I have wanted to write this post for ages but knew it would be a long one so have been putting it off, so much so that my second Instagram birthday has been and gone (3 months ago) and I have had to edit some of the post! I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing my journey with you and tell you more about how I started, the opportunities it has bought, the unexpected, the challenges along the way and some Insta tips….yes it’s a long one!!
How I started
It was the Summer of 2016, my youngest little lady was 6 months old and her sisters were 2 and 4. I had got used to life (just about) with 3 and after the holidays my eldest started full time school, the other two would sleep at the same time for 2hrs a day (what a luxury!). I had a little time to myself and wanted to do something for myself. If we rewind to pre baby number 3, I had worked as a Senior Communications Officer for a government organisation and looked after all sorts during my 8 years there, from press, events and social media. I have always loved social media and back then was a Facebook and (a little later) Pinterest addict but I had never got into Twitter or Instagram. I knew I wasn’t going back to work after the third because I wanted to be a stay at home mum plus childcare for 3 was just too much of a headache and expense.
The most difficult part of giving up my job was financial independence, I was one of those teenagers who worked as soon as they could. My first job was cash in hand, £3 an hour waitressing in a local cafe when I was 14! I hated it..ha ha! So as soon as I turned 15 and got the golden ticket (my National Insurance number) I was out of there! And I got my first Saturday job in the city centre working at Bay Trading! Does anyone remember it?! I went on to own my first pair of pedal pushers and a one sleeved cerise pink shoulder top…why oh why was 90s fashion so bad!! I loved working and earning my own money but more so spending it! So when I gave up my job to stay at home with the little ladies as much as I loved it and felt lucky that I could do that, I also missed working and making my own money and not having to ask the husband every time I wanted a Zara splurge or wanted to buy him a gift!
So in the summer of 2016, I decided I wanted to set up a lifestyle blog but had no idea where to start and thought it would be a slow burner and something I could ramp up once the little ladies were all in full time school. I didn’t actually know what I was doing but I followed a few mummy bloggers and thought Instagram might be a good place to start and just get to know people and start sharing snippets of my life too. After a few weeks of posting pictures, I realised that my heart wasn’t completely in the “parenting” world. I just couldn’t find the passion for it and I wanted to focus my mind and have an escape from that side of my life, I also couldn’t get all 3 of them looking at the camera at the same time and definitely wasn’t ready to start posting pictures of myself online or selfies for that matter!
I had noticed that people actually loved the pictures I was posting of my house more than anything else I was posting. And at the same time I had discovered a few accounts of real life homes and decor. I was in the middle of a renovation myself, having completed the majority of the build and was now onto the decorating bit. I decided I wanted to change the direction of my feed and focus solely on my home and knew that taking progress pictures of the house would be an easy thing to manage around the little ladies. Although it takes me twice as long to tidy up and hide stuff out of shot than taking the actual picture!
How did I find “Hygge”?
I asked my sister for help coming up with a name . I told her that I wanted a name to reflect the feeling and interior I was trying to achieve in my home and with the family being at the centre of it all. I had never spent so much time at home since becoming a full time stay at home Mum & it had become more important to me to make my house warm, cosy and inviting so that I could actually live out my “groundhog days,” in a nice house without going out of my mind! 😉
My sister said what I was describing to her was “hygge,” I had never even heard of it! She had just returned from a trip to Sweden & suggested I research it and she was telling me all about scandi decor and interiors and the emphasis they place on their homes, surroundings and family time. I connected to it and became obsessed with the way the Scandinavian countries create cosy nooks and crannies and just their general aesthetic. So “Hygge for Home,” was born in October 2016, and little did I know that a few weeks later, Hygge would hit the mainstream media here in the UK and everyone would be talking about it. And there was my “niche,” which I will come back too later.
When Facebook launched back in 2006 (I could have this wrong, this was when I joined) and then Instagram a few years later, I was in my early twenties. I feel like I have lived a part of my life through social media and grown with it, when I first used it, apart from talking to friends, I would follow celebrities and fashion bloggers who used social media to promote their content, and I also loved finding independent businesses on Facebook to buy things when independent businesses started using it.
