Poor Little It Girl has been around over six years now. To be honest, I forgot all about my blog anniversary (it was July 17th or something like that…I’m not really into celebrating “blog birthdays”) and I really only thought about it recently when someone asked me in an interview how long I had been a blogger. I started Poor Little It Girl in the summer of 2010 just because I wanted something to do that was my own, and then after a bad breakup it really became my passion project. Fast-forward through a gazillion crappy jobs and financial struggle, Poor Little It Girl became a lifeline to helping me pay bills and make it through tough times as well as a place to share great times! That may sound a little dramatic, and that’s ok. For me, this site is more than a blog. It’s my career. It’s me owning my own business. Every day this site proves to me “I can” even on days when I think (or others think) I can’t.
In the time that I’ve been a blogger, I’ve been asked every question under the sun about my site. But the one that comes up more than any other is “How do you make money from your blog?” Sure, strangers don’t realize that that question is mildly inappropriate. But it’s ok. I know it’s coming from a place of genuine curiosity since being a full-time blogger is still a bit confusing to
some most people who have a “normal” 9 to 5 job. So I decided that maybe it was finally time to share some ways bloggers make money off of their sites. Most of these I do, some I don’t – but they’re all really great ways to bring in income if you’re serious about starting your own site or taking your own blog to the next level. I know talking about money can be really icky, but I hope this post bring up a lot of great points and answers a lot of questions both bloggers and non-bloggers have about the industry. So without further ado, here we go!
The use of affiliate links is one my go-to ways to earn income on my site. There are a a million platforms you can use to do this, but to be honest I’m not familiar with a lot of them. The top monetization tools I use are rewardStyle and ShopStyle Collective. The basic difference in each platform is that for rewardStyle you earn money based on commission, where for ShopStyle Collective you’re paid per click.
For almost all of my blog career I have been part of rewardStyle. It’s an invitation-only program which I’ve been using for 5 or so years now and typically enjoy. You earn income via a commission-based program. So as readers on your site click on your product links, and then end up buying something from that site (it doesn’t have to be the original product you linked to), the blogger earns a commission from that. For example, the reason why every blogger under the sun is shoving the Nordstrom Sale down your throat during its 3 week run is because bloggers want you to click on their links and buy a lot of stuff, so they in turn make a lot of money. rewardStyle is also the affiliate program responsible for LIKEtoKNOW.it on Instagram which follows the same principles, except bloggers generate a specific URL with links to their product in the Instagram photo that you can go to or get via email.
As for ShopStyle Collective, this is where bloggers are paid per click. SSC has been around forever, but has just in the past year starting gaining momentum with blogger usage. I’m currently testing out ShopStyle Collective on my site more to see if it generates more income (so getting paid per click rather than hoping people buy stuff via the commission-based rS program) and I have to say, so far so good! (I still use rewardStyle for LIKEtoKNOW.it though.) There’s no right or wrong answer as to what program is better. It’s totally dependent on the blog, the focus for their brand, and what works for them. Both companies are amazing and offer us small businesses the opportunity to earn income for our work (i.e getting shoppers to retailers sites to buy). Do your research, try both if you can and see what you like!
BLOG SIDEBAR ADVERTISEMENTS
Back in the day (for me, that means 2010-ish), I used to LOVE putting brand banners on the sidebar on my site. A brand would pay to have their banner up for a month or so, and yeah…that’s about it. Honestly, I can’t think of any blog I’ve seen with a banner sidebar ad directly from a brand nowadays. Typically, all sidebar advertisements are from a third party company – GLAM/MODE is a popular platform (I’m not part of it so I don’t really have any tips on them) or from an online advertisement company. I use sovrn and you can see their ads on my sidebar and footer. It doesn’t generate a ton of income to be honest, but you get paid by pageviews and how many people come to your site, so it’s a nice little way to earn some extra income with minimal work.
SPONSORED BLOG AND/OR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
If you’re looking to partner with brands directly, sponsored blog or social media posts are a great collaboration opportunities. Now there are two ways sponsored posts can come to fruition: either the blogger reaches out to the brand, or the brand reaches out to the blogger. If the brand reaches out to you about the campaign (either directly from their Marketing Department or via a third party digital company), the hard part is done! The brand has found your site, loves your content, and wants to work with you in some capacity. Once the details of the sponsorship are hashed out in regards to asks, compensation (Jessica did a great post on what you should be charging for sponsored posts! Use it as a guide and jumping off tool for your own site if you’re a blogger!), and deadlines – you’re set to go produce awesome content!
