If reading is your thing, then you’ve hopefully already heard of the Bad on Paper podcast. Co-hosts Grace Atwood and Becca Freeman select a book each month and discuss it in an episode of their podcast (which comes out weekly). It’s basically a virtual book club where you get the best recommendations for fun (and sometimes serious) books to add to your To Be Read pile. The rest of the episodes each month are spent chatting with fascinating guests, catching up on what’s going on in their lives, and discussing all kinds of intriguing topics, ranging from salary negotiation skills to beauty products, forming and maintaining friendships, and beyond. They also recently announced (and dropped the first episode of) their next big project: a special supplementary series, Bad on Politics, where expert guests explain a political topic in a way that anyone can understand.
Basically, these gals are out to take over the podcast world, all while carving out a real community where listeners can connect with one another in real life, as well as online. And they’re not done yet — they both have some big plans for the future of Bad on Paper. Read on to learn about working with friends, going freelance, how blogging is changing, and what it takes to run a podcast.
You started a blog back in 2010, when blogging was first starting to gain some traction (and while you were still working a full-time job!). How has the landscape changed since then and where do you see The Stripe going in the future?
Grace: It’s really different! I feel like a lot of people abandoned their blogs where it’s stayed my primary focus. I feel really proud that I’ve continued to post to my blog every day and build a community there. I think that community is becoming so important to blogs. To succeed you need to engage with your community and also be really accessible to them. You can’t just push out content, you have to engage with your readers and provide them with value. Transparency is another big one. I think I’ve been able to be successful by being really honest. I talk about the good and bad parts of my life, I talk about the products I love — but also the ones I don’t love as much.
It’s hard to say where blogs and social media are heading, but I think it’s really important to keep things real with your audience and focus on building a community. In the early days, blogs got popular because they were more relatable than magazines. Bloggers were just regular girls with day jobs, documenting their outfits and/or lives. As advertisers caught wind, it became this much more curated, shiny thing. But now I think we’re seeing a shift back from glossy and curated to more raw and relatable which I personally like a lot more.
You’re now a freelance marketing consultant, but you previously worked at LOLA and BaubleBar (where you met Grace!). What has the transition to freelance life and self-employment been like for you and where do you see your career going in the future.
Becca: I was really nervous to go freelance, and initially thought it would only be a quick break while I re-energized and got over some burnout, but I’ve loved it way more than I had ever hoped to! It’s been a really nice perk to be able to control my schedule, and also to work on multiple clients in multiple industries, rather than just one business at a time. Most of all, though, it’s given me the flexibility we’ve needed to grow the podcast (especially when we started adding in live shows across the country earlier this year!). At this point, I think I’ll stay on the freelance side for the foreseeable future.
Last year you two teamed up to launch the Bad on Paper podcast. Congratulations! What was the process like, from deciding you wanted to do this project for real to taking the podcast on the road with live shows?
Grace: It was funny. One of my guy friends kept heckling me, telling me podcasts were the way of the future and that I needed to start one. I was overwhelmed by the idea and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I tried to think about something that my audience liked that would translate well into podcast form and that’s books. I also knew that I didn’t want to do it alone, as I think it’s harder to have a podcast with just one person. I asked Becca, who was pretty skeptical (but her New Year’s resolution was to say yes to more things!)
The live shows were a happy accident, I would say. Caroline’s reached out to us about doing a show and we were hugely flattered, but also scared. We didn’t know if anyone would actually come! So we chose a Monday night and they said if we had 60 people, they’d be happy. We had 60 friends between the two of us so figured we’d be fine. And then we sold it out! That was the impetus for doing more live shows; we had a blast and loved being on stage and getting to meet so many listeners afterward. So we did a small summer tour which went really well, and now we’re gearing up for our fall tour in October/November!
Do you have any advice about going into business or collaborating on a project with a close friend?
Grace: I would be very careful and make sure that you’ll work well together. It’s funny because I generally have a rule to not go into business or do something money-related with a friend. I’ve seen so many friendships fall apart over stuff like this. That being said, Becca and I actually worked together at BaubleBar. She ran digital marketing and I ran social media and influencer stuff. So we already knew that we worked well together and have very complementary skills.
