A Huge Leap of Faith

Four and a half years ago I started a blog. I wrote an introduction, started documenting LP’s weaning journey and wrote about whatever was on my mind at the time. It was cathartic and it turned into such a lovely hobby.

Just over a year later, when Little Man was tiny, I decided to go self hosted with the aim of making my blog into something. I stopped hiding my blog and instead started shouting about it, letting real life and the blog merge for the first time. It felt good to be out in the open with it and I started what was to become a labour of love over the next few years.

Three and a bit years on from going self hosted and I have decided that something’s got to give. Anyone that knows me knows how busy I am. How busy we are as a family and how constant our lives are. I work 19 hours a week across three days, two of these days my lovely in laws have the children and the third day is always Hubby’s day off. We mostly work opposite each other to save on childcare costs and because of this we are often like ships passing in the night.

On top of this we have a house, two young children and now school and preschool drop off and pick up each day. And then there’s this blog. So you can see, something really has to give.

I have spent the last three years working 19 hours a week, putting over forty hours a week into this blog and running a home, sorting out the children and spending as much time as possible planning adventures to fill the rare occasions where we do get time together as a family, booking annual leave to try and extend that family time and trying to hang on to the times where all four of us are in the same place, at the same time for more than a few minutes. We have been living for those times where we are all together.

And now, after three years, something is going to give.

Last week I gave in my notice at work. My notice period takes us to the start of November where I can enjoy the build up to Christmas and the school holidays with the children. The timing means that next year we can start afresh. Next year is a brand new start for all of us.

Next year sees me going from being a part time working parent to being a work from home parent – with me being fully self employed. It will be the first time since I was 14 that I haven’t been employed and it will be the first time I have worked purely for myself. It will also be the first time I haven’t had a guaranteed monthly income.

But, a good friend of mine said to me a couple of months ago that giving up my day job wouldn’t be giving up that guaranteed income, it would in fact be investing that money into a better work/life balance for our family, more time to invest into moving this blog forward and more free time on the calendar to go on more adventures as a family too.

I am looking forward to the New Year and the start of a whole new life for all of us. I am looking forward to full weekends with the children, whole school holidays with them and investing those 19 hours a week into making memories with the people that I love the most.

This is a huge change for us but it may well be the biggest adventure yet. I’m not going to say that this decision has been easy to make – but I am proud of myself for getting us to the point where we had options to choose from. Richard Yates once said “If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want”.

I didn’t want to be working every weekend, I have always wanted to be at home with my children but the last three years have been about building foundations to make that life, and dream, a reality. Who knows what the future will bring? But we have all been working hard to lead the life we want – and I am starting to think that we are pretty close to that life already.

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging

I started blogging four and a half years ago but I only started taking blogging seriously when I went self hosted three years ago – and more so when I changed my blog name, and felt like I’d come home nearly two years ago.

Here are a few things that I wish I’d known when I started blogging:

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There is so much more to blogging than just writing

When I started blogging I wrote a couple of hundred words about our day, something on my mind or pretty much anything that I felt like writing about. Then I’d hit publish and forget about it. It’s not surprising that no-one really read my blog back then – I didn’t promote it, didn’t talk about it, didn’t publicise it. I was pretty anonymous, didn’t want my real life friends to read what I had to write and so I literally just published and walked away.

But, there is so much more to blogging than that – and I wish I’d known than from the start. If you want people to read what you write then you have to promote it, you have to tell everyone about it and you have to make it nice to read too – adding photos to every post and making them as appealing to readers as possible.

Blogging is addictive

But, one you start writing it’s really hard to stop – especially as people start to find your blog, start to read and start to comment. You have an audience and you want to write for them – as well as for yourself. At the start I spent probably half an hour writing a post whenever the mood took me – once a month, twice a month. But now, I spend at least some time each day working on my blog and more often than not I will plough hours and hours each day into writing, taking photos, promoting and all the behind the scenes admin too. But, I love it. It’s so addictive but enjoyable too.

Blogging can be a career

At the start I didn’t realise there were other bloggers or that bloggers could make money out of blogging or that it could lead to so many different avenues of self employment. Blogging opens doors for people and if I had known this from the start I would have approached it differently, looking at it as a job from the start and being professional from the start – writing things that would be good from a search engine perspective, taking better photos and creating an online portfolio of my work.

