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7 tips for becoming an online star

Merrymaker Sisters  

After meeting Carla and Emma Papas it is impossible to walk away without a smile.

The duo- better known as The Merrymaker Sisters- perfectly embody the fit, fun, happy and healthy lifestyle they promote through their hugely popular blog and social media channels.

Scratch the surface though and you will quickly realise that beneath the bubbly, almost innocent exterior are two very savvy marketing and business minds.

In only a few short years the girls have built a following of more than 40,000 on Instagram, been liked more than 20,000 times on Facebook, appeared on the cover of magazines, been featured on national television and have even collaborated with some of the world's biggest brands including Microsoft, Reebok and Fitness First.

To cap off their meteoric rise, the girls will this month launch their first hardcopy book 'Make it Merry' to their eager fan base of followers and subscribers. 

But it's not only a healthy lifestyle message that the girls have to share with the world. They are equally passionate about encouraging others to follow in their footsteps in doing that they love, not only as a hobby, but as their career.

Carla and Emma recently shared their journey so far with us, along with seven key steps for anyone aspiring to start their own entrepreneurial journey, or even their own part time blog.

#1 Do what you love

Have passion! If you have passion for your product then it won't feel like work and you'll want to keep on going

Before working on The Merrymaker Sisters full time, Carla and Emma were very much the stereotypical Canberra story.

After completing college, the girls both attended the University of Canberra before landing jobs in the public service. But after not finding their jobs fulfilling they decided to make the leap of faith and blog full time.

For Carla, her job was a constant source of frustration and a drain on her general wellbeing.

"We were in negative jobs that we absolutely hated so that's what we focused on." 

"When you create something that you are so passionate about it just doesn't feel like work at all" explained Emma, "you're living your purpose, you know that this is what you are meant to be doing."

"We wake up in the morning and jump out of bed! We are so excited to get to our to-do list because we created this and we have the power" added Carla with a smile.

For all those thinking about starting an entrepreneurial journey the girls have some very direct and to the point advice.

"Have passion! If you have passion for your product then it won't feel like work and you'll want to keep on going."

#2 Just get started

There is no right time. But there is no wrong time to start. So it's always the right time really

Taking the plunge and going out on their own wasn't a step the sisters took lightly.

"It was a huge risk" Carla explained frankly.

"But the bigger risk is looking back when you're 50 at the job that you worked and didn't like and wonder what happened to your life" added Emma. "That's a bigger risk than quitting your job and following your dreams and bliss."

They say that everyone has at least one business idea, and the girls see no excuse for not pursuing it. Especially now with the ability to reach an audience of millions online and through social media.

"Now, in this day and time there's never been more opportunity to do something that you love" said Carla.

But their important advice is to simply take the first step.

"There is no right time. But there is no wrong time to start. So it's always the right time really" said Carla in a reassuring way that any good mentor would advise their protégé who was mulling over a project.

And for those wondering if their business or blog idea is worth pursuing?

"If you've been talking about it for a few months, or talking about it for a few years then that's the biggest sign" explained Emma, "everyone else might not be doing it, but that's probably a good sign."

#3 Stay focused and keep trying

Never give up! You're going to make it work

Now working on their blog full time, the girls quickly learnt the importance of keeping focused on projects and not getting distracted by shiny new toys.

"When we first started we were all over the shop" laughed Emma, "but recently we've started focusing on the next product or project and making sure we finish it and not starting the next one.

Now our processes are looking a lot smarter, they're going to work faster and make us more efficient."

While The Merrymakers may now seem like an all conquering and well defined brand, it certainly hasn't been all smooth sailing or a clearly defined path.

In addition to their blog and social media channels the girls have also unsuccessfully turned their hands to catering and network marketing. But while these projects did not turn out to be winners, Carla stresses that small failures shouldn't be the end of a journey, in fact, they could lead you to your true passion.

"Never give up! You're going to make it work. The time will pass anyway so you may as well do something that you love."

#4 Ask questions and seek out mentors

Asking for help or advice has been one of our biggest ah-ha moments

While their studies in Public Relations and Advertising at UC gave them a solid foundation for their business, Carla and Emma have continued to learn and grow by seeking out mentors and asking for advice.

