How I made blogging into a career

As more and more people in ‘real life’ have discovered that I write a blog, and worked out that it’s become a job for me, I’ve had more and more questions about what it is I actually do when it comes to this, and HOW I actually earn any money from it. 

Surely writing a family lifestyle blog is just a load of self-indulgent waffle? 

Well, my friends, it can be just that for some bloggers, and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to be paid to write about exactly what I want, including my thoughts/family/home so in that respect it is VERY self-indulgent. 

But (and here’s the big ‘but’) it’s become much, much more than that. Blogging now gives me half of my income (alongside my part time digital marketing day job) and I’ve worked with some big brands and been able to give my family some fantastic experiences too. 

But (here comes another ‘but’), I’ve worked bloody hard for it behind the scenes. If you’re a fellow blogger who earns from writing and working with brands, what I’ve written below might seem familar to you. If you’re not a blogger, but have wondered how you can earn money from it and make it a flexible career (especially when juggling a family), then read on…

So how did it all begin?

I started a couple of other (thankfully, now redundant!) blogs back in 2012, as a result of discovering and reading various US family blogs. Being a nosy sort, I love to read about other people’s lives, especially ones who live in different countries. I thought what a great idea it was to record family life online, and be creative with it in the process. I had bought my first DSLR camera when I was pregnant with Freddie, and thought it would be a good way to hone my photography skills with a purpose. Having studied for a degree in Broadcast Journalism, I’ve always loved writing and connecting with others too. At the time I was a stay-at-home-mum to a baby and toddler, and whilst I was so happy to have the luxury of staying at home with them, after a while I missed doing something for ‘me’ and decided to start my own blog to be creative. After a couple of duff attempts at setting up a half-decent one, and anxious about ‘oversharing’, I decided to start The Spirited Puddle Jumper (hence my blog’s whimsical name that still stands today) and write mainly about crafts and activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Many of which can still be found HERE and are still some of my most popular drivers of web traffic from my Pinterest page! After a while I discovered a whole UK parent blogging community, and began chatting online and commenting on other blogs on an evening, joining in with many ‘linkies’ and blog photo and writing projects.

Me, have a geeky hobby? I didn’t know myself anymore!

On my blog I included my contact email address, mainly for other bloggers who might want to get in touch, but after a while I started to get small brands contact me to collaborate.

So what happened next?

I’ll never forget the first time a small brand wanted me to review something (it was this gorgeous wooden chopping board that Freddie still loves and uses!). They dropped me an email and asked us if we’d like to review it, in exchange for photos of the product being used and our honest opinion of it. I was absolutely over the bloody moon! A business? Wanting little old me to review something? Amazing! And I still get that feeling now when someone contacts me, big or small, and I never, ever take it for granted. 4 years on, it still gives me a real buzz. Since then, the scale of items I’ve been asked to review has gone up and I’ve had some great opportunities, such as holidays and sofas, but the principle has stayed the same.

So how do you get all this free stuff?

Let’s get one thing straight: IT’S NOT FREE!!! Never, ever free my friends, bloggers have to work hard for these goodies. And the bigger the product/item/holiday, the more work you usually have to do. This can involve 1 or more detailed blog posts, social sharing, maybe hosting a giveaway, hosting twitter chats, maybe a video…whatever is agreed with the brand at the time in return for said item and/or payment. And let’s face it, if you blog just to purely get ‘things’ then it’s probably not going to work out for you. You have to have (and maintain) a passion for writing and photo taking that goes beyond reviewing things, and you have to work bloody hard to maintain a social presence and write vaguely interesting and entertaining content, alongside all the lovely self-indulgent posts about your family. All whilst getting heard in an ever-increasing sea of blogger noise. 

Okay, so forget the not-so-free-stuff, how do you earn money?

There are various ways that I earn money from my blog, and here are the main ones…

  • Sponsored Posts
    • These are essentially an advertorial on the blog with a link back to a brand or company’s website. A brand will pay me to write an interesting post that is relevant to my readers, and will include a link to website or page that they want publicised. I only take this on if I think the brand or product would be of interest to people reading my blog, and try and be as creative as possible with these posts so they remain interesting- keeps the brain ticking over! I ALWAYS state if I’m being paid for one of these posts by using ‘in collaboration’ or ‘sponsored post’ at the bottom, so as not to mislead readers. I also have an unwritten rule when it comes to these sorts of posts, and don’t accept money for, or write about, loan companies, gambling sites or sexual drugs like viagra (believe me, I’ve been asked!) to name a few. 
  • Guest Posts
    • Lately I’ve been accepting a few paid ‘guest posts’ written by brands themselves, who then pay me to place them on my blog. I don’t usually do this, but what with a new baby and the summer holidays, my time to write and earn has been more limited, so I’ve selected ones that I feel would be of interest to my readers. Again, I always state that these posts are in collaboration. 
  • Social Sharing
    • Sometimes a brand will contact me and pay me to take a picture of something that they want advertising, and then place it on my social channels. Whilst I’m relatively small-fry when it comes to Instagram, some people earn BIG when it comes to advertising on here.
  • Long term Campaigns/Large one-off Campaigns
    • This past year or so, brands and companies have realised the value and influence of bloggers and vloggers, and many have increased their budgets accordingly, meaning there is more money to be earned from longer-term collaborations, or larger one-off campaigns. Since the start of the year I’ve started working with 3 brands on year-long contracts, and my earnings vary depending on how many blogs, vlogs and social shares they want from me. I usually get paid 50% on signing, and then I can expect my other 50% of earnings when the year is up and the brand is happy with my work for them. 

