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117. How this couple ditched corporate jobs to start a successful adventure blog with Emily and Bertie Mandagie

On this weeks episode, I speak with Emily and Bertie Mandegie who are the travel blogger/ photographer duo behind The Mandagies. A travel blog dedicated to the outdoors.

They believe that outdoor experiences are for everyone. They aim to give their audience helpful insights on destinations, photography tips and ways to enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Listen on to find out how the Mandagies created a successful adventure blog.

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Show Notes:

Debbie:   

Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining us. I am here with Emily and Birdie. Hey guys, how are you?

Emily:      

Hi, we’re good Debbie.

Debbie: 

Thank you so much for joining me. I’m really excited to speak with both of you. We met a few months ago and you have such an interesting story. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live in offbeat life?

Emily : 

My name is Emily and I’m Berty, and we’re the Mandagies and we live in offbeat life cause I guess it’s just more fun that way. And we want to do what we love to do for a living and that’s what we pursued.

adventure blog

Debbie:

I know you have a blog and you have this amazing following. How did you start doing this?

Berty: 

Well I started as a photographer first and then I’ve been full time for three and a half years and, and towards like my second year, Emily came to me and said I want to have the schedule that you do and kinda want to just start something. So she started the blog and then she picked it up from there. How did you start Em?

Emily : 

I mean you basically told it. Berty started out as a freelance photographer and I was just working my regular job at the time and I saw that he got to go on these really cool adventures in the middle of the week during noon on a Tuesday. And I was so frustrated that I had to sit at a desk and I was just watching him like parade around, you know, Seattle and the Pacific northwest and just take these beautiful photos and I wanted to join in. So it took a while, but we slowly dwindled my hours at my job and it wasn’t like a full cannonball into the pool of freelance life, but it was more like dipping your toes in one at a time. At least for me, it was. So I think that was a really, good transition for me. And yeah, we’ve been like that ever since.

Debbie:  

It’s really great that you were able to dwindle down your hours, Emily, because a lot of people think that in order to leave their job, they just have to quit full time and just do this. But I think that’s a really smart idea that you had because then it’s not as nerve-wracking and then you really got to see whether this was the right decision for the both of you as well.

Emily :  

Yeah, I totally agree. And I don’t know if that would be for everyone, but I’m a very, very calculated kind of person. I’m wanting to know the risks that I’m taking before I just jump in headfirst. So I was really thankful to have an employer who let me just lessen my hours little by little. So, it’s not for everybody, but honestly, it was really great for me for risk management I guess. Because as you know, in this line of work, it’s not always, um, what’s the word? Stable. So it’s nice to kind of ease in as we go.

Debbie:    

Now let’s fast forward to when you finally left your job and Berty were doing this full time now and you’re looking around and everything that you’ve dreamed of is here. You don’t have your day job anymore. Did you have that what now moment? Like what am I doing now? How do I make this work?

Berty: 

Yeah, for sure. Emily has the blog and then I still have my photography business. We can’t keep talking about, how do we create a blog that is unique than everyone else’s. And that was a constant struggle when we started. And how do we make the blog ours and what kind of clients do we want? So stuff like that is definitely something that we talk about on our morning walks. But I think we’ve found that the past year and a half or so, it’s been pretty clear what we want to do, what kind of blog we want to run. But we as a blog, we want to keep growing. So we still ask that question too. Like, okay, we’re at this point now, what should we do now?

Emily :  

Yeah. I think just to add to that too, that what now question is really important to ask because as a travel blogger specifically, I think there’s a lot of us and there’s a lot of really great blogs out there. But I think that if you’re trying to talk to everybody, you kind of get lost in the shuffle. This has been a constant thought of trying to figure out who we’re speaking to and then speak to them really well and focus on our little community. So I guess we’re always asking that question, but we’re keeping on doing what we’re doing.

Berty:   

The thing about that is, the only way to grow is to always ask.

Emily :  

Yeah, that’s true. Once you stop asking that question, you’re done.

Berty:

We never want to be complacent in where we are and I mean we’re happy to be where we are, but at the same time, it’s still like, what can we do next?

adventure blog

Debbie: 

It’s so crucial to ask that question because sometimes we feel like we’re making a little bit of money and we could slack off or we didn’t realize how hard it is, especially in the blogging industry. How do you guys find your inspiration to continue to do what you do and to find the right content for what you do that your audience will actually want to read and see from you?

Emily : 

That’s a good question. I think as a couple we are very lucky to be able to split jobs in order to work really efficiently. For example, Berty is the only one that edits our photos and I’m the only one that writes on our blog. So as a duo, we don’t have to do both of those tasks. We can kind of, cut our productivity in half the time because we’re splitting tasks. But I guess when it comes to what mediums we have figured out that our readers, it’s really just beautiful pictures paired with words. I mean, that’s been a really good combo for us. So I think we’re just going to continue to do that.

