Why (And How) I Started My Own Blog

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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"How did you get started in blogging?" It's one of the most common questions I get whenever someone finds out about Coffee and Cardigans. The same question came up again when I chatted with the University of Oregon's Social Media Club about blogging last week. Truth be told, I sort of fell into blogging but figured the story was worth a blog post... More than three years later.

It was freshman year of college - around 2010 - that I first started reading fashion and DIY blogs, which was my first real introduction to the blogging world. It was about the time I really got interested in clothing, personal style and sewing. Kendi Everyday and A Pair and a Spare were daily reads for me. Besides helping inspire my own sense of personal style, these ladies also helped me realize that blogging was a great way to put together some of my favorite things around a topic that I loved.

Coffee and Cardigans has changed a lot since it began, especially in the topics and editorial focus, but it's my absolute favorite way to spend free time. For me, blogging combines writing, photography, design, business management and marketing into a single platform. Call me a nerd, it's okay.

Creating and Designing a Blog

I created my first blog in 2011, but ended up deleting it out of pure embarrassment. Hopefully no one remembers that. Coffee and Cardigans kicked off in February 2012 as a personal style blog. I host through Blogger, which is a free platform owned by Google. In retrospect, I probably should have opted for a self-hosted WordPress, but freshman year Callie didn't have the budget for web hosting. But Blogger has been a great option even three years later. I also bought a custom domain, which I think adds a feel of legitimacy and professionalism to a blog - about $10 a year.

I took me another two years to really start understanding that the design of my blog mattered. Coffee and Cardigan's current look is actually the work of my go-to designer Melissa. We worked together last summer to develop Coffee and Cardigans' new image. It's true that hiring a designer can get really expensive depending on your platform - an average of $500+ on Blogger and $1,000+ on WordPress. You can also buy premade themes for both platforms, which are a little cheaper ($50-150).

But let's look at the other side of the argument. Blogger has some decent default themes that are largely customizable, so it's not necessary to hire a designer if you are ready to put the time in. WordPress can be the same way, depending on your chosen theme. I considered hiring Melissa an investment in my blog (and also my career). It's definitely increased the quality of my blog, and at the same time, helped me become a legitimate partner that brands want to work with.

Building and Managing Content

The final piece to the equation is content. Where does it come from? These days, Coffee and Cardigans really focuses in on post-grad style, career advice and daily living. Because of this, my job and life serve as the primary source of inspiration. Reading other blogs, browsing social media and staying current on trends can also turn up ideas. But once and a while, blogging needs to get personal. I think it's great to use the current challenges in your life as fuel. Some of the most successful posts I've had were just really honest pieces that addressed a personal challenge.

Budget and time were two big factors that impacted blogging for me right after graduation, so develop a rhythm was important. Coffee and Cardigans is updated about 2-3 a week, depending on my schedule. I have a Google spreadsheet that's become my editorial calendar for planning out weekly posts and guest content. But there's no "science" to it for me.

What are your questions about starting a blog and building it up? Leave your questions or best advice in a comment below - I'd love to read them!

Meet The Blogger: The Social Butterfly Gal

Monday, May 18, 2015

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Looking for new reading material? Not sure how to get started as a blogger? Coffee and Cardigans' monthly blogger Q&A series introduces some of the amazing lady bloggers that inspired on me a daily basis. Christina is the go-getter gal behind The Social Butterfly Gal. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Tell me a little about you and your blog!

I'm Christina Ochoa, a 24-year-old social butterfly living in San Antonio, TX, with a passion for public relations, writing, and social media. By day, you’ll find me working as a digital PR consultant for The Social Butterfly Gal and a contracted social media manager for Natalie Saldana Public Relations. In my spare time, you’ll find me blogging, networking and serving as the Social Committee Chair for the Young Adult Community of Holy Trinity in San Antonio. My blog, The Social Butterfly Gal, is a lifestyle blog focused on my PR adventures, fashion, dining, career resources and inspiration.

How did you get started blogging?

My blogging journey actually started way back when there were AOL Journals! My passion for writing lead me to create two blogs: For the Love of Television in 2011, and The Lost Get Found in 2013. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up with them so I took a break from blogging and picked it back up a year later with the creation of The Social Butterfly Gal. This one is my first major consistent one and has shown tremendous growth in the first nine months since creation!

What's daily life for you -- blogging included?

My daily life consists of creating content for my clients via social media, blog writing, video marketing and attending PR related events. With my blog, I usually create my editorial calendar for the month a week before the current month ends and prepare for all my blog posts ahead of time. I’m in the beginning stages of partnering up with bloggers and brands for advertising and sponsored post, which I’m excited for!

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What keeps you inspired as a blogger?

When it comes to inspiration, other bloggers keep me inspired -- from those locally to those I’ve met online. San Antonio has a wonderful blogger community. They have a Facebook group and have monthly meet-ups, networking events and workshop. I’m so grateful to have met inspirational women that keep the blogging flame alive!

What's a quirky blogging ritual?

My quirky blog ritual includes going and sitting in my home office with my list of ideas, soft music and a glass of wine!

What advice would you offer other bloggers?

Some advice I will offer other bloggers is know the reason why you want to blog and who you are blogging for. So many people create blogs without a reason for it. Have goals for your blog. I use the 30-60-90 goal rule... what I want for my blog/biz in 30 days, 60 days and 90 days. Also, don’t be afraid of contacting other bloggers in your community or online for advice or collaborations.

Answer one question you had as a new blogger.

Will I be able to consistently do this? YES, with a lot of focus, research and determination, you will able to!

Life Lately: Where To Begin?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

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May already? It's been two months and life lately is definitely deserving of an update. Oregon sunshine has been exactly what I've needed... and not just because of the afternoon frappuccino runs and outdoor blogging sessions. It's also been a powerful few months of soul-searching, creativity and epiphanies. More on all of that below and in a few weeks -- I promise cryptic blog posts won't become a "thing."

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Spring weather also means spring travel. It's been amazing to reconnect with old friends who are visiting from out of town, including two of my favorite ladies from college. Graduation happened almost a year ago and it's amazing to see where post-grad life has taken people. Even though I'd never trade my "big city" Portland experience, I now have excuses to visit San Fransisco and New York any time I want.

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The highlight of May? A teeny, tiny project that I've been working on the past six months -- and it has a lot to do with this post. Lately, I've added words like "creative entrepreneur" and "digital strategist" to my vocabulary. While the next two weeks will be awful busy, I can't wait to share the full details about my new professional website launching on June 1, 2015.