I get asked a lot how I became a ‘professional blogger’. It’s a question often met by my bemused face as I explain that I’m not a professional blogger by any means, and that I don’t really make much money from my blog. This is usually followed with another question – ‘but why not?’
It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, so I thought I’d write a post – not on how to become a professional blogger or how to make money from your blog, but why I don’t.
I think the misconception about professional bloggers and why – to an outsider – I could conceivably be one, comes from a few things. I’m self-employed, for a start. It’s amazing how attractive your job seems when you work from home or in a studio, keep your own hours and have random Wednesday afternoons off. But actually, my job is pretty regular in that I’m usually at my desk from 9-5 (well, more like 10-6) using Microsoft Office and cursing my inbox like everyone else.
I also have a decent-ish social media following – far, far less than actual professional bloggers, but probably more than the average person. So there’s that.
And obviously, there’s the blog itself. Much-improved photography, freebies from brands, regular press trips – all these things give the appearance of a blog that’s raking it in and a blogger who’s making money from generally just existing.
So for all intents and purposes, I could be a professional blogger… couldn’t I? I have the platform, I’m not tied to an office job, I have good relationships with big brands – isn’t everything already in place for me to make proper money from this thing?
Quite simply – no. The main reason I’m not a professional blogger is because my blog is not popular enough. To earn enough money from ads and affiliate links, you need serious numbers. And to command big payments from brand collaborations, you need serious numbers AND a highly engaged community across multiple platforms. J for Jen (and its previous form, A Little Bird Told Me) does pretty well and I’m pleased with my stats – this is no pity party. But it’s important to understand that to make it big as a blogger, the numbers are key.
A few years ago when I had just quit my job to go freelance, my blog stats were much higher. I was blogging 5 times a week and really investing in my content, which paid off in more clicks. I had sidebar ads, was part of a blogging network and got paid blogging work from brands on a regular basis. If I’d kept this up – pushing harder to boost my stats, blogging more, promoting more, investing more – I probably could’ve made it as a ~professional blogger~. But I didn’t. And that leads me to the second reason I’m not one…
I started my blog because I like to write. And if I’m honest, I like to write about myself. I’ve always loved documenting my life, as self-indulgent as it is. Blogging is just an upgrade on my teenage diary – a place to blather on uninterrupted about what I’m wearing, where I’ve been and what I’m up to. It’s an outlet from the humdrum of daily life, and a place to present things with a little more sparkle than they have in reality.
Those few years ago when I started to make a move into professional blogging, I realised I didn’t want to change the purpose of my blogging. I didn’t want to take a whacking great camera to meals out, or force my husband to photograph every outfit I wore, or feel guilty for taking time off and going quiet.
I didn’t want to monetise my life.
I think making a successful career from the documentation of your own experiences is a fantastic achievement. It’s not quite as simple as ‘selling your life’, but getting paid for being ‘you’ is not at all easy, and anyone who can achieve it without losing their sense of self is doing things right.
I do wonder what will happen when blogging loses some of its shine though, as these things eventually do (remember Open Diary? MySpace? Live Journal?). I think about this in terms of my own job – when we’re no longer that bothered about Twitter, will I go back to more traditional copywriting? Write a book? Become a lecturer in Outdated Forms of Online Communication? I think I probably have enough experience in marketing to adapt as I get older, because we all know social media is a young person’s game. But that’s another thing that gives me pause when it comes to blogging as a profession.
Blogging is an industry created by its people – as bloggers, we’ve shaped this world for ourselves and those who can create careers from it are the success stories. But I think it’s important to understand how blogging works for the majority of people who have a blog – as a hobby, a sometimes-lucrative-but-not-enough-to-live-off side project, or a way to improve skills and launch careers in related industries, like fashion, photography or food.
For me, blogging keeps my writing sharp, helps me build my photography portfolio and means my wardrobe is always updated. I’ll save the money making for my 9-5 (well, 10-6).