This post has taken a long time to publish, because I keep adding more personal tidbits and explaining more than I initially thought I would. I hope you enjoy this deeper dive into the past year, my favorite collaborations, my ups and my downs.
The year kicked off in Cancun, where I spent the week after Christmas on the beach with my family (10/10 recommend, makes the post-Christmas blues so much easier). I loved getting more in my “creative director” role on this trip. I scoped out some spots around the resort the first day we checked in, and the next morning, I woke up early with my sister to catch the sunrise and get some shooting done. It was so easy to do it when no one else was awake yet, and also so fulfilling to capture the shots I had seen in my head!
To be honest, January was just full of busy work. Emails. Negotiations. Not a lot of fun. I do think it’s a bit gloomy after the holidays, and this year was no exception.
Being by ULTA
Both of these were really neat collaborations because they were BEAUTY products!! My audience really asked for more beauty content in 2018, and I was so excited to be able to introduce them to two great brands right in January, especially brands I have used and loved for a while.
I can remember that these collabs were a bit tricky to shoot, as I didn’t have room to shoot on my couch in my old apartment, so I had to go to my friend’s!
February was the month I fell in love… with my hair extensions!!! I got Barefoot Blonde clip-in extensions and they low-key changed my life. I felt like the added volume and length really helped my hair ADD to my photos and also made it possible to do fun things like braids and updos that my natural hair just wasn’t cut out for doing.
I also attended my second New York Fashion Week, which was a bit chilly but so much more chill than September was. I was sooooo excited to get invited to a special E News shoot!!! Big career moment.
I loved continuing to work with Physicians Formula, this time highlighting how a lipstick shade can completely change your entire look! I was also sooo happy to find a lipstick formula that didn’t dry me out – of course I had to share with all of you 🙂 and then… how neat is it that I got to work with the BULLS?! A major win in my book!
In March, I was SO over Chicago and the cold. I joined my sister’s spring break to New Orleans with my mom and my grandparents for a mini getaway. I used to go to New Orleans every year, so I was very glad to be back!! The trip was also so clutch for shooting warmer weather looks… couldn’t be shooting a crop top in Chicago in March, that’s for sure 😉
Work wise, I signed a lot of contracts in March, which was great! I’ve talked about this before, but in blogging, some months are busier than others with collabs and contracts, so you really need to celebrate when you have a good month. (AND SAVE. lol)
Two big brands in one month!?! YAY!
Tarte has long been a makeup go-to brand for me, and I was so excited to get to work with them! Of course, I look back at this photo and think, Really? That’s what I chose to shoot for a brand like TARTE? but it was before I invested in a better lens for my camera and at the time, I did the best I could. It’s really easy for me to look back at previous work and cringe because I have evolved past that shooting style / composition / edit, etc. but I am trying to be more kind to myself and know that every piece of content I created was 100% of my efforts at that time. So, I look back at this first Tarte campaign as a stepping stone to getting name recognition amongst large brands, as well as to better shooting styles for beauty brands.
Walmart… where do I even begin? When the email first arrived in my inbox, I was shocked. How did Walmart find ME out of all the bloggers out there?! I loved working on this 3-part campaign, helping my readers get amazing deals and 2-day shipping. If there is one thing I learned from 2018, it’s that you guys LOVE deals. Doesn’t matter if an item costs $5 or $500 – if it’s marked down and more affordable, you want to know about it! I was really proud of myself for how I managed the Walmart project, ensuring that each part of the campaign was completed ahead of time with ample room in the editorial calendar for edits to drafts. This was a big change in my workflow but for the better!
April was when spring finally sprung in Saint Louis, and I made sure I was home to shoot and take full advantage of it!! My family tries to make it to Cardinals Opening Day every year, and we successfully made it to the 2018 celebration. I was also home for Easter and made a week out of the Opening Day and Easter festivities. I also signed for my new apartment this month!! Overall it was very busy but productive in all aspects of my life.
Bridgewater Candle Company
This was one of the first months where I shot photos myself using a tripod. Going back to my original statement about being kind to myself and my past work, though I now see the photos as having weird lighting or too much grain, at the time, they were breakthroughs for me.
