If you aren’t a blogger or you have no interest in becoming a blogger or if your blog is really just a hobby and you aren’t interested in it becoming a ‘career’ per se, then my apologies because you’ll not find anything interesting in this post today. I promise I’ll be back with more interior related stuff for you very soon.
However, if you are a blogger and you are thinking of taking that next step or wondering how to turn your blog into something that makes you enough money to pay your bills then this one is for you. (And if you are a freelancer yourself, then I’d love to still hear from you at the end of this post!)
Why am I writing this? Well, since I went fully freelance in December, I have had a crazy amount of people asking me how they can do it too. And I’m not going to lie – freelancing is great. It affords me time to set my own schedule, go to events without having to ask for time off from my boss, I have the opportunity to work with some great brands, I set my own hours, I make every decision myself and make enough money to support myself. If I’m feeling rubbish, I can sleep a little late or if I have a lot on, I can work a long day and evening knowing it’s for my own benefit rather than someone else’s. Sometimes I’m up at 6am and sometimes I don’t get dressed until noon. Most of the time, there’s a kitty cat sleeping on my lap as I work. That sounds great, you’re thinking, Gimme a piece of that.
Here’s the thing. I’m going to be totally honest with you and I’m probably going to blow a lot of misconceptions away for you and maybe you won’t want to hear everything I have to say. But what I’m going to say is the truth – at least it’s MY TRUTH because obviously I can only tell you about my own experience. These are the things I’ve realised over the years and the things I needed to work on (and continue to work on) as I grew my blog. So here goes.
Before you can even THINK about going freelance, before you can start thinking about your blog as a career opportunity, you should already be doing these things:
Risk being different. First of all, your blog has to look good. It has to stand out. It has to be easy to navigate and simple for a reader to use. Not only that, it has to be better than a million other blogs out there all trying to say the same thing. The only way even a great blog will stand out is by being different. You have to stand out for good reason. And even if you spent some money on a fancy design, if your content is a bit poor, if your images are crap, if you don’t have enough exclusive content, if your writing is filled with grammatical errors – then it’s not going to happen for you. I’m sorry to break it to you but work on your design, work on your writing style, for the love of all that is good on this earth, spell-check your posts and have a very good understanding of your own brand image. What do I mean by this? Make sure what you are saying and what your blog looks like aligns – every image you show, every discussion you have, should reinforce what you are all about. Your blog should be your brand image and when what you show on your posts doesn’t reflect what you’re all about, people will get confused, the message will get muddied. Keep it streamlined and make sure whatever you put out there is top notch and your best work and make sure it is ALWAYS a reflection of what you want people to remember about you.
Become a creator, not just a curator. There are a lot of bloggers out there that are just sharing other people’s content. And for a very long time, it was enough to curate content from elsewhere and present it to your readers. Well as you’ve probably realised by now, times have changed. We’ve got Pinterest that does that for us and you better believe this meant a lot of bloggers suddenly lost their audiences. So if you are just showing other people’s pretty pictures, it’s time to up your game. You are going to have to get your own camera out. You’re going to have to shoot your own stuff. This means getting proficient enough with your camera to take great images (and no, your iPhone is probably not going to cut it in the long run). Great images lead to more people pinning and more people sharing your work. This in turn leads to more traffic. More traffic leads to brands wanting to work with you. More brands wanting to work with you means you can command more money for things like advertising and sponsored posts. Higher prices means you can start to think about quitting the day job. But it all starts with great quality, exclusive images – it’s absolutely paramount to any lifestyle blog. The internet is becoming more and more visual and you’ve got to keep up with that if you are ever going to go it on your own.
Lower your expectations. I’ve been writing this blog for 5 years. Two of those years were spent just trying to build up an audience, to get to know the blogging community and to figure out my own style (and blogging as a career wasn’t really a ‘thing’ at that time so it wasn’t even something I’d considered). Two more years went into projects, creative content, deciding how and what I actually wanted to do with this blog. It meant for a long time, I wasn’t really earning much at all from blogging. I spent a shitload of money paying out of my own pocket for projects and an extraordinary amount of time editing, writing and promoting with nothing in return – I did it because I loved it and that was all. You can’t go into this expecting brands to fall at your feet even if you are doing everything ‘right’ (see above). It takes time. It won’t happen overnight. This is not an easy path and you can’t assume you will suddenly be ‘discovered’ out of the blue without a lot of promoting yourself – it takes dedication and hard work and total commitment. Expect to stay up late at night, to work weekends, to grow your blog with your own blood, sweat and tears, to network, to make friends, to reap the rewards eventually. But don’t think it’s going to happen the minute you publish your first, fifth or even 100th post. Most bloggers who are now supporting themselves from their blogs have been doing this for a LONG time and have done a LOT of promotion of their own blogs. Expect to put the work in.
