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Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am

Redefining Self-Worth

I wanted to take a few moments today to reflect on the changes that have been happening in my life over the past few years. I don’t mean the external changes, although there have been plenty of those! I mean the internal changes that have helped me to look at my life from a whole new perspective, leading me to redefine my own sense of self-worth.

It feels almost impossible to know where to begin with this, because the way I view my life has changed in so many ways over the past few years. But I think the most logical place to start is in my teen years, when I first began to develop a warped sense of self-worth

Self-Worth from a High-Achiever’s Perspective

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life believing that my value came from the things I did, rather than simply who I am. As a naturally high-achiever at school, it seemed almost inevitable that this would happen. I got consistently good grades (often the highest in the class), and then I went on to study at one of the UK’s top universities. By the time I graduated, aged 22, my entire life had been about academic achievement. And yet, despite this, I never felt “good enough”.

Graduation Day University of Nottingham

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? I achieved so much as a teenager and in my early twenties, academically at least. You’d think that this would provide a solid foundation for confidence in my skills and abilities, but in reality the exact opposite was my experience.

I actually really struggled with self-worth a lot whilst at university, and when my dad asked me if I was finally proud of myself on my graduation day I honestly said that I wasn’t. I felt like I had completely bluffed my way through, and was a fraud.

And the thought of moving into employment terrified me, because I couldn’t ever see myself feeling confident enough to cope in the workplace. You see, for me, my self-worth had become so intrinsically linked with my achievements, I felt huge amounts of anxiety and fear over maintaining that high level of accomplishment. Anything less than “the best” felt like failure to me.

the ongoing impact of low self-worth

As a result, I did everything to avoid going into roles that might really challenge me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time working in childcare, retail, and student support. I’m a sociable person, and working in roles that involved meeting lots of people was lovely. But I never stayed anywhere long enough to advance up the career ladder. It didn’t matter that my employers could see my potential, giving me greater responsibility than my role actually required, I couldn’t see my worth.

And for most of my 20s I felt like I was just biding my time until I got married and had kids. The one thing I had always been sure about in my life was that I adored children and couldn’t wait to be a mother. I convinced myself that I wasn’t career driven or ambitious, I was just holding down a job until my real role in life would begin. So I was overjoyed when I fell pregnant in 2011, just a few months after our wedding. But my joy was short-lived.

Photo of pregnant mum and dad, back to back, with dad's belly sticking out like mum's bump

 

when life throws you a curveball, it’s easy to doubt yourself

As you may know, I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during my pregnancy. It was, quite honestly, sheer hell. I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t possibly face another pregnancy, because my first one almost broke me. But so did the decision never to have another child. I have never been so angry with God than I was during that time.

I remember crying through angry tears, asking why I had been made so maternally driven if I were only ever to be allowed one child. The one thing I had always felt so sure about, that I would devote years of my life to raising a young family, was suddenly snatched from me. And it broke my heart. I absolutely adored being a mother, it was everything I had ever dreamed of. But in my grief and confusion, my lack of self-worth started to seep into this area of my life too.

Any parent will tell you that having a baby is exhausting beyond belief. It feels relentless and scary, to be solely responsible for the welfare of this tiny being. And that’s before you even begin to look at other things that can make it even harder. We all have things we struggle with when we become parents. For me it was the combination of trying to recover from the trauma of my pregnancy whilst: caring for a baby who never slept; trying to deal with terrible issues with oversupply (which felt like my body was letting me down yet again); and supporting a husband who was beginning to suffer from depression. So, it’s not all that surprising that my thought process turned to beating myself up.

Mum and Baby cuddling

the destructive power of doubting yourself

I knew and trusted myself enough to know that I needed help to avoid spiralling out of control into a pit of despair, so I asked my doctor at my 6 week post-natal check for a referral for mental health support. I ended up having 7 months of CBT, and honestly I credit that with keeping my head above the water. But even with that, I still lacked the self-worth to follow my instincts and allow myself time to heal and process what had happened.

My inner chatter began to say things like, “why would you even believe you deserve to have more children when you’re already struggling with one?” and “what gives you the right to stay home and enjoy being with your child, when your husband is struggling so much at work?” I began to question everything, and whilst I look back on that first year with happy memories of sitting for hours just cherishing being home with my boy, I can see how I ended up taking the next steps that I did. Because I didn’t believe I deserved to enjoy being a stay-at-home-mum, nor did I feel like I was doing enough in my life. I felt like I needed to do more.

In a series of what I can now see were misguided, if well-intentioned, choices, I found myself pushed beyond my limit and close to a complete breakdown by the end of 2014. I returned to work when my son was just 15 months old, far sooner than I ever thought I would, and whilst I enjoyed the work immensely I also missed being with him more than I can say. At one point I ended up working two separate part-time jobs, and when one offered full-time hours I took it as it seemed easier than balancing two roles. But it was a role in which I felt incredibly isolated and which, due to the nature of the work tapping into my own personal trauma, almost broke me.

Screenshot of Amanda on Good Morning Britain

To any outside observer, 2014 should have been a high point in my career. My book was published and hit the top 10 for books in its genre on Amazon. I was interviewed live on national television. And I was working in a role that enabled me to support women all around the country. But I was falling apart inside in ways I had never, ever experienced before. And it was all because I hadn’t trusted myself enough to follow my instincts when they had repeatedly said, “this isn’t what you’re meant to be doing”.

sometimes the best lessons in life are the hardest to learn (because we resist them so much)

Near the end of 2014 I wrote a post called Warrior, because I felt like fighting was what I needed to do. But a few weeks later, in a moment of sheer desperation, I prayed to God in a way I’d never done before. I said, “I’ve tried everything, and I don’t know what I need to do any more. Please, you have to show me the way. It’s your turn now!” And I truly meant it.

I had spent so much time trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, to give my life meaning, if I wasn’t meant to spend this part of my life raising babies. And I had found a purpose, no doubt about that. I had thrown myself wholeheartedly into campaigning for better awareness and care of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so that one day no woman would have to make the same heart-wrenching choice never to have another baby as I had. But that wasn’t my purpose. That wasn’t what I was here for, and I was finally beginning to accept that.

But I was still very much caught up in the movement in a way that was deeply damaging for me, as well as for those I worked with. And I couldn’t see a way out. But, do you know what? Within moments of passing control over to God, I received the most overwhelming feeling of peace. It just washed right over me, and I heard the word, “Surrender“. And I knew that was what I was being asked to do. I wasn’t being asked to fight for (or against) anything, I simply had to surrender into it. And boy, did I surrender!

answered prayers often take us to places we could never have imagined

Within weeks of my prayer, I had been made redundant; been turned down at three separate interviews for being “over qualified”; and battled with a letting agency after our house move fell through unexpectedly. And yet, I felt nothing but quiet assurance that all would be well. I even began to think about trying to go it alone, finally finding the courage to look at my blog as a business opportunity, a chance to do what I was best at (communicate), rather than simply a hobby.

But in the end, I still didn’t trust myself enough to do that. I still felt as if that was something other people got to do, and it was silly of me to even contemplate the idea. Which is crazy, because it was around this time that one of my blog posts was chosen as one of the Blogger Keynotes at a blogging conference, and I got to read it in front of a room full of bloggers in June 2015. But still, I felt as if I wasn’t “good enough”.

Amanda with the founders of Britmums at Britmums Live 2015

So I eventually ended up in a part-time role, which I loved, but which was physically exhausting. My body had never really recovered from my pregnancy, all the symptoms connected to my EDS had increased, and my fatigue was at an all time high. I began to spend 3 days a week working, and the other 4 feeling like I had the flu. I could barely move, and began to get sick regularly on top. At the time I was gutted. I had thought I had finally said goodbye to the stress that had taken such a toll on my body.

