“So, what do you really do?” This is a question that I get ALL the time. Whether it’s from friends who don’t quite understand my job or from a guy that I meet at happy hour, most people find it difficult seeing this as a real business. I get it. If I was looking from the outside in, I probably wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around it either.
Contrary to popular belief, what we do goes way beyond posting “pretty photos” and attending cool events. There truly has been a lot of blood (yes, really), sweat (gross, but true) and tears (way more than I can count) that have gone into this over the last 6 years.
As I was brainstorming topics to cover for this series, I got into a conversation with my girl Erika. She said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about our behind-the-scenes grind… like what we actually do and how we wear many hats. How people seem to think it’s just a pretty picture, yet so much goes into it.” After texting our thoughts back and forth for a bit, I could feel the passion coming from both ends. I knew I needed to shed some light on this today.
I’ve always said that I don’t think the word “blogger” encompasses all that we do, but for lack of a better word, I continue to use it. What you’re about to read is a break down of every single thing that I do for my business. This is what you don’t see in my photos. This is why most bloggers have a team behind them or an assistant or an intern. My goal is to grow my Naty Michele team once I move to NYC, but for now, I handle this all on my own. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at multitasking.
Yes, it’s true. We are constantly taking photos because hey, that’s part of the job. I’m still so lucky to be able to work with my mom, but most bloggers have to hire a photographer and schedule time to shoot. From doing several outfits at once, to scouting out locations, to creating specific themes, it all takes time. Don’t be fooled, photoshoots are not always fun and glamorous. I’ve battled intense weather conditions more times than I can count. There have been so many issues with lighting and certain locations or outfits not working well. Things go wrong. All. The. Time.
In addition to taking photos for the blog, I also take photos for Instagram. I love incorporating things on my feed that you won’t find on my blog. While I do not consider myself a photographer, I do love photography. I’m constantly trying to learn new things about my camera, shooting style and editing tools.
Not every blogger loves to write, but I sure do and that’s no surprise. I put just as much time and effort, if not more, into the written portion of my content. I keep trying to make sure that I develop this further. It’s how I connect with you guys the most. Whether I’m working on posts for the week or prepping for projects and campaigns in advance, I am always writing.
Since my mom is still my photographer, I edit all of my photos on my own. I didn’t get Lightroom and Photoshop until this year and have had to teach myself by researching tutorials on the web. While I only know the basics, I still spend a lot of my time each day choosing photos and editing them for the blog and social. I also have to edit my writing. And you guys know, I write a lot. It takes me hours to finish writing some of my posts. I go back and proofread several times. I make edits. Fix grammatical errors and typos. (Hopefully there are no typos in this post) Then I re-read once more before I hit that publish button. It definitely helps if you can get another set of eyes on your work to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Just like with any job, keeping up with email on a daily basis is necessary. It can get overwhelming, especially when you are constantly on-the-go. Since most of my communication is done through email, I have to stay on top of it. In the past, I had some missed opportunities because I wasn’t responding in a timely manner. At times I still get behind, but it’s a work in progress. I’ve learned to sort through my emails by figuring out what needs to get top priority.
There was a small period of time when I had an agency managing this for me. They acted as the “middle man” between me and the brands. They would pitch me, negotiate rates and contracts and overall just help me build on my brand partnerships. As I mentioned in my Working With Brands post, I’m back to managing myself full-time and have been for almost 2 years now. It can be very challenging and even uncomfortable, but it has helped me grow so much as a business woman. I’ve learned to fight for what I know I deserve and walk away from projects that aren’t a good fit.
When you’re working with more than one brand at a time, that means you are under several different contracts. You have to be on top of all of it and understand what you are signing on to, especially if you don’t have a lawyer to review it. Do any contracts or clauses conflict with one another? Are you giving away digital and print usage rights? Does the rate reflect all of the deliverables? Contracts are legally binding, obviously, so you have to take these seriously and set time aside to go through them thoroughly.
I became an official LLC earlier this year, which involved paperwork and updating my W9 and invoices to reflect my business info. Whether you are an LLC or not, make sure you are staying on top of everything for your income taxes!
