When people ask me what I do, I say that I’m a professional blogger and writer (also a part-time web developer but that has really taken the backseat just now). I usually end my statement with a wholehearted endorsement, having tumbled head over heels in love with the industry.
There are many reasons why people don’t blog and why people shouldn’t blog. Many of these reasons are relevant. But some are less so and are only really excuses pretending to be reasons.
“Oh, but I’m too old to work from home!” is one of the most popular reasons people give for not working from home.
This really confuses me because working from home is probably the only industry where age doesn’t factor in at all. It’s a totally irrelevant number.
That’s why we were very happy to meet Jo in one of our blogging groups. She’s a freelance writer, a blogger AND she’s in her fifties.
But that’s still so young, you might point out. And you’re completely right! But that’s about the age many people start saying no to opportunities because they’re too old.
So, just for the record, working from home is not just for young adults. It’s for anyone who really wants it and is willing to work for it.
Can you give us a brief intro please, Jo?
I’m Jo, 52, married with grown-up children who are still at home.
In my working life, I’ve been a barber, telesales administrator, ran a sales and manufacturing office, worked in personnel (HR), and spent the last 20 years as a pre-school teacher and early years educator.
Music has always been my biggest passion and my social life has always revolved around that. I am not one for possessions and as a result, I am able to enjoy travel and will happily spend my free time exploring nature or with my head in a book.
So Jo, how did you get into freelance writing? Who/what inspired you to start your own business? Why did you choose this niche in particular?
I have been writing music and lifestyle related pieces during the last two decades for magazines, books, CDs and websites. I have also run music-based websites and social media for almost as long. Like I say, it’s my passion and I just fell into most of those projects from people seeing my websites or knowing someone who knows me.
Four years ago I started my blog, Tea and Cake for the Soul, which covers a huge variety of lifestyle topics. I had no idea that people made money from blogs. For me, it was all written for personal satisfaction knowing that people were enjoying my words and getting something from them.
Over the years, I joined a few blogging groups and I found out about freelance writing quite by chance (outside of my music scene). It seemed the perfect job. Tea and Cake for the Soul is my hobby and freelance writing is my job. Of course, I enjoy both.
By covering so many lifestyle and health subjects on my blog, my freelance work has followed suit. I like to write about things that I am knowledgeable and passionate about. I feel it comes across as real then.
What are the first and/or most important steps you took to get started in blogging
I chose a name, set up a free site on WordPress and a Facebook page and off I went totally clueless.
I just wanted to get my words out. Even though I had built websites from scratch when the internet was in its infancy, I had no idea about blogging. I had no clue about SEO or all the behind the scenes work that you have to do.
If I was to blog from scratch as a business, I would do it all very differently.
Knowing what you do now, is there anything that you would’ve done differently?
Pretty much everything if I was thinking of blogging from a business perspective!
I would have bought a domain name with self-hosting and thoroughly learnt SEO, because if you don’t rank on Google or have a huge social media following beforehand, nobody is going to see your posts. I didn’t realise that you have to be answering questions that people were asking about on a search engine. I just thought if you write something interesting people would find it.
Like I say, clueless!
I would also learn Pinterest, as that seems to bring massive views for lifestyle bloggers. It’s something I will do at some point. Thankfully my blog is a hobby that I can pick up and put down when I want. I do take it very seriously, but I don’t have to spend vast amounts of money on it or feel under any pressure to earn from it. I can write what I want to for my existing readers, rather than what I think Google wants to see.
I also feel that I have learnt so much, most of which has been self-taught. All of which have contributed towards my personal growth.
I am currently working on my portfolio and will set up a self-hosted website with a domain name for my freelance writing and social media management though as it looks more professional. I’m quite happy to leave my blog as it is at the moment.
What was the journey like for you? What were the high points and the low points? What made you keep going when things got challenging?
The blogging journey is a turbulent one, full of self-doubt and comparison. There is so much conflicting advice about how you should do things, how things should look, SEO, changing algorithms on social media and search engines. It’s a constant learning process, always changing.
That said, it keeps you on your toes.
As with any creative person, you wonder if your work is good enough and if people will like it. There’s the worry that the written word can be misinterpreted.
You see bloggers and writers with 1,000s of followers, hear of people getting 10s of 1,000s of views on their blogs each month and it’s hard not to compare those figures to your own.
I keep going because I really enjoy writing and because I remind myself why I started this blog in the first place. I hoped that if my words could help just one person then it was worth it. I know I have done that many times over, and not just with mental health, with all the subjects that I cover. All positive feedback makes it all worthwhile.
As for my business of freelance writing, I was thwarted early on. Even though I’ve been writing music projects for many years, I decided to expand my repertoire beyond music and set up my freelance writing business earlier this year.
My aim was to start in September properly and use the first few months to get my portfolio going. However, I developed a problem with my coccyx that prevented me from sitting for very long and I had to turn down several jobs.
Thankfully, I also offer social media management and I was able to continue with that as it required less time sitting. I’ve also been teaching myself to type standing up.
It’s not as easy as you think! So although I had a slight delay, I’m really looking forward to getting on with it now.
Did you ever consider giving up or going back to the 9-5? Why (not)?
No, I’ve worked for myself for far too long and like being my own boss.
I enjoy the challenge and brief set by those who employ me for freelance writing, but I like the flexibility that working for myself gives. I love that I have a few different jobs and never rely on just one thing.
It makes the week more interesting too.
Can you tell us more about Tea and Cake For The Soul? Why did you decide to go into blogging? What niche are you in and what kind of information can readers expect to find?
My lifestyle blog was originally set up as a hobby with the desire to help people. I wanted to share my mental health experiences with others as I believe strongly in reducing the stigma. I know how much of an impact one person’s words can have on recovery, I hoped that my words and series of self-help tips might do that for someone.
I also wanted to write nicer experiences about travel, share my love of books and recipes, tips for how to save money, upcycling projects and ideas of how to be more environmentally friendly. I share a lot of music features and interviews too.
What else keeps you busy?
As well as freelance writing and social media management, I have a couple of cleaning jobs which I love. The way I see it is that I get paid to exercise and get to have a chat with some lovely people, knowing that I am helping them out too.
It also gives me the chance to work out my need for cleanliness and order without my grown-up children destroying it. 😉
I also have a supply business and I have to option to return to work in education on an ad hoc basis if needed.
Thank you very much for taking part, Jo.