Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Books that I bought, read and hated

A flatlay containing a brown blanket, a mug of black coffee and a book

How many times have you bought a book because of the hype and been disappointed? I’ve done this a few times and I’ve learned my lesson, buy books you’re interested in, and avoid popular books until the hype dies down and there's a number of reviews.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman







She leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day, and buys the two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Not is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

I’m sorry to anyone who enjoyed this but it was not worth the hype at all. It was very difficult to read, not the language but the structure. I read 8 pages and I was clueless where the story was going so, I sold it on eBay as I do all books that I buy and dislike.

During lockdown, I saw a few people on Twitter talking about it and decided to give it another try but as an audiobook. Everything was slow and it was full of Eleanor's ramblings and mundane day-to-day thoughts. I felt for Eleanor and wanted to know how she was going to develop so endured until the end which was underwhelming.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Are you stressed out, overbooked, and underwhelmed by life? Fed up with pleasing everyone else before you please yourself? Then it's time to stop giving a f**k. This irreverent and practical book explains how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt - and give your f**ks instead to people and things that make you happy. From family dramas to having a bikini body, the simple 'Not Sorry Method' for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a f**k and will free you to spend your time, energy, and money on the things that really matter

I don't usually read personal development or self-help books because they make me cringe. This was funny in places and some advice was useful but I felt like the same thing was being said in different ways, it could have easily been summarised in 3 or 4 infographics. Also, I wasn't a fan of the overuse of f**k, The more you use the f word, the less effective it becomes. You're not missing out on anything groundbreaking if you haven't read it but if you want to read it, I would recommend listening to it as an audiobook instead of reading the physical version, it was more enjoyable this way.

What popular books have you bought, read, and hated?

Francisca

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Hello September

September 1st feels more like the start of a new year than January does. Having been in education for the majority of my life, September marks the start of the new academic year, a year of growth, new discoveries, new friendships and fresh opportunities.

This September is no different, it's my second year at university and that means added responsibility but there's a twist. Instead of heading to a lecture hall on September 14th, I'll be signing into my university portal and joining class via Zoom. I’ve got a post coming next Wednesday about my feelings toward the next academic year and what I’m hoping to achieve but I wanted to write a post welcoming September, setting personal goals and reflecting on what I’ve learnt about myself over the summer.

I started the summer as a student, anxious about the pandemic and feeling hopeless as my plans were cancelled left, right, centre. Because of this, I had time to say yes to spontaneous opportunities like rebranding my blog, shooting with Niomi Smart for the launch of her new skincare brand, quitting my part-time job as a Sales Assistant to embark on a journey as a freelance writer. I also went vegan for 51 days, discovered my love for Oatmilk and a few days ago, I learnt how to blend my own. Would you be interested in a post about my attempt at veganism? 

This pandemic forced me to self reflect and I’m entering the new year as a person who is more certain about what I want from life. I published a post at the beginning of the year where I wrote, ‘I’m also a huge control freak and I like to plan every detail of my life, I want to be more relaxed with the scheduling of my life and allow for spontaneous events to happenand if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to let life plan itself out because nothing is guaranteed. 

With my 21st birthday approaching, I’m thinking about what personal goals I would like to achieve between now and December. I want to finish reading the unread books on my shelf and I added a Goodreads widget to my blog for accountability and I'm yet to complete my June TBR. Instead, I’ve been wandering around bookshops, adding more books to my shelf while my unread books suffocate in dust. I haven’t got any other goals as of yet but if I think of any more, I’ll update you in next life update.

Francisca 
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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Why you should consider taking a gap year before university

A shot of me in a field holding a black canvas bag with the phrase 'life-changing' wearing a white top and brown leopard print trousers
It’s been two years since I finished my A levels and I still get anxiety when I see #Alevelresultsday trending on Twitter. This year, results day is different from usual, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and results are uncertain because students weren’t able to sit their exams. Will they get their predicted grades based on their mocks? Will they get a grade based on statistics that will affect African-Caribbean and working-class students the most? It’s very much a waiting game but if you don’t get the results you wanted, it’s not the end of the world and there are so many routes to get to where you want to be.

I made the decision to take a gap year on a bit of a whim with little to no thought on how the year would plan out but it couldn't have gone better. Admittedly, I wish I had planned my year and travelled more but I did so many other amazing things that made the year even more worthwhile.

