I published my first blog post on January 1st, 2011. In the seven years which have followed, I’ve built a career, and spent much of my life, on The Elgin Avenue.
There was no road map for the career I’ve pursued and I am so proud of the industry I work within, and fellow content-creators I work alongside. Largely, we’ve had to figure it all out for ourselves.
Today’s post is a reflective one about what blogging has looked like from 2011 through to present day in 2018.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Did you know that the term ‘blog’ comes from an amalgamation of the words ‘Web Log’?
Blogs began as a space for people to simply, and genuinely, ‘log’ their lives and interests.
In 2011, I was joining a ‘new wave’ of bloggers. There were already a handful of style-focused sites up and running which were proving to be hugely popular. I looked up to bloggers like Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere, Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad and Julie Sariñana of Sincerely Jules.
Back then, the blogs I was interested in were all about fashion and street style. Street style as a concept was booming. Fashion industry insiders, and bloggers, were becoming celebrities in their own right.
As a student at The London College of Fashion I was completely engrossed in fashion, style and street style stars and I based much of my blog around my own interest in clothes.
Personal style was my launch pad.
My first EVER photo on The Elgin Avenue! Taken on a self-timer ofc. // A changing room selfie before Instagram existed!
EARLY YEARS ON THE ELGIN AVENUE
My first few years of blogging were totally fashion focused. I’d document my outfits and share my daily thoughts.
The Elgin Avenue was an outlet for me to chat away and experiment with personal style.
As fashion was my focus I spoke a lot about trends, how to style things and my latest purchases. I never had a lot of money to spend on clothes, so most of my purchases were vintage or scored in the sales.
My style was VERY colourful. I was experimenting with prints, colours and patterns – it was so much fun! Though I’ve since toned things down, and found a more pared back style, it was a great time to be playful and eccentric.
In terms of blog layout – I got myself started on Blogger – theelginavenue.blogspot.com ????????.
For photographs I’d use a self-timer on a little point and click camera or ask my friends to take photos on my iPhone. Eventually I teamed up with a lovely photographer called Lea who I worked with often. But overall it was VERY low-tech.
It’s so funny to look back now at how DIY it all was. Even the biggest blogs were simplistic in their designs, and everyone’s blog posts read in chronological order.
This was also when the ‘blogger boyfriend’ was born. Pre-dating the Instagram husband!
This was a typical ‘Fashpack School’ look of mine at the time. That’s my University hallway! // One of my more colourful looks when attending the Vogue festival. I loved that outfit!
WINNING AN AWARD
One year into starting the blog I won an award which, on reflection, changed the trajectory of my career. In 2012 I won the Marie Claire Fashion Blogger of the Year Award and earning that accolade helped me and the blog to garner recognition.
I remember my Twitter feed went crazy, and I started to get emails from PRs.
Through the awards I met my fellow nominee Wendy Gilmore of ThankFiFi blog, Wendy was my first blogging friend, and it’s been such a joy over the years to share her journey as a fellow blogger too. Wendy and her husband Scott took me for brunch after I won the award, and I’ve always remembered their kindness and generosity in doing so. Scott even took a picture of me with my award – I was so proud!
Afterwards I promptly hopped on a train to Southampton where my parents live to celebrate with my family and Oli. It was the most amazing feeling!
Over brunch with Wendy and Scott after winning my first award! // An early version of The Elgin Avenue’s logo. It felt so sophisticated at the time!
MY FIRST GIFTS
The Marie Claire award meant that brands suddenly knew who I was, and I started to receive my first gift offers(!!!).
At the beginning I would say “yes!” to everything PRs offered. I had no barometer for what was a ‘good fit’ for me and the blog, I was just so excited that people wanted to send me free things!
I quickly filled up my bedroom with clothes, and random bits and bobs and I’ve since gone on to learn when to politely decline offers.
But still, it’s SO exciting when you get your first offers through. And to this day it’s such a great feeling to connect with brands I genuinely love.
One of my first ever gifts was a beautiful embroidered clutch bag from Accessorize, which the lovely PR sent to me after I tweeted about it. I couldn’t believe they were gifting me this clutch bag which I loved so much! I’ve still got it.
FINDING MY FEET IN BUSINESS
Nowadays ‘becoming an influencer’ is a viable career option. I’ve given talks in schools where the students have said that ‘becoming a blogger or a YouTuber’ is their career goal.
It’s so amazing that these students are looking to create their own spaces on the internet – and launch their own businesses! That’s not something which even existed when I was at school.
I can’t remember the first ever paid job I did, I mainly worked on a gifting basis in the beginning, but slowly I started to learn what ‘working on a project’ or ‘collaborating’ meant.
A huge turning point for me was signing with my then-agency White and Richardson. When I signed on I was one of three bloggers they were working with, and I finally began to learn about charging for my services.
My agents were able to point me in the right direction when it came to my fees and the framework for projects.
I began to understand what ‘deliverables’ were (that’s what’s required of you for a project), and roughly how much to charge.
I wasn’t making a lot of money, but for me, getting paid to work on something I loved, with incredible brands, felt like I’d won ALLL the jackpots!
One of my early brand collaborations – Jack Wills’ Young Brits campaign // Snapped by Dvora for Vogue’s street style – I was SO excited!
EVENTS AND PARTIES
As my blog grew in recognition, and I began working regularly with brands I started to attend press events and parties.
