This post was originally one of the letters I send to my newsletter every other Sunday. But it had such a nice response I thought I’d share it on my blog too. If you want to sign up to receive them, head over to Mailchimp to subscribe in accordance with GDPR laws.
Have you ever heard someones ask you to use the following statement to help you hone in on your niche:
What do you want to be known for?
I hear this all the time, and to be honest, it used to really bug me.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANNA BE KNOWN FOR OKAY!
Being nice, and good at my job? Being a good writer? Not being shit?
But this year I finally got it. I want to be known for being honest, and not following the crowd.
So I’m gonna flip it over to you. What do you want to be known for?
Hear me out.
You’re a blogger who writes about lifestyle, and you have just started dabbling in IGTV as OMG YouTube is TOO MUCH. But everyone’s doing that aren’t they?
Yeah, they are. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it too if that’s your passion. But is that your passion?
In my SEO course, and with coaching clients I often talk about WHY. Like an annoying toddler, I’ll keep asking why. Sometimes that’s to crickets and that’s okay too.
It’s a thinker!
The amazing Lola Hoad often talks about ‘finding your why’as the most important tool within your business and I’m inclined to agree. It’s the thing that pushes you on when you feel demotivated and how you distinguish yourself from the crowd too.
So how are YOU going to define your why? Simple. It’s how you want to be known. What you wanna be known for, or as.
If you’re a maker with a passion for blogging about small business perhaps your why is to help people just like you. And what you wanna be known for is for sharing your business tips and tricks in a fun and informative way.
Or maybe you have a lifestyle blog and love to write about style from the perspective of a thirty-something mama. Your ‘why’ is probably to show the world a body that you can’t see online right now. And you want to be known for pushing fashion boundaries and not dressing like a typical mum (yep, might have been thinking of Zoe de Pass for this one…..)
My why is to help bloggers who feel like I did when I started out. Confused, unworthy and totally disheartened. I want to be known as someone who shares advice honestly, and with 100% authenticity (I know, I know….that word!)
So every piece of content I create, from my blog, Instagram posts to my podcast episodes reflect this. Even when I’m a guest on other people’s podcasts.
My challenge to you today is this. What’s your why? And what do you want to be known for?
P.S. I’m there is only ONE SPOT LEFT in my How to Start a Podcast Course. It’s gonna be so much fun, because the course won’t be my usual online module setup…..it’s over two GROUP CALLS with email support too.
Both calls are in August (1st and 7/8th) and if they don’t suit you have the option to schedule in a 1:1 call with me instead. The idea is that I’ll take you through the process from start to finish and we can focus TOTALLY on your idea (everyone will get a chance to talk in the group!)
Be sure to click the button below so you don’t miss out!
Many of you will know my long and tortured history with Squarespace because of angry Tweets and rambling Instagram stories. I have been planning this post for AAAAAAGEEEES. Planning it, promising it and definitely not delivering it. Sorry.
I guess the reason for this mega procrastination is the fact I just can’t seem to gather my thoughts on whether Squarespace is better than WordPress, or vice versa. I don’t know which platform is better for blogging, and as one of the relative few in my niche who has used both I feel a weight of responsibility.
But enough time has passed and I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on blogging platforms and give you the pros and cons.
Squarespace or WordPress?
I get asked the question a lot, and I find it tricky to answer without layering on a load of bias. I also feel a bit defensive as I know people are aware of the difficulties I had when joining Squarespace and I think sometimes that means my overall opinion might be dismissed as being an anomaly.
So I wanted to make this post as factual as possible. I want to share with you what I honestly think of both platforms, not as an expert (because I’m not!) but as a blogger.
Let’s start with my background and experience with both WordPress and Squarespace. I started my blog on WordPress back in 2014 ish because that was the only platform I knew. I started on the free, hosted WordPress.com before moving to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.
To be totally honest, I did this against the recommendation of my more techy friends who all seem to hate WordPress! And I can understand why. The downsides are easy to see straight away, and there’s a steep learning curve — one riddled with obstacles and room to fudge up.
But learn I did, and although I always hated a few aspects of my blog, on the whole I felt comfortable with WordPress.
