When I set up The Woodland Wife, I had three hopes:
- It would become a creative outlet for my writing and photography
- I would inspire and spark the conversation about a slower, sustainable way of life in a fast paced modern world
- I might be able to one day see an income from the hours spent writing as well as any future ventures via The Woodland Wife
In less than two years, I have achieved all three, however the feedback I have received has been so much more incredible than I ever believed it would be; the community of creative and like-minded folk I have met along the way, and the brands I have struck up on-going working relationships with has been instrumental in continuing to write, photograph and share our little world here in a tiny corner of the UK with a large audience of people.
However, within that two years, I have also become increasingly aware, of a negative streak creeping in. The critics, of course, there will always be critics in ventures like this; there will also be those who know me or used to know me who lurk in the shadows who probably smirk at posts… but of course they continue to follow.
Recently I have been all too aware, as my sponsored work starts picking up, of those who disagree with me taking payment for sponsored posts on my blog, as well as the recent #AD on my Instagram.
Taking payment I realise is a controversial matter, however, as much as I like to think I can see both sides of an argument, this is one area of blogging (argh, I hate that word!) and becoming an ‘influencer’ (I hate that word even more!) I struggle to see the flip side.
I have seen the blogs and the social media accounts where every single post is sponsored or #ad, and it is annoying when you just feel that the author or influencer is permanently doing the hard sell, but I would like to make a stand for those ‘bloggers’ and ‘influencers’ like myself, and here’s why:
I live a life of purpose, I like to lead a life where I don’t need material objects and there are many items I choose to live without, simply because they don’t add any sort of material value to my life. However, as sustainable as I like to think my life is, I still have bills to pay.
That is the simple truth.
We are a single income household. Yes, I am at home with my daughter, however this is not only through personal choice, this is down to cold hard maths too. We don’t have the means to pay for childcare, so I HAVE to be at home to look after our daughter.
The authenticity of ‘sponsored posts’ & the work that goes on behind the blog and social media profile
When I read messages that have been sent to me asking why I am no longer only doing ‘native advertising’, for a moment it makes me feel sad, then I start feeling a bit cross. Whilst I might receive a tiny income for a photo I post on Instagram and a minimal fee for a post I share on my blog, I believe that this isn’t me “selling out”, as I stand accused by some, I am merely trying to make a tiny amount of money for the huge amount of input I put into my work online.
On a daily basis, and as my blog and social media following has grown, I receive on average about 10+ emails a day asking for me to collaborate with a brand on an upcoming product launch, and of approximately 10 enquiries, I will probably accept 5, and those five are most likely a start up company who I really feel fits well with The Woodland Wife, and also my readers and followers might also be really interested in. Most small, start-ups have no budget, so a lot of the time, what I share of that particular company is done for product alone, my time isn’t covered. This of course is still deemed an #ad and I will always share that, even if I haven’t been paid for it, as I prefer to be completely transparent to my readers and followers, even when I have received goods in exchange for a post.
And here we touch on what people and brands are paying for…
The authenticity of my sponsored posts have been called to question before, apparently by me applying a fee, I am somehow going to be influenced by the money… this isn’t the case. I will always give an honest review; the brands I work with know that, and I like to think that my followers and readers also know, I would only ever share an honest review with them.
Going back to what I touched on earlier, I don’t have an income, other than what my husband brings into the household, and occasionally from the small design projects I get to work on, so the days our daughter is at school, I start the day with admin, I have five (school length) days to work on my blog and I would say of those five days, I am working on admin for at least half of those days, that includes getting back to emails, comments and feedback. It is updating the my website itself, checking in with existing brands I work with and following up with others. When I work with brands, I see it as an on-going relationship, I pitch ideas to them, and them to me, so a lot of my days is getting on the phone or responding to emails.
