Talk about turning lemons into lemonade: Kate Siegel, 27, managed to turn screenshots of text messages from her mom into a viral Instagram account, called Crazy Jewish Mom.
The account, which she set up in November of 2014, now has 813,000 followers.
She also has partnerships with brands that include sponsored posts on the account that Siegel feels are a good fit for her followers; that success ultimately allowed her to quit her full-time job and land a book deal.
Her book, called “Mother Can you Not?”, chronicles her adventures with her mom, television director Kim Friedman. For the 20-somethings following Crazy Jewish Mom, the antics described in the book will seem familiar: Friedman’s extreme efforts to make sure Siegel gets into a good school, get a good job and marries well.
MarketWatch talked with Siegel and Friedman about life as a full-time social media guru:
MW: Can you just walk us through how you came up with the idea, what made you decide that it would be fun to start posting screenshots of your mom’s texts?
Siegel: I was actually at a bachelorette party when the idea came together. I’ve been screenshotting conversations with my mom for years. Some of the content of the messages she was sending me were completely insane and an ovary-centric one came in and I read it out loud and everyone around the table was just dying with laughter and thought it was so funny.
Friedman: And they were also all drunk, drinking out of penis cups.
Siegel: She loves to say that. We were not drunk, but there were, admittedly, penis cups.
MW: What was the process like for you deciding that this was going to become your full-time job and how did you feel once you quit?
Siegel: To be honest with you, it was kind of terrifying because it’s wasn’t like I had a solid opportunity lined up. I just made the decision because I wanted to write a book. I was working an insanely demanding job and I was trying to run multiple Instagram accounts from the hours of 11 p.m. to when I woke up and at the same time write a coherent book proposal and that’s something you can’t do in the middle of the night and I just decided that something had to give.
Friedman: Jillian, I just want to give you some advice: Do not take this as an inspirational story that you should follow.
MW to Friedman: What did you think when she told you that she was going to do that?
Friedman: I know that she’s always wanted to write and everything, but writing is something you do on the weekends in your spare time, like Uber drivers.
You do your job and then you write and then if what you write is successful, like a book or something, then you maybe think about quitting your “day job.” I did think it was a little foolish at that point, with nothing in sight, I don’t think that’s the time when you quit your job.
MW to Siegel: Walk me through some of your typical daily commitments and some of the steps you take before you even post a screenshot.
Siegel: It varies from day to day, especially now when I’m in hard core book mode.[But daily,] I run four Instagram accounts. [Siegel runs Crazy Jewish Mom, Crazy Your Mom, a fan account where people send in texts from their own moms, another that’s acollection of pictures of her mom’s ornery dog, as well as her personal account.] Every morning I typically wake up and just cull through that evening’s and the day’s submissions for Crazy Your Mom because that gets very time consuming if I let it get backlogged.
Friedman: Basically you’re at your computer all day.
Siegel: With posting, there are certain apps that I use and things to make sure that the content has my watermark and things like that. Sometimes people will take your content because the Internet is like the Wild West.
Friedman: I have a question to ask, how did you get people [to follow]? I still don’t understand it. I think it’s good advice and everything, but it’s not exactly newsworthy.
Siegel: First of all, you say insane things, but what people have found relatable about the account is that you nag me and are worried about very typical things that moms are concerned with. These are standard things that moms worry about. You take those concerns to a level that are completely over the top and funny.
MW to Friedman: What did you think when she said ‘I’m going to turn these texts etc. into an Instagram account’?
Friedman: She said, “Mom, are you sure? Because this is public, everything you say to me is going to be in the public eye.” That’s the one thing that I had no issue with because when you get to a certain point in life, your motto becomes: I don’t care what people think.
If I could give one thing to everyone I know — including my daughter — that is younger than me, which is probably everyone in the world now, it would be don’t care what other people think because all that people care about really are themselves and their children. If I had just realized that, I would have saved myself so much heartache.
MW: Switching gears to the book, what are you hoping people will get out of it? Can you share some of your favorite stories from it?
Siegel: I was really excited to just expand upon all of the stories and insane adventures that we get into. For example, that time when my mother forced me and my dad to steal a cat from the pound.
One story that I think is really funny that is more in keeping with what you get on the account, is this story that I wrote called “Rabbi Hunting,” about a time when I was single when my mom both physically and Internet-stalked a Rabbi at college to try and force him to set me up with a guy. [To Friedman] So that was kind of an insane thing that you did.
Friedman: Excuse me, how insane was it? Where did you meet your current boyfriend? [Siegel admits her mom had a hand in it.]
Friedman: There are some things I wish were not in the book that she put in.
Siegel: The statute of limitations has expired on all of those things.
MW: What are some of the things or just one thing that you wish wasn’t in there?
Friedman: First of all, writing porn, which I did do, although you know what? I don’t care. I made an honest living when I wrote porn. I had no money when I got to L.A.
[Another thing Siegel could have left out is Friedman’s anti-war activism, she says.] I don’t think she quite understands that in my generation we all protested very much, so it wasn’t that big of a deal getting tear-gassed or getting arrested at the Pentagon. [The book discusses Friedman’s anti-war activism in the 1960s].
Siegel: I didn’t write it as if it was a big deal per se, I just wrote about it and wrote about those experiences.
Friedman: It was funny when these revelations came out [while Siegel was putting the book together] and she was like, “Wait, you did, what?”
MW: We always like to ask people about their biggest money mistake. So what was yours?
Friedman: Can I say something first? Kate’s biggest mistake is that she went to Princeton and didn’t go work for an investment banking company.
Siegel: Do you have one that you actually want to say, Mom?
Friedman: Yes I do, I should have bought more Disney stock. I was buying Disney ( DIS, -0.11% ) stock when nobody was buying Disney stock. I should have bought more and more.
Also, I had an apartment on West End Avenue and when I was about to buy a house in L.A., I sold the apartment. That was the other big money mistake I made. Aaron Spelling told me that I shouldn’t. He said never sell real estate in L.A., New York, Paris and London.
Siegel: I don’t have enough money and I haven’t had enough money to make what you would call a money mistake. I think that biggest mistake I was making when all of this began is that I was looking to other people to advise me on all of this stuff—that is not to say that mentorship and having people to talk to who have been down the road that you’ve been down before isn’t incredibly valuable, because it is. But I think it’s also important to trust your instincts if you’re doing something and it’s going well.
Friedman: Also, you’re in a pioneering industry, you’re not in an industry that has rules yet. It changes all the time from Snapchat to Instagram to all that stuff, so I think that’s true. But I still say you went to Princeton, you could have gone to work at McKinsey, Morgan Stanley—that could have been a mistake, we’ll see.
Can I tell you what I learned from Kate’s adventure? When I was young I had this great spirit of adventure. You lose a little bit of that as you get older. You get more careful. I’ve been so inspired by what Kate’s been doing that I want to start doing stuff on the Internet. I’m just going to start getting my actor friends together, I’m just going to start throwing up shows on the Internet.
This article originally appeared on Marketwatch.