I can’t quite believe that it’s my half decade blogversary

This little space of mine has been going strong for five whole years, and I’ve packed quite a bit in during that time. I set the blog up on a whim one evening, for a multitude of reasons, and had a great response from my very first post. You can read it here if you like.

The blog served me largely for catharsis at first. It quickly became therapy – both writing the posts and interacting with the blogging community. If I had to choose my favourite thing that blogging has brought to my life, it would be the genuine friendships that I’ve made along the way. I have a handful of very close friends that I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for MummyTries.

Integrity is everything to me

When I took voluntary redundancy in 2015 I decided to take a leap of faith and monetised my blog. Whilst I’ve never earned enough to pay tax on it, the income has been invaluable. It’s meant that I can work around the children and my home education commitments, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted from a job.

I’m proud that I’ve never sold my soul for a collaboration. I only work with brands I genuinely love and turn down offers every week that aren’t right for me.

No plans to go anywhere anytime soon

The thing that’s taken me by surprise the most, is that five years on I still get a thrill from blogging. I’m excited about seeing my colleagues at a big event next weekend. I’m beside myself about going on a yoga retreat in France in September. I have absolutely loved working with the brands I’ve collaborated with this year. I still squeal with delight when a client says they’ve really enjoyed my work, and better still, want to work with me again.

I still have a love hate relationship with social media, but doesn’t everyone? I’m in a better place with it than ever before, and factor in whole days where I completely switch off. Occasionally things get chaotic, but mostly I have finally achieved the elusive balance between work and family.

Huge thanks to you!

I’m exceptionally grateful to you lovely lot for reading my musings. Nothing brings me greater pleasure (outside my family) than being told my words have made a difference. As a little thank you, and to celebrate my blogversary, I’ve got a giveaway running over on Instagram. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an Amazon Fire tablet. Best of luck 🤞

~Giveaway time~ ♥️ We all need an ace card from time to time, and having the tablet for the kids to watch a bit of telly or a film has been mine on numerous occasions. To celebrate five years of Mummy Tries, I’m giving one lucky reader the chance to win the fabulous Amazon Fire 7. ♥️ All you need to do to enter is like @mummytries and like this post. Please also tag any friends who you think would be interested to let them know. If you fancy having a nose at the rest of my feed feel free to also dish out the 💕 (although it’s not a requirement for this comp you could enjoy what you find). ♥️ T’s & C’s: – winner will be chosen randomly on April 29th, my official blogversary. – the prize for this giveaway has been paid for by myself, and was not given to me by Amazon or another brand – UK entries only please – winner will be notified by DM and asked for details of where to send the prize, and also tagged at the start of this post ♥️ Best of luck!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

Having recently breached the elusive 10k follower mark, I’d like to share my tips on how to win at Instagram (when you’re a busy parent who doesn’t have the time to engage 24/7/365)

Juggling the spinning plates of parenting and running an online business is bloody hard work. I’m not only a busy mum of three children, I also have a blog and write books. In between home educating the kids, cooking all our food from scratch and my writing, I also have to find time to promote said writing.

No mean feat! 

win at instagramEngaging on social media to build a following is what some consider to be a full time job, and is just not possible for people like me. We have enough going on already. I’ve learnt the hard way that if I have to sacrifice time with my children to win at Instagram (or anything for that matter), then it’s simply not worth it. So here’s my version of winning… 

Don’t be a dick

Actually this is also rule number one of life as far as I’m concerned. Playing the follow/unfollow game, buying followers and setting up like bots are the quickest and most surefire ways to lose your credibility. Nuff said. 

Try not to get too caught up in what everyone else doing

Again, a great rule for life, because as we all know comparison is often the thief of joy. As soon as we start copycatting what others are doing on Instagram we dilute our own message and become background noise. 

Who honestly gives a crap about the perfect flat lay or a pair of feet while drinking a cup of coffee?

Have a truly unique voice  

Which brings me nicely onto this point. Every blogger, vlogger and Instagrammer thinks they’re unique. We all believe we have an important message to bestow upon the world otherwise we’d have chucked the towel in long ago.

