Thursday, May 17, 2018

One year of blogging +lessons learned

This past month has flown by you guys…. I missed my 1 year blogging anniversary TWO months ago, I guess I wasn’t exactly surprised at myself 😂 I've literally had four-weekend trips back to back so I can't really complain but actually sitting down to blog and put my thoughts into words has always been my weakness.  In any case, here’s a quick update on the blog and what’s next!

The number one question I get in my dms is advice on how to get started. That question is so complex and really deserves two blog post in all honesty but I'm going to try to put it in this one then I'll update you guys with a worksheet with resources.
My biggest take away from this past year would be having a mentor is a must and a genuine sense of community. If you can find a mentor get one and soak up everything like a sponge. I reached out to a couple girls very early on that I am fortunate enough to have become very good friends with. This has helped so much and especially on those bad days when you want to vent and get creative with new ideas. I joined a couple of FB groups that introduced me to so many amazing women.

This should be a major priority for people starting out. I recently attended a seminar about blogging during fashion week here in Nashville from several successful ladies and the biggest piece of advice was to always surround yourself with people as smart as you or even more importantly smarter than you. Everyone in your corner or around you should bring something to the table rather than taking from or being negative. You want the power players in your corner and learn from them as much as you can.

Not only is blogging an investment time wise but its an investment money wise too. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars all at once but be ok with spending here and there. Initially, I spent a couple hundred up front on my URL, website theme, and hosting for one year. I got my camera earlier in the year but I knew this going into that purchase. My Canon power shot was a couple hundred dollars. Photo props are never-ending- Tri-pod, backgrounds, flowers, candles, rugs, etc. Again you don’t have to do all of this at once but you will have to invest a little over time. You have to spend money to make money though. I upgraded in December to a Canon Rebel T6. This camera has been a game changer and I'm noW working on my editing skills. Again more investing… Different programs cost monthly cost but you don’t have to do all of this at once so remember that. Some major bloggers take a lot of photos with just the new iPhone and edit with VSCO. I'll link all the items I use below.

You are not just a blogger or influencer, I quickly learned you are a photographer, model, stylist, brand manager, social media strategist, graphic designer, writer etc etc. The learning never ends and you really have to take it in strides. Some people might be better at one avenue than the other but overall you have to work on all the components mentioned or you won’t make it. “Hustle beats talent every day when talent doesn’t hustle”. You have to continue to grow and that is A LOT more work than most realize. I am always working on multiple things at any given time. Sometimes its content, marketing, branding, editing, or just getting enough photographs in general. On top of that, you always need a snazzy caption so its always on or you get behind quickly. I periodically will adjust my goals depending on what I’m working on at the time. This year alone I set a few different goals and I am busier than I’ve ever been because of that so don’t be afraid to stop and adjust what you’re doing. It will be trial and error for a while. If you’re not uncomfortable you are not growing. Usually, when I get comfortable I start working on something new that stresses me out or brings a challenge.

I started out with a Canon power shot camera, an iPhone, a go-pro, and a tri-pod. My husband takes the majority of my photos or I take some with my tripod. 

This takes practice but can be done. I occasionally work with photographers in the area and have learned how to collaborate with others. All of this came from asking questions and doing my research daily. I took webinars, courses, and read tutorials for quite some time. I still do all the time because I still have so much to learn. You have to know this going into blogging and be ok with that. I have upgraded now to a Canon Rebel EOS 6 with a few different lenses. This is still a starter camera but pretty user-friendly with great quality photos.  Please know you don’t have to invest tons of money immediately to get started. You will have to spend here and there but you don’t have to go crazy.

 I am lucky enough to work with Katie @lifeshelives on my recent photos as she has created a preset for me. You can purchase my pre-set here and use my code BLONDEDLIGHTS1 FOR 15% off. This is a great deal and super helpful. I will usually edit small things afterward like the lighting but she has several options if you’re looking for something different. 

This is such a hot topic with bloggers. It’s extremely important to know that your blog is the single most important platform you should be focused on. Your website is the catalyst in which your blog is based on so always remember that. So many bloggers found themselves in a frenzy over the summer because they didn’t have the two-factor verification on and several others reasons caused them to get locked out of their account or shadowbanned. Basically, all that hard work was gone until the Instagram Gods decided to unlock or lift the ban. You can’t depend solely on one social media platform to make your blog. You must have several avenues to get traffic and move directions with just in case something like that happens again. #JUSTSAYING
Can you be a blogger with just a great following on Instagram? In my opinion no. You are just an Instagrammer… sorry not sorry. I struggle with this one too but this is a new goal and priority of mine that you all will see changing very soon hopefully. I have recently figured out the game of affiliate marketing and that’s such a game changer when you can talk about things you love and make some cash at the same time for sharing your secrets or tricks with others. That is the exact reason I started. #WINWIN
Now with that being said you still need to build these platforms up just don’t get too caught up with them if they don’t take off immediately or a fast as others. You likely have different goals than the person you are comparing yourself to and they are likely in a different place so it’s not always apples to apples.

