We have never taken a photography class in our lives (although we really wish we had) and have never had any formal training on how to use a camera. We definitely would not call ourselves “professional photographers” but we do feel confident in saying we have really grown to LOVE using our cameras and taking photos.
Our secret tip? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. We have come a long way (as evidenced by some of our embarrassing old posts) and give practicing credit for any and all our improvement over the past few years.
Before the blog, the only camera we had ever used were those tiny point & shoot cameras that we took out with us in college. Looking back now, bringing a camera out & documenting those college nights wasn’t always the best decision (#holyembarrassing). But we share this fun fact to prove that if we rookies can teach ourselves how to use a DSLR camera, then we’re confident that ANYONE can! <– that means you!
And it’s never too late to start. When B’s sister had her baby this past summer, she invested in a DSLR (with a little encouragement from B) and taught herself over the course of her maternity leave how to use it. Instead of recruiting Auntie Bridget to come over and take photos, she takes all of her son’s photos herself. Four months later, she’s already gotten pretty darn good at it and will only get better and better as her son grows up.Since we get asked about our photography favs quite a bit AND think the holidays could be the perfect time to add some of these items to your wish list, we thought we would finally create a post to share all of the products we use and love.
Camera: When it comes to our actual cameras, we both have a Canon EOS 70D and couldn’t be happier. They’re very user-friendly and the price isn’t too crazy. If you’re looking for a good DSLR, we definitely recommend this one. We rarely use the lens that actually came with our camera body. Instead we use 1 of the 3 lenses below.
Tripod:A tripod is essential if you want to achieve crisp & clear photos. Unless we’re shooting outside or in a very bright setting, you can bet we are using our tripods. We don’t have a specific one that we both use & love (we picked ours up in local photography shops), but this one on Amazon has amazing reviews.
Nifty Fifty:This 50mm lens is exactly what you need for close-up photography. You can use this lens to achieve pictures where an object is in focus in the front with a blurry background. We’ll often switch to this lens when it comes time for close-ups. Plus it’s so inexpensive! A little over $100 for a lens? Craziness. This is a must-have for any photography enthusiast.
Wide Lens:This is a new lens for us both and we purchased it so we can showcase a better wide shot during room reveals. It’s crazy just how wide this lens can go (as evidenced by the picture of Bridget’s dining room above). If you go too wide, it can look a bit fish-eyed so we try to avoid that. However if you’re a home blogger like us, you should definitely consider this bad boy. This lens would also be awesome for the realtors tuning in!
24-70mm Zoom Lens: This year we splurged and got this lens. It was pricey (so we only got 1 to share), but it is now our go-to. It produces gorgeous photos and can capture both wide & tight shots. It’s not the lens we use most often, because we don’t have to swap the lens out when shooting a project. We will say that it is super heavy…so it may not be the best lens to use when traveling. However, we’ve taken it on every blog trip so far because the photos it produces are just that good!
Reflector:Reflectors are a great accessory to have because they can do 2 things. First, they can help bounce light into corners of a room where you need a little extra light. Second, you can take off the zipper cover and use it to diffuse when you have too much light. We don’t often use our reflectors when we’re shooting solo (because who the heck is going to hold it?!), but when we’re together we use it all the time.
Light Kit:Our light kits get used pretty frequently too. We mostly whip them out when shooting a space with no natural light or if it’s a very dark and cloudy day. This light kit is inexpensive and has all the basics.
Go Pro: We have this Go Pro and wish we used it more because it’s just so cool! We are going on a trip to Mexico for New Year’s, so we’ll probably bring it to capture some underwater video and photos! But a go pro is always nice to have to do a time-lapse of a big project, although we are often too wrapped up in the DIY to remember to turn it on and off. #oopsM
Microphone: Although we don’t do as many videos as we’d like, when we do record one together we will use this microphone attached to the top of our camera. It captures our audio a bit better than the camera mic, although there is certainly room for improvement!
Shutter Release Remote: A game changer when you want to take photos of yourself and don’t have a photographer. Bridget recently used this remote for her family’s holiday photo. Instead of asking someone to take it, you can set up the tripod and use the remote to release the shutter on the camera. So easy to use & an inexpensive accessory. <– Can you tell who is holding the remote in this picture?!
Answer: My brother-in-law Joe (in the maroon plaid shirt) is “secretly” holding the remote in his right hand.
Camera Bags: When you’ve got lots of equipment, it’s important to keep it organized! We each use a Jo Tote bag to keep our gear in check. Bridget has this one & this one, and Casey has this one. They’re great because you can move around the compartments so your items fit snugly and securely inside. Plus they’re super fashionable and look like a normal purse!
If you don’t know how to use a DSLR but really wish you could, we encourage you to make a commitment and give it a try… what’s there to lose?! Like we said before, if we can teach ourselves we are pretty darn confident that anyone can figure it out. And the holidays may just be the perfect time to take the plunge…
Snap, snap <— pun fully intended. #getit? 😉
Looking for more photography inspired posts? You may want to check out some of these!
This handsome little fella is already almost 3 weeks old (where did the time go?!) and he still has me totally heart-eyed. You guys were right, being an aunt is AH-MAZING!
When my sister asked if I could come over and get a few photos of Owen as a newborn, I was so excited for the opportunity excuse to play Auntie Paparazzi. I did however remind her that I’m not ((even CLOSE to)) a professional photographer and that she should definitely invest in a real photographer if she wanted professional quality photos. She insisted that my photos would be perfect for her. #awww
When Casey welcomed her nephew into the world with a newborn photo-shoot, she learned A LOT (and documented the tips in this post). That newborn photography post is actually one of our most popular posts, which is why I decided to build on that post with 10 MORE newborn photography tips. <– plus, any excuse to show off this cutie is okay in my playbook!
We don’t think our photos are close to professional quality, but we do feel that with enough practice (and lots of trial and error), new moms + friends can get some pretty amazing photos of their precious babies. And to us, that’s what it’s all about. We hope some of these tips help you capture the special baby in a stress-free environment <— we say that from experience. Newborn photos can be STRESSFUL, and to us, that stress defeats the whole purpose of these special photos.
1. Stay home!
If possible, we do encourage you to stay at home to take these pics… for a few different reasons.
Taking these photos at home will ensure that mom and baby are comfortable, in a comfortable temperature, and have access to anything the baby needs (i.e. diaper, bottle, new blanket, pacifier, nap time, etc.)
We know we’re a bit biased, but we do think it’s important to capture hints of the home when possible in these photos. The house that you bring your baby home to is SPECIAL and is now officially a significant part of your family’s “story”. On the parent’s bed, in the little one’s new nursery, with a pet, whatever the case… being home is the perfect backdrop in our opinion.
New moms are just that — NEW to the mom game. It’s important to take this transition slowly and being able to capture these photos in the comfort of your own home (and at the pace you want) is extremely important to keep this experience as stress free as possible.
2. Have a general plan, but be flexible
I told Katie that I was there to take the photos, but I would take whatever photos she wanted to or do whatever she had planned. She made a very general plan of what she wanted the afternoon to look like, which helped me because I never felt like I was invading on her or Owen’s schedule. Plus it helped her because she had a few of the blankets, props, and “looks” ready for the photos before I came over. However, it is important to note that this plan should be very, very…. very flexible. Being flexible is key. If you don’t get to one of the “outfits” or one of your Pinterest ideas doesn’t work out, IT’S OKAY! There’s always tomorrow, right?!
3. Natural Light + Warmth = Winning combo
Casey mentioned this tip in the original newborn photography post, but it’s so important that it deserves to be re-emphasized. If you’re new to the photography game, the biggest piece of advice we can tell you is ALWAYS shoot in natural light. Never at night, never with a lamp on, and never when the light in your home is less than bright. Having a space that is full of natural light is important to capture gorgeous photos. <— That goes for all photos, not just newborn photos.
Keeping the baby nice and warm in this bright space is probably the biggest tip we have specifically for newborn photos. From our limited experience, keeping baby warm and cozy is key in keeping him comfortable and photo-ready! (More heating tricks here)
4. Go with what’s YOU not with what’s on Pinterest
Pinterest is a magical place, isn’t it? We love Pinterest and turn to it for inspiration all the time. However, Pinterest can become stressful and overwhelming when you are looking to replicate an EXACT look rather than using that look as inspiration.
Spoiler alert: you’re never, ever going to replicate an identical photo — and that’s OKAY! We want you to create your own gorgeous photos and feel proud, not look back at these same gorgeous photos and feel disappointed that they don’t look like photos on Pinterest. So use Pinterest for ideas, but get excited to put your own spin and style on them. Photos that reflect you, your style, and this adorable little baby are way more perfect anyway!!
5. Get your light right before adding baby
Super important. When you’re a rookie like me, getting the settings right on your camera may take an extra second… or 12. I find that it’s helpful to get your camera settings perfect before putting baby down to photograph. This way, you’re ready to shoot right away and you’re not wasting precious time. Let’s be honest here, every second counts when this adorable little guy in front of you cracks an unexpected smile. =)
6. Include mom, for more than the obvious reason
Of course getting “mom” in the photo is important & so special to have for years and years to come. Plus we all know that moms are NEVER in photos because they’re always busy taking them! Not cool. So for obvious reasons we want mom to jump in the photo BUT we also think mom should be in the photo for some selfish photography reasons. Having mom in the photo almost immediately calms baby and provides that warmth that is so important to keep him calm and happy.
Owen was by far the calmest when he was being held by Katie, so getting her in the picture was a WIN-WIN!
7. Edit in black and white if you have an “oops!”
Like I said, I’m a rookie when it comes to newborn photography so there were times my camera wasn’t on the perfect setting or the shadows/colors were a bit off. Because of those minor issues, the photos of these super cute moments were less than perfect (to say it nicely). However, editing the photos and converting them to black and white helped make-up for some of these rookie mistakes.
If you LOVE the photo but don’t love the photography skills behind it, try converting it into black and white and you may be surprised with the outcome! <— maybe not the answer for the entire batch, but an option for at least a few! #ourlittlesecret
8. NO pressure…
If we’re being completely honest here, all you need out of this “photoshoot” are 5-10 photos you love. So forget having to do 12 outfit changes at 5 different locations — that’s too much and totally unnecessary to put this newborn through at this point!
Allow me to personally reassure you that if you take ENOUGH photos (even just with one blanket!), you WILL get 5-10 amazing ones (how could you NOT, these babies are so darn cute!?). So don’t feel pressure to get the “perfect” shot. You only need 5… let’s keep that in perspective. Five amazing photos of this perfect little human?! Forget the pressure… you’ve got this!
9. Don’t overlook the details
Don’t overlook the details! Mini toes, fingers, nose, hair…. all of these details are adorable and can be a fun touch to the scrapbook, photo stream, or baby announcement. So while you’re shooting away, don’t forget to snap a few pics of these tiny details that won’t always be so darn tiny.
10. Embrace the imperfections!
^ ^ ^ This picture… can you even?! I feel like Owen is saying, “MOM!! Ewwwww…. don’t kiss me in front of my friends!”. Is he 16 already?!
These imperfect faces and funny “mishaps” are actually the best part of some of these photos, so embrace the not-so perfect pictures! These moments are the ones that you’ll be extra grateful you have documented years and years from now.
So last but not least, when baby faces, baby postures, or ideas aren’t going exactly how you envisioned, just keep going with it because you may be surprised at how special these photos really turn out to be. Imperfect is the new perfect. 😉
Our Photography Favorites
For your information, here is our all-time favorite photo equipment & what we use to take all of our pictures (affiliate links used):
We all make mistakes in life, right? I mean that’s just a normal part of being human. But imagine if lots of your everyday mistakes were documented on the internet for the world to see. Yikes, right?! Welcome to the wild, wild west of being a blogger.
It may seem like bloggers have picture perfect lives, especially when you view them one pretty square at a time on Instagram. Beautifully lit interiors, perfectly coiffed hair, spot-on makeup, and wrinkle-free wardrobes. We hate to break it to ya, but it’s all a BIG.FAT.LIE.
We all fail. A lot. And many of these mistakes are viewed by hundreds of thousands of blog readers. And to prove it to you, we asked some of our blogging buddies to share their worst rookie mistakes right here on the blog today.
From DIY projects gone awry, to newbie blogging blunders…we’ve got lots of hilarious ROOKIE MISTAKES to share with all of you! And you’ll even hear some mistakes from yours truly. So let’s get to the good stuff.
Finish your project or you will be found out! I thought it would be fun to do a little Sharpie art on a garden stool, but it was late and I was too tired to finish the other side, so I just did one side for the blog post photo. Fast forward several months later, and Style Me Pretty Living comes to my house to shoot a home tour. Wouldn’t you know they shot—and published—that half-done garden stool? #embarrassing – Emily
Biggest rookie mistake? Hmmm…..it’s hard to pick one. I made so many mistakes in my early blogging days. I took nighttime photos, not the best idea for an interior design blogger. I also made some pretty major design mistakes – hanging curtain panels too low, hanging art too high…..the list is long. But you learn a lot from mistakes, so I don’t regret any of them. I’d say the biggest mistake I made was in forcing myself to stick to a blogging schedule. I looked around at what my peers were doing way too much in the early days. If they were posting 5 days a week, I felt like I needed to follow suit. But the truth is, readers stay in tune with quality not quantity. So if a 5 day a week posting schedule doesn’t work for your life or your creativity, it’s okay to cut back. You really have to find your own groove and go confidently in that direction. These days, especially this summer with my kids being home, I post maybe 3 times a week. When fall rolls around I’ll go back to 4 days. Learning that I don’t have to “keep up with the Kardashians” so to speak 😉 was the best thing for both my blog and my life. Because at the end of the day, I’m a wife, a mom, a friend, a daughter, a creative, a book clubber, a secret reality tv watcher, a netflix binge watcher, a beach girl, a yoga practicer, a sometimes runner, a healthy food advocate…….I’m a lot of things outside of being a blogger and while I love blogging I don’t want it to ever take over all the other parts of my life that are just as if not more important. -Carmel
I guess my rookie mistake was about eight years ago. We bought our first house and it was the first time I really got to pick out paint colors…but we were on a very limited DIY budget so I decided to give discounted paint a go. I went to Home Depot, asked for the discount/return paint, bought it and went home to roll my hallway. In my brain, I thought I had purchased a soothing beige color….even as I rolled the color onto the walls, I thought, “this will darken up. this will mellow out, it will dry differently.” Jeremy’s first words when he saw it was “OH IT BURNS!” and he ran out of the house. Not looking on the paint color was definitely one rookie mistake, but definitely not my last. – Katie
I started my blog six years ago, which was practically the dinosaur ages, and I knew absolutely nothing, except that I had a head-full of ideas I wanted to share. I made (and continue to make!) plenty of mistakes, but my biggest was not purchasing my actual domain name in the beginning, and unfortunately, when the blog started to grow beyond just my favorite hobby, a squatter owned my domain name. #insertweepyemoji It took two years of watching and waiting for it to come up for auction, but I’m finally the proud owner of the absurdly-overpriced www.hisugarplum.com…definitely an expensive mistake! – Cassie
We have had to redo all of the trim in our home from the ground up, literally – think: baseboards, doors, windows. Our home was chopped up so many times throughout the years, and as we piece it all back together, we’ve ripped up the old builder grade trim work in favor of something more beefy and beautiful. Despite the fact that we are this close to completing every last bit, every single time we install trim in a new room, we always make a mitered cut on the wrong angle. Every time! When you’re going through as much trim as we do, it adds up quickly! We are not immune to mistakes, but you would think that hopping in the car to buy more trim, just to paint it again and cut it again, well, you’d think we’d learn our lesson. Nope. – Kim
I would say my biggest mistake at first was thinking that everything had to be incredibly awesome and a standout. I quickly learned that in order for a room to feel balanced and comfortable you need some things in the space to be quiet and a few key pieces to be the showstopper. If everything is amazing than nothing is. – Gwen
