Welcome to the most anticipated week of Blogging 101: How to Make Money Blogging! I know y’all are excited – I’m excited! So many of you have asked questions about this very topic and I’m still learning myself. While I may not be the highest paid blogger out there, it’s so cool to be able to look back over the last two years and realize that my passion has turned into a paying job. I realize money can be an iffy thing to talk about, but I wish that someone had really broken this down and given me advice! I’m going to get as real as I can about this so that hopefully, others can learn from my journey and what took me a lot of trial and error to figure out.
Before we launch into this session, make sure you’ve read the first two weeks’ posts first. We strategically planned this series so that each week built on the last, so the last two week’s are crucially important to making this work. Click on links below for posts:
Okay, let’s move on, shall we?
Blogging professionally takes A LOT of hard work and even more faith. When the White Buffalo was nine months old, I quit teaching to blog full-time. I got a lot of questions about how I was making that happen and I have to be honest. I didn’t quit my teaching job because the blog was making me more money. Nooooooooooooooo. I didn’t have some secret that turned a young, less than a year old, blog into a well-paying, full-time job.
When I quit teaching and gave up that full-time income, my blog was making significantly less than $500 most months. About six months before I quit, we worked hard on a budget (we’re Dave Ramsey people, hence this house-selling adventure we’ve been on). We realized that I was bringing in a good bit less every month than I needed to for us to really get by. We started scraping and saving every dime we could in preparation.
I obviously didn’t quit and turn to blogging for the paycheck. I quit and shifted all of my attention to The White Buffalo because I had reached a cross in the road. I’d been teaching for three years and was fitting the blog into every spare left-over minute and the balance was no longer possible. The blog’s demands had gotten so high that there was no way I could keep building it and teach. We also were hoping a baby would soon join our family and we’d always known that I would be home when that happened. Hopefully working at home, but at home. We felt called to that for our family and believed wholeheartedly God would provide additional income one way or another to support that. I get teary looking back to that place of uncertainty and seeing what God has done a short year later.
So I quit and set out for the unknown. We prayed and prayed and prayed some more for the income to follow my passion and hardwork. And it has. Sometimes it came in trickles…other times the floodgates opened a little wider. But nonetheless, it came.
I have to start out with a few key pieces of over-arching advice that has changed everything for me. While I’ve been “full-time blogging” for a year and a half now, I would say that things really changed for me about six months ago. While I believed in what I was doing, I was passionate, and I was putting in the time, one key thing was missing.
I thought I did for a long time before I actually grasped this. You need to have a heart to heart with yourself and evaluate. Do you see this as a job? Do you see yourself as a professional who is going to make a living at this? Do you truly recognize your value? I realized that while I would say yes to all of those things, my actions weren’t following that. I didn’t ask for post fees. I folded when someone didn’t want to pay my post fee. I had a hard time articulating what I could uniquely offer. I wasn’t working at my content the way I should.
I remember my first trip to Haven I asked a bigger blogger about making money and she said that I would know when I was ready. She said that you have to really believe in your value before you can ask others to pay for it. Take yourself and your business seriously.
In trying to make income when I first started doing this full-time, I took everything. I did a lot of freelance stuff (which I’ll get to below) for other people to try and make ends meet and what it ended up doing was it took away from my blog drastically. We re-evaluated and were reminded that the blog is my job and for it to make more money long-term, I had to put my energy and time into it. It was a risk to let my main paychecks go and re-focus on the blog, but it’s paid off within a few months.
When I really fully grasped that I want this to be a job, not a hobby, everything changed. My content got better, my pursuit of brands improved, my blog and audiences grew, and more brand offers started coming my way.
Now let’s breakdown the different ways you can make money blogging.
