Welcome back to the Plaster & Disaster Blog Anniversary Extravaganza! In case you missed it, on Friday we shared dual (dueling) makeovers of two identical cabinets we pillaged (“salvaged”) from a local school, and on Monday we answered all the questions you never had about Plaster & Disaster (including how we met and decided to start a blog). Our actual first ever post was on January 12th, 2015, so as of yesterday we are now officially one year old. Happy birthday, us!
So as you may have noticed, there are two of us. And since we haven’t come across many (any?) other blogs with two authors who aren’t married or related to each other, we thought it might be interesting to share a little bit about why it’s so awesome but also risky starting a blog with a friend, and how we’ve tackled the inevitable challenges that arise when there are two of you and you don’t live together or see each other on a daily basis.
If you’re worried that this doesn’t sound interesting, we promise that there will also be a bunch of embarrassing photos from the horribly awkward photoshoot we had to produce our “About Us” picture.
Picking a life blogging partner
Picking someone to start a venture with is serious business, even if that venture is a non-serious home decorating blog. We’ve both suffered through enough disastrous group projects in school to know how awry this sort of thing can go. Fortunately that didn’t stop us from boldly launching into this together after having only spoken a grand total of three times, but now as we look back there are a few key reasons our partnership has worked so well that we think would be valuable for anyone thinking of starting a business together to consider.
1. Do you have a shared vision?
One of the biggest reasons working together is so easy is because we agree on the big picture of what we want the blog to be. It doesn’t matter whether you want your blog to be a million dollar business, a hobby blog that posts once per month, or something in between — what matters is that you are on the same page as each other about it.
In our case, we agree on major things like 1) we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously and sharing the disasters is a central part of our blog; 2) we are committed to posting three times per week with a solid mix of projects, disasters, and some life updates, which means that working on the blog is a big part of our lives outside of our actual day jobs; 3) we both enjoy writing and want strong voice and writing in every post, and 4) we would like the blog to grow and make money but we also believe strongly in doing it our way and we agree on key business principles like not doing any sponsored content. If we didn’t agree on this fundamental elements, that would strain our partnership significantly.
2. Do you like to laugh, and if so do you have a similar sense of humor?
One of the biggest things we have in common is our shared sense of snarky and sarcastic humor. If you’re going to work closely with someone on something that is supposed to be fun, being able to laugh together (or agreeing that laughter isn’t super important to you) is key. Our partnership would not work if one of us didn’t understand sarcasm or enjoy poking fun at ourselves and the blogosphere.
3. Do you have a similar work ethic, and trust in one another’s ability to get stuff done?
To work well with a business partner, having a similar work ethic and confidence in one another’s work ethic is critical. Nothing ruins a partnership faster than resentment that one person isn’t holding up their end of the deal. In our case, we actually have the opposite problem, which we identified early on: we both like to feel as though we’re contributing at least 75%. That is, both of us get anxious that we aren’t doing our fair share even if we are. Realizing this was really important, because the reality is that we have ebbs and flows in our lives (like both of us starting new jobs) and a successful partnership is one where one of us can cover for the other in especially busy times and vice versa. By now, we are 100% confident in each other’s commitment to the blog, so we know the work will get done but it’s also a lot easier to admit when one of us needs help.
4. Do you have the same or complementary design taste?
For a design blog in particular, it’s obviously critical to have similar — or complementary — tastes. One of the biggest nail-biting moments when we were first discussing the idea of a blog was when we showed each other photos of our homes. What if we totally hated each other’s styles? Fortunately it turned out we have very similar tastes (but also different in complementary ways), which makes it possible for us to develop a cohesive style for the blog, advise each other on our design dilemmas, and work on projects together. Yes Sage is always suggesting we paint things turquoise and Naomi will be on a lifelong quest to add more color to her living room, but these aren’t exactly deal-breakers and our differences have helped us each evolve our styles as well.
Running a Business Remotely
Running a business with another person obviously involves a lot of coordination, which is harder when you don’t live together or see each other in person every day (and when you have other day jobs). When we first started Plaster & Disaster, we worked together. That was very convenient. Now that we’ve both started new jobs, we see each other much less frequently. For anyone considering doing this, we would say that it’s definitely doable but there are some things that have made it work a lot better:
- We email and text frequently. Like, maybe too frequently. It’s a very rare day that we don’t talk (but not actually “talk” like on the phone, because we both hate the phone).
