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For whatever reason, I’ve been getting asked how I got started in blogging a lot lately. Since blogging is still pretty new and foreign to a lot of people as a career path, I thought it’d be fun to share a little about how I got started and how this little corner of the internet has evolved over the years.
How I Got Started in Blogging
Let’s go back to where things started—my college web design class.
One of our assignments was to set up a blog on Google’s Blogger platform. Then post once a week using some of the code that we learned that week. We could blog about anything we wanted and I settled on food. It made sense at the time. When I wasn’t doing normal college stuff, like going to class, studying, and hanging out with friends, I was watching The Food Network. It was a fun little project for school, but nothing serious.
A year later, I had made my way into the workforce, but really didn’t like my job.
I was working for my dad’s company—a men’s retail store in Dallas—and it just wasn’t feeding my soul. I was a terrible salesperson and honestly just didn’t care much about men’s clothing. I’d come home during lunch and cry to my mom because I was so bored and felt so lost. Like, was this really what I was meant to do for the rest of my life?!
I decided to pick my blog back up as a creative outlet.
Oh, it was called ‘My Culinary Quest’, haha! I can’t believe I almost left that part out. I was also doing some design work on the side. So I started teaching myself how to code. I gave my blog a makeover and started posting about recipes again! I was loving it. I’d come home during lunch and instead of having a breakdown, I’d whip something up real quick, shoot some photos and hurry back to work. In my spare time, I’d work on my posts and get a sense of excitement every time I hit ‘Publish’.
It was addicting, but sadly, I wasn’t getting much traction.
My photos were terrible (think flash, yellowish and blurry). One day I was at a friend’s house and her college friend, who was a wedding photographer was there. I told her about my photos and asked for some tips and in about 15 minutes, she’d showed me how to use my manual settings. It took much longer for me to really master them (I’m still learning!), but the first time I used her tips and my photo looked decent, I was so pumped! For the first time, my posts started getting featured on Foodgawker (sort of like a Pinterest for food before Pinterest came around) and my traffic started to increase.
A few years later, I just stopped. I was working on a side project called Cookin’ Skinny. It was a subscription service that delivered easy, healthy recipes on a weekly basis. We spent a long time working on the platform and after a year it fell flat. I had lost my steam and having to crank out recipes on a timeline wasn’t working for me. My design business had picked up and I didn’t have as much time for my food blog anymore. In the midst of all this, I moved to Chicago!
My move to Chicago was a pivotal one.
It allowed me to easily leave my job and gave me more freedom to explore a career path that was meaningful and fulfilling. It forced me to take some chances and trust myself instead of relying on friends or family members for advice. Not that their advice was bad, but typically people suggested I stay with the sure thing—the job with the steady income, that might not be super sexy, but was reliable.
But sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut.
If you’re passionate and excited about something, believe me, you find a way to make it work. It might mean cutting back in other areas of your life, not going out with your friends as often or moving into a cheaper apartment so you can do the work that means something to you. Either way, I’m glad that I trusted my gut.
The first year I moved to Chicago, my design business went from being a small portion of my yearly income to half of it. The year after that, it was the majority of my income.
At that time, I had narrowed my clientele and focused on one thing—Wordpress design for the stylish blogger. I wanted to work with a specific person and adding that tagline to my site only brought me the type of clients I wanted. It was amazing! The more I worked with bloggers, the more I realized how much I missed blogging. I was ready to jump back in, but I didn’t want to write about food.
Before I had moved, I’d created another blog called ‘Design That Inspires’. It was originally created as a spot for me to gather inspiration for my design business and blog about current projects I was working on. A few months after I started that blog, Pinterest launched and made it much easier to gather inspo in one place. Just as soon as that blog launched, it was basically dead.
When I got the itch to jump back into blogging, I converted that old blog to WordPress, redesigned it and started blogging under that name. Those were the good ole days!
I blogged about whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and didn’t worry whether anyone was reading it.
It was the testing ground for new code I was trying out and was just one of those fun side projects. I’d find myself sitting in my office coding on the weekends, not because I had to, but because I wanted to! When you feel that way about your job, you know you’ve lucked into something good!
Shortly after, I started to get a little more serious and strategic with my blog. I’d learned that people were making money off their blogs, and some people were even making enough money to blog full-time. Back in 2012, that was such a foreign concept to me and the only bloggers that were really doing it full time were the Aimee Songs and Sincerely Jules of the world. But, that was all changing.
I was intrigued and figured if I was putting that much time and energy into my blog, I wouldn’t mind making a little cash on the side. That year, I made the big decision to change my blog name. Little did I know then that would be another pivotal moment in my career path. Before, my blog name told people it was a design blog, but then you got there and it wasn’t. I purposely picked a name that wouldn’t pigeon-hole me into one niche and would allow my site to grow with me.
That name change was huge.
It changed people’s perception of what my blog was and started bringing in the right kind of readers. My traffic was growing, my social channels were growing and I even started getting some free goodies in the mail from brands. Not too long after that, I was offered my first paid collaboration—$50 for a blog post and social shares. I felt like I’d really made it, haha!
My site continued to grow and in 2015, I told Rob that I really wanted to focus on growing my site so that someday, when we had kids, I’d have a job that I could do on my own terms. One that didn’t require clients and tight deadlines. He was supportive, so for the next year, I worked hard to grow my brand.
In January 2016, I took a few months off from designing. I’d had a rough patch of difficult clients and issues with hiring outside developers and needed a mental break. The two months I took off from designing, were my blog’s highest earning months since it’s inception. In May, I finished up any outstanding projects and officially closed my design business.
It was an emotional decision. A part of me felt like I’d failed.
I’d spent years building up a successful business and within a few months, it had totally fallen apart. Another part of me didn’t care at all. It felt so good to just say no to it. I didn’t love it anymore and it wasn’t bringing me the same joy it once did. It was time to let go. When I changed the homepage to say I was closed, I felt a huge sense of relief. It sealed the deal. I knew it was the right thing for me at that time, but I was still pretty nervous about the fact that blogging was my only source of income.
Thankfully, blogging has not died and I still have a job that I really love—thanks to all of you!
Since getting pregnant and having Owen, this blog has changed again. So I’m thankful that you’ve stuck along side me and my family as we’ve grown and evolved! It means a lot that you come here and read what I have to say. Connecting with you guys is the most rewarding part of what I do. So never hesitate to reach out via email, DM or say hi if you see me out in Chicago!
I loved writing this and I hope you guys enjoyed it.
I hope it sheds some light on this business, and that it’s not an easy way to make a living and definitely does not happen overnight. If you’re starting a blog or just started one and feel like it’s going slow, stay with it! It takes time, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun, that’s all that matters! Sometimes I get bogged down in the little stuff. I worry that I’m not a “big” enough blogger. I have to remember that it’s not about the end destination, it’s about the journey in between! And, when I think about where I started, it puts it all back in perspective.
Whether you want to start a blog, or simply quit your office job to do what you’re passionate about, I hope this post gave you a little boost of encouragement to listen to your heart! It’s easy for us to get derailed by what our logical mind thinks is best. So I have to admit that my heart has won out every time and has never failed me yet. Even though I’ve had “failed” projects along the way, they’ve all led me to where I am now, and for that I’m very thankful!
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do forever? What is it? What’s holding you back from just doing it?