A peek behind the offbeat curtain

the new offbeat hq
That's where the magic happens
I've gotten a few emails asking about the nitty gritty of Offbeat Bride, and how things are run behind the offbeat curtain, as it were. If this kind of thing is interesting to you, read on!

The Offbeat Empire (as I lovingly call it) is my full-time job, and I gotta say that after a decade of corporate servitude for companies like Microsoft and Amazon, it's fucking awesome to self-employed. I love finally having the time to focus on my own schemes instead of scheming for someone else. The Empire at this point includes Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama, and will hopefully expand to include Offbeat Home later this fall.

One of the joys/pains of being self-employed is that you get to wear a LOT of hats, and mine include:

  • Editor In Chief (All post ideas come through me, and I review and approve all content that appears on the sites)
  • Director of Ad Sales (The Empire exists thanks to advertising from offbeat businesses, and I spent a lot of time coordinating with amazing photographers, dressmakers, designers, and jewelers to help them introduce their stuff to y'all)
  • VP of Business Development (I'm constantly scheming new partnerships. I'm working on one now to try to bring y'all the vendor listings you've been asking for.)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (since I spent over a decade working in corporate marketing, so this one is second nature)
  • Web Usability Strategist (How can I get more people to explore the archives? What platform should the OBT be built on? Why don't people grab the correct URLs when they link posts? How can I fix it?)
  • Customer Service/IT (You should see the emails I get from people who can't find the search box)
  • Online Community Manager (Facebook, Twitter, OBT, Flickr, etc)
  • Etc x 500

As the flagship of the Empire, Offbeat Bride actually has a team of four of us working on the site. Y'all are familiar with Megan and Shrie who help me on the editorial side of things. But then there's my long-suffering webdev, an enigma in Virginia named J.M. Dodd. When it comes down to the nitty gritty of this website's code and keeping it actually functioning, J.M. Dodd pretty much has the keys to the whole shebang. She's sort of like the CTO of the Empire. Without the Dodd, there would be no Offbeat Bride.

In terms of editorial work, Megan's job as managing editor involves producing the bulk of the posts on the site. She and I scheme content (vegan week! geek week!) and each week she pulls Real Wedding Profiles and puts guestposts together and writes a couple posts of her own. Shrie pitches us with her hottest DIY projects and guestposts, produces a DIY post each week, and also has her ear to the ground for links and wedding newsy bits to broadcast via Facebook and Twitter. I review all the posts, and also try to crank out at least a couple myself each week, too.

As for Offbeat Mama, it's just me at this point — with lots of help from a few regular contributors and guestposters. Eventually I'm hoping it'll grow to be like Offbeat Bride, where advertising funds can make it feasible to have a managing editor … but it's not there yet, so I produce all the guestposts over there myself.

The Empire is definitely virtual. Although Shrie and I are both in Seattle, since Megan is in LA and J.M. Dodd is in Virginia, pretty much all offbeat communication happens via IM and email, with Basecamp for the larger projects. Side note: Aargh talking on the phone is hard for me. My most awkward Offbeat moments involve the rare potential advertiser who asks to actually TALK on the PHONE.

Anyway, things are super exciting with the Offbeat Empire these days. Tons of growth and development are happening here behind the curtain. Here are a few of the things in the works:

  • We'll be rolling out a complete redesign in a couple weeks. The site was originally designed in 2006 to be a little blog promoting a book. It's since become something much bigger than that, and we outgrew the current design at least a year ago. I'm beyond excited about the new look. I think you guys are going to love it!
  • Offbeat Store is going to be launching in a month or so. I'm pretty emphatic in my encouragement that y'all go indie and custom with your wedding purchases, but I recognize that not everyone shares that vision, so I'm building an online catalog of my favorite offbeat wedding shtuff. Sort of like my shoe posts, but with dresses, rings, cake toppers, etc.
  • Bringing the OBT home. I launched the OBT on Ning.com in 2007 as a way to experiment with the platform. It hasn't ever quite worked the way I hoped it would, and there's a lot of confusion around what's the OBT and what's OBB. Well, I think I'm finally going to solve the confusion by moving the OBT off of Ning and bringing it home to offbeatbride.com sometime this summer. This is a HUGE undertaking and there will be some major casualties, but ultimately it's going to make things much better.

