It’s amazing how the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by. Maybe it is because all the major milestones I was counting down for (hitting a double-digit age, getting a driver’s license, graduating high school, turning 18, turning 21, you get the idea) were slowing things down and since they’re all behind me now, time flies by at an alarming pace! (I mean how is it already April?!) I am sitting here trying to figure out how it is possible that I started this blog 5 years ago while FMK and I were vacationing in St. Lucia (more on that below).
If you do anything consistently for five years, the odds are you are going to learn a few things here and there. Well, needless to say, I have learned so much on this crazy journey we call blogging so I thought it would be fun to share a few of them with you. For fun, let’s take a look back at how this all got started and I’ll share my Top 5 Things I Have Learned. Then, I want to thank you for helping me achieve my Top 5 Biggest Accomplishments. And last, I want to share the Top 5 Post from each year. Sound fun? Let’s do this!
First things first, how did HOUSE of HARPER come about?
I get this question a lot in person, but I don’t think I have officially answered it here on the blog. I was working as a Buyer at Gilt Groupe in New York and the company started testing a shoppable video series call Gilt TV. Somehow, I was cast to co-host the series and I really enjoyed it! I shot one episode with a blogger (Lyndsey of Calla in Motion) and her career intrigued me enough to plant a little seed. After that, every time we would partner with a blogger at work or I would be reading a favorite blogger’s latest post, I kept thinking to myself, ‘This looks fun, I should do this too!” But some things are easier said than done. I was working crazy hours at Gilt Groupe so I never seemed to have the time to pull the trigger until FMK and I went on vacation during his spring break (He was in his first year of Business School at Columbia University). If you want to get a big laugh, go check out our dark and out of focus first blog posts here.
If you have followed from the beginning, you know the blog originally launched as ‘Caroline in the City’, but rebranded to HOUSE of HARPER in July of 2013. I explain the reasons behind this here.
I have learned so much over the last 5 years! From technical things like how to read/write some html code to life lessons like how to be the most efficient with your time when trying to balance working from home with two kids in the house. But here are the Top 5 Tips I pass on to any aspiring bloggers out there.
Be Consistent. Success doesn’t (typically) happen over night. It takes (a lot of) hardwork, dedication and patience. Be consistent and you will get there. But don’t be too hard on yourself along the way. It is so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and to start comparing, but don’t let yourself go there. There will always be someone better than you (at any given topic) or that has more than you. If you put your worth in material and fleeting things, you can never be truly happy. If you are a blogger, I hope you are doing it because you are passionate about what you blog about. Be your genuine self and enjoy the process. Again, this will come through to your audience and will eventually work in your favor.
Invest in yourself. When I started this blog it was a side project and I still had my full-time job. Not only did I invest my time in growing HOUSE of HARPER, but as my income from the blog grew so did the income I invested back into the blog. Over the years I have invested in 1.) a talented photographer & videographer to help me create professional and compelling content 2.) a web developer to bring my vision and brand to life 3.) a management firm to help connect me with brands and facilitate our partnerships (they take a % of all my sponsored content) 4.) an assistant to help with some of the daily task so I can focus on creating content and building the brand 5.) equipment and tools (more on these below)
Never stop learning. There is never a shortage of new and/ or improved technology. When I get complacent, the rest of the industry moves on without me. Challenge yourself to never stop seeking new information and better ways of doing things.
Network. When I started blogging in 2011, I never dreamed it would be the source of making so many dear personal friends. I was living in a new city and little did I know that sitting behind a computer in my spare time would create lasting personal friendships. I have traveled with these girls, I have spent many late morning brunches with these girls and, of course, we have bonded over this unique on-line world we live. These are the women I can share a tiny hotel room, early pregnancy news, and a cup of coffee with, but these are also the women I can go to for career advice. There is a perception out there that bloggers are all competitive mean girls, but the truth is ever milestone and accomplishment I have achieved was because of the support of my blogging community. Find the girls like this for you, and surround yourself with them.
Give Back. You know what they say, what goes around comes around. Whether you share your love with a weekly round-up (like Grace), a weekly social media shout out (like Ashley), a personal note, connecting friends in the industry (Meghan is the best at this!) or by sharing the knowledge you have learned, sprinkle the love around like confetti!
