Edited 160207: my colleagues at The Snailcast (Chel from Holy Snails, Snow from Snow White and the Asian Pear, and Fiddy from Fifty Shades of Snail), and me talked in great detail for a very long time about the reality of Asian Beauty blog economics in our latest episode.
These days, I see a lot of talk about “big bloggers” or “top bloggers” in the Asian Beauty [product] community. Having been active in AB as a blogger for almost two years, I’ve observed the patterns that help some bloggers rise to prominence quickly while others toil in relative obscurity. Given the number of people who want to be top AB bloggers, I thought I’d share these observations so that they can rise to that status without delay.
What It Takes to be on Top
- Get your ass in the chair and write something.
- Write until said ass hurts. Write when you’re supposed to be sleeping. Skip time with your family. Let your body go without exercise. Forget cooking dinner, you’re blogging about a new Ultra Long Name Essence and the people must know about that penis fish extract proven to reduce fine lines in a study conducted on one iguana in Celebration, Florida by a bored scientist on vacation with her family. Your muse is calling you into the black hole called Internet and you’re about to be a sleep-deprived dick fish expert.
- Write and post regularly. It doesn’t have to be brilliant writing, just clear prose that people can understand and don’t hate reading. For the love of god, copyedit your posts.
- Take photos that are more or less true to life. If you’re not a great writer, take nice photos.
- Rather than focusing on the successes and failures of others, work.
- Disclose things properly (affiliate links, press samples, sponsored posts, use of Analytics). Moreover, disclose things in a way that shows respect for the people who take time to read your blog. No tricks or peek-a-boo, just full-frontal, no nonsense disclosure.
- Have a functioning website. Links that tend to lead somewhere that makes sense. Code that doesn’t cause the thing to crash on most devices. Easy ways to find posts. This doesn’t have to cost money.
- Respond to comments on your blog and social media accounts. Basically don’t leave your most engaged readers and followers hanging when they call to you or put up a hand for a high five (I suck at this, sorry).
- Don’t go around making a brutta figura–as in, don’t act a fool. No public begging for free shit from shops and brands. No whining about status. No clapping back on someone without drinking a tall glass of water first.
- Receipts. Every damn last thing you do needs to be backed up by evidence.
Notice that nowhere in this list I’ve mentioned press samples, sponsored posts, or collaborations with brands and shops aside from disclosing them properly. If you live right, work to the point of pain, and run a tight blog (I’m stealing that term from “run a tight ship”) my strong sense is that opportunities from Asian Beauty shops and brands will emerge without you having to stress. It takes time, lots of work, and nothing is guaranteed, but I really think you have to believe that cream rises to the top and focus on being the cream (why am I using so many colloquial expressions in this post? I sound folksy as hell hahaha).
The sad truth is that in the end, even if you’re a big blogger in Asian Beauty…it doesn’t mean that you’re a big blogger in the grand scheme of things. Nobody I know who blogs about Asian Beauty is living off the income from their blog. Most of the press samples I’m offered I don’t want. Everyone I know is balancing jobs, families, school, etc. with blogging. Mostly badly, including myself, I’m sorry to say.
If you are in the game for free shit it will be painfully transparent and you will ultimately get shitty free shit, but fail in your quest to be a “big blogger.”
If you think that you can gain popularity by coming at big bloggers and somehow making off with their popularity, first off, this isn’t a Shakespearean drama about early modern kingship, it’s fucking writing about beauty products and second, if you don’t have the body of work that matches theirs, you’re just a shit-stirrer and not a real rival.
Ultimately, I’m not sure that investing the time to be a “big blogger” is worth it. You likely won’t make a job (or even half- or quarter-job) of it in Asian Beauty. The free stuff you might eventually receive will never be as valuable as the time you spend writing about it. The tiny hits of validation crack that get you a bit high when someone says nice things about you will be balanced by a surprising number of people attacking, libeling, and attempting to discredit you. Your finds and ideas will be taken and absorbed by shops, brands, and other bloggers, rendered by this process of magical absorption theirs. Ignoring the time you spent hunched over a keyboard creating knowledge where there was sometimes none or the cost of purchasing a huge number of products to try in the quest for the best, some people will question if your blog should be financially supported via affiliate links and press samples for review.
The only real benefit you’ll receive from being a “big blogger” is occasionally feeling special. But that lasts two seconds until you remember that even if you wrote the best damn review of Tricerotops mascara the world has ever seen, you’re spending the best years of your life hunched over a keyboard when you should be sleeping, writing about makeup named after a fucking dinosaur.
As always, you gotta pay the cost to be the boss, but is being the boss bitch of a tiny city-state in the age empires really worth the drama?
People will no doubt ask why someone, knowing all of this so acutely, would blog and put up with all of the headaches unless they’re secretly lining up massive sponsorship deals and making bank. I can think of a few reasons: we’re programmed to ignore even good advice, tiny hits of validation are pleasant if you’re generally deprived of them, sharing new knowledge with a group can be really fulfilling, and you can learn a lot of useful things by blogging. Believe it or not, it isn’t about money and free shit.
If you can accept this, take a seat and get to work.