What I learned from pushing myself out of my comfort zone

Ironically, this blog post about pushing the boundaries of my comfort zones has been sitting in my drafts for some weeks because I’ve been waiting to feel comfortable enough to post it. I realised last week that I have accomplished so much from the place of not waiting for that thought to appear. I’m getting to used to this increasing ability to face everything as it is and use my energy to create rather than hold back, particularly as the post about my business story told in GIFs was the one of the most popular pieces of content I’ve ever written! So here we are…!

What I’ve really come to know and deeply understand this summer is that showing your vulnerability doesn’t mean you are weak. Indeed, it can actually help so much more than putting on a front.

Oh my I have fit a lot into this summer so far! If you follow my Instagram Stories you’ll have seen me getting involved with more women in tech events, and as a result, starting my free Facebook group “So Exciting Obviously: SEO for Creative Women“.

Global Gender Parity Week

First up, I went to the Global Gender Parity event at Facebook organised by London Global Shapers and it was so much fun stepping outside my normal sphere of comfort to see what I could learn here. With an inspiring lineup of powerful speakers, I was reminded of the power of women coming together, indeed humans coming together because there were men in the room (we cannot have a conversation about gender diversity with only one gender in the room) to speak about their experiences and look at solutions, together.

I particularly loved listening to the founder of a company called Lensational shares about their business of empowering women all over the world through developing their photography skills. It was a powerful reminder that photography transcends cultural barriers and languages. The problems were widely shared – discrimination at every level for any kind of difference – gender, race, ability, class, culture. With thanks to my increased education in diversity (shout out to Nova Reid) I feel a little bolder in writing about it here.

I was particularly keen to hear about the solutions offered on the panel which I think can be applied to many situations in business and indeed, life:

  • Start with low hanging fruit – what can be changed easily, who is already open to educating themselves
  • To encourage more personal sharing in the workplace so we learn from each other’s experiences
  • To actively learn about other experiences than our own
  • To write and share our experiences of diversity education (hello!)
  • To spend time on self-reflection and self-evaluation
  • Asking yourself on a regular basis “What is the cost of not taking this step for my business?”

I found the event quite emotional and hugely inspiring and now that I’m back in London, I’ve signed up to many more event mailing lists and I’ve had some very interesting meetings as a result already, the fruits of which I’ll be sharing in months to come.

Ask yourself on a regular basis “What is the cost of not doing this for my business?” Click to Tweet

How Martha Lane Fox made me cry happy tears

June was also the month event Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com) speak at the Women of Silicon roundabout and how a large part of her pitch with lastminute.com was convincing people about the internet. I felt like, in 2018, I still witness this every day. Convincing people that this is the way to be more visible, to get more money so we can have the life we want (because that, at the end of the day, is what we want, right?)

Running an online business can sometimes make it all feel invisible, because the business is intangible – there’s no actual place to go into work, but this is how blogging and social media has changed the visibility of online businesses significantly. I actually started blogging back in 2004, when many of my friends at that time didn’t know what it was, and so I allowed lack of confidence to halt those dreams and stopped until 2012 when I started blogging for other people and fell back in love with writing.

But that’s the key difference isn’t it – allowing something or someone to stop you in your tracks, or continue on, with what you want to achieve. It’s quite a luxury being an entrepreneur, and I do not take it for granted. We are our own bosses and we can do whatever we want with our days with no boss demanding that we work through lunch.

Martha’s talk highlighted this for me, and this is when she made me cry – she pointed out that people who would never have thought of starting their own business would be able to use the internet to do so. When I started coding in 1999 at the age of 16 then this was not going to be a job, let alone a career. I took endless Careers tests and the job I have didn’t exist then so of course it never came up.

I adore that the internet exists and I am not ashamed to say it. I love that it connects people across time and space in a way that would never happen. I love how vibrant and dynamic the world has become because of technology. Martha also said something else which I loved – “I’ve been able to do my job way better because of Twitter” She was so humble, passionate and completely wonderful. You can find out more about her here in this candid interview about her extraordinary journey which is a few years’ old, or you can follow her on Twitter here where she campaigns fiercely for more women in tech and for a more ethical internet.

These two events have caused a ripple effect in me which then coupled with the fact that I took the first two weeks of July off to spend on an incredible wellbeing retreat in Sweden, has meant that my willingness to take it all the way has stepped up quite a few notches. I’m thrilled that this has happened but it was only because I decided to do something about it.

So with that, I’m going to leave you with this thought today, what are you going to do to step up and push out of your comfort zone? Because you never know what might happen when you do….

Maddy x

All photography by Julia Gold Photography – we did this shoot in the Swedish countryside where I felt I was winning at life by wearing this sequin jacket :o)

52 Reasons Why You Need to Be Blogging

Did you know, one of my favourite things to do is listen and observe. That’s probably a bit surprising to you, particularly if you follow my adventures on Instagram, because I’m quite loud and eccentric! But it’s true. I love listening to the real problems behind why more people aren’t feeling confident with promoting themselves online. Because that’s all SEO really is, in it’s broadest sense. Getting yourself “out there” so you attract more sales.

One of the key reasons why you’re not getting found is because you’re letting overthinking get in the way and you’re just not blogging enough. There are a million reasons why (time, pressure, other things take priority) but I’m not interested in why you can’t, I’m interested in why it’s a Good Idea.

So, this week I launched a challenge in my Facebook group “So Exciting Obviously: SEO for Creative Women” to find out why they think blogging is a good idea and added these reasons to my ever-growing list of 52 reasons why you need to be blogging more.

Have a read, and let me know in the comments if you think of any others!

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s great for building your brand
  3. It gets you noticed
  4. It builds trust in your readers’ minds
  5. It makes you stand out from the crowd
  6. It helps you grow in confidence
  7. It gives you content to use on social media and newsletters
  8. It ensures your latest work is always published
  9. It’s a chance to offer value to your clients
  10. It shows potential clients more in-depth information about the products you sell
  11. If the posts are engaging, gives people a reason to return to your website
  12. It’s a way of sharing helpful advice, tips
  13. It’s a source of pride in your website – you’re happier for people to look at it
  14. It’s great for getting found online by a new audience
  15. By publishing more, you improve and attract more
  16. It’s a great way to practice writing
  17. It increases your audience’s confidence in you
  18. It’s a way for you to express your creativity
  19. It brings traffic to your website
  20. It shows off your best work
  21. It establishes authority in your readers’ minds
  22. It lets you help others
  23. It’s a way of sharing examples of your work
  24. It shows experience in specific areas
  25. It updates your website with new work
  26. It lets people know that you’re still here
  27. It’s a way to communicate your values
  28. It helps you guide them
  29. It’s a way of getting to know you, so they can proceed to the next stage of decision making
  30. It’s a great way to build relationships with others you mention
  31. It gives others content to share
  32. It gives your target audience content to share
  33. You can send specific posts to people who enquire to help them with their questions
  34. It provides a good reason for sorting the cream of the crop images to update my gallery
  35. It gives you content for sharing on social media.
  36. It challenges you, and being challenged is good, it stretches you
  37. You learn how to do a new thing
  38. When you monitor traffic coming to your site, it’s motivating
  39. It allows you to share your thoughts and develop them
  40. It has a higher reach than your website alone
  41. It creates new opportunities
  42. It documents your work and life
  43. It shows you care
  44. It sets the tone for what you’re like to work with
  45. It’s a way to share your expertise and experience
  46. It helps you stay in touch with your audience
  47. It keeps your shopfront updated
  48. It can be fun to share something you’re passionate about
  49. Readers can relate to you
  50. It shows off your ideal clients so you attract more of the same
  51. It gives you a voice
  52. It reminds your clients you exist

So, what are you waiting for? Write and publish a blog post and share the link in the Facebook group! If you’re looking to get to grips with blogging and need some help, then my SEO workshop on 11th October is perfect for you.

Talk soon!


My Business Story to date told in GIFs

It may or may not surprise you to know (if you watch my InstaStories) that I enjoy a gin of an evening. Whilst having my gin, I have been having a few conversations over Instagram about personal business stories recently and this got me thinking that whilst my About page is all spruced up and sparkling and ta-dahhh, I haven’t actually shared my business story here on my blog. I do love reading other people’s stories, and so I thought it might be fun to share my own almost entirely in GIFs. It’s important for me to inject humour as much as possible into what I do because it’s a crazy world and I think kindness and humour is key.

