Blogging can be a brilliant way to make an income. It’s flexible, offers some amazing opportunities and best of all, it’s great fun. But is it one of those occupations where you need to have money to make money? Do you need to invest in a DSLR camera, a go-pro and expensive hosting? I don’t think so. Here’s why.
Blogging on a budget
Last weekend was the BlogOn conference in Manchester. This not-for-profit conference boasts numerous talks from experts to help bloggers up their game. The great thing about it is that individuals can choose which sessions they go to. Tickets are inexpensive at £55 for the whole day, with a free party the evening before.
Whilst I was there, I listened to a brilliant talk about vlogging by Sophie Mei Lan. I picked up loads of tips, but one of the things that struck me was that Sophie often vlogs on her mobile phone. In fact, she said that the videos she makes on her phone are often some of her most successful.
At the other end of the scale were the photography and go-pro talks. I’ve heard they were brilliant, but I’ll be honest – I didn’t want to go to those because I felt inadequate. Because I don’t have a DSLR or a go-pro. I wouldn’t know how to use them if I did, but the main thing that stops me from buying them is the cost. I’d love to own these things, and one day I’m sure I will. But at the moment, I can’t justify spending the large amounts of money that they cost.
But does that stop me from having a successful blog and social media channels? Absolutely not.
What you need to start a blog
I’ve been thinking about the equipment you really need to start blogging. Not the luxuries like expensive cameras, but the real essentials. And I keep coming back to just two things. Access to a computer connected to Wi-Fi, and access to a digital camera of some description. That might mean borrowing a camera from a neighbour, or it could mean using a smartphone, either is fine.
You can start a free blog on either blogger or wordpress.com. All social media platforms are free to sign up to and use. If you use a phone for photos, snapseed is a free editing app available on both Android and iOS. There are plenty of free photo editing apps online too.
And while you get started, that’s all you need. These days, there are various things I pay for. Dropbox to store photos without clogging up my hard drive and Tailwind to schedule to Pinterest. Hosting for my blog, which goes up in price as the blog gets bigger. I’ve bought a decent compact camera that does both photos and video, and upgrade my phone whenever I can. At the moment, I’ve got a Samsung S8. I go to blogging conferences occasionally, but only ones like BlogOn that don’t cost much. Even now though, despite being my main source of income, the amount of money I spend on blogging is negligible.
How to make money blogging
It becomes worthwhile spending more on blogging as your income increases. And to do that, there are a number of options.
The first is brand collaborations. These are difficult to force. Brands or PR agencies will find and contact the people they want to work with. Building your profile, page views and followers will make it more likely that you will be found and contacted for collaborations. They may take place on your blog, or on social media channels. Brands will want to collaborate when you have high numbers of page views and high social media followers. These collaborations are a lot of work. They expect high standards of writing and images. Timing is often critical and they can consist of a large project, posting on several channels simultaneously.
The next option is affiliate schemes. Effectively, you advertise products that you believe in, in return for commission on the sales they make. This may mean putting links into your posts, or it could mean putting adverts on your blog or social media. You need to have a good number of viewers to make any money from this, because only a small percentage of people who see an advert will click through and make a purchase.
The other income stream that an increasing number of bloggers are turning to is selling products that they either make or design. Through a website like shopify, you can create a free web store. It provides you with a platform to sell online, including taking payment. They’ve provided me with a great infographic to give you some pointers on how to make your web store a success.
When should you invest?
If you start to take blogging seriously, there are certain things you will need to invest in. Your own laptop and camera are the main ones, and I’d advise a self-hosted website. The good thing about it though, is that you only need to invest time to see whether it’s for you. If you don’t enjoy it, then stop.
However, if you see it becoming a career or second income, any money you do invest will be a business expense. You’ll have to declare your earnings for tax purposes, so investments in your work can be deducted from that. If you prefer to keep blogging as a hobby you can do it completely for free, which is what I did for many years. That’s the great thing about it, it’s open to everyone. Regardless of your income.