It’s easier-said-than-done: don’t hesitate.

For Brett Firdman, the road to her incredible success in lifestyle blogging proved to be a little unorthodox and slightly roundabout. Nevertheless, it’s culminated this week in reaching a milestone of Instagram 40K followers.

“It’s actually kind of a funny story because people ask me all the time, ‘how did you get into blogging?’” says Firdman, a national direct marketing consultant for the Tribune Company and voice behind Her Tasty Life, one of Chicago’s premier lifestyle and travel blogs.

“I’m constantly traveling,” is her answer. “Because my job takes me to so many different cities every week, I started to compile lists of my favorite restaurants and shops and locations in all of the various cities across the country.”

Whether traveling to Miami for the weekend or planning for a three hour layover in Philadelphia, friends-of-friends soon learned that they could call Brett ad hoc and she’d write up a travel guide.  

But there was a catch:  “I would start from scratch every time,” says Firdman. “It would take sometimes an hour and I’d think, ‘wow that really took a long time. I’ve got to find a way to put this content in a place where it can live and I can just point to it.’”

For Firdman, that place wasn’t her blog — at least not yet. She found a welcome outlet on Yelp.

By the time Yelp debuted its first iteration in 2004, Brett Firdman had long been a go-to travel guide among her network of family and friends. The next year, the word-of-mouth website added a social networking feature to its platform comprised of beta users called the Yelp Elite Squad, Brett Firdman among them.  Of its 100,000 earliest reviews, Brett logged over fifteen hundred.

Yelp was now knocking on Brett’s door, too, “hey, we’re looking to break into Boston. Got any intel?”

Naturally, she did. But ever the consummate resource, Brett quickly outgrew the flourishing site.

“I realized I wanted to write more home decor, fashion, what I was cooking in my own kitchen and Yelp doesn’t have a platform for that,” says Firdman. “I really need to build out my own single source platform and that was how the blog was born.”

Her Tasty Life turned two years old this February. In that time, Brett has developed a devoted fanbase of daily recurring visitors and a beautiful Instagram page which has opened the door to her working with major brands such as Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Macy’s, Banana Republic, and Marc Fisher, all the while maintaining her full-time consulting job.

“I’d say my favorite collaboration thus far has been the partnership I did in Tokyo in conjunction with ANA Airlines and The Imperial Hotel. I was able to explore this amazing city with all of its culture and food, and report back in the hopes that it would inspire others to do that same. Wow, I almost couldn’t believe it was real life,” she says. “To be able to go somewhere that had been on my bucket list for so long as a result of the blog was really a dream come true. It showed me just how many doors this funny little world could really open.”

To what does Brett owe her success?

One of her easier-said-than-done tricks is to let go of perfectionism.

“In my twenties, I didn’t want to put myself out there for fear of being judged. I always took a wait and see approach rather than ready aim fire,” says Firdman. “Actually, for me it was more like aim, aim, ready, aim, ready. Ok, no, don’t fire.”

Today, she says, you just have to fire. It’s an impulse that comes with age and experience.

The second trick is to put your audience first. Stay connected to your following.  Tell them, ‘I appreciate you,’ Brett recommends.  Ask yourself what more you can provide for your audience.

“When you don’t stay consistent or if you leave them hanging, it’s really doing a disservice,” says Firdman. “It’s important to take the time to say I love that you’re here. I acknowledge that you’re here and I am really doing all of this for you.”

Her next aim is to help burgeoning bloggers grow through participating in summits and panels and forums, to empower them to get a head start on their passion project.

Today, Brett Firdman joins the inaugural InstagramHer Summit to share a series of insights from exactly how to approach brands with an aim toward monetizing your following and the biggest mistake she see other bloggers repeatedly make. (To join Brett during today’s virtual summit, tune in here!)

“I really want to be able to encourage people to go for it,” says Firdman. “If this is a dream, chase it.”

The result is a beautiful cycle. Once you feel empowered to do what comes naturally to you, your audience will find and empower you. Then you pay forward, like Brett.

For a closer look at our amazing Muses community members of small businesses and influencers, check out the following features:

Colleen Patterson is the content marketing manager for Muses, the only digital growth app focused on building long­-term relationships. She’d love you to get involved.