The idea for this post about a peek into my work life came from a sweet reader who wanted to see more of “working mom Liz!” Haha. To be honest, working mom Liz is a hot mess who is constantly flying by the seat of her pants to get things done. It’s organized chaos over here but I’m lucky to have an amazing team of people keeping me organized and reminding me not to take things too seriously. I think it’s a job that can look really fluffy—trips! PR packages! gifting! working with really cool brands!—it does look pretty FUN on the outside (and it is FUN!). But it’s also constant and unstable and a lot of pretty pictures that don’t necessarily portray the reality of life every single day. This year marks 8 years of working for myself full time (EIGHT!)—it was a huge risk I took in September of 2011. I remember telling my dad that I had 3 months of savings and if I didn’t make something of Sequins & Stripes in 6 months I would go back to my job (which they told me I could!). I believe timing was everything for me and despite all of the people asking me, “What’s a blog? Are you crazy?” I am so so incredibly proud of this space. I get emotional thinking about all of the times that people doubted me or when after 3 years I put my first $100 into savings instead of only making enough to get by. It’s been a JOURNEY and it sort of always feels like a new journey is starting as this world is constantly changing. I’m going to let your questions take it from here and hope that this gives you some insight into my working mom life!
How many emails do you get a day?
Legit emails—probably 10 pitches, 20-30 regarding upcoming projects, project obligations and calendar scheduling and about 10 that are standard conversation.
How often do you get free stuff?
Rarely! I hate getting free stuff. When I work with a brand I am usually in charge of purchasing my own items. The only brands that I currently work with that offer a gift card to shop are lululemon and Everlane—two brands who I love and welcome gifted product from! Otherwise, I personally don’t have the space for free stuff and would prefer to purchase my own pieces for the paid partnerships that I am part of.
How do you come up with your pricing?
Honestly, there are so many determining factors in pricing! Pageviews, unique views, impressions, followers, engagement, conversion rates, etc. It depends on what the brand is looking for—blog post, Instagram in-feed posts, Instagram stories, Facebook posts—everything kind of has an a la carte price on my rate card. You can also charge extra if a brand is looking for photos rights, exclusivity, etc. I personally feel like numbers/followers/likes are such a different way to interpret pricing vs. engagement, impressions, and conversion rate. I think that the latter (engagement, impressions and conversion rate) are a more accurate representation of what a brand can expect from a partnership with influencers. It’s the best way to see what our reach can do! Thanks to YOU! It’s the best reflection of your loyalty and trust in me.
Do you talk to other influencers (aka coworkers) via Skype or Slack?
Not necessarily other influencers but Carolyn (my assistant!) and I talk on Slack every day!
Do you feel like you work 7 days a week? Is there a big difference between M-F and the weekend?
Yes, but I would say it is a dedicated 3 days a week and a distracted 4 days a week! I do feel a difference between the weekdays and the weekend because I don’t typically post on the weekends (on my blog) and I restrict those days from sponsored content. However, a lot of the content we do produce happens on the weekend. I’m also always sharing on social regardless of the day. My schedule definitely doesn’t look like most—it’s usually answering emails from 5:30-7am, checking in on email when I can, working during nap time and working after bedtime on the days my kids are home but the days they are in daycare I obviously have more time to focus on work.
Why is every blogger working with Walmart?
