I’m thrilled to feature Annabel Beeforth, Founder of one of UK’s leading and most influential wedding blogs LOVE MY DRESS in the inspiration lounge. In the interview below, Annabel shares how she made the transition from principal administrator for a University to full time blogger, creating a flourishing career, business- and life- she loves and that has sparked new incredible opportunities such as becoming a published author. I know many of you want to start your own blogging business- or supercharge the one you already have – and we can learn so much from Annabel’s open and honest account of how she made it all happen. One of the most important things I take away from this is the importance of ‘JUST STARTING’ from where you are now rather than getting lost in research and trying to have the most perfect ‘plan’ in place first (this ends up just being resistance in disguise!)
So take out five mins now and feast on the pearls of wisdom we can learn from Annabel’s journey….
Tell us more about your career before launching your multi-award winning wedding blog LOVE MY DRESS?
Prior to Love My Dress, I was a Principal Administrator at a University managing two teams and also working on policy development. I’m not saying I loathed my job – I loved it at first, but there definitely came a point, which I can pin-point to having returned from maternity leave (having my first child), where I felt like I no longer fitted in, and it brought me no joy, and I started considering other ways that I could supplement my earnings.
What inspired you to start LOVE MY DRESS?
I first set up my blog in November 2009, 6 months after I had tied the knot in March the same year. I’d spent 15 months planning my wedding and loved every second of it. I discovered a world of beautiful design and amazing suppliers creating beautiful things. When I was planning my wedding, I would frequent a popular online wedding forum under the pseudonym and login name ‘lovemydress’. Once I was married, I enjoyed sharing my wedding day story with forum users as many other brides at the time did too, but to my surprise, my story received thousands and thousands of hits and many comments.
Shortly after that, I was asked by a new blog just setting up if I would share my wedding story – it was this that made me think ‘you know what, I think I’d rather set up my own little blog and share it myself’. So I did. I spent a few hours wondering what the heck to call the blog – and reverted to my forum username, Love My Dress I had no vision at the time that it would be a business or lead to a money earning opportunity. I was simply doing it for fun. However, almost immediately, I was being asked by suppliers, photographers, how much I would charge to have a banner advert placed on the site. This really made me consider how I could develop and ultimately use my blog as a resource to earn money. I didn’t feel the blog was worthy of earning anything at first, so waited until I had gathered 6 months of visitor stats and then produced my first media pack. Six months after creating my blog, I took on my first 8 paying sponsors. This was in May 2010. I had my second baby in September 2010 so went on maternity leave in August that year. Meanwhile I continued to develop the blog and things moved quickly. By Christmas that year, I began to consider the possibility of reducing my hours at work and focussing more of my time on the blog. But I went a step further. In May 2011, I was due to return to work after maternity leave. I took a huge leap of faith, phoned my boss and told him I wasn’t coming back. I have never looked back since making that phone call.
How did you balance your job as a Principal Administrator with building what has become to be a hugely successful wedding blog?
It was very hard to begin with. Looking back, I think that as soon as I started earning money from the blog, I realised it had much greater potential, and from that moment on, I was utterly committed to making something of it. What, I wasn’t sure. I had no business plan. I just knew there was potential so I just kept blogging and started physically networking – getting myself down to London to visit suppliers and attend events – get my name and blog brand out there. This had a hugely positive effect for my business, but a rather detrimental affect on my home and personal life as I was literally working all of the time. My situation was unique however because I took maternity leave in 2010, which allowed me more time whilst at home with my new baby to focus on my blog – and I did! With every spare minute that I wasn’t nursing my newborn, I was working on building up Love My Dress. It was very, very hard and I did things back then that I would not do now (staying up way too late, wearing myself out with irregular sleep patterns, not putting my health and wellbeing first), but when you’re a new business owner and you are dedicated to your business and passionate about it, you do what needs to be done. I don’t think I’m alone in that boat.
Note from Beth : Finding a healthy balance when you start your own business is one of the things many of us struggle with and all we end up doing is getting burned out and in the long run this can sabotage our health and our business. If this resonates with you then you’ll love the FREE audio I created sharing my TOP 10 SECRETS to creating thriving ‘solo’ career and business you love
What was the moment when you thought I’ve made it! I’m living the dream!’?