The Nu Skin shoot was the first time I truly let go of what “other bloggers are posting” and developed a concept on my own. I LOVE how it turned out – the props, the bath bomb in the tub, the fresh flowers – all like I had envisioned.
The Bridgewater shoot took place in my tiny studio apartment with the one empty 2-foot wide wall I had. I had a deadline on this, so I had to shoot it with a tripod on my own instead of getting someone to help me. I have since come a long way with my tripod shots, but this made me feel like I was in control of my content NO MATTER WHAT since I could now shoot myself!
May was basically me packing 😉 but really – a lot of packing and preparing for my June 1 new lease!! This was the first month I really started sharing my home decor ideas with you via IG stories and blog posts, and the response was great! I made a mental note to post more about home content when I moved and had the space to do so.
I built on the new work flow that I had developed by really planning my shoots. Planning is the key to success in shooting! It eliminates a lot of the stress, other than things out of your control like sunlight, temperature, passersby, etc. I also was really proud of my mom and my sister when it came to taking photos this month. I had a lot to accomplish when I came home for Memorial Day, and they were awesome with texting me photos of locations they came across so I could fully plan shoots (location, hair/makeup, outfit, pose) ahead of time. They both learned my new lens very quickly as well.
These shoots were challenging but SO rewarding when I “got the shot.”
Pantene’s campaign seemed straightforward, so I accepted – cut to a few days before the draft is due when a bunch of brand new guidelines are added for photography. They wanted me, with wet hair, in a bathroom, with the product. First off, my bathroom at my old apartment was NOT big. It was a box with a 1950s blue tub and matching tile… not really where I wanted to shoot! I really wanted to impress the brand, so I tried to get creative. I used a tripod to capture the final shot (and was able to okay wearing a towel LOL thank goodness…) and gave the brand a few options to pick from. The one they chose wasn’t my personal favorite, but I was excited to have overcome the obstacles that this campaign presented – and it was great to finally work with Fohr (an agency) as well.
Viactiv reached out to me at the perfect time! I know probiotics are a good addition to anyone’s daily meds thanks to my mom, aunt and uncle being in the medical industry, but it was always hard for me to travel with my probiotics as they need to be refrigerated. As great as the product was, the shoot was a feat. There aren’t many ways to make some lifestyle products “cute” in the same way that you can make fashion or beauty products! I had to really brainstorm and think of a “in the moment” shoot idea. I capitalized on the fact that this product could be taken ANYWHERE and focused that to shooting in my car (LOL) to help show how I myself use the product. Styling my car was so much harder than pictures you see on Pinterest lead you to believe!!! I had to get two different bouquets of flowers after the first attempt wasn’t as voluminous as I needed to fill the frame, and it was a hot hot HOT day when I was driving around with my grandparents. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for being patient as I kicked you out of the car for 20-30 minutes 😉
June was when I turned 24! AND when I moved into my new apartment 🙂 it was a busy start to the month with moving and all the tasks that go along with it. I think we made a trip out to the burbs every day the entire weekend and spent way too long on I90 as I was indecisive on furniture, sorry mom and Lala! After the craziness died down, my mom and I met my friend Tori and her mom in Nashville for a girls weekend. It was the first time that I was legal in Nashville which made for a fun trip!
On my birthday, my mom, sister and I drove up to Holland, MI for the day. It was in the 60s and so pretty! The drive gave us just the escape I needed. If you didn’t know, I prefer spending my birthday and NYE (among other celebrations) out of town. It’s more low key that way and there is less pressure to throw a big party or make sure everyone is on a guest list! Sometimes we can get so worked up in the planning for these occasions that it leaves the reason we celebrate forgotten… Less is more for me on my birthday! An ice cream with a waffle cone, my Birks in the sand, and fall-like weather made it a great birthday.
I was so nervous for this Crest collab solely because I didn’t want to mess it up!! It was my first video for Instagram (normally I produce videos for YouTube) and I enlisted the help of my friend Will to make sure this project was done perfectly. It was fun to see how our careers can work together in a mutually beneficial way and so nice to have the heavy editing off my plate!!
