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Monday, November 6, 2017

How I Became a Full-Time Blogger

If you're looking for a step-by-step guide on how to become a blogger, this isn't it. If you're curious about how I got here, then you're in the right place. For those of you who have been curious as to how I got here, I hope you weren't expecting a single paragraph to explain it. Going from a typical college student to doing this full-time was never the plan, I just went where life took me and ended up here. This is going to be a lengthy post so grab a snack, get comfortable, and we can take a walk down memory lane. If you've been following me since the Tumblr days, then you've pretty much been on the ride since the beginning, but let's start by throwing it back to the years before that.

Born in the 90's, 1991 to be exact, my generation grew up alongside technology. I remember the old school computers, dial-up internet, etc. I remember being into whatever social platform was popular at the time, hooked on every single one. Xanga, MySpace, Facebook, Tumblr, AIM, BBM, you name it. It sounds pretty unhealthy now that I think about it but looking back, some internet related platform always drew my attention.

My mom told me stories about how when I was younger, I would always change my outfits. Ever since I was in grade school, I loved to write. As a teenager, I added photography to my list of hobbies and this really developed in high school. I was the one in my circle of friends that always had a camera in hand and took all the photos every time we hung out.

They're all these things that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and it makes sense now that I look back on it. When people ask me, "How did you learn to do this and that," I can't give any other answer except it's just been something that has been a part of my life or something I've loved to do for years. Now we can fast forward a bit.

I don't remember exactly how I started my Tumblr account but I think I heard about it through friends and hopped on that bandwagon in Summer 2010. It started out as some reblogs and sharing my thoughts. I treated it more like a journal early on, and then got on the whole "reblogging" thing. I'd share screenshots, but honestly, they were way too embarrassing.

Marco and I started dating in February of 2011, both freshmen in college at different schools. Tumblr was pretty popular at this time so I often scrolled through the dashboard and kept mine updated. After a bad previous relationship, I was happy and excited and I started to share photos that Marco and I took on Tumblr and wrote out my feelings. This is when I began to gain a following. Our photos began to circulate pretty well and the count for likes and reblogs grew, and so did my followers.
When Marco and I started dating in February of 2011, Instagram was still fairly new. I also still just had a Blackberry and it wouldn't be until later that year that I got my first iPhone. I still use my Tumblr account to this day, but mostly for reblogging other images and just getting inspiration every now and then.

I got the iPhone 4S in Fall 2011 and my very first IG post was New Years Eve, getting ready to ring in 2012. Can we just talk about what a hot mess this looked like? I'm pretty sure I was just getting the hang of Instagram. After a while, the focus shifted from really random daily life things to Instagram posts that were actually somewhat curated.

Instagram began to gain traction and followers from Tumblr started following me on this new platform. I continued to share aspects of my daily life, more aware that the things that I posted needed to have some intent. From a random bowl of noodles and bubble tea with a horrible IG border and filter, I got smarter about my posts and took the images I saw on Tumblr and use it as inspiration. I wasn't so monochromatic back then. Can we just talk about these colorful looks?
I went to a typical college north of New York City from Fall 2010 to Spring 2012 studying Business Marketing & Advertising. I was close enough to home to visit every now and then but far enough to dorm and get that "college experience." It was fun because I roomed with my best friend but that college life wasn't for me. 

In Fall 2012, I transferred to FIT to study Interior Design and moved back home in New York City. I guess at this point, the things I'm trying to share are all aspects of my life that I believe helped me get to where I am today, connecting the dots a bit as I look back on my past couple of years.

The summer I moved back home, I was walking around Union Square and was approached about a job at Aéropostale in Times Square by a girl who is still one of my very good friends to this day. I worked in retail ever since I graduated high school but little did I know what this job would do for me. I was hired as a typical sales associate but then got called in by their corporate offices to style looks for their Instagram account. Funny how things work out, right?
Fast forward a bit, they convinced me that my then-private Instagram account should be made public because of the content I was creating. They were frequently sharing my Aéro outfits, tagging me, which drove a lot of traffic to my profile. I eventually became a part of their style council and became a social media specialist for our flagship store. I was still studying full-time so this was always just a part-time position because I eventually had to manage an Internship in Interior Design for school as well. This job helped me save up for my laptop, my first real camera, outfits to share, etc. My Aéro family still holds a very special place in my heart and although the brand is something I have outgrown, I learned so much working there for 4 years and working my way up until I graduated college.

Going to school got overwhelming at times, but I loved it and the time I had at FIT. I learned a lot in terms of developing my aesthetic, graphic design, research, creating mood boards, refining my style, better understanding how to put things together, the list goes on. 

Constantly being in the city absolutely influenced so many aspects of my life and I was absorbing everything I was learning and then put it into my work. I realize now that a lot of the courses I took have helped me a lot, not just with learning Interior Design, but with blogging as well. You have to learn to take in information and reapply it wherever it fits, and that's what I did. Constant projects and research taught me how to get inspiration from other places and add my own personal style to it. My photography classes taught me how to better shoot content, how to work a camera, get that good lighting etc. My graphic design courses helped me know what direction I wanted my blog design to look like, Photoshop classes for Design presentations showed me how to better edit images, etc.
While I was in studying in school, Instagram become more and more popular and it went from being a random app that I didn't know how to use, to something I posted on every single day. My aesthetic and style was coming together and you can see it shift and change into what it is today by scrolling through.