But it was like my body was doing everything it could to make it impossible for me to continue ignoring the fact that I still wasn’t listening to my intuition. Every time I tried to find a purpose, things seemed to get immeasurably harder. I spent most of 2016 seeing multiple specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me, and in the end I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

life will keep sending you the same lesson until you get it

Even with this diagnosis, I still refused to stop and look at what I really needed to learn – self-worth. I left employment after 6 months on sick leave, but set myself up as a freelance VA and web support. I wouldn’t have dared dream of doing that until my sister-in-law asked me to do some work for her and suggested my skill-set was actually really valuable to other businesses. But with enough encouragement from her, along with two coaches I was lucky enough to work with (Pippa from Story of Mum, and Michelle Reeves), I took the plunge and set up Shortman Media.

My aim for the business was to build it up enough so that I could train Tim in the work I did, so that he could start working from home too. We knew his days in regular employment were numbered, and really wanted to avoid the UK Benefits System, which we knew was notoriously bad for supporting people like us. And for a while, it seemed as if this would work. During 2017 I managed to work with 6 different clients, and gained two amazing testimonials that boosted my confidence a bit.

But it wasn’t to last. By the end of 2017 I was working the absolute minimum hours (less than 10 per month), and even then I was struggling. And yet, despite knowing my health was in a rapid decline, I still had the most ridiculously ambitious plans for 2018.

when you “get it”, you really get it

I was still trying to “fix” my life, to find some purpose within the madness, so I didn’t have to face the fact that I needed help. So my body continued to send me messages I could not possibly ignore. I began suffering with migraines that lasted for 2 weeks every single month. I caught every virus going. I became practically housebound, barely leaving my house for the first quarter of 2018. I was literally reliant on others for pretty much everything.

And it was hard. Oh, boy, was it hard. I fought with feelings of guilt, and failure, as it just seemed to be one battle after another. The last 6 months of my life have felt like the darkest pit. And yet, once again, as I began to hit rock bottom I found my faith growing. I clung on to the hope that we would, one day, find our way out of this mess. And I began to realise that the only thing I could really do was focus on looking after myself.

Photo of Little Man smiling lovingly at me, as I rest in bed

I realised I couldn’t change what was happening to us externally, but I could change how I felt about it internally. I began trying to do things that eased my soul, and chose to trust that the Universe had my back. But it was hard. For instance, there were 3 weeks in which we were unable to bid on any council properties. This was then followed by several weeks when the only option were flats, which I knew without a doubt would be a terrible move for us.

There was one week when I really began to doubt myself and wonder if we should bid on a flat, just to get out of the house that had become almost prison-like to me. But I held faith, and lo and behold the very next week our dream bungalow became available. And even though it felt too risky to even dream we might get it, I just knew it was ours and felt like I was simply waiting for confirmation of what I already knew. And a week later, it really was ours!

letting go of the ego to find a true sense of self-worth

Of course, moving when you’re as ill as we are is far from easy. I had to swallow my pride over and over again, asking publicly for help with everything from decorating to doing tip runs. But do you know what I learned from this? I learned that people were more than happy to help, because they valued me for who I am, rather than what I could do. And it was a real revelation!

The more I asked, the more I received, and I began to see how truly blessed I am. In the moments when I felt like the biggest failure, I reached out for help instead of trying to hide my shame, and received so much support it was incredible. And it reminded me that, all along, I’ve been supported, I just didn’t want to believe it. Because I didn’t feel worthy. I felt like I hadn’t earned it.

But all that was changing. When I felt like I truly had nothing left to lose, I realised I had gained so much more than I could ever have imagined. And slowly, but surely, I began to redefine self-worth. I began to truly understand what it meant to honour yourself as worthy, just as you are. To “stop playing small” and fully embrace the beauty of who you are. I began to accept what I had written a few years ago, about us all being made to shine. And I began to trust myself again (or maybe, even, for the first time ever!)

when you trust yourself, you begin to find your way

This all brings me to the past few weeks, in which a huge amount of inner healing work has taken place. It all started with Rebecca Campbell’s new Work Your Light Oracle Deck, which I kept seeing on instagram.

I have several oracle decks already, and used to use them quite a lot. But in recent years I just haven’t felt connected to them at all. So it surprised me to be so attracted to this new deck, especially as the artwork was so different to what I would usually be drawn towards. After seeing it multiple times, and feeling a gut reaction to it every single time, I decided to trust my instinct and order it. And, wow, was that the best decision I have made in a very long time!

Work Your Light Oracle Cosmic Cross Spread

The deck itself is so incredibly beautiful, and the emphasis on the idea that You Are The Oracle really spoke to me. You can read about my first experience with the deck here, which in and of itself is incredible. I’d never shared anything quite so “New Age-y” so publicly before, and it felt really scary to open up that part of my life and express how much it means to me, especially as someone who also describes herself as a Progressive Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve touched on this in the past, but I’ve never authentically shared how it fits into my own personal life, nor how important it is to me. And that felt like a terrifying thing to do. But it also felt so right. As I wrote in my instagram post, “I’m finding the courage to share all the aspects of my faith and spirituality. Because I do connect with both “New Age Spirituality” and Progressive Christianity. I truly believe they complement each other and do not have to be an “either, or” option when it comes to faith. This is my path, and I don’t want to hide it any more.”

finding the worth in your own, unique story

Thankfully, several people liked and commented on my post, giving me the added reassurance that it was safe to share my story in this way. And it opened up so many doors for me. Because, for the first time ever, I began to see the worth in my story and the power in sharing it openly.

I’ve been blogging since 2006, and right from the beginning I wanted to write about faith and spirituality and how beautiful it can be when it is truly inclusive. But as a 22 year old, I felt like I had no right to be writing about such things – what did I know about life?

So I began writing about things that seemed “blog-worthy”, based on the types of topics other bloggers were writing about. Things like homemaking, crafts, and parenting. But the truth is, that wasn’t what I needed to write about. I needed to write about faith. And I needed to write about it in the context of life itself.

By that, I mean, I didn’t need to have it all figured out, I simply needed to write authentically as life happened. Because there is power in being open and raw and vulnerable, especially in a world that is so hell-bent on aiming for perfection. My beauty lies in the unfiltered parts of my life. And my worth is based on who I am, not who the world wants me to be.

changing “only” to “Amazing”

And so, I began to simply write what was on my mind, rather than worrying about whether it was share-worthy. And I began to trust that it would find those who needed to read it. Because a few weeks ago, in what I can only describe as an inspired moment of clarity, I suddenly realised I had been looking at my blogging journey all wrong.

For many years, I’ve felt like a failure for blogging for so many years and still only having a fraction of the reach that other bloggers have. I felt bad that I get “only” 2,000 visits to my blog per month, that “only” 147 people follow me on Facebook, and that “only” 660 people follow me on instagram. But in that moment of clarity, I changed my “only” to “amazing”.

I realised that it is truly amazing that my blog is viewed 2,000 times per month, despite me doing pretty much no social media promotion whatsoever. And it is beyond amazing that people not only follow me on Facebook and instagram, but they also encourage and connect with me whenever I post, despite my posts being irregular and likely to be lost in such a fast-paced environment.

just share your story, that’s all that matters

I couldn’t possibly reach as many as I do people without my blog or social media. So it is a true blessing to be able to share my story in this way. And I’m beginning to see the true value in sharing it, no matter how many people read it.

Funnily enough, the Universe was determined to help me remember this, as I suddenly came across a video series by Gabby Bernstein, in which she encourages you to simply get out there and share your story. In her first video she even mentions someone who arranged a public talk and only one person turned up. And yet, after her talk that one person thanked her for such an incredible experience. If we simply share our story, the rest falls into place.

And so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to share my story. I’m not going to worry about how long this post is, or whether it’s “of value” to anyone else. It’s of huge value to me, and reminds me that I’ve been sharing my story all along. It’s just, now I’m doing so with intention. Now I’m sharing it because I understand that it has value simply because it is true and authentic. And because of that, it is also healing.

This Is My Story. What is yours?

Picture of a woman smiling at the sky, with her arms stretched out behind her. The words Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am are above her.

Share The Joy – The Joy of Receiving

Welcome back to Share The Joy! Each month I shall be helping Christina to host this linky, and we’re both looking forward to reading all your joy-filled and positive posts. This month, I am focusing on the joy of receiving, which is something I have long struggled with…

Like many of you, I am a giver by nature. I love to give to others, whether that is time, money, or attention. But whilst that means that I naturally expect others to be okay with receiving my gifts to them, I have a hard time receiving things myself.

