I’m coming up on 12 years of blogging and I’m just as surprised as you that I never really shared HOW I started a blog. And kept it going for all those years
After doing this for over a decade, the question I often get asked, is how did you get started and how did it turn into this? So
If you’ve been following from the beginning, god bless you and thank you, you may know this story. If you’ve been following for a few years you’ve likely seen a post or two referencing my last day job, my first miserable job out of college and so on. But for those asking how exactly did you start a blog and how did it turn into THIS, well here it is.
How I Started My Blog
Let’s take a look back to 2010. I was working at Norfolk Southern, the railroad, the miserable railroad. My job title was revenue accountant. With an accounting degree from Georgia State University and the world’s worst job market, I took what I could.
Basically, I was a glorified bill collector handling millions in monthly revenue for TRAIN CARGO. Man,
I grew very depressed very quickly. I literally drove to work crying almost every single day. Not only did I hate the job, but my relationship was a mess. At 23 years old, I really didn’t think the corporate world would be this awful. I was naive, clearly.
I looked at my life and thought, fuck this isn’t what I imagined adulthood to be like.
Sure that’s an ongoing millennial problem that we have. Our parents told us we can do anything, but hey I’m here doing what I WANT TO DO and so maybe there’s some truth to it. It took time though. As I grew more and more depressed and even put myself into therapy, I started to wonder what I SHOULD be doing.
I started to think about what I do love and what I SHOULD be doing….
I had always loved to write, it was my thing. Also, I always loved fashion. As a recent graduate who wanted to change her major halfway through to journalism at one point, I just figured I should go back to school. Seemed easier than finding another job with how grim the market was.
I called GSU and had a meeting with an advisor about getting into the journalism program to learn more. They said quite frankly, “don’t even think about it”. Writing is writing, you’re either good or you aren’t. So just start a writing portfolio or a blog. Yeah, whatever a blog is…
Okay, but how?
Here’s where things get blurry because I don’t remember how this specific part went down. I think I was at a baby shower in New York with family when my cousin Sue asked me how work was going. I’m sure I told her it sucked and I was looking for a job in writing or journalism or really, anything.
She said to me “why don’t you start a blog”. She’s the woman behind The Zhush and I’ll never forget her telling me that. She
When I returned home from that trip that is when I started My Style
I chose the word “Vita” because it was Italian. Honestly,I loved that Sue had used a common word from our upbringing (which up until I published this post thought was Yiddish… it is not. But my Grandmother used it often, so just assumed….oy).
So I kind of wanted to have something meaningful in mine. I’m half Jewish half Italian. So I went the Italian route to not copy cousin Sue and used “Vita” for life. My Style Life. God I hate the name so much that it makes me cringe.
So here’s the thing, back in 2011, blogging was SO not what it is today.
I started writing an article here or there. As in a few sentences. It was tragic. The irony of it all is my first blog post EVER was about Alternative Apparel where I later worked for several years.
My blog was hideous, it wasn’t pretty, and the photos were stock images, or Polyvore collages and small. There were many spelling errors and I wasn’t using my brain. It was a complete mess.
Here’s When It Started To Change, At First
The moment the blog went from random photos of product to “outfit” photos was when I stumbled onto REAL fashion blogs. I remember seeing Kendi Everyday share her cute outfits with the little arrows to show what each item was. That was when I thought to myself, oh she’s sharing her outfit?
I wear cute things every day! Since I was already sharing my outfits on Facebook thanks to the infamous dress code incident at Norfolk Southern, why not do it on this “blog” too? So that’s when I started taking “outfit photos”.
The outfit photos were nothing like what you see today. They were AWFUL. I was using a point and shoot camera and a 5-second timer to hit the shutter and run in front of the camera. It meant all my photos were blurry and hideous. And so were the outfits. But it’s how this whole thing got started.
Over time I started reading more blogs and getting to understand the industry more and more. Images became more important, linking to products became a thing and that’s how it grew. Eventually, my standards got higher, I started working with real photographers and the rest is history.
Okay, so it takes work, too.
This all takes time and energy and work. Blogging isn’t “hard” per se, but it’s a lot of work. It
What a lot of people don’t realize is how much work does in fact go into it. Back in the day it was all about the blog. Writing articles, commenting on other blogs, and so on. Now there’s a big focus on Instagram and you can definitely make an income just snapping an Instagram photo a day and a few stories.
That to me doesn’t take much work. But writing blog posts, working on SEO, analyzing your site traffic, sharing content across ALL social media platforms, invoicing, billing, contracts, pitching projects to brands, the list goes on, it’s work! There’s SO much that goes into this that people just don’t realize.
