18 Goals for 2018 – Why This Post Never Happened

Back at the start of January this year, I was tagged in a lovely motivational post by Mandi over at Big Family, Organised Chaos about setting 18 goals for 2018. I loved this idea and was keen to take part; after all, setting goals helps us to achieve what we want and setting them down on the blog would help me to remember them, and hold myself accountable… except it didn’t happen!

Because even the best laid plans... white text blue background

See, the thing is, sometimes things don’t go to plan. I had ideas, I had my goals in mind, the post was forming in my head… but it stopped there. Because actual real life got in the way. Big time. And sometimes even the best laid plans have to get pushed aside. Even the most inspiring, most important actions still have to get dropped. Because sometimes life throws the unexpected at you. Things that you didn’t – that you couldn’t – predict. And that ‘stuff’ cannot wait. So priorities shift. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, ride the wave.

It is a good reminder that we can set goals and it is great to be focused on achieving them, but we also need to be flexible and adapt. And to be able to rethink our priorities when it is required. Sometimes we therefore have to let some things go. And that’s ok. Life is one big juggling act, after all!

Did you set goals for 2018? How are you getting on with them?

Self- Employment: Self-Assessment Tax Returns

I am so proud of myself right now; I have just been super organised and filed my 2017/18 tax returns online already! The deadline isn’t until the end of the year, but I couldn’t blog anyway because my site was being transferred to a new host, so I figured I might as well use that time effectively and submit mega early to get it out of the way! Especially after having a massive last second faff last year and finding myself needing to send a paper version in the end, only for Royal Mail to return it to me a week later as the envelope got damaged in transit! So I was then panicking about deadlines and potential late fees; it is a massive relief to know there will be none of that stress this time!

Are you self-employed? If so, you will need to keep records and fill out a tax return form each year too. In many cases that is obvious; people are generally aware that if you run a business and get a regular income from it, you must be self- employed and need to declare your income. However, some people don’t realise that even if you just earn a small irregular income, for example if you mainly blog as a hobby but occasionally get paid work, or if you sell things from home, or receive any other ad hoc income, that you still need to register as self- employed and complete an annual tax return. If that is the case, here’s what you need to do…

Self- Employment: Self-Assessment Tax Returns

Register as Self- Employed

Firstly, you need to register as self- employed. The easiest way to do this is by completing the form online. You must register by 5 October in your business’s second tax year at the latest, although personally I would recommend doing it asap.You will then be sent your Unique Taxpayers Code.

Register for Online Self- Assessment

Assuming you intend to file your tax returns online, you then need to register for this service on the government website. Technically you can use either the government gateway system or Gov.UK Verify to register and submit your returns, but this is the part where it got complicated for me the first time around.

Government Gateway

I tried to use the gateway system, whereby you complete a form online then they send you an activation code in the post. However, this did not work for me and I was told to use Verify to confirm my ID instead. The gateway system is gradually being phased out and will be replaced completely by March 2019, but I am not sure whether this issue had anything to do with it or not.

Verify Gov.UK

So I tried to use the Verify system. And this is where it got really frustrating! For the vast majority of people this would probably be a really quick and easy task. For me, however, not so straightforward; quite the opposite infact!

You see, my passport – which was in my maiden name anyway – had just expired and I don’t have a valid UK driving license either. On top of that my back account is with Nationwide. This combination apparently means you can not possibly verify your identity online with any of the seven different approved companies who offer this service on behalf of the government. Hmm. I wasted so many hours trying to sort it out, it was absolutely ridiculous.

Long story short: eventually I had to renew my passport and open a new bank account with a different bank – just so I could use the government’s online services! Needless to say I was less than impressed.

Tax written on a notebook. Hand holding pencil.

Submitting Your Tax Returns

That said, once you are verified online, it is really easy to submit your tax returns online. If you have all the information you need in front of you, it isn’t too much of an onerous task; actually, it didn’t take me very long whatsoever. If you are submitting online, the deadline is 31st January. For paper versions, it is 31st October.

Record Keeping

Obviously make sure your books are accurate and kept up-to-date, so you have the correct figures to submit. Also keep evidence; receipts, invoices, account records etc… incase you should ever need them. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to record my monthly income and expenses. I operate on a cash-in, cash-out system, as I find that easiest personally. You will need to check if your situation allows this.

