cashing in on fashion blogging

blogging,thinking — Danielle on June 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I have been a committed, or addicted, fashion blogger for over six years now with the archives to prove it. There is no point in downplaying or denying it – I love this blog and I put a lot of heart, and time, into it. I never did unpaid internships to get into fashion – instead all my free time and priceless hopes I pinned on this URL.

So here we are. Perhaps indirectly, I’ve become a fashion illustrator. I am fulfilling a childhood fantasy. I absolutely adore what I do, and I feel like I still have a long way to go, lots of things to make and say and do.

Great, right? It is. Here’s the thing about a blog-based creative career – it is a capricious occupation. Don’t be fooled by the edited facade we throw out there; it’s just glamour. Sometimes things get sticky. Projects get cancelled. Payments are delayed. You have a quiet week. A quiet month. Times when opening your email feels like scratching a lottery ticket.

So, how about the blog then, what can it do to pull some weight? I’ve tried a few things – my experiments with sponsorship are on the public record. My early efforts integrated quite a bit with the content of the blog, and after I tried it, I didn’t feel like it was the right direction. I wanted Final Fashion to be universal and as free as possible from obligations. I wanted to treat the blog more like art.

A while ago, I had the opportunity to sell a post. I rarely respond to these opportunities, but I had an illustration project cancel that week so I was thinking about money. It turned out that the client was high profile, the rate they offered was excellent and the content they wanted me to post was pretty cute. This time, I treated it like a fashion ad in a magazine, or a commercial on a TV show. Disconnected from the rest of my content.

I bought another week in London, thanks to the goldmine of fashion blogging. After just six years of mostly-unpaid labour. If Vogue can sell off bits of itself, why can’t I?

Was it worth it? I have no idea. Final Fashion is not a shopping blog or a personal style blog. It seemed like a few regular visitors found it a bit jarring, and most took it in stride. When I solicited reactions, some readers thought it would have been better if I had included more of myself in the sponsored content somehow. This came as a surprise to me – sponsored content on fashion blogs is often a little too integral for my taste. Especially on the personal style blog end of the spectrumprofessionalization is beginning to heavily distort content. Now it seems like the genre is about to enter some kind of existential crisis.

As a niche fashion blogger and independent creative careerist who has mixed feelings on monetizing, here are my personal thoughts on how to sell out and still love your fashion blog.

  • Never rely on your blog for income. Depending on the blog will inhibit your ability to be creative, it will also make it more difficult to take time away from the blog when you need to. Beware inadvertently turning your role into a media salesperson and content-generator, when your true calling is elsewhere. If a serendipitous sponsor opportunity comes along, by all means take it – but treat it like mad money, not rent.
  • Set a high bar for how much a post sells for, keep the independent:sponsored content ratio as high as possible.
  • Selling out is not a sin. Almost all artists have to navigate this challenge in order to finance the pursuit their craft, and the snobs who say otherwise are anti-creative. Sponsorship is not universally bad or good – but like any business choice, it has tradeoffs. Be careful.
  • The more of your blog you sell off, the less the blog is yours. If your ego is as heavily invested in your blog as mine is, you know what a personal endeavour this pursuit can be. Value your authorship, and keep your independence.
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    10 Comments »

    1. Most bloggers judge how lucrative their blog income solely by the month to month revenue numbers but they really have to divide that by how many man hours they put into working on the site. The hourly wage it spits out will scare some people, because it’s usually a below min wage pittance.

      Sad that taking blogs taking sponsorship opportunities is considered “selling out”. As long as they’re not influencing the integrity of your independent content, you’re only covering the labor and operations costs of providing valuable info. Content farms and spammy sites are ruining it for sites that produce high quality content because they occupy a huge chunk of prized search real estate, ad dollars, etc. Then good sites get readers weary of people selling them crap.

      Comment by VVires — June 3 2012 @ 10:03 pm
    2. I couldn’t say for myself (my own blog on home decor and design has zero article published yet ^^), but I really liked your point of view and I believe this approach is very healthy and clear. I have no idea what I will do, if I ever do something about it but when/if the question rises, I will be coming back to re-read your post.

      Comment by Mia Crespo — June 4 2012 @ 1:10 am
    3. Sell what you want it’s yours to sell. And congratulations on doing the thing you love as a job. That’s rare like hen’s teeth.
      I agree with your point on the more you sell off the less is yours. I’m not into ‘fashion bloggers’ – for the most part they’re clones all pushing the same tired F21/Target crap (calling it Targey doesn’t make it any classier but it does spur on people like getoffmyinternets and is therefore slightly more entertaining than the norm). I didn’t really catch on to the whole fashion blogging thing till I came across the independent fashion bloggers site. That’s when I realised that a massive, massive portion of the internet consists of people buying cheaply made, mass mark crap and taking pictures of themselves in it and (they all ‘follow’ one another so) their follower count is high enough for companies to give them more free crap to take photos of =0
      I don’t see the point.. Isn’t one person’s mass market crap the same as any other mass market crap out there?
      Your site (to me) is an (illustrated-bonus!) editorial on fashion (rather than a multi-page buy this shit now cuz’ someone paid me to push it photo spread). And I love that. I love hearing your opinions on what’ s going on in the world, and to me, this blog is your voice. Perhaps that’s why some readers wanted more of you in the sponsored posts- to get your viewpoint on how it all fits into the big picture?

