“Be Insanely Useful” With Vanessa Valiente

“ To ensure this standard, before you plan an outfit, or write up your newest shopping picks, ask yourself, “Is this insanely useful?” If…

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“ To ensure this standard, before you plan an outfit, or write up your newest shopping picks, ask yourself, “Is this insanely useful?” If you are planning to do something someone else as already done better, don’t do it. If you are recommending the same bags that every other blogger has offered up, skip it. Focus on the gaps in the blogosphere.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Valiente, the #1 personal stylist and original fashion blogger in San Diego.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was born and raised in San Jose, California before moving to San Diego to get my Costume Design degree in Theatre and Film. In 2006, I began as a costumer for television programs starring the likes of Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Bo Derek, Morgan Fairchild, and Joe Manganiello. In 2007, I began personal styling and started my blog because I couldn’t afford a website. I was veering away from the television industry and the recession was starting. It was the worst time to start a personal styling business. Plus there was no information on the internet back then on how to be a personal stylist. If you googled it back then, you got a lot of cheesy schools and a british definition of a personal stylist that was laughably vague. I had so few clients I focused completely on writing, marketing and teaching myself html, design, and anything else I needed to know.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?

Being one of the few fashion bloggers in the new world of blogging I was invited to everything, and since I had very few clients, it was easy to attend all the events. One of the events V-Style was invited to was a Kardashian party at an elaborate home in the hollywood hills. When I arrived, I was escorted to the press section along the red carpet. I had a point and shoot camera to photograph the arriving guests, but the first picture I took was a discreet shot of the piece of paper on the ground that said V-Style next to the piece of paper that said Instyle. Then the “stars” began to arrive and I realized I had no idea who anyone was. I may have styled TV shows, but I don’t actually watch TV. I recognized the Spice Girls and a playboy bunny, but everyone else was a mystery. I finally hooked up with a writer from Self magazine who helped me out. I pointed out all the well dressed people I wanted to interview, and she told me who they were before I interviewed them. Sometimes though I didn’t have time to find my ally. I ended up interviewing a very stylish woman having no clue who she was. I did amazingly well considering, and she was extremely friendly and responsive. I made it back to my Self gal and asked who I just interviewed and she was shocked, saying “That was Audrina Patridge. You really don’t watch TV do you?” Nope, not since I was 18. In fact, I’ve never seen an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. To this day this is true, and just now I had to google the name of their program in order to write the previous sentence.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I recently used my social media platform to recruit people to a letter writing party to flip the 49th district. We only got 1000 letters out, but our added effort seemed to work — we got a democrat on the ballot for November. Other than that, I do know that I have changed my clients lives as a personal stylist. I am told this constantly. I have a client that calls me her mom despite being over thirty years older than me. I have a client that never attended parties because the stress of choosing an outfit was too much. After working with me he finally feels confident to date and socialize. His life is completely different now. I have another client who suffers from incredible anxiety and gains strength from her wardrobe. She has told me that with the right jewelry she can finally leave the house. The power of the perfect outfit can bring such confidence, joy and more importantly eliminates negative emotions that can spread to the rest of society.

If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?

In order to be the best personal stylist you need to like people more than you like fashion. Once you have that, I recommend a fashion degree of some sort with a business minor. Or a business major with a fashion minor. Obviously throw in some blogging, html, css, and photoshop classes in there. When starting out as a fashion blogger and personal stylist, I recommend finding your niche as a fashion blogger, but wait to find your niche as a personal stylist. You need to work with EVERYONE first. You can’t be the best until you’ve challenged yourself completely. Once you do that for a couple years, then you can start focusing on your specialty. You also should maintain an amazing website and online presence.

Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful?

My mom introduced me to entrepreneurship. Without any degree she was a successful event planner and floral designer in the 90’s. She is the queen of turning nothing into something. When I first started my personal styling business she was the only person I knew who had done something similar. She was the person who showed me it was possible. She has since retired from the wedding industry, but, of course, she has opened a new business in Napa Valley providing personalized tours. As for blogging, my friend Andrea Kane is the person who told me to start a blog when I told her I couldn’t afford a website. I never would have started one without her no-nonsense direction.

Can you share a story?

What kind of story would you like to hear?

So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?

My clients are always traveling so I am expanding V-Style’s travel content and might be spending 4 months in Europe next year. I am also working on a book about personal styling. It explains my specific personal styling process through bizarre and comedic stories. I will be seeking a literary agent and publisher next year.

