If you’ve come to my blog before or have followed me on Instagram for two days or three years, you might have wondered how I started my blog AND how you can start your own blog, too. On top of that, how I found the motivation to take my side hustle into being a full time entrepreneur. Figured now is as good as any time to tell you! I’ve had several moments during quarantine the last few weeks where I’ve thought things could have turned out completely differently for me during this pandemic had I never become self-employed early 2019.
How different would my life be right now if I never started my blog back in spring of 2014, found my last corporate job because of it and in turn, stumbled upon all of my current friends and opportunities in life these last 6 years? Extremely different. I can tell you right now, I’m really glad I took the leap and I hope if you’re thinking about it, you do too.
People often ask me tons of questions when it comes to running my own business, working for myself, if I love it, how I manage it, where I make money… really all of the things. Sometimes I don’t know what to say and others I feel like no one will understand, or even worse, I’ll end up comparing myself to someone who works a corporate job and makes a definitive salary every year – probably far more than I could ever make.
How My Mindset Has Changed These Last Few Months
I’ll tell you right now, anyone who reallys knows me knows I always say, “I’m so nervous” about pretty much everything and anything I can. Most of May and June I felt that way and often times scared of what the future and unknown held. I mean, how can you blame me with everything going on in the world? Many of you probably can relate. However, a few weeks ago I felt this huge shift in my passions, work ethic and mindset. Overall I started feeling more productive and passionate whether it came to crossing everything off of my to-do list, managing my schedule through time blocking and first and foremost: not letting fear get in the way of my day-to-day tasks and goals.
Since I haven’t shared in detail about starting my blog, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to it. I’ll be sharing with you 5 things I wish I knew when I started my blog as well. My goal going forward is to help other hopeful entrepreneurs to learn that they can be just as successful (if not more) than someone working for JP Morgan in banking or Leo Burnett in advertising. I know numerous bloggers, creators and coaches who make 6-7 figures annually and while I’m not completely there yet (transparency is always what I strive for), I have full confidence in myself I can be just like you can be too. So let’s do it together, why don’t we?
Before the blog began…
Rewind back to 2013, I just moved to Chicago to study at Loyola University of Chicago which was truly my dream come true to be living in Chicago. My mom and I would talk about how living and going to school in a city like this one came with so many opportunities that quite honestly Ohio (where I’m from) would have never given me. Being super focused on health and wellness in highschool, I came to Chicago with a love of all things relating to food, while simultaneously trying to figure out an eating disorder. Throughout my freshman year I struggled with not only finding a community that was similar to me (I really lost all care for drinking/going out after my senior year of highschool) but something I was passionate about. But I knew I loved food, making recipes and movement.
At the time, being an “influencer” on Instagram wasn’t a thing whatsoever but I started posting photos of my food early on. This eventually turned into the idea of reviewing restaurants in Chicago for my school’s newspaper since one of the requirements in a class I was enrolled in was to join “a club”. For me personally, as an introvert, connecting with people I had pretty much nothing in common with when it came to classic college things, a club sounded like my worst nightmare. But I figured writing about fun healthy food for everyone in my college to see would be fun, right? All I had to do was write something up on Google Drive and shoot it off to someone. That met my requirement of “joining a club”. What eventually started out as a requirement for school turned into my blog which in return turned into my full-time job… funny how that worked.
Where To Begin When Starting Your Blog
After doing this for the second half of my freshman year, I ended up starting my blog one night while living back home in Cleveland over the summer. Not knowing a single freaking thing about what I was doing, I sat at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table one Friday night, bought a domain from BlueHost, started writing with little to no design on my blog and went to town. Unsure of what to really do, I didn’t care because I just wanted a creative outlet to share with friends, family and really whoever would find it on social media. When people ask me where to begin I tell them Google. Not even because I don’t want to help someone but that’s really how I started and truthfully, most of the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey is asking friends and Googling.
Having the perfect design
In terms of design, in the time I’ve had my blog these last 6 years, I’ve redesigned it on my own once and then in the beginning of 2019, hired a designer to really blow the whole thing out. Obviously if you have even the slightest bit of talent you can create your blog and designs yourself by using a custom theme that WordPress (or if you use Square Space) offers but it is a TON of work. Hiring my designer, Eva Black, and web developer, Lindsay Pruitt of Made To Thrive, was truly so so worth every penny.
