Samantha Dobson proves that even if you have a jam-packed life of responsibilities, and to do lists you can always make some time for your true passion. For Sam, it’s writing for her blog, Sam Dobson Writer. She works as a Manager of Operations for a luxury dog boarding and daycare company, but is pursuing writing and blogging as her side hustle. Check out her story below.
How did you make the leap to your current role?
I’ve been writing on the side of my full-time gig for years. I started my blog as a casual hobby in 2010, and wrote when it was convenient. Professionally, I began writing for a national lifestyle publication called Cigar & Spirits Magazine in 2013. Since then, I’ve been published about a dozen times in two different magazines, and picked up various blogging gigs. Last year, my daughter was born and suddenly, I had a new agenda. I began to give my site a painstakingly thorough makeover, and began to treat my blog like a full-time start-up. Currently, I’ve cut my day job down to part-time, giving me more time with my daughter and my side hustle.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m sure my dream job varied over the years growing up, but the one I remember the most was first female president of the United States. I know, big dream. While political science was one of my favorite classes in college, the urge to join the political circus quickly evaporated.
What was your first job ever? Did it help you in your current role?
My very first job was a hostess at Ruby’s Diner, when I was just 15 years old. I had to get a worker’s permit, and a ride to work every day for months. Once I got my driver’s license, I started picking up more shifts and working longer hours. This job was all about customer service, a skill I would take with me to every job thereafter. Customer service is all about finding a way to connect with people, and that’s exactly what I try to do when I write. Whether it’s an article for magazine, or a blog post on my site, it’s all about trying to connect with the readers. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s something I strive to accomplish with every word I write.
What made you want to start your side hustle? What or who inspired you to do so?
In college I majored in English, so all I did was write paper after paper. Unlike many of my peers, I actually enjoyed it, and discovered rather quickly that I had a knack for writing. My dream of becoming a professional writer was born then and there. Blogging seemed like the logical first step, but for years I lacked motivation. The birth of my daughter inspired me to finally give my blog the attention it requires to become a fulltime job with a full-time income.
What does your job entail? How do you explain what you do to others?
When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. The reason I only mention my side hustle is because that’s who I’m aspiring to be, a full-time professional writer. I give basic details about my previous writing gigs, and tell them a little bit about my blog. Sometimes, I meet someone new through a family member or friend and as I tell them what I do, they respond with “oh yeah, I follow your blog”. My cheeks get a little pink every time! It’s almost intimate, being face to face with a stranger who has read my words and knows my thoughts.
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been casually blogging since 2010, and I was first published in print in 2013. Just a few months ago I really began pouring my heart and soul into my blog.
What is a day for you like? What is your routine?
At the moment, my routine can be a bit wonky. Three days a week I leave my baby with my mother-in-law and head to my day job. After an 8 hour shift, I try to fit in a quick workout, and then eat dinner with my family. After we put the baby to bed, I sit down with my laptop and work on my website, or write a new post.
The other two days a week, I’m home with the baby. I attempt to keep things as routine as possible, but with my wild child it doesn’t always work out that way. No matter what, we always start the day with breakfast for baby and coffee for mom. After that, the day is a revolving door of playtime, household chores, and feeding the baby. Throughout the day, I squeeze work in wherever possible, usually during naptime. Once my husband gets home, we eat dinner, put the baby to bed, and I get back to working on my blog.
Working part-time, tending to a baby, and trying to turn my side hustle into a fulltime job makes my life feel like complete chaos sometimes.
How do you end your workday?
My work day has been ending later and later. Some days, the only time I have to write and work on my blog is after the baby goes to bed.
After I get some work done, I spend time with my husband. We like to watch an episode from a favorite show or rock under the stars in the hammock in our backyard, discussing how our day went. Some nights I indulge in a glass of red wine. Okay, most nights I indulge.
How did you go about starting your side hustle? What were some of your initial steps that you took?
When I decided to take my blog more seriously, I began with research. I found experienced bloggers to follow, and read every article about blogging for profit that I could get my hands on. I made a giant to-do list that I keep on my desk. It contains all the tasks I need to complete to get my website and blog where I want it. Checking off a completed task is so satisfying.
When first looking for writing gigs, I reached out to publications with topics that interested me. Not having much experience, I wasn’t getting very far. Then, one day I noticed a friend of mine had a magazine listed as her place of work on Facebook. After some nervous debating, I finally wrote to her asking if the magazine had any opportunities. As luck would have it, they were looking for a new contributing writer. After researching the magazine, I wrote a sample piece and submitted it despite my doubts. To my surprise, the editor loved the piece so much, he bumped a different article in favor of my “sample”. That was my first published article. I contributed to that magazine for two years until I took a break when I was pregnant.
