In this new series, I’m thrilled to interview some of my Three Thought Bubbles, blog students. They have kindly agreed to tell their story, share their experience and inspire others to start writing a blog. If you want to learn something new, it helps to talk to someone who has been there before you. I’m really grateful to each of them for baring their souls; I’m very proud of them too!
First up is Steph Grey from Live & Breathe Pilates. Steph took one of my ‘Introduction to blogging classes‘. Working together, we looked at how she could reach and help her customers online. This is a continuation of what Steph does in person with her clients. We tackled her nervousness about ‘putting herself out there‘ and I gave her fresh tips on writing for an online audience. Steph impressed me with her speed in getting launched. As she says herself you need to ‘Just do it’! This is my no.1 mantra too. Let’s hear what she has to say;
What made you want to start writing a blog? Tell us about where your skills and passions collide!
I’m really passionate about what I do and I wanted to spread the word about how Pilates and movement can help people in their day to day lives – to improve their posture, feel better, get stronger, recover from injury and in many cases get them out of pain. Making people aware that there is a way to take control of their own bodies and be an active participant in staying fit and healthy is a great motivator and the feedback we get is amazing. Having clients telling you that they are pain free for the first time in years, have no longer to take daily painkillers, that they can now touch their toes or feel they have their bodies back post pregnancy is fantastic. And I just want other people to feel and see the benefits too. I’m one of those annoying people who love their jobs because there’s a real satisfaction for me in helping people. That and being told by our website designer and digital marketing lady that I had to 🙂
Who do you want to inspire to think, feel, or act differently?
Everyone! Pilates can be beneficial for so many people – our two oldest clients are in their late 70s, and if I’m as strong and flexible as they are when I’m their age I’ll be very happy. Our youngest clients came in yesterday with her Mum, she’s just 12 ½ weeks old and her Mum is getting back to Pilates after her pregnancy. Baby is working on her roll overs. Pilates can be tailored to suit the individual body – and should be – so it can be appropriate for all. I really believe Pilates (done correctly) can help many people – so I’d like to get as much knowledge out there about the benefits as I possibly can. For example, if one of our over 55s clients learns how important balance is as you age and can then explain that to their friends and family, then that can maybe have an impact on reducing falls and fractures in their circle. Most new mums want to get back to having a flat tummy as fast as possible post delivery – and decide to start doing sit ups – not the best thing for their bodies immediately after having a baby. Educating people about their bodies and the “why” is as important to me as teaching the exercises. It empowers people.
What reservations did you have before you started blogging?
Loads. I’m not a writer – I’m a talker. I even talk to myself all the time. My husband will tell you I never shut up. So sitting down and seeing the blank screen in front of me, with a flashing cursor expecting input was very daunting. I didn’t think anyone would really be interested in anything I had to say – or that I’d say the wrong thing and make a tit of myself. All the usual fears of failure that we Irish are so scared of.
How did you talk yourself out of these and press the publish button?
I decided I needed help first. I had no idea where to start so when I saw Aisling’s blogging workshop online I decided to start there – in the hope it would enable me to put some sort of structure around what I wanted to do.
During our blogging session, Aisling made a very good point to me – I stand up in front of groups and talk about Pilates and anatomy every day with no bother at all. My clients (as well as my husband) will tell you I never stop talking. So she suggested I think about it more as a face to face conversation and I have found that really helpful. And I’ve accepted I’m not going to be perfect – but everything has a learning curve. I think it’s good to scare the hell out of yourself regularly and do things you’re unfamiliar with. It keeps life interesting.
It’s early days yet but what are your initial reactions to ‘putting yourself out into the world’?!
I’m starting to get more comfortable with it and to be more engaged in the online world – blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. We’re all in the same boat and have to start somewhere I suppose – and people are genuinely really nice and friends and family and our wonderful clients have been very helpful and supportive. I’ve also met some great people online too. So the plan is to keep at it, keep plugging away and I’m hoping the more I do it the easier it will become.
What sort of feedback have you had from customers or readers? How is your blog helping your business?
Many of our client’s have been with us long term – so I know they get the benefits of Pilates and also like our classes and studio. We get a lot of new clients into the studio from word of mouth – so it’s good to be getting the word out online too. We’ve lots of testimonials on our website from our clients – which I’m very proud of and we have had more likes on FB and follows on Twitter. I’ve been told blogging helps with your google rankings too. We’ve also recently updated our website and put in an online booking system – so all this has helped us to stay on page 1 of the google searches. Not bad when you’re a small business and handling all your own marketing etc inhouse – as opposed to other studios out there with massive marketing budgets. We have no PR machine behind us or celebrity to rely on – it’s just me, my hubby and our fab web designer Clare. And of course, the consistent quality of the studio and the classes we offer all help too.
I’ve learnt a lot about running a business over the past 2 years – though my background in business has really helped too. I worked in IT for many years as a sales executive, handling global accounts from initial contact all the way through tender writing to project management of rollouts for successful bids. The skillsets I picked up along the way are useful in my new role as a studio owner. Many people have commented that’s an incredible (even stupid) jump to make – from a well paid IT job to a penniless Pilates instructor – but it’s all very similar really – you’re still dealing with people and people buy from people. The scariest thing was leaving a full time well paid job for self employment – earning a fraction of my previous wage in the middle of the worst recession in years. Working for myself and being responsible for my own destiny is scary as hell but it’s the best thing I have ever done. I’d highly recommend it.
What were the key takeaways from your Three Thought Bubbles class?
As I said earlier, keeping in mind that your blog should be like having a conversation really helped me to get the words out. Also having a structure around how to get started and the general demystification of how it all works. That and actually getting started writing!
Do you have a structured way of writing or planning your content? Or what’s working for you now?
I’m still a bit of a nerd so I use online tools like Evernote to take notes of ideas as I’m out and about. I follow lots of Pilates and anatomy sites and blogs using Feedly. And I listen to clients – what they ask in class, niggles or injures they feel have improved after coming to Pilates for a while – and also reading other non Pilates based blogs and websites for ideas.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering starting a blog?
Just do it. You’ll make mistakes, but the more you do it the better you’ll get. Same as starting Pilates I suppose.
What does a ‘successful’ blog mean to you?
Interaction is key really – the more interesting your content the better. But it doesn’t always have to be about the specific business you’re in. I wrote a blog about new year’s resolutions earlier this year. And lack of motivation about keeping them as we end up just feeling deprived. Not Pilates specific at all – but hopefully helpful to clients in a different way.
Thanks for talking with us here Steph. It’s been fascinating helping you and seeing how your ‘job’ and way of life are so naturally entwined. I wish you all the best with your business and will be keenly following your blog.
Connect with Steph online:
Website and Blog
Steph’s website designer is Claire Regan, from Fierce Clever.