Your questions, answered

You guys had some great questions for me. I know I'm always curious about bloggers that I read regularly, so here's the scoop!

Katie B asked:  What did you do to attract followers when you first started out your blog?

When I first started (in 2008) bloggers weren't using Twitter and Facebook as much as they are now, which is what I'd encourage any beginning blogger to do these days. But my readership grew slowly. I commented on other people's blogs with *real* comments, when I had an actual opinion about the post. I emailed bloggers that I liked. I joined the 20 Something Bloggers network and added "friends" on there like crazy (and made a few real pals in the process). I also encouraged my family and friends to forward the blog on to people who might like it. And I signed up for a blogging e-course which was a great networking tool.

Breenah asked: What got you into blogging?

Before my interior design blog, I had a little blog about losing weight - but because I wasn't that into the exercising and dieting, I barely ever updated it. I did spend a lot of time reading design blogs like Desire to Inspire (which I found when I was looking for accent chair inspiration for my first apartment). I said, "I have just as much to say about interior design as anyone else" - I had a real passion for design since childhood. So I jumped right into it with a blogspot blog and Magchunk (which became Maggie Rose) was born.

Megan asked (#1): what are the dos and dont’s of using pictures from other blogs/sources and using for your blog posts….?

Everyone answers this differently. When in doubt, ask permission before posting (usually with photographer's websites and portfolios, it's the respectful thing to do). I always try to source where I got the image from, and track it back if I can. I think the norm on the more professional sites is leaning toward crediting the photographer (and publication if applicable) and designer. I'd like to start shifting toward that myself (hard when some images I saved years ago with no idea I'd be blogging it one day!)

Megan #2: what gave you the confidence to start your own e-decorating service and figure out what to charge?

I'd been asked a lot for design advice, and I was really inspired by other e-decorators that I saw offering the service. I jumped in without doing much research... which means that one of my first clients asked if she should pay me more because she felt like she was ripping me off (her words!). Earlier this year I did some research on what other decorators were charging for e-decorating. It ranged from $250 to in the thousands. Since my emphasis has been on affordable design, I chose to stick to the low end of that spectrum. While that raised my prices (quite a bit from the rock-bottom pricing before), I still offer services at a lower price point to be accommodating to my audience's budget.

Megan #3: How did you and Ryan meet?

Ryan and I met (almost exactly 5 years ago!) in college. A friend of mine was dating a friend of his, and I got roped into a spontaneous trip to Canada the first weekend of winter break. My friend was going to be the only girl, and her boyfriend's friends were all coming. Ryan asked for my number when we got back and spent the next month romancing me with flowers and instant messaging (it WAS 2005, so AIM was still cool)!

Katie asked:  What’s the deal with collecting sales tax as an e-retailer?

This is kind of tricky - I'm definitely not an expert. Here's my basic understanding: For in-state customers, you can charge them sales tax according to your state taxes. Generally out-of-state does not pay that tax. You could also just factor the tax into your pricing in a "we pay the sales tax" kind of deal. I'll know more about this after I finish my taxes next month! Check the IRS site or your state's small business resources site for information specific to your state.

Katie #2: Have you registered officially with local government as a small business? At what point do you need to do that?

I am registered as a business in the City of Seattle and State of Washington. I chose to register earlier this year when I knew that I was taking my e-decorating more seriously and beyond just a "hobby" (which is how my blog income was reported last year). I don't know if there is a specific income level where you should register, but I decided that I wanted to make a serious, committed step toward running a decorating business. I got a business bank account at the same time, which helps keep my finances separate. I'm currently operating as a sole proprietorship, but I'll likely register as an LLC in another year or two when I want to hire an employee. If you're making a substantial amount of your income from your small business, you should start thinking about it now.

Sam asked (#1): What or who inspires you the most design-wise when it comes to indoor decor?

Blogs are a huge source of inspiration for me, as are magazines (I subscribe to a horrifying amount of magazines!). It would be hard to choose just one that inspires me the "most". I also love catalogs and love to look through for that one gem (in the lame catalogs) or the amazing styling (in the kick-ass catalogs). They are like mini-magazines!

Sam #2: Are you constantly changing your tastes or have you settled into a style/type/influence that you really like and stick with?

As someone fairly obsessed with design, I think it's safe to say that my taste will always evolve and absorb new trends and ideas. However, I do think that the last year or two I've started to zero-in on my own style. A big part of that was meshing my taste with Ryan's when we moved in together. Now it comes pretty naturally. I love subdued neutrals and deep, rich color. I've never been crazy about bright colors. I also like history in a room (both in architecture and design). All of our rooms have natural influences - real wood, jute, plants. And I love ethnic prints (probably the only place I like bright colors) which I think comes from my parent's love of Native American and Mexican art.

Deanna asked: Do you have a favorite source (blog, book, magazine, etc) that is your go-to for inspiration?

You can always check my blogroll for great reads, but lately I've been loving Bryn Alexandra, High Street Market, I Suwannee, Little Green Notebook, Young House Love, and You Are My Fave. I love the online magazines and can't wait for Matchbook to hit virtual newstands. I think it's going to be amazing! My all-time favorite decor magazine is House Beautiful. I'm wanting to check out Veranda and Architectural Digest now that some of my favorite editors have taken them over.

Elizabeth asked (#1): What’s your ultimate dare-to-dream decor item?

A wall of built-in bookshelves. I'd also love a really rugged, worn in Eames recliner someday.

Elizabeth #2: How do you reach out to others in the design world? You have so many amazing contacts!

The only reason I have contacts is for being in the right place at the right time. Emailing bloggers with a friendly note, being able to help with a project and giving it my all, and not being intimidated (outwardly) by "status" in the blogging world. Sure, I get giddy if a big-name blogger mentions me, but I'm also not afraid to email Grace at Design*Sponge just because she's Grace of Design*Sponge. Too chummy too fast can be off-putting, but confidence and kindness go far!

Elizabeth #3: Are you taking on employees or interns at Maggie Rose Design yet? ;)

I wish! I could definitely see some intern possibilities later in 2011, or other opportunities. In a few years, I hope to have several!

Christina asked: I have a silly one for you: where did you come up with the name Thisbe for your cat? It’s such a perfectly cat-like name for a cat. I love it!

Thisbe was actually a name that I'd loved since reading A Midsummer Night's Dream - it is the name of the character in the play that the players put on in the forest. I thought Ryan wouldn't like it, but I lucked out! We had a loooong list of contenders but Thisbe won out! Ryan's nine-year-old sister calls her Frisbee.

Thanks everyone for playing along! If there's anything else you wanted to ask, just let me know!