Until I became obsessed with the idea of moving to Squarespace late last year. Why? Blame podcast advertising, boredom and a desire to be a little bit different. Hardly any of my blogging friends used it so I kinda liked the idea of being a bit different.
And I was hugely swayed by the pros to using Squarespace – the fact the platform boasts award-winning customer service, superior design and is unlikely to be infiltrated by the Russians swung it for me.
The migration was NOT remotely successful. In fact, it was a monumental fuck-up. One that was never fixed.
But I got over it and moved on. Until I discovered more errors. New errors. Finally, enough was enough and a couple of days ago I decided to move back to WordPress.
I’ve never felt as relieved! This has been a costly, time-consuming and VERY stressful six months. But guess what? I gots me some EPIC blog fodder so here goes; my (balanced) opinion on Squarespace vs. WordPress.
It looks beautiful | You don’t need to be remotely techy to make your website look dreamy, and it comes with some awesome design features such as Google Fonts as standard and the ability to tweak just about everything on your site while previewing the effects.
It’s intuitive | If you are brand new to blogging, it’s a simple platform that has everything in the place you’d expect it. Want to write a post? Hit ‘text block.’ Need to add a jazzy looking image gallery? Simple. The fact you can see how your blog post will look as you compile it is great, and I love the drag and drop style functionality.
It’s secure | Because SS is closed-source (meaning you cannot access the platform backend) it’s pretty near impossible for someone to hack into your back-end (guffaws) and mess things up. WordPress is notoriously buggy and prone to hacks (I’ve even had a few attempts) due in no small part to the millions of developers making plugins who have access to the platforms inner workings.
It’s modern | It’s great for today’s blogger who might also have a podcast (you can host your podcast through Squarespace) as well as a YouTube channel (you can really easily embed video and audio blocks into your posts.)
Great customer service | Okay, this is a pro and a con because the customer service can be excellent. It can also be shite. It depends who you get, so I can’t honestly give this as a reason to use SS over WP. But the cs advisors are all human, and they always get back to you….however useless their response may be.
And now for the cons. Settle in 😉
It’s clunky | Yes, the drag and drop is great but holy crap have I cursed Jesus a few times trying to slot my image just so. It can be overly sensitive and really irritating to move things around and you can really mess up your post too. Images have dropped off the page, text blocks have disappeared through me moving things around as the platform has been designed to do.
Lack of basic blogging utilities | What world do we live in where there’s NO AUTOSAVE?! I was warned about this by the lovely Helen and Sarirah so I didn’t lose any work (this way at least) but it hasn’t stopped me thinking it’s a HUGE con. Especially as there’s no warning anywhere. So I wrote all of my blog posts in an external editor first, a pointless extra step in my opinion.
Also, can I get a ‘Hell’s NO’ to the fact you can’t easily add a nofollow link? I spent AGES trying to work this one out before using the Markdown block instead of the text block. Whereas in WordPress you can seamlessly switch between the visual and text editor within the same blog post.
You can add internal links to categories and tags but to link to a single blog post is a faff. You have to find it manually and add it in.
In terms of SEO, which SS claims to have at the forefront of the platform I’ve struggled with endless AMP errors and incorrect image tags even on things only uploaded within Squarespace. I’ve reported them endlessly but to no avail, simply being told it’s an issue ‘with many moving parts’ and one that ‘may never be fixed’.
You can’t easily edit alt-tags. In my theme, I have to add them as a caption which is super irritating although not the worst thing I guess. But for Pinterest (where the Pin description is pulled from your alt-text) AND from an accessibility point of view, I think this is a con.
Yes the customer service is award-winning, but it should be because you’ll need them to do almost everything. Squarespace can be buggy and it isn’t always intuitive. I’ve found the endless tutorials to be filled with holes I uncovered after discovering a fault, or basically f@*cking something up and having to go to cs to fix it anyway.
You are not in charge of your backups They are performed by Squarespace (when? how many times a month? I dunno) and you have no control over whether it’s done properly. If you ever want to leave SS you can obviously export your data but there’s no way of knowing how up-to-date it is. That’s an issue for me. I think the lack of ‘caching’ is why there’s no autosave too….unbearable.
