Why It’s OK To Blog For Free

I took a personal step back from blogger world last year, to make room for some of my own creative projects and ideas, as well as to focus on our business and relocation to Barcelona, it’s been interesting. I did a big unfollow of a lot of uninspiring, cookie cutter type bloggers on my social networks to make room for a wider variety of creativity, if you’re bothered, you can read more about this on my Digital Detox related posts. It’s been a breath of fresh air and has provided me with a much more enjoyable and inspiring output from my (now reduced) time spent on my personal social media channels. Anyway, time for one of my rants. This time it’s been proof read several times and I spent over a week pondering it, so I hope it’s more eloquent than past rants.

However, one of the things that really hasn’t changed is the amount some bloggers complain about brands not comprehending something or complaining about brands not wanting to pay them. I’ve mostly kept quiet on this subject because I really don’t want to cause an argument or anything, it’s not my style. But, I really do think it’s important to talk about and speak up when you’ve got an opinion on anything. Negativity isn’t a helpful vibe, if we all focused more on celebrated the positive we’d all be a lot happier & get more shit done.

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Random unrelated photo of a Keith Haring mural and a dog in Barcelona taken by me. 

 

It’s difficult to have an opinion in a modern age where it’s so easy to be misinformed, influenced by others and open to instantaneous personal attacks via Twitter which can knock your confidence in milliseconds. It’s easy to complain and it’s easy to jump on a cause without doing research or thinking for yourself. I don’t blame anyone for suffering from this, I’ve been there, it really is difficult to break free from this social media infrastructure and have your own opinion free from influence. This whole blog is my personal opinion, I’m not saying anyone is wrong and you’re allowed to tell me you don’t agree and I will listen. Have a debate, have a conversation but there’s not much positivity coming from just shouting at people because they have come from a different place than you and didn’t read a situation in a way that you deem as right.

Blogging has become commercial and that’s made things change…

I used to get paid to blog sometimes, I maybe made a couple of hundred pounds a year at my peak, woo! Barely worth the pain of the paperwork if I’m honest. I have never been a “big blogger” or career blogger, I tried to be during my London times and it just messed with my mind, it was not productive and it wasn’t healthy for me. What it did do was make me forget why I started blogging in the first place, turned my creativity to an attempt to be commercial and faced me with lots of uncomfortable high school vibes that I really didn’t want in my life. Note, it wasn’t all bad, I wouldn’t be where I am now without blogging, but we’ve got to remember what influence things have on us long term and how experiences change us individually. My blog was supposed to be about sharing awesome stuff I found online and to practise writing whilst connecting with like-minded individuals, especially when I was living in an area where I often felt like the odd one out. I was blogging as a creative output, it made me feel good and helped me find inspiration for other areas of my life too.

Since the commercialisation of blogging A LOT has changed. Yes, we’re all individuals and have our own reasons for blogging the way we do and I’m not judging that, do what is right for YOU. What I do want to question is, do YOU want to monetise your blog? How does monetising your blog make you feel? There’s so much chatter in blogger world about how you should be charging X, Y and Z that I think it’s putting a difficult pressure on both bloggers and brands that is rarely discussed from a balanced viewpoint.

From a brand point of view, the increase in bloggers who want paying is a massive financial and marketing need pressure that some brands just haven’t had the chance to think about yet. It’s very bizarre that many bloggers assume that ever brand (read person, as it’s a person who’s emailing you not an entire brand) who contacts them fully understands bloggers (how can anyone really fully understand each individual bloggers personal preferences and worth?) and that they even have a budget for bloggers beyond a handful of samples at cost price. With so many bloggers asking for money for even a blog review or tweet now, it’s also limiting the brands that can get quality coverage and that doesn’t seem very helpful to anyone. One of the main reasons I started my blog was to champion small, unknown and interesting creative ideas and brands because I wanted to help these niche dreams grow. If I was to constantly expect payment for posts, I wouldn’t be featuring the brands that make my heart sing. I’d be mainly featuring shitty gambling sites and brands owned by massive global corporations with unlimited marketing budget and possibly some shifty morals to match. Fun.

Brands don’t always have the time or budget to do blogger outreach in the way that you want them to, that’s OK!

Do you want to know how long it actually takes to personalise every single email to a blogger about a brand? It took me a full week just to write my last blogger targeting list and that’s before I even started checking out the social media and blogs, finding their names and checking their stats for every one of them so that I could confidently say I was sending samples to the right people to justify the cost to the brand. Doing blogger outreach alone is a full time job and it’s not a permanent position that many brands have the luxury of having, which means you’re obviously going to get a lot of blanket emails, strange phrasing and various degrees of cheekiness based on how much knowledge of blogging they have. You’re being communicated to via a massively diverse range of individual people all with different experiences and knowledge levels of blogging, it’s just their job to email you, they may not even want to email you, it may just be the way they pay the bills and nothing else.

Blogger outreach is now a advertising sales job, I didn’t sign up to that…

When I first started managing blogger outreach projects for beauty brands about five years ago, I had no clue, but I made loads of ace connections via a shared passion for beauty and blogging (I’d been blogging since 2009) and it was actually @tsunimee who taught me the basics from a more established bloggers POV, that’s why I continued working in this field, it was fun and I was making friends whilst learning LOADS about the industry along the way.