I also started working with Chicwish to highlight some pieces from their site on my blog, and a few outfits made their way to Instagram. Though the above Instagram photo was not sponsored, I still consider the partnership to be great as it solved a big problem of mine. One of the struggles I have as a “fashion blogger” is not having the disposable $ to walk into Nordstrom and drop $1K on outfits to shoot every week. I know the average person does not do this, believe me, but bloggers do. A portion of our income comes from selling clothing, accessories, and other items through affiliate networks, and in order to have items for customers to buy, it has to be in stock. I felt like I couldn’t give my audience enough variety and styling options with my own personal wardrobe, so when Chicwish wanted to work together, I was all for it!
July was a challenging month for me. It was the big Nordstrom sale and my third blogging anniversary, but I had some roadblocks with Instagram engagement. A lot of my blogging friends are in “pods” which I am sure you have heard of by now, but it’s when a lot of bloggers have to like each other’s photos so that the photo “does better” and gets more engagement. I used to be in these but they really didn’t set well with me from a time standpoint (I was wasting a lot of my time doing them) and from an ethical standpoint. Note: No shade to any bloggers in pods, I know a lot of great girls that are. If it works for you and your business goals, great! It just didn’t work for me. This month was the first time I really saw a difference in my organic numbers and reach… and it sucked. I felt like I tried really hard to give great content, but it underperformed. I knew that I had to continue doing my own thing and letting my photos have organic engagement, no matter how tempting the pods seemed, because for me the “likes” from the pods would be a temporary fix to the bigger problem. I didn’t like Instagram anymore! It felt like a chore instead of a place for me to share bits and pieces of myself with you and explore my creative side.
I turned that around my creating my own preset which I have still been refining (but I think last week I FINALLY cracked it) and that brought some joy back into the creative process for me.
I purposely turned down campaigns or moved them back/up because of the Nordstrom Sale craziness (the Super Bowl of blogging, if you will) so I did not post any of those during July to let myself focus and destress. However, I did get to collaborate with a local STL boutique, La Ville, while I was in Saint Louis! It was such a fun experience shooting some of the items and getting to see that style is alive and well in my hometown. Just the perfect amount of content for before the Nordstrom Sale without any pressure 🙂
August was the month of summer that I actually spent in Chicago LOL! I had a few Lolla campaigns and did some additional content on my own for the first time, such as this makeup tutorial above. It was cool to see the city come alive for the festival, but I was ready for the tourists to go home after seeing how bad the traffic got downtown. This was also the month that I started adding blurbs into sponsored posts explaining to you how I discovered the brand initially and why I believe in the products. I always decline collaboration opportunities that are for products or brands I don’t like, trust or believe in, but some people just see the $ and say OKAY! It was an important conversation we had about #ad and sponsored content, and I am glad that we were able to come up with the “brand blurb” idea together to help further explain that this brand isn’t paying me to say I like something when I don’t; rather, they are paying me to create content for them about products I would recommend to my best friend.
Side note: how crazy was I for wearing this cardigan in 100 degree weather for the pic? LOLOL
Shooting the Advanced Clinicals campaign in my apartment was a pleasant change of pace! In my old apartment, there was no room for any “lifestyle” shoots. NONE. Ask any of my friends, they can confirm LOL. It was so easy to have someone come over and just snap these shots! No other location needed and I could genuinely just use the products and capture that moment. I feel those types of photos are so much more genuine than smiling and holding a product (guilty of that though, sometimes it’s the only pose you can do!) so when the opportunity arises for that kind of shooting, I am always game.
The BedHead campaign was … interesting. The stylist who was working on my hair at this festival party was pretty rude to me and my photographer. I work with the agency IHC frequently on campaigns, and their response to this issue confirmed that they are one of my favorites!! The rest of the campaign and the second portion went off without a hitch, and I got great feedback from my readers about the hair tutorials, something I had never done before.
