By: Bianca Strzalkowski
Krystel Spell’s 100,000+ followers would be surprised to learn that the brand empire, known as Army Wife 101, actually began as a personal video project. The branding expert says she initially started vlogging (video blogging) on YouTube to share cooking videos and document aspects of military life. She never imagined that it would turn into a lucrative business with earnings in excess of $5,000 per month.
“I had no idea that blogging would ever be a business,” Spell said. “I remember the first time another blogger, and military wife, called me for a campaign with Sears and told me I would get a dryer in exchange for blogging. I literally screamed. I felt like I was getting gold, so you can only imagine the feeling of receiving my first paycheck.”
She trained herself on how to run all aspects of her business, a field she says requires hands-on experience rather than formal classes, especially because of how quickly trends change in social media. Still, Spell admits as her business continues to flourish, one of her primary issues is recognizing she can’t do everything by herself.
“Knowing when to outsource work is a big challenge for me. I still have a hard time telling myself you can’t be the name behind the brand, the secretary, and marketing, too,” she said.
Spell emphasizes that this is the type of career that should be entered into for the right reasons, and money should not be that leading reason. She blogged for over three years before any substantial income was earned.
“The biggest misconception (I see) is people getting into blogging just for the money,” Spell said. “Blogging was a labor of love for me before brands started sending me stuff and checks started rolling in. If you can’t see yourself being committed then don’t start blogging based off the idea of making money because it will lose all of its authenticity, and no one will be interested.”
It has been eight years since the blogging powerhouse started Army Wife 101. She has worked with countless major brands, such as Toyota, Chevrolet, Brawny, Tylenol, and Universal Studios. Some of her favorite opportunities have been appearing on Headline News as a weekly contributor, being on set with the cast of Lifetime’s hit show Army Wives, and participating in a family campaign with Tylenol that led to trust funds for her children. However, all of that success did not come easily. There is a daily hustle on Spell’s end. Being one of the leading voices in the military community comes with a calculated effort behind the scenes to ensure the prominence of her brand.
“Social media is literally my brand’s life and air supply. Without FB (Facebook), Twitter, IG (Instagram), Pinterest, or anything else, there would be no Army Wife 101,” Spell said. “I am really strategic about when I post, but I prefer to do it manually because I feel like it gets better reach and engagement. If I do use any tools, it would be the FB scheduler. FB seems to resent third party schedulers, so I avoid them.”
In addition to being a Brand and Digital Influencer, Spell manages a group that mentors other bloggers and writers called That Pitch Life. She also plans to release her first e-book, titled The Pitch Life (Volume 1): How to Blog Your Way to Free Travel, Products, and Cash.
Sharing Her Knowledge: Krystel Spell’s Tips
- Be passionate about your craft: I don’t like cliché words, but you must be passionate about whatever it is that you are doing. It’s great to want to build a brand, but if you’re not in it because you love it then your audience/customers will see it, and it will start to reflect in the work you put out.
- Invest in your brand: I am the queen of launching a business for free, but there are only so many free trials of something you can use before you need to purchase it in its entirety. And even if you can’t, look for ways to make things look high quality. For instance, if you are selling items and can’t afford an expensive camera to take pictures, invest in a shadow box and an umbrella light from Amazon. The point is don’t half do anything.
- Use social media: Please, please utilize social media. If you love free it is the best thing you will ever have. Take time to create and curate content for one or two of your favorite platforms, and I promise you will see the growth of your brand. The world is at your fingertips on social media.