There are going to be some changes around here. I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the struggles I’ve been having with running a fashion blog so that you, dear reader, will know why I’ve decided to deconstruct and rebuild this blog and its content. There are three general groups of… View Article

I’m Changing How I Run This Blog. Here’s Why.

There are going to be some changes around here.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the struggles I’ve been having with running a fashion blog so that you, dear reader, will know why I’ve decided to deconstruct and rebuild this blog and its content. There are three general groups of reasons why things need changing. Let’s examine them.

1. The Time

Fashion blogging takes a lot of time.

Let me share with you what my average summer weekend was like this past year. My fiancé would generally spend one day per weekend golfing, which I would use as my opportunity to take all of my fashion blogging photos. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But in reality those days would end up feeling like 10 hour work days. I would get up and quickly work out, then do hair and makeup and during that time I’d decide what outfits to shoot.

Actually lets rewind a bit and expand on that point. When I started blogging, I remember thinking that it wouldn’t be that hard. I already dressed well–all I would need to do was snap a few pictures, right? Well, it turns out to be so much more effort than that. You discover that not wearing makeup and not spending a long time on your hair really shows in photos. You discover that having mis-matched accessories is extremely obvious. In short, you realize just how much goes into a truly great outfit, and you begin to plan (read: obsess) accordingly about every last detail.

Back to the shoot. After putting on all the clothes and jewelry (which often involved ironing multiple garments), I would run downstairs to the street with my camera. The camera is another beast in and of itself. I have to make sure the flash card has enough space, the battery is charged, the remote shutter release is charged, and that I have both lenses (one for the close ups, one for the full body shots). I would haul that along with tripod downstairs and spend a while finding a place on the street that looked nice. The weather always factored into this decision. Harsh sunlight makes for squinty pictures unless you’re wearing sunglasses (another outfit item to obsess over). Rainy days would totally destroy shoots. Nothing was worse than having my photo shoot day be rainy. As a person with a normal job, a relationship, and social commitments I rarely had time to do outfit shoots during the week, so if my shoot day was rainy I was more or less screwed (you can imagine the stress and frustration).

Getting back to the shoot–I’d take my pictures and go upstairs to make sure they turned out ok. My camera has an affinity for focusing on the objects around me (trees, brick walls, signs) and so I would sometimes have to run back downstairs and reshoot. Look below for an example of it focusing on the brick wall beside me in one of my more recent shoots. In a whole day of shooting I could usually get a maximum of 6 – 9 outfit posts shot. It was exhausting.

As it turns out, photography is hard.

But then you have to add in the time for editing the photos, which entailed picking the best ones out, playing around with the fill light, shadows, and contrast in Photoshop until they looked good enough to blog, and then uploading them and putting the post together. I generally only had time to just shoot my outfit posts on golf days. I’d have to squeeze in all the editing and post creation on other days.

Essentially what this amounted to was that I spent all of my free time blogging.

But wait, there’s more! Just putting together the posts wasn’t enough. If I didn’t spend time on promotion nobody would read my blog (hardly anyone reads it anyway, if you compare it to any of the big fashion blogs out there). So my lunch breaks at work were spent on Bloglovin’ leaving a comment and my blog’s URL on as many other blogs as I could squeeze in. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m guilty of leaving the kind of comments on other blogs that I hate receiving on my own–the type of fake, brief comment that screams “I didn’t actually read your post and I don’t care about it. Please come to my blog!”

Over time this has amounted to me dropping everything for blogging. I’ve neglected my personal relationships. I’ve neglected all of my other hobbies. You get the idea. I’ve become a blogging machine.

This fall all of this started to become apparent to me. I had several big trips bookended with packed weekends that allowed no time for outfit photos. I planned posts nearly months in advance and exhausted myself doing so. On our return from Montana, I got up one morning early before work to do an outfit shoot and it felt stressful and forced. Over Thanksgiving break I hauled all of my camera equipment home along with a bunch of outfits and did shoots while the rest of the family watched football and spent time together. Last week I decided, due to lack of weekend time and a general lack of sunlight, that I would try to do my outfit pictures over my lunch break at work. The next morning I got all ready–including makeup, hair, jewelry, the whole bit. As I picked up my workbag heavy with camera equipment and my tripod (carried seperately because it’s too large for a normal bag), my fiancé asked me why I was adding so much stress to my life for a blog that was supposed to be a creative outlet–a stress reliever. I had no good answer.

