DO WHAT YOU LOVE: ON WORKING FOR IT
30th October 2013
I’m so happy to have blogger / photographer Sabrina Meijer from AfterDRK.com sharing her insights in the second of the do what you love series. Sabrina’s take will interest many of you, particularly those who want to know more about blogging from someone who has been doing it (very successfully) for a number of years. Two major factors she contributes to being able to do what she loves is working hard and always looking at new ways to approach what she does.
From my perspective I couldn’t agree more that working hard is a major factor in moving forward towards your ‘dream’ or aspiration. It’s one thing to want to do something, it’s another entirely to go out and make it happen – or at least try. The best thing about doing something you love is that hard work doesn’t feel (so much) like hard work. When I used to stay in the office until the wee hours working on a document with subject matter I wasn’t that excited about, it was much harder than the way worse hours I do regularly now on something that interests and excites me. I’m not going to pretend that every moment of doing what you love is enjoyable, and trust me you have set backs like any any other job, but all in all working hard feels less like hard work when you’re doing what you love.
Another thing that I agree with strongly that I hear from Sabrina, which I think applies to all industries and not just blogging, is a need to constantly challenge yourself and strategise your future. Not simply slogging at the same thing every day, but constantly looking at what you are doing and asking yourself ‘could this be done differently?’ or ‘how can I evolve what I do?’. It can be a mind bender but sometimes there’s a glimmer of thought that changes the way you do things for the better. My mum has run a business for a long time and continually tells me that you need to spend 4 days a week working in the business and 1 day a week working on it. Usually I’m like ‘yeah yeah mum I’m too busy to think about this’ but she’s right, it means you spend time looking critically at what you’re doing, even if it’s just an hour of the few you get every week to work on your passion project. Doing this helps you evolve based your experiences so there’s more chance of being successful in the long term (now if only I could put it into practice more regularly).
Read on for Sabrina’s take!
DO WHAT YOU LOVE – Sabrina Meijer of AfterDRK.com
I studied graphic design and started my blog because I kind of missed doing something with fashion. I randomly threw everything and anything that inspired me on there and quickly learned my ‘outfit posts’ worked best in terms of readership. Since there are so so many bloggers out there, I thought it would be a good idea to develop a real skill, so that I can collaborate with brands in cool creative ways rather than them just coming up to me because of the following I built over the years.
For that reason, I am in the process of turning myself from being ‘just a blogger’ into a photographer. By blogging for many years, I learnt that the photography side of keeping the whole thing was my absolute favorite. I love writing too and I only quit writing for a Dutch news website a couple of months ago, but I know it is not my best skill. I am now fully concentrating on developing my photographers’ eye (of course in combination with afterDRK.com), currently mainly by creating editorial-like posts. Surely I will keep posting what I am wearing, but slowly I want to turn afterDRK.com into something more than just a ‘me’ website.
Work hard and evolve your approach
I have always learnt hard work pays off and it is exactly how it works in the blogosphere as well. There are so many bloggers (and photographers) out there and that means brands have so many options if they want to do a collaboration. Back when I was working for that news website I used to almost literally sit and wait (while writing like a mad woman for the news website) for opportunities to come along, for brands to contact me for collaboration possibilities. Now that I quit that job and have a good focus – photography – I have more time to turn things around. This way I actually have time to come up with new creative ways and pitch them to brands that I really really want to work with.
I often get asked ‘what do you do all day, everyday?’ and I can totally see why I am getting that question all the time. It looks really easy, taking a picture and write a cohesive text to publish every day, but there is just so much more to do to be able to maintain a blog in a satisfying way. You have to keep it both interesting for the reader, but also for yourself.
Choosing collaborations - the three question rule
When a brand does contact me for a collaboration, I always ask myself three questions and I have to answer at least two of them (maybe even 2.5) with a straight and honest ‘yes’. 1. Does this make me happy? 2. Does my blog grow from this (size wise or name wise)? 3. Does this make me rich? Now this last question needs some explanation, since I am not really talking about money here. Of course it counts if a job pays well, but I am more talking about if something would make me richer as a person. If two of these are negatively answered, I have to pass. One of my very good friends has taught me this and it sounds pretty simple, but it really helps me with making the right decisions. Blogging is trial and error and I feel like that’s a good thing, but I try to at least keep the errors to a minimum.
Know your market and niche (and don’t compare)
I used to really look up to girls in the same business that managed to get hundreds and hundreds of thousands of followers, but I recently had this eye opening conversation that taught me to compare myself less and less with others. Admittedly, sometimes it’s really hard not to compare, but when it comes to following, I don’t think it is a bad thing not to be the number one.
While some of the biggest bloggers are quite commercial and work with tons of different brands because they choose to be commercial, I am comfortable with my niche, kind of minimalistic edgy readership. I actually think it might be worth more for some brands to work with a blogger that is smaller but has that exact readership they want to reach. For others, it just works better to go big.
Two words, Pinterest and Instagram! I try to keep a journal with me at all times to write any brilliant/stupid/crazy/ok idea down that pops up in my head. Browsing through Pinterest and Instagram on a regular basis gives me tons of inspiration and helps me come up with new things all the time. It is so good for finding new brands/people/anything really.
Other than that, whenever I get stuck I try to just quit whatever I am doing and go do something completely different for a bit, something to clear my head completely before getting back at what I was doing. My boyfriend is currently trying to teach me how to surf (as I am spending some time in LA right now) and even though I am still a super rookie, it really helps me clear my mind.
Another tip that I have up my sleeve is to create an editorial calendar, so that I know exactly what content – both text and photos – I need to make for the upcoming month(s), which helps me plan everything a bit better.
Find your voice
Again, with so many others out there, it is good to find your very own voice. It took me a while finding it when it comes to my blog (when you browse back all the way, you can see I went through some slight style periods both when it comes to my own ánd my blogs style), but I think I finally found it.
The funny thing is though that now that I am concentrating more on photography, I have to find it all over again. By creating moodboards, studying other photographers way of using light/color/etc., following multiple tutorials at the same time and by practicing every single day I am trying to speed up the process.
My advice to me (and to you if you are in the same sort of boat) would be to do multiple internships. They’re hard to combine with full-time jobs, but even if it is just watching how someone pretty experienced do it (and maybe even hold their coffee for a day or 2), it helps big time! Best case scenario would be to do at least two of them, one with someone who’s work you really truly love, one with someone who’s work you’re not really a fan of (to understand how they see things, to put things in perspective and to make sure you’re not going to bluntly copy that someone who’s work you really truly love’s style).
The best tip I have – which I got from the same friend who taught me those 3 collaboration questions – is to read this article. It sounds very cliché and all, but it literally changed my life. People can get quite comfortable doing what their doing just because it is easy since they’re already doing it, while it is super good to step out of that comfort zone and start doing what you really want to do.
Typography by the very talented Jasmine Dowling