Author Archives: Justin Juul

Five #BlackGirlsWhoBlog to follow now

In 2014, Morgan Pitts was a recent college graduate with a small following of fellow Black women on Twitter and a serious interest in blogging. When we recently caught up with Morgan, she recalled an off-the-cuff tweet that mobilized a community around the #BlackGirlsWhoBlog hashtag and led to her @blackgirlswhoblog Instagram account (with 115,000 followers and growing). Now she uses her platform to curate and promote voices from across the web. Here are the five bloggers she says you should be following now.


CeCe Olisa

CeCe Olisa's website.

CeCe Olisa has been called “one of the Top Ten New York Fashion Bloggers” by WhoWhatWear.

CeCe Olisa is a model and the co-founder of theCURVYCon, a three-day event hosted during New York Fashion Week. On her blog she writes about how to nurture confidence, begin new chapters of life and celebrate your own sense of style and fashion by exploring hers. “I am helping our community find more representation with the brands that ignored us in the past,” she wrote as she recalled how she achieved her dream of working with Nike.


Danielle Gray

Danielle Gray's website

“The Style and Beauty Doctor” shares skincare advice and ideas.

Danielle Gray has been passionate about style and fashion for as long as she can remember. While pursuing a career in finance, she enrolled in classes at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, completing an Image Consulting Certificate in 2006. Around that time, she started sharing advice on AOL message boards, which she turned into her blog, The Style and Beauty Doctor. Today as a blogger and freelance writer, she writes about skincare, haircare and fashion. 


Melanie Marie

Melanie Marie's app

Melanie Marie’s app is a one-stop connection to her store, writing and projects.

On her blog, In Drew’s Shoes, Melanie Marie writes about her on-the-go lifestyle, mom life and the entrepreneurial skills she has developed as the founder of her jewelry line. She is also the author of a children’s book, My Name is Unique Just Like Me! You can shop and keep abreast of all her content using her app.


Kayla Walker

Kayla Walker's website

Kayla Walker is motivated by helping young people achieve their dreams and own their image.

Since she was a teenager, Kayla Walker was at the top of her class, and graduated magna cum laude from Clark Atlanta University. Today she blogs about skincare and style and mentors more than 40 young people striving to become influencers, and more than 500 college ambassadors. Kayla’s Instagram followerssee her working with gaggles of young women on photo sets to hone their images, and sharing her favorite outfits and skincare brands. On TikTok, her recent posts feature encounters with her younger sister as they navigate life under lockdown. 



Mattie James

Mattie James' website

Mattie James offers recipes, business advice and coaching all from her blog.

Mattie James has written that she likes advice that’s “cut and dry...black and white...straight to the point” and “without the fluff.” Twice a week for four years, she took to the mic to share her own advice on her podcast, The Mattie James Show. Now she has turned to her own blog to continue that practice by sharing books that helped grow her business, how she feeds her family of five and what influencers should avoid while pitching brands.

Five #BlackGirlsWhoBlog to follow now

In 2014, Morgan Pitts was a recent college graduate with a small following of fellow Black women on Twitter and a serious interest in blogging. When we recently caught up with Morgan, she recalled an off-the-cuff tweet that mobilized a community around the #BlackGirlsWhoBlog hashtag and led to her @blackgirlswhoblog Instagram account (with 115,000 followers and growing). Now she uses her platform to curate and promote voices from across the web. Here are the five bloggers she says you should be following now.


CeCe Olisa

CeCe Olisa's website.

CeCe Olisa has been called “one of the Top Ten New York Fashion Bloggers” by WhoWhatWear.

CeCe Olisa is a model and the co-founder of theCURVYCon, a three-day event hosted during New York Fashion Week. On her blog she writes about how to nurture confidence, begin new chapters of life and celebrate your own sense of style and fashion by exploring hers. “I am helping our community find more representation with the brands that ignored us in the past,” she wrote as she recalled how she achieved her dream of working with Nike.


Danielle Gray

Danielle Gray's website

“The Style and Beauty Doctor” shares skincare advice and ideas.

Danielle Gray has been passionate about style and fashion for as long as she can remember. While pursuing a career in finance, she enrolled in classes at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, completing an Image Consulting Certificate in 2006. Around that time, she started sharing advice on AOL message boards, which she turned into her blog, The Style and Beauty Doctor. Today as a blogger and freelance writer, she writes about skincare, haircare and fashion. 


Melanie Marie

Melanie Marie's app

Melanie Marie’s app is a one-stop connection to her store, writing and projects.

On her blog, In Drew’s Shoes, Melanie Marie writes about her on-the-go lifestyle, mom life and the entrepreneurial skills she has developed as the founder of her jewelry line. She is also the author of a children’s book, My Name is Unique Just Like Me! You can shop and keep abreast of all her content using her app.


Kayla Walker

Kayla Walker's website

Kayla Walker is motivated by helping young people achieve their dreams and own their image.

Since she was a teenager, Kayla Walker was at the top of her class, and graduated magna cum laude from Clark Atlanta University. Today she blogs about skincare and style and mentors more than 40 young people striving to become influencers, and more than 500 college ambassadors. Kayla’s Instagram followerssee her working with gaggles of young women on photo sets to hone their images, and sharing her favorite outfits and skincare brands. On TikTok, her recent posts feature encounters with her younger sister as they navigate life under lockdown. 



