Hope for smaller bloggers…

I wanted to write this today because last night I was living out a luxury fantasy at Sea Containers restaurant at the Mondrian, eating a stunning and decadent meal which was paid for by the generous folk at HBO, and I was once again surrounded by YouTubers and Bloggers that are way bigger than me, hundreds of thousands of followers bigger than me in fact. In these situations I often feel like I’m not worthy of being there, and fear that other people in attendance might feel the same. The PR made me feel just as welcome and vital as any of the other diners, this is purely the voices in my head taking hold and recalling the odd comment I’ve gotten in the past. With all the premieres I go to and events I’m invited to despite my modest numbers I’m often asked ‘How’ or ‘Why’ I get to go to these seemingly glam things, things that create an illusion of a lifestyle that seems way beyond what my numbers should deliver.

This year it was an unspoken goal of mine to prove to people that numbers aren’t everything, and that we smaller bloggers and YouTubers have a lot to offer. I’m still not where I’d like to be career wise and have a way to go till I’m at a point where I’m financially comfortable, but for my size I’m getting to do some pretty awesome things and even earning some decent money from doing them (not as often as I need, but still). I wanted to share what I’ve discovered over the last year so that other disheartened bloggers/YouTubers who are struggling to rack up the numbers with any haste can feel some hope about their potential online journey in 2018.

It’s been really reassuring to meet so many PR’s over the last 12 months agree with the value of micro influencers. I know we all hate that term, but as it’s well-used, let’s forget our distain for the word if referenced in this article. There’s some cases where your numbers and views aren’t the most important factor when a brand considers whether to use you for a job.

Relevance and suitability can sometimes be the prime factor, for example my recent filming for BBC3 came about because they’d read a blog post I’d written on acne, and knew I would be talking from personal experience which was completely necessary to deliver the video they were looking to make. There was never any enquiry into follower numbers, reach or engagement, they were simply looking for people willing to talk frankly about the subject. This leads me on to the content you make. Think about the sort of campaigns or initiatives you’d like to get in an ideal world. Would the content your making speak to the brands or companies that come under those brackets? Does your style or writing fit in with them too?

Sometimes a brand is looking to work with creaters who can create imagery or videos that they’d like to share and use on their feeds. If you’re posting the content then of course having good numbers and engagement is an advantage, but many will be more interested in how good your photography is, and how well curated your flat lays are for example. Being able to choreograph advert-worthy visuals is hugely appealing for brands. Many PR’s don’t have the time/budget to create enough regular content for the brand’s Instagram accounts, particularly if they’re managing a number, so if they can reblog or upload someone elses perfect showcase for a product then that has a great value to them. If you know photography is your strength you should consider approaching some brands or PR’s and offer them a service of delivering a certain number of Instagram photos to them each month for a certain fee. I know some brands do this regularly, sending out the products to the bloggers so they can create the content for them, content that is entirely for the use of the brands and not for sponsored Instagram posts on the blogger’s platform.

From very candid chats with PR’s I’ve got to know about how they decide the people they work on a particular campaigns and I now know for a fact that sometimes there are simply boxes to tick (some things that go on behind the scenes in an attempt to be a brand perceived at PC, aren’t very PC).

Sometimes just being you may mean you stand more a chance of being in the running. Perhaps the brief is that they’re looking for young mums, maybe they need people who have bright coloured hair, perhaps they need people who are good at speaking on camera, maybe they’re looking for POC, perhaps they need people who wear glasses. They may need an influencer with a disability. You get the idea.

This year I secured a sponsored video largely because I was older and more mature in style than some of the others in the running – ( my friends may find it hard to believe I was considered mature, but whatever!) This was a particularly cherished moment for me, as someone who has been uninvited for events because I fit into an older age bracket.The film I was supporting via a video was of a serious nature and needed careful handling when spoken about, so they weren’t looking for the noticeably bubbly, shouty, or joke based influencers on this occasion. My more muted approach was actually more suitable on this occasion. The fact that I’m a film nut who loves chatting about movies was another aspect that helped my case here.

What I’m trying to say here is don’t feel shame about any aspect about your life, tastes or appearance that makes you, you. Everything that makes up your unique self could make you stand out to a particular brand or make you more suitable for a particular campaign. Wear things you love, talk about things your passionate about and then the partnerships you get will hopefully be mutually beneficial and easy, because it’s a natural and authentic fit. Obviously there’s still some PR’s that simply look at numbers and don’t look at how seamless a marriage it is between influencer and product, but there are some great PR’s who want to create campaigns that makes sense as soon as you see it and in turn instills a trust in the people that view it.