Here's an extract from an interview I did with BBC bitesize on taking a gap year:
A extract from an interview I had with BBC bitesize on my decision to take a gap year and words of encouragement for A level results day

Had I gone to university that year, as planned, I wouldn't have received the job offers and work experience I did, I wouldn't have met the new friends I made, I probably would've given up on my blog and I certainly wouldn't have started my podcast. I now truly believe that everything happens for a reason. A decision I made two years ago has put me on the path that I was supposed to walk on.

It’s been a year since I finished my gap year and I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my experience and share what I have learnt following a year out of education. 

01. If a situation makes you unhappy, leave.
At the beginning of my gap year, I worked at Mcdonalds as a 'Customer Care Assistant' aka a cleaner. I started working there as a crew member and I was promoted to the customer care role after a year. As my 2nd year of working there approached, I started to feel unhappy. I would often call one of my friends while walking home, to cry about how awful the shift had been. Customers speak to you like sh*t when you work at Mcdonald's, I know this is the case in most customer-facing roles but the abuse you face from customers while working at Mcdonald's is next level. I quickly realised that a job that reduces you to tears is not a job worth having. I identified the reasons and the people who were making me feel the way I did and filed a grievance against the colleagues responsible. I felt relieved. I started applying for new jobs almost immediately and landed a job at ASOS. Within two weeks of filing my grievance, I'd handed in my notice and left. I instantly felt a lot happier. I told myself that from this day, if a job made me unhappy, especially to the point of crying, I would leave. 

02. The grass is NOT always greener 
Remember when I said my first day at ASOS was the best first day ever? I lied. It wasn't bad but I didn't feel how I thought I should feel about a new job. I walked into the office and felt anxious. The fashion world was not my cup of tea. This feeling went on for two weeks and on Sunday, the day before my third working week, I woke up, emailed my line manager and quit the job with immediate effect. 

03. Your mental health should always come first 
This is pretty self-explanatory but nothing should ever come before your mental health. Your mental health can make you or break you, take care of it. 

04. Being single really ain't that bad 
With my current level of independence, I can see myself dying single and I'm not mad. I used to think marriage was the be-all and end-all but there's more to life. There's nothing a man can give to me or do for me that I can't give or do myself. Children? I'm happy to adopt. I have found peace with myself. 

05. Food is expensive
I can get a pack of 5 Whirlz aka Twister mini dupes from Aldi for 79p vs going to Tesco for a pack of 8 for £2.20. For 17p more, I can buy 3 packs of Whirlz from Aldi.

06. Outgrowing your friends is normal
I lost a friend in the first few months of my gap year who I had been friends with since the age of 12. I was upset at first but after a few days of letting it digest, I realised that we had outgrown each other and our friendship had served its time and that's okay!

07. Always keep money saved
Do you have a savings account? No? Open one immediately and put whatever you can, weekly or monthly and do NOT touch it unless you're in need. Wanting a new pair of shoes is not a need and does not warrant taking money out of your savings!

08. Take every opportunity you can, especially the ones outside of your comfort zone
At the beginning of this gap year, I was terrified of heights. A friend of mine asked if I would do a skydive with him to raise money for a charity close his heart, I couldn't say no. I did it and conquered my fear of heights, read the full story here

09. Don't compare your journey 
Over my gap year, I have found myself comparing my journey to those around me, particularly my peers. "So and so just bought a brand new car", "So and so just graduated" "So and so bought their first flat", you are on your own journey, going at your own pace, I will buy my dream car one day, I will graduate even if its years later than my peers and I will buy my own property when my time comes. 

10. Take time out
A day, a week, a month, a year or a few years, it's good for the soul.

11. It's not bullsh*t, you find yourself
365 days, 525600 minutes, 8760 hours... a year is a long time! I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this journey and in a month, I won't be the same person who is writing this. You learn new things, bump into new people, overcome hurdles, conquer old fears and develop new ones. You're on a constant journey to discovering your full capabilities and the true purpose of your life.

So, was the gap year worth it? Absolutely. 

Do I feel behind my friends? In the beginning, yes but now? No. 

Was I more prepped for uni? I don't think you can ever be fully prepped but I did feel more mentally prepared than I did in 2018.

What skills did I gain? Leadership, better communication, better time management, professionalism, better money management, confidence and more independence. 

