It’s been over a month since my rebrand, can you believe it? So many amazing things happened running up to the rebrand which I launched at the start of January and also during it. We seem to all just plod along, post our content that takes us hours or days to create and some of my friends don’t even understand what blogging is, so I really wanted to share some personal experiences with fellow bloggers, my amazing non-blogger readers and whoever else finds this interesting. I particularly want to talk about my life as a blogger who is not based in London where it all happens and challenges that come with it for bloggers like me. As you all know I live in Scotland and my blog often requires me to make regular trips to London for meetings with PR’s, for Press days and projects with various brands. I must admit, I’m really lucky, and work really hard to be part of exciting projects like this, this and many others with some of my favourite brands, but I must also admit that due to my geographical location I also miss out on a lot of opportunities – many bloggers based outside London do and I just wanted to share my personal experiences on what it’s like for me in this industry, as well as a few changes that I made to make things a bit easier for me. Read on…
I took these pictures of the city’s gorgeous streets just last week when I was in the Big Smoke for an exciting SS16 project with QVC TV Shopping Channel, but more on that in another post. I arrived to London last Monday night, the night before my early morning visit to QVC and had the pleasure to stay in a small, but very lovely hotel in Chiswick so that I’m all refreshed and ready for the day ahead filled with work and some meetings before I flew back up later that evening. After my flight was delayed and I was very late for my early morning job with Wella in in their studios in London last year, as well as several meetings with important press officers in the past, I promised myself to never put myself through such torture again. I’m not kidding it’s the most stressful thing in the world being late, not fully knowing where you are going, your phone dying on you whilst you’re using Google Maps for directions and running in to the meeting all stressed out, flustered and looking like a mess from running and no, there was NO time to freshen up because I was already 30 minutes late. Not great.
My time-keeping could do with improving in general, but when it comes to work or my family I’m usually always first to arrive, so I guess a 400 mile distance is a good reason to be late and to be excused? It’s questionable. Work is work and I must treat is as equally as important as my work in Scotland. Of course there are emergencies, traffic issues etc we simply cannot avoid on a daily basis even locally, but this is different. I’m a blogger based in Scotland (and remember I wasn’t even born in Scotland) who gets asked to work on big projects (they are big for me) by amazing brands, so attending those meetings, events and agreeing on London jobs almost sort of defines how serious I am about my blog. Or does it? You have no idea how many events, jobs and meetings I have to turn down simply because I cannot be in London when they happen and although there’s always a way to create and promote some projects or campaigns in Scotland, brands sometimes simply want to meet me, to get to know me a bit better and build that relationship that I have been chasing for so long myself. A simple “I’m so sorry I can’t be there that day” can have a detrimental affect on my own brand. Sure, even London bloggers cannot attend every single event and accept every single job that they are being offered and I’m not just accepting every collaboration that comes my way either – I’m talking about serious jobs with serious brands and big events that could help me widen my connections and build stronger relationships with the right people. I wish I could say yes to all the offers…
So what actually happens when I say YES to a job / event / meeting located in London?
Just to clarify, most of my blog work comes from London anyway because the majority of brands and PR agencies are based there, but here I’m talking about actually travelling to London for work and meetings. There have only been a couple of times that I instantly said Yes to a meeting or a job down-south without figuring out how I’m actually going to do it. Before you think it – it wasn’t the money, although it’s nice to be rewarded for the hard work. Picture this… an email is received on a Tuesday from a brand you have been wanting to work with for years, whose products you buy anyway and would literally give your right arm just to meet them – asking if you are free for a chat on Thursday. In London. Of course I said “Screw it! or YES! See you on Thursday” and instantly felt nervous about the the whole situation. It’s an opportunity to make an impression, to show how serious I am about working with them and that I’m reliable, which would potentially lead to a stronger relationship and more work. But saying yes is also about juggling my life here – my daughter, my work with UNEEDIA and working out the quickest and the cheapest way of getting to the location because the travel is mostly on me, although it would be nice if it was covered all the time. I know from experience that I have to pay the price in order to get to where I want to be in my career and I’m sure this applies to every creative industry all over the world. It certainly applies to the music industry (or it did 10 years ago) and trust me, when I was in my old band we used to pay for EVERYTHING just for a chance to perform for free on stages of festivals and in various clubs of London, Manchester, other parts of Scotland and other cities. We were hugely out of pockets and some of us weren’t even that young (sorry Tom), so we can’t really call it an expensive hobby either. Is it fair? No it’s not, but that’s the way it is and to my knowledge always has been. I guess my point here is that it has nothing to do with Scotland or Glasgow and distance between London per se, and I am very well aware of how many creative folk travel to Glasgow from other parts of Scotland, never mind London going through the exact same processes just to get a piece of it. It’s not nice, not fair, but just the way it is.