I don’t just mean I struggle to receive gifts (although this is a major challenge for me!) I actually really struggle to receive love and care, especially when I need it the most. Over the past few years I have become increasingly dependent on the support of others, as my health has plummeted dramatically. But the guilt and shame I feel over being unable to care for myself and those I love has caused me to feel unworthy of receiving. Do you ever feel like that?

a skewed perception of worth

I know that this comes from a skewed perception of my worth, and I’ve been working on this recently (as you can see in my previous post). I have this crazy idea that in order to receive something, I have to first give something of equal or greater value. And it’s crazy because I don’t expect that same kind of give and take when I give to others. So why do I feel it when someone wants to give to me?

I know, it makes no sense. But how often do our personal hang-ups make sense? Of course, none of this is made any easier by the fact that I have become so ill lately that I am reliant upon receiving help in most areas of my life. Whether it’s support from a listening ear, help keeping Little Man occupied on my worst days, or financial support to help make ends meet, I am learning how to receive with grace in abundance right now. And, wow, it is so hard!

re-framing the idea of receiving

We are taught, from a very young age, that we should be self-reliant, aren’t we? We’re told that if we only put our mind and energy into something, we can achieve it. We hear this very message from everyone: at school we’re told to “reach for the stars”; adverts urge us to aspire to “living a better life”; and social media is awash with people telling us how they got success and we can too!

And yet all of these messages forget to mention the one thing that always makes a difference – support from others. We might think we’re completely self-reliant and we can create whatever life we wish for, but the truth is that we all need something to help us get there. For some, like me, it might be help meeting very basic needs. But for others, it might be the support of a mentor, the meals cooked by a partner whilst they work late into the night on a new project, or even the word-of-mouth advertising from previous customers.

We all receive things from others every day. It might be as simple as a kind word, a piece of advice, or a pat on the back, but it’s all part of that act of receiving. And re-framing it within that context is really helping me to feel okay with receiving, even when it is something I feel totally unworthy of. After all, I might not be giving a lot back, but what I am giving (in my love for my family and friends, for instance) is all part of the give and take nature of life itself.

the joy of receiving with love and gratitude

Which is why, this month, I am focusing on receiving with both love and gratitude. I am incredibly blessed in my life, truly I am. I might struggle on a daily basis with my health and very basic things, but I have never felt unloved. In fact the exact opposite is what I feel – loved beyond measure. And instead of trying to justify why I get to be so loved when others aren’t so lucky, I am trying to be more grateful for what I receive.

And this includes the most beautiful gifts that keep coming my way from an anonymous sender. You may remember that last year I wrote about my Gifts from the Goddess (as I called them). Ever since January 2015, I have been receiving regular gifts without any kind of note as to who they are from.

It has to be someone who knows me, as they have been sent to two different addresses (we relocated in 2015) and are always very spiritual in nature. I’ve received 3 Earth Pathways Diaries; a magazine subscription to She Who Knows; a Tiana colouring book; a novel; an angel bowl; a CD; a DVD; an eco mug and herbal teas; another mug and a blessed sign; and most recently a stunning painting…

The Joy of Receiving - Goddess Painting Tiana Art 2018

I feel like this photo simply doesn’t do the painting justice. It is so beautiful in person, with the colours and highlights changing depending on the light source and your position in relation to it. But as you can see even in the photo, the painting is simply gorgeous.

the healing power in receiving

This painting, which stands at around 3ft in height, arrived just like all my other gifts. It was completely unexpected and had no message within it to tell me who it was from. It also arrived at the most perfect moment, as I was sitting in bed sobbing at how ill and weak I am right now. And in an instant my whole energy changed…

As we peeled back the protective packaging, my breath was taken away by the beauty within. I have seen prints of paintings by Tiana on our trips to Glastonbury, and even admired the large pieces of artwork within the Goddess Temple and Goddess House. But never could I have dreamed of having a piece of my own to hang in my home and gaze at every single day.

This past month I have been trying to sit and meditate with healing mantras every day. My experience has been that even if I cannot physically do more, simply sitting and focusing my energy on the breathwork, mudra (hand positions) and mantra is powerful. I feel the energy building up and can visualise it healing both myself and those around me. And this has only become even more powerful since being able to do so whilst sitting in the presence of this beautiful painting.

the gift of inspiration

Green is a healing colour, and when I shared the photo of the painting with friends online, everyone saw something slightly different. Some saw an Angel (Archangel Raphael in particular) – this is what Little Man sees in it too. Others saw a Goddess, Green Tara, Mother Mary, and even Eve.

This experience has shown me, more than anything else, just how powerful creative works can be in speaking to different people in different ways. It reminded me that one of my greatest gifts is my ability to create experiences and evoke emotions by weaving words in my own way.

By accepting the gift of another artist, I am inspired to go out and create my own works – they say it is in giving that we receive, but sometimes it is in receiving that we can finally give…

So this month I am celebrating the joy of receiving. And I’d love to hear from you about what gifts you have received and the impact they have had on your life. Do share your experiences in the comments below, I receive them all with love!


join in with share the joy

If you want to join in, it couldn’t be easier. Just follow the simple steps below:

1) Link up a creation that has brought you JOY – all genres are welcome, new or old favourites and as many links as you like!

2) Include the Share the Joy badge (below) or a text link back to this page in your own post.

3) Please comment on one of your hosts’ posts and a few others. Let’s Share the JOY through commenting as well as through our posts!

The linky will remain open for the entire month of February, and Christina and I will read and comment on them all. Don’t forget to tweet me @thefamilypatch with the URL to your post using the hashtag #sharethejoylinky so I can retweet it. You can also tag Christina at @LadybugHome1.

Feel free to invite your friends to join in – JOY is always better when it’s shared!

You can also subscribe to our mailing list here, to receive an email notification every time a new linky is published.

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Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch

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wordpress for beginners: a step-by-step guide

WordPress for Beginners (Part 1)- The Dashboard

Welcome to this new series – WordPress for Beginners. The idea for it came when I realised that I personally knew several people who are struggling to get to grips with WordPress. Some are fellow bloggers who wish to switch from another platform (such as Blogger), others are business owners who have outgrown the free sites offered by Weebly and Wix. All of them are finding the steep learning curve that comes when you first start with WordPress challenging, and so I decided to create a series for them.

wordpress for beginners: a step-by-step guide

wordpress for beginners: a step-by-step guide

I remember my own feeling of overwhelm when I first started using this platform, even though I’d been blogging for around 8 years by that point. It isn’t that WordPress is overly complicated – once you know how it works, it’s really very simple to use. No, the problem is that there is just so much to it. WordPress is such a powerful platform – there really are no limits to what you can achieve with it. But first, you have to find your way around.

Which is why I’ve decided to create this series with annotated screenshots and step-by-step instructions to help you get to grips with WordPress as quickly as possible. I hope to take the frustration away and replace it with a sense of satisfaction as you begin to discover the joys of using WordPress.

A series of 10 tutorials

As there is so much to learn when you first start using WordPress, I have broken it down into 10 easy to follow tutorials. This is the first, and the others will follow shortly.

  1. The Dashboard – Finding Your Way Around WordPress
  2. Themes – How to Choose and Customise A Theme
  3. The Page & Post Editor – Creating Your Content
  4. Plugins – How to Choose and Install Plugins
  5. Back-Ups and Updates – Keep Your Site Secure
  6. SEO and Yoast – Optimise Your Site with Help
  7. Widgets & Menus – Create Your Sidebar and Footer
  8. Settings – Fine Tune Your WordPress Experience
  9. Jetpack – Advantages of this WordPress Plugin
  10. Troubleshooting – Finding Support When You Need It

So, are you ready to get started with WordPress?

Wordpress for Beginners: a step-by-step guide - don't drown in confusion, follow my step-by-step guide (complete with annotated screenshots) which show you everything you need to get to grips with WordPress fast! Perfect for new bloggers, business owners, and those wanting to share their work online.

first things first…

This post relates to using the self-hosted wordpress.org rather than the free wordpress.com platform. It also assumes that you have already sorted out hosting and installed WordPress. If you haven’t already done this, you might like to try Salt and Light Solutions for your web hosting. They helped me to switch to WordPress back in 2014 and I have been very happy with their service ever since.

why start with the dashboard?

