WIN a £200 ASOS voucher & Vans Disney goodies!

Sooooo, how do I say this without getting really, really, overly excited? Here goes. ASOS AND I HAVE TEAMED UP TO GIVE ONE OF YOU GUYS A £200 ASOS VOUCHER AND A BIG BUNDLE OF VANS X DISNEY GOODIES AND I'M SO JEALOUS I WANT IT ALL MYSELF. Yep, nailed it. Smooth as ever Steph. Smooth as ever.

Anyway, a few months ago Disney and Women's Vans teamed up to create a magical collection of shoes, clothes, bags and accessories featuring old faves like Winnie the Pooh, Ariel and good old Mickey Mouse. Basically, it's like one of the coolest footwear companies and your childhood came together and had a baby. A shoe/clothing/bag baby. My favourite kind of baby.

So that got awkward quickly, but either way you look at it, winning £200+ worth of ASOS goodies is a pretty great thing no matter who you are. As for what you have to do to win, well, you better start looking through those family photo albums

To enter, all you need to do is scroll down and upload a cute or funny photo of yourself as a child, and add a little creative caption to go along with it. You'll all be able to vote for each others (or ask your friends and family to vote for yours!). After two weeks, ASOS will choose the winner out of the top five people with the most votes, and that winner will get the big fat ASOS bundle. So, what are you waiting for? Get sharing those baby snaps!

Why it's okay to not have a lot of friends

UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger

Before we get down to the nitty gritty stuff, I think it's important that I stay completely honest with you guys, and make a little confession. So here goes. The truth is, is that these pictures have absolutely nothing to do with what I'm about to talk about. I know, I know, it's shocking. I mean, just look at me, walking in the rain by my lonesome (apart from Ollie who was behind the camera at the time, but hey, who's taking note?) with nothing but nature by my side. Seriously, in the picture of me looking out into an open field you can practically hear me crying out 'friends, friends, where art thou friends' (although I'm not sure an empty field is the best place to find anything other than cows and/or the cast of A Bugs Life). Ugh, this all seems so depressingly poetic in the most perfect way imaginable. Buuut the reality is is that in actual fact we had to shoot an outfit, it started raining and I was moody because I was cold and damp. Shakespeare, eat your heart out.

Okay so we've managed to open this post on a fairly light hearted note, but the premise behind what I'm saying is very, very real. See, the thing is, is that I don't have many friends - and I never have done! In primary school and secondary school I had a small group of girls that I hung out with, in College a lot of us went our separate ways and in turn I spent the majority of my time eating lunch in the IT rooms whilst Tumblr-ing my life away. After a while I made a few pals but they soon moved away to go to University, and I stayed where I was. I made acquaintances in the workplace but never any solid friendships, and then when I decided to go to University myself I moved away and made a few friends in London. Then (I'm nearly done with this story, promise) I left London after a year, and I guess those friendships just dwindled, despite good intentions. I'm now going into my third year of University with a few good pals under my belt, but potentially less than I've ever had in my life. And you know what? I'm actually really fine with that.

I feel like it's pretty much imprinted into our brains from a young age that popular people equate to happy people, and that we all have to be outgoing social butterflies otherwise, well, maybe we're just a bit weird. I always recall my Mum telling me from a young age that you 'can count your true friends on one hand', and I remember thinking to myself that she just told me that to make me feel better about being a bit of a loner. I mean, everyone else at my school had swarms of friends - real life friends - whilst I was always a bit of an outsider that seemed to have more luck making Myspace friends that any thing else. These days, I guess the story hasn't really changed that much at all - only instead of spending hours writing Myspace bulletins asking for 'pc4pc' I spend my time (slightly) more wisely and write copious amounts of words for the whole internet to see.

In fact, it's kind of funny that the majority of my close friends have actually come from online relationships. Even Ollie and I met online, and in the past three years of us being together he's - without a doubt - become the most important person in my life. I think it's so important to remember that - when we're kids - we don't have the stresses and commitments that we do when we're adults. Eight year old Steph had all the time in the world to play with her friends, but twenty two year old Steph has (multiple) jobs, a relationship to maintain, a home to look after and two whole eyebrows to pluck (I was the monobrow queen in the 90s, which probably didn't help my popularity when I think about it).

So now, I guess it's time to adamantly admit that my Mum was right - you really can only count your true friends on one hand - but when they're true friends, why do you really need more? The relationships I have with these people are solid. If we don't see each other for a while, there are no hard feelings, we work through any differences as opposed to just brushing each other off, and we're there for each other without even having to physically be there in person. Eight year old Steph needed people to play at the park with her, whereas twenty two year old Steph needs a combination of that, as well as someone to rely on when times get tough, and for that you need quality over quantity. You need people that will stick around no matter what, that will help you in whatever you choose to do with your life and - to put it bluntly - be worth the time you're investing in them. Time is obviously such a huge thing as you get older - since we seem to have less and less of it as we go on - so you need to spend that time with people that help you, rather than hurt you. It doesn't happen over night, but once you've cracked that perfect handful of friends, you'll be set for life. 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that not having many friends doesn't mean you're a loser, and it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. To me (and this has taken me far too long to figure out), it simply means that you've taken your time to perfect your own little group of friends. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the ultimate #SquadGoal.

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Can you guys relate to this at all?

The best travel apps for girls (or guys!) on the go

Amazing travel apps every blogger needs
Amazing travel apps every blogger needs
Amazing travel apps every blogger needs
Amazing travel apps every blogger needs

Oh technology, you are one magical thing. I mean, hello? I can order food in an instant (probably one of the best gifts from the internet God's ever) and when I get lost I can use a simple app to tell me which direction to head in. Don't get me wrong, they don't always work exactly how I'd want them to, but that's potentially 'partly' (and by that I mean completely) due to my utterly ridiculous sense of direction. In short, if there was ever a candidate for finding the best travel apps around, it would be me. These apps are 100% idiot proof for just about any traveller out there. Don't believe me? Just give them a whirl.

Packing Pro

This is one of my fave apps of all time, purely because it means I never have to worry about forgetting my passport ever again (yep, I've done that before). It also reminds me to do every day things such as water my plants. RIP to all the plants I've killed in the past.

Travelsafe Pro

Safety comes first, so an app like this is absolutely vital for anyone, especially if you're travelling alone. It includes pretty much every emergency number and contact you'll ever need. Boom.

Urban Spoon

If you haven't already figure it out by now, I like food. In fact, no matter where I am in life food is generally one of my biggest priorities, so Urban Spoon is an absolute saviour, whether I'm in my hometown or an entirely different country. It helps you find restaurants and - better yet - it'll rate them, too. 

Jetlag Genie

I suffer like crazy with jet lag, so this app is a massive life saver. It helps you set your sleeping pattern both before, during and after your trip to ensure you're feeling good.

Kayak

Kayak pretty much does it all when it comes to finding something fairly last minute. Whether it's a hotel, a car or even a flight! It also helps you manage your trip itinerary, and it'll even track your flight in real time.

Wikitude

This app is another example of why technology is so great these days. I mean, all you have to do is point your phone camera at something and it'll tell you everything there is to know about it! Instant wisdom, without the tour guides.

Currency

This lil guy is pretty self explanatory, but sometimes it's the simple things in life that are the best. Want to know how much your money's worth in another country. This app is all you'll need.

Google Translate

Man, I must sound like the worst traveller ever, but - you guessed it - not only am I terrible at remembering things (including my whereabouts) but I'm also really bad at learning foreign languages. Thank you Google Translator. Thank. You.

Tripcast

So it's 2015 and we're all officially in the showing-off-age (couldn't quite think of something as snappy as ice age..), so of course we're going to want to share our trips and travels with our family and friends. Just invite your pals to the album before you go away and start adding your snaps. It's like a little holiday photo album for your eyes (and anyone else you invite) only.

Hope you guys found some of these useful! If you haven't quite gotten enough of me yet you can head on over to the Bershka BScene blog, where there are more pictures of me floating around in a kimono, and a lil story on my favourite beach in the UK. It's three miles long, that's all I'm sayin'..

Are you going anywhere this summer!?

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Bershka sandals

Is University really worth going to?

Is University worth it?
Is University worth going to?

OoOoOo slightly controversial one here, how risky of me! As a blogger I'm always asked about how I made blogging my full-time career. Did I study anything in particular? Are there specific subjects you should pick if you want to turn your internet $killz into a job? Oh so many questions.

Since I've just finished my second year of University I've decided to do a little education evaluation (sounds like a crappy 80s song heh) to both get my head around whatever is in my...head, and to also - hopefully - offer a bit of advice and insight for all you guys and gals looking to head off to University this year. Who knows, maybe it'll do neither of the above. But right now I have two options: write a blog post or do the laundry. Blogging wins every time.

