What Goes Into Running a Blog!
I have been sitting on this post for almost a year now. I’ve talked about what my typical work day looks like, but until more recently never actually sat and really broke things down with real numbers.
Today on the podcast we are talking about time management (really, the episode is about how I am a failure at time management!) which inspired me to FINALLY post this. To be honest, I was a little nervous to write this. I never would want to come across as whiney or negative, but I do think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what bloggers actually do all day, and whether it’s actually a “hard” job. Spoiler alert: I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but it can be v v time consuming, if you want to do a good job with it.
I LOVE my job – I think that’s pretty evident. I wake up every day energized excited to make this site the best it can be. And we all have hard jobs. Over in the Facebook group we talk about work a lot and many of you are doctors and lawyers, political lobbyists, etc. Meanwhile I’m writing about face serums and fluffy thrillers. So yeah. Is it hard work? Not really. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. There’s a big difference, I think. It definitely isn’t rocket science but it can be a total grind. At the end of the day, running a successful blog is a total hustle and if you want to be good at it you have to be really, really disciplined and self motivated. Sure, it isn’t saving any lives, but work is work! What you see is just the finished product.
The biggest challenge for me is that I haven’t really figured out how to step away. Even if I’m traveling, I make sure I have a new post up for you every day Monday through Saturday. And I’m always on email. When I did my yoga retreat in Costa Rica this March, even though I’d scheduled most of my blog content in advance, I spent at least 4-5 hours a day working in between class and meals, etc. Of course that is still NOT a full day of work, but leading up to the trip I pulled a few 16 hour days to make sure everything was perfect before I left.
It’s the communication (the back and forth between both readers and brands) that adds up. I have two groups I need to cater to: my readers (which is are always top priority) and the brands I work with. When you step away, you risk pissing off a reader because you didn’t respond quickly enough (this has actually happened, someone went ballistic in my comments section when I was traveling once as she thought I was screening her comments – I just hadn’t had a chance to approve them!), or being perceived as rude. Or, you could miss out on a campaign with a brand you love because you didn’t write back in time and the brand chose someone else because you didn’t reply quickly enough. I have a policy of responding to all emails + comments (blog, instagram, other social media channels) within 24 hours and that itself could be a full time job. There are some amazing perks of doing what I do and being able to it from anywhere is at the very top of that list. But there are definitely days where I miss leaving the office at 6 or 7 and not thinking about work! Or the days where I had four weeks of paid vacation and holidays. But if I have any say in the matter, I won’t go back to the corporate world. I like having a more flexible lifestyle.
The way I give myself a break is to take Instagram off of my phone or (sorry) disabling DM’s for a few days. My DMs have been off for a week now and it’s because right now the podcast has been taking up a lot more time and I can’t be attached to my phone replying to DMs. I like sitting at my desk and working but I don’t love being on the phone all the time. Being constantly on your phone just can’t be good for you. Besides, I figure if someone has a really pressing question they can always send me an email. I also try to take one weekend day completely off. One full day off from social media and the Internet can be really restorative.
How Long Do Bloggers Spend Actually Working?
I think what surprises people most is that the time spent creating content (the best part!) actually takes up the least amount of time.
I added up all of the different things (breakdown below!) that I spend time on and actual content creation takes up less than 50% of my time. The biggest areas I spend my day on are the administrative stuff (I’m at my desk a lot, just like all of you probably are), and community management (all of the responding, which I mentioned above!) Every blogger is different though. A lot of my friends have their significant other shoot their images and spend hours and hours editing their own images.
- Contracts + Emails + Admin stuff: I spend about 3-4 hours every day doing the administrative stuff – there is a LOT of it with blogging – any full time blogger who is running their blog like a business will tell you that they are actually at a desk quite a bit. There are countless PR emails + pitches, reader emails, contracts, back and forth with my manager + brands (from negotiating to sending performance recaps), accounting stuff in Quickbooks, invoicing, tracking down late payments and blah blah blah. I have a good (at least I hope!) reputation in the industry as I am easy to work with and return all emails within 24 hours and want it to keep it that way! I tend to do a little of this on weekends too as I like to be at inbox zero-ish, but we will call this 15 hours per week.
- Community Management: This is just responding to comments + DM’s across Instagram, the blog, my Facebook page + group, and Twitter. I would say I spend 2 hours a day doing this, and 1 hour a day on the weekends so we will call it 12 hours per week.
