I know there have been a couple of recent blogging gatherings.. I wasn’t able to attend but kept an eye on feedback coming through my Twitter time-line to get the general gist of what was going on.
One thing that seemed to feature quite highly was the issue of monetizing your blog, or even becoming a Pro-Blogger (i.e. your blog is your primary source of income and you are doing it pretty well full-time). I think I would say that now, I would probably be classed as a Pro-Blogger, and initially when I started my blog I longed for a time in the future where I could just blog and nothing else. Although my blog was never started with any set goal in mind (I just went with the flow) and in fact, there still is no set goal, being a Pro-Blogger is not quite the euphoric state I’d thought it might be. It’s a huge risk to throw all your eggs in one basket and because blogging is a constantly evolving genre, there is no path already beaten; I have the constant feeling of finding my way.
For a start, the tricky issue of monetizing is always at the forefront of your mind and it is inextricably linked with stats. I saw a tweet from one of the blogging conferences that said something along the lines of ‘the biggest blogs aren’t necessarily the best’ which of course it is true, but when it comes to advertisers, they really don’t care what you’re writing about, just as long as you have enough viewers reading it. At the end of the day, they want eyes on product, and many, many of them. The harsh fact is that if you can’t keep your stats at a certain level, there won’t be a high enough revenue to feed your cat, never mind yourself. There is still an assumption from advertisers that they pay less for on-line advertising than they would to be between some glossy pages. And it is generally way, way less.
Magazines aren’t asked to prove how many people actually read about a particular lipstick – bloggers are. Because we can prove it, it is now expected that we will. I generally don’t give out individual post figures because over time these change dramatically and unlike a magazine, a blog post is always there. It doesn’t go in recycling and the information is accessible for just about ever if Google is your friend. (To clarify: magazines do have to produce circulation figures but these obviously never can identify how many people have seen one particular product – on a blog, this is absolutely possible.)
I source a lot of my own ads, and have very carefully used a count-down system which nobody has done before. So, rather than create a simple ad, I do a countdown to launch to create a buzz and anticipation about a forthcoming launch. It is rare that I advertise a product already available. I turn down more than I accept because I want to keep a certain benchmark for BBB and featuring endless cosmetic surgery clinics or similar isn’t it. The collective I belong to, Handpicked Media, is unfailingly supportive. I am not a natural sales person and will only tell the absolute truth about my stats so I don’t inflate or make stuff up, but without ads or countdowns, this blog can’t flourish. It’s the hardest aspect of pro-blogging – I always feel bad if there is a low response.. to the point of giving money back.. see, I said I was rubbish… but nor can I use any manipulative tactics to increase response. It just has to be what it is, and reader response is in fact a very good learning indicator.
Some bloggers have looked at the agent option; if you’re a really, really successful blogger then that seems like a very sensible course of action, although I nearly fell off my chair a couple of years ago in disbelief when I first heard bloggers were getting agents. I might do it, I might not. Nobody might want me! Eek. Having an agent will definitely bring you more revenue, but you’ll need a good point of difference and a heck of a lot of business nouse and self-control if you don’t want to end up as just a party-filler.
I don’t want to use an affiliate link company, because as I’ve mentioned before, I want a proper relationship with the retailers where I can negotiate special deals for BBB readers that aren’t the same as everyone else’s. Affiliate linking is where I would get a small percentage of any sales made from a link I provide – if I feature a £4.99 nail polish and ten people bought it, I’d get about 49p, just so you know how that goes. Beauty, unless it is very, very high end and expensive, doesn’t do quite so well on Affiliates as, say fashion, where retail price per product is generally higher. I am currently only working with two e-tailers on an affiliate basis, although more are in the pipeline.
Then, there are sponsored posts. I take these pretty seriously and again, turn down more than I accept (one a month on average). My conscience couldn’t take writing about rubbish for money, and anyway, my readers would know.. they’d just know.
