My Summer “Vacation”

 

Open notebook with pen in front of open laptop with cup of coffee all on a desk in front of an open window

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

 

Before Friday’s post went live, I asked members of the WO2 Community to ask any questions they had about how blogs make money. One asked how my life changed being a full-time career blogger versus keeping it a part-time job. The biggest change has been the pitching, the negotiating, the courting of brands to secure paid sponsored content.

I hate pitching. It’s such a different headspace from writing, editing photos, crafting social media content. Every job has aspects we don’t like. I also don’t like bookkeeping, working on the site under the hood to keep it fast and modern and effective, or scrolling through 600 photos of me with one eye open and my necklace lassoing a boob to find 7 good for a blog post. But those are givens, they’re the necessary administrative tasks to accomplish the creative. But pitching, most of the time it’s essentially me begging a brand to like me and pay me to be what they want.

I can easily spend 40 hours a week pitching, replying to emails, taking calls, updating my media kit, liking and engaging with brands on social, and still not make a dime. It starts coloring everything I do. Let’s take this example, all aspects taken from real experiences I have had:

You want to work with The Sweater Store, you love their sweaters, you love their ethics, the pricepoint is perfect for your audience, as is the extended size range. You purchase a sweater from The Sweater Store and style it for the blog and Instagram. You sell a bunch of sweaters from The Sweater Store, the post does extremely well on Instagram. You reach out to The Sweater Store, tell them what a fan your are and clearly your audience is too. You compliment them on their partnership with a charity and a recent collaboration with a celebrity showing. You provide metrics of how well their sweaters sell with your audience, offer some ways to partner. They ghost you. Or they reply saying they’ll send you one free item of their choice in exchange for a blog post and social shares. Or worse, they reply back and say they don’t do paid collaborations even though you saw 8 of your blogger friends do paid campaigns with them in the past three months. What do you do, do you keep pushing to work with them or move on? Next thing you know, you’re writing for The Sweater Store, not for your audience.

It’s two weeks later, you’re writing a piece that is fun and creative and you’re in that zone and words are spilling from your fingers. You go to your browser to research something and you see you have new emails. You check and there’s an email from your contact at The Sweater Store. She finally replied back, they’d love to get on a call and chat about an exciting new project they have for next quarter. YES, all that writing about The Sweater Store paid off! You drop that creative blog post to reply back, schedule a call for the next day and spend the next hour or so organizing your media kit, crafting some pitch ideas, pulling metrics for how well you sell their sweaters, sweaters as a whole, this year compared to last year, how well your posts on social that featured The Sweater store did (we can pull insights on Instagram and Facebook to see how many people saw the content, how many liked it, shared it, saved it, commented on it, clicked on the hashtags or mentions, and more).

You get on the call the next day, thinking it’s a call with your contact but it ends up being her plus 12 different people from the brand, the affiliate, and their PR firm. Come to find out, they’re having a new sweater come out next quarter, a special sweater they want to promote. They want to send you and 499 other influencers the same sweater in exchange for a blog post and Instagram post and at least three slides in Instagram Stories about this sweater. It’s going to be huge, it will be on the Today Show, it will go viral, they already tapped a Kardashian and a Jonas Brothers’ wife and a YouTube star to be part of the campaign, it’s going to be awesome. And nope, there’s no budget but you could be regrammed by The Sweater Store, you may end up in their newsletter, and the top 100 photos will be on the back page of their catalog and it’s going to be amazing exposure. Oh, and they will need full rights to the high-res versions of the photos in perpetuity.

In the meantime, you haven’t finished that piece you were working on because you just can’t get back into that zone. 99% of you wants to throw two giant middle fingers up to The Sweater Store but 1% wonders if maybe if you do that campaign you may end up getting valuable exposure, maybe this would give you a chance to be in a paid campaign with the brand. And well, you have made a good amount from their affiliate program and likely will sell a bunch of these sweaters. You think, you know that Kardashian, that Jonas Wife, and that YouTube star all got paid six figures by The Sweater Store to participate. Likely a percentage of those 499 other influencers are also being paid, though less than a Kardashian. Your cursor blinks at you in Word, mocking you that you’ve lost another day to The Sweater Store and your creative awesome piece will now forever be a half-finished draft on your desktop.

