If you want to know how to handle the ups and downs of blogging, you need to listen to this episode with Sue De Chiara from The Zhush.
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the show. Before I launch in, I wanted to say that David and I noticed something, that a lot of people who listen to the podcast who want to be starting online businesses don’t have blogs, and they don’t know how to set one up, and they’re not technical.
So, we decided to start a service called MiloTree Blog Start, where we will help you get a blog up in a matter of days. You do not have to have any technical skills. We’ve got the technical skills.
We wanted to do this so that we could help people really launch their businesses without the fear of the technology will be there. We will help. We’re there for questions. We’re not going to get you set up and leave you to deal with this, but we want a way for you to start building your businesses.
So if you are interested, please head to MiloTree.com/BlogStart. Again, it’s MiloTree.com/BlogStart and you can see what we’re offering. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at Jillian@MiloTree.com. I would love to hear from you.
If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it. So please be in touch. For today’s episode, I am interviewing Sue de Chiara. Sue has a beautiful blog called The Zhush. It’s Z-H-U-S-H.
I wanted to have her on the show because she is doing so well on Instagram. Her Instagram is beautiful. She has about 116,000 followers. We talk a lot about Instagram, how she’s built her business, the mistakes she’s made along the way.
I love how honest Sue is. I feel like we are now friends. And so without further delay, I bring you, Sue de Chiara.
Sue, welcome back to the show.
Sue de Chiara 2:19
Hi! Happy to be here.
Jillian Leslie 2:21
So this is our second recording. We did an entire recording, but the tech wasn’t great. So I asked you to come back and here you are.
Sue de Chiara 2:29
Yeah, here I am. No problem.
Jillian Leslie 2:30
I love it. All right. First of all, I found your site because it’s beautiful and you use MiloTree. I always kind of check-in on our customers. When I saw what you were doing, I reached out to you and I said please come on the show because I want to talk about your business.
Sue de Chiara 2:49
Yeah, and I was more than happy to because I not only use your MiloTree app but I listen to your podcast all the time.
Jillian Leslie 2:56
Oh, thank you. That’s great. Okay, so you have a site called The Zhush.
Sue de Chiara 3:02
Jillian Leslie 3:03
And it is spelled “The” and then Z-H-U-S-H.
Sue de Chiara 3:09
Jillian Leslie 3:10
How would you describe yourself as a blogger?
Sue de Chiara 3:15
I am an interior design enthusiast but I also talk about fashion, style, and design as it impacts your life sort of on the day-to-day.
Jillian Leslie 3:26
But you are not an interior designer, I remember from our last podcast. Explain the difference.
Sue de Chiara 3:32
I’m not looking to design other people’s homes. I don’t have formal training in interior design. I’m just very passionate about it. I like to inspire other people with what we’ve done in our own home or what I think looks cool somewhere else.
I based a lot of my own home’s designs off of other ideas that I found online in the past decade. So it’s sort of like a community-based idea.
Jillian Leslie 4:02
Great. Okay. Tell the story of how you got into blogging and how you picked your niche.
Sue de Chiara 4:09
Okay. It was back in 2009. I was looking for inspiration. We were renovating our old home in Westchester, New York. This was at the same time that a lot of design magazines, traditional old school publications were folding.
I sort of learned about Domino Magazine right when they were in their last one or two issues.
Jillian Leslie 4:35
I love that magazine.
Sue de Chiara 4:38
I got more and more into searching for things online. The more I searched for inspiration online, I sort of fell into these other blogs and I loved them.
I just sort of like wanted to jump into the conversation. It wasn’t for business purposes. I didn’t use the word entrepreneur. It was strictly a hobby.
Jillian Leslie 5:01
And this was before Pinterest?
Sue de Chiara 5:03
It was before everything. I think there was Facebook and maybe Twitter.
Jillian Leslie 5:07
Okay. And so, from that how did you turn your hobby into a business?
Sue de Chiara 5:15
It sort of slowly happened over time. I just stuck with it. I never intended to stick with it as long as I did but I really really liked it. Influencer is what they’re called now, bloggers then, got more street cred, for lack of a better word.
Offers started coming my way and it became clear to me over a matter of time that this was a viable business opportunity. Probably took me longer than most to realize that but I did eventually realize it.
