Sunday, June 2, 2019

I wish my story was one of those 'it just happened' ones, an overnight success type where I just got lucky.

But it's not.

It was planned, worked towards and from the very beginning, it had a very clear objective.

I wanted a job.

In fact, I remember the very moment I was inspired to start. I was studying fashion marketing during a Summer course in Italy and even though I was halfway across the world in a room full of strangers, it was clear that we had a lot in common. Capable, creative, ambitious, inspired, stylish, and clearest of all; we all wanted the same job.

I knew that when I finished studying, having the same piece of paper as everyone else in my degree was not going to land me my dream career in fashion. As much as I knew that I could do the work, I needed a platform to prove it to my potential employers.

So in 2014 Just Another Mannequin was born.

It was my way of building a portfolio before I'd even stepped foot in the industry. I used it to legitimise myself and build a personal brand that screamed, 'I work in fashion'. Even though I didn't yet.

I literally started with nothing. I created a new Instagram account, decided on a name and got to work.
The first thing I did was set up a photoshoot. I was lucky enough to know a few photographers from modelling gigs I'd done and set up my first ever 'blogger shoot' with someone I'd worked with previously.

I had no idea what I was doing but led the shoot anyway. I packed a bunch of my best outfits at the time and looked at some of my favourite bloggers for inspiration.

A shot from my first ever content shoot in 2014.

A few months later, one of my shots from this first ever content shoot got shared on the ASOS Instagram account. The repost had me waking up to over 1000 followers and for the first time, the industry started loving me back.

But... that was all for a while. So I just kept writing, shooting and slowly building up my presence online.

I realised that reposts were the best way to get my work noticed, so I tired to make content that was sharable and on brand for the label I was creating for. There was just one problem; my outfits were not current. I was a uni student working casually in retail and so I couldn't afford to have the latest collections that brands would want to share.

So one day I went around to all the little boutiques in my hometown and offered them free photoshoots if they would let me borrow the clothes from their stores. I got a lot of confused faces and polite declines but by the end of the day I had one 'yes'.

That one yes was enough for me, so I set up the photoshoot with the store and used it to legitimise myself, create fresh, current content and make a new connection.

It wasn't long before other local creatives saw what I was doing and I had a few small collaborations set up. I modelled for a friend's handmade jewellery brand, showcased another friend of a friend's fashion line and walked in a few runway shows in my area.

I also borrowed new clothes from friends and family to try and keep my content current and I always tried my best to keep my content high quality by working with photographers. I also invested in my own equipment so that I could shoot as much as possible myself. And while I didn't realise it at the time, I was soon practising photography almost as much as my photographers were.

Me wearing my mum's new Bardot coat during a content shoot.

It was never 'free' clothes or fame that I wanted out of blogging. It was, and still is, work.
So when I used my account to get my first ever internship at Cosmopolitan Magazine, I knew it was all worth it. I used my account to track down the managing stylist at the magazine and pestered her until she agreed to meet with me. She was impressed with my blog and my dedication to working in fashion and so I began working with Cosmo once a week as I saw out my final year of uni.

Me at my internship at Cosmopolitan Australia.

Before I'd even graduated I was using my blog and my robust portfolio of work to land me a job. Every interview I had was filled with questions about my passion project, not my grades and I took a full-time Content Creation and Account Management position at a social media agency just a few weeks after handing in my last assignment.

But I wasn't ready to let my blog go. While it had served its purpose, blogging had become my favourite hobby and so I allowed it to consume my weekends while holding down my job at the agency during the week.

My two years at the agency taught me a lot. I was now taking photos daily, putting together content strategies, reporting on analytics and insights, growing accounts, refining my photoshop and design skills, dipping in SEO and a range of other digital fields.

I took on everything and applied whatever I could to my own brand. I managed a heap of influencer campaigns at work and made note of what differentiated the good from the bad and what was going to get me repeat work as an influencer myself.

This proved invaluable and by the time I left the agency in 2017 I had almost 10K followers, had worked with a handful of dream clients and had a really strong fashion portfolio, which landed me my next role as the Assistant Marketing Manager at a Sydney based fashion brand.

One of my favourite shots captured while working at the social media agency.

In 2018, just a few months into my new job, my blog really started to ramp up. I was suddenly shooting every single weekend, liaising with clients every lunch break, styling shoots into the late hours of the night after work, shooting in any ounce of daylight I could before work and constantly planning, booking photographers and stressing about getting my content done. My alarm was set for 5am every single day so that I could squeeze in a few hours of blog work before my full-time job began.

By August, I was exhausted. And while I loved both my jobs, working 7 days a week was starting to take a toll on other aspects of my life. Mostly my relationships, mental and physical health. I stewed over which one to give up for weeks before deciding to take the plunge and go full-time with my own business.

By this point I had around 17K followers and a number of regular clients I created content for, meaning that in the worst case I would be able to cover the essential bills (mortgage, rent and groceries).

I figured that if I could cover that just by blogging on the weekends, the things I could do when I dedicated all my attention and energy full-time could only be bigger and better!

Even so, money concerns weren't the only things paralysing my decision. I feared failure, I feared leaving the industry and not being able to come back, I feared not having a respected career, I feared not having a clear ladder to climb, I feared the irregularity of it all.

But I did it anyway.

Now I do what I love every single day, I take weekends off to spend with my fiancé and friends, get more than 6 hours sleep every night, wake up happy and have made more than enough to cover my bills.

It started with with the objective to land me a job, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to one day become my job.

I'm so grateful for all of it.