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Saturday, December 31, 2016

5 Biggest Struggles of Blogging


You guys know how much I love blogging. I mean I wouldn't be doing this for so many years now if I didn't like it, right? More so start the blog? 

I love blogging and it has become a very important part of my life, but of course, it is something, too, in the world of today, that comes with a lot of struggles. I normally don't like to dwell on struggles or negativity for that matter, but sometimes, I feel talking about them can also be a healthy way to open up everyone's perspectives on things. So here I go. 

The biggest struggle is probably:

1.) Minding your own business. 
I'm sure for everyone in the industry, it's a struggle to not mind how others are doing. It takes a conscious effort to detach yourself from feeling bad as to why brand X collaborated with blogger A whom you know will just sell the received products secretly, or why blogger B already has thrice the amount of your followers and opportunities even if she's just been doing it for 5% the time you've been doing it.

Blogging is not an industry wherein one's years concretely add up. You can be blogging for 10 years and still not command the same popularity or respect like another blogger who's just been in the biz for 6 months. Your years can help to keep you in more and more brands' guest lists, but it will not necessarily get you more special collaborations like going abroad or working on the very few paid collaborations brands devote their budgets for. It's a lot like showbiz wherein there are people who could try and try for so long and not succeed. and then there are people who barely even try, but with luck or the right network, they get propelled to stardom.  

Brands are not fountains of products, and they have a limited lump sum budget to divide among bloggers, magazine staff, celebs, models, and the like. Every time a brand decides to do an event or collaboration, they cannot invite everyone or give products to everyone and they have certain criteria as to who will be getting those opportunities. Bloggers have very different tastes, writing and photography styles, social media influence, and the like. And brands will also send out products with a particular goal/equity in mind. 

So the biggest struggle is to not get attached to all this. Blogging is an exercise of recognizing and appreciating what you have versus what you don't have, and it is a tough exercise. 

2.) Blogging Now is Reaaaally A Numbers Game
When I started blogging in 2012, and subsequently beauty blogging in 2013, the landscape was already quite different. Now, it's even crazier, but at the time, it was no longer the same as circa 2006-2007. I know a lot of you guys are probably inspired by blogger X or Y who was just this small town girl turned online influencer/star/endorser rolled into one and they would narrate about how brands found them just because they were so passionate about what they were doing and everything. Nowadays, such a story is hard to come by. Everyone has been mesmerized by such stories and millions have gone into blogging as a result. Add in the whole advent of online advertising and influencer advertisements and everything now is based on the numbers. Passion is not necessarily quantifiable, so it's kinda sad... 

No matter how good you are of a writer or photographer, readers will not notice you unless you already have readers (which is the most ironic thing I will ever say, but is unfortunately the truth). People will not watch your videos even if it has the best everything if it hasn't had like 100 thousand views. People won't follow or subscribe if you don't have thousands of fans. And this carries over with brands. Even if you're that lone blogger passionately blogging about a brand, and have been doing so for years now, they will most likely not pay attention unless your site gets a good amount of traffic or you're famous on social media. They will still probably collaborate with the very very popular blogger who probably doesn't even know their brand exists rather than work with someone without the stats. 

3.) Constantly Coming Up With New Content
Most industrial or commercial blogging nowadays is about constantly coming up with fresh content to keep readers interested and to create a good brand recall. While it's fun, I am honestly exhausted all the time because being a blogger is a constant catch up to produce content. Being a blogger is all about keeping abreast about the latest in digital, and given that everything moves so fast, it can get hard to keep up. The moment you finish a blog post, a million others are potentially waiting. I'm not saying I'm not grateful for what I do, I'm just saying that it can get tiring when deadlines pile up and the need to catch up arises. 

One beauty brand alone can churn out new products almost every two weeks, and multiply that with many brands, and there's really something new to blog about everyday. Of course, it's nice to always have something to write about, and of course, it's always fun to get products from really nice brands. But, everybody will have a burnout or saturation phase at some point. It's just not possible to be on one's toes 24/7 producing content over new products or beauty trends and stay sane. This is why it's not uncommon to hear of social media detox, internet detox, blogging hiatus, and other similar terms from fellow bloggers. 

It can get tiring to constantly have to have a "reaction" or "response" to everything happening in one's industry. There are times wherein I purposely need to take a few days or weeks off just not caring about anything in the beauty world just so I can rest. 

And yeah, not all the new products or trends we bloggers report about are free, so it can also get costly to constantly keep one's followers updated. 

4.) Accepting that Blogging Can't Be Your Life
In the Philippines, it more or less can't be your life except if you're already very famous that either your ad revenues are feeding your family or your sponsorship deals are getting you by. And these people are probably less than 30 in the whole Philippines. Ad payouts here are lower compared to other countries, so when YouTubers in the US say they earn XX amount, a YouTuber here probably earns anywhere between 10-30% of that amount for the same number of views. The payouts are so small that one reaaaally just needs so much views to earn a living. 

So for the rest, a lot of it is about making things work. I have friends who work the night shift, friends who work online, friends who choose only flexitime careers in order to maintain blogging. Many friends are freelance makeup artists, photographers, ghost writers, and entrepreneurs. One still needs to have time to produce content, so there really are sacrifices being made to have a schedule that can accommodate such. On the other hand, I have blogger friends who work in corporate and instead sacrifice being able to attend brunch and teatime blogger events (aka the times most blogger events are scheduled at). Everybody needs to make it work somehow. 

