With the crazy times we live in right now comes a little perk for many: working from home is now widely accepted and often required. Most people would prefer to not be in the office five days a week anyway and find themselves being much more efficient working from home. An office at home also means that you can design it yourself, to your needs and taste, which makes it even more pleasant and relaxed. If working from home is something you’ll be doing in the long run, it’s a good idea to invest in some durable, useful items to make your life easier and work space more professional. No more working on the sofa!
For this post I have done some browsing for you on Etsy and made a selection of beautiful and useful accessories for your desk, to create the perfect home office space.
All products listed are made from sustainable materials, including wood, paper and metal.
Prevent RSI with an ergonomic laptop stand
Many of us work on laptops, which makes working flexible. But having to work from home on a laptop can make those hands and wrists pretty sore after a while. Let’s prevent RSI and invest in a good ergonomic laptop stand, at the correct height.
Combine it with a keyboard and turn your laptop into a desktop when working from home. This beautiful minimalist design in oak and steel is from Etsy seller Oakywood gets very good reviews and costs £123. It reduces your eye and neck strain, rises your laptop about 6 inches (16 cm) to an ergonomic position at an eye level.
No one likes starting their working day at a desk full of loose stuff. Stationary, iPads, notebooks, paper clips, they all need a home! Invest in a good-looking desk organizer and you get rid of that problem.
This stationary organizer below is not only beautiful, minimalist and made of beech wood, it also features slots for your tablet and phone. Handy for watching tutorials or videos or having a quick hands-free call on screen. Above all, it keeps your pencils, pens, keys, business cards and desk accessories from going astray.
This organizer below is another nice wooden item, which even has a cup holder built in. Because we’ve all had that coffee spilled over the keyboard…
Hands up, who likes a good list? I enjoy a bullet journal too. Combine the two and you’ll get a daily desk planner pad. With this handy A5 daily planner from the Etsy seller InkyIntheWild you can really start sorting your life out.
The motivational desk pad comes with 100 easy-tear pages and a cardboard backing. Fill out the planner, organize your thoughts and then simply tear off the pages and stick them on your wall, memo board, fridge or fold and pop in your bag. You can order the daily work planner on its own, but you may be tempted to go for the mega pack (gosh, I need that), which includes a daily, a weekly and a handy meal planner. I am already feeling organized just looking at it!
Invest in some fancy book ends
Working from home undoubtedly means more files, notebooks and documents that need a shelf. Don’t shove them in a pile in the corner of your desk, or worse, on the floor. Give these files a proper home. Some fancy book stands or document holders will make your home office look a lot more professional and organized. I love these metal honeycomb book ends, made by seller Geomodus.
Make your office look neat with a desktop cable organizer
Laptop cables, USB cables, keyboard cables, headphone cables; it’s like bloomin’ spaghetti junction on your desk these days! Time to sort that mess out. To stick with the wood theme: I discovered this beautiful desk organizer made in walnut, which will make any desk look like an executive’s.
Why do we want to record and publish every moment, minute, event of our lives? We photograph ourselves holding a coffee cup in the morning sun and put things in the caption like ‘Blissful moment. #lovemylife. #coffeeaddict. We hit ‘share’ on Instagram and wait for the hearts and likes. We can’t have an evening out anymore without creating evidence and letting everyone at home know that we have such a fabulous social life. If it’s not snapped on your smart phone, it hasn’t happened. Why? For who? When have we become so self obsessed? And is it arrogance, narcissism or insecurity that drives this strange modern day behaviour? Why do we think people want to see what we’re up to in our private life?
No skeletons here
Gosh, I am no saint. I am guilty of it myself, posting photos on Instagram of my happy children on the beautiful Valencia beach, a selfie because I think my hair looks pretty, a picture of a fun afternoon with friends. I have always liked creating written and visual content, stories, photographs, putting it all together, long before Instagram was a thing. So these kind of platforms obviously offer an easy and very addictive outlet for me. But I can’t ignore the fact that I am also hooked to the dopamine hit received from every ‘like’ by my online friends, and to get as much dopamine as possible I am trying to make everything in my life look just a little bit more beautiful than it perhaps is. Nice lighting, good angle, a pretty filter, a bit of cropping, choosing the perfect shot out of ten others. Shoving that pile of laundry out of the frame. And obviously I’ll be leaving out the skeletons hiding in the closets. Hands up, who’s with me? I am sure I am not alone.
Sex, drugs and…social media
Neuroscientists are studying the effects of social media on the brain and research has shown that positive interactions (such as someone liking your post) trigger the same kind of chemical reaction that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs. An article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes tells us that when you get a social media notification, your brain sends dopamine, a chemical messenger, along a reward pathway, which makes you feel good. Dopamine is associated with food, exercise, love, sex, gambling, drugs … and now, social media. To make things worse, the reward centers in our brains are most active when we’re talking about ourselves. As a normal functioning human you probably talk about yourselves 30 to 40 percent of the time. On social media it is all about showing off your life. That means you are talking about yourself a whopping 80 percent of the time. (source: Now. The intersection of technology, innovation and creativity).
