Laura Leigh Elliott, the smiling face behind life and style blog, Louella Reese, let us in on how she is able to do what she loves full-time, the dos and don’ts of working with bloggers, and what she sees for the future. Check out our conversation below.
How did you get started as a blogger and when did it turn full-time?
Out of college I was as pharmaceutical representative; I was reading the same script in every office, wearing a uniform and my creative side was dying. During some down time, I came across a blogger on Pinterest and a few hours later, after reading ALL of her posts, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have a plan or any kind of consistency when I started, but the more I blogged, the more I fell in love with it. That was four years ago and about a year ago I was able to make it my full-time job.
Once I began making the same money blogging part-time that I was in my other full-time job, I felt comfortable making the jump and knew I could succeed even more if I was doing it full-time. Also, the flexible schedule allows me to spend more time with my husband and do the things I truly enjoy.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
The hardest part for me was reaching out to companies, pitching myself and not being afraid to ask for money. I had to look at it as a business, not just a passion project, get out of my own head and grow my confidence. I have come a very long way since the beginning and enjoy helping others find that voice inside themselves too.
Another hard aspect is letting whoever you are working with know just how much work goes into a blog post about their product. Sometimes I might have to get supplemental items for the shoot, schedule a photographer or work a clothing item in with my current wardrobe, which can take additional time and effort. Many times, companies don’t think about compensating you for this time, so you have to explain what all is involved.
Where do you see blogging world going in the future?
I think it is around for the long haul. However, I do think that bloggers are evolving into influencers and are focusing in on one or two outlets, instead of having a blog and every form of social media. Long-form blogging is time consuming to write and sometimes for readers to keep up with, so more influencers are using social media as their main outlet.
I also see more brands, marketers and PR firms going to influencers instead of celebrities. Not only will they get more bang for their buck, but they will also see influencers as better able to relate to the people they want to touch, compared to celebrities. There are so many brands and companies out there that this will only continue to grow.
What entices you to work with a brand, company, PR firm, etc.?
There are a few factors that come into play when I am choosing what to say “yes” to. I get a good vibe right off the bat if I feel like whoever I am working with knows me, has done their research and truly cares. A lot of time people will address emails to my blog name thinking it is my name, which it isn’t, and that shows they probably haven’t read the blog at all. Not doing your research sets a bad tone from the beginning; I expect them to get to know me the same way they would expect me to get to know their company.
Before saying yes, I ensure it is a product or service that fits in with the rest of my brand and will be something of value to those following me. I ask for a lot of feedback from my followers using their comments, polls and Instagram stories, so I am pretty in tune with what they want to see and what keeps them coming back.
I also appreciate being able to meet the people I am working with. A lot of what I do is based on relationships and being able to put a face to a name and developing that rapport can make the experience for both sides more positive and enjoyable. This also helps to facilitate the conversation about what they are looking for by working with me so that I can provide the best service. I like to know if they have a very specific vision for the post or if I have most of the creative control.
Lastly, when I have a positive – or negative – experience, those stories usually end up being shared with my larger blogger community as well when we get together. All the girls in this world of influencers are very supportive of each other, like to work together and want to steer each other in the right direction. So even if you are working with one influencer, that experience can trickle down to others you might want to work with in the future.
What are you looking forward to as you go into year two of working on Louella Reese full-time?
I enjoy – and have seen great traffic – from my localized posts on things to do in Charlotte, such as my personal top five restaurants. I would love to incorporate more posts about weekend getaways, travel tips and top restaurants from Charlotte and other cities around the South.
I would also love to have my own clothing line or even just a few pieces under the Louella Reese name. When I was deciding on the name for my blog, I made sure that it was long lasting and one that meant a lot to me no matter where this adventure went. (Side note: “Louella Reese” is a blend of her family nickname, her grandmother’s name and her beloved dog’s name – so sweet!)