Work Matters: Christabel Saul

Christabel Saul is the founder of the The Mother Maker, a curated online marketplace celebrating and supporting creative mothers.

Why does work matter to you?

As a mother, work matters to me because it brings freedom and  a sense of purpose outside the home. More importantly for me at the moment it’s giving me a creative outlet and an enormous amount of drive and personal achievement. After many years of being a stay at home mum, I realised how much I enjoyed working. I have always had a strong work ethic and would want my kids to have that too. Of course, money would be nice and some security that comes with that but that’s not why work matters to me. It’s about setting an example to the future generation. I want to show my kids that it can be just as important for the mother to provide for her family financially and that dad too can share in the family duties. Aside from being your bread and butter, finding work that you enjoy can be a source of happiness, fulfillment and an outlet for your creativity.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Waking up HAPPY. I know that I have found professional success when I have found something I love doing. Success in financial terms would be great too. But that will come when you love what you do and work hard enough at it.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

Oh I have so many project ideas. I am a bit of a dreamer really and a crazy woman who tries to do too much at once. But I would love to work on curating a coffee table book and collaborate with makers, designers, artists and photographers or a series of children’s books would be lovely too. I would also love to work on a series of exhibitions which I am quietly planning for 2018. I would love to also see next year be ‘a year of collaborations’ and put my design and illustration skills to use. Perhaps create a homewares, accessories or childrenswear collection under The Mother Maker brand.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I have been so lucky with most of my jobs. At the age of 18 I took on a role as an assistant stylist which I thought was the coolest thing ever at the time and felt like I was following my dreams of working in fashion. It was a shame because despite my eagerness to learn and contribute, my boss was a bit of a dick. It did make life pretty miserable at the time. It was such a competitive environment and I spent a lot of my early years offering free work.

What did that experience teach you?

It taught me how important it is to be humble and kind to others and that egos don’t belong in any workplace. If you are kind and supportive to those around you, people will respect that. It also taught me to be more confident, and to be confident of your own self-worth.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

I have always had a hard time with self promotion and being ‘proud’ of myself.  I guess my entire career journey  is something I am proud of and the skills I have taken away with me across all areas of business. I worked for a long time as a freelance costume designer and stylist and never quite felt like I got the big break or spent long enough getting that dream job on that multi-million pound production. I did however make the decision to have kids so plans for a career in Hollywood were put to the side. But I think my proudest moment would be launching The Mother Maker. If it wasn’t for having the kids I would never have found my dream job. I wanted something that would allow me to choose the hours in which I can work and the hours I can spend with my kids. Working freelance as a designer was great but I was inevitably staying late on set and coming home tired and exhausted and putting my family under pressure.  I also wanted something that would allow me the opportunity to work with other creatives bonding over the mayhem that is motherhood, school pick ups, order deadlines and I now get the chance to work with all these amazing mums who understand what it’s like to work flexibly . So after almost two years of loose planning and debating whether or not to go for it, in November of 2017 I finally launched themothermaker.com. An online marketplace and events company that sells a carefully curated selection of products made by independent mum run brands and artists. We also run workshops, markets and exhibitions to promote the work of these incredible mums.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

Going back, I wish I was more informed about how important it is to find something that you love doing. I don’t know who I would have sought career advice from. I spent too long doing jobs in my early 20s without too much of a guidance on what my goals were. I would have loved a mentor who taught me this early on and how important it is to set goals for yourself. Oh and a fortune teller would have been ace too. Someone who could have given us 80s kids  an insight into the future and how it would affect the way we work. Times have changed so much since my 10th grade careers advice class. Technology has changed the landscape in the workplace and the sheer volume of information we are able to share. I mean as a business owner, if  I don’t know how to do something, I can just google it or post it on social media. I went to university but never finished my degree which I used to regret, but Google has taught me a lot.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