When I worked as a PR I worked with numerous influencers varying hugely in size. We sent products out to someone with over a million followers, and although the post got lots of likes and comments it didn’t convert to any sales (not in the short term anyway, of course it might have raised brand awareness and led to future sales). This was a huge lesson for us in terms of wanting an effective short term result. We then worked with some much smaller influencers who felt a good fit for the product and we saw them convert to sales immediately, and with that brought some loyal new customers to the brand who would prove to be repeat buyers. I’m telling you this because this will be the case for a lot of brands and PR’s. Many may start by approaching people purely on a numbers basis, but after a while in the business they’ll realise that it doesn’t ALWAYS work and it isn’t always the correct strategy. What I’m saying is don’t lose hope. Even if a certain brand you’d love to work with some day seems to be focused exclusively on using influencers of a certain size, this could change in the future. Trial and Error will mean that in time more and more will see the value in using different and/or smaller influencers and think more carefully about who they team up with. Trends will also have an impact on your demand too.

Remember that not all brands have big budgets to fork out for sponsored videos/Instagrams/blogs. Although they’d love to work with the big names, they know their budget won’t stretch to be able to afford them, so it’s very handy for them to know of YouTubers that can deliver great content for a more affordable amount, one they have available to spend. I’ve often gotten sponsored Instagram’s because they only have a small budget for the campaign and it’s not worth the time or effort for the bigger influencers on the roster to take them on, so they’ve turned them down. I know some of you won’t particularly revel in the idea that you are the back-up option, in reserve, or the second, third or fourth choice, but I think of it like this. It can be very hard to find people who understand that this kind of work takes time and deserves payment at all, so if a company is willing to pay me fairly for my effort, skills and work hours, and it’s something I’d actually like to do because it will be fun, a worthwhile experience, or a good fit for my blog/channel, then I’m more than happy to do it. We’ve all got bills to play, and sometimes I have to put that before my pride.

Whenever I’m at a meal or press trip I like to chat to the PR’s on a human level, talk about their work and how they find the industry on their side of things. We are all bogged down with what’s hard (or soul destroying) from our point of view, but I think it’s helpful to know the parts they find tricky about this ever-evolving online environment, as well as hearing about their overall experience working with influencers/creaters. I think it’s useful to educate yourself so that you know what helps them, and makes things easier and more pleasurable for them in terms of working together. It could help inform how you behave and perform when pitching or when starting a working relationship with a brand. Although on the whole they say they’ve had some great experiences working with bloggers/creaters, there are of course tales of people being diva’s, being late, not turning up, not delivering agreed content to a good quality, or in enough quantity, or saying something publicly that doesn’t sit well with what the brands ethos. You also often hear about the managers who grossly overcharge for the services of some of their creators, a price that gives a brand expectation of what that they should get for the money, which then puts pressure for the blogger/Youtuber to deliver the impossible.

I always try to give and accept a fair price when its up to me. I want to ensure the payment reflects the effort, handwork and time I will always put into work of this nature, but one that also takes into consideration the fact that I won’t likely deliver huge views for the brand I’m endorsing. I think self awareness and managing expectations is key.

I have no allusions about my position in the industry. I completely understand why I wouldn’t be in the running for many campaigns and opportunities, ones that rely solely on reaching a big audience for example (even if it times it makes me feel like an unwanted turd…wait… is any turd wanted?….Bad analogy). This helps me decide where I channel my energy, what brands I reach out to and where I might be willing to do some unpaid work.

I don’t think people realise how many of the things I do, create and post are completely unpaid. In fact a lot of the time I lose a lot of money due to travel expenses. I try to choose wisely because I’m not really in a financial position where having to do this is ideal/sensible/feasible and it’s not great for my health to be commuting in to London on the reg, particularly without the motivating boost knowing you’re going to be rewarded in money gives you. But there’s a few brands or areas of the industry where I know you almost have to pay your dues and prove yourself, and it’s within those I’ve deemed it worthwhile. I’ll go to events and do the requested social coverage free of charge, even do more than they’ve asked quite often, and of course attempt to do it to a decent quality. It’s a good way of showcasing to potential future collaborators what you can deliver and what you have to offer, and ensures you’re on their radar more than you would be if you didn’t turn up. The hard part about this is working out when to stop doing this for one particular brand, it’s a difficult balance to strike. You don’t want them to see you at the person that will deliver them lots of content for free….for eternity. If you’re not careful they’ll never see a reason to pay you for your work/coverage and come to expect it. I used to do a free video for instance, vlogging events and such, but I tend not to do that anymore. After all, think of it from their perspective, if they can save money and still get coverage why would they pay?

