How Blogging Became My Career

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Lauren taking photos
Sarah Kuszelewicz Photography, New York City

Today I’m sharing with you how this little blog of mine has turned into the greatest blessing and business for me and my family. Perhaps a lot of you know what blogging is and how I earn money, but maybe some of you don’t. So, this is to give you the history of my blog incase you’re new, and maybe a few pointers if you are also a blogger starting out.

But first, a little history…

My husband actually started my blog back in the day when we were married two years and Brooke was our only baby! He was taking a college online web business class in 2009 and the whole point of it was to actually start a web business. He couldn’t come up with any ideas that made sense to him so I casually mentioned a blog. He wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but deadlines were coming and he didn’t have a better idea so he started me a blog.

We started on the blogspot platform and only paid about $10 when all was said and done. Ta-da! A blog!

That semester he was in school, I threw a few recipes on there, but was mostly hands off because Gordon was using it for his class, adding Adsense ads here and tweaking the design there. After the semester though, he handed me the blogging baton and I ran with it.

In those first three or four years, I was focused on content (creating lots of recipes so I had something for people to look at when they visited!), trying to improve my photography skills, reaching out to other bloggers and brands, trying to get my name out there. I was working part time on my blog, slowly increasing my page views and following.

Three to four years in also meant the introduction of Facebook business pages, Pinterest and Instagram. Social media started taking up more and more of my time. I also rebranded to Lauren’s Latest (I started my blog with a different name and url) and I found a company to manage my ads on my site.

In our personal lives, Gordon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance, we moved to Oregon, Gordon joined the military, Gordon got a job, we bought our first house and had Blake.

Lauren Gordon and Brooke
A photo from around the time our blog started. (And look at my sweet Brooke!!)
Taking a Leap of Faith

Then in January 2014, Gordon got laid off from his job. My blog was making decent money, but definitely not enough to live off of. So, we felt our options were (1) Gordon could just get another finance job OR (2) he could go back to school to get his Master’s and I could work full time on the blog and hope it would earn the money we needed to make ends meet.

As we thought each decision through, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road, the choice became clear that Gordon would go back to school and we would pray really hard and hope for the best.

So Gordon quickly enrolled in school and I started working 60-80 hours/week on my blog doing anything and everything I could think of to increase my traffic. (See the Q&A below for more of an understanding of why traffic is important to bloggers.) It was a hard adjustment at first, but we made it work with all four of us at home, playing, working, cooking, blogging.

Day and night, I would work, praying the whole way. I felt the weight of being the breadwinner and I was laser focused on that goal. I felt like God knew me and knew my struggles and would help me as long as I put in my effort.

By April, I had earned enough to pay our mortgage and the rest of our bills. Amazing!! After the summer months came and went, I started earning double what we needed and from that point on, things just seemed to snowball. Financial blessings were pouring down upon us and we were oh so grateful (and continue to be grateful!) for it all.

Because of the blog, we were able to pay back Gordon’s student loans and start paying for his education with cash. We were able to become debt free. We were able to have a savings account with actual money in it instead of a few pennies.

By December 2014 though, I was burnt out. Fulfilled and amazed, yes! But burnt out from those more often then not 80 hour work weeks. I turned to some friends to voice my frustrations and one of them offered to help. So I took her up on it and she took a big chunk of my workload off my shoulders, bringing my weekly hours down to a more manageable 40 hours.

Lauren Brooke and Blake
Taken during the summer of 2014 in our Oregon home, right after things really exploded on the blog. My babies were so little!!
From 2015 to now

My blog has continued to grow and I’ve been able to bring a few extra people on board to help and relieve my load. This was especially important to me because I had Eddie in 2016! Having a third child was a turning point because I knew my work had to change based on the time I absolutely needed to spend with my family. They needed me and I needed them.

So for all you followers who have followed me in the long run may have noticed a shift in the things I blog about. Yes, the food is still important to me (and to you!!) and I still post delicious, well-tested and loved recipes, but the frequency of those recipes has gone down because I don’t have the kind of time to spend on recipe development like I used to. KIDS!!