My best advice would be that I think it’s really important that you and your friend have complementary skills and like doing different things — otherwise I think it will be really hard. For example, when we book our live shows, Becca handles all the negotiations with the venues and I work on our travel stuff and booking guests. I have a built-in audience and advertiser relationship with my blog, but Becca has relationships with ad networks through her digital marketing work. So the division of work comes pretty naturally and we aren’t arguing over who does what. We are both type 3 enneagrams too (she’s wing 4, I’m wing 2) which I think helps!
What were the biggest challenges you two had when trying to launch the podcast?
Grace: There was just so much to learn. We didn’t launch with a network and did all the editing ourselves so we had to teach ourselves a lot from how to use Libsyn (it’s pretty easy) and editing in Garageband. Honestly, none of it was very hard, but it was a lot to learn. Thank God for YouTube tutorials.
Becca: Neither of us have a background in audio, so learning how to use the equipment had a pretty steep learning curve. But we’re so glad we mastered it because now we can record at our apartments, which makes things easier for us (hello, wine and sweatpants), but also make it a more intimate and comfortable environment when we have on guests.
I think it’s really important that you and your friend have complementary skills and like doing different things — otherwise I think it will be really hard.
What’s one thing you wish you would’ve known before you started BOP?
Grace: That’s hard to say! I guess I wish we were a little more strategic in the beginning. We didn’t really think about much. And everything we’ve done so far has gotten us to where we are, but I think if we’d been more strategic in the beginning we would have grown more quickly.
Becca: Honestly, I’m kind of glad we went into it blind! We started it as a fun side project, and I think if I’d know how much work it would be I would have been intimidated. We’re still at a point where we barely pay ourselves for the podcast, but I love doing it so much and am excited by the community we’re building that it makes it worthwhile.
How do you determine which books to feature on the podcast?
Becca: We do a lot of pre-reading! But as a life-long reader, that’s one of the coolest parts of the podcast — we get advanced copies of all the upcoming books. Right now, we’re trying to figure out our fall books and are screening a ton of upcoming releases. We try to pick things that are different month to month — so if we have something heavy one month, we try to go lighter the next — but always want to find something we can have a good discussion around!
Grace: Yes, so much pre-reading! But like Becca said, it’s FUN. We’ve learned that we have to vet any book we pick as a podcast book. That probably sounds intuitive, but in the beginning, we didn’t. We just picked books that seemed exciting to us and were let down by a few of them. For a book to be featured it has to really grab us, but we also need to be able to have a lively discussion around it.
Do you have any dream podcast guests?
Becca: Eva Chen
Grace: Cindy Crawford
What’s been your favorite moment so far?
Grace: Definitely our first live show at Caroline’s. It was completely surreal!
Becca: We recently got approached by a pretty major guest, who’d read about the podcast and wanted to be a guest. We basically both died on the spot. We’re used to being the ones pitching ourselves, so this felt like a huge moment!
Your early years in your career should be spent learning, observing, and working hard. Be a sponge, do the work, and always be nice (this applies to any age). If you do that, it will be hard to fail!
It’s still new-ish, but what sorts of goals do you have for the podcast moving forward?
Becca: I want to get to a point where the podcast is about 50 percent of what I do for work! We’re seeing a lot of exciting growth, we’ve met incredible people (many of our guests have become real friends), but I’d love to have a little more balance between the work and the money so that we can continue to invest more time to make the podcast great. I’d also love to do an international live show (London? Toronto?).
Grace: I’d echo that! Right now we reinvest everything we make back into the podcast so it would be nice to get to a place where we’re earning money from it. I’m patient though, it took YEARS for the blog to make money! I’d also like for us to start selling merch. I am picturing cute, organic cotton graphic T-shirts with introverty sayings. We’re just too stretched right now to add anything else onto our plates!
I actually find that working from home makes me more motivated to make plans with friends. I always feel a little stir crazy and like I need to talk to someone after a full work from home day!
The #AmazonNightgown mania has really taken off this summer. Why were you drawn to the piece and why do you think so many people love it? What was it like to see it embraced by so many readers and followers?
