I sent Sarah Von Bargen the interview questions below and in the time it took me to reply to a couple of emails and check Facebook (once), her answers had already fluttered back into my inbox.
The girl can write. With mega-speed… and aplomb. Which is exceptionally handy, considering she is, in her words, a copywriter/blogger-for-hire/internet awesome-i-fier and prolific blogger at the successful lifestyle and travel blog Yes and Yes. Heads up: she sends brilliant newsletters with killer advice (I have a bunch tucked into a ‘Action this Rach!’ file).
Word wizardry aside, Sarah is very clearly in possession of that adventurous, wildly curious, world travellin,’ culture seeking spirit that you all know I adore. I had a chuckle when I saw the photos attached to her email reply – pics with names like ‘Sarah flying a plane’ ‘Sarah with bow’ and ‘Sarah on yacht’ (‘I’m on a boat!’).
Let’s meet this super talented lady. Welcome Sarah.
Let’s kick off with a biggie. Why do you do what you do?
In my former life (like, professionally – not metaphysically) I was a teacher. And 75% of my extended family are teachers. As such, I love helping people and teaching them about, well, anything: How to make their blog look better; How to throw awesome theme parties; How to travel on your own.
Teaching is my natural state.
What are three of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since becoming an entrepreneur?
1. OMG, use the Pomodoro Method. You will be 100 time more productive when there’s a timer involved.
2. If you’re not sure you should work with someone – don’t. Just like most things in life, your intuition will rarely steer you wrong. If someone seems flakey or weird or overly emotional on that first consultation call – or if you just don’t think they’re a good fit – don’t work with them. It’ll never, ever be worth the headache.
3. Get 100% payment up front. Even if they’re super successful. Even if it really seems like they’ve got their act together. I’ve been shorted by a pastor and a really famous Hollywood trainer. Nobody’s immune to being a jerk.
What’s been key for you in building your tribe online?
Interacting with people! Leave comments on blogs, respond to tweets, link to content you like, respond to Facebook comments. No matter how ‘big’ you get – you should still do these things. Everyone likes to feel heard.
I know that there’s rarely a ‘typical’ day in the life of a blogger/ entrepreneur/ lady of the interwebs, but can you talk a bit about how you approach your work? What does a week in your life usually entail?
My time is split pretty evenly between working on my own blog and doing client work. Because I’m a dorky try-hard, I usually have blog posts scheduled a few weeks into the future while my client work is time-sensitive, so I often give priority to that and fit my blogging in around that.
I try to spend at least 20 minutes every day on ‘professional development’ (reading Problogger, Copyblogger, Mashable, listening to BlogcastFM) and 20 minutes a day ‘networking’ (responding to comments, leaving comments, talking to people on Twitter.) It doesn’t seem like much but 40 minutes a day really adds up!
Over the last year, I’ve gotten a lot better at work/life balance, so I usually stop working around 6 pm and I don’t answer work emails on the weekend. When the weather’s nice, I make an active effort to get out in the sun and do things that don’t involve a wifi connection.
Describe your creative process. How do you approach your work?
Because my blog is pretty much about things that I personally find interesting, I can write about anything. If I have an idea when I’m away from my computer, I make a note in my phone. If I’m at my computer, I start a draft. Then when I have time, I flesh it out, find a photo, and schedule it.
Routines and rituals for the soul: can you tell us about the little – or big – things that keep you feeling grounded, joyful, connected, inspired?
Travel. I travel three months out the year and every.single.time I leave Minnesota I’m instantly overwhelmed with new ideas and inspiration and motivation. I love meeting new people, trying weird things, eating different stuff. Travel makes me feel alive!
Seeing my friends. I have a slightly-out-of-control social life (last fall I wrangled 18 friend into attending a monster truck rally in thematic outfits – this is sort of par for the course for us) and I like it that way. I’ve cultivated a big group of smart, funny, inspiring people and I love spending time with them.
Water. But that’s true for everyone, right? I grew up on a lake in Minnesota and later moved to New Zealand and lived on a mountain overlooking the Wellington Harbor. Getting wet is actually one of the sure-fire ways that I combat the mopes!
The not-so-hot days. We all have them. How do you combat overwhelm and self-doubt?
I actually have a very specific four-step plan I use to feel better:
Step 1: Get sweaty for an hour. Run stairs. Have a one-person dance party. Weed the garden.
Step 2: Get wet. Water heals me. Take a long shower (and maybe have a good cry – crying doesn’t count in the shower!) Go swimming in a lake/pool/river/the ocean.
Step 3: Take a nap. Like, a proper one. Under the covers, no jeans, curtains closed.
Step 4: Drink some coffee. Life feels better and happier when I’m caffeinated.
RAPID FIRE Q’s
I feel empowered, electric, alive, the most ME when… I’m alone and anonymous in a new city.
I feel restricted when… I feel social/societal pressure to do something I don’t want to do.
I’m inspired by… everything ever.
My current mantra/ affirmation is… Do no harm, but take no sh*t.
To wrap up, imagine you’re sitting in conversation with yourself in 10 years time. What are you doing? What does your life look – and feel – like?
Gosh, I would be pretty happy if my life maintained its current level of awesome! I think in 10 years, I could handle renting a little house with a yard (instead of my cute apartment), owning a dog (in addition to my cat) and maybe sharing said dog and rented house with a particularly awesome dude.
Otherwise, I’m pretty happy to maintain my current state of traveling, socializing and writing awesomery.
What was your biggest takeaway from Sarah’s interview? Let’s leave her some love in the comments below.