Then there are the Instagrammers with their 100k+ followers. They look like they have their lives way better sorted than us, don’t they? Their daily pictures show perfect homes, dirt-free children, sunny days out, loving marriages and gorgeous bodies fueled by green smoothies. And we lap it up like they are the next Messiah. It’s all lies and don’t we know it. Why do we still swoon over them? These people are marketeers, trying to make money. It is their job to make you believe their life and the products they are wearing, showing, sharing are worth coveting. Whether it is ethical to sell us a dream world, that is another question, but it gives them their income. And just like with any other advert, we can choose to either fall for it or not. If we remind ourselves that it is just futile entertainment, we stay in control and put it into perspective. If however we feel shitty about our own life as a result of scrolling their feed, then it is perhaps time to switch off the wifi and go for a walk.
Now as adults and middle aged cynics like myself most of us can see through this. We scroll through Instagram or Facebook, click ‘ like’ on something we find inspiring or funny and then move on with our lives. We probably have other stuff to do. Adolescents however are not yet able to see the bigger picture and the futility of it all, and risk a number of things. First of all, there is the risk of crushing their self esteem when the dopamine doesn’t hit and their post doesn’t get liked. Big deal, we think, but for a child? Secondly, there is the pressure of social media posts by their friends, seemingly all having a better life than them, making them feel isolated and depressed. Then there is the trolling and online bullying and last but certainly not least, the danger of creepy grownups privately messaging (without you knowing) your underaged child and abusing them, virtually or – god forbid – in real life. Want to know how real this danger is? Just go and type #12yearoldgirl into the Instagram search box to see how much inappropriate comments are made by older guys who clearly know these girls are children. Time to have a closer look at your kids’ devices, their apps and the privacy settings.
Pouting in the pool
What makes someone want to be on Instagram though, other than the dopamine hits? So many accounts and they are all trying to grow their followers. Fitness freaks, yogis, foodies, new mums with stylish interiors, and yes, the millions of pre-teens and adolescents trying to look like the next top model. You see that last category in bucket loads out in the wild these days. Just go to the beach, the park or hang around at pittoresk city spots and you’ll find them. They usually drag a mate along to do a shoot or they take turns pouting lips and standing in awkward positions. (Cue: girl seen from the back in bikini coming out of the swimming pool, looking seductively over her shoulder). I have even spotted mums photographing their daughters like this, obviously hoping they will be discovered as the next Kim Kardashian. That is the thing with social media: creating an account is free, making content can be creative and a lot of fun, and yes, it is possible to make a career out of it in some cases.
Multi-billion dollar business
Ask any 15-year old what they want to be when they grow up and ‘paid influencer’ or ‘youtuber’ will be in the top 3. And who doesn’t like to dream of a job as someone traveling the world, posting pictures on Instagram and getting paid for it? Nearly three quarters of Gen Z and millennials in the U.S. follow influencers on social media, 86% of them would post sponsored content for money, and 54% would become an influencer given the opportunity. (source: cnbc.com). For people over 40 like me, it is astonishing to think kids idealise this online world so much, but the fact is that online marketing is a career and influencers play a huge part in it. Influencer marketing is still projected to become a $15 billion business by the year 2022, even though the market is now becoming saturated and pay can be low for many people trying to make a living out of it.
If you have an Instagram account yourself, trying to promote your work as an artist or perhaps your small business, you know yourself that it requires commitment to frequently post something interesting in order to grow your brand and not lose followers. For those who have been able to make an actual career out of being an Instagrammer, some even grow tired of it. In the article The fatigue hitting influencers as Instagram evolvesBrianna Madia, 29, tells about the fatigue of keeping a successful social media account alive. Madia currently lives the #vanlife, documenting her travels through the desert with her husband and two dogs. While her traveling lifestyle might seem like a dream to followers, Madia says she’s “grown tired of catering to an audience of 285,000 bosses”. She says deleting her Instagram is something that she dreams about frequently.
It is not all doom and gloom in the world of Social Media though. For me personally it’s a quick and easy way to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world (especially important for me because I’m an expat). It is a great tool to find and meet like-minded people online or in local groups. Without it I wouldn’t have made all the friends and connections in my new city as quickly as I did. I also use it a lot to find out what’s on locally in terms of concerts, art exhibitions, festivals etc. and to check out the reviews on a restaurant before making a booking. It is not only a place of rampant consumerism either – some ‘influencers’ use their presence online to promote greener ways of living. Positive News lists a number of follow-worthy young people who are trying to make the world a better place. I have learnt and read about a lot of things because someone shared it on social media. Climate change, political activism, mental health, feminist and LGBT issues and equal rights, zero waste campaigns, you name it, if it wasn’t for social media we would all know a lot less about these things. And I guess that is worth a few measured dopamine shots.
Running a business is great but sometimes you find yourself wondering where to take it next. You are doing what you have always been doing, which may work fine. If that is still giving you joy and it pays the bills, then keep going! Or maybe you have drifted away from your original concept over the months or even years. Maybe you wanted to try out different things, offer more services or just changed things to earn more money. And then you suddenly ask yourself:”Hold on, what is it that I am actually offering and to whom?” You may even find yourself feeling a little bit lost. How do you get your business back on track, or even on a different, much better track? It is all about aligning your own core values with those of your business and finding your ideal client.
