Hey Hey, friends!
So today’s post is a little different than I would usually do… but I have so many of you email and DM me the exact same question multiple times a week, and it goes a little something something like this:
“Hey Hannah, love what you do and I would really love to start a blog myself, but I have no idea where to start. Can you give me some tips?”
And since there’s only one of me, and I can’t get coffee to teach you what’s worked for me with all of you, I thought perhaps you can grab a cup of coffee and sit down to read this… and it’ll ALMOST be like we are chatting together. 😉
I pretty much tell everybody the exact same few things who ask me this question, and they are what I believe built the foundation for The Cake by Hannah. And, everything I am about to share pretty much was taught to me by meetings with other influencers, podcasts, or blog posts similar to this one when I first was getting started.
- Start your website and blog as though you already have thousands of followers. You want to create content you are proud of and is already at the caliber you want to produce later down the road. This means your content, your site, your photos… if you start at a 10, you already are appealing to people who are seeing your name and site for the first time regardless of numbers. It’s sort of like a “fake it til you make it” mentality. (Any start-up will tell you that this is how to do it well. Start running the race how you want to be in 2-5 years.)
- Pick Your 5: I was told this by somebody when I was getting started (I don’t even remember who it was), and then heard Jenna Kutcher talking about it on one of her podcasts I listened to recently. What I mean by “your 5” is pick the 5 things that you are going to post about on your page and feed- the 5 things that make up who you are- and it is what people will go off to know whether or not they want to follow you or not. Rotate posts on your Instagram between these five topics. It’s as simple as that. NEWSFLASH: It’s ok if people don’t want to follow you because of your 5. You want readers who connect with you and what you are writing about over numbers. Engagement and genuine community is everything.
- Along the same lines as your 5- be genuine, raw, and real. People are sick of this game social media is playing of “showing the best”. My experience as a writer and “Instagrammer” is that people want to know they’re normal, not just what sales are happening or what shoes we are buying this week.
- Pick your niche: I am the first to say I am not a “fashion blogger.” I talk about fashion, yes, but it’s not what I am. I am a writer. I learned really quickly when I was getting started that the whole “fashion blogger”, true to the term, wasn’t who I was. I am a writer, I was a broadcast and creative writing major in college, and that is where I found the most fruit in what content I was creating. Writing and sharing truth with people- that’s why you haven’t seen a whole lot from me throughout the N Sale or why I don’t have a “Shoesday Tuesday” post every week- I tried that niche, it wasn’t me and that is totally ok. Sure, I lost people when I really shifted my focus for The Cake by Hannah, but I gained way more once I started doing what I felt convicted and led to do. And, bonus, I am thankful for the bloggers who ARE that “Fashion Blogger” niche, because they help me know when and what to buy. It’s a win-win situation.
- Start With Brands At Your Same Level: I got to meet with Katey Mcfarlan (Chronicles of Frivolity) when I first started my blog (literally the sweetest person ever), and she told me this piece of advice. What I mean is, don’t start by emailing Fossil or Dillards when you’re at 1k. I got my first really big partnership with Bare Minerals at 10K, and then other big brands came after that. So, I started my marketing side of The Cake by reaching out to shops on Etsy once I had around 1500 followers. I told them who I was, what my blog was all about, and that I would love to share their product with my readers. (I wasn’t charging for my talents at first- I was just trying to create content.) It was an easy email pitch, and I sent out about 20 emails a week when I first was getting on my feet. (no joke) I spent hours every day developing and creating for The Cake long before it was profitable or the community it is today- all while working a full time job as a head buyer for a start-up in Dallas. It was an absolutely exhausting season of life, but worth it to create what was a initially just a hobby for me and now a career.
As far as growing your following goes… this is the #1 question that, when getting started, feels impossible. To be honest, you’re going to hear 101 different opinions and tactics to do this. So what I am about to say is my own personal opinion. I have chosen the route of organic and real vs. buying followers or the follow for follow game. I did the following game for a short period early on and it was exhausting, overwhelming, and… at times I definitely saw things in my feed I didn’t want to see. Also, at the end of the day, if you go look at a blogger’s account that you can tell they follow for follow (look for someone who is following thousands of people…) you’re going to see that their engagement is really low. If you want to turn your blog into a career, brands don’t care as much about the number at the top of your feed as they do about the engagement from the number that is following you. Make sense? Numbers do matter, but not as much as engagement. When you play the follow for follow game, you’re not getting a genuine readership or community. I care SO MUCH MORE about if the content I am creating and what I am writing is getting to people who need it over just any and every body who could care less.
Find other genuine bloggers who are in the same niche as you to do a “Follow Friday” with on occasion, share about people you’re loving, be engaged with people who ARE reading your posts and create community with them. I legit feel like I know so many of you who consistently comment on my posts, because I read and respond to everything you say. I have definitely stalked you, too. It’s my favorite part about this blogging thing! Because of the route I chose, I feel like I truly have a community that I affectionately call “The Cake Community”, and it’s developed naturally over the last year and a half as I have stepped into what I really wanted The Cake to be.
Starting The Cake Shop came AFTER my blog. It was part of the plan from the start of The Cake by Hannah, but I knew I needed to wait to launch it. I wanted to create a community before I turned it into my shop, too. (This was super hard, but worth being patient!) The Cake Shop came to fruition when it felt like a true extension of what The Cake by Hannah already was. I launched the shop just this past November, and it has been WAY MORE than I could have ever hoped.
I hope this helps. I know some of this seems basic… but it’s just the truth. Lastly, I pray for God’s favor on The Cake daily. I thank him for the community that has already developed, and that he would continue to use it however he wants. This is most important to me above all else.
Love you guys so much, and I am cheering you on in whatever business or blog you have in your heart! The best best piece of advice seriously is to just GO FOR IT. Do it. Don’t wait, there is no better time than now. Today. Bring alive the dreams inside of you.
For funsies… here are just a small portion of The Cake by Hannah archive photos from over the last two years as my blog has grown and developed. You’ll see a change of style… hair color… content… haha.