Jess Hurrell of Gold is a Neutral
Today on the blog I'm sharing what has been an incredible first year journey for ex journalist Jess Hurrell, otherwise known as Gold is a Neutral. Like many of us first time bloggers, getting the confidence to start writing, to wonder if anyone will ever read what you put down, or whether you can build a brand, is tough.
It's a leap of faith, even if everyone you know if telling you to do it, especially in the interior blog world which is becoming more "competitive" by the minute. You need to find your niche, enjoy what you do and only then will it show through into people following you and you blog. Couple that with the increasingly random Instagram algorithm and is it any wonder people are put off doing it?
Well, if you are interested in starting, read on to hear how Jess has done it, had her blog recognised at the Amara awards along with some great tips in general on all things blogging and Instagram.
You can read her blog here.
1. You've had an amazing year with your blog recognised at the Amara awards, so I'm interested in what got you started with Blogging and on Social Media, which came first and why?
Thank you. I’m a journalist by trade so the content side of blogging comes quite naturally to me but the confidence to put yourself out there and build a brand definitely didn’t at first. That’s something I’ve learnt over the last year and am still learning. My background is in showbiz and entertainment, which was fun in my 20’s, but I had grown out of it and the late nights and gallivanting didn’t appeal to me anymore.
I had thought about launching a blog for a long time and my friends all encouraged me to follow my interiors passion but I didn’t think anybody would be interested in what I had to say. Then one day shortly after my daughter’s 1st birthday, I found some confidence from somewhere and decided to just do it. It took me a while to build because I have no web experience and I wanted it to look half decent and to launch it pre-loaded with plenty of lively and engaging content.
As luck would have it, around the time I was building the blog I was also approached by Cosmopolitan magazine to apply to be their Interiors Editor. I got the job and that was invaluable for me in so many ways because I was invited to press shows and previews which meant I got to know brands and important people within the industry quickly. It will be the blog’s one-year anniversary in April and I’d love to hit that magical 10k mark on Instagram by then.
2. Do you blog full-time or mix it with other jobs?
It’s pretty much full time at the moment, balanced with being a mum to my two rat bags, Rafferty, 5, and Nellie, 2. I do occasionally still write for magazines and newspapers when I have the time and I also do interior styling for private clients.
3. How do you juggle it all, especially with a young family?
I have childcare but only a couple of days a week at the moment. Luckily my daughter still naps so I work when she sleeps and I work a lot of evenings and weekends too. I’m trying to step away from the phone more as I’m aware it is a constant part of my “work” and therefore I struggle to switch off. But in the early days when you’re working hard to grow the blog and build a brand it can be all encompassing.
4. Do you have any advice on growing a blog readership or Instagram following, what specifically should people look to do?
Ah, Instagram is a cruel mistress! I work really hard at it, but there are plenty of people with a lot more followers than me. I don’t have an enormous following but what I do have is a really lovely engaged bunch of followers who totally get me. I put across a lot of myself and my personality in my posts and Stories is a really big part of that. More than a quarter of my followers regularly watch my Stories so it’s a really important means of communication for me, particularly with the unpredictability of the algorithm and not knowing whether or not anyone is seeing your pictures.
I’ve also noticed that if I don’t post as much on Stories, the stream of new followers slows down. So I can only conclude from that that people quite like hearing me jabbering away. Stories are also important for me because even though interiors is my primary passion, I’m into lots of things like fashion, music, make-up etc and that’s a place for me to share that.
I have been making a conscious effort to improve the quality of my photos and generally only post pictures taken on my Olympus Pen camera now.
Until quite recently I was a real slave to posting pictures every morning of every day, and sometimes in the evening, but to be quite honest there are days when I don’t have anything to say or show, and so I give myself a break. And guess what? It’s fine! The world doesn’t stop turning just because I’ve not posted for a day!
5. What Brands have you worked with?
I’ve worked with Sainsbury’s, DFS, Amara, Victoria + Albert Baths, Topps Tiles and Savills estate agents. And yes the blog was always conceived with an eye to growing it into a business. It’s the reason why I work so hard to come up with engaging content that is (I hope) genuinely interesting or informative. I think that’s an important part of attracting readers, and in turn, eventually brands.
6. If someone was looking to make money this way, without giving away all your trade secrets, do you have any advice for them?
I think it’s important to know what your offering is, so people know what they are getting when they come to you. At the risk of sounding like an Apprentice candidate, you are your brand so make sure you own it. Sure, the number of followers you have is important, but it’s more important to attract a strong and engaged following first and foremost. If people want to read and see your stuff and are invested in you, that will in turn attract the brands to work with you. So find your tribe!
7. What do you find the hardest and the most rewarding?
The answer to both these things is probably Instagram. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the algorithm doesn’t get me down sometimes. It’s hard not to when you work so hard to create great content and then no-one sees it! BUT on the whole Instagram has been hugely positive for me. If it wasn’t for Instagram and the wonderful people who follow my squares, my blog wouldn’t be what it is now. I know for some people it can make them feel down and shatter their confidence but personally speaking, if anything, it’s given me more confidence in myself. And the vast majority of people on there are lovely and caring and supportive.
8. Have you done anything different or new in the last year to increase your social/blog following?
9. How do you grow your blog readership and most importantly keep people coming back?
I’m trying to build a mailing list because I’m aware that if Instagram goes down all those people who are following me are lost! And this year I’ve launched several features on the blog that are designed to run as a regular series with the idea that my readers will become familiar with the format and look forward to the next instalment of each. I’m very excited about the future of Desert Island Décor, which I launched with lovely Erica Davies from The Edited as my first castaway a few weeks ago. And I’ve got more really fascinating people lined up for it that I can’t wait to share.
I’m also a big believer in building trust. I get approached about quite a few things and I do turn things down if I don’t feel it’s a genuinely good fit for me. It’s tricky to turn things down, but your followers aren’t stupid and if they think you are just talking about something because you’re being paid, that will turn them off very quickly. That’s not to say that just because you are an interiors blogger you have to stick to pure interiors. I recently saw a fellow blogger getting some stick for doing a sponsored post for a wine brand. She created a really impressive and well considered piece of content and I thought it was a great example of brand collaboration. She enjoys drinking wine, so why not? Again, I don’t think it’s one size fits all.
10. What has been your biggest or favourite milestone?
Being Highly Commended in the Best Newcomer category at the Amara Interior Blog Awards back in October was lovely. I also absolutely loved styling up Amara’s Midnight Jewel collection of Christmas decorations. It was my first major shoot which I planned and styled from start to finish, and to date it has had over 300k impressions on Pinterest which makes me very happy.
I also get very excited when readers or followers mention me in a round-up of their favourite bloggers. It’s lovely to know you’ve made an impression on someone!
The Girl with The Green Sofa