Erica Ligenza of Coming Up Roses is a Philadelphia-based life and style blogger, brand strategist, business consultant, and wine-and-cheese enthusiast. The recent grad from The Wharton School of Business at UPenn knows a thing or two about business and branding and she doesn't hold anything back.
Erica covers everything from blogging and branding to fashion and relationships on her blog, so there is truly something for everyone. Plus, after years of blogging, Erica is a pro by now.
Here's what she has to say...
Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I create content for brands as an authentic lifestyle influencer, and I help other bloggers make money living what they love online. I’m also a brand strategist and digital marketer hailing from the Wharton School, so on the side I build brand foundations for businesses from the ground up!
You were in college when you started your blog - at what point did you realize that you might be able to skip the 9-5 altogether and make a living off of your online influence?
I didn’t even consider the idea until I sat down to really think about how my blog schedule would change after graduation if I were to pursue a more traditional 9-to-5.
I realized it would change a whole lot - and not in a good way - and there was just nothing that I wanted to do more than throw myself headfirst into CUR.
I couldn’t imagine putting as much time as I already was on my blog into someone else’s dream. There was enough demand from brands wanting to work with me that I figured if I could effectively monetize the demand + time + work quality + influence all together, there might be some real possibility.
What did you do next?
Had some wine and panicked a little. Ha! Really, it was just more planning and more taking myself seriously. I had already been blogging, so that wasn’t a big change. But I knew the business model in and of itself would need to evolve.
I was really undervaluing myself and didn’t even know it. So I came up with some basic plans for my own time and multiple income streams and went from there!
You have so many great things going on and it seems like you’re always on top of it! Any time management tips you’ve got for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Oh girl, I feel like the hot mess express! HA! But thank you. When it comes to time management, I think it’s just excruciatingly important to be overly clear with yourself and others on realistic goals and expectations.
I realized pretty quickly that my Type A-style of planning - writing down 50 tasks in a 10-task window - was overambitious and straight up impossible. I’d end up not getting anything done, because I was left feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and on the road to burn out.
My biggest time management takeaway now is a combination of time blocking + batching. I know that anything can happen in my day, and I like having the flexibility to run an errand or make a call without feeling glued to a set schedule.
Instead of setting specific tasks for specific hours, I set specific tasks for blocks. Each day has four blocks: 7 - 9 am, 9 - 12 noon, 12 - 2 pm, and 2 pm - 5 pm. It lets me more realistically organize my day in frames then, almost “themed,” and leaves that room for change!
It also allows for batching: doing similar or same tasks together instead of broken up (for example, editing two week’s worth of photography at the same time instead of shoot by shoot as it comes). A major timesaver!
What has been the best part of running your own business?
There are so many good parts! But I’d say #1 is the flexibility.
It takes a whole heckuvah lot of discipline (which I have not yet mastered, tbh), but being able to set your own hours and control the entire pace of your day is so liberating.
If I’m feeling stressed and just need a breather, I can literally just up and go get my nails done or run to Target, or sit with a cup of coffee and some YouTube beauty tutorials for a few minutes. So that’s clutch!
Otherwise, being able to see how far you’ve come at the end of the day is just amazing. I’m still really bad at that and often need others to point it out right to my face, but it’s really cool (and important) to just give yourself kudos sometimes for simply going for it.
I couldn’t help but notice a “coming soon” under the ecourse tab on your blog - any hints at what you’re currently working on?
YES! Something v. exciting and v. HUGE has been in the works for awhile now. I can’t say too much yet, but I CAN say that there has never been a course quite like this before, and especially not at the depth I’ll be going into.
If you’ve been wanting to work with brands as a blogger and/or make more moola monetizing your content, this will basically be a tell-all. Get on the waitlist here.
What advice do you have for other online influencers hoping to generate an income?
If it’s not bringing value, it’s not worth anyone’s time - including yours. And if you don’t value yourself, brands won’t value you, either. The basic (but hella important) question should always always always be: how valuable is this?
Whether it’s a full-on blog post or 140-character tweet, there has to be something valuable in there. Get really good at providing value. And value doesn’t have to mean it’s just teaching something or instructional in nature! Make it valuable by actively altering the course of someone’s day with it, whether that means you’re making someone laugh out loud, teaching how to do something, providing new and genuinely useful perspective, or inspiring to get off the couch and to the store to actually purchase a product.
Become valuable and start developing true influence to start making money online. There’s a difference between a blogger and an influencer. Anyone can be a blogger. It takes true talent and true community-building to generate influence, where your own actions inspire those of others. Build that via value, and then build income via influence!
What was something you struggled with when you were growing your brand? How did you overcome it?
Comparison was always my struggle bus - and still is sometimes! It’s hard to not look at what everyone and their mother is doing online and think, “Oh, maybe I should try that!” or “Oh, that’s better than my idea.” But that’s so so so (SO) bad, and toxic not only for your own brand, but for your general health and mental well-being!
I wouldn’t say I’ve completely overcome it (does anyone ever?!), but I try to beat it by taking days off from looking at anything anyone else has made. Keep your eyes on your own paper, stay in your lane, and tune out the noise of everyone else for a hot sec to truly focus on your own work, your own audience, and your own brand.
What is a common pitfall you see creatives trying to make money online fall into and how can they avoid it?
When it comes to collaborating with brands, far too many undervalue themselves for the sake of “making a connection” or “getting noticed,” not realizing that it doesn’t help anyone.
You can’t say you want to make money working with brands or become a full-time blogger someday and then consider a top or a pair of shoes (heck, a whole outfit) to be appropriate compensation for a blog post. Does that pay the bills? Does the company representative get paid in product? No? Then neither should you. Stop thinking that a big company doesn’t have to pay you to work with them because they’re your chance to make it big.
Valuing yourself enough to pick and choose the right opportunities for you and your audience will make you big. It’s also a pitfall because it hurts the blogging industry as a whole if a negative thing is reinforced! Influencer marketing is a thing - a really effective, valuable thing. Capitalize on it accordingly.
What are your plans for the future?
Ah, I can’t wait to just see where CUR goes! I definitely plan on expanding into more coursework beyond my current project, because I absolutely lovelovelove teaching and coaching and helping other ambitious ladies become straight up bosses.
Otherwise, I plan on continually expanding my brand work to bridge the gap between influencers and brand marketing teams, because there’s still so much to be understood and so much that gets lost in translation between the two! And the goals beyond that include product. To be continued… ;)