When I sat down to write this piece, I struggled with exactly how to describe 23-year-old Scarlett Dixon. Although her email signature reads ‘fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencer,’ her Instagram bio says ‘Blogger & YouTuber’ and her Twitter bio is: ‘Blogger, YouTuber & Journalist. Director of Digital Agency @ScarlettLEvents.’ And, it’s not that Scarlett is fickle – it’s that her job title is ever changing. Welcome to the world where you are your own brand.
Now, the blogging world is nothing new, we know. But, while you may be tired of seeing #blessed all over your social feeds, let us reassure you that Scarlett, who started her blog as a 17-year-old aspiring journalist trying to impress prospective employers, is ready to divulge just how she makes it work financially.
‘I signed up to wordpress with a very basic template and just started writing,’ Scarlett tells us. ‘But, in 2011, the blogging community looked very different to how it does today. No one was really doing it as a career, it was very much just a hobby - and the blogs weren't as glossy and editorial as they are now, but I felt reassured I'd found people online with similar interests, aspirations and hobbies so I kept going.’
Having set up her site while taking her A-Levels, Scarlett put more love into her blog during her gap year when she was working in travel PR, drafting up posts in her lunch break and saving whatever she could. By the time she started a journalism course at university, Scarlett was struggling to keep up with all her commitments: ‘balancing my studies, social life and my blog became very difficult and something had to give. Invariably, this was my social life - and instead of going out partying, drinking and 'being a student', I spent most of my spare time cooped up in my little student room tapping away on my laptop, setting up my social media channels and producing content.’
Starting off, Scarlett was being gifted products to review - but it didn’t take long for brands to recognise her reach and offer to collaborate and pay for her content. But, it obviously wasn’t always so easy breezy. Scarlett found herself being accused of being ‘narcissistic’ or ‘wasting time’ by friends who didn’t understand the then burgeoning industry. ‘By third year, I was getting fidgety because I was seeing people quit their full-time jobs to become YouTubers and bloggers and I was starting to earn money off of mine, and anything at that point was profit because I’d just invested £10-20 a year in a domain name. But, I stuck to it and graduated.’
‘I decided to give myself a year after graduation, as I was earning more than a graduate job in journalism. Besides, blogging doesn’t have many overheads. But, like any other freelancer or self-employed individual, I knew I’d need a number of different revenue streams as it’s so difficult to predict my income month to month.’
After uni, she lived at home and admits to always being ‘savvy’ with money and has always been one to curb her spending: ‘I don't buy coffee/drinks at places like Starbucks ever! I also try not to shop too often, instead weaving in a few new seasonal pieces into my wardrobe. For any designer splurges, I treat myself at Christmas after a year of saving.’
But when it came to budgeting and keeping her finances in track, Scarlett admits that spreadsheets were her saving grace: ‘I was keeping copious amounts of spreadsheets to track all the different ways I was earning, which included banner adverts and Google Adsense adverts (which I had on my blog until around two years ago because I didn’t want anything random or inappropriate popping up), sponsorships, ambassadorships, campaigns and collaborations, sponsored posts and affiliate links.’
In 2013, Scarlett decided to expand her brand by organising events for fellow bloggers and she now has her own events business, too: ‘I used to attend beauty and brand events on my own and I’d feel like an awkward lemon not knowing people. And, there were a few girls I chatted to regularly online so decided to break the ice and bring us all together by throwing a pizza and prosecco party.’
‘What started off as a 10 people event now hosts around 400 bloggers a few years later. I actually invested around 10K of my own money into the events side of my business – and at first I lost money rather than making a profit, but it did finally pay off. I never had a business plan per se,’ she admits. ‘I just went full steam ahead using the £3k I had in savings to put into venues. And, anything I made, I re-invested into more events. Now, I currently have a Help to Buy ISA and several other ISAs to put my savings into.’
‘I was a born negotiator,’ Scarlett admits: ‘my motto is ‘you don’t get what you don’t ask for. So, I always write punchy e-mails making sure what I require is clear from the get go. So for example, I’ll ask venues for a discount by ensuring them the monetary value of having bloggers attend. If I can save £250 with a little more communication, I’ll do it.’
Now Scarlett can earn anything between £500-£5000 a month – but that’s not 100% profit per se, as ‘a lot of it is put back into my business. London venues are very expensive and before bringing sponsors on board for the event, I have to front the cost entirely myself.’
Having also ventured into the world of YouTube, it’s clear that the only way for career chameleon Scarlett is up, no matter how the blogging world develops. She’s currently trying to live off of £600 a month, putting everything else into a savings, and tax bill savings account, ‘as one of the perks of being self-employed is a hefty tax bill at the end of the year!’.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.