Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips

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Personal Development – 3 reasons for learning at home

Over the years I’ve done a lot of studying online. I’ve studied branding, community journalism, IT and marketing, to name just a few. And, no surprise, I’ve completed a course in Personal Development via distance learning too. I studied the course, completed assessments and gained a qualification without ever meeting a tutor or any other students. For some of you, it may feel a little lonely to miss out on that human connection and social interaction with your peers but don’t worry; you can communicate with other course members through forums and email.personal-development-learning-at-home-studying-study-online-courseFor me it was a really convenient way to learn; it meant that I could study as little or as much as I liked, and could complete the course in less time as I wasn’t attending a certain number of lessons or spending time on class discussions. Plus, once I’d competed each course, I could proudly add it to my CV. I really like this way of learning and here a three reasons why you should consider it too:

Paper-free studying – The course materials are all the same as with a regular course, just that you’re able to experience them ‘paper-free’. No more textbooks or journals cluttering up your home, or files full of notes on your desk. With online learning it’s all contained within your laptop and assessments are usually online or submitted via email. Continue reading “Personal Development – 3 reasons for learning at home” »


Building your own personal brand ~ brand purpose & the next step

I might be a little bit slow to catch on but I’ve just found out that most of the world has been calling Wednesdays ‘Hump Day’. I’ve heard it a few times and some of the US-based books I’ve been reading have been referring to hump day, but I’ve only just googled it and found out the meaning of this nickname. It’s always been a mystery to me as to why I have less oomph on a Wednesday and sometimes get into a big sulk because I don’t want to do any work – but now I know that everyone else is feeling the same and that that there’s even a ‘technical’ term for it, so it’s not just me, phew! In honour of hump day, I’ve procrastinated this morning and had a reading session rather than getting on with writing this blog post, but I’m here now and ready to roll. So welcome to another Hump Day and I hope you’re feeling as optimistic about getting over the ‘hump’ of Wednesday into the downhill slide towards the weekend as I am. It’s a particularly fun weekend coming up for me because it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday which will mean I get at least a few hours of my husband’s undivided attention. I also have a fun first-weekend-in-half-term planned which includes a car boot sale rummage, afternoon tea with my husband’s family and a naughty night out with my BFF and her boyfriend. After this little glimpse into the impending weekend I think I can cope with this hump day well.

Anyway, onto the topic in hand. A couple of weeks ago I told you all that I’d just finished my leisure-learning course on Secret Power of Brands – a degree-level course from the University of East Anglia. Although I enjoyed the course, it was very business-focussed throughout and I learnt a lot about the history and methods of branding. It wasn’t until the very last lesson that my imagination was sparked by the content – creating your own personal brand. Now this was relevant to me! And, I figured, was quite relevant to a few of you too. So I posted a little article about the course and was overwhelmed by the response from fellow bloggers, writers and pals who were making over their CVs and online profiles. I couldn’t leave it there and went on to share all of the questions needed to determine the three elements of building a personal brand:

Each of the segments above have a number of questions to answer in order to determine your answer to each section – click on the links above to complete the questions for yourself and you’ll find it easier to find out what your passions, skills and positions are. I am particularly lazy with doing self-help tasks like this and probably wouldn’t have actually completed these questions if I hadn’t been blogging about it, so if you really feel like you can’t be bothered, maybe write down your answers in a blog post and send me the link to share – at least you’ll feel like you’re doing something worthwhile with your time rather than just faffing around with branding jargon. The questions really did help me focus on myself and my abilities and has even led me in a slightly new direction in my work and I’m hoping to incorporate it into my blog as I go on – so I’d really recommend that you have a go at doing it! Once you have the answers to the questions you’ll have determined your brand purpose and can work on showing it off to the world. Here’s an example of what Richard Branson’s three segments would look like so that you can get an idea of how each section contributes to the overall brand purpose:

richard bransons personal brand purpose UEA

Sorry about the blurry image – it’s a slideshow from FutureLearn

My segments are: I am passionate about sustainable living and saving money through thrift and recycling/upcycling. I am good at communicating, research and sharing knowledge through writing. The world needs to know about the impact of making ethical decisions and the importance of creativity. My brand purpose is therefore: Create and communicate written content which encourages an economically and ecologically friendly lifestyle. So you can expect to see more of this on the blog soon! I know I already share bits here and there about recycling, thrift and charity in all areas of life but now that I have a brand purpose, it will influence most of my work and I will be more likely to create cohesive content – plus I’ll feel that my work is more worthwhile. Or at least I hope it will be!