When it comes to exporting your data, not everything is involved. This is not stated obviously anywhere (if at all!) and I had to push for a definitive answer from customer service who confirmed that audio and video blocks wouldn’t be included in your export. So…..if you have a podcast, and choose to host it on Squarespace? yEP. F*&ked.
Okay, let’s talk IMAGES. I mean….pretty important to a blogger right? Squarespace doesn’t host your photos like WordPress. So if you move your site from WordPress you will undoubtedly end up with image issues. They don’t tell you this before you move…..
A huge majority of websites are powered by WordPress so there’s loads of free support out there if you need it. I find that to be a huge pro, but it’s not necessarily a downside that SS has less experts…..I guess for me, it helps that bugs are easily identified and a work-around by some geeky developer is normally found swiftly!
SEO is far superior using WordPress (although SS uses SEO as a selling point for their platform) and you can tweak and manipulate things much easier. I love having the power to tweak things quickly and utilise the power of the Yoast plugin too!
Yes, it’s harder to create a beautiful looking website BUT I love the fact there are so many people making gorgeous (affordable) themes. And you can tweak ANYTHING to make it your own.
Final point on customer service? I’ve never had to use WordPress’ customer service due to the fact there is far more info out there on how to combat issues and it’s a better product.
It’s REALLY hard to lose a blog post. Because WordPress autosaves your work, you can also see the revisions and go back to an earlier version if you want. I love that functionality! I also adore being able to write my posts in HTML if I want, and then edit in the ‘visual editor.’ You can be as technical or basic as you want 🙂
It looks as though there aren’t as many pros, but basically….all the cons of Squarespace have a WordPress pro partner.
Hmmmm, well — It can be buggy, as it’s open-source which means that any plug-in you use could infect your website with a virus at any stage. That also means it’s easier to hack into your website.
Although this is unlikely.
But unlikely isn’t never so you have to take a little bit of extra care to protect your data. A few simple (free) plugins can secure your site and I used to pay £20 a year for an amazing service that stopped spam comments, hacks and monitored my website.
The learning curve is a lot steeper. WordPress isn’t as intuitive at first but after a month you’ll know it like the back of your hand.
Overall I would really, really recommend using WordPress. And I would 100% not recommend migrating from WordPress to Squarespace! But I can totally understand the draw to the sexy, design-led dream that is Squarespace and if you are a shop? Yep…..I’d probably choose it over WordPress too.
Anyhoo, I really hope that was both balanced and helpful!
Goodness, I feel like I haven’t written a blogging advice post for ages. I think that’s potentially because I haven’t.
And that’s simply because I’ve been knee deep in writing my new course, and wrapping the second season of my podcast which finished last week. But my blog? Yep, that’s been left to gather dust. Despite the fact it is the start of my story and the root of everything I’ve achieved work-wise.
I’m inclined to blame the patriarchy for this……;)
That segues nicely into the fact I’ve been back at work for about four months now after taking nine blissful months off to enjoy maternity leave. I’m privileged to have been able to do that, but if you know me you’ll have noticed that I never really stopped working.
Sure, I stopped pitching and chasing commissions for writing gigs. But what I did was quietly (okay not that quietly at all) squirrel away at my blog. I did a couple of courses, and focused heavily on what I could achieve because here’s a little bit of honesty for you: I’ve always avoided trying to become a full-time blogger in case I failed.
Phew, glad that’s off my chest.
Photo by Poike/iStock / Getty Images
So what did I get up to in my nine months of blogging experimentation? Well, I guess the bulk of it came from my the release of my weekly podcast, What She Said, which I’d been planning since late 2016.
But there was also a joy in just playing. With Instagram, with Squarespace, with networking and writing posts about whatever I wanted.
I acted as though I already was a full-time blogger, and that professionalism helped somehow.
I guess there was also an element of ‘fuck it’ because I had the comfort blanket of having a baby, being on maternity leave and not having to worry about appearing to ‘achieve’.
But at the end of this strange sort of gap year, I realised a whole lot. I set goals I never really expected to achieve and went back to work on January 9th with hella trepidation. I fully expected to just go back to journalism and spent one whole week pitching like crazy on the two days I’d allotted for Anaïs childcare knowing that every hour I didn’t get a commission I was going into negative salary for the month.
