Advertising on your blog is such a funny thing. It's the main way most bloggers make money (and subsequently a living), yet most readers (who aren't bloggers themselves) seem genuinely disdainful of people doing any kind of advertising. It's a double edged sword, really.
The flip side of the coin is that brands seem to think bloggers are eager to work for free or ~exposure~. I've gotten small brands that will ask me to essentially work without any renumeration for them for a "chance" to be featured on Instagram accounts with smaller follower counts than I have. Personally, I don't consider that a form of payment at all. Call me greedy, but a ~chance~ to be exposed to a low follower Instagram account doesn't exactly get the bills paid.
Reflecting on My Blog in 2015
My blog certainly grew in 2015, seeing higher engagement, more collaborations with brands and a higher follower account. But what I learned is that none of that comes for free. Until I'm at the top, no one can really afford to "coast" as there are so many bloggers that people will whizz right past you. I'm learning to work smarter and what my audience is liking and what they're not really responding to.
During 2015, I got a few paid opportunities, but a TON of gifted merchandise. As much as I appreciate this, I feel like my blog content has really suffered. Working on a gifting basis can be great, and I will still consider it in the future for brands I really love and products I'm passionate about, but it feels like as of late, it has clogged up my blog and people aren't necessarily responding to it. Each "gifted" item takes a few hours of work, and most of the time they don't want your blog post to be sandwiched in with other items--instead, they want front and center prime real estate on your blog.
So what am I going to do about it?
I've instituted a new policy. For now, unless otherwise stated by myself and the brand (as there are several brands I'm very keen to continue working with on a gifted basis), gifted items cannot guarantee a free review. To me, it honestly has started to feel like a waste of time, makes my blog suffer and makes blogging begin to feel like a bit of a chore.
Again, call me a greedy blogger, but as much as I appreciate them, free lipstains that I might never use again and my readers may not even enjoy, don't exactly pay the rent.
Going Forward in 2016
This year, I am continuing to up my social media engagement, while cutting down on free gifted items posts.
I will also be introducing a guest spot, where once a week or month (depending on interest, etc.), guest posts will be put up in order to make the space a bit more our own and increase awareness of other bloggers.
Lastly, I will be doing more webinars and possibly introducing more courses.
I would like to either go full-time with my blog by September, or at least somewhere close to that. Given that I will have completed my PhD by that time and how much I love the work I do in that field, I don't think I will ever NOT be employed in some way--whether it be through formal work or adjunct teaching. However, that doesn't mean that my blog can't be a bigger source of income and savings, especially if I ever got sick again and really needed some time to rest.
I'm also going to try to do more YouTube videos, though I find myself getting discouraged with them far more often as it seems the YouTube community isn't as supportive as the blogosphere. Of course, as with anything, you'll always get some nasty pieces of work when you put yourself out there, but the trolling some people do is a bit ridiculous.
If you're a blogger, what are your plans in 2016? What would you like to see me do on this blog?