That’s a tough one because there are so many inspiring women out there. Suzie de Rohan Wilner is the CEO of one of my favourite fashion labels TOAST and a celebrator of the arts. I met her earlier this year, and I love how she merges her love of art and literature with fashion. She’s an inspiration. Especially as she is a mum of two and a creative who has become a pioneer in business too. She also gave me the most profound advice #makeeverymomentcount which is our hashtag and it’s about acknowledging that the time you have with your children is precious and time that you won’t get back. Another one would have to be Holly Tucker. Her continuing support of small businesses is incredible and would love to pick her brain one day.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Find a mentor. Take as much advice as possible from them. Don’t try and fit into a ‘box’ created by our society. Don’t just try and find a ‘job’ for the sake of it. Think about the lifestyle you want, your goals in life, and the things you are passionate about. Oh and always put yourself out there for new opportunities. You never know what may happen.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what

The Mother Maker is a pretty big jump and for me is the beginning of a whole new career path. Throughout my time at fashion design school it was always my biggest dream to launch my own fashion and accessories label. But if i was to take a completely different career path, (which I can see myself doing in the very distant future when I am a little older and wiser) I would love to do something helping other people. I would love to be a Doula and maybe specialise in hypno-birthing and learn these skills. I would love to give women the ability to fight their fears, and to find the strength to have an empowering and beautiful birth. I was petrified of the idea of giving birth in the lead up to my first child being born and the whole experience was terrifying and scarred me for life. I almost lost my life and suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was only diagnosed afterwards. It was only until I met Joy Horner from Glastonbury, a private midwife and amazing woman who gave me the skills and strength and knowledge to have two very beautiful home births. It’s something that I feel is important to every mother, as it’s the beginning of their journey into motherhood. It’s a rite of passage for both mother and child. Joy ultimately unearthed an inner confidence and strength and I was able to knock back my fears, believe in myself and trust that I could do anything I put my mind to. That has ultimately shaped me as a mother, a wife and a woman striving for a career.  I would love to give this gift to another mum to be.

Finding a work-life balance

Luisa Sanders is a social media manager and blogger who is passionate about giving mums the confidence to forge new careers or go it alone after having children. Having taken a career break of over 18 months after having her first son, Luisa took the plunge into the world of freelance, working for a variety of organisations including Netmums and English Heritage. Since 2013, Luisa has worked for Aardman Animations as a social media manager. She also writes a blog, Bristol Bargainista. Here she shares her story and explains why she feels becoming a mother has given her more confidence and made her more productive.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve never followed what you’d call a ‘solid’ career path! I had literally no idea what I was going to do with my life when I left university and in all honesty I felt pretty overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the world of work. I’ve worked in everything from publishing to gaming, but my career before kids didn’t really fulfil me. I can see with hindsight that I was often marking time in work – just filling the days and looking forward to the next pay cheque without really pushing out for more. I knew that writing was the thing I loved best about my job but I often felt frustrated by the creative limitations of working for a big organisation. By the time I’d become pregnant with my first child, I’d started doing a little bit of freelance writing on the side and realised that this was ‘my thing’.

That was almost 14 years ago and today I’m in a much better place professionally. Having children has without doubt focused me in terms of career. It hasn’t been easy – I took a break of over 18 months after having my first child, plus we moved from London to Bristol in that time, but becoming a mother gave me a new-found confidence and determination to carve out a freelance career. I never wanted to be the mother who was out at work from dawn till dusk, missing the nativity play and never seeing her children, so I become absolutely focused on making an income in a way that suited our new family dynamic.

luisa sanders family

How to you balance the demands of children and work?

I’m one of those annoying people who has managed to find a lovely employer who does their best to offer family-friendly, flexible hours. I’m constantly astounded by the lack of value society places on mothers and that organisations can’t see that they’re missing out on a huge talent pool by not offering flexible working. Personally, having children has made me much more productive at work – I fit in what I used to do in a five-day week into much less time. I think there’s a lot of time wasted in unnecessary meetings, hanging around the water cooler or simply faffing about when you have more time at your disposal. I don’t mean to denigrate those full-timers without kids but I do think you value a good employer much more when you’re a working parent; I never take sick days, am always punctual and pack as much into my days as possible as I know how lucky I am – it’s a deal that works in everyone’s favour.

