I am indebted to British Beauty Blogger, as I so often am, for the idea for this post. She asked the question Pro-Blogging, is it for you? This got me thinking: just how easy it is to make a living as a beauty blogger? I think it can be done, and there are people who have done it. But it is very hard work. Setting up the blog itself is the easy bit. Google’s excellent Blogger platform is free and simple to use for example. Wordpress and Typepad are straightforward enough too and there are plenty of other options.
The big question is how do you generate an income?
The most obvious way is to sell advertising, and the good news is that the beauty industry spends a lot of money of advertising. Even better, you can set up advertising very quickly and easily using Google Adsense. This is so simple you can be up and running probably quicker than you can read this blog post. But this also shows the big problem. If you can do it, so can absolutely anyone else. The laws of supply and demand are inescapable. If you write a blog reviewing beauty products you will be joining a very big crowd indeed. I have read hundreds of beauty blogs but I am still finding ones that have been going for years, seem to be well read and which I had never heard of before. Advertisers have a lot of choice.
I tried out Google Adsense a couple of years ago, and even though Colin’s Beauty Pages even then was getting hundreds of page views every day my income was pathetic. In fact I haven’t worked out how to get rid of all the Google Ads so I still get a small dribble of cash from Google. My traffic has grown over the years I have been running it but my Google Ads income has remained almost the same. I think this illustrates very well something about the blogosphere. You have to run to stand still. Every day there are more and more blogs and every day it gets harder to make the same impact you made yesterday. If you are serious about earning money from beauty blogging you have to aim to continually increase your traffic.
I would say that Google Adsense is not viable as a source of income. If my experience is typical, you need to double your readership every year to keep your income constant, and you need to be getting views in the millions per month to earn any serious money. A typical blog might net you enough to keep you in coffee – and you’ll need that to stay up late into the night writing.
Selling adverts directly has exactly the same problem but harder. Not only do you have to compete with all the other blogs selling adverts, you also have to compete with people like FaceBook who can offer demographically selected eyeballs. If you have a product for a particular age group and gender Facebook can find them for you. Likewise with affiliate links, where you get paid a commission. How many other people have exactly the same link?
So it is a tough game. How do you crack it? I think the answer is that you have to deliver something that is both unique and appealing. This might simply be the quality of what you offer. For example you could make sure you post a blog every day and that that blog is both interesting and original. There is a saying that ‘content is king’, and I think that is more true of beauty blogs than many areas simply because there is so much choice. But there is also a big audience, so if you think you can keep up with the quality of output of the likes of British Beauty Blogger and Temptalia, go for it. But be prepared for a long slog until you get your name known.
But given the size of the beauty sector, there is plenty of scope to find a niche that suits your interests where there is less competition. Of course niche is a relative term. Lipglossiping for instance concentrates on lipsticks, but that is still a pretty big area. It is also a good niche because there is lots of activity and new launches. And people always want to see colours. Skin care is another big area, but it isn’t really fashion driven. You’d probably need to know a lot more about how the products work to get credibility if that is where you focus, and the most difficult thing is to come up with new ideas for posts regularly.
The other thing you really have to crack is writing. When I look at the blogs that pull in big traffic, they are invariably written well. This doesn’t just mean getting spelling and grammar right. In fact you can get away without those – though I wouldn’t recommend being sloppy about them. The trick is to write in a clear and engaging way. Blog posts need to be the right length and to give the reader the message they are looking for. If you don’t give enough information to tell the story you are telling the blog post is too short. The actual number of words isn’t the issue. If you are repeating yourself, rambling or talking about irrelevant stuff, it is too long. You also need to inject at least some of your own personality into them. If your blog reads like a press release nobody will read it. If you can’t write, nobody will read your blog. The good news is that you can learn to write by doing a lot of writing and if your blog is going to be successful you will be doing a lot of writing.
I wouldn’t worry too much about a lot of the things that seem to vex some beauty bloggers. Should you accept free samples that are offered by companies? Why not. It will cloud your judgement to some extent, but so does advertising, what mood you are in and even the weather. Humans aren’t bias free at the best of times. That is just the way we are. Disclose the fact if you feel inclined. But do try and give the product an honest review. It won’t upset anyone. They would rather have bad coverage than no coverage. And it won’t affect whether you get sent any more samples either. Should you accept payments to run reviews? Again, I don’t see any harm in this. It is better to be transparent and tell your readers but we all know that people are sometimes paid to write stuff online. I think the thing to remember is what your readers are coming for. They want information and are savvy enough to understand that not every beauty blogger is immune to the commercial world we all live in.
So conventional beauty blogging with the emphasis on products funded by advertising is a tough game, but there is nothing to stop you if you are determined. But you will need to put in the hours and you aren’t really going to be of any interest to advertisers unless you are consistently delivering thousands of views every day. And you aren’t going to generate that kind of traffic unless you are producing something people want to read.
But I wouldn’t say that this is the only way to go about it. There are more creative ways to get paid for your work. The best example I can think of is Mike Duncan of the History of Rome. He gave away a podcast about Roman history for around two years, initially with no advertising at all and later with minimal advertising. He built up a big following, then announced that he was running a tour of Rome and related historical sites, with himself as the guide. I haven’t worked out the economics of it, but it looks like he managed to make money out of going on a cruise and talking about his favourite subject to people who shared his interest. It would seem to me that the beauty industry must offer many similar opportunities. You could run courses on how to apply make up for instance. That is actually a really obvious one, but I bet there are cleverer ones around that nobody has thought of yet, until you come up with the idea.
Best of luck!