Well there it is. I’ve said it. FULL TIME BLOGGER. This transition took place a few months ago but I was on the fence when I would officially tell you all. I was going to announce this after the New Year but my heart has been bursting lately with so much goodness and I’m in that holiday spirit so I decided now is the time to stand on the rooftops and yell it. I’m going to share all about my blogging journey and also give some of my own advice on the top 5 things to know to become a full time blogger. Warning this will be a VERY long post but it’s a monumental change in my life and no few words can possibly tell the story of how this came to life.
So a little background about my blogging journey for those that are new around here and for those who well just need a recap. I launched my blog May 2017. Back then I had no idea what I was doing. Amateur photos, a following made up of friends and family only, and content that I had to create from nothing. I literally would go to the store and buy clothes on sale to feature on the blog because it was so expensive to constantly create new outfits.
There was a lot of support but there were plenty of people who questioned what the heck I was doing. Some would say this market is too saturated to have any success. Others assumed my new “hobby” would eventually fall off. Most said there was no money to be made. BUT I had a plan from the day I launched this blog and it was to eventually make it into a full time business.
You see after I graduated college I went to work for my parent’s insurance agency for 15 years. I built a career there and owe the work ethic that I have today to my 15 years in insurance sales. However, I was never passionate about it. Sorry parent’s. While it gave me financial security I never loved it. I was blessed to work with them everyday and I’ll cherish those years we had working together but it was never something I wanted to stay in forever.
My parent’s retired a few months ago and sold their agency ending the first and only career I ever had. I did go to work for someone else for awhile but my heart wasn’t into what I was doing anymore. I would lay in bed at night and cry. I knew I was given another amazing opportunity but at the same time I had this intense pull to take my blog to the next level. It was right around this time that my blog really started to take off but I was also at my breaking point burning the candle at both ends. I couldn’t handle building two businesses any longer. I was at a crossroad. I had to make a decision which business to build. Go with the choice that would give me long term security or follow my heart and go with the non-traditional choice that is a total risk? I’ve NEVER in my life been a risk taker. I’ve always stayed with what was safe, what was right and what made the most sense.
After a long long long long talk with Erik and my parents (because they are my biggest support system) and a ton of sobbing on my end they made me realize I already made up my mind a long time ago. I just had to say it to make it real. And so I did. I decided to go with the latter and take the biggest risk of my life, let go of my former job and become a full time blogger.
Sure I wondered if I was putting my family at financial risk. I wondered if all of this would be sustainable. But the truth of it is that I was making more money blogging than in my other career. I was getting consistent sponsored work, felt secure I built a solid following that continues to grow daily and I already established the mindset of what it takes to be self employed.
I literally built this blog from nothing. There was no rule book to follow, no system to plug into, no teammates to support and teach me. I had to do it on my own. I spent weekends filling a laundry basket up with clothes with Summer on top, pack up our SUV and go shoot photos. I’d work all day, come home work out and then continue to do blog and social media work until midnight. I gave up birthday parties with Summer to stay home and write posts. I studied what it would take to get better. Erik studied how to make our photos better. As a team we built the House of Leo – Erik, Summer and me.
Never could I have gotten to where I am without them. It just never would have worked. I am blessed to have the support that I do. My husband, you guys, he is AMAZING. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. He never once doubted me. He always said he knew I was onto something. I could cry thinking about the faith he had in me and how he has never once in 18 months complained about what goes into making this blog. If he told me to keep a traditional job I would have. But he didn’t. He let me live out my dream and for that I am forever grateful to him.He is the man behind the camera, the one who drives me to events so I don’t have to venture alone, the one who dissects every post I put out to see where we can improve. He is truly the other half of what makes this blog work.
It was a lot of sacrifice, a ton of commitment, and a boatload of thick skin to push through and make this blog into a business. But I did it. I DID IT. And I could cry. Looking back at where I started to now. Seeing the following I have built, the brands I’ve been given the honor to work with, the opportunities I have to create amazing content — all of it feels like a dream. I never stopped. I never took a break. I just kept pushing to get better. I’ve never worked so hard at something in my life and I’ve never been prouder of something.
To everyone who has been on this journey from day 1 – thank you. You all weathered the bad photos, watched me stumble to find my way, listened for me to find my voice, and watched my content evolve from beginner to where it is now. Your support has meant the world to me. You pushed me to come out of my comfort zone.
To those who just started following me – thank you for joining along. There are a million girls doing what I am doing but you chose me and I’m forever grateful to you for that. I try so hard to connect with my following because without it this blog wouldn’t exist. So thank you for connecting, being inspired and inspiring me to keep going.
