Being female and the face of your business can lead to unwanted attention – don’t suffer in silence

Unseen Beauty isn’t my main job. It’s my hobby. The place where I can write about things that have nothing to do with my job. Things that I care about or want to share. To be honest, I haven’t had much trouble here. There’s been the odd bit of spam by way of private messages, but so far nothing crazy or inappropriate.

I work as an online English language training provider for adults. I want members of the public to contact me, because that’s how I find new customers. I’ve been doing this since 2012 and during that time, I’ve met a lot of kind, hardworking, and interesting people who want to learn English.

And then there are the others. There are actually all kinds of annoying messages that you get, but today I’m going to focus on the inappropriate ones from people who think that just because I’m a woman working for herself, it’s ok to send me explicit, suggestive, disgusting, creepy or unwanted messages.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but I’ve had a couple recently, which made me want to write about it.

I’m not going to copy the text here. Partly because they were explicit to varying degrees – some openly so, others being really careful not to use words that may cause the message to get flagged, or caught by a filter. They don’t deserve space here, but I want to write about it to
1. Highlight the problem and
2. say to anyone in a similar situation that you don’t have to just put up with it.

So what should you do?

Block and report where you can

It’s harder to do this if someone contacts you directly, although you can set up rules to send emails from a specific sender straight to the bin, or permanently delete them. If it really becomes a problem and you need to collect evidence, this is not the way to go, because if you want to prove a crime such as cyberstalking has taken place, you need evidence, but it is a way to make sure you don’t have to see them. This can be particularly useful if you get repeated attention from one person, but I find the problem is more that it comes from different accounts, which limits the usefulness of such rules.

Still, if someone contacts you through a social media or other site, make use of the functions to block the user or report unwanted messages. Getting the account suspended is often more effective than trying to enter into a dialogue with the person yourself. Blocking means that they may go to the trouble of creating a new account, but at least you won’t have to deal with them. Blocking and reporting is even better for sites that offer both.

Usually it’s best not to engage

Sometimes people are just looking for a reaction, and even a bad reaction is still attention from you. You may feel better for telling them exactly what you think of them, but some people enjoy that because they are getting your attention. I will never agree to work with someone who has made me feel uncomfortable – whether it was a blatant suggestion of something that had nothing to do with language lessons, or a creepy guy saying he wants to learn. It’s not going to happen. So I don’t give them any of my time.

We seem to have this belief that just because someone has tried to contact us, they deserve a reply. This may be the policy in larger companies, but if you’re running your own business, you make the rules. I don’t reply to spam, and unwanted or inappropriate attention is a particularly annoying type of spam as far as I’m concerned. I have a low stupid behaviour threshold and it saves me a lot of trouble down the line.

Often our natural reaction is to respond if something isn’t ok for us, but you’re unlikely to change their mind. If you want to respond, then keep it really professional with no emotions. I’m not convinced that this will help, but if it feels as though ignoring the message is condoning the behaviour – keep it detached and objective. .

Try not to take it personally

If someone makes a comment about your looks or something personal to you, don’t feel it’s a reflection on all the hard work you put into being good at whatever it is that you do. You deserve more than to be objectified just because you’re a woman. Men like that would have the same reaction to any woman in your situation, so try not to see it as a reflection on you or your business. I want to be judged on the level of service I provide, not the size of parts of my female anatomy. But there are people out there who won’t ever show us that degree of respect. That’s a thing. Unfortunately.

I know that this applies to men too, but I’m focussing on my own experiences here.

Talking can help

Everyone will be bothered by different things and everyone has different boundaries in terms of what’s going to offend or upset them. If I got together a list of all the things people have said to me over the years, the ones I found most offensive were actually not the most graphic. It would be different for other people because we’re all shaped by our life experiences or what we’ve been exposed to in other jobs. I saw a lot of people at their worst in a previous job, and I thought nothing much would shock me, but there is a more personal element to it when it’s specifically directed at you.

So as above, you can complain if there’s a way to flag the inappropriate messages, or you can at least find someone to talk to. It could be a partner, a friend, or someone in a similar situation. You may find it helps to say what happened and how it made you feel, before getting on with the rest of your day. In a company, you have colleagues, but when you’re working on your own, you don’t. Don’t let that make you feel isolated – there is always someone who could listen and help you.

To be honest, there are a lot of occasions when I haven’t told anyone – I just thought it was irritating and got on with my day. But there are occasions when talking about the things that happen to us is useful – whether it’s something like this or a work-related situation that would benefit from a second opinion.

