Blogging as a Career

Over the years, many readers have asked about my career and blogging. So, I figured I’d write a post answering the most frequently asked questions (including moving to New York, boyfriends and break-ups)…

Why did you first move to New York?
I moved from Michigan to New York almost eleven years ago. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I stayed in Ann Arbor for six months and worked three jobs to save up enough money to move to New York. My first gig here was a full-time unpaid internship with Cosmopolitan Magazine for three months, to help get my foot in the door. I also tutored every day after work and on weekends to make money. I was super broke and had butterflies in my stomach, but was thrilled to finally be in the city.

How broke?
I was almost literally pinching pennies. Every day I’d order a $1.50 bagel with cream cheese for lunch, and I always really wanted to add tomatoes, but for an extra sixty cents, I simply couldn’t afford it. Every night I would walk home from work, since I didn’t want to splurge on the $2 bus fare. My first apartment was a small one-bedroom sublet in midtown which I shared with a guy friend, and he slept in the bedroom and I slept with a blanket on the old sofa in the living room. Now and again we had cockroaches and, even on the hottest days, we never turned on the air conditioner because we couldn’t pay extra on the utility bill. I cannot begin to tell you how much spaghetti I ate for dinner that year, just because it was the cheapest dish I could think of! Now whenever we have spaghetti, it takes me right back.

It was a drag to be so broke, but at the same time, it was exciting. I felt like I was paying my dues. If you ask pretty much anyone who lives in New York, they’ll regale you with terrible apartment stories, crazy roommate sagas, a history of scrimping and saving when they first arrived. It’s a rite of passage.

What was your first job?
Growing up I had a million jobs at restaurants, coffee shops, babysitting, shoveling snowy driveways, etc….but after my first few months in New York, I landed a full-time real job as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster (book publishing) for a year.

And then I decided to go to law school.

Law school?
Law school was a big departure. But back when I was graduating from college, I randomly took the LSAT, and when I did well on it, I figured I’d just apply to schools, and when I got in, I figured I might as well send in the deposit. One thing came after another, and it was a bit of a snowball effect. I figured I’d try it for a year. So I applied for student loans and started at NYU School of Law in 2002.

How did it go?
That year was really miserable. Part of it was personal—my college boyfriend and I had broken up, and I was pretty devastated; I lived in a tiny ground-floor dorm that looked out onto crowded Broadway, so I had to keep the blinds closed all day, and there was a hot-dog stand right outside my window, so the whole place smelled like boiled meat. Part of it was law school, itself—I missed working in books and magazines. I felt like I didn’t fit in with the other students and felt lame. I called my mom like 50 times a day. I sobbed on my dad’s shoulder when I went home for Thanksgiving. After finishing the first year, I decided to leave law school. That was actually an easy decision, despite knowing I’d have to somehow repay all the loans (a whopping $54,000 for just one year, zoinks!)

How did you pay back the loans?
As soon as I left law school, I felt flooded with relief. I knew I had made the right decision, even though it was a much, much less secure career path. To help repay the loans, I tutored and taught the LSAT for Kaplan on evenings and weekends, which was actually an awesome job. I made friends with some of the students, since many were my age. During the day, I got a full-time job with a small editorial/advertising firm. It was GREAT to work for a small company because I got a ton of work thrown at me and was just expected to figure it out. The atmosphere was intense, but I loved being trusted to get the work done, and the job gave me confidence that I could do anything. I rose up the ranks quickly (as you can in a small company), and also learned a lot about business, since the owner of the company was an incredible negotiator; I watched her approach big, intimidating brands and basically say, “We are worth this huge price; you should sign with us right away and you will never look back,” and people basically did. She showed me by example that you can ask for the moon and, if you really believe in yourself, actually get it.

What did you do at the company?
My position was an editor, and, over the four years I was there, we worked on some amazing projects. My favorite was launching a magazine called Bene, which was about how to live like an Italian (think: mozzarella, thick sweaters, mama’s boys). It was a dream project and I was asked to take the helm. I worked like a million hours a day, and my boyfriend at the time thought I was the biggest type-A stress case (which I was), but overall I loved it.

When did you start your blog?
Five years ago, I broke up with that same boyfriend and needed a distraction from feeling sad (read: eating potato chips and watching TV). (Funny that now that I’m writing this bio, breakups seem to be at the crux of all my positive life decisions! When a door closes, a window opens, right?) To distract myself, I decided to start a blog. None of my friends had one, and I only read a few—Design*Sponge mostly. Blogging as a career didn’t really exist; never did I imagine Cup of Jo would be anything more than a fun hobby. So I worked on it at night and on weekends. I got really into it and would stay up til 2am working on it. (Here’s my first post!:)

When did your blog start making money?
As I said here, shifting from blogging-as-a-hobby to blogging-as-a-career was a very slow transition and one that I had never anticipated. After a year or so, I started featuring a few ads on my blog to earn some pocket money. And after a couple years, I quit my job to focus on freelance magazine writing (Glamour, New York Magazine) and grow my blog, so it became about half my income. But only about a year ago did I finally realize that my blog had officially become my full-time job—both financially and time-wise. And I was happy and surprised. (Also here’s my work/life balance post, if you’d like to know more.)

What are your favorite parts of blogging?
* Having a close relationship with my beloved readers. Starting the Motherhood Mondays column took the relationship to a new level (do you agree?:), because we started discussing marriage, breastfeeding, depression, infertility, everything. Having these conversations has been an incredible, eye-opening, heartwarming experience.
* I LOVE LOVE LOVE when readers stop us in the street because it’s so awesome to meet readers in person. Blogging can feel isolating sometimes, since you work on a laptop at home, so it’s amazing to meet people. (And everyone is always so nice and cute!:)
* Writing about a bunch of different topics. If we do a bedroom makeover or I read a fascinating parenting book or I’m itching to write a guide to NYC, I can just do it. That’s great, since when you work for a magazine, your “beat” tends to be much more limited. And the great thing is, if I start feeling in a rut, I can just shake things up. It’s a real gift to have editorial control.
* Working with photographers, designers and illustrators. Now and again, I’ve worked with super talented people, like Jamie Beck, Jenny Komenda and Gemma Correll. It’s been such a pleasure and honor. I’d love to do more collaborations in the future.
* Alex being awesome. Alex helps a lot with my blog, not so much in the nitty gritty, but just overarching conversations about ideas, worries, etc. He jokes that I’m the CEO, but he’s the chief strategist, director of communications, personal chef, mailroom guy, and psychotherapist for Cup of Jo. :) And he’s written a couple posts, including 8 confessions of a new dad and his side of the birth story.