The most common way bloggers make money is through ads. When I quit teaching, all of my income was coming from here. What you make from ads is mainly based off of your traffic. The more traffic you get, the more money your ads will make. But ad optimization comes into play too. This can be a very complex subject and to be honest, I know very little about it. I researched how to layer or optimize your ads, but never got very far with it. I knew about Adthrive from early in my blogging career and set my sights on working with them. Do you guys know about Adthrive? They have drastically changed my ad income and my work involved. They’re an amazing ad network that 100% manages your ads, making sure they’re optimized at all times so that you make the most money. They do everything and you pay them nothing (they make an income off of your ads). They have a 100,000 monthly pageview requirement, so I focused mainly on content and growth and once I hit that benchmark, I signed up with them. I can’t recommend them enough.
But if you aren’t there pageview-wise yet, you can do this! I know plenty of bloggers who’ve researched and figured out how to layer and optimize their ads. A quick google search will turn up enough resources to fill up a month of your time! I will say that once my ads were optimized, my ad income more than doubled for the same amount of pageviews.
Partnering with brands is another great way to make money off of your blog. You’ve created this amazing, engaged audience that comes, reads, and trusts your judgement. Brands cannot get better marketing! I know that some brands now give the biggest chunk of their marketing budget to blogger marketing because they know it’s the most targeted audience out there for their niche.
This can be a complex issue, so I want to break this one down into a few sub-points.
I remember how exciting it was when brands suddenly found me and started asking me to work with them! I was so flattered and took everything. I mean, everything! Now, I look back and shake my head at all of the time I wasted on some of that for very little benefit to my blog. I did learn a lot through that process, though.
Be extremely picky in which brands you choose to work with. Partnering with a mayonnaise company when you’re a design blogger doesn’t seem to fit. I’m not saying there isn’t a way for that to fit. I’ve seen some very creative posts of this nature out there that worked. But really be critical when evaluating whether or not a brand is right. Would you post about them naturally? Do you love their product so much that you’d post about it 100% for free? If so, it’s probably a good partnership to pursue. You’ve worked so hard to create your blog and your audience. Sponsored posts that aren’t a good fit can tear that down much quicker than it took you to build it. The way I’ve started evaluating this is when I’m approached by a brand, I ask myself if that partnership will bring great content to my blog and readers. It’s a good partnership ONLY when the answer to that question is absolutely yes.
This is something I’ve really been processing over the last six months and it has really changed how I work with brands. Your carefully cultivated brand, no matter how big it is, has extreme value. Your time has extreme value. You should be compensated for both.
I am a firm believer that bloggers should be paid. What you’re paid is determined on the size of your audience, naturally. My friend, Kristin, is sharing her formula for post fees today in this series. It’s so helpful! Many brands want to do product-only posts and there are extreme cases where I accept that. For example, if a brand is giving me a very expensive product that I know is going to bring my blog more readers through promoting that post (hence more ad dollars and more pageviews to pitch to future brands), then there are times when it’s worth it. You have to really evaluate that.
But 99% of the time, I no longer do any sponsored posts without product PLUS my post fee. When I really first started charging a post fee, I felt almost embarrassed or guilty. But then I had to weigh whether or not I believe in my brand and the value that I’m offering. I’m giving brands direct targeted marking to my audience that I’ve worked for two years to build. I’m going to spend the time to style the project, photograph, edit, and write the post. I’m going to promote it on all of my social channels I’m working tirelessly to grow. And they’re going to get sales and brand awareness from it. This is marketing. Would a brand approach a magazine and ask for a free feature of one of their products? No.
One conversation I overheard at Haven really solidified this for me. A certain company was explaining that they don’t pay bloggers, but they do provide product (in this case less than $10/product). A blogger who I very much respect said, “How is your product supposed to feed my family?” If you treat this like a job, you should be paid like a job.
This goes without saying, but when you partner with brands, create the best post you can. The goal with this (atleast for me) is not to work with 200 brands, but to develop some meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships that last. When you’ve proven yourself to a brand time and again, they trust your content and your audience. They’ve seen your value firsthand. Follow-up with brands after your post. Give them all the stats of that post and ask to work together again. Pitch another great idea. Ongoing brand campaigns or even brand ambassador type positions are a great way to make some real income blogging.
I mentioned freelance projects above and they can be a good thing. A lot of brands have blogs that they will pay you to submit posts for. I got really sucked into this with a few different brands last year after I moved into blogging full-time and the income HAD to follow. At the time, they were all good offers and 80% of my income was coming from this. So what’s the problem?? You need to be careful of a few things here.
