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This year alone I've traveled to Paris, Innsbruck, Bern, Zurich, Salzburg, Zöll, Ellmau, Rothenburg, London, Florence, Killarney, Hannover, Milan, Nuremburg, Neuschwanstein, Nice, Strasbourg, Vienna, Monaco, Lyon, Manchester, Venice, Dublin, Berlin, Rome, Liverpool, Sofia, and that's what I can remember. Which is more than I can say I've probably traveled the last few YEARS of my life. It's been exhausting and exhilarating. It's truly been a dream come true.

A little backstory: my husband and I have been planning to move abroad for years now. But it wasn't until I was working solely for myself that we felt the courage to actually make the move.

I have over 65,000 followers on Instagram, but I quit my job to go full time with my business when I had 14,000 followers. Many people think that you must have HUGE numbers in order to profit from your blog or Instagram. But the truth is, it's about creating and developing the right community. Whether you want to make money or not.

The true key to blogging and social media, I believe, lies in finding your “sweet spot.” Fusing together your passion and purpose along with what your audience is interested in.

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For so long on my blog and social media, I thought I needed to be a certain way. I needed to be, well, like everyone else. But once I realized it was more fun to be myself I actually gained more followers.

I started my blog in 2012 after falling rock climbing. But that's not entirely the truth. Before then, I had a blog called “Do Dallas Cheap.” Every day I scoured the internet looking for the deals of the day. Yes, I was gaining traffic and even making money from affiliate links. But I just hated it. It felt like work. After breaking my ankle and leg rock climbing, I started the same blog I have today, “Helene in Between.” I wrote about my life and my passions. No, traffic didn't come immediately, but I loved it. I looked forward to writing. And then, the connections came.

I realized that people want to connect with others. Sure, we want to learn how to do things, but even more than that we want to find a common bond. That's why community is so important for any blogger or social media pro.

I worked for six years in the corporate world and a big part of this helped contribute to my blog growth. Working in social media and marketing meant that I had a good understanding of SEO, content marketing, and social media. But for years I couldn't translate this into my goal of quitting my job and using my skills on my blog.

Once I realized I could apply what I knew about social media and marketing to my blog, I could really grow. I also started taking online courses specifically for geared toward blogging or social media. I took a photography course. I realized that I could continue to fine tune my skills and develop a better blog and social media. Fianlly, I was able to break through what was holding me back.

My blog is the place that I learned to write. It's where I create, not only a scrapbook of my life, but a place that I feel others can learn and grow.

Instagram has become my catalyst to bolster my blog. There is no denying it. Yes, it's my number one traffic source, but it's so much more than that. My Instagram is how I connect with my community, forge first impressions, and ultimately it's how I get “gigs.” The very first thing most marketers look at when determining whether or not to work with you is your Instagram. How many followers, yes, but what kind of pictures do you showcase, what kind of engagement do you have?

I know when I find someone new, or even read an article about someone, my very first step is to check them out on Instagram. It's like I'm getting a glimpse into their personality and passions.

Combined, my blog and Instagram are why I quit my job to work for myself. I use my blog as a way to write in-depth about things I'm doing, what I love, and it's how people find me online. My Instagram is a view into my life at the present. I talk about what I'm going thorough, what I'm seeing, and it's how I connect with others. Because of these two outlets I've built a career, gained opportunities for writing, travel, photography, and partnerships.

Once I realized that Instagram was a way to capture my life and connect with others, I stopped treating it like a simple social media tool. I used it as a springboard that fostered relationships and shared my thoughts in my own words. When I first began to grow on Instagram I tried to stick to what I thought worked for others: staged flatlays. If that's what you are passionate about and love shooting, then go for it. But I knew I needed to turn my Instagram into a place more like my blog: not stuck to a niche and focusing on the now.

Slowly, I did. And when I did I was able to triple not only my followers, but engagement.

And while yes, my blog and Instagram helped me to quit my job, there's another aspect that I didn't realize would come about. One of the biggest shifts I've noted has been internal. I was able to “face my fears” about a lot of my insecurities. I know as women (and men if you're here!) we all have them. I remember I felt insecure about my figure and wouldn't post a lot of photos from the waist down. Now, I know that I can find support- no matter my size. This made me realize that I could whole-heartedly be myself and others would respond and even respect that. I know that might sound crazy, but it's true. When you find like minded people who support you, you're able to move past your feelings of self-doubt. My blog and Instagram allowed me to do just that.

Since breaking from my shell, somewhat, I learned that I should go for my dreams. For years and years my husband and I talked about moving abroad. But we were never really sure how we could make it work. It's as if a light-bulb went off. We just had to do it. Now that I was location independent and could work from anywhere, there was really no excuse.

Here we are, in Heidelberg Germany, 10 months later. Traveling to new places every month and getting to experience life in a whole new way. Part of this was working hard. Part of this was using things like Instagram and my blog to create the life I wanted to live.

 

 

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