This post is  pretty long overdue. But as I come up on my 4th year of blogging, I wanted to share today’s post to hopefully shed some light on blogging as a career. First, I want to answer the question I get asked all the time, “So what do you do all day?.” While we work hard to make it look easy because quite frankly, no one wants to watch us sit behind a computer all day, it’s not a realistic picture of what it takes to do this full time. It’s the glamorous aspects of the job that are appealing, but it’s a really small piece of the pie. I can’t tell you how many times someone has to said me “Geez I should start a blog” or “Oh that must be nice” in response to me saying what I do, as if it’s a job where you sit around all day drinking coffee and deciding what photo to post on Instagram. This profession is full of mystery, so I completely understand the curiosity.

I don’t really know what other bloggers make, what they get paid and how they make a living, though I have a general idea. But for some reason people feel they have a right to know (or ask) how much money we make as bloggers. Quite frankly, it’s nobody’s business how much money we make (this is just a general life rule, don’t ask someone how much money they make). I can tell you right now, this isn’t a get rich quick scheme. I make a living off of this blog but it’s not easy, and it took me about 3 years until I could survive off of the income from my blog alone. We live comfortably and were lucky enough to be able to buy our first home, but we saved every last penny we had to be able to do it, and we’ve done all the work on it ourselves. There are countless articles that talk about how much money bloggers make for seemingly little effort and paint a picture that is quite frankly far from reality. Anyone that owns their own business knows, it’s 24/7. So I wanted to share a bit about what it’s really like to be a full time blogger. Granted this is a bit different for everyone, and how I make a living isn’t going to be the same as someone else with a much bigger following, but there’s a lot of similarities across the board. It’s a profession that in many ways is deeply misunderstood. So here is my best attempt at sharing what life is like as a full-time blogger.

Stylist, Writer, Producer, Editor…

I think the best way to start is to explain what goes into a typical brand collaboration (a VERY small part of the full-time blogger puzzle honestly but a start). That begins either one of two ways, the brand pitching to the blogger or the other way around. Some brands have a high level idea of what they want out of the campaign, some have no idea at all. Many times the blogger will give the brand a “pitch” or “concept” that they think will resonate well with their audience and at the same time be relevant for the brand. After agreeing on a concept, the deliverables, the fee and the timeline, the blogger goes to work. Some bloggers have managers do some or most of this work, I have someone who helps me on an as-needed basis for bigger campaigns, but I do most of this myself.

After deciding on a concept, there’s styling, picking out product, getting props, location scouting, and shooting the look. If a brand were to hire a production company for a shoot there would be multiple people doing all of these tasks. As someone who modeled for a brief time as a teenager I saw what went into photoshoots: a lot of time, money and people. Bloggers are creating this kind of content often single-handedly with their photographer. After the shoot comes editing the imagery. Depending on the scope of the shoot and campaign this can be anywhere from 100-400 images (or more if it’s a lookbook or seasonal campaign).

 

Images are edited and now comes the blog post. This includes making sure the content is interesting enough for people to want to read, optimizing for SEO, using proper keywords, properly using ALT tags and meta descriptions for imagery, finding and linking to all the items in the post, creating appropriate widgets and then finally laying out the post in WordPress (or other content management system).

It’s important to note that a lot of the content we put out there is NOT sponsored. So the same effort that goes into a collaboration with a brand that is paid, goes into a post or video that we do for free, which is a large majority of content. Essentially the content that’s sponsored helps pay for all of the other content we create throughout the year, a lot of which comes at an expense to us (whether it’s purchasing product to test, clothes, props to style, etc.). We may make some commission from the use of affiliate links, we may not.

Social Media Manager

Before creating content can even begin we come up with ideas and concepts which make up our editorial calendar each month. This is a combination of blog posts, email newsletters, videos and more. And once the content has been created, it has to be seen. Bloggers are also essentially social media managers, a job that many companies pay someone with a college degree a very generous salary to do. We manage creating and posting unique content for our social media channels, in addition to growing them (which if you’re still doing it organically and not buying followers has become increasingly difficult). From Instagram to Youtube to Pinterest to Facebook, each channel has it’s own unique needs, and an algorithm that’s constantly changing (and working against those that aren’t cheating the system with bots). We have to understand our unique audiences for each channel and create content that speaks to each one. And once we’ve created that content we have to connect with our readers and followers on those channels. That means responding to blog post comments, direct messages, tweets, Facebook messages, etc. On any given day I receive anywhere from 50-200 direct messages from Instagram alone (and I respond to every message which can some days take hours). Staying engaged with readers and followers is a crucial part of maintaining and growing the community we’ve created.

Emails, Invoicing, Web Design…

Everyday email maintenance, I get anywhere from 100-300 emails on an average day, ranging from reader questions to inquiries from brands and everyday correspondence with clients, PR companies, etc. We are graphic designers, novice web designers, customer service representatives (often answering readers questions about size, fit, quality, etc. when it comes to purchasing decisions). We keep track of finances and accounting from invoicing to paying sub-contractors, tracking down payments, running payroll, handling Quickbooks. There’s daily and weekly calls and meetings with brands, managers, developers, web designers, affiliate network account consultants to talk strategy and analytics, brand partnerships, web design and development, and more. We work hard to create and cultivate relationships with our readers and followers, and we do the same with brands. There’s events, countless events, as someone who doesn’t live in a major city I don’t attend most of these (which is a blessing and a curse). It’s crucial to attend as many as possible to network and stay relevant, but also very time consuming, and exhausting (especially for those of us that are introverts).