What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)

Whenever I tell people my fashion blog, V-Style, pays my mortgage they are astounded. People outside the industry are surprised anyone can make money blogging. People inside the industry are shocked because my Instagram following is barely a thousand, and I don’t have good hair. Turns out you don’t need a luscious mane and a big following to make money blogging. Here is how my blog pays my mortgage through affiliate programs with only 100 hits a day…

1)Ask For Higher Commissions & Opt Into Private Offers & Promotions

Let’s do some math: if you post twice a week, and your mortgage is $2000, each post needs to make $250 in commissions. In order to make that $250 per post with a small following, you need the highest commission possible. To do this, make a list of the brands you have featured that have received multiple sales, or at least one big sale. Once you have your list, contact each brand’s affiliate manager and ask them for a higher commission in exchange for more exposure of their products on your blog. You will find their contact information under the Advertiser’s Info of the brand’s profile. If you have a designated strategic network development manager, they can approach the brand for you. Either way, most brands will agree to a higher commission with the promise of more features. If you are wondering what commission rate to ask, 10% is a standard good rate. If you are fully dedicated to a brand you can ask for 12% or more. Let’s do some math again, if you are featuring brands that earn you 10% commissions, you need to sell $2,500 worth of merchandise per post.

In addition to negotiating a higher base rate, there are always promotional offers that brands are doling out, especially in Linkshare’s platform. I have made up to 20% commission with Nordstrom by opting into all the promotions that propagate under my Private Offers Tab. Make sure you take advantage of the temporary higher commission by featuring the brand during the promotional time frame. At 10% commission, you have to sell $2,500 worth of merchandise with one post. At 20% commission, you only have to sell $1,250 in a post.

2) Partner With Every Brand You Love & Wear In Stock Items

Whatever your niche, with a small audience, your main focus must be on the shopping. Constant images of you standing on the street with a latte wearing sold out items will not pay your bills. You must be partnered with all the brands you feature, and always make sure you wear items currently in stock when that post goes live. A simple google search of “{insert brand} affiliate program” should provide you with the information on where to connect with all your go-to brands. This means you will have accounts with numerous affiliate networks. I have accounts with Linkshare, Commission Junction, Ebay’s in house network, Performance Horizon, Shareasale, Pepperjam and more.

Tip: if you don’t have the budget to constantly be photographed in currently available items, ask a brand to borrow their clothes. Make sure they pay the shipping and return fees. You can also purchase Rent The Runway’s monthly subscription and rent clothes that you know are currently in stock at other stores. Rent The Runway also has an affiliate program (7% commission base rate), but readers are more likely to buy an item than rent it.

3) Increase Purchases, Feature More Expensive Pieces & Limit Returns

To ensure high amounts of purchasing, make sure you provide thorough shopping recommendations. Personal Style aka Street Style posts captivate your audience, but posts featuring well-researched shopping recommendations make more money with a smaller audience. If the items are relevant and don’t overwhelm or confuse your reader, the more there is to buy, the more that will be bought. This does not mean you should skip street style posts. Both types of posts are essential to make the sales. Images of your personal style creates the connection to the reader and proves your authority on the garments. They enable the reader to trust your recommendations later when you put together a list of garments or accessories you want them to buy.

When creating these shopping posts, you want to focus on high quality items. Quality items tend to be more expensive, which makes you a higher commission. If you feature a $400 garment at 10% commission, you only need 6 readers to purchase that piece to make your $2,500 quota. That’s 6% of your 100 hits that day.

Now, even if you make your $2,500 quota for the month, if your readers try on your recommendations and don’t like the fit or feel of it, they will return it. You don’t make commission on returned items. To avoid as many returns as possible, make sure you do your research on your recommended items. Go to the store, try things on, and give your reader sizing tips in the post. Let them know that the boot is comfortable, but may not be the best for someone with thicker ankles. The more specific you can be, the more likely someone will buy your suggestion and not return it.

4) Be Insanely Useful

A post that opens the wallets of a small crowd must be excellent. To ensure this standard, before you plan an outfit, or write up your newest shopping picks, ask yourself, “Is this insanely useful?” If you are planning to do something someone else as already done better, don’t do it. If you are recommending the same bags that every other blogger has offered up, skip it. Focus on the gaps in the blogosphere.

5) Being Qualified Ensures Readers Will Buy What You Recommend

As an expert shopper and How-To guru, I have a built-in audience seeking my expertise. With this in mind, I write in my professional voice and focus on advisory posts. By catering to this demographic, I have my clientele’s rapt attention and have attracted women all over the country with similar shopping interest and intent to purchase.

This does not mean you have to be a professional shopper to acquire a small purchase happy crowd. You just need to find your niche and focus on your own expertise. Here are other ways to be a qualified fashion voice…

· Owning A Unique Body type

· Working Retail

· Years of Personal Research on Your Niche

· A Fashion or Design Degree

When you play up your qualifications and focus on your niche, your readership will respond with trust. Trust equals sales.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

This is a toss between Leandra Medine of Man Repeller or Linda Chester, a top literary agent on the west coast that also happens to live in sunny San Diego. I would love to compare salads with Leandra Medine because she is the only blogger I’ve been drawn to. She even makes cameos in my dreams! Her aesthetic and humor captured my attention immediately. If we could grab a lunch I’d love to talk candidly about her career. I’d love to learn more about the details of her successes, and secret sauce for diversification. On the other hand, I’d love to lunch with Linda Chester to discuss my book and absorb any knowledge she’d like to share with me. As a first time novelist, I know I am going to need to do a lot of work on my story to meet the high standards of such an esteemed agent.

Originally published at medium.com

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