In the early days, I had moments of wondering how I was going to make it all work – there were a lot of early morning starts, working at 6am before the kids woke up and then picking things up again when they were in bed. I’ve worked many weekends and have taken my lap-top on family holidays, but that’s the deal you make when you go freelance – I was happy to do those unorthodox hours to be around for my children when they were little.

What are your tips for mums trying to get back into work?

I won’t lie to you – I found the journey back to work challenging, exhausting and bewildering. I felt as if the landscape had totally changed in the time I was away, plus I only returned back to ‘proper’ work when I was on the cusp of turning 40. Rocking up to Aardman for my first day at work, I’ll admit I had a wobble; how was I, a middle aged mum, going to bring any relevance and insight to my new social media job?

But you’ve got to shut down that inner monologue and remember all the things you do, as a mum, bring to the table: resilience, patience, problem solving, time management and real life experience, to name just a few. I became a much more competent person after having children, something I reminded myself of frequently when I was feeling unsure of my abilities. That and the fact that I’d pushed a baby out and that no job interview or stressful work situation could ever be as life changing or important as that.

Writing my blog helped me to learn some great digital skills and help me find my voice – I wholeheartedly recommend this as a way to explore your creativity or hone your writing skills if writing is something you love. While I’m not a natural networker and suffer with anxiety, I learnt to put myself out there. I connected with numerous people and companies in Bristol; some I never heard from again, but some become clients I’ve enjoyed a long-standing relationship with.

I’ve also always been honest about the fact that being a mum comes first with me. Interestingly, in the interview for my first job post having children, I was asked what my proudest achievement was to date. I answered ‘having my son’ and immediately wondered if I’d just committed career suicide. But I got the job and it was – I was informed by employer afterwards – my honesty and obvious dedication to my family that got me the job. Those employers DO exist but you need to work hard to find them. So do your research, send out those emails and keep going – you can make motherhood and work work for you – good luck.

Meet-up with Kate Starkey (CheltenhamMaman)

On Monday 20th November we had the second Social Butterflies meet-up with guest speaker Kate Starkey, founder of CheltenhamMaman, the online platform and events business for parents. Kate’s business is going from strength to strength and she has won two awards recognising her achievements: UK Blog Award winner in the 2017 Parenting category and Digital Woman of the Year at the Gloucestershire Women of the Year Awards 2017. Who better to discuss business, the power of social media and represent the South-West?

The event was hosted by me, Amy White, founder of Social Butterflies, a website and online community committed to celebrating and connecting women seeking professional inspiration and wanting to expand their career horizons. We talked about running a business, digital marketing, social media and the tricky balance of being the face of your own brand. Below are photos from the evening, taken by Bristol based photographer Jessica Siggers, AKA @porthjess.

Newsflash: social media exists to make money

Sorry to break it to you all, but it’s true. However, the tide is turning and a new generation of bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers are using these platforms to their advantage and making a living from them. Social media networks are marketing and advertising tools like any other, but unlike traditional forms of media (TV, press, radio) they are not subject to stringent regulation. They are embedded in our digital culture purely as ‘social connectors’ and to the average consumer that’s true (on the surface) and that’s why we all love them. But the reality is that they are billion dollar money-making corporations, not worthy social-enterprise projects.

I find it surprising that considering the overwhelming power and effect social media has on our lives that so many people misunderstand its purpose. Money and the currency of influence is what fuels these networks. But we continue to attach the morality of friendship, trust and authenticity to the likes of Facebook and Instagram and feel a sense of collective outrage and disappointment when we are reminded of the commercial realities which are bubbling beneath the surface. I probably sound very cynical, but don’t misunderstand me, I’m just looking pragmatically at these networks as business tools.

