Goodness, it’s one of those how I make money blogging posts…..
I never expected to write this because, quite frankly, I never expected to make a decent income when I started this blog.
So when I did, I really didn’t expect to be one of those bloggers who writes about how they made 6 figures by blogging, or scored so many free products they were crushed under the weight of them. (Okay, that last line might be made up. I’ve never read that.)
Money, Money, Money, Money
But recently, I shared I might write this on my Instagram and I had an overwhelming amount of DMs saying, “YES PLEASE WRITE THIS”, which shouldn’t surprise me because really, how often do any of us talk about money? In particular, how and how much money we make.
I’m not a huge proponent of everyone writing income reports and demanding 100% transparency 100% of the time, each to their own. But on the flipside I do think those of us who throw shade at the lack of lucidity in the industry have an obligation to put our money where our mouths are (fitting amiright?!) and share what we are asking others to.
First off, I won’t be publishing jazzy pie charts or monthly reports of how my income has flexed up or down. I won’t be sharing my outgoings or talking you through my secret pastry addiction. I will be sharing the breakdown of everything I earn right now, how I do it and my rough rates for each.
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A bit of background first.
When I first started the blog I was travelling and did the most random things to make ends meet; mostly social media management (which I’m crap at) and VERY poorly paid freelance writing gigs; mostly for other people’s blogs.
That changed when I came home to London where my living wage was significantly higher. I temped in offices doing admin work, then worked in-house for Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine.
I was still travelling a lot, so picked up work with a big travel blog doing the founders social media management, managing their Instagram as well as the agency he also managed. That was crappy money, and as I wasn’t the favourite I never got the trips he’d promised would be given on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis when I took the role, BUT it was great for networking and I was fairly quickly approached for a role with a HUGE travel blogger in NEW YORK. The role was actually remote but the first week involved training with his team in New York and I was seriously pinching myself when I was shortlisted.
HOWEVER. Said potential boss told current boss I’d applied so current boss sacked me. It was hella awks.
Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time and started working with Traverse doing anything and everything for their digital agency. Not only was the THE MOST FUN EVER I also got my teeth stuck into proper freelance life, networking, hustling (ick) and generally learning lots.
Freelance writing was always my first love though, so again, I lucked out and landed my second ever staff writer role for the Express. Total baptism by fire going from full-time freelancer to full-time tabloid journalist but it taught me everything I know. I left when I was five months pregnant with Anaïs which brings us to where we are now…..
So, deep breath, here’s everything I earn, how I do it and how I make money blogging.
Journalism has long been my bread and butter. And in the year after I left the Express I was making a decent monthly income PURELY from cold pitching newspapers and magazines.
It’s only recently I’ve understood how rare it is for freelancers to make 100% of their income from writing the sexy stuff. Honestly. Most of my journo colleagues earn a chunk here, a chunk there usually making money through things like PR consulting, writing for trade mags, copywriting….all sorts.
In truth, I was incredibly lucky.
Now, freelance writing makes up a far smaller chunk and that’s on purpose. I no longer crave those bylines, I crave ease and a decent income.
Although I have to add a disclaimer here; I’ve read a fair few times from bloggers that freelance writing isn’t where the big bucks are. That’s true when you are a blogger writing occasionally, as opposed to building relationships with editors and writing professionally.
This is such a small part of my income but it has been bigger in the past.
I use three main affiliate networks; Amazon, Skimlinks and Affilinet. In truth, I haven’t focused very hard on this for a few years but I probably make about £25-40 a month across the board.
And I utilise a few referral programs for things I use and love which gives me money off stuff, as opposed to cold, hard cash.
However, I recently closed my zero waste shop page because so much of the stuff was from unethical companies (read: Amazon) and tbh I don’t wanna be *that* influencer. So I expect this income stream to drop while I work on new, ethical affiliate streams!
In the past I’ve done lots of brand collaborations now this makes up a very small part of my job, mostly because I have a small audience.
Previously I’ve made around £150-200 per Instagram/blog post but I recently signed up for Whalar where I earn……well, sweet FA.
Overall, I don’t love working with brands……it’s really hard to find a good match and those who are often have very small budgets so, going forward this will probably remain as small a part of my income as it is now.
This is where I was able to take control of my income, and the feast to famine cycle was a little less raw. Having said that, there was still a month where I made 5k and a month where I made £200 so……such is life I guess?
I started with a very simple self-paced course hosted on Teachable and ended last year with two more, more intensive courses, taught live by me.
However I wanted scalability and less 1:1 time because…..time is precious! Especially with another on the way. So I digged into price points, teaching platforms and now have a programme of courses I’ll release throughout the year that’ll, hopefully, be less time-intensive, more affordable for students and provide a source of reliable income.