This particular decor fail occurred a year before I became a card-carrying blogger, but it was a rookie mistake nonetheless. The year was 2009, my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I had just bought our first house. To say I was excited was an understatement. Then entire house was painted boring beige, so I couldn’t wait to pick up my paint roller and get to work adding a little color to the joint. But in my elated state I didn’t take the time to really think about the decor direction I wanted to take– all I knew was that I wanted to paint the kitchen green. So I got some samples, put them on the wall, and chose, what I thought at the time, was the best option. The photo of the kitchen speaks for itself. And to think that we lived with that color for 3 years. But hey, it makes for great before photo now! – Chelsea
I was vacuuming before a photo shoot and had accidentally left the vacuum in the shot. You could barely see it from the angle I was shooting from, but I could see the yellow handle pop out behind the desk. Always double-check your shot before you move on to the next! I didn’t catch it until I went to edit photos. – Kristin
As far as mistakes go, I have had had my fair share and continue to make them on a weekly basis. I always tell my kiddos that failure is the path to success. Having said that I don’t think the French’s mustard yellow accent wall I painted in our first apartment led to much success. Just a ridiculous amount of primer to cover it back up. It was heinous. Sadly one of my biggest rookie mistakes was in filming a video for the blog. I had this bright idea to add video tutorials for entertaining posts that I create. Well, my sweet and very patient hubby did the camera work. I don’t blame him as I told him how to hold the iPhone. Needless to say. . . failure. We filmed the entire thing vertically. I should have reached out to Casey for her masterful video skills. Who knew the camera was to be turned sideways. Eek. And now thanks to Pinterest, our video lives on forever to really drive home the point that we make mistakes all the time. You can check out our sideways video here. – Courtney
I distinctly remember the first time I painted a piece of furniture – it was horrible! It was a super cheap black Ikea side table and I wanted it to be white (big surprise!). I picked up a paint / primer combo and got straight to work. At first, it didn’t stick at all – it kinda streaked on – after SEVERAL coats, it was fairly even. I let it dry, but it never really fully cured – it was forever tacky. I actually ended up upholstering those tables! Since then, I’ve learned to do plenty of research before starting a project, use good quality materials and sand – you can check out all of my painting tips here. – Sarah
My rookie mistake was not getting more organized from the beginning, or at least from the point I realized I was going to turn my blog into a business. There is a ton of behind the scenes work that goes into blogging and if you don’t stay organized and on top of things you can easily get overwhelmed. I’m still working on putting systems in place to keep up with my finances, my props and projects, as well as my blogging and social media schedule. If you can get organized early on you may just be able to keep your sanity in tact (and will not freak out when tax time comes!) – Summer
I’m embarrassed to even share this because I think it may be WORSE than a rookie mistake and more like a “little league”/”you didn’t actually just do that” mistake. Here goes nothing….
When I first started the blog, I had ZERO experience with tools (like NONE). I forget exactly what project I was working on at the time but I needed to drill a pilot hole through a piece of wood. Typically you would use a pilot bit (like this one):
…and drill through the wood with little to no effort. Easy enough, right?! WRONG! Instead of a pilot bit, I used a screwdriver drill bit (like this one):
… but rather than using it to tighten a screw, I used it to drill that dang pilot hole. Notice I didn’t say “TRIED to use it to drill pilot hole” because I didn’t just TRY, I DID it.
Rookie Tip: With enough muscle and perseverance, even a screwdriver bit will drill a pilot hole BUT beware because after about 3 minutes of serious muscle, the wood WILL start smoking from the friction. Literally — SMOKING!!
I thought it was weird that the wood started smoking (that should have been my first clue) but I didn’t know what I did wrong until after I questioned my dad about the whole experience. He never lets me play that down and quite honestly, I don’t blame him!! Haha holy embarrassing! On the bright side though, I’ll never make that mistake again and have come along way using a drill. I still laugh out loud thinking back to that day. #rookieprobs -Bridget
I can honestly count more DIY fails than DIY success stories of mine. I have come to accept the fact that I just am not a DIY person – I do it to achieve a look I want on the cheap, but it usually turns out a bit janky. That however hasn’t stopped me yet.
We rent our home, and when I was decorating our master bedroom I found this wallpaper pattern I HAD to have. The landlord said he was very hesitant to allow us to paint the walls and that we had to paint his original colors back when we move out, so the idea of adhering permanent wallpaper to his walls was out of the question. Yet I still bought the $200 roll of wallpaper. I told my husband I would figure it out but that we were going to have a wallpaper accent wall in our bedroom if it was the last thing I did.
I somehow dreamed up the idea of adhering the wallpaper to FOAM BOARD and then nailing the foam board to the wall. I thought I was going to be the next big DIY guru because the concept was nowhere on Pinterest yet. Well, it wasn’t on Pinterest for good reason. I had my husband slave over applying this wallpaper to foam board (using wallpaper adhesive) and then nailing it all to cover one wall. The foam board started to warp after one day of being nailed to wall. We never really talked about it but left it up for almost a year and acted like it looked great.
Lesson learned: Don’t apply wallpaper to foam board using wallpaper adhesive and then nail it to your wall. It will not work. -Claire
You guys read about this rookie mistake a few months ago on the blog, but I’ll refresh your memory on this craft that turned out crappy. Having read about the magical qualities of the product “Rub ‘N Buff”, I decided to give it a try on hardware for our guest room fauxdenza. Long story short, I made a huuuuge mess trying to turn silver handles into gold & glam ones. And I also ended up having literal gold fingers for at least a day and a half #embarrassing – Casey
So there you have it…lots and lots of mistakes, blunders, slips, and errors. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we have a lot more fails than successes around these parts. And guess what…that’s a-okay with us! Life’s NOT perfect, neither are we, and it’s these silly mistakes that make life that much more fun. =)
And speaking of fun– we would LOVE to hear from you! Do any of you brave souls have a ROOKIE MISTAKE you’re willing to share with the group?! We’d love to hear them in the comments below.
A BIG thanks to this group of humble and uber talented bloggers who were all willing to take time out of their VERY busy schedules and send over a Rookie Mistake! (we heart all of you and find so much inspiration from each one of you!!)
And thank YOU for tuning into DIY Playbook’s 2nd annual blog week. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We had so much fun that we almost forgot today is FRIDAY (love when that happens). Happy (almost) weekend friends… see you Monday for more bathroom updates!!
They say it’s not polite to talk about money. Excuse us as we get a bit “rude” today while we completely throw that rule out the window and talk ALL about money…specifically how we make money blogging.
Honestly, this is a question we get all.the.time. Many well-intentioned friends & acquaintances casually assume that we blog as a hobby and don’t make any money in the process (which we don’t blame them for assuming since this whole blogging thing is pretty darn confusing at times). The truth is though we actually do make money and thought that addressing this awkward topic could be enlightening for fellow bloggers or just curious blog readers.
But before we jump into the details, let’s backtrack a bit. We certainly did not start this blog to make money. Not even a little bit. Instead we started because we thought it would be a fun hobby for us both, and something cool to do together. Fast forward 3.5 years, and we still see this as an amazing hobby we have the pleasure of enjoying together, but one that has also (surprisingly) bloomed into a steady stream of income for us.
Would we continue blogging even if our bank account was at $0? Absolutely!!! Because the happiness we get from this journey truly is priceless, and for us it’s not about the money at all. But if we’re being completely honest here, we must say that the extra income is very much appreciated, and we’re constantly looking for ways to grow our little baby company.
How We Make Money Blogging:
Okay, enough being mushy…let’s get to the facts. How exactly do we make money blogging? Well our income mainly comes from 4 different sources. If you’re a blogger we hope this information helps you as you navigate your blog finances. If you’re not a blogger, well bear with us, because this may be a bit boring for ya!
