Jo Middleton is an award-winning blogger and freelance copywriter. She originally started her blog, Slummy single mummy, in December 2009 to promote her freelance writing. Today it has grown to provide a significant income on its own. We find out how she got started, and what tips she has for other blogging mums.
Why did you start your blog?
I’d like to say it was an outlet for my emotional outpourings, but it was in fact a calculated marketing plan! I’d just given up a full time job in fundraising and wanted to be a freelance journalist, but I didn’t have any qualifications. So I started the blog as a way to showcase my writing.
How big a factor was being a mum in your decision to go freelance?
It was a big part of my decision. As a single mum I found working full time difficult – especially when my girls were sick. I also much prefer working for myself, so freelance seemed the obvious choice.
How did you decide what to write about?
I didn’t – I just wrote about whatever came to mind. In the beginning I wrote more about parenting and my children. But as they got older and started reading my complaints about them they weren’t happy! Also they didn’t want their friends to read about them, so I toned it down a little bit and write less about them now. When I do I try to keep it more positive.
These days I tend to put down whatever thoughts are in my head. I don’t really edit or craft what I write (other than to proofread for spelling mistakes), it’s quite spontaneous. Over time I have developed my own distinct tone of voice and people who know me say they can tell it’s me.
How did you get your first big blogging break?
Initially I was naïve to the fact that there were thousands of other mums out there blogging, but I quickly realised that there was a large community to tap into. I didn’t set out to be a ‘mummy blogger’, but it was natural and easy to join that community.
In those days (end of 2009) the blogging community wasn’t such a crowded marketplace and it was easier to get noticed. Over the first 12 months I gradually picked up more and more readers. But my first big break though came in 2010 when I was named best new blog at the MAD blogging awards.
How have things changed now?
In the last couple of years, brands have realised the influence of bloggers and started using them to promote their products. But the UK is still a year or two behind the US. Many female bloggers in the US approach blogging from a completely professional point of view rather than as a hobby that may make them some money.
When did you realise that blogging was a viable career opportunity?
Looking back, there was no clear tipping point. But over the last two years, as blogging has become much more commercial, I have started making money from my blog – and getting access to more exciting opportunities.
Do you enjoy blogging?
Mostly, yes. But sometimes it can be a bit of a chore!
Do you plan a strategy for your blogs?
I probably should plan ahead more, deciding how many sponsored or family posts I will write a month, but I don’t. I have no idea what I am going to write about week to week, and the content is very varied.
Do you ever turn down commercial opportunities?
Yes, quite a few. I get offers for all kinds of ridiculous things. I was recently asked to review baby wipes – my children are 10 and 17! I have a media pack and if an appropriate brand approaches me, I send them a copy. It outlines how I work with brands and the rates I charge. Blogging isn’t a hobby for me, and so I need to have a professional approach.
How do you see the future?
I don’t want to drift along doing the same thing. I think change is a good thing. My blog now attracts between 15-20,000 views a month, and I have a mailing list of 2,000 people. My aim is not to get thousands more readers, but to create great content and nurture the relationships I have built. For me it’s about quality rather than quantity.
In February this year I started working for a US marketing agency called Collective Bias, and my role is to recruit and look after a community of bloggers in the UK. I am really enjoying it so far – it’s great to have the time for once to actually read lots of other blogs and really get to know people.
I’ve also teamed up with a friend who is an interiors journalist on a company called Inside Scoop. We offer training to small businesses on blogging and social media and love being able to share what we’ve learnt with others.
What advice would you give other bloggers?
What, aside from to read my blog?!! Seriously though, if you want to be a professional blogger, you need to get involved with the blogging community. Read other blogs and if you like them, comment and follow them – and see what blogs they’re reading. Follow bloggers you like on Twitter (and again, check out who they’re following), and if someone asks you a question, try to be helpful. There are also blogging groups on Google+ on Facebook you can join.
It’s also really, really important to be authentic. Don’t try to be someone else when you write, or write just to earn money. If you’re passionate about a subject it will come through in your writing and your blog will be more engaging.
And finally, always check what you write before you post. If you have poor spelling and grammar then brands won’t want to work with you, as it may reflect badly on them. It’s really important to be professional with your blog if you want to be taken seriously by brands.
You can read Jo’s blog and find out more about her at Slummy single mummy.