Finding your specific niche of content
For the first 2-3 years I had Chickpea in The City, food was truly all I talked about because I wanted it to start as a food blog as a hobby and never become an “entrepreneur”. Afterall, struggling with an eating disorder – food is pretty much the only thing you really ever think about. Yet around mid 2016, I had a huge shift in what I cared about and talked about. Right around this period, my mom was diagnosed with cancer at the same time I was working up to 30 hours at Whole Foods and 10 hours at my internship. In between all of that, I was consistently going to yoga and cycling classes. My experience with all of this wasn’t shared until the following year but these really impacted my life and the content I wanted to share. I preferred to follow people who shared about similar things and wanted to see and do more than just photograph smoothie bowls and oatmeal.
So I shifted my page a bit and it felt really, really good. Sometimes I wish I would have shared about my mom’s journey sooner so that I could have connected with people who would have related and helped but at the same time, I’m grateful for how everything played out. When I first announced it on Instagram and my blog that I lost my mom, it was that moment forward (since the beginning of 2017) that I started sharing MORE about real life feelings and situations because to me, relating, connecting and engaging with people is such an important part of content creation. I’ve wanted to be authentic and transparent since the beginning of my blog and I find it such an important part of doing what you do, when it comes to blogging, starting your journey as an entrepreneur or just everyday life.
That same year (2017), I graduated from college and while I was still doing campaigns here and there for Chickpea in The City for some side income, I was hoping to progress at my current job (working at a CPG company in Chicago) and had no vision of becoming self-employed. Fear was at the top of my mind and I loved how things in life were. Getting paid every 2 weeks from a normal, stable job and then making money on the side… who wouldn’t love that? Yet deep down, I was truly unhappy with how much time I was investing into my corporate job and how little attention the blog got.
By the time I’d leave work, I wanted to go workout, come home, make dinner and go to bed. People would ask me “how do you do both things (blog and corporate job) at the same time?” The answer: I didn’t. My blog essentially was put on the back burner and anytime I had a few extra moments I’d post an Instagram or blog post but there were periods of time where I went months without a blog post because it fell off my radar.
Brief Stint in Corporate World
While I was only a full-time employee in the corporate world for 14 months, about 4-5 months in, I just knew it wasn’t for me. Growing up, my mom was an entrepreneur and I really must get this spirit and mindset from her because while I’m confident that I can do most “normal” jobs like work as a cashier or a receptionist or whatever it may be, being an entrepreneur and sharing with others is where my true passion lies.
Don’t get me wrong, my last job was a DREAM in terms of paid time off, flexible schedule, my team understanding when I needed to take time off for press trips for my blog and the amount of travel I did. All in one year I went to California 2-3x, Arizona for a WELLNESS retreat and Salt Lake City… for work. I got to be on set of tons of brand photoshoots, work with recipe developers and mail influencers packages (aka be on the other end of what I do now). It was SO much fun but A LOT of work. About half way into the year of working full-time, I was so unhappy that I’d tell my therapist weekly about it and she’d often ask me the questions like, “Do you feel confident leaving your job?” or “What’s holding you back?”
What Held Me Back From Becoming A Sole Proprietor
Like I said, I know what holds EVERYONE back from leaving their corporate job. Limiting beliefs, leaving stable income, health insurance, and the belief that people will judge you for being an entrepreneur. All of these things crossed my mind but at the same time, I knew I had savings and could really hustle to make it happen. Eventually, my bosses and co-workers started noticing that my heart wasn’t in it and mutually knew it wasn’t a right fit for me — because it wasn’t.
My heart was fully into Chickpea in The City and why put in energy to something that isn’t working for you? It was unfair to my corporate job and unfair to myself. So in January 2019, I officially started working for myself and became an entrepreneur. Figuring out how to deal with taxes, hiring an accountant, learning about insurance (my own personal version of hell but also necessary) and setting up my own schedule.
Multiple Sources of Revenue
What I find crucial about working for yourself is always having multiple revenues of income and not just focusing on partnerships because sometimes those aren’t always reliable. You also have to get comfortable with knowing that some months as an entrepreneur are better than others. Some months I’ve made $10k and others I’ve made $1,000 – if that. At the end of the day, what I do is essentially sales. We’re all selling something but I get to choose what I share and sell and it always relates to health, wellness and lifestyle.
Day to Day
I majored in Public Relations and Marketing in college and that’s pretty much what my day to day looks like.
- Pitching brands to work with
- Negotiating partnerships and rates
- Googling how to do some money related things
- Investing where I can in areas that will better my business (i.e. $20/month for a newsletter, $15/month for Quickbooks)
- Asking peers for advice
- Organizing my schedule daily and time-blocking
- Using my creativity to market products to the best of my ability
My income comes from more than just sponsorships because with those, you could get paid every 30 days to every 60 and they’re not always super stable. This is why bloggers often use ads, affiliate partners like this CBD I use (you can make commission when someone buys a product you share and these ADD UP) and consulting work. The list really goes on, and on.