The sad fact is that most people are just parroting what everyone else has said. Don’t be like them, be yourself. By sharing the bits of your life that others are afraid to you’ll get the absolute most out of the experience, and your followers will genuinely feel they are gaining something by coming to your feed.

Vulnerability personified…

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

Follow people who properly inspire you

Instagram can too easily turn into one big linky. Scrolling through all the pretty photos, hardly reading the captions, because really who has the time to bother doing that? It can become exceptionally fake and pointless very quickly. The best way to avoid this happening is by only following the people who inspire and support you.

Accounts I like to follow: 

  • fellow home educators
  • people who make the sort of food I like to eat (not just take pretty photos of food) 
  • other parents of autistic kids 
  • yogis 
  • families who go travelling 

Don’t be afraid to unfollow people who don’t inspire you (they probably unfollowed you long ago anyway) 

I used to follow loads of other bloggers, and I would spend ages engaging on their pages because I thought that was the done thing. Then I installed a followers app, and learnt that around 80% of these ‘blogging friends’ didn’t follow me back. Which  is why they never engaged on my feed. So now I don’t bother wasting my time on these people at all. I still follow plenty of bloggers, but the genuinely supportive ones who care when I’m having a hard time and know what my kids are called. 

If someone comes to my feed and shows me a lot of love, then I like to return the favour. It’s nice to show other people that you care as much they do.

Choose your shortcuts wisely, because if they seem too good to be true, they usually are

People who promise to help you win at Instagram by growing your account with real followers are usually lying. I’ve done several trials of outsourcing my Insta, which has led to even more work on my behalf where they’ve followed loads of accounts I have zero interest in. I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t many shortcuts to be had in this arena.

In all honesty, my version of winning might not be everyone’s. I’ve had some great highs, such as this post below which is my most engaged with of all time. I’ve also had some very low lows recently post-algorithm change.

I am not glued to my phone though, and for me, that is more important than anything else!

Be Inspired: Introducing David ReillyDavid Reilly was born with Cerebral Palsy but has never let his disability prevent him from participating in outdoor pursuits, achieving his goals and fulfilling his potential.

Now, through writing and motivational speaking, David shares his experiences, which can’t help but motivate others. Grab a cuppa, and get to know this truly inspirational man.

The Beginning

I started writing because I was angry. I left school at 16 with nothing and went away from home to a boarding college in the Midlands. My parents had fought tooth and nail to get me an education but it just wasn’t to be in Scotland. After years of remedial teaching and a lot of hard work, I got enough A levels to go to University. At the age of 26, ten years after hardly being able to read, I left medical school with my masters degree. This however, just added to the frustration of now being 30-something and unemployed.

One day I was feeling sorry for myself, and someone said to me ‘why don’t you write it down?’ So I did, and that’s how I started writing. Since then I have written short stories, a novel I’m hoping to publish one day, and I have had numerous articles published in newspapers. Only a few years ago another person asked me if I had thought about a blog? I didn’t know what blogging was but I set to work to find out.

Finding my Niche

My blog has gone through many transformations. First of all, I started putting my newspaper articles in for everyone to read. But given the reasons I started writing, out of frustration really, my posts were mostly opinionated rants. There was a finite amount of my comments on the politics of disability that people would want to read. Surely I had something more positive or constructive to offer the world so I put my thinking cap on.

I was into some serious cycle training in those days. I cycled with a road club in Edinburgh, was training hard and planning to take part in some para-cycling races. I was doing time trials, and was cycling around 100 miles a week. So I started writing a training blog about all my cycle runs. All good, but it wasn’t long before I really started to bore myself. There were only so many ways I could make a cycle run sound interesting, particularly to anyone who doesn’t cycle.

Follow Your Bliss

One day while talking to a friend we had a long chat about what makes you happy in life and, among other things, said to me, ‘It’s important to follow your Bliss’. That phrase stuck with me for a long time and I mulled it over and over. I had tried long enough to establish a job and a career and I was done beating myself up for not working. So for the next few months I did exactly that, I just did whatever made me happy. It was summer time, weather was great, so I spent long sunny days riding my bike, pottering on my allotment, and going for nice long walks.

