I Asked A Full-Time Blogger EVERYTHING — SEO, Pinterest, Getting Started, Making Money.. | With Carlee of StyledToSparkle.com
Have you ever wanted to start a blog but didnt know where to start? Have you ever wished you just had someone that would tell you exactly what you need to know because google seems overwhelming?
I’m SUPER lucky to have been able to sit down with Carlee of StyledToSparkle.com! We talked for almost two hours and you bet I maximised our time together and dug deep into her blogging brain! I asked her about SEO, Pinterest, Getting Started, Making Money, Pitching to Brands and more! (And let’s be honest, her entire life story because Im nosey like that. Haha!)
I remember listening to her speak during BlogIt Calgary wherein she was one of the panelists. And geez, ya girl was literally taking notes! And then she said, “if you ever have other questions, just DM me Im more than willing to help!” I love this woman. She’s such a natural teacher and such a giver. <3
As we talked, it rendered me speechless because when she told me about starting the new agency, anyone could easily tell that she’s really coming from a place of wanting to help and serve others. She has the abundance mindset when it comes to the industry, believing that there’s enough room for everyone and she is always ready and willing to share all the knowledge that she’s acquired throughout the years.
Im so grateful for her and I couldnt be any happier about the fact that Im relaunching a new season of this series with her as the first feature. You’ll learn LOTS in this article!
FOLLOW CARLEE HERE!
Topics we discussed that made the cut to this post:
Her Blogging Story
Her Thoughts on the Blogging Community
SEO & Pinterest
Pitching To Brands
Getting Support from Family
Building Her New Digital Marketing & Branding Business
Time & Project Management
Her Book Recommendations!
HER BLOGGING STORY
I’ve been blogging full time for three and a half years.
I just jumped into it like it was nothing. My blog today is not like my blog was 3 and a half years ago.
When I first started, it was terrible. They say if you look back in a couple of years and you’re proud of the thing that you’ve launched, then you’ve launched too late. I look back and I’m like “oh my god, she has no idea what she was doing.!” So, it’s kind of funny and it really come a long way... but for starting this, it was actually my husband’s idea.
I didn’t really know what blogging was, I thought it was just when people went and did a semester abroad, they wrote about it so their family knew what they were doing. I didn’t think that it was an actual thing.
I was at a point in my career where I didn’t like what I was doing anymore; I was really trying to figure it out. I was doing technical recruiting and the market tanked and there wasn’t a lot of work for me and I was like “you know what, I really need to do something else but I don’t know what to do.” I’m an entrepreneur, I have a business degree, my major was entrepreneurship, my parents are entrepreneurs, and my husband was an entrepreneur, when I met him he also had a side business that was a software company. I was like “I’m meant to be an entrepreneur, what do I do?”
So he was like “I think you need to start a blog” and I asked, ”what do you mean start a blog?” and he said, “I’ll build you a website and you just focus on the writing.” And I replied, “what am I gonna blog about?” And he said, “well, a month ago, somebody said to you at a party that she was going to a Seattle next week and you were ‘give me your email address because I’m gonna tell you everything you need to do’ and then you spent hours writing for this girl you’ve never met before about what she should do in Seattle or where she should stay or how long things will take and all that.” He was like “why don’t you put that on a website and share it?”
I’m one of those people, like when we met before, I think you know I could talk a lot when I get really excited about something and I really love something, I’m gonna tell you everything: why I love it and why you should love it, too. And so that’s why blogging is just like the right fit for me. I realized I was just doing this for free and just randomly for people and I thought if one person thinks this is useful, I wonder if ten people think it’s useful, too. Sure enough, the more I started doing that, the more my blog kind of grew, and that really made sense for me.
Now, I have the luxury of the fact that I’m married and my husband is very supportive of what I do because it was his idea, and we could just afford to live on just his income until I could afford to build my blog out enough. I know a lot of people do this as a side hustle, but I have the luxury of still being able to commit all of my time to doing this. So I don’t want to tell all the bloggers out there to just quit their jobs and start blogging and the money will come. Yeah no, it took a long time but I had the luxury of a second income from my husband to be able to make that happen.
