Founded by one of our changemakin’ Instaprenuers Emma Norris, @_agirlinprogress is all about supporting and inspiring women to work on themselves, for themselves.
Created as an antidote to the picture-perfect influencers you see on the ‘gram, A Girl In Progress is for the all the ladies out there who are just doin’ their best, promoting personal growth, self-acceptance and putting #progressoverperfection.
We sat down with writer, podcaster and progress professor to get her expert advice and top tips for makin’ a change on Insta…
How did A Girl In Progress come about?
I was working in women’s lifestyle publishing and often found myself at events with influencers and bloggers. While most of the time they were perfectly lovely, I always felt really out of place. There they were – six-foot-tall with perfectly tanned skin, contoured makeup, a designer handbag and not a hair out of place. Then, there’s me – pale and five-foot-two, with hair that I’ve air dried (what’s a hair straightener?), in jeggings and sneakers. I’ve never been glamorous and have certainly never been the ‘cool girl.’ But at the same time, I’m not a total slob. I work out four to five times a week and would be considered pretty fit and healthy. I’m also a total go-getter when it comes to my career.
I wanted to create an antidote to the picture-perfect influencers you see on the ‘gram who can leave you feeling deflated, and instead create a resource that would leave women feeling uplifted and motivated. I decided it was time to create my own publication for women who aren’t 100% perfect and polished, but are working to become the best version of themselves. So, in February 2018, A Girl In Progress was born!
What’s your mission with A Girl in Progress?
A Girl In Progress is a lifestyle blog for women who are working on themselves, for themselves. We believe it’s possible to strive to become the best version of yourself, while simultaneously accepting yourself exactly as you are.
We’re for the uni student who’s still trying to figure out what she wants to do after she graduates. For the girl who works out 4 times a week, but still eats ice cream daily. We’re for the girl who’s working a full-time job to pay the bills while starting her own business on the side. The girl who would sometimes rather stay in and binge-watch Netflix than go to that networking event. We’re for the girl in progress!
“A Girl In Progress is a lifestyle blog for women who are working on themselves, for themselves. We believe it’s possible to strive to become the best version of yourself, while simultaneously accepting yourself exactly as you are.”
On the blog, we provide practical, non-preachy advice on everything from health and beauty to career, money and relationships. However, the overarching theme is always self-development. We also have a private Facebook group of over 2,000 amazing women, Girls In Progress — where they can network and seek advice on anything and everything.
How has A Girl in Progress changed the direction of your life and career?
Instagram has been absolutely pivotal to the growth of A Girl In Progress! I actually created a simple Instagram account and started building it up six months before I started the blog, so when I launched I already had 1000 followers. And I also put a simple email opt-in in my bio at that point, so I could start growing my mailing list immediately.
Today, the most important role Instagram plays in the A Girl In Progress brand is showing our followers what we stand for. I use it as a hub for inspiring quotes on body confidence, mental health, self-love etc that hopefully provides a positive antidote to some of the unattainable perfection you see on Instagram.
How did you turn your content into a career?
Funnily enough, creating content has always been my job in some form or another. I started my career in magazine publishing (I’m actually now back there in my day job at Girlfriend magazine) then moved into writing for digital publications and also started my own copywriting business. It was about two years ago that I realised “hey, maybe I could cut out the middle man and get paid for creating content that inspires millennial women!”
In terms of Instagram, it’s important to keep in mind that it is quite a saturated market. I think it’s crucial to find your point of difference — there are already enough pretty faces on Instagram. So, what is the unique message you’re putting out into the world? Once you figure that out, you’re already leaps and bounds ahead. My other tip is consistency. If you do really want to make Instagram your career, you kind of have to treat it like it’s already your full-time career — posting daily, regularly posting stories, networking with brands, engaging with your community etc. I think that’s the difference between those who make it and those who don’t.
“If you do really want to make Instagram your career, you kind of have to treat it like it’s already your full-time career — posting daily, regularly posting stories, networking with brands, engaging with your community etc. I think that’s the difference between those who make it and those who don’t.”