For years I felt I had two separate work identities. Sometimes they overlapped, but mostly they existed parallel. On one hand I worked as a marketing and communications manager for arts organisations, writing, editing and creating all their promotional material. On the other, I started my blog and business Nina’s Apartment, first as a hobby, then also as a shop. This work was all about vintage furniture and interior design. Sure, I used my arts and marketing knowledge to promote Nina’s Apartment. But they were two totally different jobs.
Adapting and changing
Right now, after a period of moves and changes, growing a little older and developing different interests, my blog is changing. I no longer want to only write about vintage, I want to write about life and the things that matter to me. That still includes vintage and design (because I love it), but it also includes everything else that adds to a ‘soulful life’: being mindful, being creative, eating healthily, conscious buying, caring for the planet and each other.
Selling to the wrong client
At the same time I have started a new life abroad as a freelance copy and content writer, mainly with online clients. I needed the work, so I first just accepted every job I was offered and found myself writing web pages for commercial outfits selling things I was not even interested in. I got myself onto freelancer platform Fiverr, but I constantly got haggled down or sent enquiries and then nothing. Clients were not valuing my expertise and clearly just needed “to get a job done” by any copywriter who could do it for the lowest price and as quickly as possible. It felt like you got handed a wet napkin after all the time and effort you put into the work. Do you know that feeling?
Bridging the gap between your values and your work
Then recently, I was speaking to an online business coach who held up a mirror. “Your whole face lights up when you talk about a certain client”, she said. “It looks like that is the sort of person you want to work for”. She was right. I enjoy writing for passionate people who have heart centered businesses, such as creative practitioners, life coaches, mindfulness and yoga teachers, eco friendly businesses and others who just love making the world more beautiful and help others.
I realised that I needed to bridge the gap between my two business identities. The gap also between my personal values and the work I do. Become one. Align everything. My soulful living blog can become my soulful writing business. No more identity crisis.
So how do you make everything flow better?
Define your values
Once everything is aligned, a business can flow much more easily, attracting better clients. But in order to get there, you need to define your values first. Secondly you need to decide who your ‘ideal client’ is, so you can create a niche, fine tune your message and attract this person.
Values can be anything from ‘friendly’, ‘hard working’, ‘efficient’, to ‘high quality’, ‘exclusive’ and ‘approachable’. Whatever defines you as a person and your business. Values are the things that we find important and are a basis for our behaviour, our principals and influence of character. It is best to choose a maximum of six values to focus on in your business.
The ideal client
Once you know what your values are, it’s time to have a good think about who your ideal client is. If you could choose the perfect client, who would you want to work for? What does he or she look like? If you say, I work for “small businesses”, or “anyone interested in art”, you are keeping it way too general. You make it much harder for yourself to attract customers this way. After all, you’ll have a lot of competition if you don’t make yourself stand out a bit more. It is scary to let go and make yourself only focus on one or two types of client, but it will pay off.
What is your message and who are you speaking to? Come up with one or two imaginary clients who you ideally want to work for and write down everything about them you can possibly think of. What they look like, where they live, what work they do, their family situation, their lifestyle, where they hang out online. If you have a clear picture in your mind of your ideal client, it is so much easier to promote yourself effectively to them with the right message – in the right location.
Creating a niche: what problem are you solving?
Your ideal client has a problem (a need) and you can solve it for them. This is your niche. Don’t solve a hundred different problems for a hundred different clients. Zoom in on one or two things you do really well, which your ideal client will be looking for. What is it that your ideal client needs and how do you solve this problem? This will be your key message in all of your marketing.
Example 1: health coach
If you are a health coach who offers coaching help with diet and lifestyle, your ideal client may be someone dealing with weight issues or health problems. Your values could be ‘health’, ‘motivation’, ‘achievement’, ‘commitment’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘life changing’. You will be helping them solve their problem by offering expert advice on diet and lifestyle, so their health – and life – improves, long term.
Example 2: A designer
Another example can be a designer creating unique, personalised wedding invitations. Your values could be ‘unique’, ‘creative’, ‘high quality’, ‘fast working’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘good communication’. The ideal client will be young couples who are engaged and value a creative take on traditional invites. And they need them on time to be able to invite their guests. The ‘problem’ you are solving for your ideal client is to offer beautiful personalised wedding invitations that arrive on time.
It may feel a little scary to let go of certain clients and not aim at a broad audience anymore. I feel it too! But the more you fine-tune your values, your niche, your services and your ideal client…the easier everything gets. Your marketing message writes itself, as you will know exactly what you do and for who. You will be able to write your web copy much more easily, because you have already defined so well what you’re about. And as you now know who your ideal client is, it will be much easier to find them – and sell to them.
Are you an artist, musician, designer or otherwise creative person? Then you probably know that feeling, that no matter what stage in life you are at, whatever job you have chosen or lifestyle you are leading, if you have a creative streak in you, it just has to come out or you feel itchy. Still, sometimes you feel the burning desire to create…. but you can’t focus on anything or don’t know where to start. Perhaps you wanted to write that book, become better at playing the piano or continue to paint after you finished a great art course last year. But you didn’t. Another problem many creatives have – and I see you nodding – we all have too many things on the go but none of them are finished. And then there is procrastination. Here are five easy tips to boost your creativity and help you get motivated again!
