Why I'm OK with Being a "Small Blogger"
When I first began reading beauty blogs 10 years ago, the blogging landscape was completely different to the one we know of today. Blogging as a job probably would've sounded absurd, and you never saw the terms "small blogger" and "big blogger" (or even "influencer", for that matter) being thrown around. Although I'm not really sure if there's a clear-cut distinction between the two, I know that I would definitely fall into the "small blogger" category myself; I don't have 10k followers on Instagram (my social media profiles combined don't even add up to that much!), my inbox isn't brimming with PR opportunities and in the seven years I've had my blog, I've never made any money. Being "small" in such a large, expansive community can feel quite discouraging at times, but of all the things that makes blogging so wonderful, numbers have nothing to do with it for me and I think being "small" is just as valid as being "big". In fact, I don't even feel like I need to be anything "more" than I already am and I'm actually pretty content with my place in the blogging world. As someone who's had quite a different blogging experience to the majority of bloggers who have been here as long as I have, I've written a number of similar posts to this in the past, and it's a conversation I never get bored of having because there's always so much to say and I think it's a really important one at that. I’ve learnt to really own my “smallness” here and I certainly don’t believe that "bigger" equals "better" (hence why you'll see scare quotes throughout this post). My intention of this post isn't to undermine what "big bloggers" are doing, but to simply highlight why being a "small blogger" is actually pretty great too.
There are better things I can do with my time than worry about algorithms, gaining followers or the Instagram Stories 'Swipe Up' feature
The Instagram algorithm has been the quite topic for many disgruntled bloggers over the last couple of years, and while they're totally allowed to express this valid frustration and I wholeheartedly understand their concern from a business perspective (I work in social media myself!), as a hobby blogger, it's a conversation I no longer want to be a part of. We all get it - the algorithm is shit; it's harder to gain followers and no one sees your posts anymore, but why get upset over the things you have no control over? Also, perhaps I'm missing something here, but what's so special about the Instagram Stories 'Swipe Up' feature, anyway? To me, blog reading and online shopping are much better done on a computer!
I see bloggers become disheartened and take it so personally whenever their engagement is low or they just can't seem to grow their accounts, but complaining about it certainly isn't going to help matters and I also think it's part a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm a firm believer that when you put negative "vibes" out there, they reflect back on how people perceive you and if you're creating content for their attention, you're creating for all the wrong reasons. If you love what you do, so will other people. If they don’t, it won’t matter. I used to question why I could never gain followers myself and I'm definitely not immune to the comparison trap either, but nowadays, I can let go of those feelings within seconds and I've learnt to just stop giving a shit.
I don't need the opinion of thousands of followers to validate what I do here because I have enough confidence in my content to do that on my own and instead of worrying about trivial things such as followers or likes, I put my time and energy into the things I can control and the things that actually matter like my photography and my writing. If people enjoy my content, cool. If not, that's cool too. I blog simply for the fact that I love it and the only person I create for is myself. I realise that not worrying is easier said than done, but I know for me, the less I care about what others think, the happier and prouder I feel, and if that means staying a "small blogger", so be it.
I'm not interested in working with brands or receiving PR samples
Whether you blog as a hobby or as part of your job, I think there's often this assumption that we all want to work with brands, receive free products and ultimately, get paid for our content. I see bloggers Tweeting about their "dream collabs" and on Instagram Stories, receiving far too many products than one person can ever keep up with, but in all the time I've been blogging, this has never been something I've ever aspired for myself. In fact, it doesn't appeal to me even in the slightest.
It can be quite off-putting when bloggers incessantly flaunt their PR mail, especially nowadays when there's such a high volume of it and once that 15-second Instagram Story has disappeared off your feed, it's never to be heard of again. I suppose you could argue that they're showing their audience new product releases and what's launching soon, but do you really need to accept the whole bloody shade range of a product in order to do that? Why receive something for free when you're not even interested in the product enough to actually review it or use it outside of your brand work? The need for "new, new, new" and "more, more, more" is relentless and that kind of lifestyle simply isn't for me.
I'm not saying I'd turn down a really good opportunity if it ever came around, just that I'm not actively seeking it out, and I'd much rather spend my own money if it means sticking to my wishlist and only owning the things I'm genuinely interested in. As we read more and more blog posts marked with "sponsored" and scroll through Instagram photos with "#ad" in the caption, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust bloggers when they never voice anything critical, and while I realise that we've all got bills to pay, it doesn't sit right with me when a blogger accepts paid work for a product that seems irrelevant or that you know they'd never purchase themselves (for example, working with drugstore brands when they almost exclusively use high end products). I don't think bloggers who receive things for free or create sponsored content are disingenuous per se, (this depends on the individual blogger for me), but when there's no financial gain, there's also no pressure to stick to a brief or please anyone. I have the freedom to be completely unbiased and uninhibited, and I think there's inherently more value and authenticity in the opinions of bloggers who take a genuine interest in something enough to spend their own money on it.
