So You’re Thinking Of Starting A Blog
When I first began blogging back in 2011, I had everything ultra basic. Writing’s just always been quite therapeutic for me and during my single, London years, faced with a stream of men I shudder at the memory of dating (one used an American accent during sex at one point, he came from St Albans), I found it an outlet. It wasn’t something I really even wanted people to read, I just enjoyed putting all my experiences down on a page… it stopped them whizzing around my head/wondering if I should just stick to owning cats.
I’ve been a freelance writer & social media editor since 2012, so once I was faced with parenthood and endless days at home without people around to help me, I knew I wanted to blog and engage with other mums I actually wanted to chat with. I’d had enough of trying to force friendships with local women in church halls, I knew not-yet-pals were out there, I just needed to find them. Y’know, in a less creepy way than I’m describing now. None of the mum blogs really spoke to me personally (this was during the floral, baking, everything about motherhood is whimsy phase) so just over three years ago, I bought a domain name, contacted a blog designer, a host to keep it ticking over & I launched My Milo & Me.
More recently, I’ve had lots of people emailing to ask advice, either on how to start out or how to monetise/become a full-time blogger so I thought I’d kick off January with some bits ‘n’ bobs that worked for me and maybe 2018 could be the year your website takes off!
Speculate To Accumulate
I get a lot of questions from people asking if it’s necessary to go the whole hog website wise & I say yes, if you’ve got the funds to do so. It’s a bit of an investment but once you’ve kicked off the site, you’re pretty much set for a year (then you’ll need to renew things like the domain name & hosting). I use Squeesome for blog design (a husband and wife team from America who make personalised WordPress themes & who you can pick the brains of whenever you fancy, they’re fab to work with), a wonderful chap I’ve always spoken to on Twitter did my logo (hola Ben) and GoDaddy for domain shizz.
All of this means no trying to fathom coding and no behind the scenes stress. Just writing your posts & getting them out on a website which looks pretty. If you are someone who’s more techy/enjoys website building then of course go ahead and have a tinker yourself!
Advertising & Affiliate Links
Because monetising my blog was always an afterthought, I’ve never got stuck in to selling advertising space and I’ve stuck with that. There’s nothing more annoying (maybe Jim Davidson/getting your sleeves caught on door handles) than scrolling on a page you’re actually interested in only to absentmindedly click on an advert which whisks you off to a completely different bloody site, but it’s one sure fire way of making some cash. Affiliate links are fine too (this is where you earn money back from brands if your audience buy something through a link you provide) however the percentage you get back is (IMO) pittance. So again, I never bother. And not every brand’s up for doing it either.
Sponsored Posts, Campaigns & Collaborations
This is the sort of monetising I’m all in for. I get a LOT of questions about people who want to team up with brands and make money back from writing about certain products/campaigns and this is the way most of us earn from our social media/website. Here’s a few things to bear in mind;
- This doesn’t happen immediately. I didn’t earn any money for 10 months. It wasn’t until I had, what I felt to be, a substantial audience that I felt comfortable in asking for cold hard cash. And you will need to ask in the beginning. I still get a couple of emails a month from brands requesting work for either payment in product or actually, nothing at all in return, so when you’re first starting out be prepared to take the plunge & ask if there’s budget available.
- Don’t agree to things purely for the money. I guess it’s easy for me to say because I’m fortunate enough to live with someone who makes a decent wage from jumping in to sand, but it’s so important you don’t work with everyone and anyone who gets in touch. If there’s products you don’t like, brands you’re not keen on or collaborations which don’t suit your ethos, stay away. For instance, I turned down work with a baby formula brand because everyone knows I’ve always breastfed & a large part of the campaign was to stress how formula slotted in to our lives. It would have been entirely disingenuous of meta take part, plus another blogger could have done much better so I refused… while inwardly snarling I’d missed out on a couple of grand. It hurts at the time but you have to stick to what fits.
- Don’t expect brands and PRs to just reach out to you. Or don’t expect it to happen because you bunged up one Insta story about how you like what they’re doing. A lot of people seem to think blogging’s easy in this sense & that there’s a huge sense of entitlement but it’s just not the case. The majority of us have formed relationships with those we end up working with & put effort, time, money in to creating content which gets our audience interested. Try to go above & beyond and the client will remember that.
- Always make sure to TELL PEOPLE YOU’RE BEING PAID. Whether it be in cash or gifting, make sure you include it in your feature & social media posts. You get in big trouble if you don’t, plus it’s just a bit shoddy.
- Be prepared to back and forth when it comes to content, especially if there’s a PR involved. They’ll need to check the client’s happy so you’ll often need to write your feature in advance, take the snaps ahead of time & they can have everything approved before you make it live.
- Be kind to PRs. There’s a snippy attitude when it comes to these hard working middle men and I don’t like it. They’re often trying to please both you & the client, are still emailing at 8pm/9pm at night & then find the time to send you a lovely bundle of goodies when you’ve had a sh*te week. Cut ’em some slack.
