What I've learnt in my first year of blogging & running my own business!
I can hardly believe it's been exactly a year since I launched my blog Skirting Boards and Chandeliers. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I set up my website and was deliberating over a logo and in another way it feels like I've never done anything else. The intention with the blog was always to start a business and not just write as a hobby (even though I adore doing it) so I'm feeling proud that I've not only learnt about blogging but also how to run a business. But more than anything the whole year has been so enjoyable and here's why...
Where it's taken me
To start with, I've been recalling all the things that I've done and places I've gone which have contributed to the last year being so great! I've taken part in some amazing workshops with Topology and the Secret Styling club to learn some tricks of the interior design trade and also learnt some important ideas about business and social media from the amazingly inspiring Ruth Kudzi. In terms of blogging there has been so much input from Aby at Mamaprenuer Revolution and I loved discussing blog skills at great workshop with Mother and Shakers in an amazing hotel off Oxford Street.
Meeting people in my industry and niche and networking is something that I luckily enjoy doing as it's actually just making friends with like-minded mums and business women. Anyone who has met me or knows me knows that I love talking (in Northern Ireland it's called the gift of the gab) which is good in an industry where networking is the key! Something else that I love about the interior design industry is that a lot of exciting developments happen in London, a city saturated itself in good design. Last week I was at Kate Watson-Smyth's book launch and I loved covering London Design week recently. I'm also looking forward to Clerkenwell Design Week in a couple of months time too. One of the best nights however, one that really stands out in the sea of fun was the Amara Interior Blog Awards. Meeting the bloggers and brands that I've followed online for ages in the amazing backdrop of the Design Museum and being surrounded by people passionate about interiors was definitely the highlight!
I don't mean to be boastful but I want to acknowledge in a healthy way what I've gotten out of all the time and resources that I've put into my blog over the past year. One thing I've learnt from Ruth is that success is on your terms, not in the world's and so in terms of business success, I feel so pleased that I have reached goals that I set at the beginning of my journey. These include my personal brand awareness, growing my social media followers, finding clients and collaborating with interiors brands. Completing Jack's new bedroom by collaborating with Valspar was a real highlight and I'm excited that I have more of these planned in the next few months. I'm sure you an tell from any blog post of mine that I'm a huge fan of Farrow and Ball and am excited that they have chosen to be part of my current kitchen renovation. However I love discovering and promoting new businesses too that fit with my style and love being contacted by small brands so if anyone wants to work with me please get in touch!
On a personal level having paying clients and being able to support my family is something that I'm proud of. It's not easy finding that balance where I feel that I can do my role as a mum and wife successfully as well as a business woman (and I don't always get it right) but I do know that I need to remember that the business is inspired by my family and it's for them so they need to be at the heart of all my decisions. I love having a career that is flexible so that I'm there to discuss Jack's day at school at pick-up time and am getting to spend quality time with my two-year old and so for want of a better phrase, I'm having my cake and eating it!
The personal journey
One thing I wasn't prepared for and I guess has probably been one of the most fulfilling part of the whole endeavour is the personal journey of development that I've gone through and how holistic that process has been. I'm thrilled at all the amazing people I've met and connected with and that is definitely something that drives me forward but I've also learnt a thing or two through reading. I've always been more interested in non-fiction such as autobiographies but I've definitely been reading A LOT of personal psychology or design books. The One Thing and Essentialism have been intrinsic books in helping me prioritise and make best use of my time but also know where to invest myself and why. These books are great as they're not just about business but apply across our whole lives. I've also enjoyed the Secret Lives of Colour (one of the best designed books I've ever touched!) and the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by the famous Marie Kondo (which was much better than I expected). One of my absolute favourites however was the Architecture of Happiness with it's deeper discussions about design and the aesthetics and meaning of physical spaces. This book has had a massive influence on my way of thinking. You can see that with a busy schedule (I try to fit in some exercise as well as all the DIY at home) that it doesn't leave much time for novels I'm afraid. Unless you include what I read to the boys every night like Green Eggs in Ham or Peck, Peck , Peck or Oi Dog!
It's also been such a huge career change from the dance industry into interior design and this decision was birthed out of a period where I felt lost in a fog of indecision and lack of purpose and clarity. The idea to start the blog and business came to me in a 'lightbulb moment' and has been one of the most fulfilling endeavours that I've undergone in my life (other than the adventure of becoming a mum)! As I reflect it's amazingly clear that even remembering back to being a teenager, everything has prepared me for this point. My mathematical and scientific A-levels have equipped me to manage my own accounts and even comes into play with room dimensions and my quest for patterns and pleasing proportions. Having almost studied a physics degree, I've realised that my engineer's mind wants to understand how things work and this helps me to be a little handy around the house (although Mr Skirting is way better at this than me!) and it's interesting how I'm fascinated by the chemical processing of paint as well as biological understanding of the brain. I've always had a very keen interest in Psychology and now I'm incorporating that into my business as I consider well-being and the psychology of business. My arts degree in dance (where I studied philosophy, history of art, anthropology and creativity) allowed me to question and think about aesthetics and how that all art is imbued with meaning. I believe that every artistic decision in our homes (i.e. interior design) also holds deep meaning and we can utilise this to make us happy. I also used to sell vintage items on eBay for an antique seller and through my arts management experience picked up a few things about marketing and preparing for launches and events. More recently my two teaching diplomas which I completed just before my first son was born helped me understand how to communicate and simplify complex ideas as well as help people access their own creativity. Every single one if these experiences have helped me on the daunting process of setting up something completely new.
