Web Creator Spotlight | Abby Mills
“Where did she find that outfit?!” is something you’ll probably think within minutes of meeting Abby Mills, the blogger behind the vintage fashion and lifestyle blog Clothes & Pizza. The next thing that pops into your head might be “she literally has the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen.”
Abby Mills is a style icon, but that’s only part of the picture. She’s also a CEO, photographer, model, copywriter, accountant and salesperson all rolled into one.
Which is really just to say … she’s a web creator. But exactly how does one person do all that stuff and still have time for anything else? Read our interview with Abby to see how she turned a passion for vintage finds and deep-dish delights into a thriving life on the web.
What does your average day look like?
No two days are the same, but they are generally a mix of unglamorous behind-the-scenes work like answering emails, shooting photos, writing for my blog and real-time sharing on Instagram stories and elsewhere throughout the day). Most of the time I am in sweats (especially these days), writing or planning future work. But my content is a pretty authentic reflection of my life, so I show the unglamorous casual stuff too.
Right now, I wear all the hats: I’m the CEO, photographer, copywriter, accountant, head of client services, salesperson, and janitor. Which is great because I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. But it’s bad when I can’t blame Susan for drinking the last cup of coffee without putting another pot on.
After all the nuts-and-bolts business stuff, how do you get into the flow creatively?
The more I stay off the internet, the better. I find it hard to focus on my own creative process if I spend too much time looking at what other people are doing. There are so many talented folks out there doing really unique and creative things. And while that can certainly be inspiring, I think it can also lead to a lot of second guessing, or copycatting, if you aren’t careful.
I don’t approach content creation from a purely *creative* standpoint, I actually think about it more from the standpoint of the function it serves. I.e., what problem does this piece of content solve? How does it answer a question, or alleviate a pain point, or unlock a new idea for my community?
So I usually start with the problem, and then build the content around the best way to answer that problem. For example, if my community is having trouble styling graphic T-shirts, I create a styling video that shows three unique ways to style a graphic tee.
The bag really ties it all together. So, how did you get here?
A few years ago I celebrated a bunch of big life milestones in a span of a few weeks—I turned 30, got married, and started a new job in a new industry. I had wanted to start a blog for years (like a decade). And I figured I might as well tack another big thing onto a series of big things.
It was important to me to have a blog outside of social media. A place on the internet that I own outright. So I started my website and my Instagram account at the same time.
I went into this industry pretty naive and inexperienced in the content creation world. It took me a few years to feel like I found my niche, and start to hit my stride. This industry changes really fast. There’s no blueprint for how to be successful, and no one way to “do it right.” Which is awesome because it means there’s room for lots of people and lots of viewpoints. But it’s also challenging
I have really enjoyed learning how this industry works, at the same time that the industry is coming into itself. We are definitely building the plane while we’re flying it, but it’s a fun ride.
If there was one product or service that could make your life easier, what would it be?
I love the idea of a web-based place to share ephemeral content. Or a place to take ephemeral content (like from Instagram stories) and make it into something else. Or even have the ability to archive it for public access. I can’t tell you how many DMs I’ve gotten that are questions related to expired IG stories!
On that note, what Google products/services do you already use?
All the things. I would not be able to manage my business without the combo of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs/Sheets, and Google Drive. I maintain my content calendar and track my deadlines in Google Calendar. I manage my outreach, contacts and finances in Sheets. And store/deliver my deliverables in Drive. I’ve found Docs to be a great way to collaborate with my clients as they can add edits, comments or approvals directly to my content before it goes live, without a lot of friction.
What’s the best part of your job? What about the worst part?
[The best part is] being my own boss, having my own autonomy to work on whatever I want (try new forms on content, experiment with different creative outlets) and only work with clients/brands who I believe in. I never have to take on a project that I’m not 110 percent stoked on. The worst part is probably turning off, or unplugging. Because my content is an extension of my life, it’s sometimes challenging to draw a hard separation. There are of course many things about my life that I don’t share with my online community—I keep my family and friends private, for the most part. But I genuinely love connecting with my community over all sorts of things. Setting boundaries at any job is difficult, but it’s especially difficult when part of your job is sharing your life and being a resource to people.
At the end of the day, what is the ultimate goal of your work?
This is so cheesy, but it’s probably helping people. I see my content as helpful to both my community (individuals who follow me) as well as the brands I work with. I tend to seek out new/small/indie brands, and really love sharing them with my community and being a part of growing their customer base. As an entrepreneur, working with other entrepreneurs is really inspiring for me.
I have always had unusual and particular taste—I love finding the best unique things, and discovering new brands who are really changing their respective industries. Sharing these brands with my community feels like a win-win-win to me.
I’m passionate about mentorship and advocacy in all areas of my life. And my digital presence is an extension of that passion. I really love supporting other creators, helping them recognize the value of their work, and ultimately sharing how they can monetize their business. I really enjoy giving back to the blogging community—and sharing things I wish I had known back when I started. For example, I do donation-based mentorship sessions, where all the money goes to organizations supporting civil rights and social justice initiatives.
What is something that inspires you every day about the web or in general?
I’m really inspired by all the different formats of technology that people use to connect with creators and communities—it’s pretty endless. Longform video, shortform video, podcasts, blogs, ephemeral content, etc etc. I’m at the point in my content creator “career” where I don’t feel pressure to jump onto every new format (I never did Snapchat or TikTok). I focus on doing a few things well, and not spreading myself too thin.
I also love learning about new brands who are using technology to change the fashion industry. For example, I’ve recently discovered this shoe company called Hilos—they 3D print the soles of each shoe (no gluing or nailing multiple parts together) which ultimately produces less waste and lowers their carbon footprint (pun intended).
What advice would you give someone just getting started? Or, what would you go back and tell yourself having learned all you’ve learned so far?
Maybe this is the same answer for both questions, but I think a lot of people go into the creator space without knowing what they’re doing, which makes sense because it’s a relatively new industry, and creative people usually just want to *create*. So they look at all these other people who seem to be super successful and they think “Oh, I have to be like that person. I have to take photos like them, or emulate that kind of style.” I feel like I did that as well, and it took me a while to figure out my unique perspective, and my approach, and my own style of content. So if I could go back, I’d want to just embrace who I am more and my unique point of view, what really makes me me. And I would just go with that right from the start.
The creator space I work in, the fashion space, is very saturated so the more you can embrace what makes you different the more successful you will be. Just you being you will give you an element of uniqueness (and authenticity) and people will connect to that.