Good morning! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day! One of the questions that I get asked most often from friends, family, readers, other bloggers and curious minds is, "how do blogs make money?". The first couple of times people asked me this question I was caught off guard- I was not quite sure how to answer it without feeling like I was bragging. But the more and more people asked, the quicker I realized that they were curious about the business of blogging. It took me a while to get comfortable answering this because I realized they were not asking about how I make money specifically, but more about how all bloggers make money.
I am going to share a couple of the ways that bloggers make money. But first let me share a little bit about my experience of monetizing my blog and what I have learned. Like I have said a million times on here, I started Perfect 10 SF as a way to learn and share about my huge foot, especially in comparison to my sisters' smaller and better suited for designer shoes feet! After writing posts about Louboutins and Alexander Wang heels for about 48 hours, I discovered that there were bloggers out there making money- some of them were making serious money. And if you know me, you know that I always strive to be really good at whatever it is that I am doing. So I set out on turning my blog into a business, which is very different than what these "bigger bloggers" originally did. They created content and organically grew a large following and then brands came to them and offered them money to feature certain products.
I wrote about whatever I felt like and grew my audience and received a lot of gifts in kind from brands (it is always noted c/o). I had tremendous growth in readership and partnerships when I was pregnant and was able to ask brands for compensation much earlier than I had anticipated. With the increase of my audience size I was seeing a dramatic increase in brands that wanted to partner and I was able to be a little bit more selective. However, the brands that pay the most money are the ones who are big corporations. I partnered with a few of them and recently decided to take a break from paid sponsoredships-- unless I feel like it is a true fit and my readers will benefit from it.
I guess I left out a huge part in the middle there- but what I am trying to say is that yes, I am extremely fortunate to have companies reach out to me who want to partner and compensate me for my time, creative content, and brand ambassadorship (is that a word?), but what I have found is that I love blogging because I love writing. I absolutely love writing and sharing my thoughts and feelings (especially about family and community) and I want to maintain my readers' trust and share products and experiences that are beneficial and authentic.
Okay, so here are the ways digital influencers can make money, in no particular order:
1. Affiliate Links: Companies such as RewardStyle and ShopStyle Collective allow you to copy and paste links into their site and generate unique (like this one- you will see the page redirect and that is how you know it is an affiliate link), trackable links that earn you a commission when readers click on the link or purchase the item.
My thoughts on affiliate links: I tried signing up for RewardStyle the night I launched my blog and they rejected me. And they rejected me three more times after that before finally accepting me. Still makes me laugh. Both sites can generate a lot of money for bloggers if you have a really large audience or if you have a big shopping audience that clicks and makes purchases through your site (that is why bloggers in the south are so successful- active shopping community). You should know that both sites have cookies that keep your information for 30 days or so, so when you go back and make a purchase on your own they will earn a commission.
I tried these affiliate links in the beginning and have made money from it. It is a great way to make "easy" money with very little effort. Bloggers are encouraged to have 10-15 links per post. I used them in the beginning when I launched. But since my initial audience was family, friends and friends of friends, I always sorta felt like I was "asking" or "tricking" friends for money (like a tupperware party where you earn commission on sales) and stopped using them. I occasionally use them now to learn about my audience and see what they click on because the analytics these sites provide are really incredible. I also liked using their widget generator- like this one below- because I felt like it provided high quality images to my posts when I did not have a lot of photography.
Also, these sites allow you to generate links to monetize Instagram, Twitter, and other social channels. There was an uproar in the blogger community when Pinterest said that third party affiliate links were no longer allowed on their site. I bet you didn't know that some of those pins you clicked on and repinned were affiliate links and someone was making money off of you!
*You can always tell affiliate links because they have a prefix before the site url.
2. Sponsored Posts: This is how you make the money, honey! I can go on and on about this but I will save that for a separate post. If you want to make real money then you need to first build your audience and then connect with brands about paid posts. I'll never forget my first sponsored post and how excited I was to get a few hundred dollars. Since that first post I have been able to raise my rates and sponsored posts are/ were the way I make most of my money.
