Mentor Masterclass: Michelle Lee, Fashion Blogger
Ahead of speaking at our upcoming Style Your Future event in Bristol, we caught up with working mum and fashion blog entrepreneur Michelle Lee about MyFashionable40s, and how getting her fashion mojo back has also opened a whole new career path for her.
What made you decide to start a fashion blog?
I’ve always loved clothes, shoes and bags. When I left school I worked in an amazing little boutique in Bath called Kimberly and this is where my passion for fashion really kicked in. Like a lot of mums, I did feel that I lost my fashion mojo after I had my daughter and it took me quite a while to come around from what I call my ‘mum fog’. I started to follow a few blogs and when I came across a few like-minded 40-somethings sharing their high street finds it re-ignited that passion. I wasn’t confident enough to blog straight away but I started uploading an outfit selfie everyday to an outfit sharing website called Avenue 57. The ladies of A57 would comment on each other’s outfits and give honest feedback when it was asked for. It was a great place for inspiration and I loved the community spirit. It really helped me regain my confidence.
How did you first get into blogging?
Luckily for me I was encouraged by one of my favourite bloggers called @susiesoso to start a blog of my own. Sue had been very much in the background on A57, lurking and leaving a comment for me now and again. I had pretty much worked out that Sue was leaving the comments and I was thrilled to bits as she was my blogging idol! One day she popped up and asked me when was going to start a blog myself. Her endorsement was the boost that I needed, so I started MyFashionable40s in August 2013.
Do you need any special skills to set up a blog?
If I can start up a blog anyone can do it. I’m not in the least bit techy but I managed to set up one using a Blogger template. I think the key qualification is to be passionate about your subject. It helps to enjoy writing that all-important content.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of building your blog?
Hitting ‘publish’ on my first post was hard – I was terrified! But it was a case of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. It was such a rollercoaster of emotions. I was lucky because I already had a platform from Avenue 57 and all the ladies that followed me there were so supportive, which helped me so much. To be honest, I still find it quite uncomfortable having my picture taken – it’s not something I’ve ever been that comfortable with. In the beginning I used to cut my head off in my mirror selfies but it gets to the stage when you realise that you are your unique selling point and you have to break through that barrier because your followers need to be able to identify with you.
I think it’s my honesty. I never buy and return clothing for the sake of a blog post. I don’t have an endless budget. I do tend repeat wear pieces and often things are past season but old favourites that come out year after year. I hate to disappoint ladies when they want to find the exact item I’m wearing, so what I try to do to compensate is track down an alternative and link to it in case anyone wants to buy a similar piece. I often mention that it’s also worth checking out eBay for these kinds of things.
A few of my friends have said that when they read my blog, I come across in exactly the same way as I am in real life, and that’s something that’s really important to me. I’ve also been told that I am good at making a £9.99 dress from H&M look like it’s a designer number. I’m growing all the time I think especially at pulling outfits and accessories together to elevate a look. Another thing I do is share my sources of inspiration, whether I’ve found it via an Instagram account or Pinterest, and I always, always credit someone if they have inspired me. It’s the polite thing to do!
What advice would you give to young bloggers just starting their journeys?
To young bloggers starting out I would say trust your gut instinct and keep an open mind first and foremost. It helps to be approachable and one of the best bits of advice I was ever given was always try to be polite and answer your comments. I would recommend leaving comments for others on their social platforms, as it gets you noticed and helps you to pick up followers – people are just as curious to see what you are up to. Honesty and integrity are key. Also, it helps to have a couple of good role models for inspiration. I am always happy to share advice when I’ve been contacted so it’s worth reaching out and asking one of your role models if you are stuck on something.
What hopes do you have for the future with your blog and your career generally?
It’s only recently that my eyes have been opened to all the possibilities. Over the past few months I have started to connect with other bloggers and Instagram friends and this is taking me on a new journey. I have a temporary job that ends in the next couple of months and then I will free to pursue more blogging commitments. So many brilliant offers are coming my way at the right now – I have been asked to be brand ambassador for a couple of different companies for media campaigns, which is so exciting. My passion at the moment is networking – I’m part of the team that organises The Social Brunch Club. We held our first event recently, which went really well, and I’m looking forward to lots more of these in future. It seems like the more open I am to accepting and trying new things, the more opportunities come way.
Do you have a mentor you turn to for career advice?
My mentor has been on this journey with me since the beginning, and I am now honoured to be able to call her one of my best friends. Sue (@SusieSoSo) encouraged me to take up blogging in the first place and she has been there with me every step of the way. We ‘talk’ (usually instant message) everyday and continually bounce ideas off of each other, whether it’s talking about clothes and shopping or about blogging and career moves. We meet up whenever we can, although it’s not easy as we live at opposite ends of the country. She is still a great source of inspiration for me, as I have always loved her style. Most of all, I trust her opinion 100%.
What’s the best style advice you’ve ever been given?
For me it was ‘wear what you feel comfortable in’. Discomfort will show all over your face. Also, go with your gut instinct if something doesn’t feel right. And last (but not least), a tip from fashion expert Trinny Constantine – ‘never go outdoors without your lippy’!
Watch the video
Considering a new career? The Image Consulting Company offers a personal stylist training course, where you’ll learn everything you need to know to start your journey to styling success. The next course begins in September but places are limited – enquire for details.
Photos by Nina Allwood, Bristol in a Box
Michelle will be speaking at our Style Your Future event at Harvey Nichols, Bristol on 14 September, an afternoon of talks, workshops and socialising with advice and inspiration from the UK’s top fashion insiders. Get your tickets online here.