Monday, 13 July 2015

So You Want To Be A "Pro Blogger"?

When I first started this blog in January 2013, I had no idea that it would one day become my job.

I didn't even realise back then that bloggers made any money from what they did - call me naive but I knew very little of the blogging world and how it worked - I hadn't heard of Zoella or any of the "famous" bloggers and vloggers on the scene, it took me quite a while to cotton on to any of those people or to realise that many people actually earned a decent living from their blogs.

I simply loved to write and had heard mention of "blogs" so thought it seemed like something fun to try.

5 months later I was offered my very first sponsored post - I was so very excited and I started to wonder if I may be able to earn a little "extra income" from this hobby that I loved so much and thought of what a dream come true that would be. Just a bit of extra pocket money would be so useful whilst on maternity leave....

Little did I know this blog would end up being the reason I never returned to work after my maternity leave ended.

Fast forward to now and I guess I fall under the "pro blogger" category - this is not a term I personally like to use as I feel like I'm still learning in many ways. I feel anything but a "pro" most days when I have deadlines up to my eyeballs and I'm trying desperately to balance my time between babies & blog work. 

But a "pro blogger" is quite simply somebody who earns their living from their blog work - it is their profession - and so that is true of me, now.

I no longer earn a little extra money from this blog, I earn the equivalent of a full time wage.

And although I am very very grateful for this and I enjoy my work immensely, it certainly isn't easy - in some ways it may well be one of the hardest jobs I've ever had, but it's also the most rewarding.

I so often see new bloggers on the scene who say they want to go "pro" with their blogs, and although I am certainly not a font of all knowledge on the subject I thought I would offer up some tips based on what I do know - I hope it can be useful.

1. Take advantage of tools to help

Life is made so much easier by getting to grips with the many tools at our disposal once you go into blogging full time...there are so many sites and apps you can use to manage your tasks, help keep you focused, help you improve your skills and even help you find work.

A relatively new site I've been using is Hiive which a fantastic place for creative types to congregate online - you can use the site to search for job vacancies or opportunities, or use it to improve your skills with courses. It's a fantastic place to mingle and network with likeminded people which I feel is a hugely important part of going pro with your blog, and certainly an app I recommend getting to grips with.

I like to use socialoomph for my social media scheduling - as soon as I write up a post I schedule a certain number of social media shout outs promoting it to go live over the next few days, and then I know its done and I can forget about it.

I also use HootSuite to keep track of certain hashtags of relevance to me on Twitter, to save having to constantly scroll through and search for them.

And finally FocalFilter is a fantastic tool for temporarily blocking yourself from distraction such as Facebook, YouTube, etc - I find this invaluable when I'm trying to work through a list of posts to be written and feel my attention wandering! I can let it know which sites to block me from (Facebook!) and for how long, and I'm all set!

2. Be prepared to do the jobs of several people

People tend to think you simply write a blog post and that's it...Not quite.

One blog post for me means I need to do the following jobs:

Writer - I need to come up with the idea for the post, and write it of course. As the writing is what interests me, that's what I find to be the easiest part...the rest is more of a challenge to me.

Photographer - Your post needs images to accompany it if you want to make it stand out, and although you don't need to be a professional photographer I have personally found that my blog reach and my offers of work have increased as I've improved my photos over the years....and there's still a LONG way to go for me yet!

Editor - Once the photos are taken - they need to be edited. If you have a lot of photos this can take hours. I recently did a weekend-long press trip which saw me take over 600 photographs - editing those took just over 2 hours.

I then needed to edit the post itself - to check it for errors, spelling mistakes etc, and make sure it read well - that took a further 15 minutes or so, on top of the 45 minutes it took to write. That's 3 hours spent producing just one post already....and there's still more work to do for that one post...

Time Manager - I usually have a fair few posts each week that need to go live by a certain date as agreed with the client, I also then have my own content that I want to slot in too - in order to fit things in and get everything live when it needs to be, I need to work out a blog schedule which usually runs weeks in advance.
Right now my blog has no free space available for the next 3 weeks - this helps me to know what I can take on and what I can't, but it takes time to work out and continually amend this schedule to make room for new commitments when they arise.

Promotion - There's no point in putting all that effort into a post only for it to sit there unread - and so in order to get it out there, you need to promote it.

