How to turn your blog into a business | @halliekwilson

Be a Better Blogger, Vol. 1: Find Balance

Today’s post is in response to the question I asked you about freelancing and blogging full-time, posted two weeks ago. I intended to share it with you last week, but well, shit happens. Sorry guys;  sometimes you have to prioritize – especially if you’re a one-woman-show running your own biz-nass (with another job ramping up).

coffee mug and jewelry

… These “things” I’m referring to are taxes, and I always wait until the last minute to do them. Lesson one: Don’t be like me. Do your f–king taxes!

Ahem.

So, as I was looking back through your questions, a common theme emerged: We’re all just trying to figure it out as we go. How, exactly, do we get to the next level from where we are? What does progress even look like?

home office ideas inspiration

Your questions began to bucket themselves into themes — social media, finances, working strategies, and so on — and a result, I’m going to break them up into two posts. For today, it’s about the foundational stuff: What freelancing and blogging “full-time” entails. Next week, I’ll share my thoughts on your questions regarding social media, pitching and how to approach brands.

Before we get started, a little reminder: I am no expert, and my path has been far from linear (as you know). It’s definitely been a course of emotions, failures, freak-outs and learning experiences, but hey, I’m here.

At the end of the day, it’s just work. Just a job. And in my case, it’s just a blog.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and stop feeling so much pressure to have it all figured out. I’m 29-years-old, guys, and I just embarked on a totally new, unique career path. My mantra is and has always been: Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

And hey, spoiler alert: You’ll figure it out. Shit happens. Life is messy. Nothing’s coincidence. Just go with it!

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DAY TO DAY

  • At what point did you feel “comfortable” enough to make this your full-time job? When did you feel that push? – Taylor, Lights Camera Catwalk

Well, it definitely wasn’t overnight — as detailed in this post. I’ve spent more than four years creating content, slowing growing my social media and developing genuine relationships with people, which has helped me find work consistently (paid partnerships, writing gigs, freelance consulting, etc).

Every single weekend and weeknight that I came home from my desk job, I would work on my blog.

Time goes by, and if you’re consistent, you grow. Readers, brands and people start to demand more from you – more content, more opportunities, more partnerships. Eventually, you get sick of saying “sorry, I can’t — I have to work.” For me, it came to a point where my hobby was overtaking my job, so I started to be more mindful about saving up my money. I knew the best and only way to fully capitalize on all of the opportunity I was being approached with was to stand on my own and devote all of my energy into growing the blog/business.

As they say, leap and the net will appear.

hp sprout review

  • How do you get motivation to work from home and not slack off? – Gretchen, Gretchen Runs

I work remotely a lot, but when I am at home, I have a separate nook. I actually use a desktop (the HP Sprout computer), which helps me keep a dedicated working area.

The Sprout has been a really useful tool to have on-hand. I use it as a scanner (to scan my receipts while doing taxes), but it’s also great for editing mood boards and the like. One of the coolest features is that you can also create your own “handwriting”, save it as a JPEG and upload it to your blog. It’s kinda like Photoshop, but a more intuitive, simplified version. (You can read more about the Sprout here.)

In addition, I stay focused by listening to music – and by NOT multi-tasking. I set aside specific times in the day for social media and g-chat and I strive to complete a daily “10 before 10,” answering 10 important e-mails before 10 a.m. There are some more suggestions in this post.

how to use hp sprout

  • I’m sure that no two days are the same for you, but I would love to know what your schedule sort of looks like. – Lauren, @LaurGood

You’re right, they’re not! I spent awhile trying to figure out what my new normal looked like, but finally came to terms with the fact that normal just doesn’t exist. It now depends on when I’m teaching, but the key is to create consistency in your day where possible. I try to get up at the same time every morning, and I don’t look at my computer or phone for at least 30 minutes. I typically do a few sun salutations (yoga poses), pick up around the apartment and make coffee. Then, when I sit down I feel like I’ve actually “arrived” at work.

Yesterday, for example: I woke up, went to a yoga class and came home intending to answer e-mails. I ended up last-minute subbing at SoulCycle, so I was back out the door as soon as I walked in. Now, I’m at home writing and eating. Always eating.

Disciplined prioritization is a hard skill to learn (I swear I have ADD), but I’m making progress.

blogger home office

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MONEY

  • How do you make money? – Anonymous

Ah, yes – question of the hour. The short answer is: In a variety of ways.

Most of my income comes from collaborating with like-minded brands, who I partner with to share their stories on my blog and across social media. I also utilize affiliate links through rewardStyle and Amazon (if you scroll down and read yesterday’s post regarding Shopbop’s sale). In addition, I’m a freelance writer/I’ll produce content for other sites, too (like Glam, where I contribute monthly).

Over time, you’ll learn how to monetize your blog and develop strategies for when it’s appropriate to bring sponsored content into the mix. Ultimately, it’s important to have a variety of income streams – just in case one disappears/so that you’re not dependent.

My budget covers all the necessities, and beyond rent, my expenses are actually pretty low.

I take the subway and/or walk almost everywhere, I don’t make random food purchases and — believe it or not — I really don’t shop. (Sales like this one are an exception — if I can afford something and I know I’ll wear it constantly, I don’t feel bad about making the investment.) You’ve seen me wearing a lot of my favorite items on repeat: The chunky sweater, my favorite boyfriend jeans, those blush Loeffler Randall pumps, right? Case-in-point.

  • I’m scared about income. How do I know if I’m ready? – Anonymous

I’d suggest being well-off enough that you can cover three to six months of your cost of living (rent, expenses, food, etc) as a starting point. Trust, when you’re a contractor or consultant, no one pays you on time — and remember that most payment terms are net-30 or net-60 days.

