Sarah Mailer, Girl About House
Welcome to Sarah Mailer, otherwise known as Girl About House, who won Best Newcomer Blog at the Amara Blog Awards, last year, 2017. Like all the other features in this series, I’m looking at how Sarah got started on her journey, why she chose to write a blog, how she spends her time between her blog and her job, because Sarah impressively juggles not just blogging as her career, but runs a successful luxury design business, all alongside being a mum to young children.
Sarah is a professional interior designer, running Sarah Mailer Design, working in and around London, on luxury residential properties. Her stylish blog, focuses on interiors, but also fashion and lifestyle all in her unique style, combining art, writing and design and focusing on collections, trends, design advice and inspiration.
So, over to Sarah to tell you more about herself and her career.
1. You have an amazing blog so I'm interested in what got you started with blogging and on social media? What drives you to write a blog?
Thank you so much - it has been a bit of a whirlwind!
Girl About House, which began in June 2017, was another idea-in-the-making long before its official launch. An off-shoot of my interior design business, Sarah Mailer Design but also a somewhat separate enterprise, it was created as a forum to amalgamate my obsessions with both design and writing. It wasn’t necessarily founded as a money-making endeavor in its own right but I wasn’t strictly against the idea of monetizing if opportunity allowed.
Owning a blog is a wonderful thing as it allows total creative freedom, which is really what drives it for me. Essentially, you are the editor, content creator, location scout, art director, copywriter, photographer, marketing and PR director… It is, without a doubt, a considerable amount of work but so rewarding and largely on your own terms which has always appealed to me. The social media side is incredibly time consuming but I feel it works alongside the blog to build interest, engagement and excitement.
2. Do you mix your blogging and social with other jobs? What time is spent on each?
My blog began as an extension of my ‘day job’ as a luxury interior designer. The interior design side of my business is still prevalent (and earns me the majority of my income) but I enjoy the balance of both the blog and private design clients. I would say 70% of my time is interiors ‘day job’ and 30% blog, but this varies depending on what needs actioning at any given time. It is difficult as both ‘roles’ are essentially – or could be - full time positions but I try to make it work. Being a mum of two is also really a full-time post so there is a fair bit of juggling!
3. What, in your opinion, makes a good blog?
There are some key things that stand out as the recipe for success;
Passion – A blog without thriving ambition and enthusiasm is immediately apparent and can easily fall flat. If your content and tone highlights your genuine enthusiasm for the subject matter then this will translate, engage and inspire the reader.
New ideas and creativity. A successful blog pushes boundaries. It reaches beyond what is already available. It challenges, informs and enthuses. Remember that what you’re offering should add value, in some way, to the reader.
Strong brand identity. Treat your blog as you would a business. There should be a clear and consistent identity translated successfully in the look and feel, tone of voice, style and approach. Each post should ‘belong’ amongst the others in some way. A strong brand identity should carry across to any supporting social media channels.
Excellent content. This relates to all areas – from copy to imagery and everything in-between. Ensure that everything you publish adds value, looks great and reads beautifully. Nothing should go online with typos, lazy copy or poor photography. It is also important that your work is original – there is never an excuse for plagiarism.
4. How do you juggle it all?
In all honesty, it is really difficult to find the balance. I am very aware that social media can spin everything in a positive light – Facebook and Instagram are more often feeds of ‘highlights’ – but know that sometimes I really do struggle!
Alongside my interiors business and blog, being a mum to two young boys is another (major) spinning plate but I wouldn’t have it any other way. At times I do need to make compromises or shift my priorities but I try to think holistically.
5. Do you have any advice on growing a blog readership or Instagram following, what specifically should people look to do?
It’s a tough world out there and a heavily saturated market!
In terms of Instagram, there are now one billion monthly active users and the platform relies on an algorithm which priorities posts based on popularity. Pretty intimidating! I think the fundamentals for both blog and social media are to be authentic, enthused and engaged. Create great content! Consistency is also key (this is my main struggle) but if all these elements are adhered to then growth will happen.
I think it’s also important to consider your angle. To clarify what makes your social account or blog different from the others. For my Girl About House Instagram and the blog, I was clear from the outset that my images would be clean, elegant and styled and that there would be a fashionable and luxury lifestyle flavour. The copy would feel personable yet informed and that I would only share quality work. Setting expectations with your audience is also very important and they will return because they already have a sense of what they will gain.
6. Which brands have you worked with? Did you seek to monetise your blog or has it been serendipitous? Or are you just not interested in that side of things and why?
I have worked with a number of brands since the launch of my blog from Kohler and Furniture Village to Bramwell Brown and Debenhams. I have been quite selective as I established from early on that staying ‘on brand’ was important. And – at the risk of sounding like a diva – I have always ensured that any collaborations have been on ‘my terms’. That is – written in my usual tone of voice, from my angle and in a way that is consistent with the other content on my site or social accounts.
As I mentioned earlier, monetizing Girl About House was not the first priority but as it has grown and I have seen the earning potential, I have become more open to this. Why not make money from something you love and would be doing anyway? I try to keep collaborations mixed with personally selected content as I don’t want advertising to saturate the site.
7. If someone was looking to make money this way, without giving away all your trade secrets, do you have any advice for them?
A blog can be incredibly beneficial to an existing business – driving interest and traffic directly. Equally, it can form an enterprise in its own right.
In terms of monetizing your blog, building relationships – both on & offline – is crucial. Networking can open doors for future collaborations which will expand your promotional reach. I would recommend reaching out to PRs, brands and other bloggers. If you enjoy certain products then showcase them on your blog or social channels and contact or tag the brand to make them aware of your support. This can form the start of a more organic relationship. A key piece of advice I can offer is to think long-term and stay open to opportunities. Business relationships take time to build so make an effort to establish and maintain them.
8. What do you find the hardest and the most rewarding?
The hardest: At the beginning, I would say ‘yes’ to everything. Projects, events, collaborations – I just felt that turning anything down would be a missed opportunity. It was physically and mentally exhausting and overwhelming! The work-life balance was almost non-existent.
More recently, I have learnt to say ‘no’. It’s difficult to do initially but I think the key is to focus on your long-term goals and consider which opportunities will actually support you to accomplishing these achievements.
The most rewarding: It’s an amazing feeling to see work featured in the press, on brand websites or to have mentions from high-profile accounts. It’s also a wonderful feeling to work with charities and support worthwhile causes. I recently worked on a national campaign for the British Heart Foundation, producing a dining room as part of their ‘Designer’s Makeover Challenge’. This was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience!
9. Have you done anything different or new in the last year to increase your social/blog following?
I have embraced video! Although I am not necessarily a ‘natural’ in front of the camera, I feel that more interactive content is the way to go. InstaStories are a brilliant way to connect with and expand your audience and I really enjoy producing them. Whilst they are supposed to be more ‘casual and off-the-cuff’ than the main curated feed (which I support), I still consider any content I share to ensure it remains ‘on brand’
Producing quality InstaStories, InstaLive & Facebook Live content supports not only your social accounts, helping them grow in a difficult and saturated market, but also your blog reach. If your audience are invested in ‘you’ then they are more likely to support your blog long-term.
10. How do you grow your blog readership and most importantly keep people coming back?
If I’m totally honest, I’m not someone who churns out content. I am a perfectionist. Everything I release is considered and I put a huge - probably insane - amount of work into my posts. I think that is one of the reasons that my blog has grown so much in a short space of time – the quality of the content. This comes with huge pressure every time I press publish but I deem it necessary to add significant value to my audience through every post that I share. Variety is also an important factor!
11. What has been your biggest or favourite milestone?
Winning ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Amara Interior Blog awards in October 2017 was a game-changer. I was in absolute shock when I won (apparently you could hear me saying just that over the microphone to the entire auditorium) and it was such an honour to be recognised so publicly after just 4 months of blogging. Receiving that award opened a considerable number of doors so I’m ever grateful to Amara.
Interiors Studio: www.sarahmailerdesign.co.uk
The Girl with The Green Sofa