Advice

Your Burning Blogging Questions, Answered

As you know, this is my 13th year of blogging.  I have now been blogging longer than I spent in K-12.  In some ways, it feels like forever.  In others, it feels like yesterday.

Over the decade-plus that I’ve been in this business, I’ve seen it all.  I watched fashion blogs grow from fun hobbies to multi-million dollar businesses.  I saw bloggers start out anonymous, and quickly morph into “lifestyle influencers” who share everything from their sex lives to their toothpaste preferences.

It has been a wild, wild ride.  So I thought that I would talk a little bit about how this blog functions, how the business works, and where we go from here.

On Saturday, I solicited questions from my Instagram followers and, wow, you ladies delivered.  Many common themes appeared so let’s get started.  And settle in, because it turned out to be the longest post of the year.

// How would you define CapHillStyle? //

CHS is a niche blog created for women who work professional jobs and want to dress appropriately but stylishly.  They want their careers and lives to thrive, but they want to look good too.

// How long does it take to write a blog post? //

It depends on the post.

I write The Edition by saving links to articles and clothing pieces all week, so I can grind that one out in 45-minutes to an hour.  A Saw it on Social is very quick.  Same with Happy Hour.  The Range and The Find posts that come up in the mornings are elusive.  If I have a good idea what I want, it’s 15-minutes.  If I don’t know, I might hunt for hours.

The outfit collages and Three Ways posts can take anywhere from two-hours to five-hours.  The hold up comes if I can’t find what I’m looking for and need to go digging.  Or if I make the outfits, look at them and think, “these are boring, try again.”

// How do you make time to blog? // 

I have been doing this a long time, so it’s part of my natural rhythm.  After all, I’ve been blogging since Pres. Bush was in office, so I’ve built a good routine.

I work from 9:45am to 6:00pm every day at my “real” job.  Then, I start blogging around 8:00pm.  Sometimes, I’m done at 11:00pm when Kyle goes to bed.  Sometimes, I’m done at 2:00am.  Sometimes, I watch the sun come up.

I try to get all of the morning posts done on Sunday because it makes daily life easier.  That way I just have one per day to write the night before.  Pre-COVID, I would often send my husband to the casino on Saturday nights so that I could grind out a half dozen blog posts in peace and quiet.  (Just takeout, pajamas, and my dogs. Bliss.)

The #BreakThings newsletter is growing in popularity, that’s additional time as well.  And I’m concerned I may not be able to balance it all once the legislative session starts, but I just don’t know where I’ll cut from.

// Do you wish you were a full-time blogger? //

I was for a short time after law school.  It wasn’t a good fit for me.  I need a different kind of job, and I need to be busy.  As much as I love blogging, making it my job took all of the fun out of it (and I think the content reflected that).

// Do bloggers have hired help or interns?  I see so many talking about “employees.”  Do you have them? //

No.  I don’t have interns or employees.  Because I squeeze in this work between dinner and bed time, training someone wouldn’t be easy.  Also, supervising people and making work for them is work that I don’t have time to do.

Nearly every other blogger I know either has a part-time photographer on contract, a booking agent, a sponsorship manager, a publicist, a social media manager, a web designer, an intern, a stylist, an assistant or a whole team of people.

I once met with a one-million-plus blogger at a conference we were both speaking at and she had six people working for her.  But once you get above the 50k follower level, most have an “Instagram Husband” or a photographer to make it all go.  At 100k, you probably have someone booking your sponsorships and someone else to manage your site even if they’re contracted third parties.

// Does your blog provide a living wage? //

For the first four years that I blogged, I earned almost nothing.  People (esp. the Congressman I worked for) kept telling me that I needed to monetize, but I didn’t know how.  Finally, I met Jean from Extra Petite, and she told me about affiliate links.  The rest is history.

Now, my blog provides a mid-five figure income, which is commensurate with the 30 hours per week that I spend on it.  In the best year (2014), it provided enough income that I could pay my expenses and my post-scholarship law school tuition.  But the earnings are not consistent, and it would be foolish to try to predict how it will go one month to the next (especially in a COVID year).

// How does your blog earn money with no sponsorships? // 

I don’t take sponsored posts, which is how the majority of bloggers earn their living.  The reasons for this are four fold:

  1. I don’t want to review products that I would never buy with my own money, don’t want, won’t use and struggle to endorse.  Every blogger says they “would never endorse a sponsored product that they wouldn’t buy themselves.” To an extent, that’s true.  Every influencer turns down more product than they accept, but many of them turn so-so or okay products into must-haves because the check cleared, and then you never hear about that game-changing product again.  I don’t want to be one of those people.
  2. I hate being told what to say.  I once received a sponsored post request that told me I needed five photos of the item, three with me in the photo also, one of me drinking the product, and 50 words of draft language.  This included the phrase “holiday cocktail magic,” which needed to be repeated three times.  Hard pass.
  3. Getting sponsorships is a lot of work.  You need to build relationships with brands, send out pitches, start at the bottom with the hair vitamins or the slipper socks, and then work your way up to the name brands and the luxury items.  It can take years to get there.  I don’t have the kind of time it takes to collect the data needed to write the pitches needed to persuade people who don’t understand my audience or this blog’s purpose that I am worth their money.  They meet thousands of bloggers whose content is made the same way, they don’t understand how I make mine.
  4. Brands want you to be in every photo wearing the jeans or lathering up the face wash or using the pan to make dinner.  They do not want stock images.  So I would need to put myself in the photos, which ain’t happening.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from bloggers who take sponsorships is that once you start, it’s nearly impossible to quit.  Why?  Because sponsored content is where the money is.

