Meg, it is an absolute pleasure to have you as part of our 'Inspiring Interview' series. We first 'met’ through the land of the internet due to sharing the same illness at the time. I always think it is quite amazing how that one follow and message, led us to friendship.
At the time of ‘meeting’ you online, you were sharing your journey through illness on your blog, www.meg-says.com , which provided myself, and I’m sure hundreds of other readers, a space to feel seen and heard in their struggle, which I will always be grateful for. I know time has since changed, but you must have received many messages of kindness from helping others along the way.
Let's get into it, how did the blog Meg Says form and what was your vision for it?
Firstly, thank you so much for having me - excited is an understatement!
I actually started a beauty blog called Meg Says when I was 14, but it was deleted in favour of dating, exams and nights out a few years after its conception and now belongs to the online graveyard. Fast forward to 2014: I’ve been diagnosed and rendered bedridden with a severe case of ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and forced to quit my job and go on medical leave from my university degree. Unable to get out of bed, my options for filling my days were limited to say the least until one day I decided to pick up where I left off with blogging and start a brand new Meg Says website. There was definitely no vision in the beginning, just the comfort of being able to express myself via this hobby of writing online and the hope that others with the same illness might read it and feel less alone.
I remember when you took the plunge to create your own YouTube channel alongside your rapidly rising-in-popularity blog www.meg-says.com – I was so excited! What made you take that leap of faith and what was your intention for the channel?
Aww I remember it so well too, looking back that was such a fun time! Since my early teens I was an avid watcher of vlogs from the likes of Pixiwoo etc - we’re only going back about a decade or so but I literally didn’t have a single friend who also watched YouTube which shows how times have changed! I always dreamt of creating videos myself but was so daunted by the prospect - I still felt very young and naïve and lived in an area where everyone knew of everyone, so thinking about people I went to school with laughing or saying ‘who does she think she is!’ definitely held me back. It took seven years to muster the courage and stop caring enough to do it, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! The intention was wholesome af - all I wanted to do was share snippets of my life and experiences with likeminded people, enjoy the creative outlet that YouTube provided and create this positive sunshine-y corner of the internet.
In blog posts it is easy to hide a lot of things whereas video is far more intimate. How did it feel to start and what helped you grow in confidence?
Time and practice, definitely - in my first video you can tell that I totally don’t know what I’m doing and even though I’m still pretty tech-challenged, I feel so much more confident in my ability to speak to a camera like it’s a person. It’s harder than it looks! There have been a few particularly sensitive or vulnerable videos I’ve been nervous to hit ‘upload’ on, but I’ve shared so many intimate parts of my life online over the years that it doesn’t phase me much - and that is 99% down to the amazing audience I have! They make me feel so accepted and welcome, it sounds cheesy but I genuinely feel like I’m chatting with my friends so it’s very easy to be an open book.
There came a turning point around 2012-2013, where YouTube began to be a career option for many. How has this financial and working with brands aspect been for you and how did you begin to adapt Meg Says into a more professional business venture?
I started blogging purely as a hobby so to turn it into my full-time job a few years ago was incredible, especially as it originated during a very bleak time in my life being on medical leave from my degree, so it has been the silver lining of becoming chronically ill. Before that happened I was approached by a brand who had read my blog and needed somebody to set up and run their blog and all of their socials; at the time I’d had to quit my job as a waitress and had no idea when or if I’d be able to work again, so I was totally over the moon that I’d be able to earn not just from home, but from bed! My online following continued to grow and I started being offered work with brands (I still remember my first ever sponsored blog post was with Pixi Beauty in 2016!) until eventually, I was earning more from my blog than I was from my job as a social media manager - I continued juggling both for a while until taking the full self-employed blogging plunge.
Does part of you prefer when times were more innocent online?
Part of me, for sure - in 2014/2015 things felt very ‘cosy’ and just… simpler! I do find that the online world can be quite noisy and overwhelming if you don’t edit your feed (e.g. mute or unfollow anything that makes you feel crap) and take ‘switching off’ breaks. I’m still a big champion of social media as I think it has so many positives, but of course there are negatives too - the ones that spring to mind are cyber-bullying, heavy filters, Photoshop etc. There needs to be proper education for young people on how to navigate the internet and stay safe, and going back to my previous point I think we can self-help by only following accounts that make you feel uplifted, not inadequate - for example, I’ve watched Zoë Sugg’s vlogs for years and they still give me those warm, happy 2014 vibes!