- You’ll need to do invoices but don’t panic because there’s a tonne of templates on Google. Although, don’t expect to be paid within 30 days. Bloggers are part time deb-collectors.
photo by Joanna Nicole Photography
Use Your Social Media
Don’t feel embarrassed about promoting your own work. If you think it’s worth reading, then get out there and shout about it! The best times to post on Insta are either 7am or 7pm (apparently) but don’t get hung up on figures. I stopped worrying if I got 3,000 people or 40,000 people reading a post about a year in; it’s all about the feedback and comments. I think brands are getting wise to this now (I’m very rarely asked about stats and figures); it’s more about engagement with the audience you do have so make sure to converse with those taking the time to read your posts.
Worth The Time?
One thing I always try to keep at the forefront of my mind is, would I read this? If you’re putting together a piece on something which you’ve found dull to write or haven’t enjoyed reading back, then can you guarantee others will want to? This is less so the case when it comes to personal posts, but if you’re putting out sponsored content then what makes it readable? Have you got stuff to say or is it literally ‘hey look at this, buy it!’
Milo’s always been a big help productivity wise
Find Your Groove
I’m not a blogger with beautiful photos, I know that isn’t my forte. I have a wonderful friend (Jo) who visits to take some snaps for me and that’s the only time my images are edited and top notch. If not, it’s just a case of what I capture on my iPhone/Olympus Pen. I’m more about the words. It’s perfectly OK to not be the sort of blogger you’d hoped you’d be and instead, find what suits you. Nice photos, funny words, individuality, story-telling. There’ll be a whole host of reasons why people want to visit your website and get to know your work so don’t get hung up on it.
There’s Space For Everyone
Is the market saturated? Not in my opinion! Yes, plenty of people are blogging but everyone does it in their own way and there’s room enough for all of us so come on in!
Say yes to press days and events, get networking with other bloggers. It’s so important to get to know other people doing the same as you and although it can be daunting at the beginning, it’s great to see familiar faces as you go to more and more & trust me, everyone is friendly. If you’re starting out as a mum blogger, anything Mothers Meetings based is fantastic; Jenny holds business clubs and coffee mornings where children are often more than welcome so you don’t have to organise babysitters. Guest speakers, business owners, mums… they’re all there ready to give advice and you’ll go away feeling empowered.
Media Pack & Budgets
This is just a PDF which tells a client/PR how great you are to work with essentially, it’s a bit of a CV. You can ask for testimonials from people you’ve previously worked with and include your social media stats to give an idea of your reach and impressions. There’s also a thing called a ‘Rate Card’ which lots of bloggers use and you may be asked for this too. I don’t have one as my fees aren’t fixed and I prefer to have a conversation with each individual regarding budget, however you should have a clear figure in your mind of what you’re happy to work for. I only ever agree to lower/cut my fees if it’s for a brand I genuinely use & want to forge a relationship with, charity campaigns and mum-led/start-up businesses.
All of my social media accounts are under @susiejverrill and I use the hashtag #mymiloandme (although with the re-brand I’ve got lined up, that’ll be changing, Rex was getting pissy with the lack of involvement) It’s important to keep a theme running throughout your online footprint otherwise people won’t know where to find you. When you start blogging, particularly if you’re looking to make it your profession, you become a brand. There needs to be a thread running through each and every social account, leading to your website. Think of it as beads on a necklace.
I get ‘how you know what to write?’ and ‘I want to start a blog but I’m not sure what to write about’ all the time. If this is you, don’t do it. Hold on until it comes naturally. Nothing you’re writing should be forced, you should’t be doing it for the sake of it and you have to love what you’re doing otherwise you’ll just abandon it months down the line.
Watch Your Tongue
I’m all for being honest (I think you got that vibe already) and I don’t shy away from being a bit silly on social media. It’s an extension of my personality and it’s never meant in a harmful way, I’m just not afraid to be blunt about my post birth vagina or how much I’d love to lob Katie Hopkins in a skip. I don’t believe you should hide your personality just so you’re marketable however it’s important to check yourself and how you’re coming across. Too often, I see new bloggers slamming brands/products/swearing and it’s dangerous territory. If you’re quick to talk negatively about one thing, what’s to say you won’t do it to them? Brands are looking for honesty but positivity too and striking a balance is important. If I don’t like something I’ve been sent or thought a brand were doing something wrong I’d absolutely tackle it; however, I’d be very careful about how I said it & I’d stay well away from being rude or crass. Be someone people want to work with.
Make sure you’re easy to get hold of & pop your contact email in your bios on SM. Maybe change it for something profesh if you’re still all ‘email@example.com’
Know Your Brand
Know who you are and what you want your stuff to be about. I focus on being honest about my life as a mum, our lifestyle and products/brands which make life easier. I’m a bit ‘everything thrown in’. A bit of a one stop shop for bumbling through motherhood and how I get through it. But if you’re going to be selling yourself as a website geared around cooking or fashion or Veganism or travel then bear that in mind when you’re considering what to write about. Your audience will want to follow you based on what you’re putting out so if you start changing it, you might find you don’t get the best feedback. Find what works for you and be as consistent as possible.
And there you have it! Please feel free to email across any specific questions you might still have which I’ve haven’t covered, I’m always happy to help new bloggers because it’s so tricky at the beginning. Just remember you can totally do it; it just takes time, effort and a few setbacks thrown in for good measure. Don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like and never, ever worry you’re not measuring up against other bloggers out there. Your success is nothing to do with others, just do you.