Jillian Leslie 5:48
Now, what kind of offers?
Sue de Chiara 5:51
We get offers to do sponsored posts. Or a small business like an Etsy vendor would say, “Would you put a little square up on your site?” And I would charge like monthly rent for a little sidebar space, things like that.
And then, I learned more and more about affiliate marketing. There was a long time that I had my own store online and we did affiliate marketing but that became a huge headache so I shut that down in 2017.
Jillian Leslie 6:21
Okay. And so, what kinds of things were you selling online in your store?
Sue de Chiara 6:28
Related to my site where I would focus on accessorizing a room which is kind of like zhushing a room. So, small decorative home decor accessories, monogram pillowcases, knickknacks, bookends, candleholders, and all fun stuff like that.
Jillian Leslie 6:49
How long did you have the business?
Sue de Chiara 6:50
I had it for about seven years. Probably a year and a half too long.
Jillian Leslie 6:55
Okay. Let’s talk about that. So you start this business and you think, “People are coming to my site for inspiration. What if I sell them the items?” Were you then buying the items and keeping inventory?
Sue de Chiara 7:10
About 50% of the items we kept inventory on. And approximately 50% like the monogram, personalized items, it was a drop-ship arrangement with other vendors.
Jillian Leslie 7:23
Okay. When did you kind of have an inkling, “This wasn’t working.” Or did it work for a while?
Sue de Chiara 7:30
It did. It worked for a while. I was really into it for a while. We got great press. We got great coverage. I never knew how to scale it properly. I didn’t even know what this word scale something really meant.
I had no background in retail. Certainly no background in online retail which was just sort of starting at the time. It just became more of a headache than it was worth.
At the same time, the blog which I always loved was making revenue and it was just a lot easier and a lot less stressful.
Jillian Leslie 8:06
Got it. Okay.
Sue de Chiara 8:07
So, I made the decision to pull the plug on the store.
Jillian Leslie 8:10
Now, we had talked about this in the last recording, but that you said you knew earlier that you knew like a year and a half earlier that this wasn’t working, but it took that long to pull the plug.
Sue de Chiara 8:23
Jillian Leslie 8:24
And do you think that that was because of your emotions?
Sue de Chiara 8:28
I think because so much went into establishing the store and getting it to the point where it was that I couldn’t imagine that I was just going to pull the plug on it. It was a hard decision to make.
Jillian Leslie 8:44
And now looking back on it, what do you think about it?
Sue de Chiara 8:48
Looking back, I wish I had done it sooner.
Jillian Leslie 8:52
Right. I think I have shared this, for Catch My Party we partnered with some party suppliers and we put up a Shopify store on Catch My Party because like you, it made perfect sense to us that people are looking for party ideas here. Here’s the opportunity to buy party supplies.
In a smart way, we initially went into this with, “We’re not going to build a lot of technology. We’re literally going to attach a Shopify store to our site, and we’re going to take their feed of products and put them on our site.”
We were super excited. We loved our partners too, which was like, “This is just going to be like a huge hit.” We turned it on, and it was crickets. We got no sales.
But we kept telling ourselves, “Oh my God, this should totally work. If we just tweak it this way or tweak it that way it will work.” And even with all the tweaking and all the time of our partners and us, it didn’t work.
We liked them so much. We believed in our idea so much that it took us a while to turn it off. I would say the same thing, which is in hindsight, the writing was on the wall and we couldn’t see it because our emotions were so wrapped up in it.
The lesson that I’ve gotten from that now is to check my own assumptions and hypotheses. Meaning, I come up with a hypothesis for our business, and then I test it.
I tell myself, I really don’t know the answer. If it’s working right away, I keep it. If it’s not, I start thinking about moving on to another experiment.
Sue de Chiara 10:32
Right. Sort of I have this similar you know. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall seeing what sticks.
Jillian Leslie 10:39
Yes. I know that seems like, what are you doing? But I will tell you that the internet is the Wild West and that I have used that analogy. Meaning there is some thought behind the spaghetti I’m throwing. Like what kind of spaghetti I’m throwing. But there is some truth to that.
Sue de Chiara 11:04
Jillian Leslie 11:06
And for me, I find it very humbling.
Sue de Chiara 11:09
Yeah, it can be.
