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Olyvia Works: An Interview with Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea And Saving Grace

  |   Olyvia Works   |   22 Comments

Olyvia Works: An interview with Kirsten Thompson of


Every time I see Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea And Saving Grace pop up in my email or on my social media accounts, I am left in the best. mood. ever.


Her combination of southern charm, humility, and plain ole hard work is seriously irresistible!


And that’s why it was a no-brainer that I had to feature her on Olyvia Works. 🙂


Kirsten holds down a full-time job while also working as a Virtual Assistant, running her successful blog, and being wife + mom. (You’re already in awe of her, aren’t you? I know I am!) In today’s interview she shares:


  • Why she walked away from her blog for 6 months
  • What it was like to completely rebrand + tips to make it easier
  • How to avoid (or bounce back from) burnout
  • Tips on monetizing your blog
  • Her best blog organization strategy
  • 3 must-have blog + biz tools


Her stuff is GOOD, so I’m going to stop talking and let her take it away!


1. Kirsten, share with us the story of your blog, Sweet Tea And Saving Grace: how did you first get into blogging and how has your content evolved over the years?


Sweet Tea & Saving Grace is a rebirth, a more finely tuned brand that evolved after a lot of trial and error and patience.  I started blogging in 2010 under the blog name “One Tough Mother”, and after a couple years, finally started to see real growth and engagement.  I was regularly sharing craft projects, home decor, and organization ideas.


Honestly, I was doing everything that I saw the “big” bloggers doing, just trying to get myself to some inflated idea of success, and eventually I faced severe burnout.  I hit a proverbial wall, and, at the urging of my heart, I walked away in December 2013.  I was going through the motions, but I felt like I wasn’t being genuine.


After six months of downtime, I finally felt like I was ready to jump back in, but on my own terms.  Sweet Tea & Saving Grace is like coming home, a breath of fresh air…it’s me.  I share whatever is on my heart, whatever is in my home, and I do it in the most genuine and authentic way I know how.


I still share craft projects, home decor, and organization ideas, because those are things I love, but I’m also more open about my faith and my family, and love to share the occasional blogging tutorial.  It’s real life, it’s honest, it’s where I can say “y’all” a lot and call people “honey” and “sugar”…because that’s me, authentically Southern.


Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea & Saving Grace


2. You did a full rebrand of your blog this spring. (With a new name and all!) What was the most challenging part of that process, and what do you recommend to other bloggers who may be considering a rebrand?


For anyone on the fence about rebranding, I’ll be the first to tell you to just do it!  A blog is meant to be a genuine reflection of the blogger, so if you are in a season of life in which your blog no longer reflects that, it’s time for a fresh start.


I think a lot of people are afraid of losing followers on all of their social media platforms, but if you take your time, and keep your readers informed of the pending changes, you shouldn’t have any issues.  All of your social media networks can be rebranded without losing a single follower (yes, even Facebook!).


The most challenging part is the technical side of the rebrand - changing your domain, doing a URL redirect on your hosting site, etc.  If you are not comfortable getting your hands dirty on the back office side of your blog, hire someone to help you.  Also, reach out to your hosting provider.  I handled my rebrand myself, and at one point managed to lock myself out of my WordPress site completely.  They were easily able to get me back in and correct my error.


(By the way, I wrote a lengthy blog post about the how & why of my rebrand that you can read HERE.)


3. Recently you began freelancing as a Virtual Assistant — while holding down another job at a company for which you’ve worked nearly 10 years! Tell us more about why you decided to start going into business for yourself and where you see yourself long-term.


My full-time job is a necessity for financial reasons, but it’s not my passion.  I love to create, engage, and help others do the same, which is why I love blogging.


The virtual assistance piece is another way for me to share my passion for all things blog-related, and to connect with other bloggers.  I have been blogging for almost 5 years, and most of what I’ve learned has been self-taught.  I thought that, by offering my services as a Virtual Assistant for bloggers, I could put some of that acquired knowledge to work.


My ultimate goal is to be a full-time blogger and virtual assistant by December 2016.  I have plans to create e-courses, and possibly an e-book or two, to further share what I’ve learned.  It’s exciting to have these opportunities at my fingertips!


4. On top of everything else you do, you’re also a wife and mom! How do you avoid burnout? (Or, perhaps more realistically, how do you bounce back from it?)


Did I mention my six-month hiatus at the beginning of 2014?  😉  Burnout is real, and I think women tend to feel the pressures of trying to do it all, and be everything to everyone.  We feel guilty if we have to say “no”.


My time off from blogging was honestly the best thing I could have done for myself.  I spent a lot of that time soul-searching, and I realized that I don’t have to say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself.  A “no” from me didn’t make the world come to an end!  (Shocking, right?!!)


