I love what I do. I could hardly love it more – unless, perhaps, I was at the pinnacle of my game and landing all the top campaigns in the industry! It may not be becoming to admit to that, but it’s the truth – I’m ambitious. Is blogging hard though? Naturally, getting to that point takes a lot of dedication and persistence and as such, I don’t resent those who are already there and smashing it – they’ve earned those top spots and then some.
However, because of the changes to social media over the years, I’m fully aware that had I started my accounts a couple of years sooner, it would have been far easier to grow them.
That’s not bitterness speaking, it’s the reality of social media platforms now…
*If you’re not a blogger, you may want to skip this one! Why not check out my previous post about the science of humour instead?*
Is Blogging Hard?
It’s getting harder and harder year on year as organic reach diminishes thanks to algorithms: Facebook and the like have wised up to the power they wield and inevitably hold us to ransom. I don’t begrudge my peers their impressive looking social accounts, I’m happy for them. I’m also envious when I work tirelessly just to stand still.
Because those numbers I don’t have and keep fighting and failing to achieve, often equate to work lost out to bigger influencers. This is my business so I keep plugging away, yet sometimes it feels impossible.
It doesn’t feel like a level playing field – especially when you factor in shady tactics employed by some in the industry (I may not be so gracious in those circumstances!). But I won’t dwell on that; we just have to keep our heads down and trust that our labours of love are reflected in the quality of our work – and that that’s enough.
What Hard Work Looks Like
Any blogger who blogs professionally, ie. it’s also their job, necessarily takes blogging seriously. But what does that look like?
Well, for most people in a career they care about, that will probably look like long hours. Check. It will probably look like putting in extra time, but actually kind of enjoying it. Check. It will look like slogging your guts out (check), with countless hours spent working late into the night (check), and relentless effort which too often takes you away from your family – check.
And naturally, the pay off will be totally worth it all!
See, this is where the influencer industry differs to most. If you’re employed in an office, you work the requisite hours and perhaps a few – or maybe a lot – more, and at the end of it you complete your workload or achieve your target – and take your salary home.
If you’re self-employed in the building industry, you work hard, finish your project – and take your fee home. Granted, in some cases there may be a hiccup along the way resulting in unforeseen additional work which you’re unable to charge for. Still though, you wrap up the job and you send out your invoice, with any reasonable adjustments added on.
What Blogging Looks Like
But when you’re working as a blogger, the goalposts – aka algorithms, aka bane of my life – are constantly changing. This means that only a small percentage of our followers will ever see the stuff we put our hearts and souls into creating, whether we’ve been paid to or not.
That’s really demoralising, and the best way to tackle it (aside from paying to leverage through ads) is to get great engagement on our content, which in turn drives up our reach. So, back to promoting, promoting, promoting, and engaging with our followers. Genuinely fun, for half an hour – but that half hour is not sufficient to grow our accounts. If we’re lucky half an hour may keep us stable – equally likely is that we’ll watch our follower numbers begin to dwindle and our engagement rates fall.
And thanks to social proof and those goddamned algorithms, this pattern is exponential – in both directions.
I remind myself that there’s an art to what we do, and that art cannot be quantified – but the bottom line is that clients still need to see a return on any investment.
And so I keep striving.
There are so many plates to be spun that it’s simply not possible to ever be ‘finished’ – there’s always something more to do. Always. If you’ve completed a blog post deadline, you will still have a list the length of your arm of other admin jobs to be working on:
- Interacting with followers on social media (which in itself is never finished);
- Finding and fixing broken links;
- Scheduling to social media;
- Working on SEO;
- Pitching for work;
- Preparing your accounts;
- Working on unpaid content to strike balance and keep your readers interested.
And so the list goes on.
Is blogging hard? Well – I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I’m here and this is just what I have to do if I want to continue in the industry, the same as every other blogger. It does mean I struggle with switching off from work – it’s always in the back of my mind, pulling me like a drug towards my MacBook. Which I’m painfully aware is not a healthy place to be, and my husband would definitely agree!
