“Working as a journalist left me craving a creative space”
Charlotte: Tell me a bit about what you do for a living
Lareese: I’m a part-time blogger, freelance writer and social media manager.
What drew you to blogging?
When I started blogging I was working as an Editor for a female lifestyle site in London. I have always loved writing and telling stories – even when I was at primary school I would do ‘extra homework’ just so I could write poetry and short stories at home, ha! #ProudGeek. Working as a journalist and having to write about topics I wasn’t necessarily all that invested in left me craving a creative space to let my own voice run wild. And so my blog was born!
What was the biggest learning curve since starting the blog?
I think there can be some really savage assumptions about bloggers sometimes, most of which are completely unfounded.
You don’t launch a blog and then sit back and watch the collaborations roll in whilst you tuck into your millennial af avo on toast. You have to work tirelessly to create content that resonates with your audience and with the greater narrative that exists outside of Instagram.
No one would be able to sustain a blog or social media presence if they didn’t live and breathe whatever it is they are expressing on those platforms. So I’d say my biggest learning curve since starting the blog is that it’s hard work. Of course it’s fun and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible brands this year but it’s not down to luck, it’s down to consistency and sheer determination.
The other thing I would say to anyone who’s debating whether to start a blog is, do it! So what if there’s already so many talented content creators out there, there’s only one of you and your voice is as powerful as the next.
We have to talk about your Instagram – your feed is so carefully curated! Right now you’ve got a lot of autumn-themed photos, but if we scroll back to spring you have lots of whites, pinks and some pale blues. How much work goes into getting your feed up to the Lareese standard?
That’s really interesting that you say it looks curated! I always admire anyone who can stick to a theme because it looks so artistic and fluid whereas I feel my feed is a bit clunky at times but I guess that’s because I let my words and my stories dictate what I post. My style or policy on Instagram has always been caption first! I love photography and creating the image is equally as enjoyable for me as the writing process but I convey my personality best with words, not hair flicks and outfits.
The thing I love most about social media and the blogging industry is the sense of community and conversation. I love people and I talk to absolutely anyone for longer than I need to (I get that from my nan) and I like to think I use my blog and my social platforms as an extension of the ‘me’ in my real life.
I don’t have a disconnect between my Instagram me and the offline me (I’ve just been sick in my mouth) and that’s a conscious choice. I understand and respect why some people need that degree of separation but it’s not something I’ve ever felt I needed.
The fashion and the outfits are peripheral, they’re surface level stuff, you know? That said, I’m not denying the extensive planning and stamina that goes into creating the visual content. Wherever I am I take photos so I know I’ve got an archive of visuals to use on social. I can take 400 shots of the same flat lay and only feel completely happy with the composition of 7 of them.
A lot of people don’t talk about the cost involved in creating quality content, either. The equipment, the editing apps and software, the props for flat lays… it’s all at a cost to the content creator and, certainly when you’re starting out, you’re operating at a loss. This is where that little cringe-worthy word, ‘passion’ comes back into it! You do it out of love for the job.
I’m very drawn to warm autumnal colours – I always lose my head in the summer because I don’t feel like I belong there. I’m a child of winter and I think my feed always comes into its own in the colder months, organically.
I’m a fan of IG Stories too! This is where I let everyone have a little insight into the crazy, random, ‘always up to something’ girl behind the captions. I guess my feed is the opposite of a picture paints a thousand words in that sense – I feel like my words and streams of consciousness do all the painting for me!
What apps can’t you live without for blogging and Instagram?
I’m not one for pedantic over-editing at all, I still want the real to be very tangible in my images. I tend to just use VSCO and I usually flip between A4 and A6. Sometimes I dial up the warmth a little bit to give my images a more autumnal aesthetic. A lot of fellow friends and bloggers use Lightroom but I find the presets too fiddly. VSCO has always been my failsafe number one baby girl.
I also use UNUM. It’s great for planning ahead with your content and visualising how your images will work next to each other. The important thing to remember of course is that many people won’t be looking at your feed in its entirety but merely one photo posted in isolation but I still think it’s nice to play around.
“There’s only one of you and your voice is as powerful as the next”
The work that goes into your photography, styling and writing is all very creative. What helps you to create and where do you get inspiration from?
Ah! Everywhere and anywhere. Dogs, people, behaviour… my mind and ears are always listening for inspiration and some of my best ideas come from conversations I’ve overheard or everyday experiences and misfortune. You’ll be amazed at the amount of humour that can come out of seemingly boring everyday situations but that’s just it – I live for observational humour and again, people! People and their funny ways.