Jillian Leslie 11:11
So, okay. So you shut your business down how many years ago?
Sue de Chiara 11:15
Jillian Leslie 11:16
And then, you started focusing more on your blog?
Sue de Chiara 11:20
Exactly. Well, full steam ahead on just the blog.
Jillian Leslie 11:23
Let’s talk about then how you monetize your blog.
Sue de Chiara 11:28
I monetize it with ads on the site, and also through affiliate links through the site. Sometimes with sponsored posts.
Jillian Leslie 11:40
Now, have you seen your number of sponsored posts increase, decrease? How has that evolved for you?
Sue de Chiara 11:48
It’s been sort of the same. I signed up with a lot of different networks to get sponsored work, but I don’t really follow through with any of it.
I just sort of take the approach, if they contact me, then I’ll explore it more but I don’t have a lot of time to keep applying for the sponsored work. It’s sort of like whatever falls into my lap. And then, it’s got to be a good fit. And then, I’ll take that on.
Jillian Leslie 12:15
And this would be a brand reaching out to you
Sue de Chiara 12:17
A brand or a brand rep. Right.
Jillian Leslie 12:19
Right. Okay. And then, is there a lot of back and forth these days? Were going to talk about your Instagram. You have a very big Instagram. My hunch is that brands want to take advantage of that.
Sue de Chiara 12:33
Right. It’s all like a package deal these days. It’s not just a blog post. It’s usually like, they would like a blog post, one or two posts on Instagram, then they want the Instagram stories.
How many stories they want, and where it should go, and how it should swipe up. It’s so different now what brands are looking for, whereas just three or four years ago, you could really run with it more on your own and just do creatively what you want to do.
Now, it’s dictated a lot more. There are clearer parameters of what they’re looking for, which is good and bad.
Jillian Leslie 13:12
I have found for us with Catch My Party, it has been a lot more back and forth.
Sue de Chiara 13:17
Jillian Leslie 13:18
And therefore, I am very particular now about accepting sponsored content because I find it takes so much longer.
Sue de Chiara 13:30
Jillian Leslie 13:30
I don’t necessarily see that my rates are going up to compensate for that.
Sue de Chiara 13:38
Exactly. I’m finding the same exact thing. The back and forth with the emails and the approvals, it’s time-consuming.
Jillian Leslie 13:46
Yes. And it feels for me somewhat arbitrary. I’m not exactly sure why this photo versus this photo is going to give them a better ROI.
Sue de Chiara 14:02
I get the sense that everybody’s still trying to figure this whole thing out. Sometimes it works in lightning strikes. Other times it doesn’t.
They’re trying to just glean as much information as they can from what works and then everything shifts, and we’re all just trying to figure it out in real-time.
Jillian Leslie 14:19
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Now, I’m on your blog right now. I see that you have these beautiful gift guides for the holidays. So, let’s talk about your affiliate income and kind of your strategy.
Sue de Chiara 16:33
Well, I don’t really have a strategy other than trying to get traffic to the site. I pick things that I only love. I work with rewardStyle. They are affiliated with so many stores online that it’s very easy to just talk about what you love. So, that part is very easy for me.
Jillian Leslie 16:55
Okay. You are making the images and you are putting together your take on all the different products?
Sue de Chiara 17:02
Exactly. Those are my collages. Those are what I’m actually buying for people. That all comes very naturally and very easy for me.
Jillian Leslie 17:10
How do your gift guides do?
Sue de Chiara 17:12
They are doing pretty well. I know people love the ones for teenage girls because I have teenage girls. Full disclosure, I ask them to help me with it ahead of time because I’m not going to make up what I think teenage girls would like.
I’m going to go to the source and find out what teenage girls like. Why wouldn’t I do that?
Jillian Leslie 17:32
Absolutely. Okay. After we get off I’m going to go look at your list because I have an almost teenage daughter with very specific tastes. I’m curious to see what your daughters are liking right now.
Okay. How then are you promoting your gift guides? One thing that I had talked about in a previous podcast about gift guides is making them very specific like you just did with like teenage girls versus something more general like kitchen appliances or kitchen things.
Sue de Chiara 18:03
Jillian Leslie 18:04
What is your thought about that?
Sue de Chiara 18:06
Yeah. I think it’s probably better to be more specific because you just have to think about if you were looking for a gift, how would you go about looking for it? It’s easy to think of yourself as the consumer buying the gift.
