I'm a passionate cheerleader for intentionally creating a unique life that you can wake up in the morning in love with. Creative Life interviews are a place to dive into the stories of people in the process of creating inspired lives for themselves- whatever that means to them.
Today's interview is with Cat, who created a huge, vibrant craft community online through her blog Cut Out + Keep. She started out as a craft blogger, and after years of creating projects her boyfriend Tom created a unique tool for her to upload step by step tutorials more easily. They turned that idea into a community site, and it became their full time jobs! Cat and Tom were even recently featured by Google in a video campaign for Adsense because of their success.
There's lots to dig into, so let's get to know Cat!
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Cat, What inspired you to start a craft blog and how did you build it into the craft resource it is today?
Cut Out + Keep started as my craft blog while I was at university in Scotland. I was making all kinds of new crafts to save money, decorate our new flat and learning to cook full meals for the first time, so I decided to share the tutorials and recipes as I went along. After posting over 250 of my own projects, my readership was booming and crafters all over the world started sending me photos of their versions of my crafts. Tom then decided to build a custom uploader so that I could quickly add step-by-step photos and instructions. When it was finished, we realised we'd created something helpful and unique and decided to open my blog up in to a community where everyone could make and share ideas!
What inspires you most in the craft world, and what are your favourite things to craft?
I find inspiration everywhere and I'm always scribbling down ideas while watching movies, browsing the web or out-and-about. Everyone laughs at me because I never buy the things I like in shops, because I know I could them myself at home. My favourite crafts are sewing and jewelry-making, as I love projects I can wear and show-off afterwards. There's nothing more satisfying than being asked where I bought something that I've made!
Take us through a day in your life.
The postman is also our alarm clock, so it's lucky that he comes almost everyday with a bundle of books for us to open and feature on the site. We open mail over coffee and check how the community is getting on. We have members all over the world, so it's exciting to see all the new projects that have been added while we slept. After the mini inspiration boost, it's time to get down to business, answer email and work on editorial content. Every day is completely different, so there's no telling what we'll be working on from week to week. Around mid-afternoon, once all our major tasks are out of the way, we'll head out to catch some sunshine, grab a coffee and see what's going on in the real world.
How did you first start to recognize your passion and that it could be something more? Was there a turning point or “Ah-Ha” moment for you?
I've always been creative and loved crafting but was never sure of what I wanted to do when I graduated. The growth of Cut Out + Keep was so gradual but luckily, by the time I graduated, it had grown big enough to support me full-time and I was able to stick with doing what I loved and enjoyed the most.
Cat & Tom's featurette by Google Adsense on how they've become full time bloggers
Do you have a business plan? If not, what guides you through important decisions?
We've never really had a business plan, as we didn't expect the site to grow so huge, so it's been a really gradual process. We're always bouncing ideas back and forth and when it's an idea we're both really excited about, we'll start working on that. Because the site was built for me to begin with, it meant that we'd always have one happy customer, so we've always stuck with the rule that we'd only build products and features that we wanted to use ourselves first.
With over 156,300 members, Cut Out & Keep is a huge community! Do you have any tips for bloggers or business owners who want to build community around their projects?
Stick with it, listen to feedback and always stay positive. Make readers feel welcome and appreciate every contribution. It's also important to stay on the same level as your audience, by making yourself available and responding to their comments. Although CO+K is my day job, I still love to use the site as a normal member, positing regular projects and getting excited when they receive comments, favourites, versions or get popular in the charts.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I'm definitely a night owl, as it's when I get creative and I'm often up in to the wee hours working on new ideas. The coffee maker has become my new best friend!
Who are your role models?
I wish I could be as organised as David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, or as hard working as Debbie Stoller, the editor of Bust and founder of Stitch N Bitch. I also love Nigella Lawson, the cartoon character Daria and Paige Hemmis, because anyone who can do DIY in a pink hardhat rocks!
How do you stay balanced, or get back to centre when life happens?
That's a really good question. Work and life have become very much the same thing for me and there's no real separation. When I'm out having fun, I'll be inspired by something that's good for the site and everyday chores like cooking a meal, can be combined with work by making up a new recipe for our members. Working for myself is both a curse and a blessing, because it's a 7-day-a-week job but I can work from anywhere. Also, my workload is constantly growing as the site expands, so it's important to find new ways to streamline and get organised.
Cat is a blogging and craft machine and by getting proactive about streamlining her blogging process, she created an opportunity to take her personal blog and extend it into a network that other bloggers could benefit from too. It's an important lesson in staying engaged in what you love, and in following your instincts!
Cat & Tom took a frustration that hundreds of thousands of bloggers have felt before, and turned it into their full time jobs.
I wonder what any of us could create if we looked into solving a frustration we encounter around what we love?
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