I can’t believe I’m even typing this, but today (June 29th, 2017) marks one year of running Sabby Style full time! Say whaaaa?? How is that possible? Well a few things made it possible – FAITH, FEAR, AND HUSTLE. I started Sabby Style in February of 2014 and what began as a hobby and sometimes getting free product to share with my fellow fashionistas, has evolved into a full-fledge career and business. And it would not even be possible without all of you! Honestly and truly, I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to pursue my passion for fashion and I can inspire women to dress well and most importantly, feel confident! It’s crazy because the confidence and empowerment that I strive to convey and bring to you – well, in turn, you have given that to me! I would not have been able to make that life change and dive into the unknown future without confidence in myself and in what I’ve built. My cup runneth over with the deepest gratitude and humility that you trust in me and come back each and every day!
I want to touch on the three things I mentioned above before I dive into what I’ve learned this past year and share my tips & tricks for blogging! So first, FAITH. As I mentioned before, I had zero intentions of becoming a blogger, let alone a blogger that can do it for their full time job! But God has amazing plans for us; the grandest plans that we could never even dream up for ourselves. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Child, Youth, and Family Studies and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration & Economic Development. My dream was to work in the nonprofit sector or local city government so I could serve and help people by making their communities the best places to live, work, and play. During my last semester of Graduate School, I began interning for a nearby city. This first “big girl job” meant that I needed an adult wardrobe! But I could not bring myself to dress in a black pant suit every day. Just because the industry is male-dominated, it does not mean I have to dress like one! So I went to JCPenney and J.Crew Factory and bought myself some darling skirts, blouses, and blazers. I put together a really cute outfit on my first day, and because I loved it so much, I decided to snap a mirror pic and post it to my Instagram. That iPhone picture changed the trajectory of my life!
Within months I started to gain thousands of followers and my love for pattern mixing and creating fun, yet office-appropriate outfits, bloomed. I had never been so excited to get dressed in my entire life! I continued to post my daily looks and after receiving many compliments and positive comments saying I should start a blog, the seed was planted and I made it a goal to start said blog. The name Sabby Style was invented by my cousin’s husband while we were hanging out in the pool, drinking adult beverages, and throwing around different ideas and names! Then he said Sabby Style and it just stuck! I had a list of potential blog names but none of them sounded or felt right. I’m so proud of my long last name and Lithuanian heritage, and now that I’m married, I love that I have my blog and business to tie me to my maiden name, because being the daughter of Paul and Collene Sabaliauskas has made me who I am today! So after a year of Instagramming my daily looks, I published my first blog post on February 28, 2014. Again, this was strictly a hobby at that time. No professional photos, no fancy website, no rewardStyle or LiketoKnow.it; just a girl with a website and a passion for fashion!
I landed my dream job (at the time) in April of 2014 and began working for a local nonprofit doing Development and Event Planning. And I LOVED it. I never imagined quitting that job! But Sabby Style kept growing and I was working more and more on it, and it came to a point where something needed to give. I was emotionally checked out at work because all I wanted to do was work on SS stuff, but then when I got home from my 9-5 (and in event planning, there’s always after-work networking events and gatherings to attend), I was physically checked out, which left me with zero energy to get on the laptop and crank out quality content. In June 2015, Tony and I went to Hawaii and usually after I would come back from a vacation, I would feel rejuvenated and refreshed; ready to take on whatever was coming my way! But after getting home, I felt deflated and sad. I believe that while we were in Hawaii, God put his grand plan on my heart! It was then I knew I had to make a change. And I knew if I didn’t try to work for myself and give my all to Sabby Style, then I would regret it!
That’s when I put the dream in motion. After years of working solely for free product, I realized that free clothes and jewelry would not pay my bills. So I created a media kit that explained the value I bring to the businesses that wanted to work with me, and much to my surprise, they saw that value and were willing to pay me for my time!! Of course this didn’t come right away, and I definitely paid my dues when I worked on a product for promotion basis. I then hired a lawyer and established Sabby Style, LLC as a legal business and trademarked my name and tag lines. After doing that, there was no going back, because #lawyersareexpensive ha! June 2015 is when I shifted my thinking from hobby to business and the moment I took myself seriously, so did everyone else! But I was not quite ready to leave my job just yet. I wanted to be sure all my T’s were crossed before I made the jump because when I did do it, I wanted to do it right and enjoy the moment, and to not feel panicked or worried!
I also didn’t feel that I had accomplished all I wanted to at my 9-5. Again, I loved my job, especially my coworkers. And together, we were doing some pretty awesome work! One of my biggest responsibilites was our annual Iowa fundraiser that took place every June. I was in the middle of planning this fundraiser when I was operating at max capacity and boy oh boy, was I ready to throw in the towel. But I didn’t want to go out like that and quit before the event was over. And I’m so happy I saw it through, because the event was a success, we surpassed our fundraising goal, and everything went off without a hitch! It was such a beautiful moment and it was the perfect send-off. June 29th was my last day there, but was also the first day of the rest of my life!
Having the flexibility of being my own boss, having the financial freedom to say YES to projects I love and to say NO to the ones that don’t align with my brand, and to have the opportunity to create content I’m proud of and that you love – well I’m living a dream I never knew I wanted! And none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for my faith in Him and His faith in me! I also couldn’t have made that life changing decision without my sweet husband, Tony. We’ve been together for 9.5 years and he’s supported me in all of my endeavors! He’s definitely the best Instagram and Blog Husband!
Now onto FEAR. It may sound crazy, but I was not scared to leave my job, but I was deathly afraid of not doing it!!! That’s when you know something has been placed on your heart and you can’t ignore it. I think we associate the word fear with negative connotations and feelings. But it can be such a powerful, beautiful motivation. The fear of never trying was far greater than the fear of failing! I kept telling myself, “We will be ok. We’re not going to loose our house. I’ll shop less. But we’ll be okay, I know it”. That was my mantra! And if I failed, I had my education and work experience to fall back on and would find another job. But guess what, the moment I opened my heart and fully gave myself to my business, the opportunities came pouring in! God knew I wasn’t ready for those just yet, because I would not have been able to give it my all!
And finally, HUSTLE. This industry is not easy and quite frankly, it has become over saturated. There are a million cute girls with cute clothes and lots of followers and great websites! But there’s only one me. And it’s on ME to be successful, to make money, to run my business, to provide quality content, to deliver for my clients, and to make the dream work! And it.is.not.easy. Don’t let the highlight reel fool ya, blogging is not as glamorous as one may assume! Note – I’m not complaining; I just want to be transparent and real. Yes, there are amazing perks & opportunities, and I’m beyond blessed to have had such experiences, but there is so much hard work and hustle that goes into making sure you stand out! In order to succeed in this industry (well, in any career for that matter), you have to have gusto and an innate drive to kick ass and to find a way to make it work!
Now if you’ve made it through my novel haha, I wanted to share some tips & tricks that I’ve learned along the way!
FOCUS ON YOUR BLOG
As I’m sure you all know, last year Instagram changed the way they do things and switched from a chronological feed to a feed they *think* you would want to see. This changed the game for so many of us, and not in a good way, in my humble opinion! While I could write a short story on the woes of Instagram and how it almost sucked the joy out of my business and passion, I’ll just say this… FOCUS ON YOUR BLOG. Your blog is the one thing you have absolute control over. Unless the world wide web ceases to exist, you will always have your website. I encourage you to put your time, energy, and resources into making your blog the best it can be! And I’m not just talking about how pretty it looks. Think about user experience, functionality, load time, SEO (I have so much to learn about that btw), great imagery, unique content, free hosted vs. self-hosted, owning your domain, WordPress vs. Blogger, and the list goes on. However you want to slice it, your blog is your baby and you must nurture it!
If you’re not keen on the idea of having a blog but still want to create fresh and fun content, you can certainly have a successful business just with your social platforms! I know a lot of women started with Instagram and saw crazy growth and success and then started a blog years later. I think it just depends on your time, the season of life you’re in, and what your goals are. For me, I love to write, so a blog was the natural next step after growing my Instagram. But for some, a blog seems unnecessary, and that’s ok! Below I cover three revenue streams that I utilize that you could certainly do with a highly engaged following on social media!
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Some people believe that casting a wide net and seeing what you can get is the best way to go about blogging and growing. I respectfully disagree. You must know who your readers are! I know my reader is a female, ages 19-55 (hey mom!), loves fashion, is looking for inspiration, is budget-conscious but has the means to spend, lives in the US, primarily resides in Omaha, Kansas City, Chicago, NYC, and Dallas, and is trying to live their best life and looking fabulous while doing it! If I didn’t know who my readers are, then how would I know what brands and businesses to work with and what kind of content I should bring to Sabby Style? Figuring out who your audience is may take a week or months, but at some point, you will (and should) know who is taking time out of their day to read your blog and support you in your endeavors!