To the brands that I have had the opportunity to work with – thank you for believing in me. From small brands to big brands I pour 100% the same amount of work into every campaign I take on. At the end of the day I love to create content. It lights me up! I LOVE telling a brand’s story to my followers.
And for those considering taking the plunge into being a full time blogger these are:
THE TOP 5 THINGS TO KNOW TO BECOME A FULL TIME BLOGGER.
IT DOES NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
I see so many girls want overnight success. Blogging is a journey not a race. You have to find yourself. You have to build a following, connect with them, and build trust. That takes time. Let your growth happen naturally. Post good content, engage with your following and enjoy the early stages of developing your brand and finding who you are as a blogger. Don’t rush greatness. If it’s meant to be it’ll come. Don’t get discouraged. Granted you will have a ton of self doubt and a lot of low days but don’t let them keep you from what you love. Keep pushing through and enjoy the days of building who you want to be as a blogger.
DON’T GO INTO BLOGGING JUST TO MAKE MONEY
So yes my intention from day 1 was to hopefully one day become a full time blogger but it takes a LONG TIME to start making money blogging. Blog because you love it, eat it, breathe it. Blog because it lights you up and you want to share what you love. I have monetized my blog and have consistent sponsored work (more on that in a few) that I have finally been able to create financial stability with my blog. I won’t go into what I am making because I feel that is personal but I can say I have created a full time income but that only came from pure blood, sweat and tears. I sacrificed a ton and devoted endless hours to get to this point but never once did I regret the time it took to build. I built my blog out of passion. If you don’t have passion day in and day out in this business you will have a hard time staying consistent. It literally has to be all you think about. Blogging took over my life. It was all I thought about from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed and then I would dream about it. You have to love the art of blogging. Let that be your driving factor in running your blog. Not money.
MONETIZE YOUR BLOG SEVERAL DIFFERENT WAYS
PART 1 – AFFILIATE MARKETING
The number 1 question I get from people is how do I make money blogging? Or you actually make a living blogging? My biggest advice is to have several sources of how you make money blogging. I see so many girls only use affiliate marketing to generate income and honestly that is not going to get you to full time income anytime soon. I mean if you have hundreds of thousands of followers you can do really well but if you have an average size following it’s not going to be enough. When I post outfits I use affiliate links that will bring you to a retailers website. When you make a purchase the retailer will pay me a small commission. It doesn’t cost you as as consumer anything but it’s a form of marketing because I got you to the retailer’s website.
As an influencer I am creating content, taking the time to buy, shoot and edit the look for you to see so using affiliate links is a small reward for the work that goes into creating those looks when you make a purchase. When I use affiliate marketing I strategize several ways. I read my analytics and know which retailers you all love the most and I also only concentrate on featuring retailers where I will see a good return if purchases are made. While I will always feature budget friendly options I won’t spend too much time recording try ons and photographing retailers where the conversion isn’t going to be profitable. Sure I factor them in because at the end of the day I love budget friendly retailers and I know you do too but I am just careful with how much time I devote to them. Be smart with your time and study your analytics. Gauge what is working, what isn’t working and what is converting well for you.
PART 2 – SPONSORED WORK
As I’ve grown my following I’ve been given the opportunity to work with some amazing brands. Some are dream brands that I’ve loved for years and years and others are new and upcoming brands trying to get exposure. This is the heart and soul of what I love to do – create content for brands. When a brand approaches me for a sponsored post I will first consider if it’s something I would personally connect with and you will all connect with. If it’s a good fit we will negotiate the rate for the work they want. They may want any combination of a blog post, Instagram post, Facebook post, Instagram stories or to attend and promote an event. Contracts are written and I’m then paid for the work I do for the brand. This is where the bulk of my income comes from.
BUT my biggest advice when doing sponsored work is to pour the same amount of work into each campaign you take on whether a big brand or small brand. The brand is investing in you to give them exposure, tell their brand story and for you to come up with an authentic way of doing so. I personally have a blast doing this as I love to create a setting and tell the story but with brand work comes deadlines, responsibilities to your contract and an expectation from the brand that you will do a kick butt job. And the bigger the brand the higher the expectation.
While I love sponsored work it’s hard. Erik and I stress over getting the perfect photos and I will spend hours creating the blog post and then promoting the heck out of it. I always go above and beyond for any campaign I take on which brings me to my second piece of advice. Keep strong relationships with your campaign managers. A good majority of the sponsored work I get is repeat work. I always stay in email contact with the brands I work with. I update them throughout the campaign, deliver my content on time and follow up with a thank you for the opportunity and I will always reach back out for future campaigns. Keep those relationships going.
PART 3 – HAVE SEVERAL NICHES
Yes fashion is the basis of what I blog about but at the end of the day fashion surprisingly doesn’t pay well. Have other niches that you work into your content. Expand into beauty, fitness, home, design, parenting, etc. The more you incorporate the more brand opportunities you are opening yourself up to. I keep around 75% of my content fashion based because that is the foundation of House of Leo but the other 25% I leave open to other categories plus it keeps your content fresh. How many sweaters can you keep posting day in and day out? Always have other niches that you can work into your content.
There are other ways to monetize but these are what have worked for me. Have multiple platforms that you grow. Have a blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube — all of these channels can generate an income for you. Don’t narrow yourself. Expand each platform and the way you monetize. Having multiple streams of how you make money and multiple niches are key to being a full time blogger. You don’t have to have a massive following to be a full time blogger. I have an average size following but have been smart about monetizing and despite the size of my following I was able to transition to full time blogger.
INVEST IN YOUR BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Ever hear the saying “you’ve gotta spend money to make money?” Couldn’t be any truer. It takes money to run a blog and it takes money to grow a blog. I put so much aside every month to put back into my brand and I gauge whether the payoff works or doesn’t. Every month I put money into SEO, Instagram and my web development. I have since invested in better photo editing programs, a better camera and computer. All of these things come with running a business. I always analyze what is working and what isn’t and tweak from there but I am a big believer in investing in making my brand better. Do you want more blog views? Do you want better photos? All of things can be achieved but I have found outsourcing to professionals can often give you a better return.
BE PREPARED TO WORK MORE THAN YOU’VE EVER WORKED BEFORE
I really think the reason I was able to move into being a full time blogger was because I treat my work like a full time job. I think it’s easy when you work for yourself or work from home to blow off doing what is required. I feel all the years of working in an office outside the house helped me transition to committing fully to the time it would take to be a full time blogger. I don’t take a day off and I don’t make my own hours. I put 3 blog posts out a week on the same days. I post on Instagram and Facebook 1-2 times/day (except Saturdays). I never veer from that, EVER! I wake up and work out before Summer goes to school. Then I come home and literally stay in my office from 9am to 4pm. I write blog posts, research, answer emails, write up invoices, etc. I then take a break to have dinner and spend time with Summer and then after dinner I come back in my office and work on my Instagram post for the evening until she goes to bed.
I put in more hours now than when I worked a traditional job. I have 2 white board calendars in my office that map out what I’m posting when, campaign deadlines and from there Erik and I decide what days we will shoot that week. It’s a lot. Consistency is the biggest requirement to being a successful influencer. Having the same posting schedule day in and day out is crucial. Being a full time blogger you don’t get time off. Social media doesn’t sleep. You don’t get a vacation where you get to disconnect for an entire week. Sure I take days off but the nature of this business is to hustle. So be prepared to be constantly going if you want to be a full time blogger. You’ve got to love the hustle. If you resent it you will burn out. The hustle is what drives me. It motivates me and keeps me going.
And this brings me to my closing. Being a full time blogger has always been my dream. It’s not for everyone and many who start will continue to do it as as hobby and that’s ok! This is a hard business. A lot of judgement, a ton of competition and requires a massive amount of hustle. But if you strategize and really study your work and growth it can be done. I am grateful for the success I’ve had but I also put in an insane amount of work to get here and now even more work goes into maintaining it. It’s more than wearing cute outfits and shopping. It’s a lifestyle change and you have be willing to put yourself out there. It’s a job that starts out of passion, requires continued drive and again a ton of hustle! I am forever grateful that I took that leap of faith on 5/15/17 and never gave up. If you have a dream go for it. If you have a passion explore it. Work hard friends. They say hard work pays off and for me it really did. Thank you for believing in me, following me and continuing to support me. I hope to always inspire you!
If you made it to the end of this long post thank you! A journey could never be told in just a few words and what a journey this has been.
SHOP MY LOOK: SKIRT (c/o Chicwish) | TOP (c/o SheIN) | SHOES (c/o Evereve) | BAG (c/o my awesome neighbor) | MAKEUP (@glossandglowmua located at Bluemercury in the Grove)
As a thank you for all the support I am teaming up with some blogger friends for a GIVEAWAY!
To make your holiday shopping a little bit easier, I’ve teamed up with a group of bloggers to give you
a chance to win a $1,000 Nordstrom Gift Card!
To enter: complete the steps in the rafflecopter below. The more steps you complete,
the more entries you receive, and the better your chance at winning!
This giveaway runs until Monday, December 17th at 12am PST
Winner will be announced here. Good Luck!
*this giveaway is in no way sponsored by Nordstrom.