Before you leave your full-time job, you can probably approximate how much guaranteed income you’ll be generating on a monthly basis. You should have an idea of how much money you need each month to cover your expenses and taxes, as well as pay yourself (if you’re doing that). A lot of bloggers give themselves a “salary,” but I’m fairly lax about this — something to consider, though.

  • You said most of your freelance work comes from word of mouth. Has that changed? – Jess, 26 and Not Counting

Yep, that’s still the same — and it’s much more enjoyable as a result. For that reason and many others, I’d encourage you to take care of your in-person relationships first-and-foremost. Nothing is coincidence and everyone is in your life for a reason. Be kind, thankful and willing to connect people – karma comes back around full-circle.

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BALANCE

  • Apart from planners and iPhone reminders, how do you keep track of everything going on? – Cristal

I keep everything in one place: Google Calendar. Everything from work to my Soul classes I’m teaching to personal shit. Due dates, workouts, waxing appointments — if it’s not on my calendar, I will not remember it.

  • How DO you balance travel/vacation with blogging? Any tips or secrets? – Gretchen, Gretchen Runs

You don’t, really (as pictured below). But that’s one of the sacrifices you make in being your own boss — you have a 24/7 so that you don’t have to have a nine-to-five. Sometimes I wish for regular paychecks or to shut my computer down on Friday night, but then I pinch myself and remember how lucky I am that my choices have brought me to where I am.

It’s all about figuring out how to be online without actually being online, which we’ll touch on when we discuss social media next week. In the meantime, here are some of my tips for working smarter, not harder.

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  • Do you believe in “just blogging for fun”? Or do you think it will hinder me if I have a so-so blog with not a lot of followers? Is it better to not blog at all? – Joyce, rejoyce today

Girl, I’m still blogging because it’s fun — everything else is just an added benefit. If it makes you happy, yes! Do what’s worth your time, not your money.

  • One thing I’m interested to know is how do you separate yourself from your blog? Is the Hallie we see here exactly who you are in person/how much do you filter yourself?  – Amy, Girl for Granted

For me they’re very similar, yes. I don’t filter much of myself — which you know if you follow me on snapchat (username is coralsncognacs). corals + cognacs has evolved into more of a lifestyle blog, I think, because I have so many stories to share that you can relate to.

While I will always have an open line of communication with my readers (and I love them to do the same), where I do draw the line is on things that are personal and heavy — until I’m ready to address them. At the end of the day, I strive to be as positive as possible, because I never want to impose negative energy on my readers. Plus, what’s the point in not being that way? You’re as happy and fulfilled as you decide to be. Think about it.

hp sprout computer review

  • On that note – did you actively try to build a brand, or did that just happen organically? Any tips for doing that? – Amy, Girl for Granted

It just happened organically, to be honest. I started blogging in my mid-twenties and always regarded it as a hobby. I never thought it was something that could become an actual income-generating profession.

My focus has always been on community and storytelling, not making money. Even if the latter is your objective, it should never be your focal point. You will never gain anyone’s trust — and honestly, if you’re in it for the five-minute Internet fame or for lots of money, this probably isn’t the job for you. People can sniff that shit out REAL fast. Can’t we, girls?

  • I’m trying my best to post regular content but it’s not always easy. It’s also hard to stay encouraged when there are no reader comments. Is this is a normal experience? – Sarah

Yeah, that is hard, but don’t get discouraged. Sometimes you just have to step into the role of what it is you’re looking for. If you don’t already, take 10 minutes of our morning to read and comment on five blog posts. People will return the favor! As humans, we’re wired to seek approval and feedback from others — but try not to do that.

In the end, your numbers don’t lie and they’re a fool-proof way to measure your success. Study your monthly analytics and set performance goals based on the milestones you want to reach. But set yourself up for success: Be patient and consistent in how often you post, which will set people’s expectations.

  • How did you stay motivated to continuously keep posting in the beginning, which has obviously led you to where you are you now? – Lauren, Oliver’s Twist

Real talk? Most of the motivation that I have comes from guys… Like, seriously.

I am so grateful to everyone that contributes to this awesome community by reading, sharing and socializing it. Your comments, tweets and words of encouragement are a huge part of the reason I am still blogging. Regardless of whether it’s one person or 10,000, knowing that I’m able to create conversation, joy and laughter — or even that I’m just impacting someone who may be experiencing the same thing as me — that makes it all worth it.

sprout by hp

So, in sum (until next week), here are my top five tips for taking your blog (or business) to the next level from where you’re at:

  1. People matter. Build genuine relationships.
  2. Do not rely on one or two sole sources of income.
  3. Align yourself only with like-minded people, brands and companies.
  4. If you’re serious about earning significant income as a blogger or writer, you have to be comfortable marketing yourself — a lot.
  5. Know your weaknesses. While I’m a great relationship-builder, I am awful at maintaining records, receipts and the like. Anyone want to do this for me? (Kidding — I’m working on overcoming this.)

*CLICK HERE TO READ PART TWO: MASTERING SOCIAL MEDIA

Oh, and one more piece of advice:

Surround yourself only with people who lift you up. Your best friends, mentors, champions and colleagues will be people who realize that when the tide rises, we all float.

Stay away from people who shit on your dream — your path isn’t for the to approve or disapprove of. This is going to happen to you — and it’s a really hard pill to swallow — but it’s your life. Remember: If you love something so much, just trust yourself and go all in.

For more posts about blogging, balance and business, click below:

  1. Mastering Social Media
  2. Why I Left My Full-Time Job
  3. How to Make Your Blog a Business
  4. How to Take Better Instagram Photos
  5. Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

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freelance style writers

Let’s connect on…
Instagram | Twitter | PinterestFacebook | snapchat (@coralsncognacs)

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Lydia Hudgens Photography

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