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  • Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business

  • and life you love.

  • If you consider yourself an artist or a maker or an entrepreneur and you are really passionate

  • and committed to creating and sharing great work in the world, even if life throws you

  • a big, major curveball, then this episode is for you.

  • Grace Bonney is the founder of Design Sponge, a daily website founded in 2004 that’s dedicated

  • to the creative community and reaches nearly 2 million readers per day.

  • She runs an annual scholarship contest for up and coming designers and is the host of

  • a weekly radio show, After the Jump.

  • After 12 years in Brooklyn, Grace now lives in the Hudson Valley with her wife Julia and

  • their three pets.

  • Her new book, In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice From Over 100 Makers, Artists,

  • and Entrepreneurs is available now.

  • Grace, thank you so much for coming back on the show.

  • I’m so happy to be here.

  • Thank you for having me.

  • So youve been through a lot since our last conversation.

  • Do you want to tell us about your journey and all the things that have happened since

  • then?

  • It’s been a longthe last year has been a particularly long year.

  • So in January of this year, in 2016, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which I didn't

  • even know adults could get.

  • So that was a big shocker and it turned my life upside down.

  • It turned my personal life upside down, it turned my work life upside down, and it was

  • a sort of crasscrash course in getting to know my body, changing every habit from

  • the way I eat to my lack of exercise, which is now a total 180.

  • And now that I look back on that moment, which was just so difficult to get through in January,

  • I have such sort of perspective on what a gift that was because it has fundamentally

  • changed the way I love and work and I’m actually quite thankful for that now.

  • And so let’s dive into the granular bits of that because if anyone doesn't know of

  • your site and know of your work, they now will.

  • But you run one of the most popular design blogs in the world, so getting a diagnosis

  • like this and having so many significant changes required pretty immediately had to have a

  • big impact on let’s just talk about your work life for a moment.

  • How did you start to decide what to either press pause on, what to delegate, and was

  • there fear around, oh my goodness, is my business just gonna crumble?

  • Yes to everything.

  • There was fear everywhere.

  • My life from January to March was just fear after fear after fear.

  • And to be quite honest, I didn't make decisions at first.

  • I just fell into a really dark hole that involved a lot of, like, laying on the ground crying.

  • And I was really fortunate that my team was kind of there to pick me up and say, “Hey,

  • we can tell youre going through this.

  • Were gonna run things for a while.

  • Take some time, you know, go to all of your appointments, figure out what life looks like

  • now.

  • When you come back, well figure out what to do.”

  • And so I did.

  • I took about a month and a half not totally off of work, but mostly off of work and to

  • just kind of figure out what my day to day life was going to look like now.

  • And there were a ton of doctors appointments, a lot of going back and forth between our

  • home upstate and to my doctors in the city and seeing specialists.

  • And there justthere frankly wasn’t time to work.

  • It was justit was my health was my work for 2 months.

  • And once that was settled, it really gave me no choice but to prioritize my health and

  • to realize, ok, the way that I’ve worked for the last 12 years of sitting on a couch

  • totally sedentary, mostly in front of a television, working, you know, sometimes 10, 12 hour days,

  • that can’t happen anymore.

  • It’s justit’s not good for my health.

  • I have to be up and moving and I have to really have moments of calmness in my life.

  • Because stress for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but particularly for type 1, is really difficult

  • on your numbers.

  • And so I needed to make sure that my day was a bit more minimalized and streamlined.

  • So I really learned to delegate, which is, I’m sure you know, if you run your own show,

  • it is so hard.

  • Hardest thing in the world.

  • It’s… to give your baby over to somebody else, even small parts of that, it’s just

  • so difficult.

  • And for me, the majority of my day is really done communicating whether it’s with staff

  • members or readers.

  • And to give small aspects of that away to another person was so scary because I pride

  • myself on the voice of the site, the tone of the site, and the way in which we communicate

  • with people, to be respectful, to be careful of them and their time.

  • And that’s really hard to train somebody else to do.

