The folks at LinkedIn asked me (and dozens of other entrepreneurs and professionals) to share their career journey. To share what I’m in it for. Why I wake up and do what I do every day. I thought that was a pretty great topic… so here goes.
It all started 18 years ago.
“But, Alaina, blogs didn’t exist 18 years ago.”
“Excellent point, dear sir or madam. But that is where this story begins.”
It was 2001, and my sophomore year English teacher suggested I attend the new staff meeting for the high school newspaper. “I think you might like it,” she said.
She was right. I immediately fell in love.
Junior year I became a Features editor, and my senior year I was made editor-in-chief.
I loved that it offered me the chance to do everything I enjoyed and then some: writing, editing, (even proofreading), graphic design, photography, styling, and working collaboratively with a team. I loved that I could cover any array of topics and never get bored. I loved the day the paper came out and students were all reading them in the hallways and between classes. And if someone ever mentioned liking an article I wrote – whoa, that was a high.
I was only 16-years-old when I told my parents I had found my passion and wanted to pursue journalism as a career. My dad informed me it was very competitive and tough to earn a living… (“Why don’t you be a doctor?” they said.) but after those three years of seeing the hours I put in and the excitement I got out of it, my parents saw how much I loved it and cheered me on.
Excited and fueled by my innate passion for creating and collaborating, I attended the Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University to study magazine editing with the dream of working at Vanity Fair. I read books and articles by Graydon Carter, David Remnick, and Kate White. My roommate and I devoured every issue of Marie Claire and Glamour – both of which had monthly features on inspiring young women around the world (with a solid dose of shopping and design inspiration). I worked on multiple student publications and created one of my own as my senior honors thesis –a students’ travel guide to studying abroad in London. Through my major, I learned graphic design, the Adobe Creative Suites, met former alumni working in New York City, and honed my writing, reporting, and editing skills.
It’s so crazy to think I was just a teenager when I decided what would be the rest of my life… or so I thought.
“Is print dying?”
I never could have foreseen that the future of media would be what it is today or how my role would look in it. The opportunities technology and social media have awarded me and so many others is truly amazing. It’s leveled the playing field, so to speak.
Never did I see myself in a business setting. At all. Reviewing monthly P&L reports, negotating contracts, and managing HR were never high up on my dream job list. I was a creative without a single business or marketing class under my belt. But it’s amazing what you can force yourself to learn when you have no one telling you how to do it.
Never could I have known that when I graduated into a recession in 2008, magazines would swiftly start closing their doors. A new era of online media and the rise of “blogs” would be on the uptick. I distinctly remember one of my last assignments senior year was to publish a daily blog for two weeks and a Newhouse alum and editor at Esquire.com was going to grade them.
I literally did. not. know. what a blog was. It took a lot of explaining and my first topic pitch was vehemently rejected. Eventually, my topic was approved, I “blogged” for two weeks, I miraculously got an A (how?!), and I had written about… doodles. Yes. The dog mix of poodle + another breed. Inspired none other than my pup Tucker, the cockapoo. No need to go into further detail.
But that was the first time I had heard of a blog – in my highest level magazine editing class at what is often considered a top journalism school in the country just three months before graduating in 2008. (Faculty held steadfast there was hope for print, and “Is print dying?” was a regular discussion debated in almost every class.)
Sadly, still today, ten years after I graduated, magazines and papers continue to fold or restructure, even at the largest publishing houses.
But our small business, now The Everygirl Media Group (you can read all about how my cofounder Danielle Moss and I started that journey here), continues to grow largely because we’re in a position where we’re able to pivot with the ever-changing technology, trends, and markets. It was four years out of college that I cofounded The Everygirl, and it has has since grown to have over one million monthly readers, over 750,000 followers on Instagram, a recently launched sister site The Everymom, and ten full-time employees – and growing… we haven’t raised a dollar of funding like many of our (much) larger media group counterparts. We’ve grown slow and steady, staying true to our vision as opposed to refocusing to meet a bottom line.
The Day to Day (to Night to Weekend)
Ask anyone who has ever blogged or better yet, tried blogging… they’ll tell you; it’s a lot of work. No, I’m not saying any of us are launching a satellite into orbit. But the hours can be excessive. And more so – nonstop.
Of course I think it’s incredibly fun, flexible, creative work which makes it a dream for me! But there’s no denying it’s time consuming. (Which is why I blog so infrequently on my personal blog now. Sad.)
From coming up with endless ideas (a blogger should have new content going up 4-7 days a week, I suggest the latter if you’re full-time), to producing all of that content. It’s not just “take a photo, ok easy, that’s over.” The writing, styling and photographing, editing, creating graphics, sourcing product, working with brands, and formatting content takes a lot of time. So much so that editorial websites like The Everygirl have editorial teams – for example, The Everygirl publishes four articles a day and has a full-time team of 7, The Everymom has a full-time team of 3, and they both have regularly contributing writers. Then there’s the linking, formatting, back end development, accounting, partnerships, paperwork, and less fun stuff that comes with it and has to get done. The writing of a post alone can take more than a couple of hours depending on word count.