Then I chose something a bit radical. Well, it felt radical as I didn’t have a blueprint I could folllow of someone doing the exact same thing anyway…..
I paid for a whole month of full-time nursery for Anaïs and I looked back over my goals from the previous year.
I wanted to make more passive income, it said.
Less sponsored content.
And less freelance writing.
I started a podcast
Starting a podcast hasn’t just been a way for me to ‘meet’ and interview stacks of awesome bloggers. It’s been a way to connect with my audience, some of whom had never heard my voice. It’s been a way to share my opinions, have a giggle and fast-track how quickly my ‘readers’ get to know me.
Unlike my blog where comments are sparse at best, podcasting is such an intimate way to consume content (lots of people tell me they listen in the bath!) it’s a really good way to show your ‘real’ personality in a less vulnerable way than on camera. I’m pretty happy on Instagram Stories but what changed things for me, what. made me truly comfortable being seen was my podcast. The interactions I have daily, the proven influence etc etc has all given me a huge confidence boost I’m worthy of my space on the web.
And on a truly literal level each week as listeners learned amazing tips and got inspired, I did too. My guests genuinely helped me as much as they helped my listeners and there’s nothing like the power of community to spur you on to do amazing things.
I PUBLISHED MY BLOG STATS
I explained more about my Squarespace issues in a solo episode of my podcast last year but since I switched, and my stats dropped I’ve been so ashamed I didn’t want to update my media kit. But then i stopped caring, realised I’m achieving my goals regardless and freed myself up to stick with Squarespace and stop worrying aout chasing vanity metrics.
But I took it a step further when I published this post putting my money where my mouth is and showing I really am HONEST to a fault. It had a good reaction and more than anything I proved to myself I could share something I wasn’t proud of and I’d live to breathe another breath.
In all seriousness I didn’t necessarily want to publish the post at first. But when Jen Carrington and I chatted she reminded me that honesty is kinda my ‘thing’…..my niche. So I have to walk the walk! That gave me the push I needed and I’m so happy I pressed publish.
I INVESTED IN courseS
This one’s a funny one because I often hear of people saying they’ve bought stacks of courses they haven’t even started. And I agree e-courses are rife….some better than others and not all right for everyone. So I wouldn’t encourage this step as something you should add to your ‘blueprint for blogging success’ but within the chuff I invested in two courses that genuinely paid off for me.
Firstly I bought Monica Stott’s *The Blogger Course, which I’ve talked about on the podcast a few times, and I honestly didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. Yes, there are some bits I don’t feel I need to implement to be a success and some bits I initally struggled with before realising it’s okay not to do every step, but Monica explains things in such an honest way I felt totally safe in the knowledge she wasn’t asking me to do anything she hasn’t done herself.
The course covers things like affiliate marketing (which blew my mind) as well as giving me a whole new perspective on press trips. The lessons are actionable and really practical and I’d earned the course fee back a few times over before I’d finidhed the course.
The other course I can’t stop raving about is from Krista Dickson who I found when looking for tutorials about Teachable when I started writing my SEO e course. She’s a bit of a Pinterest expert and has stacks of tutorials on her blog too, but I love her for creating the BEST e course ever! *Your First Course Launch does exactly what it says on the tin. I had some experience of using Teachable but in simple, actionable videos Krista explains the difference between an evergreen and open/closed launch, sales funnels and how to give value to your students (along with pricing, branding and helping you plot out the content too)
**I genuinely loved both courses, and my raving reviews are why I’m an affiliate of both (meaning I get a commission if you buy them through my links because…..well, a girls gotta eat.)
LISTEN TO THE LATEST PODCAST EPISODE
I stopped worrying about Pinterest
This one’s pretty funny because this time last year I was convinced I’d become a Pinterest VA at some point. But realistically it’s 100% against my values to encourage people to focus on Pinterest purely to gain meaningless traffic. I do believe it’s a great way to grow your blog and especially when you have specific goals and a clear focus (see Jessica Rose Wiliams for a great example of this.)
I still recommend Pinterest as the best way to while away a blissfully happy hour, but I’m not worrying about it as a traffic growth strategy for now.