This is a big one, if you ask me! Knowing the right tools to use can save you time and give you invaluable insight and knowledge. Here are my Top 5 Blogging Tools for any seasoned blogger or newbie!
Iconsquare: Understand your Instagram trends with Iconsquare. There are free and paid versions that give you insight from everything from the best time to post, top performing hashtags, most liked & commented media, etc. This tool is a must for anyone wanting to grow their Instagram following. Oh, and once you know when to post, you may want to schedule it in Latergramme.
Hootsuite: It’s no secret that bloggers need to be on social media pretty much 24/7, but a lot of us have other obligations. I started blogging when I had a full time corporate job and now I have a full-time Mommy job so scheduling content is one of my best friends! I mentioned Latergramme above, but Hootsuite is a wonderful way to schedule content, respond to comments and see analytics for most of your social media accounts in one place (compatible with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+, does not support Pinterest).
Tailwind: Speaking of Pinterest, there is an amazing new tool that I just discovered for scheduling pins, Tailwind. You can install the button (just like Pinterest), but instead of pinning things at that time, it will schedule them out during peak traffic times. You can also shuffle your pins so it isn’t posting all the same outfit at once. Favorite new discovery right here!
CoSchedule: Now that we have covered social media, let’s talk blogging specifics. I am a huge fan of CoSchedule for managing my editorial calendar, scheduling content and assigning task to team members. They offer a free trial and amazing videos to help you maximize all the tools they offer. This is priceless for getting organized whether you are a one person show or a large team.
Bitly: Another great tracking tool I use on a daily basis is Bitly. It is free and simple. You simply paste in a long link and it will create a short, trackable link for you. I use this with any link I paste in my blog so I can see how much traffic I drive to outside sources. I also use it to track all my personal links for social media, etc to see what my readers are interested in. This one is definitely a no brainer!
Google business: Okay, I know I am getting off my Top 5 list here, but I had to include this one, as well. I recently moved my email over to a Google business account and it has been amazing! (You still keep your @houseofharper, but it is hosted by gmail so you get all the benefits of gmail + more!) I was able to create a second email for my assistant, but the best part is all the shared files we can access and work in the google drive! I basically created an online portal for our business that we can access from any device as long as we have wi-fi. Game changer.
This is sort of impossible to do without leaving out some really fun ones out, but out of my 766(!) blog post so far, here are five of some of my all-time favorites from each year of blogging!
Top 5 of 2011:
Color Me Happy: Remember when color-blocking was so huge?! (Gotta love FMK’s photography on our digital camera!)
The Art of Fashion (Shot by my mom at The Met)
Safari Chic (Shot by my sister at her home in San Antonio)
The Graduate (Another one by FMK at Columbia University)
Grecian White (by FMK in Santorini)
Top 5 of 2012:
Pink Lady (I miss my morning walk through this park in TriBeCa.)
Matchy, Matchy (still love this look)
The Office (still wear this dress!)
Faux Real (I miss NYC stoops in the UWS!)
A Walk in the Park (I actually shot this myself on a tripod! If this doesn’t make me miss NYC at this time of year, I don’t know what will!)
Top 5 of 2013:
Top 5 post of 2014:
Cap Lady (my favorite way to style a baseball cap for a rainy day!)
Kissy, Kissy + Knox (how we would spend our NYC days)
New York Apartment Reveal (our last TriBeCa apartment)
All For One (one of my first Houston post)
Holiday Sparkle (a favorite holiday look)
Top post of 2015 round-up: here
Last but certainly not least, I want to thank each and every one of you. Whether you are visiting for the first time or have followed along since the early day, thank you for your support and encouragement along the way. A blogger can’t be successful without everyone around them from their followers, photographer / videographer, spouse, friends and family so all this is really because of you! Thank you for making my dreams for this blog a reality plus more that I never even knew to dream! Here are my Top 5 Biggest Blogging Accomplishments over the years…
- Appearing in my first national ad campaign in Instyle & People Magazine!
- Being named a Top Blogger by Southern Living (two years in a row!)
- Making an appearance as a style expert on Great Day Houston (twice!)
- Photographing and curating a Nordstrom catalogue!
- Getting the opportunity to speak to my peers at Thrive, Create & Cultivate: Dallas and The Southern C Summit!
Thank you for 5 amazing years! xo