As you might have learned, I like talking about things that most people don’t like advertising. Bad days, haters, etc. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for a post about another topic that seems to be left out of the blogging space yet it’s the topic fueling blogging to begin with. How to make money blogging and, more specifically, how I do it.
It’s a frequently asked about, rarely talked about topic that deserves attention and transparency. If you’re a future blogger, current blogger, thinking about blogging or just interested in learning about what is fueling your favorite influencer accounts (or just nosy) keep reading!
So there are a few ways to make money blogging. The ones that are most obvious to the consumer/follower are paid posts or sponsored posts. These are the images you see on Instagram that have #ad or #sponsored. Personally, as a consumer, I hate these. I feel like some blogger’s feeds have turned into a constant commercial and I’m not into it. I follow people for their opinions and true style. Not a product they were paid to talk about and may or may not genuinely use and believe in.
Because of this, I am sure to only take on sponsorships from brands I know, trust, and would genuinely recommend to a friend or follower. Basically, the only brands I promote are Glossier and Outdoor Voices. This is because I am a super fan of these brands. I would promote them paid or not.
Since I am a true fan of the products, I have strong relationships with the brands and was asked to be part of their ambassador programs. If you’re thinking about blogging or are currently doing it, I would highly suggest creating strong brand relationships with a small handful of companies over getting small deals with many different brands. I’ll cover why this is better later in the post!
Self-Serve Commissionable Links
This sounds more confusing than it is. There are a few different tools like RewardStyle and ShopStyle that allow you to create your own shoppable links. There are many terms for this: UTM, trackable links, commissionable links, etc. It all means the same thing. It’s a link that is tracked back to the influencer so they can get commission for the sale they make for promoting a product.
The RewardStyle platform, for example, has a tool that creates a unique trackable link that allow a sale to be traced back to the influencer. To understand why this is necessary it helps to go to the beginning of blogging. Basically what started happening was bloggers were starting to get a lot of recognition from big brands because they were the cause of an increase in sales for many different companies. Amber Venz Box, the creator of RewardStyle saw an opportunity.
She realized that her blog was making a company money but not making her money, which doesn’t seem fair. She and her husband found a way to create a tech platform that generates shoppable links to a particular product. They then created LIKEtoKNOW.it which allows you to shop the posts from Instagram (first by liking the photo, but now it is only by screenshots).
This is how I prefer to do blogging. Mainly because the consumer doesn’t care if 20% of their purchase is going to a blogger, they are still paying the same amount. I always buy off of links from influencers because I would rather support their business and keep them up and running (especially my favorite full-time bloggers) rather than giving Target or Nordstrom 100% of the sale. I’m going to buy it anyway, and it doesn’t make a difference to me where 20% of my sale is going.
There are a few different platforms. The main two are RewardStyle and ShopStyle. I would start out with ShopStyle if you’re a first-time blogger. RewardStyle requires an application but you get more if you convert (i.e. if the viewer makes a purchase). If you have great click through rate but not great conversion, I’d stick with ShopStyle for a little!
Tips for working with brands and how I create sponsored content
Earlier, I mentioned that working with a small handful of brands is better than a new brand a week. I’ll walk through reasons why I believe that is and add some other tips with full transparency on how I work with brands. Before I do, I feel like I should mention this is all my personal opinion – obviously! This is not how you have to do things if you have a blog or are thinking about starting one.
Different bloggers have different strategies whether they share them or not. It’s also totally fine for bloggers to not talk about this. I just, personally and morally, feel a social obligation to share knowledge on this particular topic. I am also in a bit of a different situation than other bloggers. I have a full-time job which makes my blog a side-hustle.
Because of that, I get some creative freedom and don’t feel financially obligated to take every deal that comes my way. A lot of full-time bloggers are really great about staying true to their brand and only taking deals that properly represent their genuine interests. But let’s be real. I know not all of them use Pantene. I use Function of Beauty and I’ll promote that all day long whether they pay me or not. (They don’t by the way… lol). Moral of the story, only promote something you genuinely use and enjoy. You’ll keep the trust of your followers and likely grow conversion. It’s better for everyone!
Working with a small group of brands allows you to be picky. I really love working with companies whose product I have purchased on my own. It just comes from a more genuine place. If I get their product for free in trade for promoting is irrelevant to me since I would already buy the product on my own accord. However, there are some cool products that I simply haven’t heard of until the brand reaches out to me. If I’m interested in the product as a consumer, meaning I would try it if I had heard of it on my own, I’ll go forward with the partnership.
Here’s the problem with this: what if I like the concept of the product but when I see it in person it’s not what I envisioned. Similar to online shopping there’s always a possibility you won’t like something in person. As a consumer this is an easy fix, you just return it. Because of this possibility it’s important to mention to the brand that you’ll reserve the right to back out of the partnership within a few weeks of receiving the product if it is not what you were expecting.
This recently happened to me with a brand I generally like but had never purchased from. When I received the product, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I let the influencer manager on the brand’s side know that I didn’t feel comfortable promoting a product I didn’t genuinely enjoy.
They’re always very understanding of this especially if I’ve made it clear from the beginning that I’ll only participate if I can use the product, try it on, hold it in my hands – whatever it is that helps me decide if I would use this without a campaign being attached to it. It’s super important to keep money out of it. I’ll admit. It’s hard to turn down a partnership with a product I don’t like when there’s a $500 payout attached to one Instagram post… But in the end it’s dirty money if I don’t actually like the product.
How to start working with a new brand
In the spirit of full transparency, and hopefully to provide some insight to those of you wanting to start a blog or just need help understanding how to monetize your blog, I’ll share a bit of my strategy when I am trying to get a new brand sponsorship. I start by creating content for them organically. I’ll use an item of theirs that I already own and mention it in a post. For some companies, like Glossier and Outdoor Voices, they notice my content without me having to reach out.
But for other companies it can take a little poking. After you create some posts featuring a brand, I’ll track the engagement on that post and reach out to them with a bit of a proposal. Basically saying, hey this was the engagement I received organically, let’s do a campaign together that tracks to your company’s overarching marketing goals so I can help microphone your desired message.
Okay I’m done!! This was weird to talk about! How do y’all feel? Drop me a line on IG to ask any questions or share your thoughts!
(Also shout out to me for not using hardly any parenthesis in this article. I am legit so professional.)
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