Very rarely I get work through that covers my travel costs, includes a fee and if I’m lucky a hotel room. I’m not saying this is the case for every blogger outside London, but it is for me. Lets leave money and costs aside because it’s more than that for me and I always enjoy trips to London. The city’s architecture is so pretty, streets so busy as we all know it, plus I always feel proud when I travel there for blog work – it’s my personal own achievement. When I’m there, I’m happy to pay the price of having sore feet from walking (or running from place to place) all day, not knowing whether my trip will actually generate any serious work in the future, missing flights and trains (yep!) and I like to treat it as a short break and a change of scenery too sometimes. As much as I feel like I have accomplished something, I’m always exhausted after my trips down South though – it’s that big shoulder bag with my DSLR, a pair of flats, hairbrush, some make-up, phone charger, purse and sometimes even a laptop that usually slows me down and tires me out. Trains from Glasgow to London are so much better than flights in my opinion, but they are usually so much more expensive when I need to travel on a short notice, so Stansted Airport and a train to London City is the only cheap option out there I think. Or a night bus. I once went on a coach from Stansted to London and lets just say it won’t be happening again. Ever. The promised 1.15 hour journey one way takes 3 hours, so be smart, pay a bit more and get the train. This one is for everyone.
What happens when I say NO to a job / event / meeting located in London?
Again, without any assumptions about what happens to other bloggers, I can only speak for myself and in short, I usually never hear from the persons / organisers again if I refuse (usually painfully) a job or a meeting. Of course, I still get the mass invites to events and press days as these are a bit different to personalised jobs and I still get an opportunity from the companies I already have a relationship with who understand my position, but a No always means they will go to someone else. And why shouldn’t they? There’s a dilemma here though… If a particular brand offered you a job in the first place, then shouldn’t they help out with travel fees because you are still the best fit for the job? If travel fees are the reason for refusing the job, then should we as bloggers always ask for them to be covered? Starting a conversation about travel feel is a sensitive topic, but then again isn’t it about our own self-worth? And there’s a whole new conversation for those that are mums, but that conversation never happens because nobody really cares. Do you want the job or not?
I once had a meeting with a very well-known brand in London who didn’t know I was based in Scotland. It is totally fine because they cannot possibly read all my posts and pay attention to Glasgow weather references. I’m not Scottish, but I live in the beautiful Scotland and I’m not going to lie claiming I live in London just to be “accepted” or worse, for a chance to build a relationship based on the wrong reasons. As soon as the question about where I lived popped up, the tone and the entire direction of the conversation was changed to a more casual and friendly manner about weather, holidays, other bloggers and not professionally ended as it was meant to. Just like that. This is just one instance though… Every single brand and PR agency that I have worked with in London have been nothing but amazing to me and are always appreciative of me showing up from all the way up North as they call it. Too cute…
I follow a lot of London based bloggers and some of them I absolutely adore for their style and drive – it must be tough to do well in a saturated market? It’s only reasonable for PR’s and brands to go to a few key local influencers, but I found that many don’t mind doing a bit of extra work and emails to build relationships with bloggers like me, outside the central London postcode. I appreciate immensely the recognition from their part and will never stop continuing working hard on my blog and I truly think that over time (like 20 years, when I’m old and wrinkly ha!) things will be a big bit different in this perception of geographical distance in the fashion industry. There’s Social Media people – we are all global! 😉
What I learnt….
I’ve learnt it’s important to always be honest about who I am and what my position is in this industry. Do I need to try and chase every single brand that every other blogger seems to be working with, but me? No!
Do I need to feel like I haven’t achieved enough in my 2.5 years of blogging when others seem to have done so much more? Definitely not. I’ve achieved so much! Some people were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time and others dedicate their lives to blogging and I admire them all for that. I am a mum, I run my own Social Media management business from home because my blog doesn’t bring me stable income, and I also very passionately blog as often as I can and that’s more than enough to make me complete and feel grateful for what I have created for myself every day. Of course there’s always room for improvement, but it’s best to improve myself based on my own strengths – not those of others, who have a completely different story to mine. I want to add however, that it’s always healthy to look for inspiration in other bloggers, style icons and other people you may be inspired by. Just need to be careful not to take it too seriously because what we see online isn’t always the reality. I focus on the creative side of things instead when I look for inspiration in others and it’s so much better for my soul!
