Thoughts on Blogging, Working, and Making Money

I started this blog in June 2010 and named it 2Summers on a whim. I was moving from the United States to South Africa and I would experience two summers in the same year.

Two summers, I thought…2 summers. 2Summers. It had a nice ring to it. I opened up WordPress, fiddled around a bit, and in minutes I had a blog. My first post was called Two Summers in 2010.

flags01 smThe first photo to appear on my blog, in my original 2Summers header: South African and American flags in Melville during the 2010 World Cup. (Photo: Jon Hrusa)

I never planned to become “a blogger”. I was a writer, sure, and later I became a photographer. But a blogger? No. I blogged as a hobby — to keep friends and family informed about my life, and maybe help other Joburg newcomers/visitors find their way around this awesome but confusing city. Blogging wasn’t a career; in fact it was the opposite. After 15 years of working nine-to-five copywriting and editing jobs, blogging provided a new opportunity to create my own personal content. No deadlines, no one telling me what to write or when, and certainly no paychecks. Blogging was something I did when I wasn’t working — it was my anti-work.

I was surprised and flattered when people I didn’t know began to read my blog. My daily page views increased. The response encouraged me to write more, to take more photos, and to get out there and do more so I had more to post about. I occasionally received a free trip or meal in exchange for a review, but blogging was a passion, not a job. I made a living as a freelance writer and photographer and identified myself as such. I was blogging more and more but I wasn’t “a blogger”, at least not in my own mind.

My first paid blogging gigs — as in, I blogged about something and got paid actual money for it — came in 2014. Gumtree (the South African version of Craig’s List) contacted me and asked me to do a sponsored post. I offered to sell some stuff on Gumtree — something I’d been meaning to do anyway — and review the experience. I asked for what I thought was a reasonable amount of money and, to my surprise, Gumtree agreed. I enjoyed the experience and I got to write about something that I knew would be helpful and informative for my readers. Win-win.

Around the same time, South African Tourism invited me to be part of its 2014 #MeetSouthAfrica campaign. This, my friends, was a break. I was hired to travel around South Africa with a bunch of other bloggers, write and Instagram and tweet about the experience, and I got paid a daily rate. Not a very high rate, but a rate nonetheless. There was no denying it anymore: I was “a blogger”. I still earned most of my money through other projects, but blogging had become a part of my job.

I started accepting fewer “free” trips. I’ve always been careful about the free trips I accept, only participating when I’m pretty sure that the trip is something I’ll enjoy and that my readers will enjoy reading about. But I slowly began to realize that free trips really aren’t free. Blogging is hard work and free travel — no matter how fun and luxurious it is — doesn’t pay the bills. I also had less time for free trips because I was devoting more time to paid work.

Over the last year or so, it has slowly begun to sink in that I can make a living through my blog (combined with my Instagram account, which has also gained a large following over the years). I’ve always been hesitant to take that leap into “professional” blogging. My blog is intensely personal. I do write a lot about travel, and food, and quirky things to do in Joburg. But I also write about my cat. I write about my boyfriend. I write about happiness and sadness and addiction and grief. I know that my readers like my blog because it’s honest and personal and spontaneous.

I don’t want to sacrifice that, and I won’t. But if I can keep it all — the travel, the food, the boyfriend, the cat, the happiness and the sadness and honesty — and still make a living, then why the hell not?

As of now, I’m going for it. If you read my blog regularly then you know that I’m already writing quite a few sponsored posts, which I always disclose at the bottom and often elsewhere in the post as well. I will continue to write sponsored posts, selectively, promoting brands and travel experiences that I personally like and want to recommend to others. I always maintain full editorial control of my blog content and no one ever tells me what to say. I will continue to write non-sponsored and personal posts with the same frequency that I always have.

I’m also going to start experimenting with advertising: subtle banner ads for products I like (coming soon, hopefully), and another form of advertising called affiliate marketing (more to come on this in a future post). I’ve always been hesitant to pursue advertising because I don’t want my blog to look tacky. But now I realize that tasteful advertising can help me to do more of what I love to do, and produce more great content for my readers. It would be silly not to do that.

A note about disclosure: As I said before, I will always put a disclaimer at the bottom of every sponsored post. “Sponsored” means that I’ve either gotten paid to write the post, or I’ve received something for free. As of this week, I’ve also started to include disclaimers on my Instagram posts if I’ve been paid or received something for free.

Marketing myself has never been my strength, and I have a very long way to go. I’m leagues behind most other professional bloggers when it comes to earning money and there is still a part of me that is highly resistant to the idea. But deep down I know this is what I’m meant to be doing. I’ll try my best to do it right.

Heather from RoyDramatic portrait by Roy Potterill.

Previous Post Next Post

36 Comments

  • Reply Gail Wilson December 4, 2015 at 9:26 am

    You have done so well, I love reading your blogs and can only wish you all the success you so deserve. Please keep the boyfriend and cat in I love hearing about them.

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Gail, I will 🙂

  • Reply Ceece's Travel December 4, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Hi Heather!

    Loved this post, especially because of the honesty and ernst truth you’ve put out there.