1. Sidebar Ads (22% of total blog income)
We went a long time blogging before we put 1 ad up on our site, specifically because we didn’t know we should even add advertisements to our site (#rookies)! It just wasn’t something we were focused on when we first began this journey. After we started to see a steady stream of page views, we decided to add a couple of ads from Google Adsense onto our sidebar. These made like $.05 a day. Seriously… five cents! But it was still sooooo exciting to think that we were making a couple of dollars from our little website (as in, a couple of dollars over a few months). #popthechampsAs we continued to navigate the blogging world, we joined a few ad networks. Some were great, others not so great. The worst part about this was managing it all. So many logins, so little time to go in and check how all of the ads were doing. Last year, we were able to join a company called AdThrive and they now handle all of our ads for us. This switch has seriously been the best decision we have ever made in terms of the blog’s finances. No more logins, no more managing a variety of ads, no more trying to figure out the HTML to make it all work. Instead they do all of the hard work for us, and we simply get a check every month. We love that we don’t have to waste time trying to figure out the sidebar ads, but instead can focus on creating quality content for our readers.
We also sell ad space on our sidebar to individual companies, but this isn’t nearly as profitable as our AdThrive income. We sell this space in 1 and 3 month increments, and we’ve had some great companies on our sidebar over the past few years. (Thanks Snapbox! Thanks Sailrite!)
2. Sponsored Posts (33% of total blog income)
Creating sponsored posts on our site is another source of income, and a controversial one at that. We’ve been fortunate to partner with a lot of great companies, all of whom we already use in our homes and daily lives. Our main sponsors are Lowe’s Home Improvement, HomeGoods, and Michaels, but we’ve worked with many companies over the years and have formed some great relationships.
When a company reaches out, we usually have a set price range for a sponsored post, depending on the company and the amount of work that will go into the post. We’re not gonna lie, we turn down A LOT of requests for posts. Sometimes it’s because they want to “pay us” in product, but mostly because they’re just not a great fit for our audience or our brand.
We never want to promote something on our site that we wouldn’t use in “real life,” so we’re very picky when it comes to partnerships. Plus because we have day jobs, we’re very fortunate to be in a position where we don’t necessarily NEED to take on a specific number of sponsored posts to get paid that month. And with that being said… because we only have a limited time to blog during the week thanks to those day jobs, we are even more selective when it comes to sponsored opportunities and only take them on if we are really excited about them.
When we do take on sponsored posts, we always try to organically weave it into our content the best we can. We’re not perfect, but we try our best to include a coupon code or giveaway into those posts so our readers can get a little incentive too.
3. Affiliate Links (3% of total blog income)
This is definitely a new source of income for us, and it is by far the least profitable for us. We’re guessing you guys have seen all of the RewardStyle/Like to Know stuff on Instagram? If not, then here’s a brief description. Whenever we link a specific product on our site, we can make it an “affiliate link.” That way if someone clicks the link, buys that product (or anything else on the website), we will get a small percentage of the profits.
This is a big money-maker for fashion & lifestyle bloggers, and we love learning about the latest trends from our fellow bloggers. But, we’re often linking home decor items. And I don’t know about you, but I buy shoes and tops a heck of a lot more often than I buy rugs and couches. Therefore, as a home blogger we’re not making quite as much as other bloggers who focus solely on fashion.
We use both Reward Style and Magic Links, and they’re both pretty easy to create log-ins and get started. However, we also proceed with caution when it comes to this source of income because we NEVER want to make it seem like we’re always selling stuff. If we really do love something, we will link it to make it convenient for everyone to quickly find. But we never want to link items just for the sake of making money. <– there’s a big difference and we try to our hardest to be as authentic as possible (again, we’re not perfect).
4. Writing for Companies (42% of our blogging income)
Writing blog posts for other sites is another way we make money blogging, and this one is by far our favorite. Specifically because it’s separate from our personal blog, and it doesn’t negatively affect our readers. Instead, we’re able to do what we already love to do (write about home decor & DIY projects!) for other sites while getting paid.
Each Thursday we publish a blog post on the HireAHelper blog. They’re a moving site, and it’s been so much fun to challenge ourselves with different moving topics each week. Who knew there was so much to chat about when it came to moving?! For some of our favorite HireAHelper projects, check out this post.
This year, we also signed on as contributors for the new Zillow blog. This is great because it forces us to get some projects done around our homes (sealing granite counters, installing faucets, etc.), and it’s given us the opportunity to do a few more “hardcore” homeowner DIY’s while getting paid.
We write for other sites sporadically too, and overall, these contributor posts make up a large chunk of our income. These opportunities are great because they provide us with a steady income and we’ve been able to form some great relationships with some awesome people from all different companies. This consistent income also allows us to budget for blog expenses in advance (like tech support, photography equipment, project costs, etc.).
So there you have it…a behind-the-scenes look at how The DIY Playbook makes money. We never knew that this blogging world could be profitable, and we’re certainly not experts when it comes to this stuff. But we do feel like it’s good to share… especially for fellow bloggers or small business owners out there!
If you’re looking for more money talk check out some of these posts we’ve done before…
Whenever we tell people that we’re business partners, we’re instantly bombarded with questions about what it’s REALLY like working with your bestie. Is there drama? Do we fight all the time? Do we have ever screaming matches that resemble those on The Real Housewives?!
We don’t blame others for wanting the scoop! And today we’re ready to dish. Let’s get right to our list of frequently asked questions so we can tell you what it’s really like running a business with your BFF.
Is there ever drama?
This is going to come as a big disappointment for most of you, but we can honestly say that there is minimal drama around here. Seriously. We’re not sugar-coating anything. We get along really well, and have similar personalities. We work hard, don’t enjoy conflict (Bridget legit gets like hives at the thought of dealing with confrontation in any bad situation), and each have the utmost respect for one another! But to be perfectly honest, we don’t really have drama in ANY relationships in our lives so it wouldn’t make sense that we would have drama with each other. The only slight “drama” that ever arises is if we’re both stressed out or have a big deadline. But in those cases, we don’t take it out on one another, instead we keep one another in check and put our frustrations into getting our work done.
Do you always get along?
At the end of the day, we’re always going to be friends….first, business partners…second. And we would never want something petty to come in between our friendship. So yes, we do get along incredibly well 99.9% of the time! It helps that we have similar interests and work habits, because we enjoy doing the same kinds of things and don’t mind “burning the midnight oil” to get things done. If one of us put in way more hours and commitment than the other…then there might be some resentment. But luckily that isn’t the case with us!
We will say the only time when we’re not 100% on the same page is when one wants to push our business in a specific direction….while the other is a little hesitant. For example, I (Casey) wanted us to both get on board and learn how to use the editing software Lightroom. Bridget took a bit of convincing, because of the amount of time & work involved in learning a whole new program. But after a little nudging (that’s what besties are for, right?!), and a couple of weeks using Lightroom, we both agreed that it was the best thing we could have done for our blog. So we will say that there are instances like that when one person is ready to move full speed ahead, and the other is hesitant and cautious. This never leads to fighting or not getting along, probably more the opposite actually….. A LOT of positive reinforcement and encouragement to cheer the other one on in whatever new goal we’re striving for.
How do you divide tasks?
Another great question! We both do projects, take photos, write posts, and deal with emails & social media. But there are certain tasks we enjoy splitting up, so our strengths can shine a bit more.
I’d say out of the 2 of us, I’m definitely the more “logistical” gal. How are we going to get things done? How can we make a to-do list to get our task completed? I like to make a gameplan and figure out how we can execute it most effectively.
I also do a majority of the proofreading (so if you see a typo…it’s my bad!), and I also edit our videos (because that’s what I do for my day job anyways!). I have a bit of a hand in the business/financial side of things too. Because my husband Finn is our CFO, I get together with him a lot to go over numbers and keep our receipts and invoices in check.
She’s totally right, Casey is DEFINITELY the logistic/business brain of the two of us and I’m SO lucky to have her…. especially her proof reading. I think your eyeballs would probably hate me if she wasn’t proof reading my posts.
As much as I enjoy writing a to-do list and chatting about the business side of things, I would say my strengths are on the creative side. I take care of all of the mood boards, graphics, and design heavy tasks. Like Casey mentioned we both photograph our own projects, but if we’re together shooting something, I am behind the camera and the one editing the photos. I love learning more about photography and trying to get better at it since starting the blog. I also brainstorm new creative ideas or initiatives (like blog week!) and then Casey’s logistical mind takes over and helps us make these ideas a reality.