Remember to include all your allowable expenses. For example, if you work from home you can include a percentage of your utility bills. To make this easier, you can use simplified expenses. This is a flat rate, depending on how many hours you work from home per month. Note this does not include phone and internet so they can be listed separately. Once you have got to grips with your record keeping you shouldn’t find it too difficult, especially if you have a straightforward business. However, some people do like to hire a book-keeper to be sure it is all correct.

Calculator, pen, graphs, paperclip

It can be daunting having to complete your tax returns for the first time, but try not to worry! I hope this information is helpful. Let me know in comments if you found it useful!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Blog Self – Assessment: Blog Highs and Lows of 2017

Happy 2018 everybody! I am a little late writing this post now, as it is a reflection of 2017 that I intended to write just before the new year began. However I took a much needed rest from blogging this past week so I am just catching up on this now!

I was tagged by Rambling Through Parenthood to complete this blog self- assessment; a fun way to reflect on my blogging achievements from the past year. Here it is…

Blog Self - Assessment: Blog Highs and Lows of 2017

Posts Published

I published 270 posts last year. That is actually more than I thought, not bad going!

Top-performing Post

My Sylvanian Families Cake Shop Review went down extremely well – I suspect that is also because there was a lovely giveaway involved too!

Post That was Difficult to Write

I tend to find posts more difficult to write generally if I haven’t posted in a few days. Also when I am sleep deprived, and Squiggle is finding life difficult, it is hard to find the motivation. So for me personally, it tends to be other factors that make writing difficult at times, rather than the post itself!

Post I Hope Will Make A Difference

I would say any of my mental health posts, but in particular the one I wrote for Mental Health Awareness Week about anxiety.

Post That Struck a Chord

Aside from the anxiety post that I mentioned above, I really enjoyed finding out about Grace’s Scuba Diving story. I also loved writing the #RefuseTheStraw campaign post, because it is something I feel passionate about.

Post That Fell Flat On Its Face

I wouldn’t say any posts really fell flat (well, hopefully not anyway!) because it isn’t always just about numbers – if the post was read by someone who found it useful or it struck a chord with, then that has made a difference and served a purpose.

Surprise of the Year

I have had several lovely opportunities this past year that came as a very welcome nice surprise!

Have you done a blog self- assessment for 2017?

Over to you Tantrums To Smiles, Jaki Jellz, Dot Makes 4, Mrs Mummy Harris, Bumps Babies Tots and Teens Mummy Diaries, Mummy Cat Notes, Better Together Home and The Growing Mum.

Happy New Year 2018 everyone!

Designing A Logo With Logojoy 

Just over a year ago I decided to go ‘pro’ with blogging, so I moved my blog to self- hosted and started to think about branding, including designing myself a logo and banner to use on my blog and across social media. Alot of bloggers and businesses hire an expert to help them do this, but I was keen to save some money so I chose to do it myself. I spent far more hours on Canva (using a free trial) than I care to admit! However, I am very happy with the result.

Living Life Our Way logo designed by Canva

Introducing Logojoy

Logojoy is an AI logo designer that makes it quicker and easier for bloggers and brands to create their own logo themselves. It is simple to use; begin by selecting up to five sample logos that you like then the site generates your logos to choose from based on your preferences. There are then plenty of options to then tweak it as much as you want to personalise it further.

How To Use Logojoy

Time

It is possible to design a professional looking logo using Logojoy in just a few minutes. However, if you are a perfectionist and enjoy playing around with the various settings (as I did!) then you will need to allow more time. You can also amend and re- download your logo too, if you decide your logo needs a few extra final adjustments after downloading it (premium package only).

Cost

Logojoy costs $20 for a simple low resolution logo. A premium package is $65 which includes high resolution files in several formats with full copyright ownership. For an extra $9 you can also purchase the social media kit, which comes with perfectly size logos for each platform – this is definitely worth it in my opinion because it saves alot of time and effort resizing! Lastly you can also get one hour professional design support for $100 too should you require that level of guidance and support. 

Logojoy logo

You can design and purchase your logo on the Logojoy website.

(This is an affiliate link, this does not cost the buyer extra, but means I get a small referral fee. Thank you for your support).

My Logo

Here is my logo…

Living Life Our Way logo designed on Logojoy.