I’ve also started including more family posts on my blog because I find its a way to connect and relate to the vast majority of you lovely people, my readers. A lot of you have been with me for the long haul and know me and my kids and want to know what we’re up to, especially now that we live in New York City! For personal reasons, I also want to have documentation of the things we are doing week to week. (I’m really sorry if you are one of those upset people who followed my blog just for the recipes and now feel my family posts interfere with your love for my blog. Feel free to unfollow! And not that it matters anymore, but I am working on a solution for you.)

So today as it stands now, I spend about 30 hours a week on my blog doing the usual things like developing, testing, re-testing and shooting recipes, editing photos, writing blog posts, creating videos, talking to you on social media, posting to instagram, sending out weekly meal plans, ensuring my blog stays online, correcting hosting/design issues, moderating comments (hi, trolls!!) and managing my brand new Facebook community. I will say that I tend to work closer to 40 hours during the summer months because there is more sunlight which means more shooting hours, but now I’m hovering right around 30.

I love what I do and don’t ever see myself quitting. It can get overwhelming because there is a lot to keep up with. Sometimes I have a hard time feeling like I’m keeping up or getting anything accomplished because I have yet to find that elusive work-life balance; It’s hard!! But I remain ever-grateful for this little platform I have even if I still haven’t figured out why I have it. Grateful to Heavenly Father for my success.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t blogging, like, super easy?

Starting out, I think it was pretty easy, but as my blog has grown, so has my to do list! If you want to be successful, you need to know how to do a lot of little things really well.

What do you spend your time doing now?

A lot of behind the scenes stuff that you don’t think about. Updating software, paying bills (because I’m a business!), checking stats, looking for trends, testing recipes, photographing and editing, typing out posts, promoting those posts online, replying to emails, conference calls, bookkeeping, interacting with my readers, checking social media, managing the few helpers I have, etc. etc.

Pros and cons to being self employed?

Working from home is a draw for a lot of people to quit their 9-5 job, but for me that is the hard part. I wish I had set hours so I could come home and just be home and not worry about work. But that’s not the nature of the job. It comes with the territory. Yes, I can volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, drop them off and pick them up from school, take them to appointments and change my schedule based on their schedules, but for once, I’d like to not hit publish on a post at 11pm at night 😉

Pro’s would be getting new products to try that are not on the shelves yet or even trips for free! I have also loved the friends I’ve met. They are truly amazing women that I love so so much!

How do bloggers earn money?

A number of ways! The main ways I earn income is through the ads you see on my blog as well as sponsored posts. Depending on the month, I can earn anywhere from $0.005 to $0.05 per person coming to visit my site. If you have a large following, those pennies add up into lots of dollars.

I also work with companies from time to time on a recipe or a sponsored post that I then feature on my blog and get paid for. If you see #sponsored or #ad online, then you can know I am getting paid to post about xyz.

Other bloggers are big into affiliate marketing and selling their own products. I don’t like to do very much of this because its not my favorite, but maybe in the future there will be more opportunities. Who knows though! I do have my Christmas magazine, my ebook and my shop, but beyond that, that’s it for now.

Another note about Ads

I have ads in my sidebar and constantly have them there because it costs money to run a blog. Hosting, website, designs, lawyers, accountants, email subscription lists, groceries, equipment, software, etc.. are things I have to pay for consistently. Starting out, the costs are small, but as your site grows, so do your costs. So, that is a big reason why I (and a bunch of other bloggers) have ads in their sidebar.

It’s not because we are greedy, its because it costs us thousands of dollars to run a website. And keep in mind I do not earn what my business earns, just a portion. (And to answer that silly person’s question on my instagram stories when I was talking about this a few days ago, YES I pay taxes too 🙂 )

Don’t you feel like a sell-out when doing sponsored posts?

Not at all because I only partner with companies I love. Plain and simple. I get a lot of companies reaching out to me, asking me to promote this cereal or this imitation butter. But if I don’t love the product they want me to promote, then I won’t promote it.

What tips would you give bloggers just starting out?

  1. Network and become friends with bloggers! Some of my dearest friends I met through blogging!
  2. Don’t be afraid to share other people’s content. I used to only share my content online, but then I started partnering with my blogging friends and we began to share each other’s content to help each other out. Now, I try to be generous with my shares and shout outs to my friends. I know how stressful this career can be if you’re the only one bringing in income!
  3. Reach out to brands and ask to partner with them. Look through your pantry at things you love and buy regularly. Then try to google their PR rep to get an email address, or ask some of your new blogging friends for help. Then email them with a pitch!
  4. But, the biggest piece of advice I could give you is don’t get jealous when other bloggers grow quicker or larger than you or make more money than you or get that huge campaign. I used to be SO jealous because I needed the money and didn’t they know how awesome my blog was? But now, I get excited and hopeful. If ‘they’ can reach that goal or earn that much money or work with that company then that means it’s possible for me too and that excites me.

Read more FAQ’s here.

 

Thanks for following along in this crazy journey of mine! It’s been a big roller coaster for sure and continues to be a roller coaster, but you all wonderful and supportive and kind readers make the ups seem unreal and the downs not so bad.

xo Lauren

 

 

 

Polaroid photo of granola bars

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41 Responses
  1. Lori

    I follow your blog for your upbeat writing style and posts about your cute family….not for recipes! First time I’ve commented, by the way. I used to be a young stay-at-home mom but now my kids are grown and it’s fun to read about your family! I’m glad my reading pleasure provides income for you–go Lauren!

    1. Stacey Bourque

      Good for you! I follow you & enjoy your posts. You were driven and persistant. It’s not easy trying make a go at your own business, while trying to take care of a family. I am a photographer for myself, and that has had it’s challenges. I limit my FB page, because I don’t need thousands of followers, in hopes none of them are crazy or stalkers. I’d rather play it safe. Unfortunately it limits me a little. I recently opened an Instagram account and post images in there. I LOVE to travel, I LOVE animals, I LOVE food, and I LOVE to cook!!! I still have ideas that boggle around in my head, such as how can I take photos, post them, and collect money for them. I would love to travel and get paid for it! I always pray to God, but I know he sees everything and he’s in contoll. I wish I had a crystal ball, to know what I should be doing or do next. HAPPINESS is a blessing! Keep up the good work you work hard at every day. Thank you! 🙂

  2. Lindsey

    This is a great post, thank you so much for sharing! I am just starting out…well actually I did start and now I am re-starting. Your advice is good, and I’ve been following for awhile so the background is helpful.

  3. Niya

    Hi
    This is Niya from India…i actually follow your blog to hear about ur cute family..and in each blog ill be like so eager to see ur family pics. I actually drooled over your recipies too..dis s d first time i read a bloggers history(urs was bit sad)…waiting for ur next blog..God Bless You:)

  4. Bobbie

    I look forward to reading all of you’re posts. You have done a fantastic job balancing family and career. Keep up the good work !

  5. Teilo O Baldwin

    Lauren,
    Thank you so much for this very humble, insightful and very gracious share!! Like one follower said you’re very upbeat and caring I’d say! The littlest one featured now is so cute as well. But this post, your reference to your faith putting in the work you know God will bless were spot on, and the encouraged mindset were spot on and awesome to hear! I thank you.
    Sincerely

  6. Corrie

    Thanks for sharing all of this! I’ve been a reader for many years, so it was fun to hear why all the changes were happening. PS: I stick with your blog precisely because of the family stories! I am a new mom, and reading your blog makes me feel like I’m chatting with a friend.

  7. Melissa

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m a new blogger (started in September) and somehow came across you… not sure if it was your blog or IG, but at any rate, I started following you and really love your daily posts on IG. I’ve admired how you share parts of your family life (something I haven’t grown comfortable with yet). In the past few weeks, I was wanting to know more of your story…how you got here, what advise you’d give etc. So nice to see this post today! Thanks!

