Yes! If that is all it takes to convince you, then our work is done here. If you need more information, let’s dive in… A successful blog is an essential part of …
A new year means new beginnings. Today’s On Air episode is all about that.
Alison Gary worked for a long time in corporate America – a decade to be exact – before she went full-time with her blog, Wardrobe Oxygen.
Often we talk about what it takes to maintain your business as a content creator, but what about the most important decision? The decision to go full-time?
In today’s episode you’ll learn how Alison made this decision and all the work that led up to it. You’ll hear how she taught herself from the ground up, the conversations she had with her husband that helped her make the jump, and what she learned along the way.
You don’t want to miss it!
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[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hello, everybody. Welcome, welcome, welcome. It is Thursday, February 7. This is Teal Talk. I am Media Minds Marketing Manager Jenny Guy, and we are so excited to be back with you for another Thursday installment of our series.
I am thrilled to be introducing you to Alison Gary. She is my guest this week. She is the owner and founder of the blog Wardrobe Oxygen. She is an essential resource for any woman who is wanting to up their wardrobe game and get themselves to the next level without spending an arm and a leg. Alison, thank you so much for being here.
ALISON GARY: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
JENNY GUY: We’re so thrilled to have you. And, of course, you look fabulous. Naturally, I knew that I was going to have to up my game a little bit. I’m wearing a flannel shirt, but I thought that I would need to up my game a bit, do some makeup. I knew you’d look wonderful, so you look fabulous.
So Alison, tell us a little bit about your journey. Tell us a little bit about your site. Talk to us about your audience and how you’ve evolved. You told me a little bit before the broadcast about how you went from where you began to here.
ALISON GARY: Well, I had a desk job, and this was in 2005. And I was hired for a specific contract, and the contract hadn’t been signed yet. So my new boss was like, just look busy until we get the contract. And I had seen something on Dateline or 60 Minutes or something about blogging, because it was the hot new thing. And I was like, oh, that’ll make me look busy at work.
And I had several years under my belt working in apparel as a personal shopper, as a visual merchandiser, and so I decided to write about what I knew really well. and it started getting traction, and I started getting followers, and it kind of grew from there.
And now, it has been, yeah, since 2005. So we’re going on my 14th year with Wardrobe Oxygen. And now, it’s really kind of evolved as I’ve evolved over the years, and it’s real-life fashion advice for grown women. So it’s ways to live a stylish life regardless of your budget for every body size, every shape, every age, every lifestyle , and every personal style.
JENNY GUY: That’s an awesome empowering mission statement for a blog. I love to hear that. I’m so glad that you’re here with us. And so the reason why, other than the fact that you’re wonderful, that we have you on this broadcast today is to talk about going full-time with your blog, which is something you just very recently did.
You’re telling me– so I know that there are a lot of people out there who want to hear how this happened, why this happened, when they’re ready to do it. And I know it’s got to be a personal decision for each person. So tell us, I know that you said that you originally had multiple blogs, correct, and you combined them.
ALISON GARY: That’s right. I started way in the beginning with what is Wardrobe Oxygen now and a personal blog, and got rid of the personal blog when the other blog started gaining traction. Then I went with another outfit of the day blog. And then when I had my daughter, when I got pregnant, I started a baby blog.
So I had three blogs that I was managing, and all three of them were monetized with ads and sponsored posts. And especially after having a child, it was too much, and I was ready to throw in the towel. And I had a friend who said, well, why don’t you just merge them into one blog? Wouldn’t that be easier? And I was like, light bulb went off. I never could figure out on my own. I was like, oh, duh. So I Googled how to do that, and I was able to– I ended up shuttering my baby blog and I merged the other two blogs, because the content was so similar, into one, which is what Wardrobe Oxygen is today.
But when I decided to do that, I thought about it and said, well, I’m taking all this time away from my family. If I’m going to do it, it needs to be worth it. It needs to be a job, financially bring something to my family. If I’m going to take time away from my family, I need to have value for it. And that’s when I really took it seriously from being a hobby blog, where I got, oh, cool, a free sweater. Oh, a couple dollars from ad revenue. To something where I really actively looked for ways to create great content but also make money off of it at the same time.
JENNY GUY: So when did that occur and how did that occur? How did you go from something that was your fun to– and we all get it. We have limited amount of time, limited amount of resources. And if you’re going to invest in something, you want to get that return on your investment, so tell us how that happened.
ALISON GARY: Well, I started looking at a lot of my peers and seeing what they were doing on their blogs. Oh, they had some ads? Well, what ad network is it? I mean, that’s how I found Mediavine. And I saw that they had sponsored posts. Well, who was the company that was sponsoring it? Oh, it was an influencer network. Let me sign up for that influencer network.
I started joining Facebook groups, and Googling information on how to monetize a site, and started creating relationships with other bloggers, too, because prior to that, I was a complete island just doing my own thing. But I started finding people that I could trust, and that could trust me, and we started learning from one another. And that really, just looking for ways to constantly learn and constantly improve the site, and it worked.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, I think that that’s such a common thing I’ve heard so many different Teal Talks where people talk about finding your tribe, and how that is such an essential step in moving forward with a successful and sustainable business is finding those people who you really can use–
ALISON GARY: Last week.
