It’s been two and a half years since I started my fashion blog. Although, I don’t think blog is the right word for it.

To me, it’s a whole lot more than just a place I go to write my thoughts on racing fashion. It’s a community, a place to connect with other racing fashion enthusiasts and help those who are just getting started.

field fashion community

So, today I thought I’d just stop and reflect for a while. Share the ups and downs. Give you all an insight into what it’s like to dedicate your time to running a fashion blog. And how it’s changed my life.

Why Did I Start the Blog?

After fours year of entering Fashions on the Field competitions and engaging in conversations with other enthusiasts about our shared passion for racing fashion, I had the fashion blog idea.

fashions on the field in 2011

My first FOTF all the way back in 2011; where I thought booby tops were fine… and they must have been because I won! haha

I saw it as a great creative outlet for me to express my thoughts, indulge in detailed descriptions of how my outfits come together (with like-minded people) and share tips to newcomers.

I had no idea how involved it would be, or what it would turn into. I still don’t! But it’s a passion I need to pursue. The commitment is like nothing I’ve ever done before, something I dedicate the majority of my week to.

Creating the Website

The whole idea sounded easy enough; make a website, write an article every so often, upload some photos and voila? Racing fashion blogger extraordinaire! Right? I was so, so wrong.

The website launched in September 2015 and took us (and when I say ‘us’ I mean my genius brother who learnt how to do everything himself with the help of Google and YouTube video tutorials) 3 months to get up and running.

We had to think of things like who would host the site, what pages it would feature, what I would write about, what my logo would look like, brand colours, imagery…the list was long.

in progress photo

Some sketches from when I first came up with my logo design.

We each had a white board and used the technique of ‘Scrum’. This is where you break down each big task into smaller tasks and work through them individually so as to not get overwhelmed. I got overwhelmed. It was a hectic three months.

to do list work planning

This is just some of the tasks put into Scrum… the whiteboard was always changing with each new addition to the website.

My First Ever Blog Post

But the site was just the beginning. Now that I had a place to write and share my thoughts… what exactly was I going to share with my readers? I’d never written anything before and English wasn’t exactly my favourite subject at school. My initial goal was to publish a blog post every two weeks.

After brainstorming a list of topics I came to my first blog, ‘The Yays and Neighs of Racing Fashion’.

dos and don'ts of racing fashion

It took me a solid week to write the first draft. It’s not easy. You have to make sure you don’t waffle on, that you provide enough detailed information and keep it interesting.

Good visuals are imperative for a fashion blog, which, even today, is the part I dread the most. It takes up the most amount of time!

I have spent countless hours searching the web, going through (if you’re reading this, chances are I’ve crept through your social media at some point) Instagram and Facebook photos looking for the right picture, or searching google for outfit trends to match the topic I’m talking about.

racing fashion inspiration

I often browse Instagram hashtags to find just the right photo

I can spend forever on just one blog, editing, re-reading, changing my mind, improving, deleting, changing my mind again. And if it’s a topic I’m unfamiliar with, then there’s a lot of research needed too.

Procrastination is my weakness (besides tacos) and when it’s a tricky piece to write, you have to push through. Being out of your comfort zone can be challenging, but rewarding when the final product comes out and people tell you they’ve enjoyed reading it.

I found this plus size racewear post tricky to write. Lucky I had the Field Fashion Community ladies to help me with this one.

curvy racing

I’m so impressed I haven’t missed a week yet! You’re reading blog post #72!

What Else is Involved Apart from Writing Blog Posts?

I’m at the stage now where I’m trying to build a community, help ladies who are just getting started in racing fashion, as well as create a platform for ladies to form new friendships.

I’ve made so many fabulous friends from attending the races and I LOVE having people to discuss outfits with. It is such a fun hobby and I love to encourage others to get involved.

Aside from the blogging, in any given week I could be working on some of the following activities:

  • Guest posting for other blogs or newspapers.
  • Writing weekly fashion tip emails for my email subscribers.
  • Posting to the @milanoimai and @millinerymarket Instagram accounts.
  • Moderating the Field Fashion Community Facebook Group, posting conversation starters and encouraging new members.
  • Organising Field Fashion Community in-person meet-up events.
  • Updating the FOTF calendar with new race events.
  • Being a judge at various racecourses throughout the year.
  • Planning and preparing my next races outfit.
  • Writing the annual 40-page Spring Trends Report.
  • Administration work for Millinery Market and posting off my own hats for hire.
  • Working with developers to make feature improvements to Millinery Market.
  • Making updates and changes to the website.
  • Responding to emails and questions that I receive from ladies.
  • Browsing dress shops online to feature race dresses on my shop page.
  • Managing product stock with my existing suppliers.
  • Finding and creating new products for my store.
  • Reviewing my goals and setting short-term objectives for the next 3 months.

spring racing trends melbourne cup

The Field Fashion Community Facebook Group

The Field Fashion Community Facebook Group would have to be my favourite thing that has come out of all this.

I started it with the hopes of building and supporting a community of race day lovers. A place where ladies can ask for advice on any race related questions about upcoming events, find tips on DIY, outfit advice from others and talk about racing fashion. Any interest is much more exciting when you can share it with others.

What started with 30 or so members, has grown to 2500 members.

milano imai racing fashion facebook group

Ladies often ask questions on outfits for upcoming race days. It’s so amazing to see how helpful and positive the community is and the different ideas everyone comes up with.

field fashion community facebook group

Then there are the questions on sewing tips, or on how to alter a dress, where to buy the best gloves, information on race tracks, the best place to park, what colours everyone thinks are trending, absolutely anything.

