How do you monetize your blog?
I get asked this question a lot, and for good reason. Blogging as a business has only been around for a few years, and blogging as a full-time business has been around for even fewer.
When I started blogging full-time almost two years ago, I was just beginning to get the hang of the way things worked in this industry.
For me it was more about the way the timing working out, and the fact that I was leaving grad school to pursue the blog full-time meant that it was more about pouring my ENERGY into it, and having a gut feeling that making a living would come from the huge (huge, huge, huge) amount of effort & time I was pouring in.
So basically what I’m saying is that I didn’t start blogging full-time because I was rolling in the dough. Totally the contrary. I started to see that brands were shifting in the direction of wanting more lucrative, longer term partnerships with bloggers, and I also started to see that there were lots of other ways to monetize my platforms other than simply working with brands. I knew if I gave blogging my full attention, time and effort, then I’d at least have a shot at making it work.
Luckily, I was right. Brands have started paying more and more attention to what bloggers can do for their businesses, and the blogging industry as a whole has grown a LOT in the last couple of years.
So, today I am going to break it down & tell you the top 5 ways I make a living as a blogger.
This post could technically be an entire novel because there is so much to say, but I will at least broach the subject here to get the convo movin’! If you’re interested in more… the good news is, I am working on an EBOOK about all of this — and let’s hope it doesn’t take me a decade to finish so you guys can get your hands on it soon. 🙂 (Email me to get on the pre-sale list for it, btw.)
(ALSO, let me know if you want me to do a “Monthly Income Breakdown” post — I see a lot of other bloggers doing it and it could be super fascinating. I feel weird putting my exact income out there unless you guys want to see and feel that you could benefit from the breakdown… So let me know in the comments below if you do!)
TOP 5 WAYS TO MONETIZE BLOGGING:
1. Working with brands: This is the #1 way I am able to monetize my blog and earn a living by blogging. Technically this has a million sub-categories under it, but I will keep it short and sweet (ish) for today.
As a wellness and lifestyle blogger, there are a wide range of types of brands that I work with. I work with activewear companies, healthy food brands, clothing lines that align with my style (bohemian, beachy, active), healthy restaurants, healthy supplement companies (like probiotics, hydration powders, protein powders), fitness studios and gyms, wellness authors, and more.
When I was strictly a “food blogger,” back before I transitioned my blog to a lot more lifestyle content… I was pretty limited to working with food brands, restaurants, and the occasional cleanse program. I like being in the lifestyle genre because I have more options… but it’s also a bit more difficult to choose because you don’t want to be that person who is doing EVERYTHING. You have to stick to a niche, and know what your audience wants/likes.
I went through a phrase where I worked with a million brands. I said yes to everyone and very much had the mentality “I can make this work! This sounds slightly up my alley…” kind of thing. I am a businesswoman at heart, ya know, so I wanted to be smart & make things fit — especially because the more partnerships I do, the more leisurely + from the heart posts I can do because I will have the security and time to do that.
Now I am phasing out of that “yes man” mentality — way out of it. I now realize that I would rather work with far fewer brands, and stick to a few core values and specifics of what I really want to share. Activewear, healthy food, any wellness brand that aligns with what I am doing, clothes I legitimately love, etc. I could go on and on, but I am much, much pickier now. I would rather make a living working with brands that I actually USE every day — like blenders, almond butters, produce, activewear, etc — because then it’s seamless. And then I feel good about sharing it because I totally would anyway.
I understand that we’ve all gotta start somewhere, and it’s only in the most ideal world where you can only, only say “YES” to brands that you would use whether or not they paid you — because you love them that much. Unless you have a side job, sometimes you do have to make things work. It’s all about finding that delicate balance… I personally would rather have less $ and be ridiculously proud of every partnership that I do. But we also have to make ends meet, and make enough $ to keep pursuing our dreams, building our businesses and expanding. It’s a DANCE — a balance, and I am still working to find that perfect balance.
Personal story time for a sec…
A couple of days ago someone wrote on my Instagram, “So many ads!” And that really stung. The photo was of me at CycleHouse, a place where I had legitimately worked out that morning, organically integrating a skincare product that I do use on a daily basis. I felt like I was being so authentic and so true to myself with that photo, and even had a blast taking it because I climbed on the CycleHouse desk, was head to toe in un-sponsored clothes that I adore, and had a genuine smile on my face because I was having a genuinely great time.
I know I shouldn’t let that Internet judgment get to me, but I am also one to listen to my followers and really value their (your) input. Immediately I scrolled through my feed: “Am I doing too many ads?! What am I doing wrong? OMG are people going to dislike what I’m doing? Am I not being genuine?”
I promptly deleted the comment out of instinct, but I still felt so hurt — I work so hard to organically integrate the brands that I work with, and I am super picky about which brands I say yes to. But I suppose at the end of the day you can’t please everyone, and not everyone will understand my reasons for working with brands. In an IDEAL universe — maybe I would work with no brands at all, but in that case I also wouldn’t be able to blog full-time. I may not even be able to blog at all if that were the case!
So yes, it’s a give and take, and of course when you are a newer blogger then you start small by promoting products for free (but you should still get them for free!), and then as you grow, your rates will grow as well. YOU are worth your time — you are valuable. Never forget that.