At this stage the course sums up by suggesting looking at how you can implement your brand purpose in the future. For me, it’s as simple as making positive changes to the blog. But for people in other roles, who may be writing a CV or thinking about a change in career direction based on their brand purpose, it’s about making the positive changes happen. So here’s what to do next::

  • Appoint your own personal advisory board – choose six people who can help you achieve your ambition, ask each one if they will be on your informal ‘board’, usually they’re delighted to!
  • Ask for help with things you’re unsure of and see if one of your ‘board’ would become a mentor for you.
  • Publish yourself – get your ideas out into the world and your content will earn you respect
  • Coordinate your personal profiles online so that they all point towards a shared direction for your personal ‘brand’

I really hope that the sharing of my progress through the personal branding section of the course has helped you and if you’re interested in taking the course for yourself, the UEA are running it again as a completely free online course via Future Learn – it starts on 24th Feb and you can complete it at home and in your own time. I just want to point out that I’m not sharing a sponsored link or promoting the course or anything like that, I’m just sharing the info so that you guys don’t miss out if you fancy doing it for yourself! Let me know how you get on with implementing your own personal brand and drop me a line if you need a helping hand with anything – I’m always here to help! 🙂


Building your own personal brand – what does the world need to know?

Good news on a rather cloudy Thursday – we have finally arrived at the third segment on the subject of personal branding and I’m sharing the last set of questions in order to determine your personal brand purpose. I am so surprised by the great reaction I’ve had from bloggers, job-hunters, brands, tweeters and friends on the articles I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks on the subject of personal branding. It seems like everyone can get something out of answering the questions I’ve been posting to answer ‘What am I good at?‘ and ‘What am I passionate about?’. Whether we have a shop, blog or are writing a CV, it’s been a good starting point for us to really think about what makes us special and what we want to do in life.

We’ve previously chatted about the course that I was studying, the ‘Secret Power of Brands’, and at the very least I was hoping that I’d be able to share a little more about myself and my life with you all by answering the personal branding questions ‘in public’. In truth, I probably wouldn’t have got round to answering the questions at all if it had been left up to me to do it on my own, but going through them for the benefit of us all has forced me to consider each answer carefully and has actually resulted in me having a little bit of a rethink about my work. Have you been answering the questions too? What conclusions have you made so far? Here are the last set of questions which aim to answer the question ‘What does the world need to know?’.

personal brand purpose UEA

Sorry for the blurry image, it’s one of the slides from the UEA Secret Power of Brands course.

Identify issues or themes affecting your industry or line of work My greatest problem within my industry is the level of competition. I don’t mean competitiveness, although undoubtedly this does go on, but I just choose to ignore it because (other than during music quizzes) I’m not at all competitive. I mean the sheer volume of other people doing the same things that I am doing; writing and blogging. First of all, the global nature of blogging means that I have a whole world of amazing blogs to compete with and could not possibly find out every single one of my blog ‘competitors’ because there are millions… And even in my subject sector (what exactly is that? thrift? fashion? DIY? lifestyle? food?) there are just too many for me to even research. In terms of writing, when I am aiming for national publications, I’m competing with all the other talented journalists in the country who all want to land a great article job or regular column for a digital publication. No doubt we all have our own specialisms and writing styles but again it’s a tough industry to break into and maintain a career in due, in part, to the vast numbers of ‘competition’.

What’s currently broken? I think that there is a proliferation of digital publications and blogs who are not generating new content but are simply reposting other people’s ideas and content, writing lists and relying on images and less on writing or being creative. Some websites are specialists at this and I am happy to read them and even use them as a resource but when there are so many amazing writers out there, it seems a shame that publishers want to commission shorter written articles and more of these ‘top 5 of such and such..’ posts.

What is the competition failing at? Possibly monetising their work. If bloggers and writers were being paid properly and regularly they would be able to dedicate more time to their work and the standard of their content would perhaps be better. I’m not saying that a half-an-hour post is any less important than something that has been researched and written over a week – I myself can really spurt something out quickly if I’m passionate and knowledgeable about the subject – I just want all writers to be given the means to be more creative in their work and needing to write a large volume of content quickly in order to pay the bills is never the best way to inspire creativity and new ideas.

How could your skills help? I think that my passion comes across in my writing – or at least I hope it does – and this will help my writing to stand out amongst all the other articles out there. I hope that I can create happy relationships with my readers – who I usually chat with as friends too! – and that they will come back to read my work wherever it is published. Therefore my writing will hopefully continue to land me more commissions and contracts so that I may dedicate more time to my ‘art’ and spend time researching, writing, photographing and creating engaging new content.

