Interview With A Full Time Blogger
Celeb in the house! Award-winning allergies & food blogger, Nathalie, of The Intolerant Gourmand, who’s a regular in the national media visited me in the studio with her two children, Chloe (a very bendy gymnast type) and Callum (whose lifelong allergies inspire Nathalie’s work).
They had bags of personality and I’m excited to show you the gallery because you’ve just GOT to see what these kids got up to!
I’m not sure who was more knackered after the shoot! Just goes to show that a studio session can be just as natural, relaxed and fun as an outdoor shoot!
I have turned to Nathalie myself in the past and she’s currently writing a hotly-anticipated book which I’m sure will become a bible for allergy sufferers across the globe.
Nathalie is ever an inspiration to me personally as a fellow mumpreneur who has never wavered in her passion for helping others who have experienced the trauma of parenting a child with life-threatening allergies.
Scroll down to see Nathalie’s shoot with Chloe and Callum, who’ve grown a lot since I last saw them when I photographed Nathalie with their dad, Jon, at their wedding! Time flies! But before you do, be sure to check out this amazing insight into the life of a full-time blogger…
How would you describe what you do?
For the past few years, I’ve been working freelance as an Allergy Advocate, food writer, recipe creator, food photographer, presenter and blogger, running the Intolerant Gourmand website. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the leading ‘free from’ food manufacturers in the UK, creating recipes with their products at the heart. I also present at various conferences alongside Paed Consultants, and also events such as the Allergy Show, BBC Good Food Show and Speciality Fine Food Fair. Some of my work also sees me raising awareness of allergies and how they’re perceived, filming with the media (sometimes with my son too) and being interviewed on the radio. Allergies and raising positive awareness is always at the heart of everything I do. It’s certainly very varied!
Reflecting back on your career journey so far, how does it make you feel?
I’m immensely proud of where Intolerant Gourmand has got to since I launched it 4 years ago. It was set up following my son Callum being diagnosed with multiple severe allergies and having to find a whole new way of life. The way I cooked and looked after him had to change massively to keep him safe, and it was a very steep learning curve (think a line going straight up as opposed to a curve). I started out in HR and training, before becoming a qualified recruitment consultant. Then I moved into the NHS, working at a corporate level. It was at this point that Intolerant Gourmand was set up, and since then we’ve been able to raise significant awareness of allergies, positively changing the perception of allergies, work with some truly incredible clients and even become award-winning and multi-award nominated! It’s the dream job, and I’ve been able to create it through a need to keep my son alive and help those that need the support most.
What major challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Setting up on your own is very scary, especially when you don’t have the safety net of a guaranteed amount of money coming in each month. Before I went freelance, I set up Intolerant Gourmand and continued to work for 6 months so I could build up enough of a pot to take the pressure off me a bit when I did go freelance. I still work to that rule now, and always try to work with 6 months’ salary in the bank so I don’t need to worry if a big bill comes in, or something unexpected happens (camera equipment fails, computer breaks, website needs updating).
How did/do you get your blog noticed?
Social media becomes your best friend! Seriously, share share and share some more to groups that are in the same niche. Join in with linkies that are in your niche. Follow hashtags on Twitter that are relevant to what you do. Go to events and meet as many people as you can! Write about things you are passionate about because that passion will shine through in your work, and keep you true to you. If you try to do something that isn’t you, or that you’re not passionate about, then it will never work as well as it could do!
My topic is quite niche, but it’s also something being talked about all the time and is important to many, so it is being picked up more and more.
It’s also important to be consistent in your writing and commit to a certain number of times a week to publish new content – I aim for at least 1 article or recipe a week. This hasn’t happened so much the past few weeks though because it’s been so busy with a number of projects but I’m now getting a bit of time to catch up with everything.
SEO is also crucial! It’s what helps search engines find you, and has your back for those silly busy periods when you haven’t got time to publish new content! Do your homework when it comes to keywords, and make sure you include them in your article and metadata. Label images correctly as well. All of this will help you to be ‘seen’ on Google and for your site to be considered as a trusted source of information. It will also help your DA, another measure of how well your site is perceived. This can also be improved if you get backlinks from much higher ranking sites than yours. If you are quoted in a newspaper or have a TV appearance, get them to link back to your site. It all helps!
What is it like involving your family in your work?
My blog is based on my little boy, Callum, and actually it’s lovely when he can come along and work with me. Last year, for the first time, he came and cooked live with me for clients at The Allergy Show in London, and it was wonderful to see how confident he was and how much fun he was having.
Callum also does quite a bit of TV work with me, and as a result, has met a number of famous people. I love that through my work, it’s given him the chance to have these opportunities, and also to learn new skills. We filmed with the BBC last week, and he was being taught how the cameras worked and was trusted to hold the large camera and do a mini walk around. His face lit up when he was told he could do it, and he was so proud, as was I of him!
What does your daily routine typically look like?
I start the day at 6am with my miracle morning routine (20 minutes of exercise, 10 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of sorting emails and prepping for the day) then have a shower and get ready for the day before waking the children up for school.
Breakfast, packed lunch making, feeding the cat and then the school run at 8.25am.
Often I then go on to a local café and work there until lunchtime, just for a change of scenery. If I’m recipe developing, I’ll pop to the local supermarket to grab ingredients before heading home to the kitchen to make what I’ve been writing/developing.
I’ll usually have a light lunch around 1pm before writing an article, or report writing for a client. But if I’m recipe developing and it’s worked as I wanted, I’ll set up an area to take photos, style the food and props and then take the photos. If I’m doing this, I try to do more than 1 recipe at a time to save having to set all the photography items up again.
My lovely husband will more often than not pick the children up from school so I can work up until 4pm when they get home.
I then stop for a coffee and catch up with my husband and the children and find out how their days have been. If it’s a gymnastics day, the children will change while I make them packed dinners, and then pack up my laptop and any notes I need. We then drive for just under an hour ready for gymnastics at 6pm. They train for 2 hours, and I’ll sit with a coffee and my laptop while they train, before driving home and clocking off for the day!
As a freelancer, everything stops with you, so it’s important you stay on top of everything as much as possible otherwise it can feel like things are spiralling out of control.
What are the top 3 things you do which you feel most contribute to your success?
Staying true to me, I never try to be something I’m not! I’m still the same person I’ve always been!
Because we live with multiple allergies, it’s not something I’ve been taught, people trust you more, and know that because you’ve lived through what they are, you are talking with experience, which counts for a lot!
I have a supportive family who all help me to work the way I do. Some days are easier than others. On the days when a big news story hits, I can be doing radio and TV interviews from 6am to midnight, with only tiny breaks in between. It can go crazy, but most of the time I can be there for the children in the evenings, and for holidays, and I’m so grateful for that!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to earn a living from blogging?
Don’t expect to make money straight away. It takes time to build up an engaged audience who will trust what you have to say and be interested in what you do. An engaged and authentic audience is crucial to successfully transitioning to earning a living from blogging. PRs and potential clients will trust what you do much more, and know that you will produce good content that they will want to be involved with.
Create quality content that engages with your audience, and above all, find your niche. If you do a bit of everything, you’ll confuse your audience. Be an authority figure on a particular topic, like I am with allergies and become the ‘go to’ for advice, information, new finds and so on!
What message would you like to give to any allergy sufferers reading this post?
It can feel so immensely hard in the beginning. It’s like a dark tunnel and you don’t know what to do to reach the light at the other end. I promise it does get better, and things do get easier! I remember the endless nights of worry (or even panic in the early days) the continuous trips to the GPs and hospital to try and get Callum better. The emergency admissions where we really didn’t know if he would be coming home with us ever again. They were the hardest of times, and it breaks my heart when I hear of other families in similar situations, and why I now do everything I can to make it better for anyone in the same situation as we were, and still are!
My motto of ‘allergies are life changing but shouldn’t be life defining’ is what we live by, and through positive education of allergies and doing all I can to change the way they are perceived, slowly but surely we’re helping others do the same!
My website has loads of information on how to get an initial diagnosis, getting the correct support, and how to successfully transition through a diagnosis to live positively and successfully with allergies. There are also 100’s of recipes that cover new ideas, old classics made free from and they’ve all gone through rigorous taste tests to make sure they still taste and look as good as ‘normal’ food!
What can we expect to see from you next?
There’s a few exciting things in the pipeline that I can’t talk about just yet, but when I can, I’ll be sharing! Callum and I will also be on Rip Off Britain in May, talking about food labelling and the importance of correct and accurate labelling for people eating out! I’m also creating 2 new websites to complement the work I already do, and finally taking my final exams to be NLP qualified to join my coaching qualifications – this supports the work I do with parents and children!
Where can we find you online?
So my website is www.intolerantgourmand.com and I can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheIntolerantGourmand on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IntolerantG and also on Instagram at www.instagram.com/intolerantgourmand
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