After some reflection, it really hit home how crazy this has become. Dressing nicely and enjoying fashion used to be a fun, creative outlet for me that was totally different from my job as a web developer. Now it feels more like a second job. My outfit photos take so much time, I don’t have time left to do nearly anything I actually enjoy, including shopping and fashion-related activities.

2. The Content

Fashion blogging can sometimes cause inauthentic content.

When I decided to start fashion blogging, I took a look at my favorite blogs (Extra Petite and 9 to 5 Chic) and thought to myself that there was a real dearth of blogs like them. Most of the blogs I found were in the Blonde Salad, Song of Style, Sea of Shoes vein (read: totally unlike anything I would ever wear). I thought the world could use another blog from a normal girl wearing normal things to normal activies (like work). I didn’t realize until I started blogging and doing more research that the blogging market is absolutely satured with blogs of every type, including blogs like mine.

Because there are so many fashion blogs trying to do the same thing, I think nearly every blogger out there is feeling the pressure to put out more and better content. Given that the biggest bloggers are really just businesses (meaning that their blog is their job, not their hobby) it’s nearly impossible for a blogger like me with an actual 9 to 5 job to compete with the amount and quality of their content.

Yet never-the-less I found myself trying. This led not only to me over-extending myself and my time as I wrote about earlier, it also led to me producing less content that was what I wanted to talk about and more content that sells well. In the past few months I’ve featured trendier and trendier items. Examples? My plaid shirts. My camel scarf. My ankle booties. I’ve found myself reluctant to feature items that might be considered played out (like my Longchamp bag) despite the fact that I like the item and use it nearly every day. I’ve also been wearing heavier makeup in blog posts than I ever do in real life. The bright red lip? Not a look I like very much or, I’ve noticed, the people in my life like very much. But it looks nice in pictures, and thus it goes up on the blog.

My blog is becoming a McBlog. No different from so many others. I’m featuring the same shit in the same way so many other bloggers are. And I’m getting praise for it too. The trendier the clothing and makeup I feature are, the more hits I get, the more likes I get, the more response I get in general from my readers and followers. And this response triggers a desire in me to get even more followers and more likes.

But why do I want so many followers? While I suppose there is a monetary angle (more followers = more money from affiliate links and more free products from companies), the truth is I doubt I’ll ever become a truly huge blogger to the point where I could live off blogging. So then, whats the point? My income from the blog is small enough, and always will be small enough, that building a following shouldn’t matter to me more than producing authentic content.

I think I’d be much happier blogging just for women who enjoy my sense of style. For example, I like the Instagram post above on the right more than the one on the left. It looks more genuine, and features my own personal style (the big hair has always been a thing for me, and I enjoy a good no-makeup look). But if I’m only concerned with followers, I have to focus more on trendy, makeup-heavy looks like the one on the left that got so many more likes.

In short, I think focusing on promoting my blog and running it like a business has caused my content to not necessarily reflect my own personal tastes. I’ve been focusing way too much on what is trendy and what will sell. That needs to change.

3. Fashion Blogging can be a Vapid Affair

Me reading the Chicago issue of Granta magazine.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t care at all about clothes. In college I was an out-and-out hippie. I didn’t own a pair of heels. I disdained commercialism.

It was a phase.

But still, that part of me continues to exist in some way and it has been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with my obsession with my own appearance.

Before I began working in technology and fashion blogging, I was a budding writer trying to break into publishing. I have a Masters in English literature and I was doing everything I could to use it. I wrote book reviews for Booklist magazine. I ran a blog about publishing in Chicago (please excuse the Bingo links/posts–when I let the blog die I decided it wouldn’t hurt to monetize it a bit).

I recall during my Booklist reviewing days apologizing to my fiancé (then boyfriend) for spending so much time reading. He told me not to apologize–much as reading is a solitary activity, he told me, reading so much made me an interesting and well rounded person. I never forgot that.

In the last few months I’ve noticed nearly the opposite trend in myself. My focus on clothing trends and efforts to make myself look increasingly attractive and fashionable have drained nearly every other aspect of my personality away. If what you focus on defines you in some way, I have become nearly as vacuous as the Oort Cloud.

I’m not exagerating. Over Thanksgiving I distinctly recall having convervsations with family members in which I was stunned, as the words came out of my mouth, at how generally stupid I sounded. Not only did I have nothing to talk to anyone about (deep conversations are rarely inspired by considering whether or not a dress is cute or a scarf is on trend), when I did talk I sounded like I hadn’t had a serious thought in months.

For several days I considered very seriously the idea of stopping this blog altogether. The thought saddened me. I still enjoy the creative challenge of putting together posts. And I can recognize that focusing on looks and appearance doesn’t necessarily mean a person can’t also do enriching activities like reading, having meaningful discussions, or finding time to focus on relationships. It feels as though some kind of balance must be possible.

And so I’d like to announce that this blog will be going on a mini hiatus while I figure out exactly what changes I’d like to bring to it. I already have a few ideas in mind–longer editorials, fewer outfit posts, potentially even bringing in book reviews–but I want to give myself a bit of space to flesh those out before heading off blindly in a new direction. I’ll be back in the new year.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written above, and also your thoughts on what content I’ve produced in the last year and a half you’ve liked the most and what you’ve liked the least. If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me.

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6 Comments and Pingbacks for I’m Changing How I Run This Blog. Here’s Why..

  1. Here is a suggestion for you Miss Joules, change the name from Style by Joules to Life by Joules, that way you can blog about everyday life, sometimes it’s a book you are reading, other times it can be about that awesome goodwill find that you wore over the weekend, and some days it can be original work. I can’t speak for your other readers but I know that fashion isn’t the only thing that makes reading this blog fun for me, I want to hear your opinion on “a story about a butterfly in the subway, that got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where, I assume, it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake, as almost all hats are.” Can’t wait to see what is next for you and the blog!!

  2. Good for you! I can only imagine how much work really goes into a fashion blog behind the scenes. My blog is craft related and I know how much time I spend making something, taking photos, writing posts, etc. I think when the blog starts to cause conflict in that we no longer enjoy it, we do need to step back and re-evaluate its true value. I’m a relatively new follower but have enjoyed your posts these last few months! Best of luck to you.

  3. You should produce content that makes you happy! I don’t mind fewer outfit posts. I’ll happily read longer editorials and book reviews. For example, I read almost all of the content at http://www.featherfactor.com and fashionabecedaire.tumblr.com.

    I appreciate fashion posts that discuss functionality, such as the recent posts about winter wardrobe basics and how you use your handbags. I’ll skim reviews of collections (like at Target and The Limited). I enjoy reading about your decision making processes, like when you went wedding dress shopping.

    I like your link round-ups, especially when the links are nerdy/dorky/geeky. By the way, my favorite line in this post was “nearly as vacuous as the Oort Cloud.” :)

  4. I think you are headed in a great direction, taking time to change and grow. I agree with Bernadette on the name and content change – whatever you are doing we will enjoy !

  5. I’m fairly new to blogging and can already relate to most of your experiences. I wholeheartedly agree with Bernadette’s suggestion regarding lifebyjoules.com but ultimately the final decision will be yours, and should be one, that will truly make you happy. I wish you the best with your reinvention and look forward to seeing where you land.

    http://www.museisaverb.com

  6. […] I’ve written in the past about the inordinate amount of time it takes to run a blog well, but what I wrote barely scratched the surface. Mostly I shed light on the amount of time content production takes, and it’s true that producing great content does take time. In fact, in recent months I’ve been spending more time than ever on content production, which has led my content to get better and better (something I hope you’ve noticed). I now spend large amounts of time perfecting my outfit posts to the tiniest detail and editing the photos for those posts with a discerning eye for the overall “flow” of the post. […]