Jessica Lawlor from JessicaLawlor.com is featured in this episode where she shares her experience about starting her blog over from scratch when she realized her niche was too small for her and all about how to #GetGutsy. She talks about the fear that comes along with starting over, going against the “pro blogger’s” best advice, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Jessica shares how her community has created her current brand (Get Gutsy) and the opportunities that being online can lead to.
TOPICS DISCUSSED INCLUDE:
- Getting out of a “niche”
- Going against the conventional success methods and advice with blogging
- Finding something that can grow with you, as you grow and expand your interests
- How to define #getgutsy
- Using a blog to showcase your skills that lead to opportunities
- Fear as a barrier to reaching our big, scary goals
- How her brand grew from a last-minute decision into a fan-favorite brand
- Authentic brand creation
- Where inspiration comes from for blog topics
- Engaged fans versus huge lists – what carries the most value
- What should I be doing? Being online is your introduction to so many opportunities
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
WANT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH JESSICA?
- Jessica’s website: JessicaLawlor.com
- Jessica on Twitter @JessLaw
- Jessica on LinkedIn
- Jessica on Instagram
MORE ABOUT JESSICA LAWLOR
Jessica Lawlor lives by the saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” She blogs at JessicaLawlor.com about getting gutsy- stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. By day, she’s a public relations professional in the tourism industry and by early mornings, nights, and weekends, she is blogging and pursuing her side hustle- freelance writing and blog management. Her writing has been published on Ragan’s PR Daily, Muck Rack, Brazen Careerist, Mediabistro, Business Insider, and AOL Jobs. In her free time, she is a runner and newly obsessed with hot yoga.
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Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is the launch herself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode. Number 11, featuring Jessica Lawler.
Melissa Anzman (00:08): Hello, hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast, career, business, and brand advice to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa. Anzman
Melissa Anzman (00:27): Welcome to the launch yourself podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Anzman today. We're going to be chatting with Jessica Lawlor. Jessica lives by the saying, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. She blogs jessicalawlor.com about getting gutsy, stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. By day. She's a public relations professional in the tourism industry. And by early mornings, nights and weekends, she is blogging and pursuing her side hustle, freelance writing and blog management. Her writing has been published on Reagan's PR daily, muck rack, brazen careerist, media bistro, business insider, and AOL jobs in her free time. She's a runner and newly obsessed with yoga. I'm happy to be able to call Jessica my friend, and I'm excited for her to come on today and teach us all how to be a little bit more gutsy, please welcome Jessica to the show.
Melissa Anzman (01:20): I'm so happy to have you on the show today, Jessica. Welcome. Hi Melissa. Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Absolutely. And I feel like we know each other, we've been sort of online friends are in the same circle together for awhile. So it's such an honor. It is an honor to be on the show. So I'm really excited to get started. Fabulous. So, you know, here at launch yourself, we define a launch is a specific point when you purposely decide to take action to fulfill your maximum potential in your career biz or brand. Now you have a ton of launches in a short amount of time that you could share with us. But I think the one that would be so great for you to enlighten our listeners is about your blog, your blog redesign, and sort of where you're at with all of that.
Melissa Anzman (02:03): Does that sound good? Awesome. So if you could just sort of give us a background for, you know, what, what does design was, what the rebrand was and how the launch went? Sure. So I have been blogging on and off for about five years now. So I started off five years ago, kind of with a personal blog. Then it kind of morphed into a book review blog where I read a lot of books and reviewed them. And I also wrote about my own writing journey. So I've always wanted to write a book. So I kind of dabbled in talking about that on the blog. And then in late 2012, I just kind of lost interest in that I wasn't reading as much. I didn't have as much content and I just really found that I had pigeonhole myself into this one small niche and there were a lot of other things that I was interested in at the time I had just started this new, healthy living journey. I had lost 30 pounds. I was starting to become a runner. There were all of these things that I wanted talk about, but I
Jessica Lawlor (03:00): Really didn't feel like I could on that specific blog because I had, you know, readers had come to expect that I would review books, talk about writing. So it seemed a little jarring to kind of switch the topic so abruptly. So from there, I decided to just take a blogging break for about five months, my blog was completely dormant. And I realized just recently when I was looking back that I actually didn't even inform my readers that I was taking this break. I just knew I needed to just to stop blogging for a little bit, to kind of find my voice again and to find my passion. So over those five or six months where I did a lot of soul searching, I just realized that I was kind of sick of putting myself into this niche. So really what I wanted to do was create a blog where I could write about all of the things that I was passionate about, whether that be my career in public relations, writing, running I'm newly interested in yoga. So I really wanted to just find a place where I could do all of that. So that's where the desire to recreate and rebrand. My blog really came from
Melissa Anzman (04:00): It's so interesting. I actually didn't know you back then, right? I became aware of you after the rebrand, which I think is a Testament to how well it worked. But that being said, you totally went against the common advice of most, you know, quote unquote big bloggers of be specific, get a niche, go small, attract from one point of view, how did you, you know, take that advice that's out there and say, you know what? It just doesn't work.
Jessica Lawlor (04:30): That is such a great question. And I struggled with that for a really long time. I mean, I love to read blogs. So like you said, all the pro bloggers out there, I'm constantly advised to pick a niche and to become an expert in it. That's the only way you're going to get known. And to me, I just, I wasn't interested in that. I didn't want to become known as an expert in careers or an expert in public relations or in running. I had done that before with book reviews and I, like I said, I lost interest. So I really wanted to find something that could grow with me and my passions. So I decided, you know what, I'm going to try it out. If it doesn't work we can always go back and we can get more specific. But I, you know, relaunched my blog in October of 2012 and it's almost a year and a half later and it's still going really strong under this get gutsy theme, which I know we're going to chat about later.
Jessica Lawlor (05:20): So it's been going really well. And a lot of bloggers actually wrote a post about this, about why I decided to go against the grain and have a more general blog. And it's been really cool because people stumble upon that post and leave comments. And so many of them had said, thank you so much for this. I don't want to have a specific block. I don't want to pigeon hole myself into a niche. And knowing that this is working for you is really inspiring. So I'm really glad that I've been able to kind of help other people realize that they don't have to listen to you know, what people say are the rules of blogging. You can break those rules rules are made to be broken. And it works for people as long as you are dedicated and put in the work tent to make it happen.
Melissa Anzman (06:03): Now, what is sort of the intent behind your blog? Are you, is it sort of a platform to earn money? Is it a as a true blog, if I'm sharing thoughts, like what would you say your purpose of your blog is?
Jessica Lawlor (06:16): So I would say it's a little bit of all of that. So my blog, the theme is getting gutsy. So what that means to me is stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and to live a more fulfilling life. So all of those things that we're scared of, we often find that those are the most rewarding. So I found that in so many different places in my life, whether it's my career or becoming a runner or trying yoga now so I I'd like to write about all of those things. So really my blog has been a platform for my personal brand. So many different opportunities have come from it on the side. I'm a freelance writer and I also manage other blogs. So having this blog has just been a way to kind of showcase my writing, showcase, who I am to the world. And so many opportunities have come from that, but I definitely moving forward. There's a lot more, I want to do with the legacy brand, including eBooks and courses. So this is just the beginning for me. So right now it's, it's been great for building a personal brand and a platform, but I definitely down the line would love to do even more with it.
Melissa Anzman (07:21): Absolutely. And the fun thing about your brand and your blog that I do want to talk about, because it is so unique is once you launched this new site under your name, that was sort of the catch, all of all your interest and information about all of that. You found this quote and you have your quote in your header and it's part of your theme, but you really target your people through a different way. Can you talk a little bit more about get gutsy?
