Welcome back to another exciting episode of Penny Darling!
February 28th (or Tuesday) marked my anniversary of my first blog post titled My First Post…Yikes.
I know I was super clever at naming blogs back then. But in any news…
Happy Bloggiversary to me! (cue confetti!)
It also started out as Curves, Curls, & Coffee.
But it’s been one hell of a journey. From a regular of 15-30 viewers and now reaching almost 500 views per post and climbing from 700 to 2,200 instagram followers in just one year has been an amazing journey.
And I wanted to take this blog post to talk about a few lessons I learned about being a blogger this past year, share some favorite pictures, link some posts, and genuinely thank you all. So hold on with me!
This is going to be a SUPER picture heavy post! So scrollers who are here for pics…this is the blog post for you! Or just skip ahead to my instagram here!
This is also going to break down a lot of my older posts and give links to older content by category! So – this may also be a long one!
1.) No one starts off famous.
I had this idea in my head that I was getting 50 likes on my instagram pictures…I should start a blog. Some of my favorite people I followed on Instagram were plus size bloggers. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted people to ADORE my outfits, leave thousands of amazing comments, and start myself a business…right away.
Shockingly. None of that happened. My first post had something like 12 views the first few days. I was DEVASTATED! It takes longer. It takes more time than that. It takes patience and commitment and really listening to what your readers want to read. It takes figuring out your audience, finding your voice, and several hours of taking pictures a week to build even this little site I have here.
So please, new bloggers, bloggers that post occasionally, bloggers that feel like no one is reading – stick with it. I’m still working on half of that stuff after a year of once a week posts. Your voice, your ideas, and your values exist at a time where it is easy to share them with people all over the world. Stick with it. Even when it sucks. Even when you have no ideas. Try a little longer.
2.) I could never have done any of this without Preston.
This is a more personal one. But he is my ‘instagram husband’.
People ask me over and over – where do you take such cute pictures? How do you always have such great hair/light/background? How can you swing producing new content nearly every day?
The answer, for me, is Preston.
The truth is…usually on Tuesdays…Preston and I will pack up my car with between 4-10 outfits and haul all over the city to find interesting backgrounds. He takes upwards of 20 takes per photo, helps me select them, helps me change, always carries the bag, and loves to text me when I reach an insta-follower milestone!
It’s important to find someone you trust, someone who cares for you, and someone who is incredibly patient and kind to help you. He truly is the quiet voice that continues to make Penny Darling happen. He listens to ideas, follows me around with a camera, lets me ask people to take our picture, does photo shoots, proofreads, and does so many things for me that I could never express them all here. He tolerates when I snap at him or ask him to ‘just take one or two more’ and is the most loving and supporting partner a girl could ask for.
So thank you, my darling Peanut.
You are amazing. None of this would be possible without you. And I can never express how much I appreciate you.
LIVE UPDATE: Preston peeked over my shoulder, saw what I was doing, kissed me on the head, and told me he was proud of me. Goals, amirite?
If anyone wants to go back in time and check out the Preston posts – here’s a list of all the blogs that are just a TON of pictures of us:
The First Preston: about me accidentally dating Preston’s doppleganger…years before ever meeting Preston.
*Valentine’s Day 2016 – some really awesome pictures of us and little schnoodle, Harvey, and how we continue to have amazing Valentine’s Days!
Halloween Costumes – a list of reasons why Couples Costumes are NOT totally lame.
*Preston’s Birthday and 27 Reasons that I Love Him – I feel that this title is pretty self explanatory !
Travel Blog: Adirondacks – Preston and I on vacation in Upstate, NY (with my fam!) There’s mostly a TON of gorgeous scenery in this one!
His & Her: Theme Outfits: An adorable take on some famous duo’s in history including Dorothy & Scarecrow, Barbie & Ken, and Peter & Wendy (and a lot more!)
Spring Photo Shoot/Tech Week: Our spring fashion shoot in the park! Adorable pics!
*A Modern Day Fairy Tale: My first post about Preston. This is our love story, how we met, and how we continue to grow in love every day.
* indicates a personal fave.
3.) You have to spend money to blog.
It’s just the truth.
I did not know that when I started. WordPress (my host site) was free. Instagram was free. I already had clothes. And my iPhone took good enough pictures, right?
Well, not exactly.
This past year, I bought a new camera! (eeep!), I paid for my WordPress and domain name, I did a paid boost on Facebook, paid for photographers, and the constant buying and selling of new clothes to keep my content new and to feed my insatiable need for something new has been VERY expensive.
And my next thing that I’m saving up for is to buy a new layout on WordPress which is over $100. And that’s a huge cost for my little post grad heart. So if anyone wants to donate $100 to me…I definitely wouldn’t be mad! Ha!