What are your least favorite parts of blogging?
Obviously, I feel super lucky to have the job I do, and any negative aspects are absolutely worth it. But I think it’s important sometimes to talk about negative parts of your job, so that other people don’t assume your job is perfect and thus feel bad about their jobs. (It’s like when you’re secretly psyched to read that food critics often get food poisoning:) So here are a few things that can be a drag…

* Negative comments. You know that punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when someone criticizes you? Well, if you have a big blog, you get negative comments pretty much every day, so you have that feeling at some point every day. Sometimes the comments are just from someone cranky (and then this mantra applies), but often they’re from smart readers and thus are really constructive and helpful for growth. I take negative comments seriously and try to learn from them. Criticism helps you grow, as both a blogger and person, and of course I welcome honest comments from my readers. Like I said, though, negative comments can be very tough to read. I’ve always been sensitive to criticism, and I’ll admit, I’ve called my mom in tears more than once. It can feel very personal when you’re writing about yourself and your life.
* Feeling isolated. While working from home, it’s easy to feel lonely without co-workers, especially when you’re working on the laptop on your bed, ha! It’s often fun and social to have a team around you…and sometimes I just want to gossip about The Bachelor the next morning! It’s also tough to never have a sounding board—even just a co-worker to ask, is this idea good or totally crazy?
* Working on vacations/Christmas/weekends/etc. Since I started Cup of Jo five years ago, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a vacation where I didn’t spend some time working—including our honeymoon. Blogging never stops, and running your own business never stops. Since I don’t have anyone else working with me who can take over in my absence, I always have to take time to check in (to upload guest posts, to answer timely advertising questions, etc.). After all, my advertisers are depending on being able to communicate with me, and I owe it to them to have my traffic stay the same even when we’re out of town. I don’t really mind it, though, since I feel lucky to be blogging overall.

Has Toby changed your work approach?
Having a baby forces you (in a good way) to take time off. Whereas I used to take on a million side projects, I don’t anymore. And I love that we have hours built in every evening to go to the playground, sing, play the bongos, make jokes, ride bikes. Apparently the average toddler laughs 400 times a day, and those throaty giggles are totally contagious. Alex is also really laid-back and talented at relaxing (ha), so that has been good for me. He has taught me to stop more often and smell the roses.

Any advice for growing a blog?
People will like reading your blog—and you’ll enjoy writing it—if you’re true to yourself and your posts come from the heart. When you write a post, imagine your mom or best friend reading it. Does it sound like your voice? Does the topic fascinate or inspire you? Is the post clear, enticing and visual? Do you have a point of view that’s different from other bloggers? Write about what you love. I think everyone has an amazing blog inside them, or a story to tell, and I really encourage people to go for it. If you’re starting out, best of luck!

Do you have any tips about starting a magazine career?
I did an interview about my magazine work which might answer some questions. I also love the websites Media Bistro and Ed2010. They have great advice about pitching stories and interviewing; plus, they have job and internship listings. There are obviously many different paths to success, and I would recommend staying very open to opportunities (even low-paying or no-paying ones, at first) and doing all you can to get your foot in the door. Good luck!

What is the biggest misconception about bloggers?
When it’s done right, blogging should look easy—just how magazine articles and books should look easy and fun. But it doesn’t mean that it is easy. I wrote about the behind-the-scenes of running a bigger blog in this interview. There’s so much back-end work, including negotiating with advertisers, redesigning your site, working closely with lawyers when developing contracts, hiring contributors and graphic designers, building a presence on social media, answering hundreds and hundreds of reader emails every day, doing guest posts and interviews, the list goes on. Funnily enough, after a while, the actual writing-of-the-posts feels like only a small part of your daily work (even though that’s obviously the best part!:).

How do you earn money and handle advertising?
For the past six years, I’ve sold most of the ads myself. I’ve worked primarily with small brands, such as etsy shops and jewelry designers. I love working with small business owners and supporting female entrepreneurs.

Now I’ve also decided to work with an ad network that handles banner ads for bloggers. It’s a big step, but I’m excited to free up more time to focus on editorial posts. Starting now, I’ll also be doing a few sponsored posts per month, which I typically sell directly to brands myself. For years, I didn’t accept sponsored posts, but now I’ve seen that they work really well with brands you actually love (such as Pinhole Press and The Honest Company). And I’ll mark them very clearly with text at the top or bottom of the post. So, it will be very clear when something is sponsored; I hope you guys will enjoy the posts, which will help keep Cup of Jo running smoothly.

What do you think about the future of blogging?
I always tell Alex that I’m riding the wave. Blogs probably won’t be around forever (although of course I hope they will!) and you never know how quickly the industry will change. After all, when I started five years ago, I never thought blogging could be a job, and now it is, and maybe it won’t be in the future. There’s definitely not much job security. But I’m grateful to be doing it now, and hope to keep blogging for as long as possible.

If you have read this far, bravo, haha! Thank you so much, and I hope this answered most of your questions (and probably way more:) If you have any others, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I want to reiterate how much I love blogging and how much I love my readers. Thank you again (so much) for everything. Love, Joanna

  1. Monica says...

    Loved this! So inspiring as always Joanna :)

  2. Thank you for posting this! It’s been so inspiring, and you’ve really put in a lot of effort to connect with your readers. We all appreciate that!

  3. Brava to you for taking the time to write such a genuine post on your blog. i’m always looking up to you, your blog and your success, it is so inspiring and motivating. You’re pretty much my blog guru so thanks for this little article! I actually read the whole thing! Have a wonderful Thursday Joanna!!!

  4. Joanna,
    Your links to both yours and Alex’s versions of your birth stories as well as his Eight Confessions of New Dad have been immensely helpful to my husband and I, who are expecting our first child (a baby boy) any day now.
    THANK YOU!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing all of this! I appreciate your generosity to share your experiences with your readers…as a fellow blogger who’s thinking of trying to grow her blog, I really appreciate it. And all the work you do here:)

  6. Thank you for sharing this fantastic story.

    I was secretly praying to bump into you when you were in chicago. well, next time!

