Rachel Awtrey

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Love Me Some Kombucha

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Quick question: Any kombucha fans out there?
Or are you thinking “what the heckie is kombucha?” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It’s a fermented tea that’s rich in beneficial probiotics and is greeeeat for gut health (especially for us with bodies who don’t like types of food).
@healthade is always stocked in our fridge and has the best variety of flavors if you want to try it out!
(see stories for my favorite flavors) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
YOU MUST TRY! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Visiting Mimi + Grandy
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I love the traditions we create with the ones we love. When visiting Mimi + Grandy you can always count on “tea party” breakfasts, poppy seed bread and home videos 🖤 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
What do you call your grands? What are you fave traditions when visiting fam?

Sittin' In My Car


So glad I’m not the only one to sit in the car a little longer for my “me” time! I’m an introverted extrovert, is that a thing? I love my people but gosh, I gotta have my quiet, alone time first. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Sometimes that quite alone time looks like finishing that podcast episode, literal peace and quiet, sometimes it looks like texting encouraging messages with ridiculous selfies to my frans. So, here’s one for you! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
YOU CAN DO IT! Whatever it is that you’re facing today, it can happen to you or you can happen to it! Happen to it! 💪🏼

Behind the Bliss Podcast Pals

“God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called”

Honored to share something super special with this girl. Every week, we release a podcast episode on @behindtheblisspodcast where we talk all things funny + address the topics others may steer away from. If you listen you might say “oh dang”, “that’s good” or “me too!” all in one episode. 🖤🎧
Now we have thousands of listeners, new friends, opportunities like I would have never believed and a friendship I cherish all because this gal called me one day a few years ago and asked “do you want to start a podcast?”
Just say “yes.” Take that step, start the blog, pick up that camera, call that friend, ask that question, do that thing that you’ve always wondered about. Our God smiles and blesses our obedience even when we don’t know what the heckie we’re doing I promise.

Behind the Bliss

PRO TIP: find a friend who not only cheers you on but runs next to you and joins you in your race.
Through the technical difficulties, time zone changes, dream chasing and interesting seasons, this biz partner + friend has become a sista of mine.
Thankful we can say “yes” to our calling together, make a pretty neat podcast (@behindtheblisspodcast) and laugh our butts off at the (daily) “whoops” moments.

Happy Day 😂
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Popcorn (1 of 5).jpeg

What we think we look like while eating popcorn vs. what we really look like 😂 
Today I lived in this shirt, binge watched “Riverdale” on Netflix while working and ate popcorn by the handful for lunch. Made me feel really silly but really happy 🍿🎥 Gotta do whatcha gotta do 🤷🏼‍♀️
This shirt is as comfy as pjs and super fun to layer PLUS it’s only $34 (originally $68) 😍

Meet the Newest Addition to the Team! | Jessica McNabb

I recently hired an intern because #life and I loved the idea of having someone else apart of my process giving a fresh outlook, helping with graphics, meeting for coffee. I needed a "right-hand girl" when it came to all things blog related and this addition has been exactly that (and more). I wanted to introduce you to the girl behind the scenes, the one that carries props, brainstorms with me, and brings some of the coolest ideas to you guys!

Meet Jess.

Where are you from?

Birmingham, Alabama  

 

Where do you go to school? What are you studying?

I am currently a Junior at Samford University and I am a Journalism and Mass Communication major focusing on Public Relations, Advertising, and Business!  

 

What's your dream job?

When I graduate I would love to work for an Advertising firm and do some traveling, but the ultimate dream would be to someday own and run my own wedding photography business.

 

 What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

If I am not binge-watching something on Netflix, you will most likely find me at OrangeTheory Fitness or trying a New Mexican restaurant with my friends.

 

 Any Netflix faves?

Grey’s Anatomy and Friends are my all time favorites and I can sit down and watch them over and over, but my current obsession is The Crown.

 

How do you like your coffee?

Plain and simple, just black. Occasionally I will spoil myself and get a vanilla latte.

 

Apple Music or Spotify?

Spotify is definitely my go-to.

 

Favorite playlist?

I tend to hop around on my music choices depending on what I am feeling that day, but my current favorites are “Confidence Boost” and “Hot Country” by Spotify. They are always adding new songs which keeps it new and fun!

 

Your favorite thing to snack on?

Chips and queso, for sure.

 

What’s something someone might not know about you?

When I was little my parents were missionaries in Thailand, so my two sisters and I were all born in Thailand and have Thai birth certificates! We moved back to the States when I was three and have been based in Birmingham pretty much ever since.

