Must-know blogger Rach Parcell reveals the inspiration behind her Pink Peonies blog
If you've ever wondered how a blog can become a full-blown business -- look no further than Rach Parcell.
Parcell was first inspired to begin her blog when she got married, as a way to share with her friends and family what her life was now like. That simple blog ended up turning into her full-time career, but not for lack of trying.
She took classes in college about photo, design, and website management, and eventually was able to create a major fashion destination for women around the globe -- her Pink Peonies site.
While Parcell started in the fashion realm, she has since expanded beyond that to include posts on family life, home decor, and beauty. Now, just years after her wedding, she's grown a social media following of over a million people.
While blogging may seem like a simple, easy task to some, it takes serious dedication and a lot of hard work -- take it from Parcell herself!
We had the chance to sit down with this go-to fashion blogger about her road to success, the inspiration behind her blog name, and more. Check out part one of the interview below!
#YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases rising talents. To see more past interviews, including more features on Rach Parcell, click here.
How did you first get started with blogging?
I started five and a half, maybe even six years ago, but I started before fashion blogging or even blogging was super popular. I had never heard of a blog when I started. I'm from Utah, and the trend in Utah is that we get married a little bit younger. So, instead of posting on your Facebook profile, people started to journal or blog for friends and family to follow along with the first year of marriage. It was the way for friends in Utah to keep up with each other after marriage. When my sister got married, she started one and I was getting married too, so I started one. I did it originally as a journal, I blogged about my wedding and then if we went on a vacation I would post pictures.
Then, our wedding was featured on the cover of Utah Valley Brides magazine, and from that cover issue, a lot of young girls who were getting married found my family blog. I started getting questions on my blog from girls about my clothes and makeup. Then, one day I posted a head-to-toe photo of one of my outfits I wore to church, and this was right when Pinterest was getting big, and that one got pinned so many times and drove so much traffic to my blog. That brought people outside of Utah to my blog. Someone suggested I try starting a fashion blog, and that's when I decided to do dedicated outfit posts. A few months later, I got emails from affiliate networks because my blog had been driving sales to their sites, and they told me I could be making a commission on my posts. At the end of the month, I signed on and checked how much I made and I was shocked. From there, boutiques started sending me free clothes and asked if I would wear it in my blog posts. Between that and affiliate sales, that's how I got on the map nationally, especially with brands. Then I started getting invited to things like New York Fashion Week and working with a talent agency that brings me brand collaborations. I didn't set out to start a fashion blog, and I didn't even know then that you could make money from it. Now, it's turned into a full-time career.
It seems like it was a natural progression for you then.
I think that's why it's grown to be so big, it started naturally. My followers could tell that I really loved fashion and could tell I was passionate about them wanting to be able to buy something I was wearing. It does take a long time to link an outfit for a blog -- it probably takes an hour. At the time, I wasn't making any money from it. If they liked my belt, I wanted them to be able to find it and buy it. I think that's how it started, I trained my readers to use my site as their shopping experience before they went to sites like Nordstrom or J. Crew.
Where did the blog name Pink Peonies come from?
When I was planning my wedding I sat down with my florist and wedding coordinator and we were trying to decide what the feel was that I wanted for my wedding. I said I wanted neutral colors, with a bit of pink, and my favorite flower was peonies. So, I requested a bunch of pink peonies for my bouquet and for the centerpieces. As we were planning the wedding, I had just switched my major to graphic design, and my whole family has entrepreneurs in it, so while we were planning we would throw out the term pink peonies a lot because that was the main flower. I just kept thinking, if I ever opened a boutique or graphic design business, that's what I would want it to be called. It's feminine and cute, it has a nice ring to it. So, when it came time to switch my blog over from being a casual family journal to something people look at every day for fashion ideas, I knew it would be pink peonies. It's my favorite color and my favorite flower, and it just all came together.
A lot of people think building a blog is just a hobby, or maybe something people do for fun in their spare time. What would be your response to that?
I think now, bloggers are starting to get the credit they deserve. But blogging is hard and you have to wear so many hats -- you have to be a writer, an editor, a photographer, a makeup artist, a hairstylist, a stylist, and then you have to have a personality that can actually reach an audience and grab them and keep them following you. It takes a lot of work, and when you first start you can't go out and hire a bunch of people to do your hair and makeup and do everything. When I started I was going to school and working part time, I would just stay up all hours of the night and work on my blog. I would watch YouTube tutorials and figure out how to take photos. I really wanted a photo with the background blurry, but me in focus, and I tried on my little cheap camera and it wasn't working, and it took me forever to figure out which camera I needed for that. In college, I ended up signing up for a lot of photo classes so I could learn how to take photos and edit them correctly. I was trying to learn new skills to elevate my blog and the content that I was posting, and at that time I was still making no money, I just loved it. It was fun.
What does it really take to create a post from start to finish?
First, it starts with choosing your outfit for a fashion post. I would come up with an outfit but then you have to choose a location -- one with good lighting that matches the outfit you're wearing. Then you have to take test shots and fix the settings on your camera if there's not good lighting the photo won't be pretty, and if it's not pretty then it won't get pinned, and if it won't get pinned then it won't drive traffic. There's just so much you have to think about. Then you have to go out and shoot, which can be frustrating because you want everything to be perfect. After you have the photos you have to edit the ones you want and download them all, which can take forever. Then you have to select your favorites and then go online and find out where everything you're wearing is from. I like to give my readers cheaper options, so I have to go onto other sites and browse around for comparable items and other color options. It is fun to find different things that work for people on different budgets. After it's published, we do the social rounds. We'll share it on Snapchat, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Pinterest. We will pin all of the images, and I'll Instagram about it to let all of my followers know about it. It's a long process, now it's about a week long process for one post. There's a lot that goes into it and on top of all that you have to write the actual post, and think about how to make it interesting for your readers.
How many posts are you doing a day?
So, I post on my blog 5 days a week, and it's one post every day at 6 AM. I've been very consistent. I think a part of the success I've had was deciding early on to grow a following, so I knew I had to be consistent. At the time, I noticed that some of the bloggers I followed wouldn't have anything new on a regular basis, and it was kind of a letdown. I wanted to make sure I had something new for my followers every day of the work week to look at. Consistency got my followers in the habit of going to my site to see what's new, making it a part of their morning ritual. So, I do one style post a day, and then on Instagram, I'll post anywhere from one to four times a day, depending on the day. And now Snapchat is a whole new game because it's not curated or something you try to make beautiful. It's just your life. It's been an amazing way for me to connect on a personal level with my readers, because they can see me at home in my PJs laying next to my dog and my two little babies, or they can see me goofing off with my sisters. They get to see you in your own element. It's just raw. So, Snapchat and Insta stories have been a fun way for my followers to get to know me outside of my blog.
What would you say is the biggest challenge with blogging that people may not realize?
I think we don't get enough credit, especially as of a few years ago. It has gotten better in the last few years, and once your blog does take off it goes from being the writer, the editor the stylist to more in charge. But the criticism can be bad, people are really brutal on social media. You're also a businesswoman who's running her own company, and you have to know contracts and which brands to work with. There's just so much to do. You have to make both your client and your reader happy. There are times too where a brand might offer you a lot of money, but it doesn't align with your style or fashion. You have to make sure it's going to connect with yourself and your audience. It's a fine line, and you have to be careful that you don't lose that trust with your readers. You have to have really thick skin and work hard, but if you have a passion for it, it's so fun.
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