Do you recommend everyone blogs with a buddy?
Having someone right there with you on this journey is ah-mazing! We can showcase 2 homes, get posts done twice as fast, and always have someone around to check the email and keep our inbox in check. Not to mention, events and blogger conferences are a heck of a lot less scary when you have your BFF glued to your side (plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to take a trip with your bestie?). And through the highs, lows, good times, and not-so-good times…there’s always someone there who totally “gets it.”! Awesome, right?!
But, we certainly don’t think it’s for everyone. Before getting into business with a good friend or family member, we think it’s important to have an open and honest discussion about how you’re going to work together. How much time are you both willing to invest? What do you do if someone gets burned out? Having an open and honest relationship is key, and we think communicating these important questions upfront can save you a lot of heartache in the long run.
How has working together affected your relationship?
It’s made our friendship a heck of a lot stronger! Yes we’ve been friends since high school, but as teenagers it was a bit surface-level (not in a bad way, but when you’re young you care about boys, clothes, and other not-so-important things). Now, we chat multiple times a day and have seen one another at our best, and at our worst. We’ve gone on lots vacations and trips together (usually just the 2 of us…#girlstrip), and we do plenty of double dates with our hubbies. In fact, we’re even all heading to Mexico for New Year’s! We feel so grateful for this journey because how much it has impacted our friendship in the best way possible.
How are you guys the same?
We are both very ambitious, driven, compassionate and hardworking. But we’re guessing that can be said for many business owners who are excited about what they do! We’re also both fairly outgoing, bubbly, and optimistic. We don’t enjoy negativity and always try to make the most out of every situation <—wow, we sound like “goodie two shoes” don’t we?! We promise we don’t only live in a world of sunshine and smiles all the time! We’re also both super close with our moms, and love spending time with our families.
How are you guys different?
Even though we share a lot of the same personality traits, we’re incredibly different too! Bridget wakes up super early, and enjoys being in bed at a reasonable hour. While Casey doesn’t stay up super late, she certainly likes to sleep-in every once in a while and can stay up past 10:30pm <—rebel, I know!
Casey certainly enjoys her fair share of cocktails on the weekends, while Bridget can sip the same glass of wine all night long. To go even further, Bridget would probably rather skip that wine all together and order a chocolate milk shake instead.
Speaking of chocolate milkshakes, Casey eats super healthy and has a healthy routine for just about everything in her life (skincare, hair care, sleeping, exercise, etc.) while Bridget…. not so much.
When it comes to speaking in front of a crowd, Bridget is your go-to gal. Casey is freaked out by the idea of chatting to an audience, but she doesn’t mind being in front of a video camera! Bridget is much more creative, has gorgeous penmanship, and is incredibly crafty! Whereas Casey is logistical, pays attention to detail, and is very organized. <— Heck, I thought I was very organized until I saw Casey’s computer files… she’s a organizing machine!
So there you have it…a look behind-the-scenes at what it’s really like with your BFF as your business partner. We wouldn’t change it for the world and are so grateful to go through this journey side by side!
Believe it or not, we get our fair share of emails asking us how we make our mood boards. Because we use a free website (instead of photoshop) and our method is even more basic than rookie-level, we never really thought to do a blog post on the topic. HOWEVER, we recently realized that our way is perfect for people who want to visualize a space but, just like us, don’t know how to use photoshop!
So instead of feeling embarrassed that we’re totally taking a “shortcut” around the official photoshop way of doing this, we decided to embrace the “average, anyone-can-do-this” approach.
Not to mention, we actually really LOVE using Polyvore to make mood boards and really encourage EVERYONE to play around with different looks via mood boards before shopping for a new space. <— this simple, free step has helped us design with intention so we are never victims of design regret!
We create a mood board for every single space we work on and based on some of these examples, it’s pretty clear that these original mood boards clarify the “vibe” and direction of the space right from the start. It definitely gets us on the same page, while allowing us to give a visual to others involved in the process (like our hubbies, family members, readers, etc.)So today we’re here to break down the process of creating mood boards, so YOU too can easily create a mood board before your next project. And if you’re not into home decor (which we doubt since you’re here reading the DIY Playbook), you can also use these boards to create outfit inspo, visualize your wedding plans (colors + flowers + decor) or even plan a party! <– the possibilities for mood boards are endless for visual learners like ourselves. Have we sold you on mood boards yet?! We swear we don’t make commission on signing people up for this free website…. we’re just this passionate about mood boards and want to spread the love! (fun fact: Bridget loves this site so much she has actually uses it in her classroom for student projects… and the students LOVE it!)
Mood Board Tutorial
1. Sign up for Polyvore
Go to Polyvore.com and Sign-Up (in the upper right hand corner) with an email account or even your Facebook/Twitter account. Once you’ve signed up, you’re ready to start your first mood board (or “set” as Polyvore calls it) by pressing CREATE in the upper right hand corner.
2. Start your Mood Board
Once you press CREATE, you’ll see the screen shown above. You may want to play around searching for items a bit, but honestly it’s pretty self-explanatory. You can search a specific item (ex: Target Threshold Pom-Pom Pillow Gray) or just search general items (ex: Gray Pillow). When you find an item you want to include on the mood board, simply drag it onto the mood board to the left.
There are specific categories you can search for items in as well. For example, I’m going to make a mood board based on modern chairs so I would go into the “HOME” category and type in “MODERN CHAIRS”. I can be as specific or general as possible, it all depends on what I’m looking to include on my mood board.
3. Drag, Drop & Format
As I come across chairs that I want to include on my mood board, I simply drag and drop them onto the board. The board is a “living document” until you press publish so you can move the items around, re-size them, re-format the images to a certain extent or even remove them from your board before publishing <– all of these things are super easy to do using the panel of options on the top right corner of the mood board.
Rookie Tip: If you hover over each item in the library, you can find out where it is sold and how much it costs. Some of the items are from overseas and won’t be identified in American Dollars, and we try to stay away from those items because we can’t really link them here on the blog. If you’re just adding items to get a vibe of a space ,and not necessarily to buy that exact item, the source and price may not be as important to you.
4. Clipping Tool
Now some items can’t be found while searching Polyvore, yet you still may want to include these items on your mood board. For example, when I made the mood board for the nursery, I knew what large items Katie was going to buy (i.e. the exact crib and exact piece of art above the crib) yet those items weren’t in the Polyvore library to drag and drop. Because a lot of the mood board would depend on these key pieces, I used Polyvore’s clipping tool to clip the images from the manufacturer’s website (like Target and Minted). That way they would appear under “MY ITEMS” in Polyvore and I could easily drag and drop like any other item.
The only annoying part is installing the “clipping tool” onto your toolbar, but once you install it, you will have it on your toolbar forever. To install the clipping tool, go to this page and follow the step-by-step instructions (probably do this before you start your first mood board).
Once the clipping tool is installed on your computer, you can “clip” items from literally every website. In this example, I went to West Elm’s website and found a chair I wanted to add to the mood board. I clicked on that chair on West Elm and then hit the clipping tool on my tool bar (usually you’re prompted to choose the exact graphic you would like to clip). About 5 seconds later, Polyvore notifies you that your item has been clipped. Now if you go back to Polyvore and click on the category called “MY ITEMS”, that chair’s image will be there for you to drag and drop onto your board.
5. Add Text or Special Symbols
At any point you can add text, symbols, or special effects to your mood board. I usually wait until the very end of the process to add text, numbers, and arrows, but you can choose to do this step whenever you want.
All you have to do is click on the “text” or “arrows/numbers” categories and drag and drop onto the board. At any point if you don’t like the style, you can remove that text or re-format the color, size, transparency, etc. The other categories are cool to explore if you want to add paint samples, temporary wall paper ideas, or just general special effects that match your room/outfit/party/event.
