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)

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.

16 Ways To Take Care of Yourself When You Work at a Computer

We know what it’s like at this time of year, the wedding season is over and you’re sitting for hours at your desk editing / admin-ning / working away on your business. Having a sore neck, back and shoulders (and everything else in between) doesn’t need to be a given when working from your computer. I know from experience on running a full-time online business that self care is important and gets pushed down the priority list *if only you could just send those final 10 emails already*. Phew.

I got the fabulous Team Shine together recently and we decided to share how we all take care of our minds and bodies when sitting at a computer for hours on end.

So here we are, we have 16 ways to take care of yourself when you work at a computer – there are quite a few reference links here for you to enjoy, and we promise, we’re not affiliates of any kind 😀

1. Get up and stretch regularly. Do you ever go into one of those work-time-warps and look up from your computer screen 5 hours later? Setting a timer in your calendar at hourly intervals can be a really great solution, even if that mini-break only means putting the kettle on, you’re still encouraging yourself to get up from the screen for a few moments, move around and think about something else.

2. Drink plenty of water. Now, I hate to admit it but common sense might be onto something here. We are made up of 70% water after all so it’s hard to expect our brains and bodies to be in tip-top shape if their constantly dehydrated! As a reminder to drink more (water… not gin) try having a big glass of water next to your desk when you sit down to work..

3. Drink herbal tea rather than caffeinated drinks. If you know me then you’ll know that I am a coffee and tea connoisseur, however the last 6 months I’ve been switching over to mainly decaf and I tell you, it really can make a huge difference to your concentration and energy levels. Many of the women on Team Shine also try to drink less caffeine and stick to herbal tea or decaf and have noticed it makes a difference too.

4. Starting off the day with a walk. I may be the least physically active person I know, so I try to start each work day by leaving the house and going for a stomp. I listen to a Spotify playlist called “Walking Like a Badass” which may amuse you. If you like rock music, you may enjoy it too, you can follow along here. Even if you walk around the block to get yourself a sneaky (decaf) latte, then you’re still ironing out some of those kinks before you sit down and get cracking (pun intended).

5. Writing an end of day review specifically for my work day. Call it an ‘end of day review’ or just a scribble in your diary, writing a few words about what you are grateful to yourself for today can be a really supportive practice. Here at Team Shine love to emphasise what we’re grateful for and have found it to be so supportive when it’s so easy to spend all our time dwelling on the negative / sh*t you didn’t get done that day!

6. Getting a screen that’s the right height for you. Do you find yourself slumping over or rounding your shoulders when you work? I had the worst posture but since I got a laptop stand to prop up my laptop it has stopped my neck being at such an awkward angle, highly recommend! I found it so supportive that now all of Team Shine have laptop stands for their work and we love using them achieve the correct height for our posture. It is affordable, portable, lightweight, easy to adjust, comes in multiple colours (including gold! If only they had a pink sequin one…

Here is a great (if not slightly grey, soz) image to show good posture at your desk:

Source: http://ergonomicsfix.com

7. Get a proper chair (your bed doesn’t count) We all know the temptation of not getting out of bed, propping up some pillows and working in your PJ’s but it really is the worst thing to do for your posture. Here on Team Shine we are big fans of this Ikea chair as it was voted within the top 9 ergonomic office chairs in April 2017 and really doesn’t break the bank.

8. Using an alternative/body-friendly desk and chair
There are so many different ways that you can work, and often it can be nice to be able to switch things around to give your body a break from one position. At Team Shine you can find us working at standing desks or sit down desks, alternating chairs, sitting on a meditation cushion and a low table or even the occasional yoga ball! It’s all about switching things up so that your muscles don’t get worked too hard in one position.

9. Your hands need looking after too. Whereas some people might be terrified of clowns and buttons (seriously, look it up, it’s a thing!), I’m terrified of carpal tunnel and RSI (repetitive strain injuries). Investing in a cool ergonomic mouse, for example this one named the ‘Penguin‘ is a perfect way to support our wrists. This is also a great website for ergonomic keyboards and other desk supports. Some of us love our gel cushion wrist rest (increase ergonomics of the keyboard), but a rolled up tea towel can work, too.