    I love reading your blog because of the various content, I much like yourself write about all sorts of things, but Travel is my main focus. That’s not to say you cant read recipes, rants and beauty reviews on my site either?

    I think your style of writing and the way you mix things up is what keeps me coming back to your site. I just love spending time reading what you’ve been up too, things you find interesting and of course the humor within your posts.

    I too now get paid for my writings but I started my blog with the idea that it would be the platform for me to start doing all the other things I am doing now, which include content marketing, hosting small workshops on social media and so on. Again, all angled at getting me back on a plane and back out into the world. Yet I NEVER compromise my beliefs, ethics or self for a paid gig or “whats trending” in the Blogging realm.

    If I have to read one more post about what “Every Blogger Has to Have, or Must Stop Doing” I might just hurl. I’ve actually written several posts about just throwing it all up in the air and dancing around in it 🙂

    It is as you say, stick true to oneself and if oneself is something that ends up working out like it has then so be it. 🙂

    Love your photography too btw 🙂

    #LoveAndTravelHugs©
    Cee

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks so much, Cee. I really appreciate such a thoughtful comment from someone who can relate.

  • Reply Eric December 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Good luck!!!!!

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks Eric.

  • Reply Gloria Castrillon December 4, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Fantastic idea! Great supporter of your stuff, and completely enjoy reading it – even the sponsored ones are honest and fair. Onwards and upwards, 2Summers Heather!

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks so much, Gloria. I really appreciate that feedback.

  • Reply Patricia Manning December 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    So excited for you!! Wishing you lots of success ?

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks Patty!

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun December 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Best wishes for your new efforts, you got this!

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Bill Hayes December 4, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I always enjoy your posts. great that you can take it to the next level. Good Luck with it.

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks so much, Bill.

  • Reply contrafacta December 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Good luck! Your blog was an absolute godsend for me when I first accepted my job in SA, and I couldn’t have had as comfortable a transition to Joburg as I did without it.

    PS — you should absolutely start a Joburg YouTube channel! YT is where all the youth hang out 🙂

    – tekla

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks Tekla. Fiver is actually helping me with my video skills as we speak! I’ll think about the YouTube thing.

      • Reply fiverlocker December 6, 2015 at 5:30 pm

        Yes, let’s do that! Also Vimeo for the grownups…

  • Reply Sine December 4, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Definitely cheering from over the pond for you and your endeavors, as you’ve realized what I might have done had I stayed in SA. I went the other route and pursued book publishing and freelance writing, but i totally understand all the sentiments you’ve outlined in this post. Loved this line:

    “But if I can keep it all — the travel, the food, the boyfriend, the cat, the happiness and the sadness and honesty — and still make a living, then why the hell not?”

    Very true words!

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Sine. Your blog is actually an inspiration because I feel like you do a really good job of marketing yourself in a positive way.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish December 4, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Considering the level of quality in your blog posts and your photography, it was inevitable! Best of luck!
    And now I understand why your writing is so good — fifteen years! You put in your dues; keep enjoying and hold onto that control!

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Yeah, I did a lot of writing for others before finally realizing that I write much better for myself. I guess that’s how life works 🙂

  • Reply autumnashbough December 5, 2015 at 4:53 am

    Congrats! That’s great news and I’m happy for you.

    Just, um, make sure MC gets a few blogs in every so often. Purrty please.

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Haha, don’t worry. The Melville Cat can’t be silenced.

  • Reply glenncameron777 December 5, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Great post Heather, thanks! Check out my blog when you have some time please and let me know what you think. All the best, Glenn

    • Reply 2summers December 5, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks Glenn! I just started looking at your site — looking forward to following along on the journey.

  • Reply Timmee December 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Heart Banana

    • Reply 2summers December 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      🙂

  • Reply zimbo64 December 6, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Well done Heather! You have come so far since we first met! I shared your heartbreak through your blog and rejoiced when you were once again happy. I love your stories about the MC and all his mischief. I always take time to read your travel stories and like to live vicariously through them. I always look forward to your next blog post (whether sponsored or not) because I enjoy your style of writing. Your photography is inspiring and it helps me to see our Joburg through your eyes. May your blog go from strength to strength. D

    • Reply 2summers December 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      Aw, thanks so much Debbie. You’re one of my most loyal fans, if not THE most. Hope you’re doing well. xxx

  • Reply Lani December 6, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Good for you Heather. So many bloggers want to make money from blogging and even have blogs dedicated to just that, but your blogging grew organically and I think that is the most genuine way possible. Enjoy the ride! xxoo

    • Reply 2summers December 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Lani, I also hope that’s the case. It’s worked well so far, I just need to ramp things up.

  • Reply trujilloalison December 6, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you for your blog and everything you share on it – happy to hear there’s even more to come!

    • Reply 2summers December 10, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Thank so much, Alison.

  • Reply all-TIM-ate December 19, 2015 at 7:16 am

    have always enjoyed your blog – I think I told you that I was inspired to start mine after spending an entire weekend reading many of your posts. Happy to know that you have much more lined up. I’ll certainly stay plugged in anticipation.

  • Reply Dee Lou January 3, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Heather for president!

    • Reply 2summers January 3, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Ha! I’d settle for permanent residency.

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: