Wednesday 27 March 2013

A3: S8 - Blogging Masterclass

Okay, so this was my face today when I realised the day of me hosting the Blogging Masterclass run by the Entrepreneurial Society, was in fact, today....

Sheer panic was an understatement.

 It wasn't that I was unprepared (I'd made a pretty snazzy presentation on my new favourite thing ever, it was just that I felt outrageously unqualified. Obviously I was honored to be asked to chuck in my two cents at a blogging conference, but to HOST a MASTERCLASS about it? I only started blogging two months ago!

But then I started thinking. Two months ago I was attending these events, trying to scramble together the rudiments of an idea of how I was going to become remarkable and if blogging was right for me. I knew absolutely nothing so jumped at every possible chance I could get to gain a bit of free knowledge. Fastforward two months, and the blog that was born out of those seminars had got just under 12,000 hits.

Well shit son. I might not have a clue what I'm actually doing, but whatever it is, it seems to be working.

So I thought, screw it. My greatest fear was that there'd be people in the audience with more knowledge and experience than me and they'd notice instantly, but I thought, let's be a little silver and take a chance, and if it all goes tits up, then I'll do what I do best and BLAG THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

So, for those who couldn't make it, or are curious as to what I managed to haphazardly throw together, this was my presentation.


To see the full slideshow presentation, click here :)

"  Hello everyone, my name is Katie Oldham and I am a blogger. God, that feels so surreal to say! Not even two months ago I was sat in a presentation just like this, absolutely clueless, and now I'm here hosting a Blogging Masterclass.... It's insane.

My blog is called Scarphelia, and to try and tell you what kind of blog it is… would be a bit of a challenge to say the least. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say it was a combination of 3 things, philosophy, opinion and inspiration, all wrapped up in this kind of storytelling narrative. A bit like a living novel. A non-fiction virtual adventure. Yeah, I know, bit obscure, huh.

I launched Scarphelia on the 1st January this year, 2 months ago, and since the day I decided to do that, my life has changed forever. I'm still so new to this world, so every day I’m learning more and more about the whole thing, and it’s awesome to have the opportunity to pass on this knowledge now.

Because the thing is, somehow, in the space of just over two months, I've gone from being one girl with a pen, a notepad and a head full of dreams, and embarked on the most ridiculous journey of a lifetime, resulting in me being the creator of a blog with 12,000 hits, the founder of a Student Blogging Network, the host of a Blogging Masterclass, and just last week having the biggest literary agent in Europe hand me his business card.

So I guess this is a case study. Just how exactly I've managed to get this far, without having a clue what I'm actually doing.


Ever since I was a kid, I've been a dreamer.

The only problem was I wanted to absolutely everything, all at once. I knew that I wanted to create and be something remarkable, but not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, left me doing nothing at all. Having no real direction, as I grew older my dreams kind of fell away and were replaced by more realistic goals. Uni, work, housing. However, after a long time being dissatisfied with the way my life was going, I saw something which changed my life forever.

It was a small little irrelevant poster on the wall in the corner of the staff room of the restaurant I was working in. The moment I saw this, it was like something in me woke up, and that was the day I decided to change my life, and my life did indeed, change forever. This poster just contained words, and it read:

And that was it.

Who said I couldn't do it all? Although it was super cliché, as the same old drivel we seem to be force fed throughout our entire lives, for some reason, I don't know whether it was because my mind was finally in the right frame to accept it, but this one just hit me, hard. I felt like this was what I'd been waiting my whole life to hear.

So I decided to start with my passion, which was writing. I began make a blog which would put together all of my work in one place and under one name, a bit like an ultimate showcase of everything I could do, in the hopes that someone somewhere would notice what I could do, and allow me to start going places.

First things first, and what I believe is the first step toward becoming a successful blogger, is setting yourself a realistic, time-constrained goal.

Now this doesn't have to be your exact business plan, your target market and audience perfectly defined, you just need to know what you’re doing this all for. For me, my goal was that I was going to create something spectacular by my 21st birthday, the 7th October 2013.

I didn't know what that was going to be, but I knew I wanted to have created something I was proud of by then. I had nine and a bit months to become an extraordinary. And I developed my motto, “Forever remain curious, refuse to remark unremarkable.”

On the 1st January 2013, Scarphelia went live for the first time. Now the most frequent question I get about my blog is about the title.  And that is what I believe the next step is, finding your name. I think one of the most important things about blogging as a whole, is to have a short, memorable and unique name. The most common reaction I get when talking to people about blogging is ‘Scarphelia? What the hell is a scarphelia?!” and to be honest, I reckon it is that exact ambiguity is what keeps people’s curiosity ignited. The name is short, snappy, and gives nothing away about the content of the blog, and I think that’s partly what intrigues people. I can’t imagine too many people will be interested in ‘KATIE’S BLOG ABOUT HER LIFE AND THOUGHTS AND STUFF’.  Never underestimate the power of human curiosity.

The name Scarphelia actually comes from the combination of the two names, Scarlet and Ophelia. I’ve always loved to write, and when I was in High School I wrote a lot of short stories. They never went anywhere, but I used to create myself little collections and vignettes. My two favourite characters from my greatest stories were called ‘Scarlet’ and ‘Ophelia’. I really liked those names, and knew I wanted to do something with them one day, but I didn’t know what. Then ‘Scarphelia’ hit me, and it just sounded perfect. I googled it and luckily, there was nothing out there in the world under that name, so I registered the domain quick sharp, and began. This is super easy to do and cost me £7 for a whole year. Whichever host site you use will have the option to register your name, for me, I use Blogger.

Now, I was completely lucky with my name, that there was nothing else which used it, and you’ll probably go through a whole host of names and titles, ones that have already been taken or don’t sound right, but once you finally get it, and you will, you need to commit to it. I’ll never ever change the name Scarphelia, and I wouldn’t want to. Innovation is key in being successful but you need to keep your base the same so your band will always be recognised, regardless how much it changes.

So I had a blog, I had a name and I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about. So what next? I realised I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. That’s when I happened to stumble upon Herts Entrepreneurs and UH Enterprise, which leads onto my next crucial step, making the most of free knowledge, advice and education. As you probably know as you are here today, the University offers an abundance of free conferences, workshops and talks – there’s something on pretty much every week. The variety is incredible; I learnt so, so much from just going to a few! I can only hope this one will be as enlightening for you all!

The first one I went to was a talk by famous blogger, Zoe Griffin. She talked about her experiences starting out as a blogger and read some extracts from her book ‘Get Rich Blogging’. Although getting rich wasn’t my priority, I bought her book, hungry for knowledge and advice. I went up to her afterward and I told her that I’d just started out and didn’t really know what I was doing, and she gave me a lot of good advice. She even told me to talk to her over twitter, and she sent me some really helpful Direct Messages.

This goes hand in hand with another step which I think is being brave. I felt like an idiot going up to Zoe at the end begging her to help me with my blog, but my god did it pay off. If you want to be successful, you have to learn to swallow your pride and go out of your comfort zone. The people you meet and the chances you get just from being a little brave, is just extraordinary!

And although it might seem pointless trying to connect to all these people and a lot of them won’t really go anywhere, but I can tell you first hand, that some of them really, really do. Zoe Griffin for example, a few weeks after we chatted about my blog, she actually invited me to be a cocktail waitress at her book launch at the Google Headquarters in London. I know right?! So I went along and it was packed with famous people, and I decided to make the most of the situation and network my arse off, and by the end of it, I left with the phone number of a German Supermodel and the business card of a literary agent who wanted to meet with me. So 9 times out of 10 in the early days your connection may not get you anywhere, but every now and again that one will come along that will change your world. 

It’s crucial to establish links with people higher than you so they can give you advice, contacts and opportunities, but I also believe it’s just as important to connect to people in similar situations with you. If you’re connected to other local bloggers who are in the exact same position as you, wanting to get their stuff read and not really knowing how to market themselves, then you can help each other out, share ideas and advice and start to build a community. That is why I decided, alongside Scarphelia, to create this thing called The Herts Student Blogging Network.

Another important way to get connected is funnily enough, social networks! If you want your blog to be successful, you need to promote it through as many mediums as possible. Social networks are absolutely key, not only for connecting  to other people like you, but also to promote your material and draw in your readers. Marketing is fundamental.

It’s a weird story how I first decided how I was going to market my blog. I was actually at work, in a local bar, when I was serving someone tea. I then noticed that on the teabag, on the little tab bit on the end of the little piece of string, was a QR code. I thought to myself ‘of all things in the world, why would a teabag, of all things, need a QR code?’ so I scanned it, and it just took me to the Twinings website. Not really a surprise. But then I thought to myself, ‘Why the hell did I just take time out of my life to scan a goddamn teabag?’  and that’s when it hit me – sheer curiosity.

