I suppose that, as a blogger, I'm expected to post about most of the things that go on in my life. What I eat, where I go, the free stuff I get - it's SOP to share them here or on my social media accounts. I admit that starting out all those years ago, I was like that. I wanted to show off. I feel pressured to show off my wonderful life.
The pressure might be imaginary, but I feel that it permeates my life. A recent example is coming back from Japan, with barely any shopping in tow. Yeah, I didn't shop much. I took quite a bit of money with me plus my credit cards, but I didn't buy a lot of things at all. Why? I told my mother it's because I didn't go to Shibuya, where all the fab shopping is. The real reason, though, is that I just didn't feel like it.
I wanted to BE in Tokyo, to lie down in a park soaking in the autumn sun. I wanted to sit in a bench in Akihabara to watch people passing by. I wanted to go to a temple and pay homage. I wanted to experience things without having the compulsion to snap a picture or buy a souvenir.
A lot of newer beauty bloggers ask me the same question: how do I earn money from my blog? Can I/ should I even earn money from my blog? How much do you earn, at Projectvanity.com?
This used to be a touchy subject back when blogging was the sole realm of glorified journal writers - when business-minded bloggers didn't yet exist. I look back on that time with a sense of nostalgia, but I am also aware of the hard facts today. Bloggers are extremely influential in their respective niches and can drive up sales if a brand approaches them the right way. At least, that's how it is for small-medium businesses. Very few bloggers in the Philippines have the kind of following that can put a big brand front and center of its target market.
And that is why some bloggers charge for services now. Not because they're greedy little pieces of junk, but because they are influential or at least give a brand some much-needed, quality exposure online. I keep saying this - it's not a small feat to run a good, updated blog. It takes money, time, expertise, and passion (or at least a certain hard-nosed gumption) to create a website that's worth reading and coming back to.
Model: Alexis Urbiztondo | Makeup: Theresa Carbonel | Photographer: Karen Sarte
I think it's not fair for a brand to take advantage of that and give absolutely nothing valuable in return. Likewise, it's unfair for a blogger to demand free things and cash from brands if he/she doesn't have high traffic, quality content, and influence to offer in the first place.
Confession: I kinda get irritated when I find out that people think I blog for a living. I honestly, truly don't. I earn money from this blog every once in a while it's true, but companies always take a while to pay up and unfortunately my bills can't wait. Boy, do I have a lot of bills. My lifestyle is not extravagant but it's not frugal either.
My actual day job is consulting for retail brands and sometimes ad agencies. I handle my clients' marketing, social media, PR, and events along with an assistant whom I dearly treasure. This is something I'm very proud of because it means I have a wide set of skills and a network I can collaborate with. This is where the real money comes in
I just want to get this out of the way because it's been bothering me all day.
As you know I handle PR and marketing for a few clients. When I first started approaching top fashion bloggers to collaborate with, I was a little taken aback by the fact that they ask to be paid just to have my brand worn or mentioned on their blog. I've been blogging for almost a decade and I have not yet subscribed to that business model, although I've done a few paid months-long campaigns for different brands in the past. Campaigns, I believe, are not the same as paid mentions.
But I do understand where the fashion bloggers are coming from. I am well aware that blogs take A LOT of time and resources to run. Blogs at a certain level are raking in hundreds of thousands of views; just being mentioned there can be the boost a business needs. Naturally, it ain't free.
A lot has been said about how bloggers should work with brands, but I don't think there's a guide on how brands should work with bloggers. I've been blogging for eight years now; I've been handling the social media marketing and PR of fashion retail (as well as, recently, food) brands for about three of those years. I thought I'd talk about what I've learned during that time. :)
But why now? Last night I received an email from what sounds like a very expensive skincare brand. The person promised me about P26,000 worth of products and services in exchange for a positive review. Oh, dear. Wrong move. First, I don't care how expensive your product is because that's not the main reason I would agree to review it. Second, I don't guarantee positive reviews (or a review at all, for that matter).
