My Story… (so far)

My Story… (so far)

It’s been 2 years now since I launched my business. My son had just turned 2, life was complicated, and I was faced with some important decisions. One thing I knew though…was that I wanted my son to be proud of me. That was non-negotiable. And there are a lot of reasons why.

My life had had a few ups and downs. I had been highly academic at school – through good fortune – but had to leave part way through my A Levels, due to family circumstances. I started work immediately and somehow fell into Sales; and I was good at it. A successful career in Recruitment followed – until I was on the wrong end of a hit and run in 2004 that changed everything. I was left with no money, no career, and a six year journey (with 17+ procedures) to get back to “me” again. For much of that time I was bedbound, in and out of hospital and in terrible, life-altering pain. You can read more about that here or here – if you want to, of course.

During that time I went through every possible emotion a human probably can. From desperation to determination (and back again, a few times) but I never, ever gave up believing life would be good again, one day. Even when I was told the future looked pretty bleak, I couldn’t just lay there hopeless. So I read. I educated myself. I pored over books and absorbed information; from useless tit-bits to books about Buddhism, and eventually, when there was nothing left on the book shelves to read…I picked up an old college text book on HTML. It was dull, and out of date, but I taught myself to code from scratch from that book. I created basic websites, and I tinkered until they looked good. It was purely a hobby, but it kept me amused.

Around the same time, I discovered this new little thing, called Twitter. It was in it’s fledgling stages and was brilliant, back then. There was a real sense of community and I found people in similar situations to my own, and started to feel less alone. I also learned about these weird little things called “blogs”, which would obviously never take off (!) and were mainly about food and recipes, back then. I decided to set one up for myself; just to vent about my injuries, my frustrations, the loss I felt, the limitations. On good days, I’d write about fashion, and I started to mention a few club nights that my old friends were hosting, or DJing at….that I’d be at if I could. It became an eclectic, odd little mix of thoughts and ideas, pain and dreams. It was anonymous, then (I called myself JJ so I could be real, without judgement) and somehow, after just a few months, back in 2008 it got noticed by some PR companies. And then some more. And then, somehow, as I started to get better and life started to improve…we started to win awards and get invited to work with some of the world’s largest brands. I was invited to judge the Johnson and Johnson Beauty Awards, I hosted events, I sat on Media panels and I was invited to be on the committee, and later the Ambassador for The London Lifestyle Awards. That little blog (Love London) I’d started from my bed became a completely unexpected success, with hundreds of thousands of views a month and a community of readers whose engagement that was more rewarding than any of the invitations or recognition we received elsewhere.

I always redesigned the site every year, to keep it fresh and interesting. I started by adapting WordPress themes, and sometimes designed them from scratch. I never took anything out of the box and took pride in the positive comments we got (this was LONG before the big money came to blogging, it’s not uncommon to see some truly stunning blog designs now! Some I’m thankful to have been a part of). Before long, blogging friends started to ask me to update their sites, and I enjoyed doing it. A lot.

Fast forward a bit, and I started to do some freelance work with my friend and colleague Steve, who ran the best social media recruitment agency in London. I helped him build the businesses online community, and we put on some events together, bringing PR, Social Media and Bloggers/Influencers together to improve their practices and understanding of each other. We loved every minute of it, and I learned so much about the digital world. I also met some of the best people I know, many of whom just so happen to be Digital superstars, and the people who had been in the industry from the outset. The Digital world, which has been my hobby and my playground, became my passion, and I knew this was my future.

Once I’d had my baby, I knew after a few months that I wanted to get back to work. I was a single Mum, I was skint, I was still suffering some long term health conditions thanks to the trauma of my accident (CFS and Fibromyalgia) and I was scared – but I knew I was not going to sit back and do nothing. So I started very small, doing some freelance social media and community work for friends. I designed my own websites, of course, and people liked them. They started asking me to design some for them, too. And I realised I LOVED IT. Whilst I knew, and loved social media, and creating communities, website design had become my core skill, my most in-demand service and the thing I was most proud of.