Writing for others means they own the content. So you’re giving your creative content away. Obviously, you’re being paid for this, but the going rate for owning creative property is significantly higher than what these opportunities usually pay. You also have to consider how complex the job is. Some people are super easy to work with and there’s little to no editing. Others are very time-consuming.
While these issues above were concerns of mine, the biggest issue was really balancing them with my blog. These projects became the focus to meet all of the deadlines and it was hard to even keep my blog afloat, much less to keep making it better. Back at the end of the summer, my husband and I made a hard decision. We decided to let all of these go except for one that’s really simple and a great partnership so that I can focus on my own blog. I kept the one that was the easiest and best partnership, but also that was most well-known and is best on my “resume.” Yes, we “quit” about 75% of my income…another faith thing. We really felt this was the right direction long-term to keep building my brand and we prayed that the money would follow! And I’m so happy to see that it has. As I’ve started focusing more and more attention on my blog and have really embraced my value and present that to brands, a lot more partnerships keep popping up and they’ve almost fully replaced the monthly income I turned down from freelance work.
Now, don’t take all of this to say that freelance = evil. For awhile, it was our only option to make ends meet and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you do have the freedom to put all of your time and energy into your own brand verses building creative content for others, it will have more long-term benefit, I’ve found.
One final thing I’ll touch on is the use of affiliate links. I work with RewardStyle, which is an awesome site that connects brands and bloggers. If someone purchases a product that you share through this, you get a commission. While some bloggers make the majority of their income from this (mainly fashion bloggers from my knowledge), this is not a big percentage of my income. But it can be a nice extra. Many brands offer some type of affiliate program.
I take the same stance with this as sponsored posts. I only use affiliate links on items I love and own or would buy. I share items that I would share regardless of whether or not I could make money from it.
If you’re curious how all of these things work together, here’s a little breakdown.
(another shout-out to my friend, Kristin, for giving me the chart idea – she’s a genius, I tell you).
Here’s what shocks me, you guys. In July, this chart would’ve looked very different. Freelance projects would’ve been at 62% and Partnering with Brands would’ve been at like 5%. I say that to really give hope that focusing on your content, your brand, and just doing what you do WILL pay off over time. Obviously, I don’t think that shift is a result of just what I decided in July, but rather a long-term result of hard work. But focusing on your brand is key.
The question I’m assuming is on a lot of minds is how do you find the brands and the freelance opportunities. This is a tough one. I, too, had this question for awhile when I started blogging full-time. I wish so badly that I could give you a road map to make it easy, but this really is the hard part. The vast majority of partnerships and freelance stuff I’ve done, they reached out to me.
So, that means that developing and killing it with your brand is key! You never know who is watching and you want every brand that lands on your blog to have to e-mail you to partner because your stuff is just that good.
The only effective way I’ve found to pursue brand partnerships is through networking. If you know a blogger friend who’s worked with a certain brand, ask kindly if they can introduce you. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the partnership, that could put them in a bad position which you do not want! But if they feel comfortable, this can be a good way to start a new partnership! But seriously, if you unapologetically do your thing, they’ll find you.
I know y’all are seeing some consistent themes here, but seriously, any success I’ve had has come from really embracing who I am and not apologizing for it. If you can do that, the rest of this will come. It may take time and I definitely had to learn some patience along the way. But while I was waiting for the growth and the income to come, I had to trust. Trust in what I’ve built. Trust in my value. And trust that God had a plan and a purpose for my little space of the web and that His plan, not mine, was best regardless of what that meant.
Trust and let go of the no’s, the failures, and the missed expectations. Just a few weeks ago, I was mourning over the loss of a big opportunity I was really excited about. That afternoon, I got offered my first ongoing brand campaign, which is something I’ve been hoping for for a long time. You never know when the opportunity you need is right around the corner. Just keep doing your thing and the business will build.
Can be found on: http://thewhitebuffalostylingco.com/blogging-101-how-to-make-money-blogging/