Fashion Blogger Misconceptions

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Top: Nordstrom / Jeans: ShopBop / Heels: Sam Edelman / Earrings: BaubleBar / Bag: Chanel / Sweater: Red Dress Boutique / Tennis Shoes: Nike / Phone Case: Sonix


The number one thing I get asked is how to become a successful blogger. Woah, that is a loaded question. I immediately think, am I even successful? What is considered success in blogging? Why are we even here? I know, I get existential quick! So I thought the easiest way to explain the wide, confusing world of fashion blogging would be to round up all the misconceptions folks have and break them down, giving my advice along the way.

After blogging for a number of years, I have heard it all – that we’re all wannabe models (ha!) or that blogging is easy (HAHA!) Let’s get real. There is no guide book to blogging, no class you can take in college, so most of us are throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I am easily guilty of each and every one of these misconceptions at some point in my blogging career, so I’m right there with ya, girl! Here we go…

Blogging Misconception No. 1: It’s Impossible to Break into Blogging Now

Wow, way to stomp on hundreds of girls’ dreams. It isn’t impossible to break into blogging now, but I’d by lying if I said it’s as easy as it was. So if you’re a hard-working self starter, it’s time to put your big-girl panties on and shine like the unique snowflake you are.

If I had to take a stab at why the industry is so oversaturated now, I’d say it’s because the way to make money from blogging is now in everyone’s face. Readers see Liketoknow.it, #ad or #spon, and Thanks to whoever for sponsoring this post. What they don’t see is the behind-the-scenes hustle.

Basically to break into fashion blogging today, you need to come out swinging. Don’t wait until you have a big following to post like you do. You may want to consider investing in a DSLR or finding a reasonably-priced photographer in your area. Set aside some time to learn Photoshop and Lightroom basics. Draft a posting schedule and follow it religiously. And most importantly, create content beyond just outfit pictures.

Thanks to Instagram, you need more than just these fashion posts to get readers to your blog… you need unique, quality content. Followers can see and shop your whole outfit on social media, so how do you get them to click through? Start by thinking like one of your readers when drafting your blog posts. What do you want to see on a blog? For me personally, my favorites are tutorials, personal stories, or product reviews. Those also happen to be the posts that perform the best on Cort In Session. So try to always keep this in the back of your head when planning content.

Blogging Misconception No. 2: There are Tricks to Grow Your Following

Omg, is there really? Because I have been doing this for three and a half years and have yet to find an easy, magical way to increase my readership. You know what works? Putting out consistent, high-quality content and engaging with your readers. Couple that with an aesthetically-pleasing Instagram feed and some Pinterest strategy and you’re golden. Obviously all of this is much harder than it sounds and makes paying $20 for 1,000 followers sound awesome! But you shouldn’t be aiming for follower count as much as follower engagement and conversion. This is what brands care about; they see past the BS.

Allow me to transition to a topic that makes ragey: Loop giveaways. Point blank, this is paying for followers. Cut it out! And lest we forget about loop giveaway’s evil stepsister, the engagement group/comment pod. Many bloggers are spending an hour a day commenting and liking other blogger’s photos in hopes they return the favor. When a small-time blogger has the same amount of comments on a sub-par post as Blair Eadie does on a perfectly-styled post, things look fishy. Plus, what’s the point? These commenters aren’t converting, so you aren’t making money off the post anyways. Take that hour a day and learn something new about blogging – SEO, photography, social media strategy, etc. – you’ll be sure to get far more out of it.

Insider Tips (To use when you have fashion blogger’s block):

  • Tell your readers know about a great sale and share your picks for the big ones: Nordstrom’s NSale, ShopBop’s Friends & Family, Cyber Monday, etc.
  • Let your readers get to know you via Snapchat and Instagram Stories: do a Q&A, a get ready with me, a hair tutorial, an unboxing
  • Share personal info on the blog: Be open and honest about a break-up, your background, your college experience, trials & tribulations you experienced
  • Do a tutorial on something you’re great at
  • Respond to comments on your blog and social media sites and comment genuinely on others’
  • Use relevant hashtags

My point is: “If you build it, they will come”. We, as bloggers, don’t have that much spare time as it is, so don’t waste it on gimmicky follower-grabs. Invest your time in building your base and creating fabulous content and you’ll be unstoppable! For additional tips on growing your Instagram following, click here.

Blogging Misconception No. 3: High Follower Count Equals $$

This misconception is piggy-backing off the last. The amount of money you make blogging is dependent upon so many factors. I know bloggers that have a huge social media following and make little money and bloggers who have a smaller, engaged group of followers who are raking in the dough. Looks can be deceiving.

What you can’t see is how active income and passive income are working together behind the scenes of a blog. Active income refers to the recent things you post and products you are actively pushing. Passive income comes from the affiliate links buried far back in your blog on quality posts typically found by readers on Google or Pinterest. These are extremely important to generating income as a blogger because they continue to make money over time regardless of how often you blog.

My advice to build upon this passive income would be for every 10-20 outfit looks you share, really dive into a topic and get comprehensive (i.e. How to Pick the Perfect Chanel Flats or Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull: Is It Worth It?) Make sure you know your stuff and that your topic is classic like duck boots, Hunter boots, or Louboutins, and not just a passing trend. Then make the post SEO-rich by tagging the heck out of it and including alt-image tags. Additionally, pin and repin beautiful imagery to Pinterest. Now you’re making your old posts work for you!

Finally, check out your analytics to see what people are clicking on. Study the SEO of high-performing posts and duplicate them often; really give your readers what they want!

Blogging Misconception No. 4: It’s Easy to Make Money Blogging

Once upon a time, long ago when I first began blogging, there wasn’t this magical thing called LiketoKnow.it. Gasp! I know… life is sooo much easier now. At the time, I followed a handful of first-generation bloggers and realized there was a whole community of like-minded women sharing their style on the web. I was dating a photographer and was a web designer myself, so I figured it would be easy enough to join them. Almost immediately, RewardStyle reached out.

Now, I’m not telling you all of this to brag. I am telling you this because even with every resource at my fingertips (photographer, web designer, affiliate links), it still took quite a bit of time before the blog began to generate income. If I had to guess, I’d say I made about $75 that first year. And I worked my tail off.

When people ask me about making money blogging, I always warn them to have a year or two of hard work dedicated to it before ever worrying about that. Income is based on growth, quality, entry time, consistency, SEO, the moon phases, voodoo dolls, sheer luck… you get the point – A LOT factors into it. Plus, it’s not a guaranteed paid check and can be inconsistent season-to-season or even week-to-week. I’ll have one week where I think I’m killin’ the game, followed by a slow week. As you grow, the income will become more stable and dependable, but believe me when I say it takes time.

Another question I get all the time is how the heck you make this money. Here is a break-down of how bloggers earn an income and a little background on each:

Affiliate Links: When you you click through a link on a blog and make a purchase, chances are that blogger made around 10% commission on what you bought, like a personal shopper. Companies like RewardStyle, ShopStyle, and Amazon Affiliates turn regular links into affiliate links, which we in turn embed into our sites and social media.

Sponsored Posts: Brands will pay bloggers to post about their product, service, city, hotel, etc.

Banner Ads: These are the ads in a sidebar, top or middle of the web page. Bloggers earn money per click through on these ads, normally a few cents.

Appearances: Occasionally, bloggers will get paid to make an appearance at a mall, boutique, etc. These typically pay pretty well, but are much less common.

Selling their own product: Bloggers can make money selling a book or e-book, clothing line, make-up collaboration, etc.

So yes, it is possible to earn a full-time salary from blogging. A handful of bloggers are earning much more than that! But it should not be the reason you start blogging or else you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Blogging Misconception No. 5: Success is [Insert Number Here]

Back to my first sentence… the main question girls ask me is how to become a successful blogger. This question always trips me up and I wind up rewriting my response over and over again so I don’t sound like a bitch. What I really want to ask them back is what do you consider success? If it’s money or a ton of followers, blogging is going to be a tough road for you. If it’s community building, putting pen to paper, and idea sharing, now we’re talking. Ask any “successful” blogger if they thought their blog would ever become their full-time career and they’ll tell you no, it was just a hobby they were passionate about.

When I first began blogging, having 10,000 followers on Instagram seemed like the end-all be-all. Once that goal became within reach, I had already decided that 40,000 meant success. Now, I have come to terms with never being totally satisfied and that’s OK. It’s what drives me to keep growing in this industry. But there are still everyday achievements that really get me excited – booking a campaign with a brand I love, receiving a comment from a blogger I admire, or hearing from a reader. That’s one of the fun parts of blogging – an ordinary day can turn extraordinary with the click of the mailbox refresh button.

Never define success by how many followers you have on social media. Instagram and Twitter can go the way of Vine and MySpace any day. We already had a reality check of this when Instagram rolled out the new algorithm. And remember when Pinterest removed affiliate links? That cost some people their careers (yes, there were career-pinners).

Insider Tip: Focus on what you own – your blog and email list. Those should ALWAYS be your top priority because nothing can take them away from you.

At the end of the day, success should be calculated by how blogging makes you feel and enriches your life. Because of blogging, I have learned skills (marketing, branding, PR), applications (Photoshop, Lightroom, Constant Contact), photography (composition, lighting, editing), plus so much more. If that isn’t success in-and-of-itself, I don’t know what is!

Blogging Misconception No. 6: Bloggers’ Lives are so Easy

I’m looking at you, GOMI and internet trolls. It is easy to snark on top bloggers, what with all of their designer bags and tropical vacations. But there are a few things to keep in mind before unleashing your anonymous judgement on the interwebs.

No, they don’t have sugar daddies. Top bloggers can afford luxury purchases all by their damn selves. And sometimes, they are even gifted these things. They aren’t waving all this opulence around to brag, it is part of their business strategy. Hear me out… some blogger’s are followed for their bargain-shopping skills and repurposing of old looks, others are followed for their luxury products. Top bloggers didn’t get there by accident and they certainly aren’t entitled airheads. They use affiliate statistics to see what performs the best/what readers want to see, and shape their content from there.

