Straight talk with four outstanding niche and green beauty bloggers about courage, creativity and collaborations. With inspiration and takeaways for bloggers, companies and readers.

Blogging as a business. The topic has so many facets, this article would take weeks to write and days to read if we checked off everything on the list (and everything I’d love to talk about both as a writer and as a social media consultant and content marketer).

It may not be an easy or a simple task, but with the right strategy, any hobby can emerge as a business. And while there are many guides on how to start, how to run and how to successfully monetise a blog, this is not what we cover in this article. In this article, I ask questions frequently asked by fellow bloggers or by companies. And four successful bloggers answer those questions.

Because you see, blogging is also all about community: readers and bloggers alike. No industry can emerge if the players don’t talk to each other. So I’m feeling very privileged that the following beauty bloggers, each an innovator in her own right, agreed to share their knowledge and their opinions, despite the busy schedule of a self-employed whizz they have in common.

Blogging As A Business In 2018:

Valuable Insights From Established Niche & Green Beauty Bloggers

You’re about to meet:

Jessica Kunstmann, the co-founder of Alabaster Blogzine, formerly Alabastermädchen, a German grrly-blog-turned-blogzine with topics spanning beauty, culture, love & sex, fashion, wellness and many more. I met her as a fellow panelist at this year’s Vivaness and was blown away by the very down to earth, relaxed and confident vibe she gave off. Jessica is a full-time blogger and consultant.
Julia Keith, the founder of Beautyjagd.de, one of Germany’s leading blogs about natural cosmetics. The name of the blog means as much as “beauty hunt”, and is a clever hint at the travel component of the blog. Julia is a full-time blogger, writer and speaker.
Liz M., the polyglot founder of the Luxembourg-based green beauty and fair fashion blog Smells Like A Green Spirit. She works as a writer and translator and only recently started monetising her blog.
Elina Neumann, former PR agent, now social media consultant and founder of the premium beauty and travel blogzine Bare Minds. Minimalistic nail art and clever hair styles are just some of Elina’s signature content.

Ladies, the stage is yours.

– Jessica, blogging is still a fairly new business here in Germany: the professionalism of the bloggers and the appreciation of the advertisers can vary heavily. As a full-time blogger and founder of Alabaster Blogzine, what is missing on the part of the bloggers?
– Courage. The courage to put up realistic pricing and to establish it. Then again the courage to reject a low (counter)offer. Sure, it can make sense to make concessions now and then, but if you’re in it to make money, then make money. My mantra since the beginning of my self-employment is: “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

– …and what is missing on the part of the advertisers?
– To budget money for collaborations. Although there’s quite something cooking.

– Are standards a good idea or a bad idea for making blogging serious business?
– That’s a good question. Recently I heard from a company that considers to unify blogger budgets – no matter the reach. I found it exciting with respect to the transparency. Generally speaking, I would certainly feel confined if facing standards I haven’t created myself. It’s not for nothing that I love the many freedoms my job offers.

– Sometimes I hear bloggers complain being asked for the numbers, or the reach. Your comment?
– The reach question is definitely legitimate. But instead of asking for the number of clicks I would ask for the number of unique visitors. Of course the target audience is important. For example, my reach on Instagram is minor compared to the top lifestyle bloggers – but my niche is targeted. As a company I would like to know from a blogger like me if the blogger and the audience are a match to my product, based on the previously published content. Here it’s up to the blogger herself to act in an authentic way and, if need be, to cancel a collaboration. Generally companies should be allowed to ask any questions – most of all if they are working with a blog for the first time. I like to offer a phone call instead of sending emails back and forth. This way all questions and options are discussed within thirty minutes.

– Finally, what are some signs of an unprofessional blog?
– No “imprint” is a no go [ed. note: German blogs are required to have an “Impressum” (imprint), a page similar to the masthead of a print medium bearing the address, the name of the person responsible, and other legal information]. Personally, I would advise against collaborating with “test bloggers” who have no clear focus. If a dog food test is followed by a fabric softener test and a bread spread review, it certainly isn’t profitable for the advertiser.

– Julia, so here we are talking blogging and business and whether it’s an utopian dream or not…
– That’s a great topic – could keep me talking for hours, as you can imagine. Fortunately, blogging as a business hasn’t remained an utopian dream for me. But it took a lot of commitment on my part to finally get there. It still does.

– Your blog beautyjagd.de is one of the most established natural cosmetics blogs in Germany. What is the worst myth about blogging you’d like to dispel right now?
– The one that being a blogger sounds as though you’re not doing much more apart from hanging out at events, a champagne flute in your hand. The opposite is true: 90% of your time is spent at your desk working because having written a text is not the end. No sales means no income, no organising means no travels and trade shows, no accounting means no tax returns and so on. Working weekends or nights are part of it for me, as for many self-employed people. As a blogger, holiday is complicated, too (to put it mildly).

– So how would you handle the negative bias towards bloggers from potential advertisers?
– Here we are on the subject of prejudice. Many companies still believe that bloggers are twenty years olds, busy taking selfies. That’s why it’s important to me to meet companies in person. During our first meeting many prejudices are eliminated (I’m neither twenty nor taking selfies, ha-ha). Encounters are very, very important to me. Also to make people aware of how diverse the bloggers are.

– Some companies have suggested bloggers could follow standards to make collaborations easier for advertisers. Thoughts?
– That’s an interesting question, but what do you mean? What kind of standards? Better image quality? I think that you cut your own path anyway – for example look at Caroline Hirons, whose blog didn’t look particularly well-designed for a long time, and it didn’t diminish her huge success.