Without realising it I’ve always consulted for others. A while back, for bloggers wanting to strategise and now for business owners needing digital marketing guidance.
I thought I wanted this to be a big part of my business but I don’t, so I do this on a word of mouth basis and don’t advertise my services. I’ve done corporate podcast training, right through to SEO strategy and it’s one of the most fun parts of my job.
But I typically make £250 – £500 per consulting client depending on whether the work is a 1/2 or full day.
This is a very new income stream for me and I put it in place to fund the podcast. Last season two sponsors funded the entire season, bringing in £1,750 in total.
This season my outgoings are exactly the same but this season I wanted to find a way to fund the podcast without them so my Patreon is 100% for that.
In theory. Because I only have 8 so this doesn’t bring in a whole heap right now……but, it’s better than nowt and I’m endlessly grateful for it 🙂
Recently an article calling out a bunch of influencers using bots went viral. I didn’t read the piece which was taken down fairly swiftly, so missed the juicy deets of the people named and shamed but it doesn’t really matter.
I hate articles like that authored by the anonymous, immediately dampening my trust.
The other reason I didn’t really care about the piece was because…..well, it’s nothing new.
I wasn’t even remotely surprised so many influencers were called out for allegedly using bots (note, allegedly, as I didn’t read the piece and couldn’t comment on its accuracy).
This isn’t a new thing. And it started even before Instagram became everyone’s preferred social media platform. You know why people do it?
Because the whole industry is built on smoke and mirrors. It’s built on opaque media kits and silence.
I’m specifically talking about travel blogging because that’s what I know, or knew. It’s where I built my career and where I fell out of love with blogging for a bit too.
The trouble with travel blogging is that everyone lies.
And because everyone lies, nobody seems to have a solid grip on what their numbers ‘should’ be. And that silence and lack of transparency leads to confusion among new bloggers, mistrust in the ‘OG’ crowd and hella blurriness when it comes to knowing who is successful.
I wrote about how I lost my head and used a bot for a week a while back, so I’m not judging those who do. Well, not much 😉 The reason people use bots in is symptomatic of a diseased industry run by a homogenous group of men who seemingly all started their blogs in 2009. And the occasional woman who, arguably, churns out far better quality content than her male counterpart.
I’d like to name names, but that would be gross and pointless. If someone is asked to go on a press trip despite their crappy writing, mediocre photography and manipulated stats it’s not really their fault. It’s the fault of the industry.
It’s the fault of the PR agency who assigned blogger outreach to the clueless intern or outsourced it to a blogger agency professing to know all the best names (but who actually pick from a pool of their drinking buddies and girls they fancy).
The funny thing, I think, is that every year I went to World Travel Market or a blogging conference I heard people saying the same thing; “It’s about quality, numbers are only important if they’re real…..” but honestly? I call BS.
Vicky Flip Flop talked about the fact she was nearly overlooked for a press trip because her Instagram wasn’t big enough. Which, frankly, is utterly ridiculous if what you want is a quality travel writer to create reliably good content for you.
Of course, not every press trip or brand collaboration has the same goals. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and reach your audience who you know use Instagram, then of course, you need someone with a solid presence and great engagement.
But realistically? What most PRs want is to keep their clients happy. Clients who perhaps don’t understand the inner workings of Instagram and Facebook or truly understand why digital is even better than print coverage….some mightn’t even be on board with the idea of bloggers.
So why would they want the added hassle of having to explain why this person, who has a VERY engaged following and write high-quality content but yes, they are under the brands demands of a 50 DA…..
I get it.
But because of this toxic environment the industry is like a boys club. With a few cliques thrown in for good measure.
Those starting out feel they SHOULD do this, that and the other to succeed and start out with a very blurred view of what they need to aim for. I’ve talked at length about in the past and, despite the fact I KNOW my version of success isn’t to be a full time travel blogger anymore it still rancours when I look back and realise I could’ve been schmoozing and lying my way onto press trips for years instead of doggedly trying to increase my traffic to the magic number that never was….
So, the trouble with travel blogging, the trouble with it all is that it’s all smoke, mirrors and thinly veiled bullshit.
This is a much requested post AND one I’ve been promising to write for a long time, too. It baffles me in a way and saddens me somewhat too — because it speaks to a much deeper issue really doesn’t it?
Funnily enough, this post was supposed to go live last week (I post every other Wednesday) but guess what? Yep. Childcare issues. Then I went into a four-day solo parenting stint and this post was, naturally, pushed to the bottom of the pile.