Collective delusion

Part of the reason I felt compelled to write this article is because there has been a huge amount of discussion in the last week sparked by an ‘Insta-mums‘ thread on a Mumsnet discussion forum. Several high-profile social media influencers including Mother of Daughters and Father of Daughters (pictured below) have come in for all manner of verbal abuse and criticism for making money through paid social media content. Now, personally I think that if you put yourself out in the public domain you have to be prepared for a certain degree of negativity – there will always be a few people who can’t resist judging and bitching (let’s not forget Katie Hopkins has made a career out of it). However, personal insults (or trolling) are obviously unacceptable and unnecessary, and the armchair warriors would clearly never say it to their faces. That said I do think it’s brought up some interesting points and I think there is a collective delusion going on around this topic.

Clemmie and Simon Hooper

The global corporations like Facebook (who own Instagram) are making billions of dollars harvesting all our data and selling it on to companies which in turn target us with ‘demographic specific’ advertising. We are all happy to create accounts and spend inordinate amounts of time on these platforms. The unpalatable truth is that we are all caught up in the murky net of advertising on a daily basis: consciously or unconsciously and to deny that fact is at best naive and at worst hypocritical. Where an opportunity to make money exists people will exploit it. Fact.

Winning the game

Now, if you turn this on its head and start to consider that bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers are making these mass commercial platforms work for them as a business then you can begin to understand the appeal. After all a lot of work goes on behind the scenes building a social media brand – just take a look at Mother Pukka AKA Anna Whitehouse. Her approach and response to all this judgement and ‘Daily Mail-esque’ controversy is to be open and confrontational, but not in an aggressive way – Anna plays the game as it should be played. She’s a businesswoman making a living and is happy to discuss the pros and cons of walking the tightrope between personal and business. At least she’s open to discussing it and surely that’s the point – the more transparency the better. If she’s not your cup of tea then find someone who is.

I’m not making any judgements about specific individuals, but I think it’s important if you’re going to have a debate about the perceived unsavoury aspects of making a living by selling stuff via social media that you acknowledge the part we all play as consumers in that – we are all at the behest of big business. So, if a few people choose to make money by using it as a business tool we shouldn’t be surprised or overtly offended.

You may choose to be personally upset by the commercial partnerships some bloggers choose to go into, and that’s fair enough. That’s what the unfollow button is for. Within reason you can choose what you see (damn those pesky algorithms). So, I urge people to make active choices about what and who they follow and also remember people are making a living from platforms that are making a living from you. If you have a problem with that then perhaps social media is too morally corrupt a place for you. My philosophy on the whole culture of social media brings to mind a classic quote by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. The world will be yours and everything in it”. Don’t lose sight of what drives the media-technology companies to engineer these social networks. Get what you want from them and enjoy it for what it is.

Changing the culture

Now, rather than having a go at all the people trying to make a living via social media, how about ploughing all that energy into making Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and their friends more accountable for their advertising standards. Also, while we’re at it how about better regulation generally on social media and more education in our schools, colleges and universities. How about re-educating the workforce too while we’re at it? Big businesses should take more corporate responsibility for the effects their networks have on society and be clear, open and subject to scrutiny.

Meet-up with Hayley Southwood

On Wednesday 5th July I hosted an event at The Forge, owned by Silke Lloyd (pictured right) in Bristol with businesswoman Hayley Southwood (pictured centre). The evening was an informal talk and opportunity for local women to make new business connections. Hayley inspired us all with her career story – the highs and lows. I wanted the event to feel informal and intimate and everyone was encouraged to ask questions. We then tried ‘speed networking’, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The idea was for everyone to make three new connections over the course of 15 minutes, and it worked surprisingly well.

I was lucky enough to work with local Bristol suppliers to provide products for the event: soft drinks from Bristol artisan producer Lovely Drinks; goody bags from Amphora Aromatics; and a selection of teas from Pukka Herbs. I worked with lettering artist Ellen Waldren and screen print artist Stephanie Orr from Flat 102 to produce limited edition tote bags. I also commissioned Bristol poet Tatterhood to write a poem which summed up the spirit of Social Butterflies.

