February 2017 / Carmen Varner // Lifestyle Blogger & Social Media + Blogging Coach


How a Billion Dollar Company Asked to Work with Me then Rejected Me

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One new, unread message sat in my inbox. It called my name, coaxing me to open it. I obeyed. The email invited me to participate in a paid Instagram campaign with a very well-known beverage brand partnered with a well-known award show.

"I like where this is going," I thought.

I read the campaign creative guidelines to get a feel of what they were looking for, what they weren't looking for, & what was required as far as photography, hashtags, & publishing times. Everything sounded good to me. I accepted the campaign & then waited for approval that I was officially in.

I received the "Congrats, You're In!" email the next day. I was ecstatic, especially since it was one of the biggest brands I've ever had the opportunity to partner with. I received all the final details & went through it line by line: 

Create a high resolution & well-lit image.
Must include at least one beverage.
Show the party setup.
Do not include any other brand logos.
Photo must show someone drinking the beverage.
The beverage must be upright in the photo.
Submit a caption along with branded hashtags.
Portrait or landscape format, square not acceptable.

Then I headed to the store. It had to be an exact type of packaging, not one of their specialty or seasonal ones. I browsed the aisles of the store & double checked the creative guidelines on my phone. I needed to verify it was the correct product. I got the right one, headed to check out, & went back home.

digital influencer

The theme of the post aimed to highlight the beverage as the perfect party drink for your awards show viewing party. I styled my photo to give the illusion of a full-blown gathering. I included a variety of snacks, several cans of the drink, my handy-dandy remote control, & a few magazines. I wanted it to look warm, inviting, & happy — the kind of party anyone would want to come to.

I spent time doing my makeup & making sure my hair looked presentable. I wore one of my favorite outfits & felt ready for my shoot. My boyfriend, Fred, snapped some photos. We played with the angles. We zoomed in, zoomed out. We worked to get a great range of shots.

I uploaded the photos to my computer & went through each photo. I picked a couple shots I loved & asked for Fred's opinion. I edited the photo, came up with a nice caption adhering to the brand guidelines, & sent it in for approval.


I received an email two days later.

"We thank you for submitting your image for this upcoming campaign. However, your post was not approved. Please do not post your image. We will process your payment for participating because your image met all the brand guidelines. Although the brand did not choose you at this time, you could be invited to a future campaign."

"Oh. I see." I thought.

I was disappointed. I looked at my image again. I wondered why they didn't pick me. I scoured through all the branded hashtags to see which ones went live that day. I compared their photos to mine. I compared their captions to mine.

digital influencer, lifestyle blogger

After questioning my skills for approximately 40 seconds, I came to the realization that this is business. In fact, it's something I've had to personally do as a social media coordinator & lifestyle blogger. When it comes down to it, there might've been one minute detail that made a difference. 

Perhaps they had 100 applicants & they wanted to focus on Instagram users in the Midwest or users with adult children or users with over 50,000 followers. Sometimes they didn't like the pattern of your shirt or the way the picture was framed or where the product was placed. Sometimes it all comes down to a small detail like that. In this case I was lucky to still get paid, but it's not always like that. Not at all!

I've spent time negotiating campaign details, only to receive a late night email claiming they didn't have budget anymore. I've been invited to campaigns & then rejected the next day. Rejection is simply a part of life as a blogger & digital influencer.

Sometimes someone else had a better idea. Someone might've had a genius concept or impeccable photo editing skills. Perhaps their reach is gargantuan. Maybe they're known for already working with the brand. It's a different reason every time.

You will not be the perfect match for every advertisement, promotional campaign, & paid post on the planet. Sometimes you might have the best photo, have the best post idea, have the best caption, but your demographic is simply not what they're looking for. It might be as simple as that.

After about 500 rejections, you learn not to take every rejection to heart. Brands reach out to me all the time & if I know they're not a good fit for my blog, I politely decline. Rejection absolutely goes both ways. 

Dealing with rejection as a blogger & digital influencer is a daily adventure. If anything, rejection is a motivating factor. It inspires me to keep going, make something better, & learn something new to ideally get accepted to the next opportunity. Here's to more rejection & growth! 

How do you deal with rejection? :]

Trying Out Eye Masks for the First Time

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This post is sponsored by VIIcode, but the content & opinions expressed here are my own.

Sometimes you can't avoid those all-nighters studying for your big midterm or waking up at the crack of dawn to because it's the only time you can take photos for that blog post that's due. You start to feel tired. Your eyes are puffy or red or maybe there are never ending bags under your eyes.

It's safe to say it's not a confidence-booster. Usually it catches up with you when you don't want it, like when you have an event or a date that night & you want to look your best. Or maybe it happens on the morning of your job interview, or worse yet the day you take your passport photo — the photo you'll have to look at for the next 10 years.

eye masks

I was browsing through blogs & commented on one that their eye mask looked cool; it's a product I'd never tried before. The next day VIIcode reached out to ask about working together. I was immediately interested. They ended up sending over a box of O2M Oxygen Eye Mask for All Night Repair for me to try.

