Emma Drew, 30, from Ely in Cambridgshire applied for "hundreds" of jobs when she graduated from the University of Chester with a diploma in Christian youth work in 2010.
It was three long years before she was offered a fulltime role as a website administrator for a biotech company – which wasn't even the field she'd studied.
'Uni was mis-sold to me'
"I felt that uni had been mis-sold to me," said Emma. "My husband and I met in sixth form and we were both told to go to uni and that anyone who doesn’t go isn’t go to amount to anything.
"But we both found ourselves unable to find a job after."
Emma's top tips for wannabe bloggers
- Think progress not perfection – You’re not going to be able to start out with perfection – just get something out there and update it later.
- Don’t copy someone else and be authentic to yourself – There were no bloggers talking about money when I started and I felt I had to go into that niche if I wanted to be seen, and I struggled. But now we have awards for money making bloggers and it’s more mainstream.
- Don’t work for free – Brands will come to you and will ask you to do work for them for free, and they'll say "we’ll bear you in mine when we have paid-for campaigns". But even if you’re brand new you’re worth being paid.
Luckily Emma, who was living at home with her dad at the time, clinched a part-time admin role and secured some babysitting gigs on the side to ensure she had some extra money coming in.
Meanwhile boyfriend Tony, 31, who Emma is now married to, worked night shifts at his local Sainsbury's.
To boost her income, Emma set herself a challenge to make £10 a day on top of her admin job. And she blogged about how she was getting on her EmmaDrew.Info blog.
"I had just graduated during the recession and I couldn't get a job anywhere – let alone in the field I had studied," said Emma.
"So I started a blog to chronicle my goal of making £10 a day from selling unwanted items on eBay to filling in online surveys and going out mystery shopping."
The 30-year-old carried on blogging in her spare time until November 2015, when she realised she was making more than her £25,000 annual salary from her blog.
'It was terrifying deciding to blog fulltime'
By this point, Emma and Tony had married and were renting together, so they both decided to jack in their jobs to focus on running the blog fulltime.
"It was terrifying," said Emma. "It was so scary when we both left our jobs as we didn’t have that regular income.
"But the hardest part was actually when I was still working full time and trying to get my blog off the ground.
"I had a one-hour commute each way to work. I'd see my husband for an hour when I got home before he went to his night shift at a supermarket.
"And then I'd have to find the time to clean, relax and also work on my blog."
Now, the blog is turning over a whopping £106,000, and last year the pair took on their first full time member of staff in their Cambridgeshire office – although all of their wages will come out of this sum.
They also have to foot the bill for running costs totalling around £20,000.
Emma is the face of the site; appearing in videos and writing most of the content, while Tony edits and looks after their accounts and invoices.
'Being able to work from anywhere boosts my mental health'
For Emma, the best thing about working for herself is how she can work around her mental health.
'I make £26,000 a year from my blog'
The 33-year-old mum of two now has four blogs covering everything from personal finance to travel to health. Her main blog is money saving and lifestyle blog LyliaRose.com.
She gave up her part-time job working as a cleaner in May 2017 when her blogs began making more than her salary.
Despite spending about £3,500 on her blog in 2018, Victoria now makes a pre-tax profit of about £26,000.
"It's amazing. I still can’t believe it really that it’s possible, but it really is."
But she warns that you need to be willing to put in the work: "It’s a 40 to 50 hours a week and it’s hard work. I try to do Monday to Friday; so I work when the kids are at school and again in the evenings when they’re in bed.
"It can be hard to switch off."
She recommends that others thinking about blogging should diversify how they make money so they have cash coming in from different avenues – she says you could have ads on your site, use affiliate links and write sponsored posts.
Victoria points out that running giveaways is a good way to make money as companies will pay you to give away their products.
She says using the #bloggerwanted #bloggerrequired on social media is a good way to find work.
Her top tip to other is to "just to get started". She said: "I know a lot of people who always say to me they want to start a blog but never do it.
"But stop putting it off, you’ll find your voice and what you want to write about as you go along."
"I have anxiety and depression so if I have a day that’s really bad, blogging means I can work from anywhere that will make me feel better.
"Whether that's a cafe on the beach or in bed – or I can simply just not work that day."
She also now gets to see her family a lot more.
"My dad is retired and he’s in his 70s so I get to see him a lot more often now," said Emma.
"I also get to see my husband more. We get to do more hobbies together like swimming and going to the cinema during the day when it’s much quieter.
'This kind of money was never within our grasp before'
"I love setting my own hours and being my own boss and I like the earnings potential – this kind of money was never within mine and my husband's grasps from our old jobs."
Freebies are also a welcome perk and they can claim some expenses for working holidays, although Emma says she won't work with every company that approaches her.
"When I was first approached I was probably offered about £20. But as I spoke to other bloggers, made media appearances and won awards, and as other companies approached me I realised I could charge more.
"But because I've built trust I don’t just want to talk about anything; I was to be honest and promoting good stuff.
"For example, a life insurance company recently wanted me to write about its services. But it has a BMI (Body Mass Index) criteria that I was over.
"I was thinking how can I tell my audience about this brand that I can never use. So I went back and said 'no'.
"I also wont work with payday loan companies."
How to earn money as a blogger
- Let brands know you're willing to work with them: Emma recommends putting a "work with me" section on your site so brands know you're open to collaboration.
- Search Facebook and Twitter for jobs: Emma says you can also join Facebook groups and visit websites where companies will post opportunities. She recommends Bloggersrequired.com and UK Influencer Opportunities on Facebook.
- Provide a service: Emma also makes cash from selling online courses to help other bloggers make money from their own sites, as well as from personally coaching others.
- Host adverts: Emma makes about 7 per cent a year from adverts on her website and on her YouTube channel.
- Write sponsored blogs: Working with companies on sponsored posts is Emma's biggest money spinner accounting for 32 per cent of her income.
- Use affiliate or referral links: This is where Emma gets paid by companies every time a reader signs up to services she's recommended or clicks a link to find out more information. She said this began with online survey and mystery shopping companies as this is what she used to write about the most.
But there are costs involved including:
- Website hosts – that can start from about £50 a year, says Emma.
- Newsletters mail outs
- Photos and video editing software subscritpions
- Buying items to review, craft or make in recipe videos
Emma says honesty is the best policy when it comes to being paid for posts, and she thinks a recent crackdown on advertising by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is good.
The watchdog warned celebrities using social media to ensure they make it clear when as advert really is an ad.
"I find that if I'm honest about commercial relationships then it’s much more likely people will use my link as they want to help me out," said Emma.
'I get some nasty comments'
So are there any downsides? You need to grow a thick skin, Emma warns.
"Some bloggers are lucky enough not to have any negative feedback but I'm an overweight woman on YouTube and sometimes I get some nasty comments.
"How you learn to deal with that is that you can’t please everyone in your personal life, so you can’t please everyone on the internet, and that's fine.
"I used to really beat myself up about but now I don’t care what people think.
"Another downside to running your own blog is that I also have to make all the decisions and figure out how to do this and what to do next as there’s no-one who knows for sure that I can turn to."
But this isn't putting Emma off big plans for the future – she wants to see if blogging can net her more than a million.
"I want to see if blogging can be a seven-figure challenge in the UK for people who aren’t [YouTube sensation] Zoella."
Her and Tony are also hoping to buy their first home together this year.
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