I know a lot of people have questions surrounding blogging and digital media. How we bloggers sustain what we do, how we earn money from it. Is it a real, bonafide job that can support a family, or merely a pastime for those otherwise wealthy enough to afford to be able to do it?
These questions are legitimate. They are worthy of discussion. They are valid and respected (by me at least, but I know by so many others in this industry too.)
It is a misunderstood arena, and I just wanted to take a few minutes today to chat a little about it, and about how I ended up doing what I do too. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, and recent events have made it much more prevalent for me. As with most things in life, I deal best in words I think. In language and syntax and punctuation. It’s the reason I am where I am I believe, and why I started all of this in the first place.
Ten years ago I was a secondary school English teacher. It was a job that I loved for a lot of reasons, but one that didn’t come without its issues too. I worked primarily with SEN pupils, kids with all sorts of educational and behavioural concerns. It was an eye opener for me, my greatest and steepest learning curve. I valued greatly the friends I met through it, the children in my care. I worked hard at it, gave it my all, took too much away with me, became affected too deeply by it. I ended up ill, and very unhappy. Home life was impacted, and childcare costs for my little three (all under five at the time) were crippling.
And so I left. That decision was so much more complex and difficult than that one little sentence will tell. It was a decision that we didn’t make lightly. It was one that would have major, life rocking impacts in the years to come. But ultimately it’s one that I’ve never regretted. We all find our place, each of us makes it work. You ‘cut your cloth’, as my dad would say. We are totally in control of the life we are given. And sometimes you just have to choose happy.
In the Summer, a few years later, a friend introduced me to blogs. You’ll maybe not believe it now, but I barely even had Facebook back in the day. Social Media was something alien, something to be wary of, and while others were sharing their holiday snaps and catching up on what their best friends’, cousin’s hamster ate for breakfast, I was sheltering in my little haven of ignorant bliss. Little did I know the wealth of learning and shared experience and community that was there for the finding. How I wish I’d had it to avail of when we went through six weeks of Chicken Pox, when I couldn’t decide on a colour for our living room. When Eva just would not sleep, for months and months on end. How I wish I’d known you were there.
In January 2014 I tentatively started my own blog. It was a way of occupying my restless creative mind, and of sharing some of what we’d just been through in building our home. I was nervous, hesitant, scared what people would think, worried about appearing boastful or over confident. These are things that still occupy my thoughts today. Andrew tells me it’s what keeps me from getting too far above my station. I hope that’s true, because if there’s one thing we are, it’s real. Flawed and broken, and subject to insecurities and worries as much as anyone else. I think those who know us personally would tell you that too.
I wrote and shared and took pictures, participated and engaged and chatted for so very long before there was even a whisper of earning from what I do. It was a hobby – a lovely one, filled with so many positive aspects – but a hobby nonetheless. Then one day a brand contacted me to work with them. To produce content around one of their products. In the early days it was very much taken that you would receive product as compensation for your time. Think of it as being paid in kind, for a job that you are doing – much like a journalist would be, or someone working on copy for an advertising campaign. Writing words, taking pictures, receiving payment. Simple as that.
There is such a grievance these days over ‘blaggers’, freebie hunters and those who approach brands to try and negotiate gifted goods. It’s such a shame, because it negates the actual work that is being done. And this IS a job, let me make that very clear. I don’t pursue brands for work, I never have. They approach me. I also don’t accept product in exchange for what I do. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I chose to make this my business. I work hard at it, and I’ve learnt to value my skills (the ones I went through ten plus years of education to learn!) and my time.
I earn the equivalent of a part time salary, more than what I would be if I were teaching and paying for childcare. I’m able to be flexible around my children, I choose my hours and the projects I work on. I turn down much more than I accept. I only share what I am passionate about and what authentically fits with our ethos. I write here, I write elsewhere. I work to the highest level of integrity. I don’t con you, or use product placement. I always disclose if something has been sponsored or if it is an ad. I don’t use emotional blackmail to drive statistics, or to buy your follows. I don’t think so little of your intelligence that I’d even consider that that would be successful. I’m honest to a fault, and I probably share too much of my vulnerability. But guys, this is life. We do the best we can. We empathise and encourage and support where there is opportunity to. We are so much more alike than we are different. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Blogging is an elusive job. It’s one that skirts around the confines of the normal 9 to 5. It’s a difficult place to make your mark in, I’ll not dress it up. But, like any other career, it is open to anyone who wants to give it a go. It’s not a closed society, you are fully entitled and at liberty to join us. I’m always at the end of an email if you have any questions regarding it.
When I was teaching I used to get the comments a lot. People, envious of the long Summer break, used to refer to us as ‘part-timers’, or ask us why we were stressed when we had long holidays to look forward to. My answer to them used to be ‘Of course! You’re absolutely right. It’s brilliant, you should really come join us and enjoy all the perks yourself!’ I wonder, after a school year of teaching, if they’d have the same attitude The same opinions and offhand remarks to share. I wonder.
It just goes to show guys, you gotta’ do that mile in someone else’s shoes. Regardless of what we do, it has its ups and downs. We work, we juggle. We care for our families, we try to do our best by everyone we meet. We are affected by what we see, and read and hear, but not ruled by it. And we can’t control the perceptions of others.
I hope this has maybe answered some of your questions today. I’m more than happy to discuss it further if you’d like, and am always available through the channels on my ‘Contact’ page.
Normal service resumes tomorrow.