JENNY GUY: Well, I need to– I haven’t seen it in, it’s been a week or two. I love– some of your posts are some of my very favorites that we’ve had. I loved, we did– actually, can we share our interview that we did with Alison in the comments? We did a great interview, and she talked about some of her favorite posts. I absolutely fell in love with your women’s march post. I thought it was so inspirational can you talk a little bit about that post and how that changed your trajectory a bit?
ALISON GARY: That was a big change for my blog. And it was my assistant at the time, Jessica. We went to coffee, and she was like, you know what you should do? You should write a post about, because you always talk about, like, what to wear here, or what to wear there. How about what to wear to a protest march in the winter? And I was like, oh, that’s a good idea. So thank you, Jessica. You are amazing.
And so I wrote it, and it went viral. As I was just telling you earlier, Cindy Gallop shared it, all the different women’s march Facebook groups shared it. It just kind of had a life of its own. And so I constantly kept updating it as we learned more about the weather, as we learned about more what was allowed and not allowed to take there. So I added maps and everything so that it could constantly be a living resource.
And the comments were amazing, where people were offering their advice as well. People were connecting with one another. It was amazing, and it brought a ton of traffic to my site, and a good percentage of that traffic stayed with Wardrobe Oxygen, which was awesome.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, that’s incredible. It’s such an inspirational thing. OK. So you went full-time with your blog. When did you go full-time?
ALISON GARY: November 2017.
JENNY GUY: So it’s been a little bit over a year.
ALISON GARY: Yes.
JENNY GUY: OK, tell us about the journey to going full-time and what led you to that decision, please.
ALISON GARY: Well, for a couple years, I was thinking, this is what I really want to do. I mean, my job was great. I worked for a great company, but it wasn’t my passion, and this is what I really wanted to do. And as I kept moving up the ladder at my job and my blog kept growing, it got to be a lot. I was spending my entire life on a computer, either at my office or at home. And it really almost got to a breaking point where I had to make a decision.
And then at my job, I kept making all these rules, like, well, if I make more on my blog this year than I do on my job, I’ll quit. If I have six months making at least this much money, I’ll quit. If I have this much in the bank, I’ll quit. And I made all those, and I just kept going, because I was scared.
And then there was a lot of restructuring at my job. And it didn’t affect my position, but it affected the position of many people that I had known, because I’d been there almost a decade. And then just one day, I was having my weekly one-on-one with my supervisor who was an amazing woman. And we were talking about somebody who had been laid off that I was really close to.
And she said, well, every job just has an expiration date, you know? And you just know it, and it’s time to move on. And it’s just the light bulb hit and I said, yep, today is mine. And she was like, what? Even I was like, what? What did I just say? But it happened, and I gave three weeks’ notice, and became full-time.
JENNY GUY: That’s amazing. I love that you had that moment happen, and it was so crystal clear to you. I am often so– I don’t like to be envious or jealous, but I covet those moments of such clarity where people just go, I knew, and then I knew. And I just love that. It’s such a great thing to hear.
So what are the crucial steps that gave you the confidence? You said that you had set all these benchmarks for yourself that I’m sure whether or not it gave you the actual impetus to make the leap, it had to have filled you with confidence that you’d set these financial benchmarks, right?
ALISON GARY: Yes. My husband and I just in general, we wanted to live a smaller life. We didn’t want to be house poor. We didn’t want to be car poor. So we had looked for different ways that we could, like, live a smaller life. So we had paid off our house, we had paid off our car, we had saved up in our money. We had started IRAs on our own, things like that so that we felt as though we were more secure.
So I didn’t kind of, like, run blind into it. I definitely made some preparations and I sat there and thought, OK, if this doesn’t work, I have to have a year’s worth of– I have enough that I can go for a year. And if it doesn’t work, I have to go begging to my old co-workers and my old colleagues to find another job in corporate America. But I set it up so that I had a year to try it and see what happened. And it’s been a year, and it worked.
JENNY GUY: That’s awesome. Were so glad to hear it. So you mentioned some of those items that you had to put into place, and some of them were financial, and you said some of them were paying off your job, and then you mentioned IRA. How long did it take you to get all of those things into place before you–
ALISON GARY: Well, we kind of started when my daughter was born, and she’s 10. So that was kind of really when we started having the conversation of we don’t want to have to be slaves to our job. We wanted one of us to be a stay-at-home parent, and that’s kind of what started it. And so he became a stay-at-home parent because I really liked my job and I had better benefits.
So that was kind of the impetus to get things started. And then a year later is when I started making the blog truly a monetized blog, and so it kind of just snowballed from there. So we saw it just kept going that way. And then I highly recommend get a good accountant that understands blogging. And my accountant really helped with figuring out ways that I could save money and do different things so that we’d be in a better financial situation.
JENNY GUY: Can you recommend a good place to look for a great accountant that understands blogging? We had a great accountant on I think we can share. Let’s share our blog post with Amy Northard who was our accountant that we had, accountant for creatives, that came on and talked with us. It’s so important, though, to have those key people in place that do understand where we’re coming from, because it’s such a different beast than so many other things. But how did you find yours?