As with anything worthwhile there are sacrifices and struggles. For me I am constantly battling the feeling that I don't have enough time to achieve everything to the standard I want and as I already mentioned I MUST keep reminding myself that my husband and boys come first. But beside this balancing act, we have been living through physical upheaval in our home. Part of the inspiration of the blog was to document our renovation journey as well as inspire and help others in a similar position to us. That journey for us started back in August last year (2017) and we are still without a kitchen! Yes you heard me right, we are still cooking meals on our camping stove and relying on our microwave for our 'daily bread'. And to be honest with you, I'm tired and fed up with it all now. The clutter and inability to cook a proper meal with ease on a clean surface is getting to all of us and actually taking it's toll on our well-being. We miss having people over for dinner and welcoming people into our home. (This is one of the many reasons I'm so frustrated that my home is taking so long to finish). However the end is nigh (and will be totally worth it) and we are only months away from our new kitchen. If you follow my stories on Instagram you can get live updates and videos about it along the way.
My brand and my why
Someone commented recently on how my blog isn't just an interiors blog but sometimes feels like more of a personal journal. This really made me think and actually was a revelation that for me that interior design is pointless if we don't consider the home it is creating for someone. It's about the inhabitant's preferences and tastes and a discovery of how certain colours and styles make them feel! For me a room or even a still life photograph is so powerful because those inanimate objects actually reflects someones life. This is one of the main reasons I'm doing what I'm doing and why I keep going when I'm having a hard day. My deepest goal is empowering others to be creative and confident in their own rooms!
I love my clients!
This leads on from my previous point. Working one-on-one with clients is probably the most rewarding thing about my new career. When I launched Room Service back in October, one thing I hadn't expected was the joy and privilege of being invited into people's homes (stranger's homes!) and the responsibility of being trusted to collaborate and suggesting edits to their home. This is something that initially came out of the journey home blog posts where I interviewed and discussed local homes with their owners and in every case they remarked how it gave them a clear sense of their style by seeing how their home reflected them so clearly. It made them reconnect and view their home in a different way and scrutinise (in a positive way) how they have made a home for themselves. Genuinely it means more to me that I can help specific people create homes that make them happier than having tens of thousands of followers or winning lots of awards. Honestly, it's what gets me out of bed in the morning!
My favourite blog post
I've thrown this one in here as it was something Mr Skirting asked me the other day and I really had to think about. One of the reasons why this is such a painfully hard question is that I only write about things that I'm passionate about and interest me so I never just throw a few words together for the sake of it because the next blog post is due (and remember I don't have a boss so that's my own deadline!) However I felt I needed to search deep and answer this, so my favourite post that I've written (and I can hardly believe that there's been 39!) has probably been the grand reveal of our extension. I couldn't wait to share it with everyone and it felt like such a monumental achievement to have completed that work on our home. We learnt so much and through the pain and discomfort of living through a renovation, the dust has finally settled. My most popular post ever is, Why are your Skirting Boards White? and I love that because these details in a room make such a difference to the overall look of a room and it's a subject I love talking about!
What's your favourite post that I've written?
As I look forward to the year ahead I have LOTS of ideas and hope that this will be the year that I actually finished renovating the interior our house, launch some workshops to make use of my teaching skills as well as expanding my horizons with the blog and Room Service clients. What would you love me to write about (don't worry the colour series and journey home will continue) and if I ran workshops what sort of content would you like to see?
All that's left to say is THANK YOU so much for the bottom of my heart for reading my blog. It's such a privilege to write and share my thoughts for you. My hope is that you feel inspired and empowered to create a home for you and your family that truly reflects who you are and in turn that will bring you joy. Every word is penned with that in mind.
I really wanted to do something to celebrate this one year milestone so I'm doing a question and answer session on Facebook where you can write questions in advance and I will answer them LIVE! These could be questions about decorating with a certain colour or any other DIY dilemma you have. Feel free to drop your questions below in the comments section or send me a message and I promise I'll try to answer them all!
I'm also giving away Room Story (up to 2 hours with me in your home with personal recommendations endways to help access your own creativity) and 10% off any Room Service package for everyone who enters. Click on the image below for details on how to enter and good luck!
Before I go it would be so great (and super encouraging for me) if anything you've read on the blog or on social media has influenced your home. I bump into local mums at the park who have gone to So Last Century to source furniture for their new living room or see a lamp I've suggested in a friend's room but often I find out about these things incidentally. I'd love to know if I've helped or encouraged you in any little way.
Over and out (so I can go drink a glass of bubbly!),