What’s this, another blog post about blogging? Hear me out! I’ve read so much in the past few months, whether it’s been predicting the end of blogs, dismissing said predictions (thanks Emma) or just disclosing how some at the top are signing seven-figure-deals. Don’t even get me started on all the behind the scenes drama. The thing is, when traditional media tend to write about us, it either focuses on all the flashy, glamorous stuff or someone who’s messed up. It’s perhaps easier to see what motivates someone with a following in the millions and bulging bank account, but what keeps someone with a full-time job typing away at night with less reward?
I’m a little bit biased obviously, but I think that bloggers can be some of the most creative, inspiring and dedicated people. We’re all different and I find it fascinating to understand what makes others tick when it comes to creating content online. I spoke to three of my blogging buds who manage to keep up their online endeavours as well as a full-time job. Is it possible to still have a life?
Mel is committed, dedicated and extremely efficient, posting at least four times a week on Media Marmalade whilst heading up a team as a business director. In the early days of blogging, she’d survive on a few hours sleep and be up at 6am to shoot a post outside her front door (using her trusty tripod).
Tell us the story of Media Marmalade. Why did you start and what has it evolved into?
I started the blog in October 2011 as I’ve always been obsessed with clothes, shopping and advertising (I used to make my own magazines out of leaflets when I was younger). My content has changed so much over the years, it’s gone from daily outfits with hardly any writing to having more of a focus on blogging, career and lifestyle tips. Because of my role, and the ups and downs I’ve had, I feel like I have something to talk about in that space. I’m more experienced in life now and I’m not aiming my blog at a tween audience, but someone who’s on that career journey.
I really admire the fact that you’re so consistent and keep everything updated alongside a full time job. What’s your secret?
Technically it’s like I blog full time, I’d never missed a day up until a few months ago. I’ve created quite an efficient routine. My job is full-on and sometimes I’ll be in the office until 11pm, so from Monday to Friday I just focus on that and do the bulk of my blog work at the weekend. I do try to use every moment in the day though. I always use my commute for Instagram, emails, brainstorming and drafting my posts out. If I get home early, I’ll schedule posts for the upcoming days. My boyfriend hates it. I think it’s a mixture of total passion and major OCD. If you’re a driven person like me, then success is what you want.
I understand that your job as a strategist lets you see things from the brand’s perspective. How has this benefitted your blog?
My career progressed at the same time the blogging industry started exploding and even though I work in this field, it can be hard when you’re doing it for yourself. Seeing things from the brand side has been a massive realisation and forced me to be really specific.
Bloggers really need to understand their offering and what value they can add. Some will look amazing in clothing and sell lots of product. Others will create content that allows people to engage with the brand in a rich and interactive way. It all depends on what your offer is versus what a brand wants.
When I started working on blogger campaigns, I realised that I was massively undercharging. I’ve never had to rely on Media Marmalade for my sole income and anything I’ve got from it has been a bonus. Gradually, I started to understand that the worth of the content I produced was more than a £30 top and that I’m still providing a service, even if I don’t have 2 million followers. Now I turn down a lot of brand freebies and I don’t do anything unless it’s a paid project. Time is the main issue but there also needs to be a worthwhile value exchange. I don’t want to get into the trap of undervaluing my worth once and setting a benchmark for it.
What are the main challenges for you at the moment? Is Media Marmalade where you’d like it to be?
The blogging industry is almost the worst for comparison. I look at what other people are doing and keep wondering, ‘Why haven’t I achieved that?’ You can end up interpreting their success based on how you feel about yourself. This year, I’ve accepted what I want my blog to be and where I think my business value is. I feel a lot less concerned about everything that’s going on and I just focus on what I want to do. My main issue is time. I don’t proactively seek work as I just don’t have the time to do it, plus I’m still getting my head around approaching brands. I’ve also got a business idea I’d like to work on.
Let’s end on a positive note! What’s the best thing about blogging in your opinion?
Everything that’s happened with my blog has been organic and I just find it amazing that I’ve created something from nothing and made it into a place for all this content. That’s not just me, but every blogger too. We’ve used passion and energy to create a world for ourselves. We are no longer just online diary writers, we’re photographers, we’re creative directors, we’re business owners. My biggest achievement is that I’ve been consistent and blogged every day for 5 years. It’s still a passion and never a chore.
See more of Mel’s amazing career and blogging strategy tips over at Media Marmalade.
Rebecca started ‘It’s Cohen’ back in 2010 and documents her weekends exploring parts of the UK. She works in social media and is in the unique position of understanding the point of view from the blogger and brand perspective.
Hi Rebecca! First things first, what attracted you to blogging?
It was a bit of a creative outlet for me. I was in sixth-form college when I started and it was basically my way of coping with A-levels. It used to be quite personal and diary-like (sometimes I’d write posts at 3am using webcam photos), whereas now it’s more fashion focused and polished. My process has obviously changed now I’m in full time employment. I only do one post a week and everything’s prepared two weeks in advance, so that I can preempt those moments when I don’t have motivation or content. I doubt anyone even realises but I’ve got myself into a routine and I enjoy it.
This whole interview series came about after you’d tweeted about a less-than-ideal experience with a brand. How do you manage expectations?
You can never underestimate clarity. As long as each person’s clear, there can’t be any upset. I always ask a brand what they want from me, whether it’s social promotion, hashtags, or follow links. I’m always clear so they don’t get annoyed with me and I don’t get annoyed with them changing a brief once the post is live.
