MAK­ING A LIV­ING OUT OF LIFE

Yorkshire Post - - FEATURES & COMMENT - ■ Email: [email protected]­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @YP_Lau­raD

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, while 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 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 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 af­ter 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 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, while 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.”

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... and I can work from any­where. So­phie Mei Lan, who runs two blogs and a YouTube chan­nel. These York­shire women are among the thou­sands of peo­ple now blog­ging and vlog­ging. Laura Drysdale finds out why they de­cided to fo­cus on earn­ing a liv­ing on­line.

PIC­TURES: JADE WYLDE AND TONY JOHN­SON

SUC­CESS: Jade Wylde, whose blog, ‘took off’. Top: Blog­gers and vlog­gers Amy Downes, So­phie Mei Lan and Vic­to­ria James.

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