10 Questions With Sara-Jayne Jones, creator of Keep up with the Jones Family blog
Q1: How long have you been blogging and what led you down this path?
I’ve been blogging for nearly five years now, I began writing after the birth of my first son. I was a long time reader of a handful of American blogs and loved the idea of a digital diary. My parents live quite far away from us and I thought it was a brilliant way for them to be able to see their grandchildren growing up when we or they couldn’t visit – hence the name, Keep Up With The Jones Family. When my third child was born, the cost of childcare outweighed the income I was producing as a teacher and so I decided to turn my blog into my business and work from home.
Q2: What was your first ever job and what did you learn from it?
My first proper job was working as a power-press operator in my dad’s engineering factory. I was 17. If you’ve never heard of or seen one, a power press is a huge, electrically powered machine that uses big blocks of metal [dies] to manufacture other pieces from metal.
I was greasy, covered in suds and oil and I cut and rubbed my arms and fingers so badly on the guard and metal pieces that I hurt constantly – my back was the worst from hunching over the press and it was hard, miserable manual work – but the atmosphere was fantastic.
My parents believed that was good for me – and in the year before I went to law school, I learned to respect decent, hardworking people with no degrees or qualifications, and no particular career aspirations other than to provide for their families. I learned never to feel superior to others because of life and educational opportunities and not to judge people by their backgrounds. I also gained a huge intolerance for people who feel entitled to a free pass in life. It was a huge eye opener, and it affected how we are raising our boys very deeply.
Q3: What inspires your creatively?
There are so many people who inspire me – those who want to make their lives more beautiful, embrace happiness, take as positive a path as they can to their life. I’m a very visual, impulsive person and once I’ve seen something I like, I’m all lit up and ready to go. Photographers, homemakers, designers, bakers, florists – anyone with a skill I wish I’d acquired when I was younger, I’m drawn to studying and learning from.
Q4: How do you see content marketing changing in the next five years?
I can only think that it will become more and more about the visuals, and more “live” media – Snapchat is really taking off now and people just love being able to have access to other people’s lives, I think. I feel that the speed of our day to day existence is increasing at an alarming rate and we want smaller hits of information to enable us to see more, hear more, feel more. I’d like to think it will all suddenly come to a head and explode, taking us all back to books again, but sadly I don’t think that will happen. Faster is what the world seems to want.
Q5: What’s your favourite city and why?
I’m not a huge fan of cities. I’m more of a countryside and wellies girl. I spend four years at law school in South Wales and I adored it. The rural lifestyle, the landscape, the peace and quiet, and the people. I’m happiest when I’m outdoors, even when it’s raining. If I could move to a farmhouse in South Wales, I’d already have packed and named my cows, sheepdogs and sheep. That’s the life I dream of.
Q6: What’s your top tip for reaching out to influencers?
Just be genuine. Please take the time to at least find out the influencer’s name and spell it correctly. One you’ve sent me an email with someone else’s name on, it’s awkward. Know why you like the blog and why you want to work with that particular influencer. Invest a little time in finding out about them – there’s no need for insincere flattery or compliments, as an influencer I just want to know why a brand believes that they would connect well with my audience. Blanket emails are very annoying, impersonal and I rarely reply to them. If you have a budget, or if you don’t, be honest in your first email and please, please don’t say you are giving an influencer a “freebie” unless it’s being sent without expectation of any media coverage whatsoever. Please, if you’re representing a huge concern, think carefully before stating that you’ve exhausted your budget or didn’t think you needed to pay for coverage. Work should be compensated. Be open, honest, and you won’t go wrong.
Q7: What is your favourite part of your job?
I love that this job is created by me, for me. I’ve built it myself, and I can steer it in any direction I want. I’m constantly pushing myself to learn – I need to feel as though I’m making progress in my life, that I’m achieving. I wouldn’t swap being a mother for any other career, ever – and being able to work as an influencer gives me the best of both worlds, but it is hard.
Q8: What distinguishes your blog, Keep Up With The Jones Family, over others in the space?
These are the questions that make me squirm! I know that people come to my blog to see my photographs of the boys, and they enjoy how I see our world. I receive emails most frequently about how to use a DSLR or edit as I’ve started running photography courses for bloggers – but I also have the sweetest emails from readers asking after us if we’ve had an illness in the family, or congratulating us on a success. People engage with me and that’s what I love.
I take great pride in my work and the brands which I collaborate with. If I’ve received a product to promote then I’ll consider how I can feature it in an interesting way. No one wants their products photographed in bad light, with minimum effort. I consider myself an ambassador of every brand I endorse – and I always try to go at least one step beyond what my client expects.
I do post less frequently than some, as I avoid what I see as “filler” posts. I want my audience to connect with brands which I would and do use and support, or those which I’m becoming excited about and want to share. I turn down guest posts on a regular basis unless they’re for a charity we support, because this is my family blog.
Q9: What key ingredients are needed for a blog to be successful?
I think that depends on your personal vision of success – whether it’s statistics, income or personal satisfaction. Blogs I’ve followed and admired for years that I would consider successes are heavily image based. I’m drawn to aesthetics and heart warming stories – influencers that I follow have an obvious and deep love for their craft. Their posts go beyond the basic and they’ve truly considered their audience when sharing. The passion that shines through is contagious and keeps me returning to read more. People’s tastes are different, and ever changing. Blogs my husband reads very rarely feature an image, and that’s perfect for him, and the subject matter.
Q10: When are you happiest?
Work wise, my happiness comes from a job well done, fully edited images ready for the week ahead, and a healthy to do list featuring no missed critical deadlines!
In my personal life, it has to be when we’re all together on holiday, away from work and stresses of home, so that my husband can relax. This happens about once every five years! My greatest happiness comes from my children though. When I can see smiles on my boys’ faces that come from their hearts, there’s no feeling like it.