Which brings me round another tricky issue. The more time you spend on your blog, the more you know your readers and the more you write for them instead of yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that and I actually love seeing a product I know that readers will respond well to, but on the down side, and again stats related, I end up not featuring some products because I know that it won’t be of great interest and I won’t get the stats even though it will bring more diversity to the blog. This issue also ties into PR, because it is very hard to say no to a PR about to lose a client because they haven’t managed to get enough coverage that you can’t help them out because you won’t get the stats. So you lose, or they lose. Once you start knowing this stuff, you can’t un-know it.
The bottom line of commercialised blogging is stats and they rules your life, night and day. When Google decided to change its algorithm (I say that as though I actually know what that means, but only in the very vaguest sense!) it wiped away 20 thousand from my stats in a couple of weeks. I couldn’t sleep, never mind eat. I’m slowly, slowly building them back again and have totally relaxed about it… but for a time, I was beside myself.
Finally, the more successful you see other bloggers being, the more you want a piece of the action. It’s natural, but it’s not nice. It is never nice – especially with friends – to feel jealous, but I do sometimes. The rational me gladly wants them to succeed, the blogging me thinks ‘why didn’t I get chosen for that trip’, or ‘what did I do wrong that I didn’t get that exclusive?’ Because it all matters for stats and that piles on tonnes of pressure. You have to work relentlessly on a pro-blog. I am not naturally a jealous person but there is something about seeing others chosen over you that can nearly break you.
You can’t turn the clock back to the early days of blogging; it’s marching onwards and evolving every single day, but really, really think hard if pro-blogging is the way you want to go. I love blogging, I love the remnants of the ‘old days’ which are still there if you look, I am amazed every single day that so many people want to read what I say about beauty. And, I love the variety, the excitement and the achievements, which on a good day are better than any fairground ride. But, it is not an easy ride, not by a long chalk. There is no way, at this stage, that I could support myself fully on blogging alone. I am full of admiration for anyone that can, because I know what has to go into it for the slightest bit of hard cash to come out of it. And I am in the very lucky position of being able to be experimental about whether pro-blogging can work for me without losing my integrity or the very thing that readers come to BBB for – the truth.
PS: Just after reading this through – it started fairly aimlessly with no end conclusion at the beginning – I’ve realised that even just saying all this is what blogging is about. Being able to say it out loud and being prepared to take the consequences, good or bad, with no editor editing out the unsavoury bits or the bad grammer. Blogging, even about beauty, is about laying yourself bare. Brilliant!
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.
I think there’s too much of an expectation from up-and-comings (as I like to call them) that you can make a serious career solely from blogging. I was trying to work out in my head yesterday (following the conference you mention) what I’d have to do to jack my full-time job in to cover my salary and in all honesty, it scared the bejeezus out of me. I’d have to run a tonne of sponsored posts, spend the next year quadrupling my readership to generate more ad revenue, sign up with an agent to investigate other opps and freelance my arse off in an already saturated journalism market. I don’t want the stress, hassle or pressure to support myself through something that’s currently fun, but also that would completely change what my blog is today.
I was a little disappointed at the talk yesterday as the only route they spoke about to ‘make a career out of blogging’ was to affliate the hell out of your blog and sell a shedload of advertising. That’s all utterly dependant upon readership, which to a room full of small/mid range bloggers (in size) just wasn’t the right message. I think blogging can help open doors into various roles (PR, social media, marketing, online, writing) but it’s not a miracle way to a pot of money at the end of a rainbow. There’s a reason very few have ‘made it’ as a pro-blogger, the same way there’s only a few ridiculously successful entrepreneurs in this world.
I love this post!! Really informative and very useful, as someone fairly new to the blogging world it’s great to get a very honest perspective from some more experienced.
I must admit I’d love to make a living from blogging at some stage in my career but I really wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve worked in IT for 10 years and feels scary at the thought of that much change!
I’ve also been guilty of being envious of other bloggers that maybe started around a similar time to me and you are so right, it doesn’t do you any good. I try really hard to not let myself get jealous now and just concentrate on my posts and making them better.
