Helloooooo! Time for a good ol’ wordy post. Ya ready!? I wrote about the road to Studio DIY last year which talked about my schooling, my upbringing and my path to launching Studio DIY but I’ve gotten a lot of requests to talk about what happened after that. About how Studio DIY evolved! So, I thought I’d pick up where I left off and talk about the early days of Studio DIY, hiring my first employees, getting a studio and everything in-between! If you haven’t read The Road to Studio DIY post, do that first. Then come back here. =)
At the end of 2012, I left my last “big” freelance gig to focus on Studio DIY full-time.
I had been writing for a wedding blog and finally decided I needed to bite the bullet and quit or I would never have the motivation to grow Studio DIY into what I knew it could be. I was still working as a contributor for a couple sites under the Studio DIY name but that was mostly for money as contributor positions don’t generally lead to much traffic or growth, or they didn’t at least for me.
In February of 2013, I signed with an advertising network.
This meant that a larger company took over my banner ads that ran on the sidebar of the site and in-between posts. The world of banner ads has changed drastically (We don’t have any ads on the site anymore!) but it was nice to have consistent and PASSIVE income, even if it wasn’t life-changing.
2013 was the year of the hustle.
Really, every year is a hustle but 2013 was the year that I started putting myself out there. I reached out to a ton of brands via Twitter (including Balloon Time!) and started pitching ideas I had. There’s nothing like leaving a stable freelance job to give you a swift kick in the booty to start hustling! I built a lot of contacts in 2013 and started getting consistent sponsored posts.
In January 2014, I rented a studio.
In the beginning of 2014, we hit a breaking point. My business had literally taken over our entire apartment. There was barely room to sit, let alone walk. It was terrible. You see, the problem with DIY blogging is you by nature have to collect a lot of “stuff”. Supplies, props, past projects, equipment. It’s overwhelming. I decided it was time to look into renting a studio. I started trolling craigslist for something I could “afford”, a term I use loosely as really I didn’t think I could afford anything, but for the sake of my relationship, it was necessary.
I found a building that was about to be converted from sewing factories into creative office spaces. They were re-doing one floor at a time but I couldn’t afford the redone floors, so I took a spot on a factory floor. I signed the lease and simultaneously wanted to do a happy dance and puke. I had never taken on any overhead that massive and it was so scary, but it was also the first big game changer for Studio DIY.
The space was a challenge. It had great light and I was able to paint the whole thing white, but the floor I was on had really gross, barely functioning bathrooms and you had to go through four doors to get a sink. Sounds silly, but when you’re DIY-ing, having to open your door, lock it, open the hallway door, unlock the bathroom door and back again… it was rough. But it was something!
If I’m being honest, I barely spent any time at the studio for the first three months I was paying for it. It was just a hard habit to get in (I had always worked from home before!), and I had nobody to hold me accountable for showing up. That, combined with the increasing amount of work and emails, was when I realized I needed help.
In April 2014, I hired my first employees.
In January I had signed my first long-term sponsorship contract (with Balloon Time!) and it gave me the confidence of knowing I’d have money coming in each month to pay someone.
So I thought about a few things. One, what was I the absolute worst at? And two what do I need the most help with? I was the worst at, and needed the most help with, email. You see, I hate email. I don’t know what it is, but you could email me and text me the same thing and I would answer the text right away and never respond to the email. So, I hired an operations assistant. Annie, actually! (She now works for Studio DIY in a different position. More about that below!)
I wasn’t ready to have someone actually respond to my emails yet, so I worked out a system. I had Annie go through my inboxes every day and file all emails that required a response into an “Answer Today” folder (if it needed a response ASAP) or an “Answer” folder (which I’d try to answer by the end of the week).
Did that work? Sort of. It definitely helped improve my answering, but it certainly didn’t completely solve my problem of getting super anxious responding to emails, and therefore just not responding.
Annie continued to work remotely, filing emails and helping with events and eventually taking over Studio DIY’s Pinterest as I just couldn’t keep up with it anymore. I also brought on a project-by-project craft assistant at this time.
Aside from a few sponsored campaigns, I was shooting and editing most of the tabletop photos for the blog at this point and Jeff and I were shooting other, larger, things on weekends or after he got home from work. Which, FYI was a race against the clock every night! It was very stressful, but necessary.
As 2014 came to an end and sponsorships and emails in general continued to pick up, I started to realize that having someone remotely file emails wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Having remote employees is not for me. It may work great for other people, but it doesn’t work for me. We also started to realize that it might make sense for Jeff to start thinking about leaving his job as his photography work was picking up speed, both for me and other clients.
