I don’t remember the old world of blogging. The old world that everyone refers back to – the good ‘ol days when it was about just forming new friendships with likeminded people, writing reviews about pretty new pastel nail polishes and genuinely enjoying every moment that went into creating content.
I don’t remember it because I was never part of it. I was late to the party. I’m like that friend who decides to start reading the Harry Potter books now and then declares that she’s not only ‘definitely a Gryffindor’ but the world’s biggest HP fan. Like back off bitch, this is my territory.
I’m her. In the blogging world. Kind of.
Bloggers have become a kind of celebrity. A type of person that people look up to and admire and want to be because everything looks so glam and happy and nice and aesthetically pleasing. Everyone wants Zoella’s pay cheque and house, Tanya’s upcoming sure-to-be-fancy wedding, and all the holidays and photo shoots and clothes that come with running an online website and YouTube channel.
It’s aspirational, sure.
But blogging is more than that, blogging is business.
Blogging isn’t a hobby anymore. It’s not horse-riding or knitting hats for premature babies or a cheese and wine club, it’s a business.
At some point, just before I waded into the murky waters of the bloggersphere, things started to shift. Companies started to take note – they started to see where their incoming links were coming from, and it wasn’t from the glossy magazine’s website counterparts. Nuh uh.
And that’s when money came into it. As soon as people started noting that these random ‘girl next door’ types online were actually creating sales, they wanted in. Because paying a girl who’s creating content from her bedroom to advertise is a bazillion times cheaper than paying for a full-page advert in print, and, as recent research suggests, up to 4 times more likely to produce sales.
OK, so this post isn’t about the business side of blogging, or how to create a business, it’s about the effect that the shift in blogging as had on the community and the people in it. Because despite being one of the newer residents of team WE GET PAID TO WRITE THINGS ONLINE, I’m still a resident.
Blogging, aside from being a creative outlet and a place to share information, thoughts and ideas, is about making money. When you decide to go full-time you have to switch the way you think about your online baby, it’s no longer just about having fun and exploring content, it’s about making a living. Making enough to eat and pay rent and your phone bill and your credit card and the accidental 3am McDonalds orders.
And that, like most of life’s problems, is the one thing that sucks the joy out of it.
And therefore everyone is competition. Everyone.
Brands don’t have endless racks of money to advertise with everyone. They can’t take everyone away on their blogger trip. Nor invite everyone to their lavish prosecco-fuelled event. Or ask everyone to be part of their new exciting campaign.
So you have to be the best. You have to be better than everyone else. Because otherwise you miss out. And it’s not just missing out on attention and a few more Instagram followers, it’s missing out on money. The money that keeps that roof over your head.
Any freelancer will know that along with the chance to lie in when your hangover is just too damn in your face and the ability to take 90 minute lunch breaks if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, comes the fear of not knowing where your next pay day will come from or when it will come.
Blogging is the same. It fills your belly with waves of anxiety about whether you’ll actually be able to afford to pay off the rest of that holiday you put a deposit down for when things were looking a bit sunnier, financially. It’s not consistent, there’s no routine, there’s no financial planning ahead. It’s just trying to be wise and sensible when anything does come through.
The difficulty with the blogging industry compared to any other freelancer-based industry is that social media plays a huge, ginormous, suffocating role in what we do.
And that’s great, because hey social media is so funsies and cool and IMAGINE getting paid to Instagram something, just imagine. But, and this is a huge but, having to dedicate so much time to a social media presence means that you’re overly aware of what every other blogger is up to.
It’s hard not to drown in the feelings of jealousy and comparisson. To not wonder why you weren’t chosen for something, why you weren’t good enough to be invited. It’s hard not to pick out all of your faults and spend an extortionate amount of time questionning whether you’re really good enough for this industry.
At times I thought it was just me who questioned myself, who compared myself to every other blogger with their 6 figure Instagram followings and glossy photos and trips to Paris with beauty companies, and then slowly, out of nowhere, I started seeing the tweets creep onto my timeline.
The tweets from other bloggers. Successful bloggers. Bloggers who are way bigger than me. The tweets that were full of sad face emojis. The tweets that said they were feeling like crap. The tweets where they admitted that they too were comparing themselves and their blogs against the rest of the online community.
It wasn’t just me. It’s all of us.
Whilst non-bloggers look to bloggers’ lives with envy for the lifestyle, bloggers look at each other’s blogs for envy of content, photographs, writing and opportunities.
And because we’re technically each other’s competition, we look to each other’s blogs for inspiration and for motivation to better ourselves.
Would my photographs have upped their game a bazillion times over if it hadn’t been for all the hours I spent comparing myself to other blogger’s snaps? Nuh uh. It was that envy and comparisson that drove me to improve myself. To make my content and posts look cleaner and glossier.
And that’s the things, whereas blogs 5 years ago were produced by people with no access to cameras other than their phones and with basic HTML and social media skills, bloggers have now trained themselves to be these machines who can style, write, edit, photograph, Photoshop, film, promote, market and manage their content.
Bloggers are glossier and more immaculate than they’ve ever been – and there’s no denying that it’d be difficult and time-consuming for the average person to start up a blog now and get it up to those levels.
Because even if glossy isn’t your ‘angle’ (I never thought it was mine. BUT I LIKE WORDS. WORDS MATTER. NOT PHOTOS OR DESIGN OR LAYOUT), it’s advertisers’ angle. If they can have their product looking glossy and immaculate, why wouldn’t they?
As blogging progresses, and flipping heck is it progressing quickly, there’s more and more pressure to put out the best content you can. I’m lucky that I already kind of had my thing that no-one else was really tapping into – those damn lists.
But now I see other people attempting to replicate them, because hey, they’re the content of the moment, and there’s this part of me that wants to shout BACK THE FLIP UP, BACK UP, BACK AWAY, this is MY territory.
But, well, I’m not a spoilt brat without manners and I don’t *actually* own the right to all lists (I know, weird, right?) so I don’t. I remain quite. I go and make tea and remember that imitation is the gretest form of flattery or whatever.
Then I also remember that other people have inspired my content and images and tone of voice and then I realise we’re all doing it – all finding traits we like in each other’s blog posts and social media presences and replicating them in our own way.
I have no idea what will happen to blogging. It terrifies me a bit. I’m not sure if it can get any glossier. I’m not sure if there’s anything new that can be done. Maybe we’ve hit peak blog. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is a level we will stay at indefinitely, or maybe it’s downhill from here. I hope it’s not the latter.
But blogging has changed forever, or so I’ve heard from everyone else on Bloglovin, and we just gotta change the way we approach it to make sure our minds are happy, healthy little pieces of sunshine and rainbows.
I for one am limiting my time on social media (espeically you Insta, you joy-stealing devil) and taking the time to remember how far I’ve come, because bloody hell, if you can’t appreciate all your achievements and feel proud of everything you’ve learnt, what’s the point in any of it?