This week it’s the fifth interview in my series of interviews with some of the top parenting bloggers and influencers in the UK today.
Today’s interview is with Harriet Shearsmith, the founder and writer of Toby & Roo.
I am truly honoured and privileged for Harriet to agree to be interviewed by me for my blog.
I am very fortunate to have met Harriet on a number of occasions at different blogging events and we have had many conversations online. Harriet has helped me out with the odd blogging issue and her advice was invaluable. I really can call a Harriet a friend. I remember meeting Harriet for the first time at BlogOn and I hope she won’t mind me saying, but she was just a tiny little bit under the influence, but my goodness she made me laugh!
Harriet is a straight talking and very down to earth lady and absolutely fantastic company, with a mischievous sense of humour, all of which you will feel and see from her writing. Harriet has broken down barriers with her blog and Instagram and you only have to look at one of her recent Instagram pictures to see what I mean. Her writing is always refreshing, it can be thought provoking, but always a joy to read. Her success is down to hard work, commitment and total dedication, something that I have only complete respect and admiration for.
Toby & Roo is a premier UK parenting and lifestyle blog. Her aim is to share the wins and woes of parenting, the normality of it all alongside her husband Adam (@tobyandroodad). Harriet lives in the North Yorkshire countryside where nothing ever happens and is a coffee addicted, nerf gun touting mama of three, or four if you count Yoda the Shar pei dog who has his own Instagram account with over 30K followers.
A massive thank you to Harriet for taking part in my blogger interviews.
1. When and why did you start blogging?
I started blogging in 2013 when Toby was 1 year old. I had been following a blog turned shopping portal called Babyccino Kids and I loved what they did. I suddenly decided that I wanted to do something similar, I wanted to share my shopping tips, the high street and not-so-highstreet finds and what I knew. I worked at Mothercare at the time so I was perfectly placed for sharing my tips and tricks, product knowledge and then I started to include more topical debates, my views on things and slowly it evolved into what it is now.
2. Has any previous training or education (before blogging) helped you when it comes to blogging?
Working as a retail assistant in Mothercare has helped massively I think, it gave me an idea of what parents are looking at and what does and doesn’t fit the bill. I was the “expert” that parents were chatting to about cots, car seats and pushchairs, plus I am a mother myself so I could apply it in practicality.
3. Do you take much notice of your blogging statistics? (page views, unique monthly users, charts etc)
I do this for a living so I don’t have a choice really, stats are important whether we want to admit that or not. It’s WHICH stats that people are concerned with that matters – for me, social media engagement is a huge factor as well as the follower numbers. No point in having a follower base that isn’t into my content. I’m not a big fan of charts because I think they are all so different, I like to see the behind the scenes stats.
4. When you get approached by a brand who want to work with you, how do you decide if its right for you and your readers?
I work with a lot of brands and I think people often think that bloggers/instagrammers just take anything thrown at them but there is so much I turn away. I think it’s key to make sure that it fits with your tone. I won’t promote drinks that replace meals and make you “skinny” because, even if I used them, I think a lot of my audience are women who have under gone a change in their bodies and may be (like me) feeling insecure, they don’t need me ramming a rather unhealthy crash diet method in their faces. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t work with a diet company if the project was right – I would, because I talk a lot about weight loss but it would have to be something that was a lifestyle choice and I could share as useful content with followers. On a similar note I get asked A LOT to work with rape alarms and self protection gizmos to help “prevent rape” – I abhor these things and I’ve always written/spoken about my views on victim shaming and being a feminist – this wouldn’t fit with my message or be something I would believe in, so I turn them down.
5. What do you think are the key ingredients that make a successful top blog?
It sounds corny but being you is something that no one else can do so you kind of have to go with them – emulating someone else is a sure fired way to fail. I also think that its incredibly important to promote yourself and get your name out. In a flooded market, sitting back and trusting that people will come because you are talented isn’t going to work, so many talented people go to waste because they don’t self-promote. You HAVE to push yourself out there.
6. How do you balance your work/life balance?
Last year mine was terrible, I worked almost all the time and the only time I didn’t was during the day on a weekend. This year I am trying really hard to stick to switching “off” between 9/10pm. I am always on social and my phone but I’m quite good at getting off the desktop around 4pm.
7. Many bloggers won’t talk about or use photos of their children on their blog. What are your feelings when it comes to talking about your children on your blog?
I do and I think it has to be personal choice at the end of the day. The boys are getting to the point where they say they don’t want to do things and I remind them that this is fine but they don’t get to have all the things that they might want because this is how I pay the bills. Reuben has suddenly developed a real obsession with vlogging which is awesome.
8. You have won awards for your work on your blog. How important is it to win award for your blog?
It’s lovely and it really is recognition for what you do from your peers but it’s not the be all and end all. I think people get really stressed about awards but I think that as long as your followers are into what you do that is all that counts in the long run.
9. As the premier mum blogger and influencer in the UK, do you feel under any pressure or certain responsibility in regards to the content you publish?
I think if I’m honest I’ve censored myself in ways that I wouldn’t before the bigger my blog and Instagram has become. I once posted an IG story about Edith shoving cakes on my plate and made a jest about “geez, we’ll all be diabetic with Captain Edith” and within about 40 seconds I had a message asking me not to mock diabetes. It upset me that someone thought I was especially as my Grandmother died at 42 from diabetes and my dad was a type 2 diabetic. People will jump on you for the slightest thing and I’ve learnt to think through more what I post. I’m still controversial and every so often I put my foot in it and have to apologise or stand firm to what I said and take the back lash. With regards to how I influence people, I feel less of a concern with regards to that because I wouldn’t promote something that I didn’t believe in or want promoting to me.
10. If blogging was eliminated tomorrow, what would you do to make a living?
I would probably go into another form of marketing at this point, or perhaps advertising.
11. What do you think your children will think when they are teenagers about how their early life has been recorded online? Happy or mortified?
Bit of both. It really depends on their moods at the time – I would lean towards mortified but then when they have what they are able to do in comparison to what others do, they will be able to see the benefit.
12. When family or friends find out you are a blogger, what is their reaction?
Most assumed that Adam was funding me playing on a computer and getting free stuff, other than immediate family. I think that so little is known about it and people don’t know how it works – it’s even worse up here.
13. Since you have started blogging, do you think it has changed and how?
It’s much more focused on social in my opinion. I find that 90% of what I do has a social slant, especially for large companies. They are more interested in what I bring to the table as a digital influencer than a blogger.
14. Is there any subject you won’t write about on your blog? If so what and why?
Hmm… I’m not sure really. I’ve mentioned the rape alarms and crash diets, but I would still write about that in a negative light, not promotionally. I think I’m pretty open to everything and I wouldn’t want to say never to anything, promotionally I can say never to a few things but I have covered everything from crafting and baking with kids to hard hitting discussions of abortion and women’s rights.
15. Do you find Pr’s and brands easy to deal with?
For the most part. PR’s and brand is just a blanket way of saying “people” – these are all people behind a screen. I like working with people, it’s always been something I’ve been good at, mainly because I enjoy it so much!
16. Where do you see your blog in five years time? Will you still be writing it, or will you have moved onto something else?
I’ll still be blogging and hopefully doing even better than I am now. I’m making a move into more video content though I haven’t been enjoying it as much as I thought I would. It’s so much work and it’s like starting all over!
17. What has been the most exciting thing to have happened to you from being a blogger?
Oh gosh, there have been so many things. The top of the list is being able to spend time with my family whenever I want and even more so because Adam left work this year to stay at home and help with the kids. It’s been amazing to have this totally freelance family.
18. What has given you the most satisfaction from blogging?
The flexibility with my kids and husband, I can go to their school plays without asking for time off, I can go to their sports events and we are asked to promote amazing places around the world by testing them out.
19. Finally did you ever in your dreams think that you would become a premier mum blogger when you started?
Honestly, no. I never thought I would do what I have or love it so much. I do love a challenge though so I’m hoping to keep going and going to the next level!
If you want to read who else I have interview for my pro bloggers series just click here