When people ask me what my job is I never know what to say. “Erm, well, I have this website, and I write about stuff and people read it and yep thats it.” Reactions range from “ah, you blog for a living? That’s cool!” to “what’s a blog?”. And I mean really, if you can explain what a blog is to someone who isn’t computer savvy without tearing your hair out then you’re a better woman than I.
Increasingly I’ve been receiving emails asking me how to go about the business of blogging as a career, and I love that people are feeling inspired by this online world we’ve created. I am thankful every day that I’m able to do this for a job and that as a community we’ve been able to build something this influential. I’ve worked with some truly magnificent brands in the last couple of years, and really, how lucky am I to be making money from something that started as a much-loved hobby?
So I’ve put together a short (long) guide that I hope will help some of you who are thinking about blogging or a wondering how to build their blog into a career: here’s how I’ve done it (and thank-you to all the questions that came via Twitter and Facebook!). It really is long, you might want to take a loo break before you sit down to this one…
Why do you blog?
My first blog as an angsty teenager was started back in 2001 (thankfully there is no trace of it any more) and I started blogging about pregnancy nearly five years ago. Back then the blogging community was totally different; there weren’t that many of us and we were really just writing for ourselves and each other. But my motive for blogging has remained the same, and I think this is something that has been so important to the integrity of what I write. I do it for the love of creating a story out of what is going on in my life, to sort through issues in my life in a way that I know how – words have always been so powerful in that way for me – and to connect with other people.
I write about the bad times and the good, and nothing makes me feel happier than knowing I’ve helped someone who’s going through a shitty situation feel not so alone. This motivation to touch people, to make them laugh and to get my words out there is what keeps me going. I would still blog if I wasn’t getting paid for it and I think it’s important to keep that love of what you do evident. I try to be as enthusiastic about my sponsored posts as I am about the posts that come straight from my head and I think (hope) that’s appreciated by the people who read here.
I also feel so inspired by other bloggers out there and that’s a great motivator too. I love A Cup Of Jo, Hey Natalie Jean, Little Green Notebook and Liberty London Girl; mostly American blogs, but then their blogging market is a couple of years ahead of ours. I see aspects of these blogs that I enjoy and try to incorporate what I love about them into my work. There’s no use trying to emulate another blogger, though.. when it comes to creating a space people will want to visit your own personality and originality is key. You are the only person in the whole world with your outlook and experiences and it’s important to remember that.
When it comes to inspiration I look to every single aspect of day-to-day life - the experiences you go through, your kids, the clothes you like to wear, the news you watch on TV. And every time you see something that gives you a lightbulb moment, write it down… I have a list on my phone where I store most of those middle-of-the-night ideas
How do you start a blog?
For me it was as easy as creating a WordPress account and just letting all my thoughts, feelings and concerns about pregnancy come out into a text box. I had no filter and just wrote and wrote and wrote until I found my ‘voice’. As the years have gone on and I’ve wanted to diversify my content I’ve been a bit more measured in my approach, brainstorming how I’d like my blog to be and working out how I can get there. I write lists weekly about things I want to post on… if I get to a third of them it’s been a good week ;)
It takes courage to write and publish that first post, I get that. There’s no right way or wrong way to do it, but my advice would be to just stay true to yourself. Write about something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, whether that’s beauty or babies or goldfish. Don’t get bogged down in the technical stuff at the start and enjoy yourself with it.
How much money can you make from blogging?
If you want to make a quick buck from blogging then it’s probably not for you. It took me two and a half years to start making money and even then it was only drips and drabs of pocket money, certainly not enough to live off. Through my advertising and sponsored posts I now earn about half my income from my blog with the other half being through Freelance Digital Marketing-related activities, most of which have come about because of my blog. It helps that I was a Digital Marketing Manager before Elfie was born and the fact I have a really active online presence definitely drives my freelance gigs. There are other bloggers out there doing the same when it comes to Freelancing: check out Tweet Pin Share from lovely Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and if your blog needs a re-design then look no further than Bryony.
I work about 32 hours a week between the blog and my Freelance work and annoyingly 40% of that time is probably spent on admin: invoicing, chasing invoicing, keeping track of invoices (I hate invoices), tax rubbish, answering queries, sending out my media kit. As my business has grown so has the finance side of things and I keep track of everything using spreadsheets.
With my hours I make enough money to keep us all ticking over – we aren’t millionaires (YET) but it’s more than I’d be able to make at a part time admin job that would fit around the kids and let’s face it, blogging still doesn’t feel like work. It ain’t easy though, I’m ‘on’ all the time and spend all my evenings at my computer. When the school holidays come round it is HARD to fit work in around the kids, ditto sickness (mine or the children’s).
