Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Making changes - DFD Manchester

So things have been awfully quiet around here lately. No posts for a month or two and a distinct lack of online presence. Why? Well apart from the fact that my little girl has started to crawl and I spend the majority of my time trying to catch her...things are about to change for A Little London Wedding and it's all because of this:

Back in September (was it really 2 months ago now!!) I attended a blogging masterclass  informally known as DFD. An inspiring workshop created by two very talented ladies, Michelle Kelly from a Pocketful of Dreams and Rebecca Norris of Florence Finds. Two top UK lifestyle bloggers with an enviable amount of energy, passion and drive. 

From the moment I saw their Manchester workshop announced on Twitter, I promptly signed myself up, went and bought a new pencil case and pretty much stalked the Dream.Find.Do blog for all the pre-workshop know-how. It happened to also be my birthday weekend, so Hubby booked my train and hotel as a treat and I was set to go! 

And let me tell you this before I go any further...they didn't disappoint.

As most of you already know, I originally started this blog as a way to keep creative and sane during my maternity leave. A place to house some of the resources I'd gathered from my own wedding and an outlet for my non-mummy side. A blog about the amazing London wedding suppliers, unique venues and cool wedding finds in London that not everyone knows about. But, with only a basic set of blogging skills and a lack of experience, I got stuck in a rut pretty early on. I knew what I wanted to achieve but didn't quite know how to do it. Luckily for me, around the same time, Michelle and Rebecca had been dreaming up a workshop and shared it with the world at the exact moment I needed help.

Just a few months after signing up, I travelled to Manchester with another DFD student, Elisabetta - a lovely lady who also blogs about weddings. We were lucky to be staying in an apartment/hotel just 5 minutes away from the workshop, so hurried ourselves over to the B.Hive (almost an hour early) on the first day. Eager much?!

When we entered the workshop space, we were welcomed by the DFD team busying around, making final touches to the three rooms. WOW! I immediately fell in love with the décor and felt right at home. Possibly the most stylish, colourful classroom I'd ever seen. (And I've seen a few!) 

The details screamed DFD. The lesson about ‘branding’ hit home before the class even started! Each time I looked around something else would catch my eye. Cute triangles sewn together to make tiny bunting. Little gold dipped animals. Pencil toppers, branded water bottles and shocking pink notepads were just a few of the treats given to us too. The DFD geometrics and recognisable pink, blue and yellow shot out from every angle. Each and every last detail was considered...

After initial introductions, nervous giggles and a sneak peek inside The Book of Secrets (the gorgeous pink branded folder you see below) we got straight down to the agenda for Day 1 - basics of blogging, branding and marketing. 

Michelle and Rebecca left no stone unturned. When we had questions, they were answered. If there were resources or shortcuts they used, they told us. The ladies shared all their secrets. This workshop turned out to be like no other I had ever attended. The intimate class size, informal teaching style and high quality resources meant that learning was maximised at every opportunity.

We discussed ways to develop our own individual blogs and found out tips and tricks to take them to the next level. Michelle and Rebecca also took us through ways to drive traffic and reach a wider audience but more importantly how to keep them reading. Constantly referring to their own blogs and other successful examples, we were shown exactly 'how' our goals could be achieved. The business of blogging was stripped down to the bare basics and explained so clearly and easily that there were lots of 'aaah-the-penny-has-dropped' moments. And the loveliest thing of all? Seeing how passionate and excited Michelle and Rebecca were to be sharing all of their knowledge with us. This wasn't a workshop about their success and goals, this was a workshop about sharing and helping us achieve ours.

Day one head was buzzing with all kinds of thoughts and ideas and my notepad was full to the brim. After class, we shared stories and more secrets over dinner and drinks at The Alchemist and had time to think through all we'd been taught, ready for Day Two.

Cameras at the ready, the second day of DFD saw us out and about on the streets of Manchester and inside an old bank vault, learning how to take blog-worthy photographs. Rebecca shared some photography basics to help us improve our images. We spent lots of time practising these skills  - something I've often found other courses don't always allow time for. 

As we all know, when you're on the go, carrying a large DSLR isn't always an option. So I was pleased that iPhone photography was also encouraged and explored.

Then it was back to class for some all important Photoshop skills with Michelle. Adding graphics, text and shapes to our photos, arranging moodboards and generally making the images as good as the content on the blog. The main thing for me in this section was learning to do things more efficiently. Michelle is definitely the inspiration board queen and it was great to see exactly how she creates them step-by-step.

Sunday came to an end, time for a few more questions, last minute advice and a couple of Rebecca's legendary cookies. (I ate 4 to myself and won't be satisfied until she posts the recipe - although I have a feeling this one might be too good to share!)

