The Beauty Social, Oct. 2011: How to Turn Beauty Blogging into a Career

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun, News

From the left: Beautylish Beauty Director and segment host Ning Chao, Temptalia Founder and Editor Christine Mielke, Makeup Bag Founder and Editor Erika Valente, me (looking extra Lloyd Christmassy), and Romy Raves Lifestyle and Beauty Blogger Romy Schorr.

Even though I was a little nervous (blast you, Lloyd!) and blinded by the stage lights, I really enjoyed speaking on the blogging panel at The Beauty Social last weekend, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you while they’re still fresh in my mind.


In hindsight, I wish I’d recorded the session, or covertly taken a few notes, but I do remember most of my answers (NOTE: these are paraphrased, because I can’t remember the exact quotes) and some tidbits from my fellow co-panelists, Christine Mielke of, Erika Valente of and Romy Schorr of

Q: What inspired you to start your blog?

Me: Well I’d always really loved makeup, and I’ll never forget the day when I was 14 and my mom took me on that first trip to the Clinique counter… I started the blog in 2007. I was freelancing at the time for magazines, mostly doing travel (for the in-room magazines on cruise ships) and health and fitness articles. I really wanted to break into beauty writing, though, and I kept pitching different magazines, but no one would hire me.

They (the magazines) were mostly drawing from their in-house writing staff, so I kept getting rejected from these beauty magazines, yet I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I just couldn’t let go. I knew that I wanted to create and write about beauty, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

Then in February of 2007, the Barbie Loves MAC collection came along. πŸ™‚

I think in every beauty junkie’s life there’s always that one release that turns their casual hobby into a full-blown obsession, and for me it was Barbie Loves MAC. I went to the mall, got my little haul, and then when I got back home, that little voice in the back of my head was whispering, “Wouldn’t it be kinda cool if you took a few pictures and posted them online?”

So I borrowed a friend’s camera — and at the time I couldn’t take a picture to save my life — took some shots, and posted them online (using a free blog from

That’s how Makeup and Beauty Blog was born. There wasn’t a business plan, a big reveal or a rollout. It all sort of happened organically, and it’s been one of the happiest accidents of my life.

Erica: Erica said that she, too, had always been a lifelong beauty junkie, and one of her main inspirations was her entrepreneurial husband. She’d always loved trying and buying new products, but her beauty stash had grown exponentially. One day her husband suggested that they find a way to turn her obsession into a business so that they could write off her beauty expenses, which eventually led to Makeup Bag.

Christine: Before Temptalia, Christine had been actively posting looks on Live Journal. She was in school at the time and recalls posting looks after class. She started Temptalia to archive all of her looks in one place, and her blog has just grown from there.

Q: What was the turning point that made you realize that your blog was successful?

Me: It was probably about six or seven months in, after I’d gotten an invite to cover SF Fashion Week. The blog had been bopping along as a hobby at the time, with me doing brief product reviews every few days, but I decided to approach that Fashion Week as I would a freelance assignment…and I also used it as an excuse to get a new camera. πŸ˜‰

I went backstage, took hundreds of pictures, interviewed makeup artists, the models and the hairstylists, and then turned the coverage into a series of more involved posts than I’d been doing up until that point.

And the readers seemed to really respond to it. I think that’s when I kind of knew that the blog could be more than just a side gig to freelancing.

Q: What are the most popular types of features on your blog?

Me: Product reviews are always popular, but I think readers also respond to lots of pictures. A picture really is worth 1,000 words, and the more someone feels like they’re experiencing the product, the better. I take tons of pictures — of the boxes, of the packaging, of the inside of the pans.

There are tons of different ways you can handle pictures, too. You can use a lightbox, which is great if you want very crisp, clear pics that convey the product accurately. I use one, but I don’t like to do it all the time because it can get a little boring, so I’ll do different things like go in my front yard and take pics around some leaves, or I’ll put things on my windowsill, or sometimes even on my cat.

Other posts that seem to be popular are ones where I mention something personal. I think that people like it when they can relate to things that’ve happened to you.

A few weeks ago, in a post about the new Bobbi Brown 1991 Lip Palette, which is a new palette to celebrate Bobbi’s 20th anniversary, I took pictures and did swatches, and then at the end of the review, I added a list of 20 things I’ve done since 1991. The things on the list weren’t very exciting — like going to school and getting my heart broken — but for some reason, that little something extra seemed to resonate with people, and they responded to it well.

