Extras

How to Stay on Top of Your Game: 3 Easy Tips for Creatives

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If you’re anything like me, chances are at some point you’ve fallen into a rut. Maybe you feel like your work just isn’t getting any better, and there’s too much competition, and you don’t even want to keep up anymore. I’ve been there…and back. Here’s what I’ve learned along that road:

PRACTICE MAKES BETTER

Yeah, yeah, we all know that 10,000 hours is supposed to make you an expert, but realistically, who actually has that much time at their disposal? Instead, I recommend practicing as much as you can without getting too crazy. I set a personal challenge to take one photo every single day. For the most part, I do pretty well (though there are some days I skip!). I feel so accomplished when I take the time to work on my skills, and that helps me avoid getting into a rut. When you’re not practicing on the reg, it becomes easier to let that inertia lead you so far down that you avoid your work. Keep at it, even when you don’t have clients or customers, and you’ll always be fresh and ready to go.

KEEP YOURSELF EDUCATED

Lots of fields, from doctors to hairdressers, require regular education. This way, they stay on top of best practices, and it’s why even if someone went to beauty school in the ’80s, she’s not going to give you a giant perm now. It’s no less important for creatives to make sure they keep learning. These days, thanks to YouTube, OpenCourseWare, and thousands of affordable e-courses, it’s so easy to stay on top of your game. I suggest setting aside an hour or two each week to learn something new. Every Friday, I queue up a module in SLR Lounge, and I take notes that I go back and review during the week to make sure I retained what I learned.

You never, ever want to fall into the trap of believing you already know everything there is to know about your field. I know an embarrassing number of photographers, for example, who brag about never shooting outside the golden hour because they think that’s the only time to get beautiful photos. In fact, they’re missing lots of opportunities because they don’t think they need to learn techniques for sub-par lighting scenarios. Don’t be like that. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing something—there’s always something new to learn.

GET A REPORT CARD

Ever thought about getting your work critiqued by your peers? Maybe you have, but the idea was too scary? I hate to say it, but the fastest way to get better at what you do is by having a peer (or better yet, someone whose work you admire) take a look at it. Often, they can spot things you’d never see in a million years, and you get immediate feedback that’s perfectly tailored to you. You don’t have to wait to stumble across some concept in a tutorial.

I joined Clickin Moms (I’m a dog mom; that counts!) a few months ago, and it has been a total game-changer for me as a photographer. I’ve improved more since I’ve started getting feedback than I have in the last year by myself. I learned how to avoid limb chops and green skin, and now I feel confident enough to critique others’ work.

When you’re ready, join a forum of professionals and see if they offer critiques. Or join a Meetup where you can workshop your ideas with your peers. Let other people help you!

 

When you want to stay on top of your game—no matter what you do—it’s so important to keep practicing, learning, and getting feedback. You’ll be amazed at the progress you make, so keep at it!

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Outfits

I Tried Instagress for a Week and This Is What Happened

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Even though I don’t blog for money, I can’t help but still be a little obsessed with my Insta numbers.  It feels so good to get a follower notification, and I know I’m not the only one who’s hooked on that feeling.  Some of us try to capture more of that by leaving dozens (hundreds!) of comments and likes, others do the follow/unfollow method, and then there are the serious bloggers–the ones who pay to automate the whole process.

I tried one of those automation services–Instagress–for a week to find out what it was all about.

The Setup

Instagress is a website–not an app–that you can finely tune to like, comment, follow, and unfollow on your behalf.

You link your Instagram account, and from there, you have full control over how much engagement it does for you.  I had mine set up to leave 30 likes/hour and follow 20 people/hour.

You can even schedule when Instagress runs.  See, you can’t run Instagress and use Instagram at the same time.  If you happen to leave comments and likes manually while it’s running, the Insta Police are gonna getcha.

One thing I didn’t do?  Automate comments.  Dear Lord, that is a terrible idea.  We’ve all seen those lame comments that say, “Nice pic!” or just a nonsensical string of emojis–those are automated through things like Instagress.  Guys, if you ever use a service like this, PLEASE don’t automate your comments.  Please.

Anyway, it costs about $10 a month, although it gets pricier if you’re paying week by week or day by day.

