There's no denying that "mummy blogs" are a dime a dozen, but what makes the select few a success? While most mamas start blogging as a visual diary or creative outlet between mashing banana and googling poo colour, many hold onto that little pipe dream that it could turn into something more lucrative. We begin to fantasise about working from home- laptop in one hand, baby wipe in the other- running an empire without getting out of our PJs. The ultimate work-life balance, right?!

Well, that was me two and a half years ago. I set out to combine my background in writing and marketing with my love of fashion, style and photography. At the time I couldn't find many resources that spoke to the type of mum I was- I loved and embraced motherhood, but also placed importance on my sense of self and style. I knew there were so many new-gen mamas out there who felt the same- and that was how NOT SO MUMSY was born.

Since then I have worked with some of the biggest brands in Australia, been invited to travel the world by resorts and airlines,  featured on television, in and on the cover of national magazines and in the last six months I have learnt more than I did working full time as Marketing Manager at a television network. I'm not sharing this because I'm an egotistical wank - it's very un-Australian to celebrate your own success ;) I'm sharing because even though these are of course "pinch myself" moments, I always had the belief that I was doing what I was meant to. I knew my blog would be a success. Not so much the monetary or "recognition" side of it- that definitely wasn't the focus or driving factor, I mean building a community of like minded mamas. That's how I define my success- because that's what I set out to achieve. The other stuff is just a by-product.  As long as I'm connecting, evolving, starting conversations, inspiring and being inspired, I am doing what I set out to do. I posted the following quote on my personal Instagram just as I launched NOT SO MUMSY and it still holds so much truth for me.

"When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us."

I am often asked for advice from those thinking about starting a blog or wanting to take their blog to the next level. So I thought I would share my path and what I have learnt in retrospect. There are thousands of mummy blogs out there, so what makes a select few gain traction?

1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN | Launching a blog  takes months of preparation. Yes there are logos, layouts and content, but most importantly you need a clear vision of what you are setting out to achieve. What do you want your blog to say? Who do you want to say it to? Find your passion and stick to it.  Don't worry about what is "trending" - odds are by the time you are up and running the trend will have passed. Don't start a blog because you want to work from home or think it's an easy way to make money- it will take months, possibly years of hard work before that happens. And there is no guarantee that it will. Start a blog for the love of what you are doing, if you are happy to continue and never make money then you are on the right path. You'll be working from 10pm after the kids are in bed and the washing is done, so it needs to be something you love. The reader will only connect with authenticity. So research, find your niche, your tone of voice and point of difference.

2. GET SOCIAL | Blogging is about connecting and there is no better way to start a conversation than social media. Instagram in particular is an essential tool for bloggers, and in many cases is a blog in itself. Get involved in conversations- like, comment, network with brands, mums and other bloggers. This goes the same for your blog. Grow your account organically by being interactive.  Tag in bigger accounts, engage in #followfriday or shout outs- but don't over do it, and keep it authentic. The best tip for someone starting out on Instagram is COLLABORATE.  I grew my account organically simply by collaborating with brands with a bigger Instagram presence. Product for pictures is a win/win, but make sure you are strategic, not greedy! I see so many accounts doing loop giveaway after giveaway and it looks desperate. Yes the followers might grow, but they are rarely engaged and genuinely interested in what you are doing. That number at the top means nothing without the engagement, and with the new algorithm changes only 20% of your followers will actually see your post, so you need to make it engaging. Snapchat is another way to connect with your audience. I'm obsessed with snap and like it more than Instagram now.

Lastly, don't compete with others- celebrate them for doing a good job. Build each other up.

 Remember girls compete, women empower.

3. BE ORIGINAL | Find your own style and your voice. Just as I launched NOT SO MUMSY two other Australian mummy blogs launched around the same time. Both had similar elements to NOT SO MUMSY- just by sheer coincidence. I managed to shuffle  things around a bit at the last minute- I took less of an emphasis on my mama crush profiles and launched with a stronger emphasis on  mama and mini shoots - which, at the time, were very original for an Australian blog. After the boom of the mama and minis (which is fantastic) I expanded my content to be more lifestyle based.  I can't stress how important it is to be authentic and stay true to yourself. It's easy to get influenced by what others are doing. Sure get inspiration, but stay in your lane. People can see through copy-cats.  If you see people trying to be like you, take it as a compliment and try a new direction. Always stay one step ahead.

4. SELL YOURSELF | Once you have been established for a while and have gathered momentum and a following,  put together a media kit showcasing your best work. Outline who you are, who your audience is, feature any reviews, collaborations, anecdotes and examples of what makes you stand out from the crowd. This showreel is an invaluable tool to send to brands and agents for awareness and/or potential collaborations. Remember it's not just about having a lot of followers, you need to be a marketable brand and/or have a unique style to have the quality brands want you to represent them. You need to understand branding, work to briefs and deadlines and the client needs to see results to build a longer term relationship.

5. FIND AN AGENT- Once you have built your brand and have a dedicated following, you will become lucrative for brand collaborations and will probably be approached by an agent. "Influencer agents" are the fastest growing profession- they are popping up everywhere, so do your research and be selective. A good agent will take you to the next level, a bad one will probably do more damage than good. My first agent was all about the quick sale sponsored posts. They didn't ask if I wanted to work with the client and made no effort to get to know me or my blog. I was getting work, but felt my integrity was compromised. My current management is amazing and I'm so happy to be with them. The benefits of representation is that they know your worth, they know the industry rates, they already have relationships with PR agencies and bigger brands and negotiate on your behalf, freeing you up to get back to creating content.

Having said this, it's important to use your common sense. If you are approached by a small home based brand, they are not going to have budget so don't send them to your agent. If you are happy to accepted gifted product for social posts to help out, do that. Most kids brands you see on Instagram don't have budget. It's nice to help out when you can, although it can get a little overwhelming. I made that mistake early on because I couldn't say no and ended up getting completely stressed out. Now I only accept gifted product if I absolutely love it and need it or have the time to help out a smaller brand.

Another or additional way to monetise is to through an affiliate web tool like Commission Factory or Reward Style. This is great for income supplementation, but unless you have a massive following, like over 100k Instagram and 50k monthly blog views, you won't make as much money as campaigns and sponsored posts booked through your agent.

6. DON'T SELL OUT | Authenticity is the key to your success.  Only work with brands you like and use- no matter how much money or free product they offer you. I have turned down many big paying gigs because I would simply not use or wear the product.  When I feel like it's getting a little to "business" I always come back to my intentions for starting NOT SO MUMSY and take breaks from the sponsored posts.

Sponsored posts should compliment your blog, not become your blog.

Never forget who helped you on the way up. There are a few small businesses that helped with my growth in the beginning and I would never charge them now.

7. HAVE A LAUGH |  Don't take yourself too seriously and STAY HUMBLE. "Having lots of followers on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly." Even though this is not so true anymore as many are making a pretty little packet, remember you aren't saving the world. Although when you get big enough it's nice to use your platform to make a difference.;)

Happy to answer any questions you may have about any aspects of blogging. Good Luck!