It's rare that I write a personal blog piece but this is a topic that I know weighs heavy on a number of the other bloggers out there and one which I am always asked about, so I wanted to share my thoughts!
Food Goblin is now 5 whole years old (!!!) and a lot has changed since I hit publish on my first ever piece. Beyond holding down a full time job, life…..well…happens and alongside the blog pretty much everything in my life has gone through change. I've had relationships start and end, lost much loved and always remembered family and friends, I've moved cities, houses 4 times, changed careers twice. Life is constantly evolving and it's hard to manage the blog consistently, but pouring my spare time into Food Goblin has always remained a rock and much needed outlet to me.
So….indulge me this personal piece, and if you're wondering how to manage the peaks and troughs of working life alongside blogging, know that you're not alone. If this is any small comfort to any one person out there, I'll be happy.
Yes, I do have a full time job.
For those of you who don't know, alongside Food Goblin I have a full time job in London. In fact, except for the first 6 months of the blog, I've always worked a 9-5. A lot of people, even people in my own network think that I do this full time which is nice, and flattering but no…bills have got to be paid – we'll get to this topic!
I was lucky in my first job in that I got every other Friday off (nice company perk, hey) which helped with writing, and also in that my days generally never went beyond 5.30pm. Now I have a much more demanding job. I left my old company in September and was promoted into a much more demanding role. Now, although in theory my Fridays finish at lunchtime they never actually do, and my evenings often stretch to 7pm.
How much spare time do you need?
I find blogging is as busy as you make it. There are always things to write about and if I wanted to I could spend days at my computer.
When you reach a certain level of 'influence', you start getting invitations from brands and their public relations agencies to come to events, or work on projects with them with your blog. There's no hard and fast rule about what this level is, but I was told by a now dear friend and then PR that I needed to get 1000 Twitter followers before I'd get invited to things.
In London these opportunities are literally constant. There are peaks throughout the year (I touch on this later) but October and November are always particularly busy. PRs know that many bloggers work too and so normally organise things in the evening, although there are always trips and day events going on too. In general, I do about 2 events a week but am normally invited to something most evenings – it's for you to find out what works for you and manage your time (and energy levels!).
Finding time to write is HARD.
It's true that when you're working full time, by default your time to create content is hard. I won't say hardER than for full time bloggers because I don't have a reference point but….surely it must be? I finish work at 7 some days, have an hour to commute home on days I don't have to run straight to events, and by the time I'm home I barely have energy enough to cook myself dinner, let alone put pen to paper.
Those days aren't every day though and my golden time to write is on those other evenings where I have a good hour free to myself. Weekends are my most productive time and I line up content and schedule it to automatically post during the week.
I try to post at least twice a week but am the first to admit that this can drop when I'm particularly busy. October and November seem to be particularly crazy months in blogger world – it's like the PRs and brands save up all their events until the end of the year. Combine this with the Christmas run up and it's literally events every single night. I get ill every year because it's hard to say no and I always over stretch myself.
To cope with this, last year I decided to take action and took on another writer in London to help me. It's difficult to give up control of a blog which is by nature personal, but I was recommended a friend of a friend and it's worked out really well. Vik is wonderful and helps me keep up with all the amazing foodie things going on in London, and keep getting content up on the site regularly.
What about social media?
All bloggers know that the blog alone is not enough. Social media is massively important to running a successful blog and I'd go as far as to say that most of my traffic is driven from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Keeping up with social media is vital, and I need to spend at least an hour a day on it to keep my followers engaged.
This can be challenging when between 9-5 I'm in an office where I can't readily get on social media, but there are 2 things that help:
- Social Media traffic between 9-5 (in the UK) drops hugely. This is a HUGE phew when it comes to managing my streams. As long as I get an Instagram or tweet in between 8-9, and after 5, things are all good!
- There are some great tools though that I use to help me when I can't get to my phone – Buffer is my favourite. This platform works across Twitter and Instagram and lets me schedule posts and tweets to release at high traffic peak times.
What about relationships?!
Ha! Being a blogger's boyfriend, girlfriend or even close friend has GOT to be a weird thing. I'm not in fashion or lifestyle, so my partner doesn't have to deal with constantly taking photos of me, but there are definitely other querks. Here's a few things they should expect:
- Never, ever eat the food before photos have been taken. Wait PATIENTLY until shots have been captured from every angle, with every different app before you dare to take a bite….or beware the consequences! ESPECIALLY at group events!