How do brands decide who to work with?

With my digital marketeer’s head on, brands often work with bloggers who have a decent social presence (although it’s not all about numbers) and something to say for themselves (without mouthing off about other companies and why they’re crap- I’ve unbelievably seen this several times from bloggers who are touting for work in the same breath). A good DA (domain authority) is appealing although not the be-all-and-end-all, possibly a certain number of blog visitors/page views each month (although I have to say that I’ve rarely been asked for mine), a great attitude and being polite on the initial email contact will also get you far. Superficially, brands also tend to favour blogs that look ‘clean’, fairly stylish and are easy to read. And of course, different brands are also looking for totally different things when it comes to a blogger or blogging family. For example, I was one of 4 bloggers who got to sign with Little Tikes for a year earlier this year, as I happened to be 4 months pregnant when they were looking for blogging mums-to-be who were at that stage of pregnancy. 

I also regularly pitch to brands for work, or if there’s something specific I’d like to review. I try to offer them something worth their while in terms of a creative blog post idea or social campaign, and the more specific I am with my idea, the more success I seem to have! I pitched to The Great Little Trading Co a couple of years ago for the children to review their lovely play shop and theatre, as our cardboard one had broken after only a short amount of use. They liked my ideas, and subsequently went on to create a ‘Testing Team’ of bloggers, including our family, that is still going strong today. 

How many hours do you work a week?

This past year when both Freddie and Sasha have been in school 5 days a week, I probably worked 3 of those school-hour days, so 15 hours during the day, plus 3 evenings a week or a short stint on a weekend. So about 27ish hours per week on the blog, along with 14 hours a week doing my digital marketing day job. So I work pretty much full time hours, but fitted in around the children and other family commitments. What IS great though is it doesn’t often feel like work, and I enjoy it so much that it’s usually not a chore. Now we have a new baby, I suspect I’m going to have to work more evenings as my daytime hours are reduced, and definitely work harder and smarter! And no more faffing on Pinterest.

Can I start a blog?

Of course! Literally anyone can start a blog, about anything, and the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re writing about. As I said before, if you’re doing it purely to earn money it probably won’t be very enjoyable and you’ll lose motivation. Blogging has changed a lot even if the past five years that I’ve been doing it. Whilst there is more money up for grabs overall, there are a lot more bloggers, and it’s very competitive. The very nature of blogging is that it’s self-motivated, so lots of people are very driven to make money. However, I’ve found the blogging community to be mostly a very supportive place, and many people still blog purely for fun or about random topics which can be a breathe of fresh air! 

How do you feel about your children being online?

This is always a contentious issue, and opinions on this vary wildly. I’m comfortable with where we’re at with regards to their online presence and digital footprint, but I’m careful never to show what school they attend or exactly where we live, and I never write anything about them that they might find embarrassing at a later date. In fact, the older they’ve got the less I find I write about them personally anyway, and they tend to feature much more in just reviews or our family trips out and maybe the one monthly ‘siblings’ photo. I like to think that they would like to read what their old mum thought about bringing them up (or maybe not!), and we’ll have some lovely memories to read about and look back on in the future. 

So that’s it, that’s how I’ve made blogging part of my career. Not every blogger who earns will have had the same kind of journey as me, and there are also some other ways to make money blogging (affiliate links, side bar ads etc), but this is what’s worked for me, and how I’ve got to this point. 

I guess my words of wisdom for anyone wanting to make money out of blogging would be: Dive in, get social, find your voice. Work hard, be polite, don’t be grabby, and think outside the box.

And most importantly, ENJOY! 

Life is too short to do something you don’t want to do!

 

One thought on “How I made blogging into a career”

  1. YES! This is fab and so interesting and spot on! I am the same – started off reviewing some kitchen accessories and now it’s grown so much! I love blogging and especially from knowing lovely people like you 🙂 Jess xx

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