Ask me Anything…#1

May 16, 2012

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography (being shot in New York – more on the blog soon!)

I’m not calling today’s interview an Inspirations interview because just the thought of me doing that make me die a little inside (!) However on returning from The States on Monday I realised I didn’t have an interview lined up this week (whoops!) and on such a short lead time the only person I could turn to to get the answers back to me on time was…well…me. Thank you to everyone on twitter & facebook who helped this be a less cringe-worthy experience by submitting questions. If you have a burning question that I haven’t covered then leave it in the comments and if I get enough I’ll do another round of them soon!

How did you get started? When did you realise it was a full-time-oh-my-God-this-is-a-massive-success jobby?? (Giddy Weddings via twitter)

My story isn’t that remarkable or different to that of many people who get into the wedding industry. I started my blog when I was planning my own wedding to Gareth in 2007. At the time I didn’t even consider this could become a career, I simply wanted a place to collate all my wedding ideas and inspiration. Throughout my planning I discovered American wedding blogs. I loved the instant nature of blogging – how you could comment and feel part of a community and I wanted to join in!

After our wedding was over I didn’t want to give up weddings or blogging so I decided to morph my blog into a place for alternative wedding inspiration – i.e sharing other people’s weddings and not just my own. Although I loved the wedding blogs I’d found throughout my plans, none of them catered to the specific kind of bride or style of wedding that I had really wanted to find – the alternative, the offbeat and the Rock n Roll. I also noticed that none of these blogs I was reading were from the UK and so that probably meant that most UK brides were only having wedding magazines as their point of inspiration. I loved reading magazines throughout my planning (although in all honestly probably just because I felt like I was finally ‘allowed’ too!) but although gorgeous and beautiful, they were not showing the kinds of weddings I found inspiring at all. I think if a blog like mine had been around in 2007/2008 our wedding would have turned out very differently indeed!

It still blows my mind to think about where my blog has got me today. Every day (literally!) I’m shocked, surprised and honoured by the things I’m able to do because of it. I guess the very first event that made me think “oh crap maybe this could actually be a thing” would have been back in the summer of 2008 when I was still working as a producer of a shopping channel. I’d been running the blog as a secret hobby since late 2007 and one of my managers at work somehow found it and called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble for sure! However he told me that he loved the concept and the idea and that he was sure I could make something more of it. He took me to a few meetings and the like, and although nothing really came of them, his confidence in me and the brand really gave me a kick in the right direction. More solidly, it felt pretty good when I was finally earning enough to quit my job to blog full time!

I always recognize you by your hair! I was wondering if you feel that it’s a part of your brand and if you’d ever change it up? (Catherine Guidry via facebook)

Hum…yes…no…maybe. This is actually a really hard question and something I have thought about a lot recently! I love having pink hair, it feels very natural to me like it was the colour I was supposed to always have. As a teenager I flirted with every colour under the sun but I always came back to pink. These days I do like how it makes me stand out in a crowd (attention whore, me?!) and that when people see me at events or whatever they always know it’s me… but sometimes I do think that maybe it defines me too much you know? It’s kinda scary to think that without the pink hair people might not know who I was.

It actually makes me feel quite vulnerable thinking I might one day be without it. I definitely think my hair is very strongly associated with my brand and so I do wonder, would I fade into the background without it?! Who knows…I don’t think I’d ever go back to having ‘normal’ hair but maybe I will change up the shade one day. Let’s put it this way, I’m looking forward to being a granny with a purple rinse!

Photography Credit: Joanna Brown Photography (‘Desperate Housewife’ editorial)

How do you decide what weddings or shoots to feature? (Lucy Carter via facebook)

It’s basically all down to my own personal taste. I started the blog with no other agenda than to share the kinds of weddings I loved but didn’t see represented in the wedding media. Even though the blog has grown exponentially that hasn’t changed at all. The most important things I look out for are:

♥ A unique idea or theme. I want to share weddings to inspire my readers and make them think “wow, I would have never thought of that.” I do not want to share weddings that you’d see on every other wedding blog. I admire what many of the other blogs do and feature but it’s just not for me. I want to show new, different and exciting ideas.

