Meet Andrea Rowland, managing editor of the GoDaddy blog, Garage! No matter how difficult the topic at hand is, Andrea guides her audience through small business, technology, or social media using her easy-to-read voice that’s chock-full of a whole lotta knowledge. Read on to get a glimpse of her life, thoughts, and advice!
Tell us a little about yourself & how you got into this position.
Well, I certainly never expected to manage the editorial content for a tech blog! Seriously, I didn’t know the difference between DNS and DSW before I took a job as a copy editor at GoDaddy a little over two years ago. My background is in journalism and small business ownership. After earning my bachelor’s degree in communications and working as a daily newspaper reporter for about seven years (during which time I got my master’s degree in the humanities), I had the opportunity to help launch a regional publishing company.
Honestly, I was terrified to leave a stable, somewhat satisfying job to start something new.
To make a long story short, I’m glad I did. I took what I knew about creating great editorial content to help shape a small business that grew steadily until the economy tanked. Then, I learned a whole lot about the financial side of small business ownership —the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our company had a strong web presence from the start, but print was our bread and butter. The economic downturn made us pivot more quickly toward digital media because of its cost savings — a change that, though challenging at the time, probably put me on my path to GoDaddy.
I sold my interest in the publishing company in 2010 and moved with my family to Arizona, dabbling in freelancing writing and editing work for about six months. Another great learning experience. Then I connected with the owner of a healthcare company who wanted to write a book, went to work with him as Chief Scribe, got the book published, then got a call from GoDaddy. And here I am.
What led you to GoDaddy & why did you choose to manage a tech blog?
I know firsthand how vital a strong web presence — a website, professional email, social media, all that stuff — is to a small business’s success. You just can’t get by with a box of business cards and some positive word-of-mouth anymore. So I was excited about the chance to help create content that would demystify the digital world for small business owners. It can seem intimidating; I enjoy helping to make it more accessible.
How would you describe the voice & content focus of Garage?
Garage is functional but fun. We crank out content to help small business owners and web pros be more successful online, in a voice that’s as authoritative as your favorite history professor after a few glasses of red wine. We love to tell stories that are as entertaining as they are informative — whether it’s about the perils of freelancing or the perks of a great domain if you own a food truck. That’s always the goal.
How can small businesses benefit from reading Garage?
Whether you’re just thinking about starting a new business or trying to figure out how to embed Instagram pics on your WordPress site, Garage has info that can help. The blog is only about 18 months old, but it’s already got a lot of great content about launching your business online (registering a domain, building a website, etc.), growing your business (using business-class email, leveraging social media, etc.), managing your business (bookkeeping and taxes, hiring contractors, etc.), and keeping your business safe online (password security, defending against hackers, etc.). We’re constantly talking with entrepreneurs to learn about what matters most to them so we can address those issues in Garage. And we love feedback.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Editing, meetings, editing, writing, coffee break, editing, meetings, pick son up from school, editing, coffee break, writing … Something like that. No two days are ever exactly the same, thank goodness. I make a weekly to-do list on Sunday evenings and start each day by updating it. I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. I communicate with contributors via email or over the phone. I toggle between Google docs and internal instant messages, editing copy and fielding requests. I take short walks while clenching and unclenching my right hand. (Writer’s cramp, not nervous habit.) Sometimes I get to go to really cool conferences and eat New York-style pizza.
When you’re not busy editing, what are you doing in your free time?
- Third-grade homework (much more difficult than I remember)
- Reading (most recently the Outlander series)
- Traveling (preferably to destinations with sand)
- Trying to work off the extra calories (I like yoga)
- Attempting to meditate (My mantra is “calm blue ocean”)
What are 3 things someone needs to be successful in your position?
- Strong editing and writing chops
- Extraordinary organizational skills
- A sense of humor
What obstacles have you overcome in order to get to where you are?
Hmm … Two things come to mind:
- Guilt. Like a lot of people, I’ve struggled to balance my personal and professional lives. I think I’ve gotten better at it over the years — or maybe I’ve just learned to cut myself some slack.
- Windows. Luckily, I was able to switch to a Mac after a few months.
How do you come up with fresh new topics for the blog?
We talk to entrepreneurs and web pros wherever we go, whether that’s a blogger conference or the coffee shop on the corner. We look for trending topics in social media. We get together and brainstorm. Plus, as voracious content consumers, we find inspiration from our favorite blogs and books and websites.
What do you do when you have a bad case of writer’s block?
I start writing. Anything. What I ate for breakfast. My dreams for world peace. Eventually, I’m writing what I need to write.
What are the top 3 things you look for when accepting submissions for your blog?
1. Compelling and clean published copy
2. An interesting voice
3. A topic that will resonate with our target audience(s)
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from working at Garage?
Just because you write it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. You can produce amazing content, but if you don’t have an effective strategy in place to promote it — through channels like social media and email marketing — you won’t get the traffic you want.
What advice do you have for aspiring editors?
Read and write. Think critically about what you’re reading and writing. Self-edit. Ask for feedback about your own writing. Be flexible — you don’t have to compromise your integrity as an editor to change with the times. If rewriting your perfect headline to highlight a few keywords might double your page views, do it.
Any other tips, tricks, or parting thoughts?
The next time you’re hunched over a keyboard, feeling stressed out, breathe. Close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths. It’ll help. Calm. Blue. Ocean.