Like many bloggers, I dream of using my little corner of the Internet as a platform to explore sponsorships and other paid opportunities – particularly within the realm of freelance writing. But also like many bloggers, I’m unsure of how or where to begin.
Lifting the Veil on Making Money in Blogging is a collaborative effort among several bloggers that aims to address questions surrounding the monetizing issue in an attempt to shed some light on what is often treated as a very taboo aspect of blogging; it seems everyone wonders how to do it, yet no one really talks about it. Until now.
Despite What She Said’s growth since its launch over 18 months ago, I’m still unclear as to the direction in which I’d like to take it. I feel overwhelmed by the numerous ways in which one can potentially use their blog to earn money, and lack the time necessary to truly research my options. I also worry that doing so will leave me with less time and energy to focus on this space – my own blog baby that I’ve worked so hard to nurture. And finally, the prospect of communicating with editors and brands leaves me feeling thoroughly intimidated, as business savvy I am not.
All of which is why Gigi from Kludgy Mom and Natalie from Mommy of a Monster asked me to write about this topic from the perspective of a “newbie” in the monetizing world. So, I’m happy to lay my questions, concerns, and lessons learned on the line, if only as a way to consolidate my general naivete into one place.
And if along the way I happen upon some kindred spirits, then perhaps we can take comfort in each others’ inexperience as we learn from those who’ve gone before us and ask ourselves that most daunting of questions: Where do we go from here?
Unfortunately, I have no idea – as evidenced by the nearly year-old personal strategy questionnaire from Eli Rose Social Media still sitting untouched in my inbox. But in deciding which monetizing avenues to pursue and which ones to ignore, I’ve found that a good starting point is to simply go with my gut.
For instance, I was recently contacted by a PR rep for an online florist seeking to promote his client’s Valentine’s Day services. His pitch? Write a post in which I linked to his client via a predetermined list of keywords. For this, he was willing to pay me $150.
As is the case when considering any sponsored opportunity, my thought process was as follows:
Is this a good fit for my blog?
Very few bloggers, I feel, can write a sponsored that doesn’t seem… well, sponsored. Ilana at Mommy Shorts is one of the few who can. But then, she also works in advertising and is therefore adept at weaving product endorsements into the fabric of conversational writing. Plus, she started her blog with brand work as her goal, and thus included sponsored content from the beginning so her readers would be used to seeing it.
“I think a lot of bloggers struggle with going from a purely personal blog to one with sponsored content because it turns off their readers, who were not expecting it,” she once told me.
I think she’s right. And so I long ago made a personal vow to never accept a sponsored opportunity unless I felt I could seamlessly blend it with the tone and style of the writing my readers have come to know.
In this case, I felt I could. Which brought me to my next question:
Is it worth my time?
Whether monetary or product-based, the value of a paid blogging gig is a personal preference and will vary greatly based on the needs and priorities of each individual. In this case, I felt the opportunity was worth my time in light of its generous compensation.
But why was I being offered $150 for a post in which I wasn’t even required to mention the client’s name? It seemed too good to be true.
Which brought me to my final thought:
Is it legitimate?
At this, I enlisted the guidance of Gigi herself, who explained that the PR rep’s primary goal was to boost his client’s search engine optimization (SEO), hence the links on specific keywords. While it was a legitimate offer, she warned me that including these types of “follow links” in a post could negatively affect my Google page rank, as Google does not like sponsored content. You can read more about Google’s penalization for follow links in Kludgy Mom’s post about paid blogging opportunities you should avoid.
In this case, however, $150 trumped my Google page rank. So, I planned to accept the offer.
But in reviewing the final logistics surrounding the post, the PR rep suddenly asked me not to disclose the fact that I was being compensated for it. This caused me to hit the brakes.
FTC guidelines specifically state that any compensation received for writing a post must be clearly disclosed within that post. While I was willing to compromise my page rank for $150, I was unwilling to compromise my integrity and my readers’ trust by ignoring that which helps consumers make informed decisions and maintains a high level of honesty and trust within the blogging community.
After saying as much to the PR rep, I never heard from him again.
More Musings on Monetizing
Needless to say, that particular opportunity didn’t pan out. And from it, I determined that I would much rather work with reputable PR folks who are genuinely interested in establishing true business-to-blogger relationships, as opposed to simply increasing their SEO. It may not bring in the quick and easy cash, but it will certainly help me maintain (and even grow) my reputation as a responsible blogger.
Of course, the thought of cultivating these types of relationships brings up a whole new crop of questions:
- How do I determine which brands to approach? And then go about approaching them?
- What constitutes an “outside the box” brand pitch?
- How does one land a blog conference sponsor and/or become a brand ambassador?
- Do I want to solicit advertisers for my blog? If so, what is an acceptable rate to charge for a blog of my size?
- What information do I need to include in a media kit?
- Will I ever get picked for a BlogHer or Clever Girls review?
And when I begin to ponder the world of freelance writing, I’m greeted with still more questions:
- What is the best way to break into this side of the business?
- How do I determine which editors to query?
- Which topics make for innovative story ideas?
- What is a fair rate to charge for freelance work?
Indeed, to a neophyte like myself, it seems that monetizing a blog is nothing short of operating a small business.
But I already have a full-time job, along with a husband and a daughter with whom I like to engage in the occasional activity or conversation. All of which raises one final question:
Has anyone, by chance, discovered a way to add approximately seven more hours to the average day?
What are your questions and concerns as you consider monetizing your blog?
Be sure to check out the other bloggers participating in Lifting the Veil On Making Money In Blogging, which offers answers to many of the above questions:
- Katie (Sluiter Nation): Not My Business, Baby (on why NOT to monetize your blog)
- Devan (Accustomed Chaos): Monetizing Your Blog: Why’s & How’s of Making Money (on why to monetize and how to do it)
- Tina (Life Without Pink): Tips For Building Successful Relationships With Brands and Scoring Paying Opportunities (pitching brands, sponsored events, and ambassadorships)
- Gigi (Kludgy Mom): So You Want To Be A Freelancer? What You Need To Know (on freelance work)
- Natalie (Mommy of a Monster): So You Wanna Make Money Blogging? How To Get Sponsored Posts (on sponsored posts)
- Alex (Late Enough): Writers Teach, Why Can’t Bloggers? (on teaching blogging and social media)
- Debi (The TRUTH about Motherhood); What to Charge for a Sponsored Post and Why You Need a Media Kit (on how to determine rates for sponsored posts, why you need a media kit, and how to write one)