Most of what I do, parenting and blogging/influencer work, I am not paid for, but I work VERY hard, and if I can ever get to a point where I can receive a decent income (I also declare to ‘Mr Taxman’ to the person that called this out on Mumsnet, as I’m sure all other influencers do!!) and start paying off debts I have because we are a low income, then I would of course accept paid work… that doesn’t affect what I choose to accept though, this space is authentically me and my family, and I will only ever accept what I feel is right.
Then comes the blog posts themselves, most think ‘blogging’ is a case of writing things up, an ‘easy’ review, however, a lot of companies have a set number of words or images they would like included, so cast your mind back to school, when you had those assignments with deadlines looming and you knew you couldn’t just write a few words and hand in something ‘half arsed’, you want it to be your best work, not just for the brand, but for yourself too.
That ‘Instamums’ post on Mumsnet
The same should be said for Instagram, just recently there has been a lot of talk of this ‘Mumsnet’ forum, where influencers have faced a huge backlash, not only has their integrity been called into question, but their parenting! As a parent myself, and reading through countless posts of women badmouthing other women, I was absolutely appalled!
As you can see above, building a blog and a social media following takes time, it isn’t because we are seeking some validation or attention seeking, all the blogs and feeds start as a dialogue, if people choose to follow someone or read their blog that is entirely down to that person, not one person online is held captive.
You will know from the very nature of what I write, I find fast fashion, as well as mass consumerism a real turn off, I read many posts on this on the mumsnet post, and to a certain extent it does make me switch off some peoples feeds and blogs, those accepting anything for the sake of it, it does make my skin crawl a bit, but you know what? If they are prepared to accept it, and share it, that is entirely down to them!
I think may people out there would accept freebies or paid work simply by realising that they share the same values as a particular brand or person reaching out with product for their family, I challenge anyone on this! I am someone who absolutely will only ever accept something that is the right fit for my family first, regardless of what it is, and have already turned down plenty of tempting gadgets, clothing and breaks away because I don’t believe it is a fit for myself or my family. If it is something that I would go out and buy and someone also feels that their product fits in with my demographic, why can’t I work with them?
Another point mentioned in the mumsnet posts was the expensive of some of the items shared, not being entirely acceptable to share… again, if this isn’t for you, just brush it off as not for you and not in your ‘budget’. In the ‘real world’, I have sat opposite people who have told me all about the three expensive holidays they have been on this Summer, whilst they wear expensive clothes, clutch their Mulberry purse and drive off in the latest Audi because they can afford all those things, meanwhile I sit in ripped jeans and drive off in a tatty Toyota… I don’t judge that person at all, neither do they judge me (I hope?!) do I wish I had an Audi and a Mulberry purse… well yes, of course I do sometimes, but I simply can’t afford those luxuries in life, nor is it something that would be my first choice!
I think Social media is something that runs away with people sometimes, what people share is a complete snapshot, they are no more “pushing” you to buy what they have, than the women I wrote about above… I can see the logos of the clothes, the purse and the car in the ‘real world’, I can think how much I like it, but the simple fact of the matter is, it’s not for my lifestyle, personal style and certainly well out of my budget, and just like in the real world I can dismiss it in a heartbeat as “too expensive” I can do that online too!
Sharing products that are “too expensive” with readers and followers
The brands I work with, both for my daughter and myself are brands that I would class at the mid-top level of expense in terms of clothing… I get it for free in exchange for posts on my blog and online, however anyone who knows me in the ‘real world’ and online, know that I am someone who DOES pay more for what myself and my family wears as well as items in other areas of our life, as we would rather pay more and have something to last for years than buy something from Primark that has been made by someone else’s child and will fall apart in no time at all. I may get items for free, but a £40 dress for my daughter is something that will not only last, but it will also be handed down time after time.
Regularly, I am even sent pre written content to place on my blog… now how easy would that be for me? I could copy and paste copy, add the images, hit ‘publish’ or ‘share’ and sit back and do nothing else, but I enjoy writing, I love photography and I genuinely enjoy learning about brands and individuals and love sharing with others who I think would enjoy it too.