What are your biggest responsibilities as a side hustler?
As a freelance writer, I take my deadlines very seriously. I don’t have a boss to answer to, but I do have deadlines to stick to. I have a responsibility to honor the agreements I make with editors or fellow bloggers, and getting my work in on time is essential to my professional reputation.
What has been the hardest part of your transition?
The hardest part has definitely been crazy schedule. With a part-time job and a baby at home, I try to squeeze in time to write and work on my blog wherever I can. That means, long days and longer nights. I try to remember that once I have the ability to give my writing career my full attention, there will be a much better work-life balance.
What has been the easiest part of your transition?
Finding something to write about comes fairly easy to me. Because I choose topics that I’m actually interested in and passionate about, there is no shortage of inspiration.
What keeps you motivated?
I’m sure it sounds cliché, but my biggest motivator is my daughter. I never fancied myself a “stay at home mom”, but I could rock the whole “work at home mom” thing. I hope to be able to be home for my daughter while building a career. I work hard for her.
How do you define success now?
To me, success is not just about how many zeros you have on your paycheck. For me, success is doing something you love. I believe the most successful are those who feel like their work has purpose and meaning. That’s what I aim to achieve when I write.
How do you prevent burn out?
With so many balls in the air, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. To prevent burnout and a complete meltdown, I let myself take a break when I need one. Trying to cram work into every free minute can really wear you down if you don’t allow yourself some down time too.
What do you think is the most important characteristic to have for someone who wants to take a similar career route to yours?
I think self-discipline is one of the most important characteristics for any entrepreneur. When you work from home, or have no one to report to, it can be easy to get distracted by things other than work. It takes focus and dedication to stay on track and ultimately succeed.
What do you wish you knew before starting out on your own path?
I really wish I would have taken my blog more seriously, and put more effort into it when I began blogging over 6 years ago. Sometimes I think about where my blog would be now if I had. I know there isn’t much point in dwelling on what might have been, so instead, I try to put my focus on what can still be.
Did anyone help you in developing your own business or side business?
My website and blog have been a solo project. I have gotten some feedback from other bloggers, but otherwise, I’ve done all the work, including the design, on my own. I do have to give credit to my husband for his patience. I spend a lot of time with my face buried in my laptop, and he’s nothing but supportive. He really is my biggest fan, and I couldn’t do it without him.
Do you have a work idol? Is there a working woman or man out there that you admire?
There are a number of successful bloggers out there that I really look up to. I’ve been lucky enough to make a connection with a few of them. The blogging community can be really great, most are willing to give you guidance and answer any questions you have. I really admire those that have found success but still take time to help the little guys, like me.
What is your favorite thing about the industry you work in?
I really enjoy the sense of community amongst bloggers. I’m in a few blogging groups on Facebook, and it’s been really helpful for making connections with other bloggers. Everyone is willing to help and support each other. It’s really refreshing to be a part of such an inclusive industry.
What are some tools that you can live without?
I really like using Buffer to schedule tweets. There is a free version, but it’s very limited. The paid version allows much more access and functionality.
I just signed up for Board Booster, under the advice of Eden Fried and her “Pinterest Unpuzzled” course. You get the first 100 pins free, and then it’s pay per pin. I’m still figuring it out, but the pros say it does wonders for Pinterest management and really boosts engagement and ultimately web traffic.
For editing photos, I use a couple different apps. My favorite are Lightroom and Snapseed. Both are free, and both are crucial for making my photos pretty.
What do you have on your desk or working space right now?
My Erin Condren life planner. It helps me keep track of everything, bills, doctor appointments, work deadlines, etc. I like to keep it out in the open. It also contains my blog to-do list, so it’s an easy way to keep myself accountable. Plus, it’s pretty to look at it.
What do you want other women in similar situations to know about your chosen career path?
Deciding to start your own business is a big decision, and it’s not for the faint of heart. However, I honestly believe that if you work hard and don’t give up, you will find some form of success. To those looking to build a writing or blogging career, have patience. It takes time to gain a following and build a portfolio. Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. I sometimes find myself making comparisons between myself and others in my field. Trust me, it doesn’t do any good. Keep moving forward, and focus on meeting your goals.