It’s time for this season’s interview and I’m excited to introduce you to Trona Freeman, who is a beauty blogger and Pinterest coach. I’ve been following Trona for a long time now and aside from her brilliant insights about Pinterest, I really admire her openness about living with disability, chronic pain and mental illness.
As always, these interviews are designed to shine a light on other perspectives, so I’m looking forward to sharing Trona’s with you. Let’s get to the conversation, shall we?
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here:
Links and further reading:
- Follow Trona on Instagram
- Sign up to her Pin Pals newsletter
- Check out her Pinterest coaching services
- PainUK.org for chronic pain support
- More information about agoraphobia
So it’s time for this season’s interview, and I’m really excited to introduce you to Trona Freeman, who is a beauty blogger, and a Pinterest coach. So I’ve been following Trona for a long time now, and aside from her brilliant insights about Pinterest, I really admire her openness about living with disability, chronic pain, and mental health conditions. As always, these interviews are designed to shine a light on other perspectives, so I’m looking forward to sharing Trona’s with you. So let’s get into the conversation, shall we?
Hi Trona! How are you?
Hey! I’m fine, yourself?
Yeah, I’m really well thank you. Thank you so much for coming on today and chatting to us. I was wondering if you could start by telling us just a bit about yourself and your work.
I don’t know where to start. I’ll start from why I’ve ended up here.
When I was younger, much younger, when I was 19, I was in a serious car crash and I tried to speed up recovery from that and then a year later my back – I had quite a lot of injuries, and one of the main ones was I fractured my spine quite seriously at the lower part, but I was still able to walk. So I thought, since I was still able to walk, I would just go about my business as usual.
So I went back to work a couple of months after it. I decided that I should go to college, except I didn’t particularly care about school too much then. Yeah, and then I found myself almost precisely a year after, back in hospital with my spine had collapsed. And then, after that, I started having anxiety, started having strange feelings in my stomach. When I was younger I really didn’t know what these were and really wasn’t something that was diagnosed at the time. I went to my doctor and the doctor said, you’ve just got something on your mind, and by this stage, I was finding it really difficult to leave the house. They tried me on different medication, which made me worse because it didn’t match the symptoms that I was having. It was kind of a blanket approach and it made me worse. So yeah, then I spiralled quite quickly into agoraphobia, which took me… Gosh, let me think… About ten, fifteen years to get over completely. I mean, I still have you know, anxiety every now and again, but I would say it’s more normal than you know, clinical anxiety.
So yeah, and during that time, I did my open university undergrad degree, then I did my Masters, and then at the end of that I got pregnant with my son and I couldn’t go into doing my PhD so I thought I’m going to do blogging, and this is where I sort of really came from with what I do now. I got real into sort of all the data and the nitty gritty and then watched influencers come to what they are now, which is pretty incredible really, but then, at the same time, there’s been a lot of people buying followers and just awful sort of strategies or techniques to inflate growth. And I’m really – one of the things I love about the internet and it is it provides a reasonably fair playing field, so whether you have you know a physical illness or a mental illness or something that stops you from being able to work “normally,” in quotation marks in society, it gives you a chance so when I see people sort of, you know, taking that chance away from other people, it really winds me up.
So I got really deep into how you can stop that and eventually I’ve come to being a sort of Pinterest marketer, because Pinterest is still one of the best places, I think, that you have more of an equal playing field. The algorithm on there is more about people getting a chance regardless of if you’re John Lewis or if you’re just a small brand, you still get the same chance of showing on there. And that’s sort of why I love it and that’s how I’ve got to it.
Ah, amazing. So you started as a beauty blogger, is that right?
Yes, I started as a beauty blogger, but my background isn’t in that at all. I came from science first, then art history, with a little bit of psychology thrown in, so yeah then social science, then art history. And then I became a beauty blogger as part of just a sort of frivolity. And from what was going on in my life at the time, plus I was getting married so I wanted to do my own makeup in that because I didn’t want a makeup artist to come in because they would have upset my anxiety and all that kind of thing at the time.
So yeah, looking back, yeah. I did it as a part of a – it helped me but I think it also impeded me to some extent. But then I gradually got invites to things and that was one of the one of the ways it helped me recover from agoraphobia as well.
Ah, that’s amazing. So the opportunities to go out and attend events helped you. Oh, that’s really interesting. When did you start blogging, out of interest?
I started blogging… I think it must have been 2011/12? So not right at the beginning but just at the cusp of big brands starting to catch on that this was money-making, yeah.
Yeah, because I started in 2008 and I just remember all of the changes that have happened, it’s been really interesting to watch, but it’s so nice to see how we’ve all developed and grown into the different areas. So you for Pinterest. So now you’re a Pinterest coach.
Yeah, and also do management as well for people that just don’t want to do Pinterest, which is brilliant, because it’s been really insightful actually, because I didn’t think I would like it. But it’s turned out that I absolutely love it. I help people get their brand out there and create content that will get their audience. It’s not just about just Pinning, it’s about so much more and it’s been really really enjoyable.
Yeah, and I think that’s the interesting thing. It’s like you said, it’s not – it’s a platform where all of us have the same chance. It doesn’t matter how many – because followers don’t really matter on Pinterest, do they?
No, not at all. Not at all. I have somebody who has an extraordinary amount of followers, nearly a quarter of a million, and they don’t get the same – just because they’re not optimised yet, that’s all – but they don’t get the same amount of traffic from someone who has 100 hundred followers but are completely optimised. It’s all about the SEO in there and knowing your audience.
Yeah, so now you’re helping people figure that out and do that for themselves, that’s amazing.
Yeah, it’s been brilliant. I’ve loved it. All the people I’ve worked with have been absolutely brilliant, so it’s been really a joy so far.
Oh amazing. So, aside from Pinterest and your blogging work, you also talk quite a lot about chronic pain, disability, and mental health online. I’d really love to hear, you’ve touched on it a little bit, but a bit more about your experience of these and some of the challenges that I guess can come with these.
Yeah, I think as I said earlier, I mean I first was – I finally got diagnosed about a year or two after my symptoms first showed. So I supposed really that’s quite quickly, but in that time, people were just saying to me things like, ‘oh you’ve just got something on your mind, it’ll pass,’ and that’s a little bit different from what it is now, thankfully. People weren’t anywhere near this open about talking about anxiety. None of my friends knew. I had – I’d make up excuses that I was either – I was too sore to go out or anything and that actually made it worse. So you really need to be able to find somebody that you can speak to, I think, because once you stop hiding that, it becomes so much easier to deal with.
But yeah, so. It’s really difficult because on one hand, it still is a little bit raw but I think the more people talk about this, especially agoraphobia, you don’t hear – people talk about anxiety and depression, not so much agoraphobia, and you never hear people talking about schizophrenia or any of those big, scary mental illnesses, which we should be talking about because people need to be accepted at all – from the light end, like anxiety, even though it’s horrific, it’s not schizophrenia. And we really should be getting this talking as well, people need to be talking about this, because all we hear about is the scary schizophrenics that don’t take their meds and then kill people. And that’s just not the case for the vast majority of people who have this illness.
Yeah, definitely, there’s definitely a lot of stigma still out there, which is shocking really, in 2020. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think we’re getting a lot more comfortable as a society talking about depression and anxiety, but yeah, less the lesser known illnesses still aren’t quite getting talked about enough. So yeah. How do you manage the impact of all of this on your life and business?
I’m… With difficulty. I won’t say it’s easy.
But because I have such a drive to do it, that helps and I think because of the history of not being able to work and just knowing how difficult that is. I have this chance to do something, I’m going to grab it, so while it’s difficult and I have fatigue and pain and everything else, I have a wonderful husband who helps me, he’s doing the taking care of our six year old son at the moment so I can do this. I have a mother and father that lives near me who are wonderful as well, although they can’t come now, they’re self-isolating.
Oh yeah, of course.
But yeah, I have a really good – I actually think doing the OU has helped being able with time management. That’s just – and also actually, because I have the chronic pain, I do things like pacing and resting and that actually plays really good into a workflow. So yeah, it’s amazing how you can just sort of adapt everything over so that even if you wouldn’t think these things would help, they absolutely – the things that – I did a chronic pain management course and that was one of the best things that ever happened to me with chronic pain and mindfulness. And they use mindfulness techniques in that course. It was the NHS, it was the NHS course and they use mindfulness and that – both for my anxiety and the chronic pain has helped amazingly. And it’s actually helping with what’s going on at the moment as well.
