What started as a hobby blog soon became a hit with parents who warmed to Sarah Turner’s candid, often humorous tales of motherhood. She now has over 500k Facebook fans and two books out. Annie Ridout interviews The Unmumsy Mum…
(This interview took place prior to the publication of Sarah’s first book. She’s since published another and become even more of a social media/blogging QUEEN)
You live in Devon with your husband and two sons, what are your surroundings like?
We live in Exeter, which offers city living surrounded by beautiful countryside and beaches. Our house is somewhat of a project (by ‘project’ I mean we currently don’t have a working sink, or curtains, or any kind of garden!) but I absolutely love where we live. I went to University here in Exeter and it has felt like home ever since.
Is this a good base from which to run your hugely successful ‘mummy blog’ The Unmumsy Mum?
Yes and no. In many ways, it makes no odds where you live as a blogger – in fact the beauty of writing for a living is that you can upload and share from any base with a laptop! The downside is that I sometimes feel quite far removed from professional events and opportunities that are almost exclusively London-based. It’s only a couple of hours on the train but tickets can be costly and I do find myself saying, ‘It’s just that bit too far…’ quite a lot.
Talking of ‘mummy blogs’ – what do you make of this label?
Hmmmm…! That’s an interesting one. I have never really self-identified as a ‘mummy blogger’ but I am a mummy who blogs, so if the shoe fits! (In all seriousness, I’m fine with it, I’m actually proud to be part of a pretty awesome parent blogging community).
What were you doing before you started the blog?
I was working as an Alumni Relations Officer at the University of Exeter (I actually only left that role in June 2015 – before that I was blogging purely as an occasional evening/weekend pastime).
How old were your boys when you started writing about your experience of motherhood?
Henry (now almost four) was around eighteen-months old when I wrote my first post. Jude (now sixteen months) was yet to be born (or indeed, conceived!) at that point, so the blog started as a mum-of-one account of parenthood.
I am often in bed by 9pm. I’d be more rock and roll if only I wasn’t so bloody knackered
When did it start to take off, and why do you think people warmed to you and your stories?
The pivotal moment in the blog adventure for me was probably setting up the Facebook page. I also think Jude’s arrival in the world injected a new lease of life into what I was writing, as I was suddenly reminded of the newborn stage (and had time to start furiously jotting blog ideas down during the many night feeds). I always said my blog would be ‘nothing if not honest’ and time and again the feedback I receive indicates that mums find said honesty refreshing.
You have a massive following on Facebook, for other bloggers out there – do you have any tips for gaining ‘likes’ and followers?
Don’t get caught up with the numbers! I know that’s easy for me to say (now I have a strong following) but following tips and tricks for gaining more likes and followers runs the risk of pissing off the genuine followers you already have. (I, for one, unfollow people who constantly tweet/share/snap promotions and competitions etc with the sole aim of winning themselves some more fans). I would hate for somebody to ‘like’ my page because they’re hoping to win a change mat. I want them to like it because they, you know, genuinely like it. If you can win over a small audience in a big way (i.e. they are engaged with their likes and comments) your numbers will naturally grow – I was absolutely chuffed to reach 10,000 followers. I can’t really even process how or why that escalated to over 300,000.
Why has Facebook been the best social channel for your blog? (you’ve talked about initially thinking Twitter was more suited to writers)
The amazing thing about the Facebook page is that it has become a bit of a community. I’m really proud of that. It would be naïve of me to think that all my followers are religiously reading my blog posts – they’re not! Some of the best content comes from the posts by others to my page and the comments from others on the things I’ve posted, which encourages people to keep coming back. In many ways I personally prefer Twitter, but Facebook (and increasingly Instagram) is the lifeblood of what I’m doing at the moment.
The Unmumsy Mum book will be out on Feb 11th (congratulations!), how did the book deal come about?
Thank you! I was approached back in Spring 2015 by both a literary agent and a publisher (separately, but at the same time) – who had seen a blog post of mine shared on Facebook. I was officially offered a deal soon after.
Have you managed to monetise the blog in other ways, or did you choose to keep it as more of a hobby/outlet?
I decided against hosting any adverts or sponsored posts on my blog and social media pages, which means I don’t make any money that way. But I do get offered some pretty cool free stuff which saves me a few pennies, so I’m happy with that.
Can you talk us through an average ‘day in the life’ for you and your family?
Oh god, no day is average here! On days when I am writing (and my husband, James, is at work) we are all up at the crack of dawn trying to get one child to preschool and the other to the childminder. It’s chaos. On days when I look after the boys I have just one rule and that is to get out of the house and go ANYWHERE. I’ve realised that whole days spent indoors, just me and them, are usually the days when I end up wanting to claw my eyes out. We usually have a fantastic time if we brave a change of scene. I’m a big fan of fresh air (and a hater of indoor crafts and baking) so it makes sense for us to get out. Generally, in the evenings, our house is messy, noisy and filled with laughter. I am often in bed by 9pm. I’d be more rock and roll if only I wasn’t so bloody knackered.
Successful blogger, social media queen, soon-to-be published author: what else is lined up for you and The Unmumsy Mum?
I really don’t know. I have been doing a spot of freelance writing (including an online article for The Telegraph and a column for my local city magazine, Exeter Life) so I’d quite like to extend on that. There are also talks of The Unmumsy Mum book being published outside of the UK, so I have a feeling the book will keep me busy for a little while longer…
Do you have any advice for other mums looking to carve a career out of motherhood?
That’s a really difficult one, particularly as I never expected my role as ‘mum’ to prompt a change of career direction – the blog was only ever meant to be a hobby! I should probably say something helpful about looking for a gap in the market and planning your success strategy accordingly, but I guess the only true advice I have is to do what you feel most comfortable doing. And don’t say ‘yes’ to professional proposals, however great they may seem, unless it feels right and is a good fit with what you enjoy doing. I have been offered some pretty extraordinary opportunities that I have turned down for that very reason. People respect sincerity, I think.
Any other comments….?
Thank you for having me. (Oh and if you fancy a chuckle, you can download a FREE eBook with hilarious stories from the frontline of parenting and a sneaky peek of the first chapter of my book.)