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How Blogtacular 2015 changed everything and why I’m going back…

A couple of days ago I booked a ticket for Blogtacular 2018. It’s taken me a while to realise it, but attending Blogtacular in 2015 turned out to be a pivotal event in my recent working life. Three out of four of the clients I work with regularly came about as a result of advice or contacts I made at Blogtacular two years ago and that one day in London even lead to my parents buying a house!

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#ForThrillsNotBills – Flagging up authentic voices

Today I want to start something new for my blogging and perhaps in other people’s too. Over the last few years I have grown slightly uncomfortable with the growing commercialisation of blogging, it’s gone from being a community with authenticity to what feels like just another ad space and I’m not always sure we know when bloggers are doing things as collaborations or for real.

thrillsnotbills

On social media bloggers are now legally obliged to add hashtags and disclaimers to their posts when money has exchanged hands, yet that doesn’t feel like enough. I think we have reached a place where when any influencer recommends or shows us something, we are never quite sure if they are being incentivised to do so.

I often hear bloggers reject the opportunity to work with brands because what they are offering “won’t pay the bills” and so the hashtag I have chosen is in part a reflection of that.

I fully expect this concept to scare some people. Sticking my neck out and saying I will promote things I believe in for nothing sounds like I’m shooting myself in the foot a bit, but there is room for paid collaborations and genuine free praise. I think that having space to promote what we believe in (sustainability, great design and good food in my case) makes our own voice more authentic and will help us build our audience’s trust. Many bloggers support causes and products for free already, I’m just saying we should shout about it when we do.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be ceasing commercial collaborations. Sometimes a brand requires something that demands a chunk of my time which it’s right to charge for and I will continue to cherry pick opportunities with those products and brands I love and disclaim accordingly, but if I want to talk about something I love with no incentive, I’m going to flag that up too and I’m going to show you how I spend my free time.

So what do you think? Are you interested in joining me by tagging the things you do #ForThrillsNotBills on social media? If so next time you have a great day out, a wonderful meal, a fabulous haircut or you find a product you love with no cash or product incentive feel free to support the business involved and use the hashtag #ForThrillsNotBills.

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10 years of blogging.. Yeah and?

10 years of blogging.. Yeah and?

by Clare Mansell

10 years ago today I published my first blog post. Over the last month I have been weighing up how to mark this milestone, swaying between the obligation to do something significant to mark it (as nearly everyone does these days) or to ignore it entirely.

The truth is that my 10 year blogiversiary is significant to no one but me. My content has changed radically since I started a travel journal in 2006 and very few of my original readers are still on board. I’m also reading very few of the blogs I read back then too, it’s not that the authors did anything “wrong” it’s just that my life and tastes have changed, as they do for all of us.

10yearsofblogging

The blogging world I stepped into in the noughties is very different from the one I am a part of now. For my first seven years I didn’t do a single collaboration and barely touched social media. I followed advice to keep pictures small, because a significant chunk of the world were still on dial-up connections and I made terrible strategic decisions like changing my web address when we moved location every two years.

Last year rather later than most, I decided to embrace the growing commercialisation of blogging by going “pro.” I attended three blogging conferences in 4 months, I joined every blogging Facebook group I could find and I dived in to the nonsensical world of ‘like for like,’ ‘comment for comment.’ Some of it was empowering, most of it was bewildering.

The more I immersed myself in the seemingly bottomless pit of the business side of blogging, while trying to execute every piece of advice I had been given, the less time I had to live my life and create the content that had originally been interesting. My creative output dwindled and the constant and repetitive Facebook discussions about Moz updates, Tots ranks and statistics began to numb my brain.

As I delved deeper I read more about he extraordinary lengths that some bloggers go to to be “pro” and the almost endless list of weekly tasks they feel obliged to do to keep themselves high up in the rankings. I looked at my own ok statistics, the small amount of time I spent doing an average of three posts a week and I wondered what more I really wanted from blogging? Very little it turned out, so I stepped back..

It’s not that my year going “pro” didn’t prove to be successful, but rather that I was doing it because I felt I should, without any really idea of what the end goal was. I earned a little more money for a lot more hours, the opportunites got better, but they also didn’t tail off when I halved my efforts six months later.

These days I’ve stepped away slightly from the competitive business side of blogging. I follow only what I love, not what I feel obliged to follow. My Instagram list is largely photographers and not bloggers (which inspires me, but probably isn’t great tactically) and my Bloglovin account is a small but well curated list so I can actually focus on reading the content I like. There are lots of bloggers out there I admire and respect, but I can’t read it all.

I focus on quality over quantity and only publish when I have something to say or an image to share. Almost always I write more posts than I plan every week, because instead of worrying about my DA score or struggling to fill my editorial calendar, I am sewing, taking photos or trying creative ideas which feed back into what I share with you.

So what have I learned in a decade of blogging? I’ve learned that it’s a wonderful invigorating world that stretches your skills and provides great opportunities, but that I believe you have to do it on your own terms. When you become totally immersed in anything it can be hard to breathe.

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Snowing Indoors, You Baby Me Mummy, Mrs T Plus Three and Maybush Studio at Britmums Live 2015

Two weekends and two very different blog conferences, one for the creative bloggers and another for the parent bloggers.