As someone who works full time, I can’t turn around a post in a day. I need at least a couple of weeks notice and I’ve had to send products back because brands aren’t happy with the timescale. Not having a budget definitely makes a difference as to the kind of bloggers you can target.
I will still do blog posts for free, which I know is a contentious issue. I’ve got a job, I get paid for my job and I earn enough to get by. For me, blogging is still a hobby, I do it for fun and don’t need the financial security. Most of the time brands say it’s product for post and payment is never brought up. From a brand point of view, if we’re doing a campaign about denim and you agree to do a post, then there should be a post. The worst thing is when a brand expects too much, even when you make it clear what you can and can’t do. If you want me to go to the top of the mountain with a photographer and take amazing photos, then I’ll need to be reimbursed. I’ve definitely become more picky about who I work with now.
So what’s the future for ‘It’s Cohen’? Would you ever want it to be your full-time thing?
When I first started blogging, there’s no way I would have anticipated where we are today. I thought it would just go the way of LiveJournal! I do like that it’s going from the ground up, rather than a fashion editor dictating the trends. I know it’ll never be my full-time job and I’m not caught up on follower numbers. I just want to make better content and it’s a bonus if it leads to more exciting collaborations. I’ve improved my photography from cringy webcam snaps and I’m really proud of building a brand from that.
See more of Rebecca’s dreamy photos over at It’s Cohen.
Not only is Lucy a super-creative, colour-obsessed lifestyle blogger, she’s also my housemate (and therapist at times). She’s been blogging at Shiny Thoughts since 2009 and works as a Social Content producer for Boden.
So what’s the story of Shiny Thoughts? What prompted you to start it and how did you find your feet?
I’ve always been creative. My Dad was adamant that I’d either work in fashion or advertising and I was always that girl reading Vogue magazine in the corner. Blogs were a bit of a buzzword before I started my degree, so I decided to get a head-start during the Summer (I’m extremely competitive). It was hard initially as I didn’t get any immediate satisfaction. No one was reading, no one was commenting and nothing was really rewarding me. Meeting Carrie of Wish Wish Wish really inspired me to ramp things up. She brought me along to events and it really catapulted my blog and got me into the London community. I thought that if I really put some effort into this, then I could go places like she has.
The eternal question. How do you manage everything alongside having a full-time job?
Sometimes I have to answer my emails on the loo! I don’t have a schedule and I keep everything in my head. It’s not my full time job and there’s only so much energy I can dedicate to it. If I’m not doing something, then it’s obviously not natural for me to do it. The only annoying thing, is that I don’t have enough time to be creative with my content. It does get quite frustrating when I see something and think ‘That person’s done a really clever post’ or ‘I’d love to do something for Easter….oh shit it’s already Easter’. It’s the eternal struggle! I have to be as quick and productive as possible, but it’s a shame as I’d like to use more of my skills. It’s ironic that my most creative outlet actually prevents me from being creative.
I think you manage it well though! You still always work with brands in such an authentic and eye-catching way. What are your tips for a successful collaboration?
I want to work with brands I either already love or that I’m going to love if I don’t already know them. The most ideal way is that someone who really gets influencers would email me with an open idea, we’d talk about it and make it work for both of us. It’d be a really unique experience for me and to talk about with my readers and allow me to create amazing content. They’d then share that content and I might get paid as a bonus. The least preferred way is that they have really poor blogger outreach, it’s difficult to understand what they want out of you and you end up creating content that feels a bit wrong and unnatural.
I’ve had a few sticky situations so I try really hard to manage expectations upfront. You have to protect yourself and remember that every blogger works differently and the brand may not have experience of that. Think of yourself as a company, let people know how you work and then you’re covering yourself.
I can say no to things as I work full time. I work with influencers on marketing projects through my job, so I understand what happens from the brand’s point of view and what goes into a campaign. I don’t feel bad asking for payment when it comes to my blog as this is probably a campaign they’ve budgeted for and they’ll be paying an agency. I am just one of the many marketing strands. As I’m offering a service for a brief then I should absolutely be paid for it.
So what’s the best thing about blogging in your opinion?
Blogging gives me a hobby. It allows me to practise my photography, makes me a perfectionist and there’s so many skills based attributes it helps to improve. It’s the longest I’ve been dedicated to any one thing and a real constant in my life. The opportunities have been amazing too, I was so overwhelmed when I went on a press trip to Morocco and it’s also helped me get jobs at ASOS and Boden. My boyfriend tells me off and says I need to give myself a break but I explain that it’s like having another job. There’s just no way that it can’t be done. I’m never going to get more traffic than this realistically and I keep telling myself that I have to do it for the love of doing it. I have to stop being precious about ‘the rules’ and posting so many times a day. It’s about doing it for myself, trying to be creative when I can and enjoying it.
Step into Lucy’s colourful world at Shiny Thoughts.
Let me know what you think of this as a potential series! Next on my list is talking to three different full-time bloggers at varying stages of their careers. I think it’s really important to see a range of experiences, especially since blogging seems to be in a bit of a weird place at the moment. We’re all keeping up appearances on social media and personally I can go from being demotivated, to angry, to inspired all within the same day. It’s been interesting to draw parallels between Mel, Rebecca and Lucy who are making things up as they go along and and running mini-businesses alongside their main jobs. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the frustration of only barely being able to keep up with things and I often feel like that even though this is my full-time hustle. Despite all the uncertainty and drama, I really believe in blogging as a medium and I hope that it can continue to disrupt how things have always been done.
Read about the 7 Ways Blogging Changed Me For The Better here.