1. Create a Pinterest Board with 12 projects for a year
Oh, I see you thinking, oh dear Pinterest, the ultimate station of procrastination! Yes, I know, we all spend too much time on it, drooling over interiors, recipes and pretty stuff. But there are some useful pins on there, really and they can boost your creativity. Try creating a brand new board and only pin creative ideas or projects on there that you know you are able to manage and finish. Perhaps a super easy sewing project, a simple printmaking technique you always wanted to try or an idea to upcycle a piece of furniture.
Choose 12 pins and give them a name: ‘Project January’, etc. That way you can focus on one easy creative task each month and you know there is a new one coming the next, which will hopefully give you enough of a drive to complete them. You know that each finished project will give you a great sense of accomplishment, so don’t be over ambitious and pin wisely.
2. Start a creative journal
Draw, stick, paint, collage, collect and write. Journals are wonderful little books to help you to boost your creativity, try out different art techniques and visualise ideas. The nice thing about journals is, is that each page offers a new opportunity, a fresh blank page. There is no right or wrong, it is your personal journal, do what you like. Nothing in your journal has to be of great quality, it is a place to dump your thoughts, your scribbles, stories, mind maps, save cut out images and other items that catch your eye, and it will be a lovely thing to keep. You can refer back to it in the future if you need some inspiration or a reminder of creative ideas or genius brain waves.
I did a wonderful workshop called ‘Creative Sketchbooks’ last year with artist Fenneke Wolters-Sinke at Fenfolio in Scotland, who showed me that you can be truly free in your journals. She taught me how using old illustrated books offer a great basis for multimedia techniques using stamps, paint, scrap paper, fabric and collage techniques among others, with the existing text and pictures making an interesting base layer. Do you have an old illustrated book lying around you no longer use? Give it a go! What is the worst that can happen?
3. Start an Instagram account
Just like a paper journal, Instagram can be your own personal dumping ground for things that catch your eye, by taking snap shots of them and posting them on your Instagram page. You can make it public or keep it private, that is up to you. Perhaps you have a love for textures, or a certain colour. Or maybe you have always wanted to do a photographic series of vintage cars? Of people? Of plants? I recently started another account myself, taking pictures of colourful street art and other things that catch my eye in Valencia (@coloursofvalencia).
Instagram shows all your images in a grid and it can give you a real boost seeing your ideas and images all together, forming an overview of your creative journey. You may find a certain theme emerging. It also encourages you to go out and take plenty of photos. If your account is public you may even get fellow creatives commenting and you could discover some other interesting accounts giving you more ideas in the process.
4. Set up a Mastermind meet-up with other creatives
This is a slightly different idea, which you may or may not like, but could be interesting to try! I have seen it work very well for women in business, who come together once or twice a month for coffee and discuss their challenges, certain topics and things that are perhaps keeping them from moving forward. Many times they end up collaborating, giving each other fresh ideas or pointing each other to contacts in their networks. I don’t see how this could not also work well for people feeling a bit stuck in their creative lives.
You could pick a topic each time or even plan a visit to local galleries to get fresh ideas and boost that creativity. Hook up with two or three creative friends or contacts you know that could benefit from a Mastermind meet-up and get the ball rolling. If anything, you’ll expand or revive your social circle, which can only be a positive thing.
5. boost your creativity by Switching off the internet and mobile phone
Hold on, not just yet! But you get it, right? And yes, I did just encourage you to start a Pinterest board and and Instagram account. Guilty! But we can all admit that we are probably spending way too much time online, wasting an enormous amount of hours scrolling through pointless posts and photos of people we hardly know on our Facebook timeline, chatting on WhatsApp, and doing really not much at all that stimulates our brain, let alone our creativity. It is a worldwide addiction that prevents us from picking up that brush, the neglected guitar or switch on the sewing machine. Even reading a real book.
Let’s all try and break that habit, myself included! Be more mindful, go for a walk to let new ideas flow into your mind. Once the wifi is off, what else is there to do that makes us happy? Yes, plenty! You can start small, by choosing one day or night a week and dedicate this to creating. I promise you, you will be proud of yourself.
Do you have any other tips to boost creativity? Please share them below or on the facebook page. Happy creating!
Have you noticed the increasing amount of ads on your timeline about online business coaches and bloggers trying to convince you how to make a lot of money quickly?
I recently came across this blog post by Australian copywriter Jay Crisp Crow, about the fairytale of female bloggers apparently getting rich overnight, and I wanted to share some of my own thoughts with you today.
There is a growing number of bloggers on social media that basically make you believe that if you follow their tactics (and buy their e Book or sign up to their course), you too will make a six-figure salary. So you think, hey, I have a blog and a pretty decent Instagram feed, so hell yes, gimme a slice of that! I am going to become a full-time blogger and they are going to teach me how! You join promising FB groups full of fellow eager femmepreneurs, sign up to slick email newsletters and try to keep up with all the tips and tricks they throw at you.
You end up getting obsessed with writing and scheduling blog articles and Facebook posts. You keep checking them for comments and likes (dopamine high!). Then you get social media anxiety because of your failing Instagram feeds (“oh sh*t, I’ve lost 10 followers, I need to post more, what the hell am I going to post next?). Ultimately you feel like a complete failure because the blog post you thought was your best one yet, only gets two reads. Then of course there is the pressure of having to jump on the Facebook Live and Youtube Channel bandwagon.
Let’s just pause and remind ourselves why we started to blog in the first place.
