Molly Ford’s digital brand story is a dream come true. She started her blog as a way to develop her writing and branding skills, and ended up landing a job without corporate industry experience because of it! Talk about leveraging digital brand to its full potential. Molly now has thousands of followers of her blog, helping others grow to be smarter, prettier and (less) awkward. Here’s how she did it.

Molly FordTalentedly: What is the biggest misconception about starting a successful blog?

Molly Ford: That the second you start it, you can monetize it.

When I teach classes on blogging, one of the top questions I’m asked is “how do I make money from blogging?” But in order to make money, you need to either be in a super-specific niche or have significant traffic to your site.

It is hard to be in a super-specific niche, so the majority of bloggers need to focus on growing traffic, and then advertisers will want to be involved with your audience. But traffic first! And the best way to get traffic? Original, quality content. So creating unique, interesting content should be the first goal when starting your blog – everything else comes from that.

TLY: What was the inspiration behind Smart, Pretty & Awkward?

MF: Smart, Pretty & Awkward gives three pieces of advice each post: How to be Smarter, How to be Prettier, and How to be (less) Awkward. Each post is headlined with a quote.

The inspiration behind the blog was that my undergraduate business degree was focused on Finance and Entrepreneurship — so business-related, but not marketing-specific. I started blogging my senior year of college as a way to write more regularly and practice building a brand online. As I finished up my undergraduate degree, I began to think about moving into marketing and I thought a blog would be helpful on my resume to show digital, marketing, and writing experience. And it was! Having a blog helped me land my first job in marketing with very little prior marketing or digital-related experience except for blogging.

TLY: What’s the best smart, pretty & awkward advice you’ve ever received?

MF: Answer your emails quickly! The faster you can respond to emails the better – it makes you look responsive and on top of your inbox. Also, if you respond quickly your responses can be shorter. If you say “sounds good!” 20 minutes after getting an email people will be happy you responded so fast – if you say “sounds good!’ a week later people will be mad you waited so long to respond. It’s advice I try my best to follow everyday-some days with more success than others!

TLYWe believe in dedicating time every day to invest in professional growth. What do you take time for every day? 

MF: Me too! I always try to be enrolled in a class or two. Currently, I’m in an Improv class at UCB and a weekly writing workshop, and I really make an effort to try to read new marketing and digital-related books as they come out. Other than that, I just try to stay open and schedule time to do things that sound different and cool – a new restaurant in my neighborhood, a play I want to see, a Groupon for something I’ve never done before – even just trying a new drink at Starbucks.

I really believe that stretching your comfort zone in any area helps with professional growth – everything is always so unexpectedly inter-connected.

TLY: What is the skill that has served you the best in your career?

MF: Having a blog has made me a better marketer, and vice versa. Marketing and writing have a lot of overlaps. You have to be able to write to sell ideas, and it is also good to be able to market your writing. So I always recommend to anyone that wants to do anything in digital, marketing, or branding to have their own blog so they can practice writing, growing an audience, talking to a specific demographic, social media strategy, etc.

 TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?

MF: My mom always says, “it costs nothing to be nice.” There is never an excuse to be a jerk. Being kind and assuming the best intent from someone else is always, consistently, the best option.

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