  • But it’s been done now and I’m so thankful.

  • And I still interact with everybody and I still run all of our social channels, but

  • I’m not the person who answers every email anymore.

  • And it was a hard thing to let go of, but it gave me time in my day to just be quiet,

  • to walk the dogs, to just have time to kind of be quiet and be centered and those moments

  • are so crucial for me now.

  • So you guys are really, really active.

  • I mean, I follow you on Instagram and I love it.

  • I love always seeing the stories and, you know, the posts.

  • What are some of your other bigger social channels, and did you completely just go,

  • like, hands off?

  • I’m stepping away?

  • I did.

  • Well, just for social?

  • Yeah.

  • I mean, actually you can talk about anything, but I just

  • I’m so just innately curious because, again, you guys pump out incredible high quality,

  • beautiful, meaningful content so much.

  • So I know for our business, you know, for me to kind of step out for a month or 2, it

  • makes my head want to explode.

  • So I’m curious what your experience was particularly with social, because that’s

  • how I know and follow you the most.

  • It’s interesting.

  • I think that any time I’ve gone through a big change in my life, and I’ve gone through

  • a couple quite publicly over the last 5 or 6 years, and every time I sort of am ready

  • to share that online I have to kind of go through the process of understanding it myself,

  • being ready for whatever feedback is going to come on the internet.

  • Which, as you know

  • A lot of it.

  • ...is all over the place.

  • Yeah.

  • And so I really have to kind of feel safe in my own understanding of how that works

  • into my identity and who I am and what I do now.

  • And so I felt with diabetes in particular that the sooner I was ready to talk about

  • it the better, because I knew how few resources there were online, especially for people my

  • age who were diagnosed, and I just wanted somebody else who understood.

  • And so I thought, ok, I’m gonna make this a part of our story very quickly because any

  • time weve kind of made ourselves vulnerable whether it’s me or another team member discussing

  • a health issue or life change or losing a house, something like that, it really kind

  • of draws us in closer to the readers.

  • So we cut back on the amount of posts we did across the board from I think we were at 5

  • posts a day and now we post 3 times a day.

  • And I was updating obsessively on social before that and I really pulled back almost like,

  • If I open Instagram today?

  • Cool.

  • If not, no one’s gonna care.

  • It’s not that big of a deal.”

  • And it also was a good reminder that it’s so easy, I think social media kind of props

  • up your ego in this way of everything you post someone says something about.

  • So it can feel like all of that really is that important.

  • And this was a good reminder for me to be like, you know, I love my dogs, some other

  • people love my dogs, but no one’s gonna be upset if I don't write anything on Instagram

  • about them or anything else for a few weeks.

  • So I backed off of it and it was a great lesson that nothing happened.

  • It was fine.

  • Life went on.

  • No one was angry at me.

  • When I did come back, people were, it seemed, more excited to kind of check in because I

  • had been gone for a bit, so I think that was a good reminder.

  • And I’ve talked to a lot of other people in my community who have gone through big

  • changes and disappeared for a little bit and theyve all echoed the same idea, which

  • is those moments are so crucial to remembering that your audience loves you and wants to

  • hear from you, but they are not going to sort of be so demanding and, you know, expectant

  • of your time that if you do need to take time away theyre not going to be angry.

  • They typically will be respectful.

  • I think that’s such an important part and it’s such an important part of this conversation.

  • Because a lot of folks that I know that are pretty consistent content creators and have

  • taken a lot of time and energy to build an audience and that is part of their business

  • model, that’s part of how they put food on the table for their families, that’s

  • part of how their employees are able to take care of their livelihoods and their children

  • and their pets and everything, there’s such a fear.

  • I think there’s two pieces to it.

  • Right?

  • There’s the actual nuts and bolts, is the business going to crumble?

  • Is revenue gonna stop coming in?

  • So I want to talk about that in the context of the internet’s evolution since our last

  • conversation.

  • But also I think from a more emotional and spiritual and perhaps egoic place, feeling

  • like youre going to be left behind or that everyone’s going to depart and youre

  • not going to matter anymore.