ALISON GARY: A friend. Actually, one of my husband’s yoga students said that she loved the accountant. And his name is Paul, and I wrote a blog post about him. I had him write a guest blog post last year about, like, taxes for bloggers, what to know. But he’s helped a couple all over the country, and he’s great.
JENNY GUY: So great to hear. So I have to ask the somewhat self-reflective question for Mediavine. Did Mediavine play a role? Because you’ve been with us for how long now?
ALISON GARY: This is my third year.
JENNY GUY: OK, so you’ve been almost since the beginning. You’re one of our or close to our beginning bloggers. So tell us if Mediavine had any role in helping you to have the competence to make the jump to full-time.
ALISON GARY: It really did, because my traffic in general stays the same. It’s not like it’s going to drop a ton, or if anything, it’ll just increase. So it provided a pretty reliable monthly income. And it’s enough that it covers everything so that we can live. So it covers all of our bills and everything so that I have that security that I know that if gosh knows what happens with all my other streams of revenue, at least I have Mediavine every month to cover my bills.
And I was telling you earlier about it that what I love about Mediavine is as a fashion blogger, a lot of your money comes from sponsored posts. And that’s doing a lot of pitching, and following up, and that sort of thing. And a lot of times, I did sponsored posts that I don’t feel that good about because they were, like, brands I didn’t know or just didn’t fit with my niche. And I don’t have to do those anymore because I have Mediavine. So I can be way more picky with what brands I partner with, and my readers love it, because I’m not having a sponsored post every other day. So it really has helped me.
JENNY GUY: That’s such a great thing to hear, and we love to hear that that gives you freedom to write about the things that you want to write about and really do posts like, what to wear to a women’s march in the winter, like you don’t have to rely on sponsored income for that, and that you can actually work with the brands that you authentically love, as opposed to, I have to work with this brand.
Because we get it. You got to pay bills. I mean, we all understand that and nobody’s going to begrudge that. So I think that it’s so great to hear that Mediavine played a role in helping you to find a little more freedom with that, so we love hearing that.
So, OK. How are things? Let’s talk about it. You made the jump. You made the leap. And just from talking you for these last 20, 30 minutes, it feels like you’re a person that’s very motivated, and very structured, and you have you have a list of things that you like to do. Am I wrong? Am I wrong in guessing that?
ALISON GARY: I love to think I am.
JENNY GUY: OK, well then we’ll let that go. That is what it is. That is what it is in my mind, and that is what it is in practice today. So if being that motivated person who likes to have goals set and everything, we always hear people say that are sharing their time between different– and even if they’re not, if only I had more time. If only I were able to X,Y, Z. If only I didn’t have to do this, I would be able to focus on this. So when you made the leap to full-time and you left your corporate job, what were those things that you immediately took up and spent more time on?
ALISON GARY: Biggest thing for me was photography. I’m losing my headset. I don’t need it. Maybe I do.
JENNY GUY: That’s irritating.
ALISON GARY: My ears.
JENNY GUY: If only you could have enormous cans like I do on your head. That would just add to your whole ensemble.
ALISON GARY: I would say the photography. Because when you’re a fashion blogger, photography is so imperative. Well, in so many niches, it’s so imperative. And it gave us the time that a lot of times, my photo shoots were like, let’s shoot three or four outfits on a Sunday afternoon, and secure a baby sitter, and all that kind of stuff, and you really just kind of shoved it all together. And a lot of the pictures were taken on the street outside my house.
And so now, we have the time, because my husband works from home also, is that we can schedule shoots, and we can go to way better locations. We can take more time with it. I can plan out the outfits better. I can steam the clothes. You know, things where I can just provide a higher-quality post because I have higher-quality photos for it. And that was definitely my number one thing that I wanted to be able to accomplish when I went full-time.
JENNY GUY: And have you felt like that’s been a significant change and it’s worked out for you?
ALISON GARY: Yes. I think the pictures are better. I think the content is better. I’ve had readers say that they really appreciate it and they can see the difference.
JENNY GUY: That’s great.
ALISON GARY: Brands like it, so it’s been worth it.
JENNY GUY: So has that meant you’ve been able to market yourself even more effectively as a sponsored post author that you have these higher-quality photos? I’m sure that that’s a huge deal in the fashion niche. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be.
ALISON GARY: It is. And I’ve been able to do really cool things, too. Like, for example, I do capsule wardrobes. And I’ve always done just, like, a flat lay, find graphics on Google or websites, and put them together. And now, I shoot them on me. So we get the clothing from a brand, and we can set up a studio in our living room and shoot me in all the outfits.
That’s one thing, it’s like you can see like a top, and a skirt, and everything on a white background and go, oh, OK. You can mix and match this way. But seeing it on a body makes it a lot easier to understand, and that’s been really fun to be able to do since I went full-time, because it brings so much more value to posts that I’m best known for.
JENNY GUY: That’s awesome. And so yeah, you have taken time to go back and reshoot things and to–
ALISON GARY: I haven’t done from old posts. But going forward, I am doing that. And it’s also a really great thing that I can offer to brands, too.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. OK, well Brianne, Lindsey says hi. And Lynn Hill says hi from Yorkshire in the UK.
ALISON GARY: Oh, wow. Hi. That’s awesome.
JENNY GUY: Hey, Lynn. Good to see you. I should have asked you, Alison, where are you?
