Natalie Hughes talks productivity, MySpace songs and Tinder with blogger, Ella Gregory.
The blogging industry has seen a seismic shift since the days of low-res outfit photos and rudimentary Blogger layouts, leaving some online creators in its wake. But not Ella Gregory – though only 26, Ella is something of a blogging doyenne. At just 16, she founded Coco’s Tea Party as a source of daily fashion intel. Since then, it’s evolved to include long-form features and interviews spanning topics from fashion to dating, and more. Ella is regarded as one of the UK’s most prominent bloggers, with a loyal social media fanbase, whose numbers reach into the hundreds of thousands. I sat down with the one-woman content machine to talk productivity, MySpace songs and Tinder.
NH: How and why did you decide to start Coco's Tea Party?
EG: I started it when I was 16. I was really bored one day, and so I just started one for no reason, and I had no intention of doing it for any period of time. My first post was about Neighbours.
It was always called Coco's Tea Party. It was just a name that popped into my head as I was on Blogger setting up the blog, Most of the other decisions I made at sixteen were probably not that great. It's a good thing I didn't call it something like I Heart Justin Timberlake or something because that's where my mind was at 16.
NH: What was your first online alias?
EG: I don't remember what any of my usernames were, but I remember you could have a tagline or something on MSN. I used to always use Christina Aguilera lyrics.
NH: Do you remember what song you had on your MySpace?
EG: I think I had Like I Love You for a really long time. I think I had Lily Allen for a bit, but then I would just go back to Justin Timberlake, who I was very, very loyal to. I believed I was going to marry him, so I was like, I have to have my husband on my MySpace page.
NH: What's an average day like at Coco's Tea Party HQ?
EG: I've actually just been interviewing myself for the My 9 to 5 post, so I've just written what I do in a day. It's very fresh in my mind. I'm up by seven a.m. every day, and then I'll have breakfast straight away. I used to check Instagram and my e-mails as soon as I would get up, but now wait about an hour. I'll usually be at my desk by about eight in the morning, and then I'll look through my inbox and reply to anything that's super urgent or really interesting, and then just stall everything else. Then I do a lap of Instagram and Twitter and see what's been going on overnight.
I have content going live on the blog every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If it's one of those days, I will then start scheduling the Facebook and Pinterest and Google Plus updates for that post.
I use a productivity planner. I've been using it for a month or two now. Basically you have a page for every weekday of the week, and before that you set your weekly goals, so you write which tasks you need to complete for that week, and you prioritise them. You work through them in Pomodoro. I've just found that I'm so much more productive if I follow this method.
NH: What's Pomodoro?
EG: It's a technique that this guy invented, and it's called the Pomodoro Technique because pomodoro is tomato in Italian, and he would use a tomato timer. He would do 25 minutes of the task that he was working on, and then once the timer ran out, he would have a five-minute break. For us, [we might] Instagram or make a cup or tea or make a phone call. Then after that five minutes, you go back and you do another 25 minutes, and you keep doing that process until you finish your task. Because you cut out the distractions, you finish it quicker than you normally would.
NH: You mentioned that you use scheduling tools to schedule out tweets, etc. Which are your favourites?
EG: I use Tweetdeck for all my tweets. Then I also use Tailwind to schedule for Pinterest. I love Pinterest. I predominantly pin other people's content. Because I have a big audience on there, I now use rich pins. So if you're pinning content from your site, the title of the post comes up in bold.
NH: How do you create such a volume of content? I remember when we were interviewing Khloe Kardashian, and afterwards everyone was like, ‘Let's stay and hang out’, but you said, ‘No, I'm going home and I have to write this up.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that's an amazing work ethic.’
EG: I've always had a very good work ethic, and I think [that’s essential for being] self-employed. It doesn't matter if I'm tired. I'll always get up at 7 a.m. if it's a weekday because I have to get to work, even though work is upstairs in my loft. Even though I'm the boss, I can't call in sick or be like, I'm just going to take the afternoon off. I'm very focused on what I need to do, and so I just schedule my time really carefully, and just have a million to-do lists.
NH: The blogging industry has changed a lot, and your content has evolved.
EG: I think that was a lot to do with just growing up. I feel like now I'm in my mid-to-late twenties, I'm very different to how I was when I started the blog, when I was just a girl who was obsessed with fashion. The blog was very much [focused on] fashion news. I think now most people consume content on Instagram and Twitter. Everyone wants things fast and in bite-sized pieces. If someone is going to come to the blog, I want them to actually be able to read something and have something that's a little bit meatier than what they would get through Instagram or Snapchat. I'm trying to do more kind of evergreen, feature-y stuff.
NH: What's your first social media memory?
EG: I used to live tweet to the X-Factor when that was a cool thing to do.
NH: What apps are on the first page of your phone?
EG: The first page has…Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and then Citymapper because I get lost all the time. I'm really bad at reading maps, and navigating. I also have Snapseed and A Beautiful Mess for image editing. The second page has all the things that I kind of want to hide. It has Tinder and Bumble and Uber and the health app thing.
When I first started using Tinder, I used to hide it in... You know that folder of like, the extras? Last year, I was dating a guy who I met on Tinder. I told him, and he thought it was super shady that I had hidden it in the first place. He’d be like, "Is Tinder still hiding in your appliances or whatever that folder is called.’ I was like, ‘No, it is gone."
NH: Oh my god. The politics of deleting it when you start seeing someone…it’s a tricky one.
EG: Oh, it really is. It's a topic for another interview maybe.
NH: Haha, yes! Apart from the productivity planner, what non-digital tool can you not live without?
EG: I'm very much a pen and paper girl for to do lists. I don't really like to make them on my phone. My diary is all online though. I don't have a paper diary, but I started doing a little bit of journaling. I do the Kiki K Thankful Journal, where you write like three things every day that you're thankful for.
NH: What are your favorite podcasts?
EG: I've just got into Modern Love, which is the New York Times podcast. I listen to the Lively Show as well. She's done some great interviews. The interview with Brooke Castillo was amazing - it's about how your thoughts are not facts, and how you can be happier just by changing the way you think about things. Her interview with Alex Ikon was really inspiring as well. He's the guy who invented the productivity planner.
NH: I’m queuing the episodes up as we speak. Thanks Ella, speak soon!
Interview by Natalie Hughes.
Find Ella at Coco’s Tea Party, and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.