When I started to plan this series I realised that many of the WordPress for Beginner posts available on the web assume that you already know your way around WordPress. But unless you are familiar with the layout of the dashboard, telling you to “create a new post” will leave you wasting valuable time trying to find the right place. So I decided to start right at the beginning.

how to access the dashboard

To access the dashboard (which is the name given to the back end of your website), you need to log in first. To do this you need to visit yourURL/wp-admin or yourURL/login. You will see the following screen.

Wordpress for Beginners Series Part 1 WordPress.org login screen

You will have chosen (or been sent) your username and password when WordPress was first installed on your web host. It is likely that this will have been emailed to you, however if not you can access it by logging into your web host, or contacting them for help finding it. Once you have it, I suggest using a system such as LastPass to securely save and remember your username and password, avoiding the need to re-enter it each time.

the three parts of the dashboard

Once you have logged in, you will see the dashboard. It is split into three distinct parts – the main screen, the sidebar, and the notification bar at the top of the screen. These are highlighted below.

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: The Main Screen; The Sidebar; The Notification Bar

The simplest way to describe this is that the main screen is where most of your work happens, whilst the sidebar acts like a menu allowing you to choose what shows in the main screen. The notification bar is pretty much what it says – a bar where you get notified of updates and comments that may need your attention. Let’s look at all three sections in turn.

the main screen

When you log in to WordPress for the very first time, you will most likely be welcomed by a section on the main screen helping you to create your first pieces of content and start setting your preferences, as shown below.

Wordpress for Beginners - Welcome Message on Main Screen of Dashboard

You could, simply work your way through those links and create the beginnings of your website. However, I’ve always preferred to understand where everything is right from the start (which probably explains why the welcome message is still showing on my screen years after I started using WordPress – I’ve ignored it so much that I’ve never thought to remove it!)

If you’re like me and want to find everything on the dashboard itself, rather than following the quick links offered on this front page, then keep reading. I’ll cover each section shortly.

But before we move completely from this main screen, I want to point out a few helpful shortcuts that you can find on this first page when you log in…

at a glance

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: Overview of Posts and Comments

This section highlighted here shows you a snapshot of your website as it currently stands. It’s a helpful little “at a glance” view of how many posts, pages, and comments you currently have published, as well as how many comments are currently waiting in moderation.

Quick Draft

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: Quick Draft

Another helpful little section is this one, which allows you to quickly type in a post title and ideas for a post and save it as a draft. I’ve never actually used this, as I tend to go straight to the post editor, but if you’ve logged in just to make some quick notes for future posts then this could be quite useful.

updates and messages

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: Updates and Messages

Finally, as you begin adding more content and plugins to your site, you will begin to see updates and messages on the main screen when you first log in. These are often from plugin creators asking for access to something, feedback from you as a user, or even offering you the chance to sign up to their newsletter.

Most of them I simply dismiss, but it’s always worth reading them properly before dismissing, as sometimes they are really important – such as when WordPress rolls out an update (more on this in part 5 of this series).

the sidebar

You may have noticed that in the image above there is a little blue box around the bottom part of the sidebar. This is because, as I was mentioning plugins in that image, I wanted to show you where access to most of the plugins you install will show up.

But what else is in the sidebar?

access to pages, posts, comments, and feedback

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: The Sidebar Content

Near the top of the sidebar is a section which provides access to the main content on your site. This is how you access the page and post editors, which allow you to create new content or edit content already published or in drafts. You can also access the comments left by your audience and, if you have a contact form installed, you can access submissions using the “feedback” link.

You’ll notice that my sidebar has lots of orange circles with numbers in them – this is how WordPress lets you know that there is something which needs your attention. When I took this screenshot I had 4 comments which needed moderating and a submission to my contact form.

access to site settings and tools

Wordpress for Beginners - The Dashboard: Settings and Tools

Slightly further down the sidebar is a section with links to you site’s appearance, plugins, users, tools, and settings. Appearance is where you change theme and customise your chosen theme. Plugins are additional bits of software which enhance your experience of WordPress (more on this in part 4 of this series). And users is where you can add people as authors and editors to the site, if you want others to be able to access your site and upload content.

Tools and settings are both really important in helping you to get your site to run exactly as you want it to. We’ll cover these more in part 7 of this series. For now, just have a look – a lot of it is self-explanatory.

The notification bar

Finally we have the notification bar at the top of the screen. It is a really helpful overview of the key things within WordPress.

Wordpress for Beginners: The Dashboard - The Notification Bar

From left to right you have:

The W sign – click on this to access WordPress support
Your Site Name – click on this to view your site
Arrows + Number – this is the number of updates you need to do, click on it to access them
Comment + Number – this is the number of comments awaiting moderation, click to access them
+ New – this is a shortcut to create a new page or post

(When you are in the page or post editor, you will also see a “view post” option, which you can click to see a preview of the post. Certain plugins, such as Yoast, will also show notifications on this bar).

Front End View

If you click to view your site, you’ll notice that the notification bar will still be visible, as shown below.

Wordpress for Beginners: The Dashboard - NOtification Bar Front End View

Click on your website name again to go back to the dashboard. Or click on the paintbrush and “customise” link to go directly to the theme customiser (more on this in part 2 of this series).

Finally, on the right hand side of the notification bar you’ll see your name and another comment box. Clicking on your name enables you to edit your profile or log out. The comment box let’s you know when someone has replied to a comment you have left on their site, if you have done so using your WordPress login (usually via having a WordPress.com account and linking it to your WordPress.org account via Jetpack – more on this in part 9 of this series).

To be perfectly honest with you, I tend to ignore the right hand side of the notification bar, so don’t worry too much about this.

and that’s it…

Congratulations – you now know your way around the WordPress dashboard. I hope that this has been a helpful introduction, and that you’ve had chance to click on different sections to explore them a bit. I’ll cover each of the main sections in more detail in the rest of the WordPress for Beginners series. If you’d like to be notified when a new post is published, you can subscribe to the blog via email using the link in my sidebar (to the right) or by adding my URL to your blog reader.

And if you’ve found this post helpful, please do help others to find it by sharing using the buttons below,. I’m always particularly grateful for shares on Pinterest. Thanks.

Share The Joy @ The Family Patch

Share The Joy Linky – The Joy of Community

Welcome to Share The Joy – your weekly dose of positivity and inspiration! Since September this year, I have been co-hosting the linky with three other wonderful bloggers (Carol, Christina, and Lizzie) over on my other blog. However earlier this month I decided to bring everything here to The Family Patch, and it’s wonderful to welcome you to the linky here for the very first time!

what is share the joy?

If you’ve never taken part in Share The Joy, then you’re in for a real treat. Bloggers from across the world and spanning all genres join in by sharing posts that have made them smile. It really is a lovely linky, with several bloggers linking up week after week, and new faces joining in as we begin to spread the word. If you’ve never taken part in a linky before, it’s really very simple – you simply add the URL to your chosen post (new, or old) in the link up at the bottom of this post, and then visit and comment on at least one other link added by another blogger. The aim is to share the joy far and wide, and find new blogs to enjoy along the way.

Share The Joy Linky Sharing My Joy

what has made me joyful this week?

This week has been a really challenging one for us in so many ways – Tim and I have both been very ill, jobs we needed to get done have been postponed (leading to an ever-growing to-do list), and life has just felt hard.

However this weekend reminded me of the wonderful community we are a part of, and what a difference that truly makes in our lives. We spent Saturday at our church’s Christmas Fair, and had a wonderful time chatting to friends whilst Little Man did his Christmas shopping. Oh, how it filled my heart with joy to watch him eagerly write out a list of people he wanted to buy presents for, and then choose presents and pay for them with his own money.