 

What are you looking forward to most during your time as an intern?

I am so excited to start working with Rachel! I love the blogging world and meeting new creatives, brainstorming, and trying new products. I can’t wait to start helping plan photoshoots and new projects with Rachel, partnering with her as she grows her brand.

 

Where can we find more of you?

On Instagram @jessica.mcnabb or Pinterest @Jessica McNabb

The Secrets to A Successful Blog Collaboration

The other week,when I was in South Carolina, Lauren Foster of Love Lola Blog  and Jessi Nichols Photography and I met up to knock out some pictures we wanted for our blogs. I frequently get asked questions about collaborations, blog photoshoots and content so I figured a fun post where all of my secrets, tips + tricks are spilled may be helpful (specifically for shoots that involve other creatives and/or brands).

1. Brainstorm

Before you reach out to other creatives or brands, it's important that you have an idea or project in mind so that all of the creating doesn't fall on them. At least some plan of action is needed before you pull in others.

2. Reach out

Once you've brainstormed a few ideas and directions that you could take the collaboration, it's time to collaborate! Reach out to other bloggers + creatives that you may have in mind to work with. Tell them what you're planning, give them an idea of what they can expect and how it will benefit them (have access to all of the pictures, are you co-writing a post, are you hosting a giveaway together?). I'd also suggest to find someone that you feel is similar to you: aesthetic, or following, or content, etc. For this shoot, we reached out to a local photographer (Jessi Nichols Photography) and videographer (Hamilton McAfee).

3. What brands may be needed?

Are you doing a styled shoot? A fashion shoot? Content for a food blog? Figure out what specific needs there are and how you'll get them met. For us, it was a fashion driven shoot. I often collaborate with a local boutique in Birmingham, Alabama so I told them about the possibility of this project and asked if they'd like to be included. They'd provide outfits and I'd provide pictures of those outfits for their own use + content.

For more information about an actual content shoot for your blog and the in's and out's of that, read this post I shared a few months ago!

Once all of these questions are answered, it's time to make a move! Next we figured out where and when the shoot would take place. For us it was in Greenville, South Carolina at Caviar and Bananas (a well lit cafe in the heart of downtown) on a weekday afternoon (to avoid crowds). 
We walked away with great pictures (thanks to Jessi Nichols Photography) and content that we can both use for the next few weeks. But, it's not all about the pictures. It's about the relationships you've made, the movement toward community over competition and the opportunities you've opened yourself up to by choosing to not do this alone.

Here's a quick video to share a few more details of the day and bring you alongside of the shoot!

 
 
How to Stay Inspired

Like I said in an answer in my Frequently Asked Questions, I set aside one day a week (usually Mondays) to inspiration alone for new blog content, webinars, email courses and other fun blog stuff. I'd like to think that I stay inspired constantly. But, honestly, it's a feast or famine.  Some days I'm overloaded with inspiration and this is good because I can tuck away some ideas for the days that feel really dry. On the dry days, I still like to give my brain a creative break and just have fun and learn new things and create new ideas. 

Coffee with other creatives

This should be at the top of your list. When I'm feeling uninspired or discouraged, I always have someone that I call to encourage me, lift me back up again or keep me accountable to my dreams and goals that I once shared. Find someone that knows what you want and has an idea of a pathway to get there. They may have some fun ideas for you to chew on that'll keep you moving if you feel blocked or hindered by yourself. 

Pinterest

Pinterest is a fun place to go to aimlessly scroll, rejuvenate your right brain and just have fun looking at other people's inspiration. I just revamped mine and am finally starting to pin again here. These two boards (one of my favorite by Mary Grace Baker and one of my own) are two that I hope to act as inspiration to myself and others. Take a look!

Music

For me, music is another great place to go to when I need a little pep in my step. If I'm writing, sometimes it's hard to have music on but if I'm creating content, a planner, editing pictures or responding to emails, I usually have one of these two playlists playing in the background to set a tone that's hard to not be inspired by.

These are just some of my favorite ways to stay inspired, what are yours?? Is it running, painting, drawing, talking to yourself? I wanna know, comment them below! I'm always taking new ideas!

Q + A

On my Instagram, I asked y'all if you had any questions - I wanted to open up the floor for transparency, vulnerability and dang! Y'all came through. I got a quite a few questions, a lot of them were similar questions. So, I separated the questions into different categories, dwindled down the questions that were similar into a broad question and then answered them as detailed as I could think! If you still have any questions, comment them below and I'll respond back to ya!

PERSONAL

How did you and Thomas meet?

We met in church when we were in high school :)

Where did you go to college?