Berty: 

And what inspired me is storytelling. A lot of my friends are really great photographers and I look up to them and, I want to tell the best story with my images and Emily tell us her best story with her words. So we want to create this really quality products and that we can show it to people and give them guidance to wherever they want to go. So that’s what we kind of like really focus on is trying to get the best images and the best type of writing and guidance to people.

Debbie:  

Berty, you were a photographer and you did this for a really long time, but Emily, were you also a writer or was this something that you had to learn how to do?

Emily :   

No, I was not a writer actually. That was like my most hated topic in college. I think it’s because I discovered that in order to get a passing essay, you had to write in this really stale, structured format and that was it. So I really felt like the boundaries were really tight in college. So I just wrote to get a passing grade. But once I discovered writing outside of college and pairing it with our own stories and the things that I wanted to say, I think that really opened up a new creative door for me to be able to express myself in a way that there were no college parameters. It was literally whatever I wanted it to be. So I was happy I discovered that.

Debbie:

And there’s so much more freedom because it’s the content that you feel passionate about. But I do have to say, I hear this a lot from writers and bloggers. You do have to write certain things that you may not enjoy because you have to take income. And how do you deal with that? Because for me personally, that’s really hard and it’s easier for you to actually write things that you’re passionate about. But when it comes to things that it’s more informative base and not more of a story-wise, how do you balance that and actually have a passion for it even when it’s something that you’re not necessarily excited about?

Emily :  

We’re learning to say no to jobs that we’re not totally excited about because in the past we’ve said yes to jobs we weren’t excited about because there was a price tag attached to it. But then as we were getting into creative writing and the photos, they kind of fell flat because we weren’t passionate.

Berty:

And it’s definitely a luxury to be able to be in this point too. Because like saying no, it feels nice, but when we first started we pretty much said yes. I said yes to a lot of the things that I know does not go well with my brand or what I’m trying to accomplish. And about a year and a half ago, I was camping with my friend and then I asked him, he’s like a bigger photographer in the social media world. So I asked him how do you get all these jobs that you are stoked about, that you like. He started telling me to post the stuff that you are excited about, that you want to shoot on your Instagram. So if you want to shoot for a car company or a clothing company or this watch company or whatever post about those kinds of things. Then that’s what I did. And then slowly we were able to build a consistent amount of clients that keep coming back to us that are in that realm of what we’d like to shoot.

Debbie:   

That’s really important to learn and understand, especially if you want to get into this business, is that it may be really hard to turn down jobs in the beginning because you need the money. I mean, we all do it. We’ve done a job that we weren’t necessarily excited about, but we have to pay our bills. You know, there’s nothing wrong, but if you want to do things that you’re really passionate about, you have to learn how to get them and posting and writing about what you’re excited about. We’ll get them to come to you later on for sure.

How do you guys continue to create these relationships and also find the right partnerships? I know you talked about posting about them, but what about pitching or being in that type of relationship, what have you guys done to have this continual relationship with the people that you have worked with or someone new?

Emily :  

Yeah, one of the things that we like to do with clients is to keep the door open after the campaign is over. So whenever we’re finished with a job, we always come back with some thank you’s or a little wrap-up email and kind of leave the door open and say, hey, if you ever want to work with us again, we’re happy to continue the relationship. And another way that we like to find clients is through trade shows actually. We had the opportunity to go to the outdoor retailer this June and it was really fun to walk around, go to our favorite booths or favorite products and just introduce ourselves to the people that were working there. So that was really fun for us to meet some new faces and establish those relationships. Because once you meet in person, it feels a little bit differently than just over email. So if at all possible we’d like to try and meet people face to face.

adventure blog

Debbie:  

That’s so important is that relationship. When you are on your own now because you have this business together, I know you have each other, but sometimes you feel a little bit lonely and you don’t have coworkers anymore and you’re just in a cocoon with the two of you. Is there also a lot of times where you’re at home and you’re just working at home and you don’t see anyone for like days?

Berty:

We’re currently doing that. We’re at home, so we just got back from our trip in the Tetons in Oregon and we’ve been home for two weeks and when we’re home we find time to be with each other and trying to be with our friends at the same time because like you said, it feels kinda lonely and just cause we were just working. But we want to make sure we get the deliverables on time, the products out there to our clients. So we definitely have that when we’re just at home.

Emily :  

And actually a lot of the time I think we wouldn’t be able to write our blog posts on the road. Most of our work is at home.

Debbie:  

It’s hard to be able to do work when you’re constantly doing another job because writing and photographing are two totally different things and you can’t write and photograph at the same time and you’re doing all of these things. So it’s a huge, huge thing to be able to do and to have that time to actually sit down and concentrate on this other type of work. So you guys are definitely split in different levels in your business.

Did you guys have to save any amount of money before you set off to do this full time together?

