Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Truth About Life As A Blogger



I've been working as a blogger for over 7 years now, and during that time I've been blessed to work with many brands in a variety of ways.

From gifted holidays both abroad and within the UK, to advertising campaigns paying thousands of pounds - the positive experiences and opportunities it has brought to our family have been plentiful. I will always be so thankful that I started this hobby, and for the connections, friendships and life experiences it has brought to me.

But as with most things in life, it's not always sunshine and lollipops. There are some downsides to doing this for a living, something that I'm well aware could be easily overlooked by those watching from the sidelines.

I'm very conscious of how easy this sort of work must look to outsiders - in fact I'm well aware that most would argue over whether it even warrants being labelled as "work" at all.
The impression that most people have is that we get given lots of free things, get sent on free holidays, get gifted tickets for events - and all we have to do in return is snap a few quick photographs to post on social media, and write a quick blurb about our experiences. Anyone could do that, surely?!

Well yes...I imagine that anyone could do that, but there's actually a lot more to it.

How Do The Opportunities Come About To Begin With?

It surprises me that people assume brand work is going to come quickly and easily to bloggers without much effort on their part.

No brand is going to spend money, time or resources on working with a blogger unless they are confident that blogger can expose their products to the right audience. In short, they need to be confident that they will see a return on their investment.

This means that a blogger needs to be able to demonstrate that they have built up an audience of genuine and engaged followers. There is no value for a brand in working with a blogger who has an audience made up entirely of bots or ghost followers, and there are methods of verifying that a following is genuine.

There is also no value for a brand in working with a blogger who has a large audience but little engagement - this shows that the followers are not really interested in what that blogger has to say. This is why brands measure engagement levels across social media channels, before choosing which bloggers and influencers to work with.

So what this means is, it is NOT a case of simply opening up some social media accounts and waiting for the brands to flock to you with offers.

You need to spend time establishing a loyal and engaged community of followers across social media. This can take years to do - you need to be present on all major social media platforms, putting out regular content that resonates with your audience enough for them to want to engage with you. This can be almost a full time job in itself when you factor in taking and editing photos that will draw engagement (any old phone snap won't do it), keeping up with hashtags and algorithm changes in order to understand how to get the most engagement possible, and factoring in time to interact with followers and build relationships within your community.

If you also run a blog alongside social media, you need to create regular blog content that will draw in readers - you may not earn money from the clicks you receive to your blog, but every click helps you to demonstrate your value to brands and encourages them to want to work with you. No brand is going to work with a blog that doesn't recieve any hits, and no follower is going to bother reading a blog that is nothing but a constant stream of adverts - so you need to create engaging and interesting non-advertorial content to draw in the followers and clicks, in order to entice the brands to work with you.

In short, you can expect to spend at least a couple of years putting in the work to create content, build a community and get to grips with all the technical know-how you need (understanding SEO, getting to grips with tech jargon and learning how to manage a website and social media platforms) before you before you see any monetary return on your time.

What Goes In To Working With A Brand?

Brand work can involve working directly with a brand, working through a PR agency who act as a middle man or working with blogging networks.

I appreciate that to an outsider, it probably looks as though the average brand job simply involves being sent on a trip, taking photos while you're there and then enjoying your jolly before sticking a few pics on Instagram and writing a quick couple of paragraphs about what a great time you had when you come home.

The reality can be very different.

The average brand campaign involves a lengthy legal contract - one in which you will agree to a number of things including what other work you can take on for a period before and after working with that brand, what sort of things you will discuss on your blog and social platforms while working with them, how many social media posts you are expected to make and exactly when, what aspects of the trip/experience/product you will focus on, and to send over a detailed metrics analysis after the work has gone live.

For example - last year we enjoyed a gifted holiday. To the untrained eye, this would likely have looked like a lovely week in the sunshine having a lovely family holiday for free.

In reality, I was contracted to ensure that we did certain things at certain times during our trip and to ensure that I was posting content to social media at approved times, sticking to a planned posting schedule, editing photographs on my computer in the evenings to ensure they were ready for use the next day, and then coming home to provide a detailed write up of our experience, provide useable photography to the brand for their own advertising campaigns and provide a full metrics analysis of the content.

Was it worth it? Absolutely!

Was it a simple free holiday? Absolutely not. It was a working trip, with significantly less freedom and rest time than a family holiday would usually have.


What Are Some Of Your Negative Experiences Of Brand Work?

I've been very fortunate over the years to be able to establish some fantastic working relationships with PR professionals, and thankfully my negative experiences have been rare - but there have been some.

There have been occasions when PRs have been incredibly demanding during difficult periods - for example when illness or family bereavements have struck unexpectedly I have unfortunately encountered some PRs who have been unwilling to demonstrate any flexibility with agreed promotions during these times which can leave you feeling very dehumanised and used.

Then there are the issues with receiving payment - most of the time this runs smoothly, but sometimes it can take months of chasing payments down and resorting to phoning head offices, sending letters and even having to go through the small claims courts before managing to secure money that's owed to you. There have been occasions when work has been completed only to find that a company has gone bust, and invoices won't be paid. Thankfully there are lots of reputable companies such as Get Blogged who can be relied on to pay invoices within 48 hours.


One of the most irritating sides to brand work are the countless emails I receive asking me to work for free. Usually these emails will come from PR companies who are clearly being paid by the brand themselves, but yet expect me to promote that brand for them in return for nothing at all - despite the fact that they are asking me to spend my time producing content to promote them and asking me to allow them to have access to the audience I have spent several years working hard to build. I receive around 10 of these emails every single day.
Frankly, it's insulting and disrespectful.


What Other Downsides Are There To Working As A Blogger?

*Time Management and Work/Life Balance - This is something I have struggled with for the entirety of my blogging career, and I'm not sure that the right work/life balance truly exists when you're juggling working from home with permanently home schooling 3 young children.

*Dealing With Negativity - Unfortunately, having an online presence can attract the attention of some of the undesirables of society AKA the trolls! It defies belief for most people to know that there are whole forums used by fully grown adults which exist purely for the purpose of pulling apart and ridiculing bloggers for anything that they deem mockable, but this is the world we sadly live in. It's easily dealt with by blocking your own access to these forums so that there is no temptation to read them and luckily troll accounts on social media are easily blocked, but it can be difficult for sensitive or vulnerable people to deal with and so is certainly something to be aware of.

*Imposter Syndrome & Comparison - It is incredibly difficult to have a job that essentially bases your value on how "liked" you are by other people, and it is nigh on impossible for this not to leave you struggling with comparing yourself to peers or feeling that you're not good enough from time to time. It's not an easy industry to work in for this reason, and I don't know any blogger or influencer who hasn't struggled with this. I try my hardest to live by the motto "People can still like you without liking your social media posts" because of course that's true - sometimes people are busy or distracted, and your social media posts are not important to other people in your life - but it can be tricky not to base your worth on them when your income is intrinsically linked to their success.

So there we have it! The truth about life as a blogger. So now you know, what do you think - do you still fancy giving it a go?!

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