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How to Start & Grow A Blog

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How to Start and Grow Your Blog

Let’s talk blogging, beebus gals.

This is the first post in a series of posts that I’m going to call Blogging 101 ( which you can now find under the Lifestyle tab on the site! ). I get so many questions about my blogging story, spanning from blogging logistics, to growing a following, to working with brands.

I’ll cover all of the normal q’s I get in this series for y’all, and I’ll try to post about a new topic weekly to keep the blogging 101 fresh & helpful. Let me know if any of you have any more specific questions, too!

So, let’s start at the start: how & why I started Hustle + Halcyon. I’ve grazed over this topic in previous posts, but let’s talk about the full story.

BTW, my whole outfit is from Urban Outfitters:

Dress | Booties | Hat | Belt | Necklace

My Starting-My-Blog Story

I was a Sophomore in college when I decided that I just had to work in women’s fashion in Los Angeles ( more specifically, women’s contemporary fashion ). As many-a-20-year-old gal, I’d always loved playing around with my personal style. Also, as far back as I could remember, I had always loved spending money on absolutely everything that I possibly could.

I was a true shopping extraordinaire since birth, basically.

But, sitting in my house in College Station, TX ( my very insulated college town ), studying piles of supreme court cases for my political science 355 course wasn’t exactly getting me any closer to the fashionable, LA-lifestyle I had always imagined for myself.

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

Bottom line: I was bored as fuck. I didn’t want to be studying what I was studying. I wasn’t being inspired or challenged. I was wasting my days away sitting in classes that I didn’t enjoy, spending my nights getting drunk on cheap vodka with my girlfriends to overcome the monotony.

Boring, boring, boring ( … though I do miss my college girlfriends more than ANYTHING ).

One day, I began to research various internship positions in women’s contemporary fashion in Los Angeles, just for the hell of it. I needed to see what was out there.

I quickly realized that many of the internships required knowledge of social media marketing & website maintenance. At the time, I had a personal Instagram account filled with photos of my friends & I, because it was NOT socially acceptable to post a photo of only yourself in that small, insulated bubble I lived in ( like… why the hell did I care?? idk?? I was lame then?? ). I had never payed attention to thinks like aesthetic, photo composition, styling, the number of followers I had, engagement, etc.

I didn’t have the basic skills necessary to apply to the internships I liked. I didn’t have a platform to showcase my style, my ideas, or my ability to share them with people.

Enter: starting a blog.

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

Starting a blog is such an obvious way to share your story & your style, and it’s a great way to connect with people who are interested in the same things you are. Its, essentially, a running resume.

I wasn’t a huge blog reader back then, though I did have a few bloggers I kept up with regularly.

I was super nervous about starting my blog for AWHILE, because I didn’t know of anyone in my college town or in my hometown doing anything similar. I was super nervo that people weren’t going to understand what I was doing, and that they were going to make fun of me / think I was a total obsessed-with-myself, wannabe insta-hoe ( for lack of a better term ).

I started my first blog ( I had a different website, Ramblings of a Wild One, back then ) late one night, in the middle of an inspired/creative kick. I kept the blog on the DL, & started a separate instagram account for it. Like I said, I was nervous for people to find out about it ( when I look back now, I’m weirded out that I was ever like that, LOL ).

I started sharing the posts with my friends, because I couldn’t keep my double life to myself for long. One of my best college friends, without my knowledge, loved a post so much that she shared it to her Facebook.

And the deed was done. The cat was out of the bag. I was officially, publicly, a blogger.

I’ll save my initial issues, setbacks, and general anxieties for another post, because we gotta get down to the details for now. But, that’s the WHY. Now let’s move on the the HOW.