So yes! I am a student. I study BA (Hons) Journalism and it's not bad. I learn things sometimes, sometimes I'm bored. Sometimes I show up on time...sometimes I don't show up at all. I study hard, hand in all my work on time and - having just got my grades back - I'm currently a few percent off of a first degree honours. All in all, I do okay. I could do better, sure, but funnily enough University has never been a priority of mine. Which is probably a really stupid thing to say in the UK when a three year course gets in around £35,000 of student debt. Gulp. Having never even used a credit card the idea of any sort of debt makes me very, very sad. But despite all this, here I am, studying away, completely ready to go into my third year. And you're sat there reading this probably wondering why I'm putting myself through all these money woes for something I'm not even fussed about. The answer? Two words. Plan. B.

I started my blog around about the time I applied for University. I was fully aware of other people making a living out of their blog, but - being a country gal and everything - I never really thought I'd ever really get 'there' ('there' turned out to be in front of my iMac 18 hours of the day #yolooo). I so badly wanted to do what I'm doing now, but I knew I'd need something to fall back on just incase it never worked out. So when my acceptance letters came through i decided to just go for it. For me, University gave me a chance to not work full time so that I could focus more on the thing I really wanted to do, which was blogging. It also gave me a bunch of free (but not actually free) money that meant I could afford food and rent whilst I was unemployed. I can say all of this now without sounded like a completely deluded human, purely because it (luckily) worked out okay for me. But lord, I would not recommend you try this at home, kids.

Now obviously I didn't go and choose a random subject that I had no interest in. I mean, my love for blogging comes from somewhere: my love for writing! I liked magazines, I'd watched The Devil Wears Prada around 400 times and I was pretty good at spelling, so journalism seemed like a decent enough subject to study. I hate that that was probably my exact thought process at the time.

But anyway, for me, journalism seemed like a smart enough option, because - in short - it was going to make me better at writing. And what does the majority of my blog consist of (aside from posey pictures of myself)? Writing. But let's be real here, just because I go and study journalism doesn't mean I'm going to be a world famous blogger, so I had to think about the 'real world' (whatever that is) and how the course was going to help me and my career. Thankfully, journalism happens everywhere, in every kind of industry. I could sit at home doing this, I could be working in a company HQ in London or I could be working in a tiny newsroom in my local village. Either way, if it all went to plan, Journalism was going to get me some form of job wherever I wanted to be.

But when it all comes down to it, does University actually help me with what I want to do with my life? Not really. And oh man does that sting. But these days I feel like so many creatives are making their own way in the industry whether it's through work experience, a crap ton of independent study or just sheer determination. Obviously the same can't be said for people that want to be something like a medical professional (since you'll probably need some form of training to be able to do open heart surgery on someone..maybe) but for those looking to venture into the more creative industry I think our generation is probably the first to be able to actually build a business from our own homes. Whether that business is a blog, a Youtube channel showcasing your skills or even an online shop. As long as you have an internet connection it seems like anyone can do pretty much anything these days. Who knows, maybe there even if an online course out there for open heart surgery!? Gulp.

Now obviously not everyone is going to agree with my thoughts, but that's exactly the beauty of the era we live in right now. I feel like everyone is always so hyped up about University and the importance of going that a lot of people my age (or younger..or older!) often wonder if they're making a mistake by not going themselves. I guess there's no real way of saying whether it's worth going or not, but I personally feel like  there are so many other ways to work your way up the career ladder without racking up five figures in debt. Then again, I'm that idiot that decided to go to Uni because of the money. So what do I know!?

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think University is worth going to?

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Public Desire Nikki Heels *

How to start working with brands and PRs

how to work with brands and prs as a blogger
how to work with brands and prs as a blogger

A little late on the upload today! It's taken a little time to adjust from being a student / blogger to just being a plain ol blogger for the next few months. What is all this free time I have!? is this what it feels like to have more than three hours sleep a night? It's like a whole new world to me.

Anyway, as you can tell by the title, today I'm going to be doing my Tip Tuesdays post on how to work with brands and PR companies as a blogger. As always, it's a lengthy one (I haven't even written it yet, but we all know what I'm like) so grab a cuppa and brace yourselves for some serious word vomit: internet edition.

So this week's #fblchat was all about working with brands, and it dawned on me that there might actually be a bit of a knack to actually getting yourself out there and collaborating with different companies. Obviously it goes without saying (but hey, I'm gonna say it anyway) that blogging isn't all about freebies - but these days so many blogs are built on sponsorships and collaborations that I feel it's kind of imperative to at least talk about the right and wrong ways to do it.

Be the best you can be

In 2013 there were apparently around 153 million blogs online. I don't even want to think about what that number might be now. Can someone say competition? Gulp.

