This little Q+A experiment was such a fun thing to work on! I put out a call on instagram for any burning questions that readers might have about my experiences blogging over the last 8 or so years. I was at first surprised anyone actually filled out the submissions form for questions, and I was even more surprised that my siblings had the self-control not to submit dozens of silly/fake questions (good job guys!). What surprised me even more was how many of the same questions popped up repeatedly; it means everyone is curious about the same things: photo styling and editing, blogging as a job (and as a mom!), and advice for those who are just starting out. Scroll down to read all of my answers, and if you have other questions leave them in the comments! How did you prepare to make the jump to full-time blogger? And how did you decide when it was the right time to make the transition?

I have recently been getting this question a lot! I should do a full blog post on the whole decision process because it is a long, complex story that took 8 years of blogging to make it happen. The short version is that I worked nights and weekends for several years to grow my relationships with brands and publications that serve as the base for my business. I didn’t have a clear plan for how exactly I’d start doing this full-time, but I did work hard to have a good “buffer” of savings and a strong queue of client projects before I felt comfortable making that leap.

Once Jane was born, a ton of factors came into play around how much daycare cost, the long waitlists we weren’t going to be off of by the time I had to go back to work, the short time I had for maternity leave, and some general considerations about quality life and my own goals/happiness. After lots of thought and conversation about what the right choice was for our family, and weighing many different options, I finally decided to make the leap to take it full time. It was scary (and still is sometimes), but I’m so happy to have made that shift.

How do bloggers make money?

I’m so happy that a few people asked this question, because it still amazes me that a lot of people don’t know the answer! (As a side note: Often times, when I go to parties or events, people ask me what I do for a living. I respond that I’m a blogger and a mom, they respond about 98% of the time: “Oh it’s so nice you don’t have to work and can stay at home with Jane.” That reaction makes me absolutely crazy, because holy-moly do I work hard for this to be my job! I realize though, that they don’t understand how blogging can be a job, because they don’t understand how you can make money from it. Let’s see if I can help fix that … )

Every blogger is different, but here is how I create revenue from my website: 1) Brand Content Collaborations. Brands pay me to create content about their products or services and then share it on my social media channels. The benefit to the brand is an increased awareness about their product, and the ability to use the content that I created on their own social media channels. I’m lucky to work with some amazing brands that I love personally, and that let me create really creative, authentic, content that you get to read about here. 2) Affiliate Links. Sometimes when I link to the items used in a blog or social media post, that link has an affiliate network’s code attached to it. That allows me to earn a tiny commission on the product if someone clicks on it and buys something on that website (like, really tiny, a few cents or so). Some bloggers, like fashion bloggers, can make all of their revenue this way if their traffic and followers are high enough that hundreds (or thousands) of people are clicking on those links and buying the products. 3) Freelance Work. Often times brands and magazines find my recipes and photos, and reach out to me to work on creating content that doesn’t live on my website, but lives on theirs instead. They’ll hire me to develop recipes for their brand, or create content and images for their Instagram page, or produce content for a brand that is going to be published in a magazine. That makes up a lot of the behind-the-scenes work I am producing that you don’t always see published on my platform. 4) Etc. A few other ways that I and other bloggers make revenue is from hosting ads on their website (I don’t do that anymore), or host events for brands in-person, or even act as a spokesperson or talent in video content.

What tips do you have for working from home? How do you stay organized as a work-at-home mom?

A few variations of this question came in, so I grouped them together since working from home, and working as a mom, are very intertwined in my life right now! I have a pretty loose schedule when it comes to work from home, because everyday can be different as a blogger. Some days I need to go source props or pick up supplies for posts, other days I’m really focused on writing, or have to shoot images of a recipe or DIY I’m testing. Often I work on small projects during nap-time and bigger projects over the weekend.

My best advice for working from home is creating distraction-free space and time. It’s easier said than done, but we have an awesome babysitter who comes a few afternoons a week so I can work in our home office, and when I’m in there, I go into major work-mode and make myself avoid household tasks, personal social media and emails, and anything else that can distract me from getting things done. I’m actually amazed at how much I can get done in two hours when I’m focused and uninterrupted. Email is one of the biggest time drags (and stressors!), so I have recently been trying to only answer those first thing in the morning before Jane wakes up, or at night after Jane goes to bed.

