Friday, 29 December 2017

Tell me why...

I’m often asked three things about blogging. Why do I blog? Do I make money from it? How do I fit it in?

Why did I start?

I set up my blog while I was pregnant with Honey. At that point, I’d never used Instagram so didn’t follow anyone else’s blog religiously but saw a few posts from big bloggers pop up on Facebook occasionally, so was well aware of the Mum blog concept.

When Honey was born, I used the blog as a way to share photos of the people Honey had met without totally boring all my Facebook friends and I began to write about all the fun activities we started joining in with. I envisaged my blog as a diary for Honey and I to look back on and to use as a stimulus for conversations about ‘when I was a baby’. I was also generously given a LOT of clothes for Honey while I was pregnant and I also bought a fair few, so I thought the blog would be a fun way to record the fun we had putting outfits together for her!

After a few posts, I began to get messages asking which changing bag or buggy I had chosen and wondering if I was pleased with my choice, so I created a new page called Mummy Likes... and wrote mini reviews of my favourite baby equipment. Similarly, when I featured past season clothing and referred to it as preloved or wrote about the second hand bargains we were loving, a few people messaged to ask where I’d got hold of the items so I added Honey shares... to the site.

Since then, I’ve written about lots of our adventures, from days out and holidays to courses and classes we have attended. I generally have a pretty positive outlook on life and strive to maintain that on my blog, there isn’t much I have to rant or moan about and the very few times we’ve had a bad day out or class experience, I’ve felt no motivation to write about it!

Motivation is crucial to me, I never want to feel like I have to blog. I’ve enjoyed the learning curve so far and still have A LOT to learn (I really need to master the mobile view of my blog as unless you click ‘desktop view’ it can get a bit jumbled on a mobile) but that’s part of the fun!

I’ve met some amazing people through blogging. In the early days, it was rare but wonderful to meet people who had read my blog and now thanks to Instagram, it’s not as rare, but still just as wonderful! I love it when people tell me they’ve tried a class or purchased something they’ve seen on my blog and also when people suggest new things for us to try!

Do I make money from it?

In terms of money, I have never been paid for a post but I have been lucky enough to receive some great products which I get to keep in exchange for an honest review. This first happened completely by accident, when a local Mum boss gifted me some of her amazing Nom Nom Kids reusable pouches as a thank you for showing support as she started her business. I’d bought some from a local stockist and had found them really useful so I mentioned them on Twitter (which was brand new to me back then, as i'd only really ever been on Facebook) and shared some of her Facebook posts, as well as purchasing more pouches for pregnant friends! 

Slowly but surely, I discovered more about how to promote my posts so that people (other than my poor family who I emailed all my early posts to) would see them and with that, came an offer to join a review panel. Once I’d completed my first review and had a positive response, I actively sought to join other panels and have had some super opportunities from them. Highlights include being gifted all the paint and equipment to redecorate our stairway, by Valspar, being treated to a take away from Deliveroo and most recently, having a complimentary salon experience at the very swanky Stuart Holmes Salon.

As well as writing for my own blog, over the last year or so, I have also been invited to write posts for other people like the Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show and Cheltenham Maman. This is always an honour and a responsibility as it means someone else rates my ‘voice’ enough to share on their social media channels! 

These days, my Instagram account is as important to me as my blog as it’s a great way to share posts and link up with the brands I review. It has also led us to become brand ambassadors for some wonderful companies, which often involves being gifted products or services in exchange for regular posts in support of the company. I am careful only to apply for ambassador opportunities where we have had positive experiences with the brand and where I can see how I can incorporate them into my blog and Instagram feed.

I was recently approached by an international company asking whether I’d like to collaborate with them on an Instagram post which felt amazing (after I’d worked out that it wasn’t a scam). Getting to choose a beautiful item of clothing for Ace, as a gift from them, was so exciting, but the pressure to get the photo they asked for right was real (hats off to all photographers, I think I’d definitely develop the stress gene if I had your job)!

