Last week I got an email inviting me to a webinar.
I can’t remember exactly what it was called, and I’m not going to look it up, because I’m sure it was a perfectly good webinar, run by someone with the absolute best of intentions – it was just the name that instantly got my back up. It was called something like “Get rich blogging!” or “Blog your way to your first million!” or something like that, and my first thought upon reading it was, “Oh, honey, no…”
OK, that’s a lie. My FIRST thought was actually, ‘Where do I sign up?’Because, let’s face it, we ALL want to be millionaires (Well, all of us except those people who are always winning the lottery and then saying they’ll just keep on working three jobs and living in a bedsit, because they’re quite happy with that, thanks very much. Those people should NOT be allowed to play the lottery, seriously…), and if we can do it by writing a few blog posts here and there, then so much the better, right?
That reaction is exactly what the creators of those webinars and ebooks are hoping for, obviously. It’s what sells, after all.
It’s also hugely misleading, I think – which is why, when I wrote my own ebook, I decided to frame it as a guide to making a living from blogging, rather than making a fortune from it. That’s not to say the latter is impossible, of course: it is, however, pretty unlikely – which is why all of those books and courses that make blogging sound like some kind of ‘get rich quick’ scheme really grate on my nerves: it’s not one, and it’s misleading to sell it as such, no matter how compelling a title it makes, or how hard it is to resist using it anyway.
And it IS hard to resist it, believe me. The original subtitle for my own ebook, for instance, was going to be something like, ‘How I Turned My Blog Into a Full-Time Job’: an idea I ditched when I realised it wasn’t exactly going to help sales, was it? The fact is, no one really WANTS to turn their blog into a “job”. There’s nothing aspirational about working full-time, after all: it just sounds like a lot of hard work, which is exactly what it IS.
No, what most of the people who buy ebooks and sign up to courses on blogging want is to turn their blog into a lifestyle: one filled with pretty flatlays, free holidays to exotic locations, and Instagramming their morning coffee and calling it “work”. They want the lifestyles of the rich and internet-famous: the bloggers with half a million followers, who just strut around in designer clothes all day, and never appear to do a stitch of work in their whole lives. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen for most of us, though, no matter how hard we work, or how many courses we sign up to. The harsh reality is that, these days, there’s actually very little chance of getting filthy rich through blogging – although ‘rich’ is, of course, a relative term, which I guess is worth keeping in mind. Here’s why…
You started too late
I don’t believe the blogging bubble has burst – or even that it WILL burst, necessarily – but one thing the majority of the super-famous bloggers (i.e. the ones who “got rich” from it) have in common is the fact that most of them have been doing this for years, and got into it at a time when the blogging buzz was at its absolute height. They hit the crest of the wave, basically, and have been riding it ever since. These days, the industry is vastly different: there’s still some buzz, of course, but the climate isn’t quite the same, and while there will always be some breakout bloggers who manage to beat the odds and become overnight success stories, the chances of that happening are far slimmer now.
The market is over-saturated
This really follows on from my first point, but it’s obviously far easier to stand out in a small marketplace – which is what the blogosphere was just a few years ago. Now, though, there are just so many blogs that it’s much, much harder to make sure yours is the one that gets noticed. It’s not impossible, no – but it’s not easy, either. Unfortunately this is an industry in which it’s not always enough to just work hard and keep at it: not when every other blogger out there (and there are thousands of them…) is doing exactly the same thing. There are only so many campaigns to go around, and these days you really have to hustle to get anywhere – and, more than that, to be able to offer something truly unique, and truly of value to both brands and readers.
Brands and advertisers are getting far savvier
I talked about this at length just a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t repeat myself, other than to say (for the benefit of those of you who couldn’t be bothered ploughing through that 2,000 word post!) that even if you have a decent following and awesome content, it’s much harder to be able to actually make money from blogging now than it used to be. There was a time when brands seemed to be willing to drop large amounts of money on blog campaigns and collaborations, and a lot of bloggers did very well out of that. Now, however, the brands are far more cautious, having learned the hard way that they’ll get a better return from working with just a handful of very influential bloggers, than from sending out free products or paying for advertising with hundreds of smaller sites. That makes good business sense from the brands’ point of view, obviously, but it also means that the same few people are picked for collaborations over and over again (which means those bloggers gain even more traction, which leads to more campaigns…), while the rest really struggle to get a look-in. Sure, some people are getting rich from blogging: but not many.
At the same time, however, you also can’t deny the impact that working for free has had on the industry. As I said above, we have an over-saturated marketplace, in which a large amount of people are willing to work for free. As for those of us who can’t afford to work for free, however, well, unless we can find some way to really stand out and convince brands that they should pay us for something thousands of others would happily do for free, we’re definitely not getting rich quick, are we? Or even slowly, for that matter.
Readers are changing, too.
As blogging itself has changed, blog readers have changed, too, as has the way they consume content, and what they expect from it. Rather than sitting down with a cup of tea and reading their favourite blogs, people are more likely to read on the go, on mobile devices, and to turn to social media like Instagram and Snapchat for their daily dose of whatever it was they used to get from traditional blogging. Social media, however, is an even MORE crowded marketplace than blogging is, with an even greater ease of entry… which makes it even harder to get to the top of the pile, so to speak. At the same time, there’s a growing distrust of sponsored content, which, again, makes it harder to monetise even a relatively large audience.
So, should we all just give up, then?
Absolutely not. I mean, I realise this post sounds hugely negative, and you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Yeah, way to kill our dreams stone dead, Amber: thanks for that!”, but, despite what you might think, I really didn’t write this to try to put people off blogging. As cringey as I know this will sound, I truly believe you have to dream big if you want to get anywhere in life, and in an industry which doesn’t really have any limits, it would be silly to impose some on yourself by telling yourself you can’t do it, or that you’re never going to succeed. So, yeah, don’t do that, OK? Despite everything I just said above, there ARE still people getting rich from blogging – and you might just get to be one of them, you never know.
The other piece of good news, meanwhile, is that while you might find it hard to get rich from blogging, it IS possible to make a living from it – which is all most pro-bloggers do. Blogging is my only source of income, and it earns me enough to (when combined with Terry’s income) pay the mortgage, keep myself clothed and fed, and maybe take a holiday once or twice a year. I’m not rich by anyone’s standards, but that’s OK, because the fact is, I didn’t actually get into blogging for the money, but for the lifestyle.
I have no doubt that I could make more money if I were to stop blogging and go and get “normal” job. I’d also, however, have to go back to waking up while it’s still dark outside, scraping the frost off my car, and then commuting to an office, where I’d spend the whole day feeling trapped and miserable: and – for me, at least – the extra money just wouldn’t be worth it.
As a blogger, I can set my own schedule, work where and when I want, and have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m building something of my own, which no one can take away from me. That wouldn’t be for everyone (I’m not trying to knock office work here: it just really wasn’t for me!), but it works for me, and if it works for you too, you don’t actually NEED to get “rich” to enjoy some of the lifestyle that blogging can provide.
As for getting “rich” though? If you’ve figured out how to do it, please drop me a comment and tell me your secret!