I started blogging about ten yeas ago because I like writing, I like creating content and love pretty things for my home. I wanted to have an online space to share my ramblings, ideas, pictures, projects and basically just create a nice looking magazine style blog that I hoped people might like to read. I don’t like waste, so I wanted to inspire others to ‘upcycle’ and buy vintage furniture. I hoped to inspire others, but I put no pressure on myself whatsoever, I just enjoyed doing it.
Then blogging became the next big thing. Millenials (which I am obviously not – too old to be one, born in 1979, so vintage compared to any of them) apparently all want a blog now. It’s in fact a career option, can you believe it. Just blogging and writing for the sake of it is apparently a waste of time. We all need to try and monetise the damn thing. How about that for giving you some social media anxiety?
If you are one of those confident ‘Boss Babes‘ – you call yourself an Online Business Coach or Blogging Coach and try to create this big following of aspiring entrepreneurs in a Facebook group who you sell your fairytale story to and make them believe they too can be a millionaire overnight. Tempting….but…seriously?
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good, helpful stuff out there. And you can make a lot of money from online businesses. Just not without determination and commitment. You’ll be in for the long haul.
I have been trying to up my blogging game too in the past year. I am hoping to make decent money from it one day. I have also joined Facebook Groups for Interior Designers, which have shown to be very helpful supportive forums. There are great experts out there! I have read many social media and online marketing blog posts, downloaded some of useful e books and learnt a few techniques along the way. I have even signed up as a brand affiliate. This means that ads and links give you a commission on any clicks and sales – very slow! You need tons of traffic!. I am looking into how to get sponsored posts (not that easy!) and use keywords for SEO. It certainly means a lot of hard work and dedication.
Vloggers sharing their life on youtube
Reading and learning however is never a waste of time. Some of these social media coaches are very knowledgeable and worth following. Some vloggers do make a living from sharing their life on youtube. Good for them. But the thousands of others claiming they are raking it in at the tender age of nineteen? Nah. Not buying it.
Here’s what Jay Crisp Crow says about it in her blog post:
“I’m calling BS on a lot of those “I quit my job and within 6 months I’m making 7 figures a fortnight” stories.
Who ARE those women? Some kind of entrepreneurial bandits? And what kind of message are they perpetuating?
That if we only TRIED harder, worked smarter, (invested in their program, perhaps), changed our mindset, BELIEVED in ourselves more, we could have that too?
We’re women. We’re glorious and clever and capable and full of brilliance. But we’re not bloody circus performers.”
I am someone who is down to earth, not easily stressed out and thankfully has never had a panic attack. I don’t suffer from depression and I am generally very happy and satisfied with life. I love life. I realised that these Facebook groups and Blogging gurus made me start to feel stressed and anxious. I needed to take stock and calm the heck down. What are these messages doing to my sanity?
No such thing as a quick buck
More importantly, what are they doing to people who do suffer from social media anxiety? Or all those hard workers who are trying to build their business but feel so disheartened by those seemingly successful online competitors? Those teenage and twenty-something bloggers fresh out of college are still figuring out life. Making them think that they all can make a 6-figure salary out of blogging or showing the latest fashion on an Instagram feed is unfair. Seriously. Building a business takes time. There is no such thing as a quick buck.
I would like to tell every femmepreneur or aspiring Boss Babe out there right now to show yourself some love. Yes, I am talking to myself too! Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t try and copy them. And please remind yourself daily that social media photos and videos only show a person’s best side. It is their own illusion of their perfect life. We all know the pang of envy when flicking through your friend’s Facebook album of their holiday in Mauritius – and their happy family. It’s just a a photo. You don’t get to see the meltdowns.
And when it comes to Blogging Coaches…you never know what hides behind that glamorous front.I bet there are more bloggers and Instagammers than you think struggling with social media anxiety, depression and low self esteem. Anyone?
Just do what you love doing, blog yourself silly, take those gorgeous photos. Take your time and ENJOY the ride. Be true to yourself and proud of yourself. Try and be original, have fun. And more important than anything else: don’t take it all so seriously! It’s a blog.
Also, don’t give up that day job yet, no matter how boring. While you are writing, learning, blogging and building that fabulous Instagram feed…it is nice to have a pay check at the end of the month. To pay the bills and feed the kids. To feel OK.
“I’d like us to all embrace the idea that we are NOT failing at business if we take a moment, build a bridge between employment and small business ownership, and run a “side hustle” for a while.
Although the fierce female Facebook forums would have you believe otherwise. *
I’d like to encourage you to QUIT MAKING IT SO TOUGH FOR YOURSELF.
You might (…) find that sweet spot betweenpart-time work and side hustle that is the exact right fit for you.”
Do you have a blog or thinking about starting one? Need some great blogging tips? Here is a beginners guide to blogging on how to get started and what to keep in mind.
From hobby blog to professional blogger
I have been blogging on and off for almost 10 years (10 years?!), firstly just to have a place to write about my own creative thoughts and projects and to share interior design inspiration while doing up my house and looking for ideas. I wasn’t too bothered about anyone else wishing to read it, I was just enjoying the creative process. Nothing too ambitious. Then I had my vintage furniture shop for four years, using my blog mainly to promote the items I had for sale or events I took part in locally. Not really using it as a blog anymore but rather as my business website.
