Wanted: Freelance Blogger for immediate start.

Pick me, Pick me!
Lets face it, its not every day that you see an advert like this in the paper or online, but for some talented people, or 'Pro Bloggers', this is exactly what they have managed to create for themselves as a lifestyle and career. Pretty impressive stuff eh?!

I started blogging a year or so ago, and although I wouldn't be bold enough to declare myself an expert and I'm clearly not a millionaire (yet!), I can honestly say that its been a brilliant learning curve. I'll confess that I was a bit shy sharing my posts with people that knew me to begin with in case they thought I'd gone a bit crazy. But, since I've gone public on Facebook with friends and family, I've had a few people confide in me that they'd quite like to start a blog too, but don't know where to start.

So I thought that it would help if I shared some of the things I've learned over the last year, and in particular to share some of the insights from the Tots 100 'Blog Camp' event that I went to recently. 

Getting ready for Blog Camp felt a bit like the first day at school!
'This one time, at Blog Camp'

Blog Camp is a free networking and workshop event organised by Tots 100. In case you've not heard of them before, Tots100 are a UK network for Mum and Dad bloggers, and have more than 8,000 members. They help bloggers and brands work with each other on outreach campaigns and provide great learning resources and networking opportunities for bloggers too. 

Held in The Studio Meeting Centre in Birmingham, the event was a chance to mingle with other bloggers and also to hear from the Pro’s about how they were managing to generate income and value for themselves and their family from their blog. 

Blog Camp is a free event organised by Tots 100. 

One of the first rules of Blog Camp should be that ‘What happens at Blog Camp doesn’t have to stay at Blog Camp.'

There isn’t a closed door policy in the blogging community - its all about sharing the knowledge, so here’s 5 key things I’ve learned on my blogging journey that you’ll hopefully find useful if you’re thinking of starting a blog.

1. Whats in a name?

If you want to start a blog you’re going to need to give your blog a name. 

Remember how hard it was to choose the kid’s names? Well, choosing a blog name is waaaaay harder!

It doesn’t have to be related to what you blog about. But it should be memorable and easy to type into the web. As well as being able to find a domain name thats unique to you, you should also bag the Twitter and Instagram name at the same time. And if you’re reading this thinking ‘I don’t really do Twitter’, you need to man-up (lady-up?!) and learn how to use it, pronto. It will be invaluable for you for promoting your blog and finding other bloggers and inspiration, tips and tricks. A blogging lifeline.
At Blog Camp I didn’t go round handing out business cards, I asked people what their Twitter handle was. (I’m @PhotoJodie if you’d like to follow me. I do 'own' Maidenhead Mum on Twitter, but I already had lots of followers as PhotoJodie, so I haven't changed yet. But at least no-one else can start tweeting as Maidenhead Mum now! )

When I started blogging I wasn’t really sure what I would write about. Being a first time mum, I was reading a lot of other parenting blogs and felt that writing about the highs and lows of parenting would mean I always had something to write about, and that I could be a part of the ‘Mummy Bloggers’ community. Seeing as I’d recently moved from London to Maidenhead I thought I could use that as inspiration too. It was a simple as that - I’d write about Maidenhead and about being a Mum. (Rocket science!) Thus Maidenhead Mum was born. It seemed easy to remember, tripped off the tongue and I felt confident that if I wanted to, I could approach local companies and network easily.

There's no right or wrong name for the your blog, but in case you'd like some inspiration, here are some of the other bloggers that went to Blog Camp. 

We’re going on an adventure
Julie’s notebook
Mad mum of 7
Darlings and Daydreams
3 princesses and 1 dude
Little hearts Big Love
Mummy Ms Memories
Rambling through Parenthood
Mummy of 3 Diaries
Who’s the mummy
My family fever
The Oliver’s Madhouse

(If you click on the links you can read their thoughts on Blog Camp too!)

2. Choose a blogging platform

You might get addicted to gadgets that help you blog... just saying
OK, so technically, there are lots of ways you can start to get yourself published, and there are people that have successful blogs whichever platform they’re using, but there are three main ways that you can get your wisely written words online:

Wordpress.org - software that you download and ‘host’ with an internet provider like TSO Host (a ‘self-hosted’ blog).
Wordpress.com - a commercial site where you can host a blog for free (with limitations) or pay an annual fee to upgrade to remove the limitations.
Blogger - a free blogging platform provided by Google.