Between project due dates, my own personal content, events, travels, meetings, and everything else in between, scheduling is key. I need help with this desperately because let’s be real, I’m not the most organized person. I have a google calendar that I don’t update daily. I have multiple blank planners. I rely off memory most of the time, which is a horrible idea because I have what my mom calls the CRS disease. Can’t remember shit. Thanks mom.
Face-To-Face Meetings/Conference Calls
Blogging is not just about sitting in front of your computer screen all day. You have to get out of your chair and make moves! I can’t stress enough how essential it is to make face-to-face interactions. I have found that meeting with brands in person has given me even more opportunities. Scheduling coffee meetings or appointments at showrooms is such a great way to help you expand your network. Meeting brands at events can be chaotic, but setting aside that one-on-one time is when you really get the chance to shine. Setting up conference calls is something else that I would highly recommend. You are able to communicate and understand so much more on the phone than via email. I touched on this a bit more in my Working With Brands post.Back-End/Tech/Design
This has been the area that I have struggled with the most until recently. I hired Chloé Digital on a monthly basis to help me and it’s been an incredible investment. Keeping up with the back-end/tech side of your blog is challenging and extremely time consuming. There is so much to learn about SEO, optimizing your images, using alt tags properly, meta descriptions, H1 tags, etc. My initial thoughts were “What the hell are these things and why did I not know this before?” It’s been 2 months so far and they’ve already taught me so much. I go back and forth with them on a weekly basis. While I am paying them to implement changes on my site, there is still so much that I have to do here on my end as well. At least now I have more knowledge and feel more confident to do it because I have them as a resource.
The same goes for design, whether you’re doing a full rebrand, implementing new elements or coming up with an email newsletter template. I highly recommend working with a designer who can help you take your site to the next level and bring your vision to life. It takes a lot of patience to get it just right, but it’s worth the wait. Stay tuned for some new changes happening here!
Building & Managing Social Media Accounts
For me, the 4 main platforms that I build on and manage are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Sorry Snapchat, I’ve left you in the dust. This means that I need to have a constant and consistent presence on all. I make sure to post updated content to each platform and I engage with everyone. The key is realizing that your social media communities change with each platform. My twitter fam is different than my Instagram fam and IG is different than my Facebook fam. I’m learning to utilize Pinterest more as a search engine to drive traffic to my site, while still trying to grow my community there as well.
Your social media accounts are basically an extension of your blog, but they should be a little more than that too. With features like IG Stories, you really want to show people more of those in-the-moment and behind-the-scenes glimpses into your life. I think you get to show more of your personality on social than you do on your blog. If I go several days without posting here, I make sure to still have a presence on my social media channels. I do sometimes feel like I have to “always be on” in order to keep growing my community. This is why managing social media is a job all within itself.
I’m not the best with numbers, but I need to know what I’m bringing in each month and what I’m spending. I create spreadsheets listing out all of my income and expenses. This really helps me determine what I can put into my savings account, what I can spend on bills and what I can invest back into my business. I list out each job that I’m doing along with the rate and date I should be paid. This helps me stay on top of my invoices so I’m sending them out on time and also know when to follow-up on late payments. And believe me, there have been late payments.
While these trips are all expenses paid, it’s still work. Many press trips can be as short as 24-48 hours. In fact, pretty much all of mine have been for that amount of time. Schedules are jam-packed with little to no room for rest. There are requirements that you agree to, typically a set amount of posts for social media and/or the blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve loved all of my press trips, but they can be a bit chaotic. While you do have a great time, you are not just there to sit back and relax. You are there to do a job, which typically means creating content for both you and the brand. I’m always up for a travel opportunity, unless the purpose of the trip doesn’t make sense for me.
I made the decision to have a travel section on my site, so even when I take a personal solo trip or a trip with friends, I’m still creating content to share with you guys. Even though those trips don’t ever feel like work to me, in a sense I’m “still working.” I have wanted to travel vlog in addition to taking photos, but I still need to figure out how to do all of that on my own!Event Attendances/Press Previews
I know this probably seems like a lot of fun and don’t get me wrong, it is. It’s really important to show your face at events and press previews so that you can meet with brands and PR reps. It’s also a great way to network with other creatives in the industry. It’s part of the job and while I do love it, it sometimes can be a hassle for me to get there for just an hour or two. The back and forth into NYC has really taken a toll on me after all of this time. I’ve had to turn so many things down because it’s just too much for me to be in the city every day or even every week. Typically, transportation is not covered for unpaid event attendances, so it can get expensive. My hope is that once I’m living there, I’ll be able to show my face more often.