    Keep blogging!

  7. Loved this post, Joanna! You’re so inspiring! I just started blogging casually but I have a full time job so I don’t think it will ever be anything more than a hobby, but I LOVE it. I’m blogging every day in August :)

  8. Jo says...

    Thank you so so so much for this amazing post, Joanna! It is so inspiring and honest! What a wonderful read! I absolutely love your blog and all your work. More power to you!

  9. this was such a thoughtful and interesting post! You are a great writer…i’m sure it’s a lot of work but you should do more long posts!

  10. Your success is so well deserved! Thanks for sharing your story :)

  11. You look so like Wonder Woman with those glasses Jo! They are so pretty on you.


  12. Really great post! I’m somewhat new to your blog, so I learned so much I didn’t know about you. I like how you just enjoy blogging and didn’t start it as a money making opportunity. I think that’s quite refreshing.

  13. I always enjoy your “how my blogging career came to be” stories (whether here or for other sites). It’s funny how you talk about meeting readers in person on the street being such a joy; I still sorta feel like, “Hey! I’ve been reading Joanna’s work since back in the day on Smitten!” It’s been such a treat to follow along with you these past few years. I think your work has always felt wonderfully personal, and I admire your bravery in putting so much of your life out there for readers.

  14. MOG says...

    As one of your senior readers (over 60) I really enjoy this site. Loved your start in NYC, sounds like my early years, and really love the posts about you and your family. One note – I word for an association, a great job but haven’t had an email free vacation in 9 years, so I can sympathize. Keep it up!

  15. Cheryl says...

    Thank you so much for this post!! My younger sister just graduated college and is frustrated that finding work is so hard and feels like a failure because she’s not some super successful person at 22! I’ve been telling her it’s not easy for anyone and that everyone’s career takes time to form and I sent this to her because here is proof! Everyone struggles to get to a happy career place! Thanks again!

  16. Anonymous says...

    Wonderful post, Joanna; thanks so much for sharing all the trials and tribulations which have brought you to this point.
    Completely admirable – and very balanced!

  17. karli, how funny! i don’t remember the moon episode from mad men, i want to go back and watch that episode! no, i just said that comment myself, ha. but maybe i was subconsciously inspired!

  18. Céline says...

    Thanxxxxx a LOT for this open-hearted post, cheers me up with so much honesty. I really enjoy reading your blog (almost every day) from the other side of the pond and YES, YES, I fully agree with your overall analysis – it could not be more true. It’s so good to know as I am about to launch my own editing freelance business too. And my conclusions meet yours :). Cheers !

  19. Meganbstock, thanks for your question! joy wrote a book called Blog Inc that interviews bigger bloggers about how they started, built their blogs, etc. That would be really helpful, I’m sure! :)

  20. michelle, thanks for your questions!

    When did you notice your blog readership increasing and becoming a ritual for your readers?
    * It was slow and steady growth over the past 5.5 years. I did notice some jumps in readership whenever we posted about a big personal life change–like when we got engaged, got married and had a baby. But overall, it was just slow and steady.

    Do you ever reread old posts? Do you ever look at posts of clothes and notice that your style changed?
    * Totally! It’s fun to read old posts because I’ve often forgotten them, so it’s like reading someone else’s blog, which is a trip. My style has changed a bit–less with clothes (since I have a pretty basic/simple style anyway) and more with design (I remember looking back at a post and being like, wow, i really don’t like that bedframe!:)

    * Where did you meet Alex? When did you first post about him?
    We met at a friends’ house; they had invited people over to watch the Oscars and immediately I thought Alex was the hunkiest:) Ha, i can’t remember the very first post about Alex, but here are a couple posts about our first date and when he moved in with me:

    thanks for your note!! xoxoxo joanna

  21. Anonymous from Berlin, thanks for your note about privacy! i actually was JUST talking to a friend about this. personally, i’m a very open book myself, so when i write about myself, i’m very comfortable with that. and then anything i write about toby and alex are general things about husbands and babies that everyone goes through (first day of school, etc.)–nothing too personal to them specifically. i would never write about anything that feels sensitive or private to them, and a lot of just everyday stuff is off the record:) thanks for asking!

  22. I really appreciate this post!! I enjoyed reading your journey, especially since I am a recent (unemployed) graduate from a masters program. I have been such a fan for awhile – my day is incomplete without you : ) You are a wonderful inspiration and I truly appreciate your work. I also discuss your posts with others like we are friends!!

    Thanks for being you !

  23. Thanks Joanna! This post was amazing :) Reading your blog at work is the highlight of my day!

  24. Steph, a professional marathon runner, holy smokes!! That is awesome.

  25. Keli, yes! I definitely think you can work for magazines and be a writer/editor without moving to NYC. Many of the biggest magazines are based here, but tons of great magazines are based elsewhere—chicago, LA, etc. and of course there are local magazines and newspapers in pretty much every city/town. I’m sure you can find an amazing place for yourself. Good luck!

  26. Caroline, thank you so much for your note – will definitely keep this in mind and make every effort to keep cup of jo feeling personal and real and not overally commercial. Thank you so much for weighing in, and I definitely appreciate your comment!

  27. Franzi, thanks for your note! when i started featuring ads after a year of blogging, here’s how i went about it: i put a post on my blog saying that i was accepting ads and asked people to email for details. then i would email them with information about my blog, readers, traffic and rates. that way, i could work with small businesses who already read my blog, it was a great fit! :) good luck!!!

  28. Thanks for the great post, Joanna! I so admire all of your work as a trailblazer (can I call you that?) in the blog world. You speak from the heart in such a genuine way, which makes checking your blog every morning so so refreshing. Xo, Katie

  29. Chrissy, thank you for your note! yes, I did recycle some older content for a post a couple weeks ago (with only small changes) and addressed it in the comments many times as a misstep. i regretted it, as i mentioned profusely, and i should have just written something fresh and new, which would have been just as easy. But every day I write multiple posts with new original content, and i’m looking forward to many new posts and series in the future!

