Julia - Roadmap to an Influencer
What do you do for a living? I’m a mother, maker, and writer. When I’m not parenting, I’m usually writing or sharing about living simply, slowly, and sustainably. I write for my blog, for Instagram, and for magazines. I also wrote a book called Simply Living Well: A Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-waste Home that was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2020.
What does a day at your job look like?
Everyday looks a little different for me, but I almost always set aside time for creating or making, whether it be in the kitchen, garden, or art room. Occasionally, I’ll create content for my blog or Instagram, but mostly I try to live my life and share about it in the most authentic way possible. If it’s the height of cold and flu season, for example, and I’m making herbal remedies for our apothecary, I’ll find a way to share the recipe on my blog or Instagram. If it’s gardening season and I’ve just harvested tomatoes, I’ll share a recipe for old- fashioned carrot tomato soup. My only criteria for sharing on social media is that it’s something that resonates with my audience.
Aside from sharing online and on social media, I also write for magazines, both online and in print, and just finished my first book. Now that the book is published, I find myself spending a lot of time promoting it through interviews, lifestyle blogs, demonstration videos, etc., Occasionally, I’ll also partner with brands and either share their products or do reviews on my blog.
What path did you take to get here?
My path has not been linear, but it has been fairly cohesive. I’ve always been interested in the natural sciences, environmental issues, ecology and conservation. I studied marine biology as an undergraduate and conservation science and policy in graduate school. Professionally, I’ve worked in environmental education in Maine, in natural resource management as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, in conservation for small non-profits in the United States and for international institutions in Africa and Latin America.
When my oldest child was born, I took some time off professionally to stay home and be a full-time mom. I ended up learning a lot of what I share on social media now, in part because I wanted to raise my children as naturally as possible, but also because my oldest had a lot of health issues that led me down a rabbit hole of learning everything I could about nutrition, health, and healing.
My initiation into slow living happened in the kitchen, where I learned to cook whole foods from scratch, using all sorts of traditional methods for preparing and processing foods. My oldest had lots of gut issues and food sensitivities, so instead of buying conveniently packaged foods, I took the slow route and learned to make everything myself. I learned to soak nuts, beans, and grains, and make rich bone broths, homemade flour, nut milk, coconut yogurt, ghee, and a variety of fermented foods. Once I mastered cooking from scratch, I started making my own natural cleaning supplies and bath and body products. I also studied herbalism on the side and learned to make all sorts of natural remedies to support my family’s wellness.
At the same time I was learning about nutrition and wellness, I was also interested in living as sustainably as possible. I’d always been careful about the types of products we brought into our house. I also cloth-diapered my babies and took care in how and what we consumed. I had a garden and made sure to get the kids out in nature as much as possible. But when it came to waste, we were guilty of creating as much as the next person, and I was so consumed with the demands of motherhood I didn’t feel I had the bandwidth to figure out how to do better.
In 2014, we moved to Berkeley California for two years. While we were there, I met a few families who were actively practicing zero-waste at home. Some of them were car-free, several grew their own food, and one of them had reduced waste to the point of being able to cancel their trash and recycling services. I read Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home around the same time and slowly started to make changes to reduce our household waste.
In September of 2017, we moved to the Midwest to live closer to family. The kids also started school around the same time, which left me with the space and time to take on new projects and interests. I went on a juice cleanse to try to tackle some lingering health issues of my own and noticed our fridge looked like something out of Bea Johnson’s book. On whim, I took a photo, decided to try to go zero-waste, and shared about it on my personal Instagram account.
A few days later, I decided to create a public account to track my journey to creating less waste. I never considered that anyone would actually follow me; I just wanted to motivate myself by keeping a record of all of the changes I was making at home. I posted my first photo on September 17, used the hashtag #zerowaste, and woke up to 100 new followers. To my surprise, there were a lot of other people practicing zero-waste and they’d formed a tight-knit and very supportive community on IG.
Long story short, I continued to post about zero-waste and other things under the umbrella of simple, slow, sustainable living. Apparently, a lot of other people were interested in the same topic because my account grew pretty quickly. I think I had about 100,000 followers after just one year on Instagram and was up to 200, 000 by the end of year two. A lot of learning, friendships, and new opportunities (book deals, writing opportunities, brand collaborations) have come out of the experience so I’ve continued to share online.
What are the challenges of your job?
My job is sort of ambiguously defined. There’s no scope of work, no rules, no boundaries. I don’t know anyone who’s ever made a living as a blogger or creative on social media, so it feels like unchartered water for me. I don’t have anyone to ask for advice or look to for guidance, so most of the time I just do the next thing that feels right and hope for the best.
What are the blessings of your job?
I’ve been able to make a decent income for the past two years by living my life, doing what I love, and sharing about it. I also have a lot of flexibility and can work from home. It’s a privilege to be able to spend your days in a creative space, being rewarded for doing what you love.
What 3 characteristics do you have to possess or develop to do your job well? Creativity, writing and photography skills, self-direction/motivation.
What are 3 steps you’d tell someone to take on their journey to doing your job someday?
1) Figure out what you care about and line your life up with that as much as possible.
2) Figure out a way to share what you love, either through blogging, an Instagram account, or some other media outlet.
3) Be authentic. Live from the inside out and not the other way around. Don’t look around to figure out what you should do. Just do the next thing that feels right (and good).