The Verdict

I worked really hard on my original logo and have been using it for over a year, so I must admit I am actually rather attached to it! However, I am really pleased with my Logojoy logo too and am actually quite (very?!) tempted to switch it! If I was just starting out, I would definitely think Logojoy is worth the investment and would be satisfied with the results.

Which do you prefer, my original Canva logo or my new Logojoy one? I would love your honest opinions, I promise I won’t be at all offended either way!

Living Life Our Way Canva logo and Logojoy logo side by side for comparison. Which logo do you prefer?

Thank you in advance for any feedback!

*I was given the chance to review the $65 package and was compensated for my time.

Blogger Recognition Award

I have been nominated for a blogger recognition award – how exciting! So here are my top tips for new bloggers…

blogger, blogging, blog, blogger advice, blogging tips, how to begin blogging, blogger recognition award

How did my blog begin?

Well, in short, it begun as a hobby several years ago now (almost a decade infact!) when I first became a parent. I have only more recently become self- hosted and started trying to earn an income from it.

My Top Tips For New Bloggers

Network

Join facebook groups, twitter chats, and even attend conferences/ events if possible. Put in the time and effort to connect with other bloggers. It is a great way to get support and advice, and make friends too!

Become an expert

You are going to need to take time to learn new skills and the technical side of blogging if you want to become a success. For example, I read a London SEO Expert success Story You’ll Never Believe and picked up some really useful tips. Read articles and/ or take e-courses written by other bloggers, SEO experts and other related professionals.

Take it one step at a time

Following on from the last point, there are many aspects to blogging. It would be far too overwhelming and unmanageable to take it all on at once. Most of us definitely learn on the job! However, it is harder work, more time consuming, and tedious too, to go back over old posts to correct what you could have done in the first place, so having a little basic knowledge from near enough the outset is helpful.

Focus on one area to learn about and work on, and develop your new skills at your own pace. Once it starts to come more naturally and slots into your schedule/ process easily, then start on the next thing.

Be yourself

Whether you have a specific niche or cover lots of subjects, open your heart out or are more reserved, write how you speak or more formally, stick to your own personal style and just do you!

Social Media

Focus on social media as much as your blog – if you want people to find and read your content, you need to engage with others and actually share your blog posts so they get seen!

Thank you to lovely Trupti at Girls Glamour for nominating me. Do go check out her blog, she has a variety of posts, plenty of great reading!

I now nominate the following fab bloggers:

Lead Life

Akamatra

Our Altered Life

Just Average Jen

If you would like to take part, the ‘rules’ are simple…

  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give your top tips/ advice to new bloggers.
  • Select other bloggers you think should be nominated for this award and tag them in the post. Remember to let them know they have been nominated! Don’t forget to also link back to the person who nominated you as well.

Thank you to everyone, let’s all keep supporting each other!

Innovations in Blogging – What Does The Future Hold?

When I started blogging, I did it simply because I enjoyed writing; I believed that it would never be anything more than a hobby. Not least of all because I honestly thought the only people who could ever make any money from it were the people who got in there quick, when the whole blogging thing first took off. I realise now that is true of some things but I seriously don’t know why I thought that about blogging in particular! 

Fast forward to now and I still blog for the love of it… but now I also get a reasonable part- time income from it too. It is hard work, and there is so much more to it than I could possibly imagine before I got into it. But then again, when you do something you love, it doesn’t really feel like a job as such. And in some ways it has been easier, or at least more achievable, to monetise than I originally thought. I guess the saying is true that it often seems impossible until it is done. So I don’t foresee the popularity of blogging dwindling, if anything I think it will continue to grow.

I firmly believe that blogging can kind of be compared to books; in the sense that although the format might change (e.g. kindle books instead of hard copies), people continue to love to read books in one form or another – regardless of how popular TV, film and internet is. Regardless of other media, the love of books still remains strong. 

So in future, I think blogging will still be popular, and YouTube and podcasts will continue to grow in popularity but not at the expense of written blogs. But I also think bloggers are versatile and flexible so will adapt to the latest trend, as an addition to the services they offer. I suspect platforms like wordpress will continue to be front- runners.

Blogging, I feel, has also become more of a supportive community than it used to be. We all have our strengths, our own angles and our unique points; so to an extent there is room for us all. By working together, we lift each other up, and this makes us all stronger. I think in future our community will continue to grow and thrive; with more collaborations, networking and team work within blogging. I think this will be the case both online and in real life via conferences, events and meet ups. I suspect we will also see an expansion on the number of PR agencies, and an increase in websites who connect bloggers to brands. 

In summary, I would like to think that blogging will remain a viable way to earn an income and the community will continue to grow. At least, I hope so! 

Disclosure: This post is written as part of a study by innovationcompany.co.uk on what bloggers see as the future of blogging. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

My Hopes and Wishes For 2017

​Moving on slightly from my new year resolution post, I was kindly tagged by Devon Mama and Friendly First Foods to share my wishes for 2017 in different areas of my life. I am grateful to be involved in this because it helps me to focus on my aims for this year; I do like to set myself goals, as I said previously! 

Hopes and wishes, 2017, goals, about me, blogging, family, twenty wishes

Personal Wishes

  • To make time to dance, go to gigs, listen to music; do the things I love.
  • To meet more like-minded people and build new friendships.
  • To try new activities/ do different things/ go to new places; be adventurous!
  • To volunteer at a couple of events.
  • To keep developing myself and continue with my inner growth.

Blog Wishes

  • To increase my reach, so that more lovely people read my blog!
  • To meet some more fellow bloggers in real-life, maybe even make it to one of the blogging events this year.
  • To start my nature linky, which will motivate me to post regularly about our outdoor adventures. It will also help me become more organised about blogging too!
  • To continue my guest series ‘A Quick Cuppa With….’ because it is a lovely way to connect with other bloggers and support small businesses, plus it helps me to have scheduled posts in advance!
  • To seek out more paid opportunities as my blog continues to grow. 

Family Wishes

  • To organise a good balance of home ed activities that interest and develop Squiggle, whilst giving her plenty of freedom and the flexibility needed, to meet her needs.
  • To explore some new days out, such as Kew Gardens for example.
  • To have a family holiday.
  • To expand our etsy shop to sell more sustainable clothing with Squiggle’s own designs.
  • To continue taking an active role role in protecting our environment.

Hopes and Wishes

  • That 2017 is a peaceful year.
  • That we stay happy and healthy.
  • That we are able to overcome challenges and find solutions.
  • That we maintain our sense of wonder for the world around us.
  • That we set a good example and inspire.

So that’s my list of hopes and dreams for 2017! 

I tag the following lovely bloggers to take part too…

Han Plans

Waffle Mama

The Amphletts

Big Family Little Adventures

Life As Mrs D

Five Little Doves

Mummy Miller
I look forward to reading your posts!

My Liebster Award Nomination! 

The Liebster Award is a virtual award given to bloggers by other bloggers as a way of spreading the blogging love. Huge thanks to Naomi over at Me Becoming Mum for nominating me. I hadn’t heard of it before, but excited to be included, thank you!

Liebster award, blogging award, bloggers, about us, living life our way

The official rules of the Liebster Award are here. Basically, Naomi has written ten questions for me to answer, plus I need to share ten random facts, then I nominate a few more fellow bloggers and write my own questions for them. (Full rules are also below, at the end of this post). So it’s a great way for bloggers to connect and get to know each other, and to welcome newbies into the blogging network. Such a lovely idea!

So here are my ten questions (and answers!)

If you were an animal, what would you be?

Maybe a cat? They are usually well loved (often totally pampered more like!) yet are fiercely independent and avid explorers. Not too many predators to contend with either, but have to be street savvy!

Who do you consider to be your idol?

Tough question! I’m not sure about ‘idol’ per se, I’m not a massive fan of that term, but there are lots of people who inspire me for one reason or another. One example of someone who comes to mind at this moment is Erin Schrode, a leading environmentalist and inspiring politician. Erin has recently attended the UN Climate Change Conference 2016, after peacefully protesting at Standing Rock. She is also the youngest ever person to run for congress. Aside from all of that, she is a major advocate for green living and co-founded Turning Green, which is an amazing non-profit organisation behind the life changing Project Green Challenge. She is truly inspirational!

Sun or Snow?

Both are equally wonderful in their own way!

Which day holds the best memory (or memories) for you?

The day my daughter was born is the first thing that springs to mind.

You’re holding a tea party, and you can pick four famous guests. Who would they be?

