Interview with: Helen Wills
Helen Wills is a travel and lifestyle writer and founder of www.actuallymummy.co.uk
What first inspired you to start blogging? Describe your career/lifestyle beforehand? Before I had my daughter Maddie, I was an operations director for a big leisure and health club chain, so I was used to being super-busy. Once I had my first child, I was still super busy, but I quickly found that talking to the four walls and a baby was never going to be enough! I'd been writing a diary for her, so when I stumbled across a parenting blog, it was a natural progression to create my own website. It was never intended to be a anything more than fun (although I did have grand ideas that I might one day write a book!), but 8 years later I'm making my living full time from writing!
What is the premise behind your blog and how does it differ from other popular parenting blogs/vlogs? Actually Mummy has had a few different faces over the years. I started by writing in my daughter's voice, which may sound odd, but the funny anecdotes of a toddler's life and attitudes were hugely popular, and I won several awards for humour in the first few years. But when children get older, they become less hilarious, so the blog has been completely redesigned since then. I now write about being a mum of teenagers, and the new challenges that brings. I cover self-esteem and keeping kids safe online, as well as fashion, travel, and food as a family of older kids. I'm also a huge advocate of older women, having discovered that people in general - and brands especially - have a very different view of us once we pass 50, so I often write about how I handle that under the heading #50NotOut.
What is your current following? About 800 people read my blog every day, but I chat daily to my 3,500 Instagram followers, and on Twitter, where I have almost 20,000 followers.
How do you work running the blog alongside motherhood and your other commitments? My blog is a large part of my working day, so now that my children are at secondary school I work during school hours (once I've been for a run and shovelled another load into the washing machine)! I'm then fully focused on being a parent - taxi duties, homework chivvying, meal planning, etc. - until the evening, when I'll often sit down and carry on writing. I write for other websites too, and often have meetings in London with PR's and brands, so it's a varied week that keeps me busy and is never boring!
What do you enjoy most about what you do? Are there any perks/downsides? I love crafting stories with words, so I get a huge buzz whenever I publish something that gets a response.Seeing people talk about an article I've written, or reacting to a talk I've given is the greatest compliment and it never stops being a thrill. Perks are many, from being asked to travel with my family to write about an experience like our Cambodia trip last summer, to being sent new product samples to give an opinion on. But that's not why I do it. I genuinely enjoy being at the thrust of what's going on in the world for women and families. The only downsides are those normally associated with being self-employed - all the admin, chasing invoices, and having an irregular income. But that's more than compensated for by being able to decide my own hours. If I want to go to my child's assembly, or take a day out to shop with my daughter over half term, I don't have to ask anyone but myself!
What would be your one piece of advice to any budding mum bloggers?
Do it! There's a huge community of parents to support you, so if you have a story to tell, even if it's just to your friends and family, make a start. But do it because you love writing, not because you want the 'free stuff.' Nothing is ever free, and producing a solid product review takes time and hard work. You never want your work to become a chore, so be sure that you really enjoy putting together your own story for others to read. It helps to have a passion for something, or a need to connect with others in the same circumstances as you. There are networks of SEN blogs, PND support, and baby loss writers, all offering advice and a place to be understood. Since my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I've written about the challenges of the condition, and a lot of parents tell me my blog has been a great support with their own diagnoses. So whatever it is you want to shout out to the world, your blog is a fantastic platform. And who knows where it might lead?!