Musings: Blogging, Business + Rebranding
While trying to find a good freelance work/life balance (is that possible with freelance work?) the energy to do business with my blog just isn’t there. Because I felt that’s what my blog was there for, it’s been neglected.
But wait. A business was never what I intended my blog to be.
I started this blog back in 2012 as a hobby. I’m a natural born creative who loves to write, photograph and cook, so having a space for those things collectively was a total dream. I’d heard about making money through blogging, but I’m not business savvy in the least so it didn’t interest me. Also, as they say — don’t turn your hobby into money, because then it becomes a job and no longer a creative escape.
Of course, I had a hard time saying “No” in 2015 when a few opportunities fell into my lap. Before I knew it, I had ads on my site and I was working with a few low key brands. Awesome. But It was at that point when my focus shifted and turning my blog into a business became a goal — especially since later in the year I’d be moving to the US, the land of opportunity for food bloggers. (Depending on who you are and who you ask.)
I had no idea how disappointed I was going to be. Taking full advantage of the opportunity to work on my blog full time once I’d moved, I completely drained myself. I overthought, over-planned and got completely lost between who I am as a blogger and who I thought I had to be in order to maintain the business aspect of it.
That last part? Yeah. To hell with that. Seriously.
This had been on my mind for the greater part of last week and I was completely torn on what to do. My gut was telling me to scrap the idea that food blogs are only worthy if they’re making money. I’m making money with freelance work, anyway. I don’t need the blog as a source of income! But there was that other pesky part of me — the part that has been brainwashed by the nagging blogging groups and their sad motivational attempts with “28 things you’re messing up with your blog that keep you from being a success” — that has been looming over me like a dark cloud. Success? I want success. But for me, thriving on creativity is success; creating beautiful content that will make people hungry, healthy and happy is success.
And on Monday night, while laying in bed and scrolling through Facebook posts, I found an article (and amazing comment on the article) that flipped a switch in me.
It was about Saveur’s food blog awards and the sour grapes that inevitably come with being competitive in the food blogging world. You can read it here if you’re interested. It’s a fantastic read and I highly encourage you to take a gander.
In a nutshell, what resonated with me most was when Michelle said that one of the things she dislikes most about blogging is that as bloggers, we’re all at the mercy of larger entities that can seemingly make or break us.
What struck me even MORE though (and when I say struck I mean lit a huge blazing fire under my ass to stop giving a funk about things that truly don’t matter), was a comment by Ashlae from Oh, Ladycakes:
“WORD, lady. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone still gives a shit about the Saveur awards. While I was guilty of drinking the kool-aid the first two times I was nominated, I quickly realized – while I was sitting in a courtyard at the Bellagio being talked at (by the companies who sponsored the awards) for a good three hours (and being urged to post on allllll my social channels 18323x a day) – that the awards are just a clever way for Saveur to gain access to our audiences, and then use that to reel in sponsors for their own monetary gain. Which is, admittedly, brilliant on their behalf – but tacky as fuck.”
The sipping of the Kool-Aid (guilty); the smoke and mirrors of working with big brands; the gloomy pressure of having to share things on social media every minute of every hour every single day.
I don’t want that. I don’t want any of it.
This article by Michelle, in addition to the raw and honest comment by Ashlae, were obviously very timely for me. I’ve been contemplating a rebrand for a while; one that would hurt my traffic but represent me and my love for food in a more suitable way.
At the beginning of 2016 I was full of high hopes; I reached for the stars, landed on the sun and got burned.
A thorough breakdown on my thoughts and feels:
I’d have to be a sellout to succeed.
Cool your jets — I’m not calling people who blog for money sellouts.
When turning your blog into a business, it’s imperative that you stick to your guns and work with companies that are a good fit for your brand. If you’re an avid shopper at big box stores and buy big brand products, those things are a good fit for you. However, if you’re like me and opt to shop local and support the small guy, they’re not a good fit. Unfortunately it’s rare that small independent companies can afford to shell out enough cash for a sponsored post. Sponsored posts don’t come cheap — they’re a lot of work and they’re a food blogger’s bread and butter. It’s how they put all of that pretty food on the table.
The biggest eye opener for me was when I was approached by a big brand name to write a “How-To” post on hosting a food bar party with a bunch of their products. I had nothing against this particular *big brand* so I was pretty into it until I read further into the proposal. What really chapped my ass was the part where I would have to purchase said products from a certain *big box store* — one that I loathe. I mean, I never shop at this store. I hate it. It’s unethical and I refuse to support it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’d have to take photos INSIDE the store to document the “shopping experience” and chat about how I love shopping at this place. (I mean, what the actual shit? People do this and are okay with it?) So basically, I’d have to place my morals and beliefs on the shelf so that I could rake in some Benjamins. For someone who digs shopping at this store, it was a great opportunity with a hefty payout. For me, it seemed downright ridiculous.
But was *I* being ridiculous? Pretentious, even?
I sat in quiet contemplation for a good hour. On the balcony. With a vodka soda or three.
These were my thoughts as I sipped away:
- Is this how most sponsored posts go? Is this how it really is?
- Would I be stupid to turn this down?
- Doing this would make me feel yucky.
- But it’s a lot of money.
- It would probably set my foot on the right path.
- No, no. It would be the WRONG path. Supporting a company I don’t believe in would definitely be the wrong path.
- Is it possible that blogging for business just isn’t currently on par with my beliefs and vision?
I can now say that you LITERALLY cannot pay me to shop at *big box store*. I turned the opportunity down and, for days, wondered if I was completely daft.
Despite the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of me that doubted my decision, it sure made me think. It made me think, overthink, explore and get completely freaking lost in my purpose.
Then I took things a step further and removed all ads.
Back in the day, when I was first approved to put ads on my site, I thought I was legit. Having ads on your site seemed like the first step into money making madness but, for me personally, they just don’t bring in enough income to justify the real estate they take up (not to mention they interfere with a blog’s aesthetics and, depending on the type of ad, can make your site run slow or crash thus creating a bum experience for your readership).
Because so many bloggers have ads on their site (and hey, if it’s worth it for you that’s amazing — you keep doing you!) I always felt it was necessary; I thought that a blog without ads wouldn’t be taken seriously.
I’ve since learned that that’s complete and utter bullshit.
Fear of change and consequence.
It’s no secret that I’m pescetarian now; I have been since the beginning of 2016. Despite the fact that I’ve been running a pesco-vegetarian focused blog for over eight months now, I still have meat dishes on my blog (and an awkward explanation of why on my Start Here! page which will be rewritten soon) because some of them are really popular. One of them still brings in my highest daily views and it is old AF.
But the truth is I hate looking at them. I hate seeing them on my site. I don’t eat these things.
(But… the traffic.)
Well, what about the traffic? At the end of the day, who cares. My blog should be a reflection of who I am, not a pile of attempts to keep traffic high. I’m confident in my upcoming content anyway. SERIOUSLY IT WILL BE SO GOOD.
Plus, my most viewed recipe is a hangover sandwich for crying out loud. Get that bunk outta here. I’ve got better.
And then there’s that whole censoring yourself thing.
I have a blog voice that I’m comfortable with and one that is contrived; you’re currently reading the former.
All year, I’ve been afraid to speak. Like, really speak. I’ve had to watch what I say in case brands be lurkin’. Sure, it’s important to be professional — and I’ve never planned on using super foul words (is shit even a bad word anymore? Let’s go with no) — but when I have to cover up my playfully caustic wit, borderline inappropriate one-liners and the odd use of the word shit in my own space for fear that a brand might see me, consider me and then opt out because they can’t lighten up… [insert peace sign here] bye.
I have a personality; I’m exuberant, unswerving, funny and loving with a sparkling dash of misanthropy.
So Basically, I’m just gonna be.
There seems to be this lingering pressure as a food blogger that you have to earn an income from it eventually, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. This pressure inevitably sucks the joy out of something you once loved and that, my friends, is the most tragic part.
I can’t deal with that.
Killing Thyme is my baby. Killing Thyme is where I’ve grown as an amateur cook, as a writer and especially as a photographer. My personal progress has been remarkable and you can’t define my worth with a dollar sign.
I want to love this space again. I want it to be an escape, not something I feel the need to escape from.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how free I feel right now.