How To Start a Fashion & Clothing Blog (and Make Money)
So you want to start a fashion blog and make money from it. Well, you’re in the right place. This guide covers exactly how to create your own fashion/clothing blog and get paid for your fashion sense. But it isn’t as simple as throwing your ideas out on the Internet.
To make money with your ideas, you’ll need to own your own space on the Internet. There are plenty of influencers who do well with only Instagram / Pinterest / Snapchat. That is simple and can be a good place to start…but you are also limited without a web property that you truly own. And the simplest way is to start a blog.
Note: a “blog” is technically just the part of a website with the newest content listed first. This guide will show how to start a fashion blog, but you’ll have the unlimited options of a full website as well.
But not every blog makes money. In fact the vast majority fail—especially in the fashion space. That’s because most bloggers and website owners focus so much on the publishing they forget a key step—getting people to the site to actually read what they write!
So here’s how we’ll approach starting a fashion blog and making money off of it (from scratch) –
- Getting the technical parts and foundation set up
- Getting visitors to your new blog
- Deciding how to make money with your new audience
Let’s dive in!
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from any companies mentioned. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer of the mentioned companies.
Getting Your Fashion Blog Started
To start your fashion blog / clothing website, you’ll need 3 things:
1. Domain name – this is your address or “name” online. It’s what visitors will type in to get to your blog.
2. Hosting server – this is where your blog will physically live. When someone types in your domain name, their browser will go to this server to get the information and deliver it to your visitor’s computer.
3. Blogging Software – this is software that lives on your hosting server that allows you to log in, add content, and manage your blog.
Let’s cover each in turn.
Notes On Starting A Fashion Blog For Free
There’s a saying that says if something is free, then you aren’t the customer — you’re the product. It’s true for any platforms that offer blogging for free.
If you are using a free blog platform for your fashion blog, you’re going to be limited with what you can do, which means your ability to make money (the key part of this guide) will be limited as well. Blogging and website platforms usually package domain name, hosting server and blogging software into a package that allows the platform to make money from your work.
That said, if you have zero budget, you can still get started on a free platform and strive to migrate in the future. There are easy-to-use, free blog platforms like Blogger and Tumblr that can get the job done for the time being.
However, if you want to look ahead, then the free platform that makes migrating to your self-hosted blog easiest is WordPress.com. WordPress gives you a subdomain and a restricted version of WordPress blogging software for free (plus, they have tons of themes that are specific to fashion). You can read more about WordPress.com and the differences here.
That said, let’s set up your domain name. Whether you choose the free route – you definitely need to have a domain name. It will allow you to start building referral traffic from other sites and social media sites.
How To Purchase A Domain Name
Note – if you already own a domain name, you can skip down to How To Setup Hosting For WordPress.
Disclosure: I receive referral fees from companies, including the ones mentioned in this guide. My recommendations are based on my experiences as an independent paying customer. You can read my full reviews here.
To save money and make things easier for yourself in the future – I highly recommend purchasing your domain separately from your hosting. Hosting and domain selling are two different activities – and usually companies only do one well (and at a good price). When you purchase separately, you not only get better pricing & management, you also get the benefits of diversity and not having all your eggs in one basket so to speak.
Once you have your domain name, we need a hosting server to “point” it to.
How To Set Up Hosting For WordPress
Choosing a good web hosting company is critical for your website, especially one that is image heavy like most fashion sites. Web hosting companies tend to make things way too confusing with useless feature overload, short-term discounts (then expensive long-term prices), and over-promising customer service.
There at hundreds of web hosting companies on the Internet. There is no such thing as an “overall best” – only the best for you & your situation. Since you are reading this guide, I’ll make a few assumptions (ie, performance needs, budget parameters, etc).
Otherwise, here’s the 3 companies that I usually end up recommending for anyone building an image heavy fashion site You can also read my full hosting reviews, including ones for Bluehost, InMotion & Web Hosting Hub if you’re interested.
- Bluehost– Very affordable all-around plans, especially if you plan on installing many small WordPress websites. Good customer service & performance. I use them for my smaller, personal sites. See their plans w/ discount here.
- SiteGround – Independently-owned with great customer service and cutting edge features. Very well-priced plans with deep long-term discounts and good performance. See their plans w/ current discount here.
- InMotion Hosting – Independently-owned with great customer service & 90 day money back guarantee. Well-priced plans (with some caps) that have great performance, and can grow as your site grows. This site actually uses a hosting plan with them. I’ll also use their site for screenshots. See their plans w/ current 53% off discount here.
