In the previous post, Why I stopped blogging for free, I shared my personal experience and reason for deciding to monetize. It mainly deals with replenishing energy and recognizing that hard work deserves compensation. Today I figured we’d go over some ways that a blog can earn an income stream and address the concerns that usually go along with it.
I am really excited to blog about this topic because it is such a rich and layered subject—more than I realized until I started writing about it. So let’s dig in.
The post covers ways to monetize, the energy behind monetizing, concerns that people have about it and how to address them, as well as what’s changing on my blog (in short, not much).
Some ways that bloggers monetize
If turning your blog into a potential income stream interests you, keep expectations grounded and set realistic goals. There are few overnight successes. But consistency, persistence, and authenticity always prove worthwhile.
These are the ways that bloggers earn money that I know of:
- Sponsored posts: the brand pays the blogger to review their products in exchange for their endorsement and social media presence
- Affiliate links: links embedded in the post are tracked and if purchase is made, the blogger earns a commission
- Selling ads on the blog: prices range depending on numerous factors such as traffic to the site
- Collaborations: either creating products with a brand and earning a percentage of product sales, offering a unique discount code and earning a percentage of sales using the code, or other brand/blogger collab ideas
- Direct sales of products
- Offering a service: consultations, makeup application, events, nutrition/health coaching, counseling, promotions, or other
- Ghost writing or guest posts on green beauty websites
Once you reach the decision to monetize, there are ways to do it without compromising the integrity of the blog—or yourself.
Letting go of the outcome and setting clear intentions
One inner directive that comes up for me around the concept of money—or success—is to let go of any attachments to outcome, dollar amounts, and numbers.
Attachments, a.k.a. vested interests, come through even if the person thinks they’re hiding them. There’s an encroaching, oppressive energy that makes my insides shut down and turns me off to whatever they’re offering. So pay attention to your inner knowing.
Releasing an attachment to money or outcome allows me to keep doing what I’m doing without thinking about blog traffic or income. It really is not about that at all. This frees me up to take risks and to stay 100 percent authentic.
Here’s an example: I never post anything on Facebook and then wonder how many “Likes” I’ll get. Those numbers mean nothing about me or to me, other than a fun way to gauge if it resonated with people. That’s not even a reliable sign, as people tell me later how much they loved a post but never “liked” it or left a comment.
It is a conscious intention not to let numbers define who I am nor dictate my posts, nor do they prove how popular I am (or not). It’s the same with Twitter, Instagram or my blog or the income that I am earning. The moments I worry about numbers, I’m immobilized as though mired in quicksand. Nothing flows.
As soon as I get back on track and get really clear on my relationship with money, focus on mutual exchange, my ultimate purpose for blogging, and where my loyalty lies (my audience, my integrity), then I get back in touch with what really matters and crystallize a true intention that resonates with me deeply. The clearer it is, the more it will ring true for others. Period.
For many, the salary is a bonus for work that they’d be doing anyway. That is certainly how it is for me.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about accepting money! Being able to show my family a check that’s a reward for dedicated work is very gratifying, even if it’s a small amount. The lesson is greater than the figure.
Concerns about blogs that monetize
When a blog accepts money or products as an exchange, some lines blur. It boils down to three main concerns in my opinion: bias, conflict of interest, and transparency.*See below (Maybe you have other concerns, so please share!)
The solution to these concerns: establishing authenticity early on, connecting in an honest and ethical way with your audience and with the brand, and maintaining that trust.
Nothing trumps the truth.
Most times, I find myself dismissing sponsored content on popular websites, because in a larger setting, there is no way for the reader to know if the product is a quality product or if the website is merely trying to earn a quick paycheck.
The exception to this rule is when I know the blogger. If there is trust between us, then I know that the post represents an avenue of compensation for an endorsement that they would give anyway. Generally, you can sense the blogger’s vibe in the tone throughout their blog and through their online interactions, if you do the research on them.
A trust-worthy blogger would not accept a product for endorsement without due diligence, as in researching ingredients, thoroughly testing the product, familiarizing themselves with the company, connecting with the founder via phone or email, etc.
Similarly, receiving a product for free should not influence the outcome of the review. Personally, I evaluate a product the same way whether I buy it or not and would not give it a glowing review because it was sent to me. Brands are very clear about the way I work from the outset.
After all, why would I or any ethical blogger risk credibility by adding affiliate links or endorsing a brand that he/she doesn’t believe in? There would be too heavy a price to pay for that. Honesty and credibility are not values that I take lightly, nor am I willing to compromise them. They are honed virtues that comprise who we are as human beings and are non-negotiable.
