Q + AI received an absurd amount of emails during the Holidays, and through them I got to meet so many new readers. I cannot even explain how you helped me and how blessed I feel that so many of you show genuine interest in the things I write and blog about. Thank you for trusting my word and joining me in my journey.
I browsed through over 200 emails last night and was able to pinpoint the most frequently asked questions. I truly want to reply to each one of them personally but the truth is that most days I have to make do with the limited time I have and keep myself in check because, let's face it, I'm quite the chatterbox.
Since I know that not every one of you is interested in the same things, I'll divide this into categories. Ready? Let's do this:
1. What's the most important advice you'd give a blogger?
I'd advise everyone to have fun doing the things they do. When you don't, everything becomes just one more thing to do and that's when we start going down the slippery slope of burnout and dissatisfaction.
2. Any do’s and don’ts for bloggers?
DO: Be passionate about what you write, share what you want to share, strive to be better at what you do, be positive, encourage others, clean up your blog every so often, take time off if you need to. DON'T: Feel pushed to do or say things you don't want to do or share, put people down in your posts, be negative, stop believing in yourself, push yourself through burnout, be dishonest.
3. I'm scared to put myself out there, how do I get rid of fear?
I believe that fear is normal. You obviously want to share, so the issue is when you don't and you feel pressured to do so. I don't know if you fear what people would say or what they would think but I do believe it is completely understandable. People have natural reactions and opinions depending on what they believe, so before you open up and share, remember that there will be people with different points of view. Embrace them and don't let negativity into your life. Accept constructive criticism from respectable sources and if you encounter a bad "anonymous" comment, laugh, brush it off and move on with your day.
4. I see that some new bloggers come out strong and become successful, would you recommend this?
I'd definitely recommend it if you have the resources but I'd advise that first you do some marketing, get advice from an expert and have a clear idea of what you want so that you make a wise investment.
5. How do I pick the name of my blog?
Choose something short, meaningful and representative of the idea you have for the blog. Make sure you also search domain hosts like godaddy to see if that name is available. Some people make the mistake of giving their url a completely different name than the blog. If your blog's name is "Bits and Bobs" your url should be bitsandbobs(dot)com.
BLOG / BRANDING
1. What's the most annoying (visual) thing about blogs?
As mentioned above where I talk about people being naturally opinionated I can only speak about what puts "me" off in a blog, so don't take this as a rule. Personally messy blogs drive me away sometimes, even if I like the content of the blog, simply because I find it hard to concentrate on what really matters if there are things popping up and flashing around everywhere.
2. Any do's and don'ts for branding?
DO: Develop your brand, change it until you're happy but always give people a clear idea of what you stand for, ask the pros, strive for excellence (whatever that is in your mind), take your blog to a professional level, make your brand reflect who you are. DON'T: Stick to something that isn't you just because it's "in", let fear hold you up, over-think your decisions regarding details… Go for it!
3. If I place photos of myself on blog posts would I become my brand?
As long as you're the person who writes the blog you will always be your brand: it is your life, opinions, abilities etc. that are exposed and that is a really good thing.
4. Should I change my brand's design if I'm not comfortable with it?
Definitely! Experiment and share the process with your readers. Remember that in order to feel comfortable in this environment you need to create a cozy space for yourself.
5. How do I solidify my brand?
Expand it so that all the aspects of your blog intertwine. Use the same style for your stationery, social media and make things cohesive and coherent.
1. How hard is it to freelance?
Very. But everything in life is, right? The thing about freelancing is that it tests you ability to believe in yourself, put yourself out there and look for opportunities when there aren't any, so it is a very hard thing which then turns into more self confidence and a big 'ol serving of faith.
2. Are freelancers underpaid?
Yes. When you start, no matter what skills you have, you need to start at a "newbie" rate and work your way up as you gain experience, knowledge and an audience. Now I say “Yes, you are underpaid”, when working as a freelancer because when you're fresh out of college your experience level is zero and possibly also your connections. You need to make yourself known and that takes time.
3. How do you manage without benefits?
Well, to be very honest with you I manage pretty well. I'm always traveling back and forth and I haven't found a place where I want to settle down so when I do I'll worry more about it, but as of now, I get treatments, dental work and pay my pension outside of the U.S., so it's manageable.
4. How do you deal with the negative public image of freelancers?
In the beginning, explaining what I did for a living was very hard, specially because at the time I was Blogging more and that was my main source of income. Talking to my friends and family about freelancing, not caring about benefits and not having a pension fund (at the time) was hard. Friends and family want the best for us so I definitely went through a “black sheep” moment but time passes by and if they see you're well and you want to be well that's enough to ease their worries. When it comes to the rest of the peoples’ opinions I truly wouldn't pay attention if they see freelancing as a negative thing. All I know is if you're doing things for the right reasons with good intentions, it will all work out for you.
5. Do you think freelancing is for everyone?
A friend asked this the other day and I have to say no. Having said that, even if freelancing is not for you, even if you're not happy and jolly thinking about working crazy hours, opening a little path for yourself, contacting people and companies that may turn you down and not being around people all the time, in the right circumstances we can all do it.
