Featured Blogger: Sally Akins
Sally Akins is a 40-something accomplished, successful & sassy blogger. Her lifestyle blog is updated several times a week with reviews covering beauty, travel, food & drink, and lots of gin. I caught up with Sally and asked her how she got here.
TL: How long have you been blogging and what we’re you doing before?
SA: My very first blog was online from around 2005 to 2008. I had an online store selling eco-friendly baby goods and ran a blog alongside it. It was all pretty basic though, now I think about it! SallyAkins.com has been online for 5 years this month, but it’s had a few different looks over the years.
Before all of that, I used to work for a software publisher in their sales department, although that didn’t involve blogging. used to work alongside the PR and Marketing guys, which I think has been helpful along the way.
TL: At what point were you confident enough to start reaching out to brands, or did they start to reach out to you?
SA: For the first two years, I wasn’t very confident at all about my blog. I did a few small pieces of work with brands, but it was nothing particularly consistent. Then in early 2015 I started joining a few blogger programs and applying for some small reviews and other campaigns. It’s basically taken off from there, and I’ve been lucky to work on some fantastic campaigns since then.
In the last few months I’ve also started approaching brands with opportunities to collaborate, rather than waiting for emails to come to me. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but the worst they can do is say no!
TL: How important is imagery in your blogging?
SA: I think it’s very important! I mainly blog about food and travel, and its hard to talk about either of those subjects without using images alongside your words. And brands definitely like to see good clear photos of their products in your blog posts.
It’s quite embarassing looking back at my early photos – they’re all so small and dark! I know that I’ve still got a lot of work to do on improving my photographs, but I think that’s one of the most fun aspects of blogging. There’s always something that you can learn about and improve on.
TL: You are very transparent in identifying paid for placements and affiliate links. Is this off-putting to brands?
SA: No,I don’t think it puts brands off from working with me. But then I guess I don’t know if brands are deciding not to contact me because of my stance on disclosure. Most brands I’ve spoken to have been very happy for me to use full disclosure in my post. There have been a couple who have asked me not to disclose, but I always refuse those posts straight away.
I think it’s absolutely vital to be open and honest with my readers. So I always try to make it very clear if I’ve been paid for a post, or if a brand has sent me items for review. And I try to do that as early as possible in the post. Personally, I don’t like it when you have to read right to the bottom of a long post to find out that the blogger has been paid for it.
TL: What would you say are the top three things brands look for in a blogger?
SA: That’s a good question! First of all, I would say engagement – it’s great having thousands of followers, but only if they are interested and engaged in your content. Many brands would prefer to work with a smaller blogger who gets lots of comments and likes on each post, rather than someone who has 10,000 Instagram followers but only gets a handful of likes.
Next, I think good quality writing is really important. It takes time to find your own voice, but you can always improve your writing – just keep practicing. When I first started out, I don’t think my writing really sounded like ‘me’, but over time that has improved. And don’t forget to use spell checkers and Grammarly if you feel you need them.
And finally, I think brands definitely look for a professional attitude. So make sure you keep communication flowing, meet any agreed deadlines, and just generally be a professional. You do hear some horror stories about bloggers who take samples and don’t post the review, or just stop replying to emails. It’s the quickest way to get yourself on a black-list – PRs definitely talk to each other!
TL: Many people start a blog with great intentions only to have them fizzle out. What tips would you offer to start-up or even lapsed bloggers?
SA: Everyone goes through burn out at some point. It’s really normal, but the thing is to accept that it’s happening and then look to move through it. So maybe give yourself some time off from active blogging, and do other tasks that can support your blog. Try and find some new blogs to read, or focus on your Pinterest account for a couple of weeks. You’ll probably find that the love of blogging will soon come back.
And if you’re just starting out, then I would say that the most important thing is to get involved with the blogger community. I didn’t really do this for the first couple of years, and it makes a huge difference. You’ll get loads of support, there is bound to be someone who knows the answer to your question or knows where to find it. I’ve always found the UK Bloggers Official group on Facebook to be incredibly helpful (https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKBloggersUnited/) and there are lots of other groups that you can get involved with too.
TL: What are your plans for SallyAkins.com?
SA: Oooh, I’ve got so many plans – how long have you got? I’m covering more food and travel on the blog these days, and that’s looking likely to continue in 2018. I’m planning to have more hotel and restaurant reviews on the blog next year, which is exciting. And I’ve recently worked on an amazing campaign for Scotrail (https://www.scotrail.co.uk/blog/discover-spirit-scotland) so I’m hoping to work on more campaigns like that in the future.
TL: Tell us one thing not many people know about you.
SA: That’s hard because I quite often post ‘Things you didn’t know about me’ lists on the blog! OK…most people don’t know that I have been on the stage at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton. I was in the choir for ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ way back in 1985. There was even a photo of me in the Express and Star!
TL: Hit me up with all your links!
SA: You can find me at: