Saturday, 28 January 2017

Why You Might Need to Become Self Employed if You're a Book Blogger

*puts on adulting hat*

As I've discussed before, the majority of book bloggers are hobbyists, and most frown upon earning from your blog; I'm not sure why, because other niches are the opposite, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. Today I'm going to discuss how to make money from your book blog, should you be one of the few who want to, and what you need to do once you've earned your very first penny.

First up: how to make money. Dolla. Pounds. Squids. Notes, hopefully.

  • Ad space

Do you remember when that guy created The Million Dollar Homepage in 2005? He made a website, sold individual pixels for a dollar each, and... well, the name of the website explains it all; he made a million dollars. What a genius. Now there's a success that will never be re-created. So no, I'm not suggesting you make a new version of the Million Dollar Homepage... but if you have a blog, you too have pixels to offer. See the ad space in my sidebar? I offer a 250x250 space and authors/publishers/bloggers/whoever else (who I've vetted first, obvs) can 'rent' it for a month, six months, or a year. It's not an amazing way to make £££, but as my previous employer likes to say: every little helps...

  • Google AdSense

One of the ads in my sidebar is actually run by Google AdSense. I wouldn't reaaaally recommend this... I get a very comfy amount of visitors per day, and I still only get pennies per month. It's almost not worth it, but I look forward to the day when I check my account and finally get a little sum of surprise cash. I'm basically treating my future self. How nice. (These also run on my YouTube videos... and pretty much everyone else's.)

  • Maximise your social media accounts

Interestingly, my most frequent and reliable 'earner' (bleugh) has been Instagram (you can follow me here, if you like - I think my photos are gradually improving??) Not my blog, not YouTube, but Instagram. This is mainly thanks to apps which connect you to brands who are looking for sponsored content. A lot of them are rubbish, but some can be brilliant and have been a true game-changer for me. That said... you don't have to use apps to get #spon opportunities for your social accounts - and that leads me onto my next point...

  • Stand your ground and be brave

If you're serious about earning online, whether you're only after a bit of extra cash or you want it to become a fully grown business, you have to become more assertive. If you're a blogger, chances are your inbox is full of companies wanting you to do this, this and this, for... nothing in return. Well - that's what the email might sound like, anyway; they may well have a budget, but it's common for them not to mention it in case they can get unsuspecting bloggers to do the work for free. Good business idea, I guess, but dodgy af. There is nothing wrong with replying to these people and simply asking 'do you have a budget for this campaign?' or, when you're a little braver, firing off your rates and seeing if they're happy to actually, y'know, pay you for your work. You may be pleasantly surprised (but be aware that most of the time they'll say no. Don't worry, though; more and more companies are taking blogging seriously. It just takes time.) So there's a way you can make cash from your blog and social media accounts without the need for fancy apps. (A plus here is that, on apps, you're usually given a price and that's what you have to charge whether you like it or not. This way, you can set your own prices - but within reason and according to common sense, of course.)

Is it just me or do I look a lot younger here? IT WAS FOUR MONTHS AGO. Brb, having temporary mid-life crisis.

What I'm about to talk about is possibly the most important part of this blog post, because it includes taxes, self-employment, and all that fun stuff. (No joke, I genuinely find tax returns etc to be fun. My parents hate it, but I've been happily helping them with it for the last few years. I think I have issues?)

I'm talking about this because I've never seen it mentioned in the book blogosphere, and yet I know a few of us are earning something because I've seen way more #ads than usual lately. And I don't think any of us wants to get in trouble!

So... within the first three months of earning ANYTHING from your blog - even if it is literal pennies - you need to register as self-employed with HMRC. It takes minutes to do, and will mean that if they discover your blog - and, furthermore, ads on your blog - you won't get fined. There's no minimum age at which you become liable to pay income tax (the thing about under-18s not having to pay tax is a myth). What's important is the amount of your taxable income; if this is below a certain level, you don't have to pay tax (but you still need to go self-employed). So if you're, like, a thirteen-year-old millionaire blogging superstar, 1) help me 2) you have to pay income tax. Sorry.

So, recap: even if it's literal pennies, within the first three months of earning ANYTHING from your blog you need to register as self-employed, no matter how old you are.

What counts as income?

  • Money you have received from a company in return for creating content for them.
  • Money you have received for ad space.
  • Vouchers you have received in return for creating content for a company.
  • A lot of bloggers also receive 'tips' - so, they might share around their PayPal address, or have Patreons (*cough* here's mine), and anyone who wants to can contribute financially to the upkeep of the blog. This is taxable and has to be classed as income.
  • If you're a book blogger, you might be wondering if you have to declare the books you receive. It's a bit of a grey area, but from what I understand, they're tools of the trade; without them, you wouldn't be able to write about them, and therefore they don't have to be classed as income unless you've promised coverage. Loophole: just don't promise coverage. Like my disclaimer says, all books I receive are for consideration only. It makes things a lot easier for your day-to-day reading, your stress-levels, and your taxes... 

What counts as expenses?

  • WiFi.
  • A percentage of heating, water, electricity, all the boring but essential stuff.
  • Your laptop/phone/camera/mic/lighting/SD cards/batteries.
  • Repairs to these gadgets.
  • Travel costs for blog-related events.
  • Clothes bought specifically for blog-related events e.g. events you're hosting, meetings, premieres, conventions.
  • Postage for giveaway prizes and other blog-related post you may be sending out.
  • Industry magazines e.g. Blogosphere magazine.
  • Phone bills (but only the percentage used on blog-related communications as opposed to personal.)
  • Hosting, domain, web design, etc.
  • STATIONERY, my one true love.
  • Food bought at blog-related events/whilst travelling for blog-related events. Accommodation, too.

Neither of these lists are exhaustive - this is just what I came up with off the top of my head (and then researched, obvs. You're welcome.)

Tip: Get yourself a ledger (in other words, a fancy mathematical accounting notebook of crippling financial insecurity and unicorn blood, sweat and tears) and record all of your blogging income and expenses. Then, when you register to become self-employed (within three months of earning anything, remember) you'll have everything you need to know right in front of you.

When you've done that, congratulations - your blog is officially your business. That's pretty snazzy. I'm an actual businesswoman, now. Can I go and ponce around Liverpool Street in a suit now, or...? As Will from The Inbetweeners wisely and famously said... 'briefcase banter'.

To recap:


Thus concludes your lesson. I should probably do a little disclaimer here: this post was written solely with UK laws in mind because, hello, British. Also, I'm not an accountant, so whilst I heavily researched this post, had it proofread by several people, and I'm pretty sure everything is correct... it might not be. There are some great accountants who also happen to be bloggers, which means they definitely know what they're talking about. I recommend Raj Dhokia who answered a few questions for me when I registered to become self-employed.

Do you earn from your blog/social media? Would you like to? Are you self-employed, or are you going to register soon? Let me know!


  1. I would definitely advise anyone against putting all their eggs into ads. Revenue is falling even for the big news outlets and there is a growing movement against tracking in the tech world. And ads, in their current form, don't pay without tracking. So yes, use them for an extra income but it's hardly reliable.

    I'm pretty sure there's some new tax legislation coming in that allows you to earn up to 1k online without having to worry about being a business. It was a George Osborne thing so maybe it'll get scrapped but the fact is, the tax man doesn't care about those pennies and they want to make it legal to ignore it. Obviously if you are setting up s business the 3 month rule will still apply but for a lot of people doing things as s hobby, it would be useful.

    Anyway great post, I don't think many people think about it.

    1. Absolutely. Ads through programmes like Google AdSense don't do much because it's literally pennies (tbh I'm only sticking with it because I've got money in the account that isn't even close to the withdrawal threshold but is enough for me to want it, haha.) Renting out your ad space to actual people/companies personally is much better, though as you say it's not very beneficial to just do that and nothing else.

      Yes, I think I've heard of the new legislation? Not 100% sure. But the people affected can always stop being self-employed when/if that comes in :)

      Thanks for reading/commenting! Yes, it's spoken about all the time in other niches, but I've never seen it mentioned in book blogging. Not once. And yet sponsored stuff is on the rise. Thought I should probably make people aware!

  2. How old do you have to be?

    1. Some ad programmes like Google Adsense have an age restriction, but in general you can make money from your blog at any age, and you can also be liable for income tax at any age. Regardless of how old you are, if you're earning from your blog/social media, you need to go self employed. Hope that helps!