I gained a lot of work experience, grew my blog, I made new friends, saved a lot of money, conquered a fear, visited a country on my travel bucket list, secured a spot at uni (again) and got my head in a better place. I now know what I want from life, the career I want, the people I want to surround myself with etc. Life can only go onwards and upwards from this point.

For those of you taking a gap year and doubting your decision, you won't always have this opportunity to take a year-long break but you will always be able to go to uni. 

Good luck to everyone going into their first year!

Francisca 
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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Life lately

A picture of smiling at the camera standing next to a lake surrounded by greenery wearing blue jeans, white trainers and a leopard print top
Happy Wednesday! How is everyone? I hope you’re all well.

I feel like you can’t start a ‘life update’ post without mentioning the pandemic and how life under lockdown is treating you. I’m staying indoors until 2021 with the occasional exception for outings with friends and family. I’ve developed some anxiety around going outside and I feel a lot safer indoors. I’m grateful to have a lot of space, a garden and be in a position where I only need to leave my house to go food shopping. 

A lot has changed in my personal life since I rebranded my blog in April. Firstly, I’m a business owner, I founded Black Geographers on Thursday 23rd April and I’ve been working tirelessly to get it to where I want it to be. Not only do I write from my blog, but I’m also a writer for My Mind Matters Too, an innovation hub for Youth Mental Wellbeing driven by Young People and an ambassador for 5050 Parliament, a campaign to tackle gender imbalance in Parliament and get more women elected. I sort of miss being able to laze around and play Animal Crossing from dawn till dusk but I love everything that I am working on and I feel like my work aligns with my values. 

An increased workload comes with increased pressure and the ability to switch off becomes harder. If you read my ‘dear overachievers’ post then you might remember that I said I needed to start taking accountability for my workaholic ways and how the way I work contributes to my periods of bad mental health and pending burnout. In an attempt to prevent a possible burnout, I no longer look at my social media or emails until I’m out of bed, showered, dressed and have eaten breakfast to avoid feeling overwhelmed before my day has even started. I’ve also become a lot strict about the hours that I work and as soon as it hits 5 pm, I turn my 'out of office' on and any work that is left can be completed the next day or at another point in the week, I can’t produce good work if I allow it to consume my personal life and I feel overwhelmed by it. Everything I do, I have passion for and I don’t want to lose that passion so, I’m slowing down. I’ve voiced this with the people I work with and I felt relief, I think as people we forget that we’re humans and can’t work like robots, you can pause and still achieve everything you want to achieve. Pausing doesn’t mean failure, pausing means you’ve recognised that the way you’re working is self-destructive and you need to rewind, assess your current situation, revise your goals and start again. If you ask me, that’s a sign of success.

In a bid to slow down, I’ve been dedicating my evenings to activities that bring me joy and allow me to relax. The other night, I started painting again, I haven’t painted since art in year 8 or 9 so it was great to pick up a paintbrush and just let my creative juices flow. 

I want to end with something positive that happened recently. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already heard this story but for those of you who don’t, I lost contact with my oldest friend when I was 18 and last month, she found my Twitter and we spent that evening reconnecting. I didn’t realise how much I missed her and valued our friendship. She reaffirmed to me that everything I’m doing now is what I was destined to do. Reconnecting with her has made my year and I’m positive that there are more good things to come out of 2020 now that I have her by my side. 

How’s life treating you?

 Francisca 
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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

My favourite brunch spots in and around London

A plate of poached eggs in hollandaise sauce with a side of spinach
I asked on Instagram if you guys would be interested in a post about my favourite brunch spots in and around London, you can guess what the majority wanted.

A new one to my list of favourite brunch places is Grind, specifically the Covent Garden location. It's hidden away on Maiden Lane and has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for winter and summer brunch dates. If you’re a blogger, the seating area outside is a great place to shoot Spring and Summer content as well as the downstairs seating area which has marble tables and pink neon lights. As for the food, I think there’s a good range of options for vegetarians and I went for the eggs Florentine, I’d never tried it before, but the presentation and flavour were a solid 10/10 for me. They also serve granola, acai and porridge bowls as well as smashed avocado, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and of course, a range of coffee and tea.
A stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup and summer berries on a white plate on top of a wooden table

If you find yourself in South London and you’re looking for a new place to eat, Burnt Toast is where you need to go. Their pancakes are second to none and I’ve tried a lot of pancakes from various brunch places before so this is a bold statement.
A plate of vegan pancake covered within almond butter, blue berries and a wedge of lemon
This is a new addition to my list, Chia Naturally Healthy. It’s located in Hitchin which is about 55 minutes by train from Kings Cross or just over an hour by car. I believe, it’s the first plant-based cafĂ© in the area and if you’re environmentally conscious like myself, you’ll be pleased to know that they don’t use any plastic products including their takeaway packaging. Everything is biodegradable, plant-based material. I tried their Organic Blueberry Cinnamon Pancakes and I'll admit, I was a bit iffy as to how they would taste as I've never had vegan pancakes before but they were incredible!

What are your favourite brunch spots in and around London?

Francisca 
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12 reasons why you should take a gap year

With just two weeks left of my gap year, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on the last 12 months and document what I have learnt following a year out of education. 

01. If a situation makes you unhappy, leave.
At the beginning of my gap year, I worked at Mcdonalds as a 'Customer Care Assistant' aka a glorified cleaner. I started working there as a crew member and I was promoted to the customer care role after a year. As my 2nd year of working there approached, I started to feel unhappy. I would often call one of my friends while walking home, to cry down the phone to about how awful the shift had been, customers speak to you like shit when you work at Mcdonald's, I know this is the case in most customer-facing roles but the abuse you face from customers while working at Mcdonald's is next level. Or to cry about how nasty a particular shift manager had been that day. I quickly realised that a job that reduces you to tears is not a job worth having. I identified the reasons and the people who were making me feel the way I did and filed a grievance against a certain shift manager and my business manager. I felt relieved. I started applying for new jobs almost immediately and landed a job at ASOS. Within two weeks of filing my grievance, I'd handed in my notice and left. I instantly felt a lot happier. I told myself that from this day, if a job made me unhappy, especially to the point of crying, I would leave. 

02. The grass is NOT always greener 
Remember when I said my first day at ASOS was the best first day ever? I lied. It wasn't bad but I didn't feel how I thought I should feel about a new job. I walked into the office and felt anxious. The fashion world was not my cup of tea. This feeling went on for two weeks and on Sunday, the day before my third working week, I woke up, emailed the relevant person and quit the job with immediate effect. 

03. Your mental health should always come first 
This is pretty self-explanatory but nothing should ever come before your mental health. Your mental health can make you or break you, take care of it. 

04. I am privileged
I am privileged to have a roof over my head, a loving family, a solid group of friends, a job, the ability to walk, talk, feed myself and so on. Every one of us is privileged, to live in a country free of war and dictatorship is a privilege. 

05. Being single really ain't that bad 
With my current level of independence, I can see myself dying single and I'm not mad. I used to think marriage was the be-all and end-all but there's more to life. There's nothing a man can give to me or do for me that I can't give or do myself. Children? I'm happy to adopt. I have found peace with myself. 

06. Food is expensive.
I can get a pack of 5 Whirlz aka Twister mini dupes from Aldi for 79p vs going to Tesco for a pack of 8 for £2.20. For 17p more, I can buy 3 packs of Whirlz from Aldi.

07. Outgrowing your friends is normal.
I lost a friend in the first few months of my gap year who I had been friends with since the age of 12. I was upset at first but after a few days of letting it digest, I realised that we had outgrown each other and our friendship had served its time and that's okay!

08. Always keep money saved
Do you have a savings account? No? Open one immediately and put whatever you can, weekly or monthly and do NOT touch it unless you're in need. Wanting a new pair of shoes Fran is not a need and does not warrant taking money out of your savings!

09. Take every opportunity you can, especially the ones outside of your comfort zone
At the beginning of this gap year, I was terrified of heights. A friend of mine asked if I would do a skydive with him to raise money for a charity close his heart, I couldn't say no. I did it and conquered my fear of heights, read the full story here 

10. Don't compare your journey 
Over my gap year, I have found myself comparing my journey to those around me, particularly my peers. "So and so just bought a brand new car", "So and so just graduated" "So and so bought their first flat", you are on your own journey, going at your own pace, I will buy my dream car one day, I will graduate even if its years later than my peers and I will buy my own property when my time comes. 

11. Take time out.
A day, a week, a month, a year or a few years, it's good for the soul.

12. It's not bullsh*t, you find yourself.
365 days, 525600 minutes, 8760 hours... a year is a long time! I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this journey and in a month, I won't be the same person who is writing this. You learn new things, bump into new people, overcome hurdles, conquer old fears and develop new ones. You're on a constant journey to discovering your full capabilities and the true purpose of your life.

Francisca
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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Dear overachievers

A shot of the outside of George Orwell's former house in London
I saw a tweet that said, ‘Black women have a serious problem with resting and relaxing. Honestly, abysmal. We don’t know how to do it and when we actually do it, we feel guilty and it defeats the purpose. Operating in a constant state of exhaustion and guilt’ and I felt attacked, so I got my laptop out and started writing and now you’re here to read my word vomit.

How do you practise self-care? I know what it is, and I know the things that make me feel good but how do you completely switch off from the outside world and give your mind and body time to heal? It’s funny because I have Sunday’s marked on my calendar as “self-care Sunday’s” but no self-care is practised on a Sunday. I preach about self-care too, especially to my employees and close friends, but I don’t practise it. Why is that?

I think the only way to figure out my issue with practising self-care is to find the cause of my incapability to relax. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best because I was an overachieving child. A few weeks ago, I read through my school reports and found that I’ve always performed above the national average, been on the school council, represented at national sports, played the violin, went to ballet school etc and now as an adult, I’m never satisfied with my achievements so I’m always striving for more so I can get the same buzz that being an overachieving child gives you.  

I enjoy working, some may call me a typical Capricorn. My life revolves around work and when my workload decreases, I will find a way to increase it just so I feel "me" again. Working provides me with a sense of security that I perhaps don’t have in other areas of my life. I can control my work, from start to finish and what I produce is a reflection of me, so I work tirelessly to make everything I put out immaculate. No one expects this of me but me, I feel like if I decrease my workload then I become meaningless. I’m no longer Francisca who has her sh*t together, I’m just Francisca and I don’t want to be “just me”. Well, I do but I want to be me with purpose and working gives me that.

Lockdown has definitely increased my unhealthy working habits. I find myself answering emails until 3am in the morning, creating graphics outside of my team's agreed working hours or signing up to more free courses in the name of "self-development" and "productivity". I want to do better and by writing this post, I'm holding myself publicly accountable and I hope former or current overachievers take comfort from my words. 

How people around me can help me to practise self-care is by saying no when I offer to help you. I love helping people, but I often put helping others before helping myself and that’s how my periods of bad mental health begin. 

Francisca
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Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Book review: The Prison Doctor

A black hand holding up The Prison Doctor at an angle infant of a off-white wall
contains graphic references to self-harm, suicide, sexual, physical and emotional abuse
Before buying The Prison Doctor, I was volunteering with ex-offenders and looking for literature to increase my understanding of the prison system, in the UK, from the perspective of people working within prisons. It took me 8 months to finish as I found the content to be really heavy and graphic at times.

The book is split into three parts: Where It All Began (2004-2009), The Scrubs (2009-2016) and HMP Bronzefield (2016-present). Each chapter builds on the stories from the last and by the end, you have a better understanding of Amanda’s work and the experiences of the patients she treats. 

Amanda takes us through the journey of her sudden career change from being a village GP to a prison doctor. She was angry over the government plans for new GP contracts which would reward surgeries for meeting certain targets. She felt that it was taking away from her role, as a doctor, by turning appointments into impersonal exchanges and so, she resigned. After writing an article for a GP magazine, Amanda received a call from a recruiter with the opportunity to be a prison doctor at HMP Bronzefield.

I felt that Amanda let the stories and the people speak for themselves and the simplicity of the writing made it easier to digest. I've read various reviews that said this made the book seem childlike but I think, the writing style worked really well at making the contents of the book more accessible to all reading levels.

Going forward, I want to do more volunteering in prisons or with ex-offenders, particularly women's prisons. The stories women shared in this book were harrowing and I would love to offer them support in the form of conversation and teaching them skills to survive in a world that shames them.

Here are a few organisations, if you’re looking to volunteer:
Princes Trust – look for contact emails and ask if you can volunteer 
England Shelter – homeless shelters that house ex-offenders 
Khulisa – social and emotional skills development support to disadvantaged young people (11-25)
Charity shops – some have rehabilitation programmes with local prisons 

Related posts: June TBR
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Francisca 
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Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Pitching to brands as a small blogger

A flatlay against a white bedsheet featuring a MacBook with a brush stroke sticker, a mug of coffee, dismantled camera and calendar reading 'all my planets are dead'
After tweeting, “over the past month, I have started pitching to brands and engaging more with other bloggers. It’s true what they say, don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, GO GET THEM!”, I received an abundance of messages asking me to share any tips and advice on how I have increased my engagement and started pitching to brands as a small blogger. I am no expert so take my tips and advice with a pinch of salt, these are things that I have been doing and have worked for me.

Before you pitch 
At the beginning of March, I looked at my current stats and set myself some milestones. I found that the best way to increase your following is to be engaged. You can publish your content and wait for people to see it or you can actively share your posts by tweeting them out during peak times, posting on Instagram during peak times, using hashtags like #bloggingsgals, #girlboss, #discoverunder1k in the comments section of your post, to make sure your content is seen. If you are using a specific brands product or service, tag them in the post, a lot of the time the brand will like the photo, comment or regram your post, which brings new traffic to your profile. 


Increasing engagement is not just about putting your work out there, follow other bloggers and comment on other bloggers latest posts. @bloggerstribe on Twitter do a comment thread every Friday and Sunday at 8pm where you reply to their tweet with one link to your post and comment on other bloggers posts. Once you have commented on someone’s post, you give their tweet a like and let them know you have commented. This is not only a great opportunity to promote your work but a great opportunity to engage with other bloggers. 

Before I started pitching to brands, I made a media kit on www.canva.com – It is super quick to set up an account and the site is easy to use. If like myself you are not a creative person, there are premade templates and examples which you can use for inspiration or search “media kit” on Pinterest, there are lots of great examples there too.  A media kit should include your blog name, logo (if applicable), a summary of what you write about, your stats and followers e.g. total page views, the number of followers on each platform – that sort of thing. Your audience e.g. gender, location and interests, affiliations and previous work, affiliations you currently have and brands you have worked with in the past, what service you're offering. 


Two other things that I did before pitching to brands were improving my photography (bigger and brighter photos) and setting a schedule (posting weekly instead of fortnightly) to ensure I was being consistent. Consistency is something a lot of brands look for!  

Time to pitch
Pick a brand that you would like to work with, which of their products or services can you use to produce a post, series or whatever it is you would like to use them for. Find out their pr email either by going to their site or sliding into their Twitter or Instagram DMs. If you are successful, they will give you their pr email and you are ready to go. Start with a greeting, keep it professional. Write a few lines telling them who you are, why you are emailing them and what you have to offer them in exchange for their good or service. End the email by stating that you have attached your media kit, outlining your current social stats/page info and that you look forward to hearing from them or something that shows that you are genuinely interested in working with them and would like a response. If you try and fail, just remember that the first three brands I ever pitched to, either did not reply or declined the opportunity to collaborate with me. Do not let a few disappointments stop you from pitching. If you want opportunities, go get them!


Francisca
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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Absence

He who is absent, cannot be present
He who is present can be absent

His presence is loud,
his absence is louder 
His old words? They linger

She said “if he cared, he would be here”
I start to question my existence
Reflecting on the actions of a helpless child,
the adult that child has grown into

Is it my fault? 
There must be a reason
Was it me?
Was it?

He who cares,
He who wants,
He who you crave, 

I have found peace in his silence
He who shows, I can feel for
He who is silent,
I do not want 

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder
I was a fool
My fondness for you?
Is dead.
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Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Things I wish I knew when I started blogging

A shot of me viewing my blog from an iphone
Last year, I was invited to a blogger workshop hosted by Three Pipe Reply, a London based brand performance agency. I had the opportunity to network with the team and other bloggers while being 'talked through the best blog layouts, SEO tips, media kits and general do's/don'ts of working with brands. 

I found this event to be extremely helpful and I wish something like this had been around when I started my blog many years ago. I thought it would be helpful to write a post on what I learnt at the event and hopefully help anyone thinking of starting a blog, beginners or those who've been doing it for years, there's always room to learn something new and improve our sites. 

A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SITE
  • Is your site visually appealing?
  • If a brand wanted to contact you, is your contact page accessible? Is your email address professional?
  • Is your navigation bar split into categories?
  • Do you have a short blurb telling visitors and potentially brands wishing to collab, who you are? 