To add arrows onto our boards, I simply drag and drop the numbers you see in the library of options. Sometimes I’ll resize them or move them around a bit, but other than that, it’s really that easy! Then I’ll add the text, usually to the top of the board. These are the text options to choose from. I typically choose the same text every time to keep our mood boards somewhat familiar to readers, but you can have some fun with these fonts… and test out a lot of different looks!
Just drag the text style you want, drop it on the board, and write your message in the upper right hand corner. Once your message is written, you can change the color, size, transparency, etc. Super easy and quick and by clicking on the text box, you can go back and edit/adjust the text (or anything really) at any time!
The last thing I do before publishing the mood board is adding arrows or a mini graphic. You do this the same exact way you do anything else, drag and drop.
Once your mood board is all set, hit PUBLISH in the upper left hand corner of the board (It took us about a year to figure this out)! If you don’t want to publish the mood board that same day, you can always save the board as a draft, and come back to it later by hitting CREATE on the homepage and then OPEN.
The great news is that if you do publish your board and want to go back and make changes, you can do that just as easily by pulling up the board and pressing EDIT on the right side of the screen.
After you publish the board in polyvore, this “set” will always be a part of your Polyvore profile, which is amazing because you can always refer back to it.
When you hover over any product on your board in Polyvore, you can easily see where the item is from and how much it costs. Then if you click on it (twice), Polyvore will open up a new tab where you can buy that item from whatever store it’s from (i.e. PIER 1 in the image above). <– this is a super helpful feature for us because we can easily link directly to any item we include, without having to go back and find each URL ourselves.
We’re not sure if this last part is the most tech-savvy or efficient way to do this, but once our mood board is done we take a screen shot of the final product to show on the blog as a regular image (there is any option to get a HTML code and include that instead).
When we worked on the nursery mood board, we weren’t necessarily looking for EXACT items (except for the crib and art), we were just looking for items to get the “vibe”. Once we ironed out the vibe and color scheme of the room, we were able to send this image to Katie for her approval. Then all 3 of us saved this mood board image to our phones so we could easily access it when we were out shopping and saw something we loved. As you can see from the reveal, the nursery didn’t stick EXACTLY to the board (which is OKAY!) but the mood board was super helpful to keep our vision on track. Plus, this mood board ensured all three of us were visualizing the same thing and could plan accordingly.
Whether you’re a blogger looking to create more mood boards, or are just looking to get your hubby on board with the new dining room design, we hope this tutorial helps you visualize your space and plan accordingly. We promise that these mood boards are pretty darn easy and WELL worth the time throughout the entire design process.
Welcome to The DIY Playbook’s 2nd annual BLOG WEEK, where we will be taking a break from all things DIY to chat about some behind-the-scenes blog tips and topics that often don’t get addressed around here. We have a whole a week of fun content based on our most frequently asked questions including:
Tuesday: How to make mood boards <– for rookies (like us)
Wednesday: What it’s like to run a business with your bestie… and our advice to others
Thursday: How we make money blogging <– and how you can too!
Friday: HILARIOUS Rookie Mistakes from our favorite bloggers <— stories from some of our favorite bloggers on some of their biggest DIY, decorating, and blogging rookie mistakes to date. Legit amazing.
But before we dive into all of that, today we are chatting about the STATE OF THE BLOG. Today’s post is a series of random updates that are happening behind-the-scenes of the blog, but never really make it into a post. Mostly because we can never figure out a clean and organized way to share this randomness. Think of this post as a pot luck of blog updates, and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love a good pot luck!? <— especially when there isn’t any cooking involved!
And speaking of our favorite. YOU GUYS, our amazing and supportive readers, are our absolute favorites and as a tiny token of our appreciation we’re hosting a giveaway to say thank you for your love and support!! More details and more mushy-gushy thank you’s at the end of this post.
Juggling our day jobs + the blog
Emphasis on the “JUGGLE” because working full-time jobs and running the blog is a serious juggling act. Heck, all that juggling sometimes makes us feel like we’re those 2 crazy clowns in the circus. But to be perfectly honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This blog is our PASSION, our baby, what we look forward to working on every.single.day…. even if we’re up working on it way past our bed times. Yes it gets busy, and yes it can even get overwhelming, but we make it work because we WANT to. Do we think that maybe we can both blog full-time someday, without having to juggle our day jobs? Yes we do, but until then — a LOT more juggling. 😉
Fun Fact: Casey can actually juggle… like legit ‘three-balls-in-the-air-at-one-time’ type juggling! <– She’s probably horrified reading this right now, but she should know by now that any time I have the opportunity to brag about her, of course I’m going to! That’s what best friends do, right?!
Working with your Best Friend
Spoiler Alert: there’s no drama, no fighting, and we can honestly say that we feel so grateful for the opportunity to work together. Since we get this question A LOT, we are actually dedicating a whole post on how it is for each of us to work with our bestie. We’ll also dive into the tips we have for others who may be thinking about going into business with a bestie. As much as we LOVE it (it’s one of our FAVORITE parts of this whole journey), we would advise others to proceed with EXTREME caution. Weird, right?! Tune in Wednesday as we get personal & air our dirty laundry get totally real about how we make this relationship work (and actually thrive!).
We briefly mentioned these before (I think?), but these meetings are definitely worth touching on again. Our quarterly meetings have a great impact on the state of our blog. As a group of 4 (us + our hubbies), we hold quarterly meetings to chat about the state of the blog, the blog’s finances, large purchases, future goals, etc. Our quarterly meetings also come with the DIY Playbook treating our VERY supportive hubbies to a double date night (our Q2 meeting was a sunset cruise.. so fun!).
We see these nights out as an investment in “team building” and a great excuse to “recharge” as a group… so much so that we just planned our Q4 meeting in Mexico for New Year’s!
These quarterly meetings would not be nearly as effective without the help of Casey’s husband, Finn. He compiles our financial documents before every meeting, as well as an agenda, financial projections, and any other noteworthy information that needs to be discussed. We are SO lucky to have him and are SO grateful for ALLLLLLLLL of his hard work in handling all of DIY Playbook’s finances (without ever complaining).
Staying in our own lane
This is still one of the best pieces of advice we’ve ever gotten (thanks Courtney!). Reading other blogs, following other bloggers via social media, and just staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the “blogosphere” can definitely lead someone into an ugly comparison trap — one that sucks away your creativity and forces you to think negatively about yourself. No thank you! For us it’s important to be aware of this trap so that we can avoid it at all costs. To do that we focus on staying in our own lane (we actually wrote a whole post about it here). We focus on us (and only us!!), what we can control here on the DIY Playbook, and in the process, are genuinely HAPPY for our blogging peers. We’re positive, happy people in real life and want this slice of the internet to reflect that.
Social Media Changes
Speaking of staying in our own lane, we really try to focus on this when it comes to social media. There’s a lot of calculation, strategy and overall pressure that goes into using social media as a blogger. How do you grow your following? Are your pictures all “branded”? What hashtags are you using? How often do you post? At what time do you post? … and the list goes on and on and on. Holy stressful!
Obviously growing your audience via social media is a good thing. However, we don’t want to put pressure on ourselves and post/say things on our social media JUST to get followers. We want to be “us” and let our channels reflect who we are as people, which is a bit scary to put yourself out there for others to judge/comment on/gossip about/etc. Yikes! In the past, we haven’t always been super open or “personal” on our social media (i.e. Instagram) and kept our captions pretty general, but we have realized that sometimes it’s not JUST about the pretty picture, but it’s also about making connections with people (even if that comes at the risk of being vulnerable). We’re still navigating the waters, but being more real, candid, and just more open on social media is a goal we have and something we’ve been working on…. slowly but surely.
Stepping outside our DIY comfort zone
And speaking of slowly but surely…. we are slowly but surely building up our tool collection and trying our best to step outside of our DIY comfort zone more and more (as evidenced by Casey’s guest room, her board and batten project, B’s new faucet, and her in-progress bathroom shiplap). We are really trying to make an effort to DIY with as little “help” as possible. Navigating these projects by ourselves has helped proved that we can do this! And if we can do these projects, we KNOW that you can too!
