My Time at the FunFest Blogger Summit 2015 (Including my Keynote Speech from Maternity Leave to Professional Blogger)
Wow what a whirlwind the FunFest Blogger Summit was last weekend! It was one of those feel-good inspiring events that made me leave energised, and excited (even more, if that was possible) about this beautiful world of blogging!
Xander loving Me to You’s (not so tiny) Tatty Teddy!
The first of its kind set up by the founders of Public Relations Media Agency MiPR, it ingeniously welcomed children along with their parent delegates, making for an intimate, inclusive event, I felt truly honoured to be hired to speak there.
With some of the world’s biggest toy and baby brands in the UK in attendance and an eclectic and insightful conference schedule, all held at the grand Whittlebury Hall (near Milton Keynes) in Northampton, it was the ideal venue to network, become inspired and connect with fellow bloggers, and brands.
I must say my sons, Oliver, 5 and Alexander, 3 also had the absolute time of their lives, meeting and befriending bloggers’ children, testing new toys soon to be released, and playing in the themed zones in the hotel.
Oliver loved the sand art from Bee Happy (we reviewed them when he was toddler) and the gift bags the kids took home were bursting with pieces from the brand along with lots of other toys too.
Now for more cuteness (if you can handle more that is)!
Childminders were on hand to watch the children (along with partners, including mine) so parents could relax at the conference and take in the speeches and panels including the following along with my own.
Each was utterly inspiring and offered practical, actionable advice.
Prepare To Shine – Janey Lee Grace, Radio 2 Presenter & Parenting Expert
What Brands Want From Bloggers and What Bloggers Want From Brands – Chair: Emma Bradley, Emmaand3; Natalie Trice, JustBecauseILove; Simon Ragoonanan, ManVsPink; Robert Munro, Carte Blanche
….Being a foodie I have to state too, the meals and snacks on offer were literally gourmet fare and there was tons to go around- no one went hungry and they catered for all needs and dietary requirements.
Here are lots more photos from the day.
Oliver cuddling the giant Tatty, Xander liked touching his nose. Adorable!
It was amazing seeing old friends and making new ones-
I also want to share my speech here for those who were unable to make the conference. I was rather overwhelmed by the response to it so thank you for everyone’s kind words at the event.
I must admit, I got a bit emotional at one point early on, choking back some tears when discussing the traumatic birth I had with Oliver, but Alexander lightened the mood when he strode up on stage and tried to pull my jeans down before proceeding to lick my sandals and yawn loudly.
As the wise Simon of Man Vs Pink observed, it was a definitely a manifestation of the working mother in action!
I later asked Xander if I’d bored him with my speech to which he sweetly nodded and replied that, ‘Yes Mummy, it was sooo boring’. Thanks son!
So here goes, lets hope it doesn’t bore you guys as much as it did my own offspring!
My intention is that it hopefully empowers those blogging or wanting to blog as both a hobby and a career.
I’ve highlighted the statements that mean the most to me but do hope you read it all.
Thank you for asking me to speak at FunFest, it’s an honour to be here and share my own personal journey of blogging, and how it has become a business and full time job for me, with a team of three at honestmum limited.
…For those unfamiliar with my work, I’m a professional blogger and filmmaker, running parenting and lifestyle blog Honestmum.com, and it’s younger sister style site Mummy’s Got Style-my 2 babies after my very real ones-Oliver, 5 and Alexander, nearly 3.
As with all parents, the juggle of work and family can be stressful, and at times, overwhelming, but blogging has brought about a new way of working for us all, a much-needed flexibility I’d personally not experienced before as a TV director, a sense of control over our business, brand, earnings and time.
A blog can be started instantly. All you need is a computer, some inspiration and the will to begin.
You can sit on your laptop, without any overheads, writing, connecting, and making a living.
…I set up Honestmum.com when my eldest, Oliver, was 10 months old, nearly 5 years ago, as a way to help me rediscover myself. I felt I’d lost my former identity and voice after a traumatic birth, something I’d only had the strength to blog about recently in my post Being Honest: A Traumatic Birth.