Making the effort to go to these events was an important part of growing my network. It allowed me to foster relationships with amazing brands. Many of which I still work with today.
It was also a REALLY confusing time in my early twenties. There was a lot of pressure on bloggers at the time to become ‘it girls’ and many of my blogging contemporaries were regularly featured in magazines and on society sites.
Being recognised can boost your profile hugely, but for me it was a pursuit which never felt right.
Instead, I loved going to events so that I could hang out with my fellow bloggers and PRs. Most of the time I could invite a friend along too which was SO much fun. It’s so lovely to share those early memories with some of my closest friends.
I wrote about my experience leaving London at length here, and I’m planning an updated post on the move soon – so any questions – email me!
But, to quickly recap, I’d been living in London for four years when I realised I wasn’t happy there anymore. The pressure of supporting myself full-time with the blog, coupled with the anxiety I was feeling around ‘not knowing who I really was’, meant that it was time for me to leave the city.
I needed to take the pressure off of myself, and focus on my health and happiness.
The moment I made the decision to leave I felt SO calm.
Crazily, I ended up getting a three month contract on a TV show the moment I left London. Though it meant I would have to commute, it also meant I had a cushion of income.
Leaving London was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my journey as a twenty something so far. Not only did it lead me to living in an area I totally adore, with friends and family close by, it also gave me the space and security to really pursue blogging full-time.
BUILDING A BUSINESS – FOR REAL
With the pressure of London life off, I had the money, time and energy to pursue blogging full-time.
I left London with a solid network. I felt confident knowing that I had made the connections I needed to in order to continue securing projects. Plus, blogging isn’t as London-centric as I had thought it was. As long as you create great content, and have a solid following, you can partner with brands. It helps to be able to meet up IRL from time to time, but I’ve found that it’s possible to make great connections via email and calls too.
Around 2014/15 is when I got really into geeking out over my business. Although I’d been working on paid projects for a number of years, I didn’t have a reliable income.
I realised that having launched into such a young industry, there was no ‘tried and tested’ path for what I was doing. I’d have to figure it out myself.
Educating myself became my #1 priority and I started listening to podcasts like Smart Passive Income and The Lively Show. Blogs like Elle & Company Design became my go-to resources for tips and tricks on developing a creative business.
Slowly but surely I started to learn about the ebbs and flow of work as a blogger. What it (really!) meant to team up with a brand. How much I should charge for things. How to stick to an editorial calendar. I learnt about systems, work flow and all the other ‘back end’ things you need to know about as a business owner.
I also went through my first ever proper ‘branding process’ with the amazing Jamie Starcevich, and I re-launched The Elgin Avenue as you know it today. The investment I put into creating a professional website paid back ten-fold.
That being said . . .
One of the hardest things about working for yourself, is the ‘quiet season’. Namely: when you have very little – or no! – work coming in.
When I went through my first quiet season I was SO worried. I thought that all of my work had dried up! Was I going to have to give up blogging to pursue a ‘safer path’?!
Fortunately I’ve since learnt that blogging, like all industries, has ups and downs. The brands which provide work for you have budgets which they refresh periodically. If a brand is coming to the end of their budget, they have to wait until it’s refreshed to commission work.
It’s simple, and it makes sense once you know about it. But learning about it for the first time was hard!
Now, I try to anticipate my quiet seasons. I put aside money when I can, and work hard during the busier periods. When things are quiet it’s a good time to recharge my batteries for the busy seasons which inevitably crop up too!
At the beginning of 2017 I decided to leave my agency and represent myself independently as a blogger. By this point I’d been working full-time on The Elgin Avenue for a couple of years. I felt confident negotiating my own contracts and managing my workload.
2017 was a huge year for me career-wise. With my newfound freedom as an independent blogger, I felt liberated to explore other business paths.
It’s important to remember as a blogger, or as any kind of creative business owner, that you can always pivot.
I’m so glad that last year I explored so many different avenues. 2017 fuelled my creative fire and showed me that I can turn my hand to a lot of different things.
BLOGGING IN 2018
And so that brings us to 2018! If you’ve read this far – you’re a gem! I know it’s a long’un.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this post was to share how blogging full-time has been a long-term investment for me.
Many many small jigsaw pieces, over seven years, have made up my career to this point.
You rarely get to see behind the scenes on what running a digital business looks like. And the truth is – it’s a long game.
You can always improve, take better photos, write better copy and explore new avenues.
Where a blog was once a simple journal, it can now be your starting point for a bigger, diverse, creative career. And that’s such a HUGE part of the beauty of it!
For me now, blogging looks like: two long-length editorial blog posts a week, plus a weekend newsletter. My wider work also encompasses a weekly podcast with one of my best friends – Let’s Discuss. Every day I’m working on content, collaborations and creating a space on the internet which I hope is inspiring, uplifting and helpful.
It’s a multi channel, creative career I never could have dreamt up when I was 16; and it’s one I’m grateful for every day.
Last year was my big year of career experimentation. This year I’m taking my time to get back to the roots of my blog.
As part of this in a couple of week’s time I’m attending a retreat in Texas. I’m so excited to explore what blogging and my career path may look like for the rest of this year and over the next seven + . . . !
What’s Your Take?
I’d love to know your thoughts!
Love, Monica x
Photography by Charlotte Bryer-Ash
P.S. here are a few other articles you may be interested in, if blogging chat is your jam . . .