Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life series!

If you’re new here, this is a series where I am interviewing people who have designed their dream life. You can find all the interviews here on the Design Your Dream Life Page.

I am soo excited to have Abby on the blog today to share her story of designing her dream life.

Here’s a look at how Abby answered my questions!

Abby Lawson

Finish the sentence “I knew I was living my dream life when…”

I knew I was living my dream life when… Donnie and I could take our boys on vacation whenever we wanted, for as long as we wanted without having to ask for permission from a boss!

We love the freedom that we have as a family, that we never have to miss any of the boys’ events because of work, and that we can help at their school or hang with them in the middle of the day on a weekday during the summer.

Getting to spend that quality time together and be involved with our kids has definitely been a dream come true!

What was your life like before all this that led you to make a change?

I had been a stay at home mom before I started my blog (Just A Girl And Her Blog). I loved it, but I also felt like I needed something I did that didn’t 100% revolve around my boys. A blog was something I could do from home while they were napping and would still let me use my writing skills (I am a former English teacher.) and creativity a bit, so it was a good fit for the things I enjoyed doing.

I published my first post in January of 2013 with fear and trembling. In fact, the only way I could bring myself to hit the “publish” button was to tell myself that no one was ever going to read my blog because I was so nervous about it! I quickly caught the blogging bug, though, and kept plugging away, posting to my blog and to social media and learning everything I could about blogging. I guess you could say I became a bit obsessed!

After about a year of blogging, I started to get a stream of emails and messages asking me blogging questions, and Donnie suggested that I write an eBook about how I managed to start and grow my blog during the first year. I shot down the idea immediately, but he was persistent, so I wrote the eBook that become Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook (which is now a full blown course and is in its third edition).

Donnie has a brilliant business mind and helped me with the launch process, and to this day we have helped more than 11,000 people start and grow their blogs through Building a Framework!

After being laid off from his job in oil and gas when the industry tanked, Donnie began working with me full time at the beginning of 2015, and having us both able to work on the blog full time really made it skyrocket into a thriving business, and we’ve been at it ever since!

What’s your lifestyle like now?

Donnie and I each have a separate office in our house, and we work there most of the time, though sometimes we will head to Starbucks or another place with WiFi for a change of scenery. My blog is primarily about home decor and organization, so we spend a good amount of time completing projects and photographing them or shooting video as well.

When the boys are home from school, we switch off, alternating who works and who is spending time with them. (Though next year they will both be in school all day, so we’ll have a lot more time on our hands!)

We love having the flexibility to be able to help out at our kids’ school and with their activities as well as volunteer at our church. Donnie is an awesome vacation planner, so we go somewhere different every summer, depending on what our boys are interested in. (We’re heading to Canada this summer to visit the hockey hall of fame since they are obsessed with hockey at the moment, and we’ll be doing other tourist-y things as well.)

How many hours per week do you work?

I would say that each of us work 30-40 hours per week, plus we have my sister/amazing assistant that works about 15 hours per week to help us.

I do a lot of the writing and content creation, photography, social media and anything forward-facing, like video, speaking, and podcast interviews, while Donnie does a lot of the technical and behind-the-scenes aspects of the business, including setting up landing pages and email funnels, researching tools and systems that we use, and managing all of the little details that go into maintaining a website. He also is my handyman, doing a ton of work on our house projects. Brittany helps us with email, social media, and various projects that come up throughout the year.

How do you make money?

Our primary income comes from our own digital projects and affiliate income associated with those.

We have our course that teaches people how to get started with blogging, Building a Framework, and a course that teaches bloggers how to create digital products, BookBoss.

We also have organization-related products: an eBook/course called The Paperless Home and a collection of organizing printables.

We also take on other selective affiliate partnerships like bundle sales and online summits, and we will occasionally work with brands on sponsored posts. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of my favorite brands like IKEA, Behr, Home Depot, InterDesign, and more, which has been one of the really fun perks of blogging!

How long did it take for you to make $1k per month?

I would say about a year. (I started blogging in January of 2013.) At the time, that $1k was made up mostly of ad revenue and affiliate sales, with an occasional sponsored post.

After launching our first digital product in June of 2014, our income began to grow more steadily and would increase each time we added another digital product.

We did income reports from 2014 through 2016 which chronicled how we built up our income, and those can be seen here.

How long did it take for you to make six figures per year?

Donnie began working with me full time at about the two year mark, at the end of January 2015, and we made six figures starting in that year.

The longer we work together, the more I realize that our “secret weapon” to being able to blog as our full time business is the combination of our two personalities. Donnie has a really unique gift for figuring out how to take people’s strengths and monetize them. He has a brilliant business mind and can always predict what the next big “thing” is going to be when it comes to marketing strategies and just general direction of where online business is heading. I am just willing to show up and work really hard day in and day out, trying to learn more and get better in whatever way I can. I think you have to have both parts—the business sense and the tenacity—to make it all work. It definitely isn’t “just a girl and her blog”—it takes both of us to to make the business “go.”

What do you wish you knew when you were starting out?

Grow your email list!!!

  • Side note from Natalie – They don’t say “the money is in the list” for nothing! It’s true. You can read more about email marketing here.

Donnie told me to start growing my list from day one, and I didn’t listen because I was too busy churning out blog posts. I waited about a year before I got serious about email, and I wish I would have started earlier. I would say even if you have to skip posting for a week or two in order to get a strong opt-in and email list set up, it is more than worth it.

My email list has been by far the biggest asset to my business.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out and wants to design her dream life?

Show up consistently every day and be willing to work hard to get better and better at your craft.

I feel like everyone is looking for that “silver bullet” to help them grow really quickly, but ultimately it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.

Even people who seem like they start a blog or online business and are an instant success have typically put in years of hard work leading up to that point in order to get there.

Blogging and online business are not “get rich quick” schemes by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re willing to keep learning, getting better, and working for it, the rewards can be so great!

A Final Note

A HUGE thank you to Abby for taking the time to do this interview!

I have been following Abby for a long time, and she is a decorating, organizing, home queen! Does Abby inspire you? Let her know in the comments!