It was the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for the past six months and it was lovely to share the experience with so many wonderful women. I started this website initially for two reasons: to connect with like-minded women who felt passionately about fulfilling their career ambitions after becoming mothers; and as a way of showcasing my digital skills in preparation for going freelance. What I hadn’t bargained for along the way is that it would become much more than that. It has become a community, a platform to showcase inspirational women and share our knowledge and experience. The best journeys take you to an unexpected destination and I’m happily embracing the twists and turns.

I’ve had my confidence lifted and my aspirations raised by connecting with these women online, but what’s made it really special has been creating an opportunity for those women to meet in real life. Social media is a powerful thing and its possibilities are truly empowering, but nothing beats the human touch and last week’s event proved that there is a real appetite for people to meet, chat (and drink fizzy). I’ll keep you posted of future events, but for now I hope you enjoy looking through the photos captured by my photographer friend Jessica Siggers (@porthjess).

 

Stop dreaming, start doing

The Step Up Club is a fresh, new voice in the women’s career conversation. We are here to celebrate all women – whatever your job. The two of us sit at either ends of the creative/corporate spectrum: we know that it’s just as valid to aspire to career contentment, as it is to want to become your company’s next CEO. We are the authors of the newest women’s career manual: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. Through our stylish events, online content and newsletter, our aim is to make women feel empowered, boost their skill set and broaden their network to really love their work and life.

Phanella is a former lawyer and banker who retrained as an executive career coach, working (alongside The Step Up Club) on women’s leadership and diversity with all kind of big companies as well as individuals. Alice is a former fashion features editor at The Times, Marie Claire and Red, who alongside The Step Up Club continues to write freelance for many of the broadsheets and glossies. Between us we have five children and live in North West London.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Getting our message out there has definitely been enabled by social media and digital technology. Our book, of course, exists offline and contains a huge body of content, career workouts and advice. But without our blog and social feeds, it would be that much more difficult to get the more personal element of support out to our community of women – many of whom can’t make it to our events in person. We are working on a full online programme to reach and connect these women, but in the meantime we rely on these other channels to have an impact.

It is hard, when Instagram and similar feeds are bursting with edited images of life perfection from all corners of the world. It takes a mind of steel to remain completely unmoved by this – but as we say at the start of our book, finding success (and when we talk about success, we do so with a view to all facets of life) is about celebrating our own uniqueness and not allowing ourselves to have the lives of others impressed upon us negatively. Sure, it’s brilliant if other women inspire us to reach our own goals, but it is also important that we stay true to our own beliefs and values, which is why we spend a lot of time helping readers (and attendees at our events) unearth theirs. We like to refer to values as the hashtags of our lives: we can’t get away from social media, but we can let it help us guide us towards our own success.

What are your confidence building tips for women in business?

We feel passionately that confidence is an integral part of career success, fulfilment and enjoyment. Confidence turns our thoughts into actions, it is the emotional driver that we hold within ourselves and women do tend to struggle more acutely with confidence levels. Why? Because our internal thoughts, the ones that make us empathetic, kind, unique and brilliant, also have the capacity to hold us down. Who hasn’t succumbed to the voice inside their heads that says we aren’t good enough, or that that other person is much more capable? Of course, everyone has these thoughts but when we allow them to feel comfortable within our heads – when we let the proverbial devil dwell for too long – it has a negative impact on how we feel, how we function and in turn, how others respond to us too.

Confidence is not innate, which means that we all have the capacity to change our internal rhetoric and in turn, build our confidence. Also, in our book, we explore fully the practical tips that you can employ to also improve your confidence levels from the outside in. Neither will happen overnight, but if you can break the negative belief cycles that dictate your thoughts, and implement some positive physical changes – standing bigger, speaking more slowly and taking the time to really listening, all of us can become a more confident, self-assured version of your current self.