The Results

Lackluster.  Really.

First, let’s talk hard numbers.  On a regular day, doing my normal engagement tactics, I was averaging 18 followers on Instagram per day.  With Instagress, it dwindled to a measly 9.

Second–and this was what really killed me–my feed got SO clogged with shitty accounts.  I had it set to follow followers of some big accounts (like New Darlings), and a lot of them are just normal people taking selfies.  Not inspiring.  I never wanted to check my feed because it would be picture after picture of poorly-lit table settings.

The Bottom Line

Honestly, don’t waste your money on something like this.  There is no substitute for the human touch.  If you’re really desperate for followers, even manually following and unfollowing is a better option than Instagress.

Have you guys ever tried something like this?  How did it work out for you?

By the way, since I seem to be doing a lot of these “seedy underbelly of blogging” type posts, let me know if you have any burning questions about the blogging world and I’ll see if I can answer them!

Outfits

Outfit: Camel Toggle Coat + Striped Top

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Something you might not know about this blog is that I’ve stopped monetizing it.  No ads, no affiliate links, no sponsored posts.  Sometimes I do a collaboration, but only if I get to do exactly what I want.

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I don’t think there’s anything wrong with monetizing your blog, but it’s something I’m uncomfortable doing.  I could explain why, but I’m afraid of coming off as harsh or judgmental, and that’s not at all how I feel!

I made this decision a little while ago, and I’m still trying to navigate the future of Mox and Socks.  If I’m not making any money, why keep working so hard?  Blogging isn’t always fun, and it’s frequently pretty stressful.

The thing is, I don’t know what I’d do without my blog.  It’s become such a huge part of my identity, and it’s what I turn to when I get home each day.  I love that I’ve developed some fierce photo skills, and I love writing posts that bloggers and fashion lovers can relate to.

I think I’d be remiss if I gave it up entirely, but I may cut back on some things.  I’m not sure what things are going to look like around here, but I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!

Teach Me

Tutorial: New Darlings Top Knot for Shorter Hair

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I know, I know.  Christina of New Darlings has the best hair ever.  I wouldn’t kill for those long gorgeous locks of super-thick hair, but I could see myself kicking someone.

One of her signature ‘dos is this huge, fan-like bun.  It’s one of those styles that exudes that cool “Oh, this?” kinda vibe, but it can be a little tough to get right.  While Christina does have a tutorial for this style, I’ve refined it for people with shorter, finer hair.  Let’s get started!

If your hair isn’t already straight, it’s not a bad idea to straighten it.  This will make your hair look nice and smooth when you put it up!  I’ve also found that this style works best on next-day hair, so if you can, skip the shampoo for a day.

Gather up all your hair into a high ponytail.  You’ll want it to be right in the middle of your head.  Use a fine-tooth comb to make sure your hair is super smooth.  Take a hair tie and pull your hair through once, then start to pull it through again–but only partway.  Christina suggests taking your hair about halfway through, but if your hair is my length or shorter, you’ll want to pull more through.

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Think of your hair like a slinky at this point.  Pull the ends of the “slinky” down and fluff out your hair a little bit.  Then take a couple of bobby pins and pin the ends down in the back.  Try to cover up some of the loose hairs in the back if you can.

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Next, pin down the front.  Make sure that you hide your hair tie as you do so.  I think Christina uses the sticky-outy pieces to cover it up, but my hair isn’t long enough to do that.

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Once everything is pinned down securely, I like to spritz on a little dry shampoo and keep fluffing out my hair.  Keep going until it’s HUGE!

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And that’s it!  You can use some hairspray to keep it secure, but I’ve never had a problem with it coming undone.

It might take some practice to get it just right, and this actually took me two takes!  Over time, it’ll get much easier, I promise!

Let me know if you try this out–I’d love to hear how it turned out!

Outfits

Outfit: Lacy Top + Black Bow

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I can’t believe I went three months without a blogging break!  By the beginning of March, I started feeling weirdly stressed out, and I couldn’t figure out why until I looked back and realized that the last time I took a week off was around Christmas.

I got to do some nice, de-stressful things, like:

-taking Moxie for a long hike.  It would have been longer, but we came across a small group of deer, which scared the pants off Moxie.

