Writer, Digital Strategist & Creator of AwesomelyLuvvie.com
Hysterical. Fierce. Wordsmith. These are just a few of the adjectives that describe Luvvie Ajayi, writer, digital strategist and creator of entertainment and humor blog AwesomelyLuvvie.com. As a fellow writer and avid blogger, I’ve always been inspired by Luvvie’s journey to full-time entrepreneur. She started her blog after peer pressure from friends who recognized her talent. After starting as a casual blogger, she slowly increased to blogging more than once a week. Three years in, she was working a 9 to 5 then blogging from 7 to 9 like a true side hustler. Though she was getting paid zero dollars, her first blogging award in 2009 made her realize that maybe she was on to something. The rest, as they say, is history.
After getting a chance to chat with Luvvie, what I most respect about her is that she is humble, no-nonsense and real. She could portray blogging as easy, after all, isn’t that what everyone does these days? If you look at Twitter and Instagram and the countless creative entrepreneurs trying to sell you a course to go from blog to brand, you would think you can achieve Luvvie’s level of success in mere months. But the truth is, as she so plainly states it, “you have to put in work.” As she often emphasizes, she’s a success not because she’s the best, but because she stuck with it. Check out what else Luvvie had to share about being a 13-year blogging veteran, her approach to working with major brands and her upcoming book, I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do Better Manual.
What inspired you to stick with Awesomely Luvvie, even when you were making no money?
Probably just the love of writing; that’s what made me start. When I started I had no intention of making money. Honestly, I just wrote because I just love writing and it wasn’t something that I intended to become a career but I think that also kind of helped. Without the expectation, I wasn’t disappointed about not making money because I still had a full-time job. So ultimately I think me not being strategic actually helped because with the lowered expectations, or with zero expectations, I didn’t have anything to compare to while I was writing.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about building a successful blog and online presence?
I think some people expect to start out the gate being successful at it. I think it’s just the idea of instant success. People now see what bloggers who have been at this for a while are doing and they think they can replicate it. The thing is, we’ve been at it for so long that we’re just reaping the benefits of our hard work now. It goes back to the whole expectations thing, now that blogging is known to be something that you can pursue as a career, some people start their blogs with the idea that they will start making money off the bat if they just do A, B, C; but, it’s kind of a crap shoot. With blogging, you build your community organically. You create a website that people want to visit and a brand they want to work with over time. Some people are like, ‘Well, I’ve been working at it for a year.’ Well some of us have been at it for 13.
When you did make the leap out on your own, it was due to a layoff. How did you financially sustain yourself during those low periods as you worked to build your brand and not run back to corporate America?
I had a savings account and I had different projects. I was working with individuals and I was consulting with people so it wasn’t like I had zero money coming in. Just a combination of that and living below my means, that helped significantly. I looked for full-time jobs because I wasn’t convinced that blogging was the way to go because there was no path that said I could actually make a living from blogging. So there were weeks where I would still be looking for full-time jobs but, I just never had a chance to get one because I’d have projects to do and I had consulting. Basically all signs pointed to the fact that I was supposed to do this work.
How did the opportunity to work for brands come about, and how many years had you been blogging before those opportunities came knocking?
I don’t really pitch myself and I still don’t. How I started working with brands was they started approaching me for campaigns. They started paying attention to my content and started paying attention to my audience and realized there was a lot of synergy there. I probably worked with my first brand in 2010. I’ve been blogging for 13 years, so at that point I’d been blogging for seven before I worked with my first brand and tried to monetize my blog.
So next up for Luvvie – you’ve written a book! What was the most surprising part about that process?
How fast it went. August 2014 is when I got the idea of my book. An agent contacted me out of the blue in October, I had the proposal done in February, my book deal in March, I signed the deal in May, I finished my book in October and here we are – it comes out in September.
What kind of projects do you pursue on a daily and weekly basis to take your brand and opportunities to the next level?
I just spend my time crafting my work because what has gotten me this far is the fact that my work has stood out. I don’t want to get stuck in the cycle of chasing things. What has worked so far is the fact that I’ve done good stuff and people have paid attention. I also think it’s important to not get too distracted by the lure of working with brands because you might lose yourself in that. Do your work, let the brands come to you, that’s important. I mean, you could also pitch them of course, but don’t get so stuck in ‘I need to make all my money with brands.’ As a writer, that’s not necessarily the best strategy. Your work will stand by its own even if brands aren’t checking for you, because when you have an audience, you have built-in social currency that you can cash in. The brands notice, yes, but they’re not the main goal. Those brands wouldn’t come to you if you didn’t have an audience that was paying attention. You have to engage your audience, you have to talk to them, do the work that got you attention to begin with.
What advice would you offer the generation of dreamers that want to turn their side hustles into full-time freedom?
You have to put in work. You have to put in time and devote time to it. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, there are very few overnight successes. Usually most overnight successes have been toiling away for years and finally they blow up and people are like, ‘Oh my God, they came out of nowhere’. No, they’ve actually been doing this work silently for a minute. So whatever it is, invest time into it and if it is your dream, sometimes you have to invest money into it and that’s OK too. It might mean buying the best equipment, it might mean paying for a blog host, it might mean taking classes. Invest time and money into what you want to see flourish, because if you’re not going to invest your own time and money then why should anybody else invest in you?