One of my most popular posts from last year was about blogging when you have a full-time job and you can see why. As much as we all love a pretty picture, there are so many things that still aren’t talked about and I wanted to get everything into the open. What really makes someone answer emails during loo breaks, shoot flatlays on a Sunday morning and run an unpredictable business in their free time?
Now it’s time to switch and look at three different bloggers who’ve turned their hobby into a full-time hustle. It’s something I can relate to and I’ve often shared the difficulties I’ve faced. Still, I can’t help wondering whether we’re all in the same boat. Is everyone super-strategic, amazing at planning and raking in the cash?
Carrie may be able to whisk you away with her dreamy photography, flawless flatlays and clean aesthetic, but she’s also pretty open about her love of cheesy chips. She started Wish Wish Wish almost nine years ago and lives in North London.
I’ve always wanted to work for myself. The seed was planted when I was 17 and read a post by Gala Darling. She’d written that you can be your own boss by doing the thing you love and the idea just stuck. I didn’t know how it was going to happen or even what I wanted to do at Uni. I spent a lot of my time on the computer back then, creating websites and blogging on LiveJournal and MySpace. I discovered Swedish blogs and was so inspired, especially since I lived in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t much going on in terms of fashion. They were posting mirror shots of their outfits and I thought ‘I could do this.’ So I did. I made a website, coded it myself and Wish Wish Wish was born.
My degree wasn’t the best but it allowed me to move from Somerset to London, so I’m grateful for that. I was able to go to events, meet up with bloggers and network. I used to have Project Wonderful ads in the early days and started working with a French agency back in 2011. I learnt so much about budgets, there were big brands who would use you in marketing campaigns and I was working with the likes of YSL and Chloe. When I finished Uni, I thought about blogging full-time but didn’t feel like I was ready. There was a part of me that wanted to prove myself and say ‘I’m not just someone that just takes pictures of myself.’ There was that attitude at the time, that bloggers didn’t necessarily have much skill. Now people are more accepting.
When I started working at ASOS Marketplace, I had a lot of friends who were blogging full time and I had to say no to a lot of things. Once, I even had to meet with Gucci in Camden on my lunch break! Although I enjoyed my job, I felt swamped and there were times where I would sit at my desk and cry. I left after a year and a half and it was amazing to have more time.
I didn’t ever email anyone or pitch anything, I was really lucky that brands would come to me because of the following I’d built just by doing what I loved. I’m grateful for that. I’m terrible at business and I didn’t start Wish Wish Wish as a business, I just share my travels, style and life online. It’s just me, as narcissistic as that sounds.
I worked exclusively with an agency for a while but it wasn’t the experience you would hope for. You’re not necessarily treated as an individual, it’s more about what they can get out of you, rather than giving a lot back and helping you grow. Now I’m being managed by one of my best friends, Reem. People ask about competition all of the time, but it’s not like that. We help each other out, so if she gets contacted about a project, she’ll put me forward as well. It’s beneficial that she’s also a blogger and we spend so much time together as friends anyway, we’re able to mix the two. One minute we’ll be talking about weddings and the next we’ll be discussing projects. It works for us.
I think I have a good balance of sponsored and non-sponsored content. You don’t want to feel like you’re constantly trying to sell to people, because that’s not the intention. On the other hand, you need to make money to produce the rest of the content and people don’t seem to mind that there are pages of adverts in magazines. I’m probably not as organised as some people and quite reactive. If I have a bit of downtime, then I’ll try to come up with things I haven’t touched on in a while or something useful. I probably should have a strategy.
I have a lot of self-doubt, which doesn’t help. I think I’m not good enough or that someone else is doing a better job, so why should I bother. A lot of blogs are personal and because of that it’s so easy to compare yourself. It’s a natural thing to feel anyway but it’s just amplified by doing this. You are your product.
It’s very easy to stay doing what you know and what you feel comfortable with, because you’ve been doing it for so long and it works. I feel safe, I pay my rent but that’s not how people grow. This year I need to try and branch out a little bit and be a bit braver. I’d like to create a product. I have so many ideas and I know similar things exist, but I’ve got an audience and hopefully they want something different. It’s tough, as you get kept busy and doing something extra seems daunting, but you just have to get on with it.