Mattie James

Mattie James' website

Mattie James offers recipes, business advice and coaching all from her blog.

Mattie James has written that she likes advice that’s “cut and dry...black and white...straight to the point” and “without the fluff.” Twice a week for four years, she took to the mic to share her own advice on her podcast, The Mattie James Show. Now she has turned to her own blog to continue that practice by sharing books that helped grow her business, how she feeds her family of five and what influencers should avoid while pitching brands.

Morgan Pitts built a community from a tweet and T-shirt

Morgan Pitts has always had an eye for style. While studying marketing at the University of Maryland, many of Morgan’s friends encouraged her to start a blog, but it was not until after graduation that she actively began blogging to showcase her own work. From there, an impromptu tweet and an idea for a T-shirt inspired Morgan to build a platform as a way to build an online community. Now she uses @blackgirlswhoblog and the #blackgirlswhoblog hashtag on Instagram to share playlists and inspiration, and to empower Black women across the world to share their voices, too. 


What is “Black Girls Who Blog?”

“Black Girls Who Blog” is an online community of Black women in the blogosphere and a place where Black women who blog can be seen, heard, celebrated and validated. 

What made you decide to start it up?

When I graduated, a friend who was doing pageants had asked me to style her for new headshots. So, I decided, I want to start a blog. I want to have something tangible to show my work.

Fast forward to a year later, April of 2014: I unintentionally tweeted that I would love to have “Black Girls Who Blog” on a T-shirt. It was aimless, and I didn't think anything of it. I just sent it out to Twitter. At that time, I had a small community of Black women who blogged; we followed each other, and we supported each other's posts. A friend of mine reached out and asked if an illustration should accompany the text on the shirt. She sent me a draft of the original Black Girls Who Blog logo and had shirts printed. That is how #BlackGirlsWhoBlog was born. 

I started an Instagram to promote the T-shirts. When that run died down, I thought I’d just continue posting on this account and share different Black women who blog, who I thought were fly, talented, cool and have quality work. 

I started making every day a theme and that gave me some consistency. The rest is history.

Black Girls Who Blog T-shirt shown on Instagram

The Black Girls Who Blog T-shirt allows fans and followers to show their appreciation IRL


Are you the only person behind it? Do you do all the writing?

Yeah. I do literally everything. I'm a one-woman show.

How do you find people? How has the community grown since you launched it?

When I first started, I was posting bloggers that I was aware of. As the hashtag and the page grew, I just had to search through #BlackGirlsWhoBlog on Instagram. Features are selected by using the hashtag and tag in the photos. There is some color coordination that goes into the selection so every week there's a cohesive color theme.

What is the response from the people you feature? Do you feel like the community is growing? 

The community is very dynamic. You have people who are going to hold it down and support, who were here back in 2014, and you have people who are stumbling across it today. They become immersed and want to be a part of it. 

I don't tell people they're being featured. I do my own research, and then I curate the content I post. Everyone is even more excited when they're featured because they have no idea that it's coming. They wake up, and they're like, "Oh my gosh!"

Michelle Ijeoma at her computer

Michelle Ijeoma was recently featured on @blackgirlswhoblog. She’s a corporate lawyer who blogs about beauty and style at michelleijeoma.com

How are things looking for the Black Girls Who Blog hashtag?

A few months ago, the #BlackGirlsWhoBlog hashtag on Instagram hit one million users, and I'm proud of that. You can obviously see the following, how it’s grown and how people interact with the content.

What are some things that you've learned about this community that you didn't know before?

You assume that the only bloggers out there are the popular ones. You don't even realize how many people have their own personal blogs that they take very seriously, update consistently and put a lot of time, effort and money into. There's so many different topics, so many different lanes of blogs out there. 

Morgan in an Instagram picture wearing a shirt that says "Eat. PRAY. Blog."

Morgan celebrates her birthday wearing a gold skirt and a baby-blue “Eat. PRAY. Blog.” T-shirt.

You appear on a lot of panels; can you talk about that?

I did two events in New York. One was a panel with three of the ladies that I've mentioned in my blog, talking about how the blogosphere and the internet have given microphones to marginalized voices. 

 I did another event with Glossier. They were expanding their shade range of complexion products, so I did an event with them. And then most recently, I did an online video call tutorial on how to make video content with the Jumprope app. [Events like these are] an extension of “Black Girls Who Blog.” They’re events for community members, and I do them when the opportunity presents itself. Someone has come to me and asked , "Hey, would you be interested in doing this?" If I'm interested, I pitch the idea. It's an extension of the brand IRL versus in a URL.

A flyer for Morgan's Jumprope workshop

A digital promotional flyer for Morgan’s Jumprope workshop. Follow Black Girls Who Blog on Instagram to catch one of Morgan’s future speaking events.

On the road, making a living on the web

In this post: Matt Kepnes, the founder of “Nomadic Matt,” talks about how he became a travel blogger and built his business on the web.


Matt Kepnes was just 23 in 2004 when he took his first overseas vacation to Costa Rica. For someone else, this would have been a brief break from a corporate job. But to Matt, this trip — followed by a second overseas trip to Thailand — set him on the road to pursuing his newfound passion for travel full time.