I get the benefit of pitching, but I don't know if it makes sense for my kind of content and goals for Wardrobe Oxygen.  I am not looking to be a spokesmodel.  A lot of influencers, their goal is to be a model of sorts, or a visual example for a lifestyle or personal style.  They focus on photography, work to have their images represent brands beautifully while sharing a consistent aesthetic or brand.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but I consider myself more of a writer.  And most pitching in this field is based on modeling a product. Maybe all this pitching isn't just messing up my creative flow but my direction for Wardrobe Oxygen as a whole.

Taking a Sponsor-Free Summer Vacation

I’ve decided to take a summer vacation from brands. For the rest of July and August, I am not going to accept any sponsored content, I won’t pitch to any brands, I won’t use my blog and social media to try to court brands to hopefully get paid content. I am going to share content like I did when I was a part-time blogger, but even if I am offered a paid campaign during this time I will decline so I can focus on writing not pitching. I’m going to wear what I want, share on Instagram when it feels right and not when the algorithm says I’ll receive the highest engagement, and share content I find enjoyable.

What this Means

No sponsored posts – no mentions in posts, no dedicated posts, no Instagram photos or stories for brands.  No sale alerts the rest of the summer. No Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, no Amazon Prime Day, no list of promotions for Weekend Reads. I may make a quick mention, but no spending days prior to create that content like I did last year. Everything you see on the blog and social is there because I chose to have it there. No contracts, no favors to brands, no dropping there now so I can score some paid campaign come September. I will not spend any time pitching or negotiating. I’ll have a form reply saying I am not accepting any collaborations until after Labor Day. I will focus my time not on sponsorships but on creating more content for the blog.

Exceptions:

  • I have an open contract with a brand. It is for a series of Instagram posts with corresponding Stories. The last of the contract was shot before July started and sent to them for approval. Once it is approved it will be published.
  • I agreed to two trips this summer with brands. These are brands I have featured many times, even before I worked with them. I am not being paid to attend these trips nor to share my experience. I will be sharing on Instagram and writing trip recaps on the blog, but they are not paid for nor am I under obligation to complete them.
  • My family and I are taking a trip later this summer, staying at a minimum of four different cities. We have booked and paid for the entire trip… except for one city. I worked with a hotel brand in the past and last month asked if they would cover our stay with one of their hotels in this city in exchange for promotion. It has not been confirmed yet.
  • If I am wearing gifted merchandise, it’s because I own it, it’s part of my wardrobe, I love it, and would wear it whether or not there is a camera. I know gifted merchandise can be hard to believe. Previous jobs had perks – free computers, college assistance, 401K matching, office space… my job perk is sometimes getting items of my choice from brands I love. I will always mention it was gifted, and will be better about mentioning how long I’ve had it and other times I’ve shared it on the blog so you can see it’s a product I truly care about.

Giving Back with Your Help

I don’t share how much I make because it’s honestly no one’s business. But after sharing how blogs make money, I want to do an experiment. I am going to share how much I make from affiliate and ads during this “summer vacation.” For every $1,000 I make, I will donate $100 to a charity. Each month, I will pick five charities and you can vote which one should receive the donation.

Most affiliate commissions are held up for at least 90 days to have time for returns to happen. I won’t have an accurate number for what I really earn from affiliate, but I will use the metrics offered to show what I made off of open sales during that month. With ads, I can see what I made but that specific revenue is paid months later. I again will use the metrics to show what I made during that month, not what I received. To not go against any contracts I have signed with these monetization companies, I will not break down this revenue, I will share a lump sum of all affiliate and ad revenue combined.

I donate on a monthly basis already, but rarely share the recipient of the donation. I love the idea of you, who help make that donation be possible, be part of choosing the charity. I will do a post after each month with how much was made, how much will be donated, and have a poll for you to pick the charity. All month long you can email, comment or DM to me charities you think would be a good fit and why.

At the End of My Summer Vacation

At the end of this eight-week vacation, I’ll share the results. How did it affect my creativity, my mindset, and my bank account? I’d love to say that this switch will prove more successful, but I fear it won’t be. But I look forward to trying this and seeing how it affects the content and my relationship with you!