When I was pregnant I then followed the mummy bloggers but when I hit my thirties and was renovating there weren’t many people posting pictures of their house online, or at least not in the UK.
I was definitely in the right place at the right time, I am not sure if I started “Hygge for Home,” now, I would have the same success in such a short space of time as I have purely down to the fact that I think “interiors,” alone is no longer a niche on Instagram and Hygge certainly isn’t but that doesn’t mean that growth isn’t still possible, there are a number of newer accounts than mine that have also been really successful.
As well as interiors coming into its own on Instagram over the last two years, at the same time the idea of content creators, instagrammers and the word I hate “influencers,” (I don’t think it’s a particularly authentic word which ironically is the very core of being a successful one!) has grown. You Tubers have been established for some time as have bloggers but Instagram wasn’t being monetised in the same way. Many endorsements and ads on Instagram were celebrity endorsed or were from established bloggers who were able to offer brands other channels such as their blogs as part of campaigns they were running. However, now micro-bloggers (just on Instagram or a bigger audience here than say a blog) could have a slice of the pie and global brands started to value that there were now established content creators they could work with on their interior campaigns and have been willing to work with people like me. It’s pretty incredible and was completely unexpected and I hope is encouraging for others who may want to make a living online.
I mentioned at the start, I had decided to use Instagram because I wasn’t sure of where to start and I didn’t have the time or head space to build a website and manage the content. However with Instagram, I felt like I could manage posting a picture and a caption and in time I would launch a blog (that ended up being much longer than I expected and came about 18 months later!). I thought that Instagram would just be a bit of fun and if I ever managed to launch a blog one day it would drive some traffic over to it. And another thing to note here, I never in a million years thought I would ever make money from Instagram or that it would become my job!
Over the last two years I have been winging it and going with the flow and ended up learning what to do along the way.
What has surprised me the most is the real and offline relationships that I have formed. I can honestly say that I have made friends for life and what’s really special is that if it wasn’t for the connection we have made online, our paths would probably have never crossed and I certainly would not have dreamed that I would be having lunch with Amanda Holden (Oh the double life I lead does make me laugh)!
I launched an Interior styling business called Hygge for all Seasons with @malmo_and_moss and we ran a series of sold out workshops in Cardiff and London last year and have a number of exciting things planned for this year. It was actually the workshops that bought in my first bit of income back in 2017 and I spent it all on a trip to Disneyland with the little ladies last February!
I went on my first Press Trip to Sweden with Ikea UK via Copenhagen to attend their Democratic Design Day. It was one of the best working experiences of my life!
I was nominated for a Domino Magazine blog award and won “International Design Blog of the Year,” thank you to lots of my lovely Instagram followers voting for me and was flown out to Chicago last October! You can read more here: https://www.domino.com/content/reena-simon-hygge-for-home/
The biggest challenge for me has been making my piece with the fact that I now work, 2.5 days a week (this is since September 2018) when I had in fact given up my job to be at home with the little ladies. However, with things taking it off, it was important to do what felt right which was to go with the momentum of it and it has resulted in me now bringing in an income and selling our house and buy a total renovation project which will be life changing if we can pull it off (still waiting on planning permission!)
As in real life, you can face the same issues online, there are cliques and not everyone will be welcoming or supportive or want to be your friend, but does that matter or hold you back, the answer is NO so you have to rise above it and get on with it! However, I won’t hide the fact that this has got me down at certain points last year and I have felt alienated from what people call the “Interiors community.” However, my husband put things into perspective for me and said not to view the “community” as interiors or one that I am not a part of but just focus on your own followers and the people that have chosen to like your content and engage with you, they are my community and your followers are your community. I am certainly not letting this get me down in 2019!
I used to put pressure on myself to post twice a day and then it started to affect my mood with the little ladies and taking up time I needed to be with just them so now I only post in the evenings a few times a week once they are in bed, at weekends I post in the morning or afternoon because the husband can be with them for half an hour and I like to have my evenings free. I also find the draft posts helpful if I ever need to schedule content in advance. There is no need to post daily, it will not affect your engagement or growth, you just need to be consistent.