In July 2006, Matt set out on an adventure around the world that continued for 10 years. An early travel blogger, he founded Nomadic Matt in 2008 with the goal of helping people “travel better for less.”


Today, Matt has two New York Times best-selling books, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” and “Ten Years a Nomad.” He teaches blogging and writing courses, engages with his active online community and runs a charity he founded in 2015. 


Cover of Matt's Ten Years A Nomad book

Matt’s second book, “Ten Years a Nomad,” came out in October 2019.

In a recent interview, we chatted with Matt while he was traveling through Oaxaca, Mexico. He shared how he built Nomadic Matt from the ground up, what he’s working on now and how he manages to enjoy a non-working vacation every once in a while.


Can you give us a breakdown of all your current creative undertakings?


I have the blog, which is NomadicMatt.com, and then I have blogging and writing courses. Then we have a conference called TravelCon, where online creators and media go to learn what's hot in the travel industry.


I had a hostel, which is closed due to COVID-19, and we have our online community, the Nomadic Network, which also used to hold in-person events around the world. And then I have a charity called FLYTE, that raises money to send high-school kids in underserved communities on study-abroad trips.


Why did  you decide to become a travel blogger?


I started the website to try to get freelance writing gigs. I naively thought that if I started a website, that people would hire me to write. So I sent out a lot of freelance writing pitches and worked as a copywriter for online ads and websites for a time.


While building up the blog, my mentor said to me, “You have a travel website and expertise. You should just focus on that full-time." And so I did, and it took off.


I brought a lot of SEO knowledge into Nomadic Matt, so I was ranking highly on search, which helped me get media mentions. I got a hit in the New York Times in 2010 and that launched everything. And one day I woke up, and I said to myself, I guess I'm a travel writer.


How much of your SEO knowledge do you use today?


At least two-thirds of the searches on our site have nothing to do with the pandemic, so a considerable amount of our time and effort goes into ensuring we rank highly on these more evergreen topics. I’m also always updating our content and asking, “How can we optimize this page?” and “How is Google ranking our competitors?” 

 I've identified about 150 pages on my website that I always want to rank highly. So we cycle through those articles and ask ourselves, “Where do we stand?” And if we see we’re down in the rankings, we ask, “What's changed and what can we do better?"


I also do every interview I’m offered, because those interviews link back to my site.


You mentioned your blogging course. Can you tell us about that?


I have a blogging course called Superstar Business Masterclass, and we have one for writing, too. You can buy a monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription, and I am your teacher. I edit your work. We have weekly calls. You have tech support. We have a community forum and a collaboration board so other students can meet each other. I share what I’ve learned over 12 years, so people don't end up making the same mistakes I did. I also help you stick out when there's a million platforms and a seemingly endless number of bloggers.

Matt speaking at a blogging conference

Matt offers a blogging and writing course on his website.

Why do you still maintain a website when you have all these other platforms? Why is it important to you?


Algorithms change, but my space on the web is something that can't be taken away. It allows me to build an email list and be a reference for people. So rather than constantly having to find new people through search or having to play a social media algorithm game where things are always changing, I have my own place to call home online.


And travel is a research-heavy thing. You don't make a $3,000 vacation purchase because Instagram has a “shop now” button. You have to get time off from work, you have to plan your trip, you're doing a lot of research, buying guidebooks, etc. So people still use text-heavy articles to research, and a blog is the best medium for that.


Does travel writing as a job ever take away from the pleasure of traveling?


Yes, yes it does. When I was traveling for fun, I wasn't taking pictures of menus and walking into grocery stores to write down prices for vegetables. But there's different kinds of travel writing, and I do a lot of what is called service journalism, where knowing how much things cost is important. I have to be a little more attuned to prices, especially because I work on the budget side of things where people are price-sensitive.


Matt in Madagascar with a furry animal on his head

Matt pictured with a furry friend on the island of Madagascar

Like any job, it's really important to take time off. So, there are many times where I'll just go somewhere, shut down the computer and just enjoy a place without writing. You learn how to balance it.

On the road, making a living on the web

In this post: Matt Kepnes, the founder of “Nomadic Matt,” talks about how he became a travel blogger and built his business on the web.


Matt Kepnes was just 23 in 2004 when he took his first overseas vacation to Costa Rica. For someone else, this would have been a brief break from a corporate job. But to Matt, this trip — followed by a second overseas trip to Thailand — set him on the road to pursuing his newfound passion for travel full time.


In July 2006, Matt set out on an adventure around the world that continued for 10 years. An early travel blogger, he founded Nomadic Matt in 2008 with the goal of helping people “travel better for less.”


Today, Matt has two New York Times best-selling books, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” and “Ten Years a Nomad.” He teaches blogging and writing courses, engages with his active online community and runs a charity he founded in 2015. 


Cover of Matt's Ten Years A Nomad book

Matt’s second book, “Ten Years a Nomad,” came out in October 2019.

In a recent interview, we chatted with Matt while he was traveling through Oaxaca, Mexico. He shared how he built Nomadic Matt from the ground up, what he’s working on now and how he manages to enjoy a non-working vacation every once in a while.


Can you give us a breakdown of all your current creative undertakings?