44 Comments

  1. Katie F @kfletcher7
    July 17, 2019 / 4:20 pm

    This is such an interesting insight into how your business works – thank you for being open this summer! I honestly had no idea how much work it is to pitch to companies. It sounds exhausting and it would 100% not be in my wheelhouse.

    Do you feel like you need to do this for us? I sincerely hope you’re doing this for your own sanity and not to please other people. I respect and trust you as a blogger. I feel you share the truth with us about products and, if you take part in a collaboration or sponsored post, it’s because you think it’s genuinely helpful and relevant. This trust is because you are such a great writer, so I get why you want to focus on writing this summer. I hope you can find a system at the end of the summer that helps you to do more writing.

    Not sure if you ever read the blog Young House Love, but they famously (internet famously lol) took a break from their highly profitable blog that employed them full time. The break was well over a year, if I remember correctly. When they did return to blogging, it was on their own terms. I don’t think they do sponsored posts anymore and they don’t follow a strict schedule of posting anymore. They talk about this in one of their early podcast episodes (Young House Love Has a Podcast) and on a recent podcast episode of Redesigning Life with Sabrina Soto. They discuss the freelance work they did during this time to make up for not having blog income.

  2. KatMar
    July 13, 2019 / 10:17 am

    Bravo! Sometimes our passions and goals take us on roads unexpected and it can seem that lots of energy has to be diverted away from what is out original foundation and creativity. And always, those on the outside only see the glamorous fun aspects. We tend to forget that there is so much work, efforts, changes and often sacrifice that goes with it. Respecting others careers and supporting each others dreams is so important.
    Thank you for sharing your “behind the scenes” struggles and triumphs.
    Often we need to take a step back and remove ourselves from being drawn away of what important to us. Spending time with loved ones, with nature and doing lifes simplest pleasures restore our very being, heart, soul, mind and body.
    I always appreciate your candid honesty whether it be fashion or life
    Enjoy your “pulling back a bit” time

  3. Lisa M
    July 12, 2019 / 3:20 pm

    Unlike many others who have commented, I will actually miss the Nordstrom Anniversary sale links. It’s the one time of year I can afford to shop at Nordstrom, so I stock up and often find your suggestions useful ( I don’t follow many fashion bloggers so maybe that’s why I’m not sick of it). In any case, I totally understand the need to take a break and re-discover your creative voice. Toward that end, I second – third? fifth? – the Patreon idea. I am a big believer in supporting writers!

  4. Nikki
    July 11, 2019 / 4:14 am

    So pleased and I hope you enjoy getting to focus on your creativity and spending time with your family. I had stopped reading for quite awhile because it did seem as though you were writing for the sponsors rather than yourself.

  5. Blondie
    July 10, 2019 / 8:59 am

    Just wanted to say “Thank you!” for little/no Nordstrom sale coverage. I was just complaining this weekend that I won’t be able to read any blogs for the next two weeks because I have no interest. I’m glad to know there is one blog I can still read!

    Piggybacking on Friday’s post, I know how affiliate links work, so when I can’t get Ebates on a site I come here and use one of yours. I’d rather the money was in your pocket than Jeff Bezos’! 🙂

    Seconding the suggestion for a Patreon. I support a few of my favorite podcasts this way and I’d happily send a few dollars your way each month.

  6. Nihongo Dame Desu
    July 9, 2019 / 4:18 pm

    I’m happy to see you doing something that feels right for you. There’s something in the tone of this post that makes it clear how good this is going to be for you, and how positive you are feeling about it. That said, you’d Nordstrom sale posts are among my favorite (though I can see how they would be extremely time consuming–part of the reason I love them is that searching through on my own is a daunting, time-intensive process). Please don’t read this is a complaint; it’s not. I’m happy to see you carving out this mental time for yourself! I just also want you to know how much I love those posts, in case it factors into decisions you make after your vacation. I used to be a daily reader of half a dozen fashion blogs; yours is the only one I ever read now. I appreciate your aesthetic and style, but also your authenticity, and I’ve never felt like you sacrifice either for the sake of the business side. And I appreciate that so much!

