When I started blogging in 2011, the social sphere looked pretty different to how it does today. There were no sponsored posts, no blogging communities and certainly no bloggers who had their own beauty ranges. Events were few and far between (although always well attended by the most lovely people) and there was no real ‘business’ or branding side to anyone’s websites. Blog’s were, blogs. They documented people’s lives in the most simple forms. They illustrated individual’s love of beauty, their passion for fashion or their dating disasters.
I’m not saying I miss what blogging once was, because that’s not it. I love that the industry has now become a flourishing fairground for entrepreneurial millennial’s. It’s incredibly inspiring. Liv wrote a beautiful article about how other blogger’s successes should be celebrated (rather than envied) since it’s a credit to the blogosphere and how we’re being noticed.
I completely agree!
However, it is scary to turn your blog, your hobby, your homegrown baby slice of the inter-webs, into a business. Most of us have never run a business before (in fact, probably all of us) and many of us don’t know the in’s and out’s of legal and taxation formalities. We just started pouring our thoughts into a page on the internet and now we’re here. It’s something I’ll admit that I’ve struggled a bit with since going full time in May. Because as much as it’s super exciting, it’s also a little overwhelming.
Blogging isn’t really a career that you can choose as an option to pursue aged 18 when you leave school. It’s something that usually is sprung on you as an option. Something you can choose to pursue based on several months (if not in my case, years) of working for free. Not that it ever really felt like working. To this day, it feels a bit odd to be earning money from a hobby.
Anyway, more and more focus nowadays is upon the ‘brand’ aspect to an individual’s blog. No longer is a blogger purely just a writer and a photographer but a million other things too. A salesperson, a social media expert, an SEO manager, a secretary, a marketer and a contract negotiator. You have to create a personal brand in order to succeed in a flurry of bloggers. It’s not about obtaining a niche, but being ‘YOU’ – and letting others know what makes YOU so interesting.
Turning your blog into a brand is apparently the recipe to success within an already very saturated industry. But how do you do it?
Well, if I had the answer I’d probably be a blogging millionaire. But I do think it’s an interesting one.
I thought I’d put together a few tips on how I started looking at my blog more as a business, rather than a hobby. And how I collated all my skills, passions and blogging experience into something I could effectively monetise.
- Measuring value. Knowing your worth and what value your skills in the blogging world have, is key to monetising your blog. I often get emails from bloggers who ask how to know when to go ‘full time’ or how much they should be charging. The answer is very subjective. It totally depends on what you’re happy with. Work out how much time it takes you to create a post. Is there anyone else involved in the process like a photographer? Then work back on how much you think you’d be happy to be paid for that content creation. Follower numbers don’t always account for how much you should be charging (although of course they do play a part). More so it’s on the engagement of your readers and how you present content to them. If you create your content in a manner that is unique to you, make sure you let brands know that. Pop everything into a media kit (see below) and sell yourself!
- Networking. In any kind of media or creative business, networking is often the key to success. As they say ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and in blogging, it’s totally true. While I don’t suggest trying to forge friendships purely to turn your blog into a business, because this will always come across as disingenuous, I think it’s important to engage with the community, read others content and let bloggers know if you like something they’ve done (a little tweet will do the trick). Both online and in person networking are effective – so if you do get invited to events, I’d recommend taking along a bunch of business cards and your biggest smile. I’ve made some incredible, life long friends through blogging and we help each other out regularly.
- Media Kit. The infamous media kit is the one thing that’s spoken about lots when monetising your blog, but rarely do people specify what should actually be in there. Having seen both sides of the coin (being a PR and a Blogger), I think the most effective ones are the most simple. Pick some of your favourite photographs that you’ve taken over the years, blow them up to a full page and then dot your text neatly in the blank areas. Include your stats, brands you’ve worked with, notable achievements and maybe a little bio. Think of it as a CV but a very brief one. Then you’ll want to include your rates and your contact details. For added value, you could include a little more detail of some of your favourite campaigns, including conception to completion. Brands want to work with you because you create amazing content and they’ll want to know how you might go about creating that awesome content in relation to their products.
- Teaming up. Working with brands on sponsored content is probably the biggest money earner for me, however recently, I’ve found that teaming up with a brand you absolutely adore on a long term basis can actually be a little bit more effective for both parties. Providing they have relevance to yourself and your audience, working with a brand for more than just one blog post means that you invite your readers into sharing that affiliation with them – and can explore a collaboration much deeper. Take for example, my IBS. It’s not something I want to talk about constantly (because I appreciate not everyone has it and I don’t want to alienate anyone) however when I do speak about it, I’d love to be able to collaborate with a brand and be paid for my content because then it means I can devote more time to making it extra special.
- Your niche. As we’ve mentioned before, turning a blog into your brand isn’t only about having a niche in the more general sense. Like only blogging about pink cats, blue lipsticks or chocolate cake. Although if you only blog about the latter, I AM SO JEALOUS! But it’s more so about presenting yourself as naturally and as realistically as possible online. Your writing style, your vision, your passions, your photography, your styling and your make-up together makes you, YOU. Being unique in a sea of blogs is what your niche is. Try and make your blog as ‘you’ as possible.
Five year plan.The whole five year plan is scary (actually, terrifying) to me because blogging is so unpredictable and often spontaneous that I don’t even know what I’m doing next week let alone in five years time, however it does often help to lay everything out on a big sheet of A3 paper (hey, even bring your coloured pens along for the fun because then it doesn’t feel quite so daunting) and map out where your income streams lay, where you spend the most time and what you envision will grow the most. I recently sat down with a business consultant who did just this for me and it was pretty unbelievable to have everything on paper – because it allowed me to see how far I’ve come and where things can potentially go. I don’t have a set in stone plan but when your blog is your business, it helps to have a focus.
- Side hustle. I hate the word hustle but for a large portion of bloggers, their blog isn’t their only baby. Many have clothing lines, beauty lines, books, recording contracts or something on the side that they can effectively monetise and include within the bigger remit of their blog. My wonderful friend Em has a gorgeous jewellery line LVNDR, Rumi Neely from Fashion Toast has a clothing line and Natasha Oakley, well she gets to show off her gorgeous bod and promote her own bikini line – A Bikini A Day. Since blogging doesn’t always present a steady and regular income, having something on the side which links to your blog can be really helpful – and exciting to grow alongside. For myself, I have recently launched a Digital Agency branch to my blog – which is something I’ve been planning for a long time. I’ve always loved social media and PR (with 5 years experience in the latter) and it wasn’t something I wanted to give up when I went full time. I now offer blogger outreach and event management consultancy – which I’m absolutely loving!
What do you think of blogs turning into brands? Is it something you’d ever want to do?
Images taken from my Christmas campaign shoot with Stackers.