It’s important to know your own limits. You are the only person who knows how much you can juggle at one time, so don’t beat yourself up if you have reached that limit and you simply can’t handle anything else.  Schedule in some quality family time, and, perhaps equally important, some “me” time.


Create goals, and hold yourself accountable.  Check in on those goals regularly to make sure that what you are working so hard on is in line with where you want to go in the future.  If it isn’t, you might need to take a step back and reassess.


Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea & Saving Grace


5. You’ve worked with big names such as Disney, Kraft, Sharpie, Cool Whip, and others. What practical tips do you have for bloggers who want to attract brands and begin monetizing their blog?


The short answer:  Take your time, generate great content, and be authentic.


The longer answer:  Monetizing doesn’t happen overnight.  I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years and still don’t make a full-time income from my blog.  However, the opportunities to make money blogging are definitely out there.  While I have a love/hate relationship with sponsored posts, if that’s an income stream you would like to pursue, I would recommend posting faux-sponsored posts.


What I mean by that is, write really amazing, high quality blog posts with excellent photography about products or services you already know and love.  When you share them on social media, be sure to tag the brand.  They’ll start to take notice.


Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to a company you’d love to work with, just because you don’t think you measure up to their standards.  A well-written pitch to a brand or company, complete with your current stats (regardless of how big or small they may be), an itemized list of what they will receive by working with you, and a clear request for a specific product, service, or fee, can go a long way to getting your foot in the door.  Just be sure to follow-through on your promises, then go above and beyond to really knock their socks off.


Connect with blog networks and other bloggers, too.  Bloggers like to help other bloggers, and can be a great resource for sharing leads and contacts with companies they have partnered with themselves.


By all means, stay authentic throughout the process of monetizing.  If you wouldn’t typically write a post on XYZ brand’s product, don’t write it just because there’s money involved.


6. You run a super orderly and well-planned blog. 😉 Share with us your process of creating an editorial calendar, how you think of blog topics, how far out in advance you schedule posts, etc!


I think I inherited the organizational gene from my mom, and I’ve had an obsession with office supplies since I was a kid.  I use both a paper planner and an online planner to keep my blog and VA business organized.


I took Blog Clarity’s Content Brew e-course several months ago and loved the spreadsheet style of editorial calendar we used in the class.  I’ve tweaked it a bit to gear it more towards my own needs, but it’s amazing.  I color-code each category of blog post so I can see at-a-glance if I need to rearrange my calendar, or add a post if I haven’t shared in a specific category recently.  I also add links to any sign-up forms that may be associated with a post, such as blog hops and giveaways, and I add notes about sponsored posts.


The majority of my content is based on whatever is going on around me - if we are redecorating a space in our home, I blog about it.  If there’s something on my heart that I feel the urge to share, I blog about it.  Typically my posts are scheduled at least two weeks in advance, but the planner in me has already started working on content for 2015.  (I couldn’t resist!)


Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea & Saving Grace


7. What are your three “must-have” tools that you use to help you with your blogging and/or virtual assistance work?


I’d like to say “a big mason jar full of sweet iced tea”…because it’s the sweet nectar of life, the golden goodness that makes my little heart happy.  🙂  But, more in line with actual tools, here are my top three, in no particular order:


Google Drive - I create dozens of spreadsheets for various blog tasks, like a detailed editorial calendar, sign-up sheets for blog hops, curated collections for future round-ups, etc.  I also use this for my VA services to log my time and keep notes about each client in their individual folders.


Picmonkey - My go-to photo-editing program!  I use the paid service, and have for years.  All of my photos are edited using Picmonkey, and I also use it to create all of my graphics, from watermarks to banners, to blog buttons and logos, and everything in between.


My Erin Condren Life Planner - everything goes in there.  With three blocks per day, I can keep my personal responsibilities separate from my blog tasks and VA tasks.  I use brightly colored Sharpie pens and colorful Post-it tabs to further organize my brain.  Without it, I’d be a big ol’ jumbled mess, y’all!



Kirsten has a delightful presence on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. 🙂


And if your blogging sanity could benefit from a right-hand woman, check out her Virtual Assistance page and learn about all the tasks (from BIG to small) she does for bloggers.


What was your biggest takeaway from Kirsten’s interview? Can you relate to any of her experiences? Share with us below!



Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)





  • EEK!! I’m so excited to be here today! Thank you SO much for the awesome interview questions and featuring me here on Olyvia! You rock my socks Erika - just the sweetest! I am incredibly honored to be part of this amazing group of women you showcase here each month - thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my little Southern heart! 🙂

    • You are so very welcome, Kirsten. It is an honor to know YOU and to be inspired by all that you do. You are such a delightful part of the blogging community and I just love what you’re doing as a VA. So excited to see where the next few years take you!

