Ch-ch-ch-changes - Pro blogging

Hello pickles,

I wanted to write a post to address a change coming up. This post is a long as it talks about hopes and dreams so get yourselves a cuppa. Anything truly personal has complicated reasons behind it and needs a lot of explaining.

I've recently registered with HMRC as a sole trader with the intent for Just Me Leah to become a business rather than a hobby. This is all above board and the DWP paperwork is in the works. The contents of my blog won't change at all - I'll still be talking about dresses, makeup and fat issues - but there will be ads in the sidebar and other small changes. 

There is some feeling in the blogging world that bloggers who try to make money from their blogs are sell outs, that hobby bloggers who then try to make a living as business bloggers are grasping witches who should be burned at the stake. This is why I feel the need to address the changes to come. I don't know why people who start to value themselves and what they do are thought of as uppity and in need of bringing down a peg or two, but that's a thought for another day. (Maybe it's because blogging is mainly 'women's work' and is thus treated with derision?)

When I was a child, all I wanted to be was an author. As soon as I could grasp a pen in my chubby little mitts I was off, and I've never stopped. For kids who grow up poor, life soon schools you about how realistic your dreams are, and they're easily lost amongst working a series of shitty jobs to survive. I NEVER thought I could ever make a living doing something I loved. I hated most of the jobs I did and thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but I worked incredibly hard in all of them as I knew no other way. When Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME came knocking I had spent nearly two decades in mentally and/or physically challenging jobs (I always chose hideously stressful jobs - I think I was a bit of a masochist). I was then left feeling even more desperate - I couldn't even do a shitty job to make money any more. Times were bleak.

I had time on my hands and I needed an outlet, so I started a blog, and at first it was general waffle and make up. I started reading plus size blogs, and for at least a year I read on, dying to take part myself, but I was so scared of other peoples' opinions. I saw the plus size bloggers as brave souls, going where I dared not. I remember putting up my first full length photo, expecting the very fabric of space and time to warp as I was being fat on the internet - gasp! Obviously my confidence level has moved on somewhat since then. ;)

I've lost count of the people who tell me I should be writing for a living, and I've always thought 'I wish!' Although I probably lack the discipline and organisational skills to write a book, writing is still something I have to do. It's a burning desire I couldn't quell if I tried. I've always written fiction for fun, but lately my own story is the one that burns brightest when fingers meet keyboard. Sometimes our dreams are held onto so tightly that they become so battered and fragile that we dare not imagine they could come true. It's just a dream. But what if? What if I COULD make a small living from the place that is the home of my words? What if I could rise above the limitations of my disabilities and make some money from home doing what I love to do? What if the thing I've spent hours on each week out of the love of it could be also something that made money? What if I treated it with the seriousness of a business, not a hobby? What if I prioritised things on this blog by those which benefit me and those which don't?

The thing is, I've done some research and once you've built up a following over the years it's relatively easy to make passive income from a blog. People know an established blog brings eyes to a page, and that means very little else has to change. I might just be able to make money from this blog without compromising any of the standards I've always held dear! Whoda thunk it?!

So with that said, I dared to pull that dog-eared dream out of my pocket and have a look at it with fresh eyes. This is me taking the first step. I'll be trying to make some money from the blog in various different ways possibly including affiliate banners, affiliate links, ads for companies (and possibly fellow bloggers) in my sidebar, and possibly even sponsored (paid for) posts which will be along my usual lines - fashion, beauty, lifestyle. As ever, the vast majority of the content on this blog will be generated by me and I'm not about to sell out and start talking about double glazing any time soon. I don't expect to make lots of money, but I'd like to try to make some. And if it all goes up in smoke then at least I tried. I want to make a better life for myself and it doesn't mean I'm going to compromise anything. I'm always banging on about how much I want this blog to be everything of my choosing, not owned by outside influences and that still stands.

Having a business head will definitely affect the way I will prioritise things in the future, though.

