How to start a fashion blog, keep it going & even make money(!)

Make your style sense pay off

The fashion blogging landscape is in flux. When this medium first came on the scene, style bloggers were considered wannabes and either ignored or disdained by the mainstream fashion media. Today, a successful fashion blogger can get front-row seats at Fashion Week events, collaborate with famous labels and book lucrative partnerships with big-name brands. But if you’re late to the game, it can be tricky to decide how to start a fashion blog that will stand out, grow steadily and feel authentic.

I launched my own fashion blog nearly a decade ago and although much has changed since then, the essentials remain the same. If you’re hoping to create a personal style, fashion advice or otherwise sartorially driven blog, here’s a step-by-step plan to get you started.

How to start a fashion blog in just 4 steps

  1. Get focused.

  2. Pick a name and buy your domain.

  3. Choose a blog builder.

  4. Learn to speak Google’s language.

Blogs require talent, hard work and perseverance. But before you can even begin to work out the kinks in your daily hustle, you need to set up your infrastructure. And make some key decisions. Read on to learn how.

1. Get focused

Wanna know how to start a fashion blog that has a better-than-average chance of failure? Create one that’s totally without focus.

Your outfits may be on fleek and your closet may be brimming with amazing finds but unless you focus, your WIWT posts will get lost in the shuffle.

Do you live in an unusual climate or exotic locale? Make that part of your blog’s brand. Are you a mother of three or a new-to-the-workforce college grad? Include those identifiers when you position yourself.

Want inspiration? Read Cora Harrington’s account of how she started The Lingerie Addict.

How to Start a Fashion Blog Purse
Photo: Visualhunt.com

2. Pick a name and buy your domain

This is a doozy. Naming a blog is like naming a band — high stakes, creatively challenging and downright nerve-wracking. Be sure to include a nod to your focus in your blog’s name, if possible, and pick something that feels unique to you.

If you can find a great name for your fashion blog that ends in .com, great! Get it. But don’t limit yourself to only looking at .com domain names. They’ve been around for a long time so it can be hard to find a short, memorable and relevant .com web address.

Why not get creative with the name of your fashion blog? Try .blog, .life or .shop.

These new domains work just like .com, but are more descriptive. Just add your blog name on the other side of the dot for a web address that speaks for itself.

Once you’ve found a good domain name, snap it up — GoDaddy has options for less than $20 per year.

3. Choose a blog builder

The blog platform you choose won’t just impact how your blog looks, feels and runs behind-the-scenes. It also has an impact on how quickly and easily you can prepare and share your content. Tumblr has cachet, but can be awkward if you want to build a real community. Blogger is easy and free, but doesn’t let you dig as deep or customize as easily.

Having tried several platforms myself, I strongly recommend WordPress.

WordPress has the greatest number of themes — here are 20 of the best ones for fashion blogs — so you can give your blog a look that matches your style. The huge variety of plugins available for WordPress make it easy for you to expand and customize your blog’s functionality. And WordPress has a versatile, intuitive backend that makes it fairly simple to manage your content and all the extras that make it shine. Speaking of which …

4. Learn to speak Google’s language

I know, I know. When do we get to the photo shoots and freebies? Soon, friends, I promise. But first, you absolutely MUST learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure Google sees your posts. Otherwise they’ll never get indexed, which means they’ll never get seen or read. Don’t worry, it’s not hard — it just takes a little well-spent time. Yoast, a wildly popular WordPress plugin, can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Now for the advanced tips.

How to start a fashion blog with staying power

Promising new blogs spring up every day, but even more of them wither and die. Starting a fashion blog is the easy part. But how to start a fashion blog with staying power? It’s finding a way to keep it relevant, compelling, unique and fun over the long haul that poses a real challenge. Here are some best practices:

Keep a running list of topics.

The first thing I tell anyone who asks how to start a fashion blog is that an outfits-only blog is a tough sell in this market. Hopefully, your niche includes a relatively broad scope that encompasses trends, shopping tips, style advice and other non-outfit topics. If it does, you’ll want to keep a running list of blog post ideas. Any time you come across an article of interest, catch wind of a fab (or bizarre) new trend or have a flash of inspiration, write it down. There will be times when writer’s block sets in and you’ll need a ready supply of inspiration.

