Does blogging pay? Well, here's what I'm working on
If I had a written-out list of frequently asked questions, "Does blogging pay?" wouldn't even make the top 100. People don't ask that kind of thing, you see – but I can guarantee that they think about it. In this whole new world of blogging, where women and men can make a living from writing posts on their own site, recording video from their living room or sharing their daily lives on social media, who could blame those outside the blogging community for wondering if it's even worth it.
Why does blogging pay?
So, here's the million-dollar question, and something that I think a lot of brands and followers ask themselves on a regular basis. Why would anyone pay a blogger to post about their product? Sure, that's just a person with an online following – why should they be paid to just, y'know, talk into their phone, write on their little blog or record a video?
Let's examine the subtext of these questions, which are, first and foremost: get a real job. There is a temptation to view blogging as a ridiculous hobby that has somehow been given "job" status and to dismiss those who are interested in making it their job as having a stupid pipe dream. (That might be true but, y'know, people who want to be singers have a fairly ridiculous pipe dream, too.) We need to accept something: blogging is a job. Then we need to move on.
Whenever I get asked about this, I compare blogging to print media – which is especially easy to do in Ireland. Say, for example, you have a women's magazine, which sells around 20,000 copies a year. That's 20,000 individuals who have purchased that magazine – so you think, let's put an ad! Somewhere at the front, on a right-hand page – that's a good placement for a print ad, and an expensive one, too.
But how many of those 20,000 people will see that ad? Maybe 15,000 – and that's an optimistic estimate. 15,000 people will rest their eyes, for at least a split second, on that advertisement. Of those 15,000 people – how many will truly pay attention to it? How many will take the message on board, or even remember the brand or product? Maybe 5,000 (again, optimistic). Of those 5,000 people, how many will remember it in a week?
Then take someone like me, with 16,000 followers on Snapchat (on a good day; it really varies, and Sundays are the busiest because (I'm guessing) there's nothing else to do). If I talk about your product on my Snapchat, I can show you that 16,000 people "saw" that snap. There's no way of knowing if they just flicked through, but they definitely saw your product. If I talk about it three times in a week, you can be pretty sure that a far higher number will remember it than they would if they'd been fortunate enough to see your print ad.
You've also got the "trust" aspect, which is a massive part of the "does blogging pay?" puzzle. More and more, we're realising that people don't really want to buy into products or brands; they want to buy into people. Why do you think Kylie Cosmetics are so popular? Even in the Irish scene, think of a few big homegrown brands – chances are, you know the people behind those brands, too: The Happy Pear, Meagher's Pharmacy, Cara Pharmacy or Inglot. They're all made popular by the personalities behind the brands.
It makes sense, then, that people would rather read reviews by their favourite bloggers, than peruse (relatively) anonymous reviews in magazines; they would trust the opinion of a YouTuber they love over, say, a journalist in the broadsheet paper they read on Saturdays; if they like and trust the opinions of a Snapchatter, they'll believe them when they talk about how great your product is. (This, of course, is also conditional on said individual being selective – and honest – with what they choose to promote, but that's probably a whole different blog post.)
So: how does blogging pay me?
Now that we've covered the why of "does blogging pay?" I guess it's time to move on to the how.
I don't mind telling you (now!) that December was a really tough month for me, work-wise. I didn't have a huge amount going on, and every time I switched on Snapchat it felt like every other influencer in the world was doing three jobs a day! In fact, I ended up unfollowing a whole heap of the biggest Irish social media faces because I simply didn't want to be able to compare my incredibly empty days with their incredibly full ones.
I realised, in the first week of December, that I had no invoices coming in until mid-January, and so Christmas was a very frugal time indeed (although, and maybe this is a post for December coming, it was actually lovely to have less of an emphasis on shopping and more of an emphasis on quality time spent with family and friends). I had a total panic: what was I doing? I mean, I knew blogging could pay, but I wasn't convinced it was going to end up paying me. Maybe I should reconsider, and "get a real job".
So, if you'd asked me late last year, "how does blogging pay?" I would've said, quite honestly, that 80% of my income was still coming from other things: giving talks, sitting on panels, the odd bit of freelance print journalism and TV appearances. Now? Things have done a total 180.
I'm working on a whole host of different collaborations and projects, 90% of which are hosted exclusively on my own blog and social channels – which, in December, I just didn't think was going to happen.