- We make it a point to see each other in person every 2-3 weeks. Whether it’s getting together to turn a cactus into a table, make ridiculous crafts together, pillage a local school, go on thrifting adventures, work side-by-side on post writing (which is how this post was written), or hang out with Brad and Sam doing something non-blog related (god forbid), we like to spend a weekend day together every few weeks. This coming weekend we’re even going on a romantic weekend getaway together to celebrate our anniversary! (Brad, Sam, and two other couples will also be there…they may not yet realize it is a Plaster & Disaster anniversary celebration.)
- We create a schedule for our posts many months in advance based on what we think we want to work on and put it on a shared google calendar so that we understand who will be responsible for what days, how our content will fit together, and what that means we each need to get done in our nights and weekends. We always change the schedule around as we get new post ideas, our projects take longer than expected, etc, but the blueprint is an essential starting point.
- We write posts together from afar. We try to do a lot of joint content, which means co-writing posts. We’ll usually sketch out who is going to take the lead on a post or break up the sections, and then once one of us has written a draft the other reviews and polishes before hitting “publish” (or “schedule,” in our case, because we’re not actually up at 5am finishing these before they go live at 6am).
The Financial Stuff
On Monday we shared a bit about our finances from the first year of the blog, so you know we’re not exactly rolling in cash. We’re also pretty frugal when it comes to expenses, but there are real costs to maintaining the blog and especially to starting one up. We recently opened a joint bank account (the guy at the bank was clearly so confused about our relationship, and we refused to give him any hints), but before that we just tracked expenses and income in a spreadsheet noting who paid for what. Yes financial stuff can be a little awkward, but pro tip: if you don’t feel 100% comfortable discussing financial things with someone, don’t start a business with them.
Why it’s the Best Thing Ever
Before Plaster & Disaster — in what we call “the dark ages of our lives” — Sage had her own blog. So at least 50% of us knows what it’s like to blog alone, and how different it is to blog with someone else. It’s risky, it requires a lot more coordination, and if you find the right person IT’S THE BEST FREAKING THING EVER.
First of all, we post three times a week but we get to share the workload. We try to alternate weeks where one of us writes one post and the other writes two, and that keeps it really manageable for each of us.
Second of all, it’s an endless cycle of re-energizing and creativity. When one of us is stuck on a project or burnt out, the other one is there to jump in with ideas and energy. Plus there’s always the sense of friendly competition to keep each of us pushing ourselves.
Third, when you find someone who will let you talk non-stop about your hobby and never ever get sick of it, it’s a glorious thing. Brad and Sam have many wonderful qualities, but wanting to talk endlessly about home decor and improvement is not one of them. Not that you have to run a blog together to enjoy your shared hobby, but it definitely gives us a structured reason to connect around something that otherwise might feel very individual (our own separate homes).
Fourth, we have a ton of fun together, which we hope comes through on Plaster & Disaster. This post is already absurdly long so we’re not going to add another 2000 words talking about how fun and funny we are, but just trust us.
Awkward Photo Shoot
Okay we promised you a bunch of awkward photos. These were taken back when we were getting ready to launch the blog and realized we needed a photo of the two of us together to trick the internet into thinking we actually knew each other. We had a couples brunch at Sage’s and Sam’s that culminated in making Sam and Brad photograph the world’s most awkward photo shoot. We both hate being on camera and we were still getting to know each other, so suffice it to say we were not super comfortable.
Just imagine poor Sam and Brad trying to give us direction…
“You’re kind of far apart…Maybe try to look more like you know and like each other?”
“Um, no. How about in front of the fence? Try slumping really awkwardly.”
“Okay Naomi, you look at Sage and laugh.”
“Okay now Sage, you look at Naomi and laugh.”
“Okay. This blog is about tools and stuff right? What if you try fighting with tools?”
“My god you’re awkward. What other uncomfortable poses can you do?”
“Okay, well I’m sure there’s a winner in there somewhere…can we stop the pain now?”
Fortunately we did get one good shot that we’ve been using as our “About Us” photo for the last year, but this weekend on our anniversary getaway couples vacation we plan to try this again now that we’re, like, friends. So stay tuned!
Anyway, that’s a bit about how and why our partnership works. We’ve learned a lot in a year, and we’re sure the coming year will be another big learning experience. If anyone else has joint co-blogging tips, we’d love to hear them!