Have I mentioned lately what an honor it is to do all this for y'all? It's really just a wonderful thing, and I'm so appreciative of all of you who've helped to make the Offbeat Empire a reality. Through my work on this site, I've met so many inspiring, asskicking, thoughtful, independent amazing people … and I know it's supposedly my job to produce the inspiration, but y'all are a massive inspiration to me every day. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

  1. And THANKS to everyone for reading it and supporting us. I love contributing and hope to contribute even more in the future. YAY OBBers!

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  2. I'd love to talk cross promotion with COMICS! We have a couple who created an AWESOME comic for us over at Girlamatic.com who are very off beat brides, and they had a rockin' wedding that's right up your alley! I'd love to share my creators' comics with your readers or do some commissioned comic work for your site and ours!
    being self employed totally rules! Thanks for sharing with us! Anytime you wanna chat possibilities, drop me a line!

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  3. This site kicks ass. It's helped me get back in touch with my *pseudo* sanity. Ha. And … if you ever need a (pro bono?) copy editor, I'd be more than happy to offer my services. Just sayin' …

    Keep up the awesomeness.

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  4. Ariel, first let me say that without OBB and OBT I would be seriously lost. Before I found you all I had was various so NOT me wedding sites to reference. I was getting so bummed that I totally didn't even want to plan anything. When I found your book late last year at the store it was the beginning of such a wonderful journey that every day I want to write you an email and say "THANK YOU". You made me feel "normal" for wanting to put Beetlejuice & Elvira on my cake, and for designing everything in the vintage/classic horror movie theme. I can not say thank you enough, really! I am really looking forward to your design changes on OBB but I must admit I'm a bit worried about the changes you are planning for OBT. I trust you though! I really do look forward to continuing the journey with the Empire no matter where you take it!

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  5. The mention of "Offbeat Home" just made me drool all over the keyboard. Gimme Gimme!!

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  6. As a new OBB-to-be, I would like to say a huge thank you… I traveled home last week to KY to scout locations for the big day and started to read your book to my mom in the car as we rode around. Well, she couldn't get enough of it. Every time I'd take a break she asked me to go on to the next chapter! It sparked many many fun and meaningful conversations and made it clear that we are all on the same page (oh my, no pun intended, seriously!) :) I could go on and on….
    So – a very heartfelt thank you. Your Empire here is making a very real difference in our (my fiance and moi) approach to putting together the day we want… I hope to share our story in a year!

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  7. I'm so looking forward to being my own boss, this desk-jockey bit has gotten old. This site has been SUCH a life saver for me. When I announced my engagement I was inundated with so much bridal crap that wasn't me. Even many searches hit dead ends rather quickly because anything with "wedding" in it brought up all kinds of foo-foo princess stuff and well, that's just not me!
    I just wish I'da thought of it first =0P

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  8. I, too, despise talking on the phone. This is literally the hardest thing for me and whenever the phone rings at work, I cringe. Which is, like, ten times per hour.

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  9. you are amazing. period. full stop.
    i love that in the midst of all this day to day stuff you do every day you even find time to post video posts answering questions while comforting your baby.

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  10. Keep up this awesome site. Can't wait for the redesign. Show all of those bureaucratic bosses of old whats what by continuing to put on this awesome site while keeping it fresh and down to earth. More power to you, you're doing a great job.

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  11. OMG! You're closing down the OBT? I don't know that I could have gotten this far in my planning without the wonderful inspiration and ideas from both OBB and the ladies on OBT. I'm really hoping that this transition will help to better guide new brides rather than just greatly limiting thier ability to exchange information and ideas.:S

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  12. I began as an Off-beat bride, now I will be an Off-beat mama in June. I <3 the Off-beat empire and everything you do. Keep up the good work.

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  13. I am not an offbeat bride or offbeat mama (actually just an offbeat college student) but absolutely love both sites! Please keep up the great work, Ariel, Megan, Shrie, and JMDodd!
    Quite excited for Offbeat Home though I don't actually have one yet…but hoping to get some great tips and inspiration nonetheless!

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  14. I am soooo excited for Offbeat Home! My boyfriend and I are preparing to make the jump to our own place in the fall and I have so many ideas and projects.