A few years ago, when I toyed with the idea of taking sponsorships so I could fund our never-ending home remodel, a friend was kind enough to put me in touch with the woman who books sponsored content for influencers.

This agent estimated that a sponsored post from one of the blogger-friendly brands (think Our Place, Tula, FabFitFun, etc.) would probably net $500-$1,500 depending on the quality of the photos.  A large retailer might pay as much as $3,000 to $5,000 once I had a few “proof points” under my belt to show that my posts would sell.  My biggest asset, she told me, was the trust I had built with my readers.  (Trust that I was pretty sure would be toast if every post was suddenly partnered and paid.)

// How much do you make if someone buys something you posted about?  Could you make more money taking sponsored posts or are links better? //

That depends.  Some retailers offer high commissions like 15-25%.  But those retailers are few and far between.  And they’re not usually retailers that I want to promote.

Most retailers offer between 7-10%, but there are all kinds of loopholes.  Maybe the item was on sale.  Maybe the retailer isn’t promoting that item type right now, so a dress was 10% but shoes were 4%.  Some retailers fall back on the “up to” a certain percentage, but when you run the numbers it might be as little as 1%.

Etsy is a hard one for me, for example.  I love to promote the small, independent makers on that platform.  Some of my best-selling items are from there.  But the commission rate is usually 2% or less, so I once sold $3,000 worth of COVID masks and made $57.

Affiliates used to compensate me per click.  So every time someone clicked on a link I made somewhere between .04 and .09 cents.  This was a great model for me because you ladies are prolific window shoppers.  But those days are gone.

A good blog post will earn around $200, but that’s not every post or even most.  A rare post that touches a nerve will earn $500, maybe a bit more.

I lose out on a lot of additional revenue by passing on sponsored posts, which makes my husband completely nuts.  He’s always asking if I would turn down the opportunity to do the same work and triple my salary.  I struggle to explain to him that sponsorships are not the same work and that I like doing it this way.

// I don’t buy much, but your site is such a big part of my life.  Is there another way I can support you? //

I’ve toyed with a lot of options here.  Should I have a virtual tip jar?  Should I put the whole site behind a paywall and eliminate affiliate links?  Should I have a special members’ only site like Patreon?

My issue is this: I don’t want to charge readers unless I can give them something additional for that money, but I only have so much time to create content.  I thought about going back to posting three times per day and making the third post visible only to members via Memberful or another similar service.  I just don’t have the content inspiration, esp. during COVID.

However, in January (God willing), I’m opening two paid subscriber newsletters.  One, called Sunday Scaries will come out on Sunday mornings and discuss how to make the most of your week.  And the second will interview interesting women in the vein of my former Instagram series the Five x Five, where we ask five serious questions and five fun ones.  The newsletter service will probably cost between $5 and $8 per month.  Yes, it is additional, time-consuming content, but I feel like I have enough inspiration to write it.

// How diligent are you about disclosing sponsored content?  Are all bloggers? //

Like I said, I don’t really do sponsored posts.  On the rare occasion when I promote something that needs a disclosure, I try to be as transparent and forthright as possible.  I label every post that has affiliate links.

Most bloggers are diligent to comply with FTC rules and disclosures, not just because they want to but because big brands demand it.  Some brands even send over the exact disclosure language they want because they don’t want to end up on the government’s bad side.

But there are bad actors, people trying to fudge the numbers.  One professional fashion blogger I used to follow puts a blanket disclaimer in tiny type on the bottom of her main blog page that say some items may be sponsored.  All of her posts are sponsored.  Another hides #ad or #sponsored in white text that blends in with her photo backgrounds.

Bottom line, most influencers obey the law.  Many do it because they’re honest people.  Some do it only because they have to, bend every rule, and would stop tomorrow if the government would let them.

// How do some influencers seem to appear overnight? //

Last year, a fashion blogger out of Brooklyn went from 8k followers to 800,000 in two weeks.  When I asked an acquaintance who works in paid partnerships how this was possible, the answer was that she started the blog with money from a significant other and already had a publicist, a photographer, and a brand manager on day one.  So that’s one way.

Another is to build on another audience.  Every Bachelor contestant seems to be an influencer now, as does every reality TV star.