I can’t tell you how many questions I got about this! And honestly, it makes me a little defensive for a few reasons. First, let me explain that influencer marketing is still a pretty new tool (it’s really blown up in the past 3 years) and a lot of retailers are finally realizing their budget could probably be better utilized through this route. Walmart is most likely one of those retailers! And they are doing so in a strategic way where instead of utilizing a few influencers here and there they are probably putting all of their ducks in one basket and trying to get as many eyes on their product as possible. Why do I work with Walmart? Because they are a retailer who is changing their shopping experience for their customers – like their purchase of Lord & Taylor or patterning with celebrities like Ellen, Sofia Vergara or even more recently relaunching SCOOP’s iconic brand with items for less. I am CONSTANTLY getting requests for items under $50 or $100 and partnering with Walmart allows me to get creative and find some seriously amazing pieces—like this navy dress! this camo sweater! this white top! this Gucci-esque bag! How is shopping there any different than shopping at Amazon or maybe another similar retailer? An exciting part of partnering with these retailers is being exposed to products/brands that I maybe didn’t think to shop for or pushes me to explore more affordable options for you! It amazes me how many frustrated comments I get about this saying “you would never shop there!” And maybe it took them pitching me and opening my eyes to the products they DO carry to say yes to working with them but who cares! It benefits you, you guys are LOVING my finds from there and everyone is happy. Another reason I like to work with Walmart is because they give me complete control over what I can feature. They may ask from home decor or new fashion arrivals for women but after that it is up to me to decide what I should and shouldn’t share with you. They give me complete creative control and that is a good partner to have. If you’re skeptical of shopping there (and yes, I was too!) I promise that if you take 10 minutes to browse you’ll realize that they have many many MANY of the same brands you shop for every day from beauty to home to fashion. Partnering with brands like Walmart allows me to keep producing content for you, allows me to continue to talk to you through my phone every day and keeps HAF running! I really appreciate your questions and comments and I hope this gives you a little more understanding into the thought process when saying YES to a brand.
How have the brands you’ve worked with evolved since you started blogging until now?
When I first started it was working with a lot of smaller brands (who now have become big brands!). It was a lot of small ads placed on my site where I would charge $100 a month and hopefully send traffic their way. This was well before affiliate links and influencer marketing was even a thing and I would make $500 a month. Once affiliate marketing was introduced these brands that we had created relationships with were able to see how much traffic certain influencers generated for them and I truly think it helped them grow their brands to what they are now! A few examples are Loren Hope, Lulu & Georgia, Minted – these are a few examples of brands that I worked with in the early years who literally grew up with influencers! It’s so exciting to see!
Do you approach brands or do they reach out to you?
At this point in my business, I try to partner with brands to create a long term relationship—if that makes sense? If I work with a brand once then I have no problem pitching an idea to them after the fact. But I don’t find myself pitching too many projects because I kind of feel overwhelmed with the amount of sponsored content we already have on our plate. My goal for next year is to take on fewer one-time projects and instead focus on brands who really want to partner on an ambassador level. In the beginning I pitched myself all the time! If you’re a smaller blogger, always remember that there is a space for everyone! Sometimes being a “micro-influencer” is way more beneficial to brands than the big dogs.
How in the world do I boost engagement on IG without being a sell out?
Ugh this is a struggle! I think my biggest advice is consistency (which I struggle with), communication with your audience (I struggle with this too) and utilizing all of the features of Instagram. Over the past year my views of IG have shifted and although I do feel very active on stories it’s just not something that I let define my self worth in this business. I also think it’s different when you’ve had a blog for 8 years and dedicated so much time to a different platform. Honestly, a brand is going to look at your reach and engagement as a whole so don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Do your best to represent yourself across all platforms. I think growth comes from frequent and consistent posting but if that alters your way of life then don’t stress about it. Right now, I don’t have the time to dedicate to IG—I just can’t get to all of my DM’s, I don’t want to do a fricking group giveaway every week and my kids don’t want me on my phone. And that’s ok! Do you girl.
Have there been any brands that you have regretted working with?
Yes! It’s been a few years but it’s usually the projects or posts I look back on and feel like I was manipulated in the content creation process and don’t feel proud of my work. I always want paid partnerships to feel organic but sometimes brands just really want to shove it in your face. Back then I didn’t have the balls to voice my opinion.
Do brands pay you per sponsored post by the amount of followers you have?
No! Thankfully there is technology that *most* brands have now that can analyze your engagement far beyond just your following. The biggest factors are engagement (likes, comments, shares), impressions (how many times your content is displayed) and conversion rates (basically how many visitors make a purchase). Now that there are so many instances where people are buying followers and most likely building a very un-engaged following I’m grateful brands can see beyond just a following. If a brand were to partner with someone who looked good on paper (ie: large following but low engagement) the ROI for a brand would be far below what it may appear they would get!
