I am writing to you as Newbie Blogger, the blogger behind [redacted]. Started in July 2014, my blog covers Fashion and Beauty regularly, along with a few features on decor, music and the business of blogging itself. The readership of my blog majorly comes from US, UK and India. Although, still a baby, my blog is gaining steadily in terms of organic reach and authentic readership. You’d be glad to know that my site visits increased threefold in last month, without any social media advertising. Now, I am aiming to continue the threefold increase for this month as well, expecting nearly 4000 views in September. There were a few issues I wanted to discuss with you regarding handling of the blog.
1. The Indian market is still fresh to me. I have been receiving press releases and invites to events that don’t even distantly relate to the genre of my blog. And the ones that I want to work with don’t even have the courtesy to reply on time.
2. You have extensively written about brand-blogger relations and blogger compensation. But, even if I propose a story idea along with a strong SM promotion plan, the brands walk out as soon as I mention any service charges, as if I’m throwing grenades at them!
3. I am single-handedly maintaining all aspects of the blog, but I came from a really bad place when I started and it gets really difficult at times to manage it all on my own. Do the figures ( site-stats and SM following ) matter so much?
I know you’re really busy with your blog, photography and business and you might not get time to reply to me, but I really had no one else to share these things with. I’d be really obliged if you could guide me a bit.
Hello Newbie Blogger & welcome to the world of blogging. Thank you for writing to me and for sharing your thoughts and questions. I empathize, it can be a maze to manoeuvre in the early days.
As Vanessa Friedman recently stated in her interview with Elle UK Collections magazine, it is no longer logical to call bloggers “bloggers”. Blogs are small businesses in their own right and bloggers are now business owners and entrepreneurs. The problem with how the above statement is how it is usually misinterpreted. It is assumed that one can launch a free WordPress.com blog and expect to start receiving paychecks from day one. Yes bloggers are now business owners and entrepreneurs but it is easy to forget that these business owners and entrepreneurs were bloggers BEFORE their blogs became businesses.
It takes time to establish a blog. Most of the blogging success stories that you’ve probably heard of are of bloggers who have been blogging for a decade if not more ( I’m going to exclude the category of Technology bloggers from being referenced in this article. My post is with reference to Lifestyle Bloggers as a general, large, amoeboid group. ) After having built their credibility and presence and after having amassed millions of blog-visitors, they are now seen as entrepreneurs and small businesses. They also had the first mover advantage – not many people were blogging ten years ago.
From the outside, blogging seems like a lucrative career option – it isn’t. It doesn’t pay immediately and it doesn’t pay regularly. It is a lot of hard work and passion – most bloggers started blogging because they wanted to share their life and their opinions with others on the Internet. Getting paid for doing this was not even a consideration back then ( I started blogging in 2004 – it was about Innovation Consulting – I wrote about exciting new studies and research papers. ). And even now, blogging provides only about 20% of my total revenue.
Your blog was launched only in July 2014. Give it some time. If you write and post consistently and create original and good content, you will get more visitors and readers and that access is one of the things brands pay for. I would also recommend buying a domain so that your blog is self-hosted. ( Although, there are many successful blogs that run on free services like WordPress.com and Blogger.com too, having a domain with a well-designed and branded blog gives a professional feel to a business transaction. )
Yes numbers are important and relevant. Not as absolutes. Always in context. A blog might have a very small audience but that very small audience might be the exact target audience that a brand wants to spend on wooing. Matching that audience to a relevant brand is your responsibility. Since professional blogging is still a new thing in India, unfortunately, brands do not focus on the online platform. It is still considered as something to be done because other brands are doing it.
On the point of organic growth vs. paid followers / hits. I prefer the former mainly because it usually means these are genuinely interested visitors who want to follow what I do of their own volition. The downside of paid numbers is that they usually work only in the short run. You can buy a single fan for Rs. 50 ( for example ) – that person might have been paid Rs. 10 to click on “Like” but if monetary compensation was what attracted that “fan” to your page / blog / SM channel, they’re probably not your target audience anyway.
Who is your target audience?
Why do you even have a blog?