To uphold a level of transparency, I find it important for the reader to be able to distinguish between sponsored content and a regular review. Some posts do that by using the words “dedicated” or “sponsored” somewhere in the text or in a disclaimer on the blog. Many bloggers add whether or not they received the product for evaluation from the company too.
As for affiliate links, I can not find anything fundamentally wrong with getting paid for providing honest feedback about a product that worked—again, as long as it’s done with integrity and without hiding anything.
It’s not like the cost of the item changes at the point of purchase. However, if the sale helps a blogger earn a very small (I mean, folks, it’s meager) commission on it or gets paid to write a review, I’m happy. It satisfies my desire to give back to the blogger for their feedback and helps provide a sustainable platform, so that he/she can continue contributing worthwhile content.
What if the blogger is friends with the brand founder?
The Beauty Idealist wrote an interesting post covering the topic of objectivity in blogging and questioned bloggers who become friendly with brand founders and who receive free products from them in exchange for a review. Her probing article got me thinking, so do check it out.
I definitely have met and am impressed with many of the brand founders as human beings (an opportunity that does not avail itself with mass market brands). Of course that colors my view of the label—but not in the way you’d think.
These founders understand that I’d never write a gushing review because of our friendship. I let them know that from the outset. Regardless, they would never urge me to compromise my authenticity.
That said, I would most certainly prefer to support a brand when I know that the founder’s intentions are ethical and transparent and that the business is more than a business to them, but a commitment to making quality organic and ethically formulated products. Then, yes, I am guilty of being completely subjective when recommending brands whose founders display kindness, honesty, integrity, and solid intentions.
And I’m ok with that. Even if that product doesn’t suit my skin type, it certainly could be of value to share the brand for someone else. I would mention my own experience too or keep the review less personalized and more generic.
You may laugh at me—oh well! Gonna tell you anyway
OK. Some of you may roll your eyes at this but I really put this intention out into the Universe before deciding to monetize.
I asked that in all my work I would be able to be totally up front with any brand that approaches me that earning money is new to my blog, hence my inexperience may show up (lack of media kit or otherwise), but that I will work hard to make sure that they will be happy no matter what.
I asked that I could be guileless and straightforward and not have the feeling that I need to appear more confident than I actually feel at something that is still so new. I also asked that only honest brands and people with integrity and kindness approach me to work with me.
I don’t care if I’m crazy for asking. I do believe that it’s working and I will keep setting that simple, yet important intention.
What you will be seeing on this blog
Personally, it doesn’t really change much around here. As it stands now, there is not a single brand mentioned on this blog that I would hesitate to recommend to someone as an option—sponsored or not.
You may have noticed a few ways that I’ve been turning my blog into a potential income stream.
I added banners along the right margin to include carefully curated eco-beauty websites. These are stores where I shop and that I fully endorse. I chose them mainly because my friends often ask me where to buy certain products and these sites are among the most comprehensive ones out there—other than Oui Shave and Graydon which sell their own noteworthy products exclusively. (A more extensive list of clean living websites and brick and mortar resources is here.)
Some of my posts and tweets contain affiliate links as well, or I may work out an exchange with each brand. (Each post is singular and is determined privately with the individual brands in a way that is mutually beneficial and supportive).
As of now, The Blogger Bill of Rights and my other disclaimer page, The Truth about Product Reviews, will serve as an understanding between us that I will use affiliate links with discretion and honesty for products that I would be recommending anyway, but I may or may not mention it in every post. (Help me! Sometimes it is only because I forget and remember to add a disclaimer in the post later. Mom brain. Grrr…) However, if that is something that you’d like to know on individual posts, I will reconsider that position.
Aside from the links, I’ve also been offering very affordable stylized photos for use on Instagram or on their websites. (Pricing and referrals available upon request. My paid photos do not represent an endorsement of the brand, unless otherwise stated).
OK. Your turn. How do you feel about affiliate links, sponsored content, and, if you write a blog, have you thought about monetizing it? I look forward to reading your comments and insights below.
*Let me state for the record that I always encourage discernment when evaluating any information (including—or especially—medical advice!) and have found these six questions to be especially helpful. Blogs and popular websites like Chalkboard, Mind Body Green and Refinery29, to name but a few, contain personal impressions—including hidden agendas and even inaccurate editing—so it’s healthy to keep that in mind when scanning any material online.
From what I’ve experienced, no perspective is entirely objective—even among journalists who are supposed to present the facts without opinions. Every story has an angle that all too easily conforms to the author’s point of view or that supports an overall position.
Props in photos: