hey babes! I'm about to talk shop about community and collaborating and what to do if you want to reach out to brands or other creatives.. scroll down to shop the post :)
I just went to a workshop hosted by the PeopleFund for their Innovation Week. It was so fun hearing Hayley Swindell of The Refinery, Sara Hussey of Sara Hussey PR and Ashley Jo Green of Frankie Jean speak on a panel about Collaboration over Competition. This got me thinking.. I want to share what I've learned over the years running The Gold Atlas from all the collabs I've done in the past 3 years running this brand/my blog, as well as working for my family's small jewelry business, "Valerie Allen Jewelry" this past year.
I've learned that it is SO important to put yourself out there. Some of my favorite collaborations have come from me reaching out to brands, boutiques and photographers to collaborate that just started with a coffee or me walking into their shop. I am all about building connections and community to help other small businesses or local shops that might be just starting out or because I truly believe in their product or brand and want to share with my followers. For example, when I first started The Gold Atlas I wanted to specifically work with brands that were cohesive with my style and stood for something deeper than just "selling clothes" but also gave back to the community. I reached out to Raven + Lily when they just had their brick & mortar on east Manor. I ended up collaborating with them on some blog posts and made great connections there that led me to photographers in the future and fun like-minded friends who spread the word about my blog.
I think it's VERY important to know your vision for your blog or brand and set goals. For a while I didn't take myself seriously and I think that is why I didn't get to connect with a lot of the brands I wanted to - just because I was afraid. But, once I started taking my brand and blog seriously - as a business - I realized how much time it takes to set up a flatlay, produce quality content, take a million photos to get that one good shot, and write email after email to collab with stores or brands that you really want to connect on. However, stay cohesive. I am no pro, and I don't have 50k followers - but I do know a couple things about IG and what you need to gain real followers that really want to engage and know what you're doing. I have turned down multiple brands that sent or asked me to work with them because either I would never wear them, didn't like their product, or it just wasn't cohesive with my feed and style. Although my style and concept is constantly changing, like I'm producing more lifestyle content than I was 2 years ago (instead of just outfits), because I'm growing - I still want to stay true to my brand and why I started the Gold Atlas in the first place!
I started the Gold Atlas as a creative outlet. I was an ABA therapist for children with autism and I needed a place to release my creativity and collaborate with like-minded individuals who wanted to dabble in photography, fashion, events, music and help promote local businesses. It has been a long journey but I have met SO many amazing entrepreneurs, stylists, artists, designers, boutiques, bloggers, photographers, etc. and I freakin' love connecting people. IF you check out my bio I wrote that years ago and it still stands. I want to connect with creatives and serve them in whatever way I can if I feel like their brand or product is something I would use, love, buy or worth sharing. We can help each other out - Austin has such a beautiful community. But, it's still hard to be the one to reach out first - its scary to not know how someone will respond. I think I have learned how important it is to respond to people who reach out, reply to comments, compliment bloggers or someone if you really like what they do, answer that DM, if people reach out - they WANT to hear from you and value what you're doing. Even if its not reciprocated - be professional and take they seriously because everyone is hustling and working hard and let's support each other. People ask how you grow your following - and I've found when I grew the most followers is when I would collab with someone and we both cross promoted each other and our brands or I was really searching for fellow bloggers and brands that I loved and really wanted to watch what they were doing. Continue to comment on accounts that have a similar vibe or audience and a comment goes a LONG way. It goes farther than a "like" because anyone can like a photo but to produce a real, true, and meaningful comment will get someone to look at your account and a higher chance of them actually following back. I listened to an amazing podcast by Julie Solomon of The Influencer Podcast with Jennifer Puno of PeopleMap. YOU HAVE to listen to Julie Solomon's podcast if you need any help growing you influence or just want that motivation to work hard and hear from the best ladies in the biz. I got so motivated after listening to her podcast that I started doing exactly what she was saying and I've gained over 300 real followers in 2 weeks. All that to say - find your people. Find your niche. It is SO fun and rewarding when you find people to collaborate with that just GET IT. They GET YOU.
Hope this brings you some peace of mind that whatever you're doing - do it well. Do it with purpose and keep on keeping on. Even when it feels lonely - reach OUT to fellow creatives or influencers and ask for help. It won't hurt. It usually is always better than you expect ;)
Alright .. I got to get back to work but enjoy these fun photos I did with a fellow creative/collab/fashion babe Paige Newton. She reached out on IG and the rest is history.. I LOVE HER and will be sharing a ton of photos by her in the future!