  7. RoseAG
    July 9, 2019 / 7:57 am

    I predict that this will work out for you, if not over 8 weeks over the next year. One problem I see with full-time bloggers is that as you mention, they start producing content aimed at “The Sweater Store” instead of creating authentic content.
    I won’t say that cheapens them, but their shelf life decreases.

    As a part of a two income family I’m not a bargain hunter, I’m time challenged looking for a way to be my authentic self in the hours I have available. I get tired of looking at Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale picks. That’s the time of year when I muster up my pitiful amount of PTO and take a vacation.

    I’ll be interested to see you get more value from the wardrobe you already own! So go for it!

    I’d also note that those earplugs you mentioned the other week are really good for the Bottle & Cork in Dewey. That was authentic content 🙂

  8. Justine
    July 9, 2019 / 7:53 am

    I read this post yesterday and then stumbled upon “Why You Need an Untouchable Day Every Week” (HBR) today, and the two combined have reminded me that it’s important to carve out sacrosanct time for creative work. I’d forgotten about “The Big Rocks of Life: First Things First” (Covey), and it’s time to stop filling my days with only pebbles and sand.

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. Your writing is what keeps me visiting your blog (not Insta or other social media) regularly, so thank *you* for taking your summer “vacation.” Now I need to go read the monetization post more closely, so I can figure out how to support you!

  9. karen
    July 9, 2019 / 6:37 am

    Good for you…I’m hoping this experiment works for you and you get from it what you need. Thanks for sharing it with us, and looking foward to seeing/reading about it as it unfolds and as it concludes.

  10. Tracie Bowman
    July 9, 2019 / 4:43 am

    I love your blog and appreciate your thoughts/voice. You deserve a summer away too.

    • Tara
      July 10, 2019 / 5:53 pm

      Completely agree! As always, thank you for being transparent and honest. I love your voice and your blog!

  11. Chris
    July 8, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    Good for you Allie! I sincerely hope that you are not affected adversely in the money department. I been mulling over how all my creative friends have the same challenge. That is, how does a person u get to do the kind of painting, music, jewelry, writing that s/he loves to do vs doing what pays the bills? Unfortunately, what one loves and what sells is often not the same thing. I have a jeweler friend who does gorgeous, unique pieces with real gold, real silver, and real stones. Most customers don’t want or can’t afford her expensive, high end pieces. Doing a custom necklace and a couple of wedding rings a year doesn’t make her a living. So instead she does costume jewelry that costs $5 – $15. Being such a perfectionist, even her inexpensive pieces show a high level of craftsmanship although they are made from plated stainless steel wire and imitation stones. How many musicians start out as classical or jazz musicians but end up whatever pop music is hot because it pays? More than one would think.

    I wish I had a good answer but I don’t. Although some businesses are willing to trade, landlords, mortgage banks, utility companies, and car dealerships are not.

    One of your readers suggested setting up a Patreon account. I think that’s a decent idea. There are a number of us who would be willing to donate money to you, especially if it allows you to spend more time on your writing and less time on pitching.

    Best to you for a spectacular summer!

    • Nikki
      July 9, 2019 / 4:34 pm

      I think Patreon would be worth checking out! I just read an article about it that talks about how it works best for those who already have a devoted following, as opposed to those who join looking to use it as a tool to grow their following (that’s not its purpose). That seems like you, and you could probably easily adapt your newsletters into awards for tiers of your patrons. Something to think about!

      When I read that you are opting out of the Nordstrom sale, my jaw actually dropped! I just think this is so ballsy and awesome. This time of year is one when the business of blogging becomes so obvious and annoying as EVERYONE under the sun starts shilling for Nordstrom. It gets old really fast, and I think it’s really cool you are taking a year off from doing it.

  12. Book Goddess
    July 8, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    You are an amazing woman! I hope your experiment is a great success. Thank you for your integrity, style, and generous spirit!

  13. Joy
    July 8, 2019 / 7:52 pm

    I will be really interested to see how this turns out. Thank you for sharing your experiences authentically.

  14. Roberta
    July 8, 2019 / 7:32 pm

    Love your blog! Congratulations on all of your recent life decisions. I have been so inspired by reading and watching your journey. I decided I could do it also…I started taking better care of myself, exercising, lifting weights and feel so much better. I do not think I would have started this if not for you. Your articles and stories are so well written. I am thrilled to be “connected” to Wardrobe Oxygen! Enjoy your summer with your beautiful family!!

