It still makes my head spin that you can earn money from blogging. I mean, it makes perfect sense – it’s work, and under capitalism, we exchange work for money! – but it’s still so exciting to me that I constructed this little corner of the internet myself, according to my own rules and interests and quirks and experiences, and people will now pay me to write the kind of stuff I like writing anyway. Oh, joy!
Stuff to keep in mind
First off: you deserve to be paid for your work, provided that your work is good and provides value to someone. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
That said, that doesn’t mean you’re going to earn money instantly from your brand-new blog, even if you’re the best writer in the world. Blogging is an oversaturated game and tons of people are trying to make a buck from it; you will have an advantage over the majority of those people if you stick it out and maintain your blog past that initial honeymoon phase when it feels easy, but it will still probably take a while for you to make any significant money from your blog. If that disheartens you, quit now and go do something else – because you’ll just get frustrated and end up quitting anyway!
Probably the first monetization avenue you should look into when you start your blog is affiliate marketing. You can start doing it right away, from your very first post, if you want. It doesn’t rely on having a large readership or a ton of SEO cachet.
Affiliate marketing is where you sign up for an affiliate account at a company (say, Lelo or PinkCherry) and then you use special links that are unique to you, so that if someone buys a product through your links, you’ll earn a small percentage of that sale (usually somewhere between 10% and 30%).
Almost all the money my blog brought in during its first year was via affiliate links. I used them not only on my blog but also on message boards, subreddits, etc. where I was offering sex toy recommendations. (Check the community rules before doing this; some communities have strict anti-affiliate regulations in place and consider these links to be spammy.)
Are affiliates all liars?
When I explain how I make money to my non-blogger friends, they’ll often ask some variation of, “But what if you don’t like a toy you’re reviewing? Don’t you have an incentive to review it positively if you earn commissions for each sale?”
It depends on your ethics, of course. But for me, my integrity and my readers’ trust is more important to me than making quick cash. If I don’t like a toy, I say that. And then I recommend a similar one I like better. That way I still might earn commissions, and my review also ends up being more helpful to my readers anyway because it gives them purchasing options.
If you’re doing any kind of affiliate marketing or sponsored content on your blog, you should also have a disclosure notice on your site somewhere. It’s only fair to your readers, and it’s also what you’re technically required to do by the Federal Trade Commission.
I don’t actively pursue advertisers, and I never really have. When my blog started to get somewhat popular, advertisers began emailing me. You’re welcome to take a more active approach than I did, by sending out emails to companies you think might want to advertise on your blog, but you should be aware that you need to have fairly decent traffic for ads to be a worthwhile investment for any company.
Start keeping a stat counter on your blog ASAP so you’ll have traffic numbers to show potential advertisers.
Also decide what kinds of ads you want to offer. Sidebar ads are easy because most blog layouts have a sidebar and those ads don’t usually distract from your blog content too much. If you’re offering text ads, how long will you allow the text to be, and where will those ads be placed in the sidebar? If you’re offering banner ads, what size(s) of banners will be acceptable to you, where will you put them, and will different sizes and placements have different costs? Work this all out in advance and write up a quick little template containing all this information so you don’t waste time typing it out every time an advertiser emails you.
As your blog grows, you’ll need a way to remember who bought what type of advertising, how long each ad needs to run, etc. I know bloggers who use Google Calendar, Excel spreadsheets, and various other methods. Personally I just write the removal dates in my calendar app and I hold onto all my email exchanges with advertisers incase I need to check/verify anything later on.
On the topic of what to charge: I still find this confusing, and I quite often consult with fellow bloggers (privately) about what they charge, to help me decide. I recommend you do this as well, taking care to ask people whose blogs are of a similar size to yours or have been in the past. But overall, I think you should charge a bit more than the minimum you’d feel comfortable charging, whatever that may be. If an advertiser is willing to pay, they’re generally willing to pay fairly.
Some bloggers write posts on their blogs or on social media that are “sponsored,” meaning someone has paid them to write those posts, usually so that the blogger will include links to the company in the post.
You don’t have to do sponsored content. Some bloggers feel it would compromise their blog’s integrity to do this kind of work, and that’s fine. Personally, I occasionally do sponsored posts, with the caveats that:
• I write them myself (I never publish content provided to me by a company)
• I write them in the typical style and voice of my blog (no promotional bullshit)
• I write what I honestly think (I won’t give a positive review to a product I hated or haven’t even tried)
• I only write sponsored content for companies whose ethics I’m okay with (nothing homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc., and no body-unsafe toys)
• I always disclose if a post is sponsored, as per FCC guidelines (some companies try to argue with me about this, which has led to many a deal being canceled, but it’s a rule I don’t budge on)
However you choose to do sponsored content (if you do), I recommend being totally open with your readers about your process and your real feelings on the subject. You’ll lose their trust very quickly if you do sponsored posts that feel like sales pitches for companies you don’t even actually support. Choose these projects carefully and be entirely forthcoming with both your advertisers and your readers about your sponsorship ethics!
What are your thoughts on blog monetization? Are there methods you love? Methods that make your skin crawl? How do you decide what to charge? Do you think “blogger” has become a viable and profitable career path?