The same goes for trips. Many tourism boards, hotels, and car companies are forgoing traditional ads to sponsor blogger vacations. And it’s working. Hell, I had never considered visiting Vermont until seeing how dang beautiful the pre-fall trees look thanks to the thirty bloggers who visited. But while these trips are definitely fun, they are contracted work. Bloggers have a set number of posts, scheduled activities, meetings, photoshoots, etc. all the while making it look relaxing and glamorous on their feeds. And don’t get me started about actual “vacations”. Once you’re a blogger, those are work too.

Finally, does it seem all bloggers do is gab on Snapchat or Instagram stories? Believe it or not, that can be work too. Readership increases when readers feel a personal connection to the blogger. Plus, they can connect with their audience and get real-time feedback on what they want to see.

So yes, there are FABULOUS perks to the job. Blogging is cool! But there is all this prep, brainstorming, research, staging, strategy, design, editing, hustle behind the scenes you never get to see. Phew!

Blogging Misconception No. 7: I Need to Keep Up with Trends

Hi, guilty over here! It is almost impossible to ignore a popular trend when scrolling through your feed. But there are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing and posting what every other girl is. First of all, if every major blogger is posting the same product, you’ve probably already missed your shot to earn a commission on it. Because by the time readers see yours, their purchase decision will already have been made. If you just love and want a product, more power to you. But if you are shelling out dough on every trend you see in an attempt to grow your blog, you can get in a bad situation quick… like debt.

On a more serious note, when you copy someone’s look and try to sell it as your own, it’s “intellectual theft” and can be illegal. I will literally make an audible sound scrolling through Instagram if I see a blogger blatantly rip off another blogger’s ensemble. And the crazy thing is, it happens often! Bloggers are putting a lot of work into making an outfit look effortless to wind up plagiarized.

Insider Tip: When outfit planning, stay off of social media. The same goes for blog post planning – stay off of other blogs. As silly as this sounds, try to garner inspiration from within. Your followers will thank you for it!

Blogging Misconception No. 8: Bloggers are All in Competition with Each Other

I, personally, have never found this to be true. Typically, women who run successful blogs are motivated self-starters. You have to be! These women see the value in community – learning from like-mined people, collaborating, and growing this industry together. They know that the success of someone else’s blog in no way diminishes theirs.

You’ll find that bloggers are very open to sharing what they have learned with you. Heck, the whole reason we started blogging was to share our passions! Ask any blogger and they’ll tell you the best part of it has been the relationships formed through this community. So be sure to seek out blogger groups and conventions in your area and get involved! You may make lifelong friends in the process.

But there is a flip side. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing your blog to someone else’s and hunny, comparison is the thief of joy. It’s tough to ignore girls who seem like they have it all and so easily, but know that no one will be you. And that’s what sets your blog apart.

In Conclusion…

I hope I didn’t come across as sassy, I have just received so many questions and emails and really wanted to set the record straight. At the end of the day, I don’t know anyone who has regretted blogging. It is an awesome side project or career depending on what your goals are and it has brought immeasurable joy to my life. If you are considering it, jump in head first! As long as you are doing the best you can and are proud of our work, there is no such thing as failure. So now that you have the facts (as I know them to be) straight, it is time to kill it in the blogosphere like the #GirlBoss you are!

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Written by

NASCAR PR rep with a love of horror films, smushed-faced dogs, graphic design, Garth Brooks, college football, and fashion.

7 Comments

  • Neelab Hussaini

    Thanks so much for sharing this! These are some great tips, great job!!

  • Leslie

    Excellent post, I did my senior thesis on fashion blogging ten years ago when no one knew what it was or what it would be! It’s amazing now to see how it has grown, I, too get sad when I see top bloggers hosting “giveaways” for designer bags that are loops and essentially buying followers. Originality and consistency is the best path for success! Keep up the good work, girl.

    ciao,
    Leslie / @hautemommie / http://www.thehautemommie.com

  • Tanya

    How do you find blogger groups and conventions in your area?

    • CortneyDryden

      I would start by checking out http://theblogsocieties.com/ They have conventions, plus there’s a section where you can find bloggers in your area to network with 🙂

  • Kaylee K

    Ugh I love this post! I just passed one year of blogging, and I JUST got asked to do a sponsored post for the first time…and I was SO excited (read: I told ALL of my friends and family, ha!) I know one day I will get to where I want to be so in the blogging world, so even though I am constantly seeing top bloggers do amazing things, it only motivates me and excites me more for what’s to come! I am happy for every blogger that is where they are…blogging is HARD! #GirlBossesEverywhere
    Thank you for posting this!
    XX -KK
    http://www.Kayleekarcher.com

  • Katie

    I love this- so true and definitely important to remember!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

  • Klaudia Semeniuk

    Love this post so much! Every single point is spot on. I always put quality content first because that is what I love to see. Your posts are always touched-up to perfection. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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