As for the blogger loot I get, people alwaaaays (like ALL THE TIME) ask me what happens to my products after I blog about them (perhaps waiting for me to offer them the items hahaha). Well, they go to my closets, fortunately/unfortunately. In actuality, the Philippines is a very delicadeza-centric country, and though unwritten, selling is more or less not allowed. In China, I learned that it is very common for influencers to publicly promote their online stores selling their excess or used blogger items. But in here, it's highly frowned upon. Brands and PR executives try their best to pretend it doesn't happen, but in general, they will not think twice about severing relationships with bloggers who keep on selling blogger kits. I have seen top bloggers dropped off the lists of PR agencies because of selling products, and if they are already the cream of the crop, what more I? 

It's a highly grey area till now actually. Some brands don't mind selling if the product is already reviewed. And then some don't mind if the product was sold waaaay after the review (in order to save face for the brand because if it's sold right away, it connotes the blogger doesn't feel it's worth keeping). Some don't mind selling so long as a certain percentage of items they send do get reviews or mileage. On the other hand, some do not allow selling altogether and will sever ties with any blogger seen doing so. 

So in summary, since every brand has its own set of unwritten rules, I just don't sell altogether. I give my reviewed items to my mom all the time, and new spares to family and friends. I really would like to transfer my makeup to empty cases and palettes then give them off as giveaways to readers/friends/relatives so the products don't spoil. That's my plan just so that there is no feeling of wastage. No selling just to be safe. 

And no selling means I barely get to monetize anything. So yeah, until I am suddenly blessed by the heavens and become a viral beauty sensation tomorrow with enough ad revenues to feed my future grandchildren, I have to find something else to do aside from blogging. I would like to make content often, but in the long run, it's just not going to be viable. 

5.) Many Brands Can be Abusive
Now this is something that was characteristic of my 2016. Working with a lot of brands also means being abused by a lot of brands. This is why I am slowly learning about the people who are worth maintaining working relationships with. There are many brands who have this mindset that bloggers are soooo freebie hungry that they can treat bloggers in an undignified manner so long as freebies are involved. There are also a lot of brands who come up with all sorts of contracts and memoranda of agreement full of very unjust clauses to trick bloggers to work (I only know of one lawyer-blogger so I think it's safe to say the rest of us are sardines unknowledgeable of contracts). There are even brands who make up stories just to get the content that they need at the time they want it, even at the expense of the blogger's wellbeing. 

There are also a lot who work with a lot of strings attached. Like the initial offer to the blogger is a simple collaboration, but once the blogger agrees, all of a sudden all sorts of demands, rules and deadlines come up. The blogger can not comply, although it is sad to see that there are brands who really think that once the blogger gets products that the bloggers are already their slaves. 

Oftentimes, it's only one bad egg ruining the company. The one you're directly talking to may not necessarily reflect the PR strategy of the company nor the marketing department. There are also people who treat you horribly because they're already leaving, but it's only because of their own demotivation per se and it has nothing to do with the brand or company or their bosses.

 The issue, a lot of times, is when the companies refuse to acknowledge and rectify the mistakes of errant employees. I am working with companies who think that not resolving the transgressions their employees towards me in the past is OK so long as they send products all the time. And that's very very very wrong. I'd much rather see the empoloyee reprimanded/rebuked than receive products as bandaid solutions. Or I'd rather have them concretely show me that they are investigating the matter and trying to get to the bottom of it. I don't need free products if it empowers them to feeling that they can do wrong to me and it'd all be alright with a freebie here and there.  

In the end, the brands who actually get the most mileage from bloggers are those that are very concise and honest about their campaign goals, expectations from the blogger, rewards for the blogger, and timelines. Money is barely ever involved, actually. And the clearer the communication, the better the content. And that is also a source of a problem. I've worked with brands wherein when they see me do good content for another brand, they will cajole their way into getting content similar to what I did  for the other brand by suddenly "disapproving" or "still reviewing" the content I had already done for them. But in reality, it wasn't my lack of motivation or devotion-- some brands really just know what they want that they can articulate it very well that it comes to life very beautifully. 

The sad part is that since blogging is all about delicadeza, there's barely any place where we can actually air abuses done upon us. There is no legit council/group/federation that will sanction or bring to light the abuses one brand does. Many bloggers are also afraid to name brands for fear of its effects on their careers. So a lot of times, it's my mom who just knows the people whom I've already killed at least 3 times in my head. 

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I wrote this blog post in order to balance off the image people have of bloggers. I know it's soooo annoying to see people keep on getting freebies and fancy invites, but I thought every once in a while I'd balance it off. My Anthro project was actually about haters of bloggers, and my personal take is that people become haters because they think the blogger doesn't deserve it. They think the blogger doesn't deserve the good parts because bloggers often don't show the ugly or bad parts to blogging. People often think it's all glitz and glamour, not knowing that it's just as tiring and as unglamorous as any other industry out there. While I always try to keep a positive tone here, sometimes I also want to be realistic and show that for the freebies and perks we get, there are also a lot at stake and a lot needed in return. 


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