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Back To Basics: Confessions Of A Fashion Blogger

Let me be the first to tell you that being a fashion blogger is not all the glitz and glamour that it appears to be.

Human Interest

Let me be the first to tell you that being a fashion blogger is not all the glitz and glamour that it appears to be. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of perks to being an influencer, from the free clothes to event invitations to being in the same room and connecting with fashion's cool kids.

There are, also, a lot of sleepless nights spent plotting, planning, and producing. So, why do it, you may ask? Because the reward is so much greater than the risk and the work. Let me tell you about how I look forward to Mondays now. For the first time in my life, I'm doing something that I actually, dare I say it, enjoy!

Almost nine years of my life was spent building a very dry career as an Engineer in Corporate America. After obtaining a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Howard University (Aww HU!), I obtained what most considered a "good job". The paycheck was great, the benefits were amazing, I had three or more weeks of paid vacation but I was 100% and absolutely miserable. It was the very essence of square peg round hole!

A few weeks after celebrating a pretty monumental birthday in Paris and Rome, I had a very real come-to-Jesus moment in my life. Someone very close to me had a completely unexpected near death experience. The realization that death can come at any moment has a funny way of shifting your perspective on life. About a month or so after breaking down, jumping on plane last minute, and braving through the severity of the situation, I got a knock on my door. Life showed up and asked me, “Are you going to continue to be miserable or are you going to try to turn this thing around? It's your choice."

A huge part of who you are is how you react to moments of adversity. That situation forced me to be more involved with the direction of my life. I did not have to keep showing up at that job, looking at those gray walls and being stationed at that cubicle for hours doing work that gave me not one ounce of joy. I actually had the power to change it.

I did, however, have to figure out how the bills were going to get paid because they don't stop showing up just because you've had your “Aha" moment. I spent a few more years working and simultaneously building the foundation for my personal style blog, The Werk! Place.

Along this process of continuing to walk in my purpose and getting these bills paid, I've learned a few key lessons:

Lesson #1: It Will Take Some Time Before You Are Paid For Your Work

I learned very quickly as an influencer that just because you've invested time, energy, money and resources into your craft, doesn't mean that people want to pay you for it. You may have to do some a lot of work pro bono.

Starting out, not one person is going to be familiar with your brand, work ethic, or finished product, so you're going to have to show them what you're werking with! Find the right contacts, do the werk and build the portfolio. Once you've shown the consistency and quality needed to sustain your business, then you have the tools necessary to ask for what you deserve.

Lesson #2: Your Network Is Your Net Worth

I'll be honest, I still struggle with this one a little bit. I absolutely hate asking people to connect me to a person, event, or a project. I will do everything in my power to try to get what I need before I go to someone else for the plug. Just know, If I'm asking for help, I've exhausted the possibilities on my own. One day, I'll spend some time on someone's couch and get to the root of it all.

As of late, I'm learning that some people are placed into your life to be vessels. They are meant to take you to a level that you can't reach on your own. So get out there and network at events, mingle with other influencers, publicists and brands on social media, and utilize the network you've already built. Once you reveal to others what you are trying to do, you'd be surprise at how many people are willing to help you get there.

Lesson #3: You Have To Be Your Own Publicist

As an influencer, it goes down in the inbox (and sometimes the DM). If it's set up well, the site and the accompanying social media channels can serve as a living resume. Brands will reach out for collaborations based on what they see online.

Brands were reaching out but they were not always brands that I wanted to align with The Werk! Place. I had to be more active about seeking out the companies that I genuinely enjoyed to create organic partnerships.

I put on my Public Relations hat and called on my best friend Google to create a media kit that would represent my aesthetic. Shortly after I sent it out to potential partners I wanted to work with, it lead to projects that made more sense for my brand.

Lesson #4: You Will Have To Put The Balance Back Into Werk/Life Balance

When you've finally started to enjoy what you do, your brain will always be churning with ideas. You will find that you can literally work for seven days straight if it were not for needing sleep and taking showers.

I learned that while that sounds good in theory, in practice, you can't be very productive if you work all the time. You will burn out and begin to despise what you do. You have to give your body and mind time to rest. I've gotten some of my best ideas in the middle of a run or in the car on the way to an event. Take a break, live a little.

Lesson #5: You Can't Be A Jack or Jill Of All Trades All The Time

I'm pretty independent and have prided myself on being able to do all of the things at the same time all by myself. I mean, my favorite bible verse and one that I repeat several times throughout the day is Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!" As a small business owner, you're going to have to wear many hats (like all of them). You are going to have to be your own accountant, publicist, manager, assistant, social media manager, and so forth until you start bringing in enough income to hire on people to help you. You'll soon figure out, however, that in order to stay ahead of the game, you're going to have to eventually outsource and delegate some of those tasks.

So much of my time has been spent on the business of blogging that, at times, the actual blogging gets left behind. How Sway?! If you can get someone to manage more of the business, social media scheduling or accounting, you can actually get back to the core of the business.

Lesson #6: Scared Money Doesn't Make Any Money

When I started out as a Personal Style Blogger back in 2012, I set myself up pretty well. Due to my certifiable shopping addiction, I had the clothes, shoes and accessories to create the looks necessary for three years' worth of blog posts. However, I wasn't completely prepared for the other business expenses that I would incur.

If you are going to be successful as an influencer, you will absolutely without a doubt have to invest money into your brand. Your site design, domain name, logo, trademark, (hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure --if your brand is based off of your personal appearance), business cards, thank you notes, media kit, accounting software and continuing education courses will all be valid expenses when starting up your business. Before the companies start blowing up your inbox and sending packages to your P.O. Box, you will have to be your own biggest supporter and sponsor.

These are some of the biggest lessons I've learned during my time as a fashion brand, and tidbits I wish I had known ahead of time.

For more style tips and advice on starting your own fashion brand, follow @tiffanymbattle on Instagram.

Originally published April 13, 2018

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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