- Talking of events….You'll be dragged along to a million of these to meet a million people (introverts, watch out). This is a great thing! You get all the perks and none of the obligations. Enjoy it!
- If both of you work full time, prepare for unequal holiday time. Much of my paid leave is taken up with trips and this can create issues.
- Other bloggers can be characters. Luckily in the food and drinks world most people are lovely, and there are few dramas, but that's not a hard and fast rule. Smile and be nice.
Time is the major strain on relationships and managing your full time job against your blog can cause problems – with either the blog or the partner! I help this by using events to see my friends – you normally get a plus one and it's a good opportunity to catch up. Just make sure they know to behave- an event is NOT a pure social occasion and don't be caught out by forgetting that you're there to, essentially, do a job.
When I first started dating my boyfriend my blog posts definitely dipped as we were caught up in the 'honeymoon period'. Now I have time set asides to do my writing, and he respects that. Work out a system that suits you both.
How to keep your energy up.
This is a hard one and I've not always been successful at it. I did a personality profile a few years ago with work (the Myers Briggs for any psychoanalysts out there!) and I'm 96% extroverted, so most of the time the idea of being around people 24/7 at work in the day and blogger events in the evening isn't an issue.
This isn't always the case though. Between February and April this year I hit some lows that I haven't in the last 5 years. Work was incredibly busy, my hormones were all over the place from the NHS (arbitrarily) switching up my pill and the pressure of everything got on top of me. I retreated into myself and let my blog and to an extent, my social life slide. Eventually, I came out the other side and am feeling much happier. As a result I'm writing more and loving my blog again.
The biggest lessons I've learnt to help with this are:
- Protect your sleep. I'm guilty of having an average of only 6 hours of sleep on weeknights – I know this isn't enough but I can't seem to ever get my things in order to allow myself more. Where you can, get more – I always feel much less anxious or down after a full night.
- Find things that bring you happiness and nurture them. For me it's can be as simple as taking time to have a cup of tea in the morning, and having a phone background of a holiday scene with happy memories.
- Accept you can't do everything. I'm such a 'yes' person and I've always taken on too much. Now I've learned to delegate and say no, and it's only brought me positives!
- Don't be afraid to take time out. I often get guilty if I have an evening free and choose not to do anything with it. I've tried to get rid of this negativity and accept that I'm allowed this! Sometimes you just need to recharge!
Quit the day job?
I always get encouraged to do this by my friends and funnily enough, not that often by other bloggers (although they always ask me if I have a full time job). It's something that I've thought about a lot over the years and seriously considered at times. My position on this may change, but where I am at the moment is that I'm happy doing both. I'll try to explain why.
It's difficult to monetise a blog in food and drink, certainly enough to the extent that you can support yourself. You can make money through working with brands, creating recipes or content with their products, but the opportunities aren't always everywhere. I know a lot of bloggers who have gone full time, some of which who I admire hugely and are the reason that I started blogging in the first place, and have seen how most at some point have struggled. Food and Drink blogging as an industry isn't yet where fashion is. Creating content and photography takes a lot of time and talent, and when it's for a brand I think should be recompensed – it is advertising after all and, for example, you wouldn't expect to get your campaign up in New York Times Square without paying for it would you? Unfortunately, brands and PRs are only relatively recently becoming used to food bloggers asking for payment and there are still 1000s of bloggers out there who don't. I totally get it – when I was newer, I used to take free products and blog about them, but in doing so I made it harder for everybody else out there. As an industry we need to standarise our approach here and that's a responsibility for bloggers, PRs and brands alike.
That being all said, most of what I do however is restaurant reviews and I wouldn't dream of monetising this. To take payment for a restaurant review would essentially be a bribe, and keeping your objectivity and integrity is vital. In short…my opportunities to monetise are tight.
Add to this, my job pays me really well and gives me skills that I use every day as a blogger, a mortgage (yes, I'm one of those), and a wish to start a family in the next 5 years and….it's hard to give up that security. I recognise that I'm limiting Food Goblin by not giving more time to it – if I had the time there are a million things I'd love to do with it. At times I have even felt a bit of shame, like by choosing to work I'm somehow not committed or somehow less than my peers. However…I'm learning what's important to me and it's more than blogging. Blogging is a huge part of it, but it's not everything.
Anyway, I hope my ramblings have made sense. I won't do this too often – this is a FOOD blog, not a diary -but it's been cathartic and I've enjoyed sharing. If you feel the same, reach out to me – I'd love to hear from you.