It’s been a whole year since I announced that I was starting a design business. I say “announced.” Really I added a services tab to the menu of the blog, called it a day and waited for the clients to start pouring in. That’s actually very far from the truth………
But here I am now a year later with a steady flow of client work. I’ve been putting off this post because I knew it would take me three whole weeks to write, and who has three weeks to spend on a post?? I would try to start writing and ended up staring at the screen, not because I didn’t have anything to say, I just couldn’t choose what TO say. I found a solution and thought it might be better to split this broad topic into two parts. Part 1 – today – will be about things I’ve learned as well as resources that have been helpful thus far. Also really want to highlight on THUS far!!! I’m only one year into this thing, so it goes without saying I’ve got a long way to go.
Part of me fears this will come across as me rambling on and on about creating a decorating business from a blog (that’s actually what is happening), but I don’t want it to come across as insincere. When I was getting ready to take the plunge and really commit to this, I would google things like “blogger turned decorator”……so my thought is that surely there are other people out there in a similar boat. Here we go.
Before the Business:
Parker and I got married 2013, and I turned 23 the next week. I was 6 months out of college. My degree is in Early Childhood Education, so naturally I was searching for a teaching job. I didn’t get one for that upcoming school year. (I was either really bad at job searching or there were way too many teachers looking for jobs that summer. Either way – I didn’t land a teaching job.) I was a substitute teacher that year while hoping to inch my way into a permanent job. 6 months later I started the blog.
No thought went into starting the blog. At All. I’ve always thought it was a terrible thing that I didn’t plan or think past my first 2 posts before starting, but I think maybe it was better that I didn’t overthink starting a blog. Or think about it at all. Honestly, I was bored. Substitute teaching wasn’t fulfilling and really the thought of becoming a teacher didn’t make me all that giddy either.
I blogged along, here and there, boring content, terrible styling, didn’t know how to shoot in manual. I followed a few blogs and thought it was amazing that they could create such beautiful content. I didn’t know how they did it though.
I attended Haven Conference that next summer and left wide-eyed and overwhelmed in a good way. More on that below. That summer I was finally offered a teaching job, but I DECLINED!!!! Every time I think back to that decision, I’m just stunned that I made it. It was really all because of Parker. He asked me if teaching was really what I wanted to do as a career (we both knew it wasn’t), I said no, and he encouraged me not to take the job and to pursue the blog and whatever came from that. HUGE unknown there, but we both went for it. I say both because it was a scary move for both of us (I was making no money) and neither of us knew if it was the right decision for me OR us. It was risky, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. For the next year and a half I worked odd jobs (babysitter, retail, substitute teacher, I even drove Uber……….) to contribute what was needed financially, and then I worked on the bigger picture (the blog) every spare minute I had. When I think back to that time I can’t help but think about how naive I was. I still am, I think, but making those decisions as if I was blindfolded ended up being the right decision for me and the future. I don’t think I would have ever taken the plunge if I would have accepted that teaching job.
At that point I was 6 months into blogging. Some people can make it big after 6 months and really gain traction if they “get it”. I was so far from “getting it” and was MONTHS away from making any money at all. ANY money, I repeat. I made plenty of money through the odd jobs, but I didn’t get to a consistent and comfortable place money wise until earlier this year. Part two of this thing is going to cover money.
It goes without saying that writing a design blog and running a decorating business go hand in hand. When I was 6 months into blogging I was a sponge to any and every piece of information I could take in. I wanted to learn anything and everything about styling, decorating, blogging and everything in between. I wanted nothing more than to go to design school, and I dwelled on that A LOT at that time, but it wasn’t the right decision for us. After I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to school and moved on, I semi made a plan.
My plan was that I would use my blog as a way to put myself out there. I needed a portfolio. I needed good content. I needed EXPERIENCE. I needed so much information!!!!!!!
It was overwhelming. And still is. (More so overwhelming now – just in a different way.) I wanted to learn SO much SO fast.
After I Committed:
After I decided I was really doing this, as in no turning back, I tried my best to gain as much experience and knowledge as I possibly could. This is still very much so the case. I don’t think one can EVER know enough about their trade/passion/career/etc. I studied images of spaces and decided what was right/wrong, what I loved/hated and why. I would google subjects like “how high should nightstands be” and “window treatments” ……. googling and studying can only get you so far. You have to start doing. And making mistakes. And learning. And doing it more.
Growing a Blog:
As I mentioned above, attending Haven Conference was a huge turning point for me. The classes were so knowledgeable (at that point I don’t think I knew a blog alone could be profitable) and I left feeling so, incredibly motivated, as shown in this post. I highly recommend attending a blog conference if you want to be kicked in high gear and are serious about pursuing blogging. I’ve heard great things about Snap, but have never attended, so I can’t speak on it.
Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook – THIS. This was huge for me. It is the ultimate blogging handbook and covers ALL of the basics. A must read for new bloggers!
Photography is such a huge component of blogging. You can have a great project, but if it isn’t photographed well, all of that hard work goes down the drain because it wont be received well (or as well as it should). This ebook, The Ultimate Photography Book for Bloggers was a game changer for me, that’s for sure.
In addition to quality content, I think ones voice is extremely important in how readers receive a blogger. This is certainly the case for the bloggers I follow – I am first drawn to a blogger because of their content, but what keeps me coming back is their voice and what they have to say. Not every blogger is for every reader, and I think it’ important to remember that. No one person has the same perspective.
Building a Decorating Business:
There are really two things that I’ve made HUGE priorities for growing my decorating business and they both go hand in hand. 1) Experience & 2) Portfolio.
Before I ever had a client, the first thing I could think to do was to email every single interior designer I could think of asking for advice. Some responded. Most didn’t. The ones that did respond had great insight to share, and I was very appreciative. I asked them what I could do to get experience. A few of them suggested attending a Tobi Farley event. I looked into it but haven’t made it happen yet. I would love to attend Designer MBA. A designer that I assisted attended several of the classes and gave me the handbook from Designer A-Z.
This Bookshelf Styling class was extremely helpful. It was nice to see the styling process broken down, and I found that I was more intentional when styling after I read it.
Assist!!!! I landed a great assistant job that turned into a much needed mentor. I have gained SO much knowledge from the designer that I assisted and think I think it’s crucial to watch someone else run their business.
When building a portfolio, you have to start somewhere. The first project that I ever did happened after a friend mentioned a girl she worked with was expecting and getting ready to design her nursery. I couldn’t stop thinking about that potential project and ended up texting my friend days later and just went for it. I asked her to ask her work friend (who I had NO IDEA whom it was) if I could design her nursery……… It was weird of me to do so, but I just wanted a project. I did several of these kinds of projects – babysitting moms, friends, etc. until I felt comfortable to take on paying clients. I also use my house to build my portfolio….as you all know…….
This was the longest blog post I think I’ve ever written. I tried to stay on topic of “life before my business” and then “starting and growing a business”. Next time I will cover what it all looks like now. Whew. I need a cocktail.