  30. Lynn, you mentioned SAY media — i did the windows phone campaign with them as a trial relationship to figure out if i wanted to sign with them. in the end, i chose instead to sign with federated.

    my best food series is completely editorial, and i just choose to feature food bloggers who i love, many of whom i’m good friends with (we have dinner, set up playdates with our kids, etc.) and some of whom i just admire. it’s a way to feature their blogs and great recipes and support them by introducing their blogs to my readers and driving lots of traffic to their blogs. it’s not connected to advertising or ad networks in anyway. it’s just a series of guest posts that everyone’s happy to be part of (and i love featuring them!) the series was started because i’m a terrible cook and wanted to learn how to make basic recipes well:)

    thanks so much! hope that helps clarify.

  31. I loved reading this, Jo! As always, you are so honest and inspiring. Love your blog!

  32. Amy Lauree, haha, what a sweet comment, thank you!!!!!

    Jennifer that is awesome!!! I love it :)

    M! you are the sweetest. Waving to Norway!

    I can’t tell you how much all these comments mean to me.

  33. Excellent post!

    Your fortitude and determination are inspiring.

  34. Thank you so much for sharing! I especially appreciated your words of wisdom to us new bloggers out here. When I started my blog the one thing I wanted to stay true to was myself- writing it from the heart. I appreciate that encouragement coming from such a seasoned blogger. I love reading your blog- you are an inspiration.

  35. At the risk of sounding redundant — THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this post, Joanna! I’ve been a longtime reader, and have enjoyed watched you and your blog evolve over the years. Thank you for sharing some of your life’s most important milestones with us!

  36. you are the first blog i ever read and remain my absolute favourite. i definitely hope cup of jo is around for years to come :) xx

  37. lisamarie, yes the loans were TOUGH! i paid them off with a mix of my full-time job’s salary and LSAT classes; i lived way below my means for years (my law school year was 10 years ago at this point) so that i could put every extra penny into my loans. sometimes i’d pay more each month and sometimes i’d pay less. i’m happy to say that i finally paid them in full off last year! it took a long time, but it feels so great not to have any student loans anymore. xoxo

  38. Megan, absolutely! i wrote into the contract to say that i only had to do two sponsored posts a month, because i definitely want to keep the blog feeling editorial and not overly sponsored. i’ll keep that front of mind moving forward for sure! thank you so much xoxo

  39. oh my gosh, ypatsy!!! yes, that class was awesome!!! what was his name….it started with an R, i think….he was the coolest. did you ever go to his office? the walls are covered with photos from his students, and he STILL remembers everyone’s names!

  40. KJ, good question! you asked if i could step away from the blog from time to time — i absolutely could if it were a personal blog that wasn’t my job. then, obviously, you can do whatever you’d like! but now that it’s my job, i owe it to advertisers to keep it going even when i’m on vacation, etc., since they’re paying for the traffic to stay up and people to keep coming everyday. so i have to keep going everyday. also, i have a secret fear that if i stop for a week or something, people will forget about my site! i know that’s lame, but the internet just keeps going, and i feel like i have to be consistent everyday to keep the ball rolling:) thanks for the question!

  41. @The Zhush — haha, “big apple dues,” i love that:)

  42. Meagan, you are so sweet! and clare, that’s awesome:):) beatrix, congratulations on your baby news:) elsa, your note was so sweet, i’m blushing:) ginny, that is so cute taht you splurged on pepperoni. it all sounds crazy now, but it’s true: when you’re first moving to a big city, you need every dime, nickle and penny you can get!

  43. Wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing your views and insights with us. I love the bit about “does it sound like you to your mom or best friend?” Something for me to work on definitely!

  44. casey, good point!! nowadays the job market in almost any field is uncertain. good luck to you!!! xoxoxo

    tania, what a lovely note. thank you for all these sweet comments. :)

  45. Anonymous says...

    such a great and enlightening post! i didn’t think i could respect and admire you anymore than i already did but i do!

  46. baylee, i especially love reading swissmiss and kottke these days; they have such great finds. so many great blogs out there!! :)

    Krysta, go blue!!!!

  47. Anonymous says...

    Typically I never leave comments, but this post compelled me to do so. I am a relatively new reader (having found you through babyccino) and have been watching the recycled posts with interest. Personally, I find it incredibly jarring that you can write an post like this and sound so real and honest and genuine (qualities that make me interested in you and your opinions) and then turn around and blithely post another day from years ago without any type of mention that you are doing so. It feels incredibly dishonest (to me at least) that you wouldn’t put some sort of disclaimer that you are reusing content. I honestly don’t care if you need a few days off or if you want to repost some of your favorite old posts (it is YOUR blog after all). Since you have written professionally, and especially since you mention completing a year of law school, I cannot imagine you wouldn’t be aware of how important credibility is to a journalist. I say this not because I want to snark on you, only to point out how it can come across. It is a big turn off. And will ultimately drive me away from your blog. Since it is your full time job, I thought it is something you would like to be aware of.


  48. I already made a comment earlier, but I just have to say this: Joanna, you are so my life peg :)

  49. Anonymous says...

    Great post!

  50. This was SO interesting to read!! I’m about the same age as you, and have also put in my time being really broke in a big city. (You haven’t lived until you’ve hiked your ass home for several miles because the bus fare was a splurge you couldn’t afford :)).

    It seems to me that you in many ways broke the traditional career “rules” (e.g. go to college, go to grad school, get a job in the thing you studied, take time off to have kids, go back to work in your forties) to forge a new and unusual career path. …I love that! Our generation has inherited a pretty crap economy, but that really makes room for innovative and creative career ideas — not to mention creative ways to approach the balance of work and having children. Your story is really inspiring!

  51. wow, thanks for this. you’re very lucky but also very talented so that is why you’re able to do what you do.

    i started blogging 6 years ago but it’s always been just for fun and for me to write. i’m not in it for the money or followers but have the utmost respect for all these female bloggers making a living out of it.

  52. Thank you for all of this advice! I lost my job at our city newspaper and decided to go to nursing school. Lots of jobs for nurses, right? Just like you, I quickly that I was entering the wrong field. Now I’m trying to grow my blog and worrying that I will never make money at this. Though at least I enjoy it!

  53. I love your blog! incredible, fascinating and inspiring story))) Thank you for sharing of experiences)) Inspiring you and good luck!

