Bloggers, and the Myth of Being Lucky

All bloggers have heard it. It’s often from a well-meaning friend, or colleague, or your Mum, who has a scroll through your Instagram feed of cocktails and avocado toast. “My God, your life. You’re so lucky!” Sometimes, this is followed with a, “I’m going to start a blog so I can get all this stuff for free too!”

It’s at that point that you grit your teeth and laugh it off, because you’ve already explained 400 times that it actually isn’t quite as simple that.

Bloggers

None of these people mean anything by their comments, and they are often people who are actually your biggest cheerleaders, who just don’t really get what it is you actually do. So let’s break it down, into why bloggers aren’t actually just blessed with ludicrous good luck and a sea of free poached eggs.

The website

My blog costs me money to run. In order to have a url that doesn’t end in something like blogspot.com or wordpress.com, I have to pay money. I own my own domain name so I can have a url that looks slick and professional. I have to renew this yearly or someone else can buy it. Because I chose not to use a free blogging platform like Blogger (perfect when you start out, not so great when you start to want to get creative with your blog design), I also pay for hosting, every month. If I don’t, the website disappears.

writing the post

The real work starts after that glamorous looking event. We’ve taken millions of photos, so our first job is sorting through that lot and figuring out what’s worth saving. You whittle down the photos to a select few, and then you have to edit them. I don’t actually do much editing on my pictures, but I do go in and tweak the light balance a little to correct for that god-awful orange light that bars seem to love so much and make things appear as they actually do in real life. It can take a few hours to do all this.

We are our own copywriters, editors and proofreaders. Writing a post can also take a couple of hours, by the time you’ve written it, double checked all your notes and the brand website to make sure all the ingredients, prices and details you’ve mentioned are correct. Then, you have to proofread, edit all the bits that make no sense, proofread again, and rinse and repeat until it’s perfect. Then you publish it, and your work is done, right? Nope!

Social

Once you’ve written the post, if you want anyone to read it, you have to promote it. Cue several hours drafting and scheduling tweets and facebook posts, putting posts on Instagram and Instagram stories and wherever else you have a platform. You also spend some time finding the brands correct social links. As well as that sharing, you’re always plugged in, keeping your social platforms busy and interesting, to keep your followers engaged and interested. Across three platforms, I currently have a combined social following of a little over 8300. This is actually pretty small fry in the world of bloggers. I know people with thousands more. This, by the way, is our value to brands. It’s not free. They want to reach those 8000 people, and inviting me to do something is the best way of doing that.

Bloggers don't work for free

Email

Email is the bane of my life. I get hundreds of emails every week, and only a handful are ones I want. My inbox is a awash with emails asking me to please do hours of work for the chance of being retweeted by a shop with less followers than me, or for the ‘exposure’, or a selection of brands newsletters the have signed me up for without my permission by scraping my email address off my blog. When I can find the actual decent emails, more time is spent emailing back and forth, negotiating prices, confirming dates and generally agreeing on collaboration.

And the rest

Bloggers have to learn all sorts of skills. Photography, social media marketing, proofing, editing…

Lots of us teach ourselves how to code our own websites, or at the least, how to work different website CMS. We learn about SEO, about Google’s algorithms, about social platform algorithms. We keep up to date with guidelines and rules on advertising, on any trends in our niche so we’re always posting up-to-date content. We spend hours gently sobbing while trying to sort out our tax returns and whatever mad spreadsheets we have devised to track our finances, blog traffic and whatever else we can think of. We’re always networking; with brands, with PRs, with each other.

Keep in mind most bloggers also have full time jobs. We’re spending all these hours working on our blogs, while also doing our day job, trying to have a social life, keep the house tidy and the fridge full, spend time with our families and have time to watch Game of Thrones before somebody spoils it for us.

Lucky? Maybe…but luck with a very heavy helping of bloody hard work.

 

London Restaurant Provides Instagram Packs – Blogger’s Dream or Too Far?

Soho based restaurant, Dirty Bones, have created “foodie Instagram packs” where diners can borrow portable LED camera light, a multi-device charger, a clip-on wide angle camera lens, and a tripod selfie stick. Is this the dream for bloggers and foodie photographers, or is this a step too far in “doing it for the ‘gram”?

Instagram Packs

Whether you’re a blogger, or just a social media user, chances are, if you have Instagram, you’ve probably used it to share pictures of what you’re eating. Social reach is a huge tool for restuarants now and diners sharing their meals can be a great, free way to encourage more customers. More and more young people check out a restaurant’s Instagram presence before deciding to visit. Keen users will even deliberately select or reject dishes, or whole venues, based on pretty they’ll look in their grid.

While some restaurants have rejected this trend and have banned people from taking photographs, far more are going all out to encourage the insta-shares. Most places make sure their dishes and the restaurant itself are looking their best, while others will share their Instagram handle or hashtags on menus, or on signage around the venue.