The purchase & setup steps in this guide work for all three companies mentioned (and others), but will come from InMotion Hosting if you want to follow along exactly. Bluehost has a few more ads/upsells but is otherwise the same. SiteGround is almost exactly the same.
Step 1. Choose the hosting plan that fits your current goals.
Go to InMotion Hosting’s plans, and view their ‘Shared Business Hosting Plans’. Then select the plan you want. The Launch Plan is great if you have just one or two website ideas. The Power Plan is good if you have several you want to run, plus maybe some test websites on subdomains. The Pro Plan is good if you want no limits.
Next, fill in your domain name and continue.
Step 2. Purchase your plan & select your hosting options.
Confirm your plan and fill in the checkout page fields. The Max Speed Zone determines whether your website physically lives in California or Virginia (which can shave a little bit when you are updating the site), but the default selection should be correct.
The Content Management Installer can be useful, but I’ve found it better to select “No, Thanks” and install it after purchasing the hosting product (which we’ll be doing).
Step 3. Access your account & technical details.
It takes a few minutes for your account to get ready. When it’s ready, you will get an email from InMotion Hosting that looks like this…
Once you are in your account management panel, head to the Account Technical Details.
Scroll down, and you’ll see two “Nameservers” – copy them. These will “connect” your domain name to your hosting server.
Step 4. Add Nameservers to your domain name & confirm the connection.
Copy the 1st and 2nd Nameserver, and go log in to where you bought your domain names.Then navigate to your Domain’s DNS area. Then, replace the current DNS with the ones provided by InMotion.
In GoDaddy: Go to My Account –> Launch Domains –> Manage Domain –> select Set Nameservers –> Select ‘I have custom nameservers’ –> Paste in 1st and 2nd Nameserver provided by InMotion.
In NameCheap, Login –> Manage Domains –> Select Domain –> Select Manage –> Under NameServers, select Custom and place your nameservers there –> Save Changes.
That’s how to setup hosting for WordPress! Now all that remains is to Install WordPress, which we will cover in the next section. It can take up to 24 hours for the Domain Nameservers (DNS) to switch over completely, but it usually goes fairly quickly (usually less than 10 minutes if you’re in the USA).
How To Install and Configure WordPress
So now that we have an address and a place for our website to live, we can dive into how to setup a WordPress website on the server. WordPress is going to be the software that powers your website. But before it can power your website – it needs to be installed on your hosting server.
Here’s how to install and configure WordPress…
Installing WordPress With QuickInstall
While you can certainly install WordPress manually, InMotion (and others mentioned) has an excellent, free, secure tool to quickly install WordPress onto your new hosting account.
Step 1. Access your hosting control panel (cPanel).
Head back to your InMotion Account Management Panel. Click the link to go to your cPanel (control panel). It should automatically log you in to cPanel.
And yes, there is a link to “Install Popular Software” – that link just ends up going to cPanel anyway through a different login screen. Easier to go directly to cPanel.
Step 2. Find the WordPress installer script.
Now that you are logged into hosting cPanel – you’ll need to go looking for an icon called “WordPress” and/or “Softaculous” and open it. You’re looking for this:
Step 3. Run the WordPress install script.
Open the WordPress auto-install script opened and then continue.
Step 4. Enter website information into installer.
Now you will just fill out your information, and click Install. Be sure that your email address is correct. Leave the field after / blank – that is for only if someone already has a website on the main domain that they want to keep running. Enter your Blog Title – you can change it once you’ve installed WordPress.
Step 5. Confirm installation and log into WordPress Dashboard!
After a few seconds… Congratulations! You’ve got yourself a new WordPress website – and now you know exactly how to set up a WordPress website on your own server.
Be sure to copy your username and password in a safe place (it will also be emailed to you).
And go login to your new WordPress site at http://[yourdomain.com]/wp-admin! You can also check your email to get links & login information.
Creating Your Fashion Blog & Clothing Website
So you have your own website on your own domain. But how do you make it your own fashion blog/clothing website? Let’s break it down into two issues to solve:
First, you need a design that tells the world that this is a fashion blog.
Second, you need some website functionality so that you can present your content exactly how you want it — full of rich imagery, sharing functions, etc.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Themes & Design
The great thing about using WordPress as your content management system is that you can create any design you can imagine since its code speaks the language of browsers (HTML/CSS). BUT you don’t have to write all that. WordPress allows you to easily install an off-the-shelf “theme” — a pre-made design — that is customizable to your taste.
WordPress has lots of free designs (and there are some top quality ones, believe it or not!). On your Dashboard to the left, navigate down to Appearances >> Themes.