ALISON GARY: I’m right outside DC in Greenbelt, Maryland.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic, fantastic. Good to know. OK. So what unexpected struggles have you faced since going full-time? What surprised you what things did you think would be incredibly easy that were hard and what things do you think that would be hard that ended up being incredibly easy?
ALISON GARY: When I started, I felt like I needed to work the same amount of time that I did when I had my blog and my job. So I was like working myself to the bone and just feeling very frantic. And it was good that it happened near the holidays that I quit, because I was like a frazzled mess. And then the holidays came, and it forced me to slow down so I could spend time with my family. And it made me reassess everything and turn it into, this is my job now. I have one job, and this is my one job.
[AUDIO OUT] job because [AUDIO OUT]. So I learned to just take that schedule that I learned from working from home at my day job and use it for my blog.
JENNY GUY: OK. So you broke up a little bit in there. So you were saying that you went through the holidays, you learned, and then it made you restructure and reorganize and say, I just have this one job.
ALISON GARY: Correct, and just treat it like a job. And that was another thing that was hard, because then I kind of went the other way, where I was like, oh, I could take my daughter to school, and I could pick her up, and I can volunteer at school, and I can do this. And oh, let me go have lunch with a friend in the middle of the day. And I was like, I can’t get content done if I’m not working.
So really, going back to treating this like an actual job and scheduling the time. And if I do go have lunch with a friend on a Wednesday at noon, I treat it the same way I did with my day job, where I was like, OK, I’m going to take a longer lunch shift, but then I’m going to stay an extra hour at the desk. So I do that, and that’s the way that I can actually stay on track and have the content still coming and have it good content.
JENNY GUY: That’s good to hear. OK. Hel Ens says, how many sessions did you have when you were able to go full-time?
ALISON GARY: I don’t remember. I think it was like 100k, I think.
JENNY GUY: About 100,000 sessions a month?
ALISON GARY: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: OK, OK.
ALISON GARY: I think it was more than that, though, actually, at the time that I went full– I mean, it’s always kind of been around– I think it was around 100, 12, something like that.
JENNY GUY: And it was during Q4, so you were probably having some really good traffic at that point.
ALISON GARY: Yeah. But I kind of started thinking about it before then. So if it was Q4, it was probably more than that. But that year, I know it was kind of on average about that.
JENNY GUY: OK. So about 125,000 sessions. They say thank you. OK, Tara Jacobsen says, hi, Alison. How do you pick popular topics that you think will bring in lots of traffic?
ALISON GARY: My readers really helped me with that. I really encourage them to communicate with me by email and comments. We have a closed Facebook group, DMs on Instagram. And so I crowdsource from them, like, what do they want to hear? Because a lot of times, if they want it, other women want it, too.
That’s probably the biggest thing. I also watch trends. So, like, for example, my post tomorrow is based on what happened in the news this week. So I really try to see what kind of trends are happening. Even if it has nothing to do with fashion, it usually does end up affecting fashion, so I try to follow that, too.
JENNY GUY: Can you give an example of that? How does watching the news impact fashion and how do you tie those things together?
ALISON GARY: Well, you see Nancy Pelosi and that beautiful pumpkin-colored coat, or you see all the women in white pantsuits at the State of the Union. various things like that you’ll see, or like, the red carpet, what people are wearing. You’re like, oh, gosh. Everybody’s wearing this one color. Or I see this trend that celebrities are wearing a lot of this one thing. Or a movie that comes out that you’re like, oh, OK. Like, Crazy Rich Asians, that’s going to impact everybody. So things like that I kind of follow what’s going on in pop culture and in the news and see how it could affect fashion.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. OK. So is there anything else that you thought would be really difficult that ended up being easy, in terms of these unexpected struggles?
ALISON GARY: What ended up being easy? I think spending all day at home with my husband, I really was scared on that.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, that’s understandable, for sure.
ALISON GARY: But we really have found a way that we make it work. And one thing is I lock myself in my home office. But we really have worked well together, and I think we’ve actually improved our systems for photoshoots, and travel, and the various things that we do together for the blog.
JENNY GUY: And does your husband work on your blog with you?
ALISON GARY: He is the photographer and I call him, like, my creative consultant. So he really helps me with that. But it’s mainly photography that he does.
JENNY GUY: OK. OK, excellent. And that’s good to know that you guys are a team. OK, they say you need to spend money to make money, so what are some of the best investments you’ve made for your blog?
ALISON GARY: I hired people, and it was very hard to do that. Probably the best money that I have spent in the past year or so is I hired a VA to handle my Pinterest. Every time I went into Pinterest, I’d go into a dark hole, and three hours later, I found, like, recipes for no-bake cookies, and things like that, and I hadn’t gotten any work done.
And I love Pinterest, and I get a ton of traffic from Pinterest. So by hiring somebody to do it, I can focus on making the content that she pins for me. So that was a really, really good investment.
And I have some women who work for me now, one who helps me with graphics, because I’m not good at it, and I would spend twice as long as what she could do to create the same thing that wouldn’t even look as good, so I have her help me with that. And I have another woman who helps me by scheduling social media, just so that again, I find myself going into a dark hole down a rabbit hole when I get onto Facebook. So if she can schedule content on my behalf, that saves me time.
