5.4.17

Nine Pieces Of Blogging Advice For Those Just Starting Out (Or Wanting To Up Their Game)

With a billion blogs now out there on the t'internet, and the number ever increasing, a whole new industry has been birthed. Although it may have crept up on us over the last decade, the bloggersphere has definitely evolved into something more interesting (and commercial) in the last couple of years - with more and more young women wishing to become the next superstar vlogger or following their dreams by shooting their favourite lipstick. Although I would always encourage those seeking to channel their creative side into giving blogging a go (I'm a firm believer that everyone has a blog in them,) there are some realities that are worth exploring and understanding before you jump right in. Blogging, vlogging, instagramming, snapchatting and tweeting is all good fun, but it's always a good idea to walk in with your eyes open and your expectations manageable. After many a conversation over the last couple of weeks I thought it a good idea to collate my responses in one place - for all of you just starting out, thinking about starting out, or simply floundering with no real clue about what to do next.


HIDDEN COSTS
Running a blog isn't expensive; you just need a computer and the time to spend curating your own little online world. However, as you grow and the quality of your content increases there will be hidden costs that creep up along the way. Everything from buying your own domain and keeping it active, a subscription for database hosting or updating to the latest version of Microsoft, to having to invest in a great camera, alongside lighting, props, travel and refreshments for when you're out and about having meetings, comes at a cost. If you're lucky enough to become successful enough, there's also the added fees associated with a photographer and an accountant - and neither come cheap. It's always worth monitoring your expenditure and being aware of how much you're willing to invest, but it's also vitally important to understand you don't have to do it all at once; most of your favourite bloggers have been doing it for years, and I can guarantee you they didn't start out all shiny and perfect.

COMPLETING YOUR TAX RETURN 
As soon as you start making money from your blog you absolutely must keep a track of it. I have a mega spreadsheet with all my incomings and outgoings, which I use at the end of the tax year to complete my tax return. This is a legal requirement and is vital for anyone making money from their online presence - even if your costs (laptop, camera, travel, domain name) outweigh what's landing in your bank account. This can be done between April and the following January, as accounts close on March 31st of each year; the balance needs to be paid on any outstanding tax by the end of that January, alongside an advanced estimated payment of the year to come. I would always recommend that anyone who is self employed or has a business on the side to keep a minimum of 20% of everything they make in a savings account for this very reason; completing a tax return is non-negotiable.

WHO TO TRUST
One of the things I've learned the hard way is who to trust within the blogging world; not everyone has the same motives and it's hard to see through the b*llshit unless you come out the other side. I would always suggest being cautious when it comes to forming friendships, understanding that (to start with at least) fellow bloggers are more colleagues than friends. Don't tell everyone your complete life story or share everything with them until you're confident they can be trusted, and they genuinely want to support you as much as you want to support them. After seven years I now have an incredible community of bloggers I can rely on and now call friends, but I've been burnt more often than I'd care to count in the past.

KNOWING YOUR WORTH
There's no doubt that consumers now trust a blogger far more than a traditional form of media; our ability to relate to readers and tell it how it is (without juggling the expectations of advertisers or editors) is what makes the movement so powerful. Brands are falling over themselves to work with bloggers, but before you say yes to an 'opportunity' make sure it benefits both sides; being sent a £5.99 mascara or £19.99 pair of shoes may sound like the dream, but does that always equate to spending hours curating a blog post in return? Don't be afraid of saying no, negotiating or asking for payment when it really is justified - but also, don't be a twat. People talk.

PRESS SAMPLES
First of all, a sample is not a right it's a privilege. Just because you've launched your own site it doesn't automatically mean you're entitled to receive every new collection going; brands have to justify even sending a body lotion out to a blogger, because that has value and they're expected to provide a return on the investment. When you're starting out it's important to only accept what you're truly interested in, rather than getting carried away with all the free stuff on offer - that transaction involves work, so make sure you're willing to put the time in. However, if you've been sent a sample it's for consideration purposes only (unless you've agreed to guaranteed coverage) and doesn't automatically generate a positive feature for the brand in question. Write only about what you want to and never be afraid of sharing your true thoughts: if you can be bought with a bottle of nail polish there really is no hope. 

ATTENDING LAUNCH EVENTS
One of the highlights of getting recognition is when those event invitations start rolling in. Standing in a room full of makeup with champagne and cupcakes on tap may feel like you've made it, but these events are still classified as work and come with a set of conditions. You're expected to behave professionally, to take the time to find out more about what's on offer and not to get all grabby at the end when it comes to goodie bags. I've heard horrendous stories about bloggers stealing samples on display, trying to take additional bags so they can sell the contents online, getting so drunk they embarrass themselves and making no effort whatsoever to even cover the launch afterwards. Although there's no obligation to write up a glowing piece after the fact, it's vital to understand it's a work based event and not a jolly for you and all your mates. Don't get in a strop if you're not invited, and don't just rock up thinking you can blag it; brands have a carefully curated list of attendees for a reason, so be polite enough to ask if you can join them first.

GETTING TROLLED
Part and parcel of putting yourself out there on the internet is the proliferation of mentally unstable individuals who like to leave insulting, demeaning and down right unacceptable comments. It's not ok, but it is inevitable at some point - so be prepared for it and ensure you're able to respond effectively. Most of these individuals are attention grabbing or simply just nasty, and are out to get a reaction; learning to take a step back and produce a considered response comes with time, but it's worth it in the long term. You will need to develop a thick skin and allow negativity to roll off your back, but it's also important to take constructive criticism on board and learn from it.