Click around, preview, and install any of them! You don’t have to worry about getting viruses or anything funky since they’ve all passed certain coding criteria.
If you can’t find a free theme or you want to buy a higher quality premium theme, you can certainly shop around — there are thousands of them. I recommend starting your search with one of these providers:
- StudioPress – They make the Genesis framework, which allows you to overlay different skins or “child themes”.
- ThemeForest – The largest marketplace for independent designers. Lots of selections at good prices.
- MOJO Themes – Another large marketplace for independent designers.
- ElegantThemes – Very high quality theme-builder.
Pro-tip: Don’t get a theme simply because it’s a “fashion” or “clothing” theme. Sometimes those are great, but sometimes they are just normal themes with fashion pictures pre-loaded. Look at layout and flexibility more than the existing design.
Plugins & Functionality
Plugins are basically little snippets of pre-crafted code that increase your site’s functionality. Using plugins (and which ones you use) is ultimately up to your taste and goals, but most fashion blogs require some functionality that make using plugins a good idea. Here’s my list of essential WordPress plugins that nearly every website needs to have (for example: a good security system, Google Analytics, etc).
These plugins specifically are great additions will help regular blog transform into a fashion blog:
With a fashion-focused site, you’re going to need lots of high-end images. This plugin compresses the files (without messing up the quality) so that your site loads quickly.
This plugin extends WordPress’ built-in support for picture galleries to allow you to display images in lots of interesting ways. Unlike other plugins like NEXTGEN, this plugin focuses on solid fundamentals without the frills. It won’t add a lot of “overhead” to your WordPress install since it works with WordPress’ already useful image features.
If you are running a fashion website, Pinterest will be a MAJOR traffic source. Use this plugin to automatically add the Pin-It button to your images… which is helpful for readers and for your marketing strategy.
If you need calendar functionality (to keep track of fashion shows, perhaps?), this plugin is the way to go. For a full-featured premium plugin, look into Events+ here.
Instagram = great for fashion and clothing. Need I say more?
SumoMe is a highly-effective plugin for social sharing and content analytics. It will add light-weight social sharing buttons to your theme. You’ll also have quick access to things like email opt-ins and content analytics. It’s easy to use and incredibly effective for getting people engaged with your content!
Shows “related posts” box beneath your posts. It helps improve engagement and keep people on your site. Related Posts-type plugins can often add deadweight to websites and affect your website speed, but this plugin work well and is essential for a fashion website.
If/when you want to sell products from your website, you should use WooCommerce plugin. I wrote a full guide for it here. It will allow you to sell physical products (like your own fashion designs) or virtual products (like style guides) via your website. It completely integrates with WordPress so that you don’t have to go with any complicated 3rd party solution.
Getting Visitors To Your Fashion Blog
If a tree lands in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? The cliché applies to your blog as well — if no one visits your site, does it really exist? In terms of making money, it does not.
To make any money at all, you have to have visitors to your blog.
Asking how you can get visitors to your website is a bit like asking “how do I get to Las Vegas?” It depends. There’s a lot of different ways to drive website traffic, but a lot depends on you, where you are at now, how fast you want to get to where you’re going, your time, and your budget.
Either way, here are the primary ways to get website visitors along with considerations and ways to get started.
Creating Your Persona
One critical mistake many bloggers make is writing about a topic instead of an audience. It seems like a small difference, but it can have huge effects on how you approach each traffic source.
The marketing jargon here is “creating a persona”. A persona is your vision of a typical blog visitor. Instead of thinking about the topic you want to cover (i.e. Spring fashion trends), think about your ideal visitor and what they want to see (i.e. trendsetters, fashion-forward readers, etc.).
You can expand your audience as you grow. But defining a specific persona will help you stay focused instead of floundering on aimless brainstorming — after all, there’s a ton to cover in fashion!
Once you have decided on your persona, it’s time to decide what channel you want to use to market to your ideal persona.
Visitors from Search / Organic
This channel will bring website visitors from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! to your website. For most websites, it is the largest and most consistent source of traffic on the Internet.
You have a post on your blog about how to mix and match patterns. Google/Bing finds it and “indexes” it. A potential visitor types in a search query into Google/Bing about how to mix and match patterns. Google/Bing decides based on the content and links from quality websites that your blog post is a potential answer to their search.
Your blog post shows up in the search results for the visitor’s search. They click on the link and land on your site.
Your get organic traffic by having the best, most relevant post on a topic as possible — ideally with quality links from other websites.