♥ Details. First and foremost a wedding is all about a couple in love and dedicating their lives to each other. However a wedding blog is primarily there to inspire other brides and grooms for their own weddings and so generally I want them to be full of lots of cool ‘stuff’ and ideas. Clear and clean photographs of things like stationery, clothing, accessories, flowers, cakes, props etc are really important.

However I have featured many weddings that could be described as detail-light. Sometimes the most simple wedding can be really inspiring, just in a different way. Maybe the vibe or the couple and their love really stands out, or maybe the photographs are truly epic. My readers tend to have very similar tastes to me so if I love something often my readers will too!

♥ Great Photography. It makes me really sad when I’m submitted an awesome looking wedding but the photography is naff or just darn right awful and doesn’t show the wedding in the best way. Sure, I understand not everyone has the budget for a wedding photographer, but if getting your wedding featured on my blog is something you’d like to be able to do then professional photography is nearly always a requirement. I have featured weddings where there was no pro photographer but these are few and far between.

A professional photographer will shoot things in a way to show them clearly to people that weren’t at the wedding and that’s the kind of stuff I need to be sharing.

Photography Credit: Devlin Photos (‘Rock n Rainbow‘ editorial)

What made you decide to make the change from working and writing a blog to writing a blog full-time and what lessons did you learn about that transition? (SixteenEighteen via twitter)

I didn’t start my blog in order for it to become a business. However when I was earning enough money to supplement a portion of my income from my full-time job I decided to go part-time. I set myself (monetary) targets to reach before I did this and I certainly didn’t recklessly decide to just quit and see what happened (I probably would have done but Gareth was very strict!) Then, when I was earning as much from the blog as I was from my job we decided that it was time for me to quit completely. I was very lucky because my previous employer offered me the option of working for them on a freelance basis if I ever wanted or needed to, so I always had that added bit of security. Luckily I’ve never had to go back!

I think the most important thing I did was that I planned and I set myself monetary targets before I handed in my notice. It takes longer yes, but quitting a full-time job is risky enough as it is, and if I’d done so without the financials to back myself up it could have been a disaster! I’d seen too many people quit without other jobs to go to and they’d pretty much all come back with their tail between their legs (as freelancers) and I didn’t want to do that!

How do you stay motivated to come up with new posts, especially in the beginning when you’re the one chasing the weddings and not getting submissions? (Katie Tassone via facebook)

I used Flickr a lot to find new weddings. I scoured photographer forums and groups where people could add their wedding images and through sheer obsession I was able to stumble onto a few communities of people who were sharing the kind of weddings I wanted to feature. I made connections with these people, asked them permission to feature their work (or if they were brides, their weddings) and I was off! I was polite and excited in my emails and people just seemed to connect with me I guess. Of course some emails went unanswered but I carried on regardless and moved onto the next wedding I’d found.

I actually had the opposite problem to not having enough content in that I had loads! I guess word spread to a few wedding photographers that I was publishing alternative weddings and so people then started to send me their work. I think my obsession/determination played a huge part in it as well as me having a niche that no one else was covering.

You should immerse yourself if your subject and want to see and know everything about it. If you do then finding content should be easy.

Photography Credit: David McNeil Photography (‘Rock n Revolution’ editorial)

I’d love to know about your time management. How do you fit it all in with an equal balance of working from home and spending time with loved ones? (Love Bus Weddings via twitter)

My obsessive nature helps with this one too! When I say I love what I do I really mean it, and because of this fact I want to be working all. the. time! In fact I love it so much that most of it doesn’t even feel like work (except maybe emails…emails are hard and relentless!)

On a usual day (i.e. one where I’m in the office and not out at meetings/shoots etc) I start work about 10am and don’t stop until 7pm, except maybe 20 minutes for breakfast or lunch. The first thing I usually do is tackle my inbox. You can read all about how I do that here and then I write my blog content a few days in advance of when it needs to be published. I usually write about 3 or 4 posts a day.

I always write in advance and I pre-schedule every blog post. If I didn’t I’d go mad and feel like I was chasing my tail all the time to get articles published. I usually work 2 days ahead, so on Monday I’m writing Wednesday’s posts and on Tuesday I’m writing Thursday’s…This isn’t an exact science by any means as some days I’ll be on fire and bang out a few days worth of blog content whereas others I’ll have complete writer’s block. Working in advance means this is OK though and I’ll always have something going up. It also means that if I have to be out of the office one day there’s still content going up. The rest of the day (I usually do most of my blog writing before 2 or 3pm) is dedicated to admin, brainstorming with Gareth, writing magazine articles, more emails and anything else I have going on!