What’s the key to making change on Instagram?
I think it’s transparency and accountability. There’s a lot of content out there on social media that can make women (especially young people) feel like they can never measure up. But the thing is, many of these women don’t actually look like they do in these photos — thanks to the extreme editing you can do on apps like Facetune.
So, I think Instagram needs to introduce a box you have to tick on Instagram when a post has been edited. I think this element of transparency would really help remind people that what you see on IG isn’t always real. Until then, I think it’s important that we all just continue trying to be as genuine and authentic as possible, and to keep creating conversations around topics like this.
How do you get people to sit up and listen?
I think asking a question at the end of your posts is always a great strategy! It prompts the user to think about what you’re saying or the story you’re sharing in the context of their own life. and obviously it can also boost your engagement as they’re more likely to comment. Breaking long paragraphs of text up with spaces and emojis is always really helpful, too.
Tell us about your podcast A Day in Progress!
A Day In Progress is a productivity podcast for women working on themselves. I interview inspiring women about the daily routines, productivity hacks and goal-setting techniques that set them up for success. So far, I’ve had some incredible women like Lisa Messenger of Collective Hub and Pippa Hallas, CEO of Ella Bache — but I’ve also had everyone from career coaches and creatives to pole dancers to jockeys. There’s something for everyone! I’m just about to start season two and as well as these interviews, I’m going to be doing bite-sized, 10-minute solo episodes with tips about productivity, goal-setting, ending procrastination etc.
What’s your advice to aspiring podcasters on where to start?
My first tip applies to any creative project — find your point of difference and unique selling point! Once you’ve nailed down your unique selling point and audience, then I would recommend investing in an affordable microphone (I use the Blue Yeti Nano) and batch recording at least 5 episodes to launch with. Also, funny little #lifehack, I put a literal sock on my microphone and often record in my closet to help take out some of echo!
If you’re going to be doing interviews with people remotely like I do, I recommend using the video conferencing software, Zoom. Then, create a logo and episode art template (the tile that goes with each episode) The amazing Kira Hyde Creative did mine (she also did the A Girl In Progress logo and my new website, Blogging In Progress) but if you’re on a tight budget, you can also create one on Canva.
Obviously, you’ll also need to create an introduction and outro (the bit at the end where you say goodbye and direct them wherever you like, such as your website) and edit that into your episode. I have a great producer, Katie from Modern Darling Media, who does this for me, but a lot of people swear by using Audacity or GarageBand. You’ll also need to create a podcast description and one for each episode.
Then, you’ll need to actually upload your podcast to all the listening platforms. I choose to upload mine to Anchor (Libsyn is another popular one), which then automatically pushes them to all the other platforms. This saves me loads of time! Once they’re up, it’s time to promote it everywhere you can — on your Instagram (you can put the podcast episodes in your Milkshake link in bio), Facebook page, to your email list, in relevant Facebook groups, on your blog — wherever!
Do you have any secret Instagram hacks, tips or tricks?
If you want to use hashtags in your Instagram Stories but don’t want to ruin the aesthetic of your post, you can make them quite small and then move them all the way into the far corner so they’re out of sight. However, I don’t make them the minimum size (just small enough to not be visible) as apparently Instagram doesn’t register them otherwise (so, they won’t be searchable).
How do you get re-inspired when you’re in a creative block?
I’m always listening to something — whether that’s instrumental music (like classical or chill beats) while I’m writing, or podcasts like The Goal Digger Podcast, Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy, or Rise and Conquer, which always help me come up with fresh new ideas.
I also find it super helpful to switch up my location when I’m in a creative block. That could be getting away from my desk and working in a cafe for a while (the background noise works wonders!) or taking a break by going to sit by Coogee Beach, which is my local. I find that sometimes I just need to clear my head and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Also, most of the time I have daily writing deadlines, so I don’t really have the choice to not feel creative. I find when I just start writing something (even if I don’t think it’s good) it does build momentum and get those creative juices flowing. Often, starting is the hardest part!
What Instagram features do you absolutely swear by?
One of my most used features is the ‘save’ button! I’m constantly getting inspiration from beautiful posts and quotes I see on Instagram, so I like to stash them to revisit later — whether it’s to put my own spin on something similar for A Girl In Progress, or just to inspire and motivate me on a personal level.
How do you plan your content?
I absolutely swear by using the app Planoly to plan out my grid ahead of time! This helps me keep up a consistent and cohesive pattern that’s visually appealing. You can also store sets of hashtags so you don’t have to create them from scratch every time.
What are your top branding tips? Advice for people struggling to find their visual style?
For me, visual branding is something I’ve invested in for the brand from the get go. My partner is an art director/graphic designer. So I’ve come to really understand the importance of having your visual assets look polished and consistent. Having a brand kit with all your brand colours, fonts, logos etc. is really important for keeping things uniform, as it’s something anyone who works on your brand can reference.
What’s your advice for making the most of your link in bio?
Definitely use a tool like Milkshake so you can direct people to more than one link! Otherwise, only being able to link once really limits you. That said, you don’t want to overload people with calls to action. Personally, I use mine to link to new blog posts and podcast episodes, and I change these out regularly. But I also have ones that always stay there and they are my most important calls-to-action. Like checking out the blog, or joining our mailing list or Facebook group!
“Definitely use a tool like Milkshake so you can direct people to more than one link! Otherwise, only being able to link once really limits you.”
What’s your advice for keepin’ it real and creating unique, authentic content?
I think creating for the sake of creating can be really powerful. Instagram removing the visible ‘likes’ has been great for this, because it means we’re less preoccupied with whether other people are going to like it. We’re now more inclined to take photos of things or write about things just because we feel like it, not because we’re trying to hit a certain amount of likes. So, my advice would be to listen to and follow those creative instincts when they arise. Also — try not to compare yourself to what other people are doing!
What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry?
While we’ve certainly come a long way, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to closing the pay gap and creating better conditions for working mums. However, in terms of something I’ve experienced personally, it would be not being taken seriously as a young woman — particularly when I was in my early 20s. As I also looked quite small and young, I sometimes felt that people discounted me as ‘just a kid’ and cast my ideas aside. As a result, I felt a bit hesitant to voice my opinions and ideas. However, I think it’s important that everyone’s perspective and voice is valid and to have courage in your own convictions. This is something I’m really passionate about at Girl In Progress — encouraging women to use their voice!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made? What’s your advice on what not to do on Instagram?
I think it was just trying to do the same thing as everyone else out there. When I first started A Girl In Progress, I struggled to find that balance between the brand and myself, Emma. Like many other bloggers, I started with posting some images from my life and of myself on my AGIP platform. But it just didn’t feel right. Because at the end of the day, A Girl In Progress isn’t about me. It’s about all the girls out there working on themselves. This is probably the exact opposite of the advice most people would give (there’s definitely a push now for showing the person behind the brand more) but I think you just have to stick to what feels right for you — even if that means going against the grain!
What’s next for you and @_agirlinprogress?
I recently submitted my manuscript for my book Progress Over Perfection, which will come out with Quarto Publishing in May 2020. It’s a guide book to mindful productivity and is all about achieving your goals without feeling overworked and overwhelmed. You can stay tuned on that here.
I also work 4 days a week as deputy editor at Girlfriend magazine and am super passionate about creating educational and uplifting content for our Gen Z audience. And, I also provide premium blog writing and 1-1 coaching services through my website Blogging In Progress.
I also have products coming out through A Girl In Progress — a range of merch with inspiring quotes. Early next year, I’ll also be launching a course that teaches millennial women to stop procrastinating and start making progress towards their biggest goals TODAY. Clearly I practice what I preach because I’m now realising just how much I have on my plate. Time management is everything!