I’ve been blogging for 13 years. THIRTEEN YEARS. In this day and age, few people keep jobs or relationships for that long.
The name has changed (raise your hand if you remember the uber-catchy original title What Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe?), the look has changed (it’s fun to use Wayback Machine to see all the logos and site designs I’ve had), and the purpose has changed.
When I started, I was at a new job. I was hired for a specific contract and the contract hadn’t yet started. I was asked to “look busy” until we got the work. I had seen something on a news show, maybe it was 60 Minutes about blogging and it seemed like the perfect solution. I looked busy in my cubicle typing away in Microsoft Word; I was actually crafting blog posts. I had worked for many years in apparel retail and learned a lot about dressing women. It was 2005, the heyday of style advice books and I knew I could write one better than most at Barnes & Noble, but who would buy a book from a nobody in a cubicle in suburban Maryland? The blog let me live out my fantasy of writing a bestseller.
A couple of months later once I started traveling for the job I began a second blog: My Wardrobe Today. A client in Alabama made a comment about me wearing the same suit twice to meet her (she used “bless your heart” so you know it wasn't a compliment) and I began journaling what I wore when to prevent that from happening again. The content was high-quality mirror selfies, sometimes with the flash still on and every single garment, cosmetic, and hair product I was wearing that day.
My first gifted merchandise came from Suave, the haircare company. It was a year later, my blog had grown a tiny audience thanks to that tab at the top of Blogger blogs that let you find random new sites to visit. I had readers who became friends from across the globe. Suave had their Professionals line and asked if they could send me some. What’s the catch? No catch they said, just if you like it mention it on your blog. I so felt it was a scam, I gave them my office address and misspelled my name just enough to not be traceable but not so much that the mailroom at work had no idea who the package would be for. A few days later I received a large FedEx box filled with bottles and cans and tubes of the haircare line. I. Was. PSYCHED. I never thought that my random musings about fashion and sharing mirror selfies of my work clothes could get me free stuff!
About a year later, I found out that people made money from blogging. When I was planning my wedding I became a member of The Knot, and after that The Nest and frequented their message boards. On one board I visited, a lot of the women had “hate reads;” blogs they visited and then came back to the message board to make fun of or criticize. There was a thread where they shared that one of these “hate reads” wrote a post about how she made $1,000.00 the previous month thanks to her haters giving her site views. I had never visited her blog before but had to go read and find out how. Come to find out, she made money off of ads on her site through BlogHer. I signed up for BlogHer that same day.
After that, I began visiting blogs in all sorts of niches to see what they were doing. I remember Blair from Atlantic-Pacific had ads through a company named Burst so I applied (that eventually was bought by a company that became TapInfluence). I saw a mommy blog had posts sponsored by IZEA so I joined IZEA. I read a blogger’s post about being an Amazon affiliate so I joined their program. I learned about Google AdSense and added that to my site. Essentially, any free program to monetize my site I joined. I even created a separate blog for sponsored posts so I didn’t clutter up my content.
However, all of this was essentially beer money. I’d make $15 one month, maybe $75 another, the next three months only $3. I didn’t rely on it, most of it sat around in my PayPal account and was used for random Etsy purchases.
What was more exciting than the dollars coming in was I was teaching myself this whole new world. I was learning HTML, contracts, SEO, and other blogging skills. I went from being someone in 2001 who needed her best friend to format her resume to someone her coworkers came to for formatting web pages, PowerPoints, and yes even resumes. Blogging gave me skills and the confidence to get a better job with a company that was a better fit. At that new job (my last company) I excelled in my position and received promotions because of what I learned from blogging.
My daughter was born in 2009 and the blog went from being a fun hobby to something that added stress and self-doubt. I can look back now and see I dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety but at the time I felt it was normal to wake up at 3 am in a panic about what I’d wear the next day and whether I needed to change the font of my blog template fior the eighth time that month. I was overextended and miserable and thinking of closing shop. A friend suggested I merge my blogs into one to still be able to do what I love but in a more manageable size. I was so in deep I couldn’t see such a simple solution and to this day thank her for helping me get through and sticking with blogging.
When I decided to stick with it I decided to stop treating it like a hobby and more like a business. If I was going to spend time away from my family and friends, it had to be worth it. I decided I had to make the same or more money from the blog than I would from a part-time hourly job at the local coffee shop and not work more hours than I would at a part-time job. I joined ShopStyle, a program that would let me turn all my fashion suggestions into affiliate links where I could make a couple pennies per click. I read articles on how to increase traffic and looked for ways to improve my photos and graphics without more expenses or time. And for the first time, I included my husband into this blog.
Yes, I was married to a professional photographer (whose father was also a photographer and lived only a block away) and not until after Emerson was born did I have him take my photos.