Of course B still loves to work with her dad, and sometimes we will have to hire projects out, but it’s empowering to tackle some of these larger projects (ones we would have NEVER been able to do alone just a few years ago), all by ourselves. #babysteps
Learning & improving behind the scenes
The blog has been experiencing some behind-the-scenes changes in order to improve the quality and experience for the reader. We recently had a tech team clean up the site so that it loads a lot quicker and is a lot more streamlined when it comes to all that techie stuff. It’s all a little over our heads, but anything that makes the blog quicker and more accessible is welcomed with open arms around here.
We also recently bought a new camera lens and have started editing our photos in Lightroom (since we hear that Picasa is not going to be around forever — teardrops) in order to increase our photo quality as much as possible. Now that we switched over, we feel like we should have made the switch to Lightroom about 3 years ago! <– that’s usually the story around here. We put off the switch forever and when we do finally dive-in, we love it and wish we would have done it sooner!
A new, much more efficient mobile site!
Hopefully more room reveals. <– Right now we’re working on B’s bathroom and Casey’s dining area. But we also want to dive into B’s neglected guest room!! #eek
More Video (see below for more details)
We’re attending the Haven Blog Conference in August and look forward to connecting with our fellow bloggers. We always leave feeling extra inspired and motivated to step outside of our comfort zone and look forward to seeing what this year’s conference has to offer. =)
Our hyperlapse craft videos were such a hit, and we’ve been working on incorporating MORE of them, as well as more “just because” videos. We love creating video content (Casey does this for a living!) but making a video instead of a traditional blog post takes significantly more time, so unfortunately this isn’t always realistic. However, we’re trying to put a priority on video for the remainder of 2016.
Defining our individual styles
This is probably one of our biggest design related “goals” lately and one that doesn’t neatly fit into any specific category.Maybe we’ll put together a whole post on this if you guys are interested. In short, both of us are really working hard to identify our individual styles because we don’t think we’re quite there yet. We realize that coming to that “final conclusion” is definitely a journey, and right now we’re learning from our mistakes (and successes!).
Our end goal is to both be able to confidently identify the look that is so US. We both want to nail down these answers before we ever move on to our “forever homes” and have been taking little steps in our real lives to hone these styles (i.e. only buying what we LOVE and not just buying because something is cute, being aware of how our personal fashion style influences our decor decisions, trying to identify what is “so us”, etc.).
The bloggers and style influencers that we love the most are ones who have totally NAILED DOWN their own style. If this is something that interests you guys, we’d love to document the journey a bit more via blog posts, but weren’t sure if this is a something that everyone would find valuable. Just a thought… and a topic that has really dominated our conversations lately.
And of course we saved the BEST for last. A state of the blog address would NEVER be complete without a BIG, SINCERE thank you to all of the AMAZING people who tune in everyday to read the blog, who leave sweet comments and suggestions, who email us questions or ideas, who follow us on social media, cheer us on, and most importantly, who make this WHOLE journey possible. We are forever grateful for your love and support and hope if nothing else, reading the DIY Playbook brings you a tiny bit of happy or inspiration each day.
We are all way too aware lately that the world is not always sunshine and roses, and we try to use this platform to focus on the happy, positive, fun-loving, light-hearted stuff while hopefully inspiring a few DIY rookies along the way. We want others to feel empowered to create a home that they LOVE because if we can do it, we KNOW that you can too!! From the bottom of our grateful hearts, thank YOU for being a part of the DIY Playbook team.
And because we want to CELEBRATE you, we are a hosting a giveaway and asking for a tiny bit of feedback. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Target <—because everyone loves Target! Good luck!
Today is the day many people dread…TAX DAY. Poor April 15th gets a bad rep. It can be a stressful time for many as they scrounge through receipts, look for discarded papers, and make last-minute appointments with their accountants to get their taxes filed by this time. In years past we’ve both been pretty lackadaisical when it came to prepping for tax season. But now that we own a small business together, we’ve been forced to get our act together early on so we can stay organized & get our taxes done on time..or even early!
We certainly are not pros when it comes to this stuff (we’re not exactly math or finance whizzes…), but we do have a few techniques that we use year-round to make tax season a bit easier. So whether you’re just filing your personal taxes, or you’re a small business owner too, we hope you’ll takeaway a few tips from today’s post.
So without further ado, here are 6 tips to make tax season easier next year!
1. Come up with a system for receipts, income, & expenses
Now that the 2015 tax year is behind us, you can start fresh with a good plan for 2016. That means you need to come up with a system for your receipts, income, and expenses and stick with it! Holding onto receipts can be a big pain, but it’s a lot less stressful when you have a plan in place. We each have separate file folders for our personal receipts and our business receipts. These file folders are then organized into 12 separate tabs, one for each month. Whenever I buy something that I know is tax deductible, I save the receipt in my wallet. Once my wallet gets a bit full, I file it into the appropriate folder and month. But instead of saving this big massive folder to deal with at the end of the year, I enter the receipts into a spreadsheet every other month or so. I note the amount, date, and also categorize it (travel, food, medical, etc.) That way it isn’t an overwhelming task at the end of the year.
When it comes to income, Finn keeps a very detailed record of what’s coming into our bank account for The DIY Playbook. Then come tax time, he is just able to print out his excel document and give it directly to our accountant. If you’re just starting to track your income, then we suggest starting small with a google doc that outlines what’s coming into your bank and from whom.
2. Create a designated “spot” for tax items
So we have our little file folders for receipts, but there are also other tax-related documents that come your way. We have an electronic file filled with those important documents, and also keep all hard copies in a file folder. Come up with a system that works for you to hold onto those important papers. You don’t want to be scrambling to find these at the last minute, so hold onto your W-2’s, 1099’s and other important documents and put them in a safe place.
Also figure out a space for your old tax documents. We originally kept ours in our file cabinet, but after a few years it took up way too much space. We now have a nice large box that houses all of our tax info from previous years.
3. Find a pro you trust, or make a plan to do your own
Come up with a plan for how you’re going to handle your 2016 taxes. Doing them yourself? Figure out what software you need and get it way ahead of time. Hiring a professional? Don’t wait until February or March to desperately search for an accountant. Instead, start now! Ask friends, family members, and coworkers for their recommendations. Then meet with your new accountant soon to ask any questions, discuss what they will need from you next year, and come up with a gameplan. It will be much easier for the accountant to squeeze you into their schedule when they’re not working long hours and weekends during tax season.
4. Spend time researching major tax breaks on your own
Just because you’re using a pro, doesn’t mean you can’t do some homework on your own. If you had any major life changes (bought a house, had a baby, had a medical emergency) make sure you look into the tax benefits that go along with these big events. Then when you meet with your accountant, you’ll know what to bring up and discuss.
5. Save old tax returns digitally
If possible, save old tax returns digitally in a secure spot (you can put a password on the file) so they can easily be accessed. When it comes time for big life events (applying for a mortgage or life insurance) you will have your returns at your fingertips. Of course you should also keep the hard copies of your returns, but having the digital files instead of the 40+ paper stack will prove to be much more efficient.
6. Practice good habits year-round
This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s actually the hardest tip to implement. When it’s the middle of summer and tax season isn’t for another 9 months, it can be easy to push off thinking about it. Instead, make these habits a part of your routine. File your receipts, update your spreadsheets, and keep in contact with your accountant. This will save you a lot of time, stress, and heartache come April.
So what do you say? Ready to make tax season a heck of a lot easier in 2016? We sure hope so.
As always, we’d love to hear YOUR TIPS! We have lots of room for improvement, so let us know what works for you.
Last month, we asked you guys to submit some questions that we would then answer in a little video here on the blog. Well the day has come for us to dish!
We wish we could have answered all of your submissions (seriously some good/hilarious/interesting questions) but we did choose a variety of our favorites to chat about on-camera including…
1. How do we dust our shelves? <— The price we pay for having so many accessories and knick-knacks…
2. How do we juggle our full-time jobs & the blog? <— Spoiler alert…we definitely don’t do it all!
3. How do you decide if buying tools is worth the investment? <—Amazing question! We can’t wait to go into this one in even more detail this Spring.