Unfortunately I’m not the right person to ask about blogging as a business. This blog was and still is an expression of who I am, whether it is family holidays, drinking with friends, a client dinner or a photography gig, etc. I am not a reviewer of things. I experience things around me and sometime I am inspired to write about those experiences, whether good or bad. Brands like to collaborate with me because I bring a fresh, no holds barred perspective to their products, services or experiences. And I have a discerning audience that expects me to share stories with them that are ME. Not every story on my blog is a commercial engagement. When brands call me up for paid collaborations, I usually first think about whether the planned activity is interesting and / or new. Money is secondary if not further down the priority chain.
A blog is a reflection of who you are as a person too. Does your blog reflect your personality? At the end of the day, people work with people and rather than wait for others to make the first move, you make it, by letting your blog reflect who you are. Keep the messaging consistent via the design of your blog as well as what you write and show.
Keep asking to be paid. If it involves work i.e. you having to spend time doing something for the brand, you should be paid for it regardless of whether your audience numbers have three zeroes in it or five. Brands are sometimes as clueless as most bloggers are but mostly brands are more clueless because while bloggers have experience working with a lot of different brands, many brands are only dipping their toes in the blogging “scene” and don’t know where to start. Most brands will not revert yes ( which only goes to show how uncomfortable they are with the genre of blogging, apart from the unprofessionalism of course ). But some brands will revert. Some will agree to do a paid activity, some will not. The relevant question to you here is would you work with anyone who is ready to pay what you ask for? And herein lies the key. If you can answer that question, you will also have answered “What is your blogging strategy?” ( Just to be clear, nothing wrong in wanting to work with anyone who is willing to pay you – it isn’t something I would do and I don’t recommend it but it is always an option. )
I receive dozens of enquiries from brands each day. About 75% of them are already aware that I expect to be paid for developing and executing stories and then providing space for those stories to be published on my blog and also be mentioned on my social media platforms. Out of these dozens of enquiries, I probably end up working with ONE, if that. I’d rather work with one great brand than with twelve mediocre ones.
About it being hard to do so many things on your own. I do everything on my own too. Yes it is difficult. Especially when one is just “doing” without setting course for a particular destination. Floundering about without a goal is easy to perceive as “being busy”. Once a year, I have a terrible time with being so busy that I just want to run away from it all. As soon as I catch myself feeling this way, I know I’m doing unnecessary things. I then spend a few months cutting those things away and re-focusing my efforts and re-stating what my goals are. ( My goals change intermittently depending on where I see more self-interest and profit. ) Please reach out to fellow-bloggers, not all of us are stuck-up and unwilling to share how we work. We also exchange notes about brands. And you already have 4000 visitors per month after only three months of blogging! If I had started blogging at the same time as you, I’d be bowing down to you! Keep at it.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
On being present on social media platforms. You don’t have to been on all social media platforms. ( I recently quit Facebook and no longer have a personal profile on the platform. I still have a Business Page for Naina.co and visitors who prefer the Facebook platform to follow their favorite brands are welcome to stay in touch on there. ) I prefer spending time on my blog and after quitting Facebook, I have already started writing more here. I also love Twitter and Instagram and I also use Pinterest sometimes when I feel the need to look at beautiful things! Whatever platform you choose to be present on, you’d better own it. It might feel like a lot initially but you will find your rhythm eventually.
On receiving invites to events that are not related to the subject of your blog. Go. Attend those events. Ask for a cab service and go. Meet the brand managers, meet the PR agency, meet other bloggers and other attendees. I can guarantee that you will learn something that will help you further narrow down your goals. ( Do make it clear to the brand that without compensation, there will be no story on your blog but if you like the event or something about the event, you might include it in your weekly digest or some such. This clarification, in my opinion, is necessary because over the years, many traditional journalists have led brands on to believe that free food and alcohol and the “opportunity” to interview a celebrity are all that are needed for them to carry the brand’s story in next day’s newspaper. Bloggers are not traditional journalists. )
I am constantly surprised when I write something on this blog and more than 10 people visit that page ( Which means I’m always surprised *wink* ). It amazes me still that there are people who want to know what I have to say. There is a steady increase in the number of these people yes, but I’d still love to meet all of them in person and tell them about those millions of times I’ve been plagued with self-doubt. Making a personal connection is more valuable to me than adding someone on as a “follower” / “subscriber”. ( That doesn’t negate the importance of followers and subscribers though! )
I hope there is something in the above that will prove useful to you Newbie Blogger. Like most things in life and business, there’s a lot of trial and error before you find your general “zone”. Keep at it.