And then, today, we went to Cafe Church and had a wonderful time chatting with friends about our plans for the coming weeks, how we’re planning on going to the Advent Study, and whether we might make the Folk Carol Service on Christmas Eve and even the service on Christmas Morning. This time last year was a turning point in my faith journey, as I began to realise I could fit in here. And this year Tim really wants to take part too, so we really do feel like we have become a true part of the community, and that is so exciting to me.

My favourite post from last week’s linky

Of course, there’s another community I love as much as the one in my local area, and that’s the online community! One of the greatest joys of co-hosting this linky is reading through all the posts each week. When it is my turn to host I try to choose one which really stood out for me, even though it is really hard to choose just one sometimes.

Last week there was a post which really spoke to me, and that was the one by Rachel from Rachel Ridler: Mum on a Mission, about the app for her local council. Reading how Rachel is using the app to report issues to the council, providing the “eyes and ears” that they may not have in the local community, made me realise just how often we feel out of touch with those who run our towns, cities, and countries. How often do we feel like our voices do not matter, or there’s nothing we can do to change the situations where we live? Not very often, it seems, these days.

And so to see a local council trying to change that, and a local resident taking it on board and really running with it, made me smile. Do go have a look at Rachel’s post from last week if you can, to find out more about it and how she’s using it to try and support her local community.

Share The Joy Linky Co-Host Amanda

And so, to this week’s linky…

If you want to join in, it couldn’t be easier. Just follow the simple steps below:

1) Link up a creation that has brought you JOY – all genres are welcome, new or old favourites and as many links as you like!

2) Include the Share the Joy badge (below) or a text link back to this page in your own post.

3) Please comment on one of your hosts’ posts and a few others. Let’s Share the JOY through commenting as well as through our posts!

Share The Joy will run for a whole week until the following week’s linky is open, so you’ll never be too late to join in. Don’t forget to tweet me @thefamilypatch with the URL to your post using the hashtag #sharethejoylinky so I can retweet it. You can also tag my co-hosts, @AllSortsHere, @LadybugHome1, and @lizzie_roles.

Feel free to invite your friends to join in – JOY is always better when it’s shared!


Grab The Badge

Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch


Join The Linky


Advent at The North Pole Characters

Welcome to the New Look Family Patch!

Well, hello there! I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have the new look Family Patch back up and running. Once I had made the decision to rebrand the site and integrate all the stuff from Spirit Kid Network into this single blog, I felt the creative flow suddenly burst open and I couldn’t wait to get writing again. But of course I had to do all the behind the scenes preparation first, and as I’m not in the best of health right now it has taken me near on two weeks to sort out the new look.

But it’s finally done and I am so happy to welcome you back to my little corner of the internet. What do you think to the new look? Do you like the logo? What about the choice of fonts and colours? And the layout? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it… I personally love it, but does it work for you? I love the clean design, the clear sections, and the fact it is all set up ready to let the content I create shine. Because that’s what it’s all about, right? I’m a writer and a creator and I want that to be the main focus here, not some fancy design that takes me forever to create and distracts me from what I love the most.

So what’s new?

Well, Tim and I are about to start recording the daily poems for my Advent at The North Pole series. This is something I created way back in 2009, but the videos I created then were terrible. They were recorded on my laptop webcam, so you can imagine the quality! I’ve wanted to redo them for years, and now I finally am. We’ve got the gorgeous characters below, a Christmassy backdrop, some festive music, and a better camera. The plan is to post a new video every day during Advent over on YouTube and we’d love to see you there.

Advent at The North Pole Daily Poem Video The Family Patchwhat else is new?

I’ve also got a free Activity Advent Calendar the whole family can enjoy. This is something I created last year for Spirit Kid Network, and we loved doing the activities within it. There are 24 colourful activity cards to print out and each one has a whole A4 page of supporting material to help you make the most of them. There are even blog posts and Pinterest boards to give you even more ideas for some of them. Oh, I am so excited about Christmas this year.

Free Activity Advent Calendar

You can download the Advent Activity Calendar over on my new and improved Freebies page. There you’ll find 5 different freebies that you can download directly from the website. There’s no need to sign up to any mailing list in order to download your copy – just click and enjoy!

it’s all about the love of blogging

All of these changes reflect the fact that I am finally rediscovering my love of blogging. I first discovered blogging way back in 2006, long before it became the big business it can be today. Back then it was all about sharing your heart, and nobody worried about social media strategies and marketing. Over the past few years I’ve allowed myself to feel like I wasn’t doing a very good job as a blogger because I wasn’t investing the same time on those things as other bloggers do.

And all of it has done nothing more than make me feel like a failure. It stifled my creativity, made me think that I had to separate my content into different sites, and even made me consider giving it all up. So to find myself back at this place where I am simply enjoying blogging for the sheer love of it is so amazing. I can feel the passion for it running through my veins as I type this, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

But for now I’m going to end this post so I can get cracking with the videos. Have a wonderful week, everyone!


I’m linking up with my Share The Joy Co-Host Christina this week, as this post has certainly brought me a lot of joy! Do check out the #sharethejoylinky for your weekly dose of positivity and inspiration.

#sharethejoylinky LadybugHome.com

Releasing The Old, Embracing The New

Releasing The Old, Embracing The New

You’ve probably noticed it’s been rather quiet here at The Patch lately, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve been really struggling health-wise, and in an attempt to keep going through everything that has been going on, I decided to focus on other areas such as Shortman Media and Spirit Kid Network. However I really, really missed writing here and so I am finally making the time and space to come back to this wonderful little blog of mine.

Last week we headed down to Glastonbury (my favourite place on earth) for an impromptu holiday, and for the first time in so very long, I knew what I needed to let go of in order to begin creating the life I want. The things I want have changed so much over the past few years, and it all started when I went from wanting to have a big family to trying to force my grief over my pregnancy (and loss of more children) into something positive. I poured all I had out into campaigning for others and trying to make the most of a situation I found so incredibly challenging, and in doing so I failed to recognise what I needed most – to embrace all the parts of who I am.

Years ago I wrote constantly. I’d scribble things on napkins in cafes as inspiration hit, I’d spend hours reading and writing about the things I found most exciting or intriguing, and my whole life revolved around communicating (I was a language student, after all). And for a while there I completely lost that side of myself. I got caught up in trying to “be a good blogger”, following advice from others rather than simply writing from the heart. And I did this because I felt I had lost who I was, and so I couldn’t identify myself without turning to other people’s interpretations of what it meant to write a blog.

And in my life as a whole the same thing happened, as I tried to figure out what it meant to be a mother, a successful employee (and then freelancer), a wife, a friend… I didn’t allow myself to be sick, even when I was sick, because I didn’t think that was what I was meant to be. I tried to keep up with people far healthier than I am, hoping to somehow redeem myself and my worth through being something other than who I am. And I never allowed myself to feel the grief and the pain and the anger over where I found myself, because I didn’t want to accept them as a part of who I am.

And all of that led to an intense loss of self, a situation where I forgot that as humans we are beautiful, multi-faceted beings, who sometimes fall so very low and need to stay in that darkness for a while before climbing back out into the light. By trying to lighten my situation constantly, I ignored a whole part of my soul, and ended up splitting myself in so many different directions I had no idea where my centre lay anymore. And the more I did this, the harder I fought to keep up the charade.

My time in Glastonbury changed that, however. I had some wonderful Soul Healing at the Goddess House, where a wonderful lady called Mandi Thorne explained how she could feel my resistance to let go. I have been clinging on to a false sense of control for so long that I am terrified of letting go and allowing all the emotions to bubble up to the surface. They scare me. And that needs to change.

So I’m taking tiny steps towards embracing the whole of who I am, rather than trying to be who I think I should be. And a large part of this involves closing down my other site (Spirit Kid Network) and bringing the spiritual resources I was trying to create over there to The Family Patch. When I set up SKN I did so because I didn’t think the resources fit here. And that was a mistake, because they are a huge part of who I am.

You only have to look at my posts over the past year to see I have written far more about my faith here at The Family Patch than I ever did over on my spiritual site. And that is because I pigeon-holed that site too, making myself believe that if it was about me and not a resource for kids it didn’t really belong there. I ended up losing my voice completely by splitting the parts of who I am so strictly.

