Side Hustle Success Stories: Taking Creative Control

Thinking about starting something on the side? Check out FindSpark’s latest side hustle, Sidehustle.me, for all the tips and tricks you need to pull off a successful side project.

Featured Side Hustler: Brian Marquis

Connect with Brian: Twitter // Instagram // LinkedIn

Side Hustle: Lilies and Loafers (Twitter // Instagram)

Full-Time Job: Coordinator, Program Scheduling at NBCUniversal

Tell us about your hustle:

After graduating college, Fatima and I both started our careers in NYC. Living in a shoe box and working all kinds of crazy hours, we started to feature our quick and budget-friendly recipes under a blog named, “2 Broke Cooks.” As we grew, so did our content and followers. We started to feature DIY projects, continuing to post about our food experiences. Still living in our shoe-box (there’s a washer and dryer so it’s worth it!), we evolved into “Lilies and Loafers,” named for Fatima’s love of flowers and Brian’s obsession with boat shoes. Our food is made in kitchens spanning from NYC all the way to New Hampshire. Our content is often inspired by fellow bloggers, friends, magazines and Pinterest. We started working on DIY/craft projects and saw our Pinterest explode in action. We were motivated to keep creating.

What motivated you to start it?

When we started out, we wanted to make food that was quick and cheap – but still good and healthy. When we came up with little ideas to make easy dinners enjoyable, we wanted to share it with the world. When friends and strangers started liking what we made, we realized we had not just a collection of recipes to maintain, but a community.

While building your side hustle, who has helped and supported you the most?

Our friends and fellow bloggers. They are supportive of our content, our website design, and the food! Our friends have guest blogged, tasted, and offered ideas to help us grow. We owe a lot to them. From vetoing recipes to naming dishes to ideas to help improve our site, even to flagging grammar mistakes, our friends are supportive and have been there from the beginning.

Who is your biggest side hustle role model?

Emily Miethner at FindSpark/MCG Social/Odie’s Food Truck – not to be a brown noser! Her side hustle project grew up so fast and continues to make waves every day. I’m so inspired by her passion and motivation, which keeps me motivated to continue my project.

How much time on average do you spend on your side hustle per week?

About 5-10 hours per week. Depending on the week and if I’m not in school, I will be on the blog making updates, planning posts, and writing up to 2-3 hours per day. Food culture is constantly evolving. When holidays approach, you want to stay ahead of the curve and post sooner rather than later. People will be searching for holiday recipes leading up to the holiday, not on or after the holiday. We spend time perusing other blogs, magazines, and Pinterest to see what trends are “in.”

What was the biggest element holding you back from starting and how did you overcome it?

FInding the time. When we started, we just posted pictures and recipes. Now that we have a following, we try to post regularly so we don’t let readers down. Sometimes finding the time in our busy schedules to keep up a constant flow of posts is the hard part. Making the food and taking pictures is easy. Composing the posts and editing photos takes time. Using shared reminders and iCal events, we carved out time each week to dedicate to writing and back logging posts. When we anticipate a busy week, we’ll schedule posts a few weeks in advance so that if we fall behind our activity stays constant.

What is an example of a time you hit a rough patch? How did you handle the situation?

We haven’t had big rough patches, but our decision to rebrand 2 Broke Cooks came from a web coding issue. Because of the “2” in our URL, our pagination was all off. When going from page “2” to page “3,”our URL would change from 2BrokeCooks.com to 3BrokeCooks.com, and 4BrokeCooks.com, 5… etc. It was affecting our readership and views, as readers could not navigate around our site. We were also at a point where we wanted to “grow” our site to include DIY and Lifestyle posts. Once we decided to rebrand, we had to move over the site we built over the past 8 months to a new site and handle the appropriate messaging. We had to “rip it off” like a bandaid. One night, I just stayed up until 4am and shifted over the site to Lilies and Loafers. Usernames were easy to change, pictures, etc. It was a quiet transition (minus a few friends calling us out – in a good way) and allowed us to launch our refreshed brand with 2 sponsored posts. Planning helped make this transition so easy.

What has been the biggest benefit of having a side project?

Our project is helping us to grow our cooking/baking/photography/writing/coding and web skills. Outside of our “9-5s,” Lilies and Loafers gives us something to work on that we love to do. Not to say that we don’t love what we’re doing 9-5 because we’re both at our dream companies, but we have 100% administrative and creative control. We’re growing skills that we otherwise might not be able to develop if we weren’t working on this project.

What are your favorite apps/books/productivity hacks?

We’re always on the go, so this is dedicated to apps, apps, apps! I love iCal and Reminders because they sync with iCloud (all my devices and computer) and we can sync between the two of us – simple, but they work. I like using the Pinterest app on the go, and Bitly is great for shortening links (especially now that it lets you personalize the links). Hootsuite is amazing for scheduling tweets so we appear to be posting throughout the day. I love my WordPress Plugins too: Editorial Calendar, Tweet Old Post, and Image Optimizer – to name a few. Editorial Calendar shows your posts on a calendar – great visual for planning. Our recipes can be used all year, so I like our Twitter to be active posting older posts. You can customize it so it doesn’t post certain articles – i.e. Christmas-themed posts during the summer. And the Image Optimizer helps to reduce our im age sizes to help our blog load faster. We’re supported heavily by photos of our food, so this was a huge discovery when it helped to decrease the size of our images and made our site more efficient.

For someone starting out, what is your biggest piece of advice?

Follow your passion and just do it. Start small because your project doesn’t have to be big from the beginning; let it grow. It will only get bigger from the amount of time and passion you put into it.

Thinking about starting something on the side? Check out FindSpark’s latest side hustle, Sidehustle.me, for all the tips and tricks you need to pull of a successful side project.

Want your side hustle to be featured on our blog? Get in touch!

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