Blogger Jade Wylde had wanted to be self-employed since leaving school. The 25-year-old is autistic and says “traditional” jobs and working environments can prove quite a struggle. “It’s quite hard to explain...the people, having to constantly be around people. It’s quite a busy environment. It’s loud and noisy. It’s always unexpected - you never know exactly what you’re going to be doing.”
There’s also the worry of saying things that are not “socially acceptable” or misinterpreting body language, she says. Working as she does, mainly over email and social media, means she has time to think and process. “Being left on my own, just me and my laptop, then I don’t have to deal with a lot of people and that’s better for me mentally.”
Trying to get her content noticed in a sea of thousands of bloggers is the most difficult thing, she says - and she believes her autism helps her to stand out. “People always comment and say ‘oh I would never have thought of that’. In a sense that is a perk of my autism. I do love being autistic in that sense because I do think differently. People enjoy reading a different viewpoint or a different take on life.”
Jade was first paid for her work around six months ago, penning a sponsored post for electronics company Panasonic, writing about one of the firm’s products, a television, in exchange for a fee. Her blog, jademarie.co.uk, focuses on mental health and self-care - and she says she collaborates only when the content can complement her style and themes. “I did a post about TV shows I want to watch on a self-care day,” she explains, “so I was promoting what they wanted, but also fitting it in with my content and the audience of my blog.”
Jade set up the blog in 2016, whilst experiencing anxiety and depression. Though she had hoped her site would lead to writing opportunities, by acting as a portfolio of sorts, she did not anticipate the blog would itself make money. “It was a bit of a dumping ground for everything I was feeling, like diary posts originally - and it took off. I didn’t expect it to.”
Since its formation, her blog, which highlights bad days as well as good, has evolved to include informative and posts aimed at helping others - and as Jade has grown in confidence, she says she has found her voice, and her own photography style to accompany the words. “I think that’s what makes me stand out to brands. I do have my own style of writing and photography that I stick to...finding my own voice and style has been very beneficial to make it more viable.”
Like many bloggers, it is through sponsored content that Jade, from Barnsley, makes much of her money, charging brands who want her to write about their products or services.
To date, her income is irregular - she says her anxiety means she doesn’t pitch to brands “as much as I should”, and her attention is divided between her blog and studying for a Masters degree in entrepreneurship at Sheffield Hallam University. But, she says she is at the point now where “if I did put the effort in and send those pitches”, she would be able to get a full time income.
Amy Downes, 34, is hoping she too can reach that stage with her blog - Mum Full of Dreams - which focuses on flexible working. The freelance social media consultant, from Pudsey, set up the site two years ago, fulfilling a lifelong goal 12 months to the date of being made redundant whilst pregnant.
“I would love to make it where I get to the point where I am using the blog as a profession,” she says, explaining that the adaptable hours of both her freelance work and blogging had been “a wonder” in allowing her to spend time with her son Harry, now two.
Such flexibility is also key for Victoria James, who began blogging about beauty and fashion as a sideline whilst working as a beautician four years ago. Struggling to concentrate on writing due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), she later switched her focus from words to images - “the visual things come more naturally” - launching Victoriachicx on social photo platform Instagram.
Her profile became a full-time priority when she gave up work two years ago to look after her son, Elliott, who has severe ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum. “When you have got a son with special needs, you do have to make yourself available for them 24/7. I am able to just be there for him and attend all his appointments,” she says, adding that she can juggle creating content around his needs.
Victoria, from Wakefield, has grown her followers from 4,000 to 17,800 and is now getting paid for some of her content, having done sponsored posts for the likes of online fashion retailer ASOS and skincare and make up brand Clinique. She has also recently launched a complementary fashion, beauty and lifestyle Youtube account and hopes she can develop a sustainable career out of the two platforms. “You have just got to be consistent,” she says. “I am constantly engaging with other people, creating content, editing it, finding props and replying to people, to grow an audience.”
It is something Sheffield-born Sophie Mei Lan knows all too well. A trained journalist, Sophie began blogging in 2015 when she was off work, whilst pregnant with her second child, due to mental health conditions. She started to write posts about living with an eating disorder at Christmas and the popularity of the pieces gave her the courage to carry on writing.
Sophie, who now lives in Wakefield, never returned to her job - “I had been very poorly and thought life was too short to be away from my family” - instead focusing on freelance opportunities and developing Mama Mei, her family, health and lifestyle blog. She has since set up a second blog Yorkshire Families, a guide to child-friendly events, days out and experiences in the county, and also runs Blog Up North, a network for writers and social media influencers.
“It’s not easy work and there is no end to it but I can do the school runs when I need to, I can go to my mental health appointments, I can go to the gym when I want...and technology means I can work from anywhere.”
In the past year, it is video sharing channel Youtube that has been the focus of much of Sophie’s attention; and she is now able to make a viable income through blogging and vlogging (video blogging), earning cash through sponsored content or brand deals, adverts on her videos - getting paid based on ad watch time and clicks, and affiliate marketing - generating commission for marketing another person’s or company’s products through links in her content.
“This past summer Youtube has become my main source of income, overtaking journalism and everything else,” says Sophie, who uploads three to five videos a week on average. “Often people don’t take blogging and vlogging very seriously but I think if you take yourself seriously, then you should be paid for your work, like any freelancer or business owner.”