JENNY GUY: Excellent. OK, well good to know. OK. So you think hiring, where do you find the people that you are going to hire?
ALISON GARY: First time, I went to my university that I went to, because it’s down the street. And one of my readers also was in my sorority and at the same school, and she’s like, you should reach out to the undergrads in the sorority, because you know you can trust them, because they’re not going to screw over a sister.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, take your money and run.
ALISON GARY: Yeah, because we know where they are. And that would be good. And that was, like, the first assistant I ever got. She was amazing. And then I went to a couple Facebook groups that are made for VAs, and so I pitched there. I joined them and just said, hey, I’m looking for somebody who can help me with X, Y, and Z, and the DMs just started coming in with people that had offers. And then I could go through them, look at their websites, see what their strengths are, and from there, do a couple phone interviews and find somebody.
But most recently, it’s from my readers, because they know my content. They know my voice. They know what I’m looking for. And that’s a thing that I had a hard time with, because I have such a very loyal audience, and I don’t want to create generic content for them. So by having people who actually read the blog and love the blog, it’s really helped to have a more authentic voice and content that fits.
JENNY GUY: How fabulous. What a great resource for you. So may I ask what sorority you were in?
ALISON GARY: I was in Alpha Chi Omega.
JENNY GUY: Excellent. Kappa Alpha Theta over here. Good to know. All right. So Tara Jacobsen had another question. She said, it seems like your content might be time-sensitive as that trends come and go. Do you have a ratio of evergreen versus timely posts, or do you just do whatever comes to mind? And then I think she definitely had a question that came to her in the middle of her statement, because she said, oh, oh, oh. Do you have an editorial calendar?
ALISON GARY: Oh. I should have an editorial calendar. Everyone says I should have one. That is a goal for this year to kind of make one. I really do write what comes to me. And I make a list of it, and I try. And then sometimes I sit there and say, OK, well, this one would be better in the fall. This one would be better in the spring. So I do it of that sort. But usually, it’s what comes to me.
And then also, I do have a lot of evergreen content. My capsule wardrobes are pretty evergreen and are some of my most popular content. And I have one from 2011 that still is the most popular post on my site. And I try to write some just generic advice posts, like what hemline length for what shoe, or what necklace to wear with what neckline? Things of that sort that I know I would want to know, so I try to put those every so often.
Pretty much I just try to do at least one capsule wardrobe a month, because I think it’s a really great way. It’s trendy, but it’s also a really great way to have people think of how they can get more style without buying so much, because I think that’s the biggest problem that people have is they just buy, buy, buy because it’s on sale, it looks cool, or whatever. And I’m really trying to teach that you don’t need so much to be stylish. And in fact, the less you have.
So I try to have those capsules on a regular basis because they do well, but also because it reiterates that concept of more style, fewer items.
JENNY GUY: I love that. So we have another question from Hel Ens He says– or she. I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to see that profile picture. Where was most of the traffic coming from and did you constantly have to promote it?
ALISON GARY: Most of my content was coming from before the algorithm changed from Facebook.
JENNY GUY: I’m sorry. I think traffic. Oh, you mean content. They were asking about traffic. Where was your traffic? Oh, you said content. Got it. Sorry.
ALISON GARY: Yeah, sorry. Most of my traffic was coming from Facebook until they changed the algorithm. I was getting a lot of traffic from Facebook. And then I saw that Pinterest was number two, so I just started focusing on Pinterest when Facebook got crazy.
But in the past couple of years, I’ve made a more concentrated effort on focusing on SEO. For many years, I coasted just because I’m a blog that’s been around forever. And so now, I’m really trying to work more on going back and updating old evergreen content, and making more of an effort with new content to make Google happy.
JENNY GUY: It’s always a good thing to make Google happy. You’re never going to lose.
ALISON GARY: Right.
JENNY GUY: Sarah Swarthout Wagner says, hello Theta. Hello. Good to see you. Tara Jacobson says, how many posts do you write a month?
ALISON GARY: I try to write six posts a week. Monday through Saturday, I post. Occasionally, life happens, and I might miss one. But it’s like Monday through Friday is regular, like, fashion content with at least one outfit post and one, like, advice post.
And on Saturdays, I do something completely different. I call it my weekend reads, where I just share interesting things I found on the internet, sales that are going on, and I share, like, a music video of a song that I like that week. So I try to put a little life into, so it’s not just all about clothes.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. All right. That’s a lot of content, Alison, and you’re writing it daily. So you’re sitting down writing the content on Monday for Monday?
ALISON GARY: I sometimes try to have some stuff in the queue that’s a little bit more evergreen, and then I have those for, like, when I’m working on a really big post that’s taking more than one day, or something of that sort.
I also oftentimes have, like, eight half-written posts in Microsoft Word all over my desktop kind of at the ready, kind of finishing them up so that I have them ready. But a lot of times, like, for example, last night, I was on the computer until 11 o’clock trying to get my blog post done for the next day. So it really varies. My goal is to be ahead of time and have a few in the hopper at the ready. It doesn’t always happen.
JENNY GUY: OK, OK. And so with your writing style, you’re pretty much, you’re practically a journalist in the way that you write and the way that you’re having that amount of content and steadily producing it. So what happens if something happens? What if you aren’t able to post? Do you find that you have enough– are you just re-promoting old content? How do you keep things going?
