Tuesday, May 24, 2016

NEW SERIES! Blog Biz: 10 questions about my blogging career

Today is the 10th anniversary of Topaz Horizon!!!


Well, I started blogging in 2005 over at Friendster so this year marks my 11th year as a blogger. But since the Friendster blog was private, I never considered it as a blog. More like brain farts for my family and friends. Then Friendster announced it was going to charge for blogs. Someone told me Blogger was free so I moved out of Friendster. My first Topaz Horizon blog post was published on Blogger on May 24, 2006.

Now here we are. It's been an amazing 10 years, people!!!

Over the years, I've gotten many questions on how to have a blogging career, and I've always dismissed these questions with a laugh. I still can't believe I have a blogging career! But I've listed down the frequently asked Qs and decided I'm going to finally answer them. I mean, it's been 10 years!

Blogging in 2009 on my beloved HP Mini!
1. How did you start blogging?
Since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to be a newspaper columnist. I thought columnists were the coolest people. They had enough clout and smarts to be given a regular space to say what they think. How powerful that is!

In 2006, I was asked to be a contributor to Inquirer's Lifestyle section, which was under new editorship. I knew it was the foot in that I needed! I was so excited! But in 2006, I had just become the editor-in-chief of this wonderful new magazine called OK!, a Hollywood entertainment title. My publisher told me, ever so gently but firmly, that I needed to focus on OK!. So I declined Inquirer and focused everything I had on growing OK! because my publisher was right.

Still, I was a bit heartbroken. Okay, a lot heartbroken. So a friend told me I should try blogging. She said, "It's just like writing an opinion piece for a newspaper but better because you set your own topics and deadlines and you get feedback from your readers immediately." "Why is that?" "There's this feature called a comments section. It's addicting!"

And she was right. After I published my first post here on Topaz Horizon and then got my first comment, I was hooked. I still get a high ten years after. Thank you for all your comments!  

2. Why did you turn your blog into an income-generating business?
Two years into blogging, I heard that people can earn money from their blogs. Back then, the revenue came from text links and Google ads. Then digital advertising agency Nuffnang invited me and a few other bloggers to Singapore for a blogging conference. I was blown away when I met bloggers from all over Southeast Asia and Australia. They were earning so much money, it was crazy! A college student just bought a new car. Another young person quit her banking job. Another one was earning $2500 a week from Google ads. And another one practically had her entire life—from bottled water and food to her house and the appliances in it—sponsored!

I remember coming home to my 10- to 14-hour magazine job that paid P35,000 a month and feeling confused and angry. I'm a writer, an editor and a journalist. Every word I write must earn money. That was my job. At the conference, they called blogging the new media and it was sucking up advertising budgets from print media. I decided then and there in 2008 that it was time to shift careers.

3. When did your blog start making money?
My blog started making money through text links about a year after I created it. It was the easiest thing: I signed up for PayU2Blog and every week, it assigned me words or phrases that linked to an advertiser's website. I got paid $5 per link. Because I was prolific, I earned about $20 to $30 a month. Not much but I used the extra money to shop online.

In 2008, Nuffnang started giving me a few assignments. All I needed to do was write about a product or experience. This was called a sponsored post. I earned about P12,000 a month and that went on for about four years. In 2012, I retired from magazine publishing when OK! was discontinued, killed off by the new media called entertainment bloggers. With nothing to do, I focused on blogging... and what a payoff. Now my blog is a registered business!

Blogging was easier when I didn't have kids haha. This was in 2010, when I was about to give birth to Vito!
4. How does your blog make money?
My blog earns mainly from sponsored posts, a few ad placements now and then, and brand ambassadorships. I also earn from sponsored social media posts. My blogging career coupled with my magazine experience have recently landed me new gigs as speaker at events for working women and moms. I also do workshops about blogging, beauty and social media.

I don't earn gazillions (as of now, I am still a non-VAT entity so that means I'm earning a modest sum) but we're happy blogging allows me to stay home and be a mommy.