And it got me thinking about a few things surrounding childcare; how expensive it is, sure; how HARD it is, yep; but, mostly, how completely unreliable it ultimately is when you’re the primary caregiver. Which, let’s face it, falls on the mother in a heterosexual partnership.
Unsurprisingly I’m not the only one who feels like this. It is, of course, a failing of the heteronormative, patriarchal society we live in that sees so many women dropping out of the workplace. It’s not always because they choose to be a ‘home-maker’ *cringes* but often because the cost of working is too high.
Yep, that’s right. It COSTS women to work. I never EVER thought that would be a consideration in my life, something I’d stay up worrying about or a choice I would have to make. Naive? Yeah, possibly. But realistically, when we are told our GCSE options will affect our future careers (and, by the way, what do you want to be when you grow up?) and shoved into a ‘careers advice’ session were you told about the glass ceiling you’d eventually hit?
Me neither. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about my career so far. Nothing. But even so, I would’ve loved a little heads up that maternity pay is hard going, that freelance life is best started sooner rather than later and that NOPE, you probably won’t be able to work while the baby naps.
C’est la vie, amiright? So let’s quit bitching and moaning (actually, please NEVER quit that) and have a look at the main childcare options for working parents.
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Nursery / Daycare
I intrinsically chose this option, not sure why. And I have to say, it’s been the best choice for Anaïs who is incredibly extroverted and loves being around people.
Anaïs started nursery aged five months (I think?) and when I look back, that’s kinda mad! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would do it again and we absolutely adored her first nursery, which was a tiny townhouse in west London run by the most incredible Spanish lady (it was a bilingual nursery) I just can’t believe she was there before she could even walk.
In Brighton, her first nursery didn’t work out (which was a real lesson in trusting your instincts) but the second one has been amazing. Anaïs loves it, we love them and overall it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
But there are downsides to nursery/daycare and here they are…..
Safe, great for children who love playing with others.
Often great activities; our nursery has a weekly artist, musician and they take trips to the local old people’s home too.
Good facilities; we visited one with an indoor soft play! Madness.
Probably makes transition to school easier, but who knows…
Great if you want to get chicken pox out of the way quicksmart. Ditto that hand, foot and mouth and all other gross-sounding illnesses 😉
Expensive. I pay £800 pcm for four ‘short days’ of 8-4pm.
All nurseries have different price inclusions, which if missed can add up.
ZERO leeway with illness, which spreads like wildfire. Kids be filthy 😉
I’ve never used a childminder but know people who have. I looked into it in preparation for going back to work and met with a few childminders through the Childminder.org website.
Many childminders have a setup akin to a nursery, with several children and other childminders.
It’s normally cheaper than nursery.
Your little one might find it easier to build a stronger bond with a childminder, as opposed to having several different caregivers.
Normally, you have to drop off and pick up (as per nursery) but it’s a little more flexible with some childminders.
I found it a bit of a faff trying to find a childminder who ticked all the boxes; location, price etc etc
You need to be a little more vigilant and ensure you check your childminder meets legal criterias. Childcare.org gives guidelines.
I suppose that were a childminder to be ill, you might be a bit screwed although they do seem to work with others to negate this.
This isn’t an option for lots of us so feel free to grumble and skip it. But even if it is an option, it mightn’t be the best one anyway. Helpful stuff, Luce….I know, I know!
It’s normally free!
Who could be more trustworthy than family? I guess that’s subjective….
You get lovely family time as a bonus. Again, I guess this depends on your family dynamics!
It’s potentially not as reliable
You’re at the mercy of someone who isn’t being paid….this can be awkward.
If you hate your family, it’s probably not your favourite day of the week.
You are unlikely to get full-time childcare with this option, although I do know folks who have.
I looked into this option when I still lived in London as it felt like a really cool option. I was keen to get out of the flat and co-work and I wasn’t yet sure I was ready to leave Anaïs with a stranger full-time. So this seemed like a happy medium.
I visited a few, but quickly realised genuine co-working creche facilities are few and far between and, sadly, none that I saw did both well. It wasn’t right for me, but I know a couple of people who have found it a great option.
Your baby will be close by which is great if you’re nervous about leaving them.
It’s a great way to meet like-minded folk in the same, or a similar boat as you.
It can be a pricey option, although the places I viewed varied wildly so shop around.
If you hate the idea of co-working, it’s crap. But then, why would you choose this option….
You have to lug a baby, and all of your work gear into an office….which didn’t work for me with no car!
Working around naps
Nope. Just nope. The amount of people who still shame me when I tell them that, “No, I can’t write 1000 words for a national newspaper while my toddler plays with her toys.” is alarming.