Jillian Leslie 18:20
Right. And then, how are you promoting your content? How are you getting eyeballs on your content?
Sue de Chiara 18:29
It’s a little bit of everything. It’s a little bit of SEO. It’s a little bit of social media, my email list. It’s a wing and a prayer.
And then sometimes if it’s very affiliate heavy, I might push it out on Facebook with a Facebook Ad and put a little money behind it just to scoot it along a little further.
Jillian Leslie 18:49
Has that helped you?
Sue de Chiara 18:51
I think it has. I think it has, yeah.
Jillian Leslie 18:54
Okay. And these are not posts with brands trying to say, “Look, I got tremendous engagement on this sponsored content.” These are posts where you’re selling stuff?
Sue de Chiara 19:06
Right. No, I’m not representing a brand and doing anything funky with Facebook that way. It’s just my own posts.
Jillian Leslie 19:14
In your posts, are you putting affiliate links in every post?
Sue de Chiara 19:20
Almost every post, but not every single one.
Jillian Leslie 19:23
When you set out to write a post, are you thinking from the affiliate product first and build out that way?
Sue de Chiara 19:32
Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. There might be a home I really want to talk about or a designer, you know, I just want to stalk their portfolio, I’m so inspired by it.
I don’t want to put a square into a round circle, that peg analogy, and just try to ram links in there for no reason. Other times it comes very naturally if I’m talking about blue and white decor that I love.
Jillian Leslie 19:59
Got it. How do you stay motivated 10 years in? How do you still get excited by interiors and designers and products?
Sue de Chiara 20:10
I just genuinely like it. I don’t stay motivated like at a 10 every single day. But the cool thing about working online like this is that you never know really what’s going to show up in your inbox.
I’ve had so many cool opportunities. I’ve met so many cool people. Even just being on your podcast. I mean it sounds corny but it’s so fun to me. I just feel like you don’t know where this project, for lack of a better word, is taking you so it keeps everything fresh.
Jillian Leslie 20:41
I agree with that. I agree with that. I do find I like that when that new opportunity shows up in my inbox or I get invited to some event or I go to a conference and I meet people that I’ve loved from afar for a long time.
Sue de Chiara 20:56
Right. You already have like this common base when you meet these people because you love the same things or you’re doing the same things so the conversation flows so naturally. So you know, all these things keep me motivated.
Jillian Leslie 21:09
Got it. Okay. Now, in terms of your Instagram. You got on Instagram, I take it, early.
Sue de Chiara 21:15
I got on Instagram so early but really didn’t appreciate and/or understand how it could be used as a marketing tool. I was one of the first users but just taking pictures of my kids who were quite young at the time.
I was like, “Oh, this is such a fun way to document my children.” And then, I was public and people were liking it. It still didn’t click for me.
Jillian Leslie 21:41
Okay. How many followers do you have right now?
Sue de Chiara 21:44
I have 116k.
Jillian Leslie 21:47
Wow. Okay. And so by the time you figured out that this could be a good way to market your business, how many followers had you acquired at that point?
Sue de Chiara 21:59
I mean I had a good following. I probably had between 17 and 25,000 by the time I sort of clicked and put everything together. I was slowly moving over and doing more home decor.
At the time I had my store so I was showing off more of that. Learning by the seat of my pants just by looking at others who seem to have connected those dots a lot quicker than I had.
Jillian Leslie 22:28
Okay. First of all, is your following still growing?
Sue de Chiara 22:33
It’s hard to tell. I have days where I lose hundreds of people. And then, I have days where I gain hundreds of people. I try not to obsess about those numbers too much because it can make you crazy.
Jillian Leslie 22:48
It can make you crazy. When you lose hundreds of people, yeah, there are a lot of people who have a follow for follow kind of thinking. Like, if I follow her she’ll follow me back.
It’s a great way to grow my following. But also, there are so many spams and fake accounts that Instagram is having to continually call our followers. I was just communicating with somebody in my Facebook group about that today.
She’s like, “Well, I’m using MiloTree. I’m getting clicks on my pop-up but my followers aren’t really changing or growing that much.”
