"So what do you do then?" "I look after three small children and write a blog."
"Yeah, but what do you do for work?" "I write a blog, while looking after the three children and everything else. That's my work."
"What, so people give you free stuff?" "Well no, not really. Sometimes I receive items in exchange for promotion or review, sometimes I'm paid."
"Why?" "Because blogging is a form of online marketing which is very valuable to companies."
"I still don't really get what you do. It's good that you get free stuff though, isn't it?"
[as desk not available, head hits wall]
So, for that person and anyone else, here's some myth-busting:
- I, like most, bloggers work damn hard on my little corner of t'Internet, usually at some ungodly hour when the children, and most other people, are in bed. Log on to Twitter or Facebook at 2am and you'll find any number of us still slogging away, or at 5am for the early birds. Being more night owl than lark, I'm more likely to be the 2am than the 5!
- Bloggers aren't all naturally technofans, myself included, so we have given ourselves a crash course in code, SEO, social media and the often counter-intuitive workings of this strange online world. Many of us don't have any training as writers or journalists, but most of us do our damnedest to write coherently, grammatically, and to make what we have to say interesting. Otherwise readers are going to be few and far between!
- Speaking of readers (hello!), most of us bloggers live in a continual state of shock that anyone other than our friends or family read our blogs, so when we witness figures that show such and such recent post reached thousands of people, we tend to be aghast and humbled in equal measure.
- We have the luxury of writing about what we like when we like, unlike salaried journalists, but with that freedom comes a lack of salary. Therefore we are effectively freelance writers/journalists, and many of us choose to accept paid work when offered. This might come directly from a company or through a digital agency, but if we are promoting somebody or something we charge for it in some way or another.
- Online marketing is the new advertising. Companies spend hundreds and thousands of pounds on TV and magazine adverts which may or may not reach their target audience, but with an engaged blog audience of mums or gadget geeks or One Direction fans (there must be 1D fan blogs out there), the same company can be sure of more precise targetting and potential sales for their new pram/Smartphone/1D candle/whatever.
- Which brings me on to the 'free' stuff. If a company sends me, for example, some new clothes for my daughter, they will receive several social media mentions; lots of photographs of detail and general shots of the clothes being worn; a blog post mentioning your company, describing the clothes, and linking through to where they can be bought; further social media mentions and permanent hosting of the content on my site. This will reach approximately 30-40,000 people, all in their target demographic. This targeted marketing will cost them the cost price of the items sent plus postage. It will cost me several hours in photographing, social media work, and writing. Believe me when I say I don't get 'free' stuff.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning. At all. I love what I do, especially as I get to stay at home with my children to do it, which was how I fell into this line in the first place. I know it's all new and people don't necessarily 'get it' if they're not bloggers themselves, but the complete misunderstanding does get a little wearing sometimes. Even more so when it comes from companies who try the "well you are getting it for free" line, or think I will share their press release with my hard-won audience for nothing. This is my job, I get paid for it, sometimes in cake, sometimes in 'free' (ha ha ha) stuff, sometimes in cold hard cash. But get paid for the long hours I put in I do; I presume no-one else out there works for nada?