I started almost 2 years ago with the clear intention of NOT becoming a commercial blogger. It cost me a lot – at times I even thought “Why the heck am I doing this?”, but then, 100 followers isn’t that bad, when youv’e decided to block all advertising.
I don’t regret a thing as I have my faithful followers, I have people who come to me to ask me questions about a mascara or a lipstick, and most of all, I can sleep without bothering about stats. It’s just that I want my blog to be as personal as a diary blog would be, and have only a handful of people really valuing my opinion.
You, bigger bloggers, are there to provide me with insights and stuff, and I’m really thankful there are people like you to take up all the pressure involved in pro-blogging 🙂
Pro blogging isn’t for me. I already think that blogging as i am doing it now i taking over my life, never mind if i want it to pay for my cat’s food as you said 😛 Part of me thinks also that as soon as something becomes your profession, then it loses in fun if this makes sense. i have yet to do a sponsored post, i’ll be happy with an opportunity like that every now and then though x
I’ve been thinking about going ‘pro’ for a long while, but the troubles and pressures you describe you are dominated by are exactly the reasons why I don’t think I could or should do it. If you are a blogger that does have enough stats, then yeah, why not, but it is SOOOO hard ‘these days’ to get to that level…
But one thing you describe, I find myself doing regardless of being or wanting to be pro or not – and that’s almost only blogging about things that I think are interesting to my readers. But I think that’s a natural thing to happen – you wanna ‘reward’ people for them spending time on your blog, so you wanna give them something interesting to read 🙂
Keep at it hunni, and good luck!! xxx
Oh god. My mind is boggling to be honest. It’s a fantastic informative post btw but I can’t get my head round any of it really… I kind of go with the flow and see where it takes me (not very far as it happens)…
I guess I’ll just continue pootling along in my own way… perhaps at some point I’m really going to have to get my head around all this… am amazed about the agents thing. Not because I find it shocking or wrong, but because I genuinely had no idea.
Thats me in a nutshell, clueless.
Blogging laid bare. Great post as usual, Jane. Sometimes I get asked by people how to make money from it and I reply, it’s very difficult. Like you, I didn’t set out with this in mind but to write, honestly and with a degree of objective wit (saying things the mags won’t) about fashion and beauty.
My blog is precious as it’s an outlet and a brand I work hard on but some newbies seem to want everything too easily, instant celebrity and fortune without the graft, and, as is the truth, there’s no easy route to this. I’d much rather have integrity and respect from my peers and readers who know I remain steadfastly honest than sell out or expect too much. To date, I’m keeping on keeping on. Here’s to us!
I love your blog and your honesty and insight. I don’t mind bloggers making money from their readers as long as they are upfront about it and I appreciate hearing the challenges you face sometimes in maneuvering the rocky blogging landscape.
Thanks for such an honest insight Jane. I am one of those that daydreams about being in your shoes and must admit this post has really made me think twice! I’m just not sure that I could cope with that level of pressure were I lucky enough to be under it! 😉
Well thought out article Jane. I would think only a tiny percentage of blogs, regardless of subject, become proper money makers for their authors. But that’s not to say a person shouldn’t go for it she (or he) wants to.
I’m thinking writing free lance is an option I want to explore. I’m realistic enough to accept that, for several reasons, I can’t make a decent living strictly from blogging. But I love my little beauty blog and never started out with a payday as the goal.
Great post on the reality of blogging and with everyone blogging, I can see where PR will become more picky and choose those with the highest stats.
Me, I have to go with the flow of what I can muster. As my stats indicate and the number of emails I have written to companies for, at least a discount, to buy some of their products so I can review; shows I don’t have the readership for this either. I admit at times the fun of blogging turns into pure frustration.
I know I will never be a pro blogger because I don’t want to be because of the headache of it. I admire you for doing it and dealing with the brands.
I’d love to write for my blog full time but I know it’s never going to happen. Really good article, made me appreciate the fact that my blog is my hobby. There’s no pressure, if I only get 200 page views, oh well. The pressure to do this full time would be immense. Hats off to all the ‘probloggers’ out there.
Great post. I think the term ‘pro blogger’ can be quite misleading as many bloggers who appear to write for their blog full time also do freelance work. I’m constantly asked how I ‘made my blog into a career’ – I didn’t. My blog makes very little money and although it’s opened doors and made it much easier for me to work freelance, 90% of my income comes from my business. I work 9-5 (and often beyond) just like anyone else!
It takes serious readership to make any website profitable. With such saturation in the blog world, I think it’s nearly impossible now to achieve the level of views needed to make a liveable income from a blog alone. And it’s quite nice to have some freedom from your stats… they can so easily rule your life!
Brilliant post, my blog was started for me to just write and have an outlet. I have a tiny readership (about 20 hits a day and about 20 followers altogether), but I write more for me and if people want to read it then I’m really appreciative of it. I’ve just done my first sponsored post (after researching the company and product) only accepted because it fitted into something I was writing about. I couldn’t be a pro-blogger because this is something i see as a hobby rather than job. x
Nice post :). It’s funny, I’ve been blogging since Jan and have nearly 50 followers. Monitising my blog is a loooong way off yet, but since a change of job (now an SEO professional) my stats is all I look at every day and as a result the amount of posts I write has declined. I can only imagine how much harder it is when you’re making money from it and having to justify your stats.
Just an add-on; magazines do have to provide circulation stats to their readers. There is an agency that audits this too. These stats are what gives the magazine power to say how much they will charge for advertising.
Luckily for me, I don’t make a lot of money so, becoming a Pro-blogger wouldn’t be too hard. Financially, that is!
I applaud you for posting this! For me I am just having fun writing about what I like and what interests me. I enjoy what I do and I have learnt to be selective in the things get offered to write about.
I do have adwords and one affiliate link on the blog but to me they are just there, I dont go out of my way to secure ads etc because I am still a young blog and it wouldn’t be worthwhile to me or a company.
I am not the best writer but doing something right to have the followers I do even if it’s a small amout in comparison to other bloggers but that said I am still a newb.
I really love it when experienced bloggers such as yourself and some of the other people that have commented post things like this, the knowledge you guys have help us newbs out and I just wanted to say it doesnt fall on deaf ears and we do appreciate it (well I know I do)
Thank you 🙂
This was a very interesting to read 🙂 definitely intrigued me!
Jen from A Little Bird Told Me has pretty much summed up what I was going to say – most pro-bloggers earn their money outside their blog, whether it be public speaking, tutorials, freelance blogging (which is what I tend to do, blog for others), copywriting and social media.
I’ve never really understood the resentment around stats in the blogging community. They’re the only real tangible way we can measure how successful a blog is – in much the same way a singer is only as successful as how many records they’ve sold. It doesn’t mean a blog is awful if it’s not getting the stats…but equally there’s a reason why so many people read the most popular blogs (like yours!)
This has really opened my eyes to the world of blogging! I’m about to start my own beauty blog as a freelance makeup artist it seems silly not to!! I am very fortunate to have access to a huge range of products and inside techniques, I can’t wait to share it with the BB world 🙂 Thank you 🙂 xx
Love your honesty about the realities of being a “problogger”.
I’m now officially a full time blogger and I have made the switch through creating an online product. I sell an ebook of hairstyle tutorials through my website which is my main income source. I also have affiliate links, advertising and sponsored posts.
If people ask me how to make blogging a career I ask them what they like to do most, and what they want their blog to be for other people. Few bloggers can make a career based solely on personality blogging. It’s fickle like being a celebrity and isn’t sustainable for most people.
Instead think about diversifying your income with your blog. It can be a stepping stone to a new career. Use your blog as an online CV – your resume for gaining new business, building a reputation as an expert or as your portfolio.
I want my site to offer useful hairstyle advice, and to encourage women to have fun with their hair and to love their hair. I like to write a mix of personal and instructional content.
The best thing about blogging is that you have total control. Make it what you want, but don’t be fooled that if you want to make it a job it is work. In saying that, it’s the best job I’ve ever had!