I’m thinking, again, I can’t prove this. She’s got a lot of followers that Facebook is continuing to get rid of spam accounts. People will follow you and unfollow you. So it’s really hard to know what’s going on.
Sue de Chiara 23:43
Exactly. My numbers aren’t moving but it could be just like new people are following me and other accounts are falling off. So I try not to look at them too much.
Jillian Leslie 23:53
Now, how do you use your Instagram account for business? How often are you posting?
Sue de Chiara 24:00
I try to post to the feed once a day. I don’t always hit that mark but that’s what I’m trying for. And then, I always try to keep the stories going. I don’t like for my stories to never had anything on it at all.
And so, it’ll be a mix of swipe ups to the blog to see a certain post. It just might be like a funny little meme I’ve seen. It might be my dog, who I love to feature, Cosmo.
It might be a project I’m working on. We’re renovating a beach house in Rhode Island. Some behind the scenes from that. It’s a whole different mixture of things.
Maybe I’m complaining about the weather because it’s cold, and it’s winter here in Connecticut, but I’m always trying to keep things moving on the stories.
Jillian Leslie 24:44
Got it. Will you do affiliate products in your swipe up? Do you make money on Instagram?
Sue de Chiara 24:52
I do make a little bit of money. It’s not a huge income generator. I do some swipe ups. Especially this time of the year. If I see a really great sale is going on.
Like, the stools in our kitchen. I’ve been asked about them several times. I see Wayfarers having a huge sale and it’s those stools. I might put up an alert to swipe up in my stories.
Jillian Leslie 25:15
With an affiliate link.
Sue de Chiara 25:16
Jillian Leslie 25:17
Okay. Will people actually go and like, I don’t know if they’ll buy your stools but will they click?
Sue de Chiara 25:23
They will swipe up on it. Yes.
Jillian Leslie 25:26
Great. And so, that is a way to make a little bit of money.
Sue de Chiara 25:29
Jillian Leslie 25:30
But really Instagram for you then seems to be about engagement.
Sue de Chiara 25:34
It’s more about marketing, engagement. I happen to think it’s just a fun thing to be on so it’s fun, first of all. I like to see what other people are doing. I find inspiration from it so I’m happy to be a part of it that way.
Jillian Leslie 25:49
Got it. And do you have a group of other bloggers in your space that you are connected to?
Sue de Chiara 25:57
I’m definitely connected to a bunch of other bloggers. When I first started out in 2009-2010, we would get together a lot more often. I feel like we all are still connected, but we see each other less and less in person.
Jillian Leslie 26:14
Now, are you helping each other in any way? Do you have Instagram share groups or things like that?
Sue de Chiara 26:23
There’s definitely. It’s like an unwritten sort of code that there’s a whole group of different bloggers that I follow because we know each other from one way or the other.
I think we support each other. I’ll see she just commented on mine. I’ll go over to hers and give her a little comment too. It’s just like a polite acknowledgment. Like rules of the road type of thing.
Jillian Leslie 26:45
Got it. How much interaction are you doing on Instagram? Are people reaching out to you and DMing you and asking you things?
Sue de Chiara 26:53
Yes, I do get a lot of questions on Instagram. I do get DMs. Sometimes it’s not always to ask me something. It might just be to commiserate about something or like in reaction to what I’ve posted. I do get questions.
I’ve had people send me photos of their home in DMs and ask me very specific interior design questions. So, I started a Facebook group where you could just throw in photos of your home and post it to the whole group. That’s growing. That’s got like close to 800 people in it now.
Jillian Leslie 27:27
Really? What’s it called in case people want DIY or home decor advice?
Sue de Chiara 27:33
Oh, sure. It’s Zhush Design Secrets.
Jillian Leslie 27:36
Sue de Chiara 27:36
It’s a private Facebook group. And it’s a lot of fun. People give great advice.
Jillian Leslie 27:40
Are you able to monetize that?
Sue de Chiara 27:43
No. Not at all.
Jillian Leslie 27:44
Sue de Chiara 27:45
No, I just like doing it.
Jillian Leslie 27:46
Oh, that’s so nice. Okay. How many hours a week do you work on your business?
Sue de Chiara 27:53
It’s a full-time job for sure. I would guess it’s 40 plus.
Jillian Leslie 27:59
Forty-plus. How many blog posts are you doing a week?