Blogging has definitely helped my confidence. I’ve travelled by myself across the world and I’m doing things that I never thought possible. I’d only been on one flight as a teenager, let alone travelling to Brazil in business class. I almost had tears in my eyes. I also love those moments where you feel like you’ve connected with people or helped them somehow. This happens less frequently now, since a lot of conversation is on social media but when someone sends a really heartfelt email or says that you’ve given them confidence. It means so much more than just ‘Nice bag!’
Step into Carrie’s world at Wish Wish Wish
Buckets & Spades is probably the first men’s fashion blog I started reading. Mat started back in 2008 and the name references his hometown of Blackpool.
I think I’m drawn to anything visual, even if it isn’t menswear. ‘It’s Nice That’ is my favourite online magazine, I think we’re similar in subject matter and it’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. I started blogging to improve my writing, my degree had an element of journalism and I had no space on my computer to store images. It was a very small community at the time, I was quite dedicated and would check the same 5-10 blogs every day. There wasn’t any pressure or motive, it was like an extension of Livejournal and a lot more personal. I miss it but things have changed and probably for the better. You can make careers out of it now.
Once I graduated, I started working in marketing for a menswear company, but realised I was losing out on paid blogging jobs. My partner’s Dad said ‘Why don’t you just quit and do it properly?’ It was pretty scary to even consider it, I’ve had three jobs since I was about 17. I officially became a full time freelancer with no other jobs in Summer 2015.
I’m basically an odd job man, I think a lot of freelancers are, doing anything to pay the bills whilst keeping your integrity. When I quit my job, I thought I’d give it 12 months and I was amazed when I realised how much I’d earnt in that year. There’s no reason for me to stop, as long as I can keep it up.
In terms of long term strategy, I just go with the flow. Things just seem to fall into place and if they don’t, I just try and make something happen off my own back. Most of the time that starts a snowball effect. My income mainly consists of sponsored posts, consulting, affiliate links and freelance writing. I pitch quite a lot of projects to brands and have a business partner Nik. We met on Twitter around two years ago, he started writing for me and I’d pass on jobs that I wasn’t able to do in London. The partnership seems to work well and it’s really progressed the business. It’s hard to do everything by yourself. I was naive about things in the beginning but Nik comes from a business background and I’m more on the creative side of things. A trusted voice helps.
A negative aspect about the blogging community is people trying to fake it to the top. It’s just frustrating, you see the same people repeat-offending, taking potential work away from the honest guy. It’s sickening. I recently bought some followers as an experiment for one of my other accounts, to see the way of thinking. You can see why people do it but it’s just not realistic. I can’t imagine signing a contract for a project and going to bed with a smile. Brands need to wisen up. We’ve been saying this for ages but nothing’s changing.
I got selected for the Instagram Suggested User list about 2 years ago, I didn’t even know about it before then. My numbers help attract clients but it’s a worry that a lot of them are either fake or not interested. I’ve been accused of buying followers and I can see why people would think that. Every time there’s a clean-up, it never goes down. I just got lucky and guess I have to try and take advantage of that. My engagement isn’t amazing but I’m happy with my style.
There were less men talking about lifestyle on blogs when I started and I think that worked in my favour. It’s evolved so much, you have to adapt quickly so you’re not left behind. I went on a trip recently and figured out that some people were getting paid and others weren’t. I guess it’s a case of ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’ but how do you even know to ask?
I’ve started to ask for day rates now but it depends on the company. There’s a small group of us who are a lot more open about money and what we’re doing for a particular fee. It’s beneficial for the wider community and I’ve found that newer bloggers are actually coming to me for advice. Jordan Bunker’s one to watch, he’s honest, genuine and the quality of his pictures is spot on.
The best thing about blogging is definitely the community. It’s great working with brands but meeting people on a human level makes it worthwhile. Eventually, I’d like to redesign Buckets & Spades and take on more writers. I’d like to turn it into something a little more magazine-based without losing the sense of individual personality. My other aim is to create a print magazine, it’d be a dream for me and nothing to do with making money, purely a passion project. That’s the big one and I think it’s realistic. It’d be a great personal accomplishment.
See more lifestyle and cool packaging at Buckets & Spades
Hannah of Hannahlouisef is probably my favourite person on Twitter. She adds a dose of realism to the blogosphere and slays at selfies. She’s been blogging since 2011 and originally hails from Manchester.
I have always been an Internet person. I used to have Bebo, MySpace and Piczo, then started using Lookbook to post pictures of clothes I was wearing. Blogging came naturally as the next step. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and was just regurgitating things I’d seen elsewhere on High Snobiety and Hypebeast. I started to view it more as a business about 3 years in. People would approach me with budgets and I used affiliate links, but it wasn’t a notable amount of money. Looking back I wasn’t very selective and definitely did some things for free which I shouldn’t have but you live and learn. I’m not a very strategic person and just wing it a lot.
I’ve never had to quit a job or anything. In my last semester of my law degree, I did some work experience but wasn’t really particularly driven towards a corporate legal job. A big project provided me with a buffer of money and I thought I could give blogging full-time a go. One of my friends was moving to London so I decided to go with her and knew I’d have some money to fall back on if it all goes wrong. My parents were supportive and were happy as long as I could pay my way. I wasn’t just pissing about.
Being self employed is a challenge. I’ve not been worried at any point but I’m not rolling in cash. Since February 2016 I’ve been managed by Premier and it’s been interesting. It’s handy to have a big name behind you as it gives a little more authority and they sort the business side out. I’m in complete control of everything I do and I’m still the one going to the meetings and doing the networking. It’s more of a partnership in my eyes. I’m still doing me and they just guide and support me but not in a forceful way.
My ‘thing’ is being imperfect and I think people really do appreciate that. I’m quite gobby, almost to a fault and I hope people think it’s like following your mate. My preferred medium is writing. I’m quite socially aware and I think it’s important to talk about things beyond fashion.
Some people just want to talk about clothes and that’s fine, but it’s so important if you have an opportunity and something you’re passionate about. I wrote about ‘Different Bodies In Blogging’ and people commented saying ‘I hadn’t thought about it like that, you’ve changed my mind’ and lots of plus size girls messaged saying ‘exactly.’ It brings things to another audience.
Any beauty I do is cruelty-free. I don’t really shout about it because it’s a bit of a minefield and risky to be very outspoken. People can get defensive, but I try not to go in with a abrasive angle. I think people are interested in it and would like to be informed though. I haven’t posted much about veganism on my blog but I’d like to do more. I’m not good at cooking but I may do a post on the pizza takeaways that have the best fake cheese. That’s what I spend half of my life doing, so I might as well document it.
I love the flexibility and freedom of being self-employed. The lack of routine can be difficult in terms of motivating yourself, but that’s typical of any kind of self-employment. I usually plan shoots a week in advance and try to have 2-3 outfits in one go so that I have content lined up. When it comes to Twitter, I don’t schedule anything. It’s the only platform that’s growing really well for me and my engagement’s good. On Instagram it sucks and the algorithm is a bit of a challenge. Some people must be bricking it, if that’s their only income and they’re being negatively affected by the shift. Having your whole career in the hands of apps is a real worry.
I don’t really have a five year plan, but I probably wouldn’t even if I were working in an office. On one hand you don’t know how long people will be interested in blogging for, but I don’t think it’s a dead-end by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just going to keep evolving, but nobody knows how.
It’s daunting but what I’m doing is working for me at the moment, so I’m not going to change it drastically. I’m not opposed to other platforms such as YouTube but I’m not a very ‘tv presenter’ sort of person. This year I’d like to diversify my content and do stuff that’s niche to me like essays and music. It’s not very strategic, just very achievable things that I can sit down one day and just do.
I don’t compare myself. It sounds very obnoxious but I think it’s more of a self-preservation tactic. Obviously I’d like to have hundreds of thousands of followers and more money but at the same time, you can’t compare yourself to people without knowing. There’s so many different factors at play in everyone’s lives, how much they’ve put in timewise, moneywise. People’s audiences are different. I just think it’s fruitless, you realise there’s no end to it when you see people with huge followings comparing themselves. You can’t ‘win’ at blogging and luck is a massive part of it. I don’t think that my blog’s so much better or worse than anyone else’s, it’s just different. As long as I’m content with what I’m doing, I’m happy.
Read more of Hannah’s essays at Hannahlouisef
Who else dabbled in a bit of My Space and Livejournal? Perhaps it’s not a prerequisite for blogging full-time but embracing the community, being yourself and learning as you go seem to be the most important things. Everyone has their own journey, works completely differently and that’s absolutely fine.
Make sure you read my first post in the series ‘What It’s Really Like To Be A ‘Part-Time’ Blogger’ and let me know what you think!