Someone raised the issue of unwanted attention in a group for teachers and the thread went on for quite a while. To be fair, I think some of the guys had had had unwanted advances too, but it was generally the women who were adding their comments and experiences, and there were quite a few of us. It felt good – it didn’t fix the problem, but it was good to know we weren’t alone.

Legal action

Of course there are situations in which you need to take things further. I’m not an expert on legal action, but I’ll include some links from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Cyber Bullying UK because I don’t feel qualified to give advice on that.

So will things improve?

This isn’t just a problem for those of us who work online. I’ve seen inappropriate behaviour at work in larger organisations to, and not just from members of the public.

In some small part of society, there’s the belief that those of us who are female and work on our own are fair game when it comes to unwanted attention. Yes, I use a camera, but it’s for video conferences with learners. And only that.

I’m talking about the online industry because that’s where I am right now. I’ve never worked for example in the hospitality industry, but I’m sure there are similar problems there too. We’ve seen people coming forward publicly from the sports and entertainment industries – I actually think it’s everywhere. This is why it needs to be addressed and talked about. Because it’s not ok!

It’s also not the majority. I tell my partner and male friends about the stuff I have to deal with, and they’re shocked and appalled that some men behave like that. My male customers are genuinely decent guys who respect me as a woman and a service provider. But there is that other element in society that thinks it’s acceptable to treat women as objects, and they need to be exposed. I don’t actually think you’ll ever stop it completely,. Most of the people who send obscene messages to women who are just trying to get on with their jobs are probably sitting alone in their rooms, knowing that what they are doing is wrong, and doing it anyway. Half of them say things like “I hope you’re not offended by my proposal”, which suggests they know I might, or probably will be.

I try to be detached and professional, but every now and then I’ll read something and think WTF? It’s normal to have feelings of anger, disgust, or however you feel – sad, uncomfortable, triggered because it reminds you of something else. You shouldn’t have to be subjected to it, but your reactions are not wrong and you should never be afraid to ask for help dealing with them. Sometimes you won’t feel anything – and of course that’s fine too. I’m just making the point that it’s ok to ask for help if you need to.

Do you run your own business online? Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you have tips to add for dealing with this problem?

If you’re just thinking about starting an online business, I want to keep things in proportion. It doesn’t happen every day or even every week. I’m talking about it now because I’ve had a couple of incidents in the last week, but then I could go a couple of months before anything else happens. But we don’t gain anything by pretending that this isn’t an issue. Talking about it and our strategies for coping can be empowering, and it also prepares you so that it’s not such a shock if it does happen to you. If nothing else, it shows that you’re not alone.

I’d like to work in a world where this wasn’t a thing. But it is a thing. It will take time to change the world, expose the behaviour, find and punish people who do it. But as a realist, I don’t know that we’ll ever be rid of it completely, so I think it’s just as important to equip people with the strategies they need to take appropriate action and manage any emotions or issues that come up as a result.

Although there is more openness now and the topic is more widely discussed, I don’t actually think that things have improved over the last 6 years since I’ve been in this area of work. We talk about how to deal with angry customers, so I think there’s a place for talking about dealing with sexually inappropriate comments as well.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Spring giveaway winner

So, this is just a really short post to announce the winner of my Spring giveaway.

Thanks to everyone who took part and congratulations to Jen, who won the selection of skincare items. You can listen to the prize draw here – I gave everyone a number and then asked Siri to generate the winner. Siri is a bit quiet on the recording, but I did it live, so I couldn’t repeat and make her louder!

If you didn’t win, there are more giveaways planned for the future, and I’m already collecting products for the summer one!

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If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Happy 1st birthday Unseen Beauty

As you can probably guess from the title, a year ago today I published my first two posts on this blog. The first one was an introduction, because although I already had another blog, the interface is different and I was still trying to figure out how things worked. The second was a product post, which is still one of my favourite type of posts to write!

The idea of blogging wasn’t new to me because I was already writing for my business blog. I’m an English teacher, so I write about language, language learning tips, writing skills and anything else I think my learners and readers would enjoy.

But Unseen Beauty was going to be different. I wanted it to be a place where I can write about all the other things I enjoy that have nothing to do with my job.

