Help me out here Deborah. Why did you feel it necessary to pen a column in the Times this week where you said that influencers should be relabelled “Detestable Freeloaders”? Well I know what brought it about, your watching the programme about Cliveden and the inclusion of two influencers called Katie and Ben, but why did you have to give them (and all other influencers) this new moniker and pen an entire column about it?
First of all, it’s mean.
Secondly, it makes you sound spiteful and bitter.
You might wonder why I care. Let me bring you up to speed. You may have already guessed it, but I am also an influencer. Not a label I am particularly comfortable with since I couldn’t influence my family to change the empty loo roll in the cloakroom this morning, but I go with it. You see, I have influenced people, and I am not, have never been, and never will be, a detestable freeloader.
Running this blog costs money. Money that I need to pay out of money I earn running it as a company. I pay an accountant to do my company accounts and I pay my taxes. Yes, I am sometimes paid to write posts by company who would like me to tell people about their products or services but that is based on my stats. The number of followers I have on this blog, the number of page views, the number of people I interact with on Instagram or Twitter. The very people that company would like to get in front of. Or that I may well go on to purchase from. I regularly get products to review that I then go on to buy. Some products I got YEARS ago and I am STILL talking about them because I love them so much. Products that I know other people have bought, and for that I am grateful. But more importantly the company is. I helped a small company get their product to being fully funded on a crowd funding site two years ago, in exchange for the product. Yes it was a product that was a few hundred quid but I worked my arse off online because I loved it so much. Still love it. Told my friends about it who went on to pledge. Is that so wrong? Does that really make me detestable?
What you won’t know about me from this one post is that I gave up a job to be an influencer. Gave up a good salary so that I could do this full time. Why? Because my family needed me this year. And I needed to be here for them. Being an influencer has given me the flexibility to do just that. So when my father in law had a catastrophic stroke at the beginning of the year, I could drop everything and support my inlaws 300 miles away. And be there for my husband who has done that journey every other weekend. Along side keeping the house running at home, I have been able to work around those demands.
When my granny was ill and in hospital for a week, my parents were overseas. I was able to visit her every day, whilst also working. Ditto when my granny died suddenly. Being an influencer has meant I could work at 6 in the morning, 11pm at night, Sunday afternoons. Around those family commitments.
I am writing blog posts today, earning money because I want to have a day off next week. Today when I have also committed to do four hours of driving so I can be around to support my daughter do a course in London for two days. She might be 20 but I want to be her mum and be here for her, but at the same time I need to earn money. I haven’t had to say to her “sorry, you’ll have to get the bus”.
I could never have done that if I had what you would probably call a proper job.
Alongside the paid stuff I have been offered some astonishing opportunities not just for myself, but for my friends and family too. Does it make me a detestable freeloader that we had the FA Cup in our lounge and I invited the local under 13s football team to come to my house so they could all hold it? Be photographed with it? At one point we had about 50 people in our house, none of whom I have ever met before or since, but when they open Timehop on that day they will forever see themselves holding the FA Cup. What does that do for a young football player?
When I was offered the use of a villa in France for my family for a week, was I freeloading? Yes that sounds very grand. It was a chateau after all, it slept 20 for god sake. To read that you would think “yeah, see she is a detestable freeloader” but what you don’t know is that we all paid for our own flights (over a bank holiday weekend to in August. Not exactly EasyJet’s cheapest time of year). Hire car. For the dog to be in kennels. It cost us money to do that review for that company.
Same as when I have done other holiday reviews. We went to Menorca this year as guests of James Villa and whilst our flights and hire car were paid for all our other expenses were ours. Every meal and entry to every attraction (and we did them all so I could write about them). It was hard work. It is not a holiday when you have to think that every day you need to photograph, write up and share things. Holiday companies don’t give these things away and expect one blog post that says “yeah this is alright”, they expect a lot in return (rightly so). But at the same time two of my kids got a week away and experiences we would never have had otherwise so do I begrudge working hard at the review? No. But nor do I appreciate people assuming it’s a free holiday.
When we get to try lovely hotels, typically we pay for our travel. We pay for car parks. We shop in the local towns. We pay for our food, even if it is in the hotel restaurant. No, okay we don’t pay for the hotel directly and for the chambermaid’s salary that night but does the chambermaid know that? Do we tip? You better believe it. Do other people see our reviews and then go and stay? Well that is the whole point, isn’t it?
I can’t speak for all influencers but the majority of the influencers I hang out and chat with are female. They are working around their families, there to do the school pick up and assemblies, to mop brows when a small one is sick, whilst also putting money into the family account. Money that might be for extras, or money that might be the difference between visiting a food bank or being able to do a food shop. It might allow them to top up the electricity meter for all you know. They aren’t detestable freeloaders, they are keeping a roof over their heads.
The reason companies contact us is because they value our dedication to our Instagram accounts, our Youtube channel or our blogs. We didn’t click a button and get 30,000 views a month, a million followers, four million subscribers etc, we worked fucking hard to get those numbers. Those numbers are made up of people who value our opinions, they want to see what we think of an attraction, a restaurant, a city. They want to see what that “must have” dress looks like on somebody other than Holly Willoughby. They want to know what the range of decorations in M&S might be like for Christmas trees this year without having to trawl through a website or head to a shop. Is it really so wrong to read that on a blog, or in an Instagram post of somebody who has been a sent a box of baubles? If it encourages us to make those purchases isn’t it just like any other advert?
John Lewis have paid millions to tell us to think about shopping with them this Christmas, all based on a gift of a piano when they don’t even sell sodding pianos. Is it so wrong if they pay £100 to a few influencers to do the same thing?
At the end of the day we are just being paid to write our opinions.
Remind you of anybody else you know?
PS did you see that graphic this week of what various email phrases actually mean? You might want to look up kind regards.