It costs money to keep Penny Darling going…and it doesn’t make me any money to run. But I love it and I’m passionate about it. So I don’t mind spending the money. At first, I spent practically no money to run it. But as my viewers and production quality grew, so did the cost. And that is bound to happen to any blog as it grows.
If you want to see some of my haul blogs and you can see all my money disappear right before your eyes – check out some of these links here!
January Haul! – A bunch of post Christmas gift cards and Christmas present outfits!
Black Friday Haul – Self explanatory. I think it’s all Torrid? But it’s cute!
Modcloth Stylish Surprise Reveal – I did my September (i think?) Stylish Surprise reveal from Modcloth. Again, pretty self explanatory and more deets about what a SS is!
April Clothing Haul! – a bunch of BST steals! And these are some of my fave pieces!
4.) You have to take risks.
I took a LOT of risks this year! Like way more than I thought I possibly could. Blogging will do that to you! It forced me to try new things, try new clothes, explore more, meet new people, open myself up to criticism and rudeness, and take huge leaps outside my comfort zone.
A year ago – I would have NEVER imagined posting a photo of myself in a bathing suit:
Or a crop top:
Or in my bra:
And you have to be willing to put yourself out there. I took risks with some of my outfits. Even if they weren’t risks for everyone – they were a risk for me. And now I saw what happened when I faced my fear…nothing.
I took a lot of risks. I reached out to people. I put myself out there. I opened my body, my life, my relationship, my clothes, and even my thoughts were open to critique.
And I posted a few risky posts! (I think!)
I Sold Underwear on Craigslist. – I actually did. Here’s my story about it.
So…I Got in an Accident… – A scary story that was really emotional and personal for me to post.
People That Annoy Me – I made a silly Buzzfeed style list during a week that I was being SO salty and I got a TON of negative feedback. The reason I know these things are mild annoyances are because people I love and respect do them. Does that make sense?
5.) Your creativity is going to be challenged.
There are some weeks when you CANNOT THINK OF ONE DAMN THING TO SAY!
I only missed one or two posts in the last year, I believe? But there were some weeks I had to get CREATIVE to come up with some content.
Like this for example: I mixed and matched different prints. Some looked great. Some looked terrible. This is one of my fave looks from that shoot.
Sometimes you have three months planned out…other times you’re like, F*** it – let’s do it live!…and other times, the things you plan on get deterred for some reason. A reason that happens to me a lot is the weather. Most of my pics are outside…so if it’s windy or raining or too sunny or too dark or anything – the pics don’t come out right and then that makes that blog post not really possible.
Sometimes your creativity gets kicked in the butt.
So there have definitely been times where I asked around, polled people, asked my mom, looked to other bloggers for inspiration, and all these things to create content.
Sometimes I’ve been inspired by things going on in my real life. For example, I did a Look Book of Heathers (like the 80’s movie) because one of the theatres I work with was opening Heathers: The Musical that night.
It has definitely made me think outside the box and do some wacky, new, and challenging things to create original content that I like and I think is great for my readers!
(green is not a creative color.)
6.) You learn A LOT about how douche-y people can be.
You ever have someone who has NEVER met you tell you to lose some weight so when you kill yourself and hang yourself from rafters they don’t break?
Yeah, that had never happened to me either until some douche internet trolls took my picture and posted it on an online forum and watched like thirty dudes just completely say horrible and disgusting things about me.
I actually only found it because my analytics linked me to it.
But yeah, people comment on blogs and on social media to tell you that you’re fat, ugly, obese, a whale, should kill yourself, etc.
Or alternately – they send you unwarranted nude pics, ask for explicit sexual favors, and send gross messages and comments.
Those are NOT great days.
7.) You have to stop yourself from being an ‘on your phone all the time’ kind of person.
Sometimes I can get a little caught up in catching evidence of an experience instead of just experiencing it.
I used to NEVER bring my phone near pools or lakes – but they were great places to take a picture and lots of moments. I used to not insist on taking a thousand pictures of everything and I used to just get dressed with no evidence.
Like what you don’t see in this picture is me waking up extra early, putting on make up and a dress, doing my hair – all to go out to a pancake breakfast with my parents, brother, best friend, and boyfriend. The food was amazing and the syrup is homemade on the premises. But you don’t always see the reflection of the whole day.
I love having the proof of those wonderful moments.
But sometimes I have to remind myself to put the phone down and just to experience the thing happening.
I have taken hours of my life to photograph things. It has become an amazing hobby and activity for Preston and I to do together. And it’s especially amazing to be able to watch and document our love story.
And afterwards – I post them on Instagram. So I check comments, likes, general engagement and I check my blog analytics and try to stay up to date on other blogs. Social media is such a big part of Penny Darling, and Penny Darling is such a big part of my life that it requires attention to online details.
But I do occasionally have to remind myself to enjoy the things that are happening instead of trying to document them.