And some just feel like overnight successes. I’ve watched one or two friends just reach a critical mass where they went from niche blogger to mid-tier influencer to online juggernaut very quickly because something just clicked.  Some fantastic bloggers who have been killing it for years moved up the ladder during the #BLM protests, as brands tried to diversify their presence, and are basically just getting the attention they’ve deserved all along.

// How did you grow your blog?  How many readers do you have? //

Time.  That was the biggest component in the growth of my blog.  That and consistently creating content.  A lot of new bloggers start out hot, don’t see result,  and then quit before they can grow.

Readers want predictability and quality.  They want to know if they check your blog at noon, there will be content for them.  Many also want a blog that feels relevant to their lives, which is where some bloggers lose their audiences when they go professional.  The teacher dressing for work with two cute kids was relatable; the woman jetting off to a new resort every week with her personal-trainer body and Celine bag might not be.

Right now, I have around 90,000 unique visitors each month.  At the peak in 2014, I was pushing 250,000 uniques to 2-million plus page views each month.

// Is it too late to start a blog?  It feels like there are so many, so there’s no point. //

If you have something relevant to say, there’s always a spot for you.  Maybe you won’t be Gal Meets Glam and leave the day job behind, but if you enjoy it, set reasonable expectations, and can make time for it, I say go for it.

The key is to write about something you enjoy talking about and will still enjoy talking about 9,588 posts later.  Decided how many posts you’ll write each week, and choose a sustainable number. Then, commit to writing it for six months before you try to make money.

Build your audience, get in a rhythm, find your voice.  Only then should you be monetizing.  Let your content lead you.

There are a lot of blogs, but maybe something makes yours different.  I work a niche.  What is your niche?  What is unique about you?  You don’t need the perfect name, or the most impressive design.  You just need a domain, your social handles, and the will to create good content.  Figure the rest out later.

// Was it hard to watch everyone you started with get more famous than you? //

A little harsh.

Truthfully, I never chased the blog fame.  I didn’t go to fashion week or travel to the showrooms to kiss the ring.  I don’t post photos of myself (which is the only way to grow) and don’t want to; it would be emotionally destabilizing for me.  I don’t want to talk about my life in depth and live a public existence.  So, no, it wasn’t hard.  It just happened that way.

I’m happy for Jean, and Anh, and Emily, and Cassie, and the girls who I’ve known for years.  I want them to do well.  Every now and again, there’s a small pang of jealousy when they book an amazing partnership or take an incredible trip.  But mostly, I remember that what I do is not what they do, so they’re not comparable.

// Do you still love it?  Do you think about quitting? //

I remember the weekend that I created this blog vividly.  I was awash in creative energy and joy.  That continued unabated until 2015.

Now, it’s a little less inspiring than it once was, but I get glimmers of that old joy.  When I’m working in politics again and can post about my daily outfits, it’s more fun.  When I find a dress or a lotion or a necklace that I just adore, I can’t wait to share.

I still love it and am proud of it.  It just feels a little more like a job than it did when I was 26 or 30, probably because I don’t have the energy that I did then.  It’s easy to love your side hustle when you don’t need sleep.

I don’t think about quitting.  I know some day I will.  I know that day is closer than I probably realize.  My time is not infinite.

This year, with COVID, low sales numbers, and a general malaise, it’s been more difficult to stay engaged.  But I’m optimistic that next year will be better, and I’ll just play it by ear.

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    76 comments

  1. Louisa says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for many years now. I’m not the most consistent reader. There are weeks when I’m not as diligent as others, but as I’ve read your blog over the years, I’ve always thought that you and your content are authentic and real and like a little black dress, it’s my go-to.I really appreciated your follow-up review the other day of your Dyson hairdryer. I’ve read other blogs where a product has been recommended like a foundation and then the next month, they’re highlighting a new just released foundation and claiming it’s their go-to. How can one keep up and quite frankly, why would I want to? I’m rambling now, but I just want to share that I so appreciate your honest, consistent, and authentic blog, and I look forward to reading it for as long as you plan to continue blogging.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  2. SG says:

    YES YES YES to a subscription newsletter! I love Break Things so much I would absolutely pay for it, I have no doubt that something like you described in this post would be well worth my money.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Kate says:

      +1 – can’t wait to subscribe!

      December 10, 2020/Reply
  3. Sarah says:

    I would pay for CapHillStyle, I would pay for Break Things, and, if you start something new, I’ll pay for that. We support some YouTubers on Patreon because my husband loves their content, and I actually would be excited to be able to financially pay you for the great content you provide every single day.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  4. E says:

    Wow, thank you for this extremely honest look at blogging and the blogosphere. Your blog has been the one consistent blog that I’ve read over the years, after I’ve given up on the other “more famous” bloggers (as that one person put it). No shade to those gals but I just lose interest when seeing them shill work wear that is either a) wildly inappropriate for actual professional workplaces or b) obviously gifted and in the thousands of dollars, which even as a lawyer, I cannot (or do not want to) spend. This blog is more like your best dressed friend giving you actual advice or sharing what she truly uses and truly likes.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • ANNIE says:

      “This blog is more like your best dressed friend giving you actual advice or sharing what she truly uses and truly likes.” YES this is exactly what has kept me coming back to your site since 2013.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
      • Erica says:

        THIS, ditto. I have been reading almost daily since 2013 as well. Well done, Abra. .Thanks for all you share and create. Would happily pay for this worthwhile content.