Finally, we believe that each of us is uniquely brilliant. We each have our own unique definition of success and if we play to that – no one else’s – then we will feel more confident about our careers.


Alice and Phanella are following…

Style Me Sunday: We love Nat’s no bullshit message, incredible sense of style and massive smile. She is gorgeous inside and out. We are especially loving her Friday finger slot.

Cherry Healey: We’ve both been watching Cherry on TV for years and she brings the same sense of humour, openness and honesty to her social feed and in real life.


The Step Up Club

We send out a weekly newsletter with loads of career advice, our latest blog posts, first dibs on our event tickets – they often sell out here first – and (coming soon) discounts on our favourite work related brands. At the moment we’re giving away an exclusive excerpt from our book that WILL help readers define their personal success when they sign up. Just follow this link: bit.ly/SuccessGiveaway.

Curator of colour

Jessica Siggers is a photographer, social media influencer and Instagram consultant who lives in Bristol with her family. I first encountered Jess via her Instagram account Porthjess, a platform which has helped to build and cement her profile as a photographer. In person Jess is refreshingly humble and honest about her influencer status. It brings with it a whole host of opportunities which some people may feel unable to turn down. However, Jess is in the self-confessed “privileged position” of being able to select commercial collaborators that fit with her sense of identity (she has worked with Farrow & Ball, Pret A Manger, Canon, Cross Country Trains and Finisterre). But she’s also realistic about why others may choose a different path. There is a lot of judgement on social media which has given rise to the “armchair warrior”, but like anyone who has an online presence she has learned to turn the other cheek and focus on the positives and what she’s really passionate about – creating photographs that inspire others.

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer
“When I was trying to think up a name for my business a few years ago, I wanted something which contained my name but also tied in with me living on a harbour plus my love of the sea. ‘Porth’ means ‘harbour’ in Cornish! Et voila.”

A love of Bristol, rainbow colours, the coast and cars are what has made her loved by over 40k followers on Instagram. This strong sense of creative identity is what Jess intends to build on in 2017. So this year Jess will be returning her focus to the art of photography and establishing different ways to earn income. As a respected Instagram influencer Jess has started to run a series of workshops ‘Unleash your Instagram potential’, run in conjunction with Bristol Media and she is also involved in Digital Gaggle (marketing meet-ups and conferences in Bristol).

Jessica Siggers Porthjess colourful bristol street

Alongside her Porthjess persona Jess also runs the the official Instagram network for Bristol: IgersBristol. This is a photography showcase of Bristol and a job which keeps Jess’s feet firmly on the ground. Although she sometimes feels like “a dinosaur” amongst the young Instagram crowd it’s a good way to keep track of the latest photography trends and what is popular online. But that doesn’t impact on her signature style, if anything seeing what is trending has only reaffirmed what subjects she loves to photograph and makes her happy.

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer bristol street

One thing I respect and admire is Jess’s strong sense of identity when it comes to work and family life. Although the two need to coexist in a practical sense they aren’t linked in Jess’s mind: she’s not an Insta-mum. Whilst being a mother is an integral part of who she is, it’s not what makes Jess a successful photographer. I for one am looking forward to seeing how Jess’s career develops in 2017 and I’ve been lucky enough to attend one of her popular Instagram workshops.

JESS’S TOP TECHNICAL TIPS

1) Do you use your phone as well as your camera? If so how do you use them differently?

“I never leave the house without my compact Canon M3 DSLR and crummy old Samsung phone, permanently set to camera mode. I tend to use my phone for those quick shots where timing is everything (in my case usually an old car going past) and the camera for more structured shots where picture quality is important. I also have my ‘Big Camera’, i.e. my Canon 5D, which I use when specific shots are required for clients.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer stokes croft bristol beetle car

2) Do you alter the images at all for use on Instagram?