    If you every need reader contributions for Offbeat Home…

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  15. Since I'm no longer an Offbeat Bride and don't plan to ever be an Offbeat Mama, I'd love to be a part of your Offbeat Home! I've got all sorts of stuff always brewing around in my head. It doesn't hurt that I'm a designer either…;)

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  16. Woo! I can't wait for Offbeat Home. I don't have my own place (living with parents after graduating college atm…) but I'm always looking for ideas for fixing up my room that's barely changed in 6 years. Lol.

    I have to ask, where did you get that bunny painting? It is SO ADORABLE, I want one. T_T

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  17. What IS it with people not being able to find the search bar? Seriously. I get so many comments about how "I should have one," and it's right at the top of the site. Hum.

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  18. One of the reasons I'm in love with the Offbeat Empire and read OBB even after my wedding is long over and read OBM despite not yet having a child is how inspirational I find you, Ariel… I hope to work for myself someday doing something I love, and whenever I start to feel as if it will never happen, I think of you. Keep doin' what you're doin'! :)

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    • Aww jeez, thank you! I will say from experience that the risk of doing something you love is BURNING OUT. I'm hoping that I can apply my past lessons with this (editing a rave magazine, writing a celeb fashion blog) and keep myself balanced with the Offbeat Empire so that I don't get all exhausted by overworking on it because it's my passion.

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      • having willing minions – er, interns/employees – helps. ;)

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  19. Oh, ack! Change. You have threatened change. I'm allergic to change. (There's a search bar? j.k.)

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    • Yeah, I'm anticipating that there will be some low-level freaking out over the redesign in a couple weeks … not because it's not gorgeous, but because it's CHANGE! :) Hold my hand — we'll get through this together. :)

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  20. I am just an offbeat 41 yo mama. My wedding was a looooong time ago. My youngest child is 9 years old. But I love your sites and enjoy looking at the wedding porn and reading all the articles about childrearing. I have always felt like I didn't belong in the real world but the internet has shown me that I'm not alone, I just haven't found enough offbeat irl. Your empire rocks!

    Long-live OffBeat!

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    • ooooh man I hadn't even thought about the flickr pool! Oh I definitely have pics for that :)

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  21. I can't wait for Offbeat Home [not ready to be an Offbeat Mama yet!], and I hope you're going to be bringing back some OBB t-shirts to the store… I wasn't engaged when you had them, and then when I was, they were no more! Would love an 'Altar your thinking' shirt as a gift for a friend ^_^

    Looking forward to the evolution of the Offbeat Empire!

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    • Yeah, you know the problem with the shirts was that they made me into a merch bitch. Suddenly I was spending a fair amount of time doing shipping & handling, and that's just not especially interesting work for me. :/ We'll see, though!

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  22. You, your book, and this site are WIN! Seriously, as I sit reading your book, I laugh out loud and my man asks what I'm laughing about…sometimes I read parts to him but sometimes I just laugh and say "dude, I want Ariel to be my best friend!" LOL Keep up the amazing work. Can't wait for Offbeat Home!

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  23. I'm so looking forward to being my own boss, this desk-jockey bit has gotten old. This site has been SUCH a life saver for me. When I announced my engagement I was inundated with so much bridal crap that wasn't me. Even many searches hit dead ends rather quickly because anything with "wedding" in it brought up all kinds of foo-foo princess stuff and well, that's just not me!
    I just wish I'da thought of it first =0P

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  24. This is all so exciting! Mike and I are doing happy dances over dreams of offbeat home.

    Also, I HATE talking on the phone. Years of standing next to speakers at street punk shows has taken a toll on my hearing so people get pissed off when I hear them incorrectly….all the time.

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  25. Just wanted to say thank YOU, Ariel for all your hard work on OBB-T-M. They are so inspiring and wonderful and and and…. I am just so thankful they exist. I don't know how I would get through planning a wedding without OBB and OBT (and your book was great too). Gush!

    Can't wait for Offbeat Home. Maybe I can do some guest posts on tile setting or carpentry stuff.

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  26. Ariel, I LOVE OBB and OBT, looking forward to using OBM, and definately looking forward to Offbeat Home as me and FH are just a few years away from owning a home!

    I'm so glad I "found" OBB a year ago and it's helped me get in touch with who I am in terms of planning the wedding. No longer will I consider white to be the only colour of dress and flowers the only center pieces!