September was CRAY. My third New York Fashion Week… My first London Fashion Week… My first Paris Fashion Week… WHOA. This NYFW, I was invited to the rewardStyle Party, which is basically a career milestone for blogging as they hand out invites based on performance. I was over the moon to receive that invite!! I also attended more parties than ever before, including Lulu’s Style Studio and Kendra Scott. This NYFW was way more fun and more organized than any previously because I guess I was more acclimated to how things go.
On the other hand…. LFW and PFW were SUCH clusters. WOW. Thank God I found my friend Sophie the first night I was in London (running on an hour of sleep… not sure how I carried on convo lol) because she made the rest of LFW so fun. She had attended previously and I was able to learn the ins and outs of the events thanks to her. It definitely sped up my learning curve! After LFW ended, I moved into my friend’s London apartment for a few weeks as we journeyed around Europe. I went to Paris for a day of Fashion Week and met up with another friend Lucille! I am so thankful that she was as crazy ambitious about getting photos all around the city as I was. I legit brought a suitcase with 5 outfit changes! #bloglife
September was full of a lot of self reflection. I wrote this post about how the disconnect from my everyday life really affected me… and I do think it has continued to push me to seek uncomfortable and challenging experiences.
Working with Sephora has always been a dream of mine… I was so glad to finally get the chance to work with their very own line of masks during NYFW!!! S/O to my friends Austen and Lauryn for being troopers and helping me shoot this in the subway and wait for the hoards of people to pass through so I could get the shot I envisioned without looking like Hannibal Lector. This required a reshoot because in the first go, the sheet mask dried out, and I looked like a serial killer. Some day, I may share it, because it’s my friends’ go-to when they need a laugh. I am super happy with the re-shoot, though!!
I have collaborated with Chicago-based DesignerShare a few times now, and this NYFW collab was great. I got to carry around a Chanel bag and feel like I fit in with the high-fashion labels whose shows I got to attend (despite wearing Forever 21 HAHA). My friend Danielle was their marketing contact and was a joy to work with, giving me free reign on content ideas and letting me be creative with my baby Chanel 🙂 I miss it every day!
After the craziness of September, I wanted October to be CHILL. I landed back in the US on October 3, and I knew that with fall in full swing, I needed to finally start sharing the home content I had always been too scared to hit “post” on. I was so pleasantly surprised by the response to my decor – a million thank yous to all of you lovely people!!! Home inspiration has always been something I’ve loved. I binge watch HGTV and repin beautiful kitchens the size of my entire apartment. I never knew that you guys would like (and, well *like* on IG) posts from me relating to home content. It was a really scary leap into the unknown, but this allowed me to diversify my content verticals and stand out from a sea of other fashion and lifestyle bloggers. Brands have contacted me and expressed that they think their products would fit organically into these styled decor posts, which is something I had never even dreamed of, but now is another potential income source for me. YAY for October and laziness leading to good opportunities!
I love fall, so getting to experience Halloween and all the fun activities that come along that time of year was fuuuuuun 🙂
Bedhead & Ulta
After my travels, I knew I needed to start making that $$ again!! I luckily was able to partner with Vici, another brand I have seen other bloggers working with for ages, and it was great to know they saw value in me and my work! My mom killed that shoot day out in Augusta.
I also loved working with BedHead and Ulta, showing a really quick and easy fall curl tutorial with the BedHead wand. This was my second hair campaign, and it is something that is harder to photograph than I anticipated!! I did like how these photos came out despite the challenges we faced, and most importantly, the brand did!
