When I Began Blogging, by Charlie (Gin-Fuelled Bluestocking)

When I began blogging, I didn’t make a deliberate move into writing about food or drink. Well, OK, given the name of the blog (Gin Fuelled Bluestocking: The Booze Fuelled Manchester Lifestyle Blog), the booze thing was a bit of a given, but the food was accidental. It goes hand in hand so often with food that that just sort of followed. 

I’ve been writing about it all – food, drink, recipes (and occasionally beauty, fitness and body affirming stuff) for about seven years. And in that time the blogging industry has changed: become less hobby, more income for many. Less casual, more monetary. There are more visuals, more videos, less words. 

Oh and then came the influencer. I’m not a massive fan of the tag. I’m not really a fan of the term foodie either, but people like boxes, and how else do you describe what we do? Even if we don’t write a review, or create a recipe – even if we just use social media to talk about an event, we reach out to people. It’s a form of advertising. And that’s not including the stuff people don’t see – the quiet DM about a birthday, the chat in the pub about a date night venue. Our friends and our followers know we have suggestions or ideas or recommendations, so they’ll ask us and we’ll give our advice. 

We also have a bad reputation. We’re seen as blaggers, liggers, hangers-on for free stuff. Venue owners and even PRs will gush to you one minute and say how much they’d like you to visit, and then the next, they’ll complain loudly (particularly on social media, yes we see you) about how untrustworthy we are, how we’re only after a free meal/stay/stuff. I can name a few venues I won’t go to, ever, because in my emails they were inviting me in, and on social media they were slagging me (or my ilk) off. And yes I get the ‘but we don’t mean you’. Can I be sure? I may write for other publications, but still, I have a blog. I am a blogger. 

For some, maybe the whole doing stuff for a feed is true. I know restaurants (and hotels, and events organisers etc etc) get hundreds of emails from bloggers and influencers looking to exchange a positive review for a freebie. The same could be said of some ‘celebrities’ who will do almost anything for a fee, or will go to dinner and, with the agreement of the venue, phone the local paps for a picture. 

It happens. I can’t see it going away. Money talks. Fame sells. People will always look for an easy sale. 

The ASA have brought in a tightening of how we advertise, (it must be declared clearly) and how we make money from our social media. I say we – I make money from the stuff surrounding my blog, not directly from it (and even then, I’m hardly rolling in it). We also, much like anyone else, pay tax if we make over £1k from our blogs, and that includes free stuff. Whether it’s a dinner or a cup of coffee, we have to keep track of it. I have a tote bag full of receipts that I go through every year and have a cry about when I’m filling in forms. (Yes I know I should get an accountant, but I refer you back to not making as much as you think). 

I appreciate if you’re still going with this that this whole thing sounds like a whinge. And it probably is a bit. 

Some of us aren’t actually so bad at what we do. Some of us work really hard at it – between photo editing, writing and scheduling social, it can easily clock up to 2-3 hours work. Some of us know how to describe a meal/venue/event as something other than ‘lovely’ or ‘nice’.

Hunt us up. Find us, support us. It might not be me, you might hate how I write, but if there’s someone whose opinion you trust, please support them, talk about them, comment on their social feed, their blog posts, tell them. I know lots of really good, hardworking, bloggers, who love to shout about their favourite places, products and genuinely love what they do. And they/we are being drowned out in a world of bought followers and people trying to play the system, or being tarred with the same brush as those who aren’t quite so open and honest.

Natalia Ribbe