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

Starting a Blog: The Logistics

  1. Do Your Research: In the beginning, I learned nearly everything I knew from various articles on Pinterest. I created a ‘Blogging Tips’ board, and went crazy researching blogging topics from choosing a blog platform, to creating an email list, to picking a theme. Pinterest IS LIFE.
  2. Choosing Your Blog Name: This one is tricky. When I started my first blog, I wasn’t exactly planning on making blogging my full-time gig. I didn’t look at my blog like it was a BRAND, so I named my blog something WAY too long. Even when I switched the name to Hustle + Halcyon, I wasn’t thinking about my blog as business, but more as a space to write, reflect, & share. So, I chose the word ‘Halcyon,’ simply because I liked it. I’ve totally embraced the difficulty of that word ( people never know how to say or spell it ), but, looking back, I would’ve chosen something different. I recommend taking your time choosing a name that coincides with what kind of information you will be sharing on your platform. I’ll talk more about starting to brand yourself in the next section.
  3. Choosing a Platform: I started my first blog using WordPress.com, a free, simple platform for beginner bloggers. WordPress.com makes choosing a theme, getting a domain name, & writing/posting very easy. I know a few bloggers who swear by Squarespace or Blogger. WordPress.com was just the easiest for me. ( As a blogger who makes a full-time living off of blogging, I use WordPress.org, btw! It’s a little more complicated, and you can always pay someone to migrate your information over when you feel your ready to make the switch! )
  4. Launching Social Media Channels: Social Media is an ESSENTIAL part of having a functioning blog nowadays. When I launched my blog, I started an Instagram account, a Twitter account, a Facebook Page, & I began to use my Pinterest profile to share my content. Social Media allows you to connect with people, share your posts, & get readers to your blog.
  5. Creating an E-mail Address & an E-mail List: I created an e-mail address associated with my site, so readers, brands, & other bloggers could contact me. As a beginner, I’d recommend creating a free gmail account for your blog correspondence. In the beginning, I started with my-site-name@gmail.com. Later, I changed it to payton@hustleandhalcyon.com, when I became a little more official. On top of that, start an account with MailChimp, and begin collecting emails for your e-mail list! Your e-mail list is something YOU own ( as opposed to your Instagram profile ) & its a great way to get news out about your recent posts.

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

Starting a Blog: Your Personal Brand

  1. Decide What Kind of Blog You Want: What are you good at? Are you a writer? Are you better at creating beautiful images? Would you be good at going the YouTube route? What kinds of topics are you interested in? What information will you be sharing through your writing/imagery/videos? Start somewhere. People want to know what they’ll be getting when they visit your blog. H+H started as a lifestyle website. For me: I enjoy connecting with people through writing, so I shared various aspects of my very normal-person life. I share healthy tips/recipes, wellness tricks that I make me feel more… well?, clothing I like, & my raw thoughts on various topics. Your blog can transform throughout your own blogging career, but start with a small number of topics/platforms to make everything more simple.
  2. Find Your Voice: As a writer, it took me awhile to develop my conversational, straight-forward style of writing. At first, I was mimicking other people, as many of us do. If you find yourself being inconsistent in the beginning, it’s okay. Give yourself time to get comfortable with your audience & with yourself enough to develop your own, unique voice.
  3. Develop Your Aesthetic: To be honest, I’ve changed my ~aesthetic~ a number of times since starting my blog. In the beginning, you have an idea of the vibe you like, but it takes a hot minute to really be able to capture that vibe in images. At least that’s what happened to me. To be really honest, I can’t say that I’ve reached a point where I’ve mastered my aesthetic. Even now. Give yourself time to figure out what kind of vibe your images will capture & to figure out what your personal style is. It’s okay if it changes. It should change with you.  Some simple tips to giving your blog/instagram a cohesive look: use the same editing/filter on all of your images, and stick to a specific color scheme. Easy.
  4. Create a Blog Plan: There are so many blog planners on Pinterest. My favorite types of blog planners treat your blog like a business. They start by asking you questions to iron out your blog’s mission statement, it’s purpose, the information you’ll share, etc. Then, most blog planners will have you set daily/monthly/yearly goals for yourself & for your blog. On top of that, you can create an editorial calendar to organize yourself further, detailing what posts you’re going to put up & when you’re going to post them. It’s always good to have a general plan. When you are you’re own “boss,” staying organized is KEY.