Make Instagram work around you and not the other way round! Never be a slave to the gram. I used to have a power hour in the evenings where I would try and catch up with everyone but it’s harder now as my eldest does lots of after school activities and I post later and then I want to chill and watch Stranger Things!! ‘)
Things that have helped me grow and INSTA TIPS
So what would I do differently if I had not of started two years ago or that could help you.
It took me over 6 months to post a picture of my kitchen because I had three very young little ladies, two of which were still at home with me full time and I am not a domesticated goddess so I couldn’t face tidying it and getting an insta-worthy shot. However, once I got round to it, my kitchen has definitely been one of the major reasons for my growth on Instagram, it has been my most liked piece of content time and time again and regrammed but saying that it wasn’t my most popular picture in 2018!
I didn’t know about all of these big interior inspiration accounts when I started so make sure you use the hashtags for them and even tag them in your pictures. The following are ones I have had success with #myinterior @myinterior #interiormilk @interiorblink and the one I am dying to get a regram on but haven’t yet #apartmenttherapy @apartmenttherapy 😉
If you have a room or particular content/story that does well for you, take time to create interesting scroll-stopping content and regularly photograph it. The more that your followers (who will be the first people to see your content) like and engage with it, the more chance it has of going viral and getting on the explore page and this is how you gain more followers (see the below examples):
You can see from the stats below that this post went viral and was seen by far more accounts that follow me and I gained nearly 1500 followers over night. This is also my most liked post and was seen by the most amount of unique accounts.
However, even with the best intentions, for whatever reason, whether it’s not very inspiring or its the algorithm, my content as I am sure lots of others goes from high to low!
Hygge (my niche)
If there is something unique about you or your home or you really love an aesthetic or word that you could own and carve out as yours, take time to create your niche!
I know there is still debate as to whether an Instagram account should be your name or something specific to your niche. I am with the latter as it tells people right away what I am about and it has in fact given me a voice in this area. I am asked regularly to contribute to Hygge related magazine articles and have also been commissioned to do work and photoshoots for international magazines and have a few exciting ones being published soon. If you can find a hook or a niche it can be easier to carve out a space and find your voice.
Post scroll-stopping content
Take a really good picture! It has to be an insta-worthy angle or relatable or inspiring. These are some of my pictures from the early days which I have now archived! If you are taking pictures like this and not growing I suggest maybe to stop taking them 😉 In my defence when I started my account, I didn’t even have one room fully furnished so I was sharing things I had bought as I went along!
Edit your pictures
Unless you live in a mansion or a house which has an abundance of natural light spend time editing your pictures. My pictures from the early days were using Instagram’s “Valencia” filter! If you are a novice like me, use third party apps like VSCO and play around with the contrast, saturation, brightness etc until your image conveys the message you want it too. I like my pictures to have a cosy feel. Once I started editing my pictures and taking better ones that is when I started to get regrams and onto the explore page.
Bring your pictures to life
It has taken me a long time to get on board with this one and I am still not 100% there yet but am trying! If you are starting out or haven’t taken this step yet, I think with so many accounts now dedicated to interiors, it’s even more important to stand out and bring the human side to your feed. People love people and want to get to know the voice behind the squares. And if you are wanting to earn an income online, it will definitely appeal to more brands and help secure work as some briefs like you to be in the picture with the product or talk about it on stories.
What does the future hold
I think that social media is a very fickle world and it is also unlike some other businesses whereby it’s future and the dreaded algorithm is out of our control. At any point Instagram or whatever social media channel is out there, the way they run it and you can use it could change. Right now there are thousands of content creators monetising Instagram but Instagram aren’t getting a cut so I wouldn’t be surprised if things change around this very “grey area.”
I definitely don’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket so am looking at ways of connecting with my followers offline and also going to work hard on my blog as I think you do have more control over your website (although you have the google algorithm to deal with then! Ha!).
Please feel free to ask me any questions and I would love your feedback in the comments below!