This interview is part of Freelance Wisdom's Mama Month - a month long celebration of freelancing moms.
Erin Loechner is a midwest-based blogger behind popular lifestyle & design blog Design For Mankind. A former art director/stylist in LA, Erin’s been writing and speaking for years for clients such as The New York Times, Martha Stewart and Dwell and has created a following of over a million design-loving fans. She hosted a 2-year/24-episode web series for HGTV.com and has designed products for a number of companies. Erin's heartfelt writing and amazing eye for design has garnered her a loyal following that stands up to the test of time.
Blogging has changed a lot since you began 10 years ago, how do you work to stay relevant?
You know, the hardest work I do in terms of relevance, for me, is convincing myself that relevance is meaningless. There are millions of ways to stay relevant: writing about controversial topics, researching trends, incorporating search terms, linkbaiting your headlines, but none of these feel natural to me. None feel sustainable, either.
As a result, I'm very slow to spend my time looking at what's beyond the bend and, instead, I focus on what's here. What I love, what I have and what I see. What is true to me, what my life is like today. It's less relevance and more reverence, I suppose. But it's the only way I can enjoy what I do.
"I'm very slow to spend my time looking at what's beyond the bend and, instead, I focus on what's here. What I love, what I have and what I see."
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Yes! My friends taught me about the concept 'golden hours' a few years ago, and it's transformational. The idea is that your body and mind are geared to work at a set time each day, and there is a 2-4 hour window where you are naturally at your most productive. (To find out when your golden hours are, figure out when you find yourself coming up with your greatest ideas, or when you have the most energy, or when you're the most excited about creativity. Those are your golden hours!)
Mine are in the morning, so I protect them with every ounce of my being! Rearranging my day to work during my golden hours means I can get more done in less time, because I'm not fighting with my body. I'm naturally alert, focused and creative in the morning, so it's easy to complete the tasks I need to. My husband, however, is a night owl, so he protects that time. Everyone is wildly different - the key is listening to your body/mind and figuring out what might work best for you.
"Rearranging my day to work during my golden hours means I can get more done in less time, because I'm not fighting with my body. I'm naturally alert, focused and creative in the morning, so it's easy to complete the tasks I need to."
What has been your greatest struggle as a self-employed business owner?
Swimming upstream. There are a million opportunities as a blogger, and there is never a shortage of products to promote, lifestyles to curate, topics to discuss. The inspiration abounds, but as an easily overwhelmed person, it's important for me to keep my blinders on and stay focused to what I want, rather than what others want from me. I'm a mother to a toddler and a soon-to-be adoptive parent, so family comes first in my home. It's difficult to turn down what feel like incredible opportunities because they either don't align with my current goals, or because they'd leave little energy and/or time left over for the ones under my roof.
The Internet can be a frenetic place, so it's important for me to sometimes ignore the noise and pave my own way by showing up here, in real life, for the ones who love me at my worst and know me at my best.
What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?
Hands down, the flexibility and the quiet! I'm a disciplined introvert by nature, so I love that I can get what I need to get done on my own time, rather than having meetings where we talk about getting things done. ;)
I love that I can cater my schedule to a routine that works best for my family. Currently, that means getting up at 4:45am, sneaking out to a morning coffee shop and writing until a 8:30am yoga class, then home for the day! I like that, with focus, I can finish my work day before the rest of the house is up and running. Best of both worlds!
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients and partners?
I'm the worst person to ask this! I have an admitted tunnel vision where I blog what feels true to me that morning, rarely thinking about readers or stats or clients. But in a way, I suppose that's the best advice I can give --- put out work that you love, work that feels honest, work that feels true. That's attractive by nature.