So let’s end the month of September on another reflective note! Another question I like to awkwardly squirm around to is ‘When did you start blogging full time?’ You see my story was never quite ‘Let-me-quit-my-job-because-my-blog-is-making-me-some-serious-dollar.’ Nope. It was all a bit vague after my knitwear design contract came to an end, I went travelling around Asia for a bit, came back, went to Stockholm, came back, went to Fashion Week, got named as an influential Londoner by the Evening Standard (!) and just waited for anything vaguely interesting to land into my inbox.
Full disclosure, I was in the lucky position of being able to live at home rent free when I was figuring things out plus I had a decent amount of savings (though I wish I’d saved even more and not bought so many canteen lunches). Those are the things you can’t always tell from the glossy Instagram photos. In a similar way to Emma, this period of my life is a lot less raw and it’s only now that I can have an objective look back and marvel at how I’ve become a business without realising. I know a lot of you wonder about full-time blogging and thought I’d share a few things that probably shouldn’t have happened but added to the learning curve anyway. Hey, at least mistakes make good content!
I was in denial
So for the 253rd time, I never made a clear decision to quit my job and go full time. There was a period of time where I was working, seeing all the fun freelance things people were doing and wondering whether I could do it and then my contract came to an end. I went travelling, came back and couldn’t decide whether to create a portfolio or keep going to events with cupcakes. I subconsciously ended up choosing the cupcakes.
The thing is, it’s very hard to be successful at something when you can’t actually admit to yourself that you’re going to take it seriously. This was my problem. I was cautious and didn’t always put my full energy and effort into my blog as I was terrified about things going wrong. In late 2013, I still worked from my bed, would start my day with The Wright Stuff and Zumba and probably acted a little bit like I was retired.
So how did I get over it? It’s definitely been a bit of a journey. If you can get the mentality right and believe in yourself, then you’re halfway there. I knew that I was passionate and believed in my blog and made a pact with myself to keep going and use every resource I could to make it successful. It’s definitely a risk but seeing as I have no mortgage or dependents, it seems like the best point in my life to do this.
I had an insular view
Another thing that most people do when they’re starting a business, is to come up with a unique point of view, cohesive branding and a business plan. You’d think about who your clients are, try and deliver what they want and probably set yourself some goals within the first year. Of course I did none of those things. Until fairly recently, business plans seemed a bit too penultimate-episode-of-The-Apprentice to me. I was writing things mainly for fun but I wasn’t doing things that necessarily made sense in terms of my ‘brand.’ I also didn’t put any pressure on myself. I’m my own boss, but the kind of boss that’ll let you take the morning off to get your hair braided and give you a bonus every so often.
Again this was a very gradual thing for me. The freelancing course I did last year really planted a few seeds and I only realised how important having a mission statement was when I started thinking about my redesign. Blogs are a funny sort of business model. If you started in the early days, then it was all very ad-hoc and had no kind of direction. None of us planned anything and things are never perfect all of the time. Fortunately lot of my values came through instinctively and now I’m more aware, it’s easier to create content and get my point of view across to brands.
I didn’t understand the the world of marketing
It’s crazy that bloggers are technically media publishers now. Our focus is not only to create content that fits in with our ethos, but we’re also another channel where marketing campaigns will run. Think back to the Clinique Face Forward campaign last year, I remember seeing adverts in magazines like Stylist, advertorials on places like The Pool and posts on my dear friend Carrie’s channels. The latter probably resonated with me the most, seeing as I have a personal connection with the gal and always keep up with her life. I’m sure most of you would agree and it’s no surprise that the campaign was designed to target millennials.
PR and Marketing was completely foreign to me before I started collaborating with brands. I had no idea about decks, ROI or why five different agencies might be contacting me on behalf of the same brand, about the same event. I didn’t understand why I had to re-write certain wording in sponsored posts and although I control the direction, you have to remember that you’re being paid to do a job and the client has the final say.
I’ve still got a way to go, but it helps having a lot of blogger friends who also work on the brand side as well and can break it down in simpler terms. You have to try and understand who might be contacting you, what their intentions may be and what they’re getting out of you. You also have to find a balance between getting across campaign messages and staying true to yourself and your experiences. Basically you need to be hyper-aware and it’s only through experience that you’ll learn ‘a quick shoot’ can actually end up taking a whole day.
I relied on my agency
So I kept this mainly on the down-low, but in 2014 I signed an exclusive contract with an agency and thought that this was the be all and end all. I relied on them to find me work, forwarded a lot of emails and ended up losing out on building relationships with a lot of brands. With the Mode Media collapse taking over our timelines recently, it’s reiterated how important it is to be aware of everything that’s going on with your blogging business. Is the brand coming to you directly or is it actually going through several agencies? Are you really being included in their proposals? Can they help you with strategy and growth? What are their real intentions?
My exclusive contract is no more and I did have to go through some frustrating situations to realise things for myself. It wasn’t a completely redundant experience though; they did help me to understand my worth and things from the client point of view. Now I can preempt situations better and I’m always in the conversation, so there’s no last minute changes. I definitely need to pitch to brands more and it’s a bit of a scary prospect, especially when you’re from a creative background but as my Mum would say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Mel has some great tips over on her blog but I think the key is to build up relationships and always leave people in a position where they can comfortably say no (a great quote from Lizzy).
I’m the first person to admit that I’ve made some mistakes when I started transitioning to blogging full-time but that just goes to show that there are no rules. It’s a bit of a making-it-up-as-we-go-along career path. I’ve had to become incredibly resourceful, utilise my network and throw myself into all kinds of situations (nothing dodgy, don’t worry Mum). I described myself as an ‘Internet odd-job woman’ on an online dating profile once, just because it seemed to make sense.
One thing that has helped is that I’ve been myself. My slightly eccentric personality isn’t for everyone, but it’s been an asset when people haved moved onto other companies, remembered that they worked with me and asked to work on something else. So what’s my advice for anyone who does want to take the jump? It’s tricky. It’s only now I’m hearing all the conflicting messages such as ‘Do what you love’ but also ‘You can end up killing your creativity if you try to make a living from your art’ (via Big Magic).
I didn’t see any of this when I was trying to figure things out three years ago and maybe that’s how it was meant to be. What I can say is that every situation is unique. If you’re confident yet realistic about your blog’s message, cultivating a strong community and fully aware of where you fit into the marketing puzzle, then it might be worth giving it a go. I now have a record of a defining period of my life plus I can channel my inner Oprah when I need to.
TL:DR: I don’t really know when I started blogging full-time and I never had a masterplan. Ooops.