I have the blog, which is NomadicMatt.com, and then I have blogging and writing courses. Then we have a conference called TravelCon, where online creators and media go to learn what's hot in the travel industry.


I had a hostel, which is closed due to COVID-19, and we have our online community, the Nomadic Network, which also used to hold in-person events around the world. And then I have a charity called FLYTE, that raises money to send high-school kids in underserved communities on study-abroad trips.


Why did  you decide to become a travel blogger?


I started the website to try to get freelance writing gigs. I naively thought that if I started a website, that people would hire me to write. So I sent out a lot of freelance writing pitches and worked as a copywriter for online ads and websites for a time.


While building up the blog, my mentor said to me, “You have a travel website and expertise. You should just focus on that full-time." And so I did, and it took off.


I brought a lot of SEO knowledge into Nomadic Matt, so I was ranking highly on search, which helped me get media mentions. I got a hit in the New York Times in 2010 and that launched everything. And one day I woke up, and I said to myself, I guess I'm a travel writer.


How much of your SEO knowledge do you use today?


At least two-thirds of the searches on our site have nothing to do with the pandemic, so a considerable amount of our time and effort goes into ensuring we rank highly on these more evergreen topics. I’m also always updating our content and asking, “How can we optimize this page?” and “How is Google ranking our competitors?” 

 I've identified about 150 pages on my website that I always want to rank highly. So we cycle through those articles and ask ourselves, “Where do we stand?” And if we see we’re down in the rankings, we ask, “What's changed and what can we do better?"


I also do every interview I’m offered, because those interviews link back to my site.


You mentioned your blogging course. Can you tell us about that?


I have a blogging course called Superstar Business Masterclass, and we have one for writing, too. You can buy a monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription, and I am your teacher. I edit your work. We have weekly calls. You have tech support. We have a community forum and a collaboration board so other students can meet each other. I share what I’ve learned over 12 years, so people don't end up making the same mistakes I did. I also help you stick out when there's a million platforms and a seemingly endless number of bloggers.

Matt speaking at a blogging conference

Matt offers a blogging and writing course on his website.

Why do you still maintain a website when you have all these other platforms? Why is it important to you?


Algorithms change, but my space on the web is something that can't be taken away. It allows me to build an email list and be a reference for people. So rather than constantly having to find new people through search or having to play a social media algorithm game where things are always changing, I have my own place to call home online.


And travel is a research-heavy thing. You don't make a $3,000 vacation purchase because Instagram has a “shop now” button. You have to get time off from work, you have to plan your trip, you're doing a lot of research, buying guidebooks, etc. So people still use text-heavy articles to research, and a blog is the best medium for that.


Does travel writing as a job ever take away from the pleasure of traveling?


Yes, yes it does. When I was traveling for fun, I wasn't taking pictures of menus and walking into grocery stores to write down prices for vegetables. But there's different kinds of travel writing, and I do a lot of what is called service journalism, where knowing how much things cost is important. I have to be a little more attuned to prices, especially because I work on the budget side of things where people are price-sensitive.


Matt in Madagascar with a furry animal on his head

Matt pictured with a furry friend on the island of Madagascar

Like any job, it's really important to take time off. So, there are many times where I'll just go somewhere, shut down the computer and just enjoy a place without writing. You learn how to balance it.

Growing up on the web with lifestyle blogger Keiko Lynn

Keiko Lynn has only ever had what she calls a “real job” once in her life. She did a short stint at a pretzel parlor as a teenager and kept a blog as a personal diary the whole time. After that, it was full-force creator mode as she launched a clothing line to help pay for college. 


Today, Keiko (pronounced “cake oh”) is a successful lifestyle blogger, fashion influencer and Web Creator based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her boyfriend, dog and three cats. Her website, keikolynn.com, serves as her online hub for beauty and style tutorials, lifestyle guides and links to shop Keiko’s favorite fashions. 


Keiko’s blog is the heart of her business and where her community thrives. It’s where she shares her view of the world and love for all things whimsical, vintage, pink and fuzzy, with a dash of fantasy. Keiko is also active on social media platforms, serving daily doses of inspiration via her Instagram stories, Pinterest boards, etc. But it’s her blog she can’t do without. “I could lose my Instagram tomorrow,” she says. But you can’t take her blog. 


Keiko chatted with us recently about growing up on the web, and what it takes to be a full-time fashion and lifestyle blogger and social media influencer. 


You’ve been blogging full time since college. How did you get started? And what has changed since then?


Keiko: I fell into this career at such an early time. But before that, I started on Open Diary, and then I transitioned to LiveJournal because that was the hot new thing. LiveJournal was more about the community and making connections. And it really started off as a personal outlet—like a diary—and evolved as time went on. I helped put myself through college promoting my clothing line. And then as I moved to New York, it became more about my personal life, my personal style, beauty, and it evolved as I grew up. The only "real job" that I ever had was when I worked at a pretzel parlor as a teenager.


You’re on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. How do you have time for all that plus your blog?


Keiko: I've always said that you should have your own space. The thing about your blog is that you own it. My Instagram could be shut down tomorrow, but people will always still be able to find me on my blog. So I think of it partially as a safety net, and partially as a nostalgic thing that I hold on to and could never give up. 