I’ve been aware of Britmums Live for about four years, but I never thought it was my kind of thing until last year, when I felt a pang of regret as I watched the tweets from those who attended. Even having finally made the leap to attend, I doubted my decision and headed for London with a truck load of prejudices about an event which was primarily aimed at Mummy Bloggers (oh that dreaded phrase!) There were going to be too many people, too many babies, too many buggies and too many bloggers younger than me.

But oh how very wrong I was. From the moment I arrived at the Brewery On Friday, I was enveloped in warmth, acceptance, support and encouragement. There was none of the tepid arm’s length mingling that I had grown used to at Blogtacular; at Britmums it was full-on bear hugs and unabashed enthusiasm.

Me and a bunch of fantastic bloggers and friends. What a wonderful weekend at #BritMumslive

A photo posted by Em Rathbone (@snowingindoors) on

I was hugely lucky to have hooked up with the brilliant Em from Snowing Indoors before the conference and she introduced me to a collection of wonderful bloggers who until this weekend had only existed as distant digital figures.

The talks were inspiring but where their tight schedule had been central to everything at Blogtacular, here they existed to compliment the mingling, tea drinking and cake eating that took place for the bulk of the weekend. I never felt under pressure to hurry off to an allotted room at an allotted time, but I learnt loads and still got to have great conversations with the people I had traveled so far to meet.

I was prepared for a few cold shoulders, blank looks or half-hearted ‘hellos’, but as I worked my way down the list of those I hoped to meet (yes, I really had a list) everyone dived into conversation like we were old friends and if they hoped I’d go away, I was too thick-skinned to notice.

Was great to finally meet and chat to the awesome @maybushstudio. Go follow for fab photography! #britmumslive A photo posted by My Two Mums (@mytwomums) on

The lovely Laura from Side Street Style was also there (she who I so bravely introduced myself to last weekend) and we all nearly exploded from our seats when she collected the Bibs award for style,  taking to the stage with Baby G strapped to her chest (if that isn’t awesome style my friends, then what is?)

Pre-conference there had been a frenzy of Facebook posts about what people were wearing which was enough to unnerve the most confident of dresser. In the end I chose an Isabella Oliver maxi dress from the Friday, teamed with an ancient Miss Selfridge waterfall cardigan (found lurking in the depths of my wardrobe) and on the Saturday an equally old black Seraphine maternity dress with last summer’s saltwater sandles. Both dresses were fantastically comfortable and the maxi dress even attracted compliments from a couple of complete strangers (worth going to London just for that I’d say!) But the real triumph in the fashion stakes was my bright red lipstick which I found the confidence to wear amongst my new blogging pals on the Saturday.

Of the talks I attended, particular mention must go to Judith Lewis of decabbit.com who did a funny, punchy, inspiring talk on SEO and dealt with crying babies in the room in the the warmest and most welcoming way I have seen. The Google+ talk was also useful though it will probably take me about a month to digest what we were told and longer still to put it into practice.

I also went along to a vlogging session with Mario from Youtube who said encouraging things about the growing demand for content for an older audience produced by an older vlogger.

Loving #britmumslive so far, meeting so many awesome ladies.

A photo posted by Clare Mansell (@maybushstudio) on

I’m not the kind of person who is usually late to the party with things, but I’m very very late to the party with Britmums Live. Spending the first 6 years of my blogging life an airline flight away from London is part of the reason, but does not excuse me entirely. My weekend at the Brewery made me realise how essential (and rewarding) it is to mix with real bloggers in person and that this dreaded ‘Mummy Blogger’ tag does such an injustice to the variety of talented women who blog in so many variations and just happen to be mothers.

For any new bloggers reading this post (or old ones who still haven’t done a conference) I would say that Britmums Live is an essential booking for 2016. Don’t over think it, just book it as soon as the super-early bird tickets go on sale. You will not regret it…

Huge thank yous to…

Aby (You Baby Me Mummy)
Amber (Goblin Child)
Amy (Mrs T Plus Three)
Di Coke (Superlucky.me)
Donna (What The Redhead Said)
Em (Snowing Indoors)
Hannah (Mums Days)
Helen (Coco Mama Style)
Katie & George (Minis And More)
Katie (Mummy Daddy Me)
Katrina (Mum For Fun)
Katy (Carry On Katy)
Katy (What Katy Said)
Kaye (HelloArchie.blue)
Kiran (Mummy Says)
Kirsty & Clara (My Two Mums)
Lizzie (Lizzie Somerset)
Nadine Hill (Juggle Mum)

You made my weekend unexpectedly awesome with your warmth and humour and to Bella Bathrooms for being my sponsor and making my attendance possible.

Linking up with Aby & Em…

snowingindoors
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Blogtacular – Creativity, empowerment and feeling the fear

So last weekend was Blogtacular my second year attending and only my second ever blogger conference… and on Friday I’ll be attending my third in the shape of Britmums Live.

Between my first and second conferences I’ve learned a lot. This year I made the bold decision not to attempt to take any photos, it goes against every fibre of my being, but I knew that it would be impossible to listen, take notes, meet new people and take photos.

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