What it basically boils down to is this: If I have two companies who want me to write about their news/website/products and only one of them values my time, guess who I'm likely to pick? If one of them sends me an item for review so I can gauge quality (and thus recommend it to you), pays for a sponsored post (or even sends me some decent images so I don't have to waste time screen-grabbing off the internet), and the other one wants me to give up my time out of the goodness of my heart (a 'free' post) with no sample (clothing to review), no images and no thanks, what should I do? If someone wants me to wax lyrical about their clothing, it's somewhat difficult to do that without ever seeing any. If someone wants me to write in awe about a wonderful event they have planned, how about inviting me so I can experience it for myself? That doesn't strike me as unreasonable.

Even prior to thinking of this blog as a business I have had a rule that I'll only give one 'free' post per company who has asked me to write about them. (Obviously if it's self-generated content and something I genuinely love I'll happily talk about it as many times as I like.) I'm happy to begin a relationship on an unequal footing by introducing a company to my readers when they've asked me to, but there are a lot of PRs and companies out there who are happy to take, take, take without ever giving anything back. They don't want a working relationship, they want to suck you dry. There are some companies who expect bloggers to throw them publicity constantly with absolutely nothing in return, and then I have a duty to remind them not to take the piss.


A flurry of emails have gone between myself and the PR since. I've thoroughly explained myself and so has she. I think it's the first time she's worked with plus size bloggers, and she hadn't realised how close knit we are, and to a certain extent how much we all need to be treated the same or else resentment grows. It turns out the bloggers who were sent product at the launch had requested it, and the assumption was the rest of us were happy to continue without trying any clothes. I've told the PR that we plus size bloggers are incredibly close knit and I think in future there'll be a different way of doing things - i.e. not one thing for one person and different treatment for another. I have to credit the PR with patience with me as I explained the emotions behind feeling like second best, and she was at all times perfectly understanding. I'm happy to work with them again in the future.**

I got an email a couple of days ago from a company who I previously wrote about using my 'one free post' mentality. I wrote about the launch of their plus size range a while ago. I was offered no samples, but didn't mind as you have to build up to a working relationship. Then just about everyone who also wrote about their launch was sent samples to review, which in fact a reader of my blog pointed out to me. No biggie, whom they choose to send samples to is none of my business. Everyone has a target demographic and if I'm not representative of that, fair enough.

When they sent me this last email wanting me to write about their new lines they said at the end of the email just to ask if I wanted any samples, so I requested a dress to review which was around the middle of their price range. I got an email back saying they're not giving out samples at the moment, which I know complete and utter bullshit as I read a LOT of blogs and I've seen at least one blogger wearing a gifted item from them this week! One of the new lines they wanted me to publicise for them, in fact. Oh, the irony! What they really mean is there aren't any samples FOR ME. Lest anyone think I'm throwing my toys out of the pram for the lack of free clothing, it isn't that. I don't mind being passed over, but I do mind being treated like I'm an idiot. I mind very bloody much.

It's OK to exclude me from their coven of favoured bloggers. It's one thing to expect me to give up my time for free over and over again. It's another thing entirely to send me the special email offering samples by accident, to not have the decency to admit it AND then bullshit me about the availability of samples. HELL NO. I'm not a bloody fool and I don't like being lied to. Here's my response, should any fellow bloggers feel the need to send a piss taker away nicely but firmly. I've edited out the name of the company, which is more than they deserve, to be honest.

Would I have had the ladyballs to send that email if I didn't have my new business head on? Perhaps not. And there lies the difference. Does it matter if someone shits on your hobby? Perhaps not. But it does matter if they shit on your job. THIS is another reason why I'm going 'pro' blogger. If you want people to treat you seriously you have to be serious about yourself. When you weigh up situations which will prevent you making money or those which might make you money, it quickly focuses the mind as to where your priorities must lie.

And I feel very focussed about what benefits me as a blogger and you as my readers. As women, we are rarely encouraged to see our worth, and if we do we're called bitches. I'll happily accept that epithet for saying I'm serious about what I do, and I want to be treated with respect. 

I hope you'll come along with me during these changes, and if you've also been nurturing a dream, it's never too late. I've wanted to write for a living since I was about 5 years old. 36 years later, a lifetime later, I'm trying to make that a reality. For now sidebar ads, tomorrow the world....because once you accept your dreams may not be that far away, you start to dream bigger.

I wish you luck with all of your dreams, and the strength to make them a reality.

Lots of love,
Leah xoxo

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