This post has been a long time coming. And it’s probably going to be long because I’ve got a lot to say, so buckle up, y’all!
This is the one where I’m going to explain in detail what I’ve been doing for the past year. I’ve been blogging, and it’s been amazing. So amazing that I think every stay-at-home or work-from-home or whatever mom should have a little blog– or at least a side hustle to get your creative energy out. Some type of project that you are working on. It’s seriously better than therapy. I know this for a fact because I’ve been to see therapists and psychiatrists off and on for my whole adult life (it’s a millennial thing). Taking care of your mental health is so important, and I have gotten to a place where mine is pretty much on fleek (as the cool kids would say). Because I take care of MYSELF.
Blogging for me began as a way to cope with the loss of my sweet baby James around this time last year. I needed an outlet for my feelings, and writing and talking to other mothers that had gone through similar things helped me out big time. But it’s turned into a lot more than that now. It’s essentially the dream job I never knew I wanted or needed. I didn’t even know that that type of job existed.
My whole life, I planned on being a doctor (probably a dermatologist)– because I was good at math and science. I was also good at writing, but that wouldn’t afford me the lifestyle I knew would want (spoiled brat problems–but it’s okay, I love it). So I went through undergrad, fully intending on becoming a medical professional– until my heart changed. I had been dating my high school boyfriend (first love). I knew I wanted to have a family, and I knew I didn’t want to be working while my babies were little. Didn’t really think that staying at home was a possibility, but we kind of went with it anyway after a lucrative but brief stint as a health insurance sales rep and my bout with PPD. All of my friends were going to grad school like they were supposed to, and I didn’t. I got married, got a job, quit my job, and had a baby. Not exactly what was expected out of the ambitious-going-to-be-a-doctor-so-I-can-support-myself-without-a-man twenty-three-year-old. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. This was during my husband’s first couple years of medical school– so add that to the mix, and you’ll understand me when I say I feel like I’ve lived the life of someone much older than my twenty-seven years.
But back to blogging.
My blog started out as a journal. I had to get the feelings out. Losing a child brought me grief, anxiety, anger, stress, and all sorts of other emotions. I could not keep them inside. My soul just couldn’t handle that. The feedback I got from other mommas was enough to get me through that low point. I will always remember and be thankful for those first messages from the girls who reached out to me– even if it was just to tell me that they thought I was funny. But some people had more emotional responses, and that was fine by me. It made me feel less alone, in a weird sort of way. I ate it up and decided to keep going. And the pictures I was taking to capture the memories of my family inspired me to just share everything.
This is the point where I figured it all out. I had my epiphany.
My life. My amazingly weird and eventful and dramatic life experiences could touch people. My words could make people feel things, and as much as it was helping me to write it all down, it was also helping other mommas that may not have known how to or felt comfortable enough to let their feelings come to the surface. That, my friends, is why I started blogging. Being a new mom can be a lonely place– even if you have friends. If you don’t have someone that you can directly relate to when you’re a postpartum hormonal (maybe even borderline psychotic– yes that’s a thing, and yes it’s actually quite common) b*tch, then you can pretty much kiss your sanity and well-being goodbye. And as much as your husband or best friend wants to be the one to help you, it might not be enough.
Welp…that was a bit of a tangent that I wasn’t expecting. Back to blogging.
The research I did about all things social media during those first few months of blogging could easily satisfy a four-year undergraduate degree. I started from scratch– as most bloggers do– not knowing a dang thing about what media kits or loops or self-hosting or collabs or comment pods or DSLR’s or influencers were. But I was intrigued, so I kept researching. I joined Facebook blogging support groups, and I was so pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and genuine these people (for the most part) were. Everyone was willing to help the newbies– everyone had advice, and most people were still learning themselves. Because social media is always changing. New and different platforms and algorithms and rules. It’s literally a science. It’s overwhelming, but all of the information is out there.
The more I blogged, the more I realized the importance of Instagram (y’all can follow my Instagram here, if you’re not already). That’s where I’ve gotten the majority of my following from– aside from friends and family. So I started churning out the pictures and photographing my days and adding snarky captions underneath the Instagram posts (eventually switching from my iPhone 6 camera snapshots to teaching myself actual photography with a real DSLR camera and this lens). People eat that ish up, y’all. Essentially mini blogs for people to follow on the daily. With hashtags. ALL. THE. HASHTAGS. That’s how people can find your content. Followers started coming and liking and commenting, and then something crazy happened that I wasn’t expecting.
My inbox started filling with requests for content. People asking me to write about things like motherhood and postpartum depression– for bigger mom blogs and publications. I was so flattered that I didn’t even know what to do with myself. People actually enjoyed reading what I had to say. HECK YES. So I did a few featured posts on some different mommy blogs (here, here, and here) and parenting publications (here and here), and then that’s when things really took off.