What is your favorite kind of post?


Keiko: Something with a takeaway, because I like to see people getting something out of it. Sometimes, especially in my age group, we don't engage quite to the same level as someone who's a little bit younger. For example, I did this pink witch hat tutorial for you and your cat, and I was thinking, "No one's going to make this," but it was so fun to make. And I cannot even tell you how many people made these hats. They made them for their bunnies and babies. And it brought me so much joy to see people creating something that I put out there. I love feeling like I brought some value to somebody.


Keiko’s witch hat was a hit with her followers (and their feline friends)

Keiko’s witch hat was a hit with her followers (and their feline friends).


You've done a lot of work with brands. What is your approach? 


Keiko: I've been with Digital Brand Architects, the very first influencer agency before we were called influencers, since 2009. They helped me deal with the business side of things because I am possibly the worst person to champion myself. In the early days, when money started to become a thing with blogging, it made me so uncomfortable. I would just be like, "Oh, don't worry about it. I'll just do it for free." It made me so uncomfortable. So, they are the middleman between me and the brands and take out all the awkwardness so that I can just have a relationship with the brand, be the creative behind it, and not have to talk about numbers.


How do you select the brands that you work with? 


Keiko: I have lists of dream brands that I want to work with, and we will actively go after those sometimes. I make tailor-made decks to show them what I can bring to them. But most of the time a lot of brands will approach me and I'll see if it makes sense, or I may have a really good idea of how to make something more interesting than just holding up a product.


That mirrors what you would do at a digital ad agency, which is build a brief and then present that. 


Keiko: Honestly, I didn't do it for so long, but I started to think about certain things that I really wanted and realized that I need to be more of a champion for myself. And I saw a tremendous amount of success with that because sometimes brands don't know you exist because there's so many people [out there]. But once they see what you do, they might want to work with you. And the worst that can happen is they say no. That's not so bad.


You really just have to be persistent and consistent, which is one of the hardest things, especially if you're working a normal job. But I always say that you should treat this as your second full-time job instead of just quitting your job and starting this from scratch, because it's going to take a long time before you get there.


Growing up on the web with blogging icon Keiko Lynn - Creator Spotlight
10:25

Growing up on the web with blogging icon Keiko Lynn - Creator Spotlight

Justin took Keiko's advice and made a pink witch hat for his dog, Foxy.

A bright spot on the open web

Meet Courtney Quinn, the web creator behind Color Me Courtney, a bright spot on the web where she shares her positive outlook on life. 

“I see my blog as my own little corner on the internet where my community can always find joy, whimsy, fun, love and strength,” Courtney says. “My main goal is to promote self-confidence, celebrate inclusivity and embrace all the special quirks that make you unique–all through my love and affinity for color.” 

That’s a mission we can definitely get behind, especially in these, um … maybe not always so bright and colorful times. 

We reached out to Courtney to learn more about her story and to see how she manages the Web Creator life. Read on if you need a dash of sunshine and color to brighten your day. And stay tuned for our exclusive IRL interview with Courtney, coming soon to YouTube!

What does your average day look like? 

That’s the thing about this job, there is no average day because every day is so different depending on the time of year, my content series, current events in the world, etc. People assume that web creators just create beautiful images and videos with witty captions and call it a day. For me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because 80 percent of my work is things that people may not see: storyboarding, calls with brand partners, content strategy, emails, backend website developing, editing and engaging with my community.  

What inspires you on a day-to-day basis and gets your creative energy flowing? 

Color Me Courtney at its core is a true reflection of me and my (many) interests–fashion, lifestyle, food, culture, entertainment, etc.– so I don’t have trouble with “turning it on” or finding creative energy. Oftentimes my problem as a creative is actually the opposite, and the challenge is really to be more focused on reining things in and making sure all of the ideas get executed.  

To get into the flow, I try to separate my days into buckets so I can be the most productive. I’ll do one day a week that’s all meetings and phone calls and another where I’m binge watching a show in my pajamas while I’m answering emails and editing and planning content. Then the next day I’ll get photoshoot-ready and dedicate all my time shooting content. Of course, this doesn’t always go according to plan. There can always be interruptions like a timely cultural moment, an urgent email or just being present for my online community. But it does help to plan my day and create some semblance of a structure.

To get into the flow, I try to separate my days into buckets so I can be the most productive.

What’s the best part of your job? 

I love the creativity, the freedom to express myself and working with my favorite brands, but the best part of my job is my amazing community and the ability to connect with others. There are so many conversations about the negative aspects of the web, but I love to shine the light on how it can positively bring so many people from diverse backgrounds together. That’s what my community is! It means so much when someone tells me how my post has brightened their day or gave them confidence to wear an outfit, or just let them know that they weren’t alone!  

Sometimes though, people can forget that there is a real-life human being on the other side of the screen and that you’re not always omnipresent. At a normal 9-5 you either have off-days, take vacations or leave your work at the office when you go home. However, in this industry it’s a little tough to take a week vacation or even clock out for the day because there are always alerts and people are constantly reaching out. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but you definitely have to set aside time for yourself because it can be overwhelming if you don’t “turn it off.”

An animation of Courtney wearing different colorful outfits.

