It’s been a year since I left my full time job as a Digital Content Editor and a trends agency and fell into the freelance life. When I decided to go ‘all in’ on this career, it was a happy accident. I found that this was a perfectly viable pathway to something unknown but likely greater than what I could achieve by putting in 40 hours+ a week at an office. Now I reflect back on my actions of the last year, I’ve learnt a great deal about work life balance, because no surprise, it doesn’t exist when you work from home and your lifestyle is somewhat commercialised. I’ve also had to learn how to remove some of the personal from the business, it’s also a point I’ve been working on in therapy for the last few months. So whether or not you feel like you’re drowning in Instagram woes or wondering what it’s like to do this as your main source of income, here are the things I’ve learnt from blogging full time with the added wisdom of hindsight.
1. Separate your personal from business
I’m starting with the hardest because it’s the most important. As a blogger or influencer, it feels like our success is entirely based on how likeable we are, how relatable or beautiful. We know we can’t please everyone yet we run ourselves down trying to do the impossible. What comes next are those feelings of never being good enough and the hurt we face from rejection. I’m still working on this because there’ll never be a time where this comes naturally to us but these are a few tips I use to check myself and maintain a better work life balance:
- Don’t work on weekends, including posting (unless it’s paid and agreed in advance). Even if there’s a tight deadline there’s always time tomorrow.
- If you felt you’ve missed out on an opportunity, ask yourself if it’s because of your ego. Did you really want to be there/have that? You’ll find you have way more hours in the week if you’re more discerning about your motivations.
- Is something good for your strategy and business but harming your health? Choose your wellness over anything else and be a kind boss to yourself.
2. Don’t be proud
In my first year of going full time, my work load and income grew steadily over the year from all the time I was putting into my content. I was starting to see people copy my ideas – and no I’m not imagining things because my photographer would tell me about this every other week. It annoyed me but most of all it made me think that I had something people wanted. In an industry where you’re your best PR person, it’s a valuable currency. At the same time, I started to withdraw from gifting opportunities and press invites, especially when people expected posts because it can be really quite expensive for me to produce. I felt like I had to concentrate on ‘real art’ – whatever that means – or meaningful paid work. I started to feel like everyone had this take take take attitude and it was exhausting me. In late 2018 I signed with an agency and I also thought my career was going to take off.
Then December hit, which is typically a huge month for retail and therefore, lucrative for fashion and beauty bloggers. But this year wasn’t the case. I was seeing an influx of campaigns on the influencer apps but they were all paying less than half what I’d ask for, so I didn’t apply. But that meant I missed out on ensuring that January would be a comfortable month and typically, it’s the driest time in the year (and I don’t mean alcohol). My message here is that no matter how well you think you’re doing or how confident you are, you’re not in control. A healthy life as a full time ‘influencer’ needs to be one void of pride so you can stay as pragmatic and on the ball as possible.
3. Diversify your income
My biggest concern with the social media industry is that there’s a constant struggle for power between brands and consumers, where bloggers are the middleman. At the beginning, it was all about building a community and anyone who wanted to join in the conversation would hit ‘follow’. As the sector has evolved, brands have emerged as major players, often able to dictate our creative direction, simply because they have the budget and content creators need a pay cheque. But it’s a one way street, even with a great pitch and strong statistics behind you, it’s near impossible to land a paid gig as a blogger. If you have a different opinion on that, it brings me some hope so please share!
It’s so important to diversify your income and recognise yourself as a freelancer, not an influencer, which often is synonymous for ‘celebrity’. I’d actually recommend this to anyone, even those in a full time job because it gives you a sense of security while you chase your passions. Throughout my first year of self-employment, I’ve picked up jobs in consultancy, public speaking, SEO and my true calling – journalism. Doing this also helps you form an idea of where you’re going in the future. Let’s be honest, even if Instagram is still as popular as ever in 10 years time, do you really want to be getting heckled by construction workers on a shoot in Notting Hill?
4. Set goals
When I started full time, I didn’t even know where to start. I just wanted to cover my expenses, with something left over for savings and if I was lucky, enough to fund my Anthropologie habit. I knew I didn’t want to base my goals solely on brands to work with because I learnt early on that reality rarely met expectation. So I had a business with no strategy, which is really… well, dumb. Thankfully, being self employed means if time is what you need, that’s what you get. I had some forgiving months to figure out what those goals looked like. These are just some ways I figured out my plan for the year ahead:
- What niche do you want to focus on and how can you achieve that?
- Do you have strong branding? How would you describe your aesthetic?
- What are your life goals? How can you gear your freelance business to align with those or facilitate them? e.g. moving to a new city or country.
- Is your business based on you (your personality, opinions etc) or your content creation abilities? There’s always a mix but one should be more obvious than the other.
Readers, I hope that helps you whether you were thinking of going full time, you’re interested in the industry or you’ve been on the grind longer than I have and just wanted to see it from someone else’s perspective. If I had to pick one that I could realise sooner, it would definitely be the subject of pride. I would’ve enjoyed my last year a lot more if I had been less concerned about what other people thought of me and what they were doing! Let me know about your own experiences – email me or drop me a message on Instagram @fleurandrea.