        December 10, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Thanks, that’s such a great way to describe it.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
      • Rachel Bird says:

        Yes! This is EXACTLY how I’d describe CHS! I’ve been reading for a decade and appreciate all the hard work you always put in.

        December 10, 2020/Reply
    • Lindsay says:

      Same, same, same. Yours is the most consistent blog I’ve read for years and I appreciate the thoughtful and honest boundaries you’ve put around this to maintain your integrity and sanity.

      December 10, 2020/Reply
    • SC says:

      Agreed! Your blog is the only fashion-related one I follow, because none of the fashion influencers work in offices anymore! Why would I take fashion advice from them?

      Your blog is the realest of the real. Thanks for ALL that you do. I honestly didn’t realize how much effort and time it takes to publish it, but it shows, and you deserve every cent from those affiliate links. 🙂

      December 14, 2020/Reply
  5. Jenny says:

    This is the only blog I read consistently. I do like one of the other bloggers you mentioned in this post (will not say which one), but you can *absolutely* see the way the sponsorships affect the content. It just all feels a bit…presented. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, but there really is something incredibly powerful about your blog. Patriarchy sucks and traps women in all kinds of ways, including the contradictory ways we are discouraged from being too ambitious but also discouraged from pursuing “frivolous” (i.e. feminine) things. Your blog really strikes a blow against both of those ideas. There are many of us who are ambitious, talented and smart, and we also love beauty and style. I want to be successful at work, and I also want to have a happy marriage and be a good wife. Women contain multitudes. Thank you for reflecting that in CHS.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  6. Crockett says:

    Yes please to a subscription newsletter!! I found your blog over 10 years ago and honestly it’s the only website I consistently visit everyday. After a trip, I catch up before the new week starts. I’ve found some of my best fashion treasures here and I sincerely value your opinions. I’ve read this from being a single, Southern professional girl to now a SAHM with a small part-time job. THANK YOU for staying consistent, honest, real, and entertaining!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  7. Aar1 says:

    There’s a lot of competition, but this might be one of my favorite posts you’ve ever done! Thanks so much!!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  8. MC says:

    Wow, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Your candor and honest recommendations are what keep me coming back to the blog year after year. I would absolutely pay for a newsletter and content. I love Break Things and would love to be able to refer back to it in e-mail. You have a lot to be proud of and I appreciate you sharing it all with us. I started reading 12 years ago as a press secretary on the Hill – this has been a wealth of information for my career and style and continues to be as both evolve. Would be happy to support you with the next steps!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  9. Diane says:

    Technical question on links I’ve wondered about – if I buy something you’ve recommended I always try to start from the website so you get “credit,” but was wondering how long after the post you get credit? If I come back 3 months later and buy something doe you still get a commission? If I click through a link and end up buying something else from that retailer as a result of the initial click do you get credit? I’m happy to start my shopping here instead of Ebates, etc. if you get credit for any purchase!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Lindsey says:

      I have the same question. I am one of your prolific window shoppers and I frequently will put something in my cart for weeks or months to try to get a better deal. If you still get a commission months afterward, I will try to come back and click through.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
      • Belle says:

        How long links are active differs by retailer. Sometimes it’s 30 days, sometimes 60, sometimes 90. So if you ever want to buy something, just DM me, and I can generate a new link, though I know that might be work. I just really appreciate the thought.

        December 9, 2020/Reply
        • Mackenzie says:

          Re: If we want to buy something DM you so you can send a link.

          Perhaps this could be an additional post that would take less research time for you? We could submit products that we are interested in buying and would like to give you credit for sending us to the site.

          I would be interested in seeing what the ladies of Cap Hill Style are considering and I think it would benefit the blog because it wouldn’t require additional research and it could generate more commissions from the links instead of one commission from the link sent to the original requestor. It may also help you generate more content when you feel stuck because you can see what your readers are interested in buying.

          December 11, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Ebates eliminates blogger commission, but I know a lot of people use it. So I don’t worry about it.

      If you buy something else in the same transaction, almost all retailers give credit on the total value of the cart.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
  10. Linda Loui says:

    Thank you so much for this post – very informative and insightful. I’ve enjoyed your blog since you started it and appreciate that you are staying true to yourself.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  11. Heather says:

    I’ve never commented before but this post was thoughtful, eyeopening, and really honest. Props to you for staying true to who you are, and what you do (and don’t) want to do with this blog!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  12. Lindsey says:

    I come here multiple times a day. I do not think I would pay for subscription-only content, but I wanted to tell you that if you threw up a donation button a few times a year, I would contribute to keep content going. Kind of like Wikipedia. I value what you provide!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Katie says:

      Ditto!