November… When I got over my hashtag ban. In late October, I had been blocking too many spam accounts on my Instagram account (I get around 50 a day, and if they are not blocked, they can lower reach and engagement) and got a weird warning from Instagram thinking I myself was a spam account. I have done research, and it was because I blocked too quickly, leading the app to think I was a bot programmed to do blocking instead of an actual person. I was able to explain the situation to Instagram, but not before I was hit with a two-week hashtag ban automatically by the algorithm. Normally, I rely on hashtags for more views and engagement on my posts, as people who do not follow me can see the pictures via the hashtags they search. For example, the Red Cup picture with my red Hunters had a large % of views from hashtags in my analytics, because people were excited about the holidays coming up and the famous Starbucks Red Cups! However, for that two-week ban, none of my posts showed up under any hashtags, not even my own like #caitpattonoutfits. It taught me to broaden my horizons when it comes to my career and not rely on Instagram. It can be hard, as the majority of my campaigns ask for an Instagram post or story, and Instagram is where the money is at, but diversifying has helped me keep my cool when a photo underperforms on Instagram – the same photo can blow up on Pinterest or Facebook.
November was SOOOO BUSY with holiday campaigns.
I was really excited about the pre-holiday campaign I did with PF, because we know by now that I LOOOOVE PF, but also because I felt like it was my best shoot yet. I refined the shoot I did for NuSkin in June and used a similar style shot for these new Physicians Formula products, but I felt it was more elevated, thought out, and sophisticated. I have better lighting systems now, I have a better lens now, and I think I have a better “eye” for the shot now. I am so pleased with this shoot, and I am very proud of myself for handling this campaign start to finish quickly and efficiently.
When Febreze emailed me, I again was taken aback – they know who I am?! I wanted to really deliver with this campaign. However, I ran into so many roadblocks when it came to shooting in a gym or workout space. Some didn’t allow photography, some wanted photo rights… we ended up having to shoot it in the frigid cold. Major props to Emma for being my photographer and being so patient with me. I really knew in my head what I wanted the final IG shot to be like, and she helped me frame it and pose to achieve it. Considering the fact that I was freezing and OVER shooting, I really am happy with this final picture.
MY FAVORITE MONTH!!! December is always so hectic but fun, and I knew that last-minute campaigns would be popping up. I always tell myself that “after December X, I am not taking on new campaigns,” but when the rush fee is added on top, some campaigns are just too much $$ to pass up! I stress myself out every Q4/December for this reason, but I always end up pulling it off. Vlogmas was an added workload this year but was fun!
I went home early this December, and did stick to my guns that when I went home on December 14, all content through January 5 would be shot, edited and ready to go, minus sale roundup blog posts, and, of course, this post. I was able to make the big Schoenherr Christmas celebration with all my cousins and aunts and uncles, and enjoy time at home with my immediate family leading up to the big day. My Christmas content was so easy since it was all pre-shot with the exception of my Christmas Eve outfit.
However, the past week or so, I took time off posting and am currently suffering the consequences. It’s been hard for me to see posts underperforming and wondering how long this low engagement will last… Will it affect my collaborations for the new year? Will brands I’ve been emailing go with other bloggers instead of me? Despite my worries, in my heart I know I needed to focus on my mental health instead of my Instagram stats. It can be hard to be at home during the holidays for a multitude of reasons. One day I hope to be able to share with you my full story and feelings on the matter… until then, if you too struggle during the holiday season, know you are not alone. I’m there with you. <3
These were both campaigns that I took on after my original “cut off date,” but you just don’t say no to your favorite companies!!! It was stressful meeting these deadlines, but I am proud of how they turned out.
The Google shoot was the first time I was able to place a product into my “still life” shots, and I LOOOOOVED it. I had fun snapping the progress of the styling to my friends and getting ideas for tweaks of the fairy lights or the addition of cookies. There is no better feeling as a content creator then when you know you are using your gifts and your unique eye to produce a photo… and I felt that when I took these shots.
The Forever21 collab was one I had to take on because I wear the brand like crazy. Sometimes, the dollar sign isn’t the most important thing when signing onto work. For me, this was solely because of the opportunity and what it would mean to me to add Forever 21 to my media kit.
Well, there you have it, folks. 2018 summed up in a blog post! It’s been a year full of immense personal and professional growth. I sincerely thank you for joining me along on the ride. Your DMs, comments, and emails mean the world to me!
I look forward to a fun 2019 with all of you. If you wouldn’t mind, please fill out this reader survey to better help me understand you and how I can help you have the best year!
LOVE YOU. MEAN IT.