This is one of those more personal posts that show up in my blog feed every few months. I’ll feel a natural draw to write about something that’s itching my brain, and this post is centered around one of those topics that I get asked about from time to time and sometimes my answer confuses people. So in an effort to answer why I’m here, what my goal is, am I an influencer and why or why not — allow me to explain.
I started my AbbeyMadeThis Instagram account back in 2019 under the name @the_chiahouse. I had been on the DIY and home renovation train for a solid five years by that point, but stopped myself from blogging about it or posting about it with any sense of regularity because there were so many people who I thought were way better at it than I was. I didn’t feel like my voice was super necessary in such a crowded room, and so I remained a wallflower.
Then one day I was like… I’m going for it, because why the fuck not? I was actually pretty embarrassed to have an account devoted to my DIYs. I would secretly take pictures of my house when Jake wasn’t home and would only go on Instagram stories when I was alone. I was worried that my friends and family — even my super incredible unicorn husband that is both supportive and doesn’t give a shit about being embarrassed — would have secondhand embarrassment watching me pretend to be an influencer to a tiny crowd. But I did it anyway!
As time went on, I realized that fear was irrational. I was just nervous about trying something new. Sharing my home, my triumphs and failures, and my thoughts morphed into an incredibly fun outlet for me to pursue both mentally and creatively. My day job is one that requires me to be alone a lot of the time, and as a social person it became borderline depressing. The female-dominated DIY Instagram world offered me a sense of community with hundreds of other women who felt just as passionately about being a modern homemaker as I did. I’m being completely truthful when I say that the DIY side of Instagram has helped keep me mentally stable over the last few years. Especially in 2020-2021 when pandemic isolation was in full swing.
In my first year of having a dedicated DIY account, I accidentally launched a female-empowered hashtag: #girlsjustwanttodiy. It’s now a tag that’s full of totally badass women who DIY everything from woodworking to murals. This was the type of thing I was trying to do on Instagram — bring all of these likeminded women together in one space.
And then I started the blog in mid-2019. Another fuck it, I’ll try it move!
I won’t lie, when I started my account/blog, the idea of making money and being an influencer by just doing what I’m already doing was HELLA appealing. I geared my content towards growth. I took pictures and wrote captions based on what people wanted from me. I signed up for influencer linking services. I read all of the blog posts about how to grow your account on your Instagram and your blog and I followed that.
One of the tips that every “how to grow your account” blog post drives home is be authentic with your audience, care about them, and take the time to reply to them when you’re growing. I took this advice to heart and implemented it immediately. I liked, commented, followed back. My audience grew and my sense of community grew. Suddenly, I had an audience that allowed me leverage to reach out to brands with a small media kit and I got sponsorships. It was super fun!
And then I did my sponsorships and realized they were more like an ill-fitting t-shirt. It just wasn’t comfortable on me. It was something I saw others do, and thought I wanted, but by the time I got it and tried it on for size, it just wasn’t what I had pictured it would be. And so, from that point on, I pivoted. I started posting more about what I wanted to post about. I stopped writing to brands asking for sponsorships and partnerships. I launched my Etsy store as a joke but it actually took off.
I ended up changing my handle and blog name from being a home decor-focused one to being a more general creative one. I unlocked a sense of creative freedom with that one little move. I started sharing my art — something I’m incredibly passionate about — and all of the new ways I was utilizing different art forms as well as home DIY things.
And my account grew.
After I swore off searching for partnerships and collaborations, I felt a ton of freedom to slather the words fuck, shit, damn ALL OVER THE PLACE because I no longer had to represent myself in a way that was appealing to the masses. I love swearing and a lot of big-name brands do not like working with people who talk like me. And I get it!
I also posted way less often, but with way more substance every time. I still replied to every single comment, almost every DM, and I wrote blog posts when the ideas came to me. I popped into stories nearly everyday because that is where the community lies for me. When I story, I get to talk to you in person. It breaks down the wall between me and my audience that I like to think of as my friends.
And… my account grew! Again!
It’s slow growth, but now without the added pressure of potential sponsorships, I don’t give a flying fuck how many people follow or unfollow me or how fast growth happens. My engagement is bananas good these days. The dreaded algorithm doesn’t occupy a speck of space in my day-to-day life, and my lack of regularity doesn’t even seem to affect my posts anyway. I feel like my brain was freed from a captivity of my own making. The influencer life just wasn’t for me! Plus — does the world really need more white, female, middle-class, home-owning influencers like me? Not really.
Let me be clear: I have absolutely ZERO beef with influencers. I am good friends with A LOT of them and they work their asses off for every sponsorship they get and they crush their campaigns. I love supporting them and their work. The women I know are strong, capable, and fight patriarchal viewpoints in the home remodeling world, and they believe in what they’re promoting rather than doing it to make a quick buck. Because being an influencer is anything but easy or fast money; that shit is HARD WORK. I dipped my toes in the influencer world and ultimately decided it just isn’t for me and that’s perfectly fine.
So what is the point of AbbeyMadeThis?
I’m figuring that part out as I go. If I were to sum it up, it would be something like I want to serve my community by giving other women like me the confidence in themselves to do the things that scare them. I want to serve as an inspiration to other people to feel like they are more capable than they give themselves credit for. That being an amateur or a beginner isn’t a negative title, it’s one to be proud of because you started something. But it’s all super low-stakes/low-pressure for me because that’s what my lifestyle and personality calls for in order for me to lead the happiest life I can.
Yeah, I could monetize this, but I just don’t want to right now, and maybe not ever. The effort just doesn’t seem worth it to me right now. I make pennies on ad revenue from my blog because I don’t want to be a full-time blogger; I just really love to write and share and create community. If I became a full-time blogger, I can all but guarantee that the things I would write about wouldn’t be what I’m passionate about and I’d be writing just to write and that makes me feel dead inside. Maybe it’s my ADHD, my depression, or something else, but doing a job that requires me to sit at a computer for hours a day is not my speed. I’m horrible at checking my email, I get antsy, and I get bored. Plus, I’m opening a coffee shop later this year and that’s where I want my focus to be.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I do have a project I’m working on. And you know what it is?
I’m going to name it Doing It Anyway — it’s a riff of my I don’t know WTF I’m doing pins that I sell in my Etsy shop, and my overall motto in life: I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway! The goal of the show is to serve as an extension of what I think people value the most about following me online: to gain inspiration from other people who are just straight-up going for it; confidence-building; stories of failure and triumph; and a place where being an amateur is a good thing.
I do not have a launch date yet but I’ll be sure to update you when that happens. I’m currently working on sourcing the proper equipment and testing it all and figuring out how it works, as well as honing in on the craft of storytelling. I have a running list of people from all different walks of life and professions that I want to interview for the show, and I have a friend working on music for it. I think it’ll be a really great thing when it arrives, but please be patient while I make some tweaks to its overall form.
As an aside: I read this book last year and it was great from the perspective of just a person who didn’t plan to start a podcast and wanted to get better at telling stories. I’m now reading it again and taking notes because it has excellent advice for podcasting.
My audience on Instagram and on the blog (so, YOU!) is absolutely incredible and I want your input on what you want to see and hear on the podcast. I try not to use the word “followers” when it comes to my audience because in my head, that insinuates the idea that y’all are getting something from me and not vice-versa; like it’s a one-way street. In reality, I get so much from all of you. It’s symbiotic to me, and I know that you all are here to cheer me on even when I’m scared shitless to try something so big and scary and new.
So anyway – if you have any ideas for what you’d like from this venture, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOVE YOU, BYE.