Wanted to do it because didn’t want to regret not doing it.
Did it. Charged 10% of what I usually charge. ( Because assumed 5-6 brands per feature, so economies of scale. )
Went rather well. Decent brands, great coverage on other blogs / print / digital platforms. Clients thrilled.
In the end? Not worth it for me in the long-run.
THE LONG OF IT
I’ve been seeing it and hearing it and had wondered if I could pull it off. Girl personal style bloggers in India ( some of them ) have huge Instagram followings, decent blog traffic and tons of brands paying them tons of money for wearing their clothes / jewellery / shoes / bags, getting photographed wearing those things ( I’ve been a photographer for a couple of such glamorous bloggers ) and publishing the photos on their respective blogs. I have a sister who does this remarkably well and I have a couple of other acquaintances who have shared the kind of money they make and how they do personal style blogging on a daily basis. It’s a hard life – and I’m not even joking.
I tried it myself, so I can assure you that I am indeed NOT joking about the “hard life”.
This is how I did it.
I have been publishing the #CoverUp series for a long time now. It has not been an “organized” personal style series. More a “Oh I’m feeling great about myself and this brand has been so nice to me, so let’s do this!” But this time, I wanted to try it as if this was business.
I wrote to nearly 400 different email addresses for about the same number of brands over a period of 45-60 days. I got these emails ids off websites, facebook pages, instagram profiles. I dropped facebook messages to brands who didn’t have websites and asked for their email ids. I left comments on instagram photos, etc. That number also had emails I sent to PR folk that I’ve worked with in the past.
My goal was to try this out for the latest edition of the fashion week that took place in Delhi March end. I wanted to bring together a bunch of apparel / footwear / jewellery / accessory / bag / technology brands and wear and carry their stuff on me to each of the five days of fashion week, hire a photographer to photograph me and then come back each evening and publish a blog feature with the #CoverUp and #AIFWAW16 hashtags.
I have not tabulated how many responses I received to the 400 emails I sent out but the response was less than 50%. Some who wrote back said the pricing was too much ( which is ridiculous because I charged less than 20k per brand ). Some wrote back saying, “We are not looking for this kind of promotion.” right after a photo of a Bollywood starlet appeared online wearing their products. Some said, “We don’t do paid promotions.” even though they were paying to show at fashion week. Etc.
Twelve brands came back with a “Yes! Sounds fun, let’s do this!” ( Thirteen in total but I couldn’t fit the last one in – it was a clothing brand and I already had five clothing brand sign ups for all the five days of fashion week. )
The way to block the slot for a brand was to receive the payment. Once this was done, I could turn away the others who expressed interest later – else it would have been unmanageable and I don’t even want to think about the misunderstandings. I maintained a simple Google Sheet to list who has expressed interest, who had already paid, how many slots were left etc.
Over a few weeks, products kept trickling in to my address ( all products were returnable but one brand offered the products to me to keep before signing the contract and one brand gifted the product to me after the features had published and fashion week was over because they were thrilled with all the coverage. ). To receive these products, I had to be home. Managing logistics was not a happy experience. I had products coming till 2130 hours the night before fashion week started! Yikes.
I also wanted to hire a photographer, for which I posted a public message on Facebook with very specific instructions on what exactly I required in terms of deliverables and what exactly I expected in the email someone interested should send to me. I got exactly three emails, only one of which had followed the instruction about what the subject line should be. I also received about two dozen facebook messages and half a dozen Instagram messages. So much for wanting to hire someone. Most couldn’t even follow simple instructions. Luckily my friend who had originally offered to photograph me at fashion week, became available and I didn’t have to deal with any of the people who had emailed.
The results of the #AIFWAW16 #CoverUp
I made it my mission to SELL whatever I wore / carried. Even though some of the products were not what I would wear / carry on my own, with no incentive to do so, I SOLD it yo. Because, as a personal style blogger, THAT is your job. To sell what the brand gave you, regardless of whether you’d wear it in “real” life.
After a lot of verbal photography cues to my friend who is not a photographer by trade, she produced great photographs that I could work with in post-production and they turned out way better than what I’d expected.
I was at fashion week for 4-5 hours each day, doing regular fashion week things – like photographing #EyesForStreetStyle, only this time, I was “working it”. I had all kinds of people coming up to me to ask “Who are you wearing?” Never imagined I’d be answering THAT question. I sold it. I sold whatever I was wearing / carrying. I did interviews. I got photographed by other publications. I had a ball. The clients were thrilled and I had finally “done it”.
THE BIG BUT
I pride myself in being one of the few ( only? ) people in India who does what I do and does it well. Collecting experiences and showcasing them visually, beautifully, to an audience that GETS IT.
Organized personal style blogging is like a chaotic, noisy, impersonal retail shop front at Chandni Chowk in comparison to my exquisitely curated dip-into-it-as-you-please warm & sunny market square at Saint Paul de Vence.
I am a photographer at heart. I love blogging. I love to have this amazing opportunity to do what I do and make a living with it. I can make a living with personal style blogging too as I found out during my experiment – rather well at that. But the blogging I like to do, which adds more value to a brand in the long run, is where I do what I do best. And personal style blogging is not it. Regardless of the 12kgs of weight I’ve shed and how much awesome I look in front of the camera, my heart and soul are only visible when I’m collecting experiences, camera in hand.
I have three personal style feature commitments for three lovely brands during my upcoming #EyesForArunachal trip. I will be attempting something my way. Or maybe I’ll do what I signed up for and that’s that. But that will be it. I will not be doing personal style the way I did it at fashion week this time. I am eager to do *something* next fashion week as well – but not simply like this – I don’t mind doing personal style when it’s tied in to a particular event but I cannot see myself doing this daily and doing just this. I’d started this experiment with a “Let’s see where this goes!” and I’m ending it with the same.
( Some Tweets I made, which made me think I should just blog about the entire experiment / experience. )
Having spent the better part of the last two months coveting *typical* social media client gigs… they’re not for me.
“Want to hire you for make up & hairstyle Twitter chat.” Not for me. Also, have you seen my hair?
“How much do you charge for one social media update?” These I’ll do because really helps bottomlines. But with #BrandPartner
My tryst with personal style blogging was successful at fashion week. But this isn’t for me either. Experiment successful.
I’m game to be in front of the camera but I’m at peace behind it. I choose peace. I’ll still do #CoverUp but not just to sell brand stuff.
It’s arduous pitching to 100 brands & getting responses from 5, all of whom do clothes. Personal style, the way I want to present? Nope.
Also pitching as a blogger usually inspires most brands in India to respond on the lines of, “We’ll pay but you’re our bitch now.” Er. No.
Managing logistics & communication with 5 brands for one personal style blog feature is not worth the ~INR 60K it generates. Waste of time.
I’d rather do a visual story for one brand without necessarily wearing their stuff & get paid more than double. Photography vs. Blogging.
When I’m desperate for money, I can always say yes to wedding photography & reduce my life by 5 years per day after all! #LOLJK
I have 3 personal style blog feature commitments during the #EyesForArunachal trip. Will try something different. More photo than selling.
Having experimented last two months & suffered what I guess was a burn out, I’ve now decided the way forward & feel instantly better.
Having my phone turned off for three days straight also must have something to do with it ?