I think pro blogging is great for people who want to do it and achieve it successfully! Blogging for me however will always be a hobby and I would like to keep it that way 🙂
Fantastic informative post Jane, this is what makes your blog so worth reading every day. It shows great generosity of spirit to write with such honesty to help other bloggers by telling them how it is. It is something I try to do from the perspective of setting up your own business but sometimes I find hard to find the balance right, to not to make everything sound too difficult a task to even contemplate!
Great post Jane and agree with Hair Romance. Most ‘pro bloggers’ I know do freelancing to actually pay their bills (whether that’s guest blogging, journalism, public speaking, lecturing), the blog itself is a self promotion vehicle so their clients can see they know what they’re talking about and that they have some influence. I do guest blogging and other projects for brands and it’s obvious that they expect you to blog/tweet about that work as well as your regular blog posts so they can piggyback on your audience. That’s how it works. I don’t look at my stats much, that way I can genuinely say I don’t know what they are AND I don’t want to get obsessed by them.
My blog is totally self indulgent and not mainstream so I’m never going to have hundreds of thousands of uniques but I don’t want to be that kind of blog. But if advertisers want to know my figures they can ask Handpicked. All that said, I am surprised how many blogs follow a standard format. There is so much scope to be more creative and entrepreneurial with your blog if you want to make it your business, it’s still early days so you can be a pioneer.
My thoughts exactly 🙂
That’s why I’ve decided to stay away from going into pro-blogging as long as possible. With about 430 readers in total my blog is still small but companies are starting to notice me.
I’ve turned all offers down so far (except for a few sponsored products which I knew I would love no matter what) and I’m quite happy with my decision.
Thinking about stats day in day out isn’t what I want from blogging, at least not yet.
Getting free products for reviewing purposes also makes me happy and as long as it’s just that what a company wants I’m more than ok with it. But some are like “so you did that review, let us talk about ads on your blog” and that’s making me uncomfortable…
I love you and your blog for being so honest and saying things exactly how they are. xxx
“It’s the hardest aspect of pro-blogging – I always feel bad if there is a low response..” How do they know there is a low response your countdown ads don’t link to anything?
If you are a regular reader of a blog you can tell which posts are promoting a product before you get to the pr disclaimer or even if there isn’t one. The blogger tends to lose their usual style and comes over all a bit fawning. Most of us have to earn a living and I’m willing to put up a modicum of posts like this if the rest of the blog is good.
My question for the manufacturers is why launch a product if it’s no good. A few less products that are better quality would be a step forward.
As always your honesty makes this blog impeccable. I totally admire how you stick to your guns…I appreciate the revelation in what it takes to be a pro-blogger and it does answer some qns on what pro-bloggers have to do/face…it sounds like a tough job indeed but I think when it comes to making money, it is never an easy path…b/c if it were so easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
Trimperley: I meant with sponsored posts.. sorry if that wasn’t clear.
thanks for being so open and honest jane, before this I was thinking how easy it is to make a living out of blogging!
One of the things I love the most about your blog is that your views and content haven’t changed, you write about what interests you, what you think interests your readers and all things inbetween!
When I first started reading blogs I literally had an insatiable appetite for them and would gorge myself on the next girls newest lipstick obsession and quickly built up a selection of favourites which I bookmarked and read everyday. Each week my reading list becomes shorter and shorter because I’m so bored of reading and seeing the same swatches of a bloody blusher thats been doing the rounds via the brands PR, if I wanted to read about something the brand and not the blogger is interested in promoting then I’d buy an issue of ELLE and not read my favourite blogs.
So I thank you for staying true to your blog and yourself despite external pressures, keep up the amazing work and you will continue to be part of my morning routine! Closely followed by my daily dosage of life envy via the londoner and the pick me up of the daily mail website!
Thank you very much for taking the time to write this post. It is very informative, honest and revealing … and definitely food for thought. I enjoy your blog very much, I wish you continued success and look forward to reading all 🙂 oxo Care