Erika: Erika mentioned that she’s noticed the same thing, that her more personal posts receive a good response, especially when she shares pictures and stories of her family.

Christine: Christine said that along with her product reviews, people like her Foundation Matrix, which gets a lot of attention, and the other special features on her site.

Q: How is it different to blog just for fun and to blog as a business?

(NOTE: We didn’t really cover this question in the panel, but I thought it might be helpful to answer here.)

Me: Well, I still blog for fun. πŸ™‚ But I think the main difference is that I’m much more of a stickler for details now. Back when I first started, I’d let the typos and fuzzy pictures slide, but now I cringe whenever I catch a spelling error or a pic that doesn’t quite look the way I want it to. Now, I’ll retake pictures over and over until I feel like I’ve gotten them right.

Q: What advice would you give to a new blogger just starting out?

Me: Write every day. Writing is like a muscle, and exercise makes it stronger. I like to keep a journal on my nightstand, and then when the alarm goes off in the morning, I pick it up, and crank out my 10 minutes of free writing for the day.

And read whatever you can get your hands on! Blogs, magazines, books, whatever interests you. If you’re writing a lot, it’s important to replenish your creative well, and reading is one great way to do that.

I also think it’s important to keep your mind open, because you never know when or where inspiration will strike. Say you’re walking down the street and see a beautiful vintage car with shiny chrome wheels. Tuck that away in your memory bank, because you never know — maybe you’ll use that image for a review on a shimmery eyeshadow later that day, or three days later, or three years after that.

Lastly, I think it helps to think of your blog as your living room, and I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I actually got it from Matt Mullenweg, one of the co-founders of WordPress, which is the blogging platform I use.

It was at an event called Wordcamp SF (there may be one coming to a city near you). Matt said that when you have a blog, it’s like inviting strangers into your living room. If you treat them with kindness and respect, chances are, that’s what you’ll get in return.

Christine: Christine suggested being prepared to work very hard, because with a successful blog, there are a lot of things going on in the background that aren’t necessarily obvious at first.

Romy: Romy recommends cultivating your own voice, one that feels natural and works for you.

Even in 5-inch heels, I’m still the shortest one…

About Beautylish and The Beauty Social

Beautylish is an online social network exclusively for beauty, a resource featuring the latest and greatest product reviews, video tutorials, makeup tips and tricks, trends, celebrity secrets, must-have products and more.

The Beauty Social was a two-day event held in Santa Monica, California, over Oct. 22-23, 2011. The annual event was organized by Beautylish and featured a variety of speakers, from famous makeup artists, to editors, company founders, bloggers and vloggers.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. If you’ve ever held a bottle of pretty nail polish in your hand and thought, “Gee, I’d love to make my own polish!” check out The Beauty Social, Oct. 2011: Want to Start Your Own Beauty Brand?


Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 49 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Jenn Staz says:

    I loved your panel and your recap. I believe somewhere in my voracious note-taking I have quotes! πŸ™‚ I’m excited to report the things I learned from your panel and others on my blog. Thanks again for being so awesome!! πŸ˜€

    PS I’m usually the shortest, too..
    Jenn Staz recently posted … Beautylish Beauty Social VIP Bag haul!

  2. JoJo says:

    Very inspirational Karen. I can learn from that and maybe one day I will become as successful as you and other beauty bloggers. I have emailed this post to myself to keep as a guide. Cheers πŸ™‚

  3. I was dying to go and hear your panel, but I’ll always remember our talk at blogher. I read your blog because honestly I know your reviews are 100% honest,also because you are hilarious, and an amazing writer. I love how creative you are with your posts too. I do notice when I post more personal stuff on my site, I get a lot more responses as well! Hugs

  4. Vonvon says:

    Nice great tips, Karen!

    Once upon a time, I really thought of doing that. But now, there is a chance to turn my medical career from clinical to academia and I am focusing on that right now. I’ll still blog beauty for fun and passion! πŸ™‚
    Vonvon recently posted … Happy Birthday To My Nails – Deborah Lippmann

  5. Michel says:

    I loved reading your answers! The tips and passion you shared are an inspiration!

  6. vonnie says:

    awesome post and tips
    vonnie recently posted … Dating, Beauty, and Dining Made Easy?

