This April marks the fifth anniversary of LBQ; within these last five years I’ve seen a huge amount of change in the blogging world, as well as a huge transformation in the way brands deal with influencial sites they know could have an impact on sales. I’m lucky enough to work with the majority of well-known brands in the UK and have a vast stash of beauty things to review, feature and build conversation around; however, this is sometimes trickier than you may imagine to juggle. Over the last few weeks I’ve had endless approaches from brands that simply lack the understanding of how a blogger works: from the purpose of a blog (to provide an honest and in-depth personal perspective,) to the amount of time it takes to try a product effectively (anything from a day to a few months,) and even how much free value is generated from one single piece of content (reaching thousands of engaged women waiting to spend their hard earned cash.) Being offered a ‘free’ product in exchange for a feature comes with its own set of conditions and commitments, making it far from ‘free’ for the blogger intending to review it – time has value and should be respected as such. Although everything featured on LBQ is there for a reason and has been handpicked because I genuinely love it/want to share it/think you’ll be interested in it, it’s also vital for brands and businesses to understand that blogging isn’t as simple as it looks.
My site is my business, my time is money and there’s always a cost associated with everything I do. It may seem like the value of a free lipstick is incentive enough for me to lap it up with hearts in my eyes, but I just see another piece of work that needs to get done. I adore my job, treat my site like my offspring and am extremely protective of my reputation and value, but there comes a point when we have to talk about the amount of time and effort goes into writing every one of the fifty odd posts that appear on-site every single month. From being asked to pull together a post to promote something you’ve never even tried, to samples being requested back because they’re short in the office, and unrealistic expectations that you’ll be able to write about everything you’re sent for consideration, it’s frustrating when your output isn’t valued because you don’t work for a big magazine with a glossy cover (that’s often got fewer readers.) In the interests of transparency and illustrating my point, here’s exactly how much work goes into creating every single post on blogs across the world and why bloggers should be commended for their hard work – not belittled and ridiculed by those scared of the evolving digital world.
Before you even agree to receive a product for potential review, you have to do a bit of research. You have to understand what’s unique, different or interesting about it, whether or not it’s suitable for your skin type or makeup interests, and most importantly: if it’s going to be of interest to your readers. If I know straight up a product is just not right for LBQ then I’ll decline it straight away, but that still takes time to understand. Once it lands on my desk I have to do a bit more research to understand what it’s all about and how I’m actually supposed to use it – whether that’s reading the often wordy press release, digesting complex instructions or frantically googling.
Estimated Time = 1 hour
In order to get the best possible images to illustrate a post, I try to take as many photos as possible when a product is straight out of the wrapping. This gives a clear and crisp indication of colour and texture, without any finger marks or unsightly smudges that ruin the beautiful illusion us bloggers create. However, to get that one perfect shot takes one hundred different shots and about three different ‘scene sets’, which equates to a huge amount of time snapping with a camera. I quite often spend two half days a week just taking photos, with another half day to edit the beasts I’ve created and ensure the lighting appears just bright enough without washing out the detail. This all takes time, skill and practice – it’s not something you can chuck together in ten minutes.
Estimated Time = 1-2 hours
Now the ‘fun’ part is over, the hard work really begins. Depending on what I’m featuring, a testing session can take anything from five minutes applying lipstick and seeing how it stands up against a cup of coffee, to a six week trial of an eye cream. I very rarely feature anything I haven’t thoroughly tested (only skipping this step if it’s more of a news piece or not something that’s suitable for my own needs,) meaning I have to dedicate a lot of time to trying new stuff and covering myself in lotions and potions. Consciously introducing new products into your routine, swapping out old ones and remembering to add an additional step to find out if it makes a difference, all requires time and head-space – something I don’t have a lot of!
Estimated Time = five minutes to six weeks
Anyone can write a description of a product, its benefits and how it performs after testing, but creating a piece of content that inspires and evokes emotion takes time and skill. I’m fortunate enough to have a natural knack for writing (something I’ve always had,) but I still have to continually hone my craft. Sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t; sometimes a post sits in drafts for weeks on end until I’ve edited it to a place where I’m happy for it to be published, while on other occasions I get too excited and write so quickly steam practically flies off the keyboard. Either way, creating a great blog post with all of the relevant information takes time and patience; it’s not something you can churn out in twenty minutes and still be proud of.
Estimated Time = 1-4hrs
So you’ve tried the product, you love it and you want to tell the world about it? Now comes the often tricky task of finding out where it’s available, how much it costs and when it will launch to the world. If I was organised and kept every press release I was sent it may be easier, but a lot of the products I’m sent don’t come with anything other than a compliments slip and a bag full of hope. I recently spent in the region of two hours trying to track down a link and price for some cheap-but-wonderful lipsticks, even tweeting and emailing the brand without getting a response. Google is my best friend and usually other bloggers are a godsend at having the info I’m missing, but even adding in that final bit of info at the end of a post sometimes takes an age.
Estimated Time = ten minutes to two hours
Once you’ve spent an age writing and curating a post, you want as many people as possible to read it and let you know their thoughts. I have a lot of ‘auto-posting’ platforms plugged into the site, meaning every new post is published to Facebook and Twitter without me having to lift a finger, but I also have to actively push out every post via my other channels over the next week or so. From creating new images to use socially, uploading content to Instagram, pinning to Pinterest and scheduling tweets across the next seven days, this all takes a significant amount of time.
Estimated Time = 1-2hrs
In total, I estimate one single post can take in the region of six hours (minimum) to produce and promote – excluding any time taken to actually test and reflect upon the product in question. That’s nearly a full day’s work in total, that is often expected by many brands for nothing more than the possibility of a free eyeshadow. Don’t get me wrong, I fill the site with beautiful things because I love doing it – but when I’m expected to spend time and effort on creating content that’s not respected or valued as a significant amount of time out of my day, it’s incredibly disheartening. A lot of brands really do get it, but the last few months has seem somewhat of a backwards step when it comes to relations and understanding of the blogging community. We’re not here to be used and abused for your marketing purposes, but are real people that need to be spoken to with respect and consideration. We work hard, often for very little reward, but we love doing it – so give us a break, make us a cuppa and say thanks every so often.
Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.
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