I came up with the name in the bath, where I get a lot of my ideas. For anyone who’s new – “beauty” because I feature a lot of beauty and skincare products, and “unseen” because I’m writing about the products and life in general from the perspective of someone who is blind.
Fast forward a year and I’ve written 120 posts – that number was pushed up quite a lot because I did Blogmas! Here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed – in no particular order:

  • Chatting with my readers. I know some of my friends and family read the blog, but I’ve also got comments from people locally and in other parts of the world, which is great!
  • Getting to know other Bloggers –including taking part in regular threads in the Blogs in Bloom Facebook group, doing several collaboration posts, and doing my first ever blogger swap box!
  • Working with brands – there’s something so nice when a brand that you like is interested in your blog or an idea that you’ve pitched.
  • Spreading information – I know some people have tried out new products after I talked about them, and I think that some of the accessibility and disability-related posts have given people new information and helped them to understand some issues better, which makes me happy.
  • Supporting charities I care about – I know that at least two people adopted wolves after my post about Madadh and Kgosi and I’m proud to be a virtual ambassador for them. I’ve also talked about the Dog’s Trust and the Wolf Conservation Trust, and I hope these posts have helped people to find out more about them too.
  • Trying out some new products and foods – all in the name of research of course!

I’ve got plenty of ideas for content this year, but for now, let’s have a blog party to celebrate. Here’s how to take part:

  1. Please tell me in the comments one post that you’ve enjoyed, or one topic that you’d like me to cover this year.
  2. If you have a blog, leave a link to it and tell us a couple of sentences about it. Don’t just leave a link – you’re more likely to get visitors if you let people know what your blog is all about!
  3. Visit some other blogs that you think look interesting. I can’t check who does this, but people who only take and don’t give anything back don’t get far in life!

So, thanks for reading and now I’m looking forward to your comments!

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

The best posts of 2017 and plans for 2018

I’ve got quite a few new followers this month, so I wanted to show you what else I write apart from Blogmas posts! I also wanted to look back over the first year of Unseen Beauty. So, here are the most popular posts from 2017!

10. Holly’s story – from a puppy farm to a loving home The story of Holly the Labrador – I want people to know that buying puppies from puppy farms means there will always be work for mothers like Holly, and that’s not fair.
9. In celebration of grandparents and what we have learned from them This was a collaboration that I did with a group of other bloggers. I wanted to tell all my readers how much I’d learned from my grandparents, and I thought it would be fun to open it up to others too so that we could all share our grandparent memories!
8. Christmas 2016 This was my first proper post apart from my introduction, so I guess people wanted to check out my new blog!
7. L’Occitane review – bringing Braille labels to blind customers This was the first post that I did with a brand. I was interested in the idea of Braille labels and can’t tell you how excited I was about my first PR samples. That doesn’t mean I’ll chase any PR samples, but when you like a brand and they want to work with you, that feels really good.
6. My friend Cindy, the golden guiding girl This is probably the most open I’ve been in a post, and I think a lot of my Facebook friends read it because they knew and loved Cindy too. But I also wanted to give any readers who didn’t meet her the chance to find out about the golden retriever in my blog image.
5. 10 of my favourite youtubers I guess people were just interested in this one and looking for new Youtubers to follow!
4. Walking with wolves I really enjoyed writing this post because it was such an amazing experience to get close to two wonderful wolves. I really wanted to share this with my readers because it’s something that had been on my bucket list for ages.
3. Keeping fit when you can’t see I would get bored if my site were primarily about blindness, but it seems that people do enjoy these articles!
2. Make-up without sight – how one blind woman does it

I guess the thing here is write about something that nobody else is writing about, or that not many people know. That makes it interesting. Of course you need to make sure that people actually want to know about it and it’s not something that just interests you, but if you have an interesting or different perspective on a more general topic, it sets your content apart.
1. How do you apply eye make-up if you can’t see?

This was one of my first posts. I’ve tried out so many more products since I wrote this, but the general advice is the same. I think this one got a lot of hits because it was shared in several Facebook groups, which meant a lot more traffic.

Top favourites post – October – was it the pumpkin art?!

Top empties post – February!

Top Blogmas post – Christmas for dog lovers!

Plans for 2018

I’m going to keep some things the same in 2018 and also add in some new sections. I want to build on the things that people are already enjoying, so there will be some more animal posts, as well as others that focus on life as a blind adult, as people seem to want that. My favourite type of posts to write are about the products that I’m enjoying, and they do tend to get a number of comments, so I’ll keep up with the empties and favourites posts.

I’ve recently added a virtual coffee widget to my sidebar, so anyone who wants to support the site by buying a virtual coffee can do so. I saw this on the Emma Edit blog and thought it was a nice idea.

I have some new ideas about interviews that I’d like to bring you, brands that I’d like to work with, and a new feature on the accessibility of online shopping sites. You may think the reason I post a lot of Amazon links is that I’m just an Amazon affiliate. I am an Amazon affiliate, but the truth is that I do a lot of my shopping on there. Partly because having Prime makes things so quick and easy, but partly because there are a lot of badly written sites out there that I can’t use unless I ask for help from someone who can see because the people who designed the site couldn’t be bothered to label the graphics on their page controls properly. I want to highlight good practice and raise awareness when companies aren’t getting it right.