  • That’s a hard feeling and I think it’s one that if you work on the internet, you

  • have every day.

  • Yeah.

  • And I struggle with the idea of relevancy constantly.

  • Like is it important that I still have a voice on the internet?

  • Is it important to talk about the same things that I used to talk about?

  • And you can look online and find someone to convince you of either end of that spectrum.

  • That you should be talking, that you shouldn't be talking.

  • And so that’s something that I’ve worked really hard is to tune out other people’s

  • voices this year and just really focus on the things that matter to me, what doesn't

  • matter to me anymore.

  • And that’s a hard transition because for me, weve been transitioning Design Sponge

  • in particular sort of away from the idea of designed goods like furniture and products

  • to the people behind those things and their stories and their struggles and their business

  • life and their work life.

  • And for me, that’s where the fascinating story is, but that’s not the case with all

  • of our readers who would love to just see more shopping.

  • And so that transition has been a scary one.

  • But sort of everything I went through at the beginning of the year reminded me that it’s

  • ok to make these changes and you might lose some people along the way, but youll gain

  • a different type of audience and a different level of engagement, which I’ve found so

  • fulfilling.

  • Let’s talk now about our last conversation.

  • One of the things I thought was so fun, because you and I, I feel like were like OGs when

  • it comes to the internet.

  • Weve been around it for a long time, weve been working online for a long time.

  • I know Design Sponge started in 2004.

  • And it’s justweve seen so many evolutions and it feels like 2 years since our last conversation,

  • one of the things that you shared with me that I was so grateful for your transparency

  • because well have a lot of folks in our audience who are like, “I just want to start

  • a blog.”

  • And I love that and I admire that and I’m always excited for people to express their

  • creativity and if they want to start aiming it into a business, you know, it starts to

  • become another conversation about what is the revenue model and, you know, how is this

  • really going to become self-sustaining.

  • And you were sharing that, at that time in 2014, advertising revenues, you were seeing

  • a downward trend both for your own business and also just in terms of the entire landscape

  • of friends and people that you know.

  • I’m curious where you see things now whether it is in terms of advertising or other kind

  • of trends in digital marketing from your point of view.

  • It’s funny, things have completely changed again just in the last two years, which is

  • just soit’s difficult to process because just as you get your footing there’s a new

  • expectation or a sort of new shift in the ad market that favors something that you had

  • just sort of unlearned or have to relearn.

  • So for us I think weve seen the same trend progress, which is scary but exciting.

  • I think in general, blog traffic to just your home base blog, it continues to kind of slowly

  • shift to other places.

  • And we see our social traffic increasing very quickly, which is exciting, but that’s not

  • where we sell most of our ads.

  • So it’s a challenge.

  • It’s really scary to sort of have our audience grow in these really interesting places and

  • theyre very different audiences in each, you know, our Instagram community is very

  • different from the commenters on the site.

  • And the same thing with Twitter and Facebook.

  • And so you have these communities of people and you want to engage them, but you have

  • an ad market that keeps saying, “Well, unless you put thean actual product in your post,

  • were not gonna pay you.”

  • And that’s the challenge were facing right now.

  • Because as a brand, we really want to be careful about how often we kind of just put products

  • in people’s faces.

  • Absolutely.

  • And that, I don't have an answer for that.

  • I wish I did.

  • I wish I knew the correct way to do that and the right amount of that to put in.

  • So it’s been kind of trial and error for us to see what feels real, which feels like

  • too much for our readers and what feels like just enough.

  • So were testing it out.

  • And then I think like always, I like having outside projects going because I think if

  • the Internet has taught me anything in the last 2 years it’s that you just cannot put

  • all your eggs in one basket.

  • And definitely not the blog basket.

  • It’s gotta be another basket.

  • So whether it’s, you know, podcasting or books or event series, all these things to

  • kind of have all these irons in the fire.

  • Whether or not they all work out, it doesn't really matter.