- Social Media: I’m only counting content creation here – every blog post I put on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (I never schedule in advance except Facebook) as well as posting to Instagram (stories + feed posts). If I do a Q&A it’s much higher; I try to only do those when I’m traveling or have a big chunk of time to kill. Since we’re not counting responding (that’s above!) I would say I spend about an hour total per day here. We will leave off weekends and call this 5 hours per week.
- Writing: this is my favorite part! It really varies but I would say I spend about 30 minutes per blog post, and then maybe 2 or 3 hours writing a longer more thoughtful post. So we will guesstimate here and call it 5 hours per week.
- Meetings and phone calls: About 5 hours per week. This doesn’t count commuting into the city though, which is why I try to make most meetings phone calls!
- Creating Images: This includes shooting with a professional photographer once or twice a week, shooting flat lay images at home for beauty posts, reading lists etc, and snapping my daily looks for Instagram, etc.. 4 hours per week.
- Post Setup + Creating Graphics: This is the boring stuff: cropping and sizing images and creating collage graphics (for product roundups and collages) in Photoshop. 3 hours a week.
- Product Sourcing + Research: I wish I spent more time here as I feel like there is so much more I could be doing. I love having The Stripe be a place you can come to to discover cool new stuff and new to me brands but there isn’t always enough time. 4 hours per week.
- Weekend Reading Post: my Saturday post actually takes me the longest to write as it requires finding really good stuff to share with you guys. It’s become one of my most popular I try to spend at least 30 minutes every day finding good things to link to. 3 hours per week.
- Email Newsletter: I send out a Friday newsletter. Putting this together (sizing + uploading emails, linking products and posts, and writing) takes about 2 hours per week.
- Pulling Links + Creating shopping widgets: This is pretty self explanatory. Once I write a post find links to all of the products. I then add those into the post and make a shopping widget in ShopStyle. I try to batch this and do 3-4 posts at a time. 1 hour per week.
This totals 58 hours a week.
What about the podcast?
It’s funny bc I’ve had this post in my drafts since March and laughed because back then my estimate had been four hours a week. Oh how things can change in a few short months! We used to spend about 90 min recording and then switch back and forth between who edited it. So it was around 4 hours a week. In the past 6 months as really taken off which has been amazing. I wouldn’t have it any other way BUT I still have all my other work!
- Podcast Creation: Generally speaking we spend about an hour prepping for each episode (we create an outline ahead of time for every episode). If it’s just us it’s usually about 90 minutes. If we have a guest we typically spend 2 hours with them and then another 30-40 minutes recording the intro/outro + ads. So we will call this three hours. It’s a lot higher some of the time (this week we have 6 hours of recording booked but next week we only have one).
- Guesting on other podcasts: My goal is to try to be on at least one other podcast a week. Doesn’t always happen BUT the best way to grow your podcast is by going on other podcasts. So let’s call this 2 hours; but it doesn’t factor in getting there/commuting, which is usually another hour at least as most recording studios are in the city.
- Admin stuff + emails. Like with everything, once you bring on advertisers and start working with brands, you get a lot more emails and have a lot more work. I don’t work on admin stuff for the podcast for that long every day but I would say it’s at least a half an hour a day (probably low) going back and forth with advertisers, lining up guests, working on live show stuff writing ad scripts. So we will call this 3 hours a week.
- Live show planning. This is spent working on lining up guests, lining up accommodations (I try to do a trade in every city for our hotels to make the shows more profitable), working with venues, working on the show outlines + games etc. 1 hour per week (it should be more; we are behind!!)
- Touring. When we go on tour that’s a few days away from work every week. I’m not counting this as it’s fun and exciting and hard to measure (we’re also usually on our laptops in the greenroom getting through emails!) but it’s definitely still work!
This totals 9 hours a week. That feels low but it really depends on the week!
Where does that net out?
That adds up to about 67 hours a week. It’s higher than I thought but makes sense. Of COURSE there are busy and less busy weeks. This week was busier as it was fashion week and we also hosted an event for the podcast. This summer I worked a little less and this holiday season I will work more, especially when there are gift guides + demand for sponsored content. It also doesn’t include going to evening events (I a few every week).
Work and life blend together so oftentimes I will be doing work and not really thinking about it. I just hired an assistant and she will be helping me for 20 hours a week which is really nice. I have to remember that 20 hours of an assistant’s time is not the same as 20 hours of my time though. I can do things much more quickly; but I need to remember that even if those 20 hours take 10 hours off of my plate I will be a little more sane!
How much does it cost to run a blog?!