Have a passion for writing
I really love writing and creating interesting content, so I decided to go back to ‘real’ blogging: publishing articles about interior design, featuring inspiring images and styling tips. In the beginning my readership wasn’t great, so I wanted to ‘up my blogging game’, driving more traffic to the site and growing the number of readers, as well as followers on social media. Right now I have a healthy number of social media followers that is still growing every day and much better stats on the blog. My hard work is beginning to pay off as more people now visit my site and brands are starting to look to collaborate with me as a result.
If you like the idea of having a blog yourself, it can feel like a minefield and pretty daunting. Where to start? What to write? I am sharing a few beginners mistakes to avoid.
Blogging mistake 1: Low quality content
First things first: other than the essential question of what is it about and who is it for, a blog needs content. Good, interesting, creative content. Teach people something new!
A good post has least 700 words, ideally more than 900. And while I am still learning every day myself, I know from the stats (I love my stats!) that certain content does better than others. Firstly, you need a love for writing and in case of interiors, fashion or lifestyle blogs, also an eye for visuals and aesthetics. Stuff needs to look good! Think about what you would find interesting to read and see if you visited a blog. People online have the attention span of a goldfish these days, so grab ‘em with something hot!
Teach them something new
Most readers enjoy learning something new (try a tutorial), are looking for inspiration (provide good quality images, ideally your own), and love a freebie or a giveaway (what can you offer?). In my experience, my most popular blog posts are the ones that are providing unique content, reveal something personal – like a house tour, an interview with someone or a personal story about yourself, as people love a look behind the scenes, they’re nosey ;-).
Also always try and include original content and your own images. People often follow you not just because of the topic of your blog but because of you and your personality. It is worth showing a bit about yourself and your views, even if it makes you feel a bit awkward and shy at first (I mean, who wants to read about you, right? Believe me, we all want to read about you!). It makes the site ‘human’, people feel a connection and you are able to build a relationship with the reader.
Blogging tip 2: Ignoring copyright and image sources
Sites like Pinterest are a great resource for finding images and ideas for content. It is usually OK to repost them (if in doubt, ask the person whose image it is) onto your own blog, but please make sure to always put in links to the web source of images you choose to use. You wouldn’t like to find one of your own beautiful images around the web without any mention of your name or blog, would you? Apart from that it is bad manners, it also doesn’t make your blog look credible if you steal pictures and make it look as if they are yours. Before you ask, all images in this post are from Pixabay, a great resource for copyright free images – free to use.
Blogging mistake 3: No commitment
Having a blog is a big commitment, especially if you want to start doing it professionally in the long run. You’ll want not only readers but also brands wishing to collaborate with you. If you want an interesting, high quality and popular blog, you will need to post at least once a week, ideally more. I know, it’s not easy and takes a lot of time! (*psst, if you need help, you can hire me as a ghost writer!)
Not all posts have to be of literary quality and of great length, some can be short and sweet; I tend a post a more substantial article (min 500 words) once a week and often mix it up with a shorter additional post, sharing what inspired me that week.
Make yourself a schedule and plan your posts ahead. This helps to keep the creative flow going and you know what to work on next. If you schedule it in advance, you can time your posts according to when your readers are most likely to click and read (check those stats!).
Blogging mistake 4: Not using social media
If you have spent hours on putting an article together, then you’d better tell the world! Chances that someone stumbles across your site by accident are slim. Make sure you have a Facebook page, twitter, instagram and pinterest, and share your blog post with your followers. Mailchimp is also good if you have an email list and make sure to grow that list! You can use automated email using your RSS feed, so all your subscribers will receive your latest posts automatically in their inbox every week or whenever you post.
Pin your images on Pinterest!
Since I started pinning all of my images on my blog to Pinterest, I have seen a huge increase in traffic on my website! Make sure you describe them well so people find them in their searches as well.
Blogging mistake 5: Ignoring keywords and SEO
If you want to be found by search engines, make sure your titles include words that people likely type into google. Try and place yourself in someone’s shoes. What would they type in if they were looking for content such as on your blog? Location, brand names, ‘how-to’, ‘top five’ are all examples of words and combinations you could try. Look at popular blogs too to see how they do it and learn from them. Make sure you use keywords in your title, headers, sub headers and main article. And don’t forget the images, as they are important to in searches. Give them titles, ALT titles and descriptions that contain your keywords.
What have you tried that worked well for you? What are you struggling with? Please share in the comments below.
I meet many talented local artists, makers and people who aspire to or have just set up their own creative business. I have met lots of them since I started my own business five years ago – but also before that in my previous job as marketing/audience development consultant in the arts sector. Most of them are women, trying to build a business that will fit around their family. I am no different. And we all struggle with the same question: how do we best promote what we do and where?
I have always worked on a shoestring budget, or actually no budget at all and have somehow managed to get my business name known and steadily grow my business. How did I do this? Don’t get me wrong – I have have so much to learn and improve in how I run and promote my business – you live and learn and fall and get back up – but today I will share some of the things that have helped me promote my business online and ‘get my name out there’ in the first years of setting up.
