Turning your passions into a thriving blog that earns money is no easy task.
Sure, it looks effortless — that’s part of the magic. But behind every great lifestyle blog is someone who has put hours, days and months into every little thing.
This isn’t to dissuade anyone from turning their love of cooking, or parenting, or interior design, or personal finance into a blog. Just realize it takes a lot more hard work than it might appear.
Consider Ashley Wilson, whose blog At Home With Ashley we featured in our small business success guide. Although her advice and her photos come off with an ease and accessibility to them, each was borne of hard work. The financial advice? She learned it by doing it. The gorgeous Instagram feed? That comes from an eye trained over several years in design.
We reached out to Ashley to get a feel for what, exactly, it takes to launch a profitable blog that gets seen by thousands upon thousands of people every single week.
Extra Space Storage: Lots of people dream of turning their passions into their full-time focus. You did it! What advice would you give to people who are thinking of making a similar leap, but aren’t quite sure they’re ready?
Ashley Wilson: For me, the biggest thing was figuring the financials. A few years ago, I became debt-free, and that was really the first step because that really lowered my monthly expenses. I then built up my emergency fund so that I had a year’s worth of expenses saved up as a nice cushion. Once my emergency fund was completed and I was making more on my blog than I was at my day job, I put in my two weeks notice.
Another big thing for me was being on the same page as my husband. We both had this dream that I could work from home and had clear cut guidelines for when I could make that leap. I kept a chart on my fridge, and as I grew that emergency fund I knew that I was closer and closer to quitting my day job.
EXR: You mention in your “Why I Quit My Job” post that you want to live a life you design. Could you expand on that a little? What does it mean to intentionally design a life for yourself? Any tips or lessons from your experiences?
Ashley: To me, designing your life means really looking hard at where you and your family are and figuring out what your best life looks like. Before I quit my job, I literally never had a day off with my husband. I was working 80-plus hours a week between my blog and my day job. I was stressed to the max, and it really wasn’t sustainable. Of course, all of the stress and sacrifice is worth it now.
A few years ago, I sat down and dreamed about what my life could be — more travel, more quality time with my family, doing what I love, and teaching others how to have a home they love is all on that list. I worked hard to make that a reality. It is still a work in progress, but I am so much closer than I used to be!
EXR: What was the point when you realized you could turn your writing on interior design, DIY and debt-free living into a business? Was there a specific “A-ha!” moment?
Ashley: Honestly, I have had a few blogs, and one of them was quite successful before. I ended up quitting that blog eight-plus years ago, but kept dreaming about starting another. Lots of blogs publish income reports, and I was so impressed that people could make money blogging!
When my son was born, I was just sick of being scared to live my life. I am an introvert, so putting my life out there is a little scary. I decided to quit caring what people think and I started my blog At Home with Ashley with the intention of it being a business. I took classes, went to seminars, and searched the internet for tips on how to make my dream a reality. I found some good tools along the way and implemented them over the past two years.
EXR: What were some of the steps you took to create a compelling online presence? Can you speak to the transition from casually blogging, to At Home With Ashley becoming a business?
Ashley: Some of the biggest things I did to becoming a compelling online presence:
Worked on my photography. I thought I was a good photographer two years ago, and now I cringe when I see my old photos! I got a DSLR camera, learned to use it, invested in lens and other equipment and practiced. The truth is that you have to have pretty pictures especially on Pinterest and Instagram since they are such visual platforms.
Figured out what set me apart. There are two things that I specialize in — I decorate with a lot of pink, and I teach others how to style items. They seem like silly things, but finding something unique that you can offer that no one else does is how you grow your online presence.
In our Small Business Success Stories guide, we explored Ashley’s business, and included resources that will help you identify what makes your abilities unique and how you might grow your online presence. If that is an aspect of your entrepreneurship, have a look at that post for tips on how to get started.