“There are three things I always do before any of my photos make it to Instagram: run them through the auto-straighten feature on the Snapseed app, to tidy up any wonky horizons; crop out any unnecessary bits, again through Snapseed; use one of two filters from the brilliant ‘A Color Story’ app. My filters of choice just lighten the photo and enhance the colours to how I like them so that my Instagram grid always looks cohesive.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer ss great britain bristol

3) Hashtags are an important part of Instagram: how do you choose the ones you use and are there specific ones you like to use?

“I have a list of my favourite hashtags saved in the Notes function on my phone (for ultimate Instageekery, they’re also saved into different categories such as ‘Doors’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Colour’). These are all either hashtags which have worked previously and continue to work for me and my style or hashtags which I’m just using for now but may drop in future (e.g. seasonal tags). It’s good to mix them up a bit and find new ones from time to time. Helps you find great new accounts to follow too.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer bristol street scene

4) What’s your top photographic tip for people who take photos using their phones and uploading direct to Instagram?

“Turn your gridlines on in your camera settings. Helps you to align your shot perfectly and avoids too many of those wonky horizons!”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer harbourside bristol

5) What advice would you give aspiring photographers looking to grow their online profile?

1) “Look up the local Igers (Instagrammers) network for your area such as Igers Bristol. We host regular free photowalks or ‘Instameets’ where lots of like-minded photographers get together and provide support and fresh inspiration!”

2) “Find a hashtag which relates to your style of work, e.g. I like #candyminimal, or even the hashtag for your area, e.g. #Bristol. Like and leave nice comments on photos that you like and others might do the same to you. This helps build followers.”

3) “Come to one of my Instagram workshops!”


Jess is following…

Valuable Content bristol logo

@valuablecontent (aka @sonjajefferson and @sjtanton): “Two clever, brilliant fellow Bristol Media members who are at the top of the content marketing consultancy game and also happen to be mothers. I’m also lucky enough to have them as my neighbours and my career took a big turn for the better when I took their advice over pastries at Sharon’s kitchen table one morning last year. They’re like my business fairy godmothers.”

Dolly Land

@dollyland“’Dolly is Sharon, a mum of five who lives in Clovelly, Devon. We became friends through Instagram via our love of the sea and met just before Sharon became social media manager for @2minutebeachclean, a +20k strong community of barefoot warriors taking two minutes out of their day to keep our beaches clean of rubbish. My family and I now never leave a beach or riverside without having a quick litter-pick first and that’s largely down to Sharon.”

Sara Venn Edible Bristol

Sara Venn, aka @saralimback“I’m ridiculously proud to call Sara my friend. She runs @ediblebristol, a branch of the Incredible Edible movement, launched to make Bristol the UK’s first edible city. In most areas of Bristol you’ll now come across an edible garden planted by Sara and her team. She’s also mum to one daughter like me and gives the best hugs.


Jess’s work…

porthjess.com
bristolcolourcapital.org
instagram.com/porthjess
instagram.com/igersbristol

Interview with Amy White

Making your voice heard

Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.

BE CONSISTENT

One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.

STAY TRUE TO YOU

Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.

THINK LIKE A CONSUMER

The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.

BE A LEADER

But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.

DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF

Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.


If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.

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Five podcasts you need to hear

I have confession to make, I was (up until recently) a Podcast virgin. Yes it’s true, I didn’t realise there was a whole world of aural pleasure to be had (no sniggering). Seriously though, if like me you’re often looking for ways to cut out the noise of work, children, (perhaps even partners), then look no further than my Podcast picks. It’s by no means exhaustive, and I’m sure you’ve got your own favourites (or disagree with mine). In fact, there were so many possible choices that I may well do another list soon. But for now, have a listen.

Warning: put your headphones on for number 3…

(1) Hashtag Authentic
Sara Tasker (Me and Orla) shares tips on making the most of Instagram – there are four in total so far, well worth a listen.

