Coco’s Tea Party turns 10 on September 25th. And to celebrate this milestone I thought it was about time I shared my story in the monthly #My9to5 series. It’s funny, because I never thought blogging would become my job. In fact, when I first started writing Coco’s Tea Party blogging wasn’t really a job anyone held. But through a series of happy accidents I became a full-time fashion and lifestyle blogger. And here’s how it happened…
Why did you start blogging and what is the story behind Coco’s Tea Party?
Starting Coco’s Tea Party was a spur of the moment decision. I was 16 and had nothing to do one afternoon, so I logged onto Blogger.com to kill some time. There was no plan in place, and I didn’t even care if anyone read what I was posting. I was writing purely for my own pleasure.
The name Coco’s Tea Party was also a happy accident. It was the first thing that came to mind when I registered for a Blogger account. The Coco is in reference to Coco Chanel, but I have no idea why I thought of tea parties. At the time I didn’t even drink tea!
At first I blogged sporadically. But once I caught the bug there was no stopping me, and I started posting multiple times a week. I thought, if anything, blogging might look good on my university applications, because I wanted to study fashion journalism. It never occurred to me that it might one day become my job!
When did you start focusing on Coco’s Tea Party full time? And how did you make that transition?
I blogged throughout my A-levels and university, but still treated it as a hobby. It was only in my second year of university that things started to get more serious – brands began contacting me, I received advertising requests and when Burberry returned to London Fashion Week they invited me to their show. By this point I’d been blogging for four years, and had started treating Coco’s Tea Party like a part-time job. But I still saw blogging as a stepping stone to something else.
After graduating in 2011 I planned to work my way through the ranks at a glossy print publication, and went straight into an internship at Marie Claire. I found it impossible to keep Coco’s Tea Party updated whilst interning, and had to turn down all of the offers coming my way. Eventually I realised that was stupid. Those opportunities might not come around again, but there would always be another magazine in need of interns. So after two months at Marie Claire I left to focus on Coco’s Tea Party full-time. I’m so pleased I took that risk!
What does your typical workday look like?
I’m an early riser. I find I’m more productive in the morning than the afternoon or evening, so I aim to get the most important tasks of the day out of the way by lunchtime. My alarm goes off every morning at 7am, and the first thing I do is make breakfast and watch BBC news. But if the headlines are too depressing I usually switch over to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which is conveniently on at the same time.
I work from home most days, and I’m always at my desk by 8am. I’ll check my emails – along with Instagram and Twitter – as soon as I sit down, and reply to anything super important. Then I try to avoid looking at Instagram again until lunchtime, as it’s a real distraction for me. I’ve just started using the Productivity Planner to schedule my time, and find I achieve so much more when I follow the Pomodoro Technique.
Most of the content on Coco’s Tea Party is produced at least a week in advance, and the average day is spent writing posts, developing and researching upcoming content, designing shopping layouts and scheduling social media updates. Scheduling tweets is my least favourite task, and it takes up a freakish amount of time!
My attention span usually turns to mush by about 4pm. So that’s when I usually take a break and go to the gym. I’ll then return to my desk to clear my inbox, and call it a day around 5.30 or 6pm. I used to work into the evenings, but changed my ways after reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your 9 to 5?
The fact that no one really knows where the industry is going and what happens next is a big challenge. I think this is something most publishers are struggling with at the moment, whether they’re a big, global title like Vogue or an independent blogger. The fashion industry has changed so much since I started blogging in 2006; it’s almost unrecognisable! And social media has obviously transformed the way we communicate and consume content. Our attention spans are getting shorter by the hour, and people now spend more time scrolling through Instagram and Snapchat than they do reading blogs. So sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle just to get readers onto Coco’s Tea Party.
And, on the flip side, what are the biggest perks of your job?
I feel so lucky to be able to shape my own schedule and have complete creative control over my work. I know that independence is such a luxury. And I’ve also met some of my closest friends through blogging. The past 10 years have been such a crazy, fun and unexpected adventure.
What are your tricks for staying motivated and avoiding writers block?
My fashion journalism degree definitely helps when it comes to content creation, because I’ve been trained to make a story out of anything. But every few months I experience an inspiration slump, so I stockpile post ideas in notebook and use an editorial calendar to plan content ahead of time.
It can be quite hard to stay motivated when you’re self employed and work solo. If you’re part of a team you automatically have a sense of office camaraderie, and can pep each other up when spirits are low. Monica from The Elgin Avenue and I have become close friends over the years, and we talk almost every day. Having someone to call when you need to vent or celebrate a small, everyday win with is really helpful. It keeps us both sane!
How do you unwind after a long day?
I would love to say something really profound, like I meditate and take a yoga class. But really, I spend most of my evenings watching Netflix. At the moment I’m working my way through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, and I also love Grace and Frankie and Bloodline. If I’ve had a stressful day I’ll usually take a long bath – using L’occitane Lavande – and park myself in front of the TV.
Which other women working in your industry inspire you and why?
I’ve always admired Emily Schuman from Cupcakes & Cashmere and Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo. They have both stayed true to their vision and individual strengths, no matter what the current trends are, and as a result their blogs are still as popular as ever. And, outside of the blogosphere, I’ve always been inspired by Anna Wintour. I think she’s such an incredible editor, and I love the fact she just gets on with her job doesn’t waste time trying to please everyone.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
Theodore Roosevelt famously said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and he really wasn’t lying! But it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, and it doesn’t matter what profession you’re in. We all do it.
So I would say the best piece of career advice I’ve ever been given is to just go at my own pace and be patient. There’s enough opportunity out there for everyone, so you don’t need to push at a relentless pace or fuel yourself on unhealthy competition. Otherwise you can get so distracted obsessing over what your peers are doing that you fail to see the great opportunities waiting right under your nose.
You can catch up on the previous My 9 to 5 interviews here >>