Since when has a snapshot of someone’s life been something we can criticise SO publicly?
I mentioned how parenting has also been called into question recently; this is a biggy… not only are other women calling out parents’ name choices for their children, they are also saying desperately cruel things about what those children look like… imagine if that was you and your child. It is no different to walking down the street, someone glancing at a your child in a fleeting moment and being unbelievably rude and nasty to a mother and child.
We live in an age where some mothers are prepared to share a snapshot of their lives with followers they have come to trust, but we also live in an age where people are very quick to judge and be ‘mean girls’ as long as their hiding behind a keyboard… I imagine most of these people calling out these women who share their daily snapshots wouldn’t think twice about saying what they said online if they came across these women in the street?!
Do also consider, that one photo on a blog or social media is most likely one of 10 taken; I think someone mentioned that they saw someone on holiday posing for one of her photos and was ‘screaming at her children’, what a mean way of putting it. These people are calling out this mother for not being true to themselves, appearing too perfect online and nasty to her children ‘behind the scenes’ but as a mother, surely that person who posted has snapped at their child before for something? Does this moment they witnessed not make this ‘influencer’ more “normal” in their eyes?!
Only a few weeks ago, I had my sister staying and we were screaming with laughter as we watched our two sweet girls in the most hideous of tantrums as we tried to take a nice photo of them both! As mothers, these are the things that make us normal, I try and share the diva moments my daughter has, I aim to be ‘me’ online, even sharing the really shitty side of my chronic illness, but it would seem for some, my feed STILL isn’t ‘real’ enough, simply because I also try and share it in as positive light as I possibly can.
Would people prefer doom and gloom over positivity and success?
What strikes me as desperately sad in this digital age, is that we only ever get behind someone and really support them when they are down on their luck… but similarly, if it’s too gloomy, people also criticise! It seems there isn’t a happy medium in what people are happy with seeing online.
I wonder what would happen if Susie Verrill, Mother of Daughters, Mother Pukka, Dress like a Mum, as well as all those other influencers mentioned in the post started only sharing the really mundane and gloomy parts of their day… these same people would probably call them out as being “fakes’ because look at how amazing their houses, clothes and children are?! Such a sad time, when these just can’t seem to win with those who criticise. My last post was about whether ‘online perfection’ is sustainable and I actually think, that the influencers mentioned above are far less contrived and planned out than a lot of other smaller feeds; it is these feeds I go to for a bit of ‘reality’… clearly this is just my opinion, but there it is!
Is it OK to share our lives, family and children online?
Sharing images of children online is another point mentioned, how these “poor children” are becoming ‘marketing devices’… again, completely unvalid. I have a child myself and I can honestly say, what you share is down to you and your family.
We choose not to share our daughter’s face online… personal choice, it’s been that way since she was born. I don’t plaster her all over my social media, or my blog, I believe there is a way to include her in posts, without having to share what she looks like, we believe as a child growing up in this digital age that we want to shield her until such a time that she is happy to be on ‘display’, everyone has always been very understanding of our choice and brands themselves actually quite like it as it’s ‘different’. The flip side… our daughter will probably grow up and be very cross and concerned as to why “mummy and daddy” never showed her face, was there something wrong with her? Why did they only ever photograph me when her face was covered? I can just see it now! Just as people are calling out those who share their children’s faces online for future potential problems, surely in this digital age, this is something that we will ALL face, if we show them, if we don’t… we are none of us doing everything ‘by the book’ and their will inevitably be a “fall out” at some stage as they grow up!
So… before I lose too many people in this huge long ramble of a post, some may read this and still have lots of points to make, I will no doubt face more criticism for even sharing this post, but I think it important to understand that I share this post as another way of being completely and utterly transparent with my readers and followers, and to also try and explain the world of ‘blogging’ and being an ‘online influencer’ to those who criticise those who choose to share a daily snapshot.