Instead, I wrote because I loved writing and had things to say. Seeing blogging as a job has only happened fairly recently really and I still don’t really see it as a job – I see it as a hobby that brings me so many amazing opportunities. I have never had a job that I love as much as blogging and so I find it hard to see it as a career. But it is a career for many and I wish I had known this from the beginning.

Your blog name is everything

When I started blogging my blog was called Red and Baby Led. Soon after, I went self hosted and changed the blog name to Redhead Babyled – a name I loved and that suited me perfect whilst the children were young but, as soon as they were out of the baby days I wanted something that could grow with me, something with longevity and no need to change it again in the future. This is where What the Redhead said came in.

If I’d known then what I know now I would have picked a better name from the start. one that wouldn’t need changing as our lifestyle or family age changed. I would always tell people now to pick a name that won’t pigeon hole you – try to steer away from things that shout ‘parenting blogger’ and instead have something that is more generic or more about you than the kids. Changing name wasn’t hard – Zoe did it for me – and my DA/stats were back to where they’d been previously within 3 months but it would have saved a lot of effort had I just picked a different name in the first place.

You should sign up to every social media platform with a relevant name

When you start blogging you should really make sure that related social media accounts are available – and grab them as soon as possible! Otherwise, years down the line you’ll end up like me, using Twitter and Instagram accounts that you used before you started blogging that are completely unrelated to blogging and now feel that you can’t possibly change the names as no-one will know who you are. So, I’ll be Genuine Placebo on Twitter and Instagram for a little bit longer!

Go self hosted asap but pick your hosting carefully

I went self hosted about 18 months after I started blogging and I wish I had done it from the start. Self hosted blogs often look more professional, let you start building your own DA and open up more opportunities to you. But you can always get a vanity URL which does exactly the same thing. I know many hugely successful bloggers who are still happy on Blogger.

For me, I love knowing I own my website – rather than it belonging to Blogger or WordPress. It’s mine and I can restore it if anything happens to my hosting company. On that note, make sure you pick your hosting company wisely. I was originally with Bluehost – until they held my blog to ransom and wanted me to pay $1500+ just to get my blog back online. I’m now with TSOhost after a lot of recommendations and couldn’t be happier – their customer service is fantastic.

There are so many other bloggers who are doing exactly the same thing

I had no idea that there were other bloggers, all writing about their lives and doing exactly the same thing as me. It was when I first joined Facebook blogging groups that I found the blogging community and I have never looked back. It’s incredible having so many people that you automatically have something in common with and from there I have built some incredible friendships. I don’t know what I did before I was part of the blogging community and I just wish I’d found it sooner.

The more you blog the busier you get

You write a post and a few people might see it and it might occasionally get found on Google. In a few years that post might get a broken link on it or a spammy comment. But, if you have written 2,000 posts more people will see them but you’ll get more broken links, more spammy comments and more to do behind the scenes. But, as you get more posts there’s also more for PRs to find, there’s more opportunity for a brand to come across your blog and there’s more for other websites to link back to.

All of this means that you tend to get more contact, more to reply to on social media, more emails, more comments to acknowledge. More everything. But, there are no more hours in the day. Just more to do. Blogging snowballs. You start writing and think that will be it but a couple of years later you have to-do lists as long as your arm, broken links coming out of your ears and just so much to do. But you love it – and you wonder what you possibly filled your days with before you started blogging.

People who don’t blog often don’t understand

I have one really good friend from before I started blogging who really does understand it. She knows it’s not all free stuff and constant deliveries of things I don’t have to pay for. She knows that every single thing that arrives at my door I have to spend hours using, photographing, writing about and promoting.

But, most people who don’t blog just see that free stuff. They question every aspect of your life – asking if you got your new car for free, if your extension will be free and if you actually pay for anything. They don’t understand – and after a while you give up trying to explain.

So, if you’re reading this thinking of starting a blog for the endless free stuff – walk away now. There’s no such thing as a free lunch – and the same goes for blogging. Nothing is free and often a £20 toy will take a whole day to use, photograph, write about and promote.

Blogging can change your life

When I first started writing, 1st April 2012, I had no idea, four and a half years later, my life would have changed so much. I’m sure we would still be the same people if I hadn’t started blogging but we wouldn’t have had as many amazing opportunities or the money to give the children so many things. We wouldn’t have as many people in our lives and we wouldn’t have as many options available to us in the future.

