It’s been a couple of weeks now since I made the journey across to Leeds for Blog at the Beach, but of course I had to document my experience. This is actually the second of these events I’ve attended with icelolly.com although the first was way back in 2016. This year’s Blog at the Beach was the biggest so far I believe they said, bringing 85 or so bloggers together to network and learn some great things.
Can’t congratulate Hayley enough for planning the event (and her first for the brand too!), it was brilliant. All of the icelolly.com team on hand throughout the event were super helpful and really great to talk to – and really give you a bit of a more optimistic feel towards reaching out to companies as a blogger.
So what did I learn from Blog at the Beach?
#1 – Leeds Is COLD
I mean there’s not much else to it. Wearing a thin top and jacket wasn’t really a great idea looking back – it was a ski themed event after all! I’d actually love to try skiing, but I am not a fan of the cold at all. So yeah, Leeds is cold.
#2 – City centre parking is far more technical than I realised
Having searched for a car park with reasonable prices in the week leading up to my journey to Leeds (£25 for a day – no thanks!) I had the exact one I wanted to find noted into my trusty satnav. I might have pulled into a different car park accidentally, but hey it worked and I managed to find a spot. And then I didn’t have enough cash on me so instead of using my card I downloaded an app. An app that tracked my registration plate and the time I was parked there for, taking payment straight from my bank. Pretty useful.
#3 – Walking into an event alone is nerve-wracking as hell
And I realised that I’m still not brilliant in social situations. Nope, not at all. Hello phone and scrolling down twitter because awkward. But I managed to speak to new faces and I’m grateful to all those who kept me company! There were people I really wanted to speak to but couldn’t quite muster up the guts to do so because I’m so awkward but eh, maybe next time right?
All About Pitching
First of the three talks was Kirsty’s on Pitching to Brands. If there’s one thing that I learnt in this talk, it’s that pitching to brands can be great for a number of reasons. She took us through some brilliant points and definitely inspired me going forward.
#4 – Sometimes You Need To Just Put Yourself Out There
How often do you sit around wishing that you could be working with a certain company – seeing other people getting collaborations with them? Thing is, you can’t just sit around expecting brands to reach out and offering to work with you. Sometimes you’ve got to take that first step. I mean I knew this before, but then I was never really doing anything about it either. I never had that push to try. Now I do.
#5 – Pitching to Brands Doesn’t Have to be Scary
Kirsty gave us some tips on how to set up a pitching email, and the best way to talk to brands to tell that what you can offer and what you want. You need to give them an idea that they can visualise, rather than just saying “Hey, here’s my blog. I’d love to work with you!” – something I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of at some point. Setting up a spreadsheet to track who you’ve reached out to and for later reference of brands/contacts is one of the tips that I (and I’m sure many others) will definitely be utilising in the near future.
#6 – Reaching Out Can Help With Your Confidence and Skills
You’ll get rejections, there’s no denying that. But what you’ll also get is people replying to you, enthusiastic about your ideas and wanting to know more. You’ll become more confident in your writing skills and the content you’re creating. You can improve your sales skills (because after all – you are selling yourself to a brand), you can improve your writing, your photography and so much more. Pitching is definitely an art in itself, but once you get that right you’re rolling.
#7 – Pea Houmous is Actually Really Tasty
After the first talk it was time for food. I managed to grab some bread and a dollop of pea houmous. Which sounds kind of boring (right?), but actually I really enjoyed it. Might have been the hunger speaking, but it satisfied my hungry (Veganuary) belly.
All fed and happy, we settled back down for the next talk. Headed to the stage was Bee, here to give us a talk about blogging and working full-time. Managing your goals and what you really want out of blogging and taking it to the next level whilst still sticking with a regular full-time job. Something I think many can relate to!
Blogging and Still Working Full Time 9-5 (or similar…)
#8 – Utilise Your Work Skills Within Your Blog
As some of you may know, I work two jobs. One is in a cinema, and the other is web content and marketing for a shop. Now obviously the latter is really relatable to blogging and I feel like my time there has helped me to improve my blog, but a cinema? Well it has given me more confidence for telling people what we sell, what they can get, what deals we have on. And that’s something. You may not work in an obviously relatable job, but that doesn’t mean the skills can’t be brought across. Your job might have given you experience in sales, being creative, editing, talking to people, admin and much more. Think about that, and use it to your advantage.
#9 – Promote Your Achievements
An achievement is something to be proud of, and it’s something that can help you to get more out of your blog. Bee asked a few people for their achievements, and whilst these included things like winning blog awards and getting nominated, they weren’t being shouted about. Stuff like this is perfect for going into pitches, and for listing on your blog to show what you’ve done with it.
Heck, I created a short fiction story and it was picked up to be part of a book series collection of short nature stories. (Spring – if interested) So yeah, I’ve actually been published for my writing – and that story with my name can be found in actual book shops. I totally forget to shout about it though when wanting to share my writing. Shout about your achievements!
(Sidenote: I Loved the quote below which Bee included in her talk.)
#10 – It’s Good To Re-invest in Your Blog
I think this is something that a lot of people probably are nervous about doing, but it can be a good move. Bee mentioned taking blogging related courses, and whilst they can seem expensive, they can be a good source of information and guiding. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to blog and enjoy it but I guess you’ve just got to think about whether you’re missing a certain skill and could use more help, or whether something just needs upgrading and the like.
I may or may not have took on Bee’s advice on re-investing… and bought myself a new lens. I was getting frustrated with photography and lacked all the love I had for it originally. I felt restricted with the kit I had, and figured you know, why not grab that lens I’ve been wanting? If it will help me to fall back in love with photography, why not?!
Kaye’s Travel Photography Tips
Which sort of leads onto Kaye’s talk about photography and how to get better travel photos… I’m ready to get back to being more creative with my photography and remembering why I fell in love with it way back in high school. University kind of zapped the love out of me, and since blogging I’ve been getting really lazy with photography. Backwards, I know.
#11 – Be More Creative
Capturing a place doesn’t have to mean getting a wide shot of everything there is to see. Sometimes getting in to the smaller details and looking at different things can make a more visually pleasing photograph. I’m guilty of just pointing and shooting nowadays, and I agree it can start to get boring. Play with framing, composition and different angles. Be more creative.
#12 – People in Photographs Can Add Interest
But one thing Kaye also said was that you don’t have to focus on that person in your photograph – you can include them creatively so the focus is still on the surroundings. The perfect example is in the shot I took of Kaye’s slide above. The person takes up a lot of the shot, but with them being blurred you really focus on the landscape in front of them. Same with tourists – it’s hard to avoid them so why not use them to your advantage? Show how popular an area is, show what others are doing.
#13 – Get Your Camera In Manual Mode
This is something I learnt when I was in college, starting from an SLR and having to learn everything about aperture, shutter speed and ISO before shooting photos and developing the film myself. We had to remember all the shutter speeds and aperture stops and recite them back. It all helped massively! Once you know what to do with your camera controls, you will improve so much on your photography. The key is to just play around.
Kaye also mentioned shooting in RAW, and that’s something that was drilled in to me too throughout studying. You have so much more control over your photos when they’re in the RAW format and editing becomes so much easier with better quality. One you go RAW, you’ll never go back! Seriously.
And then all the talks were over, and it was time to chat a little more before heading home. I had to rush off because I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic or get home too late.
#14 – I Drove Across the Highest Motorway in Britain When Travelling To Leeds
As I discovered on my way home when I noticed the sign on the side of the motorway. It makes sense as to why my ears were constantly popping and feeling weird both on the way there and on the way back. Who knew eh?
#15 – Blogger Events are EXHAUSTING
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so mentally and physically drained than I did that Saturday night when I got home. All for a good cause though – I definitely learnt so many things from the day, and I’ve been feeling inspired ever since. Yes, even two weeks down the line!