I ACCEPTED MYSELF AS I AM
This has been the biggy to be honest and I am STILL a total work in progress. But for so many years I’ve to’d and fro’d over ‘who I am’ and what my tagline is etc etc etc. I started as a beauty blogger, then a travel and beauty blogger, then a travel blogger because someone told me you ‘can’t merge those niches’ then a lifestyle blogger with no focus. And after feeling completely over it all, Monica pointed out in her Blogger Course Facebook group that I totally have a niche — my audience.
Leaning into who I am, and why people connect with me has been a game-changer. I’m not a fashion blogger and I’m not a mummy blogger or a food blogger or a travel blogger but the thing that merges everything I write about is me.
I write about my life so I guess that makes me a lifestyle blogger, if pushed, and guess what? I totally blog for other bloggers. I’ll never be able to explain my blog in one snappy little sentence but I feel so much more comfortable with myself and my blog this year than any other year.
So yeah niche, I have one. It’s me.
If you’ve ever hit a wall with your blog, I feel you. These are the best things I did to grow my blog over the years….spoiler alert, you don’t need big numbers to be a success!
I’ve been thinking about the topic of this post for a really long time. A really long time! But I’ve held off from posting about it because I felt really awkward about it and, to be honest, filled with fear about the reaction I might get.
I proclaim to be honest, and I talk a lot about being transparent on my podcast and across social media. But there’s been one niggling thing I haven’t been honest about.
To be clear, I haven’t lied about it either, I just haven’t been as open as I am about everything else in my life.
But after chatting to friends about it, and interviewing podcast guests the topic of blog stats just kept coming up. What’s a ‘good’ number? What’s a micro influencer? How many monthly views should I be getting as a new blogger?
After being asked these questions time and time again but I didn’t know how to answer. Because while I’ve been blogging a few years now, and I’ve certainly built a career from it — I don’t consider myself a full-time blogger at all.
The big stats myth
In fact, I’ve created income streams where I don’t rely on my traffic on purpose. I’ve talked about how I earn my income before and nothing’s really changed there (mostly through journalism.) But I also earn money through my courses and a small chunk of affiliate income too.
All in all, this adds up to a decent monthly income. So WHY am I so scared to share my blog stats? If they dropped to zero tomorrow or increased to 1m views a month my income would broadly speaking, stay exactly the same.
I posed the idea of radical honesty about blogging stats on my Instagram inviting others to share theirs. Unsurprisingly there were no takers. Because guess what? Nobody feels safe to share their stats.
Because there is a wall of silence among bloggers. I used to work on the agency side and I know, for a fact, people lie about their stats. We ALL know people use bots and buy followers too. And although I don’t judge them (I definitely used to though!) I do think it’s creating a toxic environment.
When ‘bigger’ bloggers discuss their stats, it’s because they know they can — if you get hundreds of thousands of followers each month, you know for a fact it’s a ‘big’ number. You will probably also know by the number of opportunities you get from brands/tourist boards etc which undoubtedly increases when your numbers grow to dizzying heights.
But if you, like me, have a business model set up around the principles of HONESTY and creating a safe, non-toxic environment for other bloggers, it’s not exactly good sense to avoid the topic of stats simply because you don’t like the number you see staring back at you.
Do you know who benefits from us staying silent? Brands and agencies do. When we keep ourselves small and lie/hide our numbers, brands can tell us our stats ‘don’t meet their requirements’ and choose not to pay us for perfectly good work.
When two bloggers go on a press trip or work with a brand and we all stay sheepishly silent about what we charged, or what our numbers are, guess who’s really calling the shots? Not us.
I’m not suggesting all brands are hideous and evil. But it makes perfect sense to me that every single brand I’ve worked with on paid and unpaid collaborations in the past year have found me through Instagram where there’s nowhere to hide. Yes, you can buy followers, but you can’t fake an image a brand gels with, or Photoshop engagement into your posts.
Chatting with my awesome pal Jen Carrington gave me a bit of clarity. She pointed out that my whole ‘thing’ is honesty, I live and breathe that online and more than simply ‘not lying’ I actively seek out ways to be vulnerable, to ‘overshare.’