After a while there was such a change in me. It was like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulder and suddenly I felt free. With this feeling came a great surge of creativity and an optimism that I hadn’t felt before. Whatever it was, it felt good and this had to be the way forward. I had always done sport but never thought that I could inspire others by it and that anybody would be interested in it. But, after a short time blogging I learned differently. There were not many people with Cerebral Palsy doing the kind of activities I was and people were interested and I had something different to offer.

It Only Got Better

Things really took off in the summer of 2016 and that turned out to be the launch pad for my new career in blogging and motivational speaking. Myself and a wonderful friend spent the summer months camping, walking and cycling in the North West of Scotland. It was like I had rediscovered myself and what I really wanted. When I was a kid I spent so much time outdoors with my family and then with clubs at university and I had forgotten how much a part of me it was. It struck me that when we are living our authentic self and living the way that makes us happy, so many other things fall into place. Living the life we want to lead opens us up all sorts of possibilities, and stops us going down roads that can lead to frustration.

The Future

I’m so excited about this coming year. Through blogging and social media, I have made lots of contacts and friends and am beginning to get a little sponsorship. I have trips planned to the North of Scotland to climb mountains and am planning a trip around the Orkney Islands. All this basically means doing more of the same, whatever makes me happy. I have seen that by following my dreams everything else kind of just falls into place. I am also hoping to begin in earnest my motivational speaking and mentoring people. Through speaking and coaching I would like to help others find their way to happiness and to be the best they can be. Life just seems to get better as time goes on and I really want to share that with others.

Feel free to get in touch with me through my website or social media.

Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

 

The things no one tells you about bloggingYesterday I put a plea on my Facebook page asking if my followers would help me do a little test. After finally getting round to making and photographing the Paleo Caramel Slice recipe that I’d been promising for over a week, and putting it up on the blog and sharing on Facebook, it was shown to just twenty two people between Friday and Monday, and had gathered just one like.

So I pinned the post to the top of the page, and asked if people could like it to show that they had seen the original message asking them for help. Once people started reacting to the recipe post, it was shown to more, and the post has now reached almost five hundred people. What I’ve noticed is that when I share a meme, news article or (sometimes) other people’s posts, Facebook will show it to hundreds, if not thousands. When I share my own blog posts, I’m lucky for them to reach fifty.

It’s left me feeling seriously despondent, and wondering for the millionth time, how on earth a small time blogger like me, with zero marketing budget, will ever ‘get out there’

I wrote my first post on this blog on April 29th 2013, and in the last three years I have written over a thousand posts, and published almost seven hundred. I have also written and published a non-fiction book, and am currently halfway through draft one (43k words written) of my first novel. That’s a whole lot of words that have been written – for my catharsis, to potentially inspire others and sometimes because I’m being paid to. 

I’ve been featured on the Huffington Post, The Mighty, She Knows, Autism Awareness.com and countless blogs across the web. I’ve had one post go properly viral, several go semi-viral, and had so many comments on my posts last year that I decided in January to switch off the comments function. 

I have made genuine friends through Mummy Tries, and have received love and support through tough times. If nothing else, this has been the greatest gift that blogging has brought me.  

The good, bad and ugly of blogging

Untitled design (3)BUT over the last couple of years I’ve also witnessed pettiness, spitefulness and bitchiness that would put most teenage school girls to shame. I’ve seen nepotism that beggars belief as well as selfish, shitty messages that spread like wildfire because they are ‘so hilarious’ (apparently). I’ve seen people sell their soul for a sponsored post, and spend so much time on social media there can be no way that they are properly looking after their children as well.

Right now my three kids are running riot because I’m ignoring them and writing this instead. I need to get it out though, otherwise it will drive me insane all day long, and if I wait until after I’ve put them to bed I will more than likely not be able to articulate what I want to say (because I am frazzled by that point). I don’t do this very much at all any more, but every now and then I do, and it is not okay.

Ultimately Facebook is one of many areas where I feel like I’m bashing my head against a brick wall. I’ve come to realise that almost every single aspect of blogging is about who you know and not how good you are. It’s about who your contacts are, and who is championing you. Blogging is a huge distraction that often takes time away from the things you should be doing.

I’ve come to the gloomy conclusion that unless every blog post you write goes viral, and you end up amassing a gigantic following, or you’re prepared to dedicate your entire life to the blogging cause, then you are very unlikely to properly succeed in this game.