How to Start and Grow Your Blog

One thing to remember: blogging is NOT easy. There are so many moving parts behind the scenes. Give yourself time to learn and develop your voice & your aesthetic. It takes TIME & EFFORT, something most people don’t realize from the outside looking in.

Y’all don’t even understand HOW MANY PEOPLE think blogging is pulling up the internet, writing for a sec, & hitting publish. It’s amazing, and having a blog has totally transformed my life, but it has been an incredible amount of work.

For my next Blogging 101 post, I’ll talk more about initially growing your social media following & driving people to your site. I wanted to begin with a beginner’s step-by-step, and we’ll get into developing your blog/brand in the next few weeks.

Did anyone find this helpful? Do y’all have more specific questions about blogging and/or lifestyle that you’re wanting answered? Lemme know, gals! xx


18 Responses
  • Lauren
    05 . 18 . 2017

    Oh I am so excited for this series! Loved reading this and now I am even more inspired to keep going- love seeing your account grow and keeping up with your post.


    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Thanks for the love, Lauren!! Sooooo happiiiii you liked this! xx

  • Jordan
    05 . 18 . 2017

    I started my blog in the last few months, and this post was really inspiring! I especially liked what you said about finding your style of writing. I’ve been “known” for my writing throughout my education, but I feel like I’m just copying others with my writing style on the blog. Thanks for helping me realize that!! 🖤🖤

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Blog writing can be SO difficult! it’s definitely more conversational than writing for school, I FEEL you! That’s so normal, though. You’ll get there! xx

  • megan goodwyn
    05 . 18 . 2017

    Thanks for doing this series! I found this post super helpful and can’t wait to read the next few to follow!!

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Thanks for the love, Megan! Yay— so happy this was helpful! xx

  • Rachel Patton
    05 . 19 . 2017

    Such an amazing post Payton! I am just starting out with my blog and find your tips super helpful. I cant wait to read more of your posts in Blogging 101! xx

    P.S. Do you find it hard to use the same filter for all of your photos? This is definitely something I struggle with.

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Hey Rachel!! Yay– so happy you like!

      Sometimes it is hard, but if I’m really struggling with a filter, I usually play around with the intensity of the filter ( I use VSCO so you can decide how much filter you want ) until the photo looks right. xx

  • Mary Katherine Kline
    05 . 19 . 2017

    Yes, this was sooo helpful! I just started my blog and everything you said have been things I had to figure out myself and struggles I’ve had to go through. Thank you so much for the reassurance and the tips! Can’t wait for more!!!!

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Ahhh so happy you can relate!! Love love! xx

  • Madison
    05 . 19 . 2017

    Thanks for sharing this! I love hearing bloggers’ stories about how and why they started, especially as a new blogger trying to hone in on my aesthetic and voice. And you’re right – it is a lot of fun but SO much work! Can’t wait to see what else you blog about in this series. Ill keep an eye out! XO

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      Thanks for the love, Madison! xx

  • Erinn
    05 . 19 . 2017

    Thank you for posting this! I’m in that weird super nervous stage right now, trying to decide on a name and all that other initial stuff for a blog. I love your encouragement and that who gives a care attitude. I’m super pumped for this series!!

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 22 . 2017

      It can be difficult, but don’t over-think it!! Wishing you alllll the best, beeb! xx

  • Ewa Macherowska
    05 . 20 . 2017

    Love this post! Thanks dear 🙂


  • Kara
    05 . 27 . 2017

    Do you think it’s possible to start a blog and make a real (replaceable) income just by blogging? How long did you blog before you started making substantial money doing it? Also I noticed on your Pinterest account it is set up as your blog… Do you have both social medias for each yourself and your blog or only one or the other?

    • paytonsartain
      05 . 30 . 2017

      Hey babe!! I started blogging around 3 years ago, and starting Hustle + Halcyon 2.5 years ago! It took a long time. My blog is connected to all of my social media accounts, though my usernames and handles are sometimes hustleandhalcyon and other times my name. I now make a full-time living off of the blog! xx