June 26, 2012

Haven's Keynote Speakers

The Haven Conference for DIY/Home bloggers in
Atlanta June 21 & 22 was so much fun for me.
I wish that every one of my blogging friends could
have come to it.  In case you did not get to come,
I am doing a few blog posts on some of the
sessions there to hopefully pass along some of
the good advice and information that I gleaned there.
Sort of a "Wish You Were Here!" series.


The first morning of the Haven Conference
we were welcomed to the opening meeting
by Rhoda of Southern Hospitality blog
and her fabulous co-organizing team
of Chris (Just A Girl), Kate (Centsational Girl),
Sarah (Thrifty Decor Chick),
Marion (Miss Mustard Seed),
Beth (Home Stories A - Z), 
Traci (Beneath My Heart,
along with blog designer,
Kristi, and event planner, Kristin.

The keynote speakers for Haven were Sherry
and John of the very popular (5 million views a month!)
DIY/Home blog Young House Love

I thought that they were fabulous speakers...
so cute, so entertaining, so informative, so humble.
Their topic was "Eleven Biggest Decisions" that they
have made concerning their blog.  They added the subtitle
"Or Eleven Somewhat Subconcious Choices That
Have Steered The Course Of The Blog".

To give us a little background, they shared that they met
while both working at the same ad agency in New York City.
Sherry was the copy writer for an account that John
helped to manage.  They kept their relationship a secret
from their co-workers until they decided to leave NYC
for a slower pace in Richmond, Virginia, in February
of 2006.  They got engaged in March of that same year
and the next month they impulsively bought a house.

These photos are just pictures of the screen in the big meeting room they are speaking in...as if you are there too!
And, by the way, you and I are standing in the back of the room

The house was well within their budget with even
a little left over for the renovations that the house needed.
John started the blog to share the re-do of the kitchen
in that first house with friends and family (and maybe
complain a little too about some installation problems).

 Sherry eventually started writing some
 posts for the kitchen make-over on the blog.

The kitchen remodel took four months.  They entered
the project into a contest and won!

They had more projects that they wanted to do to
update the house, so they just kept the blog going.

Sherry said that it kept their creative juices going to
continue writing the blog.  She felt that if they did not
keep posting a few times a week, they might stop
and then never start again.

In 2007, they got married in the backyard of their
house.  It was "one giant DIY project".

What started as a hobby slowly began to bring in
a little money.  John had a job at an ad agency in
Richmond and Sherry worked from home.

They added Goggle "Ad Sense" to their blog
and earned 30 cents a day at first.

Sherry also added some other ways to
earn money via their blog.

This is a pie graph of how the blog earned
money in the early days.  After five years of blogging
there are not as many pieces of the pie.  Their main
sources of income now are ads, sponsors, writing for
magazines, etc. and their book coming out this Fall.

As many of the other speakers would say at Haven,
Sherry and John agree that "Content Is King"
when it comes to bringing more visitors to your blog.
Their good content and "luck" brought them some press.

John told the funny story of when they were
shooting the cover of "The Nest" magazine that
they told him NOT to look at the camera.  He said that
if you go back and see that magazine's early covers
that you can discern that they never photographed
the husband looking at the camera.

Recently, the couple was highlighted in a New York Times
article about computerized floor planning.  That came
about due to an blog post they did back in 2007 about
the product.  They wanted to empasize to us that their
growth and exposure has been gradual and over time.
Don't expect big exposure when you are first starting
 a blog...keep your content excellent and exposure will come.

Sherry and John are self-professed "DIY dorks"  who
are learning as they go about turning a house into a home.
They readily admit that they are not experts on anything
other than being themselves and that is what they write about.

Since Sherry is a professional copy writer, the first blog
posts had a more business-like tone to them.  One of her
friends that looked at her blog told her that she was
"way funnier in person" so she decided to let her
"freak flag fly" and began writing just as she spoke.

Sherry advised us to be ourselves in blog writing
and be authentic...it brings dimension to your blog.

They advised that "sometimes you just have to say 'no' "
to opportunities that come along.
A company once pitched them an idea for a "sexy" home
improvement show (John working without his shirt, etc.).
Sherry asked them, "Have you ever read our blog? That
is so not us." Needless to say, they turned it down.

A personal decision for them was to not accept
free products.  They did not want to use or feel
obligated to recommend products that they would
not use normally.

The title of their blog when they started was
"This Young House".  A certain entity with a similar
name served them with a "cease and disist" order to
stop using that name or they would be sued.

John said that things like that just make you want to
walk away from blogging.  He says now that they are
glad that they just went on and changed the name to
"Young House Love".  On their blog it says
"1 young family + 1 old house = love".
Another way to remember the name of the blog
is to think "Young love with a house in the middle."
I always thought that their last name was "Young"
(it is not) so that was a revelation to me. 