5. What's the best thing about blogging?
The people I've met and become friends with. Yes, the money is nice. The freebies, too. The experiences are cool also. But to be very honest I love the people I've met through my blog. From moms and homemakers just like me to celebrities and the most fascinating personalities!

But the ones I appreciate most are the Loyal Readers who congratulated me through my wedding and with each pregnancy and birth, helped me mourn my mother, laughed at my silly stories, cried when I was sad, mended my broken spirit, and prayed for me and my family throughout the years. Some of you Loyal Readers became my friends in real life. Some of you love me and my sons like we were your own family. Thank you! Family is the best thing I got from blogging!

6. What don't you like about blogging?
Well, if there are good people out there, there are bad people, too. Thank goodness they are few. And that's all I'll say about it!

7. How do you feel about bloggers' bad reputation?
The crazy thing about blogging is it's not a professional world. Anyone can blog. You don't need a degree or apprenticeship or years of experience. That makes it a wonderful medium, but it also attracts people who have no idea about journalistic practices like editing, checking facts, citing sources, respecting intellectual property, keeping one's integrity when faced with advertisers who will bribe your opinion, and basically not being a libellous asshole.

Bad bloggers, like the proverbial rotten apples, do spoil the whole barrel. But I don't want to lump them all together. Some PR agencies these days also don't have good training. Instead of building relationships with media (bloggers included), they just treat all bloggers as uncouth, unprofessional people with no real jobs. I've had to be curt with certain agencies, for example, and the next thing I heard I'm a snob. Woah. All I said was I can't work with certain brands since I don't use the product or I can't attend their event because I need to be with my children. My being forthright made some people think badly of me. So now when I hear that a blogger behaved badly, I reserve judgment. It could be not entirely that blogger's fault. Of course, some bloggers do behave badly but let's not go there!
Blogging is easier now with smart phones and social media.

8. What's your advice to new bloggers?
Blog because you love sharing your life with people. Don't blog because you want to earn money. You won't see money till maybe after a year of blogging. Don't blog because you want to be famous. Readers, brands and technology are fickle. You're hot stuff today, tomorrow your social media world is suddenly an empty wilderness. So your motivation to blog should just be love! Money or no money, many readers or just a few, you do it for the fun of it. You'll enjoy it no matter what. And that's the only thing that will sustain you—joy!

9. What's your advice for longtime bloggers in a rut?
Same as above! Just remember the reason why you started blogging—and if you're a longtime blogger like me, that means you started your blog when it wasn't an income-generating venture. Find a purpose in your blogging so that every blog post is a mission accomplished!

10. What are your future plans for your blogging career?
I don't know how long this will last, to be honest. It's been really fun watching where the blog is taking me. I'm now being booked for speaking engagements and workshops, for example. I have appeared in an ad, which still boggles my mind. Right now, even though it's my main source of income, I treat blogging not as my career really but as a stepping stone to something else. Maybe I can do more speaking engagements! Maybe I can do a TV show! Maybe I can write a book! Or maybe I can suddenly just stop blogging and become a concert pianist.

Where did that come from?!

I do have plans for the blog on my 10th year. Introduce a series on a parenting advocacy—mothering boys. Write posts that support working moms. And, as this first Blog Biz post is doing, share what I've learned about blogging every month to help other people find success in this medium. Blogging has been very good to me. I want it to be good to everyone!

Thanks for reading Topaz Horizon, dear Loyal Readers! You are THE BEST! The very very best. I thank the Lord for every reminder of you. And I have 10 years' worth of reminders. God bless you!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet the Biogenic Mom Squad!

This post is brought to you by Biogenic Alcohol.

I'm so so so excited to announce that I'm a Biogenic Mommy!

Naks! I'm in an ad. Kung kelan ako malapit na mag-kwarenta, dun pa ako naging mowdel. I'm thrilled!

Biogenic Alcohol chose three moms to be their ambassadors: (from right) makeup artist, beauty resource person and beauty blogger Nikki Tiu of AskMeWhats; model, fitness enthusiast and lifestyle blogger Jackie Go of Go, Jackie Go!; and magazine editor, digital PR/marketing entrepreneur, lifestyle speaker, and mom blogger me. They liked that we keep ourselves on our toes even as we're busy with our families.

I think Nikki, Jackie and I are the typical modern mom. I feel like all the moms I meet now are multi-hyphenate. It doesn't seem to be enough that we're mothers; we're also busy pursuing passions, earning income from little projects here and there, and being actively involved in our own communities. The moms now are really so amazing. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed with the stuff I do, I look at other moms and get inspired again to not give up and to do more. Not because it's a competition but because I want to squeeze out everything that life has to offer!

I'm glad I can do all this and still be with my kids almost 24/7. I feel very very lucky. I'm glad I can work and be a mommy at the same time. Much like how Biogenic takes care of me and my family—it does its job by killing germs and disinfecting everything my kids touch and yet it takes care of us by being gentle on our skin. Biogenic and mommies. Perfect together!

I gave away BABY Magazine to everyone at the shoot. Please grab a copy, too!

As a busy mommy, I love that Biogenic comes in convenient packaging. Spray bottles in big and small sizes!!! So I have Biogenic bottles in the entry hall, in the kitchen, by the dining table, in the bathrooms, on my work desk, and of course in the diaper bag and my kikay kit. And now that it's almost pasukan na, I'm packing a small Biogenic spray bottle in the grooming kits of my sons. Biogenic everywhere! Amoy Biogenic na kami, sa totoo lang. My kids love it. I love it!

Okay, I got kilig again about my new brand ambassadorship! Lemme share with you a couple more photos from the shoot. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Topaz Horizon x Belo Baby giveaway!!!

This post is brought to you by Belo Baby.

My boys are currently using the Belo Baby products I took home from the launch event Piero and I attended a few weeks ago. Well, we've used the Hair and Body Wash, Face and Body Lotion, and colognes. The bar soap, not yet.

Iñigo loves all the colognes!

I like that the Belo Baby line is made of all natural ingredients, specifically shea butter, cocoa butter and sweet almond oil. I like that there are no allergic reactions, that the boys' skins are clean and soft, and that they smell so delicious. Buttery and creamy. Mmmm!

So in our experience, Belo Baby has been true to its motto: “Crafted with care for the most delicate skin, for the most meticulous moms.”

Now your babies can experience Belo Baby, too!

Belo Baby is giving me three (3) sets to give away to my Instagram followers. Each set includes Belo Baby Bar Soap, Belo Baby Hair and Body Wash, and Belo Baby Face and Body Lotion. My mechanics are super simple and super cute and I suggest you join soonest! 

Here's all you need to do:

1. Post a photo of you and your baby on your Instagram account. Kailangan cute kayo! 
2. Tell me why you want your baby to experience Belo Baby.
3. Use these hashtags: #BeloBabyLove and #THxBeloBaby.
4. Tag me (@francesasales).
5. Tag Belo Baby (@belobabylove).

That's it! 

I'll pick three (3) Philippines-based winners who will win Belo Baby products. What's my criteria? Basta super ako natuwa dahil cute and creative ang post, panalo na! I'll announce the winners here and on Instagram on June 3, 2016. 

Ang saya-saya! Sali na! I want to see your cute babies and I want them to be a Belo Baby like my babies. Good luck!

To know more about Belo Baby, visit www.belobaby.ph. You can also like their Facebook page (belobabylove), where you can watch the Belo Baby Journey, starring Scarlet Snow, the new baby girl of Dr. Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho. It is such a cute video! You may also follow @belobabylove on Twitter and Instagram.

Belo Baby is available at leading supermarkets, groceries and department stores. You can also buy Belo Baby online from Lazada, Cudsly and Zalora. Just click the shops' names to shop.