So over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be rebranding The Family Patch to reflect this new integration of all that I am. No longer will I worry about whether it’s a craft blog or a health blog or a spiritual blog or whatever else I think it should be in order to fit in. It is a beautiful, complex, and disorganised place where I can share my heart as I journey towards better health and healing through honouring all that I am. And I am so delighted to be moving in this direction.

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen (1)

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen (Toby and Roo @ #BlogOnmsi)

I chose the name “Instagram Queen” for the amazing Harriet from Toby and Roo, because it just fits her perfectly. With over 80 thousand followers on instagram, it is clear that she really is the bees knees. Her hilarious accounts of what it’s like to be a parent of young kids (the “I just wanted a bath” video being a classic example of this) have captured the hearts of so many. But as Harriet herself said, “if content is queen, then engagement is her king”.

I’ve been lucky enough to know Harriet for several years now, having first met her at another conference way back in 2014 (that’s a long time in the blogosphere, don’t you know!) And it has been a joy to watch her passion and skills lead to great success in her online work. So it was absolutely no surprise to me that her session at the Blog On Conference this past weekend was packed to brimming

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen Harriet from Toby and Roo
There was so much information given out during the short 45 minute session – it’s been a long time since I have needed to write as fast as I did to get it all down (I really must learn shorthand one day!) I kid you not, I have 4 pages worth of notes to share with you, and even with all of that Harriet was still gutted that she couldn’t fit more in. That’s why she’s the Instagram Queen, and that’s why I’m sharing my notes from her session with you all – because they are awesome.

THE BASICS

Instagram is keyword searchable – make sure that both your profile and your images take this into account.

600 Million people use instagram every month. It is estimated that 68% of those are female, and 90% of them are under 35.

Analytics will tell you when most of your followers are online – use them to help you connect with others more efficiently. You can access analytics if you have a business account. If you don’t have a business account, you can try third party apps like Squarelovin.

Post consistently – if you have under 10k followers, post 2-3 times per day; if you have more than 10k followers aim for 1-3 times per day.

If you post more frequently than this, your engagement will drop. Instagram no longer works like a timeline – it shows your posts to those you are most engaged with you, so if they see multiple posts from you it will come across as spammy and they will stop engaging.

Equally, if you don’t post consistently, you won’t give your followers a chance to engage with your content and they will become less likely to see it in future.

YOUR PROFILE

Put your niche before your name in your profile (e.g. Harriet’s says, “Parent Blogger. Harriet” not “Harriet. Parent Blogger”). This means that when people search for parent bloggers to follow, you will come up in a search easier than if your name was first.

Add an email address to your profile – make it easy for people to contact you.

Also make sure your website is in your profile – it is the only place on instagram where you can add a clickable link, so use it!

Your profile image should be on brand – that means either a photo of you or of your logo. People want to see who you are.

your style/niche

Have 3 things that you are known for and stick with them (Harriet used the example of two of hers, which are always using emojis, and swearing!)

Don’t try to copy others or worry about how successful they are – build your own style and success.

It is possible to be too niche – don’t worry about doing something slightly different from time to time, as long as you can make them relatable to your core niche. Brands will look at your feed, and it is if too narrow, it may result in you losing potential opportunities.

Harriet used the example of how she worked with a Nails Inc and created an image of how she found time to pamper herself as a busy mum, as that would speak more to her audience than a photo of her painted nails alone – see below.

 

Today is hella stressful people. Toby has been up half the night with a terrible cough and as a result he couldn’t go to his last EVER day at preschool this morning on top of that, Edith isn’t well and is being very demanding while I have alllllll the deadlines. You will never feel like a lesser mother than when you shout at poorly one and three year olds because “Mummy has to work” and they won’t leave you be. That in mind, now is the time to take 5 and step away for a mama pamper – the only one I ever get time for is painting my nails , but guess what, that’s JUST enough to make me feel a bit better☺️. This amazing set from @nailsinc is available on @qvcuk today for £28.98 down from £108.00 . The spray nail polish is officially the most INGENIOUS creation known to man. #sparklelikeyoumeanit #mamapickmeup #ad

A post shared by Parenting Blogger Harriet (@tobyandroo) on

HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM Account

This is where Harriet’s brilliant phrase, “If content is queen, then engagement is her king” comes in…

Follow other Instagrammers within your niche.

Comment on other photos within your niche.

However much you comment, comment more! People will see these comments and come to your profile to find out about you – this can (and does) lead to new followers.

Like things, a lot. However, don’t do it all at once as you may get blocked by instagram. You will usually get a warning from instagram, followed by a “soft block”, which can last anywhere between 12 hours and a week. Finally, if you keep doing it, you could have your account deleted.

If you see the hashtag #ad, comment to support your fellow bloggers and instagrammers.

But remember that your niche is not other bloggers (support them, but remember your niche is not “blogger”).

Unfollow people if you’re not engaging with them – you aren’t helping them by being an unengaged follower.

 THE BIG NO-NOS

Never buy followers or likes – it is obvious when you have done so.

Avoid follow for follow opportunities – they’re aren’t supportive. Instagram is ratio sensitive and so they will know. You are actually capped at following a maximum of 7,500 accounts, and some brands will ask that you follow less than 2,000.

Don’t play the follow/unfollow game with your fellow bloggers – this is popular in the US and a lot of businesses do it on instagram, but whilst it works it really annoys a lot of bloggers.

Don’t use automated systems for commenting and liking – instagram is slowly shutting them down and they don’t help with engagement anyway (plus they annoy people and are often really obvious).

hashtags and keywords

People won’t find you unless you market yourself, so hashtags and keywords are vital.

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on a post, so use them all! Think of them like flyers – you wouldn’t print out a load of flyers and only hand out a third of them, so why only use a third of the hashtags you’re allowed to use.

Always place hashtags in the first comment rather than the caption – this avoids making people scroll down incessantly.

Research relevant hashtags and keywords using the instagram search function, and aim to get into the top 9 results (i.e. those that show first on the search results screen).

The number below a hashtag or keyword on the results page shows you how many people are using it. You will have far more luck getting into the top 9 results if you use a less popular hashtag, rather than one which has 100k+ people using it.

The top placements in the search results are worked out based on the speed of engagement in ratio to the followers someone has, rather than the total number of likes per post. This means that smaller accounts have a better chance of showing up in results.

Have presaved lists of various hashtags and keywords you can use for different types of posts. This makes it much quicker and easier to use them when posting.

Be aware that instagram is moving away from using hashtags to keywords, so make sure you use carefully selected keywords in your caption to compensate for this.

This change in the use of keywords instead of relying on hashtags alone has led to various speculation over “shadow banning”. Shadow banning is not a thing – The Social Media Posse have done some research which shows this change towards using keywords for SEO functions, rather than hashtags.

HOW TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT

Instagram’s algorithm is based on speed – it’s all about how many people engage with your content within a certain time frame.

Reply to comments left, to keep engagement going.

Join a comment pod.

Join an Instagram Instant group on Facebook, such as Instagram Bloggers UK, Instagram Fabulous, and UK Instagram Support.

Engage on followers’ posts.

Join in with like for like threads (i.e. those where instagrammers share an image they would like engagement on in return for engagement on one of your own posts).

Use hashtags and then comment and/or like the top 9 results for each hashtag used straight after you post your image. They are likely to return the favour.

INSTAGRAM STORIES

You should be making use of this feature.

Aim for between 5 and 30 stories per day.

Do one just after you post, so followers know you are on the app.

They are ideal for supporting other things you have done, to direct people to a blog post or specific instagram share etc.

If they are sponsored, they must include the #ad hashtag.

MAKING MONEY FROM INSTAGRAM

Instagram is second only to YouTube in terms of monetary value.

The standard rate is 1-10% of the number of instagram followers, if you engagement is good (e.g. 10k followers = £100 per post).

Engagement rates for standard users is around 1% – to work with brands you want yours to be between 2-5%.  If it is higher than this, make sure you say so when talking with brands. However it’s important to note that some niches will always have a higher engagement rate than others.

Your overall theme is what matters – numbers aren’t enough if your feed isn’t well curated.

When pitching to a brand, show them examples of previous posts that had a good engagement, and make them relevant to your idea for the work you want to do with the brand. This helps them to see your vision and know that it will lead to good engagement.

PITCHING TO BRANDS

Brands will often contact you with information regarding current campaigns – if you want to be involved with a brand try contacting them and asking if they have a campaign you could collaborate with them on.

Look at what other bloggers are working on – which brands are actively seeking collaborations with bloggers and instagrammers.

Check the hashtags #ad, #spon#  #sponsored, #advert, and #collaborative to find current campaigns.

Use Twitter and LinkedIn to find the name of the person you should contact at the brand you wish to work with. Sending an email to the right person will make a big difference.

Utilise contacts from previous campaigns you’ve worked on.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Check with your apps can do – some apps have access to your account and can like things for you. Not all of them do this, but some do, so it’s important to monitor your account.

 

Phew… can you believe Harriet managed to fit all that into 45 minutes? It has taken me longer than that to type it all up! I do hope that it has helped you feel more confident with growing your own instagram account – I know I have got a lot of action points to follow myself.

All that’s left for me to say is a massive thank you to Harriet, for being so awesome, and to invite you to connect with me on instagram if we aren’t already insta-buddies.

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen

 

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

I’m Going To BlogOn MSI 2017

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I love nothing more than a blogging conference! I love the opportunity to get together with like-minded people, actually have a chat over a cuppa with people I usually only ever speak to online, and attend sessions from some of the most inspirational bloggers around. So it’s no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend another conference this year.

My biggest concern this year is not nerves, but rather a hope that I will be well enough to enjoy the event as much as possible. Last year was the first year I didn’t attend a conference since 2012, and it really upset me. This year I’m determined to make it to at least one, so keep your fingers crossed for me that I’m having a “good day” on 21st May!

I’ve never been to BlogOn before (despite hearing amazing things about it), so it’s doubly exciting for me to be preparing to attend it. Which is why I decided to take part in the Linky, to try and “get to know” some people before I get there. Blogging conferences are always quite a blur of names and faces, and so it’s always handy to have a vague idea of who you might meet (to save you staring at another person’s chest, trying to make out their name and where they blog).

So, without further ado, here are my answers to the BlogOn Linky…

Share a recent picture of you:

Um, okay, most of my recent photos are selfies from my bed, so here you go… I promise I won’t be wearing PJs on the day!!

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

Describe yourself in three words

Determined, Passionate, Stubborn

How long have you been blogging and what made you start?

Over a decade now… I started in 2006 as I was coming to the end of my final year at uni. I was looking towards the future – what did I want to do, what were my dreams, how might that happen etc? Blogging just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me, as a linguist and a writer…

What was the inspiration behind your blog name?

My very first blog was called “Dream of Living” (based on my above questions!). When I met my husband, I changed to “Me and You at 22” (we lived at number 22, it wasn’t a play on our age). Then in 2010 I left my full-time job to explore other options, as I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to start a family and work full-time.

At that point I upped my game a bit with blogging, posting 5 times a week (I still wasn’t big on using social media though) and changed the blog to “Amanda’s Patch”, so it became my patch of the internet, and was a play on the fact I wrote about gardening and crafts.

When Little Man was born in 2011 I realised I wanted the blog to reflect the changed nature of my life, and so I changed it to “The Family Patch”. I sometimes wonder if it still reflects what I write about, but I can’t imagine being anything else now.

What is the best thing to come from your blog so far?

Friendships. I have some blogging friends I made way back in my early years as a blogger, people I have never even met, and yet they are still people I truly care about and who genuinely care about me too. I’ve also made some amazing friendships with people I have met at conferences, which is even more exciting as they become IRL friends as well.

That, to me, is the greatest gift blogging gives anyone!

Your most remembered thing from your childhood

Oh gosh, I’m not sure I can choose just one thing. Can I share a few?

Holidays at the caravan with my Grandparents
Having free access to the sewing kit and being able to create whatever I wanted
Getting up before anyone else at the weekend and writing stories
Spending my pocket money at the Church Bazaar to buy Christmas presents
Reading books under the covers when I should have been asleep!

Something interesting you might not know about me is . . .

Oh this is a tough one – I am such an open book I’m pretty sure I’ve shared most things on here at some point or another…

I suffer terribly with Imposter Syndrome and low self-esteem, and am constantly expecting people to rumble me and find out I haven’t got a clue and have been winging it this whole time. I undervalue my skills, feel like the smallest fish in the very big pond that is blogging, feel completely blessed that people actually like me, and am more likely to think, “I can’t do that” than “I can”.

I think this may actually surprise quite a few people, because despite battling these feelings every single day, I’m very determined and refuse to let it beat me. Sometimes I think I’d quite like a quiet life where I don’t feel sick to my stomach with worry before doing something like trying to grow my blog, walking into a crowded room, taking part in an interview etc, but then I remember how good it feels to have come out the other side and I keep going. (And, actually, once I’m doing it I usually enjoy it, it’s the worrying beforehand that gets me).

So, if you see me and think I’m a confident social butterfly, know that I’m actually just too stubborn to let nerves and shyness beat me!

Which social media platform best describes your personality and why?

Instagram. I love the intimacy that comes from sharing snapshots of your life, and am inspired by the more staged shots too. I think my life and personality is very much reflected in the delicate balance between real-life and what we show to the world on a daily basis!

What is your happy song?

Oooh good question… at the moment I think it would have to be Cleveland by Jewel. I absolutely adore this part of the song:

From the air things look so ridiculous
Our fears so small, our fights so vain
I wanna pilot a plane with you
So all our problems look small, too
It’s only an inch from me to you
Depending on what map you use

What is your favourite alcoholic drink

I don’t really drink alcohol – even the smallest amount makes my head spin, my stomach churn, and my body feel all antsy.

That being said, I do quite like a sip of my husband’s whiskey, or coffee Baileys at Christmas!

 What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate… anything chocolatey will do fine, thank you very much! Preferably without icing/frosting… I find that too sweet for me.

I’m quite suspicious of takeaway food… My husband was sick after Chinese food at the beginning of my awful pregnancy, and the first time I had a gluten free pizza delivered I was sick all night too (although that was more likely due to working late and eating too fast and getting terrible heartburn, but still, we don’t have a good track record with takeaway food!)

Where is your dream holiday destination and why?

In the UK, it will always be Glastonbury. That feels like home to me.

Abroad it would probably be Sweden. My aunt comes from Sweden and whenever she describes it I think, “wow, I really want to go there and experience that!”

What would your superhero name be?

Mrs Wing-It

Haha, I’m serious… you remember I said I am always waiting for people to figure out I’m just winging it? Well, I’m actually pretty good at it… I once led a 2 hour seminar at uni on the railway motif in Dr Zhivago and I hadn’t even finished reading the book at that point!

If you had a magical power, what would you want to have and why?

The power to heal… because I know how truly awful it is to both suffer and see those you love suffer, and not be able to do anything about it.

What one weapon would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I would most likely die in a zombie apocalypse… partly because I get everything going, so if a virus turned half the world’s population into zombies I’d be one of the first to catch it, and partly because I haven’t watched enough zombie movies to educate myself on the best kind of defense!

If you could send something into space, what would it be?

A copy of all the space themed books, films, and tv series I could think of… wouldn’t it be funny for someone to come across our visions of space exploration from things as far ranging as Star Trek, Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, Firefly, 2001: A Space Odyssey… (I could go on, but that would just be ridiculous!)

What would you have on your gravestone?

Other than my name? Probably that I lived my life as well as I could, brought more joy than despair to the world, and am heading off on a great adventure into the unknown.

You make headline news around the world in 2 years time… but for what reason?

I’d like it to be for some kind of social reason – e.g. I was part of an initiative to change something like housing, healthcare, justice, religious tolerance etc which is having a deep impact on the health and wellbeing of many.

If an EMP wiped out all mechanical forms of transport, how would you get to BlogOn?

I’d walk… I’m assuming social media still exists, right? So I’d blog and tweet and instagram my way there, asking for suggestions of campsites and places to eat as I went. I’m not sure how many days it would take (with the state of my health right now I’d probably have to leave in February haha) but I’d try to make an adventure out of it (plus it would be great blogging fodder, wouldn’t it?)

Well that was certainly an interesting series of questions… If you’re going to BlogOn too, why not check out the Linky and join in with it too?

How And Why I Decided To Go Freelance

I’m going to begin this post with a little disclaimer; I have been registered as self-employed since Spring 2010 and have, during the years since, done the odd bit of freelance work here and there. I’ll be even more honest with you, when I first registered as self-employed in 2010 I had every desire to go 100% freelance as soon as possible. However, back then I was far more naive about what it would take to succeed as a freelancer, and I had all but given up on the idea of earning more than an extra bit on the side by the time 2011 rolled around.

So when my sister-in-law approached me about redesigning her company’s website last year, I must admit I was slightly dubious about the idea of turning my side hustle into an actual business. After all, when your self-employed earnings are simply an added bonus on the side, it doesn’t really matter if it succeeds or not, you’ve still got your employed earnings to fall back on. And, being the “responsible” adult I always try to be, it seemed rather too risky to put all my eggs into one basket and simply go for it when I actually had a job which paid the rent and which I utlimately enjoyed.

However, following my sister-in-law’s advice and encouragement, I set up Shortman Media as a way of bringing all my online media and communications experience under one roof. It meant that I could invoice her for the work I did more professionally, and I had the basis from which to expand my services as and when I wanted to. At that point the idea was still to run the business as a side hustle, rather than my main income provider, taking on work as and when I had the time. But it seems that life had different plans for me after all…

How and Why I Decided to Go Freelance

What followed were several months of increasingly challenging health issues. At my worst, I could barely get out of bed, and I spent the vast majority of 2016 being tested for one thing after another. I was signed off work in July 2016 and never made it back, because my symptoms were simply too complicated and erratic to enable even a phased return to work. And throughout it all I began to see everything slip away – my health, my financial freedom, and my ability to do work which gave me a sense of both satisfaction and accomplishment.

Which brought me to the very end of last year, when I gained a certain amount of clarity regarding my future. Instead of seeing freelance work as the riskier option, I needed to look at it as the more flexible option, which would enable me to return to work far sooner. You see, the work I do is mostly based on the computer – I can do that in my office on good days or from my sick bed on bad days. Being freelance also means I can work at 7 o’clock in the evening if that is when I feel at my best, rather than being tied down to standard office hours.

And let’s not forget that freelance work pays me at least double, if not more than the hourly wage I had been bringing in through employed roles. Even taking on board the need to save up for NICs, tax, quiet periods with little work, and unpaid holidays, this difference in pay means I wouldn’t have to work as many hours to still make ends meet. That’s got to be a bonus for anybody, but especially somebody who is chronically ill.

Now I don’t want to paint a perfect picture here – the decision to go 100% freelance was not an easy one. I am well aware that most businesses fail within the first 5 years (often sooner), and that there is a huge risk in trying to start up at the best of times. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy and I’m not going to worry about where the work is going to come from.

But the fact remains that going freelance is still my best option right now – the alternative would be relying on my employer to keep my position open beyond the 6 months they already have (which I am incredibly grateful for!) and hoping to qualify for ESA as my SSP entitlement runs out. Out of those two options, I’d much prefer to take things into my own hands and try to make this freelance thing work, wouldn’t you?

So, it was with a heavy heart that I approached my employer about ending my contract due to ill health and made the leap of going 100% freelance last month. I shall remain connected with my employer on a voluntary basis, because I really did love the work itself, but the time had come when it was in all our best interests for me to leave. And as shocking as it may sound, I am actually starting my freelance journey with not one but three clients on my books.

If you’d told me this is how I would start 2017 I wouldn’t have believed you. But the truth is that when you put your mind to it you can make this happen, even when you’re feeling beaten to the core (I have spent the vast majority of December and January very sick and yet I’ve still managed to get this sorted). All it takes is courage to face the unknown, reach out for support, do your research, and then just go for it.

But what’s different now to where I was in 2010 when I first tried to go freelance? Why did it fail to kick off then but is doing so well now? Well, age and experience have a lot to do with it.

In 2010 I’d been blogging for 4 years, but blogging was still relatively unknown and social media still hadn’t taken off in the way it has done in recent years, so the idea of making money from online media as an unqualified (but experienced) blogger just didn’t seem doable to me back then. In the almost 7 years since, I have developed this blog, launched a second one, assisted employers with their social media, taken part in charity campaigns, co-authored a book, attended multiple conferences, spoken at a blogging conference, and become active in blogging groups. All of that combined is a huge amount of experience that I simply didn’t have in 2010.

I’ve also had the wonderful experience of being supported through one-to-one coaching sessions both personally with Pippa at Story of Mum and professionally with Michelle of Michelle Reeves Coaching. Between the sessions with these two wonderfully inspiring women, I came to realise the potential of what I had to offer and that I can do this, even when I am struggling healthwise. In fact, my health issues even make me more aware of my strengths and abilities, because I have had to learn to adapt and grow at every stage.

I’ve learnt about the importance of developing multiple income streams, so that the work I do with clients via Shortman Media isn’t my only source of income. Those quiet moments between clients need some kind of passive or alternative income stream, and so working on both this blog and Spirit Kid Network enables me to focus on ways to boost my income when needed. But because I have chosen to work with clients as my main income, I feel less stressed about making my blogs as profitable as possible, which is something that I know would cause me more stress than necessary.

And that’s the biggest lesson I have learned throughout my freelance journey so far – you have to do what you love, otherwise you simply won’t get up and do it. Because let’s be fair – it’s hard enough to motivate yourself to go to work when you’re being paid a salary, so forcing yourself to do something you really dislike to secure that next contract, really isn’t going to work, is it?

So that’s where I’m at – after years of being self-employed with the odd bit of work on the side, I have finally taken the biggest leap of my life and decided to go 100% freelance. I know it won’t be easy at times, and I know that what I do will change over time (already my services on my website don’t truly reflect the work I’ve ended up doing), but I have confidence that this time it really will work. Because it has to. And, because I know I have the support I need to make it work this time.


I’m going to be updating my freelance journey on here, if there is interest in hearing about it, so please do leave me a comment below and let me know what you think. I’d also love to hear from you if you do any freelance work – how did you choose to go down that path, and is it what you expected?

 

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Top Moments from #321LiveChat 18th October

Have you tried Livestreaming yet? Do you even know what it is? Livestreaming is a big thing right now… it began a few years back with Google Hangouts and developed further with Periscope and now Facebook Live (my Crochet Chats are done using Facebook Live). Snapchat and Instagram Stories bring even more ways of connecting with your audience, and so it’s clear to see that “going live” is where it’s at right now.

Each of the different platforms mentioned above bring their own unique ways of connecting with others in real time, and choosing the right platform for you will depend on what you want to get out of it and where your “tribe” (those people you instantly connect with) are. It’s like any kind of social media, really, some will suit you better than others.

But it can be overwhelming when you first start out, with so many options to choose from, which is why it’s beneficial to connect with others to discuss what they’re doing, how they’re finding it, and why you should really give it a go! And that’s exactly what the Live Broadcasting Support Group on Facebook is all about, and why we’ve recently started holding a weekly Twitter Chat (#321LiveChat) in order to connect with others across multiple platforms.

I haven’t used Twitter very much this year at all, so getting involved with the Twitter Chat has brought me back to the platform I once loved and used so often. And today I discovered the new feature of Twitter Moments, which I am already starting to fall in love with! So, I decided to make the most of it and pull together my Top Moments from the #321LiveChat last night and embed them in a blog post here at The Patch. I’ve chosen tweets that provide a varied view of Livestreaming and I hope they prove interesting and helpful to you.

Why not give Livestreaming a go, or connect with us on the Facebook Group for daily chat and support. The group is a very friendly place where you can give Livestreaming a go without doing so publicly (a great way to build up confidence and get hints and tips from fellow Livestreamers). And don’t forget you can join in the Twitter Chat every Tuesday between 8:30 and 9:30pm. We’d love to see you there!