BE A SPONGE: LEARN,GROW, REPEAT
“In this world, you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.” – Lou Holtz. Lou, you’re onto something! I call myself a “learner of life” because I love to learn new things! I don’t need to be an expert on any one certain topic, but I like to know a little about a lot. And I think this relates 1000% to blogging and becoming a Boss Babe! I have zero background and experience in web development, marketing & communications, photography, etc., but I’ve had to learn a little about all of these things in order to grow and be successful! So whether you’ve been blogging for weeks, months, or years; do yourself a favor and try to learn something new every day! Subscribe to emails, read those articles, ask your peers for advice, join groups and networks, watch youtube videos, listen to podcasts – whatever your learning style may be, just get in there and get that information and education! Knowledge is power.
DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET: HAVE MULTIPLE REVENUE STREAMS
This directly relates to the “HUSTLE” section from above. And just like the Instagram lesson we’ve been taught, you really can’t count on one thing to make you (and keep you) successful! I also get asked all the time “How do you make money?” – and while I won’t share how much moolah I make, I will explain three sources of income, in hopes that it encourages you to diversify your income streams for the sake of your business!
– Sponsored Posts & Campaigns: Whether it’s a blog post or an Instagram feature, I partner with brands, businesses, and boutiques in which I am paid for my styling, writing, the professional photography I invest in, and for the exposure they receive from my very awesome loyal readers! I want to express and ensure you know that the collaborations I take part in are always organic; as payment does not buy my opinion! It is a fee for my time and for reaching the audience I’ve grown and fostered relationships with for four+ years, which I am so proud of! By coming back and reading each and every day, you affirm the belief that there is value in what we’re doing here at Sabby Style!
– Commission: I work with rewardStyle, a 3rd party affiliate company, that pairs Influencers (me) with brands and allows me to make commission from sales generated. A prime example of this relationship is with rewardStyle and their LiketoKnow.it app, which allows you girls to shop my Instagram posts! When I started using LTK on IG, I felt odd and didn’t want to come off as “salesy”, but honest to goodness, I personally use LTK to do all my shopping! And now it’s the easiest and most convenient way for me to share what I’m wearing every day. The “Shop My Looks” page on my blog has ALL of my Instagram looks that you can easily shop and you don’t even need a LTK account. I love having this feature because there’s no possible way I could blog about every single outfit I wear on Instagram, but I get asked tons of questions about where something is from (which I love, keep the questions and messages coming!), so it’s super convenient to direct gals to that page where they can easily get the information! While this stream of revenue can be very rewarding, it’s not one that I work into my monthly budget or guaranteed income, as I never know how much it will be. If you have any further questions regarding affiliate links or commissions, I would be happy to discuss this further via email!
– Hosting Events/Paid Appearances: These types of events are my favorite and can be quite lucrative, as well! So when the opportunity arrives to attend an in-store event and chat face-to-face with customers about a product I love, I’m all for it! This kind of work isn’t for everyone, especially if you aren’t comfortable with talking to strangers haha but this goes straight back to my Development background, where I would attend 2-3 networking events a week and LOVED meeting new people and building relationships. Which is also funny because now my job is essentially to sit behind a computer and share my life with you via the internet. I’ve been thinking about starting a youtube channel because I do miss having that personal interaction. And that’s also why I love Instagram Stories and doing videos there, because you get a sense of the real me and based off the messages and feedback I receive, those seems to be a positive and you want more!
FOCUS ON OTHER SOCIAL CHANNELS: PINTEREST, FACEBOOK, TWITTER
With Instagram being one of the most frustrating parts of my job sometimes, and the new algorithm has hindered growth and visibility, it has forced me to take a look at my other social channels that I had been neglecting; primarily Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. I still have lots of work and energy to put into these areas and need to take my own advice! But I’ve slowly grown my Pinterest by posting at least 10 images per day, 5 my own (usually from that day’s blog post) and 5 images that I see on my feed that inspire me. I’ve dabbled in Facebook boosted posts and for the most part have been happy with the results I’ve seen thus far. I’m actually planning on taking a Facebook Ads class, so once I learn more I’ll be sure to share that with you! As for Twitter, I got nothing for you. In fact, if you have any advice for growing your Twitter, send it my way!
INSTAGRAM: BUSINESS PROFILE VS. PERSONAL PROFILE
There are many differing views and opinions about whether it’s best to have a business profile versus personal profile, so please do what you think is best for your specific business/brand. But for me, I’m a huge proponent of having a personal profile! First of all, Instagram is now owned by Facebook and are moving both platforms to a “pay to play” mentality. Basically for the past 5 years, Influencers and business owners alike have been profiting by growing their audience on Instagram and now Instagram/Facebook want a piece of the pie! Can you blame them? So they rolled out the Business Profile option. Which at first was very appealing because I thought to myself, “hey, I’m a business, this is for me!” and they even have analytics built in. Perfect right?? Well my engagement completely dropped and I believe it’s because I wasn’t “paying to play”. I tried my hand at a few Instagram Ads and was disheartened by the results. Those dismal ad attempts paired with low engagement was incredibly frustrating and left me feeling clueless as to how I can succeed with this new Business Profile! So for the sake of my sanity, I bowed out of the Business Profile option.
