For our next ‘Inspire Me To Blog’, we have Wendy from Thankfifi who sat down with us for an interview that aims to inspire young creative talents who are thinking of entering the blogsphere. Starting her blog over three years ago, Wendy is a fashionista with a great sense of style and loveable dog! She has been in the game a while and has been kind enough to share some valuable tips & advice for all you newbies out there. So, let’s get started!
1. You started your blog ‘Thankfifi’ in August 2011. What/who inspired you to take this step?
I was reading a lot of blogs at the time; they were a relatively new discovery for me. I was chatting with a friend and we were sharing our favourite blogs. She said to me that because I was quite into fashion, photography and writing, blogging would be good creative outlet for me and how I should start one. I hadn’t really thought of it before that point but it seemed like a good idea to me so I came home and started it straight away. My friend is called ‘Fi’, so that’s why my blog is called Thankfifi.
2. In what ways does your blog reflect your personality?
The dog is a big part, which is definitely a true reflection of my life. I knew that he was going to be a big part of it from the start so when we’re outside taking my pictures he will be there. It’ll be incorporated into a dog walk so normally there’s a bag somewhere, often beside my dog walking shoes. Also during the week I have a day job, and I take a quick snapshot on my Instagram everyday of what I’ve worn, and then on the weekend I will go through and see what three looks of the week were best received. I would basically re-style them for the weekend and shoot them for the blog the following week. So it’s not posed or staged in any way. I think a lot of blogs are not always that true to life, but Thankfifi really is what I wear day-to-day for dog walking, work or on holiday. It’s just really honest, and then obviously there’s the lifestyle aspect so that’s stuff that I’ve generally done.
3. One great perk of being a blogger is the ability to collaborate with different brands. If you would develop your own fashion line with one brand, who would you choose and what 5 items would you start off with?
Wow! Okay, I would collaborate with Reiss because they are a high-street brand, but they don’t tend to follow trends the way other high-street stores do. They are not ripping off designers; they kind of carve their own path. There are a lot of classics in there and I think they could be styled really well as basics with other pieces. Reiss have things that go from season-to-season and year-to-year, which is really important to me if I am investing at that high-end side of the high-street. 5 tops things I’d start with are:
- A great bag
- Some great shoes
- Leather trousers are a must because I wear them all the time.
- A midi skirt just below the knee, in a nice classic cream colour.
- A loose boyfriend shirt. I have one from Reiss actually, from the man section and I wear it all the time.
4. Looking back at your journey over the past 3 and a half years, what have been the highlights of your blogging career so far?
Its hard to choose one. I did go to Malaysia last summer; that was pretty amazing. We had 10 days and I couldn’t have ever imagined that I would have that opportunity. I was really lucky that one of my best friends who’s a blogger came. She’s a photographer I work with when I’m down in London so it was kind of like a working holiday with a really great friend. Until my flight confirmation came through I kept thinking that they’re going to realise they should be choosing someone else or that they’ve made a mistake, but they hadn’t so yeah that was really awesome.
5. How has Thankfifi changed your life?
Well definitely with travel. I’m based in Scotland, Glasgow and a lot of the fashion brands I’m working with, or are in contact with have head offices in London, so I’ve been in London a lot more. I’ve been travelling a lot for events and meetings as well, and then there’s the odd trips like Malaysia. I definitely have more clothes than I did before, but I wont complain about that. Connections too; it’s been really great to have met other bloggers who I’ve got a really tight network of friends with. They’d come and stay with me or I’ll go and stay with them. You can’t really imagine that happening at the start because blogging seems quite isolated for a long time when you start off. You’re very much on your own with your PC, taking photos or on your MAC trying get your post up – everything seems to be online but then overtime as you evolve and you’re going to more events you do meet people. Obviously you’re all in the same industry doing the same thing, with the same struggles and the same highlights so you connect.
6. Where do you see yourself and Thankfifi 5 years from now?
You know people ask me that quite often and I don’t really want to answer because I don’t want to have it planned out. I could have never predicted what’s happened in the last 3 and a half years and so I don’t want to try and set myself a goal and say that this is where I want it to be or where it should be. I hope that the journey keeps going; I really enjoy what I am doing right now and I enjoy working on it although it’s really hard work. It’s been really great so I hope it just continues in that direction; I hope I’m still working with great brands and I hope I’m still travelling.