Now I sound like an asshole, but let me explain! If you're a brand looking to successfully work with influential bloggers, you have to understand what motivates them. It can't be denied that some bloggers are just looking for an easy freebie or a free meal. They don't care about their blogs and by extension who reads them, but they do care about what they get out of the gig, short-term. I don't advise that you work with them because you will not get the kind of exposure your brand deserves.
There are bloggers who do it for money. Hey, if it's a fairly popular blog then you can be sure that the blogger has invested a lot of time, money, and effort in it! The blogger has every right to ask for compensation to feature your product or advertise your site - and you have every right to say no.
Established beauty bloggers like myself have many incentives to blog. The passion for the niche is a given already because it's difficult to go far as a blogger without it; I mean, imagine all the time, money, and research that have gone into building a website worth reading and coming back to! We may have started our blogs casually, as a hobby, but maintaining it takes dedication.
I wouldn't call it an investment because when we started we expected very little from this (ad)venture. Nonetheless, our efforts are - whether we like to be coy about it or not - being rewarded handsomely.
We get freebies and invitations to fun parties. More importantly, I think, we're part of a close-knit community that you would be surprised to know isn't competitive. These are some of the things that motivate us to blog regularly, to come up with interesting free content for our readers. But. How about new beauty bloggers who are largely ignored by brands and the community? Being just one of hundreds of new bloggers in the niche, how could they hope to keep their blog going?
And why should we care?
I was thinking, if only I could get past February then I can relax and laugh all the way to the bank. But my March is starting to fill up with more events to organize, more work to accomplish. I thought it wasn't possible to get this busy! The only times I get to eat is if I'm at a meeting! Aw. (Now if only all my meetings were in a vegan resto or something, I won't have to worry about my waistline.)
Someone asked me how I'm still able to blog even with everything on my plate. I have thought about leaving Project Vanity for a while, just until work eases up a little.
I scanned all my posts this 2012 - roughly 600 of them - to get a feel of how my year has been. Mostly it was a blur. Things that happened in January feel like they happened only last week! I wish I am just exaggerating to make my life sound more important than it actually isn't, but true story, I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that it's 2013 tomorrow.
In a little over a month (February 7) I will be turning 25. Quarter of a century. I don't feel old, but I don't feel young anymore. It's around this point when people start thinking about what they want to do with their lives. I've already figured out what I want to do with my life, barring unexpected changes. The so-called mid-life crisis shall be lost on me (or am I speaking too soon?).
Anyway, here's a quick trip down my memory lane. Some of the fun things I did in 2012!
Organized and hosted a Pinkbox party early January. It's my first event for Pinkbox! <3 I love Ms Nelly! She's my peg in life. I also enjoy working on Pinkbox because it's...so pink! But seriously, I love the people there, and how the brand keeps on coming up with new creative things for us girls to wear. (Photos grabbed from Angela).
I met Maggie and Annie, daughters of Jean and Jane Ford (founders of Benefit Cosmetics) on my birthday. They were so awesome! And nice! And tall haha.
Someone on Twitter, I forget who, said that you can only feel truly burnt-out about something you love. If you don't love it then you'll simply be tired of it, but to be burnt-out requires a mixture of infinite exhaustion, double-guessing, and regret. Thankfully it's something most people recover from. Those who don't move on and the rest of the world continues, nonchalant.
Am I feeling a rash of blogger burnout? Oh dear, no. I do sometimes find it difficult to start a post, nay, to even choose what to write about, but I get over it. I read a book. Watch a TV show. Do my other work. Then get back to writing a post and before I know it I'm all set! It's easier now since I've been doing this for a few years - I know the vocabulary, how to plan the content, basically the whole process starting from the point I decide which products to use down to that "Save & Close" publish button. It's easier but that doesn't mean it's not difficult, which is why there are still days when I don't feel inspired at all.