I'm not here to "influence" people into buying products, but rather, help them make better purchasing decisions, and like what blogging was in the beginning, to simply talk about the things I love and occasionally, the things I don't. This certainly isn't to say there's anything wrong with working with brands or PR companies, but that I want my blog to be relatable to the everyday 20 to 30-something person who, like me, doesn't blog for a living and buys 99% of what they own themselves. Being a beauty blogger doesn't have to mean trying out new products constantly and with my changed relationship in beauty, I don't particularly want to either.
I already have a job; I don't want my blog to feel like one too
Blogging is hard work. In fact, it's bloody hard work. It's also my hobby, how I spend most of my free time and something I do simply for fun. Because of that, I'm not the most regular blogger in the world and although there are often times where I really wish I were, it's not something I can realistically achieve without compromising on the integrity of my posts or burning myself out.
I've never been the kind of blogger to have an editorial calendar, schedule my posts weeks in advance and I definitely don't take bulk blog photos on the weekends either. I enjoy blogging as something leisurely, a little more spontaneous and I plan my posts based on whatever I feel like writing about at that particular time. If I want to put 100% into every blog post I publish here, then it has to be done on my own terms and at my own pace.
They say one of the most effective ways of growing your blog is by publishing posts frequently, but this isn't particularly helpful for people with jobs outside of their blog or who take the more slow approach to blogging. While I love immersing myself into blog stuff after work, there are other times where expending more brain power is the last thing I want to do or even think about, and I just need to chill and unwind with a TV show or YouTube video instead. In a world that glorifies working your butt off and pushing yourself, I more so admire those with a healthy work-life balance, and I definitely don't view my blog as some sort of "side hustle".
A struggle that I've had with my blog lately is that I haven't been able to come up with as many new post ideas, nor have I had many new products to talk about. In saying that, I don't want to blog at the expense of my bank account and I certainly don't want to feel pressured into creating content either. As I mentioned above, I'm more than happy buying my own products (when I need them and when I can do so), and if I feel like I have nothing to post or I'm simply not in the mood, I'm not going to force it for the sake of quantity. Sometimes a burst of inspiration is simply a waiting game and even when I was out of a job and had all the time in the world to work on my blog, I realised that I'm a true slow blogger at heart. Blogging can be time consuming stuff, but I make the time for it because I want to, not because I feel that I have to, and even if you might not hear from me for a few weeks at a time, it's only because I put the quality of my content and the fun of blogging above all else.
"Small bloggers" are often more relatable and personable
Regardless of how you make a living as a "small blogger" - whether you're self-employed, a shift worker or you’re in a 9-5 (or in my case, 8:30-5:30) - life probably isn't super exciting most days of the week. We don't have the privilege of all-expenses-paid-for trips, attending exclusive events, nor are we able to jet set off to exotic cities during any time of the year (us plebs have to save our money and annual leave). And who the hell do you know in real life that owns 10+ designer handbags and can afford weekly Topshop orders?
Too far removed from what blogging was in the beginning, this sort of aspirational content isn't something that appeals to me because I can't relate to it. That "bedroom blogger" feel has been lost in favour of images Photoshopped to the point of make-believe, and overly-produced content that lacks character and charm. This type of content is no doubt popular for a reason; it provides escapism and it's definitely very aesthetically beautiful, but I want to consume and create things that feel real, modest and not so contrived.
Although I consider myself a beauty blogger (more so than anything else, anyway), I always seem to get the most wonderful feedback regarding my Life Lately posts. They're something fellow bloggers and even my real life friends both really enjoy, and as someone who doesn't lead the most thrilling life with lots of travel and adventure, I think people simply like getting to know bloggers beyond makeup and skincare, and learning about their regular day-to-day lives. To me, it’s the mundane things that are more relatable and often just as interesting, if not more. I love blog posts that read like a conversation between friends and I love watching vlogs of people simply pottering around the house or running their errands. It could be as ordinary as your breakfast or a photo of your home, and I'll always find that infinitely more fascinating than some lavish press trip. Don't get me wrong, I love travelling (when I can afford it!), but it's very rare that I consume travel-related content because it's never as glamorous as how "big bloggers" portray it to be and it's not what "actual" travelling looks like either. Overall, I'd much rather read a blog post or look at an Instagram photo from bloggers who live a similar sort of lifestyle to the one I do.
Not only is it the laid-back day-to-day sort of content that I most enjoy in blogging, but I find it's the "small bloggers" that don't hold back on exploring thought-provoking topics and writing lengthy, in-depth posts that spark meaningful discussion. Two-sentence reviews aren't particularly insightful or helpful, and I love when bloggers create captivating content through well-researched and informative posts and aren't afraid to show their vulnerabilities or express their honest thoughts. I absolutely adore sinking my teeth into a deep and meaningful blog post, and I think there's something about "small blogger" content that just has so much more substance and personality.
