from all over the place. A lot of times I re-post things I love from other bloggers. Sometimes I use content I’ve shot myself, and other times I work with local photographers who are looking to build up their portfolios. I’m not a Rockafeller over and here and (sadly) I don’t come from oil money either. You don’t need to work with hardcore professionals to get the shots you need. Two of my favorite people I’ve worked with are 1: my friend Kira who works at Travel + Leisure and helped me out massively for my first shoot and 2: my new friend Kelsey (@styledinthestreet) who reached out to me on Instagram to set something up and was AMAZING! I highly recommend working with her if you’re in the area and get the chance. It’s all about making sure you feel totally comfortable with the person you’re working with, otherwise you probably won’t get the shots you want.
I’ve also realized that I get the most engagement when I utilize the My Story feature on Instagram – so many of my followers send me DMs after I’ve posted something, and it’s awesome to know that they’re following along and feel like they’re getting to know me!
Do you have any tips + tricks to share with me? I’m still so new at this myself, I would love to hear what works for you guys! Post a comment or send me a message 🙂 xo, AJ