The other life saving tool that I have been using religiously since I became a work-at-home-mom, is that app TeuxDeux. During the first few months of juggling an infant, figuring out how to work from home, and grow my business as my full-time job for the first time, I struggled a lot with keeping my brain and projects organized. Discovering this app changed my whole outlook, and is an amazingly simple way to plan out my projects so that they’re broken down into a few small tasks I can tackle each day. I put in tons of reminders in for things like paying taxes and bills, when we have story time or music class to attend, and all of my work deadlines. I use the non-dated lists in the app to keep little digital mental notes about groceries, posts I want to write, and upcoming projects ideas. It keeps me organized, and helps me visually see a bigger picture of what needs to get done each day and week. If you don’t finish a task, it automatically moves to the next day’s list, which is big motivation for me to get things done each day so that the following day’s to do list doesn’t get out of control.

PS: Read more about my tips for working at home with an infant in this blog post.What do you use for your photo backgrounds?

I use lots of different surfaces around my house to take photos, and I have a few faux-surfaces that I use specifically for food and flat lays. One is a piece of leftover butcher block from our kitchen island and one is a few pieces of scrap wood my husband nailed together and painted to look like an antique white washed table. The one I get the most frequently asked questions on is my “marble countertop.” It is actually faux marble contact paper applied to a big poster board. I’ve had dozens of people ask me for the manufacturer of my marble countertops over the years, but I always laugh and have to tell them it’s only contact paper. I usually put all of these surfaces on the floor in our breakfast nook/playroom in front of a big sliding glass door for the best light. You don’t see my actual kitchen much on the blog because it’s dimly lit with 1970s linoleum countertops and dark wood cabinets – how’s that for a peek behind the curtains into some blogger magic?

What tools do you use to take and edit your photos

I use two tools to produce imagery: a trusty Nikon DSLR that is probably quite outdated, and my iPhone 7 Plus. I use the iPhone for photos more than half of the time now, because it works so well and it’s always in my back pocket. To edit the photos I use a combination of Adobe Elements and Lightroom on my computer if I took them with my DSLR – I’m self taught and just about everything, and have Googled my way to understanding how to use them. If they’re iPhone photos, I use the app A Color Story. I love it because you can actually save all of your editing actions from a photo and create a saved filter/set of edits and use it again and again. It’s a great way to have consistency in your social media feed when you use the same custom set of edits on all of your images.

What tips do you have for better photo styling?  

I think the best advice I can give for better photo styling is to find your own style. I tend to create cluttered, busy, colorful photos – which actually isn’t the most popular style for Instagram. I admire the restraint of some stylists and bloggers that produce sparse imagery with bright white backgrounds, but that’s really not my style. My advice is to find your own distinct way of arranging your photos that makes them uniquely yours.

For some more tactical tips: try to use the rule of thirds when building your composition, think about how objects balance each other in relation to the frame of the picture, and always think about how to add some life to a picture (I love when you see a hand grabbing a piece of food, or feet on the edge of a flat lay on the floor).

Where are your favorite places to source props?

I love finding items at vintage shops, and try to make a trip out to the Brimfield Flea Market every year with a list of things I’m looking for. I buy a ton of props (especially last minute ones!) on Amazon. I love for party supplies, World Market for good bowls and plates, Roberta Roller Rabbit for table linens. Anthropologie and Terrain have gorgeous items that always inspire me. And I go to our local HomeGoods a few times a month when I’m sourcing seasonal items for projects.

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

The best advice I can give to someone just starting out is to spend some time figuring out why you’re doing it in the first place. I started my blog because I really needed a creative outlet, and because I love the idea of it being a journal-like archive of what’s going on in my life. I try to always keep that in mind, even now that it’s my job, when I’m deciding what to share and how to share it.

On a more tactical level, I’d tell newbie bloggers to make a solid plan for your content. One of the biggest leaps in my blog growth happened when I started spending more of my time planning quality content in advance. Then once you have a plan, go out and execute that plan and try not to think too much about what everyone is doing. The best blogs out there are the ones that are adding a fresh, unique, and authentic perspective.

PS: Read my tips for organizing and planning your blog content in this blog post.

I’ll leave my Q+A submission form up if anyone has additional questions, and thanks so much to everyone who submitted them for this post!