Blog regularly. The first few years were patchy at best for my blogging schedule. Sometimes I might do 4 posts in a week, sometimes a couple weeks would go by where I’d barely blog at all. At the time, it was a hobby so I didn’t really care. Once I decided to get serious, I realised I needed to come up with a regular posting schedule that worked for me. At the moment, I post 3 times a week: Monday/Wednesday/Friday. For me, this works well. For others, they may want to post 5 times a week or 2 times a week, whatever floats your boat – just keep it regular. You won’t grow your blog if you are posting really sporadically or leaving long periods between posts. You will risk losing your audience’s attention. The more you put into your blog, the more you will get out of it. This might mean carving time out when it’s not convenient and it might mean sacrifices. The more sacrifices you make, the more time and energy you put in, the faster your growth.
Be nice to PRs, SEO and Media Agencies, Brands and other bloggers. This may seem like a no-brainer but if you are seen as being a bit ‘difficult’, people won’t want to work with you. Don’t act like a princess. Don’t slag off other bloggers. Don’t expect PRs to bend over backwards for you. Don’t command more money from companies than you are actually worth because you think you are owed it somehow (see blood, sweat, tears comment above). If your traffic is low or your social media following is low or you don’t get a lot of engagement on your posts, you won’t be able to command the same amount of money as a blogger who gets shitloads of traffic or has hundreds of thousands of social media followers. These companies are in it for what THEY get out of it. They want you to spread their message, their products, their brand to your following. If you can’t do that for them, then they will see your value as being less. Accept that you will have to start slow, accept smaller values to start with and then once your audience is big enough, you can ask for more. Be respectful and professional with everyone you come into contact with. Support your fellow bloggers. Basically, don’t be a dick.
Don’t f*ck with your audience. Here’s the thing. I love you guys. I know it may sound weird to hear that but genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, you guys are my world. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love and I’m grateful every single day that people pop by here to Swoon Worthy to hear what I’m up to. This is why I’m being so blunt on this point. If you are a blogger, don’t treat your audience like they are idiots. They are smart people, they know if you are pushing a product you don’t care about or one that doesn’t fit that brand image I spoke about above. I know it’s tempting when a company contacts you and promises you cash to promote them or wants to give you things you don’t need and I know how tempting it is to accept it even if you aren’t all that crazy about it because it’s MONEY or it’s FREE. But seriously, you start doing this regularly and your readers will KNOW. And then what happens? It makes them respect your opinion less and it waters down your blog and your brand. Don’t be careless with the trust that people have in you. It will do you far more lasting harm as a blogger in the long term than a couple quid or a few extra dollars in your pocket in the short term. Only work with brands you really genuinely feel you can get behind. Don’t become a blogger who will share anything even if they don’t like it. Selling out doesn’t look good on anyone, no matter what industry you’re in. Respect yourself and your audience more than that.
Keep becoming a better version of yourself. It is easy to look at other bloggers and get jealous when you see their success. Blogs grow at different rates and everyone has a different path. But the competition is not with other bloggers. Their success does not equate with your failure. The competition needs to be with yourself. Strive to better yourself, strive to take better pictures, to write better, to create more interesting content, to connect better with your audience. Just because something worked a year ago doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue to work forever. Keep evolving into the best version of yourself you can be. Listen to your audience. Keep an eye on those posts that got a lot of comments or were shared on Twitter repeatedly – those are the ones your audience liked. Decide to do more of that sort of thing because it probably means you’re good at it. Do less of the stuff where you didn’t get much engagement because maybe it didn’t work for your audience or the timing wasn’t quite right or you didn’t approach it the right way. Feedback comes in all different forms – use whatever tools you have to continue to deliver what your audience wants and create content that caters to their needs. Get better, get bigger and don’t stop evolving.
So… let’s say you are reading this thinking, ‘yep, yep, yep, I do all of that stuff so why am I not making enough?’ Well, come back next week and I’m going to share with you some of my tips for working with brands and agencies and making some cash out of all your hard work and experience.
What do you think? Are there things you feel you need to work on? Or perhaps you already are a freelancer and can add to the discussion? Are there things you had to work on before you were able to earn enough money to quit your day job? I’d love to hear from you too.