Clemson University, go Tigers!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina

Why do you live in California and Alabama?

Thomas works for a ranch called JH Ranch and the property of the ranch is in Northern California but the headquarters for the off season are in Birmingham, Alabama. So we go back and forth and love it :)

 

CAMERA INFO

What camera do you use for videos?

We shoot with a Canon 6D (my DSLR) nothin' fancy but we make sure to change the settings to 60 fps (frames per second).

What are your go to lens? Best all around or just your favorite if you have more than one.

I'd say any photographer should have a fixed lens (one that doesn't move/zoom in and out) and a zoom lens. My favorite fixed lens is a 50mm 1.4ff (called the "nifty fifty" because of it's awesome quality). If you don't want to invest as much, try the 50mm 1.8ff instead. It'll make all the difference. However, make sure that your camera is full-frame or you'll see that the lens cuts off a lot of your picture.

My favorite zoom lens is the Canon 2562A002 EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. It's a mouth full but you can search it here. It's an Image Stabilizer and my absolute favorite. 

Do you use an external flash?

I don't because I usually shoot during the day and you should neverrrrrr shoot with flash during the day.

Any tips on manual mode and natural lighting?

Manual mode is a tricky one to teach over the internet because for me, at least, it was a very trial and error thing. At this point, I've stuck with shooting in the "golden hours" an hour or so before sunset and it makes lighting so much easier (no shadows, no squinty eyes, you know the struggles).

Who takes your pictures?

When I lived in South Carolina it was either Jessi Nichols or Sophie Brendle. Now that I live in Alabama, I shoot with Macey Young and sometimes my husband :)

 

BLOGGING

How much time do you spend a day either shooting for your blog or writing or preparing? 

My schedule is a lot more flexible than many people may think - it works for me but it might not work for everyone. I try and shoot photography content for what I'm writing either once every one or two weeks. In those shoots, I try and make a list of what I'm going to need for blog content or what may be coming up and I knock it all out at once.

I spend my Mondays on inspiration, coming up with new ideas for a blog, video, webinar, email course, etc. Tuesday, I spend my day drafting the blogs, videos, webinars, email courses that I came up with on Monday. Wednesdays are my "blog focused" days where I spend the day writing away, editing, importing photos, editing them and getting the blog post publish ready. I normally do 4-5 blog posts at a time and then schedule them out so that I don't have to worry if something were to happen - I'm always planned 2-3 weeks out. 

Do you think it's possible to have a successful blog as more of a part-time thing (for example if you're still in school)?

Yes! To me, a "successful blog" is a blog that reaches it's intended reader and you reach your goals. If you goal is to make money, it possible to do that using a blog part-time while there may be something else part-time going on in your life (school, job, etc.). If your goal is to produce content weekly, I think that's reasonable as well. I would just ask back, "what is a successful blog to you?" and "is that feasible for me and my schedule?" I think that you totally could, though, depending on your goals!

Do you use a content calendar? If so, how do you create it/how far out do you schedule your posts/do you use a certain system on what type of posts you choose to create?

Sort what I was talking about in the answer above, I don't necessarily  have a content calendar (like, what I post about and when) but I have a calendar as far as my goals (2 blogs a week, a webinar a month, an email course every 2 months and a video for a fun trip). I schedule my posts about 2-3 weeks out unless I'm feeling really moved to post something at that moment. 

As far as social media goes, I really only plan that one or two days in advance unless I know there's a blog post scheduled and coming up then I tuck that picture away until it publishes. 

My Monday's are reserved for inspiration and coming up with new ideas so my only "system" to creating content is what comes to me on those Mondays (and sometimes days in between). But, I do think setting aside time to dream, think and be inspired is important - that's why I set aside the first day of the work week to this alone. 

Who does your design work, branding and website?

I designed and constructed my own website and do all of my own branding and graphics work - I love having my hand and my ideas in everything I do! I outsource sometimes when there's a lot going on but I mostly do it myself :) and yes, I do it for others, too! If you wanna chat about this, here's some information! 

Can you give a brief overview of Google Analytics and keeping track of your website's stats?

I use a combo of Google Analytics and Squarespace Analytics. I built my website from Squarespace so it provides me pretty great analytics. However, I do refer to Google Analytics a lot as well. You can register your website and Google account here and from there you can set up an account, log in and keep track of what's happening traffic wise. If you have any more questions about Google Analytics, this is a great blog that addresses a lot of frequently asked questions.

What inspired you to start a blog and how did you decide what you wanted to blog about?

