Hi friends! Welcome back! Thank you for your patience while I got my thoughts together for this post. I’ve been surprised by how emotional writing about my journey has felt. I’ve cried many times while writing both posts. Remembering Dennis and now for this part, my Dad, has brought back so many feelings.
I hope parts of my journey inspire you in your own life, or that it simply helps knit us closer together. Opening up and being vulnerable tends to do that.
If you read Part 1 of my lawyer to blogger journey, you know I graduated law school in 2004 and became a full time lawyer that year. I worked at a civil defense litigation firm and handled mostly personal injury cases. For the first year at least, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but I grew to really enjoy my work and gave it 110% effort.
HOW I STARTED MY BLOG
For several years, I was progressing in my career, trying to pay down my student loans, and eventually got married in 2007. Being a newly married wife, I was smitten with transforming our tiny townhouse from a bachelor pad to a warm and cozy home.
I also wanted desperately to try to learn how to cook so I could make delicious, homemade meals and was glued to Food Network and particularly Barefoot Contessa. I think I was searching online for recipes or possibly something about Ina Garten when I stumbled upon La Dolce Vita and her blog post about Ina’s home.
I was instantly obsessed! I fell down the rabbit trail and started reading all of Paloma’s posts. Back then, blogs had blog rolls where they would link to other blogs. That’s how I then discovered Centsational Girl and Elements of Style and Thrifty Decor Chick.
I would look so forward to Saturday mornings with my hot cup of coffee, devouring blogs for hours and getting lost in blogland with other decor blogs. This was truly a new world for me and I found so much inspiration in their style and also what they were going through personally.
In 2009, I got pregnant with my son James and we began building our family home (where I still live now). I decided to start my own blog to chronicle our home building process and life with a new baby.
Are you clicking those links and seeing how tiny and terrible those early photos were on my blog? I never took those posts down because they are part of my real life journey. I have a fond heart for them and I still remember all the new, happy and excited feelings I had while I was taking those photos and writing those posts.
I got on blogger.com to build my website, but it looked terrible, so I did some research and found Kelly, who was Fabulous K back then, to create my first blog design. Kelly still does amazing work and I would highly recommend her today.
Blog Tip : You can also buy pre-made blog templates for much cheaper- Etsy or Creative Market are good places to start.
Blog Tip : If you are starting a blog today, I would start on WordPress, which is what I switched to in 2018, so you own your blog.
BECOMING A STAY AT HOME MOM
After James was born in 2010, for the first time in my life, I felt like the work I was doing as a lawyer meant so little compared to being with my brand new baby.
Like many working families, I was struggling to get myself and the baby ready before work in the morning, fighting traffic and taking him to day care, and then fighting traffic picking him up after work and driving home, only to be rushing to get him fed and to bed before doing it all again the next day.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but fortunately I was in a position to where I could choose to stay home with James, so I made the difficult decision to quit my job. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about how hard I worked to get to even become a lawyer in the first place, I just wanted to be home with my baby.
Looking back, I’m so thankful I was able to make that decision. I really loved the slow pace of our days. With just one (very chill) baby at home, our days were peaceful and relaxed and not very stressful. We would play in the morning or run errands or go for walks, he’d take naps, and I’d sometimes sit outside his door waiting for him to wake up. James has always been a delightful person and a joy to be around and I just soaked up that time together.
Maybe too much- do you remember the Schlumpakinka post from 2010?! 43 comments on that one so I know it struck a cord!
Which isn’t to say it’s easy being at home with the baby. It can be mine numbingly boring, if I’m being truly honest with you! Long days without any adult interaction can feel very isolating.
So I kept blogging. And I loved that too.
I would do little projects around the house while James was napping and take phots on the weekends. At night, when James went to bed, I would sit on my couch and write blog posts. Since I started blogging in 2009, I’ve consistently published 3-5 blog posts a week for a total of nearly 2,220 blog posts!
Blog Tip : Consistency is key.
And you know what? Thank God for blog comments! Back then, there was no Instagram or Stories for us to interact with each other. It was purely readers visiting blogs and leaving comments and me visiting blogs and leaving comments. That’s how we chatted with each other.
And I was so grateful for the communication since it was really all I had during the day! The friendships and connection and creative outlet gave me additional purpose and something to do during this time.
GOING BACK TO WORK
BUT, coming from a background where we struggled so much financially and having that internal struggle about working, I felt very uncomfortable relying on one person’s income to support the whole family. Both of my parents have always worked and working and earning are just in my DNA. I always wanted to be able to be self-sufficient and independent, even if it was just something that was important to me.
For many years, there was no income in blogging. I did it purely for the love, enjoyment and companionship and as a special way to document what was happening in our lives. I can’t tell you the number of times I refer back to my own blog for something. In fact, even in writing this post, I was going back to old posts to see what happened, when.
Blog Tip : Having a blog is an awesome scrapbook for life!
Around the time my son turned one year old, I started taking on legal work at home, and within a few months started working again part time with a babysitter at home with James a few hours each day.
Eventually I landed a contract job at a great firm in town that I absolutely loved. James was around 2 years old and went to a wonderful Montessori day care close to my work, so I could pick him up on my way home.
The job paid well, the hours were full-time, but it was the kind of job you leave at the office at the end of the day, and loved working there! When my contract ended, I had hoped there would be another assignment for me because I really enjoyed that job and it seemed like a perfect fit for family life.
And I kept blogging, 3-5 posts a week, with this job too. Looking back, I’m not sure how I did it! Weekends and after work were times I’d dedicate to it. But also, back then, there wasn’t Instagram and Stories and collaborations and SEO and all of the things that keep me so busy with blogging now.