- It takes a long time to build — usually a year for a brand-new blog.
- It requires a lot of work and thought to create content that answers questions other people have.
- It still requires promotion for best results. Getting links from other quality websites takes time.
- It is like building a snowball — tough to get started but once it’s rolling, organic traffic is often self-sustaining and massive.
- You can build organic traffic while working on other traffic channels (like paid).
Quickest Ways To Get Started
- Learn the basics of using keywords on your website and keyword mapping.
- Write detailed and descriptive posts about specific fashion topics that you know a lot about — and that your persona is searching for. Look for pre-qualified content ideas.
- Learn the basics of using an SEO plugin, Google Search Console and writing descriptive post titles.
- Stay consistent over time.
Visitors from Social Media
This channel will bring visitors to your website from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. For many blogs, this is the easiest and fastest channel with the most potential. It’s also inconsistent and hit-or-miss.
You share a post on your blog to Pinterest. As people see it and Pin it to their own boards, more people see it, click through, and land on your blog.
- You’ll need to find a way to stand out. What styles and content can you share that make you memorable and different from the thousands on Pinterest/Instagram/etc.?
- Make sure you have variety in your posts. Mix and match clothing reviews, how-to articles, everyday fashion pictures, and other types of content.
- It’s easy to spend a lot of time pinning and tweeting with no real results.
- It’s best to do well at one network than do a lot across several (i.e. focus on Instagram if that’s where your images get shared the most).
- Make sure all your content is maximally shareable by following formatting rules.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
- Get to know Pinterest. Take time setting up your boards and finding ways you can stand out with unique, memorable content.
- Devote time to helping influential people or pages in the fashion industry on your target social network. Who are your personas already following?
- Read this guide to get further tips and strategy ideas.
Visitors from Referral Traffic
This channel will bring visitors to your fashion blog from other websites. This channel usually does not drive the most absolute traffic, but is the most straightforward way to get initial traffic. Referral traffic also complements organic traffic (Google/Bing like to see the links from other websites) and social traffic since the website referring/mentioning your website is likely to share your content as well.
The most common ways to get referral traffic are:
1.You have a post on your blog about how to start a capsule wardrobe mid-season. It’s a unique, quality post that will make another fashion website look good by linking to it. Usually they find it after you pitch the idea to them. They link to your website, their visitors click over to your website via the link.
2. You offer to write a post about starting a capsule wardrobe mid-season for another website (perhaps Unfancy). They accept. Within that post, you link to one of your posts and/or your blog. Their readers click over to learn more about you.
- It takes a lot of work, specifically relationship-building, to get referral traffic opportunities, especially in a high volume industry like fashion.
- Unless you score a post or link on a high-profile website, like The Blonde Salad, you won’t get enormous amounts of traffic like search or social.
- It will often complement your organic and social traffic, so it’s easy to justify the time, especially at the beginning.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
- Find other small to mid-size fashion bloggers and influencers that might appeal to your target persona. Use Google Search Operators to uncover good bloggers. Figure out ways you can help them, either by providing content they don’t already have or creating a post they’d like to link to. Perhaps give them a #FollowFriday shoutout to send some of your own visitors there (and get a Retweet).
- Read this post on roundups and this post on social strategies which provide great quick start methods.
Visitors from Paid Traffic
This channel will bring visitors to your website from search, social or referral sources when you pay those sources for the traffic. It’s a guaranteed traffic source. It also can be expensive and tough to justify if it’s not directly providing profit.
Depending on what source of traffic you want, you have to that company’s self-serve ad platform and set up ads. Usually, you will pay per click. Google AdWords and Facebook are the networks with the largest and most sophisticated options. Smaller networks like Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon and even content amplification platforms like OutBrain can make sense for blogs.
- You need a budget and an objective for the campaign or else it’s easy to burn through cash (obviously the opposite of making money from your blog).
- You need to thoroughly understand how to get the most out of your paid traffic source before running ads.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
- Read my guide to how to advertise your website online.
- For blogs, usually running a very small, very targeted Facebook campaign makes the most sense.
Visitors from Your Own Audience
The best and most sustainable traffic source of them all is, of course, your own dedicated readers.
When you first start a blog, you likely don’t already have a blog audience. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start developing one! Every audience needs to start somewhere.
Getting Started Building Your Own Audience
- Be sure to install and learn how to use Google Analytics to learn more about your audience and where they come from.
- Get set up with an email provider like MailChimp and collect email addresses.
- Use an email collection and social sharing tool like SumoMe to collect emails for your MailChimp list in creative and useful ways.