The less followers I have, the more time I have to engage with my community
One of my favourite things about publishing a post is not only the amazing feeling of accomplishment, but receiving long and thoughtful comments from you all. I wouldn't say my blog has super high engagement in terms of numbers, but it is quality engagement (I can't completely avoid the occasional "Great post!" comment though!) and I feel incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful audience who I can have really lovely and meaningful conversations with. I love sitting down to reply with long and thoughtful comments in return, and I love leaving them on your own posts too. It can be quite time consuming, but to me, blogging is equally about community as it is about creating content and the upside to having less followers is that it makes things a lot more manageable.
Over the years as I've been able to establish a nice little friendship circle here with fellow "small bloggers", I've found that I don't tend to engage with "big bloggers" that much anymore. It all feels a bit too one-sided for me and although I don't leave comments with the expectation of a reply (it's more about showing a blogger that I really connected with their post), it can nevertheless still make you feel unappreciated at times. I don't want to be a blogger who simply focuses on themselves and only on their own content, and if people can make the time and effort for me, I want to be able to make the time and effort for them.
If it weren't for engaging with my readers, I probably wouldn't have become amazing friends with such amazing people, and through Instagram and Twitter DMs, and even email, I can talk to my close blogging friends about things we may not necessarily feel comfortable sharing on our blogs. It's a truly wonderful feeling when a blogging friendship extends beyond blogging itself, and it's quite funny to think how they all formed from a mutual love of makeup and skincare. I couldn't be happier with the little community I've made for myself here and of course, the more, the merrier, but I'm more so interested in making genuine connections with people as opposed to gaining just another number on my follower count. You could have all the followers in the world, but they don't mean anything if you're not engaging with them, and I love giving back to the incredible blogging community that gives so much to me.
Having a blog is an achievement in and of itself
There used to be a time as "small blogger" where I'd sometimes question the reason for my blog and I'd find myself asking, 'Why am I doing this?'. Is this all for nothing if I'm stuck on the same follower count, no brand wants to send me their products and if I've never earned a cent?
I then wonder what life would be like if I stopped blogging and the truth is, I would feel lost! How would I express myself? Who in my real life can I share my love of beauty with? Would I just fill up my free time watching movies and television? Having blogged in various forms since I was about 13 years old, it's such a huge part of me that I don't really know what I'd do without it and I would miss it terribly. It gives me a creative purpose and it's something that's independent of my job, and even of my family and friends. My blog is a one-person project, and it's mine and only mine, and that's a really cool thing to have in life.
They always say that whenever you feel disheartened by it all, just remember why you started: the love of it. Even when you don't have a lot of followers or make money through your blog, to me, there's something to be said about the bloggers who do it simply for the pure joy. To have something that gives your life purpose that isn't how you make your money is something to be completely and utterly proud of. When I was unemployed, my blog kept me sane and if I were ever to fall on hard times again, I know that I have something to pick me back up, and keep me occupied and fulfilled in life. It's also no mean feat managing a blog and a separate job, so I commend all of us bloggers who are able to do so!
Although work takes up most of our time in life and I really enjoy what I do for a living, it certainly isn't my whole life and I think it's important to have hobbies and interests that are just for fun. They enrich our lives, develop our skills, are a wonderful escapism from stress and make us more well-rounded people. Maybe my hobby hasn't brought me a lot in terms of numeric value or free shit, but I've definitely grown a lot in other ways here, and if it weren't for my blog, I probably wouldn't have landed any one of my three internships, the last one leading to my first full time gig outside of retail. It's also played a huge part in my identity, my confidence and my creativity, all of which are by far more meaningful than any follower or dollar.
No matter what you make of your blog, whether it becomes a job or remains a hobby, there's no reason why you shouldn't feel proud of your little online space. If you love it and it makes you happy, you've already accomplished something that some people end up searching their whole lives for. You own something that's entirely of your own creation and that's more than enough.
"Big" or "small", we’re all still bloggers
There are so many people out there doing amazing things with their blogs, and to me, sponsored work and finally reaching 10k on Instagram aren't relevant to any of it. When I think of growing as a blogger, it's about pushing myself creatively and making content that satisfies my soul. I'm not sure why we place so much importance on follower counts, how much money we earn or how many press samples come through our door each week when they're by far the least interesting things about being a blogger, and just because a group of people are doing blogging way one way, it doesn't mean we can't do our own. I mean, wouldn't it be boring here if we were all the same? The wonderful thing about blogging is that it's so diverse; we all come from different countries, different walks of life, and we all have our individual voices that contribute to the platform in our own unique way.
Blogging isn't "them" vs. "us", "success" vs. "failure", "right" vs. "wrong" and it's not "popular" vs. "unpopular". Regardless of how "big" or "small" we are, at the end of the day, we're all here just doing our own thing. A blogger is a blogger - nothing more, nothing less. As I've found a blogging style that I'm comfortable with and that makes me feel happy and proud, I really don't feel the need to do things any differently and I've learnt to really embrace who I am here. If this is what it means to be a "small blogger", then I'm a "small blogger" and that's more than OK.
What do you think about "small bloggers"?