-dyeing my hair brown.  I’ve been blonde for the last decade, so it was time for a change!  I like this color a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the new color affects my makeup and hairstyles.  Already I’m getting tons of inspiration from Christina of New Darlings.  I might be doing an adapted tutorial of her signature bun soon.

-getting ice cream.  My friend Nic and I have a little sugar challenge going.  Every time one of us has a sweet, we have to pay the other $10.  However, if we have a sweet together, it cancels out.  So we got some good, good ice cream from Jeni’s over the weekend.  I’m still thinking about my Roxbury Road sundae.

-watching the new My Brother, My Brother, and Me show.  I’m a little late to the game, but I finally watched a few episodes of MBMBaM’s new series.  Two things: it’s hilarious and I’m now super attracted to Travis McElroy…or maybe just his beard.

-shopping with my mom.  We spent a day at the mall, mostly at Lush.  That place is a hell of a sensory experience.  I never want to leave.

-inventing games for Moxie.  I tried making an obstacle course for her in my tiny studio apartment, but she didn’t really understand the concept.  I also tried hiding treats all over, but she just sat in the middle of the room until I took them out for her.  Brat.

What have you guys been up to?

 

Reviews

What’s in My March Ipsy Bag?

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Another month, another Ipsy bag.  Maybe it’s because I’ve actually bothered to rate my stuff on the Ipsy website, but lately, I’ve been getting some seriously good stuff.  Let’s dive in!

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Eva NYC

Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer

For someone who likes to play around with her hair as much as I do, it might surprise you to know I’ve never used a heat protectant before.  That changed when I started using this stuff.  This spray is supposed to detangle, nourish, strengthen, soften, cut drying time, add shine, reduce frizz, and protect against heat and environmental damage.  Honestly, I’m not sure if this really lives up to all of those claims, but my hair was definitely shiny and frizz-free whenever I used it.  It’s fun to use for now, but I don’t think I’d reorder.

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Mudmasky

Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask

For the last week or so, I’ve been doing the 10-step Korean skincare regimen (day and night!), and masks like this fit in nicely into my new routine.  This stuff works; my skin was very smooth after I used it, and my pores seemed to have vanished into thin air.  It reminds me a lot of the Queen Helene mask, which I’ve always liked.

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Dirty Little Secret

Blush in Kitty Pink

Yes yes yes yes yes!  I’ve been wanting a peachy blush just like this one and now I have it!  The color looks great with my new hair color–I don’t think it would have worked as well if I were still a bleach blonde.  Plus, it’s not super pigmented.  You can build the color to suit the look you’re going for.

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Elizabeth Mott

Blending Brush

I just…I don’t really use eye shadow.  I can’t say if it’s great or not since I don’t use eye shadow brushes anyway!

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Tarte Cosmetics

Tarteist Quick Dry Matte Lip Paint in Rose

First off, the color is really, really pretty.  I love rosy colors like this one!  And it’s a nice kind of matte–not too dry and crusty like other matte lipsticks can be.  The only thing is that you have to be careful!  Only use a little bit or else you’ll be licking lipstick off your teeth.

Overall, a great bag this month!  Do any of you get Ipsy bags?  What did you think of yours?

Extras

Outfit Remix: Red Dress Revisited

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A while back, I did a remix post on this very dress.  I mentioned, then, that I wasn’t very satisfied with the ways I’ve styled it in the past.  However, after getting feedback from you (yes, you!), I started looking at this dress in a new way.  Here are two more ways I’ve styled it, both of which I really love.

Look 1

Taking your suggestions into account, I’ve kept it very simple here.  Just the dress, opaque tights, and black boots.  I like this one, but I do think I went a little too far in paring it down.  It needs a little more oomph, don’t you think?

Look 2

Which is why I love this version the most.  I think I struck a good balance between too many and too few accessories.  All the replacements have a little more personality–a scarf vs. a simple necklace, dotted tights vs. opaque ones, and (my favorite) Parisian-style ankle strap shoes vs. boots.

What do you think?  Which version is your favorite?

Outfits

Outfit: Red Dress + Black Ankle Straps

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One of the things I really dislike about blogging (especially in the winter) is taking my own pictures.