  15. Melissa Stamos
    July 8, 2019 / 7:08 pm

    Well, now I have to make sure that I am purchasing through your links! I love that you have a Summer Plan.

  16. Sadie
    July 8, 2019 / 6:00 pm

    This is going to be a treat for us readers! I’ve gotten to the point where I roll my eyes at ‘on Amazon’ or ‘Nordstrom anniversary sale pics.’ Have you considered a Patreon or a tip cup or something else? Because I really would pay a small donation each month if I never had to read about the Nordstrom anniversary sale and got to hear your authentic voice.

  17. Lee
    July 8, 2019 / 2:34 pm

    Alison, you are a writer & it’s probably why I’ve loved WO for so long! I read your posts no matter what the topic because your writing is enjoyable and always gives me new information. I hope this summer experiment works well for you & your family! I will miss your Nordstrom suggestions but honestly, it’s ok if I don’t let myself get caught up in all the hype. Other bloggers are already talking about it & “strategy” and I’m skipping those posts. Anyway, your summer plans sound good & I hope this helps you, your family, & your blog in only good ways!

  18. Jacquie
    July 8, 2019 / 12:45 pm

    No matter what you do, no matter where you go with this, I will Always follow you because of your integrity! You have helped me in so many ways, in things I never expected (CastCoverz!? ), and also turned me on to other bloggers I never would have found. More importantly the support of acceptance of body image, and wanting to continue to look good and feel good about myself. Positive body image slips away when one is past menopause and can’t find one’s waist anymore. How can so much wisdom come from a woman so many years younger than I? Please continue to keep it real, for in fact, you ARE a writer, and one with a unique voice. Happy summer!

  19. MonicaR
    July 8, 2019 / 12:13 pm

    I continue to read this blog nearly every day because I love how wonderfully authentic you are. I follow you on Instagram for the same reason. The work and care that you put into everything you do shines bright. I hope this vacation refreshes you in every way. Happy summer to you and your family!

  20. Linda B
    July 8, 2019 / 11:03 am

    Wow, I am so impressed. You continuously impress me in so many ways, Alison! What you have laid out for your “vacation” is truly a creative, worthy experiment. And we, your readers, even have a part to play, in the charity piece. Very cool. I really hope you get some respite from the ickier side of your work during the rest of the summer.

  21. Melissa Schober
    July 8, 2019 / 10:44 am

    In the spirit of giving back: A local mom who started the Black-owned BLK+GRN beauty store was in a terrible car accident with her new baby and husband. They’re looking for support, either outright or via purchases from her business, which features natural, vegan, African and other beauty and wellness products. I’m not connected to the company; just saw a FB post from The DC Doula.

  22. Stephanie
    July 8, 2019 / 10:44 am

    This sounds like an awesome little experiment. I hope your “vacation” leaves you creatively refreshed!

  23. July 8, 2019 / 10:41 am

    Cool idea! I think taking a break to tap into your creativity is an amazing idea. I bet this will create more opportunities for you in the future.

  24. Lisa
    July 8, 2019 / 10:38 am

    Good on you! Yours is the only blog I read daily. I love listening to your opinions and seeing things through a different eye. I will also miss your picks, but maybe that will help my budget! Speaking of which, I hope you are pleasantly surprised and don’t feel any adverse impact. Enjoy the vacay!!

  25. Laurel
    July 8, 2019 / 10:00 am

    Good for you for following your heart. I also will miss your picks for the Nordy Sale, but I love that you’re doing what you want to do with this blogging thing. 🙂

  26. Karen
    July 8, 2019 / 9:51 am

    Good for you Alison! I hope you enjoy every second of your summer vacation with your family, you deserve a break. Seriously now, you should consider writing a book. The posts you do on, let’s say, wearing a LBD and styling it 10 different ways where you are the model — those posts are gold. It’s so much more helpful to see things on an actual person rather than a black dress laying next to different jewelry and shoes. I know, it’s easy for me to say, lol. But between your excellent writing, flair for outfits and creativity I think you’d make a good author.