Sue de Chiara 28:04
I do about five a week. But one or two of them I might be repurposing content, which I’ve just learned about recently from several years ago.
Jillian Leslie 28:16
Got it. Yeah, we do this too. We kind of started doing this maybe about a year and a half ago because we have so much content. We also started in 2009. This is for Catch My Party.
What we do is during the week, we do three blog posts. Two of which are new. Like one is just our favorite parties of the week. One is potentially a round-up.
And then, the third one we do is we take old content. We update it. We add more information. We add more useful links. We create a new pin or make the images better.
And then, we update the date because we don’t have dates, thank goodness, in our URLs and we republish it. Because from what we understand, Google then sees that as new content. If we pin a new pin from the post, Pinterest sees it as new content.
Sue de Chiara 29:09
Right. That’s my objective with that as well.
Jillian Leslie 29:12
But wow to come up with those. So you are constantly then blogging?
Sue de Chiara 29:17
Jillian Leslie 29:18
With five posts a week?
Sue de Chiara 29:20
Jillian Leslie 29:21
Wow. And do you get burnt out? I mean I know we talked about this, like how you stay motivated. But that’s a lot of content that you’re creating yourself.
Sue de Chiara 29:28
Right. Yeah, I do get burnt out once in a while. A few years back, I had this woman in Denver, who was giving me a monthly guest post and that helped out a lot. She had a baby and she doesn’t do that anymore.
I’m always trying to keep it fresh and look for new ideas. I do keep an editorial calendar and that keeps me on my toes as well. And having different series that I do every month keeps it fresh for me too.
Jillian Leslie 29:55
Give me an example of a series.
Sue de Chiara 29:58
I stalk a different interior designer every month. So it’s a style stalk. And that’s fun for me because I challenge myself to find someone new to feature in advance. So I’ve got one lined up for next month.
Jillian Leslie 30:11
Now, do you interview them or reach out to them?
Sue de Chiara 30:14
No. I just stalk them after the fact that I might tell them like, “Hey, I featured you today on the blog.”
Jillian Leslie 30:20
Wow. And will they share that content?
Sue de Chiara 30:23
They usually do.
Jillian Leslie 30:24
Are they really flattered?
Sue de Chiara 30:26
Yeah, I hope so.
Jillian Leslie 30:27
So for you then it’s been useful. That’s smart, which is coming up with different series. Every Sunday, we do our four favorite parties of the week. My assistant helps me.
We know what we’re doing. We pick the parties. The posts look pretty similar. And so, therefore, we know that’s going to be a post.
Sue de Chiara 30:47
Exactly. I like the routine of it. It keeps me structured.
Jillian Leslie 30:51
And so, how far in advance are you filling out your editorial calendar? Do you know what you’re going to be doing in May?
Sue de Chiara 30:58
No. Oh, goodness. No. Only about a month in advance. I might lean on May of last year, go back and look, and see what worked, what didn’t, and try to structure it that way.
Jillian Leslie 31:11
Now, do you have a team of people to help you?
Sue de Chiara 31:14
I wish. No. It’s just me and I have a bookkeeper. She’s not my bookkeeper. She freelances, but she helps me with all the stuff that I really don’t excel at, like, you know, taxes and expenses and all that stuff.
Jillian Leslie 31:30
Got it. Got it. And so, you are doing all of your social media?
Sue de Chiara 31:35
Jillian Leslie 31:37
How much time a day do you spend on Instagram?
Sue de Chiara 31:44
Probably an hour or two a day. If I were to look at my phone, it would probably tell me it’s a little more. I do it mostly in the evenings sort of like as a rule of thumb. Otherwise, I would get too distracted all day.
Jillian Leslie 31:57
On your Instagram, like in your feed, you are posting photos of other people’s houses. They’re not photos you’re taking.
Sue de Chiara 32:08
Some are and some aren’t. It used to be strictly photos I was taking.
Jillian Leslie 32:13
So you’d be driving around your neighborhood taking pictures?
Sue de Chiara 32:18
Jillian Leslie 32:18
Sue de Chiara 32:19
No. No. I mean sometimes. My Instagram used to be just my house and just photos I was taking. And then, it sort of felt stall and I started featuring others’ content as well.
Jillian Leslie 32:32
How do you do that in terms of rights?