      December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Erica says:

      Me too! I was actually hoping you’d make a public wedding registry last year so I could get you a gift – you are the only blogger I know whose advice I really trust. I would love to have a more direct way to support you.

      December 10, 2020/Reply
      • Belle says:

        That’s sweet of you. If Kyle had thought of it, you ladies probably would have restocked his kitchen. 😉

        December 10, 2020/Reply
    • SC says:

      I would contribute too!

      December 14, 2020/Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I agree! I’d happily send you some money to help compensate for your work on all the content I enjoy reading.

      I’ll probably sign up for your newsletter just to give you money Abra, but with the way the year has been I’m not sure I can keep up with regularly reading things on schedules. I’ve basically stopped regularly consuming media, whether it’s podcasts, blogs or magazines.

      I sometimes skip reading your blog for a week and then binge read, sometimes it’s daily, but I enjoy it whenever I can get to it.

      December 16, 2020/Reply
  13. Kate says:

    I would love a tip jar sort of function and/or would be more than happy to pay for a newsletter. It makes me feel good to help fund the people who help lift my days and weeks, which you have done for me since 2013! Thanks so much for all of the work that you do and this wonderful community you’ve created.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  14. Katie Anderson says:

    I would gladly pay you for “Four Ways” posts- they are the biggest boon to creatively remixing my own wardrobe, inspired the majority of the purchases I’ve made from your blog and honestly, just reflect great style I aspire too. It’s clear how hard you work and how much effort goes into your blog- looking forward to being able to better support your work in the new year!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  15. ERica says:

    As you know, I have been reading your blog since 2009 when I was a summer intern in your Congressional Office, reading nearly every day but at least once/week. Then, I was a 20 year old from a small town figuring out how to be a young professional. I am now a senior attorney in my federal agency, and Capitol Hill Style has been a constant in my professional coming of age. This blog (and Thirtyish group and now, Break Things) has given me breaks from studying long hours during law school; the career guidance to navigate issues as a young professional; and a sense of community that makes being a small fish in a big pond seem less daunting. Thank you for your dedication to being consistent, relevant, and interesting. I’ll be here for the ride and to support as long as you’re inspired to continue!!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  16. Nadine says:

    I’ve never been someone who shops a lot (I keep my clothes for 5+ years, usually), and these days I’m trying to shop secondhand as much as possible, but I would absolutely support your content financially through a subscription or similar.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  17. Ana says:

    Belle – I have been reading your blog regularly (and it is the only blog I read regularly) for probably 8 years now. You have been a constant in my life when so much has changed – new jobs, promotions, getting engaged and married, having a baby, moving out of DC to another state, changes in political winds, etc. etc. I trust your insight and appreciate not only the consistency, but your honesty about so many topics that are sensitive and probably scary for you to open up about. You are also a wonderful writer. I will read what you have to say for as long as you say it, and will understand when you are ready to retire the blog (although I will certainly be disappointed). Thank you so much for all that you do!!!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  18. Jess says:

    Just wanted to pop on and say that I am a SAHM of 6 who loves your blog. I love everything about it, even if some of it doesn’t apply to me. I appreciate your bluntness and honesty with everything; something that is severely lacking in blog world.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Jennifer says:

      This!! I started reading when I worked in D.C. but that was years ago and I’ve been a SAHM for almost 7 years now and still read because, while most of the fashion doesn’t apply to me, I still love the vibe, the other recommendations, etc.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
      • KiM says:

        Same! Big law to SAHM. Read religiously and would totally support a paid option.

        December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Colleen says:

      Same! Started reading while working in political non-profits way, way back in the day and still read it now as a SAHM.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
  19. Ash says:

    I started reading this blog as a DC intern in 2010. I still check it occasionally for ideas on how to dress; through all my moves, grad school, and career transitions across the east coast and Midwest. My favorite are the 2 ways posts.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  20. Anne says:

    I’ve been reading your blog since 2013 when I was a Congressional intern and googled, “how to dress for Capitol Hill.” Thank you for your honesty, dedication, and hard work on this blog over the years.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Aar1 says:

      Literally same, just substitute 2012 for 2013. Belle has been a constant for 8+ years through internships,college, law school, private practice, in-house, and now work-from-home. Would def subscribe to something for a cost.

      December 10, 2020/Reply
  21. MarY g says:

    I have been reading since 2013 and I can’t imagine what my wardrobe would look like if I hadn’t followed your guidance! You also turned me on to two of my now fav brands, MM LaFleur and M. Gemi. I really love your writing style – it’s straightforward yet personable and vulnerable. Thank you for everything, Belle!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  22. L says:

    I really also appreciate this post. I’ve been a reader for the past decade–I found you during a painfully slow internship in 2011 and have checked back consistently ever since.

    Given the proliferation of sponsored content now, what blogs do you read, either for inspiration or your enjoyment? (or is it mostly Pinterest for inspiration now?)

