I started blogging in 2015. I’d never positioned my blog as a straight up fashion blog because it’s so much more than that. But I knew fresh and consistent fashion-related content was how I could most rapidly get people’s attention. In the beginning, I told myself I would go through my closet and style things that I already had, and only buy things from resale websites like Poshmark, i.e. things heavily discounted and sometimes pre-owned. Over time, I started going overboard with the shopping especially when the holiday seasons came around. You know how it goes… every corner you turn you see a cute “corporate holiday party dress. Slowly but surely, I progressed to buying things whenever there was a topic that could use a brand-new outfit. Over the first year of creating Cubicle Chic, I blazed through what I had in the bank and started piling up credit card debt. And it just kept going.
What was worse was my existing shopping condition. As many metropolitan professional women earning a decent income could relate (and as Cubicle Chic’s top banner may suggest), I have a weakness for luxury goods. There’s always been a tender spot in my heart for name brand stuff in that I can’t explain. Now, I can’t say that tendency is a thing of the past. What I can say though, is that I no longer impulse-buy “nice stuff” – designer bags/shoes/things that I don’t have a planned budget/saved up cash for. Currently, I do live somewhat of a reformed life, financially speaking.
How is this life reformed, you ask? Well, I have no debt (other than our mortgage) and I live with a budget that I share with my husband now, and every month I know exactly how much I’m supposed to spend in each category. I still go over in some categories occasionally but it’s done with control and comfort. This current financial stability is the result of a slow, arduous, and long transformation that took place from early 2015 to the present. During this time, I had moved in with my boyfriend (husband now), got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, and bought a house. This transformation was guided by my husband’s help in shaping my financial foundation and the teachings of a real personal finance guru, Dave Ramsey. As painful as it was, it was the only reason we managed to cash-flow the wedding and secure a good down payment for the purchase of a new house.
So, in my financially uneducated and uninformed days, starting a fashion blog really took a toll. A year into it, I had no savings to show for the hard work at my full-time job or my blog. My credit card debt fluctuated between a monthly balance of $2000-$5000. The worse part was that I didn’t even know I was on the verge of being broke.
All of this isn’t to say that having a fashion blog WILL ruin you financially. But blogging is not for the ignorant and the uninformed, which I totally was 2 years ago.
Here are 9 things about starting and having a fashion blog that pushed me further down the financial drain:
1. Keeping up with new trends
Keeping up with the Jones’ is real when every other person on Instagram is the Jones’. That new pair of Adidas sneakers, the new Celine bag, a new one-piece swimsuit, or a beach straw-bag. Instagram fuels our shopping addiction, which is why companies paid $31 billion in the on Instagram ads in 2016 and continue to do so. To avoid buying things I don’t need/won’t use for my blog, I now stick to a master editorial calendar. Because of it, I already know what I’m writing this month, next month, and the following month. If I catch myself wanting to buy something for blog content, I try to see how it’s going to fit into my editorial calendar. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t buy.
2. Paying for expensive photography
This is another topic that I can probably write a book on: how to find the right photographer for your blog. Creating visually pleasing aesthetics for a blog is so, so, so critical. Some people have photographer inclinations/skills/boyfriends/husbands which make this easier. For others, finding someone who understands your vision, is flexible with your schedule, and offers the right price is HARD TO FIND. I started out paying between $200-$400 for one photography session which consisted of about 90-120 minutes and 2-3 different outfits. That was definitely more than the industry standard for fashion blog photography. I was very happy with the result, but the cost was unsustainable and I quickly realized that. Over time, I met and worked with many other photographers and became more educated about pricing. At the same time, I learned to model better and learned what looked good for photos. To date, I’ve worked with almost 10 photographers. I have finally found my one and only photographer who I work with regularly now. She charges me a very reasonable price, is flexible with our shooting schedule and provides me just the right creative input to help me improve my overall aesthetics. I wish someone had taught me this before I started so I would’ve been more judicious about my blogging expense.