"I think asking for help or advice has been one of our biggest ah-ha moments" explained Carla, "we always tell people, just ask."

By reaching out to people online with knowledge and expertise, the sisters have been able to grow their business faster than they could have on their own through trial and error.

"We never get a no. They might ask if we can do it next week, but we've never had a no when we've asked for help."

For Emma, building a network of mentors to use as a sounding board has been crucial in the success of The Merrymakers.

"We can seek advice to see if something is a good idea. They will chat with us for half an hour on Skype to give us advice which is amazing."

Emma also gives simple advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs.

"Surround yourself with likeminded people who are going down the same path and entrepreneurial journey. You can bounce off each other, they inspire you and you inspire them."

#5 Live the brand

You are merry! You're really happy, you're the brand!

When sitting and talking to the Papas sisters it impossible not to get swept up in their enthusiasm.

Even when asked what their least favourite part of being entrepreneurs is, the girls find it impossible to come up with an answer that isn't really a positive. You know that the girls genuinely love what they do, and more importantly they live what they preach.

Carla and Emma really are the Merrymaker Sisters.

The brand is simply an extension of their own personalities, and it's this genuine connection with their audience that the sisters cite as one of the keys to their success.

"People meet us and say 'you are merry! You're really happy, you're the brand!' which is so important with online people and personalities" Emma says laughing before Carla agrees "I think that's the most important thing when you put yourself online."

#6 Collaborate with likeminded brands

In the online space if you can imagine it you can do it

For many bloggers and online entrepreneurs, monetisation of a site typically involves the sale of products, affiliate commissions or selling advertising space.

Unsurprisingly though, the girls thought outside the box and discovered another revenue source that not only would make them money, but help to build their own brand and send them travelling around the world

"Early on in our business we realised one income stream could be collaborating with brands" explained Carla "sharing their messages with our engaged audience through our channels."

But the girls haven't just worked with any brands; they have worked with some of the biggest and most well known brands on the planet.

From helping Fitness First with their relaunch, promoting Reebok's range of clothing each month, and Optus with a social media campaign, the girls are quickly building a list of clients any marketing or advertising company would be proud of.

"It's taken us to New York where brands sponsored our trip to blog around New York which was so much fun!" said Emma excitedly.

But as excited as the girls are about their collaborations, there is a definite strategy behind the companies who they choose to work with.

Emma explained that they only collaborate with companies "as long as they are aligned brands, and brands that we believe in and share similar values."

For Carla there is a simple litmus test when deciding to take up an opportunity.

"Would we share this brand if we weren't getting paid for it? If it's a yes then we feel great about working with the brand."

More and more companies, even giant multi-nationals, are realising the reach and impact of those with a strong online presence. Emma explains that this provides almost unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs.

"In the online space if you can imagine it you can do it. Brands are really open to ideas from online influencers."

#7 Spread the word and be your own biggest fan

We are big promoters of just promote yourself. Be your own biggest fan

"Right from the start we just put ourselves out there. We reached out to local media right from the start and told them 'we're amazing!'."

It may seem like an arrogant approach, but Carla and Emma credit much of their success to simply spreading the work and getting their name out to as many people as possible.

"Because of our studies we knew that media can boost your brand" explained Carla "getting seen on tv or in a newspaper or going on radio can actually boost your brand even though they might have less readership than some websites."

"It elevates your personal brand as well. More people are going to be inclined to search you if they are typical magazine readers" Emma added.

And who could argue with their approach? With almost a hundred thousand visitors to their website and cities worth of social media followers is certainly has worked for the sisters.

Carla laughs reflecting on the promotion of their very first blog post and their strategy for selling themselves to a wider audience.

"The first thing we did was share with our friends. I think we private messaged all of our Facebook friends after we wrote our first blog post.

We went directly to media. We gave them a little elevator pitch telling them what we were all about and telling them to write a story about us. I think our first front cover was City News only about six months into our journey. That's crazy!"

And Carla and Emma's final piece of advice for those developing their own online brand?

"We are big promoters of just promote yourself. Be your own biggest fan."

Words by Daniel Murphy

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