  7. This was fantastic to read!

    Kisses, Melanie
    Beauty and Bows

  8. Kelly says:

    Great post! Very informative! You ladies are very inspiring to a new beauty blogger like myself. I’d like to turn my blog into a business one day and your tips are keeping me motivated so thank you!
    Kelly recently posted … NARS Kuala Lumpur + MAC Gladiola FOTD!

  9. Brandi G. says:

    Awesome post girl! Keep up the good work.

  10. Carmela says:

    I’ve been looking forward to a post about your speaking event and this is even better than I could have hoped for. Great recap, thank you! I’m new to the blogging world so needless to say I’ll be taking your tips to heart. πŸ™‚
    Carmela recently posted … Truckload Tuesdays: Winning at Winners

  11. Sonya says:

    Good advice for bloggers just starting out! It was fun hearing how you got started, the turning points, etc. And, you look great as always! πŸ™‚
    Sonya recently posted … OPI Muppets Collection, the Glitters – Gettin’ Miss Piggy With It, Divine Swine, Fresh Frog of Bel Air, Gone Gonzo!, Excuse Moi!, Rainbow Connection – Photos, Swatches, Review

  12. Maygan says:

    Very inspiring! Keeping my fingers crossed they do it in Miami next year!!!!

  13. Chryztyners says:

    Hey Karen. I actually visited Beautylish thru the link you provided. It’s a great website for all things about beauty. A new website to bookmark!

    And like what the other ladies has told you already, you were great in that panel. I especially like your outift, too!

    Cheers to more beauty blogging!

  14. Thanks for doing this post! It’s always nice to hear about others’ experiences, especially when they are successful!

  15. Chris25 says:

    I love this! It really gives me hope and inspiration for my blog. πŸ™‚

  16. AK says:


    I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us! I caught myself saying “yes!” on so many of those topics. I’ve been thinking about starting my own beauty/life blog for a few months now, you and Swedish Love Affair blog have inspired me so much. I used to paint and draw and do graphic design, but now I’m busy with school and I’m thinking it would be a great outlet for expressing my creativity, especially since the last year I’ve become so fascinated by the power of makeup.

    Anyway, thanks again for all you do! You bring brightness to many, many people here πŸ™‚

  17. Paris B says:

    Thank you for sharing Karen. I think its great that you’ve all managed to turn your hobby and a fun gig into a career and I salute you all for living out your dream πŸ˜€ It gives me hope πŸ˜‰
    Paris B recently posted … Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris : Luxury Perfume House with a touch of fun difference

    • Karen says:

      I’m happy to hear that you felt hope after reading this, Paris. πŸ™‚ Hope you’re having a great week so far!

      • Paris B says:

        The week’s been a good one what with a birthday day off and a public holiday today πŸ˜€ Oh and I’m going to re experiment with a light box again. I tried a while ago but didn’t work out well. I’ll have to try again so I can take pictures more regularly πŸ™‚

  18. Julia says:

    Hi Karen πŸ™‚ I started following your blog about a year back or so when my obsession with makeup started to bloom. As I do all the time, I popped in on your blog to catch up on your cat stories and beauty findings and saw this article. I’m sure it was just coincidence, but it seems like fate that you posted this the very day I put up my first blog post on my blog. So needless to say, I was a little nervous to delve into my new blog (exciting nervousness lol) but after seeing your words of wisdom let’s say, I feel a lot better. So with that said, thank you, for being an inspiration to fellow writers πŸ™‚

  19. Samantha says:

    I loved this so much!

  20. Samantha says:

    I loved this so much! You looked beautiful. I feel like I can take many of these tips for my blog, as I would love to take it into a career throughout college. (Hey! I wouldn’t have a job that I hated, it would revolve around beauty… my love) As I want to be a beauty magazine editor, I think the blogging experience would also be good. However I just find it hard to get the traffic to my site. I will be switching to soon (I just have to find the time to sit down and do it and find a good beginners book so I can improve my blogging skills!) since I take tons of photos and have almost used up my storage on .com. I’m kind of looking forward to personalizing it more!
    Random question:What light box do you use? I’ve been looking at a few and would appreciate knowing your fantastic one, it might help me tip one way or another!

  21. Ava says:

    thanks for the recap, Karen! Writing everyday, including personal things, and being more aware of one’s environment are great tips.
    Ava recently posted … Burberry Sheer Luminous Fluid Foundation, Trench No.8 and Trench No.9

  22. Hboo says:

    Thank you! This was helpful and informative!
    Hboo recently posted … New

  23. Advah says:

    Thanks Karen, this was a great post! (and those heels look shexaaaay) Great tips and very inspiring!