Finally, it was time to swap details with my classmates, arrange catch ups (which we MUST do!) and plan the next steps for our blogs. It really wouldn't have been the same without the gorgeous girls I spent the weekend with, so here's a little about them too.

Gemma, contributor to and editor of Florence Finds. I'm sure she won't mind me saying that she is an absolute word-whizz. I totally envy her ability to craft perfectly formed sentences that have a poetic feel. I also envy the way she manages to come up with the exact phrase you were looking for long before you even knew you needed it.

Then there's Vicki, creative contributor over on Pocketful of Dreams. I'm always amazed to see how quickly she gets her blog posts out! I read each one and wonder how she even has the time to write so much and stay on top of everything! Her posts are always informative, as are her tweets! It was great to hear Vicki's perspective on blogging on a blog that isn't her own and to hear her advice for being efficient too.

The lady hiding behind the camera above is my lovely friend Elisabetta from Linen and Silk Weddings, who was also my roommate for the weekend! A very chic Italian woman with a fabulous sense of humour. We had such a laugh together on the train journey - chatting far too fast and furious for the other passengers I'm sure! Keep your eyes on Elisabetta's blog in the coming weeks, I feel she'll have lots of exciting things to share, including a little project that she kindly asked me to be part of! 

And finally, this is the lovely Jenny. The ever so clever lady behind the equally funny, Bonjour Pony. A senior graphic designer mummy who loves pattern, cake and ponies and now also has a brand new shop full of cards and prints. Her designs are beautiful as are her adorable tales of motherhood. Jenny and I talked for hours on the Saturday evening and shared videos of our little girls. I look forward to going 'up north' to see Jenny again or for her to pop down to London soon. (I think you might also spot a bit of Bonjour Pony style on these pages soon too! Will be emailing you tonight Miss!!)

And could I forget to share this! My gorgeous gold embossed tote bag from the DFD sponsors Alphabet bags!? We were all so thrilled to see the large goodie bags laying on our desks at the start of the class, filled with all kinds of wonderful. My S bag has fast become a firm favourite I've been hard pushed to use anything but this for the last two months! (Oh...and sorry guys...I totally stole this pic of Jenny's bag from the DFD blog but used some of the cool tricks you taught us in Photoshop to change it to an S as I didn't get a pic of my bag up close! Sorry!) 

So here I am, 2 months on from Dream.Find.Do and I'm excited to say that I'm putting my new found skills to good use and finally making some changes to A Little London Wedding. Nothing too drastic but important all the same. Right now, behind the scenes, I'm working my little socks of to turn my little blog into the place I want it to be. I feel more confident now and I certainly feel like I have a much better chance of achieving what I set out to do. 

I can't thank Michelle and Rebecca enough. Not just for Dream.Find.Do, but for the amazing support they have given since. Two months down the line and they're still as encouraging and helpful as the were during the workshop. I can't wait to read the next DFD write up - the London students are going to have an absolute ball! (I might just pop into the Hoxton and say hi on Saturday evening!) 

If you haven't already booked your place, head on over to the DFD Blog now, you might just grab one of the last spaces for Day Two of the workshop this weekend. I hear they're having a flash sale and there are one or two spots left. Quick! 

Look forward to sharing the upcoming changes with you! See you soon!

Much love,

Samantha x x 


  1. What a really inspiring post, it makes me kind of sorry I am on the wrong side of the Atlantic to book up for one of these courses!! It sounds like you guys really got a lot out of it and thank you for sharing some tips!!

    1. You never know...DFD is growing by the minute. Perhaps they'll do one near you in the future! x

  2. What a beautifully written write-up Sam, you have totally captured the essence of DFD and honestly it makes my heart sing to read your kind words. DfD is exactly as you describe, no-nonsense, tell it like it is, the ups and downs, and all those tips and resources we've picked up along the way.

    Can't wait to see you again and catch up.

    Thankyou xxxx

    1. Ah, thank you Michelle. x Can't wait to catch up too. x

  3. Great post - glad to hear you have been super productive as ever! You are such an impressive lady. Good photos too! x

    1. Thanks Peachey x I'm trying my best. See you on Monday lady! x

  4. Great post! Nice photography and use of moodboards! Has made me look forward to the DFD London weekend even more :) xx

    1. You're going to love it Laura! Look forward to meeting you. I'm going to pop by on Saturday evening! x

  5. Lovely post - I really wish I was attending the London workshop this weekend now but I dithered about wondering if it would be worth the price tag - and fom your lovely post it looks like it is - RATS! Look forward to seeing your updates soon & thanks for the inspiration. Wendy (LWC) x

  6. Really good read, and wonderful pictures.

  7. Great read Samantha, and it sounds as though it was really very good as well


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