Running a blog is actually pretty expensive – the costs add up! If you are just starting out or blogging just for fun, of course it doesn’t have to be like this (it shouldn’t! I barely spent anything on my blog when I first started, besides my site design), but as a more established blogger with decently high traffic, the costs add up.
- Website Development: A good site can cost anywhere from $5k to $20k to develop (this includes branding/logo work as well as the actual coding). A friend of mine was just quoted $65k by an agency (YIKES – she’s obviously not working with them – that’s literally insane), but that blew my mind. I spent $6k to buy my domain name and $5k to redesign it. My designer is a lot more expensive now I think). To maintain my site, I keep my developer on retainer; the fee for this is $400 per month. It’s expensive but worth it and allows me to be more nimble + make bigger changes to the site a few times a year.
- A good camera. I actually just have my Sony Alpha (for video) and my Fuji X-T10. Both are great beginner cameras and not absurdly expensive. I don’t use a DLSR anymore because I shoot most of my content with a professional photographer and my iPhone is fine for traveling etc. I hate lugging around a heavy camera.
- Professional Photography: I typically work with a professional photographer for an hour a week – more if I have a lot of sponsored content; less if I am traveling and am just relying on friends to take my photo. The photographers I work with charge between $150-$250 per hour.
- SEO Specialist: This year I invested in SEO. I use Influencer SEO and Jordan is the BEST. She helps me optimize my site and gives me ideas each week for things that are getting a lot of traction on google. She also gives me to-do’s: posts with broken links to fix, posts that need extra love on social media, and overall site guidance. I pay her $500 a month but the best money I spend.
- Mailchimp: Mailchimp is my email host. I have a pretty big email list (just under 40k subscribers) so my plan is on the more expensive side – $260 per month.
- Manager: I am not with a big agency but have a person helping me with some of my partnerships. I pay her a monthly retainer fee + 10% of the paid projects thats she helps with. I have a lot of relationships in the industry and really enjoy having those relationships, so she manages the bigger things that require more negotiation, with larger exclusivity clauses, etc etc.
- Web Hosting: Hosting can cost anywhere between $30-$500 per month depending on your traffic. It can be even more if you run a huge huge site! My plan is around $150 a month.
What about the podcast? Podcast expenses are pretty low. It’s about $20/month for hosting and we pay an editor around $150/episode to edit. We just hired a publicist for three months which is extremely expensive but we made the decision to invest in that to see what happens and not pay ourselves.
What are the best parts of running a blog?
The best part to me, hands down, is the flexibility and the ability to work from home. I really love working from home. And I like being able to do things during off hours, i.e. commute into the city during off hours, take yoga at noon when it’s less crowded, go to the grocery store in the middle of the day when there are no lines.
The other best part is the community. Community was my big focus for 2018 and I feel really proud of the group of women here. I say this all the time but I have the best readers. I feel like I know so many of you IRL just based off of commenting back and forth here on the blog and on Instagram.
What are the worst parts?
The hardest part of all is the inconsistency. There are months where I have a ton of paid partnerships and months and have to turn things down and then there are slower months where I will only have one or two. It can be tempting to take on a sponsor that isn’t quite as on brand during the slower months. I try to remember how cyclical it all is. One bad sponsored post can cost you a chunk of your readership… it isn’t worth it!
The mail and the amount of waste generated by PR mailings is also frustrating. A lot of brands don’t check before sending once they have your address. And worse yet, there are companies that will get your address and sell or share it with other companies. Stuff I don’t want (last week I got two huge boxes of hair color) arrives and there’s nothing I can really do about it. (Trust me, I send emails asking brands very nicely to please not do this!) I spend a silly amount of time breaking down boxes and figuring out where to donate things I don’t want. (And finding places to store it which drives me bonkers as I’m a neat freak). I think brands are still learning; many of them are used to working with beauty editors who have huge beauty closets to store everything in. They don’t know what to do with us!
It’s also hard when people making assumptions about you. I’ve read quite a few things about myself online over the years that aren’t true.
Lastly, it’s especially hard with men. Dating is super weird when you have over a hundred thousand instagram followers and your life is pretty publicly out there. That’s why I don’t talk about dating specifics here – I wouldn’t want anyone I meet to worry about becoming fodder for the blog. I’ve had a lot of really awkward situations over the years – one guy did some stuff that was actually insane.. like, I want to tell you guys the whole story but I can’t, it would break code.
But in all honestly, I think I have the best job in the world. I feel really, really lucky to have been able to carve out this path for myself. And that’s mostly all because of you! I am grateful every day and I really mean that.
I hope this was interesting!!! If you want more on this, listen to today’s episode on time management!