There are numerous ways to do this - personally I choose to schedule some mentions of it on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts so that my own followers are aware of it. I then link to it on some blog Facebook share groups, and I then list it on sites such as Stumble Upon, Reddit and Digg.

I also schedule some tweets for it a few months down the line, as you never want a post to become buried and never seen again - it's nice to revisit it further down the line and promote it to a new audience.

All of that promotion takes approximately 30 minutes for each post.

So that equates to roughly 3 and a half hours spent producing & promoting each blog post written - this blog tends to have around 5 posts per week on average (sometimes up to 8 on a busy week), which means I would spend an average of 17.5 hours per week working on it.

But that's JUST for the posts...

Admin - As well as producing and promoting posts, there's a lot of back office work that goes into blogging too.
When you blog as your job you'll find yourself with a lot of emails to go through each day - I can receive up to 60 emails per day on average, all of which need to be filtered through - many of them will be things that aren't suitable for me but I try my best to reply to every email anyway and this takes time - I spend around 2 hours per day replying to emails.

Then you will want to engage with your followers and fellow bloggers on social media, reply to your blog comments, and network with other bloggers - I spend probably a further 2 hours per day doing this (and could do with a LOT more time on it, as I don't feel I network or engage with other bloggers nearly enough as I should!)

So that totals a 37.5 hour working week....and people think blogging is just a "side" job which doesn't take up much time?!

3. Balance your responsibilities & manage your time well

Being your own boss sounds fantastic and means of course that you can set your own hours, which can be great and certainly a blessing when you have children to work around.

But it can also be very, very difficult.

You are responsible for managing your own time - and it's all too easy to get pulled away from work and find yourself just taking half an hour out to bake with the children, or stopping early to go to the park...I'm not going to lie, I do this a LOT!

I see it as the main perk of my job and I probably give in to temptation far more often than I should and suffer for it when work piles on top of me.

I find it helps to give yourself a set working schedule - for example, mine currently looks something like this:

Monday - Photography day! I photograph any products that have arrived in the last week, and take any necessary photos - I upload them, edit them and get them labelled and ready for use in their relevant folders.
I then do my usual blog admin and email responses for the day.

Tuesday - Morning of admin & email responses, and afternoon off!

Wednesday - Writing day! Write up as many posts as possible! Email responses too.

Thursday - Admin & email responses in the morning, and writing any left over blog posts in the afternoon.

Friday - Do any YouTube filming and editing needed, and finish off any admin, email responses and posts to be written up.

I find that having a schedule to stick to helps to ensure that tasks are completed on time, and I struggle so much more when I let the schedule slip!

4. Be prepared to work HARD

When you run a "for profit" blog (a blog that you are happy to use to make money from) you are in charge of your own success.

Nobody is going to appear in front of you and dish out opportunities to you just like that (Wouldn't that be lovely?!) - you need to be prepared to put in the hard work in order to reap the rewards.

There are numerous ways you can earn money from a blog - you can accept sponsored posts (these can be self written or guest written), you can offer advertising on your blog, you can use affiliate links, or you can accept product reviews whereby you are compensated by way of a product to keep after you have reviewed it.

But in order to gain these opportunities, you will first need to build a following - those interested in supplying you with work will most likely want to see evidence of the number of followers your blog and your associated social media accounts have & the number of unique views your blog receives each month.

They also often like you to have built a "decent" DA score.

You need to be prepared to put in time and effort creating good content in order to boost all of your figures and followers to a decent level - and once you have those figures you also need to spend time engaging with people too, most clients like to see some social engagement going on in the comments section and across your social media accounts- there is no point in having 15,000 Twitter followers but never tweeting is there?! Clients like to see that you are active on social media and on your own blog, engaging with your followers and demonstrating a decent social reach.

So there you have it...the amount of work that goes in to "pro blogging" is considerable and not something to be taken's certainly not the "free ride" a lot of people tend to think it is but it does have so many benefits, I'll always be so grateful that this blog gave me the opportunity to work from home so that I could spend as much as time as possible with my children and I will always be grateful for the amazing opportunities it has given to us a family...If, knowing just how much work actually goes into it, you still want to give pro-blogging a try I whole-heartedly recommend it and wish you every success!

You may be interested in my previous posts How To Start A Blog & How To Grow Your Blog, and I am planning a few "How To" posts with some blogging tips over the coming months...let me know if there is anything particular you'd like to know more about and I will try my best!

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