Hello everybody! One of the questions I get asked most about my job probably has to be “how did you get started”, and the second most frequently asked question might very well be “how do I end up on a similar path”? It is a complex question, and there is no universal mold for success when it comes to, yeah anything, and that is certainly also true for content creators. What might give you amazing engagement on your posts, might not work for me. With that being said, after 10 years of blogging, I think I have some tips that some of you might find useful, especially if you also want to start blogging about sustainability and make it your full-time job.
how I started blogging and how I ended up here
Here is a little run down on how I got started, I started my first blog back in 2010, but it was not until 2012 that I began to describe myself as a blogger. My first blog was actually more of a place where I could keep my poems, but as I got more interested in fashion, I started posting outfit of day content. This took me to fashion week and I scored jobs as a street style photographer and writer for several fashion magazines. In 2014, I left the fashion world and opted for academia, and at the beginning of 2015, I first discovered the zero waste movement. I asked my followers (at this time it was around 8k on Instagram) if they wanted to see a 30 day zero waste experiment. During the next month I lost most of my followers, but I gained so many new ones. After that, I never looked back and kept moving my platform, and life, in a more sustainable direction. In 2016, I gave my first lecture about my lifestyle change, and in 2020 I published my book “sustainable badass”, which I started writing as soon as I graduated from uni in 2019. I spent some of the time after uni doing some freelancing but quickly transitioned into being a full-time content creator. Today, as of May 2021, I have officially been an independent business owner for over a year and my work with youtube, Instagram, my lectures, my book, and my workshops are now my only income. If you want to know more about how much I make, how I build a budget,and how I spend money as a zero waster, I talk about it in this video.
how to make quality content
Now let’s talk about some of the (in my opinion) key elements to running a successful blog/or other social media platform. Again, you might see content creators doing amazingly without any of these, it is entirely possible. This is just what I have found works for me.
get a good camera: you don’t have to spend your life savings on camera equipment, not at all. The camera I am using is second-hand, it is tiny, but it can do what I need it to do. I also sometimes take pictures with my phone, which is also second-hand. Find out more about what camera and phone I have in my content creation 101 post, down below. People will be more likely to stop to check out, read, or like what you’re making if the pictures are good. If the pictures are beautiful, light, colorful, aesthetically pleasing, and well-composed, and that all starts with a good camera, but there is another thing.
a good camera can take a crappy picture, so what you also really need to focus on is light, shadow, and composition: Check out some other bloggers and gather inspiration. Light is super-duper important, if the lighting is bad, the picture is bad – usually. Play around with cold and warm tones, practice your flat lay skills and find your own style, something people will associate with you, like a certain editing technique, a certain layout, or a certain color scheme.
also, ask for help if you cannot take the perfect picture yourself: I ask friends, family, or my partner to take a picture of me if I see a good photo opportunity. In the beginning, some people might think yourself-absorbed or vain, I know I got those stares lol. But if this is your job, or you want it to be, take it seriously. A big part of it is good pictures, so don’t let the opportunity pass you by because you’re afraid of what people might think. Sometimes I still get snarky remarks to which I always reply “well, it’s my job”, which always makes them shut up. Brush off that negative energy, you’re a queen.
how to build an audience
have a posting schedule and post frequently: making stories during the day and posting every or every other day on the Instagram feed has been my schedule for years at this point. Two years ago, I started posting my youtube videos every four days and this has really helped my engagement. It is much more likely that you will be able to build a solid audience if you daily interact with the platform, and post yourself. I usually have an image bank with pictures I have posted yet, and ideas I want to execute, so I never run out, or have to come up with something on the stop. Prepare. Take your pictures while the light is amazing, and edit them and post them when it’s dark out lol.
make variations on your content, and be topical: stay up to date on current issues and include them in your content, share eco news or comment on news articles. These elements will help you attract a larger audience who is looking for an overview and a way of getting these news themselves, be the middle man between the eco news and the audience. In a similar fashion, posting a good variation of pictures and content is a good idea, find 4-5 things you care about and change between them so it is not always the same thing and you end up repeating yourself over and over. Also, look for new ways to deliver the same message, and be creative with the media you are using. Another way of using variation is going between “fundamental explanatory content” like my impact series for instance and more “advanced in-depth commentaries or guides” for people who already have the basic information. Sharing a good combo of these will attract both experienced and beginner audiences. It can also be a combination of formal style information content and more loosely formatted “daily, follow me around content”
reach out and engage with other content creators’ posts and reply and engage with people commenting on yours: building an audience is about building a sense of community. Make people feel welcome in your feed, reply if there are any questions, and comment, like, and shout out other content creators you whose content you enjoy. Building a community with other creators can also be beneficial, I’ve joined several engagement groups where we all comment and like each others’ posts to beat the algorithm.
other creators are not your enemy or your competition, they are your colleagues: it is super easy to get competitive in this field. Through spirals like “why are they getting this brand deal, my content is way better” or “seriously cannot believe the number of likes on their post, unbelievable”. Throw all of this garbage away, you don’t need this negative energy. Make friends with the people who are in the same boat as you, it can be so helpful and amazing. I have for one met some of my best friends this way, and furthermore, you can shoutout each other, congratulate each other, work together and ask for help when you need it. If you are working towards being a full-time creator, it can be very lonely, seriously. So having someone who gets that, is invaluable.
getting brand deals
know your worth: many brands, eco ones too, screw over content creators all the time. Lol, that’s harsh, but nonetheless, it is true. If I had a dollar for every time I have asked about compensation and gotten the “well, we’ll share your post, so you’ll get the engagement, and of course, you can choose a free product from our shop” line, well, then I wouldn’t have to work at all. The thing is, no matter the level of your platform, what you are doing is work, and it has value, and you should be paid. It can be difficult to assert your own worth, especially if a company tells you that “they normally never do paid collabs”, it is bullshit, and you should be paid if you are providing a service. In terms of establishing your worth having, colleagues is also so helpful, because you can compare rates and share experiences, or warn each other. You can also use platforms like social bluebook to give you an idea of what you can charge. Of course, it is completely up to you to decide what you want to do. I generally have a rule that I don’t work for free, the end. 99% of the time I don’t accept affiliates deals either, or pr packages for that matter. But I do also make exceptions, for instance with small start-ups that are just hitting the bull’s eye on the sustainability agenda and deserve the shoutout.
make a media kit: compile a list of the different types of content you make and your rates. Also, include your current social media stats (like where you audience is from, their age etc) on the platforms you are working on. Making a comprehensive document like that makes you stand out as much more dedicated and serious and it is more likely that brands will be willing to negotiate their offers. I have mine as a one-page pdf that I update once a month with new stats.
say no to unsustainable, untransparent, and insincere brands: I remember in the beginning when I first started receiving small offers and gifts, I said yes to everything and I did not look into the brand, the production, their ethos, or the efficiency of the product AT ALL. But we really should. Making the wrong brand deal can lose you a lot of credibility, and as a sustainable content creator, your credibility is an essential part of your works’ worth. Studies show that audiences of eco influencers (as opposed to “conventional influencers” ya feel) are more likely to trust them, more likely to purchase products they promote, and more likely to overall look towards the eco influencers for guidance. THAT IS INCREDIBLY VALUABLE, but also incredibly fleeing. So don’t work with brands that you are not 100% sure are okay, and if you make a mistake, call yourself out on it, be authentic and transparent and show alternatives and solutions. (and remember, even with companies that pay you, you should be able to mention in your content if there is anything you’re unhappy with or if something could be done better, if they don’t allow you to do that, it is a huge red flag).
contact brands you want to work with: send them your media kit and an introduction to who you are. Tag them in your content if you are using their product and make them see you. If there is a company that you think fits your platform perfectly, then tell them that.
how to use affiliate deals: now I have a couple of affiliate deals myself, some creators have more, and some live basically exclusively off them. An affiliate deal is a way of getting paid by a brand when someone buys from them using your link. If you have a blog, you can use the links on your posts, if you have the swipe up function on Instagram you can also use it there, and in the description of youtube videos. Affiliate deals will earn a certain percentage of the amount someones shopped for, and it is a great passive addition to your income.
this is important, know the rules: sit down and learn about the domestic and internal rules of sponsored content, when you have to show that something is gifted or an advertisement – same goes for the rules of giveaways, know what you are legally allowed to ask of your followers, for instance making it a requirement to tag someone to enter a give away is actually not legal. Not knowing the rules can put you in serious trouble, so make sure to know this stuff before posting.
are there other ways of earning money than brand deals?
yes absolutely. You can also open a Patreon with exclusive content or earn money from selling ad space on youtube, or your blogging platform, and of course affiliate links. All these things usually end up working together to provide you with a paycheck, at least that’s my experience, it does not all come from one place. For me it also comes from articles I am writing for papers and magazines, from the videos I am filming and editing for other platforms, it comes from workshops and lectures as well.
I think it also important to adjust your expectations in terms of how fast you will be able to make a living off of your content. It can take years, did for me. And making content specifically about sustainability is not something that will make you rich, luckily, we don’t need more rich people lol. The big brands with the big budgets are also typically those with the big carbon footprint, but this does not make it impossible to earn enough to be comfortable, whatever that means. And most importantly, when creating content it should not only be about making money and gaining a huge following, which will make you sad and bitter faster than I can say “compostable”, there needs to be more joy there, passion, and happiness. Focus 95% on making good, authentic, informative, beautiful, and educational content, and the 5% on reaching out to companies, pitching your platform, and negotiating offers, then you’ll do just fine.