anna mullikin freeman: her advice for bloggers, 20-somethings, and living a full life

Can you provide a brief background of your profession and Life & Lattes?
In my full time career, I am an Account Manager at M3 Agency in Augusta, GA. Essentially, at the most basic level, my job is to plan out marketing for companies and help them to reach their goals they hope to achieve by marketing in the first place, whether that be increased sales, increased traffic, increased brand awareness, etc. I work with clients ranging from car dealerships to fast food chains to retail stores. It’s a 100% commission job that keeps me very busy, so it can be super stressful, but also very rewarding.

As far as my profession as a blogger… this is something I’d really love to grow, but between my full time job that usually takes up way more than 40 hours a week, trying to get workouts in, spending time with my husband, etc. part time is all I can do for now. Currently, I blog pretty much bi-weekly about things that pertain to my life and things that I feel like other 20-somethings might relate to.

Life & Lattes is a carefree space most of the time… filled with advice on relationships, stories to let you know you’re not alone, tips & tricks on how to deal with your 20s, etc. It was founded in 2014, but didn’t really take off until I devoted more time to it in mid-2016. So far in the last 6 – 7 months, it’s traffic has increased to 5x that of 2015 and has been read in over 115 countries.

When did you realize that you wanted to start a blog, was there a single defining moment that pushed you to make it happen?
I don’t remember exactly how I got started… but I think it was when I was looking for a career change. I had been working at WJBF News Channel 6 for a little over a year and knew it wasn’t where I wanted to stay. I pretty much stalked one of my life mentors and a past internship supervisor named Charlsie Niemiec and saw that she had a blog. Hers was much different than anything I wanted to do, but I felt like building out this platform might not only help show off my writing skills and open up job opportunities, but also might end up reaching other girls like me. When I go back and read my first posts, they make me giggle just a little, but my heart was in the right place. Most of the stemmed from what it felt like to be 23, why I was tired of people asking me when I was going to get engaged and advice for my younger sister and sister-in-law as they encroached upon graduation from college.

How difficult was it starting up? What do you have to say to other women our age who are too nervous to do so, or who might be stuck in the beginning stages out of fear?
Starting a blog is SO HARD. I won’t sugar coat. You’ll make a lot of mistakes and figuring it all out will take time and lots of energy. Trust me, I’m still trying to figure things out. For example, I’m kind of in limbo with my blog at the moment, trying to decide if I really want to invest in it and make it huge or keep it active with my current loyal following. Things like photoshoots, SEO plugins, business web plans, custom built logos, color schemes and websites are all super expensive, but necessary to get to that point. I’m hopeful that eventually as I continue to receive paid blogging opportunities, that I will be able to invest in my blog and grow it to that point. However, my starting process was hard. I blogged for a couple of months in 2014 and grew tired of it. I would become so discouraged when certain blog posts would have hundreds and hundreds of views and others would have 10. I knew my graphics sucked and I didn’t have the time to make them better. I was confused on how to build a blog and there seemed to be less information on it all back then. In 2015, I went through a similar experience where I decided I was finally going to do it… then I got engaged and that all went out the window when I started wedding planning (which would have been such a fun time to blog about… for both me and my readers). In 2016, I finally decided I was doing this and there was no going back and so here I am. The fear is a huge part of it. I feel a little nervous every time I post something… afraid of what backlash I might receive over the internet. I know people aren’t always going to agree with my point of view. I also know that not everyone will like my writing style or the content I choose to write about, but the response I have gotten from people who do like it has made it all worth it. It’s the funniest thing to walk into a store and hear that the cashier reads my blog and cried over my latest post or that friends of mine now drink lemon water every morning because they read that I drink lemon water every morning. Somehow, surprisingly… I haven’t gotten any negative feedback. One of my husband’s friends actually told me that he reads my blog on the toilet each morning (….I think that is a compliment, lol). For other women who want to blog or put their voice out there and are afraid, I beg them to push themselves out of their comfort zones and just give it a try. Having a voice is so empowering and the public is a lot kinder than you would think.