Oooh, erm, I would choose people who I think would be really interesting to talk with, rather than because they are famous. But I am struggling to pick four as there are loads of fascinating people I would love to meet, famous or not!

Which movie or TV character would you most like to marry?

Haha, I love this question!

What day of the week do you most look forward to?

I don’t have a favourite. Our home ed lifestyle means we have alot of freedom and can be very flexible, so generally I look forward to them all!

What was your first car? (If you don’t have one, what would your dream car be?)

It was a gold ford fiesta. I got it in the late 90’s and it was an old banger then so goodness knows what year (or decade!) it was actually made lol! It was proper old style!

You are stranded on a desert island. What five items could you not live without?

I assume we have food and water? Do we have clothes?! My daughter (although she isn’t an item obviously!) Erm, can I have my bed?! I’d want art supplies to get creative. Toilet roll haha! Ooh my phone… and a solar powered battery for it!

Tea, coffee, hot chocolate or something else?

Tea definitely. I don’t drink coffee. Or hot chocolate.

Ten Random Facts About Me

  • I don’t have a middle name.
  • I have a small scar on my forehead.
  • I really can’t drink wine, it doesn’t agree with me at all!
  • Part of my c-section stitches had to be left inside me (they were not ones that dissolve so should not be!)
  • I have a weird fear of escalators.
  • I got a 1st degree BEd.
  • I used to have a crush on Philip Schofield when he presented cupboard under the stairs (or whatever it was called!)
  • I have moved 20 times (I think, I may have lost count and missed one or two possibly!)
  • My first pet was a white rabbit called Snowy.
  • My bedtime toy as a child was an orange popple, which I still have. (It no longer sleeps with me though!)

Liebster award, blogging award, bloggers, about us, living life our way

My Nominees:

Witts in the Wild

3 Girls Mummy

Raw Childhood

MumConventional

Being Mummy

The Family Treasures

Conflab Corner

Here are your questions:

1. What or who inspires you?

2. Pick one. Dogs or cats?

3. Name your top ten all time favourite tunes.

4. Who is the one person you would most like to sit on a bench with to chat together?

5. What is your favourite hobby, way to relax or spend ‘me’ time?

6. What do you like most about yourself?

7. What is your favourite childhood memory?

8. What’s your most embarrasing moment?

9. What was your first ever job?

10. Name one thing you are grateful for today.

Remember your ten random facts too!

 

Liebster Award Rules:

Step 1: Thank the person who nominated you, and link back to their blog.

Step 2: Display the Liebster Award badge.

Step 3: Answer the ten questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.

Step 4: Provide ten random facts about yourself.

Step 5: Nominate between five and eleven fellow bloggers you believe deserve the award.

Step 6: Create a new list of questions for the nominees to answer.

Remember to tell your nominees that they have been nominated for the Liebster award, and ask them to include the rules in their post too!

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 7: What Made You Start Blogging

I first started blogging shortly after my daughter was born. I can’t even really entirely remember why I started blogging, I just felt inspired to write about my experiences as a new parent and wanted a platform to share. I think I also had vague ideas about one day writing a book and thought a blog might be a good place to start. But I didn’t really take my new mummy blog seriously, it was just a hobby, somewhere to release my thoughts.

A couple of years later, I then set up a separate blog to write parenting and SEND articles. However, once I started home educating I decided to focus on blogging about that and set up yet another blog! I toyed with the idea of merging the various blogs, and still do consider it often, but always decide against it, so far anyway. When the time is right I probably will do though! 

So that’s my blogging story. And maybe one day I will finally write that book…

#Blogtober16

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 2: An Old Photo of Me

Hmmm, I don’t actually have many old photos of me. Certainly not pre-digital ones, so prior to my mid twenties. I don’t have any from my childhood here at all and only a couple from my teenage years that I found and scanned in. I’m pretty sure my dad probably has a million printed pictures of my younger years but I have never got round to getting any from him!

So I have found one from exactly 20 years ago from the small collection I do have…

Old photos of me, family photos, teenage photos, blogtober
My mum, brother and myself (Taken in 1996 – aged 17)

And here is one from exactly a decade ago…

Selfie, photo of me, old photo, blogtober, decade ago
Me 10 years ago (aged 27)

So that’s me, from the past anyway! 

Look forward to seeing your photos too.

#Blogtober16