  54. thank you for taking the time to write this post and sharing your blogging wisdom. not sure where my new blog is going, but a successful one would be exciting. you are an inspiration. keep it up :) xo, beth-ann

  55. Anonymous says...

    Basically, I never leave comments. Can’t really say way. I guess, mostly it’s because I don’t see a point, BUT after reading this post I finally realized how important it is for you to hear opinions from another side of the monitor :) Thus, I want to let you know that I find your blog being diverse and meaningful. I especially like “Have a xx weekend!” series, because they are full of unexpected internet finds. Even though I do not have my own children yet, I read all the motherhood/children/family related posts, which help me to prepare for taking that big step. And! I’ll be definitely using your “Guide to NYC”, since me and my friends are going on vacation to NYC + California in a month.

    Joanna, you are doing a great job, which is much much appreciated!

    Justina, Lithuania

  56. You are such an inspirational person! I really loved reading this post, and love all your personal tips!

  57. Thank you for sharing! This post was both helpful and inspiring.
    Have a lovely week!
    – Krista

  58. Rose says...

    I just wanted to say thank you for starting your blog and that I love it :)

  59. I love this post. I can completely relate because I love the whole writing industry, but delayed entering it because I went to law school. I left after three years. Now I’m trying to pursue my passion by starting a blog and trying to write for magazines. It’s tough, but it makes me hungrier for the career that I envision for myself. It’s nice to see someone who has made it. It’s very inspiring. Thank you :)

  60. Marie says...

    Jo this is so great. My favorite post thus far I think.

  61. I really, really, really enjoyed reading this post. Your blog is so interesting and you are so inspiring, Joanna. I am in my twenties, writing a small blog ( too that fulfills me and amkes me very happy and it’s been a while that I’ve been wondering what the next step will be. Your story has been a true source of inspiration! :)
    Thank you so much for sharing, for you honesty and for being so sensitive and natural.
    I would just like to add that… Please, please, please don’t loose your touch. I’ve seen so many blogs becoming too sponsored and forgetting about true interesting, personal and spontaneous posts. And it’s very dissapointing and sad because you used to love them and all of a sudden they loose credibility and aren’t as appealing as they were.

    Keep your blog as beautiful and natural and faithfull to yourself and it’s been till now, please.

    Thank you so so much for sharing everyday.

    One of you faithful readers :)



  62. Val says...

    Hi Joanna,
    I love your blog and have been following you ever since your days at Smitten. You have incredible taste and I’m always recommending things I’ve seen on your blog to friends as “Oh you know Cup of Jo likes these” like you’re one of our friends.

    As long as everything’s transparent, I have no issue as a reader with a different way of handling ads.

    Thank you for your blog. It’s something I like forward to every day.


  63. Thank you so much for writing this and telling us all about your career and goals. One of the hardest things to do in blogging is opening up about personal stories and life, so I appreciate your courage and sharing for the sake of your readers.
    I am a relatively new blogger myself, and a recent graduate looking to get into the magazine/editorial industry, so everything about this post and all your advice was incredibly helpful for me! Thanks so much :)

    ardena rose

  64. Thanks for being so open! I work at home also and it can be very lonely…except for all the blog reading.

  65. Lynn says...

    I think it’s hard for those of us who work in “the industry” to read this and find it 100% genuine. While I’m not opposed to people making money doing something that provides other people value (your readers get a tremendous amount of value, obviously), I like transparency. I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned your relationship with Say Media and how that may have influenced your “The Best XYZ You’ll Ever Have” posts since Smitten Kitchen, Food 52, Mom Filter, etc are also members of that blog network. The “dear friend” who redecorated your bedroom is part of Say Media. While it’s not advertising, it feels inauthentic to feature recipes to drive traffic when you don’t cook.

    I almost wish I didn’t know about the industry so I could just comment “OMG, I LOVE blueberry muffins too!” and go on with my day. I envy those readers who can have that more “innocent” experience because your blog content really is engaging and special. I hope that the FM relationship doesn’t tarnish that.

  66. This is such a wonderful, sweet, heartfelt post. Since I started blogging A Cup of Jo has been one of my all time favourite blogs, and has given me so much inspiration. I love that you are always so honest and seem to really love your readers.
    Thank you for everything you’ve done on this blog!

  67. Hey Joanna! I really liked this post – it gave a perfect insight and was helpfull in many aspects. I especially liked your statements about what you like about blogging and what not so much. Thank you :)
    One small question I still have: You said that you started featuring a few ads on your blog after a year of blogging. How did you proceed back then? Did you get into contact with the brands or did the ask you first?
    Have a nice day! Franzi

  68. Anonymous says...

    love you for calling your mum in tears reading negative comments!!! i tend to keep these offenses to myself and probably it’s wrong…it really hurts. <3<3

  69. Caroline says...

    Like some other people commented above I am also worried about your blog becoming more commercial. For example, in the text at the bottom right of your page you write you would only feature sponsored posts a couple of times per year but as you stated in the interview you will now do this every month… I already find it now ‘borderline’ wrt the number of giveaway posts and other commercial texts.

  70. M! says...

    Its my morning ritual: I go make a cup of jo(!) with a little milk, get back into bed, pull my laptop into bed with me again, rearrange the pillows and go straight in to your blog. I live in Norway, so usually you will have posted while I’m asleep.

    My boyfriend will usually hang out at sports or politics-pages, but when I log onto your blog – ever so often he will lean over and read with me.

    So… I guess we both have kinda huge crushes on you. :)

    Keep up the good work!

  71. Thanks so much for all the info in this post.
    I must say, I really REALLY love reading your blog. You truly have a gift for writing in a way that feels like talking to a good friend, you share, rather than talk at people, which I admire so much. And all your posts are always a perfect blend of honesty, humour, and substance.
    Bravo, you really are a great inspiration to all us girls out there!

  72. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this post together. It was a terrific read. I have admired your blog for a long time. Congratulations! Jx

  73. Well, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! After much debate (and nervousness) I finally took the plunge with a new blog today (as I was in need of a creative outlet). Thanks so much for sharing!


  74. Thanks for posting this. I feel like I’ve learned so much more about you. I think it’s great you changed paths when it wasn’t working out for you. So many times we tell ourselves to stick with something, we don’t want to quit or “fail”, which can of course be good. But sometimes we also need to know when to throw in the towel and say this isn’t right for me. Imagine how different your life would be as a lawyer. I’m so glad you aren’t. I love reading your words. :) thanks for being so transparent here!