Brands started emailing me. They wanted to send me things in exchange for a blog post or a post on social media– they wanted to collab (aka COLLABORATE). IS THIS REAL LIFE? LIKE WHAT? I didn’t know that was a thing. A collaboration is essentially an exchange of goods and/or services for the mutual benefit of both parties. Y’all give me something, and I’ll take pictures and do some marketing for you. Easy peasy. Except it’s actually a lot of work, but that’s a story for another day. My first one was for a watch— a gift for the hubs. Then more and more opportunities started arising, and I kind of got the hang of it. This was a pretty cool thing. I could write about what I wanted to write about and get things sent to me that fit in with my family’s lifestyle. Things that I would probably have bought anyway.
The brands were smaller at first– which I loved. I love supporting local businesses and small shops. I love supporting people who are going after their dreams. That’s what we all want out of life anyway, isn’t it? Then boutiques started contacting me and asking me to wear their clothes… which was FINE BY ME. And the hubs. If y’all know anything about me, y’all know how much I love to shop. I love new clothes. I LOVE THEM. So I happily obliged in exchange for some snapshots of me in the clothes. Matt got to be a fabulous Instagram husband. He has probably had more fun learning how to take pictures with our camera than I have. He is good, y’all. And it’s something fun that we get to do together since we’re always so busy. Photo shoots usually involve the entire family, so it’s nice to get to spend that time doing something as a family– even if it is all happening on film. Plus, the memories! You can never have enough pictures. You just can’t.
Then I learned about media kits. The more opportunities I got, the harder it was to keep track of it all. Bigger brands started reaching out to me, and I realized I needed a media kit. Kind of like a resumé, but for social media/blogging and brand work.
Here’s mine (it’s not completely up-to-date):
You get the idea. The media kit is where you keep track of everything. Landing collabs with big brands that you love is totally fun. Then you get to put your “achievements” on your sparkling resumé, so other brands can see that you might be kind of cool, and they’ll give you a chance. For example, y’all know how much I love dressing my littles in smocked baby clothes. Totally preppy and totally adorable. They’re only little once, after all. So when I reached out to one of my favorite brands to collaborate on a blog post (one of my favorites), and she said YES, I was totally fangirling. HALLELUJAH. New monogrammed Easter outfits for my boys without my husband getting annoyed at me for putting it on the debit card! WIN. WIN. WIN. DRINKS ALL AROUND.
Then came RewardStyle. That was kind of my ultimate blogging goal. It’s the platform that all the legit fashion bloggers are on, and it allows you to link your outfits/brands/accessories on your Instagram photos, so your followers can shop your looks from your feed. SO COOL. And I get a teeny tiny commission every time one of my photos leads you to buy something. It’s pretty exclusive, and to be honest, I never really thought I would get accepted. But after my second time applying (yes, I got rejected the first time! I just upped my game and applied again), I got in, and I finally felt like a legit blogger. I don’t use it all the time, and I don’t link a ton of my photos because I don’t consider myself a fashion blogger, but I do link some things, and I just think it’s a cool thing to have on my blogging resumé. Kind of a bucket list thing.
Sometimes you reach out to brands if you want to collab– and you always have to be prepared for them to say no. You might not have a big enough following yet. YET. Just put your big girl britches on and move on. Don’t let a simple NO hurt your feelings. On to the next brand. There’s an Etsy shop out there or a little startup boutique somewhere that would be more than happy to work with you on a collab. I’ve reached out to a few. Some I heard back from. Some yes. Some no. Some radio silent. Whatevs. But more often than not, the brands come calling to me. And honestly, my life is so chaotic and busy (and since I only blog for funzies), that’s really all I have time for unless I need something big. If I need something, I’ll probably put some time aside and do my research– find a contact and pitch my idea to the brand. For example, we’re about to start building a house, and I’m going to be designing a gorgeous nursery for our little princess, so I’m probably going to be hitting up some home decor brands in the near future. SO. FUN.
Other than brands stumbling across your blog or Instagram, there are a million influencer networks that bloggers can join too. These networks match potential brand collabs with influencers in the same niche. Which brings me to my last point. Your niche. If you are going to start a blog, then you need to have some sort of idea of what you’re going to be blogging about. Some of the most obvious and common ones are mommy blogs, makeup blogs, fashion blogs, food blogs, travel blogs, and lifestyle blogs. I would consider mine a lifestyle blog. That’s basically the same thing as saying you don’t know what the heck you are– you’re just kind of rolling with it and doing your thing. I blog about everything.
So The Dixie Belle Diaries is a lifestyle blog. And I get to spend my days living my life with my boys, and I’m constantly thinking. Thinking of things. What to write. What people want to see. What I want to do. Wow, that’s a cute photo op! It’s so much fun. I am so thankful that I have finally discovered what I love to do and that I get to do it all day every day. It may not be what convention and tradition had planned for me, but it is what makes my soul happy– and when you’re doing what makes you happy, you’ll never work a day in your life. LIES. I work my butt off. But you know what I mean.