Why Blogging For Free Isn't Always A Bad Thing

It's one of the biggest ongoing debates in the blogosphere. Are brands exploiting us when they ask us to work for free? Are we selling ourselves short if we agree to it, or worse, are we helping to sabotage the entire industry by doing so?

Over the years, I've found that my opinion on this has fluctuated quite a lot. When I first started blogging, I was overjoyed when brands or PR companies got in touch offering free products or items of clothing in exchange for a review or style post. It didn't even occur to me to wonder if I should be getting paid. After all, I was just starting out and only had a very small following. I believed that this was just how it worked in the beginning, that bloggers built relationships with brands by working in exchange for gifted products and exposure. Over time, I thought, my reach would grow, so too would my value, and paid offers would start to come my way. And this is true, to a certain extent, although the reality is a lot more complicated than that, as I'm sure many of my fellow bloggers would agree.

Mini skirt, turtle neck and over the knee boots outfit

Are Brands Just After Something For Nothing?

As time went on, a few things happened that made me question whether reviewing all these products for free was such a good idea after all. For one thing, I found out that other bloggers were getting paid for doing pretty much the same work - sometimes by the same brands who were most definitely not paying me. Not only that, but the exposure that I'd hoped (and expected) would come from some of these collaborations never seemed to materialise. I'd be thanked for the post by email, but very rarely retweeted or featured on the brand's Instagram. As for building relationships with brands, that didn't seem to happen either, at least not in the way I would have liked. Some of them I'd never hear from again, while others would bombard me with more products (whether I wanted them or not) and expect me to review every single one of them, all for free, of course.

Winter Fashion

And then there were the proposals that were blatantly after something for nothing, such as the brands that offered neither financial compensation nor free products, but thought I might "enjoy" writing about them anyway, or those who were kind enough to offer me a discount so that I could buy their products in order to then write about and promote them. I started to get cynical, and I really began to wonder whether all brands who didn't offer actual monetary payment were out to exploit bloggers. At the same time, I was starting to grow a little, and was beginning to attract the occasional paid campaign. Well, I thought, if Brand A is prepared to pay me, why should I give my time and effort to Brand B, who isn't? I began to turn down more and more unpaid collaborations, and even began to wonder if I had been naive to work for free in the first place. After all, if all bloggers refused to work for free, brands would have no choice but to pay, wouldn't they?

Camel Coat

Why Blogging For Free Isn't Always A Bad Thing

Mutual Benefit

Well, in an ideal world, perhaps, but in reality, it isn't quite as simple as that. Scaling back on the unpaid collaborations helped me to gain some perspective, as did seeing some of my favourite (highly successful) bloggers talking about products they had been sent, but not paid to promote. Yes, there are some brands who try to exploit bloggers and some offers that will not be worth your time and effort, but that doesn't mean that blogging for free is always a bad thing. If you're being offered the chance to work with an amazing brand, if their requirements are reasonable and they are upfront from the beginning about what they are asking of you, then I still think that the right unpaid collaboration can be seen as a good opportunity to add value to your blog and possibly open the door to more lucrative campaigns further down the line.

Why Blogging For Free Isn't Always A Bad Thing

Why Blogging For Free Isn't Always A Bad Thing

What it all comes down to is that any collaboration needs to be of some kind of benefit to both the blogger and the brand. While I have grown my blog to the point that I can attract a paid project every now and then, I must also accept that I am not yet at the level where I could reasonably expect such campaigns to be a regular occurrence. For brands to pay, it has to be worth their while, and in many cases, they will be expecting a greater reach than the one I can currently offer. By the same token, of course, if all they are offering me is a sample sized toothpaste in exchange for a 1000 word review to be written by yesterday, I am perfectly within my rights to tell them thanks, but no thanks.