A healthy dose of stop-motion sunshine from Courtney’s Instagram.

What’s the mission behind Color Me Courtney? 

Color Me Courtney and my online shop, Color Me Magic, is a vibrant fashion, lifestyle and culture media company that is designed to empower others to "Dress Outside the Lines," promote self-confidence, celebrate inclusivity and embrace all the special quirks that make you unique. It’s been great to create a safe space to express my unique thoughts and interests and encourage my community to come together to share theirs as well.    

What is something that inspires and motivates you every day about the web, or in general?

The most inspiring thing is to see how many people your content, conversations and general presence can have on others, whether they are other creators or moms just entering a new career. That relationship is reciprocal in that there are so many times where my community also inspires and motivates me.  

The other inspiring thing is that my online presence isn’t stagnant, but rather grows with me. I’ve been fortunate that it grows in terms of followers and readership, but more importantly it's grown as my interests, hobbies and career have evolved, and that’s amazing to me. Because of this, I’m constantly thinking of new concepts and the process of being able to take them from idea to execution and seeing everything come to life is inspiring and motivating.

There are so many conversations about the negative aspects of the web, but I love to shine a light on how it can positively bring so many people from diverse backgrounds together.

What tools do you use to make your stuff? 

I used to be exclusive to Dropbox, but I just switched to Google Drive so now I operate completely on Drive. I use Adobe Suite (Lightroom mostly) for editing but I do it almost exclusively on my phone. I edit video in Final Cut or Premiere depending on the project and I use VLLO and Splice for on-phone editing.

And finally … what advice would you give someone trying to make it in your industry? 

Find the thing that makes you special, different and unique. Then celebrate it and build a brand around it. The number one mistake that I see when people are starting out is they try to be everything to everybody instead of starting with the things they are most passionate about and building a community and business around that. Too many people try to conform to the trends of the moment and get lost in the shuffle, or they fall for the trap of comparing themselves to others, and that’s 100 percent  a losing game.   

A bright spot on the open web

Meet Courtney Quinn, the web creator behind Color Me Courtney, a bright spot on the web where she shares her positive outlook on life. 

“I see my blog as my own little corner on the internet where my community can always find joy, whimsy, fun, love and strength,” Courtney says. “My main goal is to promote self-confidence, celebrate inclusivity and embrace all the special quirks that make you unique–all through my love and affinity for color.” 

That’s a mission we can definitely get behind, especially in these, um … maybe not always so bright and colorful times. 

We reached out to Courtney to learn more about her story and to see how she manages the Web Creator life. Read on if you need a dash of sunshine and color to brighten your day. And stay tuned for our exclusive IRL interview with Courtney, coming soon to YouTube!

What does your average day look like? 

That’s the thing about this job, there is no average day because every day is so different depending on the time of year, my content series, current events in the world, etc. People assume that web creators just create beautiful images and videos with witty captions and call it a day. For me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because 80 percent of my work is things that people may not see: storyboarding, calls with brand partners, content strategy, emails, backend website developing, editing and engaging with my community.  

What inspires you on a day-to-day basis and gets your creative energy flowing? 

Color Me Courtney at its core is a true reflection of me and my (many) interests–fashion, lifestyle, food, culture, entertainment, etc.– so I don’t have trouble with “turning it on” or finding creative energy. Oftentimes my problem as a creative is actually the opposite, and the challenge is really to be more focused on reining things in and making sure all of the ideas get executed.  

To get into the flow, I try to separate my days into buckets so I can be the most productive. I’ll do one day a week that’s all meetings and phone calls and another where I’m binge watching a show in my pajamas while I’m answering emails and editing and planning content. Then the next day I’ll get photoshoot-ready and dedicate all my time shooting content. Of course, this doesn’t always go according to plan. There can always be interruptions like a timely cultural moment, an urgent email or just being present for my online community. But it does help to plan my day and create some semblance of a structure.

To get into the flow, I try to separate my days into buckets so I can be the most productive.

What’s the best part of your job? 

I love the creativity, the freedom to express myself and working with my favorite brands, but the best part of my job is my amazing community and the ability to connect with others. There are so many conversations about the negative aspects of the web, but I love to shine the light on how it can positively bring so many people from diverse backgrounds together. That’s what my community is! It means so much when someone tells me how my post has brightened their day or gave them confidence to wear an outfit, or just let them know that they weren’t alone!  

Sometimes though, people can forget that there is a real-life human being on the other side of the screen and that you’re not always omnipresent. At a normal 9-5 you either have off-days, take vacations or leave your work at the office when you go home. However, in this industry it’s a little tough to take a week vacation or even clock out for the day because there are always alerts and people are constantly reaching out. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but you definitely have to set aside time for yourself because it can be overwhelming if you don’t “turn it off.”

An animation of Courtney wearing different colorful outfits.

A healthy dose of stop-motion sunshine from Courtney’s Instagram.

What’s the mission behind Color Me Courtney? 

Color Me Courtney and my online shop, Color Me Magic, is a vibrant fashion, lifestyle and culture media company that is designed to empower others to "Dress Outside the Lines," promote self-confidence, celebrate inclusivity and embrace all the special quirks that make you unique. It’s been great to create a safe space to express my unique thoughts and interests and encourage my community to come together to share theirs as well.    

