Second up in my new series of interviews with some of the UK’s biggest bloggers is Jo Middleton. There is no doubt that Jo is a premier mum blogger consistently hitting the number one spot on the bloggers lists, plus winning many awards along the years. If you take a look at her blog, you will instantly know why. It’s funny, serious and above all Jo is easily one of the most engaging writers around today. Her style of writing is always a pleasure to read. There are not many days that go by that I don’t take a look at her blog.
I am very honoured and privileged that Jo agreed to be interviewed on my blog. So a massive thanks to Jo for taking part. I hope you all enjoy her answers to my questions as much as I did.
Jo Middleton is the writer of the hugely popular parenting lifestyle blog, Slummy Single Mummy. Slummy Single Mummy began life way back in 2009, when Jo’s daughters were just 7 and 14, and she has grown a huge and loyal fan base over the years as well as picking up several awards, including Vuelio’s Best UK Parenting Blog and Best Overall UK Blog award in 2015. Jo writes about everything from her unsuccessful dating stories to her attempts at homemade Jaffa cakes.
1. When and why did you start blogging?
I started writing Slummy Single Mummy in 2009. Back then there were no way near as many ‘mummy blogs’ on the circuit and so it was quite a bit easier to make a name for yourself. God knows what I’d do if I was starting from scratch now. I actually started it as a marketing tool for myself – I’d just given up a full time job to work freelance as a journalist and I wanted somewhere to showcase my writing, what with having no actual journalistic experience or qualifications…
2. Has any previous training or education (before blogging) helped you when it comes to blogging?
Nope – I did a degree in economics and have a background in finance and fundraising mainly. I’ve learnt everything as I go along, which just goes to show that anyone can do it!
3. Do you take much notice of your blogging statistics? (page views, unique monthly users, charts etc)
I wish I could say ‘I never look, the numbers mean nothing to me’, but that would be a lie. I don’t think it’s a vanity thing though – I wouldn’t be taking my blog seriously if I didn’t look at the numbers, it would be like running a shop and never looking at your sales figures. The brands I work with need to know too that they are getting value for money in working with me too, so I need to be able to provide them with relevant stats and information.
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 think most of the time it’s a pretty easy call to make if you just trust your gut. For example, if a fitness brand approaches me and wants me to trial a fitness programme then I know that’s not for me, but a gin cocktail making class? Sure. I think you just know if it’s a natural fit, and if you try to shoehorn in something that obviously doesn’t work then people will know and you’ll lose your authenticity.
5. What do you think are the key ingredients that make a successful top blog?
It’s going to sound really cheesy, but ‘write great content!’ Basically you can do as much marketing and pinning and tweeting as you like, but if ultimately you’re not writing something entertaining or useful then you’re just not going to stick. Listen to your readers and take notice of what type of content is most popular, always be honest and open, and don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet too.
6. How do you balance your work/family life?
For me, being self-employed is all about work/life balance. I didn’t give up a full time job just to spend all my evenings and weekends working – what would be the point in that? I don’t use my phone a lot outside work hours, (except for Tinder swiping obviously…) and I make sure to have plenty of interests and friends outside of work. I also share an office with a few people, (non bloggers), so I have a different physical space to work in. That definitely helps to keep clear boundaries between work and home.
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 totally accept that it’s a worry for some people, but I’ve never seen a problem with it. I let them out in public without bags over their heads or anything – it doesn’t feel any different to me. Plus they are old enough that they put pictures of THEMSELVES online now. Of course now that they are older I can’t get away with just posting anything I like – Belle, my 15 year old, has to approve anything I use and will normally demand some kind of fee if it’s as part of a piece of work I’m getting paid for!
8. You have won awards for your work on your blog. How important is it to win award for your blog?
It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference professionally, but it’s always a nice feeling personally to know that people like what you do. Who wouldn’t want to have their work acknowledged?
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?
Well I didn’t, but NOW I do! I don’t think anything I publish is ever particularly controversial – I’ve always gone for just being the ‘nice’ person, without too much of anything bad to say about anyone. If anything, I feel the pressure on the brand side of things, to be professional and create great content, and generally show that bloggers can be relied upon to always work to a high standard.
10. If blogging was eliminated tomorrow, what would you do to make a living?
Oh God, I have no idea! I do worry about this! I guess I’m lucky in that I had quite a varied work history before I started blogging, so I could potentially go back to doing something I’ve done before, like copywriting, fundraising or marketing. I think I’d find it REALLY hard though to go back to working for someone else, so it would need to be something that I could do by myself.
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? Well we’ve already been through this stage, so this probably doesn’t really apply to me. I’m pleased that they were that much older when I started as it meant I was already very aware of how they might feel about it. I do wonder about some of the blogs I read from parents of very young children and how they might feel when they grow up and read some of the stories back.
12. When family or friends find out you are a blogger, what is their reaction?
Family and friends all know what I do for a living and are very supportive. When I tell new people they always seem a bit puzzled – ‘how do you make a living from THAT?’ is the question I’m normally asked.
13. Since you have started blogging, do you think it has changed and how?
Yes, the blogging landscape has changed massively since I started in 2009. ‘Blogger outreach’ wasn’t even really a thing back then – the online influencer has emerged really only in the last few years. I would never have imagined for a minute when I started that I’d be able to make a living from my blog.
14. Is there any subject you won’t write about on your blog?
If so what and why? I’m pretty happy sharing personal stuff – I recently blogged about a rather interesting vagina related treatment! – but I wouldn’t ever blog about personal things that effected other people in my life without them approving it first. There’s a lot of things I wouldn’t write about my children that I know they wouldn’t want shared for instance and I respect that. Brand wise, I’ve boycotted Nestle for 15 years so I wouldn’t work with any Nestle related brands.
15. Do you find Pr’s and brands easy to deal with?
Yes, definitely. I’ve noticed too that the way PRs and brands work with bloggers has developed a lot over the last few years and there are some really creative campaign ideas around at the moment.
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? Honestly, I just hope that I can carry on doing much of the same, working for myself and making money doing something I love. If I can just keep doing what I do, without getting left behind or pushed out the way by all the millennials on Instagram then I’ll be a happy bunny.
17. What has been the most exciting thing to have happened to you from being a blogger?
Gosh, I get to do so many fun things, it’s hard to choose! Most recently I got to go down the world’s tallest, fastest tunnel slide, so that was pretty exciting. Flying to New York to interview Antonio Banderas has got to make the top three. I didn’t really how ridiculously flirty I was with him until I watched back the video footage. It was pretty embarrassing.
18. What has given you the most satisfaction from blogging?
I get a lot of personal satisfaction from the freedom that blogging gives me. I have always struggled in 9-5 type jobs, being told what to do by other people, so I love the flexibility, independence and variety that I get from blogging for a living.
19. Finally did you ever in your dreams think that you would become a premier mum blogger when you started?
Haha! No. I never imagined it would be a ‘thing’ on its own at all – it’s all been a really lovely surprise!