Why Blogging For Free Isn't Always A Bad Thing

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So while I haven't exactly come full circle, I am definitely a lot more pragmatic on the subject of blogging for free than I was a year or so ago. It is a difficult one, and I have seen people argue very different points of view on it with equal conviction. I would love to know your thoughts. Do you blog for free, or is it something you don't agree with?

Kate x

Some links may be affiliate links. All opinions, as always, are my own.
The New Essentials In My Winter Skincare Routine

Ah, January... the month of gloom! Although, to be honest, I quite like it really. It's a time of beginnings, when the diary is fresh and clean and new year motivation is as yet untarnished. It can also be a month that's quite hard on my skin, however. I think most of us find that our complexions need a little more care in the cooler months, and by January, we're deep in the midst of them, with the end not yet in sight. Add to that the effects (and excesses) of Christmas and New Year and it's clear to see why January is the month when a lot of us up our skincare game! I am definitely trying to do just that at the moment, and luckily I was sent quite a bit of new skincare just before Christmas, which I've been loving experimenting with. Of course it would be rude to keep it all to myself, so I've put this post together to tell you all about the new essentials in my winter skincare routine.

Jane Scrivner Masquerade*

Jane Scrivner Masquerade Review

This is a light and easy to use mask which gives skin an instant radiance boost, even if you only have time to leave it on for a few minutes. Containing French Clay to cleanse and gently exfoliate and Witch Hazel to tone, it's also rich in skin repairing vitamins C, B, D and E and essential fatty acids, making it the perfect restorative treat after all the festive indulgences. If you like the clearing effect of clay masks but don't like the heavy way they sit on the skin or the dryness they can leave behind, this is definitely one for you. It's so gentle on the skin and so lightweight that you hardly know you have anything on at all, while the Aloe Vera it contains helps to leave behind a soothed, softened feel, so you can enjoy all the cleansing benefits without feeling as though your skin has been stripped.

Jane Scrivner Skin Elixir*

Jane Scrivner Skin Elixir Review

A moisturising facial oil suitable for daily use, the Jane Scrivner Skin Elixir is a beautiful combination of essential oils including Jojoba, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Lavender and Sweet Orange, especially chosen to replenish and restore the skin's natural barrier function. I love a good facial oil in the winter, especially one that's fragrant and feels nourishing on the skin. This one delivers on both those counts, yet still maintains a lightweight feel and sinks into the skin quickly after application. Used over time, this should help to slow the signs of ageing and improve elasticity, while it also balances sebum production, making it suitable for all skin types. I have a feeling this one might be sticking around in my routine for a long time to come.

Beatitude Revitalise Night Facial Oil*

Beatitude Revitalise Night Facial Oil Review

Having been a fan of Beatitude bath oils for some time now, I was excited to try a facial oil from the brand. I find this one very hydrating on the skin, just like a long drink of water for my complexion, so it is a real pleasure to use. Like the Jane Scrivner oil, it's lightweight and sinks in very easily - neither of these oils leave any sort of greasy residue on my skin, which is good to know for those who find this a turn-off. Containing Vitamin C, Raspberry Seed Oil, Pomegranate Seed Oil and Rosehip, I find my skin looks radiant in the mornings after applying this at night, and feels silky soft too.

Bio-Extracts Normal Facial Moisturiser*, Anti-Oxidant Boost* And Even Skin Boost*

Bio-Extracts Vegan Skincare Review

Bio-Extracts Vegan Skincare Review

Some of you who have been following my blog for a long time might remember me talking about Bio-Extracts before. This vegan brand offers a very interesting, bespoke approach to skincare, allowing you to pick and choose booster serums to add to your moisturiser, depending on your skin's particular needs at the time. Just before Christmas, they were kind enough to send me one of their moisturising creams and two boosters - one packed full of powerful anti-oxidants and the other designed to even skin tone and leave my complexion looking luminous. I've been using these in the mornings, adding a couple of drops of both boosters to the moisturiser before applying.

What are some of your winter skincare essentials?