In January 2015, I hired an Operations Manager.
And that’s when I hired Samantha as my part-time Operations Manager. She came into the studio a few days a week and I would dictate emails to her as she typed, or she’d have canned answers for other emails to answer on her own. She also took over all of my invoicing and started to take over the calendar, as scheduling is not my forte either. Annie continued to manage our Pinterest and a few graphic design tasks.
In February 2015, we moved to a bigger studio.
Soon after Samantha started (January 2015), it became obvious that having a non-functioning bathroom and kitchen was not going to cut it now that we were there so often. And that’s when we migrated to the current Studio DIY HQ. It was double the size and double the rent, which is not what I wanted but it was what was available, so I took a leap of faith. I had a bathroom! And a sink! The light wasn’t as good but A SINK!
In March 2015, I signed with a manager.
In March of 2015 was when the second big game changer for Studio DIY happened. I signed with a management company. What does that mean? It’s kind of like a talent manager that an actor has, except for bloggers. My management team negotiates my contracts, handles invoicing sponsors and brings some campaigns to me as well. This was a game changer because before this, I had no idea how much I was vastly undercharging for my work. You see, most of us bloggers are just winging it. The industry is so new, nobody knows what to charge (or I certainly didn’t!) and it was eye opening to learn what the Studio DIY brand was actually worth.
In April 2015, Jeff left his job.
Having my management company behind me meant that I was both getting more work and making more money. It was time for a few things to change. First, Jeff had been wanting to leave his job to pursue photography fulltime, and I was needing him increasingly more as we were getting more sponsored campaigns. So in April, Jeff quit his job and went fulltime freelance.
We also launched Can’t Crop This Class together! This provided a back-up source of income, just in case Jeff’s photography career didn’t pick up as quickly as we needed it to.
Shortly after this, I hired a part-time baking assistant, Theresa! We knew we wanted to develop more food content, but I didn’t have the time or skills to do so. Theresa is, as Samantha calls her, a baking GODDESS.
In July 2015, I hired my first full-time employee.
It was near impossible for me to manage my schedule and having only a part-time employee, who came in and out throughout the week, wasn’t cutting it. It’s very hard to have someone who isn’t there every day manage something that is changing every day. And that is when I made the biggest leap of my career (Game changer #3!), which was hiring Samantha full-time.
Having a full-time employee is a mind-numbing responsibility but also the best thing that has ever happened to Studio DIY. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have another person that is 100% on your team. Actually I can tell you. It’s freaking awesome. Samantha now handles 90% of our emails, on her own, as herself, without me dictating to her. We have a “KELLY!” folder where she files the emails I have to respond to on my own.
In July, we also hired a bookkeeper and set up a payroll system.
Game changer #4! I suck at numbers and they aren’t a part of Samantha’s background either so with the advice of my friend Ellen, we finally hired a bookkeeper. Our bookkeepers handle categorizing all of our expenses, reconciling the books, ensuring all taxes are paid and every charge and deposit is accounted for. It is such a comfort and a huge stress off of me.
Having a full-time employee also meant I finally needed to set up a payroll system. We use Gusto, by recommendation of my lawyer, and love it. It’s really straight forward and they are super helpful if you have any questions. They handle taking out the appropriate taxes and filing the appropriate tax and employee paperwork. HIGHLY recommend.
In September 2015, I hired a Creative Development + Styling Assistant.
And guess who that was!? Annie! Annie had expressed interest in working on the more creative side of things and it made the most sense to have someone who already knew and understood the brand take on that position. Annie helps execute our DIY projects and style them for photos since that part of the job has become too large for me to handle on my own.
We also developed a weekly schedule.
We knew Annie was only going to be coming a few days a week so we realized our “shoot whenever we can!” schedule wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Jeff also needed to know what days he needed to leave open for Studio DIY work. So we came up with a loose weekly schedule. On Mondays we prep for shoots by making projects and gathering supplies. We also often brainstorm on these days for future projects. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are our shoot days. Those are the days Jeff is in the studio. We try to shoot two weeks in advance of when the post goes live. Thursdays, it’s just me and Samantha in the studio and that’s the day we work on administrative tasks, reviewing the calendar, handling outstanding emails and I try to schedule meetings for that day, too. This is also the day that Jeff submits all photos for the following week’s posts. And Friday is the day that I write all the blog posts for the following week! It’s not perfect, but it’s far more productive than our lack-of-schedule before.
In November 2015, we started re-designing our website!
Studio DIY was WAY overdue for a re-brand and an updated and mobile-responsive site, and we had SUCH a good experience working with Jane, who did our site design, and Brandi, who did the development. Can’t recommend them enough!!!