And that’s all for this section. I’ve actually not enjoyed answering these questions as much as the previous two segments and I think that’s because the questions have taken a negative stance, you know how much I hate to be a sour-puss. At least I have determined what I don’t want my work to become! Plus, I have found out that money is more important to me than I thought, something that I never thought I’d say – all of us artists, writers, crafters and creatives do what we do because we love it and would do it anyway even if we were not being paid – but I’ve found out that more paid work would enable me to spend more time on my work and perhaps better improve the quality of my research and writing – maybe! I don’t want to compete with ‘everyone in the world’ but I do want to carry on making an impact in my own corner of the world.

How have you found answering these questions? As difficult as I did? What results do you have for the ‘what does the world need to know’ segment? There is one final post on it’s way to analyse your ultimate brand purpose and how to work with this in the future so please check back soon to finish off this project with me 🙂


Building your own personal brand ~ What are you good at?

Last week I started a bit of a discussion on personal branding and I’ve been surprised by the amount of positive responses I’ve had to this mini-series. Even well-established bloggers – people that I think already have a much stronger brand than I do – have been getting in touch to say how much it has helped and that they are looking forward to the next instalment. We’ve previously chatted about the ‘Secret Power of Brands’ course in my initial blog post on the subject and have discussed the first step in personal branding – answering the questions that discover “What are you passionate about?”. So I can’t keep my pals waiting any longer and here is the second set of questions for us all to attempt to answer today. Sorry for the blurry image, it has been taken from a slideshow from the UEA course I’ve just finished studying.

personal brand purpose UEA

Today I’m going to try answering the questions below in order to address the “What are you good at?” section. Have a go at answering these questions for yourself and you’ll be another step closer to creating your own personal brand. Of course, I’m already cringing a little about sharing my achievements etc and I really don’t want my answers to sound like I’m writing responses to a job application form, but I guess these questions are designed for that very reason; to develop an understanding of our own abilities and to be able to ‘sell’ ourselves – and in some cases to create a CV – as a personal brand. So here goes…

What is your biggest strength? I’m going to say communication here. I’m not talking about simply talking, because I’m not always fantastic at small-talk and chit-chat, but I enjoy a proper conversation, a debate, an intelligent exchange. I’m good at written communication and some of my best conversations are published on this very blog. Plus I have studied Makaton for a long time, so can communicate physically too, even with those who have trouble communicating in the traditional sense. I am a great pen pal.

What is your personal superpower? Without a doubt, my personal superpower is empathy. I care deeply for other people (and even animals) and can always put myself into another person’s shoes and really feel what they are feeling. This makes me more emotional than I’d like to be at times but I’m sure that my empathetic nature has led me to develop fantastic friendships.

Why would someone work with you? I have a cheery disposition (just like Mary Poppins, eh?!) and I am also very helpful and will take time to assist others in their projects. I guess this is why I like to join in with guest posts and blog challenges now that I’m a blogger – I like to work with others on a shared outcome which benefits us both – so maybe I ought to join in with more of this kind of thing. Let me know if you have a project you’d like me to join in with and I will probably jump at the change.

What do colleagues get from you? Someone who can be trusted to work unsupervised and get the work done on or before a deadline. They will also get honest advice and I like to teach others how to do things if they don’t already have knowledge of the task. They will get my time, energy and enthusiasm. I genuinely want everyone to reach their full potential and am a good cheerleader.

What roles or activities have you excelled in previously? I’m going to answer this in terms of what tasks I have enjoyed most in the past, because I’ve never not given 100% in every role I’ve worked in but that doesn’t mean that I have always liked it! I worked as a research intern after finishing university and I really looked forward to working on the project every day and getting excellent results. In my very first job as a marketing assistant for a publishing house, I found that I did my best work during research and editorial tasks. Within both of these roles I liked being autonomous and preferred the writing element of the work.

What are your biggest achievements so far? My biggest achievements are gaining a first class degree and a masters degree with distinction, which I now realise also probably shows my preference for and ability to work independently, read, research, write, design and communicate well. Obviously I need to mention the blog which has led to lots of opportunities for writing articles for other publications – something I’ve always wanted to do but never really realised before I began blogging – I was always good at writing as a teen but fought against this because I didn’t want to be a ‘square’ at school. I’m also going to count a ten year marriage, strong friendships, happy family life and teaching my nephew new things among my biggest achievements and I honestly think personal achievements outweigh educational or career success in my mind.