So, er, specifically: what am I working on?
Right now, I'm working on an eight-week campaign with LloydsPharmacy, around their Change Your Health Direction programme. They wanted to draw attention to the fact that people can get free advice and coaching from their trained staff around weight loss, smoking cessation, improving their health and lifestyle, and it's totally free. So I came up with a kind of 360 social media campaign, across all of my channels and including a blog post.
It's an ongoing thing; I check in with them every week and share content on my channels that they can repost to theirs. I even included it (as an accidental plus!) in a vlog I did.
A small piece of work I did this week was an Instagram post for Bloom Magic Flowers; they were trying to get some publicity for their online flower delivery service ahead of Valentine's Day, so they sent me a bunch of flowers and I posted a photograph on my Instagram.
I've also started a weekly column with Dublin Live – a relatively new (and booming!) site, which is great for my profile. And the crew at Dublin Live are lovely, which always helps with any business relationship! That is set to run for eight weeks, but who knows? If it goes down a storm maybe I'll become a permanent fixture!
Last year, I did a collaboration – on my site and social media channels – with Let's Get Checked, a site that (at that time) provided at-home STI testing kits. Now, they've expanded their offering to include general health checks, fertility testing, cancer testing, and are introducing new tests all the time. So I took one of their fertility tests (for ovarian reserve), talked through the process on Snapchat and will be posting across a few different channels over the next few weeks.
You'll all know, of course, that I signed up to RewardStyle last October; essentially, that means that any fashion or accessories links I put on my site are affiliate links – so, if you buy something via one of my links, I'll get a small percentage (usually between 5% and 20%). I am not a fashion blogger, and my RewardStyle posts are not all that frequent (although I do post fairly regularly to my Facebook page, with pictures of things I wish I could buy for myself!) – but since October, my RewardStyle account is at €1,770. (I'm not sure if I should admit this; is it a secret? But I am ASTOUNDED – and it seriously makes me wonder about massive fashion and beauty bloggers who are surely making six figures a year from affiliate links alone!) I should note that I haven't been paid yet; it takes at least 90 days for any commission to reach your account.
A few more jobs I've done? Last week, I did some activity with Universal Ireland around the release of Split, the new film by M Night Shyamalan; I just published a post yesterday in collaboration with Allianz Ireland, about Sinead Kane, a woman with 5% sight who's attempting the World Marathon Challenge; I appeared on Claire Byrne Live a few weeks ago; I did some copywriting for an in-house marketing team before Christmas; I did a sponsored post with Marks & Spencer. I also have an affiliate link with Ember & Earth; every time someone buys a coat using the code ROSEMARY, they get 10% off and I get a little %.
So... What's coming up?
Right now I'm working on a few "top secret projects!" (LOL) Mostly, it'll be more of the same: working with brands I like who offer products I use or believe in to promote said brands or products. I hope it's obvious from the outline of what I've worked on that, while I do have a broad range of interests (sure, one minute I'm talking about my mooncup and the next it's the Arnotts fashion show), I'm pretty selective in the projects that I'll take on.
Ultimately, I ask myself: is this something I like myself? And then it's: Will my followers give a shit? Genuinely – there is no point in my collaborating with a brand if I know that it's not going to be my thing; my followers will know it, too (I often joke that anyone who follows me on Snapchat probably knows me as well as my mother knows me, because I hold nothing back!). I want to create content that gets read, and that means people will come back and read the next thing. And if a piece of sponsored content puts someone off, well, I haven't done a very good job, have I?
So, does blogging pay? Yes, it does – but here and there, on different jobs and via different avenues, and it's a constant battle to come up with ideas, pitch them to clients and reach out to people you think would be a good fit.
The biggest thing that has helped me, I think, with strengthening my blog and, in a sense, my brand (although I hate that word because I'm not a brand; I'm a person!), has been my work-related New Year's Resolution, which was: to post a piece of content to my site every single weekday. It's something I've managed every day since January 1st – and I think that consistency has really paid off in terms of traffic and, I hope, in showing brands who might potentially work with me that I am reliable and have a strong work ethic.
Okay, that paragraph was a little too showy-offy for my liking, but you get the picture: I'm not exactly rolling around on a bed of bank notes, but I have figured out a way to create some commercial content alongside my own stuff, and it's working out pretty well so far!