Blog Tip : With blogging or anything you’re interested in pursuing, if you’re truly passionate about it, you’ll find a way to dig in and start doing it. You will research and learn and ask questions, but the most important thing is to just START!
THEN MY DAD GOT SICK
In fact, we never truly know how much time God will give us in this life. A bomb dropped on our world when, at my last week of work at my job, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.
I drove to my parents house about 30 minutes away and it was immediately apparent that they both really needed me during this difficult time. My dad was in extreme pain and not doing well and my mom was ill-equipped to handle the overwhelming situation. I felt relieved that I could step in and help fill the void and be there for them.
In retrospect, it’s really amazing how God works.
Because I didn’t have a job to go to every day, I was able to go to every single doctor visit, chemo treatment, pick up medications from pharmacies, decipher medical records and what doctors were saying, deal with the insurance companies, and most importantly, spend time with my dad during the last years of his life.
It was nearing the end of the year and holidays were approaching, and I decided to give up the job search for a while and dedicate my time to my family.
That was a very stressful time in my life and having my blog to turn to and you guys to talk to really helped take my mind off of things – even if I didn’t mention it very much.
Throughout my Dad’s illness, I continued with my blog. After a long, hard fought battle with cancer, my Dad passed away too soon in 2015.
HOW BLOGGING BECAME MY JOB
By that time, I had been blogging and naturally growing my readership for the last 5 years.
I was consistent in posting, worked to make my posts better and more thoughtful, bought a professional camera and taught myself how to use it, jumped on Pinterest which helped me grow my traffic, updated my blog layout to stay current, added a Facebook page and Instagram profile, and on and on.
But, can I tell you a secret? I never set out to become a full-time blogger for a living. In fact, I didn’t want to.
I loved blogging and it meant so much to me from helping me feel less isolated as a new mom to creating a welcome ‘distraction’ while my Dad was ill. And I just enjoyed doing it!
I didn’t want the thing I cherished so much to become tainted with demands from outside sources or for me to lose my voice because blogging became a ‘job’ as opposed to a ‘hobby.’ I was so worried that the blogging I loved to do as my stress reliever and outlet would become a stressor in itself.
Not to mention, I still identified myself as a lawyer. Remember how hard I had worked to get there? It was difficult to let that title go. It might have made me feel more important or valued. Silly, right?
When my dad got sick, my contract job ended, and I felt like I was banging my head against the wall looking for a new legal job, I took it as a sign that I need to stop.
Isn’t it so true that when we get still and quiet, we can hear what we need? He will lead us in the direction where we need to go.
WAYS TO EARN MONEY BLOGGING
By 2015, the landscape of blogging was starting to change. Retailers and brands were starting to realize that the relationships that bloggers had with their loyal audience was worth something.
Blog Tip : Brands are willing to collaborate with ‘small bloggers’ or ‘micro influencers’ so don’t think you have to be “huge” to start partnering with brands. In fact, you might have too many offers and need to be cautious in your negotiations and what offers you accept.
RewardStyle and ShopStyle entered the scene and started offering affiliate income when people clicked on a blogger’s links and made a purchase. For years before that, we were sharing those links anyways, we just weren’t earning any commission for it.
Ad networks took over the roll of individual advertising on the blog so bloggers could earn ad revenue based on how many people were visiting their blog. Before that, I might earn $100 a month with an Etsy ad.
I think the thing that made the ‘transition’ easier for me was that I just kept doing what I had always done. And the companies I worked with allowed me to be true to myself and honest with y’all.
Blog Tip : The best brands to work with are the ones that honor you and your readers and let you do your thing. They trust your voice!
CAN YOU START A BLOG IN 2019?
If you want to start blogging in 2019, I’m here to tell you that blogs are not dead! In fact, blogs are thriving more now than ever. There is a spot for you at the table if you want to dive in and get started.
Many people who have an ‘influencer’ Instagram account are encouraged to start a blog because most brands want the benefit of having their content shared in a blog post that people can refer back to over time.
Blog Tip : You can OWN your blog, but you don’t own your content that’s shared on Instagram or Facebook or any other social media platform. Those entities could shut down or change policies at any time without notice to you.
Many of you dream of working for yourself and being able to run your own schedule.
I don’t work traditional full-time hours because I have young kids at home, but I can also tell you that blogging can be so much more work than I ever realized. Particularly, if you have a ‘lifestyle blog’, it can be extremely difficult to turn it off at the end of the day.
I typically work 9 am-3 pm, but up until this week, I had an assistant working with me 30 hours a week for the last two years. Can you even imagine that there’s enough work for one blog to keep two people busy 60 hours a week? I know!
Unfortunately for me, Shannon recently got a better opportunity, so she’s no longer working with me. I adore her more than words and we sure had a lot of FUN together while she was here!
As any entrepreneur will tell you, you tend to work harder for yourself, then for anyone else.
But don’t let that intimidate you! For many, many years, I worked a full-time job and blogged on the side. If you truly want to get started, I say GO FOR IT!
You offer something no one else does, and that is your own unique individuality. You bring YOU to the table.
I do think it’s important to realize that I worked really hard for a l o n g time (years and years) before I made any money on my blog. I did it completely for free and I just feel really grateful that what I did for years for nothing, earns an income now.
I mention that only to say that with any new endeavor, you can’t necessarily expect to make money from it right away. But if you’re truly passionate about it, you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.
♥ THANK YOU ♥
It’s not lost on me that I get to do what I love everyday because of y’all. When you subscribe, show up here to check in or see what’s new, shop via my links, pin my posts, or tell a friend about my blog, it helps support me.
I cannot thank you enough for that. Many of you have been here this whole time! I was so much younger then- ha! 😉 I wish I could give you a giant hug through the computer- I hope you feel my genuine affection for you!
This has been a long one, I hope it was worth your time! Have a great day friends!