From the moment I put my phone down to my boss having handed my notice in. I felt completely elated and in control. I was under no doubt of the challenges that lay ahead even if they weren’t completely clear to me at that time – I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I also knew instinctively that I would do it and would be just fine. My Grandpa was an entrepreneur too and I swear that he passed his ability to take risks and be brave in business on to me.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Managing the rapid growth of my business from a basic first year turnover to a much larger third year one. With a higher level of business comes a much bigger scale of customer service that I hadn’t planned for. You can’t just take on advertisers and then forget about them until the next invoice is due. Relationships need nurturing, trust needs to be developed and this way you increase your changes of a longer term investment from your advertisers. It is THE most important thing for Love My Dress and we are constantly looking to how we can improve support to our sponsors.
When I realised I just wasn’t coping with it all myself and that I was risking things slipping in the very worst way possible, I took on extra support. Initially just a few hours a week of admin. Now I pay someone to provide 14 hours admin support a week – and this will be increasing soon. I’m also planning to take on a new member of staff in the next few months. We’re rebranding and launching new products and services and I need someone to manage this for me to allow me to focus on the customer service side and developing my brand, but I also want to have the time and space to produce engaging, creative, meaningful content. It’s no good just pushing blog post after blog post out, it has to be good quality material -your readers and sponsors deserve the best. One of the biggest business lessons I’ve learned is the value of buying time. I was SO nervous about paying someone and delegating at first. But it is the best thing I could ever have done.
What part of the journey have you enjoyed the most?
Two things. Firstly, becoming part of an amazing, creative community of people; photographers, make-up artists, hair stylists, designers, creators, curators – these people are now my friends. I love supporting them and I love that I am surrounded by so many brilliant creative minds every day. Secondly, the other thing I love the most out of all of this is that we get to positively inspire and influence our readers. We receive heartfelt emails every week from brides thanking us for how we blog (we write a lot of discussion/support style features too) or assisting them in having found their ideal dress or for making them realise they could have precisely the kind of wedding day they wanted to. This kind of feedback makes it all worth while.
What advice would you give to other women who dream of starting their own blogging business?
Clarify what you want to blog about (for us, weddings, obviously). Set out what you want to achieve from your blog – if your only real goal is to earn a lot of money, then your heart isn’t truly in it. You need to be passionate about sharing inspiring content with people.
Researching, preparing and editing that content on a consistently regular basis is not easy, so plan properly for it. Set up an editorial calendar (we use Google Docs), find out what similar blogs are charging advertisers and undercut them at first – charge a lower fee to begin with (at least for the first 6 – 12 months) then reassess and increase your fees based on your feedback and reader statistics.
Have your blog professionally designed and have all your associated media (media packs/email signatures, any paperwork etc) designed with the same branding. Consistency in your brand presentation gives a much more professional image. We’re currently undergoing a huge redesign and also moving blogging platforms from Typepad to WordPress. It’s a huge project but we are investing in this way so that we can develop new products and services.
Also, it really helps to have others providing content for your blog – I have a team of people who regularly write for Love My Dress – their perspective offers something fresh and interesting and it also provides you with a break in the blog post writing marathon! This applies to any business really, but make sure you know your industry – immerse yourself in that world and be a part of the zeitgeist (I read other blogs every day).
Keep a track of what is happening across the social media landscape and use social media in a smart way. It is absolutely key to driving traffic and staying connected with your readers. Don’t snark on social media, always be nice, helpful and professional. Keep your irritations to yourself. The Twitterati don’t need to know about them.
Last but not least, don’t waste hours looking at competitor blogs. There will be times you are riding on a high with how good your blog is, and other times you will be beating yourself up with how rubbish you think it is compared to others. Learn that the key to dealing with these emotions is to limit your time looking at other blogs and to take regular steps away from your screen! Work hard but sleep well and exercise well too – this is key for anyone running any business, isn’t it?
What’s your favourite quote?
“If you work really really hard, and are kind, amazing things will happen”. I have no idea who said that, but I like it
Check out Annabel’s inspiring wedding blog LOVE MY DRESS here
The gorgeous photograph of Annabel above was snapped by Naomi Kenton
Want to hear more inspiring stories like this, including my tips to help you style a career, business- and life- you love? Join my growing tribe here