1. Be social
Before we get into the online bit, here is tip one: networking is very important, both online and offline. Knowing lots of people helps. Go to local business events, workshops, talks. Speak to people, exchange business cards, ask questions. Chances are you will always come away with at least one new idea, useful contact or bit of info that will help you move forward. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to new people at such events, but just remember that people are all there for the same reasons: they want to learn something new and meet new people. So don’t be shy, because you have something pretty cool to talk about: your business.
Online marketing means you have to be on social media – there is no way around it. But it is fun, mostly free (with a much bigger effect than any paid advertising will ever have) and with the right approach it can really make your brand and product stand out and reach a big audience.Yes, it can be all consuming and rather addictive even, but if you choose your accounts wisely and set dedicated time aside to update them regularly (or use an app like hootsuite to schedule posts and update them all simultaneously for you), then it is not so daunting.
I won’t go into the detail of every social media platform, as most of you are on it already and plenty info can be found on the internet, but it seems that Facebook and Twitter are still the most popular. On Facebook you can easily set up a Page for your business, sharing news and photos, videos and links. Nina’s Apartment currently has just under 5,000 Likes which didn’t happen overnight but grew through being engaging, entertaining – paying for some posts every now and then (you can boost a post to reach more people for not too much money if you have something very important you want to share) and just generally being active on it. I love Facebook and the interaction with customers and ‘Likers’ and it is also pretty easy now to integrate apps such as the Mailchimp newsletter and Shopify (the online shop system I have used).
Twitter is very different for example, with the added challenge of saying something worth reading in only 140 characters. However, I find Twitter particularly useful for following professionals, journalists and bloggers in the industry. If you are active on Twitter and start to reply to tweets by people you want to connect with (or be seen by), it is not too difficult to all of a sudden be speaking to a celebrity! That’s the beauty of social media – the formal barriers are not there and people are generally more easily approachable. And so should you be.
2. Be human
Social media is about showing the human face behind your business. It is about connecting with your customers, lowering the threshold, having a conversation. Smile, be nice, be yourself. Your website can be more static and informative – your social media activity however should be fun. An informal, friendly voice talking about what you do and why you do it, rather than a one-way stream of information about opening hours and what you have on offer this week. Listening to people as much as talking to them (and not at them – get it?) is a helpful way to find out what your customers need and think of your business. The ultimate goal of being on social media is to make people want to be part of what you do, to love your brand and tell others about it. Because once you get the ball rolling, social media really is ‘word of mouth on steroids’.
3. Be consistent
To establish your business name and brand (and remember, a ‘brand’ is not just a logo, it is the whole package: from type font to customer service!) you want to create recognition. A consistent use of logo, colours, images, type font and tone of voice are therefore pretty important in order to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing. Decide how you want to be seen, what look or style you want to portray and stick with it across all of your marketing. It will make your material online and offline look professional, coherent and recognisable.
4. Be pretty
I am not talking about your looks here. I mean the way your business is portrayed in everything you put out. If you design or craft things you want to sell or get seen, make sure your photography is up to scratch too – and consistent. Ever been on Etsy? You are probably drawn to those pictures that are really making the product stand out: white back ground, no clutter, beautiful styling. Keep this in mind when taking photos of your own products. Don’t make things too complicated though, just use what you have already and your imagination. I take all photos on my iphone 5, usually against the same concrete wall background (consistency!), then editing them with the built in image app or putting filters on them in Instagram. There are lots of great free mobile apps available too to turn photos into videos / slideshows, add text, or turn them into collages. All very useful to make your product look pretty and draw attention to your business on social media.
5. Be everywhere
Having an actual website is still a good idea, despite having your social media accounts. A website is your base, your home, the place where all your social media leads back to. This can be an online shop or a blog (my website/blog is built on WordPress) or a professionally built website – that is up to you. But everything you put out on social media should lead back to the base. And make sure you can be found. Paying a bit on Google Adwords is worth it if you want to drive people to an online store or actual local shop with an address. There is an awful lot to learn about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which I am still learning more about. Basics? Pay attention to all descriptions, words you use in titles, image captions, links – and get others to link back to your website too.
An email newsletter is a great tool to directly contact your customers. Collecting email addresses is therefore a good idea next time you are at an event or fair. Apps Like Mailchimp are free and easy to use and make your newsletters look professional and attractive. These apps also offer very useful insights in who opens and clicks on links, telling you a lot about those people who are most interested in what you do.
As for social media, pick a few social platforms that you like and are happy to commit to on ideally a daily basis – yes you need to post frequently! My opinion on what social media work best? Facebook is great for building a local audience, getting your posts shared, talking to your customers, promoting your product and sometimes finding a buyer for it. Twitter is great for following people in the industry and connecting with professionals – and so is LinkedIn.
Pinterest…oh Pinterest. My favourite! Great for inspiration and highly addictive, but it can also be another tool for yourself to promote your products/business – linking back to your website. Did you know that red items photographed against a white background are the most ‘pinned’ images on Pinterest? Together with those that contain text? I know, so much to learn.
Instagram, another favourite of mine, has the benefit that any photo can be made to look pretty cool with the available filters. Instagram is great to feature your products but you can also share fun, informal photos of yourself at work or the things that matter to you, finding like-minded people all over the world, fellow creatives and also get (local) people to follow what you do. Basically, it is just another platform to show off what you do and build your reputation. I know a lot of people who successfully use Youtube or Vimeo as well to boost their reputation and follower numbers. How about creating little ‘how-to’ videos or demos about what you do? Or a tour around your shop or studio? Videos have the added bonus of rating higher on Facebook, reaching more people.