So let me know how you get on with answering these questions and developing an answer to the “What are you good at?” section on the brand purpose chart above. I think my overall discovery is that I am good at writing, research, independent working, learning, teaching, sharing and developing relationships. It all seems a bit obvious now that I’ve written it down, because that’s basically what I’m doing every day through the blog and in my life, but until you write it down and really think about it, I don’t think you really know yourself all that well! At least I’ve found out that I’m more-or-less doing what I should be doing in life already and that I ought to focus on developing my current ‘career’ rather than searching for something else. What have you found out by answering these questions? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know!


Building your own personal brand – What do you love?

During the week I wrote about the “Secret Power of Brands” course that I have just completed and how the last lesson on personal branding turned out to be the most valuable to me as a blogger. I’d never really considered myself a ‘brand’ before, but my blog certainly is projecting an image of me into the world and I’d like it to at least reflect who I am as a person! I think lots of other bloggers would find it useful to have a little think about the ideas that the course shares on personal branding so I wanted to go through the process with you and maybe you could join in too.

There are three parts to creating a brand purpose, which is something every ‘brand’ needs whether it is a company selling something or whether it is simply how you come across on a CV. These three sections identify what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and what the world needs to know, and where they cross over in the centre is the brand purpose – easy, huh? Or maybe not. I’ve found it difficult to pinpoint something for each of these sections but luckily the course offered a list of questions to answer in order to figure out your answers for each section. Here is an example of which Richard Branson’s personal branding chart would look like (sorry for the slightly blurry image – it’s from a powerpoint slide):

richard bransons personal brand purpose UEA The questions that I’m aiming to answer today are those in the  “What are you passionate about?” section. I realised that, even though I share information on my blog everyday, all you lovely readers might not know that much about me as a person. I’ve not really shared much about my personal life, although if you read my posts you’ll probably gather that I’m married and my nephew is one of the most awesome little people I’ve ever met, but other than that, what do you really know about me? I’d be interested to hear what you think and it would be very useful for this task so please leave me a comment below. I am a very private person – odd for a blogger, I know – but I want to share more of myself, as I think my best writing comes when the topic is more personal. It’s just finding the balance I guess. Anyway, I’m taking a deep breath and answering the questions to identify “What are you passionate about?” below.

What gets you up in the morning? There are a few things and I’m not being cheeky when I say that my husband gets me up in the morning. Ok he literally does because I set an alarm to get him to work on time, but that’s not what I mean. He is one of the main reasons that I get up in the morning because we are working towards creating a better life together: a creative life where we are both doing things that we love. I get up in the morning in order to work on my writing, share blog posts and take part in creative projects and it keeps me busy (and happy) all day long.

What keeps you up at night? Definitely my blog and writing as a whole. As soon as I’m in bed the ideas for articles start to flow and I write out sentences (and sometimes whole articles) in my mind. It’s a shame that I can’t automatically record these bedtime thoughts with a brain print-out or something, because it would save me a lot of work the following day when I try to remember that amazing paragraph I subconsciously wrote the previous night. Worries about the cost of living in general keeps me up at night too and I think of ways of cutting costs rather than finding more money. Life shouldn’t be as expensive as it currently seems to be so I am believe in minimising costs, making your own, upcycling, making savings etc – anything to be thrifty so that more of my money stays in my pocket rather than sitting in the multi-million pound bank accounts of massive companies.

What are your core values and beliefs? I believe in love and family, the importance of friends and communication, not that I’m always that great at it. I refuse to plod through a prescribed life without imaging that it could be any different so I believe in creativity, happiness and education. And also being kind to animals.

What are you for and against? The world is too consumer-driven and I hate the idea of a throwaway society, so I’m for recycling, hand-me-downs and second-hand. It’s not as thought I’m never going to buy something new but why not shop in charity stores too? I am a massive believer in supporting charities which I why I blog about important causes and write for Oxfam. I agree with charitable giving in terms of time, experience, knowledge, items – not just money. I am against poverty, homelessness, loneliness.

What experiences in your life have been most fulfilling? Going to university as a ‘mature’ student, any kind of writing I’ve done, looking after and helping my friends and family when needed, teaching my nephew things.

What impact do you want to make in the world? To help people believe that their life can be different in any way that they want it to be: cheaper, happier, more creative, fun, fulfilled etc.

I hope you’ll have a go at answering these questions too and that they will help you find out where your passions lie. I have found out from my answers that I want to share happiness and knowledge through writing and perhaps live a thrifty life along the way – maybe that falls within the area of being self-sufficient, ecologically-sound living or recycling? Ooh I’m going to have to think about this a bit more before I can come up with a final definition for the “What do I love?” section. I will share the questions for the second – and little more tricky – segment “What are you good at?” soon and you can expect lots of flimsy, self-deprecating answers from me!

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