    I’ve dropped so many bloggers that I used to love because they’ve moved heavily toward sponsored content or now mostly post outfits that didn’t/don’t work for my daily life–especially when I was in a professional office every day (if they’re posting outfits at all, instead of food or travel or baby products). I feel like your content is one of my few remaining sources of inspiration, and I would love to find more.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  23. Susan says:

    Wow, amazing post. No need to repeat what the others above have said, but I firmly believe that stability and consistency ALWAYS win. Those fast flame influencers start out with originality and voice and always—ALWAYS—lose it. I’ve watched it happen time and time again. They get wooed by the money and BOOM, the website/content is so heavily “curated” and produced that you cannot recognize who the original creator was. You have remained true to who you are—and honestly, I LOVE that you don’t make your blog and IG and content all about pictures of you. (Not that you’re not beautiful!) People like content that they can see themselves in. I can’t see myself in a nap dress picking flowers in the Hamptons. Ha. But seriously, your content is real and relatable (and not humble brag faux relatable) and we love you for it. Please don’t forget that!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  24. Stephanie says:

    What a great informative post. I would gladly pay for content and think that’s a great idea. I read your blog multiple times a day and know that what you put up on it is real and honest. You can’t say that for all bloggers and influencers. We all feel the COVID malaise. If the reader community can help provide inspiration for posts and content, let us know!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  25. Jane says:

    I’ve been reading more about fair trade and how we have to pay more for products if we want the workers who make them to be paid a living wage. I realized that I shouldn’t expect bloggers to create content for me for free, either, as I benefit from hours of your work that you could be spending elsewhere. (I sometimes wonder if there is a gendered component to blogging insofar as we expect blogs, often run by women, to be free.) The newsletter is tough because my inbox is pretty clogged, but I’m considering subscribing now. If you have the time to do them, I’d be willing to read more sponsored posts because I know you’d be thoughtful about the brands you choose and how monetary relationships can affect your content. I read your blog and three other blogs consistently; two of those have a “buy me coffee” feature, and I have bought them both coffee, so this would be a feature I’d use. Finally, most of them post anywhere from two to five times a week, and you give us way more content than that. I would still be excited to hear what you have to say if you posted less often.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  26. Ali l says:

    Thank you for opening up and sharing your life behind the scenes. I’ve been following your blog since 2011 when I was a wee Senate intern. Now I’m far from that scene, but checking your page is still a part of my daily routine. I rarely purchase online, but when I do it’s usually because you shared it. I always look forward to your workday readings, professional inter-personal advice, and your state-of-Abra updates. You remind me to stay authentic and that we all have our struggles. I’m grateful for your commitment to this blog – it’s been a fun ride for me to be a part of.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  27. JorD says:

    I’ve read your blog every day for ten years. I would pay for your newsletters happily. Thanks for this honest and helpful post and for being okay with niche readers like me. I occasionally read other blogs but my loyalty has always been to CHS!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  28. CatherinE says:

    I’m so excited for the subscription newsletters! I know it is already worth it, and am glad to compensate you for the many years of free content I’ve enjoyed.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  29. Sophie says:

    Dear Abra,

    Thank you for all you do and the community you’ve created. I’ve been reading your blog for close to a decade. I was working on the Hill as a junior staffer when you spoke at the Women’s Congressional Staff Association leadership conference one summer recess, maybe in 2011(?) Coming to CapHillStyle a few times a week is a joy for me and I LOVE the BreakThings newsletter.

    Thank you for your honesty and candor today with the truth about blogging but over the course of the blog. What keeps me coming back every time, is the fact that I know there is a real person writing and posting things she loves. It’s so refreshing and humbling especially when everything is #ad or #sponosored.

    Excited for you and good luck with the Montana Legislature this session!

    A fateful reader,
    Sophie

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  30. Ally says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honesty and transparency. I started reading your blog 10 years ago when I was first getting into politics. I ended up in DC, continued reading your blog, got out of politics, continued reading your blog, and now I’m living 5000 miles away and still read your blog. Even now, as I’m trying to start my own blog/side business in a completely unrelated topic, I look to you for inspiration. Your Instagram stories are some of the only ones I consistently look through (and look forward to!). I will support you with whatever you end up doing. Side note, I can’t say how much I appreciate where you are in your own personal beliefs, and how you aren’t afraid to talk about it (but it isn’t the main focus!). I align very similar to you, and I find it SO difficult to find others out there who do.

    December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Katie says:

      Agree 100% on finding a blogger who shares your political beliefs, but has many other diverse interests. I’ve looked up to you for years, Belle! Keep the amazing content coming! It is much appreciated.

      December 9, 2020/Reply
    • Anna says:

      Yes! I left politics to pursue a career in pastry. That, combined with COVID confinement, means I basically spend my life in either athleisure or a chef coat, but I still check this blog just about every day. Also, while I’m on the opposite side of the political aisle, I think Abra reflects many of my views in a way that I don’t really see represented in the media or among the more boisterous of my party.