Investing In Our Business
Just like with any business, you have to nourish it if you want it to grow. It’s not cheap! I pay for my website hosting, website design, tech/back-end, camera equipment, Lightroom & Photoshop, email, travel, post promotion and transportation to name a few things. A lot of bloggers are investing in photographers and videographers, plus all the equipment needed to film youtube videos. It’s all part of investing in your career growth!
And let’s not forget…
Research, updating media kits, tracking stats, creating and maintaining email newsletters, supporting other creatives in the industry and anything else that I failed to mention in this post.
I love what I do. There is, of course, both good and bad and it can be stressful and overwhelming, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, this is not a 9-5. It’s a 24/7. I am constantly working on something so that I can continue to build this business. My hope is to expand what I’m doing beyond the blog.
The purpose of this post was to try and better explain in detail what it is exactly that I and other bloggers do. It is a real job. Don’t be fooled by pretty photos. There is a LOT of time, dedication and hard work that goes into all of this. It’s not always easy and it’s never perfect, but I hope you respect the craft!
I know this was lengthy, but if you made it to the end THANK YOU for reading all of it. Feel free to chat with me in the comments below! ❤️
Thanks for sharing how complex your passion for blogging really is and going into details about each component. It takes a lot of dedication and long hours to do what you and other bloggers do.
Hats off to you!
I appreciate that so much, Ara! Thank you for reading and for the amazing support! xo
Great overview! Thank you for sharing
Thanks so much for reading Cynthia! xo
Enjoyed reading this. Yes it’s real. Phew! 😉
Incredible!! No one knows better than me, your mom, who hardly gets to see you or talk to you because you are always too busy on the computer doing what you do best. Although at the moment, you are still living with me, it is hard to believe that I really am living alone. I don’t like that feeling but I have to accept it because as your mom I have to support you in everything you do. I want you to know that I love you and I am so proud of you. I have your back. This article was informative to those who do not understand the behind the scenes ups and downs. I am amazed at your talent in writing and expressing yourself thanks to mom and dad and your college education. Maybe you can dedicate a blog on my ups and downs taking all your photos which allow you to have your blog in the first place. Your success is due to team effort. We are a team! I wish you nothing but the best of luck and many blessings as you cont inue your journey being a “lifestyle blogger.” Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that journey knowing that I will truly miss it when you move to New York. May God bless you, protect you, and fill your heart with love.
Thank you mom! I know that I owe so much of what I do to you. I’m very lucky to have had you as my photographer all of these years and appreciate the patience and hard work that goes into every shoot. We are definitely a team and have grown together doing this. I’m so grateful for your support, more than you’ll ever know! Love you!
Thank you you my dearest!! It truly has been a learning experience and a journey like no other. Together we have learned so much through our ups and downs. As much as we can butt heads from time to time, know that I love you to the end of the world. The time has come for me to free you so you can soar above the sky and spread your wings to fly. Good luck and keep God first always in your life so you will be blessed in all you do in His name.
I love this! This is very informative and really provides a great in depth look into what a blogger goes through. I figured it would be a lot easier since your up North to get into the city but the costs, traffic and frequency with which events occur can become costly. As I have mentioned previously your posts are inspiring and really uplifting. I relate to your journey and goals, just have to take the leap of faith and get over my fear. I love that your mom is your partner in crime and appreciate her loving words in the comments. Did she not see your post where you give her kudos for all her behind the scenes work? Lol, a mother’s love is like no other!! It reminds me of the way in which my mom encourages me and pushes me to pursue my goals. Good luck on your upcoming move, new adventures and growth opportunities.
Thank you so much Denise! I appreciate the support and kindness so much. My goal was to shed light on the work that really goes on behind the blog because most people don’t realize or understand. Living close to the city definitely does seem like it would be easier, but after awhile it takes its toll! My mom really is the best. I know sometimes I drive her crazy lol. I have this idea of her writing a guest post on what really happens when she takes my photos! xo
Thank you for sharing this post with us. I think that it not only informs those who don’t understand this business but also the new people trying to be a part of it.