You’re also married (congratulations!), so what has this new stage been like so far, and do you have any advice for women our age who are entering this new stage of their life as well?
I really thought that marriage wouldn’t be that different since I had been dating my fiance’ (now husband) for 10+ years, but I should have known better. We chose to wait to move in together until we were married and I’m really glad we did, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some adapting to do. We’ve really had to learn to compromise on things and get used to each other’s habits… like our extremely different sleep schedules and how we do the dishes. Being newlyweds is also really fun though. I literally get to come home to my (and I hate when people say this because it’s so cliche, but I have no better way to explain it) best friend every day. I get lucky that lots of times that means dinner’s ready and a straightened house. It also might be just because we’re newlyweds, but other times it’s also means random flowers sitting on the counter or breakfast on Saturday mornings. Basically, I’ve been lucky. For other women our age who are entering this stage of life, my biggest piece of advice is to start out your marriage the way you want your life to be. My mom told me this before I got married and it’s a piece of advice I have truly treasured and tried to enact. For example, I have never been good about keeping my apartment straight or making my bed, but I knew in my marriage I wanted a straight house where people can stop by any time and a comfy, made up bed to get into each night. So from day one, even when we haven’t wanted to, we’ve made a point to try to always make up our bed in the morning. We also always try to straighten on a daily basis, so the house doesn’t get out of hand. Another example, is that I wanted my husband and I show to each other love every day, no matter what, so we have a routine of giving a hug, kiss and “I love you” every time we leave for work and every time we walk in the door from work. It’s something I hope my kids will see and be positively impacted by, and starting it all now will give me a better chance of it lasting through our marriage. For girls who are stressing about the wedding itself, I have written a whole post on tips for a stress free wedding dedicated just to them. 🙂

Let’s talk 20s. How was life for you after graduation from UGA? Has being a 20 something lived up to your expectations?
Honestly, life after graduation was hard too (sorry if my answers seem cynical). I had the very best time at UGA. My class schedule pretty much ran from 10 am – 2 pm, all of my friends were in Athens, I loved my sorority and I only had to work a couple of hours a week. I started working at WJBF News Channel 6 a week after graduation and having a full time, real, big girl job was taxing. There was no training which was really stressful, I didn’t want to be in Augusta, so I was really bummed about that and both of my roommates were in nursing school so I hardly ever saw them. I genuinely went through my quarter life crisis early at the age of 22. My emotions were all over the place and I gained a ton of weight. Luckily, I eventually got past it. I don’t know if it had to do with the fact that I finally understood my job and was excelling at it or that I was learning that living in Richmond County could be a lot of fun and a lot different than living back in Columbia County, but I finally snapped out of it and realized I couldn’t go back to school. I made new friends in this town and realized that my 20s could be really amazing. Since then, I love them. I love that I actually know how to take care of myself (I finally learned the right way to put on makeup and stopped coloring my hair out of a box). I love that I’ve started working out and care about my health. I love that my husband and I don’t have to have petty fights over socials with frat boys and drunken nights downtown. College was a lot of fun, but the rest of our 20s have the potential to be even greater. I plan to jam pack my 20s full of traveling, building my career, building my blog and enjoying my now marriage.

What do you think is the hardest aspect of this decade? What do you see your friends/readers struggle with as well? I really think the transition from college to the real world is difficult. I’ve talked to a lot of my friends that graduated the year after I did and they all seemed a little lost the same way that I did. They took jobs to have jobs… not because they necessarily loved them or thought it was their life calling. Plus, when you leave college, all of your friends live all over the country and you feel lonely for a little while. Making friends in the real world is a lot harder than making them in school. It’s hard to explain, but it’s definitely true.

I also think that in our 20s, we’re all in different places in life and that’s hard. Some of us are single and looking for a man or focusing solely on our career, others of us are getting married and settling down, while still others are having babies and building families. I love my friends who are single and partying. I love my friends who I’m throwing baby showers for… but sometimes it can be hard to connect or spend as much time together when you’re in different places in life.

Where does your inspiration for your blog posts come from?
The inspiration for my blog pretty much comes from my life experiences. It’s so funny because I really think my marriage is probably boring compared to some, but any time I write about my relationship, the readership is way higher than on other posts. It’s crazy to think that people are actually invested in my life and what I have to say about it. Other posts come from long drives home from work, holiday coffees I’m drinking, clothes I’m into now, etc. Sometimes people who are near and dear to me will ask for advice and I know others out there have similar questions, so I’ll write on those too.