      December 11, 2020/Reply
  31. V says:

    I just wanted to say that I love your blog so much. I am a mom, a minivan driver, and live in a state that most people go to on vacation. Currently homeschooling involuntarily. And also a BigLaw partner. Office has been all-suits-and-hose to casual (probably pajama-casual by now). Two big annual work events are all-suits for several days in a row — eek! It is nice (so nice!) when you have pieces that can go to the office and to meetings and around town while being washable and from places that exist in my mall or have friendly return policies. Thanks to you I have MMLF, an OG bag, and some other items I’d never have learned about otherwise (b/c busy person). I still have a W subscription, which relates in no way to my life, but it was mentioned in Working Girl, so there’s that. Keep up the good work!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  32. Emily w. says:

    This might be my favorite post of yours all year! Thanks for the peak behind the curtain. I’ve wondered about many of these questions quite often!

    December 9, 2020/Reply
  33. Kerry says:

    I have no idea how long I’ve been reading your blog, except that I’ve followed you for longer than any other blog, and I check in daily (and look forward to it!). I know it has been years. Your content is consistently the most reliable and most relatable content of anyone I follow. I love the little glimpses you give us of your life (and I have to admit I miss the old outfit mirror shots on instagram!), but I can appreciate not wanting to put your entire life on here and to be the model for every product you feature. Thank you for all of the effort you put into this, and thank you for providing honest reviews literally at your own expense. I’m pretty sure I’d pay for a Sunday Scaries feature, and know I should be better about using your affiliate links (vs ebates), but would also be supportive of a tip jar or something similar (someone mentioned wikipedia in the comments and their random asks for money certainly work for me and I use your website FAR more). Whatever you decide, please let your dedicated readers know what they can do to best support you.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  34. SArah says:

    Been here since 2013 because I got a job in politics and had no idea how to dress. I came for the clothes and stayed for the authenticity. I’ve always loved how “YOU” you are and how uncompromising you are in staying true to yourself as this business has gotten wacky. Thank you for being a constant friend and for creating a safe space here on the web.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  35. Eleni says:

    Echoing the many others! I have been reading your blog for the past 8 years and honestly, your blog and Jess Ann Kirby are the only two I read. Love your posts and content. The honesty and transparency are greatly appreciated and I know your reviews are real. Thank you for creating and sharing this with us!

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  36. Laura says:

    Thank you for an incredibly open and informative post! Like many others who wrote, what I love about your blog is your honesty and integrity and, frankly, the fact that you work at a real job. So many bloggers seem to be supported by a high-earning or wealthy spouse or partner and their lifestyle and choices reflect it (specifically including some of the bloggers you mentioned above). The endless exotic trips (no person with a real job gets that much vacation), restaurants, designer handbags, etc. I get that those blogs are aspirational but over time it wears thin. I like that you share ups and downs and live in the real world. I am more than willing to help monetize that effort–just tell us how.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  37. Laura says:

    Long time reader — I love your model and appreciate your honesty and deeply-rooted convictions on how you want to run your blog and live your life! You’re the only blog I read consistently (and have for about 10 years now), and I can’t wait to throw money your way when you start your newsletters.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  38. chelsea says:

    Your husband is right. Be choosy about your sponsors and it will be a win.
    I think more photos and other original visual content would be huge for this blog; maybe sponsorship revenue could help that to happen.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I think you’re right on the photos. The issue is that my anxiety gets really high when I look at photos of myself, I’ve been working on it. But I’m not sure posting photos of myself for people to comment on would be good for my health.

      December 10, 2020/Reply
      • KMK says:

        One of the reasons I like this blog is because you are not constantly posting photos of yourself, or pushing a certain body image or look that says “I didn’t try” when you actually spent hours styling and culling photographs. The content is wonderful, it is (you are) enough. I don’t think you should feel pressure to post photos of yourself, because for as much negative self-talk as it creates for you, it might also perpetuate that for your readers. I don’t have the same body type as 99% of the bloggers I follow, and yet in my most insecure moments I will fixate on how a great sweater falls on them versus me, what their ankles look like in certain boots or heels versus me, how their proportions affect their outfits (which I feel like is real, and yet, I don’t share those proportions). That’s not why I read your blog. I deeply appreciate and respect that you, too, are a working professional, who wants to show up looking and feeling confident and put together. It is a much more sustainable category and I hope a healthier endeavor for you. So, you have my support in not posting photos (for both our sake!).

        December 11, 2020/Reply
  39. RR says:

    I love your content. It brings me joy every day. I deeply appreciate your awareness of all your readers, inclusion of different sizes and price points. And I trust you and your recommendations. I would happily join a Patreon or contribute to a tip jar just to say thank you for that because I realistically just do not buy a ton. Don’t be shy about giving your readers those opportunities to support you, particularly if they are voluntary.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  40. Sara says:

    Abra, I’ve been reading your content since the very beginning. I found you as a baby intern on the Hill, trying to figure out what “business casual” actually meant–and when I purged a lot of the other blogs on my RSS feed this past year, you were one of the few I kept.

