Once upon a time, the fashion conscious among us looked to the likes of Vogue and the catwalk for style ideas. And unless you had an unlimited budget to dish out on designer goods, your options were limited. Fast forward to the present day and the internet is flooded with fashion bloggers, who are becoming more influential than some of the world’s top magazine directors with their views on the latest trends, outfit inspiration and advice on what to buy and where to find it.
So you’re obsessed with fashion, love to write and take a mean photo, but how do you break into this saturated corner of the market? And how do you make your fashion blog stand out from the hoards? One lady who knows the answer to these questions and more is Emma Campbell, founder of award winning fashion and beauty blog, What Emma Did. Having launched in 2010, she’s been around the blogging block a few times and was only too happy to let us quiz her on her expertise. Opening up about what it takes to make it and the hard work that goes into turning a passion into a success, here Emma shares her tips on everything from styling to SEO...
So to start with, what made you begin the blog in the first place?
I studied English Language and Media Studies at A Level, before going on to study a BA in Fashion and Brand Promotion and Journalism at degree level. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I had a strong passion for the fashion and beauty industry too. I felt like a combination of the two – whether focused more on writing, marketing or PR – would be beneficial, in order to lead me down the right path after graduating.
Throughout my education, I always made time for the odd period of work experience too and it was that that actually kick-started my blog; I had been freelance writing for fashion publications and I wanted somewhere to showcase my work. It soon grew from a place which showcased my work, to a place where I regularly discussed fashion and beauty brands, my outfit posts, tutorials… pretty much everything!
You sound really passionate about it; what is it you love about fashion?
I love that fashion can do the talking for someone’s personality, and differentiates everyone as unique and individual. Fashion is a way of showcasing your true personal style, and writing about my own personal style and what I love styling up is something I love to do. I also love discussing influences from other countries, events, celebrities, trends… it’s a topic that creates so much inspiration.
How much technical know-how did you need before starting out?
When I started, my technical skills were fairly low and if I am honest, it’s still my lowest strength, although I’m improving! I started off using a simple Wordpress template, but then I bought my own domain and switched over to become self-hosted. Back then (nearly 6 years ago) that’s all I thought I needed to know. Now, it really helps to be educated to a certain level with SEO and web design, if you want your blog to become more independent and customised. Luckily, I have always worked in aspects of social media alongside my blog, therefore the technical side of SEO was always something I could tackle.
We hear a lot about fashion bloggers blagging freebies and passes to swanky events – is that true? What do you have to do to get to that stage?
I guess it is true to an extent, yes, I am not going to lie! However, it isn’t all as glamorous as it sounds, believe it or not. Yes, the invites come flooding in and they always include prosecco and canapés and a little treat of a goody bag, but we do have to network at these events. We’re usually expected to take lots of photos, take in an in-depth account of what’s happening, and find the time afterwards to produce a great feature on the event.
I do love them though, and they are definitely a perk of the blogging world. I would say it takes approximately six months to build your blog up to the standard where you get noticed by PR agencies and brands enough to ‘blag’ the nifty invite without trying. Although more so nowadays, brands reach out in blogger Facebook groups and via Twitter, so it is easier for unestablished bloggers to hear about these events.
You started your blog way back in 2010, how has the blogging scene changed since then? Have you had to adapt your approach?
It has changed hugely! Back then, small handfuls of bloggers would attend brand launches, previews and events along with the press, but now it is completely different. Brands have dedicated blog events purely just for bloggers because nowadays, there are so many! It is so much more competitive now; with every post you publish you have to think of a way to make yourself stand out. The plus side is that bloggers are much more powerful now in 2015 than they were in 2010 therefore so many more opportunities to work with brands are coming forward.
You say you work in media and as a makeup artist too – how do you find time to work on your blog?
I honestly don’t know how I have time – my routine is crazy. I get up at 6am every morning and work for two hours on my blog before leaving for my day job. I have an A3 sketchbook dedicated to my blog’s to-do list. Saturday mornings I go to Café Nero for peace and quiet and spend about five hours on the blog, unless I have a makeup job or a family/friend occasion. Most evenings are taken up with blogging too. It’s difficult, but I’m hoping to run What Emma Did full time soon – watch this space!
What tips do you have for people just starting their own fashion blog? How would they make it a success?
The best tips I can put forward are:
1. Find your niche – Are you amazing at photography and have a cool, unique style? If so, focus your blog on your lovely imagery and project your style photos as visual posts. Better at makeup tutorials and reviewing products? Make this your focus. Are you always venturing round the city, eating at new places and discovering the unknown? Give your blog a city focus. Give your readers the confidence to return to your site knowing that what you do, you do it well.
2. Don’t give up – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your blog. Stick at it. Network. Approach brands. Be active on social media. But give yourself at least six months to find your feet.
3. Invest in a logo designer and a good camera – People really do judge your blog from its appearance, and I wish I had invested in these areas back in 2010, rather than making these amends later on.
What other fashion blogs do you enjoy? Have you got any tips for up and coming ones to look out for?
I like some of the ‘bigger’ ones such as Liberty London Girl and LaurenConrad.com, purely because they provide daily inspiration for bloggers, content and design wise. They touch on lifestyle topics which make it reflect real life, and uncover a range of topics, which often spark ideas for me and my content. The array of photography is just beautiful.
There are a couple of small blogs I love reading and predict they will do really well, such as Tiny Twisst and My Pale Skin Blog – she shows makeup tutorials from totally raw beginnings, such as covering up acne and hiding breakouts. It’s a ‘true reality’ blog, which seems to be taking off on YouTube too.
So what has been the highlight of your own blogging experience so far?
Definitely winning the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards for Best New Fashion Blog in 2010 – this opened up so many doors for me. From the back of this, I teamed up with Matalan and kicked off their style blog, taking over the blog every Friday. It also took me to London Fashion Week for my first time. Another highlight was appearing on ITV North West Today and Tonight at Aintree Ladies Day, discussing on live TV about ladies trends.
Lastly, if you could give one piece of fashion advice to our readers, what would it be?
Go for timeless, classic wardrobe staples every time! There is nothing wrong with shopping key trend items every now and again, but make sure you invest in those hero pieces. The perfect fitting skinny jean, a flattering cream trench coat, and a gorgeous creamy shirt that can look glamourous with fitted trousers, jeans, a skirt or little shorts. It’s all about owning those staple items which allow you to dress them up, whichever trend is big.
Thanks Emma – I’m off to buy that trench coat now!
If you want to follow in Emma’s award winning footsteps, a fashion course could be just the beginning. With many available that focus on fashion writing and blogging, you could hone your skills right from the start and it could soon be you blagging your way into prestigious events!