Sue de Chiara 32:39
I give them full credit. If anyone were to ask me to take it down, I would but usually people appreciate it when you tag them and put them into the caption as well.
Jillian Leslie 32:47
Got it. Okay. So you’ve had no problem with using other people’s photos. You must be online all the time curating photos.
Sue de Chiara 32:59
I’m not because I just dedicate a certain time where I do that. Like the calendar for the blog. I’ll plan out my Instagram for a week ahead.
Jillian Leslie 33:12
Okay. And now you are using a scheduler?
Sue de Chiara 33:17
Yeah. What do I use? Planoly. It makes it pretty easy for me to do it that way.
Jillian Leslie 33:25
Now, what about stories? Are those spontaneous?
Sue de Chiara 33:27
That’s completely spontaneous. And that takes very little time.
Jillian Leslie 33:31
How does your family feel about you doing this?
Sue de Chiara 33:36
They’re used to it because it’s been about 10 years now. I joke that I was the mom who was on Instagram before her teenagers were. They begged me to stay off of TikTok.
Jillian Leslie 33:48
My daughter too. Okay.
Sue de Chiara 33:53
It’s kind of funny. They accepted. I don’t post a lot of myself. It’s a lot of interiors. It’s a lot of homes. I try to respect them and not make mom too clingy for them. I think we’re in a good balance that way.
Jillian Leslie 34:08
Will your daughters let you post photos of them?
Sue de Chiara 34:12
No. And it’s funny because when they were younger, they would ask me to. I wasn’t really comfortable with it. Now that they’re older, no way. My son is 13. He’s game sometimes, but that’s why it’s mostly the dog.
Jillian Leslie 34:25
That’s funny. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Because my daughter, like that, is our deal. She doesn’t listen to my podcast because I do mention her in my podcast, hopefully, nothing too cringy, but she would think it was totally cringy.
The rule is no Instagram ever. To everybody out there, I do have a daughter. She’s super cute. But you will not see photos of her until, my guess is she grows out of this phase, so I’m thinking another four or five years.
Sue de Chiara 34:56
Right. I mean, I understand. Like, do you want your mom being a fool on the internet for all your friends to see? I stay in line.
Jillian Leslie 35:05
It’s funny because we have a lot of followers like you in Catch My Party. We’ve got like, I don’t know, 175-174,000 followers. Her friends will find out that that’s her mom’s account and then all of a sudden by the way, I have a lot of cred in their eyes.
Sue de Chiara 35:24
Jillian Leslie 35:25
Which is so funny to me. However, if I do a story like I did a story and I hashtagged it like vsco girl or something, trying to be cool but not, and of course I spelled it wrong, and I got so schooled on spelling that right. “Mom!”
Her friends, I guess, maybe follow Catch My Party. God forbid they see me post in a story and I’ve spelled vsco girls wrong. It’s so mortifying so I have to be careful about what I put on Catch My Party page.
Actually, I think it does have an impact. It probably makes me less willing to put myself out there because I don’t want to be the cringy mom.
Sue de Chiara 36:10
Right, exactly. That’s the position I’m in. But I’m also camera shy. So it’s both those things.
Jillian Leslie 36:17
Got it. I am pushing myself to be less camera shy. I challenge you to also put yourself out there.
Sue de Chiara 36:24
I keep saying I’m going to do it and then I don’t. So we’ll see.
Jillian Leslie 36:28
Sue de Chiara 36:29
Jillian Leslie 36:30
Okay. So now if you had advice for somebody starting out in your niche, what would you tell them in terms of growing their business?
Sue de Chiara 36:40
I would say first and foremost, concentrate on email. Get yourself subscribers to your site. Get an email list going. It’s something I didn’t do for years and I just can’t believe I just slept on that whole concept.
Jillian Leslie 36:57
No, wait. What do you do with your email list? What are you sending them?
Sue de Chiara 37:01
I send them the blog post as they go out from the feed.
Jillian Leslie 37:05
Is that driving a significant amount of traffic?
Sue de Chiara 37:07
Yes, it is.
Jillian Leslie 37:09
How many people are on your list?
Sue de Chiara 37:12
It’s a small list. It’s under 10,000. I’m trying to grow it. For someone who has been blogging as long as I have, I feel like it should be a lot larger.