It might work for you, and that’s great. But for me? It’s a hard no.
It’s tax return time for sole traders here in the UK and that means one of a few things; you’ve filed it and have to dig into your savings to find the money to pay, you haven’t done it and are panicking about where your expenses are or you’ve done it and feel smug, like moi.
In fact, I did it last October and that was late for me. *Realises anyone reading is now pelting rotten bananas at their screen*
I’ve been freelance for about five years now and I’ve only just realised how bloody good I am at managing my finances. Also, isn’t it great to start a post with an obnoxious brag? No? Woops.
I’m naturally very analytical and have always been pretty good with numbers, something I fought against for a long time because it meant I wasn’t creative – at least, that’s what my parents and school told me. You might relate to this, or perhaps you are in the camp of hating numbers or even being scared of them.
I’m lucky in that I’m not, I know that. Because even I found the most difficult element of switching from traditional employment to self-employment was the money bit.
I found it scary, confusing and overwhelming. I’ve been through three accountants because they are typically men who deal best with other corporate men, or women who earn a lot more than I ever have as a freelancer. And in more traditional forms of freelancing too. I’ve been patronised, ignored and laughed at but guess what? Those fools didn’t realise who they were dealing with, namely someone who used to manage millions of pounds for big name retailers, answering to stuffy, cross men in suits daily.
So, yeah. They all got TOLD is what I’m saying. I found a great accountant who has helped me plug the gaps in my knowledge and empowered me to manage my finances in a way HMRC won’t shout at me about.
So in this post I want to share my process with you, from tracking my income and pulling monthly profit and loss reports right through to what business accounts I use and recommend and finally, how I file my tax return too.
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Freelance Finances: My Process
I am a touch old school in that I have an excel spreadsheet, where I manually track my expenses, income (both projected and actualised) as well as an monthly profit and loss summary. This helps me plan for the year ahead and make tweaks ahead of time, avoiding the panic of overspending.
I also use an amazing accounts software system my accountant recommended where I create, send and track invoices, project proposals nd I can also file my tax return straight from it.
This might sound a bit unnecessary but the reason for having both systems is twofold: It means I don’t miss anything and therefore know I’m compliant, and I’m actually able to save money as an accountant doing my tax return is three times the price of my subscription.
Here’s what I do:
Add any incomings or expenses to my spreadsheet and ‘explain’ transactions in Free Agent.
Check exchange rate and update formula based on fluctuations.
Chase late invoices, create new ones etc.
Review profit and loss and make necessary adjustments to future months.
Based on the above I might decide to cancelling unnecessary direct debits or invest in training.
Proof previous quarters numbers against automated system
Plan next quarter: Do I need to increase my prices, drop a client or find more?
FILE MY TAX RETURN! (Ideally in June, but no later than October)
Pay Tax and NI contribution.
My favourite tools
For changing receipts into PDF on my phone.
I used to only use Excel but the cost of Microsoft Office wasn’t worth it so now I simply use Google docs and sheets.
This post was originally sent to my newsletter subscribers, who I send Sunday letters to twice a month.
I trust November’s treating you well and you’ve found some time to chill out with a pumpkin or two. I’ve had a delightful weekend exploring Brighton and eating good food with friends so today, I write to you from a place of calm and peace.
Although, of course, it’s me so I’m also writing this letter to you from a place of cringe-worthy honesty and lols. At my expense,naturally.
I also always want to offer value (Which feels like a buzzword recently: “Are you offering value? HOW?!” Well, sometimes the value is in the creating….not in how the reader feels about it, mmmmkay?)
Anyway, I definitely feel like it’s the right time to share some of my worst business mistakes. I don’t know why now’s the time, but it just feels like it is. Perhaps because I feel at peace with my business, my why and my purpose…for now, anyway.
I know Sas Petherick (https://saspetherick.com/) would agree with me on this but seriously – self-doubt is a BITCH, amiright?
I’m a real people pleaser, and that sometimes leads to hearing what others are saying, suggesting and doing and feeling as though I should do the same.
I know I appear confident, but guess what? I’m not. Like most people I dwell on the criticism and brush off the compliments.
Buying into hype
Probably to do with the above, I bought into lots of hype — about courses, and blueprints. Even about blogging platforms and video content.
More often than not, buying into the hype means drowning out your own intuition. Which is fatal for me.
I know that as soon as I stop listening to my gut and to the people who matter I start to make decisions out of fear, out of scarcity.
And ultimately, I’ve spent thousands over the years on listening to slick marketers tell me they can fix XYZ.
Comparison IS THE THIEF OF JOY.