Yeah, I can imagine, and I have heard about that with mindfulness and chronic pain because it seems counterintuitive to focus on what’s happening, but actually, it helps you to recognise what’s happening in the moment and that things will pass and yeah, I can imagine.
Yeah. It’s really really useful, because as you say, it doesn’t feel right and one of the things they got us to do was lay down on the floor or other people could sit or whatever, and then you sort of scan your body. When you have chronic pain you have a tendency to think that everything’s sore and if you move this hurts or that hurts, but when you just take a moment and then just scan, you can see well, my hand isn’t sore, or my leg isn’t sore at that part, so there is areas that are still functioning okay. And that really helps! To think that not all of you is broken, there’s still kind of these parts of you that are still functioning as normal.
Oh, I love that.
Yeah, it’s really – I think that was one of the big breakthroughs because I have chronic pain that’s come from my spine and nerve damage so I have my right leg and also I have arthritis all throughout my body, but when I did that, it was really amazing to think, oh well that actually works really well! Because as they say, the pain the radiates and your brain has a tendency to make it bigger, catastrophising, it’s called.
Oh, I know that well!
So yeah, it’s been one of the many things – obviously getting the right medication and all that as well, that was a key part. Yeah, so, yeah you can take that and use it and if you feel a bit anxious or super anxious, you know, or even if you’ve got time management problems, you can then adapt them to that.
Ah, amazing. And do you use mindfulness as like a meditation, or just literally become more aware of things?
I think I now just do it as part of me actually.
I don’t – one thing that I do do is that I do try and always do my makeup in the morning and that lets me sort of settle into the morning with my bones in order, in place, that sort of thing. But it also lets me sort of zone out for a little bit. So that ten minutes really sort of sets me up for the morning, and then I do it throughout the day. I might, if I’m sitting at my desk or whatever, I might sit and watch a bird for five minutes, and that’s all I do. I just watch it, I don’t think of what to do, like I’ve got to do that, or anything from the past or anything, just sit and watch it. And yeah, just do these all throughout the day and it’s just become such a part of me now that I don’t even notice I’m doing it.
Oh, I love that. That’s really key isn’t it? That’s the thing, making it part of your everyday. It’s not necessarily – I guess for many people, starting it off as a practice, as a meditation practice is helpful, but that’s the end goal is to make it part of your life.
Yeah, absolutely, because that’s what we did and then I brought it home and did it that way and I made myself do it until it became, you know, this muscle that just starts itself now. It comes quite quickly actually! I was surprised but other people didn’t find it useful, so it’s just got to be one of those things you just have to try and see.
Yeah, and figure out what works for you. As you said, everyone’s different, there’s lots of different options out there. But that’s really interesting. Do you think it’s rubbed off on your family at all?
I think so because my husband has a tendency of getting a little bit anxious – he’s a bit of a worrier, you know, he’s got a family, that’s just how his mind is. He’s a man that protects the family. So yeah, I try and get it to work with him. My son, he’s six, so he just does it naturally.
Yeah, kids are great at that, aren’t they?
Yeah! Kids just do that. So if you’re wondering how to do it, if you’ve got a young child about, just copy them, or a dog or a cat. They just get on with things! That’s what to do. But I think my husband, yeah, I think he’s got a little bit better at it. I would like him to just take things a little bit easier but he’s – his work doesn’t always allow him that, so yeah, plus I tried to get my mum to do it as well. So yeah, I think it’s really helpful. It should be part of – if you’re doing physical exercises, you know, if you’re going to, say, the gym three times a week or something, this should be part of it as well. Or even when you’re in the gym! That might actually help instead of sitting thinking about all the things you’re having to do at work, if you’re on your exercise bike, just zone out, feel your legs working, or something like that. That’s actually a perfect place to do it.
Yeah, definitely, I love yoga for that. I get on the mat and I just – nothing else matters. I just need to focus on getting my body into the right positions. Oh amazing. So what do you think is one thing you wish could change in society when it comes to things like chronic pain and mental illness? What would you like to see change?
Well, interestingly, with what’s happening at the moment, suddenly lots of people are being able to work from home. And that would be great for people who already have problems that would love to work but just can’t either get there, so being able to be more flexible with people who have long standing disabilities or mobility or whatever, that would be amazing. Remote work would be incredible. And it’s certainly getting more like that with the internet, but just seeing how quickly things have been able to change in the last week or so, with people being able to work from home, is a bit….