When I was starting out I didn’t realise that Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com were two different things, and as I perused the Wordpress.com website I noticed that it seemed quite prohibitive on things you could/couldn’t do. They don’t like you to have adverts on there for example, and to be able to use my own domain name I needed to upgrade to an annual fee. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to shell out lots of money upfront. 

So I chose Blogger, and although its quite basic it allowed me to start writing and get published. After using it for a year though, I’m frustrated with some of the design limitations and I wish it could help me display my photos in my blog posts a lot better so I’m about to make the switch become self hosted with a Wordpress.org site instead. 

If I was starting a blog now, I'd probably go with Wordpress.org from the beginning as there are lots of really helpful resources out there to help you get started. 

Tots 100 has some great 'Blog School' resources online if you fancy reading a bit more.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist

Only when you have a tidy desk can you begin to write....NOT!
If you’re the type of person that thinks, plans, dreams and then thinks a bit more before you start anything, you might find you get yourself a little bit stuck. Yes, its good to read about blogging and explore your options. Yes, it’s good to write a draft post, sleep on it and then re-read it for typos and grammatical errors. But that’s enough. At some point you have to hit ‘Publish'! Chatting to the lovely Victoria from 'Darlings and Daydreams' at Blog Camp we noted that we’re both guilty of spending ages thinking about a blog post, but then never actually getting around to publishing it. The only way you’ll really get to figure out your own voice is to start writing and start sharing. 

A year into blogging I realised that although I like the lifestyle angle of my Maidenhead Mum blog, I’m such a photography geek that I’d like to write about that too. It’s not always the same audience, so I’m now the proud owner of two blogs: 'Maidenhead Mum' and ‘PhotoJodie'. It’s early days for PhotoJodie yet, but its the start of a whole new blogging adventure!

4. Find virtual friends, and hopefully some real ones too.

Love meeting new blogging buddies!
By far, one of the best things about being a ‘Mummy Blogger’ is the community that lives out there in Twittersphere and other parts of the web. It’s incredibly inspiring to read about other people just like you, that have a passion and are choosing to pursue it. And everyone shares their learning curve with you. Plus, being a blogger has helped me make links with my local community and meet other business owners, a lot of them mums too.

Attending events like Blog Camp also gives you the chance to meet other bloggers in real life, instead of just chatting on social media. There are moments where you’ll question your sanity - using your hard earned ‘me time’ away from the family duties on a Saturday to walk into a room full of 'strangers' and then get chatting and learning. It’s a bit like a giant first date and can feel a bit daunting at times.

Blog Camp was the second Blogger event I’d been to (you can read about my experiences at Mumsnet Blogfest here). Second time around I’d learned that even though you’re meeting bloggers who are more established than you, there’s no need to feel shy or to worry about what you do or write about - everyone is keen to hear and exchange ideas and make friends. You could just go down the easy route and make yourself a badge saying ‘newbie, please talk to me’, but I decided to post a photo telling people that I was the one wearing the shiny Dr Marten boots and that they were welcome to come and talk to me (as you do!). And it worked. I bumped into Victoria over coffee and we found we had lots to talk about!

Doesn't everyone tweet about their shoes??

5. Because you’re worth it

Yes, the little one thinks you're fab, but you need to have some self belief too.

If I’ve come away from Blog Camp with one resounding thought its this: Be proud of yourself and your voice, your blog has value. 

As you start to publish posts regularly and your blog develops an audience, you should feel confident in the ‘brand’ that you’ve created. People reading your blog do so because they trust you and like to hear what you have to say. How many people do you know that would say they trust the adverts that they watch on TV? Not Many! Companies are wising up to the fact that bloggers are a great way of getting their products and services talked about in a believable and plausible way and you’re a key part to them reaching their target audience.

But the opportunities don’t just land at your door. You need to be able to ‘pitch’ your blog to companies to be able to create the opportunities you want for you and your family. So in the same way that Gok Wan would tell us ladies to 'learn to love our bodies', you need to learn to love your blog. Be confident in what you've created. Get clued up about your readers, look at your blog and social media stats, stand proud, adopt a professional email voice (even if you’re in your pyjamas at home with the kids), and go for it! Don’t Pitch, Don’t Get. 

So there you have it, the gift of my hard earned knowledge and hopefully enough to inspire you to get you started on your own blogging adventure. 

I would love to hear from you if you'd like to start a blog. Feel free to add a comment below, or even better, come and join me at the next Blog Camp!

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to read my blog on a regular basis, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook , visit my website www.maidenheadmum.co.uk or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to subscribe and get my posts sent to you by email.

You can see more of my photography on my photography website and blog, www.photojodie.com

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