Vacation

Paid time off and vacations. Oh wait, we don’t get those. When you own your own small business there is no such thing as paid vacation. Honestly for me, there’s no such thing as vacation at all. I know a lot of that is on me, I need to find a way to unplug, and I do find small ways to do it throughout the year (like for a day). But most of the time, we are on, 24/7. Any trip we take, we’re creating content. That drink I’m having at the pool? That was about 5 minutes, to get the shot and then move on to the next location. We have to fit as much as we possibly can into the timeframe we’re away to make sure we have enough content to share and write about afterwards. I hope this doesn’t come off like I’m complaining because I really don’t want it to. I LOVE my job. I am so thankful to be my own boss, to do what I love and to make a living doing it. I honestly never thought I could do what I’m doing right now. I never dreamed I’d have my own business. I don’t for a second miss my old job. My main goal here is to paint a realistic picture of what it takes to make a living from blogging. For me, it’s the best job in the world, and I hope I get to do this forever. But that’s also the scary thing, who knows? I’m sure anyone that owns their own business feels the same way at times, but I am constantly thinking about the future. Can I keep this going? Will I still be relevant? Are people still going to care what I think? Do people still read blogs? What will happen to Instagram? There are a lot of unknowns.

Writing this post made me start to wonder how some of my other blogger friends feel. A lot of us talk about being misunderstood or brushed off as vain or self-absorbed people that just sit around taking selfies and photos of food we aren’t going to eat. Yes, there are some bloggers that do this, but you can’t paint a picture that all bloggers are the same because of a few that act or behave a certain way. I asked some of my friends that are full-time bloggers their thoughts on doing this as a career. Here’s what they had to say:

“I think a lot of people believe that it is an easy out of the working world but in reality it is a more rigorous, time consuming and demanding job than anything I ever experienced working for a corporate company. It is beyond a full time job when you take into account social media, contracts, invoicing, content planning, accounting, production, etc. You never shut off.” – Liz Adams, SequinsandStripes.com 

“My biggest challenge is just wanting to take a break sometimes… social media never sleeps and it can be SO exhausting especially when you’re going through hard life moments or want to just spend time with people IRL. There’s this feeling of not wanting to fall behind and to keep up with the joneses. For me weekdays flow into weekends, 8ams are the same as 10pms… and although I would never go back to a 9-5, I envy people that can leave work and not think about it for a few hours of the day. I think about work every hour I’m awake.” – Ashley, EverydayPursuits.com 

“My biggest challenge is the accounting and quickbooks. And taxes. This is so time consuming and can make you wish for an old fashioned 9-5 where taxes come out of your paycheck every week, and your benefits are included in there! I would also say the events. As Jess mentioned, it’s important to network and go to these things but I think most bloggers (at least the old school ones) started their blogs as a way to escape/be a bit anti-social. We’re usually introverts who are happiest being behind the screen writing.” – Grace Atwood, TheStripe.com

“I think the most common misconception of being a full-time blogger is that we just get dressed up and take cute photos all day. Running a blog is 24/7 and finding work-life balance is challenging.” – Pam, TheGirlFromPanama.com

“One of the hardest parts for me is dealing with the negativity. I’m a sensitive person, and particularly when I became a mom reading things about how I wouldn’t be a good mother really hurt my feelings. I think the biggest misconception is that bloggers live these picture perfect lives and that’s just not realistic and sets an unfair example to young women. I’m really trying to change that through my Instagram stories and blog posts by showing that nobody’s life is perfect.” – Julia, LemonStripes.com

“One of my biggest challenges is knowing when to turn it ‘off’ and learning to balance life, relationships and business all at the same time. You pretty much manage everything and it can become extremely overwhelming for you and even those around you. Also invoicing and tracking down money. It’s odd because while that is one of the most important things, I tend to put that on the back burner and do what is more fun like producing content and negotiating upcoming projects.” – Cait, HowDoYouWearThat.com

What’s Next?

I got a direct message on Instagram last night from an old work colleague reminding me that it was 4 years ago I was sitting in her office telling her I wanted to be a fashion blogger. I look back on that and remember how scared I was, leaving a good job and a steady paycheck, a career I had worked hard to succeed in for 5 years to do something I knew almost nothing about. And yet here we are, 4 years later and this blog I started as a hobby has become my career, my own business. I hope that by being more transparent and sharing some insight into blogging as a career we can continue this dialogue not just about blogging but for anyone trying to be an entrepreneur or small business owner. I think many of us want the same things. To be recognized for our hard work, to pursue our passions, to carve our own paths, to create a sense of community with other women and to find a healthy work-life balance. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to do something I love. I hope this post has shed some light on a frequently misunderstood career. If you’ve enjoyed this post please let me know as I’d love to continue this conversation and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for future posts. As always thank you so much for your readership and support.