For some reason, 2015 seems to be the year of the full-time blogger, and over the past couple of months I’ve had quite a few people ask for advice about quitting their jobs and turning their blogs into full-time careers.
Back in January, I wrote about five questions to ask yourself before deciding to blog full-time, but today I thought I’d follow up on that with some warning signs that turning your blog into a business might not be the right decision for you. That might sound a bit negative, but while for me blogging is a dream job, and I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else, I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone: here are some signs that full-time blogging might not be the right career choice for you…
01. You need to be around other people in order to work effectively
As we’re constantly hearing, the blogging world has changed dramatically over the past few years, and it’s become much more mainstream. As a result of that, there are now tons of blogger events and meetups you can go to, and I know a lot of self-employed people like to work in cafes, or even rent desks in co-working spaces, just to get out of the house every now and then. While you don’t have to spend all your time stuck in the house, however, blogging is still essentially a fairly solitary occupation: I’m an introvert, so I prefer NOT to be surrounded by people all day, and don’t feel lonely because of it. One of the things I do sometimes find a little frustrating, however, is the fact that there’s no one to share the little joys and frustrations which make up your working day: your blog is YOURS, so no one cares quite as much as you do about its successes and failures, and there’s no one you can really vent to if you’re having a bad day – or celebrate with if you’re having a good one.
In a traditional job, you always have colleagues around who you can share those petty little annoyances with, without fear of being judged for it or told you have first world problems: they understand, because they’re doing the same job, and experiencing the same frustrations, and let’s face it, no matter how much you love your job, we all need to vent sometimes! As a blogger, you don’t really have that, which can be a little isolating, and make you feel like no one understands you, OMG!
02. You need everyone to like you
One of the hardest lessons you learn as a blogger is that not everyone is going to like you – and some of those who don’t are going to want to make sure you know it. Of course, there are always going to be people who don’t like you in “real life” too: the difference is that in real life most of them will keep their thoughts to themselves. I mean, sure, you’ll always encounter rude people from time to time, but for the most part, I find that in “real life”, people tend to stick to the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” philosophy, whereas on the internet they’re more likely to say, “If you put it out there, you have to expect criticism – and I’m the one who’s going to supply it”.
Throughout my life, I’ve had colleagues and acquaintances who I just haven’t gotten on with, and I’ve even had some who I suspect didn’t like me very much. Until I started blogging, however, I’d never had anyone tell me they actually HATED me, or wished ill on me, so when that happens, it comes as a huge shock and can be incredibly upsetting. Even the comments where people tell you they hate your outfit or whatever can really sting if you’re not used to blunt honesty – and a lot of us just aren’t, because as I said, “real life” doesn’t always prepare you for it. If you’re very thin-skinned, and need everyone to like you, blogging could be a real struggle for you.
03. You expect to get rich quick – or at all
A lot of newer bloggers seem to start their websites, and expect them to be instantly successful: they look at some of the “big” bloggers, and think they’re going to be able to replicate their success almost overnight. Blogging is a long game, though, and most of those bloggers took years to get where they are now. Sure, you’ll be able to find a few who seemed to find almost instant success, but they’re the exception rather than the rule, and the chances of being able to start a blog and be making a good living from it within a few short weeks are incredibly small.
Just to add to the disappointment, most full-time bloggers aren’t what you’d call “rich” – and the ones who are often started out that way, anyway. It IS possible to make a full-time living from blogging, but most of us do it by working the equivalent of a full-time job, and we’re not remotely “rich”. In fact, I can only speak for myself here, but for me, blogging for a living is mostly a lifestyle choice: I don’t do it because I expect it to make me rich, but because it allows me to earn a living doing something I love, and without most of the stress and unhappiness I experienced in traditional employment. That’s not to say I never feel stressed, obviously – no job is perfect at all times – but being able to work from home, set my own schedule and not have to sit and clock-watch all day was more important to me than earning a lot of money, and that’s the main reason I became self-employed.
(Of course, if money is your motivation, the good thing about blogging is that there’s no real limit on what you can potentially earn from it. I’ve said that very few bloggers are able to hit the big numbers, but hey – someone has to do it!)
04. You expect it to be easy
The thing about blogging is that when it’s done well, it looks effortless. You see some bloggers swanning around in their expensive designer outfits (which they’re sometimes even being paid to wear), and you don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, or the years those bloggers spent struggling to get anyone to even read their posts, let alone pay them to write them. If you think blogging is going to be the easy option, all Starbucks cups and sunlit photos, and typing out a few short paragraphs from the comfort of your perfectly Instagrammable bed, before shutting down your laptop for the day, you’re in for a shock. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to sign up for a blog (You can have one up and running in a few minutes on a site like Blogspot – totally free, too!), and come back to me once you start earning a full-time wage from it: if it’s really that easy, anyone should be able to do it!