My thoughts on sponsored posts: This might blow your mind but yes, some bloggers- I am talking about those with hundreds and thousands of followers and even millions of followers, have sponsored rates of $10,000+ a blog post. Seems crazy, right? With the affiliate links and sponsored posts, some bloggers make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I can't totally shit on sponsored posts (I never talk like that but it seems the most accurate way to describe it) because the money I made from sponsored posts allowed me to take an extended maternity leave guilt free. I was able to be self-employed and work on my own terms while being a stay at home mom.
I am also proud of the partnerships I secured because 90% of them were from connections I made myself (the rest were from companies that match brands and influencers like Mode Media, Collectively, and Clever Girls [if you are a blogger looking to make money, reach out to those three companies]).
It can be hard to be selected for partnerships because brands want to move fast and finding bloggers can be difficult. Hence, these matching companies and agents have arisen as the middle women. Truthfully, It kind of is an unfair game because digital influencers with a large audience have agents (I know, again, crazy) who secure the partnerships for them and negotiate payment. These agents represent digital influencers who collectively have millions of followers. Brands are so eager to get to this audience that they will pay a lot of money. It makes complete sense- if you are a clothing company like Dianne Von Furstenberg you can spend $80,000 on a marketing campaign and not really know if it reaches your desired audience or you can pay ten bloggers $8,000 and can pretty much ensure (in real time) that your desired audience sees your newest jumpsuit.
Like I said earlier, the companies who pay the most money are the ones who are much bigger and have a large budget. Also, for the most part (there are a few exceptions which I will share later), the bigger the audience the more money you can charge.
3. Appearances and Speaking Engagements: This is self-explanatory. Digital influencers can earn money by hosting parties at stores, speaking at conferences, and attending events and fashion shows.
My thoughts on appearances and speaking engagements: Celebrities used to be the only ones who could command payment for appearing some where. I think it is an interesting shift that bloggers can do this now.
4. Advertisements: This is the way most people think bloggers make money, and that is because it used to be a major way for all websites to make money. I actually don't know too much about this because I don't have a lot of advertisements on my site because I think they make the site look cluttered and distract readers (I only have ads for Honest Company and Gap Kids because I think they are cute).
My thoughts on advertisements: Again, you can really only generate a lot of money (like a livable income) if you have a lot of traffic and companies pay to have their ads there or if you have readers clicking on ads- which no one does anymore. Plus, Jesse was saying to me that there are so many plug-ins you can add to Chrome and Safari to strip the site of ads and there has been a whole back and forth from ad companies creating work arounds to avoid these plug-ins.
I will learn more about advertising and share what I find out!
5. Side projects: I know a lot bloggers who have their blog but make the majority of their money through other outlets, such as selling items on Etsy, charging for creative projects like styling photoshoots, or art direction.
My thoughts on side projects: Honestly, the blog space is so saturated and with such big players taking up most of the space and making a lot of money, I think it is wise to discover other ways to generate income, hence why I launched Curran Creative. Realistically, I am never going to get millions of followers because I was not first to market and because millions of people don't want to read about the Curran Family! I recently have pivoted (like two weeks ago) and use my blog as a portfolio more than a source of income. But who knows-- that might change when I am out on maternity leave again in a few years!
6. Brand Collaborations: There has been an increase in this recently. Bloggers will partner with existing companies and curate or "design" clothes or products.
My thoughts on brand collaborations: This idea originally started with celebrities- think of sports stars having their own basketball shoes.
7. Brand Ambassadors: You don't have to have a blog to be a brand ambassador. What I mean is that there are a lot of companies who are looking for people to spread the word about their product or service. They will pay you to share content and promote them. Essentially, you become an online street team member for them.
My thoughts on Brand Ambassadors: This is not a new concept- remember college campus reps? They have been around forever. The only difference is that now the ambassadors promote on social channels. I think it is a good idea if you can find a company you believe in.
8. Gifts in kind. While this is not cash, I have been fortunate to receive a lot of wonderful gifts and services from companies to experience and share on my blog and social channels.
My thoughts on gifts in kind: It is always so nice to receive complimentary products but now I only accept gifts if I am going to use them because I do not want to be wasteful. We were extremely fortunate to receive so many wonderful baby products when I was pregnant and when Lillian was born!
I hope this was helpful! If you have any other questions you can email me directly at Caroline.Perfect10SF@gmail.com!