Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to speak at Create & Cultivate – a conference focused on inspiring, educating and empowering women in business and entrepreneurship! It was my first time speaking, and I left feeling humbled and inspired, so I wanted to talk about some of what I learned and the lessons I shared.
I’m perpetually passionate about inspiring women and girls to carve their own path, and walk to the beat of their own drum. It’s no secret that things are harder for women (they’re also harder for minorities, people with disabilities and people with diverse backgrounds) and it’s clear now more than ever that we can’t ignore that fact. I’ve always known my path would be longer, windier and probably more up hill than the journey of a white male, but to me that just meant I had to run faster, work harder, and find my own finish line. Instead of trying to compete with men in a “mans world” I created my own; well actually a series of worlds, the latest being a cotton candy colored one called Color Me Courtney. Many women have followed suit, creating their female owned and operating businesses resulting in more Girl Bosses than ever before – and the world is better for it, but we still have a long way to go.
Okay, okay, I’ll step down off my feminism soap box for a second to talk more about the actual conference, and building a business in the blogosphere specific to 2 topics: how to make money and what’s next for the industry.
Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all
“How do you make money as a blogger” something so many newbie bloggers ask me. Let me start by saying if you’re blogging to make money with the intent of making it a career, I don’t necessarily think this is the space for you. I started blogging as a resumé booster to help me step into the corporate fashion world, and as a creative outlet. Others started because they felt alone in college & wanted to express themselves, and some just stumbled upon it because they loved fashion or food or whatever – these are all reasons to blog, but money isn’t. The second you start doing it only to make money, you should reevaluate, because your content will suffer as a result. I’m not saying you can’t make money as a blogger, I make more than I ever thought I would and probably more than I would salary wise if I had stuck to my corporate career even with an MBA in my pocket, but I would still blog (obviously not full-time) even if I didn’t make a dime.
The intention behind the content you create is quite clear in what you produce, but still, girls gotta eat right? If you’re starting out, the easiest way to make money is affiliate marketing. Sign up for Reward Style or Shop Style or any other affiliate marketing program, and use that as a means to see some sort of income. For me, affiliate marketing is just a small part of my pie, mostly because I wear & sell a lot of affordable pieces that result in small commissions. I recently sold out a dress, selling close to 500 units, because of its $25 price tag with 30 cent commission payout, so it didn’t really move the needle. Instead of switching to only expensive pieces, I decided to use that metric to share with other retailers as proof of concept. I was able to go to the brands I wanted to work with and say “hey look, I sold out this dress, here are the numbers to prove it, this is why you want to work with me, and this is why I’m worth X amount of money to you”. That really resonates with brands, because then they know you’re worth your rate.
Video & Stop Motion Content
One of the questions I get a lot from other bloggers and also got on the panel was about video. Everyone knows that video is the next frontier and its what brands are looking for in terms on content creation. In the next few years, it’s estimated that 80% of the branded content we view will be video related, so naturally it’s all we’re currently talking about. So many girls ask me “should I start doing video” – and if thats the question you’re asking me, the answer is no. You should be passionate about every aspect of your content, especially if you’re looking to explore a new avenue. There’s a difference between being strategic and being relevant, and choosing to follow the money isn’t always a great strategy.
When I decided to dabble in video, I wanted to forge my own path, because thats what I do! Instead of trying to become a youtube beauty guru (I can’t contour to save my life), I focused on what I know best – fun! And thus, stop motion videos were born. I became one of the first to do stop motion videos with magic, whimsy, education and an added element of fashion. I would use it to everything from styling one dress multiple ways to sharing infused water recipes and even cover DIY halloween costumes. These became fun, engaging and unique ways to create this kind of content with a color me twist.
And now, even as some people begin to mimc the magic we’ve made (because it was only a matter of time) I have become one of the clear pioneers here, so although their repetitive efforts are a form of homage and flattery, they aren’t really something I’m threatened by. If you find something you like that someone is doing content creation wise, it’s okay to be inspired by it – but I wouldn’t recommend copying it. I’ve watched content creators make this mistake and find that once you start, it’s hard to stop and even harder reclaim your reputation as an original. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I won stop morion videos, I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last – but I worked hard to build it as an integral part of my brand, so now as other fashion bloggers try and do the same, I think it’s quite transparent, but maybe that’s just me. What I am saying, is that I think your success as a content creator will always come for originality and hard work, not from impersonation.
I’ve never been worried about competition, not because I think I’m the best blogger or video creator or dresser, but because I know I’m the best Courtney, and that no one can be a better me than me. I’ve create my brand to evolve around my personality, the positives and the negatives, so there really isn’t ever any competition. If a brand wants to work with me, there is no substitute. It does make me polarizing, either you like me or you don’t but I know that Color Me Courtney isn’t for everyone, and I never intended it to be. Instead, it’s a bright spot on the web where we cover everything from business tips, to fun food, to crazy colors, to body positivity to confidence and everything else in-between. I am my brand, and my brand is the core of my business – so everything I do has to revolve around staying true to it.
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I got a bunch of other questions about blogging, stay tuned because I’ll keep answering them for you in a series of posts!