Six years ago, as a pregnant single mother, I walked out of Social Services crying because I was turned down for every single service I’d applied for. Food stamps, utilities assistance, transportation voucher. I didn’t qualify for a thing. I worked full-time, and although I didn’t make enough to cover all of my bills, it didn’t matter. According to the federal poverty guidelines, I was good. I can admit, I was totally responsible for my financial situation. I had moved into an expensive apartment (tiny, but in a good neighborhood) that I planned to pay for with income from a part-time teaching job that would bring in double my monthly paycheck at my full-time job. I didn’t realize a difficult pregnancy was in my immediate future when I signed the lease, and it was only 3 months in that I had to let my landlord know I’d be 5 days late on rent. The next month I was late again, and finally, I started paying her in 2 installments: my entire paycheck on the 1st of the month, and my entire paycheck on the 15th of the month.
Thankfully, family, friends, and the occasional one-off freelance workshop or teaching gigs kept me from starving or being in the dark. Once Ayva was born, I was able to qualify for WIC, a one time cash assistance, and several months of food stamps while I was on maternity leave. Ayva and I squeaked through our first year together, barely making bills, but content. We didn’t have a lot extra (well, I didn’t. I gave her everything. Of course.), but life was good. On the eve of Ayva’s birthday, I started this blog. Six months later, I made $35 from a campaign that I did with the Social Fabric blogging community, another $200 from iVillage, and I realized there was a solution to my money shortage problem. I had the ability to create a positive change for Ayva and myself through blogging.
That $35 project turned into larger campaigns, part-time contract work, and a brand new full-time career. This blog evolved from a personal journal to a resource and place of inspiration for women and moms. My life has been changed by blogging, and I don’t take any of it for granted.
And it’s not just about the impact this blog has had on my life. Other sites, other bloggers, have helped me in ways that they probably don’t even know. There was one summer that was particularly tough financially. I had moved into a house during the winter, and my gas bill was so astronomical that I was still paying for it when it got warm. I’d been scraping together money for groceries for weeks when I got an email that I won a $300 grocery store gift card from a giveaway on another blogger’s site. I was able to purchase food not just for myself, but for my sister and best friend, too. Another gift card win after a blogger event kept my pantry stocked for a month.
My family has been to Disneyland and Disney World as VIPs. I just came back from the Coca-Cola Essence Festival in New Orleans as a guest of the sponsor, and was able to be empowered and entertained. We’ve been able to give away toys and other products to folks who need them, and I’ve made some PHENOMENAL friends. Like…these people are truly unicorns. I don’t want to look away because I can’t believe they’re real.
So, when I see folks ranting about getting press releases in their inbox* (Here’s a tip: delete them), or sounding nonchalant about getting pitched a product that they’re not excited to review, but they’re going to do it anyway, or consistently accepting paid work and then posting late, not even trying to get good pictures, not syndicating, and just taking this whole thing for granted, I just shake my head. After 4 years doing this thing, I can totally see how we can get used to getting everything for free, I get why we expect floor seats, car service, child care, and payment for the mere sake of being in our presence. This is our work, and we should be sufficiently compensated for said work.
But we don’t have to be stank about it. Or snooty. Or obnoxious.
I don’t know what other folks were doing before they started blogging, but I know where I came from, and I won’t allow myself to forget the great blessing that blogging has been on my life. For sure there will be PR reps and brands that don’t get it. I’m sure there will be bloggers that I just don’t like (gasp!), there will absolutely be Facebook drama and Twitter rants and all of the other stuff that comes with being a part of this online world.
There will also be fantastic opportunities and experiences, the great joy of writing and sharing and connecting with people all over the world, and money. Yes, there will be financial gain. And I’m here for that. All of that. So, please be warned that from now on, if anyone comes in my online space, trying to douse water on my fabulous experiences, my happiness, and/or my joy…I will have to drag you (thanks for that phrase, Kelly!).
And listen, if you’re not a blogger, this message of being grateful still applies to you. Think about how you first felt when you were hired for your job, or when you bought your house or your car. Although things may not be perfect, don’t forget how perfect it was for you at one time. I’m not saying to stay stuck, but unless you’re ready to move on, be appreciative and positive. Don’t let other folks who might be jaded take away your spirit of gratitude.
Because, namaste, y’all. So, be nice.
*Edited to add: I have to share something else about press releases or other correspondence from PR companies that don’t have a sponsored post or program attached. Sometimes it’s really good information that you can share with your audience, or that will be helpful to your family. Sometimes there are paid opportunities available with other folks on their team, and you will find out about them if you :
1. Build a relationship with them (even if it’s just to say, “No thanks. I don’t write about this topic, but send me anything you have on parenting)
2. Ask. Politely. “I am a professional blogger, and this is my job. My mortgage company will not take a exposure for payment! I am going to tell all of my blogger friends about you!” isn’t usually isn’t the way to get to the paid stuff.
3. Not expect all of your opportunities to come IN your box. Sometimes they come from what goes OUT. Are you pitching?