Arabella Golby on the dreams & drawbacks of living an *online* life.
Arabella and I met years ago. We were insecure teenagers, who got chatting as we waited for our interviews at London College of Fashion. Neither of us knew who we wanted to be, and neither of us got in. But through this chance encounter (and failure!), a wonderful friendship was born. Since then, we've conquered degrees, break ups, career doubts and more. I couldn't be prouder to call her my confidant and close friend. Here is her amazing story of how she honestly became a full-time blogger.
I’ve always known I wanted to do something creative. As a child, I favoured artistic hobbies and would spend hours dressing up my Polly Pockets or knitting clothes (yes, KNITTING) for my collection of My Little Ponies.
But it wasn’t really until my early teens that it occurred to me that I could actually dress MYSELF up. That’s when my penchant for clothes and styling really took off, but I chose to study Publishing at university because it felt like it covered a lot of bases. It was such a formative experience. While I was there, I decided that if there was even a tiny, tiny chance that I could pursue my creative passion and turn that into a viable source of income - even if I blogged part-time and worked part-time, I’d do everything I could to make it happen.
People often wonder how bloggers actually make money, and for me it's been a gradual process. I started out initially on Lookbook.NU, (major throwback alert!) and then launched my own website. Sure, there were free clothes and samples being sent my way, but it wasn’t until I graduated that I started seeing any money hitting my bank account. After building up my following for a few years, I was lucky enough to be represented by an agency, who help partner me with brands that fit my aesthetic.
It was only upon signing with them that I realised I could actually dedicate my working week to blogging. I was nervous about it initially, as I felt the pressure to graduate and hop into a 9-5 job, but when I signed a 2-year contract I told myself it’d be like the gap year I never had.
I now make money in a few different ways - sponsored content on my blog, my Instagram account and affiliate links (if my readers/viewers purchase an item I recommend, I receive a small commission). Each month varies - it’s very much the life of a freelancer in the sense that sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, but the freedom is invaluable.
No one has ever straight out said to me ‘that’s not a job’, but I did and still do notice a few raised eyebrows and puzzled looks - but only from people who aren’t involved in the whole ~*influencer*~ world (oh, I hate that word!). Only recently, I was told ‘oh well, you can afford to have some fun while you’re young’ - the kind of reaction I’d expect if I’d told them I was going to sell all of my possessions and travel the world by dinghy!
I’ve found it’s only really until you mention numbers that people suddenly pay attention or take you seriously, which is a shame. I suppose because it’s such a new way to make money, a lot of people aren’t aware that it’s even an option! Don’t get me wrong, I know blogging isn’t exactly a difficult job compared to most, and I don’t mind the ‘lucky you, getting out of bed whenever you want!’ comments, because it’s true. I know I’m lucky and I know that talking about my new favourite lipstick in a video on the internet isn’t going to change the world, but right now I’m just enjoying being able to pursue my passion whilst people are still even remotely interested in my opinions.
My main fear was the people wouldn’t like me or what I’m doing. Butthere really is room for everyone on the internet, as cringey as it sounds. I know that in these days of nose piercings and cool, grungey style, my appeal is kind of niche. I’m way too boring to ever dye my hair a fun colour or pierce anything other than my ears, but they explained to me that there’ll be people who want to follow/brands who want to work with a 24 year old who dresses like a politician's wife and others who won’t, and that’s ok.
There’s something out there for everyone. Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a lovely little audience who really engage with me, especially on YouTube. I found myself getting comments from people telling me that I make them feel like it’s ok to dress like a Granny, and now they don’t care if people make fun of them for wearing a big ruffled shirt like a musketeer. That makes me so happy! I feel like over time, I’ve found "my people" who completely understand me and it’s growing slowly but surely every day.
It can, however, be a little lonely. I think because social media has the word ‘social’ in it, and a lot of it involves replying to tweets and comments, people think that full-time bloggers are always being sociable. Funnily enough, it’s not that sociable at all. A lot of my time, when I’m not out in the actual real world shooting outfits, is spent in my bedroom filming videos or sitting at my desk editing. It can be quite isolating, but in the occasional moments I wish I had a ‘normal’ job in London like everyone else, I remind myself that I’m really, very lucky and that it probably won’t last forever.
We don’t have any examples of 60 year old bloggers who’ve been going for 40 years - will our audiences change and grow with us or will they leave?
We just don’t know. That’s why I don’t take any of it for granted, and enjoy every day as it comes with the full knowledge that by this time next year I might be being told off for arriving late for work and having to write ‘Arabella’ on a banana in the staff room fridge so it doesn’t get eaten.
My plans for the future aren’t too organised; I’m just continuing to write, blog and make videos, pretty much for as long as people are interested in me or as long as I stay interested in doing it.
The advice I’d give to someone who’s considering starting a blog or YouTube is DO IT. Honestly, do it! What’s the worst thing that could happen?
My main fear was that I’d encounter ‘haterz’ (LOL) but the good has outweighed the bad immeasurably. Doing this has made me so happy. I’d wanted to start YouTube YEARS before I actually did it. I wish I could just go back in time and tell myself that getting a dislike on a video or only 300 views on a blog post won’t make me cry. I’m genuinely doing it because it’s what I love, not for attention or to engage in a competition based on numbers.
I think pursuing your true passion, whether it’s as a career or as a hobby, really does make you a happier person. I know I am, and I would encourage anyone to do the same!