First off I want to apologize for a couple of technical things that have been happening lately. I just realized the other week that my emails haven’t been going out each time I have a new post since JULY. Oops. That has been fixed! And also, you may have gotten an email that this post went live Friday but the link was dead. I forgot I had it scheduled but it wasn’t finished yet so I had to remove it. So here it is now for you and if you’re an email subscriber and haven’t been getting emails for a while my sincerest apologies!
HOW I STARTED BLOGGING AND WHAT IT’S LIKE BEING A CONTENT CREATOR
Okay so one of the most common questions I got asked is how did I get started and what did I do before I started blogging so I’ll answer that one first and then dive into everything else.
As a little background, I got my degree in graphic design from Mercyhurst and had jobs in that field after graduating. First, I worked as a graphic design intern at the Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C. (making $69 a week, woo hoo!) and then I worked as a Production Artist at the t-shirt company Customink.
When Dan and I got engaged, I moved back to Erie, PA (we were long distance for almost 3 years) and I soon got a job as a graphic designer at my alma mater.
In the mean time we were getting ready to get married and I was working on a lot of little DIY/crafty projects plus all our invitations and print materials like place cards, menus and signs for our reception. We got married on July 6, 2013 and afterwards, I really felt drawn to continuing that creativity in some way.
Even though being a graphic designer is a very creative job, I wasn’t able to freely work the way I wanted. Working for a university, you have strict brand guidelines you have to follow which means everything you make looks very similar and there isn’t a ton of room for experimenting and trying new things.
I’d never read a blog before and had a personal instagram account I only shared random photos on. We lived in a tiny rented apartment that had poop brown walls and disgusting carpet so I definitely wasn’t going to jump right into interior design. I honestly don’t know how I decided to start with furniture – I think I was just browsing Pinterest and lots of painted furniture kept popping up that lead me to different blogs and I thought – hey I could do that!
So I started repurposing and flipping old pieces of furniture, mostly to sell but I also kept some or gave them to family/friends. I had no idea what I was doing, and I did a couple of pieces before I actually launched my blog in February of 2014.
Do/did you ever work another full time job while blogging? If so, how did you make time?
When I started my blog, I was still working at Mercyhurst full time as a graphic designer. In the summer of 2014 I was let go due to budget constraints and downsizing that took place.
So for a time, yes I was doing both and it was a lot! But I was excited about my blog and it became something I looked forward to and was excited to work on when I came home from work. Of course this meant I was doing most of my projects at night or on weekends but I just did what I could when I could.
I remember coming home for lunch one day and shooting photos of a project because the light was good and I knew it would be dark later. Anytime I had a chance, I’d work on whatever I could!
Our front porch was always FULL of furniture pieces I found at our local thrift stores, craigslist and the side of the road. There was always something to work on 😉
I did get another full time job as a Project Manager for a small print company in the winter of 2015 but after I had Eloise in February 2016, I decided to not go back and I haven’t worked another job outside of blogging since then.
Are the items you tag (with the store’s link) given to you at no cost? In exchange for content?
It depends! A lot of times yes, but I also will tag products I’ve bought myself just so you guys know where I got them. Sometimes the product is part of a sponsored post so I may have received payment on top of the product as well.
How do you get such good light in your photos?
We have a fair amount of windows in our home and get some decent natural light, but we also live in OH and it definitely isn’t sunny every day. If I need some extra light I use this light kit I bought on amazon or I just really edit my photos a lot. I saved my process of how I edit photos in my instagram highlights so you can check that out! That’s for instagram but for my blog I edit my photos in Photoshop.
How long have you had your current style? What was it like before?
Oh man I definitely haven’t had this style forever and I think it is something that will be forever evolving and changing. When I first started my blog I was painting lots of furniture and most of it was for other people so I kind of just did whatever I wanted and used lots of different colors and patterns.
The more I got into the interior design/decorating side of things and started following more people in that niche, I started figuring out what I really liked. Plus when I was really able to design my first room from scratch (the laundry room) that allowed me to really hone in on my style an figure out what I really loved.