In my last blogger outreach campaign it was very different, SO many average sized, similar styled blogs asking to be paid £100, it sucked the fun out of it and I couldn’t justify it to my client. It wasn’t a girly chat about make up anymore, it was a sales pitch. I never signed up to be an advert sales consultant, that sounds boring. And all those bloggers that I used to email four years ago as a brand all have agents now and won’t be doing a thing without a fee and commission. What?! Yes, it’s great that there’s been a lot of success with bloggers as it’s always great to see talented creativity rewarded, what concerns me is the bizarre commodification of individuals as role models, rather than celebrating a song or painting we’re celebrating someone who got paid to say a product is really good whilst we analyse their personal lives publicly on Twitter, it’s not quite the same right? We’re teaching young girls to imitate girls who get paid to wear pretty clothes and go to parties, shouldn’t we be inspiring people to think and create bigger than that? There’s more beauty in the world when you look beyond the high street that is so heavily marketed to us.

Does paid content reduce authenticity?

The increase in sponsored content from bloggers has put the whole industry under the question as to whether or not being paid to produce content harms authenticity or not. I know this question really pisses off the majority of bloggers, but for me, it has some truth to it. When we start to worry more about money and focusing on how terrible it is to be asked to “work for free” this distracts from energy that could otherwise by used towards something more positive and puts a massive negative downer on the social media community too.

If I had never worked for free I would have missed out on some of the most enriching experiences of my life so far and I wouldn’t have met some of the best people I know either. It’s OK to work for free if you want to. Proper collaboration is amazing it’s just got to go beyond an advertising platform and exchange of money.

The other blogger trend at the moment is to jump on a brand publicly on social for not “getting bloggers” and about how “that’s not how it works”, who made all these bloggers experts in running businesses? When you make these complaints publicly, you’re personally attacking the individual that sent that email or formulated the marketing plan, not the entire brand, we keep forgetting that there’s people behind these exchanges. I also think that some people are underestimating how much involvement the actual brand owners sometimes have in these practises, some of them still don’t know what a blog is and certainly don’t have the time to care, that’s why they hired the social media executive fresh from Uni.

When we think about how new social media and blogger outreach is in the grand scheme of marketing, you’ve got to acknowledge that there’s going to be a lot of inexperienced people working the field and that’s OK, they’ve got to start somewhere! People aren’t perfect, we can’t know everything and we all have different levels of tolerance when it comes to dealing with learning new things or reacting to negative comments. So, before you send that next snarky tweet and cause Twitter outrage, maybe take a moment to think about what really matters in that moment. Perhaps a polite exchange via email is a more productive start than potentially getting someone fired because they didn’t know any better and you didn’t help educate them kindly.

Bloggers vs. other creatives, is it a fair deal?

I’d also like to take a moment to flag bloggers versus other creatives. I know my blog at it’s busiest time could succeed on less than £120 a year of my own money and maybe 1 hour a week of my personal time and that was fun. It was a hobby after all and lucky to have such an accessibly and inexpensive hobby too. Now think about how much all the instruments cost in a five piece rock band, how much time it takes to write an album, how much time it takes to record it, print it and then sell it, as well as how much time is spent driving between places to play shows. I know first hand, it’s A LOT more than £120 a year and there are many bands who continue to do this for years without ever seeing that money back and without being in a position to build an audience as big as some bloggers. Is it fair that artists like musicians can’t cover their costs whilst bloggers in their teens buy Chanel handbags from their bedrooms? I know lots of people will complain about this and name bigger expenses, you don’t HAVE to spend a fortune to have a successful anything, that’s your personal choice. Success doesn’t have to equate to earning more money either. You can have a successful blog and enjoy it without ever having to spend and without ever taking payment too, it’s up to your individual choice.

Your blog should be about YOU, not pleasing a brand or PR.

As a blogger since 2009, I’ve been on the receiving end of many cheeky brand requests and have definitely asked to be paid to blog to varying degrees of success. So I know, I get the frustration. I’ve been frustrated before. My personal experience was that the way I worked with my blog became SO focused on pleasing the brands and PRs in my inbox and at events that I just outright stopped writing about the things that deep down I cared about the most. Some of my past content makes me cringe so bad and it makes me sad that I lost focus on what made my unique, because I was seduced by free cupcakes and lipsticks. When I discovered I could earn from my blog, of course I grasped the opportunity as I was going through a period in my life where I was desperate to go self-employed because working full time wasn’t working for my health. I needed that opportunity at the time, but looking back I think I would have had more success sticking to my original blog focus. But you can’t change the past and that’s another story.

That was long….

So, at University essay length, I can now look back at my title, wonder what the point of this blog post was originally and finally write you a conclusion. If you have a natural passion for creating something: a blog, music, art, photography, poetry, food…anything, keep doing it. Focus on the real life, in the moment things, people and feelings that genuinely make you happy and consider if it’s really worth distracting from those in order to earn more money. Do you really need more money? Or would you be happier sticking to your true passions and focusing on the positive energies in your life. If you genuinely love writing about lipstick keep doing it whether you get paid to or not. The more you practise, the better you get and if you’re lucky you might get paid for it sometimes.

And on the other hand, if you really want to create a blog solely to make money, good luck to you it’s hard work and a lot of responsibility. I really wouldn’t recommend it to very many people. I personally wouldn’t want to be a full time blogger, I couldn’t deal with that kind of social pressure oh and the trolls. Maybe I should write a book instead? I didn’t know I could still write 2000+ words coherently about something remotely intelligent anymore. Maybe I should stop adding things to my to do list. To be continued, I guess.

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