 

(2) Ctrl, Alt, Dlt
Emma Gannon is a blogger, author, speaker and all-round digital wiz. Check out her podcasts Ctrl, Alt, Dlt. My favourite is the one with Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) My Dad Wrote A Porno

Jamie Morton reads out chapters from the books written by his Dad. Pant-wettingly funny stuff (I recommend listening to this with headphones on and a glass of wine in hand!).

 

(4) This American Life
A broadly journalistic theme runs through each weekly show, with some humour and essays. Difficult to categorise, but it’s quite addictive and definitely worth a listen.

 

(5) The Guilty Feminist
Funny stuff, in particular check out the one with Phoebe Waller-Bridge – creator and star of genius BBC Three comedy Fleabag.

Top tips for aspiring travel bloggers

Heather Cowper is a professional travel blogger based in Bristol, writing at heatheronhertravels.com. In the nine years she’s been travel blogging Heather has worked with many leading travel brands and destinations, regularly speaking at conferences about blogging and social media. Heather has a great deal of knowledge and expertise in this field and is involved in several blogger collectives, including: Travelator MediaBristol Bloggers and Influencers and Bristol Travel Massive.

Heather Cowper headshot

How did you became a travel blogger

I started my travel blog heatheronhertravels.com over nine years ago after an inspirational trip with a couple of girlfriends through Ecuador and the Amazon basin. While I was there I would post photos on Flickr (this was before the social media platforms were so established) so that they could be seen by my friends and family. On my return I remember asking one of my work colleagues who was into all things technical “So how do I get into this blogging thing?” and with a few pointers I was away. For a long time I just did it for fun but gradually I become more serious about the blog and a year ago I decided to become a full time blogger so that I could devote all my time to the blog and associated projects in blogging and social media.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work

When I started out, the blog was seen as the main hub that you wanted to bring readers back to. However, over the years I’ve been blogging, so many new platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat have emerged, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and I have different audiences who are following my travels on each of these platforms. These days it feels that you need to have a presence everywhere to be a serious blogger. It’s more about sharing your content where the audience is, rather than always trying to bring them back to your blog. I seem to spend half my life on my iPhone, flipping between social channels to check what’s going on, posting photos from my travels and responding to reader queries.

heather cowper
Heather in Burgundy

What are your top tips for aspiring travel bloggers who want to make a career in the industry

When I started out the travel blogging community was so much smaller and it felt as if it was possible to know everyone. These days of course there are so many new bloggers and so I think it’s more difficult, although not impossible to build a career this way. My top tips for aspiring travel bloggers are:

  • Take a while to work on your website’s design, build your audience and to find your voice, as this will help you to gradually refine your niche. I wouldn’t rush into making a career directly from blogging, as it’s a hard slog and there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s better to take things at a sustainable pace and learn your craft, while working out what your audience responds best to.
  • Take a look at the skills you may have, perhaps in writing, photography or social media that you could use to build up a freelance income stream by working for other people. Most full time bloggers earn at least 50% of their income this way and this will support you financially while you built up your blog’s traffic to the substantial levels required to make money from advertising or affiliate sales.
  • It’s good to attend travel blogging conferences and events where you’ll meet both other bloggers for support and PR professionals who may want to work with you. Conferences are a great way to improve your skills and knowledge while networking and having a fun time – otherwise it can be a lonely occupation sitting in front of your laptop.

Heather’s following…

I love following travel bloggers who share my passions of food, culture and sightseeing and who bring their work to life with colourful photos, videos or great writing that inspires me. Being in my 50s I also tend to gravitate to bloggers who are at the same life stage as me – I love reading the work of inspirational older women rather than being impressed by 20-somethings doing yoga poses on the beach.

 

 

 

Zoe Dawes at The Quirky Traveller

 

 

Kathryn Burrington at Travel with Kat


Heather’s work…

heatheronhertravels.com
twitter.com/Heathercowper
facebook.com/Heatheronhertravels
instagram.com/heathercowper
pinterest.com/heathercowper
youtube.com/user/Heatheronhertravels
linkedin.com/in/heathercowper