How would you think about transferring your skills back to corporate if blogging changes?
I think it would be so much fun to work on the social side for a brand! I’ve had smaller companies reach out to me for help and sadly I just don’t have the capacity to take on any outside business right now but if this world changed tomorrow I’d love to help grow a brand that I love! I’d also love to start my own brand or open my own bakery/coffee/gift /flower shop – ha, I’ve talked about this before but I love the branding side of this business too!
How much creative control do you have?
100%! Unless a brand gets super specific or I submit a preview for a post and they try to manipulate it too much—I have no problem pushing back. You all trust me and my opinion and I would only ever work with brands that want to use my platform and voice for what it is. I only say yes to brands that we either already use, I’ve been wanting to try or that I know you would love or be interested in learning about!
Do you feel like you are paid adequately for your work?
Umm—yes and no. I think my managers have really helped me to gain more control of my self-worth in this industry! But I still think there are people who underpay me and try to manipulate me to believe that X amount is the price I deserve. I get frustrated because I really put a lot of effort into making sure my work is authentic and genuine and there is always a backstory as to why I’m presenting you with a certain product because I always want to tell the whole story! And your trust in me shows and I don’t think that is respected as much as it should be.
Do you work with someone (ie: an agent) to help with negotiations?
Yes! Last October I signed with a manager and it has been a GAME CHANGER. I used to negotiate all of my own contracts and so many things slipped through the cracks because I was trying to do everything myself. But last year I brought on my manager Molly who I adore and I also hired an accountant to do my books because I was still doing all of my own Quickbooks and taxes and because that’s not my strong suit. So right now my team (which none of us are in the same place, ha!) are Molly and Alex (managers), Jenna and Leah (rewardStyle), Rob (accountant + taxes) and Carolyn (my assistant!) and Dave (talks me off the ledge + photographer). And my boys (:
How do you decide if a brand is the right fit for you?
If they check these boxes: we either already use, I’ve been wanting to try or that I know you would love or be interested in learning about! Or if it’s an introduction to a new category and fits into my aesthetic – for example last year when I hadn’t really gotten into home decor and Ballard Designs approached me about working together on our dining room. I have to see the value in the partnership before we even talk numbers!
How far in advance does the process start before you actually post content?
I would say at least 4 – 6 weeks but during busy season (which is now! Q4 is where most brands allocate the majority of their budget because it’s when the big spending occurs) projects can pop up with a one or two week turn around window which can be crazy. Sometimes for longer/larger projects they can start 2-6 months in advance!
Do you ever worry about sustainability in the influencer field? Do you think it’s a bubble?
Yes and no! Yes in that I think (and I hope) a shift is coming where the unattainable images of always tanned, always dressed up and always rocking the fake eyelashes disappear. I just don’t see the value in that to be honest and I think it encourages women to feel like they have to have all of that done to feel adequate at times. I completely respect the bloggers and women who do that – a lot of them are my friends – but sometimes I just want to tell them they are beautiful without it all. I think the un-filtered is so much prettier. I try not to include myself in that bubble because I just can’t keep up with that lifestyle. I’m kind of in my own bubble and if people want to jump on that train then great! I don’t put so much pressure on myself to be a part of that influencer field and just kind of focus on my own personal goals and the goals of our family. I share what I like and that’s it! Beyond that, I am definitely researching other ways to grow my brand outside of blogging or being labeled an “influencer.” I don’t want that word to define the work I do or how I support my family. I think it’s amazing what an influencer can accomplish in this industry and I truly (truly truly!) feel so grateful that I get to call this my career!! But I don’t want to just be someone who “influences” you to buy something or try something. I just want to be a friend that helps support you in suggestions, advice or whatever else you need. Although the hecticness of my life right now with two littles doesn’t allow me to be as present in my responses most days (sorry about that!). I hope my space is beyond the bubble.