DIYers tell us how they built their dream from scratch: The blogger
The COVID-19 pandemic limited people to their homes and forced them onto their DIY projects that have gathered over the years. Organization trends and minimal-supply home revamps gained popularity and served as a way for people to stay busy. DIYing has found its footing in 2021 and we spoke to some DIY bloggers who found success about their experiences and what their advice to newcomers would be.
What was once considered to be a trend is now a movement. DIY bloggers all around the world are sharing their experiences and projects with the masses. As the internet has developed and new platforms continue to crop up, DIYing has found its footing in the media and its hold on the public. By 2021, the DIY market is expected to grow to $13.9 billion, and it shows no signs of stopping.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has limited people to their homes, DIY projects are providing creative minds with a sense of escape. Organization trends and minimal-supply home revamps continue to gain popularity and serve as a way to stay busy while social distancing. Whether as a distraction from stress or as a creative outlet, people connect to DIY projects in a meaningful way.
If you've been dreaming of sharing your creations on a large scale, you'll be happy to know that some have made it a reality. Using your creativity to connect with others and share your ideas doesn't have to be out of reach. Though developing a successful brand is no small task. It can take years to build your audience and expand across media platforms.
To make sure you have all the tools to start, we spoke to DIY blogger experts about their experiences, the DIY community, and their advice for newcomers.
Our expert DIY bloggers
Sarah Fogle, The Ugly Duckling House
A DIY veteran of nearly 10 years, Sarah Fogle is the woman behind Ugly Duckling House. Tackling projects like vintage trailer renovations and building a floating deck, Fogle welcomes her subscribers to follow her through all of her adventures. She started sharing her videos on Facebook as a way to tell her friends about the crazy things she was finding while working on her home -- like press-on nails under her carpets. Ugly Duckling House has since transformed into an online community for DIYers to connect and collaborate.
Fogle said, "In the interest of committing myself to the ether of knowledge, I try to contribute to some of that with what I learn by my mistakes and learn by my successes. Both of those things are equally valid. So let's learn together."
Sarah Symonds, Grace In My Space
Sarah Symonds of Grace In my Space is a lifestyle blogger, interior stylist, small business owner, and DIY adventurer. She was initially drawn to DIY projects at a young age through her mother. "Growing up, my mom was always tackling a new DIY to make our home beautiful on a budget. Once I moved out on my own, DIY was a necessity due to low budgets. Even after we had the funds to hire projects out, I still love to complete DIY style projects."
Empowering other women to take on new projects and transform their homes is one of Symond's main goals. She said, "It gives me great joy to be able to teach others to take charge of their own homes! So many women have messaged me saying thank you for inspiring them. More often than not, they find out that they CAN do it and are empowered to keep creating their own havens."
Hester Van Overbeek, Hester's Handmade Home
After successfully decorating a previous rental home on a very tight budget, friends encouraged Hester Van Overbeek to create Hester's Handmade Home. Focused on showing you that you don't need much money or carpeting skills to make your house cozy or stylish, you'll find DIY recipes, tutorials and all of Van Overbeek's ideas on her blog. With help from her cousin, Van Overbeek produces helpful videos that guide viewers through creative ways to update your home.
Meghan Baker, Sweet Aloha Designs
Meghan Baker, the woodworker behind Sweet Aloha Designs, said that her start with DIY was born from wanting more. While working as a nurse for 13 years, she always felt she was fighting against the nine-to-five norm. She said, "When I stumbled onto woodworking, the feeling that I had all along, that I was supposed to be doing something different, was fulfilled."
Baker started her DIY journey by filling the need for furniture in her home. Through watching YouTube tutorials and a lot of trial and error, she began to woodwork regularly and posting her work on Facebook. Her hobby turned into a business without her even realizing it. Soon her found friends were dropping furniture off to be reworked or asking her to build pieces for their home.
Sara Albers, Alice & Lois
Honoring their grandmothers with their blog name, Sara Albers and Melissa Fenlon are the ladies behind Alice & Lois. Launching the site in 2013, both sisters have backgrounds in journalism and communications with a passion for creating. The transition to blogging was very natural for the duo since they already shared their projects on Pinterest and Facebook. Albers said, "We feel so lucky to be able to run a business as sisters! We love that we get to share what inspires us with so many others."
Carmen Smith, Living Letter Home
Managing both Living Letter Home and working as a full-time virtual assistant, Carmen Smith's mission is to teach people how to love their home while staying within budget. Her love for DIY projects was born from her creativity and desire to create things she loves for less money. Smith started Living Letter Home as a way to document the remodeling of her home. "We bought our first fixer a few years ago, and I wanted to have a way to remember it in its before state, but I never thought it would turn into what our site is today."
Bob Barocas, Home Repair Ninja
Bob Barocas of Home Repair Ninja shares his experience with home repair and DIY projects so his followers can forget the stress and get things right the first time. His goal is to make it easy for people to see what works and what doesn't work. Barocas posts informative how-to guides on things like remodeling a bathroom or modernizing a kitchen.
Brad Rodriguez, FixThisBuildThat
Sparking an interest in woodworking by taking a class at his local woodcraft store, Brad Rodriguez found his passion. Buying his first home allowed him to keep learning and use what he knew to modernize and update his 1905 Cincinnati house. Finding the woodworking community on Instagram was a turning point for Rodriguez and allowed him to share his projects on a large scale. He launched FixThisBuildThat in 2015 to guide others through his projects and plans while giving plenty of helpful tips along the way.
What's so special about DIY?
There is something special about solving a problem for yourself. Symonds said that most people are drawn to the sense of accomplishment that DIY provides. "Knowing that most DIY projects start out with a problem to solve and then being able to come up with solutions creatively offers great satisfaction and a self-esteem and confidence boost."