Anyway, think about all of those blogs, and then try and name all of the 'best' bloggers on the planet. Maybe not literally, but you catch my drift. What I'm trying to say here is that - out of all of those millions of bloggers - how many of them are really, really great? Probably not 153 million. So the first step to working with brands is making sure you up your blog game, whether you're just starting out or even if you've been doing it for years. Basically you want your blog to be the best it can be before you go reaching out to brands and PRs.

INTRODUCE YOURSELF

Okay, so just take a minute and think about the amount of PR people there are in the world compared to how many bloggers there are. It must be pretty freakin difficult to scout out who's who in the internet world, so why not get rid of the middle man (whoever that guy is) and say hello first? All it takes is a quick email or shout out on social media and who knows, it could be the start of a beautiful relationship! 

Do your research

When contacting brands it's so so important to at least do a little research into who you're going to be emailing. More often than not, brands will employ a specific person(s) to do their marketing and blogger outreach. And guess what? Those people have names, and they'd like you to use them! In the past I've spoken to so many people in the industry that have admitted to ignoring (or even deleting) emails that are obviously just a copy and paste jobby, so if you want to stand out from the crowd be sure to do your research. If you're not already signed up to LinkedIn, make yourself an account and start connecting with some of your favourite brands, or even just do a quick search on Twitter and reach out to them that way. It can be time consuming, but it makes a world of difference to the person you're messaging!

Sell yourself

Now it's time to actually strike up a conversation between you and the brand. Now, by all means, get a little chatty (I say this because I'm awful at remaining professional in emails/life in general) but make sure you're still concise and to the point. Introduce yourself (and your blog), mention why you love the brand and - most importantly - clearly state how you'd like to work with the company. Again, think of those 153 million blogs. Just imagine how many emails these companies get each day just like your own! When your contact is reading your email they're going to want to read as little as possible, whilst knowing as much as possible about you and your blog. I always make sure to include my Media Kit (and sometimes my rate card!) in each collaboration email, so that the brand can quickly skim over my general numbers and analytics. Don't have a media kit? I've written an article on how to make a blogger media kit here. Smooth Steph, real smooth.

Be picky

Man, free things sound pretty great, don't they? Which they are. Of course they are! But not everything in the world is suited to everyone, so when you get offered something that's not exactly your style don't feel like you have to accept just because it's 'free'. In blogging, no product in exchange for blog-time (my internet version of air-time) is technically free, so try to make sure it's going to be worth your time to post about it. I tend to go by my own personal mantra that (if money wasn't an issue) if I wouldn't buy the product myself (even if I was rich!) then I won't accept it for free. I've had people ask me before if saying 'no' has ever had a negative impact on my chances of getting sponsored again by that company, but if I'm honest it's probably helped me more than anything! It shows brands that I'm serious about my blog, as opposed to just using it to get free stuff!

Build relationships

Don't you just get green with envy whenever you see bloggers going away on trips with brands? Or when they get amazing campaigns that blow up all over social media? It doesn't just happen randomly. In fact, the majority of these bloggers have built long-standing, secure relationships with the brands over time, so when big opportunities crop up, these bloggers are the first to know. Building relationships is something that just happens over time - there's no real way to force it to happen - but one great way of staying in touch is by doing just that - staying in touch. Sometimes I'll just say hello to an old contact if we haven't spoken in a while, or I'll send out little Christmas e-cards in December to let them know that I'm still thinking about them! It can be pretty difficult to stay on top of all of your email contacts, but if you make the effort you'll be surprised at the benefits it can reap!

Offer your services

Okay, so this maybe sounds a little more sexual than intended, but I couldn't think of another punchy sentence to use..anyway. When you think of collaborating with a brand, chances are you probably think about the things you can get yourself. Don't worry, we're all a little selfish at times, but it's important to remember that there should be something 'in it' for them, and not just yourself. It's so easy to forget that these 'free' things are paid for by some body, even if that payment is just a percentage of the RRP. If a brand gives you something (whether it be payment, a gift, an opportunity) be sure to thank them like you would anyone else giving you a gift. Blog about it, make a video about it, post about it on social media! If you have your own little 'niche' that makes you stand out, use that to get the word out about the brand. It pays to be nice, people.

Email structure

So with all that in mind..how on earth do you actually go about emailing someone!? Realistically, there's no set way. And since we're all bloggers here, feel free to stand out in your own way that suits you. Show your personality, pack your email full of information and - as always - keep it to the point. Here's a (very basic) email structure to hopefully get you along your way. Hope this post helped some of you!

 

- Introduce yourself (1-2 sentences)
- Talk About your love for the brand (1-2 sentences)
- Propose the idea of collaborating (1-2 sentences)
- Attach / link to your media kit 

 

Do you have any tips for working with brands?

 

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