  • marilyn

    I LOVE Kirsten too! Thanks for this amazing interview…I am, once again, in complete awe of Kirsten! 🙂

  • What a great feature, Erika! Love it! I love the authenticity Kirsten gives! I’m so excited for her to go full time next year. I’m routing for her! Thanks for sharing her story.

    • Thank you thank you thank you, Maya. Isn’t Kirsten’s honesty refreshing? I adore that about her. I’m so glad I was able to showcase her on here so that others could connect with + be motivated by her, too. 🙂 Thank you so much for being such a lovely, supportive entrepreneur.

    • THANK YOU MAYA!!! Your support & encouragement is HUGE! Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this - hope you find some juicy nugget of awesomeness to fold up and keep in your back pocket 😉 Have a fabulous day!

  • Julie Harris

    Wow! What an amazing interview, Erika! Kirsten is truly an inspiration woman. Your questions are so perfect! You always know what to ask to get to the creative roots of your guests. Her responses were so relatable and honest! I absolutely loved her comment: “A blog is meant to be a genuine reflection of the blogger, so if you are in a season of life in which your blog no longer reflects that, it’s time for a fresh start.” Her encouragement to embrace change and growth as well as don’t be afraid to step away for a little and get back to the basics that make you, you. And, the importance of knowing your own limits! Not taking on so much that you loose yourself and the amazing qualities that your followers have come to know and love. To always be fearlessly authentic! Really wonderful post ladies! Thank you for such an inspiring morning read!

    • Julie, thank you so much for such a sweet comment! Erika’s questions were awesome, and I’m thankful she put in the time to know me before interviewing me. It makes it so much easier to speak truth. Glad you found some inspiration in there today! You just made my day! 🙂

      • I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to speak truth, Kirsten. 🙂

    • Aww Julie. Your comments are always so beautiful and thoughtful. <3 Thank you so much for taking the time to be so encouraging. I agree, Kirsten is incredible because she's so down to earth. And I love your word, "honest." It's really so refreshing to see in this online space where so many people won't, or don't, admit the tough sides to trying to make a blog work for you.

  • I loved the suggestion to just rebrand if you’re not feeling your current/old one. We all get so bogged down in the “What if we lose followers” that it becomes no longer authentic! Kudos for the encouragement to just GO DO IT and get to rebranding! Thanks Erika for the introduction to Kirsten!

    • Thanks Naomi! You know, I think Nike was onto somethin’ 😉

    • Exactly Naomi…yes, we may very well lose some followers. But ultimately none of that matters if we’re just going through the motions and having to play pretend all the time. Blogging and running our own businesses should be what we want it to be, and sometimes that means needing to rebrand. (Though I would never recommend someone to be in a perpetual state of rebranding…which sometimes happens. lol)

      And you’re welcome!

  • Tara @ Surburble

    Fabulous interview, Kirsten! You’re such a wonderful spirit; I’m so glad you came back to blogging and even happier to know you! 🙂

  • I’ve been excited to read this interview ever since I first heard it hit blogland 3 days ago…and somehow, it got away from me. But I’m glad it did because it’s the perfect finale to a cray-zay week. Kirsten is SUCH a breath of fresh air! I’ve had the honor of being blog buddies with her for over 2 years…and we even got to meet in person in Atlanta this summer…and she really is just as warm, friendly, and genuine in real life as she is online. I can’t even begin to list the many ways she has personally encouraged me - - let alone the wealth of knowledge and inspiration she shares on her blog, across social media, and in her newsletters. But this interview is such a fantastic glimpse at what those who know Kirsten truly love about her. She is honest, empowering, and sees that glass of sweet tea as always half full. So glad she was the latest Olyvia Works feature!

    • Lauren, you bless me SO MUCH!! I know how busy this week was for you, so thank you for taking the time to visit and read this 🙂 And thank you even more for your sweet words! I love you to pieces, and love being able to encourage one another through this whole crazy blogging life we lead! XOXO

    • It means so much that you would take the time to come read, Lauren. And that is the perfect way to describe Kirsten: a breath of fresh air! I’m just a bit jealous that you were able to meet her. 😉 I COMPLETELY believe she is as wonderful IRL as she is here.

      I appreciate you, Lauren. Thanks again for commenting!

  • Such a great interview! Thanks, Kirsten, for sharing - it’s always wonderful to read about how other people are making things work! 🙂

    • Giedre, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. 🙂 Kirsten is so delightful! I was honored she agreed to come on here and share her story + tips.