Blogging is so much more than a pretty photo at a coffee shop in a new outfit…
As OG bloggers we learned a lot of this by trial and error. There was no The Blog Societies, rewardStyle didn’t exist. There was no business of blogging websites to read, there was ZERO content out there for us at the time.
Fun fact, there was also NO INSTAGRAM when I started. So we just wrote, shared, and kept doing that! When people ask me, but how did it grow into THIS, it really was just a ton of trial and error.
You can also learn more about what goes into a single blog post from start to finish here. You’d be surprised just how long it takes to write a great post!
The first 2 years were a complete disaster
I was throwing content out without any rhyme or reason. It was just a place to be creative and write. It wasn’t something I took super seriously but also wanted to keep at it. At around the 2 year mark is when I started working with a photographer for most of my outfit posts.
But I still shared tons of terrible
The next 2 years were MUCH better
The following 2 years grew better for me. It was when I started working more with a photographer for photos (Exhibit B) and almost always used a photographer for everything.
I bought a better camera. So if I did need to take my own photos, they were at least a tad better than all the blurry crap that I was originally
After the first 4 years, I was ready to go full time.
Here’s how it happened…
At the 4 year mark, I was running Southern Blog Society, My Style Vita, working at a lounge on the weekends for extra cash (clearly a workaholic) and also working a day job that I loved. Let me tell you real quick how I got to Alternative Apparel.
I quit Norfolk Southern within a year of starting and ended up getting an internship, worked at the lounge and awaited job openings at Alternative Apparel. I got a job soon after and loved EVERY day of it. After 2 years at Alternative, I had been promoted to Southeast Sales Rep and LOVED MY JOB. I loved going to work. It was a total 180 from Norfolk Southern. I skipped into work.
But eventually, things took a turn.
Alternative Apparel needed me, who handled 11 southeastern states which
Company expectations changed, new leaders came in and things shifted. I was asked to travel three whole weeks out of the month to 11 terribly boring states. Selling tees and sweatshirts to brand agencies and screen printers wasn’t as glamorous as my fellow counterparts in NYC and LA selling to fun brands and agencies in big cities. It was totally different.
After worrying about my career, debating what to do next, and talking it out with my parents and my boss, I decided it was time to part ways. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
To me, a job that you love is 1 in a million. To love what you do is rare and I was so lucky to have that. But my blog was making a decent amount of money with my part-time effort in it and I did have the bar job on the side. So why not go for it.
So I went for it! I quit my job, and went all in.
In 2015, I quit. I focused on saving as much money as possible from my bar job and poured myself into My Style Vita (now an indigo day) and The Blog Societies. Eventually, I was able to leave the bar behind and now solely focus on these two businesses.
My biggest thing was having some cash in the bank as a solid emergency fund. I can’t stress the last part enough. I would not have made this leap otherwise I don’t think.
If you’re thinking of a career
shift,or looking to do something drastic, find yourself a part-time job on the side.
It may not fuel your creativity, and it may mean a few hours away from the side gig you’re trying to grow. But it likely means more hours to work on your project than having a full 40+ hour job.
Having an emergency fund and a safety net will allow you to sleep better at night and set you up for financial success as well. I think a lot of people think they don’t need to do this. But trust me, you do and you should.
I know MANY people who have had similar stories of starting a company from nothing and they ALL worked odd side jobs to build an emergency fund, or to make ends meet to support their families. It is not worth going into debt over and I would not recommend that ever. You can 100% find a part-time job and you should feel no shame in it. Period.
So how can you start a blog today and have it be successful?
You can start a blog today and have it look like a million bucks for about $100 within a day. Things have changed. You can start an Instagram and start making money tomorrow. You can buy all your followers on Instagram (I do NOT recommend this) and appear to be influential overnight.
Things are SO very different now that it may not take a decade for you to be where I am. It may take just one. And that’s crazy for me to type out but it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. And you can thank all the OG bloggers for paving the way.
When people ask me, how did you start a blog and have it turn into this? My answer is, I feel like we just can’t compare or relate anymore. The industry was vastly different in the early 2010s. So if you’re thinking about starting a blog today, just ask yourself if you want to put the work in and if you’re doing it because you love it.
This is by no means an industry to get into to get rich quickly. It’s an industry to get into because it’s a creative outlet you desperately are searching for, or it sparks your creativity and makes you happy.
PS if you’re looking to start a blog, you can check out THIS post on The Blog Societies. It’s super helpful to show you the 10 easy steps to truly start a blog. It’ll look 2398529385 times better than mine did 12 years ago and you’ll be way ahead of the game if you follow our steps.
Featured image by Hannah Michelle