I think the next question I get in my inbox is what suggestions do I have for someone starting out on Instagram and how to build a following. I’m always flattered by this because honestly I really just consider myself a beginner who has small successes but for others, those small victories could be huge I guess. We all have a love/hate relationship with Instagram but we have to take the good with the bad. I started before the insane changes came along and I focused solely on IG for month’s day in and day out. I reached 10k followers right before my 6-month mark but it’s honestly just from hard work and growing from my mistakes quickly. You have to figure out what works for you and stick to it. You can, of course, change it up once you get the flow of everything. Stick with a theme and schedule and just go with it. I take a break on occasion like during the holidays because you can get burned out quickly if you don’t take a break. I started out again joining those engaging support groups.
I then began joining pods for different types of things like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc. I still need to work on these pages myself but usually, I commit to one day a week to really try to engage and grow that page. A lot of people ask do you really need more than two or so platforms and I would say if you are serious about making money absolutely. I quickly learned the more you have to go on a media kit while negotiating with brands the better. I started noticing a change in that 6-month mark when I implemented all of these changes. A lot of people think you need 10k followers to work with brands and that is so not true. If you know how to speak the sales language and market correctly you can begin around 3k in my opinion. You will need to work with some brands in exchange for product in the beginning but this is crucial for your portfolio and media kit. I also started using a price list with that media kit and that was another game changer for me. If you need help on these topics feel free to message me or just simply go to Pinterest and you will find an over load of information.

SIGH….. this one is always a complex thing. I have experimented with so many things including giveaways, pods, international giveaways and that one is 50/50 in my opinion. You will grow but likely with the wrong followers so the followers will fluctuate drastically afterward and marketing companies target you when they see this and will randomly test out your account then message you afterward only to lose hundreds of followers after the fact… I get incredibly frustrated at least once a month over this issue but it just comes with the territory at this stage. It's not really my primary focus but I'm aware obviously. I'll still participate in blogger support groups and networking but I'm working on new ways to get involved. I like doing the giveaways for my followers and even the secret giveaways but I'm torn on the followers the come with. Still working on that….You will see an upcoming giveway to go along with this post for my blogger babes. 

Starting out it’s important to always remember why you started and always go back to that. I knew early on that this little hobby/business of mine would take time to build. It can take anywhere from a year (IF YOU'RE LUCKY) to three years to really take off for most people. Some people start several and still fail but the only key factor to success is hard work. You can easily start making an income and picking up after 6 months or so if you really hustle at it and make it happen. You have to treat it like a business. Any start up a business takes a while to get going and every entrepreneur will tell you that.  It’s important to pick a name, URL, host, theme then all your social handles first. Start following, posting, and engaging. From there you will need to make a list of short-term goals and long-term goals. You can begin from there but just get started and don’t wait or try to perfect everything you’re doing. You will figure it out as you go and that’s how most of us do it. If you feel lost and you will A LOT do your research and ask questions as much as you can.

I plan on building and focusing on other social media platforms, of course, working with more brands, monetizing more, and dominating my newsletter…. That’s one area I need major improvement on. I didn’t mention that above because I’m not the best with my own but newsletters are huge and can bring in a lot of traffic.
I have lots of plans for Blondedlights and I plan on using this platform in the next couple of years really more as a tool for other goals. I hope to work with more brands, branch outside a little beyond fashion, lifestyle, and beauty. I’ve been so fortunate to work with brands I love and that list never ends on brand work. I would love to incorporate charity somehow with this blog and get others involved with causes close to my heart. If you follow me on social media you know exactly what I mean. It’s always a struggle on balance with work, family, blogging, charity and personal time so I hope to get better at the balancing act.

Heres a few post from some of my favorite ladies that started out around the same time as I and I’ve grown to love them all and I always find something useful from their advice and blog. Do yourself a favor and check them out. Feel free to save these post for resources in the future.

Most popular blog post to date-

If I left anything out or you have any suggestions please leave a comment below and let me know if you like this post and want more like this in the future.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following this little journey with me.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

My Self Tanning Routine + Best Tanning Products

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn an income if you click on links. All opinions are my own as always. 