Jessica Lawlor (07:51): Absolutely. So when I launched my blog, I, you know, as I said, I'd taken a break for about five to six months and I was really putting off relaunching because I was scared. And a lot of times we put off our big scary goals because of fear. So finally I knew I just needed to launch the site. I'd been putting it off for so long. And you know, you can get so bogged down in the small details of web design and taglines and header images and all of that. And I found myself just really getting lost in that. So finally, I just said, I need to move forward. I'm going to just go with my name, Jessica Lawlor. And then I'm going to pick a quote that I really like, kind of as my tagline. So I went with the quote, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Jessica Lawlor (08:36): It definitely encompasses all the things I knew I wanted to talk about on my blog. And I also knew that I wanted to create an email newsletter eventually. And I wanted to launch with that because, you know, traditional blogging advice says that if you're going to create a site, you should start building your list as soon as possible. And that actually is a blogging rule that I found that has worked. Coincidentally. So I definitely want to cream e-newsletter and I want to come up with a name for it. So as I was brainstorming all of this I just have always really liked the word gutsy. And so it was like, get gutsy. It makes sense. It goes along with the tagline I had selected and it just kind of worked. And that was really a last minute decision kind of a few days before the blog launched to lay my e-newsletter get gutsy.
Jessica Lawlor (09:19): So currently get gutsy is just a tab. That's on the top menu of my blog. It's not featured in my header. And I eventually decided to start using it as a hashtag when I promoted my blog posts, but that was really it. So kind of organically over time, get gutsy seemed to really resonate with my readers. So a few months later people have started referring to my blog as Jessica Lawler's get gutsy blog, or even simply the get gutsy blog. And it really took on a life of its own. And it just makes me laugh so much because that was never my intention. That was never the blog name, but I actually really love that my readers essentially named my blog, it feels really authentic to me and it, and it really lets me know that my brand and my blog are heading in the right direction. And I think that when you can listen to your readers and your audience that's just always a really good thing. And I just really, I think it's really cool. I mean, my readers essentially named my blog because I didn't have a name for it myself when it launched.
Melissa Anzman (10:18): It's so amazing. And it, and it's so resonates with your readers. I mean, they are die hard about that name and going after things under that tag and hashtag and name, and that's like a bloggers dream come true, or probably even a branders dream come true of, of having that resonate. So, and, and you didn't do it traditionally, like you said, it wasn't this long thought out launch. It wasn't something that you spent all these hours agonizing over brand-wise it was something that was organic to you, you know, came last minute in the, in the series of your launch and found its home.
Jessica Lawlor (10:57): Yeah, absolutely. And I just, I really love that. And I just moving forward, I know there are so many things I can do under this name and theme, and we've already gotten started with it a little bit with the get gutsy contest. And it's been really inspiring to hear from my readers what they think get gutsy means. I mean, I have a definition for what it means, but it means so many different things to different people and it has just been so great that the brand has developed so authentically.
Melissa Anzman (11:26): I want to, I want to take a step back if we could talk more about the launch itself, right. So when going back to, okay, I'm going to rebrand, I'm taking a break, you know, we're changing directions, I'm not following advice. It's going to be a little different obstacle you had to overcome with the launch itself.
Jessica Lawlor (11:45): I'm really inspired by all the things around me. I'm inspired by other blogs that I read. I find inspiration when I'm when I'm in yoga class. And my, you know, my goal when I have those ideas is to just write them down immediately because if I don't, they they're gone. So I am always jotting down notes on my computer or in my phone's notes section. Just to kind of keep track of all of those ideas.