Sherry advised us to not get angry or defensive if
someone does not like our style or makes a negative
comment.  Someone actually wrote to her that
her baby looked like an alien!  Can you imagine?

Here are some things to keep in mind about comments:

The only time they delete a comment is if it does
not add to the conversation.  Comments like "Your baby
is ugly" or "You smell like a fart" get deleted. 

Sherry and John are going to let the future surprise them.

Of course, they have some plans but they said they could
have never imagined five years ago where they are now.
They want to concentrate on their family and their blog
and just see what the future holds.  One idea may be to
buy a rental or vacation house to re-do after they
are finished with the house they are in now. 
(They had moved into a larger home
several months after their baby was born).

After their presentation, there was a Q & A time.
The subtitle of this screen is "Or Please Don't Make Us Stand Here Awkwardly While
No One Raises Their Hands".

Here are a few questions and answers:
(some of this is paraphrased/condensed)
Q: How much time do you spend replying to comments
A: Four to five hours a day

Q: Do you worry about running out of things
to blog about?
A: No, we have more ideas than we have 
time to execute them.

Q: Will you re-do anything in your house that
you have already done?
A: Yes, a house needs to evolve with the
changing needs of the family.

Q: How do you keep up the pace of as 
many blog posts as you do?
Do you ever burnout?
A: We are tired a lot.  The challenge of a 
stay-at-home business is that it is AT your
home.  The blog is now our full-time income
so there is that  incentive there to support
the family.  We actually have started a
new blog about family...it makes us get out
 and do things that are not house-related.

Q: How many projects do you have
going at one time?
A: One major and maybe three smaller ones

Q: Your photography is beautiful. What
tips do you have for us?
A: Emulate other blogs that you admire
their photography, use a tripod, remote
shutter, timer on camera, turn off lights in room.

Q: How did you come to the decision to
quit your "day job" and depend on the blog?
A: Sherry had already been working from home
as a free-lance writer so that kind of transistioned
into spending more time on the blog. For John,
it came down to numbers when the baby came...
do you pay someone to watch the baby so the
blog can continue to prosper? John was having
his last day of work luncheon with co-workers
when he got the call that Sherry was in labor.
They say that they "make a modest living by
blogging about living modestly".

Young House Love blog site is just packed with
wonderful pictures and ideas.  I went over there just
to get a digital link to use in this blog post and
found myself there for an hour looking at the
 projects,"how to"s, and stories about
their lives that Sherry and John have put
on their site.  If you have not been, you should go! 

If you would like to see a recap of the
"Photography and Photo Styling" seminar" click here,
or "Painting Techniques" seminar click here,
or "Power Tools 101" click here.


  1. This is great! I'm a big YHL fan so fun to see what they spoke about at the conference. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I do not know this blog- I am headed over to check it out- where have I been?;>) xo Diana

  3. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing. Maybe next year I can make it.

  4. WoW! I wanted to go to Haven so badly to see John and Sherry. Your post makes me feel like I was there. Awesome!

  5. I agree with Crystal - I could not make it to the blog (despite living in Atlanta) and am so happy to see this! Thanks for taking the time to do this!

  6. I agree with Crystal - I could not make it to the blog (despite living in Atlanta) and am so happy to see this! Thanks for taking the time to do this!

  7. Thank you so, so much for this detailed recap! I am so sad that I missed Haven, I feel like all of my blogging friends were there, but I have baby #3 still nursing so this year was a no-go for me.


  8. I'm a huge YHL fan, and their post of the day made me come over here to your site. Just wanted to correct one thing though: They did not move into their larger home while they were expecting Clara, she was already born and probably was around 7 or 8 months old when they moved into their current house. Thought you might want to fix that part of your post :)

  9. Thanks for letting me know when they moved to the second house, Rachael. I have gone back and corrected that. I'm glad that you knew the right information.

  10. Totally great wrap up!! Thanks for the inside scoop!!

  11. Miss Kitty, I'm so glad I met you at Haven! I'm sorry we didn't have more time to hang out. Maybe next year?
    I loved John and Sherry. They were so adorable, and their presentation was hilarious. It was a great way to start the conference.

  12. This is Melissa @ http://daisymaebelle.com Thanks so much for sharing this great info for those of us who could not be there!

  13. Wow! You must have taken great notes on their session! I was too enthralled just watching them and listening - LOVE their blog!

    and so enjoyed Haven!

  14. Thanks for sharing what you have learned! Super great info.


  15. Thanks so much for this! I wasn't able to go to Haven but am a HUGE YHL fan. Thanks for the incredible description - I DO feel like I was there with you!

  16. I really enjoyed this post, and now would love to go to Haven someday! Thank you so very much for sharing this great information with us all--I appreciate it!

  17. I check out their blog every day but I learned something new reading your recap. Thank you!

  18. I just love that you are sharing actual details of your Haven experience, not just photos of all the people you met! I'm now following along, nice to meet you!


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