I can’t believe that this is my first ever Q&A post here on the blog! I asked you guys on my twitter, facebook and instagram about a month ago to send me your blogging-related questions, and I would answer them honestly. Having blogged for almost five years now, I often get questions from new bloggers looking for advice on starting out and growing their audience. This series gives me a place where I can answer those questions easily, openly, and in one place.
Here is the first batch of questions I received:
How do you find sponsors (or do they find you ?)
Most sponsored collaborations happen through a brand finding a blogger themselves, usually through social media, through their blog itself, or through word-of-mouth. They will usually reach out to the blogger via email, and the rest happens from there. You can pitch to sponsors yourself, although this is usually more difficult, as brands are choosy about who they work with, and they will get many emails like this every day. If you put together a great pitch and show a genuine interest in, and knowledge of the brand however, they are more likely to work with you. A generic ” I have X amount of followers, can I have free stuff?” email will get you nowhere, fast.
What kind of camera do you use?
I recently started using the Olympus Pen E-PL7 to (with an additional 45mm lens) shoot my blog photos, and I am so happy with it! It’s the ultimate blogger’s camera, for an on-the-go gal like myself and I am obsessed with it. You can read my full review of it here. I also use a few apps and tools for my social media photography, which I did a separate blog post on recently.
What tips do you have for people starting out on an online business ? Increase sales, etc.
I don’t run an online business myself (bar my little Depop shop) so I can’t really offer you that much advice I’m afraid, but I would suggest checking out Marissa Carter, (who built Cocoa Brown into a hugely successful international brand.) She often shares tips and words of advice on her snapchat, too. Engaging with your customers and listening to what they want is key though, just like with blogging.
Can you please let me know how to turn your blog into your official employment, about receiving money and give receipts. Do you need to declare it as your own company?!
Turning your blog into your official employment takes a LONG time of building credibility and contacts. When it comes the accounting side of things, everyone is different. In terms of paying your taxes (which are inevitable, guys) you’ll can either operate as a sole trader or as a limited company. Each have their own positives and negatives, you have to do your research and choose which is right for you. You have to invoice your clients (ie brands), keep track of all payments received and sent, including receipts for equipment, travel, and other work-related expenses and pay your taxes yourself. An good accountant is extremely helpful, but not absolutely essential, if you are insistent on doing your own books. I’m only one year into my freelance journey, and I’m still learning all the right habits of keeping your own books, but I’m getting there. Your local revenue office has lots of info, and can answer any tax-related questions you might have. There are lots of resources available to individuals looking to work for themselves or start their own company, and most are inexpensive, some are free! Check out your local enterprise office for business and taxation courses, I did one recently and found it extremely beneficial.
I was hoping you could give some advice on sharing a blog to a wider audience?
Sharing a blog to a wider audience is all about moving outside your comfort zone. Maybe try a new social media platform (periscope, snapchat, vine) or a new type of content (video, podcast) or even just introduce a new series on your blog, such as fitness or food. By expanding your own boundaries and offering varied content, you will bring in new readers, and open your blog up to an audience that may have never clicked on your blog before.
Do you get bad days and how do you stay motivated?
Yes, I do of course. When I first went freelance, I was much quieter in those first few months. I think it’s because brands don’t immediately know that you’ve moved into full-time blogging, so they don’t know that you are available to work with them. You have to work extra hard in the beginning, and stay confident that you will find your feet. Before I left my job I saved enough to supplement my freelance income if needed. Motivation-wise, I think a positive attitude is ESSENTIAL in life, so If I’m having a off-day ,I remind myself to be thankful for what I have and how far I’ve come, and it always works. If I’m not busy with paid work on a particular day (ie no meetings, no photoshoots, no blog deadlines) then I’ll make sure to fill it with other important tasks: general admin-work (replying to emails) or social media content, both of which ultimately lead to more work. Regardless of my schedule being full or quiet, Im at my desk at 8:30 and I usually don’t stop working until 6/7pm, sometimes much later if needed. It’s just not a 9-5 job, and thats the reality of it. There’s always an email to send, or a post to prep. When you’re the only one in your team, there are SO many micro tasks to manage, it’s a to-do list that never ends. Since I started working for myself, not once have I ever felt idle on a particular day. Honestly, not once! The opposite is true. I now work 6 days a week to get every thing done (I produce and host a radio show on Saturdays) and you’ll always find me on my blog or social media on Sundays too, but I make myself take it a bit easier on a Sunday as it’s my only day off. I might seem crazy, but I truly love it. Thats my motivation. That dedication and those long hours have accumulated in me being busier than ever these past six months, working on projects I love with brands I adore. If you suffer badly with lack of motivation, then being self-employed might not work for you, I have to say it. When your blog is your job, YOU are the only one responsible for making it work. You have to be disciplined and work extremely hard. There’s a huge amount of hustle that goes on behind the scenes of a blog, and that’s what will keep you in work. Motivation is key to surviving.
But one thing is for sure, when you truly love what you do (blogging, painting, zookeeping,) it stops feeling like work. It becomes a lifestyle, and a passion that gets you out of bed in the morning and through those long hours. That’s how I feel, anyway.
If you were starting again [is there] anything you would do differently?
I don’t have any regrets, and I am proud of my own unique journey, but yes I would do so many things differently! If I started now, I would be much more focused about branding my blog, and really refining my content in relation to my audience from my very first posts. Blogging was a very different world five years ago and certainly not as popular as it is today. It took a long time for me to become truly happy with my blog, and a lot of trial and error to find my own personal style, and my own blogging voice. I always encourage people to experiment in the beginning, to find your own little niche.
What advice would you give to a new blogger like myself? Can you please point out a few do and don’t points?
Do treat your readers like friends, and don’t ever take them for granted.
Don’t expect success overnight. It takes time and consistent effort to get recognised. If you’ve started a blog solely for the event invites and the freebies, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Readers and PR’s can sense this, and with the amount of new blogs starting up each and every day, they are very wary of bloggers who just want free stuff.
Do focus on creating great content, and connecting with your readers, and success will eventually follow.
Do delegate time and energy to social media everyday, it is a great tool for growing your blog’s audience.
Don’t get bogged down by follower counts and hits. It’s not a numbers game, it’s about connecting with your readers and sharing your story.
Do connect with local blogger support groups like ITWBN who support new bloggers, by connecting with eachother and allowing them to share resources. Blogging can get lonely, and it’s important to have other people you can go to for help, advice, or even a kind word. The week before last, I attended one of their ‘Blogging for business’ events to give a talk on my blogs journey from hobby to career, it was such a beautiful and fun event, with a relaxed atmosphere, and lots of friendly faces. I really enjoyed meeting some readers from the West (I’m a Galway girl myself) who all had lovely things to say. If only a network like ITWBN was around when I was starting out, it would have been amazing for me.
Stay tuned for my next Q&A series coming soon, and in the meantime, if you have any questions for me, you can always mail me using my contact form here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.