If you want to see a look into my past projects to get an idea of what I used to do – you can check out my project gallery. The furniture category is very colorful 🙂
How did you start? Like what was steps 1-5?
I wish I could give you a bullet list of steps but it’s so different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The only advice I can give that applies to anyone is JUST START. So many people are afraid of failing they will never even try but you just never know what can happen so just dive in and give it your best.
Do you love it?
How did you learn to become a successful blogger?
This is such an interesting question because everyone measures success differently. Of course I feel like I’ve been quite successful at blogging and growing my instagram account – but of course there are still so many areas I feel like I could improve and do better. I don’t have great page views and never really have but that hasn’t stopped me from being successful in other areas.
In terms of the blogging side of things, I guess when I started making a decent amount of money and got consistent sponsored posts, I felt like I was becoming a more successful blogger. To get to that point, you just have to put the time in and produce good quality content.
But I also think success is measured by engagement of your followers and growing those connections. It’s like building your own little community and when you have that, it’s pretty amazing.
So many people think they have to hit the ground running and push out as much content as possible. There was a time when I would just think of projects to do just so I would have something to publish on my blog. And most of the times, I ended up throwing those things away and never even using them. I think it’s insanely important to create good quality content and just be yourself. Don’t try and copy other people, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Just do you – and that will get you noticed.
Do you feel the saying you have to spend money to make money is somewhat applicable to getting a start?
I definitely think there is some truth to it, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend a TON of money. Of course things like purchasing a web host, and a blog theme and a logo and things like that all cost money. But in terms of buying products for your home to do projects or change up decor, there are so many ways to do that without breaking the bank. Thrift and antique stores are some of my favorite places to buy home decor.
You can also shop your own home and just switch things up that you already have. Or if you do want to make a big purchase, try selling some stuff you have and don’t need/want anymore and use that money towards it.
How do you become a content creator?
This is definitely a loaded question – but I started out as a blogger first and as my instagram grew I began getting more paid instagram only campaigns. Of course you can be a content creator through instagram alone, but I also consider myself a content creator through my blog. Once you start putting content out there, whether online or social media, people/brands will start noticing you.
I’m just starting my home decor shop and am curious how to work with content creators!
Congrats! That’s so exciting. Every shop/store is different but most of them just reach out to content creators they want to work with. Make sure you set some ground rules for what you want in a collaboration – if you’re offering them a product – what do you want in return? It can be whatever you’re comfortable with just make sure you’re both on the same page so you know what you’re getting out of the collab.
How many followers did it take before you started profiting?
I think you’re referring to instagram but I’ll start by saying that I was making money from my blog well before I was making any from instagram. I tried to go back and see when I had my first instagram only collab and I couldn’t find it exactly but I do feel like it was only within the past year. I was offered lots of free product before that and probably should have been asking for money.
Also, you have to remember that instagram wasn’t always the way it is now. It’s grown so much over the past few years and I honestly don’t think that brands were doing a lot of instagram only campaigns.
However, in terms of followers, I know plenty of instagrammers/bloggers who have under 10k followers and have done paid campaigns so don’t sell yourself short. Your time is worth money – so no matter how many followers you have, don’t be afraid to ask for money! The worst they can say is no.
Do you make decent money from it or do you mainly profit from being sent free product?
Although I get sent a lot of free product, I make money on top of that. When I first started I was pretty much accepting anything anyone wanted to send me. It’s exciting and makes you feel like you’re doing something right. But I’ve learned to say no a lot more over the past year and I only work with brands that I feel are the right fit for me. At this point, I typically will only work for product + compensation on a campaign unless it’s a higher priced product or something we really need for our home.
I’ve learned that the amount of time it takes to style a product, photograph, edit the photographs, write the post etc. takes way too much time to do it for free. If a company was hiring a professional photographer to take photos of their product, they would be paying thousands of dollars. So why should us bloggers do it for free?
