So out of the blue I got an email from someone at iblog magazine asking for a post about writing blog reviews for them. I wrote it, in my own words, basically talking about my experience over the course of my time as a blogger. They didn’t like the piece, but I hate to waste blog posts, so I’m just going to publish it here.
A Blog Grows In Brooklyn by Faith Bowman
When I started blogging in 2012, I wasn’t thinking about product reviews or getting paid for anything. I am going to cheerfully admit that the only thing that I concretely knew about blogging was that people stood around posing like fashion models and talked about their clothing as if the fate of millions depended on it. I was luckier than most in that I was a photographer and writer already, and I had experience in fashion journalism. I had already started and closed my own online magazine, and worked for print and online mags both in New York and Chicago. I started blogging as Sassy Ethnic Bohemian with an eye towards being humorous and taking the starch out of the proceedings, but because I was writing for a huge website and had a profile on Lucky Community I had more traction than someone starting from scratch with nothing. It was extremely good luck and timing in addition to having fun content.
The first product I was asked to review came as a surprise. I was asked to try a skincare oil and the company was offering a free full sized sample. I was sort of confused, because I didn’t know that that was part of the deal. I learned, through networking with other New York bloggers that companies routinely held events where they gave you products, and that there were blogger ‘lounges’ where you could get free stuff. I was floored. I began working with beauty brands and clothing companies and while I wasn’t making money, I wasn’t really losing anything either. I started interviewing bloggers in order to learn more about the business and used that information to build up my social media presence and that led to getting more stuff. I didn’t actually start getting money for my work until 2015, when a brand that I had casually promoted asked me to set up an online project for them. So now it was free stuff and money. Success!
This year I was offered money to review a box of products and also made a deal with a feminine care company to write about the products that they had given me to review on a regular basis. I recently wrote blog posts for a haircare company, talking about their products and styling tools. I still work with products to review and write about products in exchange for samples, but more opportunities are on the horizon. My rate of pay has varied per client, but overall I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made, so money is secondary. I’m building up writing credits and gaining experience and insight, too. Not to mention getting to try tons of beauty products. Getting paid, for me, was a validation of my writing skill and relatability and that’s pretty much what I was after. It was also proof that numbers aren’t everything.
In the last few years, the emphasis went from unique content to how many UMV’s. People started asking more about my clicks and I started realizing that I was working hard to create resonant content and be informative, but a lot of brands were more interested in ‘It Girls’ and the stakes were changing. Bloggers were doing deals with major fashion and beauty brands and being called influencers, and I was never going to be that type of person. The blogging industry, if it can be called that, has taken ordinary women and turned them into actual brand spokeswomen. Hair ads featured bloggers, and companies are signing big money deals with them for consulting on products as well as advertising them. It’s empowering and inspiring, but it also begs the question as to how someone who doesn’t want that kind of fame can achieve any measure of success. It’s a bit like losing out twice, since blogging is open to amateurs but then you can only get rewarded if you’re pretty. I did not sign on for this.
Over the course of this year, as I got paying work I also reworked my blog so that it was less kooky, creative professional and more a vehicle for Polyvore generated styling posts (I can access more items and be stylistically daring without actually spending money or having to go to a pr person or brand) and my original content focuses more on product posts. I decided to focus more on beauty, and especially skincare, because clean clear skin is just as important as what shoe you’re wearing. I also use instagram as a sort of backup blog, where I can post images of products to an audience that probably doesn’t follow my blog and who is also looking up images that feature products or brands that they like already. I use twitter, a facebook page and tumblr, but I think instagram has the most impact because people consume visually.
My main goal, in addition to getting more blogging clients, is to create a sustainable business model with the blog as an umbrella to other endeavors like listing my photos with a stock agency, and designing tshirts. Blogging and doing product reviews is awesome, but I also want to make sure that I have a balanced, fulfilling, sustainable business as well.