And so, here we are. From learning to code 10 years ago, to doing what I love EVERY DAY now, it’s been a journey full of lessons and one I’m looking forward to continuing for a very long time. I’m now proud to be combining website design with website maintenance and workshops on all of the above; there’s nothing I love more than talking to clients, getting to understand their business dreams and helping them to bring those to life.

If you’d like a chat about how we can help you, please do get in touch at hello@jjmiller.co.uk – and if you have any questions about any of the above please do send me a message. My story has not been a smooth one and there have been times it’s not been easy, but as the old quote says…

The Importance of Updating WordPress…

The Importance of Updating WordPress…

Over the years, I have built, advised and worked on so many WordPress websites, I’ve lost count. Whether they’re my own, a client’s or a friend’s, there’s always one thing I do when I log in…

UPDATE EVERYTHING.

In fact, it’s become somewhat of an obsession, with very good reason. When I first started using WordPress, my blog was just a baby. It was hacked and infected so badly, I pretty much had to start again. How did they get in? Through out-of-date Plugins and an old, unpatched version of WordPress. BOO.

It may seem like only a week or two since you were last updating WordPress to the latest version. Sometimes, updates are released even quicker, even daily, and it can seem like a chore to keep checking and waiting for new versions to install. But that’s a GREAT thing. It means that the development team of this amazing, free CMS framework are constantly working to fix bugs, patch up security holes and keep your website secure against hackers. (Pesky blighters, who are also constantly working on ways to to get in). And the teams behind our lovely (again, usually free) Plugins and Themes are doing the same…to keep your site safe. And it works. The system is fantastic and keeps you protected – but only if you actually remember to update 😉

The latest update, (4.7.2 as I type), fixed some recent security issues which saw vulnerabilities behind the scenes, resulting in “hacked by” posts cropping up. WP actually do all the hard work before the issues are announced, meaning that IF YOU UPDATE you’ll be fine. But, thousands of Admins who didn’t hit that little button could have been affected, through no fault of WP’s. And believe me, sorting out a hacking issue is a lot more painful than taking 2 minutes out of your days, I promise.

So. What easy steps can you take to help secure your WordPress site?

  • Install a security Plugin. The best ones in my opinion are Sucuri and Wordfence, both of which have free versions and are incredibly easy to install. They’ll notify you when there are any problems on your site, and tell you when you need to update. Don’t ignore those emails, get straight in and update ASAP!
  • Make your passwords hard to guess and change them regularly. Either use WP’s crazy, random generated password, or choose something with a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. And change them regularly.
  • Add yourself as a new user (withyour own name, or business name), with a new password, and then delete the “admin” User completely. Remember to make sure you select “Administrator” rather than “Subscriber” in the drop down when adding the new user so you can access all WP’s dashboard functions. It’s much easier to hack a system using automatic scanning programmes when the User name is still Admin by default.
  • Back up regularly – both your content and database. There are some free plugins for this which are fine – but if you have valuable info on your site, this is an area where paying for a plugin is a good investment.
  • Make sure you’re with a good host, who is set up for using WordPress and in a position to help you if you need them. I have been with TSO Host for years and their customer service is fantastic (plus they know not everyone speaks “tech” and keep things nice and simple when you need them too.) Siteground is another good option. Have a chat to your current host and make sure that they are optimised for WordPress and are doing everything they can to protect you, too.

 

So that’s it! There are many other, more technical ways to really protect your WordPress site (this is a great recent article from CodeinWP on that), but if you’re not confident with getting a little bit deeper into WordPress, the 5 simple security steps above really are a great place to start and should protect you from any issues.

If you have any questions about any of the above, please do feel free to email me.

But for now? Go. UPDATE! 

 

PSST: If you ever want to know if you need to update, just login and WP will tell you, like this:

There is always enough time… (even when there’s not)

There is always enough time… (even when there’s not)

I am too busy.

That’s a statement that I, and I’m sure you, mutter to myself numerous times a week.