What is something that inspires and motivates you every day about the web, or in general?

The most inspiring thing is to see how many people your content, conversations and general presence can have on others, whether they are other creators or moms just entering a new career. That relationship is reciprocal in that there are so many times where my community also inspires and motivates me.  

The other inspiring thing is that my online presence isn’t stagnant, but rather grows with me. I’ve been fortunate that it grows in terms of followers and readership, but more importantly it's grown as my interests, hobbies and career have evolved, and that’s amazing to me. Because of this, I’m constantly thinking of new concepts and the process of being able to take them from idea to execution and seeing everything come to life is inspiring and motivating.

There are so many conversations about the negative aspects of the web, but I love to shine a light on how it can positively bring so many people from diverse backgrounds together.

What tools do you use to make your stuff? 

I used to be exclusive to Dropbox, but I just switched to Google Drive so now I operate completely on Drive. I use Adobe Suite (Lightroom mostly) for editing but I do it almost exclusively on my phone. I edit video in Final Cut or Premiere depending on the project and I use VLLO and Splice for on-phone editing.

And finally … what advice would you give someone trying to make it in your industry? 

Find the thing that makes you special, different and unique. Then celebrate it and build a brand around it. The number one mistake that I see when people are starting out is they try to be everything to everybody instead of starting with the things they are most passionate about and building a community and business around that. Too many people try to conform to the trends of the moment and get lost in the shuffle, or they fall for the trap of comparing themselves to others, and that’s 100 percent  a losing game.   

Web Creator Spotlight | Stuart Schuffman

Stuart Schuffman, a.k.a. Broke-Ass Stuart, is a globetrotting superblogger who has built his brand around the idea that you don’t actually need tons of money to enjoy yourself. Since the early 2000s he’s made it his mission to uncover hidden gems in his hometown of San Francisco and in cities like New York, San Diego, Detroit, Austin, and all over Europe as a longtime stringer for the backpacker’s bible, “Lonely Planet.” 

Over the years Stuart has published a handful of top-selling urban adventure guides dedicated to “busboys, poets, social workers, students, artists, musicians, magicians, mathematicians, maniacs, yodelers, and everyone else out there who wants to enjoy life not as a rich person, but as a real person.”

But to call Stuart a travel writer is to sell him short. He’s a web creator—a TV show host, marketer, social media manager, editor, writer, and publisher all wrapped into one. 

Launched in 2009, his website Brokeassstuart.com has grown from a local’s guide to metropolitan hotspots into a cultural force with an editorial staff covering politics, news, music, arts, and culture in the Bay Area and beyond. Even more impressive is the fact that Stuart still serves as the “Editor In Cheap” of his website while simultaneously writing and producing comedy shorts, live shows, and independent series that follow up where his show “Young, Broke, and Beautiful,” which aired on IFC in the early 2010s, left off.

“Life is an art project for me,” he says. But it’s also a job. And that’s where things get interesting.

We talked with Stuart to hear how he learned to navigate the ever-evolving landscape web creators face today.

So tell us ... what makes a web creator? What does your average day look like, etc?

It’s anyone dumb enough to plug away, day in and day out, over something they love and that they want to share with other people. I say “dumb” because it’s a terrible way to make a living, but if that’s not your main concern, it’s incredibly fulfilling on pretty much all other levels. 

As for my average day: things have been really topsy-turvy since COVID hit. Over 50 percent of our income dried up overnight so lately it’s been a lot of trying to figure out creative ways to fund this thing. I mean, I guess that’s how I spent much of my time before but, now it’s even more dire. 

Otherwise though, a typical day sees me: editing and publishing other people’s work, writing articles, doing social media for the content we create, doing sales, marketing, and business development, and answering a titanic amount of email. The thing about running your own independent media company is that my partner and I have to do about 30 different jobs. But at least I don't have some jerk boss I gotta deal with so it’s mostly worth it. 

Can you tell us a bit about your schedule? How do you get into the flow? What inspires you on a day to day basis and gets your creative energy flowing?

I give myself like an hour or so in the morning to watch Netflix while I slowly wake up. That way I’m ready to work without feeling rushed when I get down to it. As for inspiration, I’m always floored and inspired by the awesome content being created by our writers and editors. They make me so proud that I get to publish their voices. In fact, that’s one of the things I like best about what I do, I get to amplify voices that don’t always get heard.

Otherwise though, I get most excited when I’m creating new things. Life is an art project for me. Just in the past five years or so, I created and hosted seven episodes of a live late night show, put out a web series, won “best local website” a couple times, put out a zine, and ran for Mayor of SF. I’m working on some cool new projects right now that are still under wraps.
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You’re super prolific! Can you describe your journey a bit? 

I’ve been doing this whole Broke-Ass Stuart thing for like 16 years now, so it’s a LONG story. But I’ll give you the short-ish version. 

Shortly after I finished college at UCSC, I was working in a candy store in North Beach. One day a guy I knew from the neighborhood I grew up in in San Diego came in with the woman that’s now his wife. As they were walking out she gave me her card and it said she was a travel writer. I thought, “I wanna be a travel writer” so I decided to become one. 

