I’ve started about three blogs in the last two years. The first was awfully designed, was called Madeleine Mae Blogs (such arduous thought went into that name, I know) and lasted all of five minutes. The second was this very website, just a half-hearted attempt at it, and fizzled out after a few months. Roll around first year of university, feeling v out of depth in a v academic lil bubble surrounded by people who put Oxbridge as one of their five choices for UCAS, and I decided I wanted an outlet for the kind of writing I actually enjoy, and couldn’t utilise throughout endless English essays and highbrow attempts by my peers at writing the next Jane Austen. And somehow, I managed to stick at it.
Last week, I reached 100 posts on the blog. To me, that’s absolutely mental, because I didn’t think I’d have stuck at this for so long. 100 posts hit me: I actually do have a passion for this blogging malarkey, and my writing style, ambitions, confidence and life has changed exponentially since I first logged into WordPress back in the November of 2016. I’ve had some opportunities I never thought I’d be given by typing away on the blog- through press events, to chances to showcase my writing online to secure internships, this blog has let me hone my writing style, figure out who I am and where I want to get goin’ after graduation.
And one thing that I’ve realised from writing this blog, is that when I decide what to write, I’m deciding it for two reasons. The first is that writing helps me get things off my chest, make sense of complexities that come with living in this world and I can vent and sort out problems through writing. The second is that I want to write what other people want to hear. I want to write things to put a smile on someone’s face after a bad day; I want to touch topics that others are struggling with in order to help them make sense of everything. I want to write what people want to read.
So today, I thought I’d do some form of a mini Q&A: a chat about all things blogging, careers, life, fashion- a little bit of everything. I asked on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if anyone had any questions (because I want to write what you want to hear, and also because it’s easier to write a blog post with others’ help lol) and now imma answer them! I’ve kept each person asking anonymous, just in case people don’t want their names plastered all over ze blog- but if you asked a q, keep a’reading, because it’ll be answered below. Leggo!
Let’s chat career goals
Q: How do you find out about the internship opportunities that you’ve had? I feel like there’s things under the radar that I always miss!
A: This will be slightly different depending on the sector you want to go into, but with regards to journalism, I have a few key websites/Twitter accounts I basically stalk on a weekly basis! For opportunities further afield in London, good websites to check are Go Think Big and Fashion Workie– they work with magazine publishers like Bauer Media (Heat, Grazia etc.) Hearst Magazines (Elle, Cosmo) and Condé Nast (Glamour, Vogue) and with mahoosive conglomerates like O2 and Global Radio. I basically have become a social media sleuth and stalk editorial assistants and writers at my favourite magazines, in the hope that they might tweet about filling some work experience slots. This is how I hopefully have an internship in the pipeline for later on in the year!
With local opportunities, check with the careers service at your university. I know my uni (University of Birmingham) has a sick careers website, and they often email internship alerts to my university email address. That’s how I found out about the paid internship scheme at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, and that’s where I spent the majority of second year interning alongside uni!
And then the final way that I’ve sometimes found opportunities is just by word of mouth, and luckily finding myself in the *for want of less of a disgusting cliche* right place, right time. I’ve recently been at the BBC in Birmingham, and that was purely because I got chatting to a radio presenter when he came to broadcast from the museum about Dippy the Dinosaur, when I was interning there.
So the main things to do are: find out good websites that advertise internships for the sector you want to get into, utilise any careers services your university has and network, put yourself out there and see where it gets you! I hope this helps!
Q: What are your career goals?
A: They seem to change on the bladdy daily for me because I can’t make up my flippin’ mind- and because I have about five different jobs I’d adore to do and I’m not sure which is a standout- but I think I want to get into some kind of journalism. I know for sure that newspapers aren’t for me- I don’t want to be reporting on hard hitting politics; I prefer light-hearted material that’ll get people thinking and smiling. Lifestyle journalism seems to be the route I’d like to go; writing for one of my favourite magazines would be the dream. However, my lil brain wouldn’t want to do just that, and I love broadcast journalism too- so radio is something I want to look into more. And I adore having this blog, so whatever I end up doing when I graduate, I know I want to have this blog on the side as a side hustle, if u will.
Q: In terms of journalism, who do you find inspiring?