I started writing and blogging when I was a freshman in college. I wrote about anything that was on my heart: what I was learning, what I was asking God for, my prayers, etc. I didn't find much traction and that was okay for me because at this point, it was acting more as a journal than a platform for people to read from.

Fast forward 4 years and I got married! I kept getting approached by people asking me about married life and how great and fun it was, how it was to live with a guy, all the things that people think of when they think of marriage because of Hollywood. I went to address this whole situation by writing a post called, "Why My Marriage Will Never be Enough" and y'all, it blew up. I'm guessing it was the title of the post - regardless, I felt this fire burn inside of me so I wrote another post about my story and what my life looked like and the vulnerability was infectious.

From there, I felt moved and did some soul digging and found out that I love life, I really do, but there was a point that I didn't. Now, I want to share all the fun, beauty, creativity and freedom that I've found and been given with anyone who approaches my blog. 

 

EDITING

How do you edit your photos to create a consistent look and brand?

I try and use the same editing process. I like exposure and a little bit of saturation, I add a little bit of warmth and lower the contrast a bit. With doing this most of the time, my pictures tend to turn out similarly. Just be consistent and you'll find the look/brand that you want and it won't change much.

What software do you use for editing? 

I use Lightroom when I have a shoot that I'm going through that has a ton of great pictures (most of the time my photographer does this). I have the Mastin Labs presets that I use frequently on Lightroom.

When I have a quick picture that I want to edit quickly and post around the same time, I use this adapter and upload it to my phone and use VSCO cam (an app) to edit them from there. I stick with the S2 and A6 filters most frequently. 

 

If you have any other questions, comment them below and I'll answer them ASAP! Y'all are the best and I hope that my transparency can help ya in your own endeavor! If you're interested in a community of creatives that love to ask questions, get answers and inspiration, you can join us via a Facebook group here.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Content Shoot

What the heck is a blog content shoot? If you're not a photographer, you probably struggle to find pictures to go along with your blog posts...

I never knew these existed until I was taking a picture of something random every time I went to post a blog. I learned quickly that each blog post should have at least one picture but dang, I was getting tired of my self-timer on my camera and awkwardly posing for me, myself and I.

I was getting frustrated when I'd see other bloggers post content daily. LIKE, HOW?! I got acquainted quickly with what I call "Blog Content Shoots" and the idea of working "smarter, not harder." So, about once every month (or once every two weeks if I'm lucky) I'll reach out to my photographer here in Bham (Macey Young) and ask her to shoot some content shots for me so that I can schedule my posts, knock it all out and not fret every morning over "what I'm going to post that day." Ugh, social media should not be a stress but for us entrepre-doers, it's a great source for marketing. I felt this pressure to stay "on the ball." So, I give you permission to release that stress and work efficiently!

How do I find a photographer??

It's important to find someone you trust and that you can give them a list of things you need shot (products for collaborations and partnerships, outfits, random shots for content, etc.) and them not stray off that list too much. You also want to balance that with creative freedom - someone that will give ya a better idea than the one that you came prepared with. "Gosh, this can get expensive, Rachel" but not exactly! Work out a trade of services, negotiate a monthly price, see if there is something that you can offer one another. That's the beauty of working with other creatives: being able to propel one another.

Practically, look on Instagram for a photographer in your area, that way you can get a feel of their editing style and if it matches your brand. You can also search on The Knot for wedding photographers that may also do lifestyle shoots or join this Facebook group to meet someone in your area!

What the heck do I even shoot??

Come prepared. Bring a bag of props, outfits to change into and out of, a list of what's important for you. My prop bag consists (usually) of sunglasses, a few pairs of shoes, different shirts (to make it look like I'm getting a different shoot everyday), and something to hold (a purse, bouquet of flowers, a bag, etc.)

How do I come up with new ideas every time??

Did you know you can save pictures on Instagram? When I see a pose or a product placement or location that I love, I'll save it and refer back to it later. Another great reason to find a photographer you trust is for their creative insight as well! Use their creativity to enhance your shoot, too. Pinterest is great too to get ideas for poses and outfit combinations! Try anything until you feel comfortable and you get it right!


Like I said, Blog Content Shoots are a great way to knock everything out with some preparation and inspiration. Can't wait to see how y'all kill it with your pictures on your blogs!

The awkward topics with clients: money

I think when it all boils down to it, money is just sometimes an awkward topic. We either feel like we have to much or too little, we're charging too much or too little. 

But know this: we as designers or bloggers and creatives, we are not selling fish. We're teaching people how to fish. Meaning, we're selling our ideas. How much are your ideas worth. 