I learnt that it’s important to own every decision that I make in my career and the reasons for going ahead with those decisions, because they will only ever make sense to me. My actions will always be misinterpreted by others and assumptions with judgements will be made, but if we let others’ behaviours (for example other bloggers or other successful individuals) stop or push us in the direction we think we need to be going in – then no, we will never feel enough and most importantly ourselves. There are numerous bloggers in UK who are based in their cities and are super successful without a single trip to London. I just choose to vary my work with projects outside Scotland and it’s the decision that I have made because I enjoy these variations. The point here is to feel OK about saying YES or NO to projects, without killing ourselves with “what ifs” later. I have my other half who often tells me to say Yes to offers in London, but always reminds me that whatever decision I make, I must own the consequences, or could it mean “Don’t complain later” in the male world?! Ha… Don’t get me wrong, there have been a couple of trips (and even more other things in life) that I have decided to say yes to in the past, but completely regretting them afterwards. And I’m not the one to regret as I believe there’s a lesson for us in everything – especially mistakes.
I learnt that I don’t need to comply to some sort of “blogger formula” to strive for success in the fashion industry because there simply isn’t one. We all put in a lot of work in our own way and we all have our own “limitations” that we think are stopping us from being more “successful” and most importantly HAPPIER than we could have been. Things like:
- Living in the wrong place or born in the wrong city (why wasn’t I born in Paris anyone?)
- Owning the wrong camera or lens. I will probably get killed for this, but this blogger’s stunning imagery isn’t of the sharpest quality, so why do we (or I) stress so much? Great style that is ours should totally be enough!
- Not having enough time to blog
- Not skinny or curvy enough
- Not having the perfect skin
- Relationship or other typical daily life problems (unless we are actors, it all shows in our content)
- Loss of interest
- Not a good enough writer
- Blaming the weather for everything shit that happens in our lives.
This was me until I found my true self-worth in blogging and my blog rebrand has helped me with that hugely. I had tonnes of time going through every single post, reliving the experiences and remembering how difficult some things have been, but it doesn’t have to be that way and this is where it all boiled down to for me:
If I think that any of the above (or more) things are stopping me from being more successful, am I willing to change those limitations or is it best to redefine what a successful blogger means to me?
There’s a very fine line between the two, although if someone showed me how to change the weather I’d be taking bespoke orders right about now and be the richest person on the planet. Jokes aside though. If I’m over 18 and aren’t happy with where I live, sure I have what it takes in me to move to where I want to be? I’m not a tree, right? I just don’t want to move to London. Not having the right camera and lenses (we all have our own standards) is a no-brainer, although it might take me a couple of years to save the spare cash for the equipment I think the perfect blog needs. Life problems? Sorry Tatyana – it’s just part of the deal. So it leaves me with the stuff that I can only call conditions or even better – excuses. Not a good writer, not skinny or curvy enough, loss of interest (why I had to rebrand and change), no time to blog, unable to travel, my face is too spotty, it’s raining outside and so on… Where did those “limitations” came from? From the place of comparison, uncertainty and this wrong idea about what successful blogging meant for me. Without sounding too cliche, I know that I can only be my best in this world. Yes there will always be challenges and things that I’d want to change to be better and more successful and I enjoy that part, but life is just so much simpler now that I don’t give my focus to the things I cannot change at this moment and pat myself on the back for my own achievements and strengths instead of thinking I could have done better or more, or worse blame the circumstances for stopping me. It’s hard enough, so why make it harder? The fact that I miss out on a lot of work in London is a huge limitation for me as a blogger in Scotland, but I accepted that and I can only do what I am actually capable of and being totally ok with it is such an improvement.
Work with what you’ve got, make it amazing but always change the things you’re not happy about if it’s possible.
I used to struggle and gave myself a really hard time with the fact that I couldn’t blog 3 times a week or more as I wanted to and used to get really annoyed if I missed my own “deadlines”, even though I knew deep down that my work quality was suffering hugely because of the pressures I gave myself. It wasn’t fun anymore. Not for me and especially not for my amazing supportive other half who helps me with my pictures. He has his career and responsibilities to worry about and although a quick 10 minute shoot is nothing for some people, I know that my best content comes from a more organised, relaxed and thought-out place, whereas my time with my partner is way more important than me wasting time editing bad content for hours late at night trying to make it look good and hating all those uncomfortable faces I pull in the images because we were rushed or worse, fallen out. What for?
Taking a step back, re-inventing and finding myself as a blogger has been the best decision ever after years of battling, but I hope there are simple and quicker ways for the others in the same position.
I best wrap it up before I start talking about another burning topic – STATS!
Thank you for staying with me for so long here. This is officially the longest post ever. But I hope this gives you a little insight into the life of a blogger based in Glasgow and some of the challenges I encounter in the UK fashion industry. I also hope this helps you see that we all complicate our lives enough already by unnecessary thoughts, wrongly driven actions and decisions that we think are helpful for our career at the time, but in the long run, forgetting to stay true to ourselves and that’s a biggie I think.
I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please leave a comment below – lets chat. I would also love to hear from London bloggers and bloggers not based in the UK. What is it like for you? This topic probably applies to people in so many various other creative industries, so if you can identify, or completely disagree, let me know. I’m so interested.
Have a great week everyone! Be easy on yourself.