7. What are your three favourite blogs to read at the moment and why?
- This Time Tomorrow by Krystal. She’s really cool; she has a great kind of take on mixing high-end pieces with not so high-end pieces, but I think her looks always seem quite wearable to me. She’s not gone down the scanty route that a lot of other people seem to have gone down. She just has her own style and her own path; she keeps going with it and I love her for that
- Style Heroine by Evangelie. I love her style; I feel like she’s always at the forefront of trend for me, so she’s a really good point of reference of what I think is going to be coming in. Her looks are very high-end; her styling, editorial style and photography styling is incredible.
- Gary Pepper Girl by Nicole. She’s another good one for photography, high-end with low end, she wears loads of ASOS, loads of stripes like me so yea her blog’s very inspirational.
8. Just for fun, if you were shipwrecked for 3 months, what three bloggers would you want stranded with you and why?
I would choose my friends, so Nancy from It’s A Lifestyle Thing because she’s really great fun. We travelled to Malaysia together and she’s an awesome photographer so the blog can continue if Nancy was there. Monica Welburn from The Elgin Avenue because she’s a great friend; she would be really fun to hang out with. Finally I’d choose Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller because I think she would be fun too. I’ve never met her but she seems like someone that would add something interesting to the mix.
9. Before starting a blog, many people hear about the glitz and glamour behind the industry. They see the success of many Youtube/blogging gurus, not to mention the money and freebies. For someone reading this who has the same mind-set, what would you say to them to make them understand the reality behind what you do?
It took me about a year and a half before I saw any financial return on my blog, and that was a year and a half of working full time hours on the blog. You can only make it a business success if you’re working really hard, unless you happen to be extremely well connected, which is another thing you have to work on. Basically it’s a job. It’s not a hobby that turns into some kind of overnight success story on it’s own. Like a job, you work at it; it’s just like being self-employed really. All the things, if they come, are fantastic. There is no guarantee that they’re going to so if you’re not in it for other reasons as well then you can be setting yourself up for a bit of a fall really.
10. From your experience so far, is there anything that you would change or like to improve in regarding blogging, the community and/or the industry?
How Often I Blog – I think I spent a long time, probably the first two and half years, blogging religiously (5 days a week). I did make the switch around 9 months ago to post things 3 days a week, purely because I needed more time to focus on the business side of the blog, like answering emails, making connections and going to events, as well as concentrating on producing higher quality content. In hindsight I wish I’d made that switch sooner because the blog has been more successful since doing that. I was always so focused on producing as much content as possible that I didn’t leave myself enough time for the other aspects that came with blogging.
Industry Standards Between Bloggers & Brands – I think there’s a bit of catching up to do with brands; probably understanding how to work with bloggers. There’s a bit of a misconception, especially in the UK and Scotland, that bloggers will do anything for free and that’s the side of the industry that would be nice to see change. You wouldn’t expect a fashion magazine to have a shoot and not have any costs for it. They might be buying props or driving to a location; it all cost money. If you’re doing a sponsored post for a brand and you’re going to create photography, style the outfit, create a great post for them and include social media, you’re looking at putting in maybe 6/7 hours on the one post. Then there’s the follow up that goes along with it like editing, so when the brand doesn’t understand why you don’t want to do that for a free t-shirt, it can be very frustrating. When I create content for a brand I want it to be the best content I’ve created, especially if they’re paying me for it. I want them to be really pleased with the result that they get, and I want my readers to respond well to it. But then also when you say no, there will always be 20 bloggers behind you that will do it for the free t-shirt, so I guess it would be good to have more of a united front on industry standards as far as payment was concerned.
11. What are the main challenges you’ve face being a blogger?
Time! Work-life balance basically. I am really rubbish at it and it can be difficult with a blog because it’s so intrinsic into your personal life. You’re always on social media so when you’ve gone for a coffee with your friend, you’ll want to Instagram it. It takes time to do that and its very difficult to separate the two. Also make sure that you have time for life. I don’t think its just blogging, I think anyone who’s self-employed probably has this problem in general. You want to do everything the best that you can and you don’t want to call a halt at 10pm if you think at “oh if I just spent another hour then this would be better”. I don’t know how anyone does it with a full-time job; some people do and I think that’s incredible.
Making the connections. This can be a bit of a drag at the beginning. It’s not something that I’m struggling with so much now because the blog has been a round for a while, but at the beginning especially, you can feel like a very small fish in a very big sea. It can be tricky to connect with the right people and sometimes when you think the brands aren’t noticing you, they are.
12. For people who relate to you in regards to those same challenges, what advice would you give to help them overcome it and stay motivated to keep pushing on?
I think to keep pushing on through the hard times you just need to look back at your blog comments, whether you’ve had one or a million. The fact that somebody is reading your blog, wants to connect with you and is interested in what you’re doing is enough to make you keep going, even if that’s person is just your mum.
With time I think it’s quite important to make a list. I’m a list lover and for some reason with blog I didn’t do it for a very long time, but I now have a list of priorities and all these things that I need to do. Realistically you’re never going to get through them all but if you can at least get through the priority tasks and tick things off then that feels like an achievement. As far as work-life balance goes, I try and put the phone down sometimes. When I go for a dog walk i’ll try to leave it at home so that I’m not reading emails or on social media. I’m just taking a bit of time for life.
With connections I think social media can be really good. You might keep tagging a brand all the time and feel like they’re not hearing you, but actually they do. Sometimes it can take a year before they just randomly get in touch with you. They have been aware but they’ve just never favourite or liked your tweet. Sometimes no-one is watching, but just make the connections, go to the events you can and try to make sure you follow up afterwards.
13. With so many blogs out there, what can aspiring bloggers do to stand out from the crowd?
You need to find your USP, and for me I always felt like it was going to be my dog. He’s a huge part of my life and he is very cute. He’s not a mad fan of blogging; he finds it very boring, but he is very patient and comes in all my pictures with me. Maybe your USP is that you’re amazing at photography, or maybe you have this really unique style. Maybe you want to wear local designers all the time, or maybe you draw, paint or have other amazing facts to your life.
I think its almost not enough to just blog your outfits, people need a bit more; a bit of humour never really go a miss. A lot of people I know just look at the images of a blog and that’s all they look at. I will admit that’s the first thing I see; if the images are not good, if the photography is not a good quality then I will probably move on quite quickly. But then second to that, I always read the text and if the persons funny, I think that’s engaging and it makes me want to come back to read some more.
14. When you’re visiting a blog, what makes you stay and leave?
Stay – Photography is huge for me. If the images are inspirational or aspirational then I can sit and look at them for ages. Maybe I am looking at it from a slightly different perspective because often I am thinking about what I can take from it, like the location being amazing and wanting to find somewhere as good as that for some projects I have in mind. Content also; reading blog is like reading a magazine, if you didn’t enjoy the content then you wouldn’t buy the magazine again or you wouldn’t go back to the blog. If I can get a bit of a laugh, people that don’t take themselves too seriously and want to tell you little stories about their life or poke fun at themselves then I enjoy that; it’s a just a bit more light hearted and make things more enjoyable.
Leave – I don’t enjoy bad photography, like phone pictures. I just feel like blogging has evolved from there. Some people take great phone pictures and I think that works well for them, but some people take terrible phone pictures. I guess the same is true if you have a professional camera, it doesn’t mean you’re taking good pictures, but the quality is generally a lot better. You either have an eye for photography or you don’t. Another thing is if the style is something that’s not inspirational to me then I’m probably not going to come back, just because it’s not clothes that I am interested in.
15. For your last bit of advice, what are your top dos & don’ts for new bloggers who are about to take their first step?
- Do enjoy it. I’m quite a creative person so I enjoy taking the pictures and writing. If you hate writing then don’t write very much. Don’t make it unenjoyably for yourself; you have to enjoy it so focus on the elements of your blog that you would enjoy creating the content for.
- Do engage with your readers. On social media if someone tweets you, tweet him or her back. It takes 2 seconds out of your day. If I tweet someone then I think it’s lovely when they message me back, especially if it’s a different blogger thaT I haven’t met before. It’s great, it’s all about interaction and building your base. Whether they’re going to be a reader or a friend, it’s nice to be nice.
- Don’t let it take over your life.
- Don’t start without a game plan. I would say you need to know what you want to achieve from it and how you’re going to make it happen. Also think about how much time you want to put into it.
- Don’t rule anything out because you never know what opportunities are coming to you and what they can lead to. I would say always follow up and reply to an email even if it’s a no. So if you have a standard email that says “thanks for getting in touch but unfortunately it’s not the right fit for me”, still send it because you don’t know if that PR has another brand that will be a good fit for you. Always try to be polite and reply.
16. To finish of the interview, can you sum up to our readers in one tweet (140 characters) why they should head over to Thankfifi
For the dog, he’s called Mr K.
END OF INTERVIEW
A big thank you to Wendy from Thankfifi for sitting down with us to answer these questions. We hope that you’ve all felt inspired and gained some amazing advice on what you could do to start your blog. Please let us know what you guys think and how you would answer these questions.
© All images courtesy of http://www.thankfifi.com