There are a few common reasons why beauty and fashion bloggers stop blogging, or at least take a "hiatus".
Last Thursday I guested at Karrots Nazareno's show, Live Love Lolz. It was the most fun I've had in a while! There we tried the Pagoda Cold Wave lotion (the real thing), talked about beauty and fashion tips, and blogging of course.
Click the image to view the 44-minute podcast!
Before you watch I would like to apologize in advance for my very obvious scalp (got my hair blowdried and the salon person put something in my hair that sort of separated them on top) and for fidgeting a lot. But! It's okay. Hope you still enjoy watching.
Pagoda Cold Wave lotion review: the ultimate beauty review. Hehe.
Have you guys seen the Preview September cover? It features fashion bloggers Tricia Gosingtian, Laureen Uy, and Camille Co. When I saw it, I was like, whoa! Whoa.
I think these girls deserve to be on the cover - they are intensely influential and it's only fitting that a magazine steeped in the hottest trends would recognize that. I mean, not just by featuring them inside the pages but by putting them right up there in front!
This cover makes blogging mainstream here in the Philippines. For real this time.
I started beauty blogging four years ago. My blog ran on nothing but my time, computer, internet connection, and a student's allowance. Starting out I wrote general information articles on beauty and reviews on products I buy. Four years later, I am earning quite a good sum of my money from my blog alone. The swag I get every month is maybe worth five figures. And I still write general information articles and reviews on products. :)
I sound like a bragging asshole just about now but I'm telling you this because my "success story" is not as simple as it sounds. For the past four years I invested a huge chunk of my time and money on this website. Waking up at 6am just to write and process photos, planning my content days beforehand, marketing my blog and personal brand, these things are not a walk in the park. I have what I have because I'm passionate about my niche. I did this when I got nothing out of it. I will still do this even if all my sponsors leave me.
My actual job is handling the social media and PR of retail brands. Every so often, a new blogger messages or emails these brands asking for "sponsorship". That is, free stuff for their blog review or contest.
Have you read Gabbie Tatad's article on Philippine Star called "A fashion blogger reality check"? Do! It's a great opinion piece on the culture of fashion blogging in the country. I agree with many of the things she said, particularly in these passages:
As far as I can see, everything in this world has its place. Sure, clothes have a myriad of positive effects — changing the way you feel, skimming down features you’re not exactly thrilled with, expressing the facets of your personality only you might be aware of. And yes, I will be the first to tell you that fashion is art, expression, freedom, inspiration, and creation.
But it is also function and comfort, and days when clothes really are just clothes. Because while we’ve been made to believe that they might make the man, they aren’t magical enough to produce substance where there is none. They serve their purpose, but fall second to character, skill, intellect, and depth —something so easily forgotten in a haze of lens flare and digitally-retouched lighting.
I do have a comment on something else she pointed out.
No one sent me a letter for advice this week, hmp! I'm hurt, you guys! You need to give me something to work with! Haha. Okay, to hopefully encourage you to email me, I will send a gift to the chosen letter sender - could be skincare, could be makeup. I will ship it to you as long as you're based in the Philippines.
Please keep the letters coming!
For this week's Liz Says, I will just answer a question I received on the forum. Clarissa asked:
Hi Liz. I've always been a fan of your blog. I'm starting my own today, but I would like to ask...How have you achieved everything that you have achieved? How did you start out and how do bloggers get in to blogger events, etc. I'm really curious! Thanks!
This is a bit of a tired topic since I've answered these questions several times in the past, but since it's 2012 - hey why not. I started beauty blogging in 2008. I was still in college and starting to really get into makeup. I've been learning so much, reading reviews and watching tutorials, that I decided to put up a blog to share all my cool finds and tidbits of beauty wisdom. Snap, it was that simple.
My family was not rich. We're comfortable, but not loaded enough that I could ask my parents to buy me expensive makeup. So like any teen I started with Ever Bilena, Nichido, and Avon makeup.