How I Started Blogging
In December of 2016, my blog went live and I went from @letsCLARAfye to @ClarasCleanEats. Since then, I've posted recipes, nursing posts, was invited to speak at conferences to represent my brand, created a meal guide, collaborated with countless companies, and rebranded twice. I now work with some of the biggest brands in the industry and bring in a substantial secondary income from what began as a hobby. I remember being so nervous, not only because it would be another responsibility on top of my first semester of nursing school, but also because I didn't really know what exactly to blog about or how to do it. And to be honest with you, I still don't know exactly what I'm doing, but I've had an amazing time trying to figure it out and have learned so much about myself along the way.
So if you've been hesitant to start a blog or an Instagram, my biggest tip is to go for it!
“Are you serious? That’s your biggest tip?”
I can hear it already.. But I’m serious. I am so happy that I started this journey when I did, because it's been an amazing outlet for creativity and fun for when I need something to take my mind off of nursing school and life. The hardest part is coming to the realization that you are your brand. Your lifestyle is your brand. What you stand for is your brand. Your “why” is your brand. So come up with an Instagram handle. Make that account. Do you have to publish it ASAP for the world to see? No! But finally doing it and typing up that first blogpost draft and taking that first photo is the hardest, but most important step.
I'd say that the 2nd most important thing is pictures. I use a Canon Rebel T6 with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (direct link via my amazon page), along with the Adobe Lightroom app on my laptop to edit my photos. I took photos with my DSLR for high quality photos for recipe posts, and would post those on my Instagram/Facebook from time to time, but I've learned that iPhone photos do better on social media platforms in terms of engagement. The reason for this? It’s more relatable, more authentic, more real.
Keep in mind that I had no prior photography experience, other than from my iPhone 6. I taught myself all about food photography from Youtube videos and other food blogs. The only equipment that I use is my camera, a tripod from Amazon, 2 foam whiteboards, a marble slab from Crate & Barrel, and several kitchen towels + silverware from Target, TJMaxx, etc. I find that it is SO important to be consistent with your photos, and that they are aesthetically pleasing, non distracting, and pertains to a general theme/message. It can be a lot of work and effort to find your photography style and learn how to work your camera and Adobe Lightroom, but I personally believe that it's an investment to learn how to photograph your own content, rather than to pay someone to do it for you.
I'd also like to mention that I only launched my blog in late December of 2016. I used WIX as my platform, purchased a domain off of GoDaddy.com, and customized it on my own in terms of themes, color schemes, tabs, etc. However, I know that a ton of people also love Wordpress because it's easier to customize and work with. Since then, I’ve moved to Squarespace and I absolutely love it!
Another step that can help increase your exposure is to link your account with Facebook, so that you can make your Instagram profile a business page. This allows you to see how well your posts are doing in terms of engagement, how many followers you're gaining, how many page visits you receive, among many other things.
All in all, it took me around 7 years to get here! I hit 10k Instagram followers on October 2016, 20k, then 30k, and in those 7 years, I've shared my story since high school and created an accountability page for myself on Tumblr. (Comment below if you’re here since I was @letsCLARAfye!) Then, I began to gain a following and people were invested in my journey as I went through my weight-loss, struggled with orthorexia and disordered eating, so I figured I figured I should finally start my own official blog upon releasing my meal guide and changing my Instagram handle from @letsCLARAfye to @ClarasCleanEats. Now, I'm so grateful that I've been able to cultivate a community on Instagram because it brings together people from all over the world over shared photos and some captions. Now, with all the different capabilities on the app such as Instagram Story or Live, I'm able to do way more than I could have ever imagined. I think the most important thing in gaining people's attention is to have a philosophy and passion for whatever you're sharing. For example, my main points revolve around redefining health and fitness to individual lifestyles, and staying healthy through school + work. Because I am also affiliated with nursing, I attract sponsors and companies that want me to showcase their products.
So how do you get people to follow you? Honestly, more than any technical aspect, I think that my authenticity attracts others, because people can relate to the things that I go through. Yes, it's important to have a well-functioning platform where people can find what you've written and shared, but the actual content is much more important than what color scheme you choose. In the way that the new Instagram algorithm is encouraging, you need to engage with your followers and other accounts, as well. Though it may be controversial as to how well this algorithm is actually working for the benefit of bloggers, I think that its intentions are good. This way, you need to invest your time in making sure that your content is unique, original, and engaging, and that you're not merely posting like a robot and expecting others to follow you just to follow you.
I'm a nurse, so I have nurses, pre-nursing students, nursing students, nurse practitioners, medical students who follow me. This also means that I was once a college student, so I appeal to a lot of people our age who are struggling with self-awareness and identity crises. I'm also a first generation Korean American, so I have many followers who relate to the hardships of being an immigrant. I also am a feminist, so I appeal to men and women who are passionate about social justice. I've also been in a long distance relationship with a caucasian guy for 3 years, so I appeal to those who are also working through cultural differences with their significant others, as well as those who struggle with LDR. I’m married now and purchased a house, so people are interested in that side, too!
I think that these days, it's easy to become another handle and face on social media, but increasingly difficult to stay true to yourself. So while I'm still trying to figure this whole thing out, this is how I get myself to stand out among a sea of "influencers" and "social media presences." Obviously, I'm not saying that it'll take you 7 years to get to where I am. It only took me that amount of time because my main goal wasn't to become a social media presence and gain lots of followers. It was to provide a space for people to come and be inspired by my vulnerability and transparency while I go this whole journey that is life.
In addition to this, consistency is key, while it's been something that I've struggled with. For the Back to School Series, I tried to post a recipe every Monday. This was awesome and you guys loved it! But it was also very difficult because this meant spending the days before preparing a recipe and working at it to make sure that it's actually delicious and easy to make. Creating a recipe is not easy - if you mess something up, you usually have to start over, and that means buying more groceries. Because now I've expanded by blog to include more lifestyle posts rather than sticking only to recipes, the pressure has been slightly alleviated, and I am able to post more often. For now, my general goal is to post at least twice a month, or more if my schedule allows.
Now that I’m a nurse and rebranded to become @NurseClara, I talk more real-life nursing and more lifestyle topics! And I’ve been so blessed by you guys- my amazing community who is so loyal and engaged.
With all that being said, just start! There's absolutely no such thing as a perfect formula. But for starters (TLDR):
Start blogging. Start today.
You don’t have to be perfect. None of us are! But you do have to be brave and start.
Have a target audience.
Students, moms, women, food lovers, fitness fiends, fashionistas, whoever! It is not about reaching a million people. It’s about reaching at least 1 person with your story.
You do not need a DSLR or photographer. Start with that self-timer on your phone. I still use my iPhone X 99% of the time. Then try different editing apps like Lightroom, VSCO, Snapseed and find your “look” and aesthetic that most represents you.
I know I know, it would be super cool if you hit 10k in a week and 100k in a month. And sure, there are some accounts that have done that totally authentically (as far as we can tell), but trust me- if your main goal is to become “Instafamous,” you’re in for a pretty disappointing ride. You need to put in the necessary time and effort, and the consistency. As long as you have fun and you don't think of it as another "responsibility" or another thing you need to put up with, you'll be great!
Find your community.
Community is everything. It’s the single thing I’m most thankful for in this whole social media journey! Finding people who are like-minded, with similar passions and drive has been such a light. These people will inspire you, motivate you and encourage you to be your best self. Find them and keep them close!
I hope you found this helpful! If you’ve got any questions, comment them below!