  75. I truly think this is one of the best little spots on the internet! so glad your hard work is being compensated!

    maybe you’ll get a kick out of this: one of my friends tweeted about Alex’s recent story on the NYT, and when I saw it, my first reaction was, “hey I know his wife!”

  76. What a gem of a post! Applause for taking the time and effort to write something so heartfelt, personal, and fascinating.

    Thanks also for always providing links to past posts of yours- I absolutely loved Alex’s posts on both Toby’s birth and his dad ‘confessions’. Really enjoyable reads.

    I love your blog so much!

  77. Anonymous says...

    What an inspiring post.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to fill us all in! Was a really interesting read :)

    You’re doing such an amazing job. I haven’t visited your blog often but you’ve certainly caught my attention.

    Have a wonderful week

    Shal xo

  78. I just read your entire post just eager for more! Thank you so much for sharing your story {and about living in NYC, moving there in October for an internship}! I started blogging almost 3 years ago and I love it, although my blog is more of a personal journal and inspirational pictures. Anyway, I’ve read yours for a few years now and it’s one that I check daily! Keep up the great work and hopefully I’ll run in to you and the family one day in NYC!

  79. You are AWESOME!

  80. Thanks for taking the time to write this! I am just getting into the field of blogging and I find it can be very overwhelming at first! I have been impressed by so many of the women bloggers that I’ve seen who are an inspiration. I’m excited to become a part of this community!

  81. Great, honest post. Thank you! I wish more bloggers could be up front with honesty. I had a similiar situation to you (moving to NYC, breakups that inspired new opportunities .. worked in advertising, etc).

    I’m glad you are enjoying blogging. I’m enjoying it too and working on a creative venture that will hopefully stem from blogging first.


  82. I felt a wave of nostalgia reading this post and your interview about a career in magazines. I wrote passionately for my high school and college newspapers so much so that friends used to joke that one day they’d be buying my magazine at the grocery store. I don’t know what happened but have ended as far from writing as I ever thought (I, too, dabbled in the law school thing). Anyways, in reliving those memories while reading this post, I realized that I never took the plunge to move to New York and try my hand at a career in writing, which leads me to this question: Is it necessary to move to NYC to ignite a successful career in magazine writing/editing? Thank you for an inspiring post!

  83. I really enjoyed reading this, and reminded me why I enjoy your site. You seem to be a very honest, open person, which is welcoming.

    These are also great tips about blogging in general. I hope to put the to good use.

    Can’t wait to see the redesign! I bet it will be very snazzy.

  84. I love your blog! I don’t know how I stumbled upon it but now I check it everyday and I started my own blog. it’s so fun! Thanks for the inspiration. These are the things I like most about yr blog
    1. The posts are brief, don’t usually have time to get too much reading in (especially online reading)
    2. They are always positive, even if they are emotional, they aren’t depressing
    3. The links and guest blogs you source
    4. Your cute little family!

  85. Anonymous says...

    What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing this. Your story and your outlook on life are so inspiring, and the way you write about it is so relatable! Thanks for keeping us entertained :)

  86. thank you for sharing joanna! i love everything you post, but i love your personal stuff the best :-) i live in toronto but sometimes i wish i lived in NYC so i could bump into you on the street! you truly feel like a friend :-)

  87. I’ve been kidding aroun d for years that you’re the woman I want to be when I grow up (now I’m 22), and this post solidified that for me for real. I’m a recent transplant to NYC from the Midwest having just finished my bachelors degree. I currently intern and work night hours at a gym to try to get by while I get my life together. Like you, I call my mom daily on the verge of tears and spend my days wishing I was back in Milwaukee drinking beers and living the cheap life.

    But seeing you write about where you started and where you’ve ended up was incredibly inspirational. I have printed out this post and hung it by my bed as a constant reminder that “this too shall pass.”

    You truly are the raddest person I’ve never met and I look up to you in a real major way.

    Thank you SO much for this post.

  88. Thank you so much for writing this post Joanna! I have absolutely loved reading your blog for years now and it was a major part of what inspired me to start my own blog. After blogging for less than a month I had so many questions, so this post was timed perfectly. I love your blog and read it every day. It continues to be something I aspire to for my own little blog!

  89. This was incredible. Thank you for sharing. Will check back often. Keep on!

    Best Wishes,
    The Quirky Antiqurian xx

  90. thanks for the post! we love you too! :)

  91. Such a good post. With writing as one of my greatest passions, I have been blogging on and off for a few years now, and just recently I have started anew. It’s funny: putting your life out there in the open for all to read, then one day wanting to pull the plug and hide from everything you’ve ever shared. But you are right; to have readers (whether it be 3 or 3 million) is such an honor and even though I only blog to get things off of my chest while I live alone, talking to my dog and eating spaghetti, its nice to know that maybe someone out there is doing the same thing and can relate.

  92. Joanna,
    Thank you for sharing all of this insight and background. It’s wonderful. I’ve had many of these questions in my head, but have never actually asked you. I really enjoy reading your blog every day.

  93. Love this insight into the blogging world. I’ve been in-and-out blogging for the last six years, but can’t seem to find my voice (other than pictures of my daughter, which are really just for my mom). I keep thinking I’ll sit down one day and write something worth reading, but lightening is yet to strike. I enjoy hearing how you’ve evolved into full-time blogging. Thanks!

  94. Hi Jo, i have been your anonymous reader for some time now. But today i decided to put in a comment to show you that your effort in writing amazing posts are not wasted. =)

    And! The “mantra” is cute! Mind if i borrow it when in time of need. LOL. ;)

    Keep up the great work!


  95. What I’m going to say has already been said before me but I just read every word of this post and I loved everything. This is so relevant to me as I am a college student figuring out what I want to do in my career. Your story shows that you never know where you’re going to end up, but ultimately you’ll be where you’re supposed to be. Also that there will be rough patches and when you are just starting out, nothing is below you and any experience is a good one. You are an amazing woman to look up to! Thank you for this wonderful post – it is so honest and real.


  96. TOtally wish I could be so lucky. I love writing, I love my blog, and I adore editing. Sigh. Alas, it’s not meant to be. Happily, I can devour your blog and a few others while on my little breaks. Thanks for everything!