You have grown such a loyal and strong community because your kind, compassionate and caring nature shines through. Obviously, there are some who choose the YouTube career for simply financial purposes. As someone within the space, what would you advice be to anyone considering YouTube/blogging as a career?
Thank you so much for saying that, means the world! I understand why people would enter into YouTube etc simply for financial gain as it’s a very lucrative industry, however I’m a firm believer that you have to be prepared to do it for no money for potentially years - not many people ‘make it’ and whilst I would 100% encourage people to chase their dreams, you do have to be realistic that an audience doesn’t grow and bring ££££ in sponsorships with them overnight. Expect nothing, appreciate everything!
You have shown that having strong brand values is at the heart of a successful career in Youtube and blogging, creating your success through maintaining this core part of ‘Meg Says’. I am sure you have turned down many opportunities because of this. Is there a darker side to the industry when potential for money and fame is at play?
I haven’t personally experienced the darker side in that respect however I do have industry friends who have - maybe as I’m a smaller fish in a huge influencer pond it’s easier for me to just crack on with my own thing without any drama! I’ve definitely turned down a lot of opportunities, whether that’s because a brand’s values don’t align with mine re: the LGBTQ+ community or I’m not happy to featured in a certain newspaper or simply because I’ve given a product a fair trial and don’t actually think it’s that good. I’ve got a strict rule where if I wouldn’t buy it with my own money or recommend it to my mum/best friend and tell them to spend their hard-earned cash on it, then it’s a polite no! I remember being obsessed with beauty blogs as a teenager and I’d often work a lot of hours to save up to buy one product that a blogger had recommend - that has always stuck with me and I hope that my audience trust my opinion because of that.
You have been very open and beautifully honest about something very important to you, your experience of heavy periods. Breaking this taboo, and continuing to is not only a positive experience for you, but so many women and girls too. What would you like to campaign for in this space?
Thank you! I’m proud of myself for being open as it’s not something that I actively like talking about… I’m not sure anyone wakes up and is like ‘I’m gonna tell everyone I know plus the world about the bloodstains on my bathroom rug!’ Periods have been the bane of my life and in all honesty I’d rather just get through each month then forget again, so in this case it’s definitely the fact that I feel I ‘need to share’ rather than ‘want to share’. The positive part of it comes from knowing that it is actually helping people who menstruate (not just those who identify as women or girls!) as I remember struggling so much in my teens and searching for answers on YouTube but finding literally nothing. I have so much advice on how to cope with painful and heavy periods that it’d be selfish to keep them to myself, plus as you’ve mentioned it’s extremely important to be open and smash the stigma both online and offline. Ending period poverty is high on my list, as is awareness for conditions like endometriosis.
The Coronavirus Pandemic prompted many to slow down and find comfort in the small things. Did you see an influx in people turning to your channel and blog during these times?
I don’t actively check my analytics (don’t tell my manager!) so I’m not sure if more people watched or read, but it certainly feels like the sense of community has increased - my DMs are definitely busier and as a result, I’ve restarted a project from 2015 called MegMail where I write letters and cards to followers as a little bit of ‘happy post’ during what has been, for many, a crappy year.
Where did you spend your lockdown and what important lessons did you learn in this time? What lessons would you like us to hold onto after the coronavirus pandemic is over?
My boyfriend and I were very lucky to live with his lovely parents - our first home together fell through due to the pandemic and I feel so fortunate that we had somewhere to go where we’ve been made to feel so welcome and happy. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in 2020 has been what it means to be actively anti-racist; this summer was a turning point so I’m grateful for the BLM movement and everyone who has used their voice to educate. It’ll be a lifelong journey of continually learning for me, for sure. Another lesson I’m sure we’ve all felt deeply is the importance of our loved ones - it seems we’ll never take meeting a friend for a coffee or giving our grandparents a hug for granted ever again!
Read Meg's blog: www.meg-says.com
Watch Meg's Youtube: www.youtube.com/megsays
Follow Meg on Instagram: @megsays_