I put out my first zine, Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco that summer (it was 2004). That was popular so I did an expanded version the following year. That ended up winning me “Best of the Bay” and I got a little notoriety. I got the zine in the hands of someone at Lonely Planet, and they liked it, and I ended up getting to go to Ireland to write about it for them.

I wanted to keep doing Broke-Ass Stuart but I also wanted to step it up and I actually found a book deal on craigslist. So I ended up doing three books. A Broke-Ass Stuart in SF book, an NYC book, and a book that was applicable everywhere in the U.S. 

Then in 2011 I had a travel TV show on IFC called Young, Broke & Beautiful. It was amazing. All the while though I was building up the website to be an arts & culture destination, so as my popularity grew, so did the site. Then running for Mayor obviously helped as well.

At this point we’re one of the most influential sites in the Bay Area for arts, culture, nightlife, and activism. It’s been a hell of a ride.

What are the best/worst parts of your job?

Getting to amplify voices that don’t always get heard while informing and entertaining hundreds of thousands of people a month is the best part for sure.

And then the hardest part, as you can imagine, trying to keep this thing afloat. I started this whole thing to be an art dude, but somehow ended up being a business dude out of necessity. I’m much better at creating funny and beautiful things than I am at making money. But I end up having to spend more time being a business dude than getting to create stuff. I’m at my happiest when I’m creating.

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At the end of the day what is the ultimate goal of your blog/website? 

I used to care more about being famous, but as I get older, it doesn’t matter that much. I just want to create things that hopefully make the world a better place. Activism is a huge part of what we do at BrokeAssStuart.com. Over the years we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities and causes. We’ve turned out tens of thousands of people to protest the many injustices that plague our world. Our Voter guides sometimes get like 30k views. And we’ve also made a lot of fart jokes. Gotta keep things balanced.  

Any words of advice for someone just getting started?

It's important to ask yourself if you really want to make a living doing something that you love. I know your immediate response is "Duh! Of course!" but really think about it. You're taking something that gives you joy and release, and turning it into a job. There will be many days where it is simply a job and that's something you need to be ok with.  

Another quick piece of advice is: build your audience before you try to monetize it. Get people to love what you do and believe in you before you start asking them for money.   

I could talk about this all day long. I've actually given a talk about how to "turn your side hustle into your main hustle" a number of times including at General Assembly and at Patreon's yearly conference, so if anyone reading this is interested in me giving the talk to you and your friends/coworkers reach out and we can figure out a price. 

And finally a quick #PayItForward. Name five other websites doing awesome stuff in your field.

SF Funcheap

48Hills

TableHopper

The Hard Times

Berkeleyside


Follow Broke-Ass Stuart on social media: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Patreon

11 questions with web creator Hetal Vasavada

Hetal Vasavada of Milk & Cardamom is a New Jersey native who bakes and blogs from her adopted home of San Francisco, CA. Her cookbooks have been reviewed by The Washington Post andThe New York Times, among others, and she’s even been a contestant on “Masterchef USA.” Before you say wow, consider the fact that she’s also a new mom. Double wow! We talked to Hetal about her tips, goals and history as a web creator. 


What do you think makes a web creator? What does your average day look like?

A web creator is anyone who shares their art or skill via social media or the internet. My average day consists of creating and working through an editorial calendar, recipe writing, photographing and editing images, and finally, going through lots and lots of emails! 


What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?

I only work on recipes that get me excited to be in the kitchen! I usually start by writing down the type of recipes I need to create (Diwali, Christmas cookies, etc.) and then writing down feelings and visuals that bring me back to those moments as a kid. From there I start thinking about recipes that could best represent and evoke those exact feelings. My inspiration comes from my family, events and cultural aspects of my childhood, and more. 


How did you get your start?

I started off in the healthcare industry and made the change to food about five years ago. I had an unusual beginning to my new career due to being on “MasterChef USA,” which kind of gave me the confidence to pursue a career in food. Once I was off the show I started working as a recipe writer and developer for startups in the Bay Area and worked on building up my blog and social media following. 


At the end of the day, what is the ultimate goal of your site? 

Create a record of recipes and thoughts that my daughter can go back to and make when I’m long gone. 


What is something that motivates you?

Talking to my community and seeing how much they enjoy or relate to my food experiences. I really enjoy interacting with the community I have created on the web. 


What’s the best part of your job?

Getting to eat everything I make! 


What’s the worst part? 

Eating all the failures while recipe testing. 


What tools do you use to make your stuff?

Canva, Adobe, Snapseed, Wordpress, and Unfold!


If there was one product or service that could make your life easier what would it be?

So many! An all in one social media post scheduler which does video and photos. An app that automatically schedules in old posts/recipes based on trends and reposts. For example, if chocolate chip cookies are trending this week, it will take an old chocolate chip cookie recipe of mine and repost it to social media with a prompt for me to update the caption. And a sponsored post manager (like Asana but specifically for paid sponsorships) so I can keep track of all the brand requests, needs, contracts and invoices.


What advice would you give someone trying to make it in your industry?

Create dishes unique to you and find your niche and explore every angle of it! 


Name five other people, blogs, brands, or websites doing awesome stuff in your field or beyond.


TheChutneylife.com

LoveLaughMirch.com

Zheelicious.com

ChocolateandCheesePlease.com

DiasporaCo.com