The set comes with six pairs of eye masks, which are supposed to aid in reducing dark circles, puffiness, & wrinkles. The directions recommend applying the mask two or three times a week with three boxes entailing a full course of treatment.

eye masks

The VIIcode eye mask is an 8-hour overnight treatment, making it different from your average sheet mask. This is meant to be used overnight, but you could use it throughout the day if you have time to wear it.

These eye masks have a specially formulated gel-like material that doesn't stick, making application & removal practically effortless. The first time I used these I had to change the location on my eyes & was able to remove the eye masks & reapply them with ease.

eye masks

The immediate cooling feeling once applied my eyes felt so relaxing. I did see a reduction in puffiness during the course of the eye mask, making it the perfect tool to assist in helping you feel your finest.

If you're looking to experiment with eye masks, the VIIcode O2M Oxygen Eye Mask for All Night Repair just might be your saving grace. Get your girlfriends together & put the eye masks on during your girl's night in, then wake up & take them off. Or you could be like me & wear them throughout the entire day as you do your blog work. At least I'm feeling & looking good! :]

eye masks

* Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by VIIcode. As always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

My Current Essential Oil Collection

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I never set out to have an essential oil collection, it just happened. I received my first essential oils a couple years ago as part of a PR sample. The brand sent over several items including a few of their essential oils: Peppermint, Sweet Orange, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Chill Pill, & Lemon Tea Tree. 

They sent me some of their classics, which I continue to use even today. Inspired by the amazing scents & the multitude of uses, I slowly but surely grew my essential oil collection over the last couple years. Since they're literally a part of my daily life, I figured it'd be fitting to write a post!

This is my updated & current collection. Some are classics that I'll continue to repurchase whereas others are hit & miss. I like to mix & match scents by adding a few drops into my mini diffuser. I can create my own perfumes, body scrubs, bath bombs, & more with essential oils. Woohoo!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

My Top Favorite Essential Oils 

Eucalyptus - I use this as aromatherapy to invigorate my senses, open the sinuses, & improve mental focus. Great for use in massage oils & muscles rubs to give off a cooling effect. Makes a fantastic scent for a room or car freshener.
Peppermint - I use Peppermint in the same way I use Eucalyptus, but it smells different enough that I buy both.
Lavender - I love to use lavender as aromatherapy to calm me down or aid in sleeping.
Lemon - Great for cleaning since it's a natural disinfectant.
Tea Tree - My #1 favorite. I use this for blemishes, bug bites, cuts, scrapes,  cleaning & also for aromatherapy.  I add some drops to my shampoo to decrease dandruff. Natural disinfectant.

Other Favorites

Bergamot - Smells like Earl Grey tea. Enough said.
Sweet Orange - One of my favorite citrus scents other than Lemon.
Rosemary - I adore the scent for aromatherapy to help with alertness.

Not Favorites But Would Repurchase Occasionally

Lemongrass - An acquired scent that not everyone loves.
Grapefruit - Citrus scent that is slightly similar to Sweet Orange, depends how many citrus essential oils you want.
Blood Orange - Another great smelling citrus option, but not vital if you have Sweet Orange.
Cinnamon - Not as powerful/cinnamon-y as I wanted. May repurchase from other brands.
Nutmeg - Not as powerful/nutmeg-y as I wanted. May repurchase from other brands.
Chill Pill - Relaxing, but you can create a similar mix from ones you have on hand.
4 Thiefs - Can mix & match essential oils on hand to create a similar scent.
Lemon Tea Tree - Just mix lemon + tea tree & make this at home.
Sage - Not as powerful/sage-y as I wanted. Might try scent from another brand.

Would Not Repurchase

Patchouli - An acquired scent that not everyone loves.
Anise Star - An acquired scent that not everyone loves.

Essential oils have so many uses, but that's for another post. 
What are your favorite essential oils? :]

January 2017 Blogging Income Report - $478.43

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"How can I make money blogging?" That's the question I kept asking myself. Over the last few months I finally started earning an income as a  blogger & digital influencer. Nope, it's not enough to quit my social media coordinator position, but it's enough to help pay the bills, buy plane tickets to Paris, save money, & truly enjoy life.

You might be wondering how you can make money from blogging, so here's my January 2017 Blogging Income Report. This is my first income report, but I earned over $800 in December 2016.

More income reports:


Linqia Sponsored Posts - $140
Social Native Sponsored Posts - $70
Miscellaneous Sponsored Posts - $175
Reimbursements - $43
Blog Sponsors - $10
Consulting/Coaching - $25
ShopStyle Collective - $15.43
Total - $478.43


Product Purchases - $24.50
PayPal Fees - $1.75
Total - $26.25


Net Total - $452.18

blogging income report, lifestyle blogger

Note: I base my income report on earnings that were deposited into my bank account during that month. I did several projects in January that have yet to be paid out, therefore I will take that into account for my February Income Report. 