- Use SumoMe’s social tools to get followers & traffic on social networks.
- As you get more email addresses and social followers, enlist them to further grow your list.
Making Money From Your Fashion Blog
Now that you have an audience, it’s time to learn to sell them something. There are dozens of ways for publishers and blogs to make money. And really, the tried-and-true way is to simply ask your audience what they would pay for. But here are the most common ways to make money from your fashion blog.
Sell Your Products
This channel usually offers the highest return on investment, but it’s also the most work to pull off.
Whether it’s an apparel you’ve designed on your own, an ebook of top fashion trends, or even a coffee table book of beautiful fashion pics — you sell it to your blog audience.
- You’ll need a method of delivery and a payment system.
- If you are on WordPress, you can easily use a plugin to create ecommerce functionality, or test out delivery manually (ie, just put a PayPal button up and take care of orders manually).
- Look into other platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing to get started.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
The tried and true way is to create a PDF ebook of advanced information that’s not on your blog and sell that (i.e. a super-detailed guide to creating your own upcycled wardrobe) . You can also think about monetizing your photography, (i.e. a coffee table book of high0-end photos), creating branded blog merchandise, or even selling your own designs.
Sell Your Services
This channel is very related to selling your own products except that you are selling yourself & your expertise.
Create a package of services that aligns with the area of fashion you’re blogging about. It might be a fashion consultation session, dress-to-impress workshops, being a personal stylist, etc. Either way, you use your blog to generate leads who pay & book via PayPal.
- This channel is the easiest to start and test out. All you need is an email address.
- It’s also easy to test, since you can always cancel or stop taking orders if you get too booked up.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
Put a Services page up on your blog with a contact form and/or email address. Start directing readers there.
Sell Other Companies’ Products
This channel brings in money from getting a commission or referral fee from generating sales for other companies. Stitchfix is the perfect example of a company that sells other companies’ products for a profit. It’s also known as “affiliate marketing” or “performance marketing”.
You partner with a company who gives you a special tracking link to their products. You use that link on your site. When a visitor clicks the link and makes a purchase, then you get a commission/referral fee on the sale.
- Be mindful of position and mention products to your audience. You don’t want to bombard your readers with a pair of jeans they don’t even want in the first place.
- Since it’s commission-based, it’s easy to make zero or little money while providing companies essentially free advertising.
- Look at the terms and conditions very carefully to make sure it’s a good deal for you.
- Be sure you meet the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for online publishers. Always fully disclose your relationships with companies and their products.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
Go to your favorite retailer and look in the footer for “Affiliates” and follow the instructions. Or go to Commission Junction and/or Shareasale to find companies that would be a good fit for your audience. Amazon also has the most widely known and most flexible network, but your favorite clothing brands may have their own programs as well. Go to their websites and look around for “Affiliates” or “Partners” sections.
There are also several fashion-blogger-only networks such as Reward Style.
Start integrating their products and links into your emails and/or blog content. Read these guides for more information.
This channel is the most straightforward and simplest for a blog to make money. While it can be lucrative, it’s also usually offers the lowest return per visitor.
You place a snippet of code on parts of your website. A broker (such as Google or BuySellAds or Media.net) will automatically fill that space with an ad every time a visitor lands on your site. You get paid based on clicks and/or impressions. Alternatively, you can sell directly to advertisers. You’ll place their ad on your site for a negotiated fee.
- Unless you have a lot of traffic or very lucrative traffic (think people researching pharmaceuticals or frequent purchases of high-end fashion brands like Christian Louboutin), you are unlikely to make a lot of money. So you have to balance your time investment to make ads worth it.
- If you place too many ads, you will drive away visitors and be seen as a “low quality site” by Google Search, will will impact your organic traffic.
- Ads from other companies can distract from other more lucrative revenue channels such as your own services or affiliate deals with clothing companies.
Quickest Ways To Get Started
Sign up for Google AdSense. They will give you a code. Place that code in a widget, header or anywhere on your site. You can use a plugin such as OIO Publisher to sell ads directly to advertisers and manage placement.
So that’s how to start your fashion blog and make money off of it. There’s obviously a lot that you’ll have to learn and adjust as you go along, so keep testing and optimizing. You’ll never learn until you dive in!
Here are the next steps to get started:
- Get a domain name. Go to NameCheap here and search for the perfect domain for you fashion site.
- Get a hosting plan. Go to InMotion here to get a plan.
- Install & configure WordPress.
- Create a marketing plan with specific channels and specific goals. Get an example plan here.
- Test out different ways to make money from your audience.