I just don’t know what else to say about this, except that if you are in a comparison hole – STOP. Because you’ll never get that time, energy or money back from the hours spent scrolling Instagram, pounds spent on products you’ve swiped up or happy moments ruined by thoughts they weren’t ‘good enough’.
This has been one of the best lessons I’ve learned but I still feel icky about it at times.
Spending money when you technically don’t need to is tough but I now outsource as much as I can because it pays off time and time again.
Sometimes it’s not the best, and yep – I could have done the job as well as, if not better, than the person I pay BUT that’s rare.
My time is SO important to me. So I now outsource childcare, I have the MOST amazing virtual assistant in Sarah Starrs who does things quicker, and more efficiently than I ever could and I’ve even outsourced my podcast editing too.
I make plenty of small tweaks in order to do this though. I don’t buy a coffee every day (small violin plays gently) because that £80 goes into paying for the copywriting I might want to outsource. I sold my podcast microphone to pay for a new WordPress theme for my website.
This probably all sounds a little trite, but it’s simply to say I prioritise time and energy above stuff.
For me, outsourcing is a necessary business expense.
Not using contracts
I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had anyone not pay me, but I’ve certainly spent far more time than necessary chasing payments, clearing up miscommunications or clarifying my terms.
That’s MY fault.
Now (and when I say now, I mean literally two days ago!) I have a contract, and terms of service I expect everyone to sign before work starts.
Sidenote: I also use an amazing bit of accounting software called Free Agent where I create estimates, invoices and save all contracts.
I hope this helps if you, too are having a bit of a business wobble and think nobody makes mistakes.
We just don’t talk about it much and, moreover, we bloody learn from it and come back stronger.
This post came about because, you guessed it, someone criticised my work. Again. And this time, it REALLY hurt my feelings. Something snapped.
I’m writing this a bit after the fact because I was WAY too emotional and hot-headed to do so in the moment…...praise be for restraint.
I’m not even remotely going to go into details because I think that would be a bit unkind and bordering on gossipy. Not that I’m averse to a cheeky bit of gossip you understand, but….ya know, enlightenment is calling.
But to be fair, I guess the title is a little misleading as I use the word ‘we’ to feel more inclusive. Less defensive. You got me though, I’m asking YOU the question.
Why do you feel okay criticising my work?
Not a trick question, I’m genuinely interested. Because personally, I don’t feel super comfortable criticising others content creation. I don’t proffer critique and back-handed compliments to fellow influencers and I certainly don’t leave negative reviews to fellow one-girl-bandits creating for free, for my pleasure.
Of course, that’s because I do it too and have been on the receiving end of one too many off-handed, helpful comments and know first-hand how unbelievably frustrating it feels.
Are we all fair game?
I’ve noticed a bit of a theme in content creation and those who have opinions about it (myself included.) And it seems to be a lot more okay to tell a podcaster the content they’ve created is……crap.
More often than not, I’m surrounded by a whole heap of incredibly positive and kind people who tell me nice things, which I am SO bloody grateful for. My podcast has brought me incredible opportunities and a whole load of joy. In truth, I never thought anyone would listen – I thought it would be a long hard slog to get any kind of momentum but in week three, iTunes noticed me and put me on their home page.
That was bonkers. And lovely…….and a little scary too.
So overall I’m profoundly happy that each week people join my Facebook group and leave me lovely reviews, include me in podcast roundups and DM me to tell me they liked an episode. But even so, I still smart at those occasional stings. For a few reasons, both human (we all like to be liked) and business (it never looks good to be told in public my work is crap.)
Why aren’t we allowed to be less than perfect? Why are we pitted against professionals in podcasting? Expected to be better than in any other content medium.
It’s so ungracious. Chatting to my wonderful (and anonymous) friend she pointed out the same criticism, namely that my older episodes aren’t as good, wouldn’t swing in any other form of content creation.
Of course, it wouldn’t happen. Imagine someone commenting on a blog post that you’re spelling was a shocker back in the day, or sharing an early Instagram post on stories with the caption: ‘dodgy picture alert!’…
I create the podcast for free for the listeners. It takes time, money and effort on my part and that makes it extra shit when I’m told it isn’t good enough. That I’m not good enough I guess.
When I realised this (okay, when anon realised this for me!) I got REALLY angry. And then I calmed down and realised it’s not okay to be that mean…..I will never do it. But it’s also not remotely my business what other people think about my blog, Instagram or podcast. It’s not my business at all.
So that’s where I’m at right now. Trying to unhook from anything that doesn’t serve me. While silently swearing at my laptop…..I’m a work in progress okay?