What started as a personal weight loss diary eight years ago has developed into one of Australia’s most popular online homes, a beautiful space where Chantelle Ellem AKA Fat Mum Slim muses on all things kids, travel and creativity. And considering she catches over 100,000 eyeballs just from her social media following, we’d say she’s got to be doing more than a few things right. Her work also reaches far beyond the lifestyle space: since starting out back in 2008, the blogging pioneer has launched her own photography app, partnered with Disneyland and raised awareness of chronic disease in remote Indigenous communities. We chat to Chantelle about branding, imagery and engagement, and how she’s managed to stay reigning queen of the blogosphere.
What’s the best blogging advice you’ve received?
Just do it! And that’s the same advice I’d give anyone starting. I think we get so caught up in what people might think about the words we write, when really if the words are there wanting to be written, then they should be written and set free. Those stories that keep you awake at night are the stories that you need to sit down, type out and let go off.
You’ve been called a ‘blogging powerhouse’. How do you structure your day and stay organised?
This has been a huge learning curve for me, because blogging went from a simple hobby to a full-time (maybe more than full-time!) business. I wake up before the sun (and my kids) and I create. It’s the best time for me to write and write and write, and to also come up with big ideas. As soon as the kids wake, my mum hat is on and I’m making breakfasts, doing hair, and making lunches. I have two set days for work, and on those days, I work like a machine and get stuff done. The rest of the week, I fit in work during naps, or I’m lucky that my husband works shift-work so I sneak in a few hours when he’s around. I’m an organised person, but in a ‘creative chaos’ way. I plan ahead, and use an editorial calendar, but I also change it up to suit my interests and current obsessions.
Where do you source inspiration when you have a case of ‘blogger’s-block’?
The place I get most inspired is at the beach, when I’m travelling, and in the early mornings.
I have a notebook that is filled with ideas. As a creative person, I don’t really run out of ideas, just time and mind-space to put them into action. Recently, I realised that my brain was exhausted and hadn’t had a tech-free break in a while, so I went offline for five days, and it was the most intensely awesome creative time for me. My notebook got filled with ideas and dreams, and I couldn’t wait to get back into it all. It was exactly what I needed.
In a saturated market how do you continue to pick up new readers and retain your regulars?
I love trying out new community-engaging ideas, and I think my readers love that. For instance, not only do I have the ‘Photo A Day’ challenges, but each year I do a Gift Exchange where people all over the world send and receive a gift from a stranger. It’s an awesome, inspiring exchange. Inspired by that, I also started a ‘Happy Mail Project’ too, where people send letters to each other, and we have kids involved too. Other than that, I don’t mind being vulnerable and I think my readers really enjoy that sharing; they can relate and know that their journey is not a lonely one.
What do you shoot with? Any tips for newbie bloggers wanting to improve their photography skills?
At the moment I’m obsessed with my Olympus Pen-F, and I love the 1.8/45mm lens because it saturates the image with loads of light and is my style of photography. During summer, I was using my Olympus TG-4 a lot for underwater photos, and photos at the beach. It’s a great camera for taking with you because it’s near impossible to break and it’s waterproof. My best tip for any keen photography is to keep shooting. Every day if they can. I’ve watched people in the ‘Photo A Day’ challenge start off just snapping away, and then having found their style through taking a daily photo, becoming a powerhouse photographer.
What does a positive brand relationship look like?
The best brand relationships are when the brand and the blogger really get each other. When a blogger can absolutely understand the brand’s objective, and the brand respects the blogger’s style and audience base, there’s this sweet spot where magic happens. I also love that when I work with brands, particularly like Olympus, and they ask me to tell them my big dreams (even when they’re not related to photography) and they help me make them happen.