Do you have any advice for promoting your blog or other work? I’m still learning a lot here, so I hate to tell anyone exactly how to do it, BUT there are a lot of things you can do to increase the traffic on your blog. Social media is a huge portion of it. Any time I write a blog, I am sure to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, Instagram, Instagram Stories and Snapchat, as well as Linkedin sometimes when it’s appropriate. Building an email database is also crucial. Mine is currently a basic WordPress database that updates my followers when I post, but eventually, with time/money, I will move to a system where I can send out email blasts updating my followers on my posts for the week and keeping them engaged. Also, engaging with other bloggers is a huge help. I participate in shared blogging boards on Pinterest, as well as blogging groups on Facebook. Learning from other bloggers is the best thing you can do when trying to grow. I have sat on webinars before and worked through worksheets, but I am not someone who really pushes paying for blogging advice. Although I believe it works, I think there are a lot of things you can do for free before getting to that point and sometimes it makes me sad to think that bloggers sell out and sell other hopeful bloggers “blogging advice” just to make money. Basically, be loud, proud and consistent with your work and promotions of it.

What is the most important thing about life to you? Has this changed as you’ve grown through the 20 something decade? It’s really hard to narrow this down to one thing. I would say it’s a tie between appreciating the people in your life and experiencing every thing you can. I would definitely say this has changed as I’ve progressed through my 20s. In college, I thought it was all about having fun and enjoying life… in my early days out of school, it was all about success and money. I think the first 5 years of your 20s are crucial and you are way wiser at 25 than you were at 20… even 23 for that matter.

In the past year, I have lost two people very close to me. A couple of weeks before my wedding, my uncle died unexpectedly of a heart attack. At the same time, my aunt had been battling uterine cancer for almost a year. We lost her at the end of July. My mom was born into a family of 6 children and she is the only one left now. Watching her go through the pain of losing her two last siblings and best friends was heartbreaking. It just reminded me how quickly you can lose those around you and how often we don’t make the time we should to spend with our loved ones. I now make a point to call my mom on a daily basis and spend time with her, my dad and my sisters as much as I can. I’ve also realized that experiencing life is so much more important than material things. If living in a townhouse vs buying a big, beautiful home at this point means I can travel to Montego Bay with my husband, take an anniversary trip out of the country, spend the weekend in New York exploring with my sister, etc. it’s worth it. I’d rather hike in the mountains with my family or take painting classes than have a BMW (my Toyota does just fine for now).

Life goes by really fast, so it’s important to fill it with experiences and to enjoy every moment you can.

Where do you want to be 5 years, 10 years down the line?
The realest answer I can give you is that I don’t 100% know, but in thinking about it… in 5 years I see myself having built a bomb ass career (you know being the girl boss I’m destined to be 🙂 ), whether that be building an extremely profitable blog or climbing the corporate ladder of marketing. I hope, by then, I will have traveled to a few countries, tried lots of amazing food and really enjoyed the first 5-6 years of marriage. That will also make me around age 30, so unless an oopsy happens, hopefully that will be when I start thinking about having kids. I say that at least… I’m sure 30 will feel a lot younger than I think.

In 10 years, I hope my career will have continued to grow. That’s really important to me. I don’t plan on being a stay at home mom, although there’s no way for me to tell exactly what the future holds. Maybe I’ll be on baby #2 and live in a home I love. Hopefully, I’ll have added even more countries visited to my list and maybe I’ll actually learn to cook by then? (That might be a lost cause though, lol).

Do you have a personal mantra or inspiration that gets you through the tougher times? One of my favorite quotes/verses has always been Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

A couple of my other favorites are “Life is tough my darling, but so are you” – Stephanie Bennett-Henry and “She believed she could, so she did” – R.S. Grey

What she wants her audience to know:
Although I’m not a flaming-haired feminist, women’s rights are important to me and a priority in my life. In my blog, I strive not to be offensive, but to be raw, open and somewhat uncensored. I hope that other 20 somethings will be able to read my blog and find entertainment, as well as a place where they can feel like they’re not any more weird or different than anyone else. I want them to realize that nothing is off limits and that I LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing from my readers…both their thoughts on the blog, any good words of love and any questions I can write about.

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