I have always loved weddings. When I was a little girl I had an alter ego. Her name? Mrs Wedding.

I went to a convent school which I kinda loved actually.

I grew up by the seaside in Devon….

….where I watched Splash a lot indoors on VHS….

I actually won certificates at school for smiling so much. Whilst others got them for doing well in geography or achievement in maths, I got awarded for being so happy.

I learned to code in HTML in 1999 when I was 16 – my dad gave me a page on his business website! The masterpiece was all about Ace Ventura….

I went to university in Bristol and studied business, and left for London and expected this.

But it was more like this…

But as a side job, I worked in rowing PR…as you do. There were quite a few perks…

Oh, and I used to organise a LOT of fancy dress parties.

I got very, very tired and needed a break. It was the recession and I lost my job.

My partner at the time loved India and encouraged me to go…so off I went. I expected this….

and instead got this…

Having space to think about life made me realise….

After six months, I came back to England to live on a houseboat, engaged.

I read about 100+ wedding blogs regularly. I entered all the competitions. I won my wedding photographer in a competition on a blog!

I started interning for the blog, and then, dear reader, I got married.

Meanwhile, because I like to keep busy (LOLZ) I led an international media campaign to save my houseboat community from extinction (side note: they’re still there seven years on)

I qualified as an English teacher so I could work abroad. After travelling for 18 months, I was ready to come back to England

I started to network (read: fangirl) the shiz out of the wedding world. And things started to happen….

Also me…

The wedding blog where I won my wedding photographer (Darling Lovely Life) offered me a job where I wrote and shared my adventures.

I helped organise a networking event and met Nu Bride who hired me as an assistant researcher. She sent me to John Nassari’s masterclass at the Savoy later that year where I met Laura Babb (who I totally fangirled over and she forgave me) as well as Nicola at Propose PR.

I was then involved as a model in a photoshoot where Fiona Kelly was the photographer Fiona became my first real SEO client. Apparently it was this photo that led her to hire me….

That was 2014. In December that year I finished my last ever temping job and had my first logo and was officially madeleinenoblejones.com.

Having gathered a group of clients, I went off to Goa again for a few months but this time came back single.

Pouring all my energy into the business, I started getting speaking gigs.

(this is actually how much I talk with my arms…)

I had to change my name and therefore updated my brand, fully embracing my love of pink and became Madeleinejones.co and hired two assistants – Bex & Emily, so now we were 3.

I was asked to run 1:1 SEO reviews with attendees at Snap Photography Festival which went down a treat, it was here I was crowned the Queen of SEO by the fantastic Snap community, so much so that I was asked back again for a second year in 2017. (I gush publicly fairly often about the wonder that is Laura Babb but I’m not going to stop now!)

In the winter that year I made the brave decision not to go to Goa and stayed in England.

The gamble paid off and 2017 was the biggest year yet – we completed over 70 client projects and countless internal projects! I travelled all over the country sharing more SEO goodness, Pinterest fun and drank gin with wonderful people.

And so here we are in 2018, where I’ve published the research I had spent much of 2017 working on with (mostly) positive reception and we’ve been busy setting goals for the future. Writing pages of copy for lovely clients, working on some exciting web design projects, working with VIP marketing clients and our SEO packages with the jazzy names of Gin & Slimline / Espresso Martini / Bottle of Red continue to be wonderfully popular. We have lots in store for this year, more of which will be shared soon!

I’m mega excited about where this journey is going. 

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey thus far. I’d love to know your business story, so send me a link to yours!

Maddy xo

Huge thanks to Natalie J Weddings for this image of moi.

Domains, Hosting, WordPress, oh my! a.k.a How to build your own WordPress Website part 1

Domains, hosting, WordPress – it all gets our knickers in a twist, am I right? I get emailed a lot about where to start with building your own WordPress website, I know it can be quite daunting, so rather than gorging on all the WordPress articles in the world, you can read this one and receive all the information you need to know to set up your own website and get to grips with right here and now.

First up, did you know there are TWO versions of WordPress.

  1. WordPress.com is the free version that has limited functionality but it’s not good for a professional site.
  2. WordPress.org where you pay for external hosting and you can make into an all-singing-all-dancing website. Or, you know, one that shows off your photos beautifully and will make your couples want to book!

So, here’s how to start:

Sit down with a cuppa and get your notebook, a pen and your wallet out; you’ll need your card to pay for a couple of things.

Do you own a domain name?

Firstly you need to purchase your domain name.

I like to use Namecheap (although there are a gazillion others out there like 123reg, GoDaddy etc). I like Namecheap because it’s super simple and easy to use, plus they have great live support.

So, to see if your desired domain is available, type your desired domain into the search bar.

If it’s available, there will be a number of options available to purchase it such as .com, .co.uk, and many others. The industry standard for commercial businesses is – .com or .co.uk. There is a debate on whether to choose .com or .co.uk as your main domain name. I would always advocate buying both if they are both available in order to protect your brand.

The domains are cheap to buy per year, but it is a ranking factor (albeit not a major one it would seem any more) if you buy for several years at a time, so if you’ve got the cash upgrade to purchase for 5 years, that is best.

Do you have a host?

Now you’ve chosen a name for your house, you need to find some land, i.e. your own corner of the internet on which your website will sit: your hosting.

I recommend Siteground – I host my web design clients on Siteground and they’re brilliant with customer support. Go for the basic package to begin with as you don’t need anything more. Logging into Siteground you’ll be asked to hook up your domain name with your hosting. They’ll walk you through this but they also have an online tutorial and even better, Namecheap also have live chat now so if you do get stuck you can go back to them and ask for help there.

Now that you have hosting, you need to update your domain provider and add the settings that your hosting provider give you – these are called nameservers. In a new tab, if you’re using Siteground, go to My Account, then Manage Account for the domain you’re working on and then the nameservers are on the left hand side. Go back to your domain provider in the previous tab and find “Manage DNS”. This can be a little tricky the first time you do it, which is why I’m so keen on you choosing providers that have good customer support! This will take up to 24 hours to update and then you’re ready for the next stage.

Now it’s time to install WordPress.org

Assuming you’re using Siteground, go to cPanel and under Installers, select WordPress.

Here’s a full guide on how to install WordPress on Siteground – don’t be scared, it’s really not as complicated as it sounds. Like I say, Siteground are very helpful and will walk you through the process.

You’ll be asked to note down your username and password provided by Siteground for your WordPress install. Make a note of these details and so you’ll be able to access your new website backend via yourwebsite/wp-admin

Do you have a look in mind?

Once WordPress is installed, you need to choose a look. I imagine you may have heard of various themes you can purchase like ProPhoto and more. I would personally start off with something cheaper, ideally free as you’re starting out. I’m a recent convert to Divi by Elegant Themes and now design all client sites on this platform, as they’re a drag and drop builder making it easy to build in blocks and they have great customer support.

When you’re researching themes, be sure that the theme:

  • Is fully responsive (not just mobile friendly, actually look for the word ‘responsive’)
  • Has great reviews
  • Is updated regularly
  • Has a good support system
  • Has a clean design (you can add more in if you want to, but it can be harder to take away depending on the theme)
  • Has a flexible layout
  • Has great documentation (because, like Ikea, you may not read the instructions until you’ve tried it once or twice on your own but it’s really great to have them in any case because unlike Ikea they should be useful to you!)

My advice to you is, don’t get too hung up on this part. I know plenty of creatives get stuck on how the theme/template looks, but actually further down the line, when you book a Healthcheck with me then I may suggest you change the layout of the pages to convert your readers to customers better, and I want the best for you and what you do for your website.

Once you’ve bought the theme…

You can download your selected theme, it will be a zip file and you need to install the theme by doing this:

  • Log in WordPress admin.
  • Select the Appearance panel, then Themes.
  • Select Add New.
  • Find the theme that you downloaded just now
  • Use Upload link in the top links row to upload a zipped copy of the theme.

Next is to choose the pages you need on your website to support your clients to trust you and choose to book you – coming up next week!

For now, let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Maddy xo

P.S. Full disclosure – this post contains affiliate links so I get a little bit of moulah if you make a purchase. I do not, however, endorse products I do not use and trust completely.