Blogger advice Part 1: What it takes to be a full time influencer.

First off thank you for all of your DMs and questions when I announced I was writing this post. I clearly underestimated how many I was going to get so in an attempt to get to everyones questions, this will be a 2 part (or maybe 5 part post if the questions keep coming in).

For most of you that know me well, online and offline, you know starting this blog has been an incredible roller coaster which I started a decade ago. Back then there were only a handful of us and now it feels like you’re a minority if you don’t have a blog, youtube or at the very least Instagram where the goal is free product, being paid to do promotions with the dream of this being your full-time gig.

Like you, I follow a bunch of influencers on Instagram and I have read tons of inspirational captions over the years of how they started a year, two years… blah blah blah years ago and are now full-time and if they can do it so can you.

I think that’s terrible advice. And if you follow me on social, you know I’m all about positivity and encouragement so that says a lot. The exception of course being you’re already wealthy, or are a stay at home mom, dad, wife, husband… or student or any other type of “full-time blogger” that doesn’t actually require your social media or blog providing you with a living. If it’s just for a little extra income or free products, that’s a different conversation and strategy completely, but we’ll cover the basic cycle of blogging/posting on social.

  1. I have a voice or expertise in something
  2. I post about that for free, preferably with high quality engaging photos that attract an audience.
  3. Free product. Congratulations, brands are starting to notice you or you’re starting to feel confident to reach out to brands for discounts and free products.
  4. You’re starting to monetize. This could be because brands are reaching out, you’re pitching brands or you’re joining influencer networks looking for gigs.
  5. You’re following is solid and you’ve gone from charging pennies to real dollar bilz.

My quick advice for anyone between stage 4 and stage 5 thinking about quitting their full-time job is this.

  1. Figure out a budget. For me when I started, I would have loved to make $8k/month but realistically knew I could survive on $5k/month to make rent, insurance, basic expenses, and live my like (keep in mind this was about 5 years ago when I was already blogging for 5 years, which I barely monetizing. This was before instagram existed and there weren’t the same opportunities as there are now.
  2. Save 4-6 months income. Just in case it doesn’t work out you should have a savings that gives you enough time to find another job.
  3. Have a part-time anything. Unless you’re making bank off your blog by the time you decide to switch, so much so you’re not even reading this blog post because you’re rolling in in (in which case quitting your job — unless you love it is a no brainer). Otherwise, I don’t care if you work retail, bartend or consult you should have some other form of reliable income while you see if you can make it work. Any good blogger does not say yes to everything, and you don’t want to have to be in a position that makes you feel like you do or you won’t make rent.
  4. Re-evaluate every 6 months. At the end of every quarter, really 3-6 months you should look at your finances and see how you’re doing in and checking in if you’re happy. Most of the most alive aspiring bloggers I know burn out within the first 6 months. And actually hate it. I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve had coffee with all bright eyed and bushy tailed expecting to make it only to get totally deflated or miss the stability of a full time job..

The exceptional ones are the exception. So the next big question, are you exceptional? Are you unique?

The blogs/social media handles that are the most specific to the best. Ie fashionable plus size, fashionable petite only sizes, preppy only style, rocker/alternative only style, Carrie Bradshaw over the top fashionable, bargain — all my outfit posts are under $50, $75, $100 (pick an increment). I say this as someone who completely mixes, it’s not the best strategy until you establish your following and brands and everyone knows you that jumping around is acceptable. The days of starting a blog and saying you’re fashion, beauty, travel, fitness, lifestyle makes your job much harder unless there’s some type of thread that holds it together. In my case, my thread is me, but I’ve been doing this for 10 years so I get that luxury. I did 5 years of just beauty before branching out. Other categories of content started reaching out to me and that content did well on my site so I evolved. My blog would be a total fail if I started now versus 10 years ago and not because my content isn’t awesome but because the space is saturated. My saving grace is my circulation, contacts and I get insider content that is offered to a limited amount of people which helps keep my content unique and numbers up.

The hard truth. If you and I write the same blog post, in fact mine can suck and yours can be amazing, chances are no ones reading yours and everyone is reading mine. It’s unfair but I have 10 years of SEO, brands linking into me, exceptional press so google is my friend. The internet told google I was important because Vanity Fair wrote about me and The New York Times quoted me and Glamour lets me judge their beauty awards (and the other gazillion press hits I’ve accumulated over the past 10 years told the internet to pay attention when I post.  Unless you’re an SEO wiz, just starting out or having a blog for 1-2 years is going to be a tough world to come into if you’re now competing with every other site that’s older than you. That not exactly how it works but for the sake of argument it basically is. There will always be exceptions to the rule

Writing and posting great pictures is only one half to a quarter of the battle. You also now need to know how to promote yourself and your content which feels like another full-time job.

I mean none of this to sound arrogant. I took an SEO lesson at some point because Lucky Magazine told us at their first conference it was all about the first 10,000 followers. I was at 25,000 hits a month at the time — keep in mind Lucky isn’t around anymore — and this advice came in 2012, the same month Express wanted to do a massive partnership with me. We were nearly signed when they asked me my circulation. I confidently said 25k, and they backed out. I was so upset.

Now I take nothing personally. A lot of big bloggers on instagram still don’t get 25k hits/month on their site. When I hit 100k on my blog I thought I made it. It’s a funny thing about timing, at this stage of blogging no one really asks. Either the focus is on instagram or brands just assume I do well because in the 600+ emails I get a day maybe one will ask my circulation before entering in a partnership.

None of this is meant to be discouraging and in my next post I promise to be more optimistic and offer more tactical advice. At the moment though too many of you feel defined by your social media following and it’s causing a lot of self esteem issues that should not define you.

If you google how to be a full-time influncer/blogger and there are seemingly insightful articles, even courses promising you massive success. And maybe there’s some validity to them but here’s the kicker *maybe you should sit down*:

  1. It’s probably never going to be easy.
  2. It could potentially be total to partial waste of time.
  3. The competition grows every hour, minute, day, second you if you’re hoping to get a year contract with American Express, have your photo regularly in major magazines, appear on TV for being an influencer, you better be one in a thousand, or probably closer to million if I’m being honest.

Incidentally, I’ve had all of those amazing things happen for me and I still regularly feel like a total loser, so don’t sweat it! Also prioritize your real life, one day this social media bubble may burst so don’t sacrifice your social life or real life joy. There’s nothing more depressing then those Marie Claire articles about how I had a million friend online but none in person. DON’T LET THAT BE YOU! (Unless that’s fun for you, in which case, follow the happy path).

Here’s my disclaimer to all of the above, there are exceptions to every rule and brilliantly creative people breaking out all the time. If you’re one of those people, you will make it far, but you need a strong level of commitment and understanding that while this is a fun lifestyle, it’s also a taxing one. My advice shouldn’t phase you. But if you do decide it’s not the path for you or slow down, do not beat yourself up. You’re not in the minority.

Now I didn’t get to 90% of your questions so I’ll work on part 2 to this post tomorrow. You’re welcome to leave comments or DM me @prettyconnected on instagram if you want to keep the questions private.