Melissa Anzman (12:11): Absolutely. Why don't you share with us if you would let's, let's keep the thing theme of pushing outside of your comfort zone. And, and this question will hopefully resonate in that area of what didn't work, what sort of fell flat during the process that you had thought would work, but just didn't,
Jessica Lawlor (12:30): It didn't work well naturally when you launched something new people who were interested in the topic you were blogging about before might not always come along with you. So, as I mentioned, I was in a very specific niche of book reviews and even specific more specific than that, I was really writing about young adult book reviews. So when I relaunched my blog, I noticed that my numbers tanked for the first few months. So I lost readers. I lost Twitter followers and, you know, I, of course that hurts, but I tried to remind myself that as you grow, so do your readers and your interests and not a, not for everyone, my blog isn't for everyone. So I just try to, you know, be really thankful for the people who are a part of my community. So as I launched this blog, I also kind of realized that I hadn't set any specific goals for myself. Even now I am not currently selling any products or courses. I'm just kind of rolling with it and I'm really enjoying it right now and, and using it to build my personal brand and platform. But I think that I need to push myself even further in the future and really set some time oriented deadlines and goals for the things that I want to do in the future with the blog.
Melissa Anzman (13:48): I think that's really good to know that, you know, when you do change directions and you are geared toward a different audience, that your previous audience is probably not going to be as into those new topics as you are. And so being ready for that to sort of free some space in your stable of listeners and followers and interactors and all that stuff to create that new community that aligns better with your brand, I think is really important.
Jessica Lawlor (14:17): Exactly. And you know, it does hurt. I mean, it, it stinks when you see numbers go down, but you know, over the past few months, those numbers have gone back up. And even still, when I sent out a newsletter and I get a few unsubscribes, I just try to tell myself, you know, these people, maybe they're not ready for the messages that you're sending out to your audience and that's okay. And when they are ready, maybe they'll come back. And if not, it's just not for them. And that's okay too.
Melissa Anzman (14:44): One of the things that I have learned sort of the hard way from, you know, having that feeling early on of, you know, why are people unsubscribing or why can't I reach as many people as I thought I would is that, you know, I have the fabulous privilege to be working with a lot of the big name bloggers and people and authors and all of that on the backend of their business. And part of what I see a lot is, you know, the bigger the list doesn't mean the bigger, the, the engagement, the bigger the message. And so I think that's really important for all of us to remember when we're launching something big or changing directions or, you know, doing something like that is, you know, having a list of a hundred thousand people doesn't mean that a hundred thousand people are engaged.
Melissa Anzman (15:36): You know, that doesn't mean that they're holding the candle for what you're believing in. Right. And so creating that space for the people that you want to be engaged with, that, that want to follow your name, things like for you, having your readers that are there, which is a very good number, you know, but have it, maybe not the same ones that you had, but the ones that are, they're creating your brand for you feeling so great about what you're saying. And so engaged with your message that they're creating get gutsy, you know, they're taking what you say and applying it every day. I think that's worth more than having, you know, a hundred thousand people on your list.
Jessica Lawlor (16:14): So true. And I am extremely grateful for all of those people who, who have read. And when I sent out an E newsletter and the responses roll in that is so inspiring to me. And when I write a blog post and people share, and even if one person tells me that it resonated with them and it made their day, or it changed their outlook on something that just means the world to me. And, and that's, that's a true statement. A lot of people say that, but just knowing that you can make a difference in one person's life. And as bloggers, we have the privilege of impacting many more than one person. And I think that's such a beautiful thing with blogging.
Melissa Anzman (16:54): So talk to me a little bit, if you would, now that you're blogging under your name and under this get gutsy tag and really pushing yourself and others outside of their comfort zone, how do you ensure that you're doing that with your writing, with your messaging?
Jessica Lawlor (17:11): Great question. So I am constantly looking for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone and, and something I definitely want to stress is that getting gutsy doesn't have to be a huge life altering event. A lot of people think when you say like gutsy jumping out of an airplane or getting a new job or all of those things, and those things are certainly gutsy, but you can get gutsy in so many small ways too, whether it's trying a new fitness class or, you know, maybe meeting a new friend that you met on Twitter in person for the first time, or writing a guest post for a blog that you admire. So I'm constantly trying to do all of those things. So just a few examples of recent Navy gutsy things that I've done on the side of big gutsy things, I took trapeze lessons in the fall.