8.) There is ALWAYS more work to do.
I have a friend who writes a blog full time. And I used to scoff about how crazy that was. How could writing a blog post take an entire day? Even if you posted every day – it wasn’t THAT much work. How could anyone call that a full time job?
That was the biggest slap in the face of my life.
For me to post once a week – it takes me approx. 2 days of taking pictures, writing content, publishing, sharing, promoting, edit, posting all on my social media, etc. AND I HAVE LIKE 300 readers or so? They’re doing that times a thousand! I take a full two days to do all the work involved with making it happen. I create content calendars, connect with different bloggers, and do small back end edits all the time.
And they do sponsor deals, newsletters, have website updating, payment plans, product reviews, brand deals, blogger events, promotional photos, etc.
It’s a lot more work than posting and being done. Which was news to me….
I totally get it. It takes time. You want to write good content. That sounds SO trivial – but you do. You want it to be good.
And then after that – you want to engage people. I LOVE when you all leave comments and tell me your experiences, stories, thoughts, opinions or anything about you! It’s usually the best part of my week.
And don’t get me wrong. My blog is my favorite thing in my life (aside of Preston, of course!). Doing the work to make it happen is a labor of love. I’m not frustrated or annoyed at all doing it.
This are two of my posts that I am immensely proud of. This one is one about being plus sized in theatre. The other one is my thoughts about Curves & Confidence.
Dear Bloggers, I am so sorry that I doubted all the work you do. You’re amazing bad asses and pleasepleaseplease forgive one year ago me. Love, Current Abby.
9.) It was a top ten moment of my life to get recognized by three different strangers from all over the country…IRL.
True fact: I went to a conference for work that had reps from almost every state a few weeks ago and I had three different women from three different states have a variation of this conversation:
“Hey. You look familiar! Have you ever worked in INSERT STATE HERE?”
“Nope, I’ve lived in PA my whole life!”
“…Do you post pictures of your outfits online/have a blog about your clothes?”
“I think I follow you on instagram! *they pull it up.* I do! You’re so cute!”
This happened with someone from Wisconsin, Maine, and Texas.
This was like the most amazing thing of my whole life. Like top ten moment. For real.
Like. Holy shit. My insides died. I was just screaming on the inside.
10.) Relations matter…more than most everything else.
The people who read, who comment, who like, who follow anything I post make me feel purpose in my life. I can only hope that even if it’s one dumb thing I said – that I connected with somebody out there! That is an amazing thing and I love it.
I also love the different people who make your blog posts happen.
From my mom (who agrees to model when I need her to!)
From other friends & family who have made guest appearances, taken photos, or gone out of their way to make Penny Darling happen. (special thanks to Adam, Lauren, Mindy, & Abby!)
From my parents and Preston who are amazingly supportive. And Preston who has had one too many of glasses of wine and won’t stop smooching me and I just keep typing while kissing him right this moment.
To any of my amazing friends (or ones I just haven’t met yet!) who have stopped me to say they loved my blog or even, hell, read the damn thing. That’s amazing.
From the amazing women (and men) that I’ve had the opportunity to meet all over the world. I’ve gotten to connect with people from Wales, Australia, Canada, Tennessee, Texas, Seattle, Britain, and all over the world!
From the other bloggers who inspire and challenge me to do better. And are such an amazing community of women that strive to help each other and genuinely are proud of each other’s successes. I was blessed to be able to work with Liz over at With Wonder & Whimsy.
The connections make everything amazing and wonderful and bring me so much joy and happiness. Truly, I LOVE your comments and stories and ideas. Please continue to share them!
And thank you. Thank you for inspiring me, helping me, and being here with me!
So here’s the “end of blog” spiel!
The next few weeks have some awesome stuff planned! Another collab, some travel stuff, a guest post from Preston, possibly some swimwear, etc. Tons more to come!
I definitely want to do more His & Her fashion. Do you guys like seeing Preston more?
Follow me on Instagram: @Abby_Hoy
If you want to follow my darling, Preston – you can click here!
Follow me on Snapchat for a more ‘day to day’ look at mine & Preston’s life!: @abby_cadabra
I’d really love to do that Barbie post. If anyone can seriously sponsor it – let me know. I think that would just be the coolest and most fun to do.
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Comment for topics you would like to see me cover! Like to help my self esteem! What do you think so far? More fashion? More lifestyle? Do you like the mix?
My next few blog ideas: Do you want to see my new house stock pile? Seasonal transition? Another haul? Maybe one about those ten pieces that make up a wardrobe. But I’m not sure. I want to know what you are interested in hearing about? My Top 10 Embarrassing Stories? 20 Facts from Your Blogger? A team up with another blogger? Haul? A show off of my Barbie lot? Want me to style you? Let me know!
Love all you wonderful ladies (and gents!) out there!