Can You Really Make Money Blogging? 5 Ways to Monetize Your Blog – Part I
Make Money Blogging
Can you really make money blogging aka monetize your blog? What if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of readers and followers or you’re not an overnight sensation? Can social media channels make money for you, too? I get these questions a lot and since I rebranded it seems a handful of people are asking me each week. Navigating when and where to start out can be completely overwhelming and frustrating, especially in the beginning. What works for me may or may not work for you, but if I can do it, trust me – so can you!
The ‘Yeah Right’ Conversation
A few months ago I had a conversation that went a little something like this:
“So you just write about a random topic and people pay you to do that?” I replied, “Yes or I just Tweet about it, Instagram it, write about it on Facebook, share it on LinkedIn or Pin something [on Pinterest] and earn money that way, too.”
“You really make money blogging?”
She was skeptical. Of course, she didn’t quite understand the amount of work that goes into creating content in order to make money blogging; and for some bloggers to earn a living.
Monetizing if You’re Not a “Big Blog”
Before we delve in much deeper, let me put it out there: I am not a huge blog and you don’t have to be either. When I started out I had a few hundred readers. It grew into 3,500 or so and now I hang out at the 25,000-30,000 range. I am growing in my own time. It took over two years, a lot of trial and error along with asking a lot of questions (even if they seemed dumb). You can start monetizing whenever you want, just be aware that opportunities won’t necessarily be as “grand” until your blog and social reach grows a bit. Don’t worry, though. Numbers are NOT the most important thing: Engagement is! You can have 10,000 followers who don’t engage, but if you have 1,000 followers who are actively reading and commenting, a smart brand will see a lot more value in that. Oh-and they do read what you’re posting – on your blog and social media accounts, so if you’re reviewing products it’s important not to sound like you’re being artificial. A piece of advice I received was to write about the product as though you’re talking about it then edit from there. Make it relatable to your readers. I did a campaign for a major car manufacturer and quite literally took the readers with me. I find that showing the product, whether it’s a car or laundry detergent is more important than just “talking” (aka writing) about it. Remember that blogging is a constant work in progress.
I also want to be clear that I do not earn a “complete” living through blogging. I have a full-time job that takes up much of my time and has me on the road a great deal. When the bonus kids are over I try very hard to stay off the laptop. Even with the limited time I have to put into the blog, my 2015 tax form shows I earned $15,000 from my blog – a portion of it was passive income! There are blogs smaller than mine earning more. There are blogs bigger than mine earning a few hundred bucks. There are also those bloggers earing six figures. It all depends on the work you put into it and finding the resources that work for you. An important note: Yes, you absolutely have to declare earnings on your taxes-even if it is a small amount despite anything you’ve heard to the contrary!
So How Do I Keep it all Organized?
First, think about the amount of time you have to put in so you can make money blogging. Be realistic. You can expect to spend less than a minute on a Tweet and hours on a sponsored post if it includes photography. The photo edits alone can take up a lot of time. Use an editorial calendar to hold yourself accountable. Brands will know if you put 2 hours or 20 minutes into a post.
To track income, I use spreadsheets along with the features Paypal offers like printing off monthly statements. Some sites will have your monthly earnings organized for you and you can easily export the information into a spreadsheet or pdf for your records. I also have a calendar reminder in my Outlook to let me know when to check for opportunities, though most will send out reminders when new campaigns become available (some send daily emails). Everyone’s approach is different. Paper planners may be your thing. You do you.
Where to Monetize Your Blog
Most bloggers utilize more than one source to earn an income. I use about fifteen of them (I know that seems like a lot, but it really isn’t, I promise). Today I am sharing five I use (and in one case used, past tense). In the interest of keeping this post under the length of an entire book, I will share the others in separate posts. The reality is there are hundreds of options out there. What works for some may not work for others. Feel these out to see if it’s a fit and definitely ask other bloggers what sources they use. Most will be happy to share! For all of these you will be required to set up an online profile, connect your social media accounts and your blog url. Disclaimer: some of these are affiliate links and I will identify them as such. This means if you sign up I may get a small commission.
I am going to start off with Tomoson – I think this is just about every blogger’s rite of passage into giveaways and monetization. It feels easy because Tomoson accepts almost everyone. Most brands I encountered do not want to pay bloggers and feel a $20 item is perfectly acceptable as compensation for your precious time. When it comes to giveaways Tomoson does not regulate the brands nor ensure that your winners will actually receive their prizes. I ran into this issue once and luckily it was remedied quickly, but I’ve met many bloggers who have been stung. Your time is important and regardless of your numbers, if you don’t treat it as such, neither will anyone else. Don’t shortchange yourself.