Jessica Lawlor (18:00): So that was something that was super scary but really fun and exhilarating. And that was something kind of physical that I did that was really gutsy, but the pictures from that was great. Oh my God, I have never been so terrified and standing up on that small platform. And it was, it was really terrifying, but there, there were so many life lessons that just came from that one, two hour experience and it was really impactful. But you know, on the smaller end you know, being on this podcast right now is gutsy for me, I've never done a live interview for a podcast. So this is something that is getting out of my comfort zone. Same with any time I, you know, pitch a blogger to write a guest post. That's always something scary. You put yourself out there and you take a risk. And most recently I'm really loving yoga. And just a few weeks ago I achieved one of the poses that I've really been trying to get. And when I achieved that, I was kind of like, yes, that's awesome. And it's just examples of how you get out of your comfort zone to reach your goals.
Melissa Anzman (19:06): And, you know, you and I have similar, similar sort of fears around, you know, certain outreach things, although you're much better than I am at it, but if you, if you're okay with it, I would love to share how sort of this podcast interview came to be. Is that all right? So like I mentioned at the beginning, Jessica and I are sort of in the same circles, you know, I've been following her since I think she launched. I think I was, yeah, I think I was on your first E newsletter. But more than that, you know, we just sort of hang out with the same people online and in the same circles. And she's featured me in some of her roundups, which I appreciate. So that being said on, I think it was social on Instagram, which is my favorite. I, I have a hard time with most social media outlets, but I love me, some me Instagram. So on Instagram, I think I just liked the picture and she was doing something awesome and I was congratulating her for it and cheering her on. And she basically said, Hey, I'm loving the podcast and I'd love to be on. And I don't even think she knew that she was pitching herself to me.
Jessica Lawlor (20:14): No, I just really wanted to compliment you because the podcast is great,
Melissa Anzman (20:19): But I really wanted you on. So for me, you know, reaching out and doing the pitch is very scary. So the fact that reached out and said, Hey, I'm loving it. I was like, cause you're on my list. So I'm really glad that you did that. And it came the way it did, right. It's small gutsy and there's big gutsy and, you know, a small gutsy moment like that has turned into a bigger gutsy moment, which is kind of the case, right? It is. So we talked
Jessica Lawlor (20:48): About what didn't work as well as you thought what worked better than you thought. So I am so excited to talk about this question because I was blown away by this experience. So in December I was just kind of brainstorming blog, post ideas. And I was just thinking, I really wanted to find a way to get my readers more involved with my brand. So I decided to host an essay contest. A lot of people were writing kind of posts about the end of the year and all the things that they accomplished and their goals for the coming year. So I thought this was perfect timing to host a contest. And again, in the way that I do things, this was not planned at all. I didn't really think too hard about it. I just kind of came up with the idea.
Jessica Lawlor (21:35): I wrote a blog post and put it out there. So that was the beginning of this get gutsy essay contest. So I invited my readers and anyone who reads my blog to share their own gutsy story. I, they could write about multiple things that they did throughout the year. They can read about one experience. They could just write about what getting fussy means to them. There were really no rules around it. They just had to, you know, write a post on their blog, send me the link, and then they were entered into the contest. So I launched this blog post. I was completely terrified that no one was going to participate. I think I set the deadline for about a month later. So people had a few weeks. I wanted them to think about it. One by one, I got a few entries in the first week, in the first two weeks, I would say I probably got three entries.
Jessica Lawlor (22:22): And I was like, Oh my God, this is going to tank. I was, you know, terrified, but I was kind of happy that I even got three. Like I thought I thought maybe no one would enter and I would have to report back that it was a complete failure. So as we got closer to the end of the year, I think more people decided to get involved. And I even wrote an email newsletter to my, to my subscribers and just said, like, I'm terrified. I have three entries so far and you know, this might not work, but that's okay. It's a learning experience. And it's an example. And then from there I was so shocked and surprised and the entries just started rolling in and we ended up with about 30 entries, which for me was fantastic, like that's unreal. And really my goal was like five.