And back to those built-in analytics and insights – their suggested posting times were completely off for me. In fact, those posts did the worst and I would end up deleting them! I was also stressing out about when to post and if I missed the suggested time, then watch out world, my day was ruined! And you know what, this completely sucked all the joy and fun out of Instagram and in sharing the content that I normally would be excited about! It should not be like that. So I literally gave it to God, went back to a personal profile, and decided to go “old school” with my posting times, aka just posting when it feels good and trusting in the process that the rest will come. Since making this change, I now enjoy Instagram so much more! Sure, not every post is a rock star, but I don’t let it bother me as much. When I get frustrated, I just put my phone down and re-focus that energy into my website or… wait for it… I take a work break and spend time with my husband!
DO NOT FOLLOW THEN UNFOLLOW
I cannot not stand it when I see an account follow me, then two days later they’ve followed me again, and then a few days later they’ve magically followed me again. Listen up, people pay attention to this kind of behavior and it’s a sure-fire way to get blocked. If you follow me, THANK YOU! And if I take a look at your feed and like what you’re wearing/doing/going, then I’ll follow back! But you should not expect a follow nor should you follow someone just so they follow you back. Whether someone follows me or doesn’t, if I’m inspired by your feed, then I’ll follow and if you feel the same about me, then great. But no hard feelings if you don’t!
DO NOT BUY FOLLOWERS OR LIKES
And I feel this goes without saying but just to cover all my bases, please for the sake that is all holy, do not buy followers or likes. This is 100% counterintuitive to what made Instagram so wonderful and pure in the beginning… just a community of creators sharing cool content. Has the thought ever crossed my mind to buy to get ahead? Especially after seeing brand new accounts grow super fast? I would be lying if I said no. But you know what, brands are smart and they see red flags if you have 100,000 followers but get 20 comments on a photo. That is why authentic engagement is key! And how on earth are you going to engage in a sincere manner with followers you bought? I usually like the statement of “fake it ’til you make it” – especially when referring to push-up bras, over drawing your lips, self tanner, spanx, and wedges that make your legs look longer – but not when it comes to Instagram. People can spot a fake from a mile away! If you focus on your own journey, on your readers, and on your website; you will reach success! And just remember that Instagram could disappear at any moment if the folks at Facebook wanted it to, so don’t put all your eggs in that Insta basket!
APPS & TOOLS I USE
I use the Snug App to help me plan out my Instagram feed! This app allows me to space out my content so that way I don’t have sponsored posts back to back, or the same kind of pose or background right next to each other. I’m a super visual person and really like my feed to look cohesive, so this app is huge for me!
Another question I’m often asked is what I use to edit my photos. I shoot with a professional photographer for all of the sponsored content I share, so she edits those for me. But all other photos are taken with my iPhone and I use the PhotoShop Express App and use the Spring filter on every photo. I adjust the brightness, temperature, contrast, and vibrancy!
HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM???
I soooo wish I had all the answers to this question, and if you know the magic secret, please let me know! The struggle is real right now, especially since the algorithm change. And as I mentioned above, there are a million more Instagram accounts today than there was when I started my account, which makes it that much more difficult to be seen, to be noticed, and to grow. But don’t be discouraged because there’s enough room for everyone at the table and we all can be successful in our own right and in our own way!
— “COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.” This quote is beyond true. When I’ve been in a blogging/Insta rut, I realized it was due to me looking elsewhere for inspiration and ideas. Stay in your own lane and focus on what you bring to the table! I know it’s cliche, but the best thing you can do for growth and success is to always be true to you and your brand. I’m known for mixing colors, patterns, and price-points. So wouldn’t it be strange if I started to wear all black and totally changed my style? My readers would be like ummm, no, because they follow me for the reasons above. I would never want to alienate them by dramatically changing my brand! Sure, you can add new looks and try different things, because that is what style is all about, but it’s super important to remain true to yourself!
