Last week, I had the honor of being invited to be on the panel of an emerging entrepreneurs event in Boston. To be honest with you all, when I started my blog there were so many things that I had not envisioned. It was just a space where my love for writing, love for fashion and love/need to connect with people and share stories all came together. I feel blessed for this space to have turned into something more than just that. It was an amazing event, hosted by Nineteenth Amendment and was attended by the creative minds of Boston – designers, bloggers, shop-owners, photographers, entrepreneurs. I wanted to share some of the discussions we had in the panel and the questions that were asked that will be relevant to those of you starting a blog/business or in the process of taking it to the next level. I want to say that I don’t think I am anywhere close to calling myself an entrepreneur or even close to considering myself successful=)) However, I am sure there are a few do’s and don’ts here which I experienced along the way that some of you will relate to and will find helpful.
And, all those of you who sent me messages on Instagram and emails wishing me luck for the panel and also those of you who requested to share the event details – a very big Thank You!
1. What was the biggest struggle starting your brand : The biggest struggle starting my brand has been dealing with failure! During the initial period , there were times when I didn’t get the reaction to the work I had put out there. For example, the moment I hit publish on Instagram I used to hope for likes and comments to flow in right away. And was it heartbreaking when that dint happen? Oh yes – devastating! Or when I spent hours on creating the perfect pitch for a brand I was interested in working with, thinking there is no way they can say no to this! Bu the point I struggled coming to terms with was that success doesn’t come overnight. You might think that you put your 100% out there and if doesn’t click – then may be this isn’t for you. That’s when you start questioning yourself, your work. It is very easy to get discouraged and the worst, consider giving up! But the true test is being able to fall 20 times and still on the 21st time, be able to give it your cent percent (and more!) Once I was able accept this (in whatever capacity that might be) – it definitely made working seem less of a struggle.
2. What is one thing you would have spent less time on while building your brand: I wish I had spent less or rather no time on trying to emulate what others were doing. Related to what I said in the previous point, when something I tried in the initial days dint work, I tried to do what seemed to be working for others. It could be trying to imitate someone’s style of dressing up or going out of my way to create an image that looked like it was the winning formula for getting engagement on social media. I tried to copy poses and also share similar kind of content on the blog. But I was still failing and moreover – not feeling happy about it, you know … within! The reason why I started LovePlayingDressup, was lost somewhere. I soon ( very soon, thankfully! ) realized that if I wanted LovePlayingDressup to be a brand, it has to be a representation of me. It had to be my voice, my style! I then started creating what I believed in – it dint have to be styling an outfit with the on-trend pieces or giving poses that were serious and grim ( I looked ridiculous in them anyway! ) and so on.. This felt good and not like I was wasting time. The other thing I wish I wasn’t doing ( sadly, also related to mimicking others ) – is trying to keep up with the frequency of content creation. I thought it was essential to have a blogpost every day and post 2-3 times a day on social media and share all the sales and trends that everyone was talking about. Let me tell you – that is the opposite of a winning formula. It is a cliche but true in every aspect of life – quality over quantity. Today, I only do two blog posts a week ( some times, one ) depending on my corporate full time job schedule. Same holds true for other schedules – social media, shoots, etc. Do what works for you – everyone’s life is different, different priorities, some people might have teams to manage aspects of their business – don’t let comparison be the thief of your creativity or happiness! ( Another cliche – but could it be any more tue? =)) ) Building a brand is going to be a time consuming, all-consuming initiative – but staying true to yourself and putting all that time in what is true/heartfelt work as well as quality work, is what will reap the results.
3. What piece of advice would you give to brands and bloggers trying to work together : I think the most important thing that brands and bloggers in this space have to do is to respect each other. What I mean by that is, is respecting each other’s vision and voice. If a brand reaches out and if it’s aesthetics don’t align with yours, be grateful for that opportunity, but say no. ( One thing to note here is to be mindful of how you say no – never burn bridges , don’t be pompous or arrogant) It is okay to say no instead of doing something that you won’t be able to do justice with. It is not fair for either of you. And the same applies for the brand as well. It is definitely a shift in the industry where bloggers are no longer doing it as a hobby, but are considered industry influencers. Brands reaching out to bloggers should respect the effort that goes in content creation and also respect the blogger’s aesthetics and voice.
4. What advice would you give to brands and bloggers trying to get started today : Start treating your blog/brand like a business. Invest time, money and resources into it. Make goals … long-term yes, but also short-term goals. The latter is very important, I might even say that small term goals are much more essential than the long-term ones. Just make sure they align with the bigger pictures and you are on the right track. It is not unreasonable to have long-term goals such as having a readership of X visitors per months or X following on Instagram, work with so and so brand, etc. But rather small term goals – whatever they might be relevant to your business. For a blog, you could have small term goals of such as making a goal to create content every X number of days, staying consistent with posting schedule, creating a newsletter or adding a new vertical to your blog – and then you work towards it. There will be times when a goal might seem impossible or a really tough mountain to climb – but don’t worry about taking risks, push yourself to do better with every step and even step outside of your comfort zone, don’t hesitate to reach out to your peers for advice or even those who might seem experts and unreachable. And DONT let anyone tell you that you deserve less or cant acheieve something!
5. What do you think the future of social media holds : I always believe that social media should be treated like the window to your store. Metaphorically, like the store windows in the mall – use social media to highlight your best work. Don’t let that overtake your brand. I have seen bloggers start with a blog but then completely shift their focus on Instagram. Don’t let that happen even if you know that pictures are what get more eyeballs today and not many people stop and read the words – but still, keep your primary platform active! Secondly, with the ever-changing algorithms of social media and the owners of those platforms having monopoly in running their show – you never know when an algorithm might change on you. We all know how the recent changes in Instagram affected engagement or how Facebook that was once so relevant is no longer the same from a business perspective. Atleast the platform (your blog, your website) is what you have control over. Thirdly, don’t put all your eggs in one basket – it is true for financial portfolio management and the same holds true for when you are building a brand. In the context of social media, stay active on atleast a few of the platforms – not just Instagram – but use Twitter, Instastories/Snapchat, Pinterest to promote your content, expand your readership and thus creating multiple platforms for you to share your story and engage.
6. How much time do you spend on building your brand : This was a good one… I think I blabbered on this one for a very long time. Honestly, everything that I do is in someway related to the blog. ( The one area where I do try to keep a good defined line is between my full-time corporate job and the blog though! ) But other than that – it pretty much is what Amit and I talk about most of the time! Sometimes when I decide to not make that the topic of our discussion, somehow we end up talking about it nevertheless. I know maintaining work-life balance is important but when you are creating something, I personally think it is okay ( and important ) to dedicate as much as possible into it. There is so much to keep up with – content creation, social media, live sharing, email correspondence, etc. – so one aspect that cannot be disregarded is prioritizing. ( This was another topic that we discussed at length – setting goals and managing priorties! )
These are some of the questions that came up and some that I was asked in person after the panel was over. There are many more, I’ll do another installment of this post soon – meanwhile, do let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover. xo Neha
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