Jessica Lawlor (23:04): So I was so thrilled when, you know, nearly 30 people took the time to, you know, first of all, read my blog and then, you know, think about their experience, write something on their own blog, publish it, and then, you know, send it to me. And that was really courageous. And some of the stories were, I mean, they were all super inspiring and courageous, but some of them really resonated with me and resonated with my readers as well. And a lot of my friends and people who read my blog told me that they spent the time reading all of them. And that really means the world to me, that people don't only support me, but they're supporting my readers as well. So that was a launch that went way better than I expected. So I hope to make this kind of an annual event on my blog. So lots of ideas going forward with that.
Melissa Anzman (23:53): Yeah, it was great. And it was so fun to read and, and watch and see the entries and get to know your readers a little bit like your community. So it was, it was great. It was a great idea. And I'm so glad that so many people participated. What other results have you achieved that were unexpected? So maybe from the launch itself, we talked a little bit about, you know, the things that didn't work and perhaps losing readers, but with that, have you found that in this new launch state, the readers are better quality to what you're talking about? How, you know, how has that all worked out for you?
Jessica Lawlor (24:32): It's worked out really well. The readers are definitely the people that I want to be reading. I kind of realized that, you know, it was okay that I lost those readers. Those people were looking for, you know, books to read. They weren't looking for, you know, personal advice on their careers or you know, professional development and all of the things that I blog about. So that was okay. So the readers that I have now are awesome. They're super involved in the community. But also from, from relaunching my blog, I've really been able to develop my personal brand on the professional side as well. So I think from my, you know, writing and, and all of that, I've been able to make connections with freelance opportunities, public speaking opportunities. I've really been building up my freelance writing portfolio and I even have been offering a new service to select clients where I help manage their blog. So that's something that I'm really enjoying and I hope that I can continue to develop that and all of this came just because I have a presence online. And that's my, that's always my advice to people when they say, what should I be doing? I mean, if you have your own blog, that is your resume, your portfolio, that is your introduction to so many opportunities
Melissa Anzman (25:53): You segwayed into my next question, which is what is your best advice for somebody who's looking to sort of be in the same space that you're in or do what you've done?
Jessica Lawlor (26:02): Sure. So I would say get started, start a blog. Don't worry about a niche. Don't worry about the perfect design just get started. And that was something that was so hard for me. And when I finally overcame that, it was great and you know, my blog design, isn't perfect. There are things I want to do to improve it. I would love to revamp my about page. There are so many things that are on my blog to do list, but you know, they get done over time. And as long as you are, it gets started, those opportunities will come to you. So as long as you are just moving forward, writing regular content, you can always tweak those other things later.
Melissa Anzman (26:38): What is next for you?
Jessica Lawlor (26:41): To be honest, I'm not totally
Jessica Lawlor (26:44): Sure. There's a lot of ideas Burling around right now. So in the most immediate future, one of my big goals is to compile all of those amazing stories from the get, got the essay contest into an easy guide or an ebook, and to offer that up as just a freebie on my site. I definitely want to make sure that all of those stories are spread as far and wide as they can be. And then another really big idea that really scares me right now, but that is swirling around is the get gutsy manifesto, covering all the different ways. You can get gutsy in different areas of your life from career to friendship, to fitness, to relationships. So that's kind of the big idea that I am grappling with right now and want to get started on. So that's, what's next for me. I know I'm not alone in saying I can't wait to see what's next and what's ahead.
Melissa Anzman (27:34): And I'm so happy to be sort of on the journey with you. And, and even though I'm watching from afar as part of part of your tribe it's been really great getting to know you, and I'm so glad you came on the show today so much. It's been awesome. I hope you enjoy today's episode with Jessica Lawlor. She's so much fun to talk to so wise and really pushes herself and her readers outside of their comfort zone and learning how to live more. Gutsy if you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, you can go to launchyourself.co/session11. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session11. And if you enjoyed this episode and the show itself, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a review until next time.
Melissa Anzman (28:23): Thanks for listening to the launch yourself podcast. Join the conversation at www.launchyourself.co.
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