  97. Thank you so much for sharing your story and process! It is so encouraging :)

  98. My husband and I visited New York last year (without the baby, yay!) and I was dying to see two people: Yourself and Tina Fey (ha!). Anyway, maybe one day when we make the trip back :)
    I have thoroughly enjoyed following your blog for the past couple of years since I had my first daughter and was at home on maternity leave. Your blog is so positive, lovely and inspiring and it’s helped me to try to find the fun things to do in life, get out there and try new restaurants, or whatever my city has to offer, not to mention you have introduced me to so many wonderful products, ideas and hair tutorials :)
    I’m glad you do what you do. And if working with another company for ads and doing sponsored ads is what keeps you going, it’s small price to pay for the reader to see it on your page if it means you can continue this blog! Thank you!

  99. The comment about asking for the moon and getting it – was that from Mad Men? There was an episode where Conrad Hilton leaves Sterling Cooper in a Huff because Don didn’t include the moon in his ad campaign.

    P.S. Your pinterest is great; maybe you should start a tumblr as well :]

  100. Emily says...

    What a fantastic post. I love love love your blog and have written to you in the past before. It is so beautiful the posts and thoughts and enjoyment you share with all of us readers everyday. Amazing.

  101. WOW! No disrespect, Jo, but I didn’t know you had so much ‘cred’! ^_^ I thought you were just a talk-a-holic like me! LOL I’ve been wondering for a while about taking on advertisement for my blog. I’ve been afraid to do it because I just wanted to be ‘ME’…not a robot talker (That’s what I call it.) Thanks for the insight. I’ll keep it in mind. :-)

  102. This is an incredibly timely post for me. I have just started blogging as a means to rediscover my voice. Your blog has been a huge inspiration and example for me. I’m so glad that you had the courage to follow your heart – esp. in the midst of the toughest times in your life :).

  103. Em says...

    Oh Joanna! You are an absolute treasure.

    This post provided such a wonderful insight and was written with heart as only you can nail.

    Keep on keeping on amazing lady!

    Em xx

  104. Anonymous says...

    Thank you so much for this post! So cool to hear about how you got started!

  105. You’re the best, this is so interesting! I’m taking a mini-break from my blog and trying to figure out what I want to do with it in the future, so I’m really enjoying posts like these right now. Love, love, love your blog, keep up the wonderful work!

  106. You’re the best! Thank you for sharing and, as always, for your honesty!

    GO BLUE!

  107. I appreciate this post so much! I am in law school now, and it doesn’t feel right at all. I was an English major, and I miss writing (not in legalese) intensely. I’m glad to see that someone else felt the same way. Makes me feel like less of a failure…

    Thank you so much!

  108. This was wonderful! I love knowing more about you, Jo!

  109. I really appreciate this post and your blog. I think the honesty is so important! I love your genuine, real take on blogging. we all need more of that.

  110. Joanna,

    This post was right in time. I have enjoyed your blog for the past three years and will comment infrequently. But please know, your work doesn’t go unappreciated. Your story today was perfect for figuring out if I am going to keep pursuing this. I am afraid, like you say at the end of your post, that you are riding the wave. I fear the opportunities are dwindling as people flood the gates. Thankfully, I’d be happy (relative term) in a magazine job. I graduate with a Journalism degree in May and off to NYC I am headed!

    xoxo, hm

  111. This is amazing! I don’t comment here too much but have been following you since I started my blog 1.5 years ago. You have always been an inspiration and your intentions are always genuine. So happy to read how far you’ve gone with blogging… really gives hope to someone who is also building blogging as a career as well as being the best wife and mother as she can be. Thank you again for the post! xx Jeanne

  112. Anonymous says...

    Thanks for this, Joanna.
    I don’t usually comment, but I have to thank you. I’m 23, freshly (and devastatingly!) broken up with my college boyfriend, chronically itching to switch careers, and paralyzed with fear and hopelessness. I feel like a loser for not making more money, a failure for not having a cool job, and an idiot for letting my relationship fall apart.
    The hopelessness and paralysis is the worst part. I think, “Everyone I admire was perfect by the time they were almost-24. What’s the point?” As ridiculous as this sounds, it’s only hearing peoples’ vastly varying stories–like your own, here– that truly snaps me out of it and gives me the clarity and confidence to hope and to move.
    Thank you!

  113. LK says...

    Joanna, I just want to say that I think you are really great. I found you when you were blogging for glamour and I noticed I was only reading your posts so I was pleased to become a loyal reader of cup of Jo. I am also a journalist and have written for some publications but now I’m in a marketing position at a small publishing company. I started a blog because I missed writing, but I haven’t been keeping up with it. I need to get on it. Your answers are wonderful and I really need to apply some of the things you said to my life. Thanks for answering those questions!

  114. wendy uptown says...

    this was one of my favorite posts from you joanna! thank you for sharing.

  115. Great post…love it. And love following you from Belize.

  116. Joanna! I love your posts and I love your blog! Thanks for being so honest and so genuine. It’s always incredible to be inspired by people like you and to feel that we’re all the same sharing the same view of the good things in life and more importantly the challenges. This is turning very cheesy, but I guess I’m in a very cheesy mood right now :D. This is to tell you that you have a huge fan in Cairo, Egypt (I think it’s always cool to know how far you can reach people :)) cheers! Lamah

  117. Thank you for this post. I always look forward to A Cup of Jo, you are the first blog I check everyday.

  118. CanadianJane says...

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I read the whole thing. Very interesting and inspiring.

  119. Candace says...

    You are such a sweet, genuine person.

  120. Oh Joanna,
    Your post honestly couldn’t be timelier. A daily reader (ok, who am I kidding, I check your blog several times a day) for some time, a dabbler in the blogging world and lately ,a dreamer of a more creative and rewarding career, I have been thinking a lot about your blog and what you do. What’s funny is I was tempted to email you and ask you several of these questions and about life in MI. (Hopefully moving to the Lansing area soon! ;) ) Thank you so much for all of your advice and for sharing your personal experiences. You may have inspired me to take a big leap!
    Thank you for your continual honesty, your absolutely enchanting personality and your encouragement.

  121. Seriously, you’re such an inspiration to me. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, and love your insights. Thank you for sharing your back story.