So here you go gang! My CURRENT stats for you. For reals.
Ps – just in case you think I’m crap at SEO – 67% of those micro numbers came via Google 😉
Just in case you thought this would be a very sad tale about how awful it is my numbers are so rubbish, it’s not. Because guess what happened when I reviewed my various income streams that are directly related to my blog and online presence?
As my numbers dropped, my income went WAY up.
Here’s some more radical honesty for you >> In November 2017 l, my monthly views were around 30k. In January 2018, just a few short months later they’d dropped to below 10k. But through my courses, affiliate income, and sponsored posts my income had tripled (this doesn’t include a small percentage related to Instagram.)
I now earn more money from blogging than I do from journalism and that feels AWESOME. I am now the master of my own destiny even if that means my total salary has dropped a little bit to make way to make more money through my blog and courses.
Don’t believe me? Look at this snapshot of one of my Booking.com account. It shows that in November I sent over 7k referrals (from two posts) to the site, and earned about €4. But in April, I had my worst month for referrals at less than 200 yet made €50.
As you can see in this screenshot, as my referrals to Booking.com went down my income increased. Bonkers.
The moral of the story there? It’s not about HOW much you have, it’s about HOW good they are (crap sentence alert!) What I mean by that is when your audience truly connect with you, your message, and yes……fit your niche, they are far more likely to buy into the things you recommend.
Because, well, simply put – you buy those things too.
When I did The Blogger Course I raved about it endlessly. It genuinely made a HUGE difference to my blog and how I see it as a business. So Monica kindly made me an affiliate and, although I was a bit passive about pushing sales her way I still drove over $800 in sales resulting in $200 for me.
There was no hard sell needed, just sharing a new link with my Facebook group. Because guess what? The people who bought it knew I loved it. GENUINELY loved it. They trusted I wouldn’t shove a link their way just to earn some cash, which I wouldn’t.
Same goes for everything you’ll find on the blog. Booking.com? I use it (because I love how you can cancel with no fees.) Amazon? I’m on first name terms with my postie and DPD driver I get so much stuff there.
BRB, just off to sleep off this vulnerability hangover in a dark room with some gin.
Of all the questions I’m asked it’s this one I hear the most: “How did you break into journalism?” normally followed by: “Tell me how to do it too!” and I don’t know why I’ve never thought to write it all in a post, because whenever you’re planning content — literally answering a question someone’s asked you is a pretty good start right?
Actually, I know exactly why I’ve held back. Because I feel like a fraud I guess. I’ve written before about imposter syndrome, and so many people reached out after that post and said they felt exactly the same I know you’ll understand when I say I feel like a big fat fraudster.
I wrote this post way back in 2015, pre-baby and pre-podcast too. The reason I decided to reboot it for you is because I’ve written a course all about how to get your first byline as a blogger.
I’ve pored all of my knowledge, as well as recruiting industry experts to write guest lectures too and I am SO excited to share it with when I release it on the 15th May.
If you want to sign up for the course when it opens, pop your details below.
But ever since I started sharing more posts about blogging, about my journey, my tips and advice I’ve had such a brilliant response from all of you.
People have commented on here, on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram wanting to know more, to say thanks and even sharing the post. Don’t ever underestimate how much that means to me — it’s more than just a massive ego boost (which, of course, it is!), it’s a validation that I have something useful to share.
So here we go.
From small acorns….
Alternative title: from broke backpackers, slightly less broke flashpackers grow.
It’s not remotely glamorous, so don’t get too excited. While Oli and I were travelling we came home for a wedding. In that time, we were back in London with zero cash, so Oli did catering work for rich people (seriously rich people, the tips pretty much paid for our plane tickets to Bali!) and I carried on with the freelance work I’d been doing while we were away. Which was fine when we were living in a cheap country like India or Thailand…..not so fine when we were trying to live in London.
So I topped it up with temping for Office Angels (reception and admin work mainly). As it goes, non-idiots with an overpriced degree in their thirties are hot property in the admin world so I got stacks of work and was repeatedly asked back to certain places.