And if a blog is light on copy, it’s likely heavy on original photography, which is a full-time job in of itself and requires a lot of skill. You need styling ability. You need an eye to get the best shots. You need to location scout; it’s weather dependent; so many things can go wrong and you have to make do. The shoots you see lifestyle bloggers producing – whether it’s a recipe post, fashion post, travel post, home decor post, fitness post… they take hours to produce. From styling and sourcing to shooting to editing and resizing.
Video production and editing is a whole other ballgame in terms of time – and something bloggers are pretty much expected to add to their repertoire. Even a 30-second video can be 1-5 days production from concept to final editing.
Then there’s the post-production sharing and trying to get people to find and read your content, visit your blog, engage on social media, and grow that following.
It’s a 24/7 job whether you want it to be or not. Most of the highest engagement times on social media are nights and weekends… which means we’re all up and on our phones and laptops, posting on nights and weekends. Engaging with readers. Then there’s Insta Stories and DMing. It’s easy to get dozens of DMs at a time ranging from followers asking for opinions, or sources, or just to chat… and I know I can speak for myself when I say I try to respond as much as possible! But sometimes it’s impossible. And I’m sorry if you’ve DMed and not gotten a response. There are a number of software programs now available that allow you to schedule these things ahead of time. But that’s still not there for Instagram Stories or Snapchat, where most of the world is more active.
What I’m In It For
So this brings me to the point of this article. What I’m in it for.
I’m in it for our readers. Danielle Moss and I founded the site on a shared vision of providing inspiring, attainable lifestyle content for women like ourselves who were creative, driven, and independent (financially and in pursuing their careers). We wanted to take the spotlight off of celebrity and luxury and put it on the incredible women all around – our neighbors, our colleagues, our sisters, our readers! We continue to run the site and its social channels in an effort to make a positive impact – to inspire women around the world to go after their dreams, to want for more, to live their best lives, to contribute. Every time we get an email or meet a reader in person who says the site means something to them, that it has influenced them to make a positive change in their life… it’s incredible. That’s what I’m in it for.
I’m in it for our team. It goes without saying The Everygirl would not be what it is today without the talent, hard work, and creativity of so many amazing women. Allyson Fulcher, our editorial director, joined our team full-time after interning for us, and she doubled our traffic in two months. Two months. How that was even possible is beyond me. Since then we’ve hired the talents of Alexandra Pagar who manages our brand partnerships, and editorial staff Caitlin Brown, Kristen Mitchell, Kelly Etz, Abigail Yonker, Christina Huynh, Rachel Dorton, Josie Santi, Victoria Greenwald, part-time editors, freelance writers, contributing editors, photographers, stylists, and interns… all of whom have channeled their talent and passion into creating stunning, inspiring, witty content for our site and its readership. So many of them have told me the passion they have for the site and its readers, and why our content speaks to them and why they wanted to work for our company. So I’m in it for them.
I’m in it for my parents. They always pushed me to work hard. Always always always. For as long as I can remember. To do my best. To never settle. They sacrificed and worked their butts off so my siblings and I could have more – especially when it came to education. Both of them are extraordinarily talented and hard working; and they’ve wanted for me the thing they never had: a job they were passionate about. A job they woke up excited to do. So I’m in it for them.
I’m in it for my family. Blogging and running my own business awards me the flexibility and freedom not offered in many, more traditional industries. I’m able to earn a full-time living but the hours and schedule we’ve set for our team allows me (and all our staff) to have shortened in-office hours and work from home a couple days a week. On work days, I really only get to be with my son for an hour and a half in the morning and an hour after work before he goes to bed at 6pm. So those moments when I can hear him laughing in the next room or can take a break to get some cuddles in are just so special, and I do not take them for granted. Yes – I sometimes have to work nights or weekends when events or shoots are scheduled, but it’s a balance I’m very happy with.
I’m in it for her. After college graduation when the job market looked especially dismal, I spent a lot of time weighing my possible career options. I spent a lot of time questioning if journalism was a huge mistake and whether I should go back to school to pursue a different field. And from that internal debate, I started my first blog. Living Creating Yourself. I hoped that if I wrote daily about whatever interested me most, the thing I should be doing with my life would reveal itself. The lifestyle content and creative projects I shared were what I loved doing the most. It’s what would I do when I had free time.
I shouldn’t have been surprised really. It’s what I had always done. Home decorating projects from a young age, incessant journaling and fiction writing, making up games, designing blueprints of fictional dream homes. I never could have imagined it would turn into this career I’m not only proud of, but that I love and truly enjoy.
I get to wake up every day and create. I get to work with amazing people I admire. And I get to fulfill a dream that started when I was 16-year-old girl. So I guess you could say, I am in this for her.
And to my sophomore year English teacher – thank you, Mrs. Kennedy. You changed my life.
This post is sponsored by LinkedIn, but all of the thoughts and opinions within are my own.