Sunday, 25 June 2017

What I Wish I'd Known As A Newbie Blogger

With my blog now a year and a half old, do I consider myself an experienced, well established blogger? Well, no, not at all. But in the same breath, I wouldn't call myself a newbie, either. Looking back at how "my little slice of the internet" has evolved, there's a number of things I can't help but wish I could go back and tell my "newbie blogger" self.

Check Who's E-Mailing You
When you get an e-mail from a brand or a PR company offering you an opportunity, it's easy to get so over excited you forget to think, especially if you're relatively new to blogging.  When you've been an observer of the blogging world - lovingly dubbed the "Blogosphere" -  for a while, seeing the sponsorships, event invitations and the amazing "freebies" others get, naturally you want in on it
Although the internet isn't the dark scary place I thought it was when I was 12, and is indeed a great place to bag yourself some incredible opportunities, you've still got to tread with caution. From first hand experience, I can tell you that: 1) there are scam artists posing as brands/PR companies that want to make a quick buck out of you, and, 2) even worse, there are genuine brands wanting to make a quick buck out of you. I'll get onto the latter later. 
As a blogger, no doubt your e-mail address is available in the public domain, which makes you especially vulnerable to having your contact details come into the wrong hands. Sadly, I'm not talking about spam e-mails.  Fake brands/PRs will contact you asking you to promote a product (real or not, I have no idea) with the promise of payment. I've already exposed one PR company (see the post here) that I was savvy enough to research. Someone will be making money off of the back of your hard work, and you will see no return. My advice? It only takes a few seconds to copy and paste the name and/or e-mail address of someone who's contacted you into google, and see what comes up. 

Don't Undersell Yourself 
For me personally, this blog was not born out of wanting money or wanting to make a career. If and when that happens, great; I'll be over the moon! But it's definitely not a priority.  Now, onto number 2 I mentioned earlier: brands will want you to work for free. What's even more cheeky, is that they'll offer you a starting discount that may possibly increase, the more money you make for them. In other words, they want you to pay them (cough cough, I won't say the exact name of the company just in case they try and sue me or something, but they're "boutique" of a woman's name). Even early on, I turned down offers like this, and trust me, there was plenty of them.

When facing opportunities where you're being asked to work for free, it's always important to remember not to underestimate what you have to offer. As a blogger, you have a platform that is valued. So, if you feel you deserve some payment for what you have to offer, make that clear. It's all about managing expectations. If you're going to deliver an outstanding blog post, high quality images and a high number of likes across social media, make sure that's known, and what you expect to get from that. Don't start the process of negotiating what it is you're going to deliver without making it clear you're expecting some form of monetary compensation.

Be Realistic 
In the "blogosphere", there's definitely a taboo about "working for free". But, like I've explained, for me, this isn't work. Blogging is something I love, and having brands I already love reach out to me and ask me to write about their products (albeit without payment) is still a huge compliment, in my opinion. So if you're new to blogging and you haven't grown your audience enough yet that you mention X product and it's going to sell out within 24 hours, I don't think it's fair to expect a significant amount in exchange for writing an article.  Therefore how valuable the opportunity is for you is also worth bearing in mind, especially if your blog is new.  Yes, it's cheeky when companies expect hard work in exchange for "exposure" (*insert eye roll here*) but it's also important to build relationships and experience. Take my work as a photographer, for example: do I expect to land a commission without showing what I can do? No, I had to build my portfolio from scratch.  Writing blog posts without any payment - whether that's at the request of a brand, or just because you wanted to - will build your body of work. Writing a handful of blog posts for respected brands for free in the early days will show your value later on, because X respected brand wants to work with you.
Plus, there's also the aspect of "freebies", although bloggers know they actually aren't free. Press samples are great, even though they're not really compensation for the work you put in. This takes me back to how I began this point: when a brand I already love wants me to write for them and offers to send me their latest products, am I about to turn that down because I won't get any money for it? No. Maybe you're confident that as soon as you write about X product sales of it will rocket and you deserve a cut of that, and that's fair enough. But I'm not in that position yet, and am happy enough to receive products I would have bought anyway, for free. And that's okay too.

When I'm approached with an opportunity where I will be writing without payment, I have a check list of things I ask myself before I agree:

  • Is this a brand/PR company I respect? (see the first category I discussed in this post!) 
  • Is this a brand/PR company I want to work with in the future, and build a relationship with? 
  • Is this a brand I'm happy to give my time to for free? (i.e is this a new company beginning to expand it's outreach, or is it a big company you know has plenty of money to compensate you?) 
  • Do I have the opportunity to try products/a service I would have happily paid for anyway? 
  • Am I excited about this opportunity? 

If all of the above are satisfied, to be honest, I couldn't care less if I get money or not. If not, then I will ask how I will be compensated for my time, effort and impact.  If you're unsure on what to do in situations like this, here's a screenshot of how I responded to an e-mail telling me about a campaign being run by a company I love: (it was unclear whether I was being asked to trial new products or just write a generic blog post)
It's Okay to Reach Out 
It's okay to be make the first move in terms of e-mailing a company. There's millions of bloggers, chances of X brand you're dreaming of working with coming across your work is pretty slim. But, like I said in the points above: you have a platform that has lots of value. The attitude I take is that the  worst thing that can happen is that they reply with no, and...so what?  If you're not sure how to go about reaching out to brands, here's my tips:
  • Search LinkedIn and social media for PR companies (in your country) and send them an email asking politely if, 1) they have a blogger database and can you be added to it. 2)  If any of their clients would be a good fit for you and your blog, 3) are there any opportunities for you to work with them or their clients. 
  • Private message a brand you want to work on social media, asking if there's an e-mail address you can contact regarding PR. 
  • Have a template e-mail ready, but make it so it can be personalised. Strike a balance between professional and informal; keep it chatty but polite. For example: 
"Hi there,

I'm  _____ and I am a [country] based [category] blogger. I'm reaching out today because I came across your company on _______.  I am very interested in featuring [product/range of products/client] on my blog. How would [you/your client] feel about sending me some press samples of _______ for purpose of review, if you think [you/your client] is a good fit for me and my blog. I would really love to collaborate!

