Who Turned Her Passion for
Provence into a Thriving Business
Sometimes when you say “yes” to a sudden spark of desire, it’s not because you know exactly what you’re going to get out of it. But you can trust that following your heart will open up even bigger and better opportunities than you ever thought possible.
Vicki Archer’s story is the perfect example. After falling in love with the town of Saint Rémy de Provence, Vicki and her family left Australia to create a new kind of life for themselves. Her passion for the local culture was infectious, leading her to publish two books and launch one of the most beautiful lifestyle blogs out there, vickiarcher.
We love Vicki’s unique take on French fashion and beauty, so we were curious to find out more about the woman behind the brand. Read our interview below as Vicki shares her savvy insights into growing an online business and making your dreams your reality.
Let’s start with your story. How did you become a sought-after expert on the French lifestyle?
My love affair with France started in 1999. My family and I fell in love with an abandoned fruit farm just outside of Saint Rémy de Provence. Within one week, we found it, bought it and engaged an architect to help with the restoration. It was a “coup de foudre” (a French expression for a sudden unexpected event, literally meaning “lightening bolt”). It took three years to complete the renovation of the farmhouse and create the gardens and olive groves that surround the house. We have been spending as much time as we can in Provence ever since. A publisher approached me to tell our story and the books My French Life and the sequel French Essence were the results.
What did it take for you to sign your first book deal for My French Life?
I believe it was serendipity. A great photographer friend, Carla Coulson told my story to her publisher and the rest is history. I was the writer and stylist, Carla took the photographs. The writing was a challenge as it was my first attempt since my university days but I felt so passionate about the project and so committed to our life in France that it all came together. If I had sat down, stared at an empty computer and thought “I have to write thousands of words,” I might have struggled. Instead, I imagined myself writing to a best friend and telling her how my life had changed after finding this new home and the adventures we had creating it. It worked and I don’t think I have been short of words about France ever since.
At what point did you start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur, growing a business?
The books were entirely responsible for my business today. I would never have imagined myself at the helm of a lifestyle, fashion and beauty website. If I had started out with creating vickiarcher.com today, I am sure the site would be entirely different. In the beginning, the blog developed as a way to connect with my readers. I enjoyed the immediate interaction we could have online and the sense of community my site generated. When the opportunity came for a third book I decided time would not permit me to write both my blog and a new book. The blog won. It was then that I decided to see if I could create a successful business online.
Talk to us about making the transition to online media. What has been key to growing your audience?
The transition was a huge learning curve. Six years ago blogs were an unknown quantity pretty much. Online publishing was an adventure to be navigated; there were not many successful blogs to emulate and especially those for a 40+ female market. Today it is an entirely different scene. I believe the key to growing and keeping an online audience is no different than writing. Content must be generous, honest and shared with integrity. I never have and won’t promote any ideas or products that aren’t 100% in line with my own. When I create features for brands, I tell a personal story and find the connection through my own experience. I like to think my site is like my home and I want vickiarcher.com to be welcoming for anyone who lands there for the first time. I hope it’s an online destination, a resource for all things fashion and beauty and a place people can come to share and express their love of France.
What have you learned about monetizing your following?
Monetizing an online following requires dedication. It is not a “quick” instant business. A trusting readership takes time and energy. It is important to “know” your readers and to understand where they are in their lives and what their needs are. I have attracted a like-minded group and we have so much in common as women, even though we haven’t met and we live in all parts of the world. My readers are wonderful women with so much intelligence and spirit; I learn so much from them every day. I want to enable women to be the best they can at whatever age they are and whether that means helping with fashion choices, sharing my latest beauty finds or discussing a topic that is close to my heart, that is where I find my content and gather my ideas.
What are some of the more unexpected income streams you’ve opened up in your business?
I never expected to have the opportunity to represent the brands and online destinations I do. I still cannot believe I am working in such an energized and blossoming sector. I am excited to start work every day and there are never enough hours to achieve what I would like. I am very fortunate to be considered an “influencer” and be paid for it. To do what you love every day is a gift and to find this profession later in life has been the greatest joy for me.
How has vickiarcher.com evolved over the years? What have you learned about running a content website?
It’s very different today and I suppose if I were to describe my site I would like to imagine it as an online magazine. When I think back and reflect on what I didn’t know about the online world when I started and what I know now—let’s say it was a massive learning curve. The most important element to a website like mine is a strong backend. I have learned to value the tech side of a website and those who help me with that. If the technical issues are solved then the content can be up there for all to see without any problems.
Take us behind-the-scenes of your brand. Do you have a team? What support do you count on to run your business and/or manage your life?
The brand is about my aesthetic, what I love and the way I want to live as I climb those middle years. All channels, whether social media or on the site, reflect the same feeling. I do have a team and that is one of the best parts of what I do. I work with creative people who allow my vision to become a reality. I have a visual editor and a graphic designer plus an intern or two and together we work on each feature to make sure it not only says what we want but looks the part too. We have an editorial meeting each week and plan the content out, usually we work a month in advance with ideas but we re-assess each week as moods and feelings change. I like to have an equal mix of “shopping” content and “chatty” pieces on the site. The time of year very much determines the content. Behind the scenes I have a wonderful husband who is very happy to eat the occasional take-out. Somehow the home-making side of life has slipped a little as my site has grown. My husband is so supportive and interested in what I do and that makes a big difference. I have three incredible children, grown up, who are the most encouraging and fantastic people. My family are the ones who keep me striving on.
What advice do you have for other women who want to create a meaningful career, and also live a dream lifestyle in a dream location?
Do it, don’t wait. Do not be afraid of change, taking risks and facing challenges. Creating the new and the unknown is hard and does require a strong mindset but the rewards are so amazing. I believe everything is possible, it is just about finding a way to make it happen. The one step of finding the farmhouse in Provence and saying “yes” has changed my life in ways I could never ever have imagined. Sometimes I reflect and ponder what it would have been like to stay put. I do miss the old life and the comfort that comes with the familiar. Then I recalibrate, note where I am and what I am doing and realize I would never ever change a thing. I am so grateful we jumped and I embraced the opportunities so generously shown to me. I will be forever thankful to France for stealing my heart.
Learn more about Vicki Archer visit: vickiarcher