ALISON GARY: I will use social to kind of just keep people engaged. My readers are pretty cool that if I don’t post on a Wednesday, they’re not going to be like, well, I’m out of here, because I have so much content. But I have done things like this past between Christmas and New Year’s, I had my assistants, and a couple of friends that I think are really great writers, and content creators create guest posts so I could take a week off.
A few years ago, I broke my arm, and I did the same thing, where I had a bunch of guest posters come in and write on my behalf, just to keep the content fresh. And I chose people that I knew my audience would appreciate.
JENNY GUY: That’s great. OK. So Lisa Ronnet-Grant said, hello. Back to updating content, do you republish posts or just update the older ones?
ALISON GARY: Right now, I’m just updating the older ones. I have a lot of readers who pride themselves on saying that they’ve been around since I was Blogspot.com, and they were there before my daughter was born. And I really treasure the relationships I have with my readers, and I don’t want to take something from a couple of years ago and republish it.
I’ve toyed with doing that. Like, I’ve done a couple where I’m like, I wrote this in 2008, and here’s the update 10 years later kind of thing. But I really just kind of update it. I don’t republish it.
JENNY GUY: OK. That is a lot. Again, I’ll say it again, I’ve said it once, a lot of content.
ALISON GARY: I love to write.
JENNY GUY: That’s such a great thing to hear. OK. Well, how do you stay focused when you’re working on your site? And we talked about this a little bit. You said you had to do an office hours thing. How do you structure your time with no official or imposed structure other than the one you make for yourself, and how do you set up yourself in a working environment that’s healthy for you?
ALISON GARY: Well, I have to say one of the worst things that I did last year, my first year going full-time, is not working in my office, not working in a workspace. I was like, I have a laptop. I can blog anywhere. I can blog out on the deck on a sunny day, and at my couch, and this type of thing. And I got so distracted, because I do write. I don’t just put up a couple of pictures and sign off. And it was affecting my content.
So I force myself that by 10:00 AM, I am here at this desk, and I don’t leave this desk until at least 4:00 PM. So I mean, I schedule my lunch. I schedule everything. So it’s like, if you look at my calendar, there’s blocks of things. Even if there’s no calls, or meetings, or anything that day, there’s a block of finish this blog post, work on pitching, that type of thing. So it’s all scheduled just like it was when it was at my 9:00 to 5:00. That’s what I did, and so that’s what I’m doing it now.
JENNY GUY: That’s great. So Tara Jacobson said, what do you send in your email newsletter? She said, sorry, just so many questions for you.
ALISON GARY: That’s OK. Right now, I don’t have a newsletter. I’m working on it right now. It should be starting probably next week. I had one up until 2017, and then it just got to be too much. I just couldn’t keep up with it. So I’m working on it now. I have right now just an RSS where people can sign up and get every post each day.
I want to do, like, a weekly summary, where I have a personal content up at the top that you only get in the newsletter, a paragraph or two, and something special, and then just a recap. So that’s what my plan is. But I have templates set up so if I do anything special, I can add that in there as well.
JENNY GUY: That’s great. OK, Tonya Harris-Fleming said, are there any courses or resources you found super helpful in your growth?
ALISON GARY: The two things that probably made the biggest difference was Mediavine. The Mediavine Facebook group is, like, the most amazing thing. I learn so much because there are so many big bloggers in there that have a very different niche and a very different way of blogging that I learn so much, and that’s amazing. The Mediavine blog has taught me a lot, too.
And then I signed up for– and this is mainly for fashion and lifestyle bloggers– but there’s what’s called Chloe Digital. And it’s a monthly service where they can help you with WordPress support, or you can be invited to their VIP program, where you have a representative, you have monthly calls, you work together to get strategies. And that is another thing that is, like, really good money that I’ve spent while being a blogger. Probably Mediavine and Chloe Digital are the two best things that I’ve done.
JENNY GUY: That’s great to hear. So before you quit your job, how did you balance your blog with your job? What did your schedule look like? Because you talked so much about how you felt like you were, ah.
ALISON GARY: I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and I blogged until about 7:00. And then I, like, threw on some clothes and went to work, listening to podcasts on how to blog the entire way. I worked as a job– well, the last year of my job, I had a different one. But prior to that, I had a job where I did a lot of webinars, and there was a lot of, like, waiting for things to render, or just sitting and listening. And you get to the point where you hear that pause, and you know there’s something going wrong with the webinar. But there’s nothing I had to do. I just had to make sure that things ran smoothly. So I got a little blogging in there.
I never left my desk for lunch. I would just blog during my lunch, and then I’d come home, and I’d blog for a little bit more, put my kid to bed, keep blogging. I really was like from 5:30 in the morning until 10 o’clock at night, and then most of the weekend, I was on a computer. So I didn’t have a schedule then. It was pretty much, like, do it when I could.
And I had, like, some weeks, I would post five times. In some weeks, I’d only post twice. And I did what I could, and it worked, though.
JENNY GUY: That’s good. It sounds like you didn’t sleep a lot.
ALISON GARY: No, I didn’t.
JENNY GUY: Which is not necessarily a positive thing.
