I’m Charlie, a Mum of 2, Writer, Blogger and Holistic Therapist. I’m also the founder of Sophia’s Choice Health & Beauty Boutique which initially began life as a Green Lifestyle blog in October 2012, and has grown into an online boutique selling many of the natural brands I’ve blogged about. I’m passionate about health and wellbeing and I’m currently studying naturopathic nutrition to take this passion further.
Please tell us something about yourself. Is blogging your profession or just a hobby?
Prior to blogging and having my 2 girls, I worked in marketing and PR before retraining as a multi-skilled Holistic therapist. I had my own practice for about 8 years offering Reflexology, Reiki and several forms of Massage therapy. In 2005, my husband and I moved to France where we lived for almost 3 years. During that time we renovated two Gites (holiday cottages) and offered self-catering holidays in the Morbihan area of Brittany. It was here that I also gave birth to my first daughter, Sophia.
We moved back to the UK in 2008 when Sophia was almost 2 years of age and settled in the West Country where we’ve been living ever since. Before launching my own business in November 2013, I was a full time Mum and started blogging in my spare time as a way of sharing all the information I’d collated over the years which was of a natural, organic and creative nature.
When did you get an idea to launch your own blog and how important is it for you be online?
Whilst I was living in Brittany, I found it very hard to find the natural and organic baby products I was looking for, for my eldest daughter. I didn’t want to use products with harsh synthetic ingredients on her delicate skin and sadly what was on offer locally was limited. I searched the internet and starting finding some great products and had them shipped to me in France. These included natural mattresses, skin care products, BPA free feeding sets, wooden toys and much more.
I was talking to my husband about the frustration of not having one place you could go to find this type of information, so he mentioned about starting a blog where I could share what I’d found. I was sceptical at first but my love of writing won me over and a few years after we’d settled back in the UK, I decided to launch my first blog, Sophia’s Choice, named after our eldest daughter, which is based on the early choices we made for her when she was small which were of a natural and organic nature.
Being online at first was scary and exciting all at once. I really didn’t think anyone would start reading my musings, however when I had my first blog comment, I knew that I did indeed have an audience reading my posts and that perhaps I had something worthwhile to share.
Did you have someone help you make the website or did you do it by yourself?
Whilst being a full time Mum to the girls I decided to add to my skill set and completed a course in web design learning to build web sites using html code. I must have been mad as it’s like learning another language. My thought at the time was that I could build web sites and work this around being Mum to Sophia when she started nursery.
However, in the end it’s actually helped me build my 2 blogs, and my online boutique which has been fabulous.
I currently use Blogger which is a free blogging platform for both my blogs, however in time I’d love to go self-hosted which ultimately gives you much greater flexibility particularly if you are looking to monetise your blog.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your blog?
It was my husband who came up with the name Sophia’s Choice for my first blog. As I was sharing information on early choices we’d made for her as a baby and small child, it seemed an ideal name choice for the blog.
The name for my parenting / lifestyle blog, The Mad Mummy Musings, came from the often overwhelming feelings I’d experienced when I first became a Mum to Sophia and the post natal depression I sadly suffered when I had her very small.
There were times when I’d felt as if I was going slightly mad, so it felt fitting to use this in my blog name particularly as I would be sharing my PND journey and slightly more heartfelt topics with my readers.
I certainly believe that careful thought about your blog name is important from the start. A good name will help you stand out and be unique. There are many blogs out there and if you decide to start using one of the free blogging platforms then many of the names you initially come up with may be taken. Have a couple of options that you can search is a great idea and if you’re wanting to be self hosted then secure your chosen domain name as soon as you can.
What kind of Theme do you use on your blog and what are the “must have” plugins for a blog?
I currently use Blogger, which is a free blogging platform. It’s been fairly flexible for me to use however you can get a web designer to make you a bespoke blog design template that reflects you rather than using the standard templates Blogger provide.
I started using one of the standard templates they provide and then tweaked the colour scheme etc to my own needs. Blogger is also very good at providing you with quite a few apps and plug ins to use including social media links etc. As a novice you can certainly set yourself up well on Blogger.
Many people love WordPress, however my advice would be to go self hosted with WordPress as they have very strict guidelines on what you can and cannot do on the free platform. For example, you cannot offer blog advertising with the free WordPress.org platform whereas you can with Blogger.
If you are really serious about blogging then I really believe paying for a domain name, hosting package and unique blog design is worth looking at as it gives you greater flexibility and freedom. If it’s going to be more of a hobby then I’d utilise one of the free platforms out there to begin with and take it from there.
What CMS (Content Management System) do you use on your blog? How hard is it to navigate within your CMS (making a new post, inserting images, moderating comments, etc.)?
As mentioned I use Blogger, which is very user friendly. Uploading a new post, images etc is very simple to do and you have options to add information pages, switch comments on and off, decide if you wish to moderate them or not. The options available are very flexible.
Blogger also has a great ‘help’ section which is worth reading. And don’t forget that there are many fellow bloggers out there very happy to help you out if you get in a pickle ! We’ve all been there; the blogging newbie.
How much time do you spend blogging?
Ooh that’s a good question. How long is a piece of string? It really depends on what’s happening in my life at the time. I tend to go through periods when I blog a lot – once or twice a week – and then I won’t blog for several weeks even a month.
This is due to family and work constraints. As a busy Mum of 2 younger children and now with my online boutique, I have less time to indulge my blogging passion. I have to be far more organised than I was and there are times when I think it’s important to have a break away from blogging.
It can end up being all consuming and I’ve often felt pressured to get a post up for fear of losing momentum and readers. However, we all have lives to lead and this has to come first.
How do you promote your blog? Do you use social media channels to attract more visitors to your blog?
I use several social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + and RebelMouse.
I’m also about to launch into You Tube as there’s a large percentage of bloggers who are also adding vlogging to what they do. It’s a great way to bring variety to what you share and it can be lots of fun too. I think you’re able to reach a completely different audience through video posts.
Building up your blogging traffic takes time. I’ve found Twitter to be my best social media platform for sharing posts.
Is there a way to monetize (make money) through a blog?
There are many ways to monetize your blog. You can offer blog advertising to brands, sponsored posts, paid for links, guests posts (paid or non-paid), becoming a brand ambassador. You can also offer to do product reviews where you are sent free products / samples to try out and review on your blog. It all depends what you’re looking to do.
I’d advise you to also join a blogging community as well. I’m a member of BritMums, TOTS100 and Mumsnet and I’ve also registered with a few other blogging groups. It’s a great way to find out more about the “do’s and don’ts” of blogging and you also have access to blogging events and opportunities which may make you some money.
Linking up with other bloggers through these communities can be a really positive step as it can feel a touch overwhelming and lonely at times particularly when you’re starting out.
Would you encourage other people to make their own blogs?
Definitely. If you feel you have something to share, then get blogging and share it.
And if you have a passion for writing as well, then doubly so. Blogging has given me a voice to share things with others that are important to me. It’s allowed me to link up with like-minded people and I don’t think I could be without my blogging now. It’s a part of who I am.
Please give us some advice for new bloggers and for people who are still not sure should they make a blog of their own?
Blogging will take up far more of your time than you initially think. You’ll start off slowly and then as you gain momentum, you can if you’re not careful get swept along the blogging chaos that can ensue.
Have a plan and get organised. It will be lots of fun, stressful at times, but there’s an amazing community of fellow bloggers out there just waiting to hear your voice.
If the idea of blogging keeps nagging at you then do it. You’ve nothing to lose !
Photos ©: Charlotte Hughes