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60k & What I learned Along The Way

Celebrating 60k followers on Instagram. Bought myself some ridiculous balloons to celebrate!

Celebrating 60k followers on Instagram. Bought myself some ridiculous balloons to celebrate!

This week I reached 60,000 followers on Instagram. That is massive for me - I started my styling account on Instagram in 2016 and never dreamed I could get it to where it is now. To celebrate I bought myself some ridiculous balloons and decided to shout about it. People say numbers don’t matter and of course they don’t in real life but I am proud of what I’ve managed to achieve working full time in a “proper job” and running this little side hustle on evenings and weekends.

So whether you have ambitions for 100 followers or 100,000 followers, I thought I’d share some of my journey and some tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Inappropriate Balloons are a must for the gram! ;)

Inappropriate Balloons are a must for the gram! ;)

1. Hashtags - Are they important?

I would say yes, they still are important. Here was my first ever Instagram post - I used a total of 6 hashtags. I achieved 11 likes. Granted it’s not the greatest post ever produced but when you are just starting out, hashtags are the best way to get your page seen. And it still works even if you have lots of followers - one of my latest posts this week reached over 20,000 people from hashtags alone. This doesn’t convert to likes or followers but it means people are still finding my page and searching via hashtags.

My very first Instagram post for Northern Styling - 11 likes, 6 hashtags

My very first Instagram post for Northern Styling - 11 likes, 6 hashtags

You are allowed to use 30 hashtags per post on Instagram and I cannot stress enough how important it is to USE THEM ALL. Also make sure they are relevant to your post. Don’t use interior hashtags if you are posting a picture of the beach, for example. Have a look at people who have similar successful accounts to what you have or would like. See what hashtags they are using and use them too.

Another top tip would be to mix it up, constantly be on the search for new hashtags to make sure you don’t use the same ones for every post. This means you won’t just be seen by the same people but by more and more new people who have the potential to become followers if they like what they see.

Insights from a latest post and the reach from hashtags.

Insights from a latest post and the reach from hashtags.

2. Planning

I have always been an advocate of planning my grid for a number of reasons. Firstly, working full time during the week means I only have the weekends to create content. Once I have taken the photos, I load them into an app called Mosaico to place them in a grid like format which is linked to my Instagram account. This allows me to move and swap images depending on well they sit together.

Think about the images in terms of how they fill the frame. Some images are fit to burst in the square as they are close up, some have a bit of space as they were taken further away. Some have clean negative space to allow the image to breathe. Thinking about this will allow to balance out the images so visually the grid works together.

Using Mosaico for a consistent grid.

Using Mosaico for a consistent grid.

Other reason I love this app is because it allows you to save and store hashtags in categories so there’s no need to type 30 hashtags every time you post. They are all saved here, in categories relating to different topics and I mix them up whenever it is necessary.

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3. Finding Your Style

Your social media account should represent you and what you like. People invest in people so it always helps if there is a personality behind the account. Instagram is a visual platform which means pretty pictures are always welcome but over the years we have seen stories, behind the scenes, posting what matters and being honest rise in popularity. There is still very much a community on this little app so find your people and reach out to them.

The early days of my grid. It was a bit of mismatch of things but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up occasionally.

The early days of my grid. It was a bit of mismatch of things but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up occasionally.

Getting a bit more consistent with the grid, you can see the theme and style coming through here.

Getting a bit more consistent with the grid, you can see the theme and style coming through here.

This is what I would say is my favourite part of the grid at the moment. Colours are balanced and there’s a good mixture of images.

This is what I would say is my favourite part of the grid at the moment. Colours are balanced and there’s a good mixture of images.

4. Editing & The Magic Healing Tool

Disclaimer Alert - I am not a professional photographer. I take most images on my iPhone and my Olympus Pen camera. Although I have a basic knowledge for composition and a probably a “good eye” picked up along the way from practise and my day job, my skill lies mainly in editing.

The power of technology these days means you don’t need a fancy Mac and a load of expensive software to edit pictures for social media. You can simply download a couple of apps and voila! Instant editing software with a few go to tools that will help enhance your image.

Before & After Editing in VSCO.

Before & After Editing in VSCO.

The first app I use is VSCO. This is preset/editing tool which helps to create consistent images for your grid. There are hundreds of presets to choose from and I mainly stick to A5. This is my favourite because it gives me a bit of contrast (huge fan of contrast) and a mood which I can’t really explain - it just feels like me! I would suggest trying out this app, have fun with it. Try things you would never try and find the preset that speaks to you the most. Once you have found “the one”, you can edit every photo with it and create a unique style for yourself. VSCO also has useful tools like exposure, contrast, straighten. As you can see above, a wonky picture became straight by using the tools available on this app.

I have recorded a quick and dirty video which you can see here of how I edited this particular image.

Using the Healing tools on Photoshop. Ugly satellite dish - now you see, now you don’t.

Using the Healing tools on Photoshop. Ugly satellite dish - now you see, now you don’t.

Another favourite app of mine is the Photoshop Fix app. The healing tools have been my lifesaver over the years. Editing out little imperfections such as a wire or like the satellite dish that was ruining the shot above, I don’t know how it does it but it is magic! And is done all on your phone using your finger and a gentle touch - perfect for on the go editing.

