Don’t Network, Make Friends. And Other Lessons From The IFB Conference
And so it begins. New York Fashion Week officially starts today with a full line up of shows, and to kick off the week Jennine Jacobs and a group of Independent Fashion Bloggers gathered at Milk Studios yesterday for the IFB Conference where topics ranged from fashion, blogging, branding and content to how to turn your dream career into reality.
The bloggers featured on each panel at the IFB Conference (#IFBCon if you want to check out the tweet stream) shared some good advice that made me come to a few realizations about my own (potential) future in the industry. Below are my top ten takeaways from the IFB Conference. Whether you’re looking to launch a career in fashion or strike out on your own in another industry, I think you’ll find the suggestions useful:
10.) Don’t be afraid to say no- Sure, we all want to land that first collaboration or freelance gig, but if the offers you’re receiving don’t match up with your personal brand, don’t be afraid to turn them down. It’s better to focus on refining your image and pursuing partnerships that fit your brand than to take a job out of desperation and realize it’s not in keeping with who you are or the direction you want to take your career. Another opportunity will present itself. Just keep putting yourself out there and be patient.
9.) Blogs are the ultimate resume- Rather than download your CSV or look up your LinkedIn profile, a prospective employer can get the best sense of who you are and the type of work you’re capable of producing by looking at your blog. Even if you don’t update the content as often as you’d like, make sure the About page is interesting and provides updated contact information. You never know who will stumble upon your blog, so make sure it’s ready to be seen.
8.) You need to leverage multiple social platforms to promote your content and brand youself- For someone like me who works with social media all day, this seems like a no-brainer, but I was surprised how many people at the conference (including a few panelists) were not familiar with Pinterest or were not using Twitter or Facebook regularly. For a well established blogger with a loyal following, a big social media presence is less important; but for those of us just starting out, it’s (almost) as important as the content we put on our blogs.
7.) It’s not about a blog or a brand. It’s about a lifestyle- This suggestion is especially important if you hope to land brand partnerships. Companies are becoming more and more interested in selling a lifestyle in tandem with their products and your blog and social media profiles should give people a good idea of the type of lifestyle you have and thus are capable of selling.
6.) It’s about community, not competition- Let’s face it. Fashion bloggers are mostly women and women can be jealous, petty and just downright witchy (with a capital “B”) with one another–especially when our success is on the line. But you never know when someone you meet–even someone who does the same thing as you do– will help you make the connections you need to get your big break. Which leads me to point four…
5.) Don’t network. Make friends- Truer words have never been said. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a job–full time or freelance– as a result of meeting someone at a networking event; but I have gotten a lot of work–both full time and freelance–from friends I’ve made who have referred me to do work for someone else. Networking relationships are dependent on the next organized function. Friendships aren’t. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the person sitting beside you at the coffee shop, on the airplane or in line at the grocery store. You never know when you’ll make a professional–or more importantly a personal–connection.
4.) Invest time in strategic planning- Whether it’s developing an editorial calendar for your blog or sketching out a persona for your target audience, you are the CEO of your own blog and you need to act like one. Rather than haphazardly posting content, take time to plan what type of posts will appeal to your reader. If you don’t know who your readers are or you’re just starting out, plan who you want to target with you blog and what type of posts you need to make to appeal to those people and keep them coming back to your blog day after day. Set goals. Define metrics. Create deadlines. Then evaluate and reconfigure as necessary.
3.) The more niche the better- If the IFB Conference was any indication, fashion and beauty bloggers are everywhere. The past few years have seen an explosion of men and woman wanting to break in to the industry, making it all the more difficult for those of us who are new to the scene to find a place for ourselves. As you’re working on lesson number four, take some time to evaluate what unique perspectives you bring to the fashion scene. Are you short? Do you only shop at thrift stores? Do you try not to spend more than $25 on any article of clothing you purchase? Find your niche, develop it and promote it like crazy!
2.) Focus on quality- During one of the afternoon panels, Andy Torres of Style Scrapbook said that she only posts once a day so that she can give each post the attention that it’s due. Whether you post once a day or once a week (I personally wouldn’t recommend posting less than that), post because you have something to share that will add value to your blog and make your readers glad they took the time to visit you, not because you feel obligated to put content up on your site. Said differently, post when you have something to say, not because you feel you have to.
1.) It doesn’t happen overnight- Multiple panelists confessed to working 16 hour days, 6 days a week for many years before they hit pay dirt with their blog. Even now, successful bloggers said they often have a difficult time cutting off their need to create content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The bottom line is that starting and maintaining a career as a successful blogger requires dedication, hard work and long hours. For those of us who are working full time while trying to build a blog or a business after our 9-5 job ends, remember that if it’s something you’re truly passionate about, it won’t feel like work. If building your blog/business does feel like work, it might be time to re-evaluate whether the extra effort is really worth it in the first place.
*Photo credit: IFB