The group is made up of women empowering other women, supporting each other and this is what I love the most.

The most fun part is the Field Fashion Meet Ups! I love meeting all the ladies that I’ve been speaking to in the group. The meet ups give us all a chance to come together and form new friendships (and drink wine!). So far I have hosted 5 different meet ups and we always have a blast!!

drinks race friends bar

I would love you all to encourage your friends to join the group and grow our community!!

Website Traffic Growth Over Time

Website growth is one thing I get a real kick out of tracking. Using Google Analytics you can see how many people visit your site each day.

When I first started my blog, barely anyone came to my site. I never got any comments on blog posts but I still enjoyed writing them. I just kept doing my thing, sharing my knowledge and experiences.

Over time, people started to discover my site, they shared my content, Google started showing my posts in search results and traffic started to grow. Now when I release a new piece, over a thousand ladies read it and the comments are so lovely to receive- they really motivate me to write bigger and better blog posts.

blog growth

Traffic spikes every year leading up to Melbourne Cup. Total website traffic in 2017 was 3.2 times higher than in 2016.

The three most popular posts I’ve written to date are:

popular blog post milano imai

How Much Time does it Take?

To be honest, it feels like this gig takes an endless amount of time.

It can be overwhelming at times and it’s hard to balance a personal life and work life, especially when there are no set work times and there are always tasks to be done. Late nights, early mornings, weekends…you have to manage your time as best you can.

My weekly to-do lists look like this. They prioritize tasks to make sure everything gets done.

notepad handwriting

In the last couple of years I have reduced the number of shifts I work at Kookai (a clothing store) so that I can focus more time on growing the blog. These days I work 3 days a week at Kookai and spend roughly 30 hours a week working on my site.

Working in retail

Me at Kookai Pacific Fair. Drop in and say hi if you’re around!

A Hobby or a Business?

In the beginning I set out doing my blog as a hobby. As time went on, I realised how much I enjoyed it and how much I wanted to do it, full time.

About a year in to my journey, I realised that in order to have the greatest impact and reach, I really needed to treat it like a business. If I could make the blog earn an income, I could cut back my hours at Kookai and dedicate more time to it, produce better quality content, attend more events, work on new projects and develop resources.

And it would help to cover my running costs, such as website hosting, email marketing, developing new physical products, hiring software developers, graphic design, race event travel costs, competition prizes, etc.

Right now I am generating income in the following ways:

Millinery market and transparent raincoat

Some Highlights that have Helped me Stay Motivated

What I love most about writing now, is that I have a voice I can use to share the thoughts and opinions of the racing fashion community.

We can openly discuss hot topics and even controversial ones, or I can write informative pieces in areas that ladies are struggling with. Receiving emails and messages from ladies who enjoy reading my blog is a great motivator.

having a voice when blogging

I recently wrote a controversial post about whether judges can get it wrong.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in all areas and I enjoy researching topics I’m unfamiliar with. I often ask the lovely ladies in our community for their knowledge, to expand my own.

The friendships I’ve formed through racing fashion have also kept me going. Having a hobby you can share with like-minded people is inspiring and fun.

Then there’s Spring Carnival– the highlight of my year, every year, because I love the atmosphere so much and the memories made.

spring carnival friends fun

I love that I get to work on my passion every day and the future possibilities that could come from it. I’ve always wanted to find something I love and until I found racing fashion, I didn’t know what that was.

Lowlights & Things I Struggle With

Just with all things, with the good comes the bad.

I think the hardest part for me was stepping out of my comfort zone and diving into something I had no experience in. Fear of the unknown and all that.

It was also a rude awakening to suddenly have to live off a few days’ pay. Basically, the blog has me working full-time hours, ‘for free’. It also requires a lot of discipline to work from home. When friends want to drop in for a cuppa, or the sunshine is beckoning, you have to remember to treat it like a job and set yourself proper work hours.

There are plenty of times where I feel burnt out and want a break. It’s quite stressful and overwhelming when you have so many tasks to do every week and all along you’re thinking… ‘is this going to become something?’

If I don’t check my emails for a few days they start to pile up. Then there’s the list of messages, the people asking questions that need prompt replies, advice on outfits or things I need to research for someone. Sometimes it gets to a stage where my anxiety kicks in and I’m frantically going over things and trying to find emails I’ve not responded to yet and hoping I’ve not forgotten something, or someone…argh!

Like many of us, I have trouble saying no to people. But with limited time, I’ve had to start prioritising activities that will help many women rather than spending a lot of my time giving 1-on-1 advice.

Skills I’ve Learned Along the Way

Through the blog I’ve learnt some very valuable life skills over the past two years:

  • Communicating thoughts succinctly (no waffle)
  • The value of relationships and networking
  • How to grow a community and help connect people with a common interest
  • Technical skills (keyword research, SEO, advertising, etc.)
  • Social media marketing and growing a personal brand
  • Goal setting and time management
  • Getting comfortable putting myself out there and in front of the camera
  • An appreciation of different people’s style
  • More self-confidence and a belief that you can do anything you put your mind to
  • The power of self educating – listening to podcasts and audio books.

My biggest tip for someone wanting to start their own blog or business is that you don’t need to know everything in the beginning