Over the last couple of years, I have become a firm believer in self- tanning products. It clearly helps with aging and your health so I'm all for it. I started out getting a professional spray tan every week then I switched to getting them at Sun Tan City and I got quickly got tired of that and wasn't always happy with my application. I decided after doing my research I would start doing it myself and I'm so glad I did. People think its way more complicated than it is but its fairly simple. I have my favorites and I have tested them all (A LOT) so I thought I would save you some time and money by sharing. It took me a while to find some decent affordable products but after many trials and error, I have found my holy grails. I have my favorites for different times and occasions but once you get the hang of self- tanning it should only take ten minutes or so. Some can take time to develop and leave a mess and others not so much. I literally self-tanned myself the night before my wedding and it took no time. It's important to note it also saves your skin and could save your life. Hopefully, this article will come in handy for some of you.

#1 My go-to self-tanning product is St.Moriz. Not to be confused with the St. Tropez. It’s the same consistency and last a good week or so when applied correctly. One bottle of this will last me 3-4 applications maybe more. My biggest piece of advice is to use the mitt that they sell or go to Ulta and stock up. I've linked one at the bottom as well because if you're like me I do most of my shopping online once I find a product I like. Without the mitt, your tan will be obvious and not as smooth. You will no doubt have a few streaks, missed spots, and your tan will be inconsistent. Buy the mitt… Trust me.

#2  Loreal self-tanning wipes. I always have these in my cabinet because I use them all the time especially in a time pinch. I've found myself many times pale on a trip but I don’t want to take the time to self-tan or let anyone else know I'm doing so if I'm sharing a house. Our last family trip to Orlando is a perfect example. I flew down after work on a Thursday and didn’t have time to worry about self-tanning. I popped over to Target and quickly wiped my tan on after showering. Done and done. Two wipes cover your entire body including your face without the mess or smell. You can purchase the medium color at any drugstore, Target or Walmart but if you want the dark shade you must purchase from Ulta or online.

Loreal Tanning Wipes
#3 I also like the Loreal spray as well but this one takes practice. I love this color and consistency. Some people disagree but this one leaves a great finish if you apply properly (WITH THE MITT). I only use the dark shade in the Summer because I hate when its obvious and I'm crazy dark in the winter compared to everyone else. I prefer to have a light glow most of the time because the pale skin has made a comeback.

Loreal Sublime Bronze Tanning Mist

#4 Quick Tan. I stumbled upon this one just trying new products out and reading reviews. This one applies amazing and  I love the color it leaves. I have a Sallys next to my home so it's very convenient for me but you can buy online as well. This product DOES MAKE A MESS. Ask my girlfriends about my towels in the bathroom after using this one. 

As I wrote this I started searching for one of my favorite touch up items that seems to be discontinued. Nars used to have a tanning mouse that was very similar to Sally Henson's mouse but it was very pigmented, smooth, and was waterproof. I cant find it anywhere but I loved this for touch-ups on bikini trips where you might be in water/chlorine. Self-tanners do fade more quickly when exposed to chlorine. I used this product while in Vegas on a bachelorette trip for touch-ups after being by the pool all day. I don't have anything to really advise you to use as of now but I'm looking at the moment. I'm also looking into tanning oil drops to add to your own skincare lotion or moisturizer. I'm still undecided at the moment on how I feel about those but I will update once I try a few.

Quick tips-
Exfoliate, shower, and shave before. This will ensure your tan last longer. I use a loofa and body wash but you can use sugar scrub or exfoliating products if you like. I also use my Clarisonic on my face prior so I don’t need to exfoliate on my face for a few days afterward and this allows my tan on my face to last a tiny bit longer. The face typically doesn’t hold a tan as long just because of makeup and removing makeup daily.      
I try to make my tan look like I didn’t self-tan so less is more and you can add as you go instead of just applying heavy initially.
If you have a mess up or find streaks you can remove with makeup removing wipes. Yes, it works but be careful and be sure to rub evenly and try to blend where you are touching up. I always try to wash my hands afterward and blend my wrist, hands, and fingers well with a wipe. I use the same wipe for all over because it doesn’t take much. If you need to go back and add a light application- I use the leftover on my mitt and it works great.
If you find yourself with a terrible mess try to shower immediately, exfoliate, use the makeup wipes and as a last resort try lemon juice or an actual lemon. The acid in the lemon will remove most of the tan but it is very drying on your skin.
Last but not least-MOISTURIZE. The more moisturized your skin is the longer it will last. Your skin won't exfoliate or shed as bad if you have more moisture.

There you have it! I hope this helps some of you with your self-tanning! If you have any other tips and tricks feel free to leave in the comments below. I'm always looking for new affordable products!

Tanning Mitt