As a blogger standing out is becoming increasingly difficult due to how overly saturated the industry is. There’s the big bloggers, the ones who amass a following creeping into the millions and manage to make a full time living from sponsorship and ad campaigns. Then there’s the smaller bloggers, like me, who’s following mainly consist of friends and family (hi mum!). In order to make a success of it bloggers now need to have skills beyond being able to write engaging content. Here are the things I’ve found myself having to learn.
Managing your own website.
Sure, there’s templates available to those of us who can barely decipher html coding. I know the basics, through my job, but building my own site is beyond me. I use WordPress and the free templates on there, but with increasing pressure to ‘look’ professional, these templates mean your blog could end up looking just like everyone else’s. I can’t even figure out how to create menus at the top to file my different pieces. I’d love ‘lifestyle’, ‘fitness’ and maybe ‘reviews’ headings to group them all together in one place, rather than what I currently have with all my writing on one page. Then there’s analytics, SEO and other jargon words, that if I’m honest are mostly beyond me. If I’m going to make a go of blogging then these are things I’ll have to learn. Thank goodness for Google and those big bloggers who share the knowledge!
Gone are the days where writing was enough to drive people to your page. You now also need pretty, professional pictures to lure readers in. From flatlays to outfit shots I’m falling behind in the blog photography stakes. My trusty iPhone camera doesn’t compare to the Olympus Pen favoured my most of the bloggers I follow. I also don’t have an abundance of Pinterest-worthy ‘props’ to really make my photography stand out. I also don’t know how to use Photoshop, so my pictures are generally edited with free apps on my phone, meaning I can’t get the same blurred out background with the in-focus foreground I see on professional blogger pages. Unfortunately, having an eye for what makes a good picture just isn’t enough.
There’s no point in taking beautiful pictures and setting them against your carefully composed words if no one knows where to find it. Bloggers are responsible for marketing themselves to drive traffic to their sites. Social media is the main tool used for this and while I love Instagram, my page isn’t carefully curated with a theme. I try to take nice pictures and I enjoy sharing them with a million and ten hashtags so I’m discoverable, but I lack the polish, I think. Also, being ‘on’ social media, isn’t enough. You have to be active and engaging. I find it difficult to make friends in the real world, let alone the blogosphere. Tweeting about your day and then shameless self promotion every time you write a blog post, isn’t going to cut it. You have to actively engage with followers, start conversations, join group chats and share content (other than your own) that you think your followers might like. I’m also painfully wary of spamming people. You don’t want to be that person. Also, most of the bloggers I follow have the same branding across all platforms so that they are instantly recognisable. I use the same picture of myself across all, but this in no way means I am nurturing my own brand (my brand being ‘me’).
Running a business
Those bloggers who successfully get ad campaigns and sponsorship are effectively running their own business. Meaning they have to deal with the financials. How much to charge, how you will get paid, tax returns… all make me feel nauseous. And the companies using their services suddenly become your customer; what tone do you want the piece to have? How many pictures do you want me to post? Three or five tweets to promote it? All of these things have to be negotiated so that your customer is satisfied enough that they will come back. Repeat custom is the backbone of most businesses, after all.
A healthy bank balance
I can’t afford the afore mentioned Olympus Pen camera. My laptop is about five years old and painfully slow. So even if I could afford a fancy camera and Photoshop it’d take me a week to get them on to my blog, by that time they’d be out of date. I pay for my domain name, but use free templates on WordPress. How lovely it would be to hire someone to design my website for me? I’d finally get to have menus! I’m not a fashion or beauty blogger, but even the lifestyle bloggers I follow post outfit posts with links to buy them (which I’m sure they get money from when you click and buy). I’m currently sat wearing relatively new mom jeans from ASOS, but my Adidas jumper is an oversized men’s one I bought on Ebay. My trainers are plain white from Marks and Spencers that I bought in January and have worn so often they let the water in when it rains. I’m hardly your typical fashionista blogger! Who can afford to buy new clothes all the time to feature on your social media?! I guess it’s an investment and once you start making money from your blog it becomes worthwhile. You gotta spend money to make money, an all that…
Fundamentally I blog for myself. I enjoy the creative outlet writing gives me. I like to share certain experiences and aspects of my life with the people I love. I think also, not living near my family or childhood friends means that, if they want to, they can read my blog and catch up with what I’ve been up to. They could also phone me, but we usually need a free few hours for that! In terms of my career, I’d love one day to make money from writing. It’s always been a bit of a dream of mine to be recognised as good at this thing I enjoy, but with my blog I think I’m realistic that it might not happen. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing though. I still ‘need’ it, even if it’s just for me. I also dream of being a novelist, but I am aware that very few authors make enough money to live on by penning books and most have a day job. So I’ll continue to work hard in my day job and make sure it’s something I want to be doing too. I guess I’m lucky that I enjoy my day job, cause I reckon I’ll be doing it for a while!