Juggling a business, a family, a blog, friends, health, eating, sleeping, entertainment, reading and everything else that needs to be crammed into each day is tricky to say the least, and recently I’ve been questioning just how I can fit it all in.

It may sound strange then, that instead of cutting something back, I chose this exact moment to add something else. Something huge, actually, that’s going to take a lot of committment and will make me challenge myself daily. Gemma Went’s Simply Smart Business Mastermind.

Now. Taking on another big project at this stage could be considered madness; but I am 100% confident that in this case, it’s exactly the right thing to do. Because this is something that’s going to help me streamline my activity; to implement strategies to reduce time-stress; to add and modify systems that will help me cut back on my work;  to find new ways of making passive income and that will teach me to manage my time so much better than I have done.

How do I know this? Easy – I’ve watched Gemma go from somewhere I am now to huge success (with a family…and a puppy!) and excel at it, so there’s no-one better to learn from.

I’m super-excited to jump in and start the course, which is going to last for 6 months and will hopefully help me improve both my business world, and life-in-general, exponentially. If I have to rise at 6.30 instead of 7.30? I’ll do it. I will make the time. The time will find me. It’s an investment in me, in my future, in my son’s future – and what could be more important, or worth investing in than that?

I’ll be blogging some of the takeaways I’ve learned as I know I’m going to be bursting with inspiration!

Sometimes, instead of taking things away and making life worse…adding another thing can make life so much better.

Bring it on! I’m ready.

Rules for Being Amazing (Words To Live By)

Rules for Being Amazing (Words To Live By)

I don’t intend to make a habit of writing blog posts with a personal angle here, but just this once, I’m going to make an exception, as I believe there’s an important message to be shared here for both life in general, and business.

This week has been rather a difficult one for me as I learned that someone very special to me is more than slightly unwell. There have been a roller-coaster of emotions…but one thing I keep coming back to.

This person is AMAZING.

And not just in a “they’re-my-friend-and-I-have-to-think-that” kind of way. I mean in an astonishingly brilliant, talented, vibrant, generous, soulful, accomplished, wise and mind-bogglingly hilarious way.

I have often been astounded by his knowledge, tenacity and wisdom and his whole attitude to life; never more so than in the last week and the way he has approached the news.

I posted this quote, by Robin Sharma, on the original version of this site but it got lost in the re-brand so I wanted to post it again. Because I truly believe that, as my friend has done, we should try to live whole-heartedly, without reservation and fear; with kindness and love as the core values of everything we do. I’ve been reminded of that this week, and it’s spurred me on to make some important and inspired (I hope!) life and business decisions.

With Bank Holiday weekend coming up, it’s a great time to relax, unwind, regroup and take a moment to think about our approach to everything we do…

…and this is a great place to start.

The Rules for Being Amazing

by Robin Sharma. 

JJ Miller Branding: Rules for being Amazing (Robin Sharma Quote)

Words we should all live by, for sure.

The Best Free Stock Photo Resources for 2016

The Best Free Stock Photo Resources for 2016

Stock photography used to be cheesy.

I mean, embarrassingly so. The thought of adding one of those terrible stock images to my site would fill me with dread a couple of years ago – but with the rise in companies and Photographers suing Bloggers and small businesses for use of their copyright (yes, this happens a lot) it’s really not worth the risk. No more popping on to Google and finding the first image that suits your content. Well, not unless you have a few hundreds (or thousands) of pounds to pay the fees later on if you get caught. So, stock images have become my (and your) friend. And luckily, there are now plenty of sites that hold stock images that really don’t suck. In fact, many of them are rather lovely.

The stock photography sites I tend to use are searchable, and contain a wide variety of images, suitable for all types of content. I’ve put together a list of the ones I use most often, and some others that can be really useful for more niche projects. So, bookmark this page, and use the list whenever you need it!

Stock Photography that makes a great impact


 

PS: If you’re wondering why you need images in your blog posts anyway, the stats make it clear.

stock image stats blogging

(source/source)

Can’t argue with that, can you?!