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 temptalia.com, Erika Valente of makeupbag.net and Romy Schorr of romyraves.com.
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.
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?”
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.
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. 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?