Content Curator: Jaime Derringer of Design Milk

With over 250k Twitter followers and over 500k subscribers, Jaime Derringer's Design Milk is one of the most popular and well-known design blogs around. You'd be surprised to find out that Jaime started Design Milk in 2006 out of a personal necessity. As she tells us, “I had some downtime at a job and was looking for a new sofa. Around the same time that I was searching for furniture, I discovered blogs. I had some experience with online publishing, so I decided I'd start documenting my Internet finds in blog format so that I could easily reference them and share them with others. Little did I know that there was a captive audience of people who also have similar taste!”

Since then, Design Milk has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Time Out New York, and Real Simple magazine among other publications. In 2008, Google Reader engineers even called Design Milk one of their “Staff Picks” alongside WebUrbanist, Make Magazine and The Big Picture. Just this past January, she was a speaker at Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City, an event that brings together some of the most influential design and lifestyle bloggers in the industry.

Today, Jaime runs Design Milk and its sister site Dog Milk as her full-time job. Currently, Jaime's also a writer for USA Network's Character Approved blog which celebrates the people, places and things that are making a positive mark on our cultural landscape.

Jaime and I have been friends for a few years now and I've always seen her as a leader in the space. She was kind enough to grant us an interview for our ongoing Content Curator series so that we could find out more about what's going on behind the scenes of her business.

What makes Design Milk different than the other design blogs out there?
The thing that makes my blog different than other design blogs is me. I write most of the content and manage the site from editing to advertising to programming. The entire site to its very core is a “webresentation” of who I am (did I just coin that word? Because it's awesome). Everything on the website is something that I approve, write, like, want, or think is cool, interesting, or important to share. I like to think the site mixes a lot from other blogs into my own concoction – a bit of art, some news, event coverage, a few regular features peppered into the daily content, interior design and even fashion and technology.

You recently made your blogs your full-time business. How's that going?
I just completed my first full year of self-employment. It's amazing and has been one of the most rewarding years of my life. I have grown as a person, developed a number of meaningful relationships with other bloggers, and learned a lot about being a better blogger.

The biggest challenge for me is life/work balance. Some people can't work from home because they get distracted by TV or the laundry or they just aren't motivated. I have a hard time working from home because I'm distracted by work. When I'm home, I feel like I am always at work, and many times I just fire up the laptop and bang out a few posts or answer a few emails even when it's not “work time.” I think being self-employed in the Internet business is significantly harder because the Internet never closes or goes on vacation.

Can you tell us about your USA Network's Character Approved writing gig?
USA Network has a tagline “Characters Welcome” and in 2010 they started a movement to honor people in various fields who are trailblazers, which they call “Character Approved.” A few months ago, they invited me to select my favorite designers and products that I consider to be “Character Approved” and share them once a week on their fantastic blog. I was thrilled to be a part of such a great movement, alongside such company as Wooster Collective, Terry Boyd, Matt Jordan and many more.

Recently, USA ran a fantastic one-hour special celebrating their 2011 Character Approved honorees that included Janelle Monae, Vik Muniz, Emily Pilloton, and Blake Mycoskie. (You can see it here.) After watching the telecast, I feel more honored to be a part of it because it's important to me that creators and leaders get recognition they deserve for doing good in the world. I'm all about positivity.

Are there any success stories you'd like to share?
One of the best parts of my job is when I get an email or hear from a designer that was featured on my website who meets a retailer, distributor, manufacturer or client as a result of my post. I've had a number of designers contact me to thank me for connecting them with a client, or for helping them get their products into a store. It is so rewarding when I hear this, because it's a big part of what keeps me going every day.

Is there any advice you'd give to others who want to make their blog a business?
The number one piece of advice is to not start out with the goal of it becoming a business. Being passionate about the subject matter is extremely important as is the authenticity of your writing. People can see through b.s. very easily, so don't be afraid to be yourself. These days, the more transparent you are, the better.

You have to believe in yourself and be passionate about what you do and success will come. For me, the success isn't in my blog's popularity or the money, but in the happiness it brings me sharing cool and amazing things with people from all over the world every day.

Where are you taking Design Milk from here?
I'm not really sure yet what lies ahead in 2011. I get about 20 new ideas a week, but being limited in time as it is, I have to evaluate each one carefully to not take on too much. However, I do have a few things on my mind that I hope to be able to do at least one or two this year. I'm excited!

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jaime. It's inspiring to say the least.

Make sure to check out and bookmark Jaime's Design Milk and Dog Milk.

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