The Blog Works – Edition 2 – 8.12.12
The business of blogging
The Blog Works always intended to take the phenomenon of blogging to the next level. The first edition targeted Belgian fashion blogs, but this second edition, all Benelux lifestyle bloggers were welcome. After all: the workings of your blogs, your relationships with industry professionals and the dilemma’s you might face concerning content and ethics – they’re roughly the same for fashion, food, design and travel.
So it was a diverse bunch of bloggers who showed up for The Blog Works edition 2, but everyone had one thing in common: blogging was turning out to be so much more than just a hobby. Realizing you are putting in more and more time and energy, some of you have been wondering where it all would lead. And it’s not just defining the goal that is important – determining how you can get there, and how not to lose yourselves in the process, is something on every blogger’s mind. Several questions might pop up, such as: How to balance giving your readers what they want with writing what you want to write, then? And how to respect your audience in terms of transparancy, accuracy and originality of content?
These were the subjects Marie Lemaitre and Stephanie Duval wanted to see addressed during this year’s The Blog Works, so they made sure to invite speakers from different backgrounds in order to cover the full spectrum of the blogosphere and every angle from which to tackle its issues. One after the other, they presented their view on blogs and their relationship with the rest of the lifestyle industry – often agreeing, but interestingly enough also challenging each other’s opinions.
Jantine Vaartjes started out as a stylist and interior design consultant, and originally used her blog to keep track of her inspirations and moodboards. That is how she slowly built up a loyal following with her blog Aprilandmay, steadily turning it into a brand of its own, reflecting both on her own capabilities as a styling professional and on her newly launched webshop. To Jantine, monetizing her blog was not the goal she started out with, but nonetheless it’s something she succeeded in wonderfully, without sacrificing her integrity, but safeguarding and even stimulating her original career.
That is not to say Aprilandmay’s blog isn’t lucrative in itself. Jantine accepts advertisers on the blog, but is very picky in doing so. If a brand doesn’t fit her aesthetics or ideas, she politely declines any kind of collaboration. As an advice to bloggers building the business around their blogs, she says: “Start by approaching those brands and companies that you like, and offer them a spot for free. Once people will see what your advertising stands for, business might pick up.”
Bart Lapers never dreamed his travel blog would become so big – he merely felt an obligation to share his stories about traveling luxuriously on a budget, thanks to the tips and tricks of a frequent traveller and loyalty programme tweaker. Picked up by the mainstream media earlier in 2012, he gained status as a travel specialist and he organized his first own seminar Travel Magic, where he could charge participants before bombarding them with his knowledge and advice. Bart, an IT consultant for a chemical company by day, turned his passion into more than a hobby thanks to his blog: he is on route to become Belgium’s best known travel consultant. His main advice for other bloggers out there: “Pick your niche and work it.”
Imperative to his success, according to Bart, is his refusal for his blog to be sponsored by any kind of travel company. He swears by unbiased, impartial reviews of luxurious trips he manages to book for himself for affordable prices – just so he can show his audience how to do it themselves. Credibility is Bart’s currency, so accepting money for advertizing or advertorials on his blog would hurt his business in the end.
Arieta Mujay is in charge of fashion brand River Island’s U.K. PR, and so has frequently collaborated and worked with fashion bloggers. Her experience tells her that “yes, statistics are important – without them, you’re nowhere”, but she also hastened to add that as a blogger, you should be passionate about your subject and practice what you preach. An authentic fashion blogger will look the part, for example.
During the debate, Mujay also encouraged bloggers to go after what they want. She confessed to being charmed by bloggers who have a very clear idea of a collaboration before contacting her, and small blogs that can convince her even without the heavy hitting numbers, but with well-executed ideas and a professional and friendly approach. Mujay hammered on the fact that politeness, from both sides, is very important in the blogger-PR-relationship.
Amber Venz, co-founder and president of affiliate linking platform rewardStyle flew in from the U.S. to talk about the trends she sees emerging in the blogger landscape through her business. Analyzing the numbers behind her business, she noticed blogs don’t have to have the most impressive statistics to earn money. Once again, she underlined the fact that if a blog is at the right place, at the right time, it can be successful in its own league, instead of competing with the heavy hitters.
Venz also urged the audience to expand their blogging business: blogging takes place over all the different channels: Pose, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,… It is important for bloggers to realize this, and to create original content for each of these different channels, as their audiences may sometimes overlap, but are never 100% the same.
As one of the first and still most influential fashion bloggers out there, Susie Lau was no stranger to the majority of the audience. Her unique voice and determination to stick with it landed Susie important collaborations with brands from all over the world, and editorial jobs for leading fashion magazines and online media, too. Her motto, however, remains ‘slow and steady wins the race’, and she echoed Laper’s opinion that bloggers should search for a niche in which they can excell. Asked for advice to new bloggers, Lau admitted she thinks it’s very difficult for a new blog to stand out against the crowd – so that should be the main focus.
A lot of great ideas were floated during the talks and the debate, and continued to dominate the conversations during lunch – which offered an opportunity to bloggers and speakers to mingle and network.
The next four hours were spent in utter concentration in the workshops we offered, to enhance techniques in product photography, styling and interior photography, beauty or fashion photography.
The day ended with an informal cocktail where we saw many of you trade business cards and talk over possible future collaborations before you left. We hope we were able to inspire you and would love to welcome you in 2013 for the third edition of The Blog Works!
Photos of the day can be seen on our Facebook page.