It's tough being a graphic designer and blogger sometimes because I want the best for the people that I want to propel in this area however, giving my ideas to someone else seems very vulnerable and risky. "What if they don't use them the way I intended?" "What if they don't like them?"

That is exactly why it's necessary that people must "buy" your thoughts. So be confident and don't let money be an awkward topic. 

Practically when we're dealing with money, here are my two cents:

1. Charge them up front

I have horror stories of people not paying me. It's just not healthy for my heart to be honest, I tend to grow bitter towards them, the project and then ultimately my work -- and you should never despise your work. My main piece of advice is to charge somebody, once agreed upon a price. That way, too, you are held accountable to finish the project in a timely fashion because they have held up their end of the bargain as well.

2. If they're not okay with your price, move on

Don't comprise yourself. Prices are tricky to create. You don't want to charge too high because you may not be able to help clients. However, you don't want to underestimate yourself in your prices because people will wonder why you're so inexpensive: "Is her work sub-par?" "Is is cheap?" Have your prices match the quality of your work. 

If your client isn't feeling that price or isn't able to work with what you have, stick to what you first said. They may just not be the best fit. There's special cases, though. Sometimes, there are people that have certain circumstances that you believe in and you want to help. That's different. Overall, don't lower your standards because someone can't meet them because there's other people out there that will steward your ideas better and be able to meet your prices.

3. Consider a trade

If they can't meet your monetary price but are willing to get creative, consider doing a trade! If they are another creative (artist, photographer, anything) maybe trade some work for money + their expertise to make up for what they aren't able to pay. Get creative!

4. Update your prices regularly

One of my biggest mistakes was sending someone an old pricing guide. My work was becoming more popular, there were other people that were interested; therefore, my prices should have been higher. Basic economic idea: supply + demand. But, because I quoted them a certain price, it was unethical to take it back. I kept them how I promised but really sold short myself. 

5. Use Paypal or some other invoicing system to keep track of charges

This is a lifesaver, especially when it comes to taxes (if you're making enough money). You'll want to keep track of everything/everyone/every dollar. It helps to not take cash or check. Let's be honest, everyone is paying online these days so it just makes it easier for everyone. With Paypal, you can charge someone, send an invoice, add comments and questions in the comments section, tell them what exactly you're charging them for, charge tax if you'd like and even draft them! It's simply a lifesaver

 

Friend, don't let money scare ya out of this business. It's tricky, yes. But, it's not impossible. Be honest, be confident, be ethical and you can work yourself into some awesome and successful business deals and relationships. 

Behind the Scenes: Working with Clients

When people asked me when I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had three answers: 1. A barbie 2. a firefighter and 3. an artist. 

The journey becoming a Barbie came to a quick end when I realized it wasn't an option. I highly respect firefighters but realized that that wasn't a calling I felt like I had. But, the artist...oh the artist stuck around. I thrived in art class throughout school, really loved it but never fully committed to the idea of it. In college, to make a little money on the side, I painted acrylics for friends and started a small business painting watercolors of houses. I loved it, but the monotony of painting houses and the vulnerability of paint canvases for clients didn't seem to be right with me. I was frustrated. I loved art behind a camera lens, with a pen in my hand going across paper, paint brush with paint at the tip but I wanted to know how to combine them all into one. 

Slowly but surely I came to realize, though a class I took at Clemson University (go tigers) that I really loved graphic design and a lot of people in this world could use some help with it. I mean, just look at some of the billboards people are paying money for...yikes. 

I announced though social media + my blog that I was accepting inquiries from clients that would want my help, two cents and assistance throughout their graphic design journey and the response was tremendous. 

This is a little of what working with the clients has started to look like and how I combine all of what I love (paint, colors, typography, photography) all into one

--- 

I'm starting to dwindle down my clients and who I'm going to take. It's not a personal thing but I fully believe that there is an artist out there for everyone and not everyone out there is for me. I want the dreamers, the people that aren't afraid to be different, the ones that are going out on a limb rather than finding inspiration elsewhere and these girls are makin' it.

The client and I go over their dreams, what they're needing from me and my work and how I can be of assistance. I then send them over some fun "homework" for lack of better terms about their "dream client," who they are, what they want, what they like/don't like. From there, I gather inspiration using all sorts of media and put together a Brand Board. I use that to create the materials that they're needing: a website, collateral branding material, just a direction, whatever!

I've noticed that this fills my craving for a few different things in life that I hold dear to my heart: relationships, propelling other's dreams, colors and the beauty in this world. I am so proud of these women and everything they are about to accomplish.

Round of applause for these show-stoppers. 

Here are a few examples: