How to make the leap and become a full time blogger
Last month I spoke at Traverse blogging conference in Cardiff. I decided to talk about the blogging topic I’m most frequently questioned about – how to transition from being a hobby blogger to a full time blogger.
There are so many amazing bloggers out there, working hard and ticking all the boxes and maybe even earning £200-£300 a month through their blog, but they just can’t quite make that leap to earning bigger bucks that could potentially support them as a full time career. It’s because of that catch-22 situation so many bloggers end up in – you need to earn more money from your blog if you want to quit your full time job and blog for a living. But you can’t earn money because you don’t have enough time to spend on your blog because you’re too busy working on your ‘real’ job! Sound familiar?
I was stuck in this situation four years ago and the only way to overcome it is with a lot of bravery, a little luck and these tips….
Here are my notes and slides from my talk from anyone who missed it.
Be earning the bare minimum to live on
Before you even think about blogging full time, figure out how much you realistically need to live on each month. It’s probably much less than you think it is. Before I left my job I did this and figured out I only needed to make about £1,200 a month at the bare minimum. This would mean I’d always have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. Once I started regularly earning this amount through my blog I knew it was time to give up the day job.
Have a backup plan
“If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters”
Before I quit my day job I started applying for jobs in similar roles to the one I already had. I knew I didn’t want any of these jobs but I wanted to check how ‘employable’ I was. I applied for around 10 jobs, was invited in for 6 interviews, went to 3 interviews and was invited back for second interviews for them all.
I did this to check that if it all went tits up I’d at least be able to get another job. Once I realised I was employable it made me more confident giving up my full time job.
Ask yourself if you really want to turn your hobby into your career
Blogging full time is a lot of fun but when it becomes your main source of income it does change the way you see your blog. It’s not just a hobby anymore, it’s a business and you’re going to have to sacrifice your hobby. Think about this if you use your blog as a way to relax and express your creativity.
Have the confidence and belief in yourself
If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will. Have the confidence that you can make this work and it will.
You have to love your blog like you’d love your child
Blogging is hard work and it’s even harder if you don’t love your blog or don’t love the topic you’re blogging about.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with blogging – I love attending blogging conferences and I love learning about new blogging trends. I love bloggers and love everything to do with blogging. I also love travelling and everything to do with my travel blogging niche.
You need this love and passion to really make it work because when you’re not blogging you’re thinking about your blog. I even dream about blogging (probably shouldn’t admit that!) If I didn’t love it, I think that would drive me insane.
Ways to get over the catch-22 situation
Work ridiculously long hours
I use to do 1-2 hours blogging work before work, then go to a networking event most evenings, then do 2-3 hours work before I went to bed and I always worked all day on a Sunday. This can also mean sacrificing your social life too as I rarely had big nights out on a Saturday because I couldn’t afford to be hungover on a Sunday as that was my only full day of work.
Pick up freelance work
I worked as a freelance copywriter and social media specialist for the first 18 months after I left my full time job. It helped me transition into full time blogging by giving me a regular and reliable income for those months where my blog didn’t do so well.
If possible, offer freelance services using the same skills you’re using as a blogger and the two jobs will mutually benefit each other. I worked 2 days a week freelance so I had 3-4 days to work on my blog.
Work part time
Can you reduce your hours in your full time job to part time? Or even get a new part time job? Even if it’s casual work like working in a café. I know lots of bloggers who have done casual work or temp jobs to tide them over when they first leave their full time job.
Save a bigger amount of cash
Having a large stash of savings often makes it easier to make the leap into full time blogging. But be careful of having too much saved (if there is such a thing). If you’ve got enough money to live on for a year you don’t have much motivation to work that bit harder on your blog.
Reduce your living expenses
Could you move in with your parents or move to a cheaper area while you’re building up your blogging income?
I left London about 6 months after I left my full time job. It was partly to move home, partly because I didn’t need to be in London any more and partly because the cost of living is so much cheaper so I didn’t feel as much pressure to earn enough money.
Enjoy the security of your full time job (while you can)
This is your opportunity to be fussy about who you work with. You can pick and choose the brands you work with because you don’t need their money – you have your full time job for that. Be fussy and only work with brands you love – it’ll pay off in the long run.
Using your blog as a portfolio to find work
Promote your services through your blog
If you don’t tell people about the work you do then they won’t be able to employ you. Include a ‘Work with me’ page to highlight the services you offer and examples of your work. If you don’t have any examples of your work then you’re probably not ready to go freelance yet.
Mention your freelance work whenever you can. Slip it into blog posts and social media updates like you’d slip something into a natural conversation.
It might be worth having a professional freelance site too that is separate to your blog. I had one while I was looking for freelance work. Most of my work actually came through The Travel Hack but a portfolio website is so quick and easy to set up that you might as well do one.
If you want to be a professional blogger, act like a professional blogger
- Work hard and be nice
- Don’t burn any bridges
- Never, ever be rude
- When working with brands, give everything 100% and be nice to everyone because you don’t know what it will lead to
- PRs move around between agencies. Today they might be working with a tiny budget for a small hotel but tomorrow they might be working with Visit Florida with an enormous budget. You just never know. Today they might be an intern but in 5 years time they might own a PR agency.
- Never miss a deadline
- Never let anyone down
- Don’t make excuses
- Only create content you’re 100% proud of
Create long-term earning strategies
Don’t dismiss product reviews. I have a backpack review on my blog that gets around 500 pageviews a month. It’s not a lot really but each month around 10 people buy that backpack because of my review. And around 10 people each month don’t buy that specific backpack but they use my Amazon affiliate link and buy something very similar. This backpack costs £180 and I earn 10% commission so that’s £18 for each sale. 20 sales per month is £360 a month and £4,320 a year. OK, it’s not going to make me rich but my aim is to have 10 or even 20 or even 30 posts like this on my blog. 10 backpack reviews could potentially bring me £40,000 a year.
Don’t just do one off reviews – be a brand ambassador
If a brand want to send you a small product – try and turn that into a bigger opportunity. Let’s say it’s a sunglasses company who want to send you a free pair of sunnies in return for an Instagram post. OK, this is nice but a house full of free sunnies won’t pay your bills. Tell them you don’t work on one-off product reviews but you’d be interested in talking about long term options as a brand ambassador. Offer them 3-4 different brand ambassador packages with the basic one maybe offering some social media coverage and the top one going all out with promotion.
Don’t do unpaid press trips – offer so much value people will pay for your services. If your blog is small with a small reach then write for other blogs, newspapers, magazines etc. Offer them high quality images they can use for marketing material.
Turn your inbox into a moneymaker
Does anyone else get annoying emails from people wanting you to promote their brand for free? Don’t dismiss or delete these emails – and definitely don’t reply with something rude.
Tell them you don’t offer the services they’re looking for and offer to send over your rate card so they can take a look at your advertising options.
Upsell, upsell, upsell
Never reduce your fees, just offer more value. Throw in some extra social media promotion or an extra blog post.
Have a blogging business plan
- Define your blogging niche
- What’s the purpose of your blog?
- What goals do you want to achieve
- List 5 ways you’re going to achieve these goals
Blogging trends evolve so quickly and when you’re working alone it can be easy to get left behind. Just like you would in a normal job, keep attending training sessions, keep reading and keep learning to stay ahead of the trends.
Have a diverse income
Earn money in as many ways as possible. There’s the potential to earn more and it means you always have a backup plan if something goes wrong with one revenue stream.
Nearly all of my freelancing opportunities have come through networking events.
Networking can be frustrating because you’ll go to some events and there’ll be hundreds of interesting people and potential clients there. Then you’ll go to others and there won’t be a single person you could work with there. You just have to take the bad with the good and go to as much as you can.
Don’t wait for campaigns to come to you
Create your own campaigns!
Once you’ve met contacts at networking events, you can start pitching them ideas.
Before wasting your time on proposals, check they’ve got budget to pay you.
Grow your blog in your lunch break (2 hours a day)
Cut out TV – did you know the average person watching 3.5 hours of TV every day? You could do a lot with those 3.5 hours a day and you’d be amazed at how productive you can be if you stop watching TV. When I was building up to leave my job I didn’t watch any TV – I actually have a huge gap in my general knowledge from around 2013 because I have no idea what was going on in the world during that time. I was so focused on my blog.
Only post once a week – Quality over quantity!
Schedule your social media
Set up canned responses for your emails
Write whenever and wherever you can
Spend more time promoting your blog than writing posts
Re-invest your profits back into your blog
Like any business, it’s important to invest in it. Make sure your blog looks as good as it can do with a great design and layout. Maybe you need to buy a new camera, a new computer and take a course to improve your skills. Invest in your blog before you leave your full time job as you may not have much disposable income once you do.
Figure out your best time to work
Set yourself goals and stick to them
Set yourself a schedule and stick to it
Check out my 12-week blogging e-course!
I also run a blogging e-course, The Blogger Course, which is all about making the leap into full time blogging. The course is packed with all my tried and tested tips and strategies to go from hobby blogging to making a full time income through your blog. Check it out if you’re ready to make the leap!
As always, thanks to Traverse for having me, it was a blast!