A: I know this is bad, but I don’t really follow certain journalists/writers all that much. I think it’s because part of me is scared that if I see what’s out there, I’ll compare myself, tell myself I’m not good enough and then talk myself out of trying to go for my dreams. It’s also because I don’t want anything to influence/deter myself from writing how I want to write. I want to write authentically to me, and not end up bending my style to suit what’s out there and doing well. However, having said that, I used to ADORE Jameela Jamil’s column in Company Magazine (RIP) and I’ve 110% jumped on the Dolly Alderton bandwagon recently. She’s a freelance magazine columnist and a debut author- if you haven’t read her memoir, Everything I Know About Love, you need to. I love writers who touch on the absolute heartbreaking, hilarious and humdrum reality of the everyday- people that have the ability to write about something we all experience, yet shed light on why we feel like that and inspire us. That’s how I hope I might be able to write one day.
Let’s chat life
Q: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt at uni so far?
A: Do NOT compare yourself!! There are 30,000 students at my university, and it’s an incredibly academic institution to study at. I can be academic, but I really have to work for it, and even when I work my arse off, there’s still a massive percentage of my peers that are flying ahead of me, straight firsts in everythang. It can be so demoralising to work your absolute lil butt off to get grades that are average when compared with your course mates. I’ve also had written feedback from lecturers that is absolutely scathing, and when you’re studying English & Creative Writing like I am, it can feel like a very personal judgement about your written style. I’ve learnt to grow a thicker skin, not compare a number to 30,000 others’, and remind myself that I’m still doing bladdy well to just have been accepted into the university in the first place!
Q: How do you juggle blogs, internships and uni?
A: I don’t. I feel like I’m very much done with education now; I know where I want to go after graduation, and I’m just itching to get there. So I’ll admit that quite often I put internships and blogging before university work. Last semester, I attended a press morning for the Museum & Art Gallery I was interning at, instead of catching up on vital revision for an exam. But that’s when I met the radio presenter that got me into the BBC – so every cloud, eh? However, I know when to put things on the backburner and focus on my education, because I know it’s hugely important. I’m so glad I jumped at every opportunity I’ve been offered this year for my blog and internships, but that doesn’t mean it’s been a ball all year. I’ve been incredibly stressed, trying to juggle everything, which has often meant I can’t go out and socialise as much as the rest of my pals, but it’s been worth it in the end. Next university year, the plan is to focus more on my education, as I know third year is important – and take some time off to chill and live the full uni experience.
Let’s chat fashion
Q: Which are your favourite high street shops and why?
A: Without a doubt, Topshop and Zara! Both can be a lil pricier than I’d like on my student budget, but I really think you cannot beat them. You can just tell the difference in quality between shops like these, and cheaper outlets such as H&M and Primark. Topshop is my number 1: it’s where I first began loving fashion when I turned 12 and could finally fit into a size 8. I remember scouring Topshop for the first time and feeling so damn grown up. I feel Topshop is always ahead of the trends and predicts the styles young people will be loving each season. My only problemo with Topshop is that often you’ll buy a key piece, and see half of Birmingham wearing the exact same thing- but that only testifies just how popular the brand is. And with Zara, I adore the quirky take on classic styles the shop provides. You’ll find dupes of higher end luxury items, and I find that I’ll buy a dress from Zara, and it’ll be the one dress everyone asks where it’s from. Both shops offer quirky and trend-based items- and they’re just a bit of me!
Q: Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
A: Two people spring to mind: Megan Ellaby and Vanessa Hudgens. Vanessa was my style icon no. 1 right back in HSM days- pre-teen Maddie was obsessed with Vanessa’s boho, laidback summer style. As with Megan, fashion blogger and YouTuber (and there’s not many bloggers and YouTubers I actually follow) she’s got quirky dressing down to a tee. She’ll throw together unusual colour combinations, she’s not afraid to dress loud and proud and she’ll also wear a simple jeans and tee and still make it fresh and new. I like to follow trends; I like to wear the floatiest dress I can find in summer and I’m always on the lookout for quirky outfits I haven’t seen before.
Let’s chat bloggin’
Q: Why do you have your blog and put so much effort into it?
A: I firstly started my blog purely because I adored writing in my own little way- a way I couldn’t seem to write in for academic life at university. It was a distraction from essays, highbrow lecturers and literary seminars. Since then, I’ve found that my blog has been my starting point for anyone looking at my applications for internships. It’s become my own mini portfolio without me even realising, and I think it’s just the best way I can let anyone know what I’m about, in an instant. I think I put so much effort into it not just because I adore writing, being creative and typing away, but because I know how flippin’ competitive and scary the journalism industry is- and I’m aware I need as much experience as I possibly can get!