I’ve only been self-employed for about a year and a half at this point but I have learned so so much and only hope to share it with people so that they can start this journey on their own too. I would never advise someone to drop their job if they had nothing saved or no income already coming in on the side but at the same time, I know and have read many stories from bloggers and content creators that had little to nothing in their bank account, dropped their miserable job and took things full-time. And now make 6 figures.
The ever-pressing question: But do you ever struggle? Or want to go back to a “normal” job?
Going through struggles is bound to happen.
Many things I currently struggle with are comparing myself to others (it’s bound to happen), having enough confidence and kicking fear out of my way. You have to really WORK at knowing that you can succeed. Even in those months where you might be struggling mentally or financially. There are tons of things I’ve done and continue to do that really help. First step? Conquer these hurdles by TALKING and sharing with others. SO many people are often in the same boat as you but don’t speak up about things or ASK about them.
Helping Other Entrepreneurs
Last week I decided to see if my followers would be interested in a Zoom call to chat about all things being self-employed. Starting new business ventures, how to make income as a blogger, etc. Tons of us are in the same boat but because we never talk about it, half of us have no clue what to do or where to start. This has given me the nudge and push to continue opening up about this topic and give you guys all the tips and tricks. I’m constantly looking for someone else to share and since I can’t find that, I figured why not do it myself.
I’ve now shared my blog journey with you but there’s so much more to come in the following weeks. To begin, I’m sharing a few tips below on what I wish I knew before I started my blog. I hope you enjoy and that this post helped you in some way or gave you a bit of insight on my life of being a “content creator”.
2020 has really motivated me to discuss so many elements of working for myself, being an entrepreneur and how others who are struggling/considering of going for it can benefit from what I have to share.
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Self-Employed Entrepreneur
KNOW your strengths just like you would in an interview.
Are you good at marketing and sending pitch emails (this is crucial when reaching out to brands)? Do you communicate well with others? Can you create your own graphics and images to sell your brand on social media? If you’re creating a product, how can you save money by using your OWN talents to leverage your brand?
Start bookkeeping and doing back-end things as soon as they start coming in.
For the first brand you pitch and are paid by, make an invoice for it. Invest in an accountant and any money-saving apps or sites that can get you organized. I personally love Quickbooks Self-Employed. You can link your accountant onto your account so they has a backend view of everything, too.
Invest in all of these things that are important and people let slide by because they will make your business GROW and help you with stress down the road. Before I hired my accountant, I felt like a lost puppy and now I feel more supported than ever before.
This is so important and since I was in highschool I’ve been a stickler about this. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many times where saving is not possible. Especially considering economic conditions right now, I totally get it. But when you can, DO. Whether it’s $5 or $500, it helps.
Your future self will thank your past self. When you’re self employed, I always go by the trick to take 30% of each paycheck out for taxes. If you’re worried about spending this, use a separate bank account for it. This is key. Saving is also how most entrepreneurs begin their journey, too.
Focus on community
…and don’t be afraid to grow your business in other areas different from the ones you started in. Your following does not matter, but engagement, authenticity, and transparency do. I get asked time and again “how did you get so many followers?” and “thank you for being so authentic”. Welp, the second quotation just answered the first right there for ya.
Post what YOU like.
When I began my account and well into my junior year of college, I only posted food but I shared what I loved. BE YOU. I’d spend hours making my food look good and acai bowls crafted with 10+ toppings because I found enjoyment in it (and still do from time to time). But when my gears shifted towards showing more of my life, fitness routine and overall love for photography.. So did my content. And that’s okay!
Keep learning new things
…and searching for new ways to make income. I’ve been thinking of this since day 1 of being self-employed. Even when you turn your side-hustle into your full hustle… have side hustles! Since I was in college, I’ve been accustomed to working two jobs. When I had my last full-time job, I was doing Chickpea in The City. When that full-time job was just an internship, I was working 8 hour shifts at Whole Foods. Writing blog posts and creating content fit in whenever there was an hour to spare.
With the growing and ever-changing economy and climate, I always love to expand my knowledge. Brainstorm new streams of income and KEEP LEARNING – don’t forget to add these talents to your resume. Everything I do for my blog is essentially its own resume alone. Bloggers like to call this a “media kit” and it helps brands get to know you better.
That’s all for now but more to come! Sending love and gratitude to you guys.