How did you start making money from your blog?
There are a few ways you can make money from your blog. You can look into ad programmes, like Google Adsense, join an ad network (I’m a member of Handpicked Future and I love them) or work with affiliate networks. I use SkimLinks as it’s an automated service and as I’m not blogging much about fashion, which I think is where you can make the big bucks through affiliates such as RewardStyle. Saying that, I earn about 7 quid a month through them so it’s not exactly a big money spinner ;)
There are plenty of agencies offering sponsored posts out there. My favourites are Collective Bias (lovely Jo Middleton is in charge of CB in the UK – you can apply here), TAN Media and iProspect and I’d say it’s definitely worth reaching out to them if you’re interested in hosting sponsored content on your blog.
When it comes to prospective clients I always try to keep any communication as professional as possible and so supply a Media Pack which includes a lovely little background about me, any awards I’ve been nominated for, where I can be found on Social Media and my blog statistics. Bear in mind that lots of companies will enquire about your Page Rank and Domain Authority so it’s worth popping those in too. You can find these things at the Open Site Explorer. If you’re interested in working directly with brands then this is a great resource, and here’s how to draft a great media kit.
Aren’t you selling out by hosting sponsored posts?
Really, I don’t think so. I see the money I get paid for sponsored posts as payment for all the posts I do for the love ;) And I really do try to make sure they’re all as entertaining as possible, even if they are about supermarkets or vaginas. Plus, companies like Collective Bias are changing the way we work with brands by encouraging creativity when it comes to crafting our posts. My favourite work I’ve done for them was based on gin, obviously.
How do you stay motivated?
Not having any set working hours is difficult. As is working at home… it’s so easy to get distracted by the TV/washing/lunch/next door’s cat in the garden. I try to stay as focussed as I can when I’m at my computer, but oh look, a pigeon… so I try to mix it up and work from cafes on occasion. I also find that sometimes I can wake up after a bad night with the kids and just feel so uninspired. It’s really difficult to be creative and efficient when you’re running on four hours sleep and your bed is upstairs calling your name.
There are upsides to working for yourself though. On the one hand, if I’ve got a deadline to work to it’s a pain in the bum to tell my friends I can’t bring the kids to a picnic at the park today because I’ve got to write a post about mortgages, but on the other hand it’s great to be able to take a spontaneous morning off if I don’t have anything time-sensitive to deal with.
Writing-wise I find I’m pretty productive between the hours of 7-9pm so I try to get all my posts scribbled then if I can. Otherwise I try to use other empty pockets of time that would otherwise be spent staring into space; train journeys, waiting for school to finish, waking up in the middle of the night, that sort of thing. You’d be surprised how many of my blog posts began their life hastily planned out on my iPhone!
I find it really hard to motivate myself to respond to emails that aren’t urgent (SORRY!). My inbox is always drowning in messages and this is something I wish I could get better at. I also wish I had more time to reply to reader comments and comment on other blogs.
Looking at the bigger picture, it is really difficult to maintain a pace of posting. I’m happy with 3 posts a week but I know other bloggers (like the lovely Fritha) manage up to 5 posts a week. There’s a lot of time that goes into that: planning, photography, the actual writing, editing, promoting… and that’s before you take admin and factoring the running of Social Media accounts into the equation. Especially if you’re working a full time job or you have kids to look after- it can be impossible when the last thing you want to do is sit down at your computer and start writing. But I’ve always treated my blog like a business, even before it made money; it’s something I’m so proud of that I really want to be as successful as possible. I have given up things that I used to enjoy (evening Friends marathons on Comedy Central, going out to lunch) in favour of dedicating time to the blog. So far it’s paying off.
How do you keep your private life private?
When I’m writing it’s very rare I think about oversharing. Is that weird? I write about what feels natural to me, issues I think others will benefit from reading about or times in my life I want to remember in the future. It is odd when my friends know what’s up with me before I tell them when we meet for coffee or when I’m recognised from my blog in the supermarket (hi Gemma!) (totally made me feel like a rockstar by the way). I guess there are lines I’ve unconsciously drawn; I wrote a bit about dating but won’t write about my relationship, my parents read the blog so I won’t write about sex (Mum: I’ve only done it twice, promise) and I steer away from anything to do with my ex. In the future if the children ever have a problem with anything I’m writing or have written about them then I will respect their wishes and take it down.
Basically, I just do what feels natural.
What do you think? Would you ever like to make money from blogging? Is there anything you’d like to know about my experience? Hit me up with any questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.