Q: So you have some pretty cool opps like press events and things (Dirty Martini one was sick!) and was just wondering how you form relationships with PRs?
A: To be honest, getting opportunities for my blog has been a happy accident! A few months back, I started hashtagging #brumbloggers on my Instagram posts, in the hope that some local people will find me and possibly want to read my posts. After I started doing that, I found PRs emailing and inviting me to events. I’ve since found the Brum Bloggers Facebook group- a group of lovely Birmingham bloggers- and they often host events I’ve been lucky enough to go to, meeting some likeminded people and making some blogging pals! There are also various groups on Facebook that are nationwide (just type something like ‘blogging opportunities UK’ into Facebook) and PRs can advertise opportunities on these groups. You usually send them across your blog link and some stats, and if they like the look of you, they’ll get in touch.
I’ve heard some other bloggers say that they’ve contacted brands they’d like to work with directly, as a mini pitch if you like, but I’ve never done that. I don’t feel like my blog is big enough to even attempt to grab their attention. However, one thing I’ve seen this year from the opportunities I’ve kindly been given, is that a lot of companies look for good written content and a smaller, loyal following, rather than followers into the hundreds of thousands. Especially in Birmingham, where there are plenty of lovely, smaller bloggers, rather than the big ‘uns in London!
Q: Are there any downsides to blogging?
A: I’ve noticed certain people can have a tendency to judge me, just because I have a blog. They see blogging as a low-form of intelligence; something that’s just about typing 200 illiterate words down on WordPress and clicking ‘publish’. And that hurts, because it’s just not true. I put so much effort into every post that I publish. Sometimes they’re a wee rushed because I’m juggling uni alongside blogging, but I always make sure they’re at a high standard, and that I’m setting myself apart from other bloggers, showcasing my own kinda written style. I often abbreviate and use my own lil words (case in point) but that’s because I’m adding personality into my blog, not because I can’t write. I hope I can write well, anyway!
My only other downside is that it’s incredibly time consuming. Taking images to go alongside posts, scheduling content when I’m working with brands to please them too, fitting it all in alongside university and general life. It takes a lot of effort and you have to be passionate about it to want to spend that amount of time getting posts to a standard you’re happy with.
Having said that, I really adore having this blog, and I wouldn’t change it. I hope I can showcase with my posts that I am passionate, and I can write to a professional standard- don’t let the buggers grind ya down!
Q: Who are your favourite bloggers/influencers?
A: Again, I don’t really tend to read many blogs (I know, I’m sorry)- purely because, like I said earlier about writers, I don’t want to compare myself to what’s already out there. Having said that, my current faves are: Megan Ellaby, Lucy Wood, Amy Bell, Liv Purvis and Jenny Cipoletti. This be mainly to do with their imagery on Instagram, and their unique blog content in an industry that’s so saturated.
Q: How do you start a blog and set it up?
A: I’m so bad at helping with questions like this – I am SO sorry. I know that sounds ridiculous, but genuinely, I hardly did much to set this blog up! I host my site on WordPress, so that’s a start, and I purchased a theme from Pipdig. The rest was handed over to my pal, Dan, who does all the technical wizadry to keep this site up and running. I am genuinely useless when it comes to SEO, coding and all that malarkey. That’s something I definitely want to get clued up on. But if you’re interested in starting a blog, just do ya research on Google or YouTube, and I’m sure you’ll find some better help than me!
Q: How do you get people to read your blog?
A: I’m still a lil in the dark about this one myself. I’ve seen on Twitter a lot of smaller bloggers interacting with each other, befriending one another so long as they all ‘comment on my new blog post’!! It all just feels a bit false to me- making ‘friends’ to further your follower count. I mean, it’s a good way to gain some followers and hopefully expose your blog to new people, but I want people to be reading my blog because they genuinely want to, not because there’s an ulterior motive. I use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to promote my blog, and I hashtag relevant tags such as #brumbloggers, but that’s all I do. I just hope if people like reading what I write, it might grow organically with time!
Thank you for sending your questions to me n I hope this post has been a lil bit o’ fun to read! Imma see u on Thurs for another post x