4. Where do you store out-of-season clothing? <—As 2 gals with small homes, this is always a challenge!
5. You always look so put together, but don’t shop a lot…how? <—HA! Can we kiss you through the computer screen? Let’s just say we rarely looked “put together” in real life. There’s a lot of messy buns and yoga pants happening behind the scenes.
6. Any favorite recipes that your hubbies cook? <—-Bridget’s answer = hilarious.
7. Do you ever want to have children & will they be on the blog? <—- We got this question like 10x! Apparently you guys really want the scoop on when the Finn & Matkovich clans will be growing….
Now for all of the answers, check out our video. (And even if you don’t watch it all, you’ve at least gotta see us prancing around with balloons and cupcakes. Yes it happened…)
And let’s elaborate a bit on the question about our hubbies and their cooking. Bridget mentions how she has cooked one (yes, only 1!) meal for Matt since living in their home. I asked her if her meal was at least any good. Her response? She was making chicken parm and saw that the recipe called for breadcrumbs. She literally took a piece of bread, shredded it into chunks with her fingers, and coated the chicken with that. I literally almost peed my pants when she told me. We had to stop the video for a few minutes to compose ourselves. I think it’s safe to say we could both use a few cooking lessons.
Again, thank you so much for submitting questions and also for supporting us on our birthday week! We had a wonderful third year of blogging and can’t wait to see what year four brings!
Let’s face it, sometimes blogging looks a heck of a lot more glamorous than it really is. In reality, there are many good, bad, and even ugly things that come along with running your own blog. And in honor of our 3rd birthday week, we figured it was a good time to dish.
Get projects around the house done: Not gonna lie, the blog has really forced me to get my butt into gear with our Chicago condo. In fact, I often walk around each room and jot down what I want to do directly into our blog calendar. That way I’m pretty much forced to tackle a project because if it’s written down, it’s more likely to happen! I doubt we’d have accomplished this much if it wasn’t for the blog.
Readers feel like friends: It’s true, we totally see you guys as our friends and we have the BEST friends a girl could ever ask for. We love seeing familiar names in our comments and on our social media. We feel like over time we learn so much about you guys through these interactions and feel so blessed. This is definitely a really, really GOOD GREAT part of blogging. From the bottom of our hearts, thank YOU!
Support from strangers: We talked about the overwhelming support we get from some important people in our lives earlier this week, but we also need to mention the amazing support we get from strangers! Yes, complete strangers have blown us away with their support via social media, blog comments, and emails. We are so darn grateful for every single one of these and ALWAYS work hard to reply back to everyone who took time out of their chaotic schedules to reach out over the past 3 years! You words of support and encouragement mean more to us than you may ever realize. Sincerely, thank YOU!
Always something fun to look forward to: We constantly say that there is ALWAYS something to look forward to when it comes to the blog, because we are always so busy preparing for what’s next on our calendar. We are both people who would rather stay busy, and the DIY Playbook definitely keeps us very busy doing things we LOVE to do! So being busy and always having something exciting, challenging, and NEW to look forward to is one our fav parts of the blog.
There’s never a day we don’t talk: We talk every.single.day. Usually our first text exchange is before 7:30am and we continue to exchange texts or emails throughout the day. Often during the evening is when we’ll touch base with a phone call, especially when a lot is going on in the blog or in our inbox! This blog has strengthened our friendship so much and has allowed us to be constantly communicating and constantly up-to-date about what is going on in each other’s lives (like up-to-the-minute updates) and this is by FARRRR one of the best parts of this entire experience. We feel so blessed to have each other.
Always having something you “should be doing”: We just told you that being busy and always having something to look forward to and prepare for is the “good” part of the blog (and it almost always is), but at times this can be the tough part too. Because we are busy with our day jobs and trying to juggle life outside of the blog, anytime we have “down time” or free time we feel like we need to be doing work so we don’t fall behind. Having that looming feeling that we should always be doing something is definitely hard to escape at times and can become a tad stressful. But remember… we actually like being busy so as long as we’re not overwhelmingly busy, then we make it work!!
Feeling like you can’t make your home what you want because it’s been done on the blog before: Sad, but true. We always want to try to create/showcase new, original, creative content on the DIY Playbook. Usually we LOVE this part of the blog, but sometimes this actually becomes a problem. There are times we want to repeat something we already did (and love), but feel bad doing so because we don’t want readers becoming upset that we’ve “been there, done that”.
Take B’s board and batten obsession. She likes it so much that she put it in her hallway, her bedroom and her dining room and we felt bad for repeating it so much. AND we actually got some hate mail about how offended someone was that we kept re-doing the same design choice. EEK! (They’re really not gonna be happy when Casey shows off her new family room built-ins…) We felt bad, but if we love these projects, sometimes it’s worth redoing them rather than just doing something to be “new”. I mean we are the ones living in our homes, shouldn’t it look the way we want? We don’t necessarily want a trendy space, we just want spaces we LOVE… fine line, right?!
Not unplugging as often as we should: Eek… we both have some serious room for improvement in this category. For both our own sanity and the sanity of those around us (cough, cough… those poor hubbies), we need to do a way better job of setting limits and UNPLUGGING. <– enter that looming feeling that we could be checking, updating, emailing, etc. and we’re wasting time.
Talking about our blog feels like bragging so we avoid it: Chatting more about the blog in our “real lives” was one of our 2016 goals, and we are totally failing at it so far! The DIY Playbook is such a HUGE part of our lives, but it’s hard to chat about it with friends and family without feeling like we are bragging…. so we usually default to a generic response when someone asks about it. We NEED to get better at this, especially because it’s something we are so proud of and it’s such a huge part of our lives!
Not having enough time to tackle bigger projects: If we had it our way, we would tackle far more weekend warrior projects and hardcore DIYs (hello bathroom remodel!). Unfortunately though, this is not always an option when we are trying to juggle work, blog, family, friends, and LIFE. =/ However, we did carve out two FULL weekends this month to tackle one of our biggest DIYs to date! We had to put it on the calendar 3 months in advance to make it happen (seriously..) but we can’t wait to get started!
Negative comments: This is just the W-O-R-S-T. Very rarely do we get ugly, negative, or mean comments on our own blog or our social media accounts. However, when companies share our projects on their social media pages or websites… that’s when we’ll see some straight up RUDE comments. We totally understand that not everyone shares our style or taste (we’re all different and that’s okay!!) but we just can’t seem to understand the need for someone to make these rude comments on the internet. If people have constructive criticism or a difference of opinions, we are all ears. But straight up rude/mean/offensive opinions that serve no purpose… Why, why, WHY?! We just can’t seem to understand and probably never will, but hope to focus on our own work and our own positivity. =)
“Am I good enough?”: Possibly stemming from those mean comments (yikes) or maybe just they’re just natural feelings that come with putting yourself out there for everyone to judge, but we would be lying if we said we don’t sometimes question ourselves and wonder if we’re really good enough. We try our best, try hard to stay true to ourselves, and hope to inspire a few fellow DIY-ers along the way — but bottom line: we are rookies! We are not expert carpenters, not full-time bloggers, not professional interior designers, and are NOT perfect… just average homeowners who love DIY and home decor.
Back issues: The chiropractor called, she’s reminding you about your appointment tomorrow after work! <– true story!! Blogging from our beds, our kitchen islands, or our couches during the Bachelor is not doing either of our bodies (specifically our backs) any favors. We try to hit the gym when we can to help make up for this sitting/slouching but we do sometimes have sore backs, necks, or even arms (Bridget) because of our bloggin’ ways. #30goingon75
So we hope we brought you a little behind-the-scenes to see the reality of being a blogger. Not so glamorous, right? Also, if you want to read our first take on the Good, Bad, & Ugly series be sure to check out this post from 2 years ago! (Crazy that not much has changed!)
P.S. Another GOOD thing about the blog? Your husband asking to jump in your photo shoot for a little impromptu balloon fun! Gotta love a man who isn’t afraid of pink balloons. (& here he thought he was getting away with me not putting this picture on the internet this week)
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