Cards on the table: I don’t know what to do about this right now, so please feel free to send me your answers on a postcard…

whatimwriting

How to Achieve the Elusive LifeBlog BalanceI was under the illusion that I had it all under control. I thought my life/blog balance was a-okay, but last December it was rather off kilter.

When my husband and I sat down over the Xmas holidays to discuss our home education plans, he told me in no uncertain terms that the blog was distracting me. He said that if I wasn’t prepared to make some changes, and it prevented me from putting 100% into home ed, then I’d be losing him as my biggest cheerleader. Not only that but I would kick myself for it in the future.

As always he was right!  

I don’t think he was being out of line whatsoever. When we’re so close to a situation it can be difficult to look at it objectively, and once I took a step back and reflected on his words, I completely agreed with him. I have chosen to educate my children myself, which is a huge responsibility, and needs to be taken very seriously. Our chat was the wake up call I needed to put a few things into perspective. With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I do these days to ensure that my blog doesn’t interfere with my family life.

Don’t get sucked in to social media

I’ve written about this several times, and always come back to the same point. Present parenting and social media cannot co-exist, it really is as simple as that. Most bloggers can bash out a post quite quickly, and it’s easy to chuck it into a scheduling service to auto tweet, etc.

Promoting it to an ‘engaged audience’ is a whole other ball game. Many pride themselves on their follower numbers, and the amount of likes they get on FB and IG, but that takes up a truck load of my most precious commodity. Getting hundreds of likes isn’t on my priority list, and I’m comfortable with that.

Knowing when to say no

For a multitude of reasons, when I created Mummy Tries I did so anonymously, and blogged incognito for the first eighteen months. This naturally ruled out quite a lot of PR opportunities and event invitations. When I came out I started getting offers, mainly for reviews in exchange for products, and my first few paid collaborations were for peanuts. I made a pact with myself pretty early on that I’d only say yes to products we genuinely needed; and set myself a lowest fee I was prepared to work for.

I’ve mainly stuck to this like glue, but around Xmas had so many offers I ended up saying yes to way too much. It was exhausting, the work I produced was not my best by any stretch of the imagination, and it left me feeling meh. Since then I’ve completely stopped taking on reviews, and am only working on quality collaborations. I might not be making a ton of cash, but I am so much happier. 

Don’t get too distracted by the online community

Untitled designI consider myself privileged to have met as many lovely people as I have through this blog, and I chat to a sizeable amount of fellow bloggers when I can, online and offline. Towards the end of last year though I was spending all my allocated blog time either chatting, reading / commenting on other blogs or replying to the comments on my own.

Something had to give, so I made a bold move a few weeks ago and disabled my comments function. I’ve also completely stopped participating in linkies, and leaving comments for the sake of it. I subscribe by email to all my favourite blogs and still read tons of posts. If I feel compelled to and have the time to comment I will, if not I’ll give the post a like or I’ll share it. Far from alienating me from the bloggersphere, it has actually cemented my real friendships, and I cannot tell you how liberating it’s all been for me.  

Don’t compare your blog to others

It’s been said so much, but I really do feel that not comparing is absolutely vital for your own success. There are some big fish in our small pond, and they work tirelessly for all they have. Comparing my blog to theirs would be like comparing myself to my friend who teaches languages for a living, and getting upset because my Spanish isn’t as good as hers. Think about it for five seconds, and how utterly absurd that would be.

We all know how crap comparing ourselves to our friends and acquaintances can make us feel, but honestly folks, the grass is very rarely greener on the other side of the fence.

Never stop enjoying it

write from the heartMy first ever post was my life in a nutshell, and I think it was pretty obvious from the outset that my writing was all about the catharsis. This is still very much at the centre of my blog, but I also use my little piece of cyberspace to express bite sized chunks of creativity.

When I was writing Become the Best You, it was brilliant to be able to share snippets of it, and get feedback from my readers. I’m now writing a novel, and feel exactly the same. The day I stop enjoying my blog, or it starts feeling a bit too much like hard work, will be the day I hang up my blogging shoes for good!

Ultimately, it’s a blog, not a nobel peace prize. I genuinely try not to take it too seriously 🙂