But if you are a YouTuber that has worked hard to amass a big following it’s also important you stick to your guns and know your worth too. Otherwise what is the motivation to attempt to grow? With all creative jobs, whether its a photographer, artist, videographer, it’s essential that after you’ve paid your dues by learning the ropes, you charge what you deserve for your services. By doing regular unpaid work or offering cut prices you are harming your industry and devaluing the work you, and everyone else does within it.

Anyway….back to me (me me me) in the last year I’ve definitely reaped benefits from showing my face, being punctual and doing some tweets or Insta-stories (which lets face it, isn’t any bother).
Whenever that work has lead me to getting a sponsored video I try to make sure that, whilst maintaining the integrity of my channel, and ensuring my output is in keeping with my beliefs, that I am easy to work with. I make sure I meet deadlines and do my very very best to try and create content that covers all they’re looking to cover (that hopefully by viewers will enjoy too). I find it quite stressful for do sponsored content right now though, because I do worry that even if they are happy with the quality of the content that will be overridden by disappointment in relation to the views.

Views and increasing my Instagram numbers in particular is something I want to crack in 2018. Although if it was something I bloody understood, and knew how to improve, I would of done it already….but one must persevere. This is a massive hint to give me some tips guys, if that wasn’t obvious….

I’ve had two sponsored video this December and 4 sponsored Instagrams. I’m not rolling in money by any means, and still only scraping by this month, but I need to acknowledge that for my size that’s not bad going. Hell…I still find it a miracle that I can make any money from my channel/Blog…but I’m so grateful some people have enough faith and belief in my abilities me to give me a chance, despite my hovering fairly low in the hierarchy. If you look it in a positive way, I could view it as extremely flattering, if I wasn’t so full of self doubt the whole ruddy time.

So my fellow small fish, micro-influencers, lower tier type people, don’t give up the fight. You have got a place in the industry, a very vital one, because you deliver a one off voice, angle, opinion, style….you offer you…and that’s enough. It’s just about making this industry work for you and where you’re currently positioned. Work out what you want from it. Figure out what your strengths are and how they can be capitalised on by you and the future brands you may work with. Most importantly be resilient – knock backs, disappointment and that feeling of not being good enough come with the territory of any business that has a focus on numbers. In those moments regroup and head to your bullet journal or whatever you use to plan and get back to it, remembering that although it might be harder for us more unknown beans to get jobs, and it might involve a bit more graft to secure them, we are just as capable, and have just as much potential to achieve. Being our size might challenge us to think outside the box, be innovative in an attempt to find our route in, which will in turn gift us the greatest feeling of satisfaction and achievement when we succeed.

To you guys that don’t care about numbers, nor making a career out of this funny old game, I salute you too. I also envy you ability to upload, fuelled only by your love for writing or creating imagery or interacting with others online. Thanks for also reminding us that there is life outside of the world of Internet and that not everyone feels it necessary to be driven by their role in it.

But to all of us trying to make this work, whatever size you are, let’s be kind to each-other in 2018. It’s an industry that can boost existing insecurities and give you a whole host of inconvenient and day ruining new ones. The comparison factor can dim your glow and make you feel less-than and inferior in the flash of a light switch. The competitive nature can bring out the absolute worst in us. It’s also a career path that pushes many of us to burn-out due to the pressure to be ‘ON’ 24/7, and that intense feeling that we MUST KEEP UP.

Don’t judge others or make assumptions because they’re a huggeee YouTuber, or because they’re one you’ve never heard of.

Good luck everyone, lets keep on proving ourselves – being polite, working hard, but also knowing our worth and showing everyone what we all have to offer.

 Outfit: All Saints coat, Primark top, ASOS Jeans, And Other Stories Sunglasses

2 Comments

  1. Naomi
    December 10, 2017 / 4:24 am

    Sophie, this was such an inspirational article. It has made me think about YouTubers and Bloggers in a new way. I hadn’t realised that behind the glamour, there are also challenges.

  2. December 11, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Great post. I think you get some exciting looking opportunities. I agree it’s best to stay trueto yourself. If you do work out the secret to growing on Instagram then let me know 😀

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