THE BLOGGING COMMUNITY
With blogging, it’s your perspective. So let’s say you had a blog just like mine, same format, everything! But it’s never gonna be the same because your perspective on something is different. Let’s say we’re writing about this coffee shop. First of all we both ordered different drinks, so we have different preferences. I have a nude lip, you have a bold lip. I just feel like this is one space where there’s definitely room enough for all of us and I wanna help other bloggers get their perspective out there.
Blogging is probably one of the better industries that really does kind of foster that “Community over competition.” As a small business owner, I’ve never found a community or an industry where other women are so willing to help one another as they are in blogging.
I never look at something and see “oh, she got a brand deal with that company. Why did they ask her and not me?” What I’ll say is like.. “Wow! We’re kind of similar but we have different perspectives! Why her and why NOT ME TOO?”
SEO & PINTEREST TIPS
Pinterest is SEO driven, so it’s not like other social media. Views and follows on Pinterest are not really the same as with other social media because users are searching for certain topic.
A Pinterest for business account is great for the same reason Instagram for business is, you know you can track metrics, but you can see what pins and what topics am I pinning about that people are crazy about and then you can base some of your content on that
Think in terms of “long form key words” when writing blog posts
Use long form keywords and descriptions into photos so they come up in Google image searches.
800 X 1200 pixels because of tall, long pins are more likely to be re-pinned, statistically.
Pinfinite Growth by Melyssa Griffin
Join group boards through blogging facebook groups.
Create 3-5 different pins a bit slightly different images from the blogpost with text usually on the images
Use Tailwind to schedule pins
I’m a big proponent of having an email list. It’s because you own your email list, you don’t own your social media following. People are fickle on social media. They follow/unfollow or you’re fighting an algorithm. Sometimes it’s like, ‘oh I guess Carlee hasn’t posted in awhile. I haven’t seen any of her posts.” Well, no, I have! It’s just the algorithm. Whereas with an email list, your content is ALWAYS there, that’s your actual following. I think it’s so important.
PITCHING TO BRANDS
I would say it’s 50-50 pitching and catching. I call it ‘catching’ when brands pitch to me! So a lot of times I’ll pitch brands myself, but I do get a fair number of emails as my blog traffic has kind of grown. I’ll get either DM’s on Instagram or I’ll just get straight up emails right to my inbox asking me to collaborate. I pitch to brands a lot of times if I’m going to travel somewhere. Travel’s expensive and it’s nice to be sponsored for some things. Or a lot of times I’ll get emails from affiliate companies but I don’t wanna just have affiliate links on my website. I ask if maybe we can build a brand partnership instead and share their content in a more meaningful way.
I really talk about how I want to help them promote a brand’s goals, really coming from a place of service. I always try to suggest a long-term deal!I like it because when I like something.. I don’t change what I like every month. I’m one of those people that will use the same things over and over and I’m pretty brand loyal and I think my followers know that. If im posting about the same things frequently, it’s good for the brand and my followers also see that I’m loyal to it. It’s an inherent part of my personality.
Pitching brands is difficult. I never see a ‘no’ as forever no. Sometimes it’s just, “no, not right now.” Or maybe they’ve already got their budget figured out for the next quarter, so they’ve got no budget for me but they might in the new year! It’s always about keeping an open mind. No doesn’t mean ‘no forever’.
GETTING SUPPORT FROM FAMILY
I would say that my business coach is my dad. My parents are really good in the way that, if they’re coaching me on something, they’re not coaching me as “super supportive mom and dad who believe that I can do anything!” They’re like “here’s what a person who when they see your website for the first time, here’s maybe how they would see it..” They totally take it outside my perspective and give me objective ways that I can improve. They’re so helpful.
I have young parents. My mom was 20 when she had me. So I think with younger parents they get it a little bit more.
My husband taught me how to use WordPress, how to write a blog in there, how to put pictures in it, how to upload the pictures, and those types of things - the very basics. And then, when it came to things like S.E.O and all that, my dad actually has his own marketing and advertising agency, so he was “you know what I think that you should be doing more SEO stuff for your blog and here’s what I do for my clients, I think we should be more incorporating this into your own website. All that kind of help is obviously invaluable.
My husband takes all my photos. His job is fairly flexible so that helps. It’s easier in the summer because of the hours of good lighting. Obviously, winter is a lot harder so he’ll take a couple of hours in the afternoon and meet me to take photos and then bring his laptop home and then work from home for a couple hours afterwards or we’ll do them on the weekend. Then he’ll edit them in Lightroom then I choose the ones I want and then I re-size them for my blogposts.
BUILDING THE NEW BUSINESS
// editor’s note. She started STYLEDBRANDS with her husband recently! It is a a boutique agency focused on the needs of bloggers, influencers and small businesses that are looking to grow their online presence.
It came about similar time Shika first approached me about BlogIt. It’s kind of funny how the two came together. So one of my girlfriends tells me that she wants to start an aesthetics company out of her house. She was like “I need a website but I don’t know how to do it. Can you help me?” And then one of the girls who came to BlogIt, she had actually sent me an Instagram DM and she’s like “hey I see you’re from Calgary, I’m just wondering if you would ever be willing to meet me for coffee and just chat about how you got into blogging I’m super interested.” She has a food business and she’s done really well with it but she’s like “But I really wanna start food blogging! And I have a website I’ve got some recipes posted to it but I just don’t love my website.” I told her about how my husband helped built my website and she’s like “Do you think he’d be willing to do something like that for me? I would pay you!” And then a lot of other people started asking the same thing...
So because of this my husband was like “Okay I think we just need to start slap our own website up online and start listing out what we do and then we actually have somewhere to send people who ask us for our services. I think we just have to make it an actual legitimate business.”
People are like “I wanna start a blog but I don’t know how. What the heck is SEO? What does it stand for? What does it mean? How do I do it? Why is Pinterest important? How do I start a website? What’s a domain name? What is hosting?” We get asked a lot of these things. It’s SO intimidating to become a blogger or even if you have a small business, to get it online. And it’s also hard to not spend $10,000 to $20,000 on a website.
I’m looking at these bloggers...and they wanna start blogging but when you start a business and you don’t have money and it’s like “I wanna do this, I wanna make it my dream” but you don’t know how and you don’t have the tools...that’s where we come in.
People always ask, “how do you have so many Instagram followers?” And I’m like, “Well, it took me 3 and a half years to get that but here’s how I did it and here’s what I learned.” I made a lot of mistakes. My website today is not what my website was when I started 3 and a half years ago. I’m really proud of it now. I look back at the website I used to have and I’m like, “OH DEAR GOD.” It was so bad. But you learn and you grow. And I want to help other bloggers learn and grow and be successful. I don’t want you to have to spend the years trying to figure it out on your own when I’ve already made the mistakes. So learn from what I did, let me help you, let us help you get online. We’ll take care of the technical stuff, you just blog. You be creative.
My husband is the technical director I’m the creative director. He does all the techie stuff, I’m the one that draws the picture. We take care of everything. It’s like a one stop shop for creating an online business.
TIME AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
I really try to portion out my day. I love making lists and I love day planners. I’m a person who has a paper calendar and likes to write things in. Only recently have I finally gotten good at actually managing my time and when I’m gonna fit tasks in.
My husband is a project manager so he’s really good at this and I learned a lot from him. So he’ll be like, “okay, here’s a list of tasks. Here are the ones who need to be priority.” And so I just kind of figure out how I’m gonna fit them all in and what needs to be done soonest and what I can push to tomorrow. I do a lot of batch work! That’s a big one. It’s really just taking a list of everything I need to do for all my clients and every business aspect of my blog and just kind of figuring out where it fits in the calendar. What fire needs to be put out today...
Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis)
The E-Myth Revisited (Michael Gerber)
You are A Badass (Jen Sincero)
Becoming (Michelle Obama)
She also has LOTS of other book reviews and recommendations on her blog. Check them out here!
I really LOVED doing this with Carlee!
And hey, if you’re new here, Women To Watch Wednesdays is a blog series wherein I feature women across Canada from different industries in different stages of their business. We talk about their story, the journey, and even down to a very certain topic.
I used to do it email-interview style butI learnt that it’s so much better and more valuable when I record our coffee conversation and transcribe it. So, we’re in a new season of this series and that’s what Im gonna continue to do for this new one!! I am so excited :)
If you have friends who inspire you or if you would like to tell your own story, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I would like to go get some hot chocolate and chat! <3