How I Built a Six-Figure Brand as a Natural Hair Blogger: An Interview with Tamara Floyd
24 Jun 2015
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When I first met Tamara Floyd of Natural Hair Rules last year, I knew I would like this popular blogger right away. Her bubbly personality made me want to get to know more about her and her journey as one of the top online personalities in the natural hair movement, with more than 635,000 followers between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Over the past year, I’ve had a chance to learn about this curly trendsetter who’s a happily married mother of two, and have been inspired by her story. Read on to find out how Tamara turned her side-hustle into a lucrative full-time business which informs and inspires women around the world to love their locks.
How did you get started on your natural hair journey?
I call myself a “Jackie” of all trades. I like to experiment with different things. I’ve had multiple businesses in my life, and actually started Natural Hair Rules (NHR) two years into my natural hair journey as a hobby, not thinking it would ever be a business.
I had gotten married and was now a wife trying to figure everything out. At the time, I was 20 and my husband was 23; we were both still in school and trying to make ends meet. I looked up one day and my life had completely changed. And I just thought to myself: “You know what? I’m going to go natural!” For the most part, I’ve always been pretty natural. It felt like cutting out the relaxers was the last piece of the puzzle.
I really had no idea what I was doing. I transitioned for like 3-5 months at the worst time of the year when it was really humid in Houston.
So your journey wasn’t this big epiphany; it was more like a gradual shift for you?
With the life changes, I wanted to see who I was when I was completely natural. Before I made the decision, I had already begun going through a stripping process. [Which included some of my relationships.]
In doing it, I never realized how much I would learn about myself.
I think a lot of people start this journey, not realizing it’s going to be life changing because we’ve been told for so long that it’s just hair. But everyone knows that it’s not just hair.
What was the idea behind starting NHR?
I was on the ground floor of the natural hair movement. I remember the first time I went to church after I did my big chop and people did a double take. But it was good because people really began to see me. I had a friend even tell me, “I didn’t realize how beautiful you are.” You can hide behind your hair. Once the hair was gone, I didn’t have anything to hide behind.
My blog started from a conversation I had with a friend of mine who one day told me she was going to start a blog. So I was like “What’s that?” I started doing my research and decided I was going to launch a blog about natural hair.
Part of it was, I was getting so many questions via text, email and phone asking me natural hair questions, I realized I needed somewhere to send people for this information. So when I started the blog, I emailed everyone in my address book and let them know about it. From there, it grew organically.
It started out as a creative outlet so I posted about once a week. At the time, I was working, going to school, and was active in church, but I wasn’t happy with how things were going with work and school. So the blog gave me a place where I could express myself.
What were some of the keys to growing your brand/blog?
When it comes to blogging, content is always king. You have to have good content that is written in a way that is easy to digest. Whatever you’re doing with your blog, it has to be consistent. I know people who get burned out. But I think some of that burnout comes from not being passionate about their content, and also getting locked in to what others tell them they should do.
I’m careful about the advice I take from people who are not in my space. The thing is, if they’re not in that space/industry, they may not be the best people to take advice from.
I know when I first started, people were saying that having such a niche site wouldn’t be profitable. And even though I’ve tried expanding on my topics to other things that I was interested in, I’m smart enough to know what people are coming to my site for.
A lot of people are writing but feel lost because they haven’t done the behind-the-scenes work to find out what keywords people are searching which will drive the most traffic. What has really helped me, is: 1) making sure that I have content that is easy to understand; 2) doing the keyword research to find out what people are searching for. When I’m planning my content for the year, I make sure to dive into my analytics and keyword research to see what’s getting the most traffic.
I also make sure to engage my audience and be where they are. Part of my success is due to the large following I have on Facebook which is at almost 600,000. My husband had enough foresight to tell me to start a Facebook page years ago. I make sure to post daily and ask my audience questions and send surveys to find out what they want to learn about. That kind of research helps you to develop your product.
How do you monetize your content?
Right now, I primarily monetize through ads because I have a good amount of traffic. But I’m working on expanding to e-books, webinars and T-shirts–some of the things my readers have asked for.
How long did it take you to get from making just enough to keep the site up, to making enough for it to be profitable?
By my fourth year, I was making a full time income–about $30,000/year. That was what I really needed to push me to take blogging seriously.
What are your thoughts about the natural hair movement? Do you think it’s a trend or is it here to stay?
What made the natural hair movement so popular, was the fact that people were looking for resources–not just products–to show them how to care for their natural hair. Most African American women didn’t grow up knowing how to take care of their natural hair.
We’ve been told for so long what the world considers beautiful. And most of the time it’s not how we’re born. In addition to that, we didn’t have products that supported our natural texture. I think women’s eyes were opened [to the beauty of their own hair] and they wanted to learn more about how to keep it healthy. I definitely don’t think it’s just a trend. Even the movement towards more natural and organic foods points to everyone looking for healthier alternatives for their bodies.
Would you say this movement is happening just in the U.S. or is it global?
I know from my audience that it is a definitely an international movement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten questions from different countries in Africa or the U.K. I have readers from all around the world who have the same concerns about how to take care of their natural hair.
What would you say is/was your greatest fear and how have you conquered it?
One of my biggest fears was that I didn’t feel that being a blogger was a career. It took me awhile to fight that. It was an internal thing–not anything anyone said to me. Even today, my parents know we’re doing well financially, but they have no idea what I really do. And my husband has always been supportive of everything I do.
I went to school and studied Biology and figured it was a path to a career where I would always have job security, but I was struggling in my classes because I didn’t really have a passion for it. So [I figured] starting my PR firm was a more appropriate career choice. Anyone who knows about trying to drum up business in that industry knows it can be time consuming. I felt like I didn’t have the energy to do it. I always had to prove myself even though I thought my resume and my experience would do the talking for me.
The biggest shift happened when Ronnie and Lamar Tyler of Black and Married With Kids, offered me a free ticket to attend a blogging conference in Atlanta. I didn’t have the money to go. But I figured that if they saw enough in me and my blog to invest in me, I needed to figure out a way to get there.
I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself and looked at all my expenses. I decided to put together a sponsorship package to cover those costs. I was determined that I was going to get to the conference. So I got over my fears and reached out to a few potential sponsors–many of whom said “no.” But I kept going until I got a “yes” from some of the brands I had built relationships with.
My experience at the conference inspired me to ramp up my business. I also made some great connections in Atlanta and was referred for some freelance opportunities that helped tide me over while I figured out ways to monetize the blog.
When I stopped looking at blogging as a hobby and more as a business, that’s when I began to see a difference. I think so many people get into blogging not knowing how to make it into a business.
How do you set goals for your business?
When the site first started making money, I decided that I wanted to be a six-figure blogger. I feel like God has blessed me with the will and the know-how to reach my goals. I’ve had instances where I set a goal and within a few months, I’d achieved it.
Every month I make sure to review my profit and loss [statement]. At the point where I saw my revenue grow by 40% within a year, I knew I needed to invest back into the business. Being a mother, I wanted my life back. I didn’t want to live at the computer all day, every day. It didn’t make sense as an entrepreneur.
I started looking into hiring contributors, a social media manager and a personal assistant so that I could focus more on the higher level stuff like planning the content, producing the newsletter, as well as getting more products out there.
Everyone should have weekly and monthly goals. I have a minimum monthly goal of $7000-8000 but I’m constantly pushing myself to exceed that.
What role does faith play in your business?
Faith helps push me to that next level and reminds me that everything is possible.
For whatever reason, we put ourselves in a box. So I remember being on a webinar with Ronnie and Lamar and hearing them talk about how they made their first million blogging. And that was God speaking to me like, “Who told you you could only make $100,000? Don’t put limits on me.” And that was a great reminder for me to think beyond my own limitations.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I’m scared every day. I know people see me being a mother, wife and business woman, and being successful at those things. Thankfully, God has really blessed me. And even though I’ve been blogging for 6 or 7 years now, I still have those days where I’m scared to press publish. I still have those days where I’m scared about whether this blogging thing is really going to work.
When you go from making no money to some money, you kind of look around like, “Who’s going to come take this money?” [laughs] But God revealed to me that, “If you built this business, what makes you think you couldn’t build another one?” Once you know how to make money as an entrepreneur, you’ll continue to always make money as an entrepreneur.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to an emotion like fear, it’s like peeling back an onion. You peel back one layer only to realize there’s another layer to overcome.
When I [start experiencing fear], I have to go to my quiet place and accept, re-evaluate, and ask God what the root is so I can move forward and not let fear stop me from what He needs me to do.
You can find Tamara at www.naturalhairrules.com and www.tamarafloyd.com.
Photography: Kirby Mack Photography and Point & Click Photography
Can you relate to Tamara’s journey? What has been your greatest challenge as an entrepreneur or in your career?