Berty:

When we started together, I was doing full-time photography, and I was full-time corporate job. So I mean Emily made more money than I did, but I don’t exactly remember how much we had saved up. But when I became full time, I had nothing saved up cause I had just finished my internship at this church and then we had just gotten married and then I had no jobs lined up. I’m like the opposite of Emily. I’m not very calculated, I’m one of that person that just jumped right in without knowing what I’m getting myself into. I’m hoping for the best. And so that’s what I did. I became full time and then I had no job lined up. I pitched companies, like five different companies a day for about three months. And then I just went at it and then tried to build that relationship with people through Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, anything that I could use. So that’s what I did.

Emily :      

When you started your full time. We just got married so we had no money.

Berty:                          

Yeah, we had zero dollars.

Emily :     

Now thankfully I feel like I’m a pretty good saver. So, I think this was a calculated risk even though Berty, you may not think so. I think it was good that I did start out in my corporate job and then I let you establish your foundation and then once your foundation was established, I felt like I could slowly join after that. So I don’t think it was necessarily about any money saved up, but calculating risk and feeling stable. Like, when you’re walking on a river you check the rock before you step on it. If it’s wobbly, I don’t want to go there.

Berty:    

We have the necessities covered too. How much do we need per month to pay for rent, food, for the utilities, for insurance, all those things. So we had those calculated.

Emily :    

Actually, that’s true. We did write a budget and we said we must have this much money in our bank account every month to pay our bills. So it wasn’t necessarily like a nest egg, but I guess in that sense we were pretty calculated. But in my head I was like, I’m just going to go for it.

Debbie:    

Well thank God you had Emily to think of this.

Berty: 

I agree.

Debbie:    

We have to balance each other out. You need to make the money last, especially in this industry when sometimes you make a ton one month and then in another month.

Emily :  

I totally agree. Yeah, we’ve been very good about not spending. And deciding once we get a paycheck, where is this going to be split? This much goes into taxes. This much goes into our mortgage next month. Stuff like that. So we’re pretty good about holding on to money and making sure it will last us for six months to a year to hopefully pay stuff if nothing comes in.

adventure blog

Debbie:

Let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re both looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

My personal goals as a photographer, I really value images and the way I want to tell stories, I want to be telling stories that people would look back and know exactly what I’m trying to capture or I’m looking at a photo that is ageless. So I want them to see I created something that is unique, that is different than any other photographers. I mean, 50 years, that’s a long time. So, and yeah, and we always want to play the long game too. I think for me personally is just photographs that I can be proud of.

Emily : 

The beauty of the Internet is that when you’re writing a blog, I mean unless something happens that we don’t know of yet, it will be there forever. So I would love for my legacy to just be a resource for people. I would love for my blog to continue to be found and people to gain some insights or information about a location and just be able to enjoy it in their own way. So that’s what I really love about doing this now is people will email us and say, hey, I read this blog post about this road trip that you published. I did this with my family and it was so fun. I love those kinds of emails. So as long as people keep finding our resources, keep having a good time with their people, I think that’s a win for me.

Debbie:  

What are you both working on today that’s really exciting for you?

Emily : 

Today I’m working on a post for clients and it was a really fun trip in Oregon, so I’m excited cause Berty’s finishing the photos and I’m finishing the writing and my favorite part is being able to combine the two. So once I finish my blog post and he edits the photos, we get to create the posts together. So we’re doing that today.

Debbie:   

Do you guys have any last minute thoughts that you would like to share with any of us?

Berty:    

I think in this world, it’s so easy to care about what people think of you. So about a year and a half ago when I felt like I need to care less about that, where I just believe in myself and I don’t care about what my peers think of me or followers or whatever you want to call them or other people, I became more free in creating my work. So I think it’s important for people to have really expressive and free thoughts of how they should create their photographs, writing, anything they want to do in life. Try to care less about what people think of you in that sense so you can be more creative and free in anything you do. That really changed how I see everything.

Debbie:   

What about you Emily?

Emily :     

I was just thinking about this as you were talking Berty and I think that a lot of married couples working together get a bad rap. While it does have it’s challenges. I think it’s really rewarding actually. I guess my thought is it is possible to work with your spouse successfully. It takes a lot of communication and maybe a little bit more boundaries when it comes to separating work and personal life, but it’s possible and it’s kind of fun too. I don’t think I’d want to work with anybody else, so I’m thankful for that.

Debbie:    

Well, you guys have made it work so that shows you can actually do this as long as you don’t kill each other. So if our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Emily :  

You can find our blog at themandagies.com and we have our Instagram account the Mandagies but we also have our personal accounts at Berty Mandagie and at Emily Mandagie. You can also type in Mandagies on google and something will show up.

Debbie: 

Perfect. Thank you guys so much for joining me today. I’m so happy that we were able to speak.

Emily :  

Thanks for having us!

Berty:  

Thank you for having us. Debbie.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WHERE THE MANDAGIES SHARE HOW TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE WORKING ENVIRONMENT AS A COUPLE.


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Show Credits

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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