ALISON GARY: Right.
JENNY GUY: But now, it sounds like you’ve got a much more balanced schedule happening with yourself.
ALISON GARY: I do. I’m so much more healthy now, and my relationship with my family is much more healthy. My house is cleaner. I get more sleep. I now go to a gym. There’s things like that have really changed just because I decided to just make the blog the focus and it be my profession.
JENNY GUY: And that’s so great, too. And that was actually the next question was going to be, how do you balance full-time blogging with your relationships with your family, with your friends, with your community, the gym, all of those things?
ALISON GARY: Well, it’s hard because being the kind of blogger that I am, I’m part of the brand. So my Instagram stories, it’s my life. It’s photos of me on my Instagram. It’s my personality. So it’s really trying to find that balance, because not everybody in my life wants to be on my Instagram stories. And so just really trying to balance it and knowing that my quality of life and the quality of life of my loved ones is more important than getting a few more thousand followers somewhere.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. Tara Jacobson says, OMG, love your site. I am petite over 40. Squee, a new favorite.
ALISON GARY: Oh, thank you. I’m so glad.
JENNY GUY: OK. So what advice would you give other content creators considering making that leap to full-time blogging?
ALISON GARY: I think it’s really important to get your ducks in a row. Sit there and realize that the whole– what is going to happen if a year from now you don’t have– you make some faux pas, and upset people, or do something of that sort? You need to have that security blanket. A lot of people say, have like three months’ income or six months’ income.
I looked at it that I wanted to be able to have one year where I was only making, like, the bare minimum from it, but I’d still be able to survive. That’s how I kind of looked at it. Like, let’s look at my worst year in the past five years and imagine that that would be today. And so would I be able to make it? So I kind of looked at it that way. So really have your financial ducks in a row.
Look for ways for being able to retire, saving up for the future. You need to have health insurance, and I’m glad to know that this year, it’s a lot cheaper than it was last year, thanks through the ACA. Yeah. Have a conversation with your loved ones so that they’re on board, too.
JENNY GUY: For sure. Well, that was actually– you keep jumping the gun. You’re getting ahead of my next question. You’re too good, too good at this. OK. So talk to me a little bit about insurance, and 401(k), and all of those traditional securities that you get with a regular job. How did you handle that, now becoming a full-time blogger?
ALISON GARY: Insurance was the thing that scared me the most, because I broke my arm in 2014, 2015, something like that. But I ended up having three surgeries, and I was in casts for almost a year straight. And after my insurance, I still paid out of pocket over $20,000. And that was horrifying. And I didn’t do anything except slip on black ice. So it’s like, nothing that you can do just by staying healthy and eating the right thing.
JENNY GUY: That you can prevent it, yeah.
ALISON GARY: Yeah. I mean, it just happened. So that scared me, and that’s one reason that it took me so long to go full-time, because the worry about insurance. And the first year I was on COBRA because I looked at the ACA, I even hired an insurance broker, and I couldn’t find anything cheaper, unless I went with catastrophic care. And knowing from what happened with my arm, I just couldn’t do that. So I was on COBRA.
And then again in December, when it was open enrollment, I went and looked at the ACA, and found out that it was surprisingly cheaper. I mean, we’re talking hundreds of dollars cheaper per month. So I was able to switch to a plan that was very similar to what I had at my job, but pay a lot less than I did with COBRA. But that was, like, my number one priority is, like, before anything else, I had to have insurance for me and my family.
As I mentioned before, with my accountant, we worked together and started IRAs for both me and my husband, so we do that. And we’re talking about doing a retirement account. So little things like that. I have my 401(k)s from my previous job rolled over.
So yeah, I think it’s important to, like, work with your accountant and have a financial planner if your CPA isn’t also one, just to kind of be realistic about things. And this is a place where you don’t want to like go, oh, it’s fine. But really seriously think about those types of things, because you have no idea what the future’s going to hold.
But then also, I thought about it. I mean, we’re seeing so much right now where people have what they think is secure jobs in corporate America and huge layoffs are happening. So that was another thing that I thought about is that I could have stayed at my job. I was there for a decade. And today, I could get laid off. So that helped me take the leap.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. We never know what the future holds. You’re absolutely right. So when would you say is a good time to start seriously considering that move to full-time blogging? Is there a specific procession monthly count? Is there a specific amount of traffic or a specific amount of money that you’re making, or what would you say? Does it vary based on niche?
ALISON GARY: I think it really does vary based on niche, because I would say mostly for my niche, because it is very given, because I know Mediavine is a lot of people who do food and then who do travel, so it is very different for them. For me, it was like, I needed to have some consistency.
Since a lot of my income comes from affiliate and sponsored posts, those can vary so drastically that I wanted to have, like, OK, this is how much I need to be able to survive each month. And I need to make a minimum of this much every month. And for me, it was like, OK, six months straight– and we’re talking about even like Q1, where things are kind of rough. Let’s not look at Q4. Let’s look at Q1 and 2. If I can make at least this much each of those months, then I feel like I have some security there, and then I can take the next step.
JENNY GUY: OK, very smart so how do you take time off for vacations? You had guests posters, and that’s how you survived when you broke your arm, which sounds like a nightmare. How do you automate your business so it works while you take a break?