3. Creating an archive of outfits
I feel that as a blogger I need to showcase a suite of outfits that tailor to different events and functions. Like right now, I still feel like I need that power suit to round out my working professional wardrobe collection. I probably will get a power suit at some point when it makes sense for a post I’m writing or an event I’m attending, but not right now. The heart of this problem lies in the lack of organization and visibility of the stuff I already have. This Spring, I gave my closet an overhaul, i.e. throwing out stuff I didn’t wear anymore and getting re-acquainted with stuff I had but wasn’t wearing enough. That exercise allowed me to physically see that I already have an archive of good outfits.
4. Getting brands to notice me
Someone once told me the best way to approach a brand to collaborate is to show that you are already their user/fan. What brands are you already a fan of? So, I’ve internalized this philosophy and started telling myself “It’s okay to buy because I am trying out for myself before I can work with the brand.” This is a very dangerous path because I can literally justify anything I want to buy this way. Again, I’ve learned now to default to my editorial calendar to see if there’s even a reason to try the product. If it’s not aligned with my editorial calendar, I don’t buy.
5. Attending events
Almost two years into my blogging career, I’ve signed up for an event 5 times (PoshFest twice, The Collective once, Simply Stylish twice). The tickets on average cost about $90-$300 for each event. Going to events quickly turns into a money suck because I’d have to get my outfit ready, and for the first few events I was also trying to sort out my business card situation which cost money too. This year, I am only attending one event (Simply Stylist in July). I plan on being very responsible in how much I invest in the outfit for the event. The only other event that I will try to attend in the future is Create and Cultivate. It’s even more expensive (think $350+) but I know I will save up and pay cash for it.
6. Paying for online classes
If you’re reading online about how to improve your finances, chances are, you are a regular for online courses. I’ve taken online classes for business writing, blogging techniques, photography tips and tricks, SEO know-how, and the list goes on. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like taking classes will be the answer to everything. Nowadays I try to find classes that are under $20. I also try to finish a class before I sign up for new ones. Psychologically speaking, paying for a class feels like progress. But I know that true progress doesn’t happen until I’ve implemented what I learn and see the impact.
7. The blogger discounts
If I had a dime every time a brand/company, instead of agreeing to collaborate with me, wants to give me a discount… Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate their generosity. And given point #4 above, I used to give in more often than I should’ve. The truth is, if I have no need for the sponsor’s products and it doesn’t make sense for my editorial calendar, I shouldn’t buy it no matter how steep the discount is.
8. Paying for advertisement or loop giveaways
Aside from being desperate for more traffic as a new blogger, as a digital marketing professional, I told myself I needed to experiment with Google Adwords and Facebook ads, just to be able to say that I know how they work. In Christmas of 2015, I started a small Google Adwords campaign to promote the three outfits I created for Holiday Parties. Because of lack of experience at the time, the campaign cost me $250 before I found out about it. It got me maybe about 1000 clicks in total, but no one became a recurring reader. I quickly learned my lesson and never did it again.
There is also loop giveaways that Instagram influencers like to do. If you haven’t heard of it, this is what an Instagram Loop Giveaway. To date, I’ve joined 2 loop giveaways as an influencer. They were each about $30 for me to participate, and they earned me about 200-300 followers each time. This is really just a more glamorous and legitimate way of “buying followers”. I have not done one since then because the followers you get from loop giveaways drop you like it’s hot. It’s hard not to take the crazy amount of unfollowing that occurs at the end of the giveaway. I’ve learned to stay away.
9. Thinking fresh new purchase = fresh content
This is a real struggle for any content creator. When you are in a creative rut and can’t think of anything to talk about, it’s easy to believe that buying something new will provide inspiration for new content. Again, my counter mechanism is always to default to my editorial calendar. I also plan about 2-3 months ahead for content, so I have time to reach out to brands and pitch my topics to them.
Fashion blogging has increasingly become a legitimate profession. But behind the pretty pictures and written content is a lot of hard work and investment. I’m grateful for the learning experiences running my own blog has given me. But I also want to caution those of you out there that are considering starting a blog… Be prepared and ready for the expenses and don’t make the mistakes I made!