– I believe they were discussing something like “blog labels”…
– Oh dear, blog labels. How is that supposed to work? The scene is so diverse, who should do that and, above all, by which criteria… The thing is: to find out, as a company, which blogs could be a match, you could simply read a few of them. Over time you’ll realise whether this blog has the same target audience as your brand. Or, if you lack time, find a good agency to do the job for you. It’s really not that different than the magazines, Vogue and Bella [ed. note: a German wellness magazine] are worlds apart as well, after all. Hit numbers and reach are important, but the style of the blog and the audience are at least just as relevant.

– Liz, as the founder of the Smells Like A Green Spirit blog dedicated to green beauty and fair fashion, what are some of the misconceptions of your work as a blogger?
– Two main aspects come to mind: the biggest misconception is that anything blogging-related is not deemed as work per se. Every piece of content shared (especially in the field of sustainability), be it via social media, blog or video format is the result of a great amount of research and work and therefore, time-consuming. Blogging is multitasking and an eclectic mix of various activities all at once: gathering information, making elaborate and informative content, sharing useful tips and advice, taking good pictures, testing out and writing in-depth reviews, filming videos, working on the blog maintenance, responding to comments and emails, taking care of social media, updating your content, connecting with people and brands, coming up with new ideas…
The second misconception is probably this idea that all bloggers look, think and act the same. It is easy to put everyone in the same bag, but within the blogging community there are various philosophies and work ethics. Just because you may have encountered a couple of questionable « influencers » does not mean that the blogging community is corrupted, superficial and materialistic. There is a myriad of different blog personalities, you simply need to find the ones matching your interests and aesthetics.

– The Ecocult and EWC founder Alden Wicker wrote a piece about why ethical bloggers should turn down working for free, and I must say, I was a bit shocked to see the same adage of “we want to work with bloggers who love our product (so we don’t have to pay them)” come from the USA, the cradle of professional blogging. What do you think about monetising an ethical blog? 
– Well, while there are some bloggers who seem to have completely turned into walking advertisements, I have yet to see this phenomenon within the green community. If you want to be sent on luxurious trips across the world by brands, starting a green blog may not be the best idea 😉
Bloggers working in the field of sustainability, green beauty or eco fashion do it out of passion and genuine interest in building an engaging and caring community while providing informative content. You can be serious and professional about blogging without losing your unique voice and authenticity. Those two aspects are not antagonistic.

– How can companies spot unprofessional blogs? Blogs that are non-serious?
– I feel like there might not be one answer as the definition for what is serious and what’s not is variable.
To me, a ‘serious’ blog is simply a blog offering valuable and interesting content by showing creativity and useful information, one with a genuine voice. A blog showing a real connection with its audience and community. For instance, I don’t really understand how Facetune and heavy photoshopping (especially in the beauty field) are supposed to give you a real feel of a product. How can you say that this product has done miracles for your skin if you put tons of filters over it?
I am also concerned about the tendency of buying fake followers on social media for instance.
I’ve seen certain people resort to it and to my surprise, brands and agencies fall into it for the sake of quantity over quality.
Other signs of unprofessionalism are the lack of transparency, the deliberate misleading on sponsored content, the absence of coherence and blatant signs of contradictions. For instance, heavily promoting something that you actually would never use or have never used.

– Elina, what is your best tip for a blogger meaning business?
– The priority of each blog should be building a community, creating quality content and well-defined direction.

– The individuality of blogs – the same feature that makes them so interesting and unique – often is confusing to advertisers. Some are wishing for labels or standards. Thoughts?
– Tough. The very medium – blog – was born from expressing personal ideas. That’s a lot to do with individual taste, style and focus. It happened to me in the past that companies had very exact ideas of how to implement the collaboration. It’s a big mistake, because in the end you’re facing the same campaign published with ten different media outlets with the same sermon, none individual. And yet you could create so amazing creative campaigns if you just loosen the reigns a little.

– Let’s talk about appreciation of blogging for a second. Has blogging arrived as a business in Germany?
– I find we’ve well advanced by now in the industry, there are companies that accept blogs as an important voice and a medium, and appreciate the amount of effort this work means. Yet in my opinion there are unfortunately still too many agencies and brands out there who, while working with online creators, don’t actually value their work and don’t even understand it to begin with. They don’t get how much power and influence blogs have, see this work as a mere pastime. Too bad, for a well-researched piece and quality images don’t happen just like that. This lack of approval impacts the remuneration of course. Sure, you need to differentiate and to separate the wheat from the chaff, for even though I think every blog has a right to exist, not every blog is on the same highly professional level.

– Some bloggers are upset when companies ask for numbers and the reach. What is your advice for companies, what should they ask before starting a collaboration with a blog?
– Because I’m both a medium and a consultant, I don’t find the reach question unreasonable. Just like the bloggers like to cherry-pick matching cooperation partners, brands and agencies want to know how well a medium matches their target group. And because marketing always is about ROI, the reach is essential for reporting and tracking. To me there’s nothing offensive about such questions. However, what I do find tough is the tendency to eclipse blog numbers and to define the Instagram reach as essential. This is something I don’t fully understand. You can expand on a topic, go in-depth, so it’s strange to be reduced to your reach on Instagram.

– Final question: what are some dead giveaways of an unprofessional blog?
– To me, the main attributes of a professional blog are well-researched topics and quality content. So in reverse, poorly written posts give away an unprofessional blog. Although there really are enough bloggers with excellent photography skills but who keep the articles really weak. I see that particularly often among beauty blogs – a cosmetic product needs more information, how it works, how the texture is, what the results are. I can’t stand it when people can’t be bothered to write a quality article.

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With many thanks to Elina, Liz, Julia and Jess ❤