It’s all quite astounding, isn’t it? Because you almost feel like, why couldn’t we have done this before for the people that needed it and asked for it?
Yes, yes. So absolutely that. That would be the thing that I would love to see happen and I think being able to speak more openly without the fear of being judged or people being scared that you’re gonna do something crazy. Because people still think that type of thing, that you might – that you’re unstable or whatever. But just being able to say how you’re feeling because it is just another medical illness.
And being treated in such a manner – I mean, it is a lot more complex but yeah, just being open. Open and being able to work from home more. I think that would be great!
That would be great. It will be so interesting to see after everything that’s happening now, what that will mean for the future. I hope it will mean more remote working.
I hope so. Because that would give so many people that want to work the chance to be able to work. Because it’s – that’s one of the hardest things that I think I dealt with, with my physical and my mental illnesses, was just not being able to work at all. Even though I had a short rock in life before, I always did stuff. You know, I was always doing, I was always at school and then I went to college, and then I worked, I worked in a few different places. And having that taken away from you really impacts your mental health as well. So that would be amazing, if something like that could come out of it, just more people being able to – even if it’s not work from home, work from somewhere that they can.
Yeah, yeah. Or have the option to, even if it’s just a couple of days a week, I know a lot of people who struggle with anxiety and being in an office environment isn’t always the best place because it can be quite loud, there can be a lot going on, and for them, they need the space and the quiet to be able to work alone sometimes. So having more of that flexibility, yeah, I agree, would be fantastic.
And it should be, I mean we all have the – I mean now I’m talking to you on skype. And I talk to people on Skype with the video all the time, so the means are there. It’s just because we’re not used to it. You know, that’s not how we work.
Yeah, and with regards to being more open about things, have you found it really has helped you to be able to be more open online about your challenges?
I think to an extent, because I am still mindful that I have a six year old, and just how much I want to put on there in case, you know, his schoolmates, parents of theirs, read it. So I’m still kind of mindful of how much I should share, because, on the one hand, you know I want to be able to be open and share with them, but on the other, I also have a family, who get upset knowing things. So yeah, I think it’s a tricky one, but if we were all more open, everything would be fine!
Yeah, definitely. It is a fine line as well, as to what you want to share.
Because sometimes things can almost go the other way, can’t they? When you feel you have to be really vulnerable and open and share everything with your followers on instagram, whereas it’s quite nice to keep some things just for you.
Yeah and that’s actually something I’ve been really aware of not doing because I don’t want to put anybody down that their whole account is about anxiety, or whatever, but I didn’t want that to be the only thing that people would know about me. More often it would be oh, she’s the person who takes nice pictures who does Pinterest but I heard she also copes with anxiety, you know? That type of thing, being more an afterthought than it being my main categorisation, if you like.
Yeah, because it’s a part of who we are, it’s not the whole of who we are.
Yeah! Yes. Exactly. And I do understand why people do do it as being the main thing, because you know, we do need people speaking up and saying that they have it. It’s tricky, it’s a tricky one, I think. But you just have to do what’s right for you.
Yeah, exactly, and figure out what feels good to you to share and what doesn’t feel so good. Definitely.
Yes, and if it doesn’t feel right to share, but you feel like you have to share it, don’t do it. Just don’t do it. Because you’ll end up regretting it. And maybe you will feel like sharing it at some point, but if it feels icky and not right in your stomach, just don’t do it.
Yeah, I think we’re all quite good at recognising that instinct, that intuition, that’s like ‘no! It doesn’t feel good. Back away!’
Brilliant. So I would love to know what you would say to anyone who’s listening to this who might be feeling frustrated with their health, whether it’s their physical health or their mental health, and the impact that they’re dealing with.
I think, to be kind to yourself and give it time. Unfortunately, people will probably say to you that a million times. It’ll take time, it’ll take time. But it really does take time. It takes time and you being kind to yourself and doing your exercises, whatever you can do, the medication, and, if it’s not quite right, you know, get out and check. But all these things that people who have seen this type of thing, thousands of times, do know what they’re doing, even if it feels counterintuitive to you or whatever. Just give yourself time and do what you need to do. I think that is honestly, time is really the biggest healer. But you also have to be able to do, you know, for agoraphobia for example, I had to do step by step things. And it was difficult and one of the difficulties – well, almost one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life was get over that. And it was frustrating and upsetting, but then, when I slowed down and put a little plan together, of what I needed to do, that’s what helped. That’s what helped with the physical as well. Just take time with yourself and do what you need to do.