  8. Ayra

    Thank you Lauren for such an inspiring post. I love your biggest piece of advice of not being jealous of others, but instead treat it as an example of the success one could have. I am starting to focus on my blog and really appreciate your advice.

  9. Courtney

    That is too cute that Gordon is the one that started it all. I always love hearing/reading the behind the scene for bloggers. I know there is so much more that goes into it than meets the eye. I have seen your blog evolve from a food blog to a family/lifestyle/food blog. I love it. It show more sides of you and your life. Thank you for sharing that with the rest of us. Congratulations on all of your successes!

  10. Dawn

    This is fantastic! Keep up with the positive attitude. Your personality shines through all your posts, be it a food post or family post, and I love reading both. Thanks for all the work you put in to this blog. I enjoy trying out your new recipes and following along with the family posts!!

  11. Julie Taylor

    I enjoy reading the family posts and catching up with NY living. Enjoy the recipes and especiallyproud that you talk about your faith and committed to a religious found For your family. I like to read how you adapt to NY as our daughter lives in downtown Chicago and shared many experiences as you do. Keep blogging.

  12. JANEL HASSELL

    You are a beautiful person – inside and out.

    Thank you so much for being transparent and sharing yourself with your followers.

    I appreciate you.

    Janel

  13. Liz

    I love the way you have formatted your blog, It reminds me of a magazine , stories, recipes, ads and great ideas ! I don’t always have time to make new recipes, so I enjoy reading your posts as well . Although readers feedback is important. It is great you are finding balance in your life. It is important, because children grow fast, and it is also important to spend time with your husband. When you take breaks., I take one too ! Just keep doing what you are doing, you have my support and many others support you too !

  14. Jan Grundtner

    Great blog, Lauren! Very informative. I have enjoyed your blog for many years. You are the ONE who got me hooked on Stitch Fix….not sure if I should be happy about that! But have to admit, I do love it, even if I am an old lady in her late 60’s. My Stitch Fix person finally gets me! Thank you for that, Lauren. I LOVE getting those boxes!!!
    As for your recipes, I pin your recipes quite a bit, sad to say though, I am married to a picky eater so my choices are narrowed down but you come through quite a bit!
    I love watching for the pictures of the kids and your pregnancy with Eddie was fun to progress with! But mostly I want to say Thank You, you make my work day more fun when I see your blog pop into my Inbox :))
    hugs,

  15. beth c

    hi. i love your blog! i follow religiously. now that you in ny, i really enjoy to see how your family is adjusting and making it work. i am in ny too! crazy here. keep uo the good work. i am sure sooo many people enjoy all aspects of your blog! thanks!!!

  16. Barbara Marcyniuk

    Thanks for sharing this.Enjoy your blog and your family……Keep up the good work and enjoy your recipes……You seem to have so much energy…..God Bless you for bringing us inspirations and your recipes every week…..Take care, Barb

  17. Pat

    I’ve been a reader for many years, and have followed your journey from Oregon to Idaho to NYC. An amazing journey and am so happy you have kept your Faith while accomplishing it. It was fun to hear why all the changes were happening. I always love reading the behind the scene for bloggers. I know there is so much more that goes into it than meets the eye. I love reading your family stories and preparing the recipes you post. Thank you so much and Prayers for your family safety and health.

  18. Romy

    Hi Lauren,

    I really enjoy to follow you and not only for your recipes but also because of your family story. I have to admit that you are kinda an inspiration for me. Thanks for everything you are doing 🙂

  19. Vontreva Gammel

    I have only followed your blog for a few months, I truly enjoy your writing and your content. Reading about different kinds of people and their families is a wonderful pastime for me, we are all so different and amazing as God made us! Keep up your good work!