1. Why don't you have a profile photo?
Funny story… after designing this last brand for myself I had planned on hiring a photographer outside of Brazil and having my picture taken on a trip. After that life became nuts, I have made several trips this season and I just never seem to find the time. I even stressed out about this in the beginning but I stopped when I finally realized it will get done soon enough. I do have one on Twitter, but let's face it, I need a new one. Chop chop!
2. Why is your instagram private?
Well, all the social media I've joined is exclusively for my blog and shop even if some personal bits come through. I don't cope well with facebook so I don't have a personal account and when I started instagram I wanted to share personal things with my readers and friends without exposing my daughter or myself, but I do accept people there - I just try to be careful because it is the only micro-blogging space that I truly enjoy.
3. I'm a full-time blogger and I hate my personal image, how do you maintain yours?
Ha! Funny enough this was in 26 of the emails I read… and I know it's very hard. The first months of freelancing were heaven to me. I didn't have to get up, shower in the wee hours of the morning, put on a suit and the whole shebang, so I was thrilled. As time passed, I realized I was one of those annoying people who needs structure. I absolutely hate mess, I have bad cases of O.C.D and I couldn't stand my hobo look, so I started a new routine: I get up, take a shower, put on my running or yoga outfit, go through my morning skin care routine, take a cup of tea and only after all that start up my computer. I reply to half of my emails, go running or do yoga, start prepping lunch... and so on... You see, if you wake up, rub the sleep out of your eyes and jump straight into work like a mad woman (like I used to) you'll never find balance… and by that I mean that magical line that work outside of home gives you. You have your home time and then you go to your place of work. Work and home life are not the same and that's what you need to separate even if you work from home. Get up, put on some nice clothes, find time to exercise and love yourself.
4. How much sleep do you get every day?
I used to get between 3-4 hours and it was absolutely bonkers. I'm one of those people who are constantly reading and researching about health, wellness, balanced eating and exercise. I try not to have any vices, so when I had to face the reality that I was completely neglecting myself by sleeping so little I cried, literally, cried. I know there will be times when I'll have to sacrifice some sleep in order to finish projects or take care of my daughter but in the ideal world I try to sleep those magical 8 hours which are often reduced to 6, ha! When you blog and freelance you will notice that you'll feel as tired as you do when you work elsewhere. It’s because you actually use a lot of energy. A lot of effort has to be put into these jobs and if you blog about your personal life and take photos every day, a lot of emotional things will come to the surface. The only way to recover from this is to SLEEP. All the burnouts, meltdowns and sometimes illness that bloggers have comes as a result of sleep deprivation, unhealthy diets and stress.
5. Are you a vegetarian?
I'm not but to be honest I eat a lot less meat than the average carnivore. Most of my meals consist of lean proteins, I don't eat much red meat and I love fish and veggies.
6. How did you get so many pinterest followers?
I really don't think I have many and I'm asked this a lot and sometimes I feel like I sound snobby but I truly don't know how people come across it or why they follow me. I guess it's just that I enjoy it so much and I'm always talking about it.
7. Do you get special products or revenue for your posts?
I do sometimes get products but I do not post for money. I just think it could cloud my judgment so I would not recommend something that I haven't tried or post about something that I don't own or haven’t used. The things I get are mostly companies saying thank you or wanting to share something with me without asking that I post about it.
8. Your posts are very impersonal but they always have a hint of your life. How do you do that?
I never noticed that but I went back and realized that I always do have something personal to talk about. I guess it happens because I only blog about things I'm truly passionate about. I keep my personal life at bay because I find that this is the best for me and those I love.
9. Do you follow a special diet?
I didn't use to but as of 4 months ago I do. I follow a diet that is meant to include lots of power foods, protein powders and probiotics. I'm dairy and sugar free. I did this not to lose weight and I actually maintain myself at 110 lbs - I changed my diet because I needed to feel more energized and this does the trick.
10. What's your daily routine?
I adjust my routine as projects or personal things come up but basically I wake up a 6:00am, take a shower, go through my morning skin care routine, have at least 20 minutes of quiet time, work for about 3 hours, exercise for 1 hour, start lunch which I usually have 50% of readymade since Sunday, rest for at least 15 minutes after lunch, continue with the most complicated bits of my work for 2 hours, reply to blog comments or emails, start getting supper ready, reply to some more emails while things are cooking, eat supper, work for one more hour, unwind… the next day.
11. Do you think your blogging life allows you to travel a lot?
I think that working from home does, although work is always there, even on Holidays I always need to work a bit and some little things are always in the back of my mind. I can't help it.
12. Would you say your job allows you to have a "normal" life?
Yes, but I only realized that now. I'm not happy to say this but I do go through times when I'm a slave to my job. I don't see friends, I don't go out and I become a hermit if I have to. Sad face.
13. Would you ever consider Vlogging?
Truly, I'm shocked that this question has been asked more than once. Thank you Gia for lifting up my spirits and saying I "sound" very fun in my posts. I thought I "sounded" rather boring but getting to the point... I don't think any time soon, although if I keep receiving this request I might have to record a little something just so you can see me foolishly interact with a camera and listen to my accent… because I'm asked about my accent very often too. I don't know how to explain it but I do not have a strong accent. When I speak to people they can pinpoint I'm not an American and usually ask if I've lived in Australia or England because I pronounce some words with a lazy "r". No lisps though.
Thank you so much for asking, showing interest and being so wonderful to me. Next Q+A coming up next month!