For Alexa Curtis writing was always an escape. “When I was 7, my father was wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime and put in a maximum security prison. He got out when I was twelve and I spent years of my childhood watching him almost die as a diabetic in prison,” she shares. “Around that time, I started writing and expressing myself through fashion. It helped me cope.” She would write short stories and describe what she was wearing or what inspired her. She was so incredibly passionate about blogging and writing she started making a small amount of money. “I had no interest in anything else besides following my passion,” says Curtis.
Her freshman year of high school she learned about LinkedIn. Endlessly resourceful she decided to make a profile and label herself as a social media manager. “I began getting messages from people asking my rates. I just winged it at first, until I built up a reputable client list,” she explains. “School became the least important part of my life, that I’d skip classes just to take calls with social media clients.”
Born and raised in Mansfield, a small, rural town in Eastern Connecticut, Curtis longed to escape. While visiting her sister in Staten Island they were watching a reality show and brainstorming ideas about what she could do. “As we were throwing ideas around, she casually said, oh, well you could start a blog.”
After Googling the first blog that came up was Tavi Gevinson’s Style Rookie. “I opened up the laptop in the next room and created a profile on blogger.com,” she shares. And A Life In The Fashion Lane was born. Curtis was 12. “I honestly thought I would end up starting the blog and never write on it, but I started writing a new post everyday. I was hooked.”
Curtis was into fashion, but it was more of a way for her to set herself apart. “I just liked dressing up, but I didn’t have any money to buy clothing so that’s why I’d showcase a lot of street style and celebrity pictures on my blog,” she shares. “And I love being my own boss. I tried interning for a bunch of companies when I was younger. And I could never stay at an internship more than a month. Being able to rule your own life is an incredible feeling, but also incredibly stressful and nonstop.”
Not only did Curtis turn her little fashion blog into a full-time lifestyle platform for teens, through cold-pitching she managed to get sponsored by brands like British Airways , T-Mobile, Lands’ End and more.
In 2016, after speaking at a conference on social media and mental health started the nonprofit Media Impact and Navigation for Teens (M.I.N.T.). When she was in middle school, she had suffered with her own body image issues and bullying and didn’t feel she had the support she needed to adequately deal with these issues. The curriculum behind M.I.N.T involves going into schools and talking about topics including cutting, sexting, and social media.
“We did a school talk last year and the topic of cutting came up. When my business partner, Steve, started talking about ways to avoid the urge to cut, I looked at the front row and saw several girls immediately put their head down,” says Curtis “I knew they were all cutters, and none of them could face listening to us talk about it.” After every talk,she finds that students talk to her and her team about where they can get free therapy, or start a blog. “We’re giving kids a reason to talk about difficult issues, and not feel ashamed,” she explains.
At 19, Curtis continues to be able to be her own boss. “I guess I’m a true type A entrepreneur. I never think anything is good enough and probably won’t until I feel completely completely established,” she admits. “But I feel I’m finally making my mark. Even though I’ve been working nonstop since I was 12, this passion and drive just gets stronger everyday.”
She offered her best tips on making money from your blog and brand.
Know who to pitch. When I first started, I’d have to find brands to pitch all of the time. I still do that, but now that I’ve been blogging for some time, I work with a lot of brands so I don’t have to pitch myself as much all of the time. I use sites like Revolve and Anthropologie to find new brands. Since they basically are a warehouse for tons of other clothing lines, I email all of the brands sold on Anthroplogie. For food, go on to a site like Thrive Market and find brands to email from there. A lot of brands don’t have budget, but many brands do. If you’re just starting out, there’s no real need for a brand to pay you. Take the free food and clothing they will offer instead. When you have a bigger following, you can ask for compensation.
When pitching, make your pitch to the point. And don’t beat around the bush if you want to be paid. Look for the press contact on the website. Email them a short paragraph about who you are and your focus. Usually I start by saying, ‘Hi! I’m a blogger and a huge fan of the brand. I’m working on a post (or a TV segment) and would love to include you. Do you happen to have any budget available?’ If they say yes, then I’ll usually say, ‘That’s great. Here is what I’m working on right now. I can always do a bundle deal if you want to be a part of all of the opportunities. Then I will list the cost for a post on my site, or another site.’
Look for brands that could really use you. I’m really savvy when it comes to finding new brands. I know major brands like Forever 21 and ASOS are too hard to get payment from, so I work on finding brands or startups who need online publicity. The key is thinking outside of the box. Most people aren’t going into a retail store to find new brands, but I do. I’d rather be offline and in the store finding brands, instead of doing online research. Plus, you have the opportunity to see the product in front of you before you go writing about them in a story.
Find your dream brands. If you’re just starting a blog, it’s important to reach for the sky. Also know that the blogging world is incredibly saturated. So be aware of what sets you apart from the next blogger will make your pitches clearer and your brand more reputable.
When I was 14, I pitched British Airways. I found the public relations contact on Google, and emailed stating I was a 14-year-old blogger who dreamed of going to London Fashion Week. I shared what I could give them in return for a flight, which was online publicity and the opportunity to get them in front of some new teens. They agreed.
Since I’ve been working with them since I was 14, we’ve kept up a really great relationship. Since they know my work and I always deliver, I don’t have to keep re-pitching myself and they will sponsor me. I simply explain what I want to do. It’s similar with other brands, too. If a brand is trying to hit a Gen Z or millennial audience, I’m the gal who can get you in front of those eyes.
Know your worth. To blog full-time, you should make sure you become an LLC or a sole proprietorship, because you will have to pay taxes if your gig goes full-time. Also, stay clear with your vision. The biggest mistake you can make is being too afraid to ask for money. The worst response you’ll get is a ‘no,’ and that just means you have to try again, and again, and again until you get a yes.