There are few cities in the Southeast quite as ‘gramable as Charleston, South Carolina. Turn and snap in any direction and you’ll have yourself a lovely photo. Beyond the beauty, the city is steeped in culture and it’s to-do list is lengthy. Charleston has so much to offer: history, low country cuisine, beaches, a booming nightlife, local artisans, and more! I have done a few weekend round-ups encompassing these things HERE and HERE. While I am there soaking in the culture, I make sure to stop by my tried and true spots to snap some photos. So I thought I would round up these locations and share them with all you feed-savvy ‘grammers!
Since we’re all (hopefully) about done with our holiday shopping, I thought I would mix it up and answer some of the most commonly asked questions I receive. The questions I get are all over the place, so I organized it into three categories: blogging, beauty, and lifestyle. But if there is something I didn’t get to, leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post!
How did you get started blogging?
I worked in full-time in NASCAR for six years before making blogging my full-time gig. I did just about everything – PR, marketing, travel, etc. – and loved it for a while. I had always heard you needed to have a thick skin to work in the sport, but I was unprepared for how cut-throat it could really be.
Blogging, for me, began like a perfect storm. My first boss had me allocate some time to learn web design so we didn’t have to pay a pricey company to manage our site. At the same time, I had been following a number of old-school fashion blogs for quite a while (Instagram was in its infancy and RewardStyle didn’t exist), plus my boyfriend was a photographer. I had a passion for Southern fashion, but no one to share it with being totally submersed in the NASCAR community. So I thought, why not give it a shot?! And sent my blog live.
I had absolutely NO IDEA what I was doing, but I LOVED getting to write about this other side of my life and connect with like-minded women in the area. About a year into blogging, the first team I worked for shut down and almost all of us lost our jobs. Fortunately in NASCAR, it’s relatively easy to find a new job, so I moved on to a new team and spent a year traveling the country doing PR for a driver. But at the end of the season, that team shut down too and I found myself looking for another job. I, once again, started at a new team the next week as the Director of Marketing and Communications which was amazing, but I couldn’t get past the feeling of disillusionment. No matter how hard I worked, I always had in the back of my mind how easy it was to wind up unemployed.
Don’t get me wrong – I still love NASCAR. Heck, I’m married to a NASCAR driver and many of my best friends still work in the sport. It will be a big part of my life forever. But, I am so much happier being my own boss and having my fate in my hands. What began as a passion project, evolved into a safety net, and ultimately, the best full-time job I could ever have.
What’s your top piece of advice for beginning bloggers?
Start blogging because you are PASSIONATE about writing, photo editing, marketing, and of course, your given topic. Don’t start blogging because you want to make a quick buck because it is really hard. It took me about two years of consistent posting before making any money. And my first sponsored posts probably only made about $25. I was blogging for the sake of blogging; because I loved it. This should be your primary motivation.
I get so many questions from girls starting out saying they’re scared that they won’t be successful. But what do you define as success? If it is tons of followers, Instagram’s algorithm has made that almost impossible now without cheating in one way or another. If it’s money, like I said, that is going to take years of hard work. It is certainly possible to blog full time. But always keep in the back of your mind that a “full-time salary” may mean one thing to you and an entirely different thing to someone else.
Beyond that, my advice would be to come up with a posting schedule and stick to it. If you can only post three times a week, make sure you do it on a set schedule (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00am) so your followers know what to expect.
Finally, and probably most importantly, BE DIFFERENT. Shine like the unique snowflake that you are. At this point, the market is so saturated that it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure campaigns because brands have SO many options to choose between. As such, you need to stand out to grow your follower count and subsequently, your income. Think long and hard about what makes you unique and let that lead your content.
Some bonus social posting tips:
Instagram: The algorithm favors unstaged/organic photos, mirror selfies tend to convert the best ($$$), and you should be posting 2-3 times a day so your follows get to see at least one of your photos. Also, be sure to share your personality on Instagram Stories! Your followers want to get to know you 🙂
Pinterest: Keep your boards organized with beautiful, relevant cover photos. Aim to post 10-20 photos a day (20% your photos/80% other people’s photos). Pinterest will view you as a legitimate contributor and bump your pins higher in others’ feeds.
How do I shop your Instagram posts without LiketoKnow.it?
If you aren’t interested in receiving LiketoKnow.it emails, there are a few ways to easily shop my posts without being signed up for the service. The easiest is to download the LiketoKnow.it app. It’s free and they’ve made it SO easy to follow your favorite bloggers! Just click on the search bar, type in @cortneydryden, and click follow to have every link to every single thing I have posted!
If you don’t want the app, my most recent posts are always in my sidebar and footer. All you have to do is click the photo and the photo will enlarge with the links to the right of it. Just click on the link to go directly to the product page without signing up at all!
Who takes your photos?
This really depends! If I am traveling or need something shot of the fly, my husband takes my photos (bless his heart). I set up the shot with him in it to get the lighting and composition right, then swap places with him. When I need a ton of photos at once, I shoot with The Glitter Lens in Charlotte or Viva Lux Photography in Atlanta.
I totally understand the struggle of finding a photographer that doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg. It is tricky! Many portrait and family photographers don’t understand how low-maintenance it is to shoot bloggers and as such, charge you their normal rate. My advice would be to look for photographers in your area that are just starting out and need practice. I usually post on Facebook and ask my friends to recommend local photographers. Then when I connect, I make sure to explain that they won’t need to direct me or heavily edit the photos. Sometimes, I even bring my own SD card and edit the photos on my own or offer to credit them in each of my Instagram posts to help spread the word about their business.
While I so often feel on my own in running this blog, I do have to realize that I can’t do everything myself. The biggest investment you will likely make in your blog is a camera and a photographer. If you invest wisely, it will pay dividends.