Nonetheless, I want to have my thing that I’ve worked towards all by myself, and I want it be something I can be proud of. I want all the time and effort to have been worth it.
Questioning Whether It’s Worth It
What I find a bitter pill to swallow however, is that hours and effort do not equate to success or financial gain. Not at all.
I can work the same hours as somebody else and earn nothing, or three times more. And of course I realise and appreciate that when things are good, I’m extremely fortunate. There are many perks to what I do in my industry and I love it, of course, or I wouldn’t stick with it. I thrive on completing a campaign and receiving feedback about the quality of my work; which is always to the highest standard I’m capable of, because I take pride in what I do and try to present my blog and social accounts professionally.
Going back to fees, while they may seem disproportionately high at times (certainly not always the case!), the reality is that they pay for the hours and hours (and hours, and hours, and hours) of unpaid work spent building up our following and page views to a point where they hold real value to a client. It’s not simply the time it takes to create the specific content we’re being contracted for that our costs cover; it’s everything that came before, plus all the work involved both during the process of creating content and promoting it afterwards.
How Do You Become a Successful Blogger?
It’s really not my intention, but nonetheless I’m very conscious of sounding ‘woe-is-me’ when there are people who would love to be doing what I’m doing. To them I’d say: you don’t need a qualification to get started with this blogging lark, so if it appeals – knock yourself out! Anyone can start a blog really quite cheaply.
Becoming a successful blogger though – that takes a lot of investment, emotionally, mentally, time-wise, and in terms of learning new skills and wearing many hats. I never intended to become a video editor when I started out! I didn’t expect to be putting together a media kit, or learning a bit about coding, or figuring out how to make Pinterest work for me. But in order to make a success of our businesses, bloggers need to be proficient in all of those things.
And of course everything could snowball in an instant! I mean, it’s unlikely, but you just never know. Because along with the hard work and tenacity required in this industry, without a doubt there’s also a degree of luck involved. Just look at Mrs Hinch!
Why Blogging Is So Mentally Challenging
But here’s the thing that really messes with my mental health:
We bloggers are measured according to metrics which are largely beyond our control. I’m not stupid, and I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m willing to invest time and money into making my business work – but the crazy thing about what we do is that in this industry, even paying an expert is not a guarantee of an issue being fixed! If there were steps to take which guaranteed a positive outcome, even if they were very time-consuming or complex or costly, I’d roll up my sleeves and get to it.
However, when the reality is that there are only ‘guidelines’ to follow, which may or may not improve matters, it can feel like you’re going slowly mad.
I am, of course, referring to SEO and Google’s algorithms.
Rightly or wrongly, at this point in my business, my self-esteem is bound up with my success. Every goal I hit or client I take on feeds my self-worth – and when my stats drop thanks to Moz updates or the like, I feel my confidence crumble again.
To all of you doing what I do and feeling that DA/algorithms/SEO are against you – I get it. We’re all been there at some point. The industry is getting tougher and tougher and success harder and harder to come by. For me that merely means a viable business – I’m not chasing millions!
I had a taste of it last year, but with the changes that have come since I’ve had no choice but to up my game. I’ve been working hard behind the scenes and I’m beginning to see the rewards for my determination.
Remember Why You Started Blogging
I’m tired of feeling that technology is against me, but I’m not yet ready to quit, even though I recognise that there are times when the effort required to tick over is not really worth the pay-off. Nothing is worth my anxieties rising to the point of making me ill.
And while my time being stretched and taken away from my family can be justified if I’m making progress and seeing a healthy return for my efforts, it can’t when that’s not the case.
I’m incredibly relieved that things are finally looking up because failing at this point would be very detrimental to my mental health. Turning a corner has allowed me to believe again that being self-employed, while very stressful at times, is beneficial to me and my family. And that, though blogging is hard sometimes- I can and will make a success of my business because it remains totally worth it.
Does self-employment cause you a great deal of stress? How do you manage it?