In February 2016, I hired a Social Media + Blog Intern.
As Samantha’s responsibilities grow and change, neither of us have time to handle some of our social media platforms, so we’ve brought on someone, Chelsea, to help with that. Chelsea will also be drafting our posts, which means she’ll re-name all our photos and insert them into the post before I come in to actually write it.
WOOOOWEEEE! Did ya make it through all that?
That’s where things stand right about now! My job now involves a lot of managing and delegating. In less than two years, I’ve gone from having a team of one to a team of seven, plus a bookkeeper and a management team. That’s pretty intense, you guys!!!! Especially for an introverted control freak perfectionist. (*Raises Hand*) And with what we have coming down the pipeline, the team will only continue to grow. It’s been exciting, terrifying and a HUGE learning experience growing a team and running a business.
Hope this wasn’t too longwinded, but I always enjoy hearing how people got to where they are today! Stay tuneeeeed for the fun things we have in store in the future!!!
For those of you who are also small business owners, I’d love to hear about some of your greatest struggles and triumphs! Maybe we can all help each other out!
Oh! And if you have any questions about any of the above, I’m doing a Q&A over on Snapchat tomorrow so you can snap them to me and I’ll try to answer them!
Amazing to learn how your blog evolved, if I would live in the US I would definitely apply as an intern!
Kristina B says
Love this! When I try to think back of all the stuff I’ve done and all the ways Crumple + Toss has evolved I always forget something because I’ve tried like 800 different things (hence the “back to the drawing board” nature of my name) “Oh right I forgot I did a wedding show!” “Crap! There was that time I tried to make party supplies…” “Remember when I started by making fill-in party invitations and NO ONE BOUGHT THEM??”
Kristina B says
Aw look! My comment is still here! Ha!
Taylor - Lights Camera Catwalk says
This is awesome to see the evolution, it’s truly so inspiring! I can’t wait to see where else Studio DIY will go, I’m only seeing big things!
Yay! Thanks, Taylor!
Amazing info and I love seeing how blogs can grow. Can you possibly share how you found the right lawyer and bookkeepers for your business and any recommendations? It’s so hard to find people who actually know and get how bloggers work.
I totally agree, it’s definitely hard to find! I asked around to several friends who also worked in the blogging industry to see if they knew anyone and eventually was able to find people that way!
You are seriously a glitter unicorn ROCKSTAR role model. So grateful for this journey, this blog, for you and your killer team! Thanks for sharing it with your readers. XOXO
A glitter unicorn rockstar, what!? Best thing anyone has ever called me, ha!! Thanks Chelsey!!
i LOVE these kinds of posts!
please keep them coming!
im not sure that id ever be ready to run something this huge but i know that id love to get the chance to work for a team like yours!
i know it seems like a lot of fun but i know a lot of hard work goes in to setting all of it up and it’d be amazing to say that i was a part of it.
Thanks Les! And you’re totally right, it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, but totally worth it since I get to do what I love and it IS pretty fun, too! 😉
Lesley Siu says
I love this post, Kelly! I remember back in 2012 when I asked you and Jeff for recommendations on photographers to follow, especially on Instagram… Now I refer people to you guys! Wishing you many more years of Studio DIY success. xo
Ahh that’s awesome Lesley! Hope you’re doing well!!
Ah! Amazing!! Thank you Lesley!
Alisha Johns says
Kelly! This is such an awesome post! I’m definitely looking into that payroll system… I’m looking to hire my first employee now and it is terrifying!
TOTALLY terrifying but soooo exciting! Gusto is great, hope you like it!
Britta & Carli Garsow says
Congrats on all of your success! Your blog is such an inspiration for us.
Thank you both!!!
I’m all for these posts with behind the scenes info! ? It’s been fun following & watching Studio DIY grow!
Yay, glad you enjoyed it!!
Amanda J says
??I LOVED reading this post!?? I am currently finishing up a degree as a design student. I have transferred colleges a few times trying to find the right fit for myself, finally landing back in NJ to completely my college experience. I have always been the creative type, so that lead me to becoming a visual arts and design student. While I love my school’s program, I needed another way to outlet my fun, playful, colorful style.
This is why I launched my own little blog as a personal project, that is still a bit of a work in progress. I started this year turning some of my own patterns and designs into clothing to be sold, and I just officially turned it into a tiny brand that needs lots of love?to grow some more. I plan to use my upcoming thesis and independent design study courses to push myself with this!
After reading Studio DIY’s evolution I am SUPER inspired by your personal story and I am more driven to keep my blog turning into my own business some day! Thank you for sharing, and thank you for such a fun, colorful place to visit online! I love so many of your projects!