    I’d love to hear about your freelance writing (whether travel or other) some day too, if you ever decide to write about it. I’ve been writing for a few websites/paper for a few years, but have yet to find one that pays and I’ve no idea where to start!

  24. Joy says:

    Great advice and sharing how you succeed and become popular.

  25. Nina says:

    what an awesome post — i loved reading about your blogging experiences and how this awesome blog came to be!

    what i love best about your blog is how its a great, warm and welcoming place for boys and girls to come and dish about makeup and life. πŸ™‚

  26. Monika says:

    Hey Karen,

    This post is a great guide for other types of blogging, too. So let me say thank you for your tips!

    I also wanted to let you know that your blog is my favorite out of all the ones I read on a daily basis. Your product reviews always help since your skin tone is exactly the same as mine. I also love that your writing has so much personality.

    I don’t plan to make a career out of writing, but I have always loved it. I really enjoy fiction writing (short stories, etc), and I’ve tossed around the idea of making a blog for years now. Hearing your story makes me feel thy writing can have a place in my life even if it’s not the focus of what I want to do for a career.

    Thank you!

  27. Elle says:

    This was awesome to read. Thanks for the inspiration!

  28. Mariana says:

    Awesome! I’ve just started my beauty blog and and looking for any advice I can get my hands on. Thanks so much, once again!

  29. Barbara says:

    You look beautiful, not Lloyd Christmassy at all!

  30. bianca says:

    Karen u look so beautiful! You are glowing! I’ve followed your blog for about a year now… I check it at least 3 times a day! I really enjoy your personal stories & pics! I love love love your personality! U seem so happy & u express how much u enjoy the blog. It doesn’t seem like a duty or a business. U never act rude or like snob. U never respond short & dry even if u have answered the questions a million times. U can feel your kindness & thoughtfulness. U make us feel like u really do care about us… I feel connected & love how u connect w/ the readers! Thank u! Hope u have an amazing day πŸ™‚

  31. Harshleen says:

    Thanks for recap Karen! Loved reading about the starting point of your blog and all the tips πŸ™‚

  32. Bernice says:

    Thanks for sharing, Karen <3

  33. kim says:

    I’m so glad you had a good time! I’m just catching up on the week’s posts from PHX. Some happy pre-red eye reading!

  34. Zaynab says:

    Hi Karen just wanted to say that I love your blog! I honestly prefer it to reading reviews in magazines you write so honestly and really connect with your readers. Its genuine, sincere and from the heart which makes it such an entertaining read! Long live!! xx

  35. Iram says:

    This was really interesting, thanks so much for sharing it with us πŸ™‚ xo

  36. jenn says:

    This is great advice! My friend and I just launched our beauty blog in early September, so all of this info is greatly appreciated. Thanks and love your blog!

  37. Christina says:

    First of all, Karen, you look absolutely adorable in those photos. Second, as a long time reader (and infrequent commenter), I just want to thank you for always putting so much into your blog. I’ve loved reading it for years — you deserve the success you’ve achieved. Thank you for giving back to the blogging community by sharing your tips!

  38. Lenita says:

    Awwww, thanks for sharing, Karen.
    I’ve been following your blog for years (maybe more than 3?), and really love your voice. You have a unique one amongst bloggers, and imo it’s important to have that, and not just be another blog that swatches.

    Have a good week!

  39. You look really pretty in that dress, Karen! I’ve said this many times, I know, but you’re a great inspiration. Love the quality of your writing, the pictures you take and your willingness to share your experience and tips with your readers.

  40. Andreea says:

    …oh Karen, I could not even wear 5 inch heels – I am also always the smallest gal! Stick to being tiny and beautiful πŸ™‚

  41. Marita says:

    Very interesting to read how professionell this business in USA is already. Thanks for sharing and greetings from germany πŸ™‚

  42. Behaw says:

    Thanks ladies. Very inspiring and great blogging tips. I really like your advice to a new blogger just starting out. Once again thanks for sharing

  43. Thanks for sharing the interview! I’m more inspired to blog daily. I have been blogging on and off for a few years now. Have I been consistent, I think I would have reached significant successes. I thin it was just a matter of finding my niche. And I think I’ve found it, so I’m hoping 2012 will be the year. I really liked the part where you got invited to cover a fashion event. More power to you and your blog! πŸ™‚

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