I have a list of notes on my phone dedicated to caption ideas, existential observations and phrases so quite often I’ll post a totally unrelated photo with a lengthy story-telling caption. I’m also conscious of sharing the good, the bad and the ugly and I hope the one thing I give my audience, it’s reality. I’m not one for pretence – if things are shit things are shit and I’m gonna write about it
Do you think of your blog as a business?
Yes and no. On the one hand of course I do because I have started to make some money from it which is an amazing achievement and I guess that, by definition, makes it a business but I almost feel like if I stop treating it as my own wee happiness project – then that could affect how attached I am to my content. Business sounds a bit too formal and serious for me – I mean, I talk about vaginas, fat rolls and mosquito bites on my arse. Collaborate with me Chanel will ya?
On a more serious note, there’s a lot of behind the scenes homework that goes into working on brand collaborations, sponsored content and the business side of things.
Sometimes you’re given a brief that you really have to knead and rework until it’s at a place that feels quintessentially you and that takes skill – you have to be pliable but not at the cost of your own authenticity – that’s always worth more than a soulless ad campaign in my eyes.
“There’s beauty in the ordinary and there’s beauty in pain and vulnerability”
As someone with a platform, what are the issues that you like to talk to your audience about?
I think I’ve already touched on this but I like to talk to my audience about everyday things – there’s beauty in the ordinary and there’s beauty in pain and in vulnerability.
Over the past year, I’ve experienced some really challenging life events and for someone who is full of beans most of the time, I’ve had to confront the reality that perhaps, maybe I can’t physically be ok all the time, even if I want to be. That has been very intimidating for me because it was unfamiliar territory; I had to give myself that permission to be vulnerable.
My content is very introspective and I hope that by disclosing so much of myself in that online space – the good with the bad in equal measure – I’m opening up an opportunity for my audience to do the same and to see that the online and the offline worlds don’t have to be so far apart. I feel a huge amount of responsibility towards my audience and I respect their voice.
I’d probably describe myself as a life blogger in loose terms – potentially that makes me sound like a massive A-hole haha! BUT what I mean by that is that I don’t see myself as a fashion, beauty of lifestyle blogger per se. I don’t think I qualify as any of those. I think I’m more along the lines of: a girl that just writes about life and hopes for the best, innit. Articulate as ever!
Tell me about Brighton Up My Day.
I was made redundant in 2017 and got into a head space where I was questioning my worth and my value but however vulnerable I felt in those few months I always knew it was temporary.
There are people going through so much and I just felt that I could and should be doing more to remind people that kindness hasn’t forgotten them and that they are worthy of being happy.
How did you come up with the idea for it?
When I was off work, I wanted to focus my time on doing something meaningful, to practise kindness every day and to use social media in a positive way. The best thing about it is, being kind is all too easy!
The premise of Brighton Up My Day is paying it forward. I ask people on my social media to nominate anyone who is going through a hard time. They provide the person’s name, the reasons for their nomination (all strictly confidential) and then I have the hard task of picking just one person from the list of nominations to receive the monthly Brighton Up My Day parcel, to the value of between £30-50.
Once I have picked someone, I curate the parcel and tailor it to the person wherever possible. I then send the parcel out anonymously with the Brighton Up My Day information on it so they can look up what it’s all about and hopefully pass on the kindness to someone else who needs it someday.
The nominator has the option to include their name on the card in the parcel or they can opt to do it anonymously if they would prefer.
“I wanted to practise kindness every day and to use social media in a positive way”
I also use social media to source people in need myself too, so it’s a 360 degree process where social media is concerned.
It started off as a little pipedream really but I’ve been doing it for a whole year now! How often do we receive something completely out the blue in the post from a stranger? That’s always going to make someone smile.
What are your big goals for 2019?
Next year is the year I really want to… sit and write that bloody book I’ve been going on about gulp Now I’ve said it, I’m very aware I have to do it. I’m competitive with myself like that.
I’ve always wanted to write a book and having read Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love this year, I’m feeling very inspired to get off my arse (or rather sit on it for years on end tied to the laptop) and finally do it.
If you’re perusing the shelves in Waterstones and you happen to stumble across a book called Vaginas, Fat Rolls and Ugly Crying To Abba then you know I’ve gone and done it.
Thank you so much Lareese for giving us the lowdown on your Instagram, blogging and Brighton life!
If you’re feeling super inspired by Lareese’s Instagram prowess and want to up your game for 2019 then check out my 5 day challenge Find Your Feed.