When I first started blogging, I never in a million years thought that a magazine would ever contact me & ask if I would like to be featured in an article. You see…I’m not a trained journalist (I’m an Afrikaans girl, writing blog posts in a second language), I’m not an accomplished photographer, I’m not a young model, and I’m definitely not that interesting. So I was over the moon when a journalist from Your Family magazine contacted me in October 2014 and asked if they could feature me in one of their articles about enviable jobs.
I was very excited but also very hesitant, because I didn’t want to come across as being ‘certain type of blogger’ in the article (we all hear stories about words being twisted in newspaper and magazine articles), nor did I want my blog to be reflected in a bad light. I was very paranoid (thinking back, I probably should have trusted my gut), and that’s why I told the journalist upfront that I would need to sign off on the article content and photo before it went to print. She agreed and we set up a date for my photo shoot. She then also sent me the questions for the article and asked that I send her my answers as soon as I was able to. I think I sent her my answers the very next day (I was so excited!).
When she sent me the draft of the article, I was surprised to see typos, a “quote” that was most certainly NOT a quote (I found this “quote” to be very misleading), incorrect dates, plus no mention of my blog or website URL…even though I clearly included my blog name and URL in my answer to question number 1 (you will see below). I corrected her mistakes and replied to her email asking that, at the very least, my blog name be mentioned (since the feature was about me being an online beauty blogger). She said that she would include the name of my blog and we left it at that. I honestly didn’t think it would be that difficult to add a blog name to the article…
I was SO excited about this article (those of you who follow me on Twitter know this, because I tweeted about it)! My mom was so proud, she sent me a photo of the article last week when she saw the February issue of Your Family in-store. Something in the article immediately caught my eye and my heart sank. I drove to the nearest store, paged through the magazine right there and when I saw the error that had been made by the journalist, I closed the magazine, put it back on the shelf and walked out of the store. I was gutted.
I have the WORST luck when it comes to things like these. Give me a situation, and something will almost always go wrong. I’ll place an online order and the product will arrive broken, I’ll save up for months to buy something and it will be out of stock, I’ll apply for a passport and it will be sent to some small town in the Eastern Cape for collection. It’s like I attract bad luck sometimes, not terrible luck, but the type of luck that screws you over and irritates the crap out of you.
Here’s what happened:
The Your Family journalist mistyped my blog website address – instead of www.pinkpeonies.co.za, she typed www.pinkponies.co.za And nowhere else in the article does she mention my actual blog name i.e. Pink Peonies.
Some of you might think it’s an honest mistake, and perhaps it is…but when you’re a journalist, the DETAILS are a huge part of your job. All she had to do, was copy and paste the URL I had sent to her in my answers.
I actually bought the magazine a couple of days ago but I’m avoiding it like the plague. I just can’t get myself to even page through and read the other articles. Everytime I look at it sitting on my desk, I feel like it’s giving me the skink-eye. *sigh* Not only am I extremely ashamed and embarrassed (even though countless people have told me that it is by no means any fault of mine), but I also feel like it reflects badly on my blog. The whole reason why I agreed to the feature, is because I knew IF done the right way, it would give my blog exposure. Pink Peonies Blog is something I work on every single day of my life, I have worked so hard to create a space I can be proud of. Now it feels like a complete stranger has taken something away from my blog, almost ‘cheapened’ it in a way.
The worst thing is, there is a South African online store called ‘Pink Pony’ that sells horse riding gear.
I’m so sad about all of this… I’m so disappointed, so embarrassed, and so despondent. The journalist apologised after I informed her of the typo but hasn’t even offered to print a correction in a future Your Family magazine. I should have known that something like this would happen, as her emails to me contained a lot of typos (plus her initial draft of the article was a mess).
So, I guess I’m writing this blog post to get your opinion on this whole incident. I tend to be very hard on myself, and most of the time I’m my own worst enemy. One of my personal resolutions for 2015 is to be kinder to myself, BUT still, a part of me blames myself for this typo. I have no idea why, because it was the journalist’s responsibility to check EVERYTHING before the article went to print (and I gave her the correct website address).
I can only hope people will google my name and not ‘pink ponies’, because otherwise noone will ever discover my blog.
I’m also adding my Q & A from the article at the end of this blog post because 1. I think it will be nice for you to read my full answers to all the questions that were sent; and 2. it also gives you an idea of how I see blogging, how I feel about my own blog and how certain bloggers sometimes generate an income from blogging. At times the whole subject of sponsored content (when a brand actually pays a blogger in cash in exchange for a product review or campaign) is a bit of a mystery to newbie bloggers or blog readers, mainly because no one likes to talk about it.
I hope you enjoy reading my answers, and please let me know in the comments section below what YOUR thoughts are on my feature (if you’ve read it) and whether my disappointment is understandable?
Are you in your dream job?
Yes, definitely – makeup and beauty products have always been a passion of mine. I love testing out new products, and reviewing them on my blog, Pink Peonies (www.pinkpeonies.co.za).
What makes your job so fun?
I get to do something I genuinely love and that in itself is fun because there is always something new to write about. I also get to trial and test the latest beauty products on the market and share my experiences on my blog. Companies will sometimes send me products for review even before they have been launched to the public, so I’ll be one of the first individuals in South Africa to test new products and share them with my readers – and that’s really exciting. I also I get to interact with women from all over the world (not only South Africa) through all my social media channels. I’m very fortunate and have amazing readers who are so supportive of my blog. I receive tweets and emails on a daily basis from readers thanking me for an honest blog, for taking the time to write detailed blog posts and for introducing them to new beauty products and brands… I love that every day brings something new.
What did you do before you started blogging?
I was a Recruitment Agent (I know…not even remotely beauty-related) and started my beauty blog as a hobby. I worked on it in the evenings and on weekends while I was still working and when my blog gained popularity (which took about a year) I decided to leave recruitment and give full time blogging a go.
Why did you want to become a full time blogger?
To be honest, it wasn’t something I planned or expected – it just sort of happened as I got the opportunity to leave my full time job and the time just felt right. I didn’t start blogging to make it a career; it was initially just a hobby on the side, and as time went on I found I really looked forward to getting home and sitting behind my computer to write reviews. I’d look forward to the weekends when I could take photographs for the posts too and the more I wrote, the more my readers asked for – and before I knew it I was effectively working 2 full time jobs!
How long did your blog take to gain popularity?
I started my blog in March 2013, and although I had some loyal readers from the start (Hi, Mom!) my blog only really started growing after about a year…
How old is the blog?
Pink Peonies is 1 year & 10 months old.
Did you have to ask companies for products to review in the beginning?
No, it was (and still is) very important for me to not be a blogger who asks for products to review. I blogged as a hobby, and I bought the products anyway – so reviewing them was the natural next step. I certainly didn’t start the blog to get free stuff, because it’s not in my nature and is never guaranteed anyway. It was a good 8 months before any brands noticed my blog and offered to send me products for review – and although I felt proud that brands wanted to work with me, I was nervous as I didn’t want my readers to think I was only saying nice things about the products simply because they were sent to me. So I made a real effort to review things honestly, good or bad. These days, I still won’t ask for products but fortunately I get to work with some lovely brands that think their products may be of interest to my readers. But I actually still buy a lot of the products I review with my own money.
How much would a full time blogger make a month roughly?
This is a very difficult question to answer as it’s different for everyone. Being a full-time blogger doesn’t necessarily mean you will get paid for what you do, and there certainly isn’t a set monthly income. Being paid as a blogger is a bit like being a Sales Executive, it is not a steady income and months can go by before you get a sponsored blog post… and let’s be honest, free shampoo doesn’t pay your rent. It also takes years of work before you become truly respected (my blog is still a baby in that sense). I think of my blog as an online resource for South African ladies and I think my readers return as they find the content engaging and genuinely interesting. It’s hard to turn down a sponsored post when you work on this full time (and I have turned down quite a few sponsored blog post offers from brands), but I do sometimes have to step back and think: “It’s not about the money, this just isn’t right for my blog.”… At the end of the day, I put my blog’s reputation for honesty first.
Can one sustain themselves with a blog ‘income’?
Again, a very difficult question to answer as we all have different situations, budgets and expenses. I would never recommend someone start a blog with the intention of getting paid, as you are at the mercy of your readership. I really don’t know any blogger who has started a blog with the intention of making it a career – those who do it full time, started as a hobby and got there unintentionally because they are passionate.
South Africa is relatively new in terms of the blogosphere, in the US and the UK for example it’s a real career – and people can go into blogging and work at it as blogs are a trusted source of media in those countries. Some of the ‘Super Bloggers’ in the US / UK get paid more than some CEOs!! South Africa has yet to catch up though, and I think as time goes on, more and more brands will see the value.
How is income mainly generated through your blogging?
There are so many ways, but it’s through advertising and content mostly. A brand will approach a blogger to work with them to produce sponsored blog posts, so they will pay a fee to generate content or review a product. Some blogs will work with affiliate companies where they are paid to include links to products, and if a person clicks through to that product and goes on to buy it – they’ll get a commission, others offer advertising space on their blogs (I personally don’t advertise on my blog though). Also, if a blogger starts a YouTube channel, they can earn a commission through advertising once they reach a certain amount of views / subscribers (but my channel is still very far away from generating an income).
I always indicate any sponsored content at the end of each blog post, and I also make a point of telling my readers when a specific product has been sent to me by a brand / PR company.
Where do you want your blog to be in the next few years?
I am hoping my readership will continue to grow along with the blogging industry in South Africa. I also want to grow my YouTube channel as this is a very new avenue for me and something that took me a long time to find the courage to do. Almost everything I know about beauty, makeup and hair, I have learnt from watching YouTube tutorials – so I hope I can give something back in the same way.
At this point, do you see yourself doing something else?
At this point, no. If I ever stop enjoying it, I will stop – but for now, I love it. It’s probably the hardest I’ve worked in any job, as there is always something to do! I sometimes take close to 50 photos of just one product in order to get that one special shot. I then edit my photos, write the blog post (which takes a good couple of hours, unless I have to do research in which case it takes longer), upload my post, reply to blog comments and social media comments and work through my email inbox – if there’s an accompanying YouTube video you can add a good amount of extra hours as I need to prep for the video, film it (an edited 10-minute video usually takes 30 to 40 minutes to film – imagine all the bloopers!), edit it, export & upload.
It’s not uncommon for a post to take me a few days to get live. Even though blogging can be stressful at times, and is time-consuming most days – I enjoy every single minute of it and I do have the benefit of being able to work from home. I could also be having the worst day, and be exhausted or frustrated about something that has happened – but then I log on and see someone has left a lovely comment and that makes it all worthwhile.
I HAVE GREAT NEWS THOUGH! I’ll be featured in another magazine in the next couple of months (totally unrelated to my Your Family feature) and I have a good feeling about this one! I’ll still check, double check, and triple check the final draft of my feature but I’ve met the Beauty Editor of the magazine and he’s VERY professional. Let’s hold thumbs all goes well, but like I said, I have a good feeling about it.