Kate x

*Gifted item. All opinions, as always, are my own.
2018 Beauty Favourites

Regular Monthly Favourites videos or blog posts fell by the wayside a little for me in 2018, and I have noticed that a lot of people don't really do them any more. I do, however, still enjoy the occasional re-cap of products that people have been loving. So, at the end of last year, I filmed a video to document mine. With Christmas and New Year being such a chaotic time, I've only just managed to finish editing it, so it's a little belated.

My favourites include a mix of skincare, body care, hair care and makeup. Some are products that have been staples in my routine for well over a year, others are discoveries I made during 2018. You can watch the video here, or head over to my YouTube channel where you will also find the links to everything mentioned, just in case there is something that takes your fancy. One thing that just about all these items have in common is affordability - I love a good beauty product, but I also like a bargain!

Did I mention any of your favourite products? What beauty discoveries did you make in 2018?

Kate x
Why Everyone's Buying A Satin Midi Skirt (And Why You Probably Need One Too)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, chances are you will have spotted one or two skirts like this on your Instagram feed... or maybe one or two hundred! The bias-cut satin midi skirt is huge right now, and judging by the New In sections of many of my favourite high street stores, it's not going anywhere any time soon. Yep, everyone seems to be buying one of these little gems at the moment, and since I've had mine, I can totally see why.

Satin Bias Cut Midi Skirt Outfit

I know what you're wondering right now. Do you need one too? Well, they're available in every colour of the rainbow, as well as a myriad of up to the minute prints, so it's fair to say there's one out there for everyone. Not only that, but this particular skirt style is super flattering on just about every body type, easy to wear and appropriate for almost every occasion. And it provides all the nostalgic nineties vibes you could want in a piece of clothing.

Mine was an early Christmas present from my husband. (I'd wanted one for quite a while, so I knew exactly what to ask him for!) I opted for a snake print version - this was another trend I'd been wanting to try for quite some time, so I thought I would tick off two in one. Paired with a fine knit turtle neck and over the knee boots, I've felt warm and cosy yet smart enough for lunches out and generally socialising over the festive period. The silky fabric of the skirt adds something a little bit special to the outfit, yet at the same time, the relaxed cut means it's almost impossible to feel overdressed while wearing it. It really does strike a perfect balance in between.

Satin Bias Cut Midi Skirt River Island

When it comes to styling, however, you have so many more options available to you than this. I've seen some amazing street style photos where people have paired these skirts with chunky knit jumpers and trainers. A little edgy for me, admittedly, but nevertheless it's a look that works beautifully on a lot of people. If you're heading out somewhere fancy, you could add a sparkly top and a pair of heels, while I also think they would make great office wear when teamed with a smart blouse. When you think about it, that's quite a lot of mileage out of one skirt, and given how affordable the high street offerings are (my snake print River Island skirt cost £32), they are fantastic value for money.

Satin Bias Cut Midi Skirt How To Style

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I am loving my bias-cut satin midi skirt and would definitely recommend at least trying one on. What are your thoughts on them? Have you added one to you wardrobe, or are you planning to?

Kate x

Some links may be affiliate links. All opinions, as always, are my own.
The White Ankle Boots Edit: The Fun Way To Finish Off Your Winter Outfits

One trend I've really been enjoying recently is white ankle boots. After so many years of sticking to the traditional black or tan, it certainly makes a fun change to pull on a white pair instead. White just isn't a colour that you usually associate with winter footwear, so even the most classic boot styles look fresh and different reworked in this hue. 

Take these Topshop Mission Boots, for example (currently on sale, by the way!) In black, they're a fairly standard pair of western inspired sock boots, albeit with an unusual heel. But in white, they take on a new identity - daintier and more feminine than the original. I've been loving wearing them over the past couple of months, especially as they finish off my winter outfits in such a different way to my usual ankle boots. In fact, in many cases, it's these boots that really make the outfit.

Topshop Mission Ankle Boots in White

As different as they are, though, they're surprisingly easy to wear. White, after all, is still a neutral, so they work as well with the rest of my wardrobe as any of my other boots do. Camel coats, grey scarves, black handbags... it really doesn't matter. Somehow, the white boots still work.

So what does one do when onto a good thing? Search for more good things, of course! From spike heeled stilettos to sixties inspired zipped or buckled designs, there are so many droolworthy white ankle boots available on the high street right now. I particularly like the kitten heeled ones with black elasticated panels - they're elegant, but look like they'd be really easy to wear and walk in too.

The White Ankle Boots Edit: The Fun Way To Finish Off Your Winter Outfits

White Ankle Boots On The High Street

What are your feelings about white ankle boots? Is it a trend you've tried? If not, are you tempted? With the January sales on right now, it's the perfect time to experiment! (Just saying.) 

Kate x

Some links may be affiliate links. All opinions, as always, are my own.
How To Overhaul Your Blog For The New Year (And My Goals For 2019)

A few weeks ago, I gave you a brief explanation as to why I was absent from my blog through much of November, and I mentioned that I might go into more detail about the reflecting I'd been doing, the blog overhaul I'm currently in the midst of, and my goals for 2019. So here goes!

To be honest, I often shy away from being vocal about my goals, both on here and in real life, because I hate the thought of putting something out there and then not delivering on it. However, it has become clear to me this year that I need to commit more to this blog if I want to see better results from it, and actually coming out and stating that, making myself accountable, is a necessary first step. 

I take my blog very seriously, but I don't think that has always been evident in my content output. Sometimes this has been for good reason - I have other work commitments that take up my time and energy - but sometimes it's because I feel trapped in a vicious cycle. My blog isn't bringing me sufficient reward to justify the time, energy and money I would like to invest in it, yet without that investment I am never going to see the reward. Other times, I am let down by my own perfectionism. I can spend hours and hours trying to make a post "good enough", and as a result I simply don't put out enough content to see any sort of meaningful growth.

Outfit With Topshop Orson Jeans

As you can see, I've taken a long, hard look at myself! And with the new year on the horizon, I've taken some steps to get motivated, and find some direction to help me kick start my 2019 goals. I always find it inspiring when other bloggers share this kind of thing, so I hope this is helpful for some of you too.

How I Got Motivated

1. I Took A Step Back

I've always been a little bit wary of taking breaks from blogging. For someone like me who struggles with consistency at the best of times, I know only too well that absence usually results in a dip in following and/or traffic. If you're already feeling disheartened, this can be dangerous, and I've seen a few people take breaks for the purpose of gaining perspective on blogging, only to end up taking more breaks, and longer breaks, and eventually give up altogether. That said, sometimes taking a step back really is the only way to gain that perspective, and after four years of being constantly caught up in a blogging bubble, it was necessary for me at this point.

This year, I felt as though I was putting more of myself into my online space than ever before, yet I was producing less content, and my growth had slowed down as a result. Instead of beating myself up about it, I realised that I needed to take a short break so I could figure out why. This helped me to see that a lot of my troubles stemmed from starting my YouTube channel last December. Adjusting to creating content for two platforms instead of one (never mind the increasing demands of Instagram), proved harder than I thought it would be. Additionally, for the first half of the year I was struggling to edit videos on an ancient laptop that wasn't up to the task, which held me back a lot. I already knew all this, but it was only by taking a step back that I was able to see clearly just how much it had affected my content this year.

Outfit with white ankle boots

Progress isn't always a perfect upward curve, and when you're working really hard on something that means a lot to you, that can be difficult to accept. The little break I had in November helped me to see the bigger picture, and I realised that the dip, while frustrating, had been necessary in order for me to start finding my feet on YouTube.

2. I Educated Myself 

I am always researching blogging and YouTube and doing everything I can to improve, and this year, two resources in particular stand out from the crowd as they really helped me to look at things from a different angle. One was Hayley Hall's blogging e-course. I've met Hayley a few times and have a lot of respect for her. As someone who has achieved real blogging success through years of hard work, I was sure that her course would be a wise investment, and it was. It really made me think differently about the fundamentals of blogging and the way I approach content creation, and has given me quite a few ideas to take with me into 2019.

The second resource was this post about Instagram by Maria J Blogs. Written by some one who has seen successful growth on the platform in recent months (yes, apparently it's still possible!) this is well worth a read for anyone who feels disheartened by the daily follow/unfollow game. To summarise, Maria essentially explains that she doesn't bother trying to beat the algorithm or spending hours of her day engaging with other people's accounts. Yet her Instagram is growing. Why? Because she devotes her time instead to creating beautiful content.

Outfit with burgundy jumper

This really made me sit up and think. I can spend inordinate amounts of time on the platform, desperately trying to get my photos seen and cursing the algorithm when all I get in return for my efforts is a new bunch of people unfollowing me, but maybe it's not the algorithm. Maybe my content just isn't good enough. By that, I don't mean to say that my photos are bad, necessarily, but perhaps the problem is that I am just not giving people a good enough reason to follow me. In any case, the article has really made me look at Instagram in a new way. In the new year, I will be spending more time thinking about my content and less about whether I have liked and commented on enough random accounts to gain a new follower or two.

3. I Updated My Blog Template

This one is slightly more superficial, but just as new gym clothes can make you feel excited about working out, a fresh new look can do wonders for blog motivation! I had felt that my old template was looking dated for a while, so I opted for a new one from Pipdig. I still have a little bit of tweaking to do with it, but on the whole I think it makes my existing content look better already, and I can't wait to start creating more posts to show it off in the new year.

High street jeans and jumper

My Goals For 2019

1. Be More Consistent

This has always been my biggest struggle. In an ideal world, I would love to publish two blog posts and one video every single week. That isn't even a lot, but for me, it seems like a huge challenge. This year, I have averaged about one blog post per week and one video every fortnight, so I have a long way to go. All I can say is that I am going to do my best!

2. Find My Blog Identity

I have been working on this since I took Hayley's course, and if you take a look at my updated About page, you will hopefully see a little more clearly where I'm going with this. I have always had an idea in my head of who I am as a blogger, but I feel like it needs to be more evident in my content. What I'm hoping for is that having that focus will help to make content creation easier for me, and that at the same time, it will attract more of an audience, because it should also help me to achieve my third and most important goal...

3. Add Value

To return to what I was saying about Instagram, fundamentally I think that the reason my online presence in general is not growing as much as I would like is because I am not offering enough value to my readers/followers. Because I live in a constant state of panic that it's already been too long since my last post, I rush content far too often, and don't always think about what my readers are going to get from it. My number one aim for 2019 is to produce content that people actually find useful, and hopefully, that will make them want to come back for more.

outfit with Topshop Mission ankle boots

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To conclude, I'm not saying that any of this is going to provide the magic answer to growth and success, and I'm definitely not saying that it's going to be easy to achieve. But I do think I've identified my main areas of weakness and I'm going to do my very best to work on them in the year to come. Fingers crossed it will bring some results!

I would love to know if you have any plans or goals for your blog/YouTube/Instagram in 2019? Do let me know in the comments.

Kate x

Some links may be affiliate links. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Buying And Decorating Our Christmas Tree

Happy Friday all! It's not long now until the big day, and Mike and I took a trip out this week to buy our Christmas tree from a nearby forest. It definitely got us in the festive spirit! Of course I took the opportunity to vlog the occasion - this is as close to vlogmas as I was ever going to get this year!

When it comes to decorating the tree, I've stuck to a colour theme for the past few years - mostly gold, silver and white, with a few touches of red here and there. I always really like how this combination turns out. If you want to see, you can watch the video on YouTube, or right here.

Is your tree up yet? And how have you decorated it?

Kate x
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