ALISON GARY: Having people help me and having VAs has really helped. So I have one that I trust to manage my social media, and then I have people whose content I trust to put on my site. But I plan in advance. I say, OK, if I’m going to be off for this period of time, I’m going to bust my butt a couple of weeks beforehand and get some stuff in the queue so that it’s ready to go, and it’s scheduled, ready to post.
And then if the blog blows up, I have somebody who I trust who is an admin who can help with that as well. And then also having Chloe Digital really helps so that they can help if something breaks, and I’m like, off in another country, and I don’t have the ability to manage it, so that I can contact them, and they can help me.
JENNY GUY: So may I ask what your background is and how you– you said you had a lot in wardrobe styling and things like that. Did you have a background in tech, and blogging, and any of that stuff, or you just–
ALISON GARY: No I worked in apparel, and I got married. I was getting married, and I was like, I can’t continue this crazy shifts of, like, working weekends, and holidays, and 16-hour shifts and I was so tech unsavvy that my friend had to help me write a resume in Microsoft Word, because I had no idea how to do it. Because when you’re working in apparel, you’re not sitting in front of a computer all day.
And I got my first job in corporate America purely because by chance while doing the interview, somebody walked by the door that I went to college with. And she was like, Alison? And I was like, yes. And so she helped me get my foot in the door. And I learned so much at that job. I learned Microsoft Office.
And then at the time, I was planning my wedding. And back then, it was 2003. I made a bio on The Knot. And you had to learn HTML to kind of, like, make a cool-looking bio. And so I taught myself HTML. And then when I started the blog, I just self-taught.
And because I did so much of that, that’s how I got my jobs to move up in corporate America, also, was just self-taught, because I went to college for English literature and women’s studies. And I did all my papers on a Brother word processor, so I definitely didn’t learn it back then.
JENNY GUY: OK. That’s great to hear, and very inspirational. OK. So I think we’re kind of approaching the end of our time here, so I’m going to have one last question for you that I’m going to have you think about, and I’m going to make a couple of announcements before we take it. So my last question would be, what do you say to the naysayers who seem to think that blogging is not a real job?
And I’ll let you think. You might have your answer on the tip of your tongue for that one. That might be the one that you’re just going, let me pounce on it. But before I do, I’m just going to say we’ve so appreciated having you here, Alison. It’s been absolutely great.
We’ve got a couple of weeks– it’s not a full two weeks. But on February– let me make sure I have the right date before I say it out loud– yes, February 20, OK, we have another great live coming up, and it’s with Brandi Riley. She is with Mama Knows it All. She is absolutely fantastic. We absolutely adore her, and we’re going to have a great time having her on the show.
And she also is the founder of an incredible group called Courage to Earn, which is a Facebook group that has– I don’t even know how many people are in that group at this point. It’s so many, so very many that are in Courage to Earn. Let me see if I can find that stat real quick. I should have looked that up before I– I’m going to check that one more time.
Yes, she is the founder of Courage to Earn, the community. Oh, I’m sorry. 5,702 members at this point, so that is a Facebook group.
ALISON GARY: I’m one of them.
JENNY GUY: And I am also one of them, and I absolutely sure that group, and I find it so inspirational. I’m very excited to have Brandi come in and talk with us. So that’s going to be on February 20, Wednesday, February 20. It’s a day off, because I’m going to be traveling to Dad 2.0. I’m excited about doing that in San Antonio. But since I’m going to be traveling, Brandi was kind enough, and she has a baby sitter, so we’re going to be able to work on February 20. I’ll have Brandi here, and we’re really looking forward to having her with us to talk to her about both her blogging and about establishing an incredible– talk about finding your tribe– on Facebook groups.
So OK, Alison, tell me a little bit about that answer to the question. To remind everyone what I asked, I said, what would you say to those naysayers, those negative nellies who say that blogging is not a real job?
ALISON GARY: This house is paid for because of a blog. My car is paid for because of a blog. And I really don’t care what you think, because I’m happy, my family’s happy, and I’m actually pursuing my passion.
JENNY GUY: I love that. So you know what? This is an A and B conversation. You can see your way to the door. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s working, and that’s incredible. You’re making your living off of it. Your house, your car. And I think we have a lot of people who would be happy to say that’s absolutely inaccurate, because you can take a look at my life and see that that is not the truth.
Tanya Harris-Fleming said yes, I agree with you. I second the yes. I’m sure there are many people out there who would. If you have any other questions, get them in really quickly before I let Alison go. But if you’re a full-time blogger, shout out in the comments for us. We’d love to hear from you. If you’re wanting to make the leap to full-time, give us a shout out there, too. We are so excited that we have you.
Tara Jacobsen said, thank you so much. Nice meeting you today, Tara. It’s been great having you. Thank you for all your great questions. Thank you for sitting with us. Alison, it’s been wonderful.
ALISON GARY: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: I’ve so enjoyed having you here. You’re fabulous, and I want to see you on Teal Talk more. I want to see you speak more, because you’re fantastic at it, and wonderful to have.
ALISON GARY: Thank you so much. I really appreciate having this opportunity.
JENNY GUY: It’s been great.
ALISON GARY: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: Oh, thank you. OK, everybody. Thank you again for your time, and we will see you on February 20.
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