DIY goes beyond just feeling good about the things you achieved. For those who aren't used to handling power tools or measuring things, developing those skills is something that's empowering. Many of our experts spoke about how empowering DIY projects can be for women in particular.
Fogle described the unfortunate double standard she has experienced as a woman in the industry. She's been spoken down to, and contractors have treated her like she doesn't know what she is doing. So instead of accepting it, Fogle said, "One of my goals has been to break down that barrier. Let's demystify some of the products that are things you've never heard of. They're not that different from a lot of products you already use, and some of these things are actually very easy. It's just that sometimes the terminology is intimidating."
Baker, who has taught woodworking classes where she helped women learn how to use different power tools, described DIYing as "almost addictive" once you realize what you're capable of. Building confidence with tools and practices that they weren't used to led many women to keep coming back to Baker's classes and mastering tools they didn't know they could use.
The DIY online community
The DIY online community is extremely collaborative and, in general, very positive. Fogle equated the community to the concept of "rising tides lift all boats." Those in the DIY community try to help each other. They share tips and give recommendations, and most importantly, give credit where credit is due. If they learn a trick from another DIY blogger, they make sure to give them credit as a way to give back and say thank you.
If you want to really excel in the DIY space, connecting with others in the DIY space is essential. Interact with them on social media and develop those relationships. Not only is it a way to find friends and share tips, but it's a way to develop your skills and challenge yourself to do better. Many of the experts mentioned competitions that the communities hold.
Collaboration by friendly competition is a big part of the community. DIYers use these opportunities to challenge each other to make something new or compare their work. Baker spoke about her experience crossing paths with another DIYer who introduced her to the build-off challenges. They serve as both a way to connect and challenge each other and help builders develop their skills and try projects they may haven't before. Whether it's a build-off for woodworkers or a room-to-room competition for reno experts, participating in these challenges is another way to establish yourself as a fixture in the community.
Using the internet to stay connected
DIY bloggers are entirely dependent on the internet. As many of the experts pointed out, running a business on the internet requires constant learning. Having an internet-based business is an ever-evolving process, from knowing how to engage with your audience to looking for new social media opportunities. Bloggers have to stay up-to-date on social media analytics as well as what their followers want to see from them.
There is no alternative to a strong connection
Bloggers live and die by their internet connection. A strong internet connection is crucial for connecting and sharing content with their community. Having a business on the internet can sometimes be challenging. Barocas said, "I've learned that a business that relies so heavily on the Internet means appreciating the things most take for granted: that the server won't crash, the site will be consistently up and that Google will actually index my content. So my audience can view it." Smith, who works almost exclusively online, said, "If the internet is down at home, it's a bad day." Making sure your internet connection is strong and secure is one of the first things you have to do if you hope to run a successful online business. You may find that your current internet connection is not strong enough to regularly post live stream videos or access what you need without interruption. Run a speed test to get an idea of your internet connection to help you decide if you need to upgrade. Internet speed tests assess the latency, download speed, and upload speed of your connection. Some popular tests are:
Running a blog also means you have to be able to log on no matter where you are. If you are working with a client and you have to connect right away, additional hardware may be necessary. Using cell phone boosters and hot spots is a way to extend your phone's functionality, allowing you to connect your computer and other devices.
Advice from the experts
Embrace your passion and start your blog
To persist in the DIY blog space, you have to start with your passion. Many of our experts suggested that you find what makes your ideas special, so you can use that to make sure your blog stands out -- that seems a little intimidating, we know. The most important point that all of our experts echoed is to start somewhere. No matter how many times you change things or how much your blog evolves from the original idea, you have to get started sometime.
Smith said, "If you have it in you and even a TINY desire to share it, go for it. To be fair, running a blog -- if you run it as a business -- is a TON of work, and people will constantly look at you sideways and think you're just another person trying to be an influencer. Still, it's completely changed our family and career paths, and it's been really cool to see."
Trying new things and experimenting in front of an audience can sometimes feel like it leaves little room for imperfection. Instead of shying away from what you didn't like, embrace it. Show your audience you're a normal person who has some great things to share. Being approachable is a great way to connect with your followers and encourage them to interact with you.
Symonds advice is, "Be authentically fearless. If you're afraid to mess up, share that with your followers! Then, mess up on camera and show them how you figure out how to solve the problem. No DIYer is perfect the first time around, and as we mess up in front of our audience, we are able to teach them how to persevere through failure and eventually come to a solution. People crave that kind of vulnerability and authenticity."
Do your homework
If you sell products and turn them into a business, make sure you have all the necessary permits, insurance and bookkeeping practices. This side of things isn't always at the forefront of thought in the DIY community. So it's important to make sure you're covered because there may not be someone to tell you about these things.
Baker suggests calling your city's offices and seeing what types of things they require. It's okay not to understand the process fully from the beginning; that's why reaching out to people and doing your homework is crucial.
Don't get discouraged
Social media is continually changing -- it may take some time before you see results. If you go in hoping to start making money right away, you'll likely be disappointed. Having an internet-based business is constantly evolving, and keeping up with the trends will be an ongoing learning experience.
Instead of getting lost in the weeds and devoting all of the time, you can succeed as a DIY blogger by focusing on the things you can control. Baker advises, "Practice with your tools. Get to know your tools and how to use them inside and out. Feel comfortable with your tools before you start on something big that you've invested time and money into." Devoting your time to getting better at your craft is never wasted time.
Being a DIY blogger is more than just making things and recording videos. Monitoring your platform, making connections and finding your own voice is all part of the job. Remember, no one starts out big. If you want to grow a huge fan base, be ready to invest your time, money and passion into every project you do.
Also, make sure you have the best internet connection to support your DIY blogging dreams.