This is probably the most controversial topic of blogging/content creating because there are no rules to follow. Every company has a different budget and every blogger has a different rate.
On top of being paid for instagram posts, I make money through ads on my blog, affiliate income and sponsored blog posts.
How did you plan your content when you started?
When I first started blogging I was posting 3 times a week which is crazy to think back on because that’s a ton of content! I honestly don’t know how I was keeping up with that. Like I mentioned above, I think it’s more important to have fewer posts that are all great quality than a bunch of posts that are just meh.
For the blog – I used to plan out my editorial calendar monthly, but now I just kind of wing it and post whenever I can ha. I aim for once a week but if I don’t have something worth posting then I won’t.
For instagram – I really do try and post once a day during the week and sometimes take a day off on the weekend. Instagram is so funny right now with all the algorithm stuff going on, often times I feel like if I take a few days off and come back, it shows my post to more people. So I’ve been trying to experiment lately and see what works best for me.
When there is really great light, I will try and take a bunch of photos and save them to my drafts in instagram so I have them ready to go.
How do you make sure your blog sticks out from the rest?
It’s really hard these days with the blog world being so saturated and there being so much inspiration at our fingertips. I think it’s the most important thing to not get sucked into what everyone else is doing. Especially if you’re just starting out – DO NOT COPY OTHER BLOGGERS just for the sake of pumping out a lot of content.
Of course it’s one thing being inspired by someone (I’m inspired by SO many people on instagram) but make sure you give credit where it’s due and still try and make the project your own. If all you’re doing is recreating other people’s work, it’s not going to get you very far and people will notice.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – just do you and do what makes you happy. If you’re true to yourself it will be noticed and it will draw people in. Nobody is the same and we were all given different talents – just figure out what you’re good at and run with it.
Do you get an income from blogging?
I’ll go more into depth on this here even though I mentioned it a little bit above. The answer is yes. This is my full time gig and I’m proud of being able to make an income from it to help support our family.
These are the ways I earn money:
Ads – If you visit my site, you’ll see ads in my sidebar and within my blog posts. I make money from those just by having you simply be on my site and reading my blog. If you click on them – that’s even better but just by viewing them that earns me money. I know they can be annoying at times, but I try to keep mine as minimal as possible.
Some blogs have gotten rid of them altogether but that’s usually because they are making so much money in other areas that they don’t need them anymore.
Sponsored Posts – This is probably where the bulk of my income comes from and for good reason because they are a lot of work. I try and only do a couple a month and try to only work with companies that are a good fit for me and our lifestyle. Basically a company will send me their product to use in our home, I’ll have to style it and photograph it, edit the photos, write a blog post and share it on my social media channels. Once it’s completed they send payment – typically within 30 days.
Affiliate Links – These are a great way to make money without having to do too much work. There are a few different companies you can work with but I use rewardStyle. When I link to a product on my blog or through my instagram stories, I use a link through RS that allows me to make money if you purchase that item. If a product costs more, the commission for me will be higher, but every store has different rates too.
It’s also great because say I link something to amazon – even if you don’t buy the exact product I shared, if you buy something else I will still get the commission from that. But you have to buy it through the link I give you. So if I share something on instagram, but you go to your computer to look it up and buy it through there – I won’t get any money for that. So keep that in mind 😉
ETSY Shop – I also still do some freelance graphic design and am able to make money from that. In my Etsy shop I sell premade logos, and offer logo design, business cards, media kits and stuff like that. I do a lot of work for other bloggers which is fun.
Some bloggers sell products as another stream of income, like an e-book or photography course or they might have a home decor shop to sell pillows or vintage goods. I’ve thought about writing an e-book I just don’t know what the topic would be and am scared no one would want to read it ha. If you’d be interested, let me know!
Do companies reach out to you or vice versa?
This was another very frequently asked question by you guys and the answer is both! I get so many emails from companies that want to work with me which is nice because I can pick and choose which ones are a good fit. But if there is a company I really want to work with, I’ll reach out to them. I usually start with instagram and just send them a DM saying something like “Hi there, I’d love to chat about potentially working together – can you provide me with the best email to reach out to?” It doesn’t have to be detailed or include a huge proposal. I keep it short and sweet and then go into more depth via email.
