Ella Gregory, founder of the hugely popular lifestyle and fashion blog, Coco’s Tea Party
Last Friday, I was delighted to get the chance to sit down and chat with Ella Gregory, founder of the brilliant fashion and lifestyle blog, Coco’s Tea Party. I adore Ella’s blog and always look forward to seeing a new post from her pop up in my Bloglovin’ feed every morning. I think of Coco’s Tea Party as being the British equivalent to Cupcakes and Cashmere (another daily read for me), and I hugely enjoy Ella’s mix of fashion, travel, beauty and even dating advice. I had such a fun time chatting with Ella over a pot of tea at Quo Vadis in Soho and getting so many brilliant tips from her, including how she stays on top of a demanding publishing schedule, what it’s like to transition into full time blogging and so much more! For all of you who are bloggers, or are interested in hearing a little behind the scenes of what a blogger’s life is like, I’m sure you’ll find this interview just as fascinating as I did!
MN: I read that you first started blogging when you were 16! How has your blog evolved over the years?
EG: It has changed so much! I’m embarrassed to look back at the old posts. I recently started a site audit, and I realised some of my first posts didn’t even have titles! The biggest way it has changed I suppose is that I’ve grown up: I was a teenager when I started Coco’s Tea Party, and now I’m 26. When I started the blog it was just a hobby, and I had no idea I’d still be blogging 10 years later, or that it would become my job. I didn’t even start it with the hope of that; I just did it as a creative outlet. I did know when I started that I wanted to study fashion journalism at university, and I wanted to work at a magazine, so there were motivators for me starting it, but I had no idea it would wind up as my career! Over the years, the blog naturally changed and grew, and I started to see the potential for it being something bigger than a side hobby.
MN: What made you decide to pursue blogging as a full-time career?
EG: After I graduated, I interned at Marie Claire magazine, but while I was there I realised I didn’t really want to work for a magazine, and I was having to turn down so many great opportunities that were coming from the blog. I remember one day getting my first ever email from Chanel; they wanted to do a breakfast meeting, but I had to say no because I was working. That same day I had en email from Channel 4 who were doing some research for a TV show, and again I had to turn down a meeting. I remember thinking to myself that maybe I should be pursuing opportunities with the blog, and that I could always try for another internship in the future if it didn’t work out. The team at Marie Claire were really supportive of me and gave me the confidence to take the leap.
MN: What was it like transitioning into full-time blogging?
EG: Before I went full-time, I was already earning money from the blog. At the time, I was working with an agency, and I’d been running display advertising on my site for about 6 months to a year before I went full-time. I was also making money through affiliate links and sponsored posts, so I knew I had a fairly reliable source of income coming from the blog already. I didn’t, then, have as much fear about earning money as I would have done otherwise. Having an agency and being able to dedicate my time fully to the blog meant that opportunities grew and progressed from there.
In terms of the day-to-day work, when I was blogging and still at uni, I would generally write and publish content on the same day. When I decided to go full-time with the blog, I thought I would have so much more time for producing content. In fact, I actually had less time, because I had more meetings and events to attend. It took a while for me to get into a routine, but then I started making sure I was writing content with a 1-2 day lead time before a post would go live. Now I work in a completely different way where I’m usually 2 weeks ahead with posts, and I have an editorial calendar so I have my monthly content planned out in advance.
MN: What would be your top tips for people who want to grow their blog?
EG: I find this question a little hard to answer because I started in such a different time, so what worked for me then and what I did probably won’t work for anyone now. I think the most important things are having a really clear vision and knowing exactly who you’re writing for. If people come to your site, and it’s really clear and concise, and they know exactly what they’ll get from it, then they’re more likely to return. It’s important to be really insane about quality control and make sure everything you publish is on brand, even if that means letting some good ideas go. Obviously consistency is important too. You don’t have to blog everyday, but it’s important to have regular days that you post.
MN: How do you stay so organised? Do you have any productivity hacks?
EG: I’m naturally a very organised person; both my moon and rising signs are Virgo and Virgo are highly organised people, so I’ve got it double! I find I thrive in the kind of environment where I get to be disciplined and organised. Having an editorial calendar is key for me. I make sure I know what I’m going to be publishing when, and then I’ll mark when content needs to be written, as well as when it will go live. I have a separate colour coding for if I’ve written a post, but I still need to do photography for it.
In the last 6 months or so, I’ve started a system where I keep my to-do lists fairly short each day. Before, I would pile so much on, and then I found I never get through it all, and I would feel really unproductive. Now, I usually have two main things to do a day and then three smaller tasks. I’ll keep another to-do list throughout the day for much smaller jobs, like replying to an email or sending a thank you note, but for the bulk of work I do in a day, I try to keep my list to a maximum of five things.
MN: What does a typical day in your life look like?
EG: I try to have at least 3 days a week where I’ll work solidly from home, and then I tend to spend a couple of days in Central London for appointments and events. If I’m having a home day, I wake up really early. I’m usually at my desk ready to start work by 7.30am. I’m definitely an early bird, so I prefer to use the mornings to get the majority of my written work done, as I get a lot more distracted after lunch. I save lighter work for the afternoon, like creating layouts and image editing, and often have my music playing really loudly! By 5 o’clock I’m definitely done for the day. I’ve got really into going to the gym lately too, so I usually go for a barre or yoga class in the morning or circuit training or power plate in the evening.