05. You find it hard to motivate yourself
One of the things people seem to forget about blogging is that it’s a business, and it’s a business you’ll be running yourself. As with any form of self-employment, running a business takes dedication and motivation: you have to be able not only to blog, but also to deal with advertising, accounting, marketing – the list goes on. You’re your own boss, and while that might be perfect for some, for others it can be hugely challenging. If you’re used to having someone else managing your time and telling you what to do every day, it can be difficult to find the motivation to do it all yourself: I love working from home, and don’t have a problem motivating myself, but some people are the exact opposite, and struggle to motivate themselves without the structure provided by an office environment.
06. You worry about privacy and don’t like the idea of strangers knowing your business
It’s totally possible to blog anonymously, and obviously not all blogs are personal ones – there are plenty of sites which focus on a specific topic, and tell you little to nothing about the person behind it. While it IS possible to do this, however, in the case of anonymous blogging, I’d imagine it must be quite stressful having to constantly cover your tracks, and worry about being “found out”, and even if your blog isn’t “personal”, that doesn’t mean people won’t be interested in you, or feel that they have a right to know more about you. Even on blogs like The Fashion Police, where I don’t write anything personal at all (and actually write as a persona, rather than as myself), I’ve sometimes been surprised by the questions people will ask, or the lengths they will go to in order to try and find out private information.
On this blog, meanwhile, I often see phrases come up in the search referrers which tell me that people have been trying to find out information I haven’t made public, and I’ve had my fair share of emails or comments that have felt intrusive and honestly a bit creepy. It doesn’t happen often, and it’s not something I really think about most of the time, but it IS part of the territory when you have a public blog, and if you’re a very private person, it could be a bit much to deal with.
07. You don’t enjoy writing or creating content
I hesitated to include this one, because I don’t subscribe to the idea that blogging should only ever be done “for the love of it”, and I think starting a blog to make money is as good a reason as any (Yes, really: Becky Bedbug wrote a fantastic post about this last month, and you should all go and read it right now, before you go any further. It’s OK, I’ll wait here for you…). I know this might be a controversial opinion, because I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read the words, “If you’re blogging just to make money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons!”, but, well, we don’t tell people who work in call centres that they should be answering phones primarily for “the love of it”, so I’ve never really understood why people who work in creative fields have that expectation placed upon them all time.
(I’m not just randomly picking on call centre workers here, by the way – I worked in one myself for years, and hated every second of it. I did it anyway, because, well, money. To my knowledge, no one ever accused me of being a “sellout” for doing it purely for the money, and no one was surprised to find that I didn’t answer phones in my spare time, as a hobby. Not everyone loves their job: it doesn’t mean they can’t be good at it, or that they should be viewed as evil mercenaries who’ll do anything for a quick buck. People have to eat, after all…)
With that said, while I don’t believe there are “wrong” reasons to get into blogging (I mean, not unless you’re doing it to rip people off, or for some other reason that is actually “wrong” or illegal. Don’t do that.), I also believe that if you don’t enjoy creating content, you’ll really struggle with blogging as a career: not because you won’t be able to do it well, but simply because it can take such a long time to see results from it that if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll burn out fast.
The main problem with blogging for a living, you see, is that it’s just so relentless. It’s not the kind of job where you can just close down your laptop at 5pm and then forget about it until 9am the next morning: it’s the kind of job that occupies your mind 24/7. You can spend hours working on a post: coming up with a great idea, carefully crafting the text, taking the best photos you can, promoting it tirelessly… and then as soon as it’s published, you have to start all over again with the next post, and then the next one, and the one after that. And it never ends. It’s not like writing a book, or working on another kind of project, where you one day get to type “The End” and then sit back and relax. You just have to keep going, day after day, week after week, month after… you get my point, I’m sure.
You can do this, of course. You don’t have to love blogging to be able to blog, but while that might make you some money, it won’t make you happy – in fact, it’ll make you pretty damn miserable if you’re spending all your time doing something you hate. Trust one who knows. When I published my post on the reasons I blog last week, I was half expecting someone to comment and say, “Er, don’t you blog for the money?” And it’s true: I DO blog for money. But if I didn’t genuinely love it, I wouldn’t have chosen blogging as my career, for the simple fact that I don’t want to spend my time doing something I hate: been there, done that, got 101 tearful journal entries to prove it.
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Phew! That ended up being a lot longer, and a lot more negative that I expected it to be! Just in case anyone’s reading this as a list of complaints, I just want to stress that it’s really not supposed to be: as I said, I LOVE blogging – it’s my dream job, and I definitely didn’t write this in order to make it sound awful, or to put anyone off. I’m a member of a few blogging groups on Facebook, though, and I’m often surprised by the ideas and expectations a lot of newer bloggers seem to have. I see a lot of people sign up for a free Blogger account with the idea that they’ll be able to quit their jobs in a few month’s time: they inevitably end up disappointed and frustrated when it turns out to be a lot more work, for much less money than they’d been led to believe, so I just wanted to write a bit about what it’s really like to blog full-time, and what kind of challenges you might face in the process. What I’d also say is that if you read this list and didn’t put you off, what are you waiting for – go start a blog already!