How I Started A Blog

How To Start A Blog by Jessica Camerata

I’m coming up on 8 years blogging and I’m just as surprised as you that I never really shared HOW I started a blog. And kept it going for 8 years….So grab a cup of coffee because this is officially the longest post I have EVER written in my 8 years but it’s full of great information.

I was recently asked by a friend to chat with THEIR friend and have them “pick my brain” about how I got to where I am blogging. God I despise that term. And that’s another post coming your way too. But the question I often get asked, more than pick my brain, is how did you get started and how did it turn into this? Usually that’s what they’ll ask once they start picking my brain. So I figured why not just write a post about it?

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 8 years ago. 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 worlds worst job market, I took what I could. Basically, I was a glorified bill collector handling millions in monthly revenue for TRAIN CARGO. Man, it sucked. They hated me, I hated them, it was mutual. I also at the time HATED my boyfriend. He was just awful. He also worked at Norfolk Southern with me and the moment I started to hate my job it all just went downhill in every aspect.

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 adult hood 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, I just figured I should go back to school. Seemed easier than finding another job with how grim the market was. I called GSU 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 said “if I can figure out how to do it, you can do it”. She’s a mom of 3 and was growing a beautiful home decor blog business for herself.

When I returned home from that trip that is when I started My Style Vita. I sat down on my couch on April 20th, sad, depressed, avoiding my boyfriend probably, and started My Style Vita. 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 it makes me cringe.

So here’s the thing, 7 almost 8 years ago, 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 at for several years. My blog was hideous, it wasn’t pretty, 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? Well I can do that! 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 product 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 isn’t rocket science and it’s honestly a total shot in the dark half the time. But it takes TIME and ENERGY and CREATIVITY. IT IS WORK.

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. 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. Exhibit A. But I still shared tons of terrible collages, personal photos and more. I also wasn’t super consistent with my photographer. I was sharing pretty terrible photos in between the pretty photos that I was also taking. There wasn’t much consistency.

The next 2 years were MUCH better

The following 2 years grew better for me. It’s when I started working more with Janelle 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 putting out there. I started writing more meaningful helpful content and much more than 100 words at a time. This is when I found my stride.

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. 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 is A LOT, to start traveling 3 weeks out of the month. I was already traveling 3-5 days a month and never wanted to be a road warrior sales rep. It wasn’t what I signed up for and it’s what my boss promised wouldn’t ever happen. 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 screenprinters wasn’t as glamorous as my fellow counterparts in NYC and LA selling to fun brands and agencies. 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

I quit, I focused on saving as much money as possible from my bar job and poured myself into My Style Vita and The Blog Societies. Eventually I was able to leave the bar behind and now solely focus on MSV and TBS with some cash in the bank as a solid emergency fund. I can’t stress the last part enough.

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 little to no money 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 8 years for you to be where I am. It may take 1. 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 8 years ago, even just 2 years ago. 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 quick. 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 8 years ago and you’ll be way ahead of the game if you follow our steps. You can also read ALL of my blogging tip posts here.

Featured image by Hannah Michelle

Leave a Comment

15 Comments

  1. But the big question is: would you start a blog TODAY!? Honestly, I don’t think I would…YIKES!

    xoxo
    Cathy, your Poor Little It Girl
    https://poorlittleitgirl.com

    Posted 2.12.19 Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      That post is coming next!

      Posted 2.12.19 Reply
  2. Sue wrote:

    AW! Loved reading this…so many thoughts! It IS so different today, but I’m so glad I started when I did! Are you? XX

    Posted 2.12.19 Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      The learning was fun, but man it would be easier to just start today, ha! But I’m glad I started as a true blogger writing articles only and not even thinking about Instagram. Those were the great years!

      Posted 2.12.19 Reply
  3. Lora wrote:

    You know whats weird, Jessica? When your posts pop up in my Feedly, the pics are not the ones you’re using in your blog post. For example, this story was the pic of the Pantene products. And for a couple weeks, all the posts were coming over with the pic of that rose gold braided hair. Strange shit going on.

    Posted 2.12.19 Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Strange! I just updated a plugin that’s supposed to fix RSS images. Can you forward me your next feedly that you get?

      Posted 2.12.19 Reply
      • Lora wrote:

        I will indeed ?

        Posted 2.12.19 Reply
        • Lora wrote:

          So, just wanted to follow up and say that everything on my Feedly has been right. The pics have been lining up with the posts. Not sure if it was your update or if Feedly is simply back on track, but its quite nice to be back to normal.

          Posted 2.23.19 Reply
          • Jessica wrote:

            Yes after you’re comment I re-added a plugin that I thought I no longer needed. I REALLY appreciate you letting me know! Yay for it working again!

            Posted 2.23.19
  4. Maureen wrote:

    Happy almost 8th blog anniversary! Kudos to your hard work and thank you for sharing your journey. Blogging is definitely a lot of work. I was naive when I first started but the funny thing is as much as it does occupy most of my time and here’s the kicker, not profitable, I love it. You are doing an awesome job and cheers to many more years!

    Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com

    Posted 2.12.19 Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Yes I always tell people that you can’t get into it for instant money ha! It’s lots of work and you usually get into it because it fuels your creativity and makes you happy. Thanks so much reading and following!

      Posted 2.12.19 Reply
  5. Ashley wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It definitely helps to remind people that as successful as you are now, it took time and dedication.

    I just started blogging at the end of last year, partially to document my journey of training to be a yoga teacher, but also to see if I enjoyed it and could make something out of it. And you’re right, it is SO MUCH HARDER than I thought it would be, especially when also juggling an increasingly demanding day job AND spending 16+ hours each weekend in the yoga training.

    Sometimes my readership (lack thereof) is a little discouraging but I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not going to be a big success overnight, it could take years (like you are saying!)

    Keep up the great work!
    Ashley
    http://www.mixtapeyogi.com

    Posted 2.13.19 Reply
  6. Mariah wrote:

    Loved learning about your start! I’m so glad you were able to find what you were passionate about. Hating your job affects so many other things in life.

    http://moosmusing.com

    Posted 2.13.19 Reply
  7. Loved this post and it was so helpful and inspiring. Thank you.

    Posted 2.17.19 Reply

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