I have a lot of new products from my advent calendars, so expect some reviews on those!

I’d like to finish by wishing all my readers a happy 2018. I hope it will be a good year for you, full of happy memories. Thank you for supporting Unseen Beauty throughout the year. It just started as an idea in the bath and now I’m happy to see what it has grown into after the first year!

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Things are changing on Unseen Beauty!

This is just a short post to tell you about a couple of changes that I’m making to Unseen Beauty and what will be coming up for the rest of the year.

1. Blog posts

I’ll be doing Blogmas for the first time this year and I’m really looking forward to it. This means there will be some new content from 1st to 24th December featuring festive posts and the unboxing of my beauty advent calendar. If you’re doing Blogmas too, let me know in the comments as I’d love to check your posts out too!

There’ll also be a blogger mystery box swap coming up soon, so if you’re interested in new posts, make sure to follow the blog or to sign up for my updates.

The featured products page

I’ve updated the featured products page. There are now 86 things in the skincare section that have been reviewed on this blog, and I’ve got a few more to add soon. Basically there is a list of sections, then you can click the one that interests you, and you’ll see a table with the list of products, where you can buy them, and a link to the post where I talked about them on the blog.

I’ve just added a free things and discounts section to this as well so people can find out about the brands that I support. The things in this list are more general, but if I find out about a sale or a one-off, you’ll find that as a new feature in Unseen Beauty news.

I do have some affiliate programmes going on, but I am transparent about affiliates and PR samples, and I only ever promote things that I genuinely like and have tested. Some things will just be on my site because I like them, and not because I have any connection to the brand.

If you want to see the changes, you can check out the featured products page,

Unseen Beauty news

I want my email updates to be more than “hey check out the new post on my blog”, so they’re going to be a bit different from now on. They will still be roughly twice a week – usually Tuesdays and Fridays, but sometimes life happens!

From now on they will include one or two other links that I think my readers will like, either blogs or articles, as well as any good deals or sales that I hear about from the brands that I love. I hope you like the new format!

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If you’d like me to email you twice a week with information about what’s new on the site, and other things that I have been enjoying, you can sign up using this contact form.

11 things you shouldn’t do when pitching ideas

How not to pitch ideas

This post is about mistakes that people make when they are pitching ideas – whether it’s a blogger who wants to do some guest posts, or a company who wants to let people know about their new product or service.

I haven’t used any names, but all of these examples are messages that I have actually been sent as someone with a website, a blog, and an online business.

I want this post to be a bit light-hearted, because it’s not just a major rant, but I also want to have a look at the effect these things have on the person reading them. I also don’t want to seem unapproachable, because I love collaborating and working with others, but there’s a good and a not so good way to do it!

Let me know in the comments if you can add any more to this list!

1 but it’s free!

Here I’m not talking about freebies, sign-up bonuses or opt-in promotions that people use to encourage people to sign up to their site. There’s a reason to do that – you’re giving people added value and those people are already interested in your site.

I’m talking about books that are free for a specific period of time, limited-time trials of products or services, or things that are free for review.

Yes, it’s great that they are free, and everyone thinks their products and services are wonderful, but it’s only a good deal if the other person wanted that thing in the first place.

Making people aware of the free thing is fine, but coming back to people when they don’t want it and saying “but it’s free! Why don’t you want it!” looks a bit desperate! It’s better to spend the time and energy on people who do actually want, and who stand to benefit from it. There is so much free stuff out there nowadays, that being free isn’t enough if it doesn’t add value to a particular person.

2 I want a call with you!

Why?

I’m not talking about people who want to learn English – in fact I generally do have a call with them first to talk about what I can offer and how I can help them.

I’m talking about complete strangers who contact me on social media, ask for a call, and give me no idea as to what it’s about.

I know that some cultures place more value on building a relationship and don’t want to get straight down to business, but we’re all busy, and if I don’t have an idea what a meeting with a complete stranger is going to be about, I can’t make an informed decision about whether I want to attend, and I’m unlikely to say yes!

It doesn’t have to be all the details, but I do have two very different websites, and when people want to get in touch with me, it’s good to know why!

3 your website is rubbish

Well thank you! Aren’t I lucky that you’re here to save the day!

To be fair, nobody has actually said that my website or podcast are rubbish, but It’s implied with phrases like “your website doesn’t communicate your key message” or it “doesn’t reflect your values” or “you will never reach your potential audience”.