I guess keeping on top of it all really comes down to being super organised and having a schedule. With Gareth working on the business too it can be hard to have ‘off time’ especially as, unlike me, he prefers to work in the evenings. There isn’t really a magic formula…we just make it work. We always make sure we eat breakfast or lunch (we usually only eat one in our house) and dinner together and in the evenings we try to watch a bit of TV together. Even if it’s only half an hour sat on the sofa, it makes a difference. Although I do work a little at the weekends it is easier to take these off to spend time with my friends and family. It’s slower online at the weekends, the submissions and emails don’t come in as thick & fast and twitter is quieter!

Don’t be under any illusion, it is hard work. But being successful isn’t just about luck or a good idea, it’s a tough grind, it’s sacrifice and it’s making sure you’re working smarter, harder and better than everyone else. In fact there’s an industry gathering taking place tonight that I really wanted to go to but I’ve had to cancel as I’ve got so much work to catch up on since being away (and before I go away again in 2 weeks!) It’s rubbish to miss out on fun things like that, but work always comes first. Building my business and making my blog better for my readers (who are the most important thing to me by FAR) is much more important to me.

Photography Credit: Tinywater Photography (shot while in LA. More here)

I find it difficult to write words to go with blog posts. To me, it seems you draw in the reader with great ease. Any tips please? (Eve Shepherd via twitter)

Confession: I’ve had no professional writing training and I can’t spell for toffee! I think as with most things though, practice really does make perfect. I studied Film at Uni, which consisted of writing a lot of essays and so although I don’t actually use the knowledge I picked up (although if you wanted to I could wax lyrical about the suspension of disbelief theory) it did allow me to practice writing a lot!

♥ Write as you speak. This is said a lot and while I don’t agree that writing should be too colloquial, starting off by putting together sentences that come naturally to you is always the best option. Being yourself and being honest will always draw readers in more than trying to be someone you’re not or writing in a way that tries to impress people!

♥ Be short and concise. Short and well formed sentences read really well. Long and ambling sentences, paragraphs and blog posts read like word vomit. Edit edit edit and if you can cut something out but still get the same meaning across, then do it!

♥ Sleep on it. I hardly ever publish something as soon as I’ve written it. Re-reading something with fresh eyes is hugely beneficial to see where you’re going wrong or if something doesn’t flow well.

♥ Read. Read other people’s writing in an analytical way. What is it that you like about it? Is it the phrasing? Particular words? Sentence structure? Taking inspiration from people you admire is a great way to learn and progress.

♥ Change it up. I use an online thesaurus a lot so I don’t end up using the same words and phrases over and over again! Simple but effective.

I’m thinking about starting a beauty blog. What advice can you give me as far as structuring my blog? (Marissa De Lory via facebook)

I think the most important thing is to have a schedule – for you and for your blog. You need to be strict with yourself, particularly in the beginning, otherwise it’s just too easy to put things off. Never think “oh it’s not that important, I’ll do it tomorrow…” If it’s not that important then why are you doing it at all?! If you know you have to, for example, write one blog post a day, you’re much more likely to actually do it!

Having a schedule with your blog content is also a great way to keep yourself and your blog readers on track. My regular posts (on the main area of the blog) are Thursday Treats and A Sunday Kind of Love. Knowing that I have to have these blog posts go up on these specific days (I think having the day of the week within the post title helps) makes damn sure that I always do it! This is also great for your blog readers as they’ll know that a new feature will be up on a specific day each week.

What is your dream shoot to be in? (Natasha Jane via twitter)

I’m not going to deny it, I’d love to work with Vivienne Westwood. I love her work and her attitude. She’s a massive inspiration to me. If I can be half as cool as her when I’m 71 I’ll be happy! I’d also love to be shot by Jonas PetersonMatt Miller or David LaChapelle. Go big or go home huh?!

Photography Credit: Steve Gerrard Photography (‘Rock n Riot’ editorial)

Did you have editorial shoots especially done to promote your blog and yourself as a blogger/writer? How did you get into photo shoots? (Helen Grounds via twitter)

Nothing was every handed to me on a plate and in the beginning all the shoots I was involved in I organised myself. You have to show people what you want to do, people are never going to suddenly think “Oh I’ll ask Helen to do a shoot” if they’ve never seen you do them!