This move from Dirty Bones is very different to what other venues have done before. In a statement from a spokesperson, they said, “More and more people are also using Instagram to help them decide where to eat, so as a restaurant group it’s key for us to make sure that people are getting the best possible shots of all our dishes and drinks”.

As a blogger, a part of me is quite excited by this. While I tend to use my camera more than my phone for food snaps, I, and every food blogger I know, has bewailed the trend of orange tinged lighting in cool venues, which makes taking nice photos of food a real challenge. Having a little portable light on hand (instead of another blogger with their phone torch diffused through a napkin…yes, we do this for each other) in order to battle the orange curse does sound very attractive, and would make my photography easier. Available chargers is also a nice touch; bloggers are permanently online. Go to dinner with bloggers and everyone is busily updating three or four different social channels, trying to get a good boomerang and snapping pictures, and all that activity chews battery. Perhaps clip on lenses and tripods is a bit far (but for shorties like me, the tripod for that all important flatlay is quite exciting…) and I can see bloggers and social addicts alike using these kits.

On the other side, I also wonder if it’s too far. Of course I want to great photos for my social channels and my blog, and obviously I’m not adverse to sharing pictures of my dinner. But with all that kit, are we going to end up forgetting what we’re actually there for, which is to eat. By the time you’ve got your kit, set up lights, clipped your lens on, set up the tripod, rearranged the table to look as good as possible and snapped all those photos, is the food you’re eating still going to be at it’s best? Are you actually getting the best experience spending twenty minutes photographing a sexy burger that’s cold before you can eat it? Are people going to use these kits on dates? Out for lunch with their mum?

I’d love a kit like this provided for actual blogger events, or pre-arranged reviews, but I’m not sure I’d want one for somewhere I was just visiting. But, if those Instagram shares are so integral to businesses looking to attract the young and cool set, is this kit just a very sensible idea in order to get the best representation possible? Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. What do you think? Would you use this kit?

Blogger Problems

From the outside, it can look like bloggers lead a charmed life. A life that is a whirlwind of events, free products and Instagram. Alright, sometimes it is like that, but usually it’s actually pretty unglamorous. At an event last week, I caught myself with a couple of bloggers talking about the really silly parts of blogger issues. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, here’s the worst blogger problems out there.

Blogger Problems

  • It is surprisingly challenging to eat a canape at the same time as photograph it. Those more networking style events are a minefield if you’re trying to get content from them. You need one hand to hold your drink, another to hold a canape, another to hold your camera to photograph that canape, a hand for your phone so you can tweet and instagram about your swank life and yet another hand for shaking the hand of the PR someone is trying to introduce you too. Add in trying to hold your bag or your coat (sometimes your laptop if you came straight from work) and you need to be some kind of octopus blogger.
  • You can’t remember the last time you ate food in a restaurant (or often your own cooking at home) that was the intended temperature. By the time you’ve rearranged the table, shifted the plate around to find some non-orange light (WHY IS EVERYWHERE LIT SO ORANGE!!), upset your dining companion by asking them to please get their bloody arm out of your shot, and finally got  a photo of your meal that you’re happy with, it’s gone cold.
  • People have started refusing to come for dinner with you. Either their dinner is cold after all the rearranging, you’ve scolded them or stabbed them with a fork for trying to eat before you’ve finished taking pictures, or you’ve shamed them by standing up, standing on your chair, or generally whipping out a giant camera and flash gun, to take the very best picture. You find yourself saying things like, “Photos before forks!”. So now you have to eat alone…
  • You’ve bought a new product, maybe a coveted eye shadow palette or something like that, and you’re desperate to try it out. Trouble is, you need to photograph it first before you ruin how pretty it looks, and the idea of setting up the shot seems like a lot of hassle just to put on some eyeshadow.
  • You’re so used to making flatlays for Instagram, you keep arranging everything you own into attractive flatlays. The food shopping, your makeup, your outfit choice. The cat. Your housemate.
  • A huge part of your day is involved in looking for suitably cool looking walls to take your outfit photos in front of.
  • Events are a minefield. You’ve come straight from work and arrive an underdressed, sweaty mess. You’ve smeared canape down your coat. Someone important from a magazine fell over your work bag after you tried to subtly put it down so you had enough hands for cameras and drinks and hand shaking. You’ve forgotten that blogger’s actual name and can only remember their Twitter handle. Somebody asked where you were from and you cheerfully answered, “Worcester!” before realising they meant, what blog are you from. So much cringe ahead.
  • Photography can be the best fun, but also a bloody nightmare. You get set up and the sun goes in. You bought a beautiful camera, but it won’t fit in your bag, and it’s so heavy it nearly pulls your shoulder off. You feel like the world’s biggest knob making your friend take ‘candid’ photos of you for outfit posts. It’s just all very awkward.

What’s the silliest blogger problem you’ve experiences?