How did you first enter the world of blogging? What made you decide to become a blogger?
I started my FIRST blog in 2008 – it was called Hairbows and Cosmos (haha). I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I liked blogging and sharing. Then that led me to A Happy Haven, this was in 2010. I was a clothing buyer at the time and shared more about fashion. I had no idea how to put together collages, I shared photos that inspired me from Pinterest and shared small snapshots of life. I would work on A Happy Haven after work until early in the morning and it didn’t make me any money, it was just for fun. I started to think of a blog as a long term opportunity and in 2011 decided to relaunch a new blog – Sequins & Stripes. I was selling $100 a month ad space on my side bar, had switched jobs and worked on S+S with any spare time. With the start of Twitter and Facebook being introduced for businesses, I started to see an opportunity for more. I had about 3 months of rent saved and told my dad I was going to quit my job to see if I could make this a full-time thing. A month in, Amber Venz of what would be rewardStyle reached out telling me she had an idea about monetizing the links that we share through blogging. Honestly, the rest is history. Affiliate links were the main way I made money for 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t until brands started to see the potential of using bloggers as a marketing tool and putting dollars behind blog campaigns/promotions that it really took off.
How did you start monetizing your blog? When did you feel like you had “made it?”
In March of 2014, LOFT hired me to do a Chicago Style Guide. We shot photos around the city, mapping out favorites in each neighborhood and LOFT put it into a little brochure that they had in every LOFT store in Chicago. I remember feeling so honored, I don’t think I charged anything because I just couldn’t believe they chose me for something like that. That same month I signed on for a project with Nordstrom Rack (sadly these photos don’t show up anymore!) but I went to San Francisco on my first trip and the photos they shot were on national billboards, buses and more. It was so cool!
How did you get used to talking on social media every day? Not a blogger (this is probably why!) but I would be so shy.
I honestly have no idea because when you think about it, it is kind of weird that I do, ha! But I love it! I genuinely feel like I’m talking to my friends. It’s such a weird concept, to talk through a phone to connect with “strangers” (technically but also not really strangers, I feel like I know all of you). But it is natural to me I guess.
How do you prove your value as an influencer? Do brands value the number of followers or engagement more?
Engagement! Your comments, likes, views, messages, interactions – they all add up to performance for brand partnerships. Your engagement is the reason brands want to work with me so I appreciate it so so much!
Do clothing brands send you free outfits if you agree to wear them in your posts?
I usually hate the exchange of free product unless it is part of a contracted project (like promoting X). If it is a brand that I truly love, authentically share and they want to send a piece to add to my collection then I will accept as it’s an easy START to the relationship. Generally, I don’t need more stuff so if I can avoid the stuff then I do. 🙂
Do you have a team?
Yes! I have Carolyn who has been my assistant for over 3 years. She is a dream and I literally wouldn’t function without her. She is the greatest support system and help. She puts together a lot of our collages, edits video, managers our entire editorial calendar, communicates with my managers and just about everything in between. She lives in Seattle!
Molly and Alex are my managers who I have been with for two years and help me with brand negotiations, reviewing contracts, invoicing and all of that. Signing with a manager has literally transformed my business and my sanity. They help keep me organized with projects and just encourage me/push me to think outside my comfort zone. They are great cheerleaders.
Dave Adams! My accountant, photographer, helper of child care, bartender and master of everything. Dave is my lifeline.
How do you stay motivated when life itself can be distracting/not “blogworthy?”
I’ve sort of given up on the “blog worthy” image and given in to the chaos that is my life. Which I’m so grateful you all have welcomed and let me escape the idea of perfection and just be me. Motivation in general is hard but I’ve realized you can’t force it. I want to create content that I’m proud of. I’ve done the runaround and gotten caught up in comparison and it only leads me to be someone that I’m not. So my motivation lies in authentic moments in my life, things that I’m loving, passion projects, my family, etc. And also, it’s ok to have days that don’t fit into an IG square. No one is keeping tabs on how you’re living life. It’s yours so live it however you want!
What do you find the hardest part of your job to be? The most fun?
Hardest is definitely time management. That is a serious struggle for me. The most fun is probably the ability to control my schedule – creating what I want, when I want.
How many hours a week do you work?
Oy, this is hard to answer in this season of life. I would say 2 hours a day right now, MAYBE. A good day would be 4 dedicated hours of work but I’ve sort of waved the white flag right now and do what I can when I can. I will say I have absolutely no consistent work hours right now, I fly by the seat of my pants.
How do you decide which brands to partner with? Do you approach them or do they approach you?
I feel like I keep the brands I work with in the sector of every day life. If it is a brand that we use or one that I would easily use and can try, share with you – then I’ll usually accept it. You’ll probably notice that I like to partner with the same brands every month because they are very naturally a part of our lives. In some instances I’ll pitch projects to brands that we love – whether it’s for a home opportunity, our DRD collection, etc. I have a hard time keeping up with life in general lately so I feel like this area of business is sort of slacking at the moment.
Do you feel like Facebook is as useful as Instagram for growing/maintaining an audience?
Facebook and IG are tough right now thanks to brutal restrictions on what is being paid to be promoted through FB. If you’re sharing organic content, FB and IG are going to limit the eyes on it because they prefer paid content. It sucks. I will say our PRIVATE HAF FB GROUP is my favorite place – women supporting women. It’s such a special spot on the internets!
Do you rely on social media or your website more these days?
I think social media is a quick way to stay connected with our community but I view HAF (website) as our home. It’s sort of the manual in which everything else operates. In terms of where I choose to dedicate my energy, the content I create for the blog is always way more thought out and intentional. I don’t own my Instagram account, Instagram owns my account. I own helladamsfamily.com. Of course anything could happen but HAF is my baby, Instagram is like one of our arms. Although I will say that Instagram is a quick way to answer a question for you, share something or get in front of more eyes. I understand that reading blogs isn’t easy with our busy lives, I just hope it’s a bigger resource for you in the long run compared to the fast shares on IG.
What do you wish more people knew about the blogging world?
It’s a lot of work. I know a lot of people who make it look like big houses and luxury handbags and extensions and “pretty things.” It’s not. It’s paying for your own insurance, no 401K, people not taking you seriously, navigating taxes, no end of the day, no weekends off. HAF supports my family so this isn’t just something fun or flashy for me. This is our wellbeing. My whole goal is to create longstanding relationships with you all and with my brand partners, to be reliable and set expectations that don’t disappoint. I want you to be able to count on me for everything from fashion to recipes to motherhood advice. I think I just want people to know that this business is
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15?
I don’t really set goals or visualize specific accomplishments in years BUT I hope to make HAF more tangible for you. I want you to experience the community and togetherness and support that this community gives me every day. I want you to feel like you belong, that you’re not alone, that life can be fun and happy and also exhausting and hard. We have something really exciting hopefully launching by the end of this summer, something that has been a vision in my mind for 3 years. Something that encourages a happy home and brings me joy. Something that makes being a parent a little more fun. I’m so excited.