Blogging has literally changed my life and I am so glad I started writing. My life is so full, the children’s life is so busy but so happy and we have so much to look forward to. If you took blogging away from that we would all have so much free time but what would we do with it all? I have no idea. Blogging is pretty incredible really.

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My Love of UK Parent Bloggers on Facebook

I love being a blogger and as much as ‘Mummy Bloggers’ get bad press at times, I love being a parent blogger – and I love being part of the blogging community. A huge part of that for me is the UK Parent Bloggers Facebook Group, a place where Emma invited me to admin a few years ago and which, since then, has come to be a second home to me.

The UK Parent Bloggers Facebook Group is a place where so many bloggers can come together, chat about all things blogging and often NBR (not blogging related – thanks Jade!). It’s a place where the blogging hierarchy doesn’t exist and where we can all help each other, share opportunities and support each other.

Blogging can be quite an isolated thing – working away at your laptop, by yourself for hours each day but for me, with Facebook open in a new tab and my notifications pinging constantly I always have company – and I always have something to do. You can’t get lonely – or bored – when you submerse yourself in the blogging community, and I love that.

It’s also great to have somewhere to ask questions when you have them – after a quick Google search, obviously – and where you can reflect, post those random blogging thoughts and where I, personally, can post blogging tips, sharing the knowledge that I’ve gained since I started blogging.

As a blogger it can be hard to find a place you belong. You may be more lifestyle than family, you may have such an eclectic mix of posts that you don’t feel like you tick any boxes or you might just have a constant stream of giveaways and reviews and not feel like anyone really cares about what you write. However you feel, and whatever your niche, it’s nice to have a place to go, to chat and to just be. For me, the UK Parent Bloggers Facebook Group is just that.

It’s an all encompassing space for bloggers of any niche – they just have to be parents. There’s no link dumping, no follow threads – literally just a place to chat and it has, without a doubt, made me love Facebook again.

So, if you are a blogger – and a parent – and want to find somewhere to learn, chat and meet other bloggers – check out UK Parent Bloggers. Just give me a nudge to say you’ve requested to join and I’ll approve asap. Welcome to one of my favourite places online.

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The Blogging Hierarchy

I remember clearly when I started blogging. I’d been reading other parenting blogs during my pregnancy with LP and those haze filled newborn days. They kept me awake during night feeds, reassured me on the tough days and supported me when I needed it.

I followed so many bloggers on Twitter and when we started weaning LP I thought I’d like to document it, first foods, baby led weaning and then everything else that came after.

I spent the next 10 months writing, publishing and carrying on with life. I wasn’t a blogger – I was someone with a blog. But then one day I realised that there was so much more to blogging, a community, conferences and a whole world that I hadn’t known about.

I went self hosted, Redhead Babyled was born and I decided to take blogging more seriously. I didn’t just want to be someone with a blog, I wanted to be a blogger. I wanted people to read what I wrote, I wanted people to know I had a blog and I wanted it to be something I was proud of.

That was the start of my love affair with blogging. I went self hosted nearly three years ago and since then my blog has grown, my social media has grown and I have carved a place for myself in the blogging community – somewhere I am so proud to be.

But I remember my first Britmums Live conference where I saw all these big bloggers around and I was in awe of them. They were like celebrities to me and I put them on this pedestal. I didn’t talk to many of them, I was too nervous, I felt inferior and I didn’t want them to waste their time talking to little me.

The following year was much the same although I forced myself to go and speak to these people that I looked up to, respected and whose blogs I loved to read. I said a quick hello to a few, smiled at a few from afar and said congratulations to ones that won awards. But, in my head, they were still at the top of this theoretical hierarchy, and I was somewhere further down.

Then this year’s Britmums Live came round and I realised something had changed. I realised that I could speak to everyone – all those big bloggers – and it was just like talking to anyone else. They were just the same as me.

I realised, and had a bit of a epiphany, that as a new blogger I had made this hierarchy in my head. A pecking order of bloggers, making the ones I love into celebrities of the blogging world. No-one else had put them there, it was me. I adored their blogs, saw their chart positions and the wonderful opportunities they experienced, I saw their beautiful families and perfect photos and I made them into something they weren’t.