10. Not forgetting our favourite wobble cushion here
Now it may look like I’m recommending some kind of torture device to you, but I swear this is the real deal, I mean look, they come in hot pink! My spiky cushion supports my posture and eases back pain as I’m working and it’s way more comfortable then it looks, I swear. I’d really recommend you give this a try throughout your work day, even if it’s just for a few minutes here or there.

11. Listening to ambient music whilst you work.
Depending on the work, I like to listen to meditation talks or classical film soundtracks on Spotify, it really helps and is totally worth the few minutes you might ‘waste’ Googling the film trivia. I love music – it sets the tone and really makes work so much more fun, it’s quite often Rihanna or best of musicals playlist (esp Les Mis!) or lately I’ve been really into Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead. Here’s to dance parties with yourself on one of your tea breaks, it’s only going to get your body moving, what’s not to love?!

12. Take care of your feet/knees/hips and heating! I don’t have an adjustable office chair, so will often put a rolled up blanket under my feet to keep good hip/knee/foot alignment and I love to have a hot water bottle in the mix when it is even a touch chilly. It’s good to just scan your body from time to time, see which area might need a little help and make adjustments accordingly, it really is the ultimate in self-care.

13. Remember to streeeeetch. Going back to our suggestion earlier of taking short timed breaks, here is a program that you can use on your computer that will remind you to take a 1min break with stretches and movements – exercise videos included – it’s very funny, and you can set the timing to suit your needs which is really helpful!

14. Go outside for a few minutes. If you’re feeling like you need a breath, just do it! Go outside or open your windows and get some fresh air in your lungs. When anxiety, stress or tension comes up this can be a really great way to just refresh. We love to do this at Team Shine, especially when it feels like you really really need to hurry and get something done, these can be the best times just to take a moment, and breath.

15. Look outside the window. I have my table positioned so that I can look out the window whenever I can, this helps to relax the eye, as by gazing into the sky you will relax the muscles that continue to strain while looking at the screen. Being a global team that loves to travel, there are always different seasons and different countries to look around at whilst we’re working!

16. Go chat with someone in real life. I find that the best breaks – along with the dancing – can be catchups with friends. Real life connections really do bring fresh air into the brain and sometimes even new ideas and solutions! It can be easy for us all to feel like there is always too much to do, but prioritising socialising with dear friends is always a good plan – just don’t drink too much or you’ll have a killer hangover and that’s never fun when you’ve got to work! (Ahem.)

I know as much as anyone how much our work days can feel like a complete time-crunch, however, it really does pay off to take a few moments throughout our day to just relax and prioritise our mental and physical health as well!

Do you have tips you’d add to the mix?

Maddy & Team Shine xo

What a Two Day Journey Down the Mekong Taught Me About Running A Business

Facebook memories – it’s a little bit weird sometimes to look back and think “WTF was I doing putting that on Facebook?!” but this summer has reminded me of all the adventures I had the summer I lived in South East Asia in 2013. I remember so well that I basically lived off Pad Thai, spicy papaya salad and beer Laos. Nom, nom.

But essentially what I remember the most was the fact that I was writing and building a business all whilst on a tiny little travel laptop, traipsing round on buses, planes, taxis and yes, boats.

It was whilst I was on a two-day boat journey down the Mekong, the river that looked like it was made of chocolate, that I was forced to switch off, not browse the internet, not check my emails. There was nowhere to go, and all there was left to do was drink a beer and watch the world go by.  I was forced to reflect on where I was, what I was doing and recognise that the much-needed break. Travelling was hectic and I was nomadic for many years, to-ing and fro-ing from Goa to everywhere else. But really, this is something I need to remind myself of, and if I need it then I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

This is what I realised and enjoyed remembering: it’s OK to switch off and not check Instagram (I’m looking at you fellow Instagram-aholics) and it’s totally OK not to take selfies whilst you’re doing something awesome. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. It very much means you did.

Maddy xo

(Photos are my own – apparently the only two photos I have of this time – which is a good thing)