Yeah, and it’s all about those small steps, like you said, it’s a step by step process.
Yeah, exactly. Yes, small steps. It’s not always an upward trajectory – it’s two steps forward, sometimes three steps back, but you just have to keep on going.
Yeah, oh amazing. Thank you. So yeah, what have you got coming up this year? I’d love to know more about your pinterest coaching and anything that you’ve got planned for 2020.
Big question, sorry!
I don’t know! It is a big question. I’m not… Honestly, I honestly think the mindfulness thing has sort of effected how I think about the future, and obviously the things that have happened to me as well in the past. So I kind of have a rough plan of what I’m going to do, but I just kind of let things go as organically as I can. So apart from that though, I would like to do a Pinterest course of some sort, so that’s kind of at the back of my mind at the moment. And I think I would like to expand Pinterest, because I think what I do is more than Pinterest, but most of it is done on Pinterest, if that makes sense? But I also do, because it’s holistic, it has to be your website and then your Instagram, your Pinterest, Google, you know, everything works together. So I think yeah, pushing that a little more. Widening my scope, I think. But honestly I think I just kind of would like to grow as organically as I can and see where this takes me. I think? Because it’s been really fun so far, and I’m working with some amazing people, and it’s just been, yeah, that’s been all organic. But yeah, I think it’s nice to have some sort of plan, maybe I should plan!
Well I think what’s happening at the moment as well, so for listeners who aren’t listening to this at the time it’s going out, the Coronavirus outbreak is happening at the moment and that has put a massive block for a lot of people in terms of their work. I think it just goes to show that sometimes even if you do have the most well set out plan, life happens and things can change. So I actually think, yes, it’s nice to know where you’re doing and the direction that you’re headed, but actually being able to grow organically and just follow what’s lighting you up and following what you’re loving is really important.
Yes, I think so. And I do know also that that comes from a sort of a certain amount of privilege. Because people also just have to do what they have to do.
Yeah, very true, very true.
Yeah, so, but yeah. Do try and do what you love, I think. Yes.
And i was wondering, and I’m gonna ask this, I’m just adding this one in, but I wondered if you have any tips for anyone who’s getting started with Pinterest? Just thinking, because it’s something I use, I kind of use it quite sporadically, I go on it now and then and just pin the odd thing, I do make my own pins for my blog posts, but for someone who doesn’t really know much about it and wants to learn more, where would you suggest they start? What tips could you offer them?
Okay, I think one of the biggest things is that a lot of people don’t realise that it’s actually a search engine, rather than another social media platform. So they describe it as a visual search and discovery engine, Pinterest do. And so when you start thinking about it as how you can make people find you, like Google, for example, so make your images enticing to the people that you want to attract, and then use the keywords that they would use. That just means the same phrases that people you want to attract would use. So I think that’s the basis of it.
And then consistency. Pinterest loves fresh new content. And that doesn’t need to be you writing a new post or whatever all the time – it can be just making a new image for that post and putting that out. So yeah, fresh content. Relevancy as well. So go with the seasons and sort of the celebrations that’s happening at the moment. And do that about 60 days before. Yeah, that’s… Relevancy and consistency are the two key things. And just make content that your audience will love. That’s all Pinterest really want you to do, is about making inspiring and useful content.
I love that. And I would also recommend people check out your newsletter as well, your Pin Pals newsletter.
Yes, of course!
Because you have so many tips in there, I’m definitely learning a lot from there.
Brilliant, thanks so much. Could you finally just tell everyone where they can find you online and where they can learn more about you?
So my beauty and lifestyle blog is Ayelined.com and my Pinterest services are at services.ayelined.com and I am Ayelined everywhere.
Perfect, thank you so much!
There we go. I really hope you all found that as enlightening as I did, and I would highly recommend Trona’s Pin Pals newsletters, as I said, as a great way to get to know more about her approach and her knowledge on the subject. And if you’re living with chronic pain and finding it difficult, painuk.org is a website that lists lots of chronic pain charities and support groups all across the UK. I’ll be back next week with something a little bit different. I’m gonna be talking about Instagram photography, choosing joy, and the path of least resistance. But until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week.