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I think a lot of you know this already, but I don’t have professional help with my photos.  It’s always just me, a tripod, and a remote.  It can be tough to run back and forth, adjusting both the camera settings and my poses.  A lot of the time, I wish someone else would do it for me since it would probably save a ton of time!

The thing is, I don’t know if I’ll ever give up creative control over my pictures.  For one thing, it’s pretty convenient.  I don’t have to badger anyone to go outside in the cold and take snaps for me, so I can get a photo shoot done whenever I want…or whenever the sun is cooperating.

Plus, I’ve come to love my own photography style.  I’m certainly not saying that my skills are the best–they’re definitely not–but I do like my own perspective.  I think I’m getting better at telling stories with my pictures, or at least taking them into a little bit of a different world.

Do you take your own pics?

Scarf: Madewell (similar)

Dress: ModCloth (similar here and here)

Tights: c/o Time for Tights

Shoes: DSW (similar)

Bag: ModCloth (similar)

Extras

How to Deal with Brands that Take Advantage of Bloggers

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Not long ago, I wrote a post about a brand that offered to “collaborate” with me–but in a way that didn’t benefit me at all.  They wanted me to put together a post to promote their product, but they wouldn’t give me anything in return.  It’s not fair, and it’s so frustrating when this happens.  Us bloggers pour our hearts and souls into this work, and it’s not right for a company to try to take advantage of our drive and passion.

So what should you do when this happens?  Well, there are a few options.  Let’s dive in.

  1. Ignore it or say no.  If a brand reaches out to you with a collaboration proposal but doesn’t include any mention of compensation or a gift, there’s nothing wrong with deleting that email or responding with a polite “No.”  Write a template so you can have it readily available for this kind of thing.  All you need to say is something like, “Hi, Brand.  Thanks so much for reaching out.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this would be a good fit for me.”  Fluff it up however you want, but keep the sentiment the same.
  2. Explain how it’s unfair.  You can also choose to explain further about why you’re declining the brand’s collaboration.  This is the route I normally take because I want to inform brands that their practice harms bloggers.  Be tactful!  You never know when this brand could become a good partner, and you don’t want to burn any bridges.  If you go this route, you can say, “I’d love a chance to work with you, but since putting together this post requires a bit of work on my end, I would ask that I’m compensated in some way.”  It’s polite, but it’s assertive.
  3. Ask to get in touch with the sponsorship team.  Something I learned about the bra company (referenced in this post) is that their marketing department–the folks who sent the original collab proposal–is separate from their sponsorship department.  The marketing team may have no control over your compensation or freebies, so see if you can get in touch with the right people!  In this case, you can build off of step 2 and ask for some contacts on the brand’s sponsorship team.  You also might want to link to your media kit if you have one.

The only thing I’d strongly caution against is actually taking up the brand’s offer.  Doing so means you will be putting in hard work and getting absolutely no payout.

What do you guys think?  How do you respond to uncompensated collaboration proposals?

Outfits

Outfit: Blush Ankle Straps

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dsc_0056dsc_0075dsc_0076dsc_0069dsc_0062Here come the spring rains.

Poor Moxie is currently hiding out under the bed.  There’s a storm blustering outside, and she’s terrified of rain.  It’s weird; she loves it when I turn on the shower, but if that water comes from the sky instead of a faucet, there’s no getting through to her.  As soon as she hears the first patters fall, she stops whatever she’s doing to crawl under the bed.

Even today, she was in the middle of her “dessert” bone when she perceived a thunderclap and had to run for the hills.  There’s no getting her out once she’s there.  I’ve tried the Thundershirt, tranquil music, and even my mom’s voice on speakphone, but nothing would calm her down.

There are going to be more nights like this, I know, but at least it means spring is on its way.  As far as winters go, this one was remarkably mild.  I’m normally superstitious about that kind of thing, thinking that it’ll mean a poor summer.  But maybe it’s just making up for the last couple of years of nasty winters and chilly summers?  One can dream.

In any case, I just want to get outside and do the things I love: hike, run, and take pictures.  I’ve already started running after work, and it makes me feel so happy and energetic!  Even when I’m walking Moxie, we sometimes break into a little trot, and she loves it as much as I do.

What are you most excited for this spring?