One of those places was Immediate Media, a publishing house home to the Radio Times, Match of The Day, Olive Magazine and….Lonely Planet Traveller. I was at reception, so had access to the entire staff database as I had the exciting job of operating the switchboard. On my last day, the security guard I’d got chatting to (and kinda took me under his wing) told me I’d always regret it if I didn’t just pick up the phone and call one of the team at Lonely Planet. So I did.
And that one call landed me a two-week placement. At the end of the two weeks, I’d made connections, learned a little of what it was like to work in a busy editorial team and got my very first byline. After another placement at Marie Claire over London Fashion Week (lots of transcription, dull as fook, no byline) I had enough experience under my belt to start pitching.
From freelancer to staff writer
Obviously, I didn’t do that at all though. Instead, I moved to Koh Tao, scrapped the idea of wearing shoes, tried to plan a wedding and worked as a social media manager (wow, smart career move Luce).
Although I continued to keep my finger in the freelance writing pie, as it were, it was only last year my bylines started to become ‘impressive.’
I landed a staff writer role on the travel desk at the Daily Express which is where I really learned how to be a ‘proper’ journalist. I had the most amazing editor, who boosted my confidence and reminded me I’m a good writer, with fab story ideas. Although I was famously pretty sketchy at headlines……she still laughs at some of the headlines I’d turn out (‘The island so beautiful your EYES will hurt’ was a classic!). It was a brilliant education and I even got nominated for an award for an article I wrote about Slovenia.
Am I a journalist?
I left when I got pregnant, as I already knew I needed to boost my freelance writing career before maternity leave (I was paid a day rate at the Express). So boost my freelance career I did, and alongside my Express bylines, I now have The Sun, Telegraph, Red and Mother & Baby to my name too. The commissioning editor at Stylist invited me for coffee, and we are still trying to find a space for one of my stories, and the Daily Mail offered me £1,000 for a story (which I turned down, because of the direction they wanted to take it in).
That was all a bit braggy, wasn’t it? Yep. The reason I’m sharing it is to tell you that if you want a banging byline too — it can be done. I did it, and I have no formal qualifications at all.
All it took, was a bit of chutzpah, a lot of hard work and a sprinkling of talent too. You wouldn’t know it from the hella typos you likely read on this blog but I’m a pretty good writer, and I am really good at coming up with good story ideas too.
There’s loads of stuff I’m not as good at, so for those things, I seek out ways to learn how to get better. Like I mentioned before, my ability to encapsulate my fab story idea into an eye-grabbing headline isn’t top-notch….but I’m getting better.
So there you have it. That’s my story and how I made the leap from blogger to full-time freelance journalist.
I know you’ll probably have questions, and if you do please just drop me an email or pop something in the comments.
It’s time for a weekly dose of Lucy losing her head, having a wobble, then an epiphany and then writing about it. Note to self: Needs snappier title.
How are you this week? How are you feeling about your numbers? How old you are, the number on the scales, the number of followers you have on Twitter, shares you get on Facebook, repins, comments on Instagram…….
If you have a blog, perhaps you track the number of page views you get each month? Maybe you track your competitor’s numbers too, so you can see where you stack up.
Maybe you’ve been tracking your income. I know I do this. I have a Monzo card with a dreamy app that shows me exactly where I’m spending my money on a nice little pie chart. Do you have this too?
The Numbers Game
Because we are all obsessed with numbers right? Whether you’re a blogger, Instagrammer, YouTuber, whatever — we are all bombarded with numbers. Regardless of whether your income relies on those numbers they’re out there attached to your profile for all to see.
And we are only human, right? I preach a LOT about knowing why you need the numbers before chasing them all the time. For most of the time I am able to objectively look at my social media and see, with clarity, that I offer value. I can see where my strengths lie, and I make a full-time income supported by these numbers so I know I don’t need to worry, I don’t need to hit any magical number for the sake of it.
BUT. But, but, but. I am only human. I have an ego, one that’s easily bruised and it’s really hard not to care that when I want to share something with my Instagram-fam I can’t just add a link to my stories and say: ‘Swipe up!’ Instead, I have to laugh about it and say – the link’s in my bio. Or use a bit.ly link. Or reply to each message individually.
So, for better or for worse numbers matter. Not all numbers, but some. And they’re different for us all.