Jillian Leslie 37:20
Promote it on Instagram.
Sue de Chiara 37:23
I do. I should promote it more.
Jillian Leslie 37:25
In your story with a swipe up to join your list.
Sue de Chiara 37:28
I started doing that. I read somewhere you need to do something seven times for it to stick so I should do it more.
Jillian Leslie 37:35
Do you have a freebie checklist?
Sue de Chiara 37:38
I do and that’s very recent. I only got on board to that whole thing within the past five months. I have a PDF you can download that is like a little cheat sheet if you’re renovating your home.
How high you should hang a chandelier over the dining room table, how high your leg should be over your kitchen island, how high your toilet paper holder should be from the floor.
All these measurements that are so tedious I’ve collected into one little easy cheat sheet you could have on your phone.
Jillian Leslie 38:10
Oh, that’s great. Okay. Are you offering that in your swipe up in your story?
Sue de Chiara 38:16
I did once or twice, but I really should be doing that more.
Jillian Leslie 38:19
Yeah, absolutely. That will definitely grow your list. Okay. So your list though, they’re very loyal. Is your open rate really high?
Sue de Chiara 38:26
Yeah, it’s pretty good. I guess if you were getting on my list somehow, even though I wasn’t promoting it, you must be interested.
Jillian Leslie 38:38
That’s great. And that then drives significant traffic to your blog?
Sue de Chiara 38:41
Jillian Leslie 38:42
And are you promoting products in your email list?
Sue de Chiara 38:45
No, it’s just a link to the blog post.
Jillian Leslie 38:47
Is it an RSS link?
Sue de Chiara 38:50
I think that’s what it is. Yeah.
Jillian Leslie 38:51
So it’s just automatically sending.
Sue de Chiara 38:54
Jillian Leslie 38:55
Great. Okay. So your advice would be to start a list.
Sue de Chiara 39:00
Yes, that’s number one. Start a list.
Jillian Leslie 39:02
Sue de Chiara 39:05
There’s a lot of advice, but that’s the big one. And you know, focus on one thing at a time. Probably, don’t try to conquer Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and blogging all at once. Do a focused deep dive on one of those things one at a time until you’re comfortable with it.
Jillian Leslie 39:23
Got it. Now, is there anything in 2020 that’s exciting you about your business?
Sue de Chiara 39:29
Well, I recently just started another Instagram for my artwork. I do abstract painting. This Instagram is tiny. It’s my name, Sue De Chiara.
Jillian Leslie 39:40
Okay, spell it.
Sue de Chiara 39:42
S-U-E D-E C-H-I-A-R-A. It looks like Suede Chiara. But it’s Sue de Chiara.
Jillian Leslie 39:52
Right. Okay. And here, you’re putting your own artwork up?
Sue de Chiara 39:56
That’s my original artwork so I want to promote that more in 2020.
I do sell it. I’m still putting together my website. My brother’s helping me with that. That’s my project for 2020, to get that going.
Jillian Leslie 40:01
Do you sell it?
I love that. Okay. Sue, if people want to learn more about you, how can they reach out?
Sue de Chiara 40:16
The best place to find me is @Zhush on Instagram. Leave me a comment, send me a DM. That’s where I’m hanging out and talking to everyone the most.
Jillian Leslie 40:26
Great. Well, Sue, honestly, thank you for rerecording this. I think this one’s even better than the last one.
Sue de Chiara 40:33
Right. My pleasure.
Jillian Leslie 40:34
I really appreciate it. It’s been great talking to you.
Sue de Chiara 40:37
Thanks so much.
Jillian Leslie 40:38
My big takeaway from this episode is how you always need to be thinking about using parts of your business that are working and figuring out how to monetize them.
For Sue, she had this big Instagram following. It took her a while to figure out how to use it as a marketing channel. So always in our businesses, I’m looking, where can I get traction?
And then how can I leverage that traction to actually make money. I think it’s too easy to grow and not monetize. So, I leave you with that.
And for those of you wanting to take your business to the next level, that might mean even starting your business. Please let us help you set up your blog so that you have that as the foundation of your business.
Head to MiloTree.com. M-I-L-O-T-R-E-E dot com /BlogStart and we will get you set up, and we will be there for you as you continue to build. I will see you here again next week.
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