You think you have what it takes to be a blogger or influencer. All you have to do is post pretty photos, and brands will give you free stuff and pay you to post about their products. It’s easy, right?
There are many misconceptions about what it means to be a blogger or influencer. Before you get a million followers on IG, you have to do a lot of work. The blogging biz, as with most startups, you will spend a lot of money and time before seeing a return. If you have been thinking about jumping aboard the influencer train, let me take you along for a ride as I break down the costs involved in being a successful blogger.
Wanna Be a Blogger or Influencer?
Now, of course, there are many different types of bloggers, but when most people think of individuals who get the “free stuff,” they generally mean fashion, travel, beauty, or lifestyle bloggers. For all intents and purposes, those are the bloggers to whom I will be referring in this post. I think you will be shocked to read the costs of taking “pretty pictures”.
To start a blog, you need a website, plain and simple. First, you need to decide on a name and buy the domain ($15/year). If you aren’t a web designer, you can either buy a template or be fancy and get your site custom made. Templates will run you anywhere from $29 and up—not too bad—but a custom site, as most well-established bloggers have, start at around $1,000.
Let’s not forget that you’ll still need a logo ($250 from a graphic designer), web hosting ($75/year), and an SSL certificate ($39/year). So even if you opt for a template instead of a custom design, you will have already spent approximately $400 before writing your first post. This is the bare minimum to get started so you can create content. Keep in mind, however, that you will probably make site updates at a later date (and that means more $$$!).
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Camera & Photographer
If you want to stand out in today’s saturated influencer market, you have to create awesome content. If you are lucky and your husband, boyfriend, best friend, or sister is a professional photographer, you may not have a lot to worry about. But if you are like the rest of us, you will need a good camera or a photographer on retainer.
A starter DSLR will run you somewhere between $450–$2,000 from the least expensive option to the top of the line, but you will need extra lenses to capture all those cool photos you see on the gram. For fashion, a 50mm or 85mm and an 18–105mm or 18–140mm if you are shooting travel. Depending on what combination you purchase, your lenses will run you anywhere from $300–$1,500, or more if you get top-of-the-line options. If you are shooting video content, you will probably need a different camera for that, or at least a gimbal to stabilize the footage you take from your phone.
Photographers aren’t cheap, either. You pay them for their time, their knowledge, and the use of all that expensive equipment they bought. They can range from $100 and up a session, and depending on how often you shoot for Instagram and your blog, that can start to add up.
You see all those pretty outfits and makeup looks on Instagram and your favorite blogs? Well, unless you have tens of thousands of followers, brands aren’t going to be gifting you products to use. As a style or beauty blogger, you have to be up on the latest trends and highlight products that your followers can actually buy. Additionally, you’ll want to tag the brands you love in your posts to show them that you are a fan and want to work with them.
With a clothing item, you have two choices: (1) buy it, shoot it, and return it (good luck not getting called out by the store for that one!); or (2) spend your own money to highlight the product. Let me tell you: after a while this starts to get very expensive.
So many lavish locations, so little time! If you think that hotels and airlines are flying bloggers and influencers around and paying them to take photos, you are right—if they have hundreds of thousands of followers. To be a travel blogger, you have to travel to create content for your site. If you have built a decent following, a hotel may comp your stay, and if you are fortunate, you can get an airline to fly you to your destination. If not, you have to pay to get yourself there to document the experience. This includes traveling to events, conferences, Fashion Week, etc. Once your site has a following, brands will start to pay you for your content. Until then, though, it is all up to you.
Essentially, when you’re a blogger, you are a self-employed entrepreneur who is running a business. With that comes business expenses—from software for editing or scheduling your content, to email and newsletter services. Some of these costs are small, but they can add up. As you grow, you may need to hire an assistant or a copy editor to proofread your content. Advertising and marketing costs are also something to factor in. The bottom line is you need to get your content seen by people who will enjoy it so that brands will eventually pay you to create it. These expenses, minus the staff cost, can run you $200/month or more.
One thing that many don’t think about is the time aspect of this job. You are the stylist, art department, writer, marketing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, your own publicist, and sales. You have to do it all unless you have the money; then you pay a team to do it for you. Either way, it’s time or money and sometimes a combination of both. It takes three hours to shoot a blog post, between makeup, hair, getting to the location, and shooting. You then have to edit the photos, write the post, and link to the products. Once the post is live on your site, you have to share it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, then answer all the comments that you hope you get. That is eight hours right there for one post, not counting answering emails, pitching to brands, planning new content, etc.
If you thought to be a blogger or influencer was a simple job, I hope you now understand it is NOT. It may look easy, but it takes a lot of time and effort to make it appear that way. I know I am fortunate to work in my PJ’s some days and set my own schedule, attend fabulous events and receive a lot of amazing products. On the flip side, I have put in a lot of work and sweat equity too! Thank you for all your support because I could not do it without you.