How Fifi McGee came to be

Neil Shaw

Written by Neil - (6 minute read)

Question: How often do you reflect on your successes?

Probably not very often, right?

We spend so much time worrying about what we did wrong and what we will do wrong that we forget to focus on what we did right. It’s almost a cliché, but it’s a trap that many of us fall into.

It was in 2012, when I was living in shared accommodation, a couple of years after I took up photography seriously that Fi started making noises about starting up a blog. A friend of mine for some reason always used to call Fiona “Fifi McGee” e.g. “how’s Fifi McGee doing?”. Fiona thought that this was really cute and so this became the name of the blog (cheers Gerad).

Sorry to tell everybody the bad news – Fifi McGee is actually called Fiona Duffy – I’ve shattered the illusion for millions!

an earlier incarnation of Fifi Mcgee (look at that lovely design!)

an earlier incarnation of Fifi Mcgee (look at that lovely design!)

In those early days it was a hobby blog; a place to share beauty tips, things to do and afternoons with tea and cake, all written about and photographed lovingly. Fi was happy to have a hobby (something she didn’t really have before), I was happy to have another outlet for my photography, and we were both grateful to have something to make us more intentional about our lives.


Dreaming of the future

Taken at glastonbury 2013

Taken at glastonbury 2013

FIfi with a Camper van in 2013 - It’s not ours - but maybe one day it will be

FIfi with a Camper van in 2013 - It’s not ours - but maybe one day it will be

Getting sappy now. Since the earliest times in our relationship we had dreamt about our future together, thinking about how we would love to live in our own place, there was even an idea about buying a camper van.

As woo-woo as it sounds we built vision boards, started being very intentional about our future, and read books about the power of positive thinking (and still do to this day).

We created a savings plan and set about aggressively saving for a deposit for a flat. At that point in time, the amount we were saving was about the same rate as the house prices were increasing. If we didn’t get a pay rise quick, it would be touch and go whether the sort of 1 bed flats we were looking at would be in our price range at the end of our savings period. We will be forever grateful for my mum and dad helping us out with a loan to boost our savings pot (which would have taken us another year or two to save up, putting our affordability at risk).

Onto the housing ladder we go

In May 2014 we got onto the housing ladder in Hove in a lovely 1 bed flat – a great place for interior design tweaking. During this time Fifi McGee was now beginning to take a bit more shape, with businesses getting in touch wanting to work with the blog to gain exposure. Notwithstanding, we made sure the blog retained a good balance of country walks, business/bloggy bits and most importantly of all, cake.

Two years later in the summer of 2016, after making some general home improvements and a very generous house price increase in our area we had the fortune of seeing a nice chunk of equity on our 1 bed flat which meant that up-sizing to a semi-detached house was now in reach. We had our reasons for making the decision to move, only two years in but that’s a story for another time.

The beginning of the path to supercharged Fifi McGee



We documented how we decided and settled on a renovation of a 3 bed semi-detached in this post so we will leave that story there, but needless to say that after years of renovating and working on Fifi McGee, creating a product line to support home renovators and Fifi McGee being a brand ambassador to a couple of brands we are currently extremely busy.

Since moving into our house in 2016, we are on target to see a tenfold increase in web traffic this year and are happy to be supporting thousands of people each month with their home inspiration and decisions. We’re very grateful for every person that reads this blog and emails in with their questions and story.

Busy is good for us – no complaints here, but sometimes it can be quite intense…



So what makes us so busy? It’s just a little website right?

Neil’s Responsibilities

• Photography and editing

• Budgeting

• Logo and collateral design

• Managing contractors and payments

• Content writing

• Content marketing strategy


• Google Adwords / social media PPC

• Web analytics

Fiona’s Responsibilities

• Overseeing the brand and messaging

• Email campaigns

• Brand ambassadorship engagement

• Product sourcing

• Interior styling

• Customer service emails

• Content writing

• Social media posting

• Collateral design


“How do you fit all of this in and do full time jobs and a wedding photography side-hustle” we hear you say?

This year in particular has meant that sacrifices have had to be made in terms of our time if we want to not just be ‘treading water’ with Fifi McGee. What we’re talking about is coming home after a day at the office, eating dinner and then doing 2-3 hours work and then booking out 1-2 days at the weekend to work on Fifi McGee bits. There have been extended periods where friends and family have not seen us due to being in “development mode” such as writing and producing our online course, and there have been times where we’ve felt like we’ve taken on too much.

We’re sure that some people work even harder than us but we’re definitely working to our capacity.


Our passion and why we do this

Whether it’s Fifi McGee or Neil W. Shaw Photography we’re truly passionate about our businesses that help clients with those big moments in their lives, and we wouldn’t change a thing.

Fifi McGee has really found its feet this year and our message of helping others create an amazing home and home life, and ease stress when renovating is one that we’re extremely proud of.

We take an enormous amount of pride in the quality of our work and in making sure that we deliver content that is interesting, informative (and splendid to look at too we hope!).

This year we linked up with our local Martlets charity to support their cause with a donation every time we sell one of our online courses so that we can also give something back.

Final thoughts

In troubling times, where the world feels turbulent and on a negative path (let’s face it, the world is in stupid mode right now), the one thing that we do have a level of autonomy over is our home – the most important place we feel happy and content in, and we strongly feel that we can all find a great deal of solace in that.

With Fifi McGee we’re not claiming we’re changing the world – that’s up to all of us – but as it looks like we might be on this blue and green ball for an extended stay, we might as well all share the ways we’re changing our lives for the better and make it a memorable one. Are you with us?

Hope you’re enjoying the ride xx