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(June 6, 2015) Some of you, whom I adore deeply, have been following my blogging journey for the last two years while others have just arrived. I have been asked many questions about how I found success so quickly and hear most often, “how do you even make money as a blogger?”. Well, today is full confession day and I will answer that question for those of you who have wondered. Perhaps in the future I will even teach classes or write a book on my full business strategy along with the bits of wisdom I have picked up during my long and colorful design career. For now I will just confess.
My Mom Life: Let’s start with a little bit of personal data to give you a broader picture. I have been a solo parent of one daughter since she was two. As a graphic designer I worked both in freelance and in office settings throughout the years as I raised Emily, the last 11 years here in Portland, Oregon. I have spent most of my career as a graphic designer though you can read more about my entrepreneurial adventures, some inspired by Emily, here in my bio. At the end of the month Emily will be 21, so needless to say, my mommy days are done. Emily is often a model here on the site so if you see a mini me. . . yes, that is my daughter. She is now a hair and makeup artist and finding her own creativity in her new career.
Prepping for the Leap: Before my blogging adventure began, I worked as a creative director for a stationery start-up, my role to lead the creative in the development of different markets from DIY to full service printing. It was two years ago in April that I found myself suddenly, with no warning. . . unemployed. I had been leading the creative for the new wedding stationery site where I had poured my heart, soul and all of my creativity. When I was told that I was no longer on the team, all I could imagine was my baby going to foster care to be adopted by another mother. I was completely heartbroken. Of course I could not see it in the moment but it was honestly the BEST worst thing that could have happened to me. I had imagined leading my own creative lifestyle media company for years and I knew in my core that is was my time to give it a full-blown go. One of my parting gifts from my former company was to own all of the great content I had created for their blog. (There is where I discovered my gift for paper flower designing). Another was to announce to my rapidly growing community of readers that I was moving to my own site, and the final gift was to adapt the blog design I had created with our in-house developer into my liagriffith.com site. With the kick start from my former employers and the experience I had gained starting their company blog, I simply jumped off the back of the boat into the vast world of full-time blogging.
The Transition: One of the biggest issues for me at that point was having enough space to design, craft and create and equally important to have an abundance of light to photograph the projects for my new blog. At that time I was renting a loft in downtown Portland and I knew it would not support my vision so I quickly went on the hunt for a “blog house”. I made my list of must haves and wishes and I knew I was blessed and quite lucky when I found this craftsman house with office space, great details and an outdoor space that needed my love. Yes, this house and I equally needed each other and it was love at first site.
The Plan: With 8 months of unemployment checks coming and a bit of savings in the bank, I figured I had at least until the end of that year to simply focus on developing my blog and social platform without too much financial stress. My plan was to blog and share my original designs which all fell under the umbrella of handcrafted lifestyle. My tag being “handcraft your life”. I made a clear vision statement that I am here to “inspire, teach and reignite creativity”. With that vision and focus I made goals of 200 original post in 8 months and to improve my photography as much as time allowed, as pictures really are worth a thousand words, especially on Pinterest. And that is what I did. Readers would often comment on whether or not I even slept. The answer to that is yes, and usually 8 hours a night. . . but I worked pretty much all waking hours. I created, designed, photographed, socialed and wrote everyday from dawn until bed time. I will not lie, my social life did suffer but I was having fun. Most importantly, I knew that in a career sense, I was finally home. It was in the fall of my first year that I received the most interesting email from a former boss. Jim was the person who originally hired me to work for the stationery start-up but had sold the wedding division to the current owner, the one who let me go. He told me he loved what I was doing, saw potential and was interested in becoming my silent partner. Wow. I had to think about that for a while. I didn’t really need a partner, silent or not, but could see the value of his online business knowledge to guide me as I grew into my vision beyond blogging. So in the fall of 2013, I took a silent partner.
The Rise and Fall: By the end of December I could not be happier. Not only did I meet my goal of 200 posts, but I was seeing my traffic and community grow even beyond what I had imagined. I had been featured in 18 magazines, both small projects and full interviews, so I was seeing that power of good photography and the benefits of my efforts to improve. In the first few months of 2014 things started to move fast. I was getting requests for sponsored posts, ads sales on my site, media networks, designs for licensed projects. . . my to do list became longer and longer. At this point in the process it would be a missed opportunity to say no, right? Seeing my cash flow grow, I was able to bring in a part time design assistant to lighten my load. Yet, the stress was building and I knew that with the busiest blog season, October-December, coming quickly, I was not going to make it out sane without help. By August I hit my limit and emotionally and physically collapsed. I knew that I needed more than part-time help, I needed a team.
The Team: This is when I was oh so thankful I had taken on a business partner. With Jim expertise and support we began bringing in full-time help, one position at a time. My first hires were Krista who is both an illustrator and designer and Anna who is a product manager and currently pretty much runs the operations side of the business. I call her “my right hand, left brain”, though she is also very creative. With the three of us, we were able to catch up and get the studio back on track. Then my niece Jessica joined us as my craft and photo assistant. It is really great to have someone on your team who because of genetics can all but read your mind. The four of us worked very hard through the last 4 months of the year to offer two posts per day while designing and developing licensed products and sponsored posts. At the beginning of the year we brought in Emily to assist with the writing and P.R. outreach. Then in March we hired Lindsay to be our lead graphic designer and take that role off my plate. I get a little teary when I write this because I absolutely love every person on my team. We have so much fun together, work our tails off, laugh a lot and even sing and chair dance in the office. It amazes me that even with the 6 of us here in the office, we are still slammed busy. Yes, the opportunities and projects are getting large and we are big dreamers. . . me at the helm of the big dream ship. Click this link and scroll down to see all of the bios of my most amazing team. I could not do this without them.
The Future: You may have noted that my title says “former blogger”. That is not a typo. However, this new version of the site, blog, or whatever you want to call it will always be the core of our business. I have always envisioned Lia Griffith Media as just that, a media company. To me that means we create fabulous content that we share across many platforms: This site, video tutorials, books (first one coming this fall), our own magazine, and yes, someday a TV show. The show will be called, Handcraft Your Life, of course. My team will continue to grow and we will have to move our office out of this beloved house and into a larger space. It is so important to me that as we grow we are as authentic and accessible as when I started solo a little over two years ago. Very important. For now I still work long hours and on weekends. My social life is still waiting to bloom again. I have not had a real vacation for a year and a half. I live and breathe business and too often feel stressed to finish my list of projects. AND. . . I am absolutely the happiest I have ever been in my life. I would have it no other way. All the bumps, boulders and potholes in the road brought me to this place and I can clearly see my dream company forming in front of me. I feel blessed.
Now to answer that burning question of how a blogger (or former blogger) makes a living. I find that the best blog business model has income sources coming from multiple directions. The most common is ad sales. Then there’s sponsored posts and guest posting. Other bloggers can do really well with affiliate sales. E-books and e-courses are another way for added income. Many bloggers will create their own products and sell them on Etsy, Society 6 or a little shop on their blog. For us, design licensing with four partners with the mix of ad sales and sponsored posts is how we create our cash flow. If someone were to ask my advise on how to create a successful blog or business my answer would be: Do what you love with all the passion and drive you can give it, not for the goal of getting rich, but because you just simply cannot help but do it and must share it with others. If you do that, the money will come. Of course smart business decisions will help along the way.
Hugs! ~ Lia (photos below were from my May head shot session with the talented Maggie Hudson).
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