  27. Betsy Cornell
    July 8, 2019 / 9:46 am

    Great ideas! Part of what draws me to your posts and has me share them with others is your unique voice. I’m glad you are going to give that voice a nudge, some creative space, some time to get in the flow again. Navigating this virtual world is crazy for your readers to discover, e.g., how the sausage is made. . . Have a fun summer break with your fam and don’t regret a minute of it.

  28. Heather
    July 8, 2019 / 9:40 am

    Good luck! I hope it works better than you expect!

  29. Alison French-Tubo
    July 8, 2019 / 9:37 am

    Yes, you are a writer! I will read about things I will never need (i.e. bras for large breasts) just to enjoy your “voice.” (And I’ve ended up sharing that post with several different friends looking for new bras.)

  30. July 8, 2019 / 9:25 am

    Love this post! SO much creative time wasted / exhausted while instead on the hunt for paid posts that end up not being such. Was recently approached to do a multi-faceted promo for free only to later learn that the same biz expects $25K from multiple businesses for its own event sponsorship. WTF. I’ve got mouths to feed, too. Anyhoo. Thank you for sharing your story as there’s comfort in knowing that others struggle with this similar issue and time suck. Best of luck to you this summer! I’m sure you’ll come out ahead and with a number of new, amazing ideas! xoxo

  31. Krista
    July 8, 2019 / 9:10 am

    *Woot! Woot!* Good for you taking a break. I like seeing how this stuff works behind the scenes. It’s taught me to be much more critical and careful with what I see in social media. Enjoy the vacation and downtime!

  32. Barbara
    July 8, 2019 / 8:48 am

    Brava! Your weekend blog posts are my favorites, not as “fashion centric”,introducing me to music and ideas I would not normally encounter in my day to day world. So, I am excited to see where this summer”vacation”takes you.

  33. Tippy
    July 8, 2019 / 8:42 am

    Thank you for the transparency and the peek behind the curtain. Enjoy your summer and I hope your experiment pays off!

    I also live in the DC metro and you are my favorite local blogger. I like your writing style.

  34. Ruth
    July 8, 2019 / 8:31 am

    I am appreciating these behind-the-scenes posts, and am so glad I found this blog.

  35. Helen M.
    July 8, 2019 / 8:27 am

    Your voice comes through even when you have a sponsored post. I keep coming back because it’s your take on a life very different from mine yet similar in some ways that keeps me interested. Is authenticity the word I’m looking for? Anyway, keep doing this as long as it works for you and your family. I wish you every success and look forward to hearing the results of your summer vacay experiment.

  36. Donna J Gerold
    July 8, 2019 / 8:24 am

    I applaud you, Alison! This is a courageous move grounded in your values and your integrity. I will watch for the results, not only monetary but how you feel about the decision and the effect it will have on your heart.

  37. Allison
    July 8, 2019 / 8:22 am

    Good on ya, girl!! I love everything about this. BUT I will truly miss your picks for the upcoming Nordstrom sale! It’s too much to sift through and I’ve always enjoyed the work you put into finding the best of that sale. Enjoy that sacred time off!

  38. Melanie
    July 8, 2019 / 8:16 am

    I absolutely love this and I’m excited to see where this vacation takes you. I am a firm believer in do what you love and the money will come, so I’m hoping that it turns out to be profitable to your bank account as well as your mindset. I enjoy your Facebook, Instagram and blog. You put a smile on my face!

    • Vicki
      July 8, 2019 / 10:06 am

      Ditto. I was looking forward to the analysis too. But I’ve parsed through the Anni Sale before and can certainly do it again. Best wishes with this experiment, Alison.

    • Cate
      July 8, 2019 / 7:17 pm

      I too have always hoped that if I ever do have the chance to finally do what I love, the money will come. Alison’s posts on the difficult side of blogging have made me sad – I appreciate the honesty, it’s just that my bubble has been burst, my fantasy of ditching the corporate job and then doing what I love so I “never work a day again in my life”. I know working for oneself can be the hardest work you ever love – Alison, I just hope your summer off will help you reconnect with your joy and reinforce your certainty that this is your calling.

  39. Beth
    July 8, 2019 / 8:12 am

    Love your blog and your style. Am curious, though. Who shoots all your images? Hubby? A friend? A professional? You always looks so natural!

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