It’s obvious that SEO professionals, web designers and copy writers have to identify a need that they can fill, but saying that the current offering is not fit for purpose is unlikely to get a good response, unless you like to cash in on people feeling bad. Maybe someone does feel that their current set-up is terrible, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation like

Do you wish that you had someone who could help you with…?
Do you want to be better at …?
Is … something that frustrates you?

4 This service is for x so you need it too

These people have usually identified a niche, such as teachers, but they forget that there is diversity in the niche. It’s not that I expect them to know exactly who will be interested in their offer, but to tell me I definitely need something when it doesn’t fit my business model is kind of annoying. I don’t need an HR system because I don’t employ staff. I don’t need a new way for students to pay, because I’m happy with the one I have, and anyway who’s going to want to pay using a site that has no social proof? I don’t need an online calendar because I hate them!

Again, I don’t expect people to know what I want, but

Do you need …?
Is better than
Your business will fail unless you have …

I know this goes against some of the common marketing techniques that dredge up the worst emotional words that you can think of, but there are people in the world who don’t respond well to those tactics.

5 why didn’t you reply to my spam?

Oh yes, replying to spam is right there at the top of my to-do-list!

Of course people don’t think that their message was spam, but spam is unsolicited mail that you haven’t signed up to. Follow-up is fine, but 3 times in one week chasing someone who hasn’t even agreed to work with you is pushy.

6 You need a blog post on this obscure thing that nobody has ever heard of

Because my readers are going to love that and it really adds value to my audience!

Pitching guest ideas is great. Pitching original or unusual ideas is also fine, as long as they fit with the site that you’re pitching. But if someone says “no”, you need to respect that. Also, the “no” is unlikely to miraculously become a “yes” if you try to start an argument about the fact that you know more about the obscure thing than the person who doesn’t want a post about it!

7 I haven’t read your content because using a standard template is easier

Ok, so I should take the time to reply to you, even though you haven’t done any research about me or my site. Sounds fair?

Recently someone has even been selling software that sends out a load of customised emails – sometimes not even that well customised (dear enter name here), in the hope that some of them will generate interest in guest content.

I think that’s really disrespectful.

I’ve even had people wanting me to pay them for guest-written posts that don’t fit in with what my site’s about!

It’s great to tell people that you enjoy their blog, but if you say “I enjoy every post you write and learn something every time”, it could apply to any number of educational sites. However, if you say “I particularly enjoyed your post on …” it at least shows that you’ve read one of them and it’s not just a standard message to many bloggers.

8 I know you only work online with adults, but why won’t you test our product for small groups of children?

There’s no harm in asking, but if someone says your product or service isn’t right for them, move on! Or are you the kind of person who goes into the shoe shop and complains that they don’t sell cabbages?

Don’t get me wrong – I love testing products, but if there’s something that isn’t relevant to my business, or some kind of product that I know I will never use in my free time, it’s better for both of us that you find someone who will love it!

This isn’t really aimed at brands in the beauty and lifestyle world, but companies trying to get me to buy things for my business. In terms of being sent blogger mail, it’s an honour and a privilege. I am really grateful. But I can’t run something if I don’t think it fits with my brand or what my audience is interested in.

9 Podcast guests on shows that don’t take guests

I’ve had a couple of guests on the podcast, and I think in all cases I approached them to ask if they would do it. If a guest came up that would be a good fit, I’d be open to that too, but when people approach me because they want publicity for their new book, that has nothing to do with any of the topics I cover, that’s not adding value to my audience. A bit of research would show that, and also highlight some other podcasts that would be a much better fit.

10 you’re not using our app

This came up because of a discussion in a forum where someone was complaining about an email that said “You’re not using our app! Download it here!” The feeling was that it came across as bossy rather than helpful, and something like “did you know that we have an app?” would have come across better.

11 I’ll use your platform to post my advert

Because everyone goes to the trouble of building a platform and loyal following just so that they can give others free advertising. Even better if you’re offering exactly the same products or services as the person who owns the website! Don’t do it!
Direct sales links on posts that have nothing to do with that topic are not cool either! It’s like that pushy person at a social gathering that everyone tries to avoid because all they want to do is talk about themselves!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

Birthday give-away winner

I announce the winner of my birthday give-away!

Birthday give-away winner

Hi everyone,

A really quick post this morning to let you know that I drew the winner for the prize draw.

I gave everyone a number and then told Siri to generate a random number.

The winning number belonged to …. Andrea! I’ve emailed Andrea and will get her prizes sent off once I have her address.

Thanks to those who took part! If you didn’t win this time, I have future plans for similar things, so make sure you follow or sign-up for updates if you want to know what is happening on Unseen Beauty in the future!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.