  122. hey lady!

    what a great read! with all the love you send out to us readers, its not hard to send a lot back your way. i really enjoy your writing and i’m so glad you can make a living from it!
    i’ve shared many, many of your posts when friends are going through things you’ve talked about (like being afraid to have a baby boy) or just when its inspired me to make icecream.

    thanks jo!

  123. Thanks so much for this. I’m a huge fan of your work and an aspiring writer/blogger, so this is extremely helpful. You are such a talented writer!

    Also guilty of being one of those people that stopped you on the street (or park as it was). Sorry to interrupt your family time but I had to tell you what a fan I am! Meeting you made running fun!

  124. Thanks for the great post! Are there any books you recommend on blogging? Would love to get your recommendations. I feel kind of clueless about the more technical and artistic aspects of it like graphics, posting photos, etc.

  125. That was an eye-opening insight into the world of blogging as a career. Thank you so much for sharing!


  126. Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I have been blogging for four years and I often feel like I’m not making a difference, but occasionally I get a comment which tells me how much I’ve inspired someone and it’s such a thrill! Thank you for inspiring me to continue with blogging Joanna. You and your blog are an inspiration :)

  127. Jo,

    Love this post, love your blog. I sent you an e-mail back a few years ago with most of these questions on, and you replied with a lovely e-mail back with most of these answers on, though some things have changed since you had Toby :)

    your blog is probably the only one that I still read since i first got into the blogosphere. it is so easy to relate to… :) you, as you said, are so true to yourself and your family. i love when you do a sponsored post that you make sure it’s obvious thats what it is :)

    keep it up, girl!


  128. Steph says...

    Eek – I should have read before I posted – should have read “professional”

  129. hi, joanna! you have a lovely, lovely blog. i’ve been reading since 2009, as i’ve graduated from college, moved to nyc, went through a breakup, and got my first real job. while you and i are in different stages of life, your posts have always felt relevant and inspiring. thank you. long live cup of jo :) -emilee

  130. Steph says...

    Hi Joanna,

    I really, really enjoyed this post. To be honest, the extent of commercial. content on the blog was starting to turn me off, but when your authentic voice comes through like this it is a pleasure to read!! (I think the authenticity thing is why a few people were upset when they felt you had self-plagiarised a few weeks ago (I don’t know if you did – I didn’t check). You wrote about the importance of being truthful/authentic in the context of your depression post, which is perhaps why people have high expectations of you.

    I also went to law school for only one year and I HATED IT! In my case, I took a “leave of absence” after first year to become a profesional marathon runner for a few years (I really did that – crazy, I know). Anyhow…I can relate.

    Keep up the great work! :)

  131. Thank you! Love reading your blog for the candidness and honesty that you put into each post. I also have bought a few things based on your recommendations : )

  132. I want to say that I love your blog and kudos to u for coming to nyc. .it’s hard for natives like myself to move back without family so great job. I started blogging 4 years ago(though it’s a hobby like me writing for yrs,I have no interest to make it serious lol) and I see like I bet u have that you improve and change in some way as your life changes. I understand about the negative comments, but as I say there are always 20 bad things to one good thing. Can’t please the world. I learned that from my 10th grade creative writing teacher how no one write the same and not everyone will like what you write. So you are very strong keep going I look forward to Fridays on your blog and other stories you share

  133. michelle says...

    I have more questions! When did you notice your blog readership increasing and becoming a ritual for your readers? Do you ever reread old posts? Do you ever look at posts of clothes and notice that your style changed? Where did you meet Alex? When did you first post about him?

  134. Thanks ! That was both interesting and informative ! Love your blog, I can tell you put your heart in it !

  135. Very interesting post. I love reading your blog, and I am happy to know you had a windy path towards finding what you love doing , it gives hope to others

  136. love this post, love your blog, thank you!

  137. Carro says...

    I do enjoy your blog but I always have the following thought in the back of my head about your type of personal blogs: Would I be willing to expose so much of my private life including e.g. wedding and holiday pictures and especially showing photos of my child (who did not choose to become exposed / ‘famous’) for my living? Don’t you feel slightly uncomfortable about that? Life has it ups and downs. What if negative things would start to happen in your life? In a way, your life is very exposed…

  138. Thanks so much, Joanna, for sharing your story. I love learning about the lives of other bloggers. Keep up the good work! xoxo

  139. You have inspired me. Today is the day I have decided to finally create a blog and yours popped up from a referral sent my way and voila! What great timing. I have a book on cat behavior published with Random House due out in March and so I have to get my act in gear with this blog thing.

    Also, I was once married to a lawyer from Harvard Law and I attended a law school reunion there and many didn’t want to be lawyers anymore (in fact, a forum was created just on this topic there at the reunion). Many said they were too afraid to make the change and leave law. Those that later made the switch and stepped into their true passion are so happy now.
    Good luck to you!

  140. Wow! Thank you. Very inspirational. Blogging is not my forte, or even something that I have personally explored, but I truly enjoy reading your blog among a select few. Your voice is very clear in your writing and it’s really refreshing, it takes away from the monotony of editing legal writing. This post in particular gives me hope that all the work I am putting forth now (and sacrifices) will pay off! Thanks for your constant devotion to a beautiful blog and to real topics for real women.

  141. Jo-

    Per usual, your personal posts really make me tear up. As a 23 year old, currently single, in a job I don’t love, it’s nice to hear that others have been there. I too feel like breakups have been at the crux of a lot of positive changes for me too- not necessarily life changes, but internal thought changes. I feel the exact same way as KateK above. I wonder if I’ll ever make it through, but your posts give me a lot of hope.

  142. This post is awesome! One of my favourites! Thank you!

  143. Thank you to YOU. You and your blog are very inspiring ! (and help me to improve my English ahah)

    Love from France :)

  144. I love these kinds of origin stories–like how someone got to where they are, how couples met etc. Thank you for sharing. I feel like I know you (for example, I was chuffed to predict the “haters gonna hate” gif) and I think that’s what makes your blog special. I feel like I know you and I know I like you. I’m invested in what you have to say, like a faraway friend.

  145. Wow!! Thank you so much, this advice and the honesty is amazingly helpful. I think people forget the reality of projects like this and how humble the beginnings are.
    It’s great to hear stories like this!

  146. While we always enjoy all of your posts, this one was so helpful. We’ve been debating launching a blog and reading about your journey will help us launch ourselves. Many thanks!

    The SunKissed Sisters