I’ve been planning on writing this post for a few weeks and never get round to it because, ironically, I now have a fair few collaborative and sponsored posts that I feel I need to prioritise, meaning that some of my more off the cuff posts have been pushed to the back of the queue.
See, although I have been blogging now for over seven years, it wasn’t until the start of this year when I felt confident enough with how my blog was going, and where I was in my life, to be able to finally do something I have wanted to do for ages and write for a living.
I bit the bullet back in February, and registered as self employed and I haven’t looked back. Freelance work is a bit scary, in the sense that you never know how much you are going to make for sure from month to month, but it’s also totally rewarding to be able to work for yourself, doing something you love.
If you are considering taking blogging from hobby to a career, I have put together a few tips that have helped me to make the transition over the past few months.
Going Self Hosted
The first step I took towards taking my blog to the next level actually happened at the end of last year. I had already paid for a vanity URL when I set up my blog, but I had been hearing more and more about the benefits of going self hosted.
Self hosted in the blogging sense basically means that instead of WordPress or Blogger ultimately having control of your website, you are in control (usually through a third party hosting site). This means you have access to the backend of your website and you are able to change the theme, layout and code of your site as much or as little as you want.
Having the end goal of making my blog my main source of income imminently, I decided there was no time like the present, and took advantage of a Black Friday offer on Siteground. Using an affiliate link of another blogger and virtual assistant Zoe Corkhill, I also had all the technical backend stuff handled for me, and it was all very straight forward. Zoe also upgraded my theme, and I started the new year with a fresh new look for my blog, ready to take the next step.
Create a Filing System
One of the first things I did after registering as self employed was to head the the shops in search for supplies for my home office. I was especially interested in finding a way to file my receipts and keep track of my earnings and I came across a book in Wilkos which was exactly what I wanted.
It is divided into months, with space to add your incomings, the date received, and the amount. There is also a zip lock section at the back to store your receipts. I love using this book. I know a lot of people prefer to use fancy spreadsheets to record details like this, but I am pretty old school, and this helps me to see in black and white exactly what I have earned each month.
Put Aside Tax
I don’t pretend to know much about tax and accountancy (luckily I have an aunt who is an accountant, so I can ask her for advice when I need it), and I am almost positive that I am being over cautious by putting aside the full 20% of all my earnings in case I have to pay tax, but I would rather be safe than sorry, and if I don’t need to pay it back, I will be able to give myself a nice bonus at the end of the tax year.
I have always been fairly cautious when it comes to money, and in order to prevent myself from accidentally spending it, I have been transferring it from my account straight into my ISA each time I receive a payment. It’s become a habit now, and my maths has improved from calculating 20% of each payment I receive.
Save, Save, Save
As well as putting aside 20% for tax, I have also been trying to save as much of my earnings as possible. As I said previously, blogging (and freelancing in general) can be very hit and miss when it comes to payments, so I like to have some money put aside in case I need it during a slower month.
It is very tempting to splurge, especially during busy periods, when my bank account is looking nice and healthy, but I want to be able to afford things like our holiday to Disneyland Paris this December, so I am quite strict with myself.
Having said this, it’s nice to be able to treat myself and the kids from time to time, knowing that I earned the money doing something I absolutely love.
Pitch to Brands
One thing I realised fairly early on is that if you want to make an income from your blog, you are going to need to find the confidence to approach brands yourself, rather than just passively waiting for them to come to you.
That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen, but if I were to rely solely on this method, I wouldn’t be making anywhere near as much money as I am. There has been a few horror stories over social media lately about influencers getting shot down and publicly humiliated for reaching out to brands wanting to work with them, which has made some people more hesitant about sending that pitch email but, touch wood, I haven’t had any hugely negative experiences so far.
The main thing to remember is that you are discussing a business transaction, and your email should be to the point and professional initially (once I have been speaking to a contact for awhile things sometimes get a little more casual, but never go in like this). I tend to let them know what I blog about, why I would like to work with them, and what I can bring to them, and go from there.
I probably send out a few emails like this a week on average, as well as answering blogger requests on Twitter and in Facebook groups, and I would say that around 75% don’t respond to me, but I don’t tend to keep track or notice unless it’s a campaign I felt I would totally be right for, when it hurts a little.
The key is to develop a thick skin, keep dignified, and move on if a brand isn’t interested right now, as they might be in future and you don’t want to burn bridges.
Know your Worth & Stick to Your Guns
Having said this, I have realised over the last couple of months how important it is to know your worth, and to stick to your guns and have the strength to walk away from an opportunity if somebody is refusing to pay you what you feel you deserve.
It’s a fine line, as sometimes it feels like you are shooting yourself in the foot by turning down work, but ultimately you need to be happy with your decision. It is your blog, and you are in control of what you feature on it.
There have been times over the past few months where I have wondered if I should have just accepted the lower fee, but each time I have had another better collaboration just around the corner. I have now worked out a minimum amount of money I will accept, and although this varies depending on a number of factors, I am confident that what I am charging is fair.
One of the most helpful things has been having the chance to discuss fees openly with other bloggers. This has been invaluable whilst I have been starting out as a full time blogger, and I am really grateful for this group of girls, especially seeing as British people as a society tend to keep their earnings under wraps.
There is a downside to this openness, it is sometimes difficult not to feel a bit put out when you know that other bloggers are paid more than you for the same campaign. In this situation, it’s important to remember that a lot of factors are involved, from DA to social media following, to engagement rates. No two bloggers are ever exactly the same, and just as you may alter your rates slightly depending on the brand and work involved, they may have a different budget for different bloggers.
Have Another Income
As well as blogging, I also provide social media management for a client on a freelance basis. This is a more steady, regular income, which I know will be coming in each month at the moment. It’s nice to be able to have that extra level of income, and I would recommend it if you are starting out and nervous about making enough money to begin with.
One of the best ways to get your name out there and to find more work is to network amongst others in the industry. You don’t necessarily have to do this in person, although it’s always nice to socialise when you work from home and have limited human interaction on a day to day basis, but don’t be afraid to start up or join in conversations online.
One of the easiest ways to secure future work is to be involved with discussions and get yourself known. It can be nerve-wracking to begin with, but it’s so worth it. Get yourself onto LinkedIn, if you aren’t already, and add your blog, and all the skills that go alongside it (social media, running a website, photography) onto your profile.
I am nowhere near being an expert in this field, after all I have only been earning money from my blog for four months so far, but in those four months I have gained a huge amount of confidence in my writing. Although I have been blogging for a long time, it wasn’t until I took the leap into self employment that I felt I had made it.
That’s not to say that those who don’t earn from their blog are less than those who do, but for me it has made all the difference, and I am so excited to see what is in the future for me and this corner of the internet of mine.