“I started this website… and the genesis of it was me wanting to write a book way back when… And the way the universe has of pushing me forward, about two months later, I was in a pretty major car accident and walked away. I thought, I never again want to work for anyone else. I never again want to do a job that doesn’t make me feel like a better citizen of the world, so that I can model that for my children.” — Danielle Smith
If there’s anything most successful entrepreneurs seem to have, it’s passion, persistence and an unquestionable spirit. Fitting because Danielle Smith, founder of PrettyExtraordinary.com, is based in St. Louis and has a spirit that’s evident from the first moment you connect with her. These qualities have no doubt helped this mother of two become a successful blogger/social media influencer over the years, as she’s ridden the wave from influencer gold rush… to today’s more competitive space.
But her vision wasn’t always so cut and dry. Back in 2007, the former TV news anchor had a life-changing revelation. It happened after miraculously walking away from a major car accident where she once wrote “…as I ached from the bruises and washed the glass from my hair, I was hit by the conviction that I would never again do a job that didn’t make me a better citizen of the world.” That’s when she took a crash course in YouTube, had a former colleague help her build/start her original site (Extraordinary Mommy), and eventually grew her brand to partner with brands such as Gatorade, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s and more.
I spoke with Smith by phone so she could shed light on what’s worked for her over the years… and share her story about successfully transitioning from the old media world of TV, to the new media world of social media and digital influencing.
Interview with Danielle Smith, Founder of Pretty Extraordinary, on shifting from traditional media to full-time freelance:
How scary was it to initially take the jump from secure income to insecure income, full-time to freelance?
I should say it was terrifying, but in many ways it wasn’t… because it felt like what I was supposed to be doing. I think when you have an entrepreneurial spirit… things are going to work. I find that to be true of every person I’ve seen in this space that has succeeded. As much as the word “hustle” is becoming a bit overused… It’s really about understanding that you have to have multiple streams of income, that you can’t live in a place of scarcity.
How has the space changed most dramatically for you?
Years ago, when I first started working with brands, they trusted me. They hired me because they liked my voice. And now there are so many agencies I have to go through, so many layers of approval… Sometimes I have to turn in content in weeks and weeks ahead of time because it has to go through legal. Everyone wants approval of everything from blog posts, to video, to social shares, to Instagram Stories, which is about ready to drive me batty.
They used to hire me because they liked my voice. Now they want control of my voice. I want people to want to partner with me because they think I can bring value to what it is they want to share.
What was the biggest thing you had to learn in transitioning from TV to social media, to help you get your start?
What I wanted to do was build on a skill set I already had, which was writing and television. What happened was, I started this website… and the genesis of it was me wanting to write a book way back when… And the way the universe has of pushing me forward, about two months later, I was in a pretty major car accident and walked away. I thought, I never again want to work for anyone else. I never again want to do a job that doesn’t make me feel like a better citizen of the world, so that I can model that for my children.
What’s the most challenging part of being a working parent?
How exhausted I was because I had to work entirely around their schedule. I was up until 3:30am every night just putting in the work because I had to get up at 6:30am when they got up. I would work when I would find them occupied. Or when my mother-in-law was watching them for the day. Working your schedule around it really is a juggle. I hate when people say, “What does balance look like?”
Balance doesn’t exist.
What’s the most embarrassing place you’ve ever taken a conference call? Or finished an assignment?
I’ve done them in doctor’s offices. I’ve done them on the floor outside of a sick child’s room. I’ve hid in the bathroom for sure. The bathroom is the only place in the house where I can really close the door. My office in my house has French doors. And even at 12 and 14, no matter how many times I say, “If my doors are closed, you guys can’t walk in”… Still they walk right in!
I’m lucky that I have a space. I’m lucky that my family has supported me as I’ve done this. And has believed in me. Because if there’s anything you need when you’re starting something on your own, it’s people who believe in you.
Was it always that way?
There was a point very early on when I was up in the middle of the night (at the time I was making no money) 11 or 12 years ago… and at one o’clock in the morning, my husband comes down the stairs and says, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s a gigantic waste of your time. You are up too late. You’re not getting enough sleep. You’re sick, and when you’re sick, it affects the rest of the family. You need to stop.”
And I said, “Yeah, I forgive that you don’t understand what I’m doing, but I’m not stopping because I know it’s going to work.” Then when I got paid for the first time, I got to walk in with paycheck and say, “How ya like me now?”
Sort of like… hush money?
It’s funny because his initial goal was that I make $1,000/month and at this point, I rarely get contracts that are under $1,000 and I do multiple of them on a regular basis. The first $20,000 contract I signed, he’s like… “What is happening???”
What do you attribute your courage and drive to?
I’ve always been a self-motivated person, a communicator. And I’ve always believed that connecting people and storytelling is a beautiful thing. It just took me a little while to figure out how to get there. Because, as I found out with TV, as much as I love being on camera, as much as I love hearing people’s stories and interviewing, I’m not equipped to handle negativity.
I’m not equipped to walk up and say, “I’m so sorry your three-year-old drowned in the bathtub. Would you like to talk about it?” I would do happy news all day long. But it wasn’t until I did it that I realized, this is not in my nature; it’s not in my character, I can’t handle it.
What’s the blessing of what’s happening in the influencer space right now… and what’s the curse?
One of the things I find most interesting is… how curated our content is now. That’s one of the reasons I love Instagram Stories. But if you look at my Instagram page, it’s curated. For lack of a better word, it’s safe.
I did a post for Royal Canin today and I’m holding my puppy. Did I hold my puppy? You bet. But did I have my daughter take the picture? I did. And specifically for that. And everything I did had to be approved. I don’t mind that to some degree, but what I love about Instagram Stories is my ability to say, “This is real life.”
Finish this sentence: The best part about being freelance is that it affords me the opportunity to…
The best part about being freelance is that it affords me the opportunity to… Be a fully present mother and do the things that make my heart happy.
I get to exist in my life because I’m doing work that I love.