People keep asking me to write about blogging. I have friends still starting blogs left and right and they want to know what their day-to-day should look like in order to succeed. I DO want to be helpful. I want every parent to have the chance to work from home and every family to enjoy the stability that can come with this job.
Truly, though, this is no longer a topic that inspires me.
This year has been rocky for everyone. I think we can all agree on that? Vitriol has taken over in the news and online. For those of us who have the collective internet as our water cooler, it's been a strange time. Several stories have come out aimed directly at bloggers. Salacious titles like, “Mommy Blogging Ruined My Life” and “The Fall of the Online Influencer” claim that blogging is officially dead.
For real this time.
Yes, this is the same tired discussion that The Wall Street Journal and Forbes have been having for years. What surprised me about the latest go-around, though, was the backlash. Bloggers got PISSED. And I think that is the most telling thing. It reveals the underlying issue here. Our industry is starting to be legitimized and suddenly, we have a lot to lose.
The last couple of years have easily seen a ten-fold rise in marketing budgets being allocated to online influencers. As a result, many of us have fully committed to this as our career. Suddenly, we're not just talking about “extra” money or fun outings for the family. Blogging is now paying for people's cars and mortgages.
The stakes are high, and the fallout if things go wrong? It's not pretty.
Nate and I's story isn't that different from many others. We started the blog early in our relationship and when our first son came along, the timing was right for me to transition away from my desk job. We could get by on his income, and Someday I'll Learn was picking up speed. If it continued to actually pull in money, we could save up for a second car. Maybe even the down payment on a house. Over time the blog work became so consistent, we needed to hire help. The overhead stacked up and we found – to our surprise as much as anyone else's – that we had become dependent on this little blog.
We are a success story, AND a cautionary tale. Whenever would-be bloggers ask for advice getting started, I tell them the exact opposite of what they want to hear. Don't quit your day job. Not yet. Develop a cushion. Thousands of dollars in the bank. Cut living expenses. Whatever sum or situation makes you feel empowered and not reliant on the day-to-day whims of a fickle industry, you need to develop that rock-solid base before building a business.
Because that is exactly where blogging went wrong.
Bloggers got desperate, and desperate people do desperate things.
We started saying “yes” to stuff that we shouldn't have. We became too beholden to the seasonality of the marketing world, and we began to operate out of a scarcity mindset. Numerous studies at this point have proven the success of blogging, and it's become a crowded industry. People started scrounging for as much of the pie as they could possibly get, eyeing bigger and bigger things. Digging a deeper hole. Forgetting what they loved, beyond money.
I know it because I lived it. Guilty as charged. I had zero business savvy going into this. Nobody ever taught me how to budget, and the decisions got big – really big – really fast. We tried to quantify our success, but we'd lost sight of what “success” even meant to us anymore.
Don't worry. Nate and I are fine, but it has taken a massive leap in self-discipline to ensure that we STAY fine.
Along with this rise in influencer dependence on the industry, the industry got more dependent on us. Major campaigns were reliant on bloggers to spread the word. Costs rose. Scrutiny came down hard. Demands became more stringent. Lawyers got involved in every single step of the process. Where we used to get fairly casual requests to put up a blog post or Instagram or tweet in exchange for a certain amount of money, we now have contracts and drafts and requests for original billboard photography and image likeness in commercials.
Suddenly this little home-based business became a big deal. And for many of us, it became downright suffocating.
Here's the reality of that day-to-day that everyone wants to know about. Yesterday, I got the preschooler and toddler squared away with childcare and wrangled the baby down for a nap (the unceasingly glamorous dance of parenthood) before spending two hours hashing out details of a long-term partnership with a new brand. This morning, I got the contract from them and instantly felt deflated: they added 24 months of overly-broad exclusivity. To put that example in laymen's terms, a coffee company wants to hire us for three blog posts with the stipulation that we don't work with any other beverage company for two years. So…that was a massive waste of my time.
Meanwhile, I have some outstanding emails from another agency's invoicing department explaining that they haven't sent me my (months overdue) multiple-thousands-of-dollars payment because they need an “affidavit” explaining the $20 tip I gave to the driver…even though my contract included a negotiated per diem.
A hotel wants to host us on our next trip out to Arizona. A complimentary stay, no strings attached! Except they want me to vow that I will only talk about their on-site food – which they won't pay for – and not highlight any other eateries in the area. Also, they inform me that I should link to them with a do-follow link (a practice that is against Google's terms of service and could get our site banned from search results) using anchor text that they provide.
Dozens upon dozens of requests like this float through my inbox and fill my voicemail. My head is buzzing and I have to step away from the computer to gain some perspective. I remind myself that I am capable of saying “no” and I burrow myself into the parts of this job that I love: playing with my kids and taking pictures and writing from the heart. Working one-on-one with the companies that we truly do love.
It is a dream job. It's worth fighting for, absolutely. But to have to state out loud that it's a fight is new and surprising to me. I understand why bloggers have gotten bitter and angry.
The stakes got high, and we didn't know how to handle it. Our stories got buried by a bunch of emails and contracts and invoices.
Fortunately, though, the solution is relatively simple. Remind yourself that you are a person with the freedom to run your life as you see fit. That's what it boils down to for the PR people and marketing managers and accountants, too. We're all real human beings, with real struggles and dreams and competing priorities. Evaluate the most important thing, and ground yourself in it. This goes for every single industry, not just the one I happen to be in.
If money is your main motivation and you've lost the drive that stems from a deeper purpose…seriously, please, stop and reconsider your life.
Don't lose your story in a spreadsheet.