I love the snapchat Q&A session, I found it very helpful to hear some insight on some great questions! ??
So many exciting things in the works, Amanda! Congrats!! Sounds like you’re on a great path and love that you’re using your independent study courses to push yourself! Wishing you so much success!!
You go, girl! You are paving the way for so many other bloggers/freelancers/creative unicorns and it’s a treat to watch. Keep up all the hard work, everyone!!
Hannah | The Outfit Repeater
I’ve been a HUGE fan since forever, LOVED to hear about how amazing this journey has been for you so far! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for Studio DIY, I’m sure the best is yet to come! Thanks for sharing!!! Besos from Argentina
Thanks Lucia! Excited for you to see what we have in store! =)
you’re so inspiring, Kel! I remember being here reading when it was just you running the biz from your apartment. The evolution has been so fun to watch! Thank you for being so transparent 🙂
Thanks for stickin’ with me from the beginning, Brittany!! =)
Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke says
Love all your colors, and loved hearing about the journey. Your DIY posts make me happy, and inspired. Oh, how I’d love to have a right hand assistant working next to me! All of mine are remote, but mostly for social media. Thanks for sharing!
Tanya Bures says
Wow! That was a great read! Your honesty is not only refreshing (and fun to read), but so inspiring. What you’ve created for the love of creating is amazing, Kelly! We’re looking forward to seeing what’s next for Studio DIY, and adding more bright lips and big hair any time you need!
As a blogger it’s so exciting to hear your story. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but if you work at it the future is bright.
Jen Kessler says
Loved this post!! You and Jeff are always doing Snapchat and my vote is still for Periscope!! 🙂
I loved reading about the evolution of your brand. So inspiring! Thank you for sharing.
Congratulations, Kelly! Everyone at Balloon Time is in love with your work and will continue to root for Studio DIY’s success. You are crazy talented, and we can’t wait to see what you and your team dream up next! ?❤️?
Thank you, Kelly! Have so enjoyed working with Balloon Time over the years! A perfect match. =)
Chris @ Celebrations At Home says
I’ve loved reading about your journey. It’s funny, I just always remember Studio DIY existing! LOL
Do you mind sharing who you use for blogger management?
I just found you today via Craftgawker. Oh my. SO INSPIRING!!! I’m just getting my craft adventure going, and it is extremely motivating to see what is possible. I don’t think I would want something quite on the scale you’re doing, but to know people are successful in our line of work is so good to know. I will definitely be following you. Thanks for sharing your story! I love your happy, upbeat projects! AND THE COLOR!!! Yes to color!
Thanks so much, Patty!!! Happy you found your way over to this corner of the internet! Wishing you all the best in your crafting adventures!!
Hi Kelly! I’m a serious fan of everything you do! This post is so informative and useful, thank you for taking the time to share your story. I wanted to ask you about finding a manager. I have been doing some research but it seems to be a difficult service to find. I’m not sure my blog is at that point yet but I would love to look into it. Can you give me any pointers on where to start? I’m assuming they found you, but thought I would ask anyway. Thanks so much and keep rockin’ out! You’re such an inspiration 🙂
Thanks Mercedes! =) They did find me, and I’m very grateful for that! It seems to be a pretty new industry. Honestly, my best advice (which is what I did and continue to do today!) is to just continue to grow and hone your brand so it’s distinct and recognizable with an engaged audience! Then, they’ll find you! =)
my name is Claudia and I’m your follower from Italy.
I follow about 1 year your blog and social and give me a lot of inspiration.
I also have a blog for about 3 years, and by reading this post you made me decide that it is time to make the leap.
My DIY are becoming more frequent and I try to publish quality photos.
Each week I publish the best DIY of the week and often quote your blog. I hope it’s not a problem for you.
But I wanted to ask: how can I create me a network of contacts here in Italy? I would like to send email to email to the brand but I’m afraid to make mistakes and not be taken into consideration.
I believe in my project and I hope one day to start a business of my own.
Sorry for my English.
have a nice day!
Thank you so much for your sharing your inspirational journey!
Growing up I was all about DIY and that carried on in my years in university. Unfortunately, it got buried in my working years but since going freelance my love for crafting came back with a vengeance. And I partially blame you: I’ve been reading your blog since its start and it helped me feel comfrotable with my crafting skills again. Thank you.
This post is super interesting. I am 50 and still struggling with owning an iPhone ha ha so you can imagine that this whole thing about how people actually make a living from blogging had me really, really puzzled for ages until I read this post. How fab, and how hard you have worked!