Now the other, slightly harder, way to work on sponsored posts is to reach out to a brand yourself. Honestly, this is something I struggle with. It’s hard to reach out to a brand and say “Hey! Want to pay me to promote you brand?!” without coming off a little snooty and/or desperate. The method I have found that works for me is to reach out to brands I already love, and share with them content I’ve produced promoting their product on my own, and discuss ways to work together in the future on more in-depth content. For example, say you love Banana Republic. You’ve shopped their for years, you wear their clothes on your blog all the time. Basically, you’re a loyal BR fan through and through. Find a PR contact for Banana Republic and send them an email introducing yourself! Show them a few posts you’ve done highlighting their brand (preferably outfit posts or ones with original, quality photography, I wouldn’t send just a shopping collage post) and ask if they participate in blogger collaborations and if they’d be open to working together. Include your reach on your site and social platforms and a unique idea you have of a way to work together. By doing it this way, your outreach to Banana Republic feels more authentic, organic, and they’re more likely to take notice. Now this method doesn’t always work, but it’s how I’ve cultivated a lot of my brand relationships and contacts I have now – just by being a true fan and sharing my work with them. Not sure how to find a brand contact? Just Google a brands press release, check their site, ask on Twitter, etc. There’s so many ways to find brand contacts rather than asking another blogger (heads up, that’s rude) you just have to be willing to put in a little effort.
This method also works for Social Media sponsored posts, except you’re producing content for them on your social media channels (typically Instagram). You’ll see a lot of bloggers who have produced sponsored social media posts for brands because they’ll have (or they should if they follow FTC regulations) #ad or #sponsored in their caption. And with sponsored posts on your blog, you should also have some sort of disclaimer that states your post was sponsored by the brand. This is usually written at the very top or very bottom of posts. It’s a way to be transparent with readers that you were paid to produce that content.
When I first started blogging, I was so excited when a store asked me to host an event for them. It was the first time I felt like Poor Little It Girl had “made it” in the blog world. Even though this was a little dinky local shop (I didn’t even shop there but whatever) I was so pumped I told all my friends to come by and say hello. Well, the city got a monsoon thunderstorm that night and no one, I mean no one showed up. I was so embarrassed and cried once I got in the car to go home. Since then, I’ve only hosted a handful of events in my six years of blogging, mainly because I was, and still am, traumatized by that first event. However, for those who DO love to meet and interact with shoppers/readers, event hosting is a great way to make money with your brand! Again, I am not an expert on this category, but I know many bloggers have had lots of success and event hosting on the regular. Usually you’ll be paid to host the event for a couple hours, share on social media and you may or may not have to do a blog post about it. (Again, refer to Jessica’s post on pricing for hosting events, too!) Maybe the key for this is to host with a group of bloggers or something so all the pressure isn’t on just you. I don’t know, I’ll try hosting again and let y’all know how it goes…but I just don’t think it’s my thing.
As a blogger that has been around for a while, and as the co-founder of The Blog Societies, I get asked all the time about tips for starting a blog, tricks for making money (hence why I am writing this post), and girls just wanting to know more about breaking into the industry. It’s actually part of the reason I started my “How To Be A Better Blogger” series – because I want to be able to share my experience and give advice to other bloggers.
I am flattered that entrepreneurs, like myself, are so eager and excited to learn and I absolutely love hearing from everyone, but it is daunting to keep up with at times. A simple email asking “Do you have any tips on how to grow my blog?” is a loaded question that can take hours to discuss and type out. Numerous requests for coffee from local bloggers asking to pick your brain can take up a lot of time when I’m having a busy month of work and travel. I used to meet up with bloggers all the time for coffee dates and to give out advice, but now that I’m older, I find that I have to say no more often then not. I value my quiet, non-work time more now than I ever have, and sometimes you just have to say no. Time is precious and when I’m not working on my own businesses, I’m wanting to spend more time with close friends and Adam rather then go on a blind date with a blogger I’ve never met. (Ok, that sounded bitchy, I’m sorry. I’m not good at this. Hopefully y’all understand what I’m trying to say.)
I’ve asked a lot of bloggers how they handle these coffee date requests or loaded email questions about blogging. (I’m talking about long emails with dozens upon dozens of questions. I’m alway happy to answer a quick question for someone via email!) What do you say back without sounding mean? How do you show them you care without actually taking an hour of your time to respond with the information they needed. What I’ve learned is that a lot of bloggers now offer their blog services/advice for a fee. They FaceTime, Skype, hope on a call, whatever, and let them ask all the questions they want for a price. (I’ve found most bloggers charge around $50-$75 an hour minimum of two hours from my research.) This way they’re making money for their time and insight, and still are able to help out the person that requested their advice. Personally, I’ve never done this because, I just feel icky asking some sweet girl to pay me to tell her to use WordPress instead of Blogger and how to sign up for affiliate programs and such, but I know some bloggers make a killing off these kind of blogger services. Which, honestly, it’s pretty freaking amazing! So if you’re a blogger who is ready to share your wealth of knowledge about the industry, this is the way to go. As for me, I usually just direct people to this “How To Be A Better Blogger” series and apologize that I’m busy and hope to see them at a local event soon. Not the best response, but I’m working on it. Or is this something I should start doing? I have no idea.
Have any additional ways you, as a blogger, make income on your site? Any questions about the ways I’ve listed above? Make sure and leave me a comment!