And also as you grow, you can be pickier and picker. I am getting there — and I feel good about it! I am at least at the point where I really like every brand that I work with, and I truly believe that my followers and audience can benefit from learning about each of those products!! If that answer is no, then I don’t work with the brand.
Never alienate your audience by posting about too many brands that don’t fit with their interests — you have to respect the people who follow you and give you the reason to start monetizing your platform in the first place!
2. Developing a product: So this one is a little more tricky, I realize, because you have to have a legit idea and also a bit of savings and cash flow in order to develop a product and get it off the ground. But if you do blog then you have a built-in audience, and you probably have a general idea of what they like and what they would want to see from you and/or purchase from you.
For me, I knew my audience was into health and fitness, and I knew they would love some good health puns on t-shirts. That’s where the initial idea for my clothing line TBV Apparel came from. As time went on I paid attention to what people seemed to like and want, so expanded upon it and made the line all about good vibes and balance on top of health & wellness — and I have been lucky to have the raddest business partners to build that with.
(*That reminds me — if developing a product seems daunting or impossible, find someone who’s visions and interests align with yours that you can partner with, collaborate with, hire, or get advice from them. There are always people who can help you bring your vision to life! Don’t try to do it all alone… That will never work — your attention is needed in too many places!)
I also see tons of bloggers creating eBooks, fitness guides, etc. and that is awesome because there is little to no cost involved. When I developed my cleanse programs, I invested only about $300.00 total and ended up seeing massive returns. You don’t HAVE to spend $ to develop something… In fact, sometimes starting small is much better so you can test and see what people like!
3. Affiliate marketing: This is a big one, and perhaps the easiest to get into. I am a part of all sorts of affiliate networks. I do rewardStyle (the best by far in my opinion — and no, it’s not only for fashion bloggers!) where you use an affiliate link for products you use / clothes you wear, and you get a commission whenever someone buys that product or clothing item from one of your links.
I’ve had people to say to me before, “Isn’t that weird, trying to get your followers to buy something?” And for me, the answer is no. People online shop on the Internet all day long — and by using a bloggers’ affiliate link, you’re just supporting a small business when you make a purchase, and you are spending the exact same dollar amount you would be regardless. Just because it comes from an affiliate link doesn’t mean the customer is paying more… Ever!! So it’s a win-win. I love to support fellow bloggers/fellow small businesses in that way!
There are a lot of other affiliate programs, but I don’t spend a lot of my time using them. Find what works for you, and run with it. I have a few ads on my site that I get a few bucks for every several months (lol), and it’s truly not worth my time — maybe if I spent more time trying to drive people to those ads, it would be better, but I have found other ways to monetize that work far better for me!
I have noticed that a lot of other bloggers make BANK from affiliate marketing… So I am actually going to do my research and incorporate some new options onto my site!
4. Hosting events: As I mentioned above, your time is valuable. Never underestimate how much you are worth, and never let anyone shortchange you or make you feel like you AREN’T worth that value.
When I host events, I charge for my time. I think anyone who has an established following (no matter how big or small) has the right to do the same. Of course it depends on the event, and I do a lot of non-profit events, collaborations, and super mutually beneficial events that I don’t charge for.
BUT, for the most part, if I am hosting an event that will bring promotion and awareness to a particular company, event space, restaurant, etc., then I do charge for my time. I used to feel bad doing this (“What if they think I’m a diva?!”) but over time I’ve grown comfortable with the fact that my time is valuable. If I’m not hosting an event, I can be working on my blog, clothing line, exercising, spending time with friends… etc. Time is valuable, peeps!
If someone isn’t comfortable paying you to host an event and you want to do it anyway, then by all means — do it anyway!! This can also be a fun way to interact with people, develop good relationships with brands, meet your readers, represent causes you believe in — it doesn’t always have to be a paid situation.
But, if you are looking to monetize your biz, then yes — this is a legit way to make $! I charge an hourly rate, and sometimes when I am offered far less I know that the event simply won’t be worth my time. Sometimes it’s totally still worth my time… Some things are simply soul-filling and that’s what they are made for. It depends on the sitch!
5. Using your talent/interest to do something similar: This could be a whole variety of things. I wrote a book, because I love to write and the story that I wanted to share simply became way too long and involved to only share on my blog. But not everyone is interested in writing a book!
If you are into wellness, you can also get certified as a health coach (I did that too!) so you can open a coaching business along with your blog, you can get a yoga teaching certification or a personal training certification; you can start a podcast and use that as a form of advertising / cross-promotion; you can lead weekly workshop groups for writing, digital marketing, content creation; etc.
The list is ENDLESS. Use that same passion that drove you toward creating your blog, and develop something to do alongside of the blog that can help earn you a living!
This list literally only grazes the surface… But I hope it helps steer you in some sort of starting direction! I know it can be intimating to try something new, especially when you have no idea where to start — but don’t ever let that deter you from starting. You must start somewhere, and if you are doing what you love, then the rest WILL fall into place in due time.
PS email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to get on pre-sale list for my upcoming eBook all about the business of blogging!!