Create an editorial calendar (and stick to it!).

Once you’ve got a list of topics, settle on a regular posting schedule. The best way to start a fashion blog outright is to post at least three times per week, ideally on weekdays. You can ramp up to daily posts if and when you want to. If you intend to post on multiple topics, build out a calendar that spreads those topics across the weeks and months. Make Monday your trend day, Wednesday an outfit post and Friday your advice column, for instance.

Read more about creating an editorial calendar here.

Be active on social media.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but this step is so essential it still merits a call-out.

For fashion bloggers, Instagram is absolutely crucial, with Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter following, in order of importance.

You don’t have to do them all, but pick two or three in addition to your blog and populate your feeds with gusto. In addition to sharing content from your fashion blog (and linking back to it from your social profiles, natch), be sure to share fashion content you like from other fashion bloggers and brands. That’s how you start to build a following, make friends and put yourself on the path to making money with your fashion blog.

How to start a fashion blog that makes money

How bloggers earn their income is the worst-kept secret in the business. Yet a surprising number of blog readers and aspiring bloggers are still mystified by the process, so here’s a quick primer.

1. Create a media kit.

Once your blog is established and has some steady traffic, you’ll need to start the active outreach process. Begin by building a media kit, which is basically a resume for your blog that outlines your mission, stats and strengths. Include a short bio, a description of your blog, your social media follower counts, blog traffic stats, advertising/sponsored post rates and contact information. Oh, and at least three gorgeous images of you and your online home!

How to Start a Fashion Blog Runway2. Join an affiliate marketing network.

One of the easiest ways to earn money as a fashion blogger is through affiliate links. Start by joining a network — RewardStyle and ShopStyle Collective are two of the most popular — then begin folding affiliate links into your posts whenever you recommend products. If readers buy something after clicking on one of these links, you earn a commission on the sale.

Affiliate links are one of the easiest ways to earn money as a fashion blogger.

 

The vendor pays you a percentage, so it costs your readers nothing to use these links. However, the FTC requires you to divulge when you’re earning money off of user actions or showcasing gifts from vendors, so be sure to craft an air-tight disclosure statement.

3. Place ads in your posts.

Display ads on blogs aren’t the big-earners they used to be, but they’re still worth implementing. Carve out space in your sidebars and sacrifice some real estate at the top of your screen and you can earn money for every page view.

My personal favorite is Mediavine, since they’re fully transparent, reliable and great at customer service.

Fashion bloggers also use BlogHer, Federated MediaGoogle AdWords and a few others, though good display services are becoming harder and harder to find. If you join an affiliate network (see #2, above), you can also grab ads for specific vendors or products and manually place them on your site. But those will pay out only if you make a sale, NOT for traffic.

4. Go after sponsored posts and brand partnerships.

Sponsored posts generally involve being given one or more products and constructing an in-depth review with multiple photos. Brand partnerships may entail mentioning or wearing products, allowing companies to use your images in their ads, attending or appearing at events and more.

You can’t start a fashion blog on Monday and cold-call Chanel on Tuesday.

 

You’ll need to have at least six months of blogging and a decent following before you go this route. (Translation: Don’t start a fashion blog on Monday and cold-call Chanel on Tuesday.) But once you’ve established your niche and have an impressive media kit, you can start securing sponsorships. In most cases, vendors and PR firms will find and reach out to you, but it’s fine to pitch a few brands you absolutely adore.

Some bloggers even have agents negotiate on their behalf for partnerships and sponsored posts. Digital Brand Architects and Socialyte are among the faves.

Got style and guts? You got this!

Whenever anyone asks how to start a fashion blog, I tell them it takes guts, creativity and vision to succeed, especially in this market. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Just be smart, be patient and use these guidelines to ensure your words and images find their audience.


Also published on Medium.

Sally McGraw
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She is the creator the popular daily blog Already Pretty, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Huffington Post contributor, and the author of several books about style and body image. Sally is also a ghostwriter and editor who specializes in non-fiction books and book proposals. She believes that writing is like solving a living, breathing, ever-changing puzzle, and finds the challenge exhilarating. Her favorite word is "crepuscular."