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  27. My husband is under the misconception that you are "rich" from your book and websites… please explain how that's not quite true. Lol

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    • HA! I'm so flattered your husband thinks so highly of the Empire's profitability! While I earn a modest middle-class salary from ad sales on Offbeat Bride, my book royalties don't amount to much. I make a little over a dollar from each book sold. Despite 200k people visiting the website each month, very few of them buy the book — only about 10k copies have sold since the book came out three years ago. You can do the math on that and see mama ain't paying her mortgage with book sales. :)

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  28. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! Good luck on everything, I can't wait to see the changes as they take place. And if you ever need an extra illustrator/graphic designer/video guru, let me know.

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  29. Thanks for the peek behind the curtain! I look forward to the launch of Offbeat home! Yay!

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  30. Thanks for the look behind the running of The Offbeat Empire, I'm pleased to be along for the ride!

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  31. LOVE This BLOG!!! Thank you!!!
    I'm doing an antique/vintage theme and love the ideas here!

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  32. I have been skimming OBB for maybe a year now and thought it had ideas to the maximum. However, I just joined OBT…wow. It's like a crazy underworld of ceaseless wedding plotting. I spent 3 hours just getting around it all. It clearly has a lot of potential but is overwhelming to me. I hope that the transition to OBB will clarify it. Go for it! What's a few major casualities??

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    • Yep, it's totally overwhelming and completely confusing, thanks to its enormity and the fact that Ning's tools just aren't quite the right fit for the community. The plan is to migrate the community to BuddyPress. And when I say "casualties," well … Ning offers NO export tools. This means that anything folks want from Ning will have to be manually copied over, which means massive content casualties cuz ain't no one going to manually copy over 12,000 members/2 years worth of stuff!

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      • Aha! Thanks for clearing that up,must admit I did get a little panicky when you said no more Ning, but I see why now. Big sigh and smiley face :)

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      • I volunteer for helping with incessant and repetitive copy-paste duties!!!

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  33. Wow, moving the OBT off Ning and onto the site sounds like a major Tech project! I'm sure we'll all stay patient this summer as it happens : D I had another idea for an addition to Offbeat Empire as well in a brainstorm the other day: Offbeat Funerals. They are as unnecessarily overpriced as weddings. I'd love to see a site that features green, inexpensive and nontraditional options for the end of life – just an idea to throw out there! Not something anyone looks forward to, unlike a wedding or baby, but it would be nice to know all the options.

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  34. I don't know what I would have done without OBB & OBT. Sooo many ideas have come from the book, website and the Tribe. Thank you Ariel for starting all of this!

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  35. Oooooooohhh excited!! If OBB and OBT were to disappear I don't know what I'd do – I've gotten so much already from it all, and made some friends too. I'm hoping I will become and OBM later on and can't wait for OBH, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!! X

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  36. Offbeat Home!! OMG!!! Just made my week! I am literally obsessed with Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama….even though I was married two years ago, and aren't planning to get preggers until a year or so. Offbeat Home would be another site I'd be checking (and spending waaaaaaaaaaay too much time on) daily!!!

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  37. YAY OFFBEAT HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

    Can't wait!!!!!!! :) x

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  38. As an addict of both OBB and OBM, I CANT WAIT for OBH!!! For years I've felt so alone, in my ideas and my dreams for life. I can't wait what you do next!

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  39. i love it when good folk succeed!

    seriously, ariel,
    this site has brought me such joy,
    and so many, many damn fine ideas,
    i'm just delighted that it's done so well!

    here's to the future!!!!

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  40. Just wanted to let you know that I think you are doing an awesome job. I love your web philosophy and really enjoy all the wonderful info you bring together for your sites. I can't get enough offbeat bride and mama and I'm not even a mama yet!

    Keep up the good work!

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  41. [delurking ON] Hi! :) I confess I'm not planning my wedding, nor do I wanna get married –at least for now, I don't think I want to– never dreamed of my wedding as a child, don't even have a significant other… but I adore your website. I don't even remember how I found the site, it was months ago, and ever since, I've been lurking around, stalking, ogling the pretty pictures. *blush*

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU, you're an inspiration, Ariel. I love your genuine style. AND I had to delurk now to comment on this: OFFBEAT HOME!!! Seriously!?!??! That's the best news ever, can't wait! :D
    [delurking OFF]

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  42. Oh, and another thing… I'm delurking again to tell you that if you're ever in need of a translator into Spanish… *hint hint* ;D

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