I have personally followed Sarah’s blog “the Prosecco Diaries” since I first started blogging so I was really excited when she agreed to give this exclusive Women In Business interview about her own personal blogging journey.
For those of you who haven’t come across Sarah before, she is responsible for the @bloggeration_ twitter group, organising various events and workshops and the Bloggeration magazine. An extremely busy blogger who has stepped away from her traditional 9 – 5 to take a chance on that blogger dream many of us hope will one day become our destiny.
I was lucky enough to see Sarah in action at the #bigbloggerconference back in August where she gave a presentation on how to work with brands and monetise your blog. I found Sarah’s workshop particularly helpful being the new kid on the block and figured that not only would she be a perfect addition to the lovely ladies already featured in my #WomenInBusiness series but she may just help inspire other bloggers to take that leap of faith….
That’s sweet of you to say, but I’m realistic about how medium-sized my blog is! I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the challenge. I started The Prosecco Diaries in May 2013 because I was teaching at a horrible school and wondering everyday why I didn’t fulfill my teenage dreams of being a professional writer. I never thought my blog would be that leap into making my dream a reality, but it gave me something positive and creative to work on instead of just coming home from a miserable job and spending weekends dreading having to go back on Mondays.
At what point did you take the leap and make blogging your profession?
I started doing some freelance work for brands, connecting them with bloggers and organising blogger events. After a while this got to be too much work to do on top of school teaching – which is not the kind of job you can switch off from when you leave work; there’s always a tonne of marking and paperwork to be done at home. I had to make the decision to stop doing all the blogger outreach work, or to quit teaching. It was a scary crossroads moment – giving up a secure salary (not to mention a tidy teacher’s pension!), but I knew that I couldn’t go on doing a job that didn’t inspire me. It’s not fair on the children I taught for a start. I took on an office job for six months to transition into full time blogging, and it was a digital marketing and social media role so it suited me down to the ground, but I couldn’t wait to become my own boss. I officially became a full time blogger in July 2014, one year and two months after having started my blog.
I have been following your blog The Prosecco Diaries for some time now but for those readers who don’t already follow you can you tell us a little bit about what they can expect from your blog?
I started off looking at things to do in London, but I’ve now branched out into lifestyle, health and beauty too. I’ve kept my London section (and a restaurant review section) and I also have a category for some of the blogger events I go to. I’ll blog about things I’ve been up to, offer blogging advice, collaborate with brands on advertorials, and review makeup (my obsession). My health posts are advice I’ve had from dermatologists, my tattoo removal journey, and my on-off weight loss efforts. It’s a mixed bag really, and I’ll be doing some overhauls this autumn and get some new regular features going.
There are so many posts on the do’s and dont’s of the blogging world, but what are your personal “blogging morals”?
It’s true that you have to write about what you’re passionate about or you’ll lost interest in blogging. It’s something I’ve found I’ve had to balance since it became my job, I have to fit sponsored posts in with my style and content, and it’s been a process of working out what I’m comfortable with. I wrote this post on things I’ve concluded, that might make me look ungrateful but have become my ‘blogging morals’.
I also think it’s essential to have a professional code of conduct as a blogger, whether it’s your job or hobby, or something in-between. Copying content or lifting photos from other bloggers is unacceptable, and trashing brands and bloggers on Twitter is not a good idea either, as is not giving credit where it’s due, or being rude and ungrateful at events.
What have been your biggest struggles since launching your blog?
Building your audience is tough, and keeping them too. I had an anonymous email from a reader that said they used to like my blog when it was about things to do in London, but they thought all the blogger events I was including was putting them off as they were one-off things they wouldn’t be able to go to (as a non-blogger). It made me stop and think, and reshuffle my categories to separate the blogging stuff from the things that are open for anyone. I’ve definitely found it hard to build a loyal following; most of my traffic is from people doing Google searches for specific places, products and reviews. It’s good they stay for a while and look round, but I’d love to have people coming along regularly (other than the wonderful fellow bloggers who do) to chat with me. This is why I wanted to put more personal things in so people could see me on a journey – and this is something I need to work on adding much more of. Organising blogger events is an ongoing uphill struggle! It’s so satisfying when it goes well, but stressful each time there’s the inevitable glitch.
And on the flip side, what have been your most memorable achievements so far?
Each time I get a nice comment or email from a reader it gives me a huge sense of achievement! I’ve had two journalists I really respect tweet me to tell me they like my blog, and one of them said I was a talented writer (woo hoo!). When a big brand invites me to an event I’m like, what…. me?? I went to the Boohoo Christmas party last year and was sat in a room having Christmas dinner with so many top bloggers and I thought there’d been some kind of admin mistake. I’ve been offered some amazing one-of-a-kind experiences that make me so glad I started my blog, including cocktails on the London Eye with the CEO of the SouthBank Centre, a cooking lesson with Gennaro Contaldo, a UK road trip with Hertz, and getting to walk the red carpet at a film premiere. With PR invites you don’t know if it’s because of any actual achievement you’ve made, or they’re just filling up numbers, but with my freelance efforts I know I’ve achieved a lot. For one brand I managed to secure Cafe de Paris as an event location for free, and bloggers had a burlesque dance lesson and watched a cabaret show whilst being served pink vodka all night and leaving with a goody bag. Knowing I did every bit of that all by myself is something, especially when PR companies would have a whole team working on one event like that.
What do you enjoy most about being a blogger?
I always wanted to work at a magazine, so having The Prosecco Diaries is like having a magazine of my own. I’m editor in chief as well as writer, photographer, picture editor and PR. I love the hard work, the creativity, meeting new people, getting to do exciting things, and having a platform to write what I want, when I want. There’s an amazing community of bloggers in the UK and further afield, and it’s an honour and a pleasure to be a part of it.
