02 October 2012

Holly Becker – the complete interview

The blogger and stylist Holly Becker is interviewed in the new issue of Home and Delicious. Holly runs her blog decor8blog.com which is one of the most influential design blogs in the world. In the magazine we couldn't manage to publish the complete interview with Holly but you can read the full version here. You will be inspired! Thank you Holly...

My life as a blogger

In January 2006 American writer and stylist Holly Becker launched decor8 (decor8blog.com), one of the most influential design blogs in the world, to inspire readers to live a more fulfilling, authentic and creative life while also building her writing portfolio publicly so that eventually she could write for top design magazines. Funny thing is, her blog became so popular that her freelance work for leading American magazines like Domino, Cookie and Real Simple could no longer be her focus – it was her blog that she felt passionate to invest her time in, so slowly she took less freelance writing assignments and focused mainly on decor8.

Today, with hundreds of thousands of readers, over 48.000 unique readers daily and 1.8 million page views per month, Holly authors a blog that she is proud of but doesn't stop there, she has done so much to build the blogging community around her as a whole.
In 2011, she became an author, a childhood dream of hers, and today her book, Decorate, is an international best seller published in 12 languages with another book on the way, Decorate Workshop, to release in October/November 2012.
In addition to decor8 and her books, she founded “Blogging Your Way” in March 2009, the web's first online course aimed at blogging, styling, photography and creativity and teaches hundreds of students online several times each year. She also gives lectures and workshops around Europe and the USA from decorating workshops to blogging and social media seminars. To date, she has taught thousands of students the art of blogging beautifully with intention, “Use your blog as a catalyst for living your best life”, is her motto.
Obviously, Holly doesn't have any regrets that she left behind her previous career as a project manager to begin a new one! She is living her dreams and this is the very reasons why her readers enjoy following her career and work – many of them have watched her blossom over the years and look to her as a role model and a friend.
What's next for Holly? Currently, she is enrolling students in her upcoming Blogging Your Way: Boot Camp e-course (decor8eclasses.com) and working on a workshop that she'll teach from her creative studio in Hannover, Germany this December.

Pages from Hollys new book, Decorate Workshop.

Did you imagine that particular January day in 2006 when you started blogging, what the future would hold?
I instinctively felt that blogs would take off and grow but I wasn't sure how they would be perceived ultimately – would anyone take us seriously in the design world or would we always be viewed as a bunch of amateurs with a ton of opinions? Well, good thing I didn't really care in the end because I simply felt a gut instinct to blog and I wasn't about to let fear of the unknown get in the way. Over time, we as a community of design bloggers, grew stronger which made the more traditional publishing world take notice of us because of our honest opinions and since we were drawing some pretty big crowds – numbers are always of interest to companies (because lots of people potentially mean lots of money) and when numbers swell, they want to be a part of it.
I was one of the first design blogs so naturally, I felt strongly not only about sticking with it despite the risk of putting all of my time and energy into something that so many were critical of (magazine editors once hung up on me saying I was “just a blogger” and they didn't care about “blahs, blags, what are they called again?”). 
The more magazine rejection I received, the more determined I became to write on decor8, those critical comments drove me to become a better blogger because I knew that we little guys had something to say and one way or another, I was determined to support our budding community and the only way I knew how to do that was to keep writing and sharing.

Do you feel pressure from being such a popular blogger?
I feel pressure internally because I want to do good work but I don't get pressure from anyone around me - my readers are so supportive and caring and always encourage me. They are happy when I post once a day or ten times – they just enjoy seeing what's on my radar and I love each of them for being so chill and kind. My readers are so appreciative and their spirit encourages me to work hard to bring them quality content from my heart and to not lose track of how important they are to me. Some blogs become big and end up very faceless – I want to always stay close to decor8, it's not just my company, it's me – in same ways, my first name! I've been stopped on the street by fans that say: “Hey aren't you decor8!!!” :)

Three regular columnists write on Decor8. One is Leslie Shewring who is a photographer 
and stylist from Canada. She writes Color Me Pretty. 

When did you take the decision to start blogging and how did it come?
I was in a writing workshop after just resigning from my job and the workshop instructor said: “If you aren't on the Internet, you don't exist”. This was before “social media” existed and long before Etsy.com, before craft fairs were in every city and people were making a living selling handmade goods, this was before Twitter and Facebook and it was right at the moment when blogs were starting to become better known in indie circles but still largely unknown as a whole. When my teacher said that, I thought that since I didn't have a website for my decorating business, but I did have a blog, I had registered one in May 2005 under the same name as my company, decor8 (pronounced Decorate), so I logged into my blog that evening after class and the next day wrote my first post and I've been writing on decor8 ever since.