Grace: Oh my god it’s crazy. It’s like… I have been blogging for 10 years and THIS is what takes off? This deeply unflattering (I say this lovingly) $30 dress!? It’s hilarious. I never thought that would happen. My friend Hitha linked to it in her 5 Smart Reads newsletter back in March and I ordered a couple. I loved it and got a ton of compliments on it but I didn’t think it was special. But a few readers started messaging me photos of them wearing it, so I made a hashtag and a highlights on my Instagram and it all just snowballed from there.
It’s been so cool to see it embraced by so many readers. And I love how happy it makes people! And honestly, in the swampy NYC heat there’s nothing better. I love wearing mine on hot days where I’m going to be taking the subway a lot and don’t want anything touching my body.
Becca: I can vouch! I have two, it’s such a comfortable outfit but still pretty cute. I love to wear mine on travel days.
What does your morning routine look like?
Becca: I try to wake up between 7:30 and 8am — even if I’m working from home — and be working by 9:30am. I’ve found that a huge key for me is giving myself downtime in the morning to “become a person.” So usually that’s time drinking coffee, scrolling Instagram, and not really doing anything productive. But not having to rush in the mornings really helps me to not start out the day already stressed.
Grace: Same as Becca. I am not a morning person, but find that I get so much more done in the mornings, being off of email and just cranking away on work before people can start asking for things!
You work from home, which, in my experience, can make leaving home a bit challenging some days. How do you make sure that you get out of the house, see your friends, and the like?
Grace: In all honesty, I’d like to get out of the house less. Is that bad? As a blogger/influencer there are events and dinners and I’m actually a pretty big introvert. It can be a lot to balance and I get really overwhelmed if I have too many plans. I have been trying to schedule less so that I can make more spontaneous plans. But I always have plans or meetings in the city so I always get dressed!
Becca: I try to have a couple of out of the house errands to do if I’m working from home all day (although the reality is that I’m also going into the city for meetings at least three days a week). For example, today I went to the grocery store and post office at noon and then dropped off my Rent the Runway returns at 4pm. That way I get away from the computer and get some steps and fresh air. But I actually find that working from home makes me more motivated to make plans with friends. I always feel a little stir crazy and like I need to talk to someone after a full work from home day!
For a book to be featured it has to really grab us, but we also need to be able to have a lively discussion around it.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old selves?
Becca: I would tell myself to be more open-minded; there are many ways to be successful (and success means different things to different people). Earlier in my career, I was hyper-focused on “what’s the next rung on the career ladder” (honestly, some days I still am… it’s a work in progress), but I also wish I spent more time asking myself “what will fulfill you and make you happy.”
Grace: I would tell myself to relax a little bit — that success will come! Work hard, put your head down, and learn from everyone around you. When I was 22 I wanted to lead; I wanted to make a difference and be in charge. But I had so much to learn! Your early years in your career should be spent learning, observing, and working hard. Be a sponge, do the work, and always be nice (this applies to any age). If you do that, it will be hard to fail!
Grace and Becca are The Everygirl…
Favorite book to recommend to strangers on the subway:
Grace: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It’s incredibly moving non-fiction that reads like fiction; chronicling the sex lives of three women over eight years.
Becca: The Idea Of You by Robinne Lee. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure, but it’s really well written and I don’t know anyone who has disliked it!
Your ideal Friday night in:
Grace: Tyrion (my cat), takeout sushi, and a good book. Phone is ideally out of site, charging in the bedroom.
Becca: Thai takeout and a great new book
Your favorite workout:
Grace: Yoga at Sky Ting, or MultiTask at Tracy Anderson
Becca: Pilates, ideally at New York Pilates, or SoulCycle
Favorite place to eat in Brooklyn:
Grace: Bozu! Such good sushi and pretty affordable too. I recently realized I can order delivery from them on Caviar which was a dangerous discovery.
Becca: Rabbithole has an amazing steak salad, a cute vibe, and is never crowded
Your all-time favorite skincare product:
Grace: The Dr. Augustinus Bader Rich Cream. Hands down the best moisturizer I’ve ever tried. I have a review of it on my blog.
Becca: Currently: Vintner’s Daughter. But I tend to play the field with skincare, so def change things up regularly.