My first shoots took place around the time of my own wedding and shot by my good friend David McNeil. He was just starting to photograph weddings and he used me as his guinea pig to practice on! It was literally us, my wedding dress and his camera. How very glam! It was then just obvious to me that I’d share them on my site. I didn’t realise at the time how much they made me stand out from other wedding bloggers but they did I suppose. Everyone knew what I looked like and that enabled my readers to connect with me quickly and easily. Over time David & I met other people within the industry and brought them in to work with us too as we figured it was all positive exposure for everyone involved. I also started shooting with other photographers and everyone seemed to benefit from being able to showcase their work and ideas through my site.

I’m not going to lie, I love having my picture taken! You may not think it but I’m not the most naturally confident person, but seeing myself all made up, in a beautiful dress and photographed by an amazing photographer is a great way to feel better about yourself. If that makes me vain then so be it!

So my advice is simple really, if you want to get into modelling/organising shoots/shooting editorial then just go out and do it! These days you also have the added advantage that blogs and magazines love to feature the results, so if you’re good at what you do there are a number of avenues for you to pursue to getting your work published and promoted. I didn’t have that, I just had my own little blog with hardly any readers, but it worked out. If I can do it then you certainly can!

If you could do any other job in the wedding industry what would it be? (Natasha Jane via twitter)

I’d probably be a wedding photographer although I wouldn’t like all the travel! Photography makes me so happy…and wedding photography in particular! Just seeing the ideas people come up with, and the huge variation in talent and style is so exciting to me. I think photographers are some of the hardest working and creative people in this little industry of ours right now. They’re doing some incredible things.

Photography Credit: David McNeil Photography (‘Las Vegas Lovers‘ editorial)

You are really good at hooking up with your influences and heroes. Is there anyone who you would still like to meet? (Lisa Devlin via facebook)

I guess all that internet stalking as paid off! I’d still love to meet Kirsty Mitchell, Vivienne Westwood, La Carmina (well we’re actually hooking up in 2 weeks – I’m off to hang out with her in Prague!), Jonas Peterson, Matt Miller…and well if we’re dreaming for a second then Kiefer Sutherland…although that would be a strictly non-business meeting!

The Green Room rocks! What was your inspiration behind it? (Neil Thomas Douglas via facebook)

Thank you! In the latter part of last year I started writing a regular feature which I called ‘Post-It Notes’. The idea behind it was to share two short snippets of advice each week – one for wedding planning and the other about running your own business. Each week the ‘business notes’ seemed to be getting longer and more detailed and they were getting some great responses in the comments. I had also attended and helped to organise a lot of workshops last year and I was loving learning about how these inspirational people were running their businesses.

I decided I wanted to make more of this as I realised pretty quickly that this was an area that wasn’t being covered by anyone else, but I was concerned as to what effect it might have on the bride readers of this blog – after all this stuff wasn’t relevant to them at all. So Gareth came up with the idea of splitting the blog in two and the slide function to get from side to side. Genius!

 Photography Credit: Devlin Photos (‘Las Vegas Lovers‘ editorial)

What are your plans for the Rock n Roll Bride brand in the future? (Katie Tassone via facebook)

Well I’m traveling a lot more this year which is really exciting. I have a few trips around the world planned for 2012 and 2013! I actually find going to new places and meeting new people quite scary but being scared is a surefire way to grow I think! I always knew how important it was for me to get out of the office and my comfort zone and to meet people in real life, but I guess now I’m doing it to the extreme! The UK wedding industry is tiny and can, in all honesty, be kinda stifling sometimes. I want to keep spreading my wings please!

The blogging workshops are also going well and we’ll be announcing the next date and location on the 28th May so keep your eyes peeled for that. It’s been incredible how well these have been going down so far. I’m so grateful that people want to come and hear me speak. It’s scary but awesome.

Oh and the print magazine! You guys have been so patient waiting for issue 2 but believe me when I say it will be worth it. We’ve completely redesigned it, it’s more than double the size of issue 1 and (squeee!) I’m just so excited that it’s nearly finished! It’s been a lot more work than any of us anticipated I think but the extra effort will pay off I’m sure!