Today marks the seventh anniversary of A Belle in Brooklyn, the blog and brainchild of writer, Demetria Lucas. Ironically, we both started as bloggers for Honey Magazine, but Lucas is proof that a solid plan and hustle go a long way.
From chronicling her dating adventures in DC and New York City to penning her famous birthday posts (check out the latest one here), the diehard PG County/Brooklyn girl has since made her mark as former Relationship editor for ESSENCE, a life coach and author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She also finds time to host Cocktails with Belle, a networking event for women, in various cities and drop gems for aspiring writers who seek to follow their dreams on Twitter.
Lucas took time out of her writing schedule to chat about what it takes to be a real scribe, keeping some things sacred and creating a life for yourself.
Working for yourself, what’s a typical day for you like? Have you put yourself on a schedule?
I run a tight ship. An entrepreneur’s best motto is “you eat what you kill”, which means if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. I assign certain activities to certain days and keep that schedule religiously. There are certain days for writing my columns for various sites, other days assigned for working on book projects and other days for another project I’m working on. It takes a life or death matter to throw me off.
Describe when you knew you had to leave your position as Relationships Editor at Essence.
My first book was released in June 2011 and is thankfully, a success. I was overwhelmed with press and speaking opportunities, a thriving business as a life coach, and other projects related to the book. I was exhausted trying to do all that and keep up with a demanding job and promoting the book. I wasn’t giving any of my projects their just due, and that was unfair to Essence, my clients my book, and me. I decided in September 2011 that it was time to invest in my project full-time. It was a bittersweet goodbye. I really enjoyed ESSENCE and my co-workers (so much so that I kept a daily weekday column on Essence.com for the following year), but I don’t have any regrets about my decision.
What advice do you have for women who are working traditional jobs, but would like to turn freelancer life into a full-time gig?
Save as much money as possible. I wouldn’t have considered leaving if I didn’t have a cushion. Also, make sure you have paying opportunities lined up before you go. I’m all for faith, but it doesn’t pay bills.
Any myths about working for yourself that you’d like to dispel?
We do shower. LOL. No, seriously. It’s not all fun and games. It’s great to be your own boss and take a trip or just lay in the bed when you feel like it, but it takes a LOT of responsibility and focus. There are also a LOT of financial ups and downs for a new business. You’ll always spend more than expected, you will lose clients. It’s part of the process. Working for yourself takes extraordinary discipline and patience. A great support system and surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs helps immensely.
Your first book was a success. What are your upcoming projects? There’s another Belle Book on the way, right?
I have two big upcoming projects that I’m not at liberty to discuss just yet. But I can tell you that I’m working on three more book projects. If all goes according to plan, my next book, Don’t Waste Your Pretty, will be out later this year. It’s a Q&A guide based on my now defunct Formspring page. I answered 23,000 questions in just over two years. There are a lot of women seeking insight and I’d like to continue to provide them with healthy, useful, empowering advice. I’ll tell you about the others as soon as a release dates are set. I will say they are collaborations with some names most people would recognize.
Those who have followed you for some time knew you as Belle, not Demetria. How were you able to brand yourself and career, but still keep your identity as Demetria Lucas?
When I started my blog in 2007, it was anonymous. It was the trend at the time and I was writing about my dating experiences a lot then. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, so it was best to be cautious. During that time is when I became known as “Belle.” There was a great reception to my blog and a friendly readership, so after a while, it felt weird to hide when I was so open about my life. When I had a 9 to 5, which I landed because of my blog and it covered similar content, or did TV appearances, I always went by my real name. The two just sort of merged after a (long) while. There were plenty of speaking engagements when I was introduced as “Belle Woods” and had to correct the person who introduced me. I even received a couple emails from people who were outraged that “some girl named Demetria is saying she writes your blog!!”
I should add, there’s no difference between “Belle” and Demetria. It never dawned on me to create some larger than life Internet persona, as some writers and bloggers do. I’m entirely blunt, occasionally rude, over think and incredibly random in real life. I think being genuine–good, bad, and even ugly– is a huge reason for the success of the A Belle in Brooklyn brand.
Writers are celebrities, too! Fans and followers want a look into your life. With social media’s popularity, do you think it’s important to give them all-access or no? How much is too much?
I feel no desire to spill all my tea. My rule has always been to only write what I don’t mind people talking about and randomly bringing up in conversation. Everything else, I keep off social media.Also, very rarely do I write in real-time. By the time I publish a personal story about some conflict in my life, the issue usually has been resolved. Take for instance my annual birthday post where I just lay it all out there. 2012 was a doozy. I didn’t do the birthday post until January, maybe? It took that long to get through a tough spot.
There seems to be a push for entrepreneurship. Do you think everyone can really be their own boss? What does it take?
You know how Moms say to childless women, “oh, you should have one” or married people say, “you should do it at least once”? That’s how I feel about running a business. It really shows you what you’re made of– or not. It’s not for everyone, of course, but it’s worth the adventure just to say you did it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what I am made of, and shocked by what I lack.