That’s how I got the idea of using a QR code which links to my blog to virally market myself. Humans are naturally curious, and I know I for one cannot resist scanning a QR code if I see one. So surely, other people would be curious too? I found this website called (on a sidenote, the best customer service I’ve ever had, if you do choose to do this idea or something similar I strongly recommend them) and drew up two sets of stickers. One set had the QR code on, and the other had just a little picture and had ‘Scarphelia’ written on.

I took these sticker books with me everywhere.

I stuck them wherever I went. I stuck them around uni, on public transport, on the back of toilet doors, on tables in the library, on people’s backs in nightclubs, I went abroad and stuck them everywhere, I even stuck some on the inside of the tray tables on an aeroplane, so my blog would travel the world. My views absolutely sky-rocketed and so did the feedback.

People started uploading pictures of where they saw the stickers around uni and tagging me in them on Facebook saying ‘look what I found today!’ – all good publicity. I also started getting a lot of traffic from my other channels, through links on YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter. I decided to expand further, putting contact details on the blog, providing a direct email address and a link to my anonymous tumblr page so people could send me messages directly.

This also proved useful as I started to get a lot of funny messages, which in turn made people look at my blog and interact with me to say how ridiculous some of the messages I was getting were. The sticker idea was what really set the wheels in motion. My views shot up and it turned out to be one hell of a good idea, and still brings in a lot of my views.

I may have put this last, but it’s the most important of them all. You have to love what you do. If you have genuine passion for what you are creating, then it’ll show instantly in your creations. If you don’t love what you’re doing and blogging becomes a chore or just annoying then you have to ask yourself, ‘what am I doing this for?’ If you still want to blog then perhaps it’s time for a re-brand, or a change of direction. And this goes for pretty much everything in life, you need to love what you do, or there’s just no point in doing it.

Scarphelia has become my child, my way of life and my future. I am so happy and most of all lucky with everything that has happened so far. One of the most incredible things about Scarphelia, and still amazes me now, is the people I’ve been able to connect to from all across the world.

I’ve made three amazing blogger friends, Job from the Netherlands, Lara from Indianapolis in the US and Marina from New York – all who I found through blogging. I think the most poignant is Lara. Her blog is incredible, and although we’ve never met, and probably never would’ve ever done otherwise, it is like we share the same mind. Her blog mirrors the same thoughts, philosophies and musings as mine, but with her own unique twist. I’m so grateful to have found someone like her, and what’s incredible is that in August she’s coming over to England, and we actually get to meet. It’s incredible.

I’m still astounded by the feedback I get about my blog. Some people, which I don’t really understand but I won’t question it, were saying that I had changed their life. I couldn’t get my head around it. I’d started Scarphelia for arrogant reasons, wanting to show the world that I was amazing. But what started happening was people coming to me telling me that I’d helped them realise that they, too, could be amazing.

Scarphelia became more like a philosophical diary, filled with my experiences of living an inspired life, my passions and enthusiasms, the way I perceive certain things, my random thoughts and theories about life and the universe, and stories of crazy things which had happened to me as a result of it all.

Although it was all very self-indulgent, people were actually engaging and recognising themselves in what I was saying, and I started to find more and more people across the world who thought like me. So my path altered. I realised this wasn’t about me anymore. This was about finding other people, finding the unexpected extraordinaries in life, all whilst living life to the fullest.

 And hey, according to my original mission, I’m only on month 3/10, and just in that time alone, my life has changed beyond all measure of possibility. Starting this blog has changed my life forever, and if this much incredible stuff can happen in three months, I can’t even begin to dream what I could have achieved by the end.

And I think out of everything, the most incredible part of this whole story is that I quite simply have absolutely no idea what I’m doing! One minute I was sat in a conference just like this, then the next minute I thought ‘oh screw it, okay let’s give it a go’ and now… I’ve somehow got to here!  I feel like I am finally living the path that I always knew I was destined to be on. And I only got here from waking up and realising that it was only me who could change my life - I’d spent far too long waiting for my dreams to happen for me.

I don’t have any experience, any financial backing, any real guidance,or to be honest, any clue what’s going on half the time, and if I’ve managed to get all the way here… Then just think what you lot can do if you just give it a shot. I cannot urge you enough to start blogging and keep at it - you have nothing to lose, and a whole universe of opportunities to gain.

To finish, I just want to iterate the last line of the poster again, which I feel has become an intrinsic part of my blogging experience,

“Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them. So go out there and start creating, live your dream, and wear your passion proudly.”    "