MN: You must have seen so many changes since you started blogging! How do you stay on top of current trends and adapt what you do to the ever evolving nature of the blogosphere?
EG: It is so changing! I think at the beginning, I was much more eager to stay on top of everything, and I still think that that’s really important – you don’t want to get left behind – that’s always a concern as the blogging world moves so quickly. I think now, though, I’ve got to a place where I’m really focused on personal growth and living a happy life (I love listening to the Lively Show podcast). I don’t want to stress myself out trying to be and do everything, because that’s impossible. I try to find the balance between keeping up to date with what’s current (and I read blogs and listen to podcasts so I know what’s happening), but also keeping the focus on what I feel is on brand for me. That means I may not be on every form of social media, but I devote my time to those I feel best fit my brand, like Pinterest and Instagram.
MN: What type of posts are your favourite to create?
EG: I love my 9-5 interview posts. I have a degree in fashion journalism, and I feel with these posts I really get to use a lot of skills. There’s the process of coming up with questions, and even just getting the interviews to begin with, as well as the interview itself and transcribing and forming it into a post after. It’s like putting a lot of pieces of a puzzle together, so I find them very rewarding posts to write. [I completely agree! – MN]
MN: Which are your favourite blogs?
EG: My favourite blog is A Cup of Jo, which may sound odd as it’s a bit of a Mummy blog, but I feel it really has a clear vision and identity, and I feel she’s done a great job at keeping true to that. I also really like Cupcakes and Cashmere; I look to it as another blog that has always stayed true to its vision. I like sites like The Every Girl and The Glitter Guide. Advice From a Twenty Something I really love at the moment as well. Monica (of The Elgin Avenue) introduced me to it, and it’s great. My favourite blog ever is Lainey Gossip, and I always link to it in my Weekend Reading List posts. I’ve always been into celebrity gossip, and I find her analysis is so good.
MN: As you’ve been blogging for so long, how do you keep fresh and inspired?
EG: Since I was young, all I’ve wanted to do is create content, and I think that’s my natural skill. Obviously there are times when I may go through periods where I don’t feel as inspired, but for the most part I don’t struggle to come up with content ideas. Some of those ideas may be rubbish, but I still come up with ideas, and I’m still able to publish a post every week day. This is where it helps to write two weeks in advance too, as – if I do hit a road-block – then I can step away for a bit and take the time to source ideas and not feel pressured. I also keep a notebook where I write ideas down all the time, and so when I get a little stuck, I can look back through it for inspiration.
MN: What have been the most exciting moments in your career so far?
EG: There was the first season of fashion week that I did, when Burberry returned to London, and they invited me to the shows, and that experience was amazing! I’m not going to lie though, I think my biggest highlight was when Sarah Jessica Parker retweeted me and said I was adorable! I did a style post that was inspired by the opening credits of Sex & the City; I was wearing a tutu and did this shoot on Richmond Bridge, and there was even a bus behind me! I tweeted the post mentioning her, and the next morning I woke up and saw she’d retweeted it and replied to me. I was dying with excitement! Sometimes, though, just quite small things can be huge highlights too; like getting an email from someone saying I love your blog. One thing that people ask me about a lot is when I interviewed all three of the Kardashian sisters on Coco’s Tea Party (you can read Ella’s interviews with Kourtney and Kim here and her one with Khloe here). And last September Warner Bros. flew me to New York to interview Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, which was unreal but incredible!
MN: I love your fashion posts! How would you describe your personal style?
EG: I feel my personal style is hindered by living in the UK! I always feel colder than every one else. In my ideal world, I’d live in a really warm climate and just wear a dress and little shoes all the time. I’ve actually thought about moving to LA or even Texas, where it’s even hotter! I prefer style to be as simple as possible: one great piece with nice accessories. I love colour and I love print. I like clothes to be vibrant and lift your mood, and I’ll tone things down with one solid classic piece, like skinny jeans or ballet pumps. My style is quite British, in the sense that I’ll take influence from anywhere, which I feel is a very British thing.
MN: I know you love to read! What books would you recommend for summer?
EG: I actually have a post going up about this [you can now read it here – MN]! But one book I just read is Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, who is one of my favourite authors. If you’ve never read American Wife by her too then you must [noted! – MN]. Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice and it makes a great summer beach read. It’s definitely not her best work, but it’s still a really fun read.
MN: Finally, which women have inspired you the most?
EG: I think this is a really interesting question, because as I get older my inspirations change. When I was younger, I really looked up to Rachel Zoe, but though I still admire her I wouldn’t count her as a huge inspiration now. I still find Anna Wintour very inspiring. I love Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey too for their perspectives and the way they write.
Thanks so much again to Ella for such a fabulous interview! I’ve already started acting on her brilliant advice: my aim is blog on regular days from now on, and I’m determined to get more ahead with blog posts (even if it’s just a few days, rather than 2 weeks to start!!). What are your biggest take-aways from Ella’s interview? Will you be putting any of her wise words into practice, or has she inspired you in any other way?