What it's really like to blog (& the money you won't make)
I was greatly saddened yesterday to discover this tweet from fellow blogger, Katie Heath. Briefly, she's been writing a blog for 6 years and has been rather successful. So much so, she and her husband were invited to be in a documentary for the rather beautiful Cliveden House in Berkshire.
Basically, The Times thought it appropriate to print an article where they portrayed her as a "detestable freeloader" rather than an astute businesswoman.
You can see Katie's full (and well written) article here. In it, Katie mentions her anticipation of being portrayed on the programme in an "unflattering light". To her credit, she doesn't seem fazed by this. What she hadn't realised, however, was the wrath of the Twitterati, and my goodness they didn't pull their punches with their thoughts about her "work".
Remember The Guardian's advert from the eighties (coughs *how old am I?!*)? It's a great example of how editing can affect someone's perception of a situation. So when A Very British Country House aired and tweets came through from people hating on Katie Heath, they're based on an editor's choice of moments from a story that could have been portrayed very differently.
Thankfully, she has her blog to fall back on, where she can control what people see and has time to tell her story, without it being hacked back to make her sound like someone she isn't.
For any blogger, it's sometimes difficult to persuade people what you really do is any effort at all, despite the fact blogging can be similar to the work of reporters, journalists, advertisers and so on - i.e. age-old professions many people have often aspired to.
But the fact is, times are changing. Fewer people are buying newspapers and magazines so there aren't as many traditional jobs available. But more and more people are going online which is why blogs can be so successful.
So why shouldn't someone create their own job by blogging?
The thing is, although it looks glamorous, blogging doesn't initially earn you anything. Nothing. It's either something done for family and friends (as it was for Katie Heath) or a side-line to a business (like mine). I love keeping customers updated with new products or helping them find an easier path in life if they have coeliac disease. But it doesn't really earn me anything. And I'm talking about this as someone who last year started racking up numbers of 10,000 unique visitors per month.
Admittedly, sometimes I get freebies. There'll be a new product launch of gluten-free chocolate bars or a lovely restaurant will have a coeliac-friendly menu. And these freebies are hugely welcome. But I still have to sing for my supper. A blog post is usually fairly easy to do. But it does take time to make sure photos are good and social media is pre-programmed. I love pretty much all of it, but it doesn't pay the rent.
If I were determined to be a full-time blogger then I'd seriously have to up my game (note: I'm not, so please don't worry about your cakes - I love making them, too!). To be someone who has influence in their field takes a lot of work, and it's not easily done.
I think what's most difficult as a blogger boils down to one thing: the ability to come across as someone genuine who doesn't seem to have it all (but you'll be influenced by anyway).
Very few people take kindly to those who have it easy (or seem to). Whatever the reason, it's hard for many of us not to get a little jealous if we continually see people having a good time. What happens behind the scenes isn't usually a story the blogger wants you to see.
It doesn't take much thinking about. What would it do to a business's blog if the manager moaned about their impending divorce, how they didn't think the shop would survive the next year and that they'd come to loathe their product. (You'll note the lack of question mark. We don't really need to query it.)
In a world that's so keen to promote better mental health and awareness of others, it shocks me people can be so openly opinionated on social media in response to things they've read or seen. I'm all for free speech but calling people names and being mean isn't necessary.
One of the reasons I blog is to make the world more inclusive. I want everyone who's affected by food restrictions to be able to benefit from a little bit of help in life. It might be a recipe I've tried and loved, a video on how to create a gluten-free Yorkshire puddings, a list of ways to deal with people who don't understand how to cater for coeliacs, or simply a selection of photos I've put together showing people how to have an enjoyable holiday without packing two weeks' worth of food in case nothing is "sin gluten".
I hope in doing so, I don't end up feeling naïve or regretful.
That said, I remember once seeing another blogger boast about something nasty that was written about her on Twitter. "Yes!" she cried. "My first troll!"
Perhaps all we need to do is turn trolling into a game and then it won't matter. The followers that care about us and what we do will be proud.