The only exception to this rule is the $15.43 from ShopStyle Collective. I only get paid once I make the $100 threshold but thought it'd be misleading to post that I earned $100 from ShopStyle when in fact that was many, many months in the making.

Most of my blog earnings were from sponsored blog posts & sponsored social media posts. I'm working on growing my following & engagement, so it's nice to be rewarded by getting paid opportunities. I worked with brands like Truvia & Lays. I even was a part of the promotional team for a new show on FX called Taboo.

Do you want to start making your first dollars as a blogger? I can help! I'm a social media professional & a blogger with over 3 years of experience. I offer consulting & coaching for bloggers & influencers who want to step up their game, grow their brand, & starting making some money. Please contact me for price quotes or if you have questions.

Other posts from my Social Media/Blogging series:
How I Increased My Page Views By 28% By Posting 30% Less

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* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Valentine's Day Gift Guide For Her

Saturday, February 11, 2017

This post is sponsored by Amara, but the content & opinions expressed here are my own.

I had a recent discussion with my boyfriend, Fred, & he told me that he appreciates it when I tell him what I want in a gift. There are so many options in the world, he said that it's nice to have a bit of help. That's why I've come to understand the value in a Valentine's Day gift guide. Not everyone knows what to get & it's useful to see some recommendations from a trusted source!

valentine's day gift guide

Amara approached me to do a Valentine's Day gift guide & the moment I took a look at their website I was in. I spent at least a couple hours scouring the site, browsing its wide range of options in home accessories, home fragrance, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining, lifestyle, & more. I guarantee you'll be able to find something for any female in your life. If you're having problems deciding, here some of my top choices.

valentine's day gift guide

A wonderful smelling candle always, always makes a great gift. I got the Prosecco Rose Vermeil Candle. It smells fresh & floral & burns evenly. Amara has scented candles, candlesticks, tealight holders, & everything candle related!

Opt for a delicate piece of jewelry this Valentine's Day. I've already gotten compliments on the rose gold Ted Baker Sennya Sweetie Bow Cuff. It's dainty & small, but it still manages to make a statement. I might have to rock it with my Ted Baker purse.

valentine's day gift guide

Amara has tons of gifts for a traveling woman on the go. The Ted Baker Black Citrus Bloom Laundry Bags are freaking adorable. I plan to take these with me to Paris in spring. This time around I'll travel chicly rather than with a plastic bag to hold my dirty laundry. Same goes for the Nude Citrus Bloom 'Jet Set Go' Travel Set. I can't wait to utilize these on my next adventure!

valentine's day gift guide

Whether you want to buy her (or yourself) a beautiful piece of jewelry, a ladies travel gift set, a fancy new teapot, it's all at Amara. Shipping time was reasonable. Customer service was great. I am definitely a fan!

What's are your plans this Valentine's Day? What's your ideal gift from Amara? :]

* Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Amara. As always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Shop Amara Now

Yuma, Arizona // OOTD

Sunday, February 05, 2017

I often find myself wearing variations of a single outfit over & over & over again. There's no shame in finding a combination or a garment that you really like & wearing the heck out of it. 

Jacket: Foxcroft Collection* // Dress: Cotton On (similar) // Shoes: Guess (similar) // Purse: Betsey Johnson (similar) // Leggings: Forever 21 (exact)

Fred & I ventured to Yuma, Arizona for a weekend getaway. It was stimulating to leave San Diego County for a couple days & spend time in a different state. I must admit I pretty much wore one outfit for two, maybe two & a half days. My motto is if it doesn't stink or there's not a stain it's good to wear again. That's socially acceptable, right?

Foxcroft Collection* sent this Solid Tencel® Long Sleeve Jacket a few months ago, but due to the chilly winter temperatures I hadn't had a chance to rock it. Since the winter days in Yuma were actually quite enjoyable, around 65° F, I layered up & sported this outfit. 

We grabbed a coffee & scone at North End Coffeehouse before heading back to San Diego. The door & brick wall were too cute & practically screamed "this is perfect for an outfit shoot." I wasn't prepared for an OOTD post, in fact I was wearing no makeup whatsoever, so I hope you enjoy my naked face.

My shoes were dusty from exploring & I'm chill with that. I'm a blogger, social media professional, & digital influencer but I'm not perfect. I have pimples. I have stretch marks. I have chipped nail polish. But most of all, I am human.

I'm just going to put that out there. I want to say publicly that I'm not always put together. I don't always have a flawless Snapchat filter to enhance my face. I'm a traveler, a writer, a tea lover.  So here I am as I am. Hope you like it. :]

* Disclaimer: Foxcroft Collection provided the Solid Tencel® Long Sleeve Jacke as a PR sample. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure. :]


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