"Prioritise your blog over your socials. Socials e.g. Instagram should support your blog, not replace it" 

A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SOCIALS
  • Is your real location visible on your site and socials?
  • Use hashtags correctly, mix them up with each post, don't copy and paste and keep a spreadsheet
  • Use different fields of hashtags ranging from high ranking ones e.g. 104k posts to low ranking ones e.g. 400 posts, to guarantee you're being seen 
  • Don't buy followers or bots, pretty self-explanatory but you can spot fake engagement, likes and followers from a mile away. Don't do it and don't be tempted to!
  • Post regularly and consistently. What days are you going to publish new blog posts? Are you posting on Instagram daily? I heard from a Youtuber that according to Instagram, you should post daily or twice a day to grow. This is something I need to work on
  • Engagement is the most important thing (even for micro-influencers, you can have a small following but have a high engagement rate)
  • Stay on brand and professional throughout your socials, everyone knows everyone in this industry
  • Quality over quantity. Don't post for the sake of posting!

A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SEO
SEO is short for search engine optimization, it is the practice of increasing the amount of traffic to your website through search engine results.
  • Update old posts with current dates, information and images. Tag old related posts to your new posts e.g. if you're going to Italy and it was on your travel bucket list, link the post so that it can gain more traffic 
  • If you're using WordPress, optimise metadata. The Yoast plugin makes it easy for you to control titles, meta descriptions, set your targeted keywords and track how often you're using them
  • Compress images before uploading and add alt text to your images 
A self-discovery, a lot of us have been using ALT text wrong. ALT text is supposed to be used to describe the image and make your post accessible to those who are visually impaired and rely on screen readers.
  • Aim for posts to be a minimum of 500-750 words 
  • Proofread your posts. Install Grammarly onto your desktop and read posts back to front to make sure it flows
Improving your SEO will improve your DA. DA is how well a website will rank on search engines. The higher your DA, the more likely your site is to appear on the first page of search engines.

A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR MEDIA KIT 
A media kit is a CV for your blog and can be used when pitching to brands. Below is my old media kit from 2015 and an example of what a media kit should (roughly) look like:
A screenshot of a media kit created using canva.com
  • Have you included blog details? Your name, URL, your niche
  • Are your social media links and stats up to date? Try to update them monthly
  • What services do you have to offer? Personal posts, reviews, collabs, social media packages, unique content. 
  • Don't give a price, just say what you offer. You can discuss how much you charge for your services via email as it may vary from brand to brand and as your stats increase
  • Have you included an overview of the brands you've worked for? Get some testimonials to strengthen your pitch
Sites that you can use to create a media kit that offers free templates: Canva, Powerpoint & Word 

DO'S AND DON'T FOR WORKING WITH BRANDS
  • Read pitch emails thoroughly and don't respond until you properly understand what is being asked of you
  • Respond to emails even if you're declining
  • Don't wait until last minute to cancel
  • Avoid burn bridges with brands via social media
  • Avoid gossiping about collaborations via social media. Everyone knows everyone in this industry 


"Closed mouths don't get fed. Email brands and pitch your ideas" - Marissa

The last piece of advice we were given by Three Pipe Reply is to be yourself. Sounds cliche but don't copy what everyone else is doing and create artificial content just to fit into the blogosphere.
Francisca
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Wednesday, 10 June 2020

How I edit my photos using Lightroom

A shot of Cambridge Satchels in-store
A lot of you asked for this post and I’m finally delivering, giving the people what they want. So, you’re wondering how I use Lightroom to edit my photos? I start by saying that I’m not a professional. I wouldn’t even class myself as a beginner, is there anything lower than that? Whatever it is, I’m that.

What do you use to take your photos?
To take my photos, I use EPL7 Olympus pen with a 14-42mm lens or an iPhone 11 on either photo or portrait mode.
How do you edit?
I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of trial and error. This is the before of the satchel photo:
A shot of Cambridge Satchels in-store pre editing
And this was the process of getting the after:
LIGHT
A shot of Cambridge Satchels in-store during the editing process
Exposure -0.15
Contrast -22
Highlights -76
Shadows -35
White +29
Black -31

COLOUR
A shot of Cambridge Satchels in-store during the editing process
Temp -10
Tint -3
Vibrance +13
Saturation +20

EFFECTS
A shot of Cambridge Satchels in-store during the editing process
Clarity 100
Dehaze -1
Vignette -15
Midpoint 50
Feather 100
Grain 50
Size 28
Roughness 50

And for other photos, I up or lower all the above. Very rarely do I use the detail tool as I’m not a fan of photos that are too sharp, I prefer the grainy effect.

What apps do you use to edit your photos?

Francisca
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