From Fall 2012 to Spring 2016, I was working part time and studying full time. I slowly shifted away from Tumblr and posted more often on IG. I shared my travels, arranged items in my shots better, I was playing with angles, using filters, etc. Marco began helping me take photos and he still does to this day. I took the things I learned in school and began to really apply it to Instagram. The more I was in the city, my style was changing too. I loved sharing my outfits and after consistent #OOTDs, my followers suggested I start a blog back when "blogging," was just starting to become a thing. That's what I did in 2013. 

The things that I shared and wrote about on my Instagram and blog were things that I loved, not because I was trying to make money and get free stuff, I didn't even know I could make money off of it really. I just loved to do it with no end goal to make a living off it.

My college years at FIT were when I really developed my social platforms. In the Summer of 2014, I had 5,000 followers on Instagram. Seems like nothing now, but I was so excited about it. I remember being on my way to a morning shift when I got my first e-mail about working together because they saw my account and liked what they saw. They're small details but it was those little things that led to what I've got now.

From 5,000 followers one summer (2014) to over 20,000 a year later, it was exciting watching things continue to grow. By the holiday season of 2015, I was at about 30,000 followers and brands started to really take notice of the time and effort I was putting into work. This is when I started to see more brands approaching me about paid campaigns and collaborations. It was my last year at FIT and I was going to graduate in a few months. Blogging was a solid way to make money while I was still in school, but the plan was to graduate and work as an Interior Designer after getting that degree.

I was working on my thesis, I had an internship a few days a week after classes, and still worked part-time at Aéropostale. I was stressed and overwhelmed but blogging continued to be that escape for me, a stress reliever and something I continued to love to do. 

I finished my thesis, killed the presentation and graduation rolled around. After 6 years in college, I wanted that summer to be relaxing and stress free. I focused on my blog and although I applied to positions throughout the summer, I had my start date listed as Fall 2016. I worked on more campaigns as I continued to grow but the decision to go for it full time didn't happen until September, when I told myself I would hopefully start a full-time position as an Interior Designer.
I got an e-mail at the end of that summer about a trip to Italy, all expenses paid to experience the harvest for Martini & Rossi. Inching towards 50,000 followers, this trip was life changing. I got to travel to Milan, Italy with Marco and when I realized that my blog was literally taking me places, I couldn't let it go. I knew I would regret leaving behind what I built over the years to work for someone else. When I got back from this trip, I made the decision to blog full time and just go for it, and I am so glad that I did.

My parents were always completely supportive and never made me feel like what I was doing was silly or "not a real job." They'd tell their friends and family what I was up to, talk about how well things are going and I'm extremely fortunate to have a family that has believed in me from the beginning. We're a typical middle-class family and my dad has always instilled this work-ethic into me that if I wanted something, to work towards it.
Here we are, a year later since my decision to blog full time and I could not be happier with my decision. Getting here was completely unplanned, it's a destination I didn't even know I was heading towards. Although I'm a pretty organized person, going with the flow and just going where life led me (and trying to make the most of it) proved to be absolutely rewarding.

Over the past 6 years, I've shared so many aspects of my life through social media, never wanting to steer away from my personal style and honesty. It just became a more curated and aesthetically pleasing look into my daily life. I took the things I learned from work, school, the people I've met, and put it into my content. 

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted it to be a mixture of everything that I loved, whether it was that aesthetic coffee I had that morning or the new bag I saved up for, my typical leggings and sweater outfit of the day or a photo from a new city Marco and I have travelled to, I didn't want to be known for just one thing. You've seen me grow, my relationship grow, my style change, etc. You've been with me through birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. You've seen my hair change colors, go from long to short, back to long, back to short. You and I go way back.

I've been extremely fortunate to have worked with so many brands I honestly love and have loved prior to working with them. I'm so fortunate to have family and friends that constantly support me. And of course, eternally lucky to have the followers that I do because without you, I wouldn't be here. So through everything, thank you for being here and for continuing to be along for the ride. I'm always so excited for what's next.
I believe that the best way to succeed in this industry is to be yourself because content shines when people post about things they genuinely love. What do you love about the feeds that inspire you? I know that the people that inspire me have unique content that I don't see from anyone else. I can tell they love the content they're creating and that's what attracts me as a follower.

Look back on your life. What things have you learned that you can apply to what you're currently doing? Can you take things from your past and make it apply to your present and your future? I am a firm believer that moments from your past are stepping stones that prepare you for what's next.

If this is an industry you want to be a part of, do not focus on the numbers. Don't do it because you want to be famous and get free things. Do it because it's something you would genuinely like to do. Take inspiration and build from it. Embrace the things that make you different because your originality and creativity will take you farther than any gimmick that promises Insta-fame overnight. Let things happen organically, and I wish you all the best. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments down below!

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