By Juhi Bansal
I am a pleasant person. Ask anyone who knows me. I’ll smile through the day even when it’s been really bad and generally always look at the half full side of the glass. I find hope on the bleakest days and look for inspiration in the dullest of things. But, there are moments when I’ve had too much and I want to speak out. I have the BEST family, friends, well wishers and readers. They do nothing but inspire me- every second of every minute. But, there are a few who (you can’t please everyone can you?) have a lot of time on their hands and just spread misery. Internet calls them “haters”. I like to call them “naysayers”. These are people who generally like to take the moral highground on a few things and judge others from that pedestal. Only if they knew there is no grey in righteousness. It is either black or white and most often all of us fall in the dark bracket. One of the things they like talking about these days is how blogging is a sham, or that bloggers feel entitled to ask for goodies or that they mislead readers or wrongfully call themselves “influencers” when they can’t influence. You see the irony in that btw, don’t you? (How am I misleading when I can’t influence?).
Let me set the record straight, because for the last few days I am being forwarded conversations, screenshots, snarky comments etc and I’ve had enough. I CHARGE for features. Lets face it- there are no free lunches in the world. I pay my photographer, my website and social media managers, my interns, assistant and I have running costs. While I can get work out of most of these people in the name of exposure, I don’t. I don’t want anyone to do anything for me for free or “barter” because I don’t do it myself anymore. You will mostly see #sponsored or #ad or #partner on my posts. That means I was paid for the post. Or you will see me “thanking” a particular brand for sending a goodie bag. On my blog you will clearly see a c/o if an item was sent to me by the brand (I did not pay for it) to style it as I deem fit. I promote events- because I either like the line up of designers or I believe in the curation of the organizer- but I am not doing it for free.
However, you will never see me talk about a product if I haven’t used it myself. You will never see me review food outlets because I don’t think I have the expertise to do it. I either like the food or I don’t. I don’t know how “authentic” the cuisine is. I will never have you believe the service of a place was excellent if it wasn’t. But, if I have checked in at a restaurant I may not have paid for my food there.
Even with my blogger community, I never ask them to falsify information or lie about their experiences. So many times I let brands and collaborations go because of this.
Am I misleading you? Why don’t you tell me? What happens when you like something I am wearing? Chances are you will visit the estore or actual store check out the prices, sizes etc and if it works for you, you will buy it. The maximum I may do is add a particular brand to your consideration or choice set. I am not forcing you to buy it. I’ll give you my own example. I love Sonam Kapoor’s style. Infact, whenever I see her sporting something new from Rheson I immediately visit the site and check the item out. I have NEVER ended up buying anything. Because it is either expensive or I think it won’t work for me. I definitely don’t have more influence than Sonam Kapoor that people will buy an item just because I wore it.
As for me feeling entitled, have you ever spoken to a brand that wants to get featured? They think they are the best thing to happen to all of eternity. They feign surprise when you tell them your charges- “but I thought this was your passion”! Really? You will give me THAT spiel- you a creative person who’s heard this all your professional life! They accuse me of being arrogant when I am not ok with their terms and refuse to go ahead. If you are in the business to make money why would you want anyone else to work for free? Talk about entitlement!
Then there are brands that understand the effort which goes into all of this. They start on the right note and keep coming back to you even if your charges may seem higher than other bloggers who do it for free or barter. I would choose them every single time. I am not looking for a lot of work. I do this because it is my “passion”, and only on weekends, but I have bills to pay. I have to constantly choose between working on a collaboration or spending time on something else. Getting paid helps me justify the time I devote to it. It also helps me stay true to my work and I treat it very professionally. Do I work with anyone and everyone who pays? A big NO! I choose my partners very carefully and I urge my readers to be wary of anything anyone feeds them. Use your own judgement, make your own calls. Whether it is fashion, food or lifestyle- choices are subjective and what works for me may not work for you.
I was recently approached by a skin care brand who wanted me to say 1. I bought the cream 2. It was very effective. I did not even get into the discussion of pricing because I don’t work like that. If I did not buy something, I will never say I did. And as for something being effective- I don’t think there is any magical potion. If something gave you instant results chances are it was full of chemicals. I turned natural a couple of years ago and while I do see a change in my skin, it is very very slow and I would not have you believe it any other way.
IS the blogging bubble about to burst? It is like any other business. You start small and then a lot of people see a lot of value and enter the industry. There is no entry barrier and you practically just need a computer to jump the bandwagon. 5 years ago when I started there were hardly one or two bloggers around and now I have someone or the other writing in every single day telling me they are a blogger. There is enough space for everyone to survive. And, there is always someone who will do the same work for a cheaper price. But, not everyone sustains. Mostly when the initial euphoria of goodies and attention dies they give up. I have seen as many people quit blogging as the number that joins every month. At a time when you can buy followers and engagement- content wins. Will I continue to make money- I am not sure. May be I’ll have to change the business model a little down the road or move to newer platforms or innovate. I know it is “change or die” and I am ready for it but don’t write off the whole industry just yet. Repeat brand collaborations, the sheer joy in your readers comments and the love you get proves you are genuine and here to stay.
Sweater: Uni Style Image (more than 10 years old)
Dress: ZARA: Borrowed from sister (1 year old)
Shoes: Kate Spade (new)
Sunglasses: c/o Missamore (6 months old)
Pics: Bhavya Rathore