There are few bloggers in the ‘Lifestyle’ niche that have grabbed my attention as much as Jo Middleton from Slummy Single Mummy. Her writing style is unique and funny and she has a great way of grabbing your attention about topics you may not even be interested in reading about. She’s had more blogger opportunities than I’ve had hot dinners and I thought it would be great to get a little more insight into her work of blogging.
Can you tell us what made you decide to get into blogging?
I didn’t actually start a blog to get into blogging, if that doesn’t sound ridiculous. I’d just given up a full time job to be a freelance journalist. I was working in fundraising until then, and in desperate need of a change. I didn’t have any real experience or qualifications, so I set up my blog as a marketing tool, to show editors that I could string a sentence together. I’d blog about something, get a good response, and use that as part of my pitch – ‘Look!’ I’d say, ‘I wrote about this and people are interested!’
How did you keep the motivation going during those first few months while you were building the site up?
I guess that because I didn’t set it up to be a big thing in its own right, I never felt a huge amount of pressure to make it immediately awesome. The majority of my time was spent on paid journalism and copywriting work, and the blog was more of a hobby at this point – somewhere to showcase my writing skills, but also just a little corner of the internet for me to sound off.
Was there any one point where you thought you had cracked it in terms of gaining traction with your targeted audience?
No, I don’t think there was one defining moment, especially as I didn’t set it up to be a money making operation, and so wasn’t putting anything into making it a money making operation. It happened very gradually, without me really meaning it to.
Were there any points along the way where you changed direction with your blog?
It goes a little bit in waves – sometimes I’ll have more sponsored content than personal stuff, and other times it’s the other way around. I don’t think I’ve had any massive change in direction though – even when I’m writing for brands, I try to keep my style consistent. The way I write hasn’t changed at all.
How long did it take you to find your writing style?
Do I have a style?! I’ve never given it a great deal of thought, so I imagine my style has been the same from day one. I just sort of write down my thoughts, as if I was saying them out loud. A lot of people who know me in real life have said that they can read things I’ve written, in other places, and know that it’s me because it sounds like I’m just chatting to them.
At what point did you decide for yourself that you could do blogging full time?
I don’t actually blog full time now to be honest, although I guess that everything I do is connected in some way, even if indirectly and I do work for myself full time. I imagine I could blog full time, and do think about it, but I do enjoy doing other bits and pieces as well – copywriting, journalism, training, that sort of thing.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the blogging world?
I don’t have any interesting stories I’m afraid – no stalkers or trolls or horrible experiences to report. If anything, my main challenge is probably fitting everything in. I’m not the sort of person who thrives under pressure and I’m not motivated by money enough to want to work horribly long hours – I just want to earn and work enough to be comfortable and spend the rest of my time with my family. I get a lot of people want to work with me though, so the challenge comes with remembering to say no.
What are you feeling about the lifestyle / parenting blogging community in general? Are there things you think could be improved at all?
I’m going to sound either incredibly ignorant or arrogant now, but I don’t actually know much about the parenting and lifestyle blogging communities! That’s probably not cool to say is it? I rarely read other blogs and although I do have an active social media presence, I do it more for business than fun. My idea of a good evening is not sat with my phone, scrolling through tweets or chatting online. I’d rather be doing things in real life. The positive side of this is that I totally miss out on any politics or bitching – I’ve heard it goes on and I just don’t want to get involved in playground behaviour.
What are some of the best opportunities you’ve had through your blog?
The caravan mini breaks obviously… 😉
The best things are always the ‘money can’t buy’ type opportunities, like seeing behind the scenes, or getting to travel to unusual places. One of my most treasured memories is the week I spent a couple of years ago in Ethiopia with World Vision. Because we were with local staff who knew the area and people well, we got to see the non-tourist side of the country; we were taken into people’s homes, we had meals cooked for us, and generally had an amazing insight into real life. I’ve really enjoyed my partnership with Bailey too – a motorhome company based near me in Bristol. We’ve had a couple of adventures so far and have something amazing planned for next summer. I can’t give anything away yet, but watch this space!
If you could change 3 things about your blog what would it be?
Oh, well I could come up with a huge list I’m sure – my photography isn’t always great, my tech skills are poor, I could do with a decent newsletter and I never use Pinterest, but we can’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect. There’s a quote I love which I think all bloggers should keep in mind, whenever they have a crisis of confidence – ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. You can only do your best.