Those who don’t blog often have a glamorized view of blogging. Companies send you stuff for free, you can make money from anywhere, you’re your own boss. Sounds like a dream job or side hustle, no?
The truth is that blogging is a LOT of work, and it can be way less glamorous than it seems. If you’re planning to start a blog, here’s a realistic look at both the good and bad things about blogging. If you’re a blogger yourself, maybe you can resonate with these things!
As context, I’m not a full-time blogger, but I spend just as much time blogging as I do on my day job (which is also blogging haha, but specifically being a freelance/hourly blog editor for a startup). I’ve begun making a steadier income from my blog, though it’s still not enough to cover my living expenses. This post will be written from my personal perspective—while these are pretty universal blogging experiences, keep in mind that others may have a different experience.
5 Things I Love About Blogging
1. Making friends from around the world
I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now, and over these years, I’ve made a friends from Idaho, Alabama, New York, California, Texas, England, Estonia, Greece, France, Malaysia—the list goes on. While I’m not regularly in touch with everyone (and a lot of people no longer blog), I’ve been able to have meaningful conversations and internet friendships with people I might’ve otherwise not met. I’ve even met a couple blogging pals in real life!
For those who have maintained an online presence, we’ve been able to follow each other’s journeys as we all grow up and older. I’ve watched several of my blogging friends go to college and graduate, complete a graduate degree, buy a house, or even have their first child.
Beyond having a friend, it’s also really nice to know someone who can empathize with all things blogging. You can not only complain about intellectual property thieves together (more on that later lol), but more importantly, support each other—from sharing advice to sharing each other’s articles.
2. Writing about things you care about
It’s really gratifying to be able to write a post on something you care about, and have people read and learn from it. A few posts I’m particularly proud of are:
7 Common Misconceptions About Sustainable Fashion
Why You Should Also Share Your “Slow” Runs on Strava
What to Do if an Airline Denies Your Compensation Claim
Wastetarianism: An Alternative to Veganism?
These all cover certain things I wish more people knew, or concepts I think should be popularized. I love having a platform to share those ideas and experiences, and having an audience for them.
I’m especially happy when people let me know that a post has helped them. An old friend of mine from elementary school (who I haven’t spoken to in 10+ years), recently messaged me and said she’d read my post on getting compensation from Norwegian Airlines. She’d followed all the steps I outlined, and ended up getting her canceled flight compensation (which was 600 euros!!). That message made my day—I was elated that I helped someone get 600 euros. That’s a big sum of money!
3. The creative side
I love the storytelling aspect of blogging, whether it’s written or visual. I’m excited to take an idea, brainstorm a post, and write it all out. It’s also fun to take photos, plan shoots, and edit shots.
Since I use Pinterest as a marketing tool, there’s also a big graphic design component to blogging. I try to create pins that are visually appealing and make you want to click on them. This can be lots of work, but also satisfying—I like experimenting with different fonts, layouts, and colors to create something that looks “aesthetic” (at least, in my opinion!).
4. Learning marketable skills
Blogging requires a lot of strategy. Whether it’s SEO (search engine optimization), Pinterest, or social media best practices, there’s so much to learn and implement. Luckily, these are all skills that are applicable to full-time corporate jobs, an independent business, or freelancing gigs.
For example, marketing departments will hire SEO Strategists, and their annual salary ranges from $60-70k. Companies will also employ Social Media Strategies, who earn an average of $50k per year. If an office job isn’t for you, I’ve also seen bloggers do SEO, Pinterest, and social media consulting on the side, or form a whole independent business just for that. Knowing these strategies and tools is a valuable skill that you can use in several contexts.
5. Passive income is pretty nice
Let me be clear: blogging is a heck of a lot of work, and the “passive income” requires tons of upfront effort. I spend an average of 5 hours on each post, oftentimes more—this includes researching, writing, editing photos, engaging on social media, and creating Pinterest graphics.
If a post brings in steady traffic once this is all done, there’s little work to do afterwards, beyond the occasional update and social media promotion. This is really nice for posts with affiliate links, as people will continue to click on those and make purchases, all while earning you income without extra effort.
5 Things I Hate About Blogging
Note: I don’t want this to read as a list of complaints, or as a rant. I just want to be honest about the more negative side of blogging. This section will be longer than the things I love about blogging, but not because I hate blogging overall—there’s just more to explain since people are less familiar with the less glamorous side of blogging.
1. You have to promote consumption to make money
People think that blogging means you don’t answer to anyone and are totally independent. The thing is, you’re even more dependent on others for income. As a blogger, your audience usually doesn’t pay you directly for your content, unless you have a Patreon. The way you make money is through ads, sponsorships, affiliate links, or selling your own products/services. To make money, people essentially have to buy things from you.
Promoting consumption is against my values, as I’m passionate about sustainability. Even worse, the most popular affiliate program is through Amazon, which is the antithesis of sustainability and the embodiment of capitalism.
There’s unfortunately no easy way around this issue. If you’re a smaller blogger, it’s difficult to make money by selling your own services (like consulting), as you haven’t established yourself yet. You’ll also get few sales from affiliate programs beyond Amazon since you get less traffic (and being such a retail giant, the little traffic you do get is more likely to shop there). If people are going to buy on Amazon anyways, you also might as well make money from an affiliate link, rather than losing out on that income entirely.
For these reasons, I still include affiliate links in posts, including Amazon links. But I do my best to include a disclaimer in each one, and provide alternative places to buy. I’ll usually say: “If you’re planning to buy on Amazon or directly from [company] anyways, I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate link. If you can though, I want to encourage you to buy from small, local shops.” If I’m going to be featuring products or companies in my posts, I also like to encourage people to only buy if they actually need something.
