Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing an increasing level of controversy in the blogosphere (oh, how I hate that word) surrounding the issue of blogging for money. Bangs and a Bun and A Thrifty Mrs have both addressed the topic this week, and I’ve found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with what they’ve had to say, and specifically, with this:
Amen to that, sister.
And yet, this attitude that Muireann talks about is one that comes up again and again. I’ve read SO many negative comments about pro-bloggers now, ranging from the sneeringly contemptuous “People actually think they can make a living out of blogging? How sad!” to the oft-repeated view that blogging should only ever be a hobby, and that those who turn it into a career are somehow “selling out” or letting the side down. “I blog for MYSELF!” these people cry, proudly. “I would NEVER try to make money from my blog!”
Well, I blog for myself too: even if I didn’t make another penny from it, I’d probably still keep blogging at Forever Amber, because I love it. But I also blog for money: Shoeperwoman and The Fashion Police are both commercial blogs, which were set up as business concerns, with the sole aim of making money. And they do make money. Not a huge amount of it, granted – I’m not going to be selling up and moving to the Caribbean any time soon – but enough for me to have been able to make blogging my career, and the sole source of my income. This makes me something of a pariah in certain sectors of the blogging community, but I have absolutely no shame about the way I choose to earn my living, and here’s why:
When I first started blogging, back in 2006, I had absolutely no idea that it was something I could hope to make a living out of. I was a freelance journalist at the time, and Forever Amber was just a natural extension of the Livejournal I’d kept for years at that point – and, I guess, of the dozens of paper journals I’d faithfully recorded my life in from the age of 11 onwards. (I still have them. I can’t read them without wanting to go back in time and slap my younger self.)
It didn’t occur to me that I could make money out of blogging until I started freelancing for Shiny Media in 2007. And when the penny finally dropped that hey, some people were actually making money out of writing about shoes and dresses, and that it may as well be me, it didn’t occur to me that there was anything controversial about that. It still doesn’t, if I’m honest. All I thought was that if there was an opportunity for me to make a living out of doing something I loved, I was sure as hell going to take it.
I would challenge anyone presented with that opportunity to turn their back on it. Isn’t that the dream, after all? That you find a way to turn a hobby into a career, and no longer have to dread Monday mornings, or stand in the shower wishing you could vanish down the plughole instead of going into work? It was for me. It was MY dream. (Turning a hobby into a career, I mean, not blogging specifically. When I was a kid, I didn’t go around saying, “When I grow up I want there to be a thing called The Internet and I want to write words about shoes on it. We will call it “blogging”.) I just hadn’t found a way to make it happen yet, and when I finally did, I jumped on it. And I would do it again.
When I set up my commercial blogs, I made no bones about the fact that I was hoping to make some money from them. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy writing for them, or that I’m not passionate about the subject matters those sites cover, because I do, and I am. The reason I chose to create blogs about fashion, shoes and makeup was because I’m interested – sometimes to the point of obsession – in those subjects, and I believed I’d do a better job writing about something I genuinely loved. As corny as it might sound, Terry’s illness had been a bit of a “come to Jesus” moment for me. It had made me realise that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life commuting to a temperature-controlled office every day to do something I didn’t enjoy. We all have to earn a living somehow, but I wanted to earn mine doing something that didn’t feel like a chore to me: blogging was that thing, and it came along at exactly the right time. I will be forever grateful for that.
Again, I didn’t think for a second that I was “selling out” by creating those sites, or that there was anything even remotely controversial about them. In fact, I viewed them in the same way someone else might view a startup magazine or newspaper. No one tells a newspaper journalist or a feature writer on a fashion magazine that they should write purely “for themselves”, and that taking a salary every month makes them a dirty rotten sellout. In fact, I don’t think there are ANY professions where it’s considered the norm for people to work for nothing, and if there are, I don’t want any part of them. I have to pay the bills somehow, after all. And, you know, buy the shoes.
Of course, one of the main objections to blogging for bucks is the idea that if you’re making money from your blog, you can’t possibly be trusted. So, basically, no one who has adverts on their blog is ever telling the truth. No one who receives a product sample to review is ever able to review it honestly: they just say nice things in order to keep the freebies coming. And, you know, I’m sure there are bloggers like that (Although quite why you’d write a glowing review of a product you hated just so you could get even MORE of the products you hate is beyond me.) We’re not ALL like that, though. It is possible to blog with integrity AND get paid for it. It’s possible to tell a PR person that sure, they can send over that product (IF it’s something that’s going to be of interest to the readers of the blog), but that you may not choose to review it, and if you do, you’ll do so honestly. If they’re a professional firm, that’s exactly what they’ll expect, anyway.
For me, one of the best things about blogging is that it can be anything you want it to be. If you want it to be a purely creative outlet, then it can. If you want it to be a way to record your life, and to share it with your family and friends, then it can be that, too. And if you want to try and turn it into a career, there’s really nothing stopping you. So if you want to blog purely for yourself, and you have no interest in making money from it then that’s absolutely fine and no one will think any the less of you. As for me, though, I’m going to continue doing my best to make a living out of something I love.
Edited to add: Thanks for all your comments on this, everyone! I just wanted to make it clear that this post wasn’t about criticism I’ve received personally – it was just in response to the various comments I read about pro-blogging in general, which obviously strike a chord with me because it’s what I do!