“It was really awful when I first started.”
Not many people anticipate creating a second career out of their homework – however, this is exactly what British stylist-turned-blogger, photographer and social media consultant Sara Delaney did when she enrolled in a fashion journalism course in 2009. Over half a decade later, Notes From A Stylist has evolved from coursework to a fashion and lifestyle blog, targeted at “… 40+ women looking to get their style mojo back on track.”
Since starting out seven years ago, Delaney has collaborated with a number of notable companies including The White Company, Harrods, Liberty London, J.Crew and Barbour. She is also currently acting as social media consultant to Lisa Franklin skincare and has worked with luxury gifts and homeware company Lizard Orchid.
When Notes From A Stylist manifested, Delaney had recently relocated to the United States with her husband and three children – and at the time was working as a stylist and freelance writer (she is one-part of the styling duo Lobler & Delaney.)
“I found that the ladies of New York all wanted to look exactly the same,” she says. “Sort of Stepford-y. So, I took some fashion journalism classes and my first homework was to start a blog.” As a stylist, Delaney was having to dish out fashion advice and help to her clients in person; she eventually began to “… mold this style and trend advice I had been giving and [started] putting it down on the blog.”
Clearly, Notes from a Stylist isn’t “awful” anymore – although I highly doubt it ever was. The blog reads more like an online magazine than a collage of “Outfits of The Day”-style posts, with plenty of beautiful photography and lifestyle inspiration incorporated amongst Delaney’s styling tips.
I spent some time chatting with Delaney over Skype and she shared some advice for those looking to break into the world of fashion blogging (or just fashion, in general.) Check out her words of wisdom below – including why it’s important to have a stellar Instagram following when applying to university.
Network Like Crazy.
This is a no brainer for most bloggers (or anyone trying to make it in the fashion industry), but Delaney stresses the importance of getting out to events and meeting people in person.
“Networking was the biggest thing that I learnt along the way,” she says. “Step out from behind your computer and actually meet people. You’ll find they’re nice and normal, and that blogging is a great world to be in.”
Delaney also recommends joining Fashion Monitor, an online digital resource that provides its members with influencer, media, PR and brand contacts – as well as news, events and industry intelligence. “It gives you access to so much more industry stuff . . . You can access peoples’ brands, the PR’s emails, etc. and ask directly to go to different events. Then, that gives you content to write about.”
Invest in yourself – and don’t forget your blogging strategy.
Although Delaney does admit she “learnt along the way” with trial and error, she does attribute some of her success in her early days to taking online blogging courses.
“I’ve looked out for people who were [offering] blogging courses online. I really benefitted from Secret Bloggers’ Business in Australia, run by Kate McKibbin,” she says. “I was taking her classes years back and then slowly everyone started doing it. Now IFB is doing it too, but [back then] I was taking classes and thinking nobody else was doing it.”
This year Delaney started working with Chloe Digital, a London-based tech solutions company for digital style publishers and influencers. She discovered the company through a few of her blogging friends and has been very pleased with her experience thus far.
“I had heard some great things about [Chloe Digital] . . . and figured that, actually, this is a business and I need to invest in some strategy consulting . . . I've been really happy with the process. I find it really refreshing just having somebody who can slightly nudge you in [the right] direction.”
Know your target audience – and the right tools to use when promoting your brand via social media.
Delaney is very upfront with the fact that Notes From A Stylist targets women of a certain age group. This requires her to be more active on certain social media platforms, and less so on others.
“I’m only finding now, in the last year or so, that people are actually finding me on Instagram who are of [my target audience],” she says. “Over Christmas last year, I was playing around with Snapchat and it was pointless. Nobody from my target market was on it and even my kids were saying, ‘You’re embarrassing yourself, Mum.’ I’m looking at Instagram, which people [in my age group] are now moving on to. They’re still [active] on Facebook, chatting away and stalking their children. So the rest of the stuff is sort of a ‘nice to have’, but it doesn’t reach my market.”
Even if you aren’t interested in a career in fashion blogger, a strong social media presence is a must for anyone looking to succeed in the fashion industry (or any creative industry, for that matter.)
Again, another obvious one for the fashion bloggers out there. If becoming a stylist, creative director or fashion journalist is your end goal you better be working on your Instagram account in your spare time.
“A lot of the girls who are getting more [styling] work over here [in London], are the ex-journo’s and the ones who are already ‘linked in’,” Delaney says, when asked about the importance of maintaining one’s online narrative and how relevant a social media presence is when it comes to attaining success in the industry. “If you don’t have any presences whatsoever, you are kind of flailing around in the underbelly of it all . . . Now [clients] will check out your social media and see where you’re at in the pecking order.”
In other words it doesn’t matter if you want to be a fashion blogger, fashion stylist or, simply, a fashion student; the number of followers your have on your social media really does count for something when it comes to building a career.
“My daughter is applying for English [university programs] and people are telling her she needs to have social media presence,” Delaney says. “So now, you have to start when you’re sixteen or seventeen, because that becomes the whole progression of the application process, if you’re interested in English or Media.”
Time management can be tricky – even if you’ve been blogging for nearly seven years.
“I spend a lot of time on my computer when I shouldn’t,” Delaney confesses. “I’m constantly trying to do a content calendar and I still find myself at four o'clock madly typing something that’s come into my head, thinking ‘Quick! Let’s post that!’ as opposed to what I had planned.”