Last but not least: start a blog. Don’t like writing? Just post beautiful pictures. A blog is another way of creating a following and adding something to the online mix. It is something I personally love doing and am committed to. I love writing. I blog about my business, but also about interior design in general, the styles I like, things that inspire me, etc. The goal of my blog is to provide a beautiful, entertaining and informative site that people like looking at and reading – with the additional opportunity for them to buy my products/services if they feel inspired and want to find something beautiful for their home. So I am not trying to flog my products and services constantly – because that would be plain annoying – but rather aim to offer an attractive ‘package’ that hopefully makes people want to come back to again and again because they like hanging out with me and my brand. And that is the key in all social media: be social, not pushy. And just be yourself.
It is four years this year. Four years of lugging furniture around, changing millions of nappies and breastfeeding on the go, because I also had two babies in the meantime. I have a shop. I am a business owner. A ‘mumpreneur’. I am my own boss. How on earth did I get here? And what drove me so mad to combine tiring motherhood with running a business?
First of all, I never thought I would end up as a Dutchie in Scotland. Thought I would be here just temporarily, passing through. But here I am, ten years later. I also never thought I would start up my own business, let alone one where lifting a two meter long teak sideboard is a regular task. It was never on my radar, never in my plans. I was just happily doing all kinds of jobs when one day a seed was planted. And it grew. And grew. It grew a bit more. And here we are.
I am a creative being. I have always been interested in art and design, was forever drawing, and did a masters in Art history at uni, focusing on 20th century architecture. At 26 I moved to Aberdeen to be with my now husband, continuing to work for arts organisations like I did in The Netherlands, just in a different country. I settled in fine, but like most foreigners arriving in the granite city I was missing the variety in cafes, museums and yes – independent shops, that I was used to on the continent. Maybe I should just set up something myself, I thought at times. Surely there was a huge gap in the market. I would go and add some continental style to Aberdeen! The first seed was planted.
Once my husband and I moved from his bachelor pad in the city to a four-bedroom house in a village nine years ago, we had to shop for furniture. Oh boy, did I get frustrated! I couldn’t find anything in and around Aberdeen that was even vaguely my taste. Too bulky, too beige, too traditional, too tartan, to boring. There were no vintage furniture shops other than stuffy antiques and Ikea was three hours away. I wanted colour! Nice European furniture. Things to suit the average sized house without taking up too much space. Eclectic old stuff as well as stylish contemporary pieces. Things to add soul to a home.
Many people in this country seem to have a funny habit to cram large corner sofas into tiny living rooms and I just didn’t get it. I also detested the brown and beige ‘catalogue look’ that I spotted in so many houses. So many interiors looked exactly the same. What was going on? Surely North East Scotland could do better than that? The granite architecture as well as the dark winters make this part of the world grey enough at times and I yearned for bright colours and things for the home that made me smile and feel inspired. So I started dreaming. I started wondering. If I felt like this, surely other people felt like this too. If there was nowhere up here to buy nice European style furniture, I was going to open a shop myself.
A trip to Copenhagen gave me plenty of inspiration (I love that city!)
It took another five years and many mood boards and collages, bullet point lists and ideas in journals for me to take the plunge. I did lots of research, signed up for some Business Gateway courses, made a trip to Copenhagen to indulge in Danish design and see what kind of shop I wanted to be. The combination of losing my day job and being pregnant with my first child made the decision to change careers a little easier. I registered as a sole trader while still on maternity leave and began selling small vintage items and handmade cushions in an Etsy shop and at local fairs. When my baby boy was eight months old, I found local shop premises and got the keys to my very own space at Lethenty Mill.
My little boy and ideal treasure hunting companion in the shop before it opened
Since then Nina’s Apartment has grown with leaps and bounds and it has certainly not been a walk in the park trying to cover all the bills that come with running a business. Not to mention the juggling of business and family life. Nothing romantic about that, just really hard work! But I love what I do and believe 100% in my products and service. Winning the Life with Style Creative Award last year and being shortlisted for two others was a great boost and reminder that I am doing something right and that people are appreciating what I am trying to achieve. And that I am, in fact, putting my own little quirky continental stamp on the North east of Scotland, one step at the time.
Having started as a shop selling a mixture of vintage, upcycled, handmade and retro, Nina’s Apartment has now specialised in the mid century modern and Scandinavian style. Trying to stay unique rather than duplicating what more local people started doing (the painted furniture, pre-1950s vintage), just makes sense. I want Nina’s Apartment to be the main destination in the North East of Scotland for mid century modern design.
I have built up quite a bit of knowledge about British and Scandinavian mid century design and it just is the style I love most. The minimalist lines and details are subtle and sophisticated and remind me a lot of modernist architecture, another love of mine and what I studied during my degree.
I always get excited to find quality new stock that I just know my customers will love. And there is nothing better than knowing that a piece of original vintage furniture is going to be appreciated again after some TLC and plenty of elbow grease. I simply love sourcing beautiful furniture and helping people furnish their home with unique pieces to bring some soul and personality into their interior. And my own house? I think I have definitely solved the problem that gave me my business idea in the first place, many moons ago! No beige and boring, that’s for sure.