  20. Katie

    You are one of a small handful of bloggers I follow regularly, and probably the only blogger I subscribe to via email! I’ve subscribed to others in the past, but always ended up unsubscribing because I’d just end up deleting the emails without reading. I love yours, though! I love the tone of your posts, and I LOVE your sweet family! You had Eddie around the same time I had my third. 🙂 Thanks for being a bright place on the internet, and thanks for always having reliably delicious recipes!

  21. This Week at the Brennan's | Lauren's Latest

    […] Tuesday Gordon was in the office, so I was able to meet up with him for lunch. I’m usually busy every day with something, and come to think of it, he’s probably only in the office 25% of the time. So I take advantage of when our schedules align. I love him. I also did my Instagram live about blogging Tuesday afternoon! If you missed it, you can read the details here. […]

  22. Rose Curtis

    Love your advice, One of my friends was telling me about someone who made a lot of money blogging and after reading this post I think she was talking about you! So awesome and incredible, congrats!!!
    Thank you for being so generous with all the knowledge you share❤️

  23. Diane

    I am a recent follower and, although I have never entertained starting a blog, it was interesting to read your journey and learn a bit more about your family:)

  24. Peggy

    Enjoyed reading about how your business got started. I had never quite figured out the making money part. Thank you for sharing your story!

  25. Kyra Harmon

    Loved reading this post! Its funny how things work out, who knew that a class assignment would turn out to be a career for you! Love it! Love seeing Gordon all grown up and i remember when he was a 10 years old kid running around the hood river church building. I’ve known the Brennan family along time, and really love you! you’re a great addition to the family! I helped little John during his brace face years, and well I dated Nathen for a short time….and a funny my husband dated emily too. AND i went to high school with Nathen’s wife Sarah. 🙂 small world!

  26. Allison Kermott

    This is one of my favorite blogs! I love following you and your real ness about life, food, and family. Trying to start a family of my own (it’s been a year + in the making) I really admire your ability to balance it all! Truly a talent! When you moved across what I am sure felt like the world I felt like all I wanted to do was help you. But this specific blog speaks to me as I am wanting to start my own blog and your tips really motivate me to get moving. I know it’s not easy but you sure make it sound fun! Thank you for sharing your life with all of your followers!

  27. Sonja B

    I love your blog and follow it, my husband and I love the roasted red pepper and goat cheese pasta recipe. We just made it for Valentine’s Day. I am considering starting a blog, but I worry about including too much information about my kiddos. They are so young, what if they don’t want that information about them out there when they are older? How much is too much? Is it dangerous to have their photos and names available publicly? How do you deal with these questions?

    1. Lauren

      I’m not sharing super personal things about them or their friends, so I don’t really worry about it. If they are older and request that they don’t want me talking about them online then I won’t. The weekly updates I share are more so for me to document and ‘journal’ what’s happening in my life, which includes the kids because they ARE my life. I’m not too worried about having their information ‘out there’ because honestly, its just their names and there are lots of people with the same names. I always make sure I never mention their schools or even get specific as to where we live. I never show street signs when I’m on instagram stories and do my best to block the creeps. It’s a personal decision for sure, but if you’re not comfortable with any of this, then don’t do it. I do what I am comfortable with, which is what you see on my blog.

  28. Gina B

    I did not realize that so much went into blogging. I give all the credit for juggling your blogging, family, etc. You have a lot of energy. I love hearing about your family and what you are doing. I love seeing your blog about NY since I have not been there is many years. It looks like a lot of things to do. The kids are so cute. You are one of my best bloggers, so keep up your good work.
    Take care.

  29. This Week at the Brennans' | Lauren's Latest

    […] I spoke at a blogger conference about blog stuff. (You can read about how my blog became my career here.) And then Wednesday afternoon, I boarded a plane and flew to Las Vegas to meet up with some of my […]

  30. A long time coming | Lauren's Latest

    […] you read my post about how blogging became my career, you’ll know a little about our backstory with how this blog became what it is today. Long […]

  31. Nery

    Thank you for this post. Love to follow you for your adorable kiddos and yummy recipes! Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished and all your still to accomplish! 👏🏼❤️