Once a month (or, once a quarter) I check how I’m tracking to my goals vs. my competitors. It’s a trick Monica of The Travel Hack talks about in The Blogger Course and it’s great for working out missed tricks as well as seeing where you are growing in comparison to everyone else. I’ve found that even though my numbers might be smaller, I grow steadily across all of my platforms – and that’s good enough for me.
But this month, I saw a few anomalies. Some mega gains, you know? And my analytical mind loves this SO much! My old job as a merchandiser (not a visual merchandiser…) meant hours of number crunching to work out exactly why the hell we sold 25 Chanel Vitalumiere foundations in Cardiff last week instead of the usual 1. I live for this stuff.
Whereas I usually just look at things from a qualitative point of view: ‘Ooooh an amazing trip to Lisbon!’ ‘They were featured by a big account’ ‘Ahhhh someone retweeted them’…….that kind of thing, you know? This time I decided it looked so unusual I would turn to every nosy-parkers friend, SocialBlade.com. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a tool to spot fake influencers. It’s quite addictive…..
Here’s what my Instagram account looks like on Social Blade…..
You can see a small growth of +120 for the month. And about -90 followings too. Pretty average, nothing major.
But if you were looking at an account who was using sketchy tactics to grow, you might see this instead.
900+ new followers in a month about -700 unfollows in a couple of big chunks too.
And you know what? Let’s be TOTALLY real. This tactic isn’t illegal. It doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Yes, it’s super annoying beacuse it doesn’t follow our prescribed tactics of: ‘just take better pictures, do your hashtag research and spend two hours a day engaging with the community’
That works for some people. But if you need to get to a certain number to appease a brand you want to work with, or get that ‘swipe up’ or get onto that press trip, or join that agency who specified at least 15k followers, why the hell not? I get it. I don’t judge…..I honestly don’t. I just wish people would be a little more honest.
Don’t brag to me about your Instagram growth unless you’re gonna back it up with how you did it: ‘I used this amazing thing where it grew my following for me.’ Who would do that in these crazy judgemental days? There is a stigma around it, end of story.
I was tempted. SERIOUSLY tempted. I’ve done Instagram courses, I engage, take nice-enough pictures, engage ALL THE TIME, and I do my hashtag research. To no avail. Well, actually, to no ‘numbers’ avail. I have the dreamiest Instagram community and I never feel alone. Most of my blog readers, course students, mentoring clients and Facebook group crew know me through Instagram initially. Brands want to work with me, and most find me through Instagram…..but, a HUGE number would still be nice right?
Insert facepalm emoji right here.
In a moment of madness/creative genius/definitely madness/shits and giggles – I signed up for a trial of Social Drift, a tool promising to grow your Instagram following to big numbers while you sleep. I thought, YEP, this is it. I’m gonna hit the bigtime and get my swipe up and I am gonna pretend I did it authentically. And nobody will call me out, because it’s a big elephant in the room and people will avoid the topic (to my face.)
For one hot minute and then I remembered who I am and thought FUCK THIS SHIT. As if I would do that you guys!!! Instead, I pulled myself together and thought NOPE. I’m gonna finish this three day trial, document it and then write about it instead.
How it works
I signed up for a three day free trial, with limited functions, and added my Instagram account.
You need to turn off two-step authentification and tell Instagram ‘it was me’ when dodgy login attempts from Dallas, or California show up.
I set some parameters……accounts who’s followers are similar to mine (Social Drift will basically mine them…..), and how fast I’d like to grow. I actually could only choose Slow (due to the free trial) but it suggests you start with slow, working up to normal, then fast.
Within minutes, I could see I was following tens of new accounts in the live stream. Weirdly freaked out, I left and came back later vowing to ignore Instagram for a bit.
By the end of day one, I’d lost a follower and my feed was full of crap.
This pattern continues through day two and three…….
When I check in with Instagram, my feed continues to be full of unrecognisable accounts and I have to keep muting randoms on Stories too.
That’s the end. I started with 2926 followers and ended with 2927. But bloody hell, was it worth it to make sure I never wondered whether to do it again – imma stick with my small, but perfectly formed Insta-fam.