— GREAT IMAGERY AND THOUGHTFUL, PERSONAL, AND INFORMATIVE CAPTIONS. This is a huge one when it comes to growing on Instagram. Do you know how hard it is to get a “Like” these days?! People’s feeds are saturated with beautiful imagery, so we know it takes more than a cute photo to get a like! And it’s even harder to receive thoughtful comments. That is why it’s incredibly important to create thoughtful, funny, personal, and informative captions for your photos. Your readers and followers want to know the girl behind the cute shirt, so give them more than “it’s on sale”! Also, I recommend a call to action in each caption. Ask your readers what they’re up to this weekend, or ask them what they’re favorite holiday tradition is, or have them tag a friend who loves off the shoulder tops,etc. – these are just a few examples of ways to engage them in conversation!
— GIVEAWAYS THAT ARE IN YOUR NICHE. Some people are opposed to giveaways, and sure you may drop a few followers after they realize they didn’t win the prize, but I think the loss is worth the gain because giveaways expose my brand, blog, and Instagram to more people! And if you do a giveaway with like-minded people with similar brands and missions, then you’ll find new followers who totally dig your content and what you’re doing, so they’ll want to stick around!
— DON’T POST THEN GHOST. Most often than not, I tend to post when I’m out and about, because that is when I’m the most inspired to share my outfit or what we’re up to. And when I’m with my husband or friends, we try to be cognizant of not being on our phones a ton, so therefor I sometimes post then ghost. Meaning I post then get off the app. Don’t. Do. This! Especially with the new algorithm, it’s key to engage with the accounts you follow and to reply to comments on your post. The more likes and comments a post gets within the first few minutes of posting will determine how well and how much your post will be seen and be discoverable!
— AUTHENTIC ENGAGEMENT. I know it takes time to comment on photos – yours and others – but just do it. And don’t hire a service to do it for you. There’s nothing worse when the photo caption says “my grandma died” and someone leaves a comment like “OMG you look so cute”. This goes back to doing things the old school way! Follow people who inspire you. Comment on their photos if you like what you see. Respond to comments on your own photos. Thank people for their sweet words and ALWAYS reply to people’s questions!
— DIVERSIFY YOUR CONTENT. It’s clear to my readers and potential partners that I am very much a fashion-focused blog. And that’s great, because personal style, savvy shopping, and outfit inspiration are topics I truly love talking about! However, there is much more to me than cute clothes and shoes. But you might not know that because I don’t talk much about other things, and that’s my bad! You might be interested to learn that I actually travel quite a bit, we’re renovating our house, I love interiors and decorating, I’m an avid sports fan and huge tomboy, I have a heart for animals and am a strong animal advocate, I have struggled with tummy issues for 10+ years, I’m obsessed with Law & Order SVU, I have a little sister, and my mom is my best friend! It’s a big goal of mine to diversify my content; not only to attract more opportunities, but to be more vulnerable and to relate even more with all of you! So when you’re trying to grow your audience, blog or Instagram; variety is important to keep your page fresh with new topics, ideas, and content!
— BE CONSISTENT WITH WHATEVER YOU DO. Whether you post 4x a day or just once a week, stay consistent! Your readers & followers will expect to see new content. Find the right amount of posts per day that works for your lifestyle and aligns with your goals for growing your Instagram! I blog 4-6x a week and post to Instagram at least twice a day, every day. Sometimes on the weekends I don’t post as much, especially if we’re laying low (mostly in the Winter), but for the most part, I’m consistent with my posting! And with consistency, that also means being consistent with your topics. I’m fashion focused, but dabble in lifestyle, travel, home, health & wellness, and have talked quite a bit about those things, so it’s not odd when I talk about them! But if all of a sudden I was like, “hey guys, I like muscle cars and I’m going to start posting pictures of engines” people would think I’m cray cray. You can always incorporate new topics, but just be sure to do it slowly and with intention!
— TO # OR NOT TO #, THAT IS THE QUESTION. I personally haven’t done a ton of hashtag research and can’t say definitively whether hashtags work wonders or just take up space. I do think they don’t hurt you, as in you are not penalized for using them, so hashtag your heart out! I use them in my main photo caption, but no longer hide them in the first or second comment because I’ve heard that Instagram notes those kinds of comments as spam. I also never know which hashtags are the best, and they all seem to be over-used, so I just use whatever I think is super relevant to the photo I’m posting!
I know that this was a super long post, but I truly hope it was helpful in some way and I want to thank you all so much for supporting Sabby Style!
And if you found this to be helpful, please help spread the love and pin the image below! xoxo
Printed Jacket – $8 and wearing a Medium // Choker – $38 // White Tank // Watch // Roman Numeral Bangle c/o // Turquoise Ring c/o // Similar Gold Ring // Laptop Skin c/o // Lip Liner // Lip Matte // Monogram Tote c/o Barrington Gifts