With a billion blogs now out there on the t’internet, and the number ever increasing, a whole new industry has been birthed. Although it may have crept up on us over the last decade, the bloggersphere has definitely evolved into something more interesting (and commercial) in the last couple of years – with more and more young women wishing to become the next superstar vlogger or following their dreams by shooting their favourite lipstick. Although I would always encourage those seeking to channel their creative side into giving blogging a go (I’m a firm believer that everyone has a blog in them,) there are some realities that are worth exploring and understanding before you jump right in. Blogging, vlogging, instagramming, snapchatting and tweeting is all good fun, but it’s always a good idea to walk in with your eyes open and your expectations manageable. After many a conversation over the last couple of weeks I thought it a good idea to collate my responses in one place – for all of you just starting out, thinking about starting out, or simply floundering with no real clue about what to do next.
Running a blog isn’t expensive; you just need a computer and the time to spend curating your own little online world. However, as you grow and the quality of your content increases there will be hidden costs that creep up along the way. Everything from buying your own domain and keeping it active, a subscription for database hosting or updating to the latest version of Microsoft, to having to invest in a great camera, alongside lighting, props, travel and refreshments for when you’re out and about having meetings, comes at a cost. If you’re lucky enough to become successful enough, there’s also the added fees associated with a photographer and an accountant – and neither come cheap. It’s always worth monitoring your expenditure and being aware of how much you’re willing to invest, but it’s also vitally important to understand you don’t have to do it all at once; most of your favourite bloggers have been doing it for years, and I can guarantee you they didn’t start out all shiny and perfect.
COMPLETING YOUR TAX RETURN
As soon as you start making money from your blog you absolutely must keep a track of it. I have a mega spreadsheet with all my incomings and outgoings, which I use at the end of the tax year to complete my tax return. This is a legal requirement and is vital for anyone making money from their online presence – even if your costs (laptop, camera, travel, domain name) outweigh what’s landing in your bank account. This can be done between April and the following January, as accounts close on March 31st of each year; the balance needs to be paid on any outstanding tax by the end of that January, alongside an advanced estimated payment of the year to come. I would always recommend that anyone who is self employed or has a business on the side to keep a minimum of 20% of everything they make in a savings account for this very reason; completing a tax return is non-negotiable.
WHO TO TRUST
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is who to trust within the blogging world; not everyone has the same motives and it’s hard to see through the b*llshit unless you come out the other side. I would always suggest being cautious when it comes to forming friendships, understanding that (to start with at least) fellow bloggers are more colleagues than friends. Don’t tell everyone your complete life story or share everything with them until you’re confident they can be trusted, and they genuinely want to support you as much as you want to support them. After seven years I now have an incredible community of bloggers I can rely on and now call friends, but I’ve been burnt more often than I’d care to count in the past.
KNOWING YOUR WORTH
There’s no doubt that consumers now trust a blogger far more than a traditional form of media; our ability to relate to readers and tell it how it is (without juggling the expectations of advertisers or editors) is what makes the movement so powerful. Brands are falling over themselves to work with bloggers, but before you say yes to an ‘opportunity’ make sure it benefits both sides; being sent a £5.99 mascara or £19.99 pair of shoes may sound like the dream, but does that always equate to spending hours curating a blog post in return? Don’t be afraid of saying no, negotiating or asking for payment when it really is justified – but also, don’t be a twat. People talk.
First of all, a sample is not a right it’s a privilege. Just because you’ve launched your own site it doesn’t automatically mean you’re entitled to receive every new collection going; brands have to justify even sending a body lotion out to a blogger, because that has value and they’re expected to provide a return on the investment. When you’re starting out it’s important to only accept what you’re truly interested in, rather than getting carried away with all the free stuff on offer – that transaction involves work, so make sure you’re willing to put the time in. However, if you’ve been sent a sample it’s for consideration purposes only (unless you’ve agreed to guaranteed coverage) and doesn’t automatically generate a positive feature for the brand in question. Write only about what you want to and never be afraid of sharing your true thoughts: if you can be bought with a bottle of nail polish there really is no hope.
ATTENDING LAUNCH EVENTS
One of the highlights of getting recognition is when those event invitations start rolling in. Standing in a room full of makeup with champagne and cupcakes on tap may feel like you’ve made it, but these events are still classified as work and come with a set of conditions. You’re expected to behave professionally, to take the time to find out more about what’s on offer and not to get all grabby at the end when it comes to goodie bags. I’ve heard horrendous stories about bloggers stealing samples on display, trying to take additional bags so they can sell the contents online, getting so drunk they embarrass themselves and making no effort whatsoever to even cover the launch afterwards. Although there’s no obligation to write up a glowing piece after the fact, it’s vital to understand it’s a work based event and not a jolly for you and all your mates. Don’t get in a strop if you’re not invited, and don’t just rock up thinking you can blag it; brands have a carefully curated list of attendees for a reason, so be polite enough to ask if you can join them first.
Part and parcel of putting yourself out there on the internet is the proliferation of mentally unstable individuals who like to leave insulting, demeaning and down right unacceptable comments. It’s not ok, but it is inevitable at some point – so be prepared for it and ensure you’re able to respond effectively. Most of these individuals are attention grabbing or simply just nasty, and are out to get a reaction; learning to take a step back and produce a considered response comes with time, but it’s worth it in the long term. You will need to develop a thick skin and allow negativity to roll off your back, but it’s also important to take constructive criticism on board and learn from it.
My most hated thing in the world is having to
chase up unpaid invoices; sometimes they remain unpaid for months and
even years, leaving an awkward conversation and more often than not the
blogger out of pocket because there’s little you can do. Payment terms
on invoices are usually 30 days, meaning you expect to be paid for the
work within a month of sending the invoice; however, the reality is
these invoices are small fry in comparison to the big amounts a company
pays in and out, and are therefore left lingering at the bottom of the
priority list. Most of the time they’re not processed until someone
remembers, and then they enter into the brand’s system for payment which
may take anything up to three months to process. (If you’re lucky.) Threatening brands publicly after a matter of weeks is unprofessional and is the quickest way to reduce your earning potential in the future – be patient, politely chase and celebrate when that dolla finally lands in your account.
NOT ALL ADVICE IS GOOD ADVICE
Although there’s a lot of incredible advice out there from those that really know what they’re talking about, there’s also a shedload of rubbish advice spouted from the mouths of those that really don’t have a clue. My current bugbear is Facebook groups that seem to breed incorrect and inaccurate information, as well as leaving bloggers with warped expectations that filter down into the rest of the industry. Questioning advice you’re being given from these groups, or asking for the insight of someone that’s been working in the industry for a long time, will only give you a stronger position and ensure you’re doing the right thing. Many of these Facebook communities scaremonger and breed incorrect information about working with brands, leaving some awesome new bloggers going in the completely wrong direction. No piece of advice is ever gospel, so don’t treat it as such.
So there are my ten cents worth of advice for those of you wondering what to do next. If you’ve got any other questions about blogging, the digital space or generally getting your name out there, then don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below and I’ll endeavor to help.
The lipsticks pictured are the new YSL Volupté Tint-In-Balm (£27.00) and are available in 12 shades.
Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.