What camera do you use?
I began with a Nikon D5300 and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, which were both GREAT for learning the ins and outs of photography. Since then, I have graduated to a Nikon D750 and a Sigma Art Lens 3.5mm 1.4. The prime lens is great for portraits and product photography, I just wanted something more wide angle and with a higher aperture to get a really blurry background.
If you don’t want to invest a ton of money in cameras and lenses, you honestly don’t have to! The camera on the latest iPhones are great and create some beautiful images. I know a ton of bloggers who are making a living off of mirror selfies and flat lays! Just consider your budget and how much you are willing to invest into your blog.
Do you have extensions? Are they worth it?
Yes, at almost all times I’m wearing two packs of Hot Heads tape-in extensions in 14-16in length. I have psoriasis that just about covers my scalp and it basically creates an inhospitable environment for healthy hair growth. Psoriasis gets worse as your stress does, and like I mentioned earlier, my current job situation was getting progressively more and more stressful. As such, my hair was getting thinner and shorter.
So I bit the bullet and got tape-in extensions put in. FYI – they are pricey – about $350-400 for the hair itself which you can use for up to six months, plus around $100 each time your stylist has to move your extensions up your hair (usually every 6-7 weeks). But for me personally, they are worth every penny. I would be homeless with only my hair to keep me warm before going without. Plus, tape-ins don’t damage your hair as long as you are gentle with them.
I heard horror stories about tangles and hours spent brushing your hair before investing in them, but I honestly haven’t had any issues with that. The only issue I have ever found with extensions is how much longer it takes to dry your hair.
What tools do you use to curl your hair?
I smooth my hair out with the T3 travel straightener and then curl it with the Hot Tools 1.5 barrel flipperless wand. I make sure to curl my hair away from my face and keep the hair flat around the barrel as I go. (Does this make sense? I need to film a tutorial!) I also make sure to start the curl halfway down my hair because if I start too high I look like Shirley Temple 😉
What foundation do you use?
I use and swear by the combo of BECCA Backlight Priming Filter and Chanel CC Cream (I wear shade 30 Beige). Yes, they aren’t cheap, but they last a long time and are SO worth it. I have put a TON of foundations to the test working 12-hour days in the hot sun at the racetrack. Chanel CC Cream is the only one that stays put, doesn’t change color, or melt. It pairs well with a ton of primers, but I have super dry skin and need a primer that moisturizes my skin and helps me glow from within. BECCA’s Backlight Priming Filter has a pearlescent finish to it is glowy without looking oily.
What are your favorite recent books?
I actually did a big roundup of my favorite books recently HERE, but if you are going to read one book make it Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Reese Witherspoon’s production company just picked it up to make it a movie and I am so excited! The twist is HUGE! My other favorite psychological thrillers are All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. And if you’re looking for life-altering self-help books, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay changed my life and made me rethink EVERYTHING and the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin made me want to do ALL THE THINGS. So motivating!
What podcasts are you listening to?
I am podcast OBSESSED and a true crime junkie!! I honestly need to do a full blog post on this because I have so much to say about each one. My hands-down FAVORITE podcast is Sword & Scale. Each episode takes you behind the scenes of a crime and you’ll get to hear from family, friends, and even the murderer. You’ll hear some pretty graphic things on this podcast, so I wouldn’t recommend listening to it around kids. Just be sure to read the episode descriptions ahead of time so you know what you’re getting into. It is dark, but fascinating.
I also loved Serial and S-Town (along with the rest of America), Up & Vanished, Dirty John, and Heaven’s Gate. All are AMAZING and worth a listen!
How did you and your husband meet?
My husband, Jeremy, and I met at the racetrack. I was traveling the NASCAR circuit doing public relations for another driver and he was racing. I had always thought he was cute, but he had a girlfriend (boo). On top of ALL of that, it isn’t always PC for PR girls to date drivers, so he was essentially off limits. Butttt as fate would have it, they broke up and he asked me out. Well, actually he pretended to drive his racecar into me in the garage first – his idea of flirting, I guess! I honestly thought it was too good to be true and told him to sow his wild oats for a while. But he wouldn’t have that. Gorgeous bouquets of flowers began arriving at my office, home, and when I was out to dinner. I would be getting my hair done only to find that he had called ahead to pay for it (how did he know my stylist?!) And he overall remained persistent until I agreed to go out with him. Thank god for his persistence.
I have been a serial monogamist my whole life, but I knew he was the one almost immediately. We got engaged about a year later and married this May. You can watch our proposal HERE. Spoiler alert: he did it skydiving! And you can see our wedding album HERE. And to brag on him for a little bit, he WON his first XFINITY Series race this year in dominating style. So if you want to see a clip that gives me chills, click HERE.
I hope I answered some of the questions y’all had! If you have any additional questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them 🙂
Instagram Stories are so important for bloggers, brands, and marketers alike. Not only do they let your followers get to know you better, they can actually improve your engagement. Say what? It’s true! Since your stories boost engagement, your Instagram posts have the chance to appear higher in people’s feeds! And we need all the help we can get with this ever since Instagram changed their algorithm.
I recently discussed the algorithm update at length and how it is hurting organic reach, but there is good news. While organic reach is DOWN across social media platforms, it is actually UP on Instagram Stories. So I wanted to chat with y’all about how to make your stories the BEST they can be so you can get more eyes on your Instagram posts and ultimately, your blog or website.
Before hopping into my five best practices, I wanted to share a bonus tip: time matters for Instagram Stories. If you want to get the most eyes on your stories, spread out your posts. Using audience insights (if you are a business profile), see what time of day your followers are most active and post your first story at that time. Then spread out your Instagram Story posts throughout the day to keep bumping it to the front of people’s feeds. It will increase viewership and engagement!