What would you like to achieve with your blog over the next few years?
I’m working on changing the design and the types of content at the moment, but nothing too drastic. I want to build that loyal audience I mentioned, but still keep my blog a popular place for people to find on Google searches if they want a specific review. I’d like to develop my work with brands, and do more freelance writing for magazines.
Are there any blogs that you love reading and would consider your personal favourites?
A blog that was a major influence for me is Hollywood Housewife. I read this for a long time and often thought “I’d love to do this, she’s so lucky”, until one day the penny dropped that there was nothing stopping me. Laura Tremaine is a fantastic writer and I wish I could be as open and as personal in my posts as she is. There are also several lifestyle blogs I enjoy dipping in and out of, including Posh, Broke and Bored, The Awkward Blog, IndieBerries, Cider With Rosie, and Dorkface. For food I head to Oh She Glows and This Rawsome Vegan Life, and try to get some healthy inspiration. Zoe London is good for blogging advice, and Lily Melrose is just all-round awesome.
Are there any changes you would like to see made to the blogging industry as a whole?
Oh god, I’d love to sort out all this nonsense surrounding bloggers and brands. I want brands to stop taking advantage of bloggers, especially smaller ones. We’ve all had emails from brands asking us to take part in a competition that involves us writing a blog post promoting them (and boosting their SEO) with the chance or maybe winning something, or maybe being promoted on the brand’s social media. This is appalling, and sad that some new bloggers think you need to jump through hoops like this in order to work with brands properly. You really don’t. Having some social media exposure is the very least a blogger should get in return for the hard work and time spent writing a blog post for them, though really the blogger should be properly compensated with either money or products from the brand. They all say they don’t have the marketing budget – but they’ve somehow managed to pay a digital or PR agency to contact bloggers and get free work out of them…. hmmm… I could go on and on about how bloggers are being exploited, but it’s the kind of thing I usually ramble on about when I give a talk at a blog conference.
Turning to your blogging events life, you are of course responsible for a couple of successful blog organisations/ groups. Could you tell us a little bit about those and what is coming up over the next few months?
I’ve launched Bloggeration to help build supportive networks for bloggers and connect them with brands. I’m running some brand sponsored workshops this autumn to help bloggers pitch ideas to brands and write sponsored posts for them. These will also be fun networking opportunities for bloggers; you’ll be in a small group of ten all day and get to do some fun activities as well as work on your blog (and have lots of cake).
For those bloggers who are interested in the events you are arranging or are giving presentations at but are a little nervous about it all, what would you say?
Just remember that everyone going to an event is in the same boat – nervous about being there, and after a while that feeling will go! A lot of brands and agencies let bloggers know who’s on the guest list now, or do a Twitter attendee list, so you can reach out to people over Twitter first. It’s okay to ask for the guest list too. At my events I will look after you and get the conversation flowing, so you don’t need to worry about standing like a lemon and not saying anything (I’ve totally been there at events!). At my Bloggeration workshops there’s only ten bloggers per workshop and we’ll be sat round one cosy table having tea, cake and chats. For a comprehensive guide to attending blogging events check out an article I wrote in the upcoming edition of Blogosphere Magazine. It’s the one with Sammi from BeautyCrush on the cover and will be on sale in WH Smiths mid-October.
To anyone thinking of starting a blog what would you say the benefits are?
It can be whatever you want it to be, and that’s a huge benefit. To have a bit of the internet that’s all yours and you have your say on it. You can take it as far as you’d like, make it your job, or part time job, or keep it as a hobby or passion project. Either way, you’ll be joining an awesome community and have the chance to get involved in it. You might also pick up some skills that benefit your professional life; before blogging I knew nothing about SEO, photoshop, film editing, HTML and organising events, and now all these new skills have helped me get paid work.
And what should they be wary of?
Beware of feeling like you need to do what everyone else is doing, or make your blog look like everyone else’s. It gets boring when you see everyone getting the same blog template, or having identikit voices online. Be yourself, and have your own style. Each time a blog is mentioned in the mainstream press it’s because they offered an original viewpoint or something highly creative.
If you had one message you could personally pass on to Jessica KG readers what would it be?
It’s great you’re championing women in business, Jessica, and your readers don’t have to have a business to have the outlook that your interviewees have. It’s all about ambition, hard work and feeling fulfilled in what you do. You can apply that to anything going on in your life and know that you get back what you put in. Women are amazing at getting things done and building supportive, nurturing communities whilst they do this.
…..Well I’ll drink to that! When I started this Women In Business series I wanted it to be a personal series that was accessible to all. It’s not about conquering the world on a global economy scale, it’s about recognising each others achievements and celebrating them. It’s about accepting that every woman has a unique skill set and admiring what she chooses to do with it, sharing experiences and inspiring one another.
I have met some fantastic women since starting this blog and people I hope will be friends for life. It is important to acknowledge that my blog simply would not be what it is today without the support, influence and encouragement I have received from my blogger network – Sarah included!
So firstly thank you to Sarah for being featured in this post and for responding to my cry for help when a ‘gal just needed a mentor a few weeks back… Secondly thank you to each and every single one of my blogger friends for supporting and inspiring me every day and last but not least thank you to you guys for reading!
Other posts in the Women In Business Series include….
Abi Oleck of Beau Bronz
Lauren of Blonde Vision & Gifting Lounge
The Rock on Ruby Girls
Florence Grace of Love From…. Magazine
Kathryn Hall of My Virtual Sidekick
Deborah Mitchell of Heaven Skincare
Liz of Betty Lou Salon
Ruby Chan of Tea Time