Here's a little more information: 

My aim for blogging over on __________ is to __________.  I write about ________ to share with my audience across my social media, where I have ____ followers. I have accumulated over ____ all time views, and my blog reaches ___ visitors per month. My DA is _____. 

Please let me know if you'd like to know more!
I look forward to hearing from you,
Kind regards,
_____"
Bloggers Can Be Clique-y AF 
Behind the Boomerang hugs on Instagram and the smiley snapchats, trust me, bloggers can be clique-y. At least in my experience. It's not necessarily that there's a certain group/s that goes around being malicious, but there's definitely an air of "we are better than you". 
I've also noticed bloggers are quick to use their influence online to target individuals because they've done something they deem "wrong", essentially having people gang up on someone. I'll give you an example: I tweeted that cats only like humans for food. A blogger responded saying they found this offensive. Next thing I know, a group of their blogging friends are not only bombarding my mentions, they're accusing people I just happened to have tweeted on the same day of being somehow 'in on' an attack on their friend (the girl who found my cat tweet offensive). I know right, utter madness. I'm quite thick skinned (when I'm online, anyway) so I thought this was all funny, but I think if this had happened when I'd first started up my blog it would have put my off altogether. 
There are certain bloggers - smaller ones, I mean - that just won't follow back anyone outside of their "clique". I know that seems very petty, and it is, it is just social media after all. But when a vast majority of bloggers are all very supportive of one another and are keen to help other bloggers grow their platform, it makes the small minority that aren't come across as rude, arrogant and, well, clique-y.  In Instagram comment pods (which, if you don't know, are group chats where people share their latest Insta posts for other members to comment on) I personally create, I always make it an explicit rule that everyone within the pod should follow each other because Instagram is a particularly hard platform to grow these days, and just for basic courtesy and supportiveness. Despite this, I've come across a couple of bloggers in situations like this that just wouldn't follow anybody back. Even when everyone in the pod asked them too, they straight up said no (and even had the cheek to accuse us of "bullying" her!). You really want to look that popular you can't deal with an extra 10 added onto your "following" statistic - is it really that painful that you can't support fellow bloggers? Sigh. Ultimately, my advice is just to tread carefully and be wary of people who seem arrogant and practically competitive when it comes to their social media accounts/blogs. 

So that is what I'd say if I could go back a year and a half ago and meet my younger self. What would you do?

If you found this post helpful, I'd really appreciate you sharing it x 

You can also find me on Bloglovin' Twitter Facebook & Instagram   

These are all my own views, which stem from my own experiences. They are not intended to harm any individuals or companies.  
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15 comments

  1. Loved reading this post, thank you for sharing, I found it really helpful! Nikki x

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  2. Some great tips, especially about how to reach out to PR companies and avoid those dodgy ones! x

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  3. I'm a newbie blogger and I found this all so helpful! I've been sent quite a few emails from what seem like dodgy brands and i'm so glad i followed my instinct and ignored them now, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!
    Alice Xx
    blacktulipbeauty.wordpress.com

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  4. great advice, thank you so much girl :) i couldn't agree more about the clique aspect of blogging, there are some really cool bloggers out there but some are so up their own ass it makes me sad
    www.agnesehadebe.com

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  5. Thanks for sharing this and thank you for this short and simple template! I really needed one :D

    xo Honey - blog Royal Lifestyle - Twitter - Instagram

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  6. Thank you for sharing this! I only started my blog about a month ago, so this sure is helpful.
    Good luck for the future☺️
    Eleanor.
    http://the-simple-writer.blogspot.co.uk

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  7. I can relate to this, especially what you say regarding smaller bloggers trying to look popular by not following back, I mean if you share the same content/ interest what harm is there in following back. I try to keep my ratio pretty balanced, obvs if a randomer follows just to get the follow back I never follow them. At the same time I also follow newbies with a small following as feel it's important to be supportive rather than looking down my nose at others.
    Loved reading.
    Samantha ��

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  8. Hi love!! This was such an interesting and detailed read. Thanks for going through everything and sharing your advice with a newbie like me. I will definitely be referring to it in the future for advice!!! Shame about the cliques and you getting bullied for your cat tweet!!! (Seems a bit ridiculous that anyone got offended!) ����

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  9. Very interesting and helpful post.

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  10. Love this post Millie, and so glad you shared your email template! The one you sent me was so helpful in drafting up my own one :) Tania Michele xx

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  11. This is a great post and so important as many newbie bloggers get caught out with PRs and with underselling themselves x

    Kayleigh Zara 🌸 www.kayleighzaraa.com

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  12. This is so useful and important!

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  13. loved reading this, some really good tips. Thanks for sharing!

    Hayley // hayleyxmartin.com

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  14. Really enjoyed this post and also going to take some tips from the reach-out email. I have a template but it will be useful to use some of the info you've put in yours. Thanks!

    Josh
    http://www.lookdwn.com

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