I’d endured a tough pregnancy affected by liver condition ICP which resulted in a emergency C-section, and the time that followed was undoubtedly one of the hardest of my life.
I can only really describe it as operating in survival mode, and blogging undoubtedly hugely contributed to me overcoming those bleak times, along with an understanding counsellor and a move closer to family, back home in Leeds.
At that time, Nov 2010, blogging wasn’t particularly common, not in my world anyway, so when I hit publish that very first time, it never once crossed my mind that technology and the way we use it, would move at such a fast pace, it would become my full time job one day.
Blogging has inverted the usual model of working in the media industry, or any industry for that matter, enabling us all to wear many hats and often simultaneously- and as cheesy as it sounds, be whomever we want to be.
Some of my various identities include writer, vlogger, TV presenter, business owner, model…you get the picture.
The beauty of blogging is that it is a democratic sphere too, so whereas before most relied heavily on education, contacts, heck, even nepotism in some cases to open the doors to media careers, blogging has given us all a voice, a platform. POWER (in CAPS) so I’m shouting it.
We are the protagonists in our own narratives and whereas culturally the onus was always on the famous to endorse or sell us entertainment, products, lifestyles and identities, relatable, aspirational, whimsical-now that job has fallen on us: the ‘normals’ whatever that means-you and I.
And I get it, sometimes it’s hard to feel you have anything worthwhile to say, to take your place in what feels like an overcrowded digital space but it’s your personal voice, your character, your loves, desires, point of view, that makes you unique and valid.
I must also state that as with most creative ‘scary’ pursuits, I initially refused what screenwriters like to term as ‘the call to adventure’ – to actually start a blog in the first place…
It was thanks to one of my closest friends, the film director Amancay Tapia who finally, after several months convinced me to buy a domain name and actually start writing about my life as a new mum.
To share the identity loss, the good times (the love for my child) the bad (colic, sleep deprivation, a body I didn’t recognise as my own) moves from London to Bristol then Leeds and ultimately everything I wanted to blog about within this unknown new world I found myself in, going from directing hundreds on set, to just baby and I.
As a director in a male dominated field (I was just one of 7% of female filmmakers) I’d worked incredibly hard to do well in that industry- so during that maternity leave, I craved a space, a window that would help me channel my creativity and also connect me with other parents feeling the same way as I did-a bit lonely and confused.
My blog was my outlet- a means to help me try and understand this ‘brave’ new world I’d found myself in.
After just 2 weeks advertisers started to approach me and within 4, to my great surprise, I found I was a finalist at the national BritMums in Blogging Awards in the Fresh Voice Category.
I accepted a few small campaigns before deciding not to pursue monetizing my blog at that point, I returned to directing fashion commercials when Oliver turned 1 but kept my blog going, despite the odd 5 month gap (gasp-compare that to today’s 5 posts a day some days)…. …And perhaps it is time to fast forward to today.
The last 3 years have seen me become a full time blogger with a Publicist, and a designer/IT support who keeps my blogs looking their best and an assistant helping me as my business expands.
Of course my husband Peter too is invaluable, alongside a full time job in IT he spends a lot of his ‘down time’ shooting pictures of me ‘posing’ in our garden or snapping me cooking up recipes for the blog.
Although I take a decent picture myself, his are incredibly accomplished and more so I need to be in the images a lot of the time for blog posts and campaigns.
And I couldn’t do what I do without my family, my supportive parents help me with childcare regularly and my Mum sums it up when she says we’re a team, because we really are. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am.
And how did this personal space become a business?
My career was borne thanks to the rise and influence in blogging and social media, making us all digital influencers- and I do mean ALL of us-whether you regard your blog as big or small (whatever that means because small can turn big in a matter of days and weeks) we all have targeted, niche audiences that are valued by brands, we affect our readers and friends’ choices be it entertainment to moisturisers and holidays both here and abroad.
We bloggers have worked to hone our voices, to build slick blogs, to earn from our blogs (if we choose to do so of course), we are FRANKLY the pioneers, the editors, the storytellers of our generation.