PAYMENT TERMS
My most hated thing in the world is having to chase up unpaid invoices; sometimes they remain unpaid for months and even years, leaving an awkward conversation and more often than not the blogger out of pocket because there's little you can do. Payment terms on invoices are usually 30 days, meaning you expect to be paid for the work within a month of sending the invoice; however, the reality is these invoices are small fry in comparison to the big amounts a company pays in and out, and are therefore left lingering at the bottom of the priority list. Most of the time they're not processed until someone remembers, and then they enter into the brand's system for payment which may take anything up to three months to process. (If you're lucky.) Threatening brands publicly after a matter of weeks is unprofessional and is the quickest way to reduce your earning potential in the future - be patient, politely chase and celebrate when that dolla finally lands in your account. 

NOT ALL ADVICE IS GOOD ADVICE
Although there's a lot of incredible advice out there from those that really know what they're talking about, there's also a shedload of rubbish advice spouted from the mouths of those that really don't have a clue. My current bugbear is Facebook groups that seem to breed incorrect and inaccurate information, as well as leaving bloggers with warped expectations that filter down into the rest of the industry. Questioning advice you're being given from these groups, or asking for the insight of someone that's been working in the industry for a long time, will only give you a stronger position and ensure you're doing the right thing. Many of these Facebook communities scaremonger and breed incorrect information about working with brands, leaving some awesome new bloggers going in the completely wrong direction. No piece of advice is ever gospel, so don't treat it as such.

So there are my ten cents worth of advice for those of you wondering what to do next. If you've got any other questions about blogging, the digital space or generally getting your name out there, then don't hesitate to ask them in the comments below and I'll endeavor to help.


The lipsticks pictured are the new YSL Volupt√© Tint-In-Balm (£27.00) and are available in 12 shades.


 Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  

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20 comments

  1. Great post! Also I love the author profile photo of you!

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    1. Thank you! It was taken by Rankin last year - random but I love it.

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  2. On the tax return point, could I add something?

    If you're earning from your blog alongside paid employment, provided you file your return promptly (and aren't earning more than a certain amount, I can't remember it off the top of my head but it's in the thousands) you can register to pay any income tax due through PAYE. So a little bit will come off your salary each month, rather than landing you with a big bill at the end of the year.

    Lis / last year's girl x

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    1. That's a great tip - I didn't know that, so thanks for sharing!

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  3. This is a fab post. I love how you keep it real. It's true, there is so much info and advice out there about blogging that it's hard to know what to do, think and feel half the time. It's nice to be reminded that not all advice is good advice. Oh, and I can only imagine some of the shenanigans that go on at events! How horrendous to know that people actually steal things :(

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    1. It's more common than you think! Sometimes even the props go missing... People have no shame!

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  4. This is a great post. I consider myself a hobby blogger so any samples and events are just an added bonus really. Fortunately have never experienced Trolls either.
    I do feel it's important for new bloggers to realise that career blogging is not the easy route and has come from years of hard work and learning to adult like a pro.

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    1. 'Learning to adult like a pro' is just blooming brilliant! But you're right - pro/full time blogging is a skill and not a jolly.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. Really agree with the first one, there are a few hidden costs along the way, even for those just starting out. It's great to raise awareness!

    Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVE

    ~

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  6. Very good article. I am also a blogger and I find these tips very useful for me. Thanks for sharing and you have nice profile photo :)

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  7. Thank you for this Hayley! All these points are SO true and definitely something to take on board. I definitely feel like although press events feel like they could be a party, you are technically working, so need to behave professionally. I will be honest in saying I have had one too many glasses of prosecco and started pulling aaaall the moves. There are also a lot of hidden costs! I spend WAY more on kitchenware, flowers and general 'props' than I would without the blog. Immy x

    www.immymay.com

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  8. I love what you said in this post. 'Freebies' are a privilege, not a right. You're so damn right, love this post.

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  9. Thanks Hayley! This was a really refreshing and interesting read as you have covered different points to what is in similar advice posts. As a teeny tiny blogger myself I will pay attention to your comment about being careful of who to trust and not to believe EVERYthing I'm told. I am completely fascinated by this growing industry though and am really enjoying being a small part of it!
    Lucy x

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  10. Really love this post, thank you for the honest insight! Frankie x

    www.joieandthevivre.com

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  11. Great tips! It really is best to approach blogging like a business...you love. :)

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  12. This is a great read! I've read quite a few 'tips for new bloggers' but I feel like this one really hits home. Yes obviously you have to be creative and such, but there are so many other things to think of. If your ultimate goal is to be employed because of blogging... it's a great idea but there are so many other things to take into consideration.

    http://thedianaedition.com

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  13. Great post Hayley. I've been blogging for a few years now, but still consider myself fairly new to it all. So reading this post has been really helpful. I always feel like I can trust your advice and have learnt so much from your blog over the years, so thank you for that!

    Jenny xx

    www.jaffacat.co.uk

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  14. This is such a brilliant post! Not many people really talk about the Tax side of paid blogging, it must be so easy for someone to go into it blind and risk getting in trouble, I know if I were to get to that point, I would really struggle to know what I was doing. At the moment my blog is tiny as I was quite inconsistent for a while but I am happy plodding along not having to worry about that side, with my Masters year at uni starting soon, I don't think the worry over taxes would be worth it if I were at that point with my blog. The tax side is even putting me off starting my shoe painting buisiness because I have no idea. X

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  15. This is very interesting! I've just recently got back into blogging after a bit of "time off" and have re-evaluated my content so will keep these tips in mind for the future.

    I have definitely found myself questioning the correct etiquette when it comes to PR events/being contacted by brands. If you're invited, you don't necessarily owe them a blog post, do you? Although, if they offer you X amount worth of products at their event - should you then be writing about said products?! It's a tricky one that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.

    Ellie
    www.elliepats.com

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  16. Great - and honest - tips. Thank you!

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