How I Make Money
In the wake of several one-sided articles and the poorly researched BBC Panorama documentary, the influencer industry is once again getting a bad rep. People are paying attention to the new CMA advertising guidelines and I’ve bared witness to several blogging friends being falsely accused of not labelling their content correctly. It seems that the majority of people have their minds made up about influencers and how they make money - but it’s not as simple as posing for a pretty picture, uploading it onto Instagram and watching the pounds roll in. For most of us that are navigating this new industry, we have our fingers in many pies.
I don’t class myself as an ‘influencer’; I don’t want to label myself as having influence over people to persuade them to purchase things or experiences; instead, I want to inspire people. I am a writer, a photographer, a creative manager, a blogger, and an Instagrammer. I make money from all of these avenues, and sometimes I work with brands to create sponsored content. To make things clearer to my readers/followers and to anyone wondering how people make a living off having a creative job, I thought I’d open up and share how I make my money.
Yes, I do occasionally make money off this blog and my Instagram. No, it’s not a full time job and I couldn’t survive on the money these channels currently bring in. Sometimes, collaborations on my blog and Instagram tie in with my writing and photography work; other times they are exclusive to these platforms. Sometimes they’re fairly lucrative, other times I work well below my usual hourly rate.
I’ve been gifted items for some years now, but have only been making money the past year. I’m very picky about who I work with, and will only agree to partner with a brand if the content fits seamlessly with my organic content and if I agree with the ethos of the brand. I prefer working with small, independent and ethical brands, rather than large companies that you already see everywhere. Sometimes I pitch ideas to brands I would love to work with. Most of the time, I don’t hear anything back, but occasionally I get to work with some of my favourite brands to produce content that I’m proud to share on my blog and Instagram.
Some people say the blog is dead (I don’t) but I much prefer working on blog partnerships than those solely focused on Instagram. I enjoy spending time creating a set of images and accompanying text for brands. My favourite jobs are those that concentrate on creating a blog post that I then share on Instagram.
Then there’s my freelance work. I mainly work as a writer for a variety of websites and independent magazines, but over the past year I have also started working as a photographer and running Instagram accounts for brands. Some of this work is regular (one client I have been working with for 3.5 years) but none of it is guaranteed income. Sometimes I have several regular jobs, at the moment I only have two. I rely on ad hoc work, usually gained from pitching ideas to places I would like to write for. Occasionally, dream clients get in touch with me and get my heart racing.
Quite often, someone will get in touch and ask me to write an unpaid article for their magazine or to promote their brand on my blog/Instagram for no fee. I used to leap at opportunities like this, thrilled that my words would be included in a real magazine or that a brand wanted to work with me - until I realised that I was undervaluing not only myself but the entire industry. Every time you agree to work for free, not only are you giving up X amount of hours of your time (when you could be working on a paid project and actually making money) but you are validating these publications & brands who think they don’t have to pay for content. When someone else demands payment from them, they know they can fall back on the people who will work for free.
I’m lucky enough to have a permanent part-time job that pays well and that I genuinely enjoy - but I can’t get by on just the wages that I make three days a week. I need the money that I make from my freelance work and my blog to pay my bills and everything else. We bloggers put out tons of content for free - blog posts and Instagram posts for myself, but this also includes video content, podcasts & downloads for others - and the money that we make from a handful of sponsored posts justifies the time spent on all of this free content. I love writing my blog, but when it’s taking time away from my freelance work, I need to justify that.
The final piece of the puzzle for my finances is my part-time job, managing content, social media & outreach, planning & executing photo shots, visual merchandising & assisting with the product buying for an independent interiors brand. I travel 1.5 hours each way, three days a week for this job, spending a fair chunk of my wages on travel costs because I love it. Not only does this job give me creative satisfaction, but it’s my safety net. If I don’t make any money at all from my freelance work one month, I still have my wages to fall back on.
This way of working is becoming more and more popular as funding falls away for creative jobs. With websites such as The Pool and Buzzfeed going under/making cuts, I’d be terrified if ‘freelance writer’ was the only title under my belt. Having a multi-hyphen career means that I have more job/money security; even if I have to spend more time organising myself and my workload.
This month, my salaried work will be approximately half of what I earn. Instagram management, writing work for one website and one paid campaign on my blog/Instagram will double that (before tax). Other months I’ve earned far more from my freelance jobs, some months it has been less.
If you’re planning on going freelance, my number one recommendation would be to have a safety net. I am nowhere near those bloggers who make a six-figure salary, but I’m not constantly worrying about money for the first time in my life. But if my freelance work ground to a halt, I’d still have my part-time job to prop me up.
If you have any questions about how to make money as a freelancer, leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help!