The Stylist & Entrepreneur Behind “Jen Knows Best”
Shares Secrets to a Successful Blog
Thanks in no small part to the woman entrepreneur, blogging has become serious business. From style icons to kitchen geniuses, health experts to designers, it has been amazing over the past ten years to see so many women learn how to leverage their talent and skills toward creating passion-based businesses.
Jen Andrews is one such woman entrepreneur whose style blog Jen Knows Best is a definite source of inspo around here at Divine Living. Jen is a professional stylist and mother to the most adorable two-year old, and has cracked the code on having a career that affords her both freedom and creativity. We caught up with Jen recently to get her best advice for building a blog with real business potential.
We’d love to hear your backstory. How did you get started in fashion and styling?
My professional career started in NYC as a Cable Executive at Sundance Channel. My job would take me out to the Sundance Film Festival every year, where I met the most amazing, interesting people who worked in all different areas of the entertainment business (in front of and behind the camera). I became extremely close with Celebrity Chef, Tyler Florence’s then girlfriend (now wife). I had wanted to leave my desk job for some time, and Tyler gave me a shot styling him for a few shoots and voila, my styling career was born!
What inspired you to start your blog?
I had been working as a stylist’s assistant and stylist for years on print, commercial, personal and celebrity clients, and then I decided I wanted to start a family. I had my son, Lincoln, and needed to prioritize him more. I wanted something that was a bit more flexible and that I could build and do on my own. And, let’s be honest, it also motivated me to shed the excess baby weight. I knew if I was going to be taking head-to-toe pictures of myself, I had to be on point. I started Jenknowsbest.com as an extension of my styling business. I wanted to be able to show people how to wear things. I was always getting asked by my clients, “I don’t know what to wear with this shirt?” or “What shoes would look great with this dress?” So I wanted to have fun with it and motivate other people at the same time.
How has the blog transformed your career as a stylist?
Anything that you can do to build credibility and your brand definitely helps. Social media is such an amazing tool to build and gain your exposure, and the more eyeballs you get on your Instagram and blog helps when publicists, celebrity assistants and talent are looking for someone to style their clients. I also have non-celebrity personal shopping clients, and I get a lot of referrals from people who have just seen my blog or caught onto it through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Talk to us about content strategy. How important is it to be really organized with your editorial calendar?
It’s extremely important. The more strong content you post, the more your viewers will want to come back for more. It’s that simple. Now that’s not to say that you should inundate your viewers with content but, you should be super consistent in the amount you post and the quality of the content you are posting. For example, on Instagram I usually post three to four images a day. I will usually start around mid morning (10 or 11am) with a new blog post feature, then space out two to three hours in between each post. I’ll post another photo of whatever I’m doing that day: a food shot, a coffee shot from a meeting, a picture from an event I’m attending. Then later in the day, another shot from that day’s blog post, followed by an outfit of the day shot of what I’m actually wearing.
Another thing that I think is important is to make your content visually cohesive. I’m very specific about how I like my Instagram (and blog) to look. I like my IG to look very bright with heavy influences of gray, white, black, navy, and camel—neutral tones. To achieve this I take a photo, filter it through an app called Snapseed where I adjust the brightness, contrast and warmth, then I export it into VSCO Cam where I use filter HB1 or HB2 first, and then either A7, A8 or A9. And the final step is exporting it back into my photo library and THEN posting it on Instagram. I know, it sounds a bit nuts and I feel like I just gave all my secrets away! However, I think the way my newsfeed looks in IG makes people want to click that “follow” button and come back for more. You never want to over-post in social media, however, because then you might risk annoying people and having them hit that unfollow button. No bueno.
How has Instagram influenced the blogger scene? Can you share any advice for building a following on Instagram?
Instagram, in my opinion, is the leading influencer right now in the social media scene. A no-name blogger can virtually become instafamous by gaining a following. I think the main component in building a following is to post consistent and beautiful content, engage with your readers, follow the blogs you love and engage with other bloggers and brands. If you see something you like don’t be afraid to comment or “like” a post. This will make people take notice. There are SO many bloggers out there now and like I said before, you want to be able to cut through the clutter. Engaging brings attention to your newsfeed that you might otherwise never have gotten. Every other day on IG, I discover a new blog that I love. Bloggers are really stepping up their game these days and taking time to set up a picture, filter it right and make it cohesive with the rest of their newsfeed. I would also say, don’t post something just for the sake of posting. If you’re having a slow day or you haven’t had the chance to go out and shoot a new post, don’t post. It’s better to have fresh and interesting content.
How do you monetize your blog?
I had a few friends who had pretty successful blogs already and asked how they actually made money doing what they love. My one good friend (who runs a very popular and profitable beauty blog) told me about Reward Style. Basically it’s a cool and lucrative tool that allows members to link out to retailers from your blog, and earn a commission if your readers purchase through those links. Easy example: you see a shirt I’m wearing on Instagram, FB or Twitter that you like, you go to my blog and that particular blog post, click on the link I’ve posted for the shirt you liked, and I get a commission! (Each retailer has set their own commission rate with Reward Style so they vary).
This all sounds pretty straightforward. Do you just apply for Reward Style and automatically get accepted?
Unfortunately no—you have to build your blog, post consistently, and gain a following before they will accept you into the program. (Also, having another blogger who is already accepted into the program recommend you doesn’t hurt.) Some might view this as a bit alienating but I think it’s a great motivator for people who are serious about building a real blogging business to take their personal blog to the next level. When I applied (and I had a referral), it took about two months until I heard back and got accepted. So, don’t give up. Keep blogging and stay consistent.
What are some of the new business opportunities opening up now for bloggers that people might not know about?
Once you start gaining a good following in your social media platforms, brands will start contacting you. They might ask you to come to an event, or want to send you product to feature in a blog post or want to partner on a project. All of those opportunities come with a price tag (if you’re smart about it). In the beginning, when a brand wants to feature you on their Instagram or just send you product, it’s ok to post about them because you are trying to build a relationship. However, once you start gaining popularity, it’s important to start monetizing to build your brand and credibility.
Consistency is what builds your relationship with your readers, giving them the opportunity to get to know you and your aesthetic, and to keep coming back for more. Create a weekly publishing goal across all platforms and stick to it. I aim for 3-5 blog posts a week, and 3-4 Instagram posts a day.
Engage your readers as much as possible! I try to respond to almost every comment on Instagram. It shows you appreciate your reader and also keeps them engaged and coming back. No one likes to be ignored!
With SO many people blogging now, you have to figure out a way to cut through the clutter—so develop your distinct point-of-view. For example: Are you a fan of vintage shopping, or do you tend to shop at more of the discount retailers like H&M, Zara, Topshop? Stick with that. In the beginning I was all over the place and felt like I wanted to show my readers how to wear EVERY trend. Now, I know I’m more of a classics girl and my brand is clear.
Don’t BS your readers—they will know. Post what is really happening in YOUR life. It’s motivating to want to aspire to other’s lives (i.e. traveling, shopping etc) but if that’s not your reality, that is more than ok. Post about your life. Your readers will appreciate it and take notice.
If you like another blogger’s post, “like it,” and leave a comment! There is no harm and if you keep at it, they will start commenting back, supporting you, and inviting you to events, and it will build your following. Supporting each other is the key to success!