By Krista Lyons, AliveTampaBay Correspondent
Ah college: there is no better place to receive reality checks that you don’t want to cash and to discover who you are meant to be. For Tampa native Carly Heitlinger, who started attending Georgetown University in 2008, college was a time of change that left her feeling uninspired and in need of a creative outlet. She started her blog, The College Prepster, thinking that it would be a creative outlet and hobby.
Now, after graduating with a degree in marketing and working at a startup, Heitlinger has grown The College Prepster to over 32,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, as well as over 100,000 avid Instagram followers. She turned the site into her full-time job. The College Prepster covers everything from fashion, organizational tips, blogging tips, and overall lifestyle advice and follows Heitlinger’s life in New York.
With all of the sites in the blogosphere, The College Prepster shines as a beacon for those striving to create their own profitable, yet true-to-content blogs. Through her busy schedule working with high-end clothing designers for the best items to feature and catering to her fiercely loyal followers, Heitlinger still makes time to let fellow writers pick her brain to find out how she made her dream life a reality.
AliveTampaBay: I read on your site that you started the College Prepster as a blog in 2008 while you were at Georgetown University. What inspired you to start the blog, and when did you see it really start to take off?
Carly Heitlinger: I went to college thinking it would be a certain (great!) way and instead it was a really difficult adjustment. I went from being one of the smartest students in my class to being one of many incredibly smart people. I felt like I lost my identity a little bit.
School was hard and while I loved being on the rowing team, it was still a massive commitment. While studying for final exams, I was lamenting that college just wasn’t what I expected. A friend of mine suggested that I start a blog as a creative outlet and the rest is history.
For about a year, I had very few readers (mostly my grandma and a small group of other bloggers). When Twitter popped up on college campuses, that’s when I started to see things take off a little bit. I could see it being shared, socially, among other college friends. Every time a new social media platform popped up, I would see another spike of growth.
How did you know when it was time to start working on The College Prepster full-time (I suppose my real question here is, how long did it take to get your blog fully off the ground and how did you do it?)
I wrote my blog throughout college. By my senior year I was thinking that my blog might help me get a job, but I never imagined it would become my job. After graduation, I worked at a tech startup for a year. Then I was at a crossroads where I was making as much money on my blog as I was at my job. I decided to give myself a chance to go “full-time” on my blog (instead of the few hours after work and long weekend hours).
So it took me about five years to make it a true full-time job. I was a full-time student-athlete for four years and then I had a “real” job for a year and I was making time for my blog in every spare minute that I wasn’t at school/practice or at my job. It was a little bit of a sacrifice as I definitely gave up certain aspects of my life while I was doing that, but it was definitely worth it in the end.
I think that starting your own blog and parlaying that into a full-time job is incredible. Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for other bloggers out there who hope to have the kind of success that you have had?
The first piece of advice is a little bit of a reality check. Making a full-time salary on a blog isn’t enough to really make it your full-time job. When it’s your job, it’s your livelihood and you have to be willing and able to say no to thousands of dollars to make sure you’re authentically still creating content your audience is into. If you’re just saying yes to campaigns because you need to pay the rent, your blog won’t succeed as much as it would if you didn’t have that financial pressure.
It’s also totally okay if it doesn’t become your job. Originally, my blog used to be my hobby, and it’s definitely different when it’s your job. It becomes a lot more serious and there’s a lot more pressure (not to mention the boring stuff that comes along with that like lawyers, accounting, emails).
As long as you’re enjoying what you’re doing, I think it’s success and worthwhile.
Do you run the site all on your own, or do you have a team of people who help behind the scenes with you?
My boyfriend takes the photos for my blog, I have accountants to help with taxes and finances, and I have a manager who negotiates deals for me. Everything else is on me.
What are a few fun-facts about yourself that people may not know?
– I love to read and try to spend at least 15 minutes every day reading a new book.
– Even though I was terrified of dogs growing up, I now have two little pups, Teddy and Hamilton!
– Watching Dance Moms every week is my guilty pleasure.
What do you hope for in the future of the College Prepster?
I try not to look too far into the future. If you asked me five years ago if I thought I’d be where I am right now, I wouldn’t have believed you and I definitely couldn’t have imagined this. But I do hope to be happy and loving it still.
Photo courtesy of Carly Heitlinger.
To find out more about The College Prepster, visit thecollegeprepster.com.
Krista Lyons is a correspondent for AliveTampaBay.
Interviews may be condensed and edited for brevity, clarity, and style.