This isn’t an ideal solution, but I find it a decent compromise. In the future, I’d love to be less reliant on affiliate links and be able to offer consulting services, or do sponsorships with service-based companies.
2. The technical stuff is a headache
You could easily spend entire days or weeks just worrying about the technical side of blogging. When I migrated blogging platforms at the beginning of the year, I spent 30+ hours reformatting old posts, setting my theme up, and redirecting my links. It was basically a full week of work…but I wasn’t getting paid for it. In that month, I made only $16 from blogging—all while spending $200+ upfront on website hosting for 3 years, and $100+ for a year of Tailwind (a Pinterest scheduler). Trying to run a blog professionally is not only time-consuming, but also costly.
Beyond that, there are always technical things to improve, and things may break randomly. For instance, there are entire courses on improving your site speed. One of the things experts suggest is compressing your images and lazy loading them on your site (they load as you scroll, rather than all at once). I’ve been trying to find a good WordPress plugin that will do that, but the two popular ones I’ve tried have all broken my SSL certificate (basically something that makes your site more secure). I also once spent a whole day trying to log into my WordPress account because my SSL certificate wasn’t being enforced properly. Super frustrating!
3. SEO can make your writing less personal
If you’re writing to get your post ranked by Google, you have to prioritize what people are searching and want to know. You can’t just write a personal story about your crazy solo trip to Bali. It might seem harsh, but random people on the internet don’t care about that—they want to know the best things to do in Bali, coolest restaurants, and most instagrammable places.
You can still tell personal stories, but it needs to be in the context of an informational post. For instance, I write race reviews, but the post is more of a guide for future runners than just a recap of my performance in a race.
That’s not to say people haven’t “made it big” only telling personal stories, but it’s much more difficult to do so. I think it’s important to strike a balance. If you only have SEO-optimized guides, your blog won’t have much personality, and people won’t stick around. But if you only have personal stories, people won’t find your blog through search engines.
That’s why I write mostly informational posts, but still throw in a more personal piece every now and then. (One of my favorites is on how I wrote my college essay about needing to poop during a run). It’s not only a good strategy, but also lets me have more fun with my blog. While I like creating resources to help readers, it’s not always the most riveting thing in the world to write product comparisons, for instance.
Also keep in mind that as you grow an audience, people become interested in your personal life. This is a known strategy for YouTubers as well—when you first start out, no one really cares about a random person’s vlog, but once you attract an audience, people want to follow your daily life. The bigger your dedicated audience, the more personal your posts can be, and still be successful.
4. Your success is impacted by volatile factors like algorithms and trends
Fear strikes every blogger’s heart when they hear the words “Google algorithm update.” In all seriousness though, it can be really unnerving for algorithms to constantly be in flux. You learn the best practices and get your post ranking high on Google, only to see it crash when the algorithm is updated (not to mention, you have to learn and implement the new recommended strategies).
Another common frustration for bloggers is the Pinterest algorithm. It’s been especially volatile since the pandemic, with their teams working from home. People have seen their initial pin impressions drop from several thousand to only 10 or a couple hundred. Beyond that, Pinterest has started prioritizing fresh pins even more (new designs), and many group boards have become irrelevant. This all means more work, as you’ll have to spend more time creating new pin designs, and won’t be able to repin them as much.
During the pandemic, travel bloggers also took a huge hit to their traffic, since people weren’t traveling anymore. Less traffic means less income, as there are fewer people clicking on ads and affiliate links. This was all something that nobody could control. I actually gained a ton of traffic during this time since one of my niches is running, which was more popular since gyms were closed. But since the US is reopening, that growth has become stagnant and even dropped off slightly. This is something I can’t control either.
With blogging, the goalposts can also change without warning. I was hoping to qualify for MediaVine, which is a popular ad network. Their requirements were 25,000 monthly sessions (~30k pageviews) for the longest time. I got 20k pageviews in both May and June, and was getting closer and closer to reaching that target. But recently, they doubled the requirements to 50k pageviews. I feel like I’m back at square one—just a few months ago, MediaVine was really far out of reach, but as I got closer, the requirements only moved far out of reach again. It can be hard to stay motivated with all these changes, but I’m trying to use this as an opportunity to get more creative with my strategy.
5. Self-promoters, plagiarists, fake people, oh my
The final thing I really dislike is how the world of blogging can have some really toxic behavior (don’t get me wrong—there are tons of awesome people, but the not-so-great ones can really be a drag).
I’ve gotten several emails from other website owners who want me to link back to their site for free, and there are even companies who ask for free advertisement. I find these requests super disrespectful, as I’ve put in so much time and energy into building my blog. It would be outrageous to ask a business to provide their product or service for free, so it should be equally outrageous to ask bloggers to do that. Sorry, but I’m not going to link to your post on recycling, and I’m absolutely not going to promote your “ethical” jewelry brand for free.
There are also unfortunately people who will outright copy your work and try to pass it off as their own (here’s the story of how one of my blog posts was plagiarized!). There are of course measures you can take to get the copied work removed, but it’s another thing you shouldn’t have had to worry about.
If you use Instagram, then I’m sure you’re also familiar with the ol’ follow-unfollowers. It’s totally cool to unfollow people if you no longer like their content, but there are tons of accounts that will follow people just to get them to follow back, and then unfollow you. That’s just rude lol.
Like I said earlier, I hope this doesn’t come off as a rant, but instead an honest look at the positive and negative aspects of blogging. If you’re a blogger yourself, I’d love to hear what you love and hate about blogging—have you had similar experiences? Anything you’d add to this list?