Share A Sale – From one review I did in November of 2014 I earned a few thousand dollars in passive income in 2015. The vast majority of traffic to the post was through Google searches. This is where SEO comes in which is a whole other topic. Definitely take time to educate yourself about it. Readers (translation: customers) were led to my review, purchased the product and I earned commission. I updated discount codes once in a while and shared the post on social media a handful of times. It’s not exactly the easiest site to navigate at first, but once you explore a bit and get the lay of the land, it’s easy! Brands are very communicative and there are several resources provided for bloggers to use in order to maximize earnings. *affiliate
- Thousands of affiliates to choose from and some offer sign up bonuses
- Commission Structure
- Payments can depend on purchases, clicks and referrals
- The commission rates depend on the affiliate (some pay a flat dollar figure, others pay by percentage of sales)
- Payment is via direct deposit on the 20th of each month.
- 1099 tax form is provided online when it comes to tax time
IZEA –I love IZEA! It provides a plethora of options. If you want to write blog posts – great! Share content on your social media channels – great! *affiliate
- IZEA is set up as a bidding system. When you click to get more information it will tell you the minimum and maximum dollar amounts you may enter as your bid
- Almost daily there are several options to choose from. You read through the brands’ needs and decide whether the opportunity is a good fit. When you bid on an opportunity you can provide a short, optional pitch and the brand accepts or declines. Sometimes they’ll counter-offer and you can accept or negotiate if you’re up for it
- Of course, it’s always a big treat to receive great direct offers, too!
- The secret to IZEA: pay the $1.00 a month membership. Trust me, it is totally worth it. This gives you unlimited bids and once you begin earning just leave a dollar in your account and IZEA will deduct it from your balance
- IZEA also has a wonderful technical support team. They answer questions very quickly
- Payment is made via Paypal 30 days after the campaign.
- Depending on the type of membership you choose, you can cash out once you have $25 or $50 in your account (Since I have the $1.00, or basic membership, I cash out at $50)
BlogHer (aka SheKnows Media)– There are a few different options when it comes to BlogHer. You can run ads for them – more info here (they have a lot of restrictions, so read through their guidelines thoroughly before you commit), participate in sponsored posts programs and/or you can be a Social Media Influencer. I participate as a Social Media Influencer. Here’s how it works:
- You will receive surveys for various campaigns via email. They’re usually two to three questions asking if you’re interested and that you verify which social media account you’d use to tout the campaign messages
- Once you’re approved, you’ll receive another email with directions
- If you’re not interested, you can ignore the email (no need to reply)
- There is a portal for you to record your touts – it is very important you keep up with this. If you don’t record the links, they cannot verify you completed the campaign. No verification = no payment
- Payment is direct deposited to your bank account on the 30th of the month around 60 days after the campaign has ended (you can also have them mail you a check)
- They’ll mail you a 1099 tax form
Update May 2020: BlogHer has officially changed to SheKnows Media. You can apply here.
TapInfluence – Once you set up a profile, brands send offers for campaigns.
- TapInfluence gets a bit more detailed and your profile will consist of information like the demographics of your audience, how many kids you have, what types of pets you have and so forth. It makes it easier for brands to decide whether their messaging could be a good fit for you
- You can decline offers (I once had brand ask me to write a trying to conceive post. I had to chuckle. They hadn’t done their research)
- Record touts and blog posts in the portal for verification
- Payments are made via Paypal 30 days after the campaign ends
Massive Sway – Run by The SITS Girls, Massive Sway provides an opportunity to secure sponsored campaigns that include blog posts and social media touts. If you haven’t heard of them, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with their site. The community is made up of over 75,000 female bloggers from around the world with an emphasis on sharing and support.
- It can take a while to get accepted to Massive Sway and once you are, you still have to apply for campaigns
- It’s competitive and it can take a while to get accepted – do not get discouraged! These are high-paying campaigns, so a lot of people are eager to apply and be accepted. Your turn will come!
- You will receive emails with opportunities or you can log on to their blogger portal to see what you can apply for
- If you have a special connection to a product, email them and let them know. They do take it into consideration
- Payment is made 90 days after a campaign ends (in some cases, longer) and is sent via check
Make Money Blogging…let’s continue the conversation
So this is part one of how I make money blogging. If you have questions, let me know. And if you have tips on monetization and how to make money blogging that you’re willing to share, please do leave them in the comments. I hope this is helpful. You can read Part 2 of Make Money Blogging by clicking here.