I looked back to last year’s Britmums where some bloggers had called me a big blogger and others had tweeted me after to say they were too nervous to say hello. It had made me feel a little taken aback, a little awkward and a little out of my comfort zone. To me, I wasn’t a big blogger, I was just me, doing what I have always done, writing a blog that I love and making the most of being part of the blogging community, commenting on blogs, chatting on social media and, well, being a blogger.

I said to close friends how I didn’t like being a big blogger. It wasn’t something I had expected or asked for and I was still just me.

I realised that most bloggers, at some point or another, create this hierarchy. They think that other bloggers are better than them – or even beneath them at times – and that some bloggers wouldn’t want to talk to them, wouldn’t know who they were or would make them feel awkward.

This year I spoke to so many bloggers – bloggers who had been to Britmums for the first time, bloggers who had been to every Britmums since it started, bloggers who took the time to come up and say hello to me and bloggers who I had spoken to for so long across social media. I spoke to literally hundreds of people and made sure I took time to speak to as many people as possible, not sticking to one group of people and trying to mingle as much as possible.

For me, the hierarchy has been dissolved. We are all bloggers, blogging. Regardless of charts, stats or anything else we are all united in this love of being able to share our voice, share our photos and be a community.

There may well be a blogging hierarchy. There may well be bloggers all the way from the top to the bottom. But this hierarchy is in your own head and nowhere else. Don’t let it stop you saying hello, getting to know people and making friends in this pretty incredible community of ours.

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Britmums Live 2016 #BML16

This year Britmums Live had a bit of a shake up. It was changed from two days to one, yet costing the same price, and squeezing everything we knew and loved about Britmums Live into just one day.

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I admit, I hated the idea of the new format and I was annoyed at having to pay the same amount for less time at an event that I loved. But, because I love Britmums so much I had to go back and so I booked my ticket as soon as I could. Whatever the format I am sure that I will return year after year – it’s a highlight of the blogging calendar for me.

A few months ago I got the news that Slim Fast would be sponsoring me to attend and I arranged work and childcare so that I could stay in London for two nights, extending the time I could spend with my blogging friends and having the same length experience as usual.

I stayed at The Montcalm with Pamela which was amazing – for location if nothing else – and I was so excited for Britmums. I’d love to tell you that I spent the event learning new things and chatting to brands but in reality I spent it the best way I could – talking to other bloggers and celebrating everything that is being a blogger.

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With Colette – and her trademark red lipstick and stripes! And with one of my closest friends, online and off, Pamela.

The whole day was long with registration leading straight into keynote speeches, a pass the parcel ice breaker which wasn’t as exciting as last year’s Guinness World Record breaking acheivement, and then tea breaks, sessions, lunch, sessions, tea breaks and more

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With Stevie, Eilidh, Laura and Jenny – such awesome girls! And with my partner in crime, Emma and the lovely Martyn.

The whole day rolled into one. I went to one session, spoke to a few brands and ate cake and drank tea but mainly I spent it talking to bloggers – ones I had met before and ones that I had only ever spoken to online. For me, speaking to so many people was such a highlight and definitely the thing I love most about Britmums.

The end of the day was a blur of Cherry Healey, keynote speeches and drinks before the BiBs awards. I was a finalist in the Social Media category, and I didn’t win, but having Carol Smilie read out my blog name, seeing my name on a big screen at the front and just knowing that so many bloggers were rooting for me to win means so much.

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With Sarah and Eilidh.

The day was long, it went by in a blur, and before I knew it we were collecting our goodie bags and heading on our way. I really do hope that next year it goes back to two days with maybe a mid-morning start on the Friday and an earlier finish on the Saturday, making it easier for everyone to stay for the whole thing and still get there and get home.

This post doesn’t have much detail, and it’s full of selfies and not much else, but it sums up my Britmums experience. One that I loved, that I would do again tomorrow and one that I will remember for a long time.

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With two lovely friends – Hayley and Emma (affectionately known as Brum!) and Laura who it was so lovely to meet for the first time.

It’s one where I felt a true part of the blogging community, one that left me so happy and one that has given me so much enthusiasm to keep doing what I’m doing but to try and do so much more too. I love blogging and I love the chances that we get to celebrate it too.

Thank you to all the people that made my day so awesome – if you came up and said hello I really do appreciate it. I hope you all had a great day too!

With one of my most favourite people, Stevie – really wish she lived closer.