At midnight, the first minute of 2014 I made a resolution to take Wardrobe Oxygen to the next level. I believed in my content, I had built relationships with brands, and I was consistently making more each month from the blog than I would be from a 15-hour a week gig at Starbucks. In one year it would be 10 years blogging and I decided to challenge myself and see if I really put in my all, could I make this a thing? Could I possibly quit my job and be a professional blogger?
A few weeks later, Valentine’s Day weekend. My husband and I went to a party in our neighborhood for a friend who turned 40. It had snowed, warmed up, got cold again. I wore my long-sleeved maxi dress with tall boots to stay warm and have flat shoes to navigate the snow and ice. We had a great time. There was a live band and all our friends. We had an overnight babysitter so we left the party before midnight so we could go home and have some time together as a couple. Neither of us drank much, one or two beers. We drove home, parked in our space in the lot, I got out and went to walk around the car to meet my husband and enter our house and I slipped on black ice, shattering my right radius and leaving me in a cast, splint, or brace on and off for over a year.
The weekend I broke my arm was also the date of when I “made it” on GOMI. I obsessed about my thread on GOMI, it was the first thing I read when I woke up and the last thing I saw before I went to bed. Friends and family were O-V-E-R me discussing it but I couldn’t help it. It put me in a funk… and then it put a fire under me. I reached out to a friend who was a WordPress developer and asked for her help in moving my site off of Blogger so I could improve my stats, my appearance, and my monetization. rewardStyle reached out promising I’d make more money from them than ShopStyle so I made the switch. Even with one arm out of commission, I was going to make this work, and I was going to use that criticism to my benefit.
So many say ignore your haters and never read the comments but the thing is, some of those trolls are actually people who used to be your fans and now feel burned. It’s easy to get swept up in all the compliments, the likes, the free swag, the paychecks, the press. It can cloud your vision but you can’t forget those who helped you get where you are today.
I was so driven to make this blog work I was working as many hours on it as I was at my job. I’d get in early and leave late, spending about 30% of the time at my desk working on Wardrobe Oxygen. The blog was exciting to me, it was a challenge and I was pushing myself and seeing results. On the other hand, my job of nine years felt as though it had run its course. I let my boss know how I felt, and when my dream position in social media and marketing opened up at the beginning of 2017, he gave me his blessing and I went for it.
The new job was amazing. I was being challenged every day, learning new skills and putting my blog skills to work. I was on a team of talented hardworking women I loved collaborating with. It would have been the dream job… if I didn’t have the blog. I felt guilty. I had this phenomenal opportunity, a position people would kill to have but my heart wasn’t really in it. My heart belonged to Wardrobe Oxygen. I told myself being a full-time blogger was stupid. The blogging bubble is going to pop. There are thousands of bloggers more successful than I. I am not enough of anything to stand out in a crowd. My broken arm showed me how important it is to have insurance and company benefits like disability. I tried really hard to put my job first and treat the blog like a part-time gig at Starbucks but I couldn’t.
So when the company began restructuring, I decided to quit. If this was the stupidest decision I ever made, I had enough saved up to survive one year. I left on good terms with contacts at my job and plenty of other companies. I had a year, if I failed, I could go back to what I used to do. At least I tried. I wouldn’t be decades from now in a nursing home muttering over what could have been.
This past year has only intensified my love affair with blogging. And I don’t care what the experts say, I don’t think blogging is dead. I don’t believe Instagram will completely replace the blog, in fact, I think people are becoming disillusioned with that platform just as they did with Facebook and MySpace and hey anyone remember Friendster? I know I’m sick of seeing curated perfection after curated perfection and generic quippy captions. I crave long-form content, words from the heart, creative and intelligent sponsored content, and what initially drew me to blogging – the connection with like-minded individuals all across the globe.
And I know I’m not the only one.
Wardrobe Oxygen started as a hobby and a vanity project. It was about my thoughts, my opinions, and my outfits. I started it feeling as though I was an expert, but just a few years in I learned how very little I knew. Connecting with women across the globe expanded my outlook and my heart. It helped me understand the purpose of Wardrobe Oxygen. This site isn’t to tell you how to dress or encourage you to buy a lot of clothes. It’s to build a community of grown-ass badass women who deserve stylish lives on their terms. We’re here for tips to make that happen and friends who will cheer us on but also give it to us straight. The teacher became the student and I learn from all of you every day and want to thank you and give back with the best damn content and little nook of the Internet I can possibly create.
Wardrobe Oxygen isn’t what it used to be and that’s a darn good thing. As Ben Franklin said, when you're finished changing, you're finished. And I’m nowhere near finished. I thank you for being on this journey with me, and I hope you will continue to be part of this community and provide feedback to help it continually grow, change, and improve.