    Your content is always relevant, witty, smart, and, above all, human. Hearing your struggles has helped me in my own so much, especially this year. I remember having really rough days, and then just scrolling through some of your posts and looking at a pretty dress and feeling better for just a few minutes.

    I love that you don’t do sponsored content–it means I trust your recommendations so much more.

    I just wanted to say thank you for doing this so well, for so long. I know you’ve helped me so much, on many levels–and I am sure I am only one of many.

    Thank you for everything you do.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  41. Kate says:

    I started reading in 2014, when I started working as a court mediator. I came for the fashion tips, but during grad school and having a baby, I stayed reading because of the link round ups and the general tone of your blog. I’m excited about the idea of a Sunday Scaries and Break Things newsletter, especially if it actually gets you paid!

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  42. Rachel says:

    You are the best. ❤️

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  43. KP says:

    Thank you for this post!! Yours is the ONLY blog I visit regularly, as I know others have mentioned as well. When I’m looking for inspiration, or a gift, or putting together gift ideas for myself, I always check here. Thank you for this blog – it’s absolutely enriched my life. I don’t buy new clothes/things often lately, but if there was another way to support you and compensate you for the work you do, I would absolutely want to contribute.

    December 10, 2020/Reply
  44. Laura says:

    I’ve been reading this so long that I remember really not knowing your “real” name! Thank you for being a consistent place of inspiration and joy over the years. I personally would love to see some more higher-priced items since I am making more money than I did years ago. Like I don’t even know where to start to invest in sustainable, higher-value items. Is an Hermès scarf worth it or is it an influencer horror show? I know you keep it classy and I appreciate that. I also travel a lot (normally) and loved your content about dressing for Europe as it made me more excited to go. AND finally – I would love to hear how you met Kyle! I don’t know if you’ve shared but if you haven’t, I would love to know. Since following you from single career woman. Thanks Abra!!

    December 11, 2020/Reply
    • KMK says:

      I would second this. I’ve been trying to avoid fast fashion, so I have to confess that I’m less enthused about links to clothing on Amazon or H&M. I get why you include them, but I would also be interested in your two cents on styling or wearing a silk scarf (Hermès?), carrying a satchel that doesn’t fit a laptop (Celine? Polene?), and investment pieces (Chanel quilted purse?). But, I also get that maybe those are less your style or price range, and at the end of the day, I appreciate your authenticity and practicality. I’ve been following your blog since I lived and worked in DC, maybe circa 2009, and admittedly, my career and income have grown. I’ll keep coming back either way.

      December 11, 2020/Reply
  45. Anna says:

    This is the ONLY fashion blog I read. While I appreciate being able to Google photos of how to style certain items, there’s something I find off-putting about blogger photos. It just feels fake, the whole pushing your hair behind your ear while gazing downward, feet just slightly staggered, in the middle of a busy city street.

    December 11, 2020/Reply
  46. Melissa says:

    Love this post and have loved your blog for years!! Thank you for always sharing so openly and being a full human through your blog. It matters.

    December 13, 2020/Reply
  47. Jenny says:

    I am a long-time reader, rare commenter! Just wanted to say that you have been such an influence on my professional life and attire since I started my law career in 2010. I love that you’ve created this space that combines fashion and interesting discussion. I would gladly pay for subscription content, and I so deeply appreciate that you aren’t a slave to sponsored posts. I know I can always trust your reviews because they’re honest! Thank you so much for all that you do!

    December 13, 2020/Reply
  48. Jamie says:

    I read you and cup of jo. That’s it. I have found other blogs over the years that would start out interesting but ultimately felt less authentic. A lot of that had to do with sponsored content.

    December 15, 2020/Reply
  49. BN says:

    Wow – thank you so much for this post. Your candor is so appreciated! I could repeat what so many have already said (your advice & recs are the only ones I trust, I don’t read other blogs, etc.), but instead I want to ask a (possibly naive) question: how do I make sure you get commission when I buy something later? I almost never have time to read your blog and shop in one sitting. I open links from your blog but then come back to them hours or days (or weeks) later. I may save them to my Amazon/Sephora wish list or cart but wait to buy. Also, I switch between my laptop and phone all day long and may complete a purchase by opening the retailer’s site on my phone before bed and, because the retailer can “follow” me, my cart/wish list appears, but does that generate commission for you? I want to make sure you “get credit” ($$!) for purchases you directly and so very critically helped me find 🙂 Thank you for this blog!

    December 16, 2020/Reply
  50. Michelle says:

    This was an interesting blog post. I’m a psychiatrist, have been blogging about outfits and getting dressed for about 6 years, and have stayed anonymous and non-sponsored the entire time too. It is refreshing to read about your choice to stay relatively private. A public existence is not my cup of tea either.

    December 16, 2020/Reply
  51. Orla says:

    I love your blog, and this honest and transparent post is exactly what I love the most about it.

    January 10, 2021/Reply