Do you feel as though you have made an impact being a popular blogger for so many years?
Yes, but I think that each of us make an impact no matter if it's something we say to someone casually on a bus ride that is kind, or writing a blog before hundreds of thousands of people, we all can make an impact and when you are aware of your importance in the bigger picture, you start to become more aware that you really can choose to make a difference on this planet.
If you a blogger who has readers, whether it's 10 or 100.000, you have a responsibility to not only show up and inspire them but to also realize that what you say and do can potentially impact those people. Of course, some more than others, but still... Our words can be like music, a refrain that lingers for many days later.
I always approach my work with a sense of responsibility – I want to make a positive impact on others in some way and I don't always know how I will do that so I just write from my heart and stay true to my voice even at times when it may reveal my insecurities or fears – I tell my readers when I'm having a bad period in my life and I share my joys, too. This endears us. Many tell me that they think of me when they see certain things while shopping or they write in to ask me how I'm feeling, or they write to tell me about something they did because they felt encouraged by something I'd said, some say they left their boring job to change careers because of me, that they finally got the courage to open their own online shop, they started a blog, they decorated a room that they're proud of and send me photos... All because my blog inspired them on some level.
So yes, I make an impact – but we all do, but it is an incredible responsibility once you stop ignoring the fact that you matter! Sadly, it's common to hear people say that they can live their life however they want to, as long as they are not hurting someone else, that's all that matters. Not true! It's not about “not hurting” people – it's about healing and teaching others. That’s more proactive and takes effort. We will all do and say things that hurt people; there is no way around that. Getting hurt isn't such a big deal anyway; humans are incredibly resilient and can deal with a little pain now and then. It's about healing people through not only how we interact with others but by teaching through example and being a good role model. When people collectively work together for a specific positive cause, there is no denying the power they can have and the influence. This is exactly why many blogging communities have become so influential and flourish – we are a tight group of passionate people who want to help, heal, share, promote, encourage and spread.

Styling Leslie Schewring.

Do you feel a lot has changed in the world of blogging since 2005 and if so, what?
Yes! Blogging was once a smaller community grouped by interest so you had a few design bloggers, a handful of food bloggers, a dozen craft bloggers, etc. Now you have each of these communities with thousands of bloggers, all hoping to rise to the top and so many care too much about how many readers they have and by being popular, that they lose focus. It's better to have 1,000 loyal readers who care about you as a person, who really love you and your work, then to have 10,000 readers who do not care who is writing the blog and just want free streaming content. High profile blogs have both types of readers - the die hard fans who genuinely care about the blogger and those who are only looking for tips and ideas and of course, lots of readers who fall into both of these groups. I believe that it is important if you want your blog to lead to something more that one builds a really tight community around what they do along with meaningful connections that is genuine. I always teach this in my class, because it comes up a lot, that you don't need a million readers, you just need to be yourself, produce quality content, be consistent and possess talent as a writer to reach people while remaining authentic.

Being an author of a popular book with another one on the way – how did that all happen?
I've wanted to write a book since I was a kid because I often made them in my room and had book signings with my dolls and bears, so this dream has been shadowing me my entire life. I always thought that someday I would have a book but I didn't know how that would happen or what it would be about. Once I started blogging and readers were responding to my voice online, I took on freelance writing for magazines and newspapers to test the waters... Then my literary agent approached me in 2007, Rebecca Friedman, and a book deal went through in 2009 and I became a published author in 2011. I went on a 20 city book tour in the US and Europe and met so many of my readers last year, it was the most amazing experience of my life career-wise. I'll never forget it.

Styling Leslie Schewring.

How is it a different kind of work process from blogging – it sends you all over the world?
Both blogging and book writing are very personal for me because writing is an art form, when you're expressing yourself from your heart and putting your thoughts out there, you are in a vulnerable space and open to judgment. Book writing is a bit more involved than blogging and you are much more emotionally attached to it because you cannot simply delete your book but you can delete a sentence in a post or an entire post if you want to or just wait and weeks later, the post disappears into the archives. A book will be there forever and a publisher backs you financially so there is a lot of money at stake so you have to deliver your best work.
Beyond that though, when you are scouting locations for a design book and then show up at those homes with a photographer to style a space, you form a special relationship with your content as an author. Later, as you're flipping through the finished book, you recall this or that experience, dinner with the homeowner, how this home had a really curious cat that wanted to be in all of your photos, or the feeling overall of the space. When I look at Decorate, for instance, I can still remember how I felt styling Jonathan Adler's bathroom and how funny it was to touch his razor as I was moving things around in the shower. When I look at the book and see his bathroom, I always giggle because it was just a funny moment in my life. I will carry all of those unique experiences with me forever. Plus, as I'm traveling, I am shopping and eating and so I blog about my new finds... In this way, I merge both my book production work with blogging so I'm able to still engage my audience and give them interesting posts to read when I'm on the road.

Do you think it has changed your life being a popular blogger?
Yes, though I'm still the same woman just a much more confident version plus I'm 7 years older than when I first began and time changes us whether we want it to or not. Blogging gave me confidence in my creative abilities because it created accountability to actual people – we all need those two things to thrive and to drive us forward – accountability and community.

Do you see yourself continuing as a blogger?
Yes, for as long as I have readers, they will have their blogger. :)

Pictures courtesy Holly Becker / Decor8

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