The joy of blogging/vlogging and being online, means you can share your passions and find a like-minded audience with the click of a button. It’s really that simple.
I’m grateful to have a career I LOVE that works for my young family, that doesn’t require me to be directing on set for 15 hour days. To be away from home. To miss out.
Blogging allows me to use my media background and skills as a filmmaker and magazine editor (being creative, storytelling, negotiating budgets, fees, filming, doing PR, using my knowledge of IP and legal issues and more) and it drives me to learn more, every single day, while often pushing me out of my comfort zone, never failing to stimulate me.
And it does help hugely that I have the arts background that I do, but you don’t need a media degree to succeed as so many bloggers have proved, you can learn on the job, observing others, pushing boundaries, taking courses if you wish, and going for it with style and tenacity.
Simply work out what feels fair to you fee-wise, stay away from pettiness, and always be professional.
I must also stress that although you deserve fees and high ones at that for your work, be clear, negotiate from the off with PR’s and even better, have a middle person to negotiate for you if you can, a friend or fellow blogger or an agent or publicist working on your behalf enabling you to secure the highest fees possible.
I have to add that if something feels right too, do things for the love and joy of them and to learn and gain experience, or because you need that swing in the garden, holiday, or fancy frock-it can open up new opportunities and paid work down the line.
When I reviewed the Nova Harley changing bag, unpaid, on my style blog Mummysgotstyle.com, I never thought it would lead to modelling contracts and so far, the 2nd year of working together, featuring in British Vogue and helping to build my brand doing something so fun with products I love.
Be open. Follow your heart. Help charities that interest you for no fee as I do myself.
Know it’s OK to make mistakes too, I do, regularly, just keep learning from them and growing.
Like all industries, this one is based on relationships so work on carving and nurturing those.
Send a thank you card when you’re invited to a film première or event, keep up to date with contacts. Remind them of your work and check in every month, there’s a lot of bloggers out there, don’t let yourself be forgotten.
Most recently ITV got in touch after discovering my blog and hired for me to present for Good Morning Britain, to cook on camera and share my Back to School tips, it was my dream as a child to be a presenter yet I followed a different path, after my MA I directed drama, and put on-camera pursuits to the back burner- blogging made that childhood dream come true.
You can watch the 3 1/2 minute compilation on YouTube HERE.
When I started Honest Mum, I felt all I had worked for up to that point, was now wasted, I felt low and unemployable, voiceless without direction.
As cliched at it sounds, I wish I could return to that time and give myself a hug, that lost girl at 27 who longed for hope and inspiration.
And here we are today-
Our voices, many which have risen from a place of feeling displaced and unheard, are now cared about, coveted and in huge demand by most importantly our readers and of course global brands, levelling the playing field for us parents in the workforce, empowering us to work in a way that suits us and making a difference to our own and our family’s happiness.
Now has never been a better time to blog. We mummy and daddy bloggers certainly are ‘in Vogue’ and will not be going out of style anytime soon either.
Bloggers have never been more influential, particularly parenting bloggers who has real INFLUENCE and POWER (as I discovered at the Cannes Film Festival when well known entertainment bloggers disclosed their earnings and sought my advice).
When I partner with brands, I look for originality, style along with an ethos I can get behind, companies that will resonate with my own lifestyle and my audience and make sense to my blog. I only work with brands I would use myself.
For me though, above all, it’s the love and passion for the written word and the moving image that makes me want to blog every single day. I would do it even if I didn’t earn a dime as I did at the start.
Sharing my passions in the magazine of my life: food, family, film, fashion, beauty-I want to manifest my point of view of the world, with the world, just as you do- and there’s room for all of us.
Like a print magazine, advertising simply finances me to do just that.
I thought I’d wrap up with two tips I keep reminding myself of daily-to be a hustler, baby (really) and to always KNOW YOUR WORTH: advertisers have immense budgets and you are valuable to them.
Know it, own it, harness it.
This is just the beginning folks-
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My debut book is my guide to surviving and thriving at work and at home and offers insight into how to create a digital business or return to work with confidence.
Mumboss: The Honest Mum's Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work and at Home (UK 2nd Edition)