How to make money from your blog

How to work with brands

It’s the question most bloggers eventually ask at some point: Can I make any money from my blog?
It’s not a dirty question. You are ALLOWED to make money from your blog. In fact, why shouldn’t you make money from something you’ve lavished so much love and attention on? Why shouldn’t someone pay you for this space on the internet you’ve lovingly crafted and built a audience for?

Well the answer is you totally should if that’s what you want to do. It’s not for everyone, but if you want to it’s your blog and it’s your prerogative.

HOWEVER, if you want any kind of longevity you need to do it properly. Treat your blog with respect. Give her the attention she demands (for yes, like vehicles, I see all blogs as a ‘her’).
And – you’re not all going to like this – but you need to give it time. Build your blog, build your audience, build quality content, build a community. Building your audience is THE most important thing you must do. For without content and history you have nothing to build on. Your blog needs a foundation.
Back in the day there were no PRs knocking on bloggers doors, no sponsored posts, no adverts. If fact there were barely any readers and certainly no comments.
When I started this blog there was no Twitter and when I joined British Mummy Bloggers (now Britmums) there were 10 of us. Ten. I used to read lots of American blogs because I struggled to find any British ones.
Now of course you have a sea of British blogs, Twitter to advertise it on and multiple digital channels to sink your teeth into.
Which is great for gaining an audience but also really really hard to get yourself seen because there are so so many blogs now.
But still my advice remains the same; do the legwork, put the hours in, build your blog. Walk before you run.

I was asked to speak at Mumsnet’s Blogfest conference in London at the weekend, about how bloggers can go about working with brands. And therefore make money.
My talk wasn’t about selling ebooks or affiliate links or consultancy work (all other ways people have made money through their blog).
A lot of the money I earn through this blog is from sponsored posts and brand collaborations. So that is what I spoke about.
And I spoke alongside Gina Schauffer (now Roughan after getting married!), head of editorial at digital agency Zone, who helps team brands up with relevant bloggers on their social campaigns.

And as Gina highlighted at the conference, brands want to work with bloggers. They recognise how powerful our voices are and they want to engage and speak to our audiences.
But, on the most part, they want to do it right, they want to be respectful and they want to build relationships.
Obviously not ALL PRs/brands/marketeers are like this and many are still learning and finding out how to navigate the waters. But the tide does seem to be slowly turning and with agencies like Zone in the field, things will only look up for blogger/brand relationships.

So, the burning question is, how do we go about making our blogs stand out and make brands want to engage with us?
How do we become attractive?
What about if you haven’t been blogging for very long?
What’s it all about?

Here’s the first thing you need to remember, no matter how old your blog is:
Your blog is YOUR space to write about what matters to you – that’s why your audience will keep coming back and why they trust you. And that is why brands want to work with bloggers.
Your blog has a worth and brands and PRs want a slice of it.
Do not lose sight of that fact

8 WAYS TO WORK WITH BRANDS

So, how do you as a blogger go about working with brands? And here I’m also talking about working with agencies, PRs, outreach companies etc
Well, in order to work with anyone, you need to have appeal. You need to be a good bet.
You need to treat your blog as a business.
Now think about what your USP (unique selling point) is. What makes you stand out? What makes you different? Yes you’re a parent blogger or a foodie or a lifestyle blogger, but what niche do you fit in? Do you write about vegetarian food, or photography or travel or crafts or being green or children’s food or growing up with pets or green living? If you don’t know your niche then how is any brand working with you going to determine whether you’re a good fit?

1. You are a brand
If you’re serious about your blog and want to make money from it, treat it like a brand. And you are the head of that brand.
Have a brand identity and make sure that the image or logo you choose is used across all your social media channels so you’re easily recognised.
Make sure your blog looks appealing and professional and isn’t too cluttered.
Now, be professional at all times. If you’re offered something and don’t want it, be courteous when you decline – you don’t know which brand that PR will be working with in the future.
So build a reputation for being helpful and courteous. For your brand isn’t just your blog, it’s YOU as well.
It is essential you have a branded media pack ready to send out – if someone sends you an email asking you to review something or attend an event but it’s not for you, send them your media pack for future reference. More on this later.

2. Make it easy for people to contact you
In my capacity as a freelance social media manager, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve landed on a blog and had to hunt for an email address. Or found someone on Twitter but could not find their blog. Or found their blog but there is no link to their Twitter profile.
Make the connections easy. Do not leave visitors to hunt and search around because chances are they’ll get fed up and move on to the next blogger.

3. Build your traffic
Stats aren’t everything and you won’t always be asked for them. And actually brands care more about the sort of audience you have rather than the size of it.
BUT.
The more traffic you have the more appealing you become.
And how do you get more traffic? Same old story, you write engaging, interesting content and write often. And for goodness sake be genuine. I can tell a mile off when someone is blogging for the freebies, so you can bet your bottom dollar that others do too.
If you write endless reviews, how is a brand’s product going to stand out on your blog? Well, the answer is it won’t.
A blog with heart and personality will stand out a mile.
So share your content, engage with others, make your digital space a place people want to hang out and engage. Connect with fellow bloggers. Be generous with your RTs. Mention others in your blog posts.
Readers will come.

4. Sell yourself
As I mentioned before, you absolutely must create a media pack with all the information a PR or brand will need about you and your blog. Keep it simple and not too long but include:

Your blog in a nutshell – your elevator pitch as it’s known. If I asked you what your blog was about, answer it in two sentences.
Who are you and why do you blog
Traffic stats
All your social media accounts and and how many followers they have
What you offer in terms of advertising, sponsored post opportunities etc. Spell it out so they know exactly what you are offering
Regular features on your blog
Who you’ve worked with before
What is your stance on no-follow links
Your payment terms
How to contact you

Here are a couple of sites with tutorials on how to make a media pack for your blog:
Create A Media Kit To Attract Advertisers To Your Blog from Pro Blogger
How to Create a Media Pack from Geekalicious
Media Kit Examples from BlogMaven
How to Make a Media Kit Using PicMonkey by the SitsGirls.

Sticky Fingers media pack

Essentially, you need to make it really easy to work with you.
And again, be professional in all your communications.

It’s not for everyone, but another way to sell yourself is to email PR companies directly. If there is a brand you’re interested in working with, find the PR company or agency they work with and contact them (you can usually find contact details on their website).
BUT tell them what you can offer; is it a blog post, tweets, Instagram, Facebook – don’t assume they’ll know what you can do for them.
Sell yourself and pitch them an offer they can’t refuse.

5. Join a blogger network
If you’re new to blogging and want to get your foot in the door and work with a few brands, sign up to networks like Mumsnet or Britmums as they run collaborations that invite bloggers from their networks to work with brands.
It’s a way of building up your portfolio and giving you more confidence.
And you don’t have to wait for someone to send you something/somewhere. If you’ve discovered something you love and want to share it with your audience, do so. You’re still building up your portfolio.

6. Get creative
If you’re sent an offer you think is lame, pitch them an idea of how it could work for you.
Think beyond the ‘I’ll write a review of this for you’. Think about how you can help a brand spread the word about their product in an interesting and different way.
EARN the money they’re going to be spending on you. Because, let’s face it, if something is successful they’re more likely to come back.
Similarly, if you’re writing a sponsored post, make it part of your blog’s storytelling, don’t just knock out any old thing as quickly as you can for the cash.
You need to think longterm, not just hold your hand out, snatch the cash and run.

7. Show off
If you’ve worked with brands successfully before, brag about it.
Show a newcomer to your blog what you have done or they will never know.
List the brands you’ve worked with and what you collaborated on. Show the sponsored posts you’ve written.
Imagine you’re a PR landing on your blog for the first time – where would you go first to find out if you’re a blogger worth working with?

8. Be in it for the longhaul
It takes time to achieve all of this. DO NOT expect it overnight.
Quality takes time. You need to build content and build a reputation.

Remember brands are watching and looking out for new blogs all the time. So always be professional on all channels.
Imagine you want to ‘sell’ your brand out there on the wide web, which bloggers would you choose? Which ones would you avoid?

WHAT ARE MARKETEERS LOOKING FOR?

I’ll leave it to Gina to tell you this one.
1. Traffic figures. You don’t need to be Dooce, but you do need to show you have some clout out there.
2. Quality and regularity of blog. Brands want to see that you write regularly, not just dip in once in a blue moon.
3. Social profile and size of following. Someone who shares their content across Twitter and Pinterest, is going to be more appealing to someone who just blogs and doesn’t share the love around.
4. Previous brand work. If you’ve worked with brands before and it was a success, you are going to stand out. It’s not really rocket science here!
5. Reputation/relationship with agency. Have you worked with us before? Were you reliable/prompt/professional?
6. Added social media support. If you Tweet and Instagram and blog and Google + your collaboration in an interesting and non spammy way, you are going to be very appealing. Creativity counts.

THE THORNY ISSUE OF HOW MUCH TO CHARGE

So, that’s all well and good, but how much can you earn? What can you ask for?
Well, how long is a piece of string?
If you are a new blogger it’s difficult to determine and there is no right or wrong answer and no secret formula.
But the main factor should be what do you feel your time is worth and how much reach will your social channels offer?

Example 1
You’ve built up a valued, regular feature on your blog that a brand wants to tap into. First of all you need to be sure that you’re OK with brand involvement through it. And then you need to recognise its worth.
The brand wants to piggyback on something you have spent a lot of time building up so make sure the payment matches. I’ve been blogging for nearly 6 years now and my Photo Gallery is very precious to me so I am very choosy about who I allow to feature on it.
So I charge between £200 and £400 depending on who it is and how much work is involved.

Example 2.
Someone wants you to write a promotional post. Or a sponsored post.
Consider the time it takes you to write and research that piece – a brand/PR will be paying for your time and the opportunity to tap into your blog’s audience.
Some people forego a payment hoping it will lead to something bigger. And maybe it will. But maybe it won’t and you are essentially working for free. And devaluing your blog at the same time because you’re saying you don’t believe it has a worth.
Someone with a large audience, and who has been blogging for a while and can offer a brand multiple social media channels is obviously going to charge more; I would say between £100 and £200.
You’ve got to decide where you sit on that scale.
If you are offered £20 say no and tell them why. Respectfully.

Example 3.
You’re asked to write a review/review a day out/run a competition.
Personally I don’t charge for a review – the item I’m sent is my ‘payment’.
However, I have set a very definite line in the sand on what I will accept. If I’m being offered a £5 item that I could easily just go and buy myself and NOT review then what’s the point?
I only accept something I really want and/or something I know my readers will like.
The same with a day out; if it’s somewhere we want to go and isn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg to get there then I’ll say yes.

REMEMBER: There are some brands or days out you will write about