      Comment by theperfectnose — June 4 2012 @ 7:26 am
    4. VVires – your comment about link farms exhibits the opposite philosophy. When you sell bits off your blog, you have a choice (or combo):

      1. you can sell off lots and lots of tiny bits for small amounts of money. Google Adsense, selling keywords in posts, using referral schemes to sell products like Amazon Associates. This stuff clutters a blog but can also be done gracefully. It’s also a lot of maintenance.

      2. you limit your sponsorship to fewer, larger clients.

      These days, I’m inclined to #2 because I want to keep the site well over 90% me.

      Mia, thank you!

      theperfectnose,

      Thanks for the insight on why people want to see more of me – I think this post represents my most interesting thoughts on the situation – and if I had mixed this in with a sponsor post that would be way too meta/ridiculous.

      Also, I don’t have much to say about shopping or buying shoes or cute spring outfits, or anything that would be really useful to a sponsor. I just don’t have it in me. All I can offer is my space, and my thanks.

      Comment by Danielle — June 4 2012 @ 6:52 pm
    5. Re: never rely on your blog for income.
      I think it is a mark of professionalism to consistently deliver good content (whether design or writing) so I don’t wholly agree that dependency will inhibit one’s ability to be creative. However, it does make it “more difficult to take time away from the blog when you need to” but that is true of any job. The operative phrase being “true of any job”. If you’re successful, that is what it will become so the question to ask yourself is: do you want that job?

      I don’t intend to be argumentative. I meant to leave this “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”. Me, I never wished for anything at the outset, I started blogging in a pique of boredom. I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to criticize it tho because blogging has been very rewarding, financially and otherwise. It’s been a good job.

      Comment by Anonymous Coward — June 4 2012 @ 7:28 pm
    6. Hi AC,

      This doesn’t seem like an argumentative comment to me. As I said in the post, this is how I feel about it personally, now, as someone with only a moderately popular blog and a tangential career. Having experimented with media sales and sponsorships, I’ve found they have to be treated carefully lest they turn blogging into an obligation rather than a pleasure. If your career is more directly linked to your blog, then I think you’re right, it’s a job. Final Fashion is more of a habit than a job.

      Re: professionalism and consistency. I no longer think that consistency is necessary for a good blog – in fact, I find it impossible to achieve, my best on any given week is variable, and inspiration leaves me and loves me capriciously. I no longer post at all if I don’t feel compelled to, and I don’t apologize for taking breaks anymore, no one remembers all the sub-par posts I did once upon a time in the name of consistency. But the best posts I’ve done still circulate, regardless of how old they are. Does it make me unprofessional? Maybe, but I like to feel that this is a space where I don’t owe anyone anything.

      Currently, I see a lot of fashion bloggers attempting to make a gig of it even if their talents are wasted on auto-portraiture and SEO gaming. A lot of blog posts with titles like this one feed into pro-fashion blogger delusions. With this post, I just wanted to offer an alternative, personal philosophy for contrast.

      Comment by Danielle — June 4 2012 @ 9:35 pm
    7. [...] deflation. For those of us that just aren’t celebrity fashion blogger material (get real) peep my philosophy. RELATED: a week in the working life of a pro fashion [...]

      Pingback by final fashion » click click – 05-06-12 — June 5 2012 @ 4:06 pm
    8. Wonderful post, Danielle. A very thorough examination of the ‘blog career’ myth that’s purported by so many fashion blog stars. I agree with the earlier commenter: it’s your writing voice that makes this blog compelling. I’m not a big fashion girl, but I love your writing at the intersection of fashion and the ‘real world’. Thanks for your refreshing honesty too.

      Sell off some blog space if you need to, but mostly, keep writing as you.

      Comment by Clare — June 15 2012 @ 7:28 pm
    9. Thank you Clare for a lovely comment, clipping “writing at the intersection of fashion and the ‘real world’” for later =)

      Comment by Danielle — June 16 2012 @ 12:00 am
    10. [...] Has the Fashion Blogging Bubble Burst? – that’s rich, pun intended, coming from IFB, the website that profited most off of the easy money mentality that brought so many brand-pandering arrivistes onto the scene. I’ve touched on this before from a personal perspective. [...]

      Pingback by final fashion » click click – 31-01-13 — January 31 2013 @ 3:43 pm

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