So while I’m not counting the cash, I have been incredibly fortunate and have been able to try things and provide things for my family that we would not have had if it weren’t for my blog. Having said all that, you definitely can make money from blogging, but just like any other job, it's hard work! If you want to make blogging your job, make sure you're following Pink Pear Bear and Emma and 3, both of whom are super successful, local bloggers who share their advice and experiences regularly and willingly. Emma has even co-written a book called 'Blogging Your Way To Riches' which you should definitely get hold of if you want some tips!

How do I fit it in?

I fit blogging in around everything else. Unless I have a deadline, I rarely blog or use social media on my work days (unless it’s a scheduled post) but on other days, I blog, check out stats, use social media or cull photographs during nap time or after the kids are in bed. Ace is a much earlier riser than Honey so I often prepare posts on my phone while we wait for Honey to get up (CBeebies babysits, in fact right now, Ace is lying in bed next to me watching Bing as I type). 

Will I keep blogging as the children get older? I don’t know! I’ll blog for as long as I enjoy it and have somethings to say! Maybe one day, I’ll take the leap into getting paid but for now I’m having fun and learning lots and that’s all I wished for.

Honey and Mummy wear... Biker jackets by Primark (Mummy) and Zara (Honey)

Monday, 18 December 2017

I'm pretty sure I've finished Christmas shopping now. I have this evening earmarked to finish wrapping everything, apart from the kids presents as my husband and I always do that together on Christmas Eve. Having said that, I do need to check whether I've got enough stocking fillers to, well, fill the stockings! If you still have a few presents to buy, here are my top, last minute picks!

Last minute toy...

Last Christmas, the Fisher Price Beat Bo was a huge hit in this house! It appealed to me because at that point, Ace was crawling, cruising and pushing a walker along and I'd heard that the Beat Bo was great for encouraging independent standing and subsequently walking. Although it was on Ace's Christmas list, at first, it was Honey who loved it most. The brightly coloured robot has dozens of games, songs and tunes to sing and dance along to and you can even record your own song or message for Beat Bo to play back to you. If I'm ever asked to recommend a toy, I usually say this one as it appeals to a wide age range and is really good fun! As I write this, Smyths in Cheltenham have 5 left in stock!

Last minute stocking filler...

Children (and adults) of all ages will appreciate finding some Nom Nom Kids reusable pouches or snack bags in their stocking! Honey and Ace love having yoghurt, smoothies and porridge in their pouches, amongst other things and the possibilities for the snacks bags are endless too. As well as snacks, they're also great for storing leftovers and pre prepared garnishes. Tomorrow is the last day to order to make sure your items arrive before Christmas!

Last minute voucher...

Have you seen the gorgeous handprints gifted to us earlier this year by Babyprints Cheltenham? The print taking process is quick and non invasive for little ones, then the intricate work begins once your print is dry. Victoria turns your print into a work of art and frames it ready for you to collect. Drop Victoria an email or message her via social media and she can arrange a voucher for your loved one so they can pop along for the full Babyprints experience in the new year! It's too late to collect your voucher now, but what a fabulous IOU to be given!

The Camomile Rooms also offer gorgeous gift voucher bundles, we can highly recommend the Indian Head massage, full body massage and reflexology (we totally credit the latter for Ace's prompt arrival) so pop in and see them if you're in town!

Last minute cash in a card...

Why not suggest that your loved one treats themselves in 2018? If you're treating a grown up, we can highly recommend suggesting they spend it on a massage or facial at home with Tasha from The Hideout (read a review I wrote for The Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show earlier this year). If the money is for a little one, perhaps they might like to put it towards a term of their favourite class! We love Miniature Music (you'll be reading more about them on the blog next year) and Tatty Bumpkin (who have a swanky new premises). If you're gifting some money to a new or expectant Mum, send them over to Kito Baby and Vija Design UK so they can put it towards their favourite teething necklace or skin to skin top when these fabulous businesses reopen in the new year!

Good luck and happy shopping! We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and an incredibly Happy New Year!

Honey and Ace wear... Matching Christmas Jumpers by Florence and Fred @ Tesco

What a waste...

It was Anne-Marie Bonneau (aka Zero Waste Chef ) who wrote "we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need ...