5. Working with Brands

And finally, the last thing I want to talk about is working with brands. As your Instagram grows, it may be an ambition of yours to work with brands and style up some product. When first starting out I would always recommend collaborating on a gifting basis which is where the brand will gift you an item in exchange for you photographing and posting it on your grid. This could be a cushion or a candle, a dress or some food - just make sure it is relevant to your style and ethos. In the early days, it was all about learning and gaining experience. My first ever collaboration was a cushion that was very kindly gifted by Happy & Co.

Very first brand collaboration with Happy & Co.

Very first brand collaboration with Happy & Co.

I spent hours on this photo, trying the cushion in all different positions, bringing in props and trying to coax the cat to pose perfectly alongside it! The final image is pretty ropey but it gained me so much knowledge. How to communicate with brands, how to slot the #ad into my grid, how to sound genuine and not sales pitchy. Over the years I’ve done many gifting collaborations and the one piece of advice everyone always says is “only do it if you like the brand, like the item and feel like it represents you.” It is 100% true. Remember what I said about people invest in people? Well if you’re trying to preach about a loo roll holder when your account is all about travel, you are not only confusing your following, you are being untrue to your page. And people can spot non genuine posts a mile off.

Flower Lounge Collaboration

Flower Lounge Collaboration

As you get bigger and grow, it might be time to consider your worth for working with brands. Especially bigger brands. Shots like this Flower Lounge image above took a full day to set up and plan. This is precious time for me especially working full time. I know I have to allocate hours to this project, hours I could be spending relaxing or spending time with friends. Luckily I love doing it but it doesn’t mean my time is free. Knowing your worth is really important and don’t be afraid to agree a payment if you want. There is a lot of negativity around Influencers and Instagram but it is a highly valuable tool for brands. If there were advertising in a magazine they would pay a fortune for ad space. This is exactly the same on Instagram - it’s ad space and it shouldn’t be something to be mocked.

Tile Giant Flat lay Collaboration

Tile Giant Flat lay Collaboration

6. Over To You

If you have made it through to the end of this post then well done you! And thank you! Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, follow my Instagram, comment on my posts and likes the images. It really means a lot! And I wish you all the luck if you are trying to grow and find your niche in the Instagram community! Give me a hello on there and I will be sure to follow and support!

My most liked post ever - 17.6k likes, 129 comments, 337 shares & 4.5k saves.

My most liked post ever - 17.6k likes, 129 comments, 337 shares & 4.5k saves.

The Dining Room Transformation

A little insight into our dining room transformation...

The dining room has been a gradual process over a year and half, which although considering how impatient I normally am to have something finished, has worked out perfectly. I really feel like this room has evolved over time and will continue to evolve in the future as we grow. 

This was the space that sold the house to us, the open plan kitchen/dining space at the back of the building in which I immediately started imagining entertaining friends, having romantic meals and generally hanging out here. We live on a fairly busy road so this space is an escape and perfectly private. The romantic meals might be few and far between but the parties and fun are definitely not! 

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The first thing we did was get rid of the red - the previous owners had a hankering for all things red and pink. I, on the other hand, am obsessed with grey! The room and kitchen were in pretty much brand new condition so I just went with painting the chimney breast. This is something which may change over time but it was quick fix for me to paint quickly myself. It's Valspar "Bottlenose Dolphin" which I think we got inspiration from spotting a grey paint feature in an interiors mag. We spent the first 2 months in this space on camping chairs with a coffee table whilst we waited for the sofas to be delivered and for the tv connection to be installed in the living room. Very glam! 

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The Instagram favourite piece is the wall art above the fireplace which I bought whilst working as a Visual Merchandiser for BHS. It was such a bargain, we hadn't even found a house at this point but I couldn't resist it. The fairy lights were added for the housewarming as the OH isn't too keen on "girly things." At the time I was obsessed with an internet provider ad which showed a house party and Chaka Khan was playing, there were fairy lights everywhere, the house was filled with people and it just looked like the best party ever. That's what we tried to recreate and I maybe bias but it came pretty close! Once the lights were up, they never came down! 

Our table and bench set is from Next - I had a very clear vision from the start in terms of a dining table and this fit perfectly. We ordered the chairs from eBay which I was terrified of doing but it turned out to be the most seamless transaction I've ever done!  It became very apparent we were creating an industrial look without thinking too much about it, but the dark woods and the metal legs became a running theme.

The pendants are good old IKEA and we had to wait a while for an electrician to fit them but they were absolutely worth the wait.

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The OH sourced the bookshelf as we struggled for ages to find something which would fit in the alcove and with our interior vision. In the end we found it on Maison Du Monde. 

The next big purchase was the sideboard which is rarely seen in my Instagram posts, partly due to my struggling orange tree and partly due to it always being hidden from the camera as it's tucked behind a return wall. It's from made.com and is definitely a work in progress.

The final piece of the puzzle came from the infamous green velvet chair from made.com. After Pantone announced their colour of the year 2017 - Greenery, my day job meant I was surrounded by all things green and I wanted to inject some of this into our room. We waited the longest time I've ever waited for something - I think it took 5 months. But once it arrived, the whole area was dreamt up in a day. 

All artwork and photographs are a result of my love of trawling craft fairs and makers markets and finding pieces that resonate with us and our life. I also like to think of myself as an amateur photographer so there's also loads of pictures I've taken of Manchester and the North West dotted around. 

This space is still our favourite room in the house and we've managed to create exactly what we imagined when first viewing it all the way back in November 2015. It will no doubt see more changes as my day job dictates I can't stop faffing and I can't wait for more dancing on the chairs with cocktails in hand to easy 90's with all our friends.