If I don’t get a response through instagram, I try facebook messaging them or twitter messaging. You can also tweet right at a company. That was actually how I got in touch with Marazzi who we worked with on our floors. Their twitter messages weren’t showing up but they saw my direct tweet and then got back to me.
Once you’ve been doing this for a little while, you also start to notice what brands work with bloggers. Between me and a group of my blog friends, we have a huge spreadsheet of brand contacts we share with one another.
If you see someone else working with a company you want to work with – you can reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to share their contact – just be respectful if they don’t want to.
You can also sign up for different influencer companies that have campaigns you can apply to – some of my favorites are AspireIQ, Tap Influence, Collectively and Reward Style recently started offering collabs as well.
How do you become successful enough for it to be a job?
Again, success will look different to everyone and there will be people who start blogs and maybe aren’t that successful. But I believe if you put in the work, and share YOU and be consistent, you can do this and be successful at it.
Do content creators get paid to post the product as well?
Yes and no. I talked a little bit about this already but it depends on so many things. Like I said, when I first started getting contacted by companies, I was mainly just getting free product. Now that I’ve built my brand and following, I usually get paid as well unless it’s something I really want and the brand doesn’t have a budget.
And again, it’s different for everyone. There’s no rule book that tells you how much to charge. There are calculators you can input your data into and they will tell you to charge X amount per 1,000 followers but I always find that those really cut you short. I say always go higher and then if a company isn’t ok with it they will negotiate.
How do you pick which companies you work with?
I want my brand to feel as authentic as possible, so I really only try to work with brands that make sense and fit well with me and my aesthetic. I’m not just going to say yes to a company just because they want to give me a free chair. If I don’t love the chair, I don’t want it. I’m trying to be much more intentional about the things I bring into our home and not just fill it with stuff because I can.
How did you get noticed? At what point do vendors reach out to you for promoting their product?
I would have to say that my laundry room was really a big factor in getting me noticed and helping me grow on instagram particularly. I remember that it got me over the 10k mark a couple days after I shared it when some big accounts regrammed it and then I just kept growing from there.
I definitely think that no matter how many followers you have, there is always an opportunity for work. Just create a presence and you will start to get noticed.
What is your absolute favorite piece you’ve ever created? And fav you’ve purchased?
Oh this is hard! Hmm I think I’d have to say the wood wall in our laundry room is my favorite piece I’ve created. It was just so cool envisioning it in my head and then making it come to life.
My favorite thing I’ve purchased – I can’t say one in particular but I will say all the vintage furniture. The thrill of tracking them all down on craigslist is just so fun and I love all the history they hold. We have a dresser in our room, a desk in my little office nook, a dresser (changing table) in Hawk’s room, the buffet we used as a vanity in our bathroom and now the credenza I just put in our dining room.
What blog program do you use?
How far in advance do you plan your content?
I touched on this briefly, but for my blog I just kind of wing it. I’ll make a list of all the posts I want to write, but will just get to them as I can. I used to be much better about it and would plan monthly.
For instagram, I’m kind of the same. If I have a campaign or blog post, I’ll get those scheduled as soon as I can, but other than that I just take pictures when I can and share them throughout the week. If I don’t have something to post, I don’t post. I used to worry about missing a day, but sometimes you need a break and have to just realize that instagram isn’t everything and nothing terrible will happen if you don’t post something 😉
How do you grow a following if you’re just starting out?
The best advice I can give if you’re just starting out is to create a presence. You don’t have to overdo it and post like crazy, but try and post daily if you can. If you want to take a day or two off a week that’s totally fine too. But COMMENT and ENGAGE. Those are the big things that will help you grow. Respond to people who comment on your post, and go comment on their posts too. Follow people in your niche and like and comment on their posts. And be genuine. Don’t just go around saying “love it!” and “looks great!” No one will remember you if you do that. But if you leave thoughtful comments and try and build relationships with people – that is what they will remember.
Stories are a great way to grow too and for people to get to know you. So use that to your advantage and be active on there too!
Try and figure out what your style is and curate your feed so it looks cohesive. I know it’s tempting to post a lot of other people’s content when you’re first starting out because you might not have a lot of your own yet, and it’s totally fine to do that from time to time. But really try and post unique content – it will stick out and catch people’s eyes.
How long did it take to build up your following and start getting noticed by other bloggers and companies?
When I first started blogging, Instagram wasn’t the way it was now and I didn’t focus on it as much. I posted occasionally but it wasn’t where all the action was and I was more concerned with my blog. So not putting a lot of effort in it took me about two years to get to 10K and then another twoish years to get to where I am now (94k).
How did you manage budgeting projects when you first started?
This is definitely not my forté and I’m still not great at budgeting but I think you just have to know your limits. Don’t go buy a $3000 couch just to have some new content if you can’t afford it. If you have a room you want to redo – start saving for it and give yourself a number to hit before you can start purchasing things for it.
If you’re tight on money, then get creative. There are SO many budget friendly ways to DIY and decorate these days.
It’s also a good idea to have a separate credit card for blog expenses.
When you approach a new client/company do you talk to them about your insta and blog traffic?
It really depends on the brand and the scope of the collaboration. I feel like when I first started blogging, I sent my media kit to almost every brand I was working with. But now, I honestly can’t remember the last time I did! I guess once you get to a point, your brand can speak for itself which is really nice, but there are definitely still times it’s brought up.
Especially with instagram, brands might want to see what your engagement is like on stories so they will ask for screenshots of that.
Page views on your blog used to mean a lot more than they do now as well. Brands aren’t necessarily concerned with the number of views a post gets but are more concerned with the engagement.
Can I be a blogger if I’m not a good writer?
Absolutely! Of course there are different kinds of blogs out there and luckily the field I’m in is very focused on beauty shots so a lot of my photography can do the talking for me. But you definitely don’t have to be a great writer to have a successful blog.
How many hours a week do you work?
This varies depending on my work load but I would say anywhere from 25-35.
How much can you make in a month in sponsored posts?
This will look different for everyone and depends on how many posts I do a month but on sponsored posts alone from instagram and my blog could be up to $5000. Sometimes more sometimes less.
Do you think you have to have a blog to be a content creator?
Definitely not! I know so many people who don’t have blogs and are super successful content creators. For me, my blog helped me get to where I am but I don’t think you have to have one.
How do you get chosen for the ORC?
Anyone can participate as a guest participant, but if you want to be a featured designer, Linda will usually reach out to you and ask or you can apply to be one on the ORC website.
I’m just starting out and it seems I can gain 10 insta followers in one day but lose 8 at the same time.
First off all I can say is don’t get frustrated! You are not alone. Even I have been struggling with gaining followers lately. Instagram has changed their algorithm so many times and recently it has made it harder for your posts to show up in people’s feeds.
I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to grow because it feels like I’m at a stand still. Staying active on your feed and stories and engaging on other people’s content is always good. You can also do story shares with other people in your niche where you all will share each other on your stories and send your followers over to them. It’s a great way to get your name out there to people who don’t know of you.
Using hashtags will also help get your posts seen by more people who don’t already follow you.
I wish I had a magic formula for gaining followers and some people have written posts about it, but I will tell you every single person and account is different and what works for one person might not work for another.
You could also try starting a challenge based on something you’re doing yourself. If you have a project you’re working on and want to encourage others to try it, maybe start a hashtag and tell your followers to use it so you can see what they’re up to.
One thing I’ve learned about instagram is to not let it define you. It’s easy to get mad when a post does bad and get really excited when something does well, but letting it determine your mood can be dangerous. It’s hard and I still struggle with it but if you’re getting to a point where it isn’t fun – just take a step back and take a break if you need it and try and only focus on the people who really encourage you.
How long did it take you before getting enough traffic to start making money from blogging?
You can start making money with ads pretty much right away. Some ad companies require a minimum amount of page views before you can join their network but I used google from the start and was making pennies – but it was something! I now use Mediavine who I love.
As far as making money from sponsored content – it was about a year before I got my first paid post for my blog.
How long have you been blogging full-time? When did you start E-design and how many clients do you have?
I have been blogging since February 2014. I have been blogging full time since February 2016. I started e-design earlier this year and have only had a a handful of clients plus a couple local ones, but I would love more! I haven’t been promoting it much but I enjoy it and really would love to see my career head in that direction of helping others more.
Are you legally supposed to disclose when an item is received for free in exchange for promotion.
The FTC has all sorts of guidelines and I usually only disclose when I am being paid by a company by putting #ad or #sponsored on social media. On my blog I will say something along the lines of “this post is sponsored by XXX but all thoughts and opinions are my own.” They are much more strict about that than if you are just given some free product.
On my blog I will also usually say “XX provided product for this post” but I don’t usually disclose a product only post on social media.
Is it hard to balance kids & family with a job where you work from home?
YES. It is very hard especially with two kiddos. A lot of days I don’t get dressed in normal clothes or even leave the house and I rely on nap times to get any work done. But I also want to make time to spend with my kids and make memories with them.
I’ve recently started using a babysitter more often which has been AMAZING. If you have one to use and can afford it, it is absolutely worth it. She usually only comes over a couple days a week for 3-4 hours but it has been a huge help to me especially during the ORC. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten anything done without her!
I’ve been thinking about doing a story series on instagram of a “day in the life” and showing you what a typical day looks like for me from start to finish. Would that interest you guys??
What are your biggest challenges and what is the most rewarding things about blogging?
My biggest challenges are definitely finding the time to get work done and not feeling like I’m neglecting my family. It’s a balancing act for sure, and I just try and focus on my work when the kids aren’t around.
It’s also really hard to stay creatively inspired ALL THE TIME. I go through a lot of creative blocks and you just kind of have to let them run their course and take a step back for a bit. I usually find that unplugging and just getting outside or traveling or spending time with my family will rejuvenate me and help bring on some new ideas.
Instagram in itself is also a challenge. Trying to figure it out is exhausting and of course there is the comparison game which I talked about a bit recently in my stories. There are SO many beautiful images thrown at you every day and of course it’s natural to feel discouraged that your home, or life or body doesn’t look exactly like that. I’ve found that forming relationships with people on instagram has helped make it feel more real and allows you to get to know the people behind the squares. You’ll quickly realize no one is perfect and we’re all just doing the best we can 🙂
As far as the most rewarding things – there are lots! Being able to be my own boss and do this thing on my own and make money to support me and my family is so amazing. I never would have guessed this is what I would be doing if you asked me 10 years ago, but I love it.
Plus getting to stay home with my kiddos is pretty amazing. Even though the drive me crazy most of the time I wouldn’t have it any other way.
All of the relationships I’ve made since I started is by far my favorite thing about being a blogger/content creator. It’s a unique job and the only people who truly understand it are those people who are doing it too. I have blogging friends who I’ve known since I started 4 years ago and some of them I’ve never even met in real life. But I feel closer to them than some of my other friends I’ve known way longer.
If I had to leave you with one piece of advice if you’re just starting out – it would be to find your tribe. Someone gave me that advice when I was first starting and it was the most beneficial thing she could have said. Find people you connect with and create a support group. Use them to bounce ideas off of, encourage one another and celebrate one another’s victories and successes. It can be a lonely and discouraging thing trying to do it all by yourself – but finding your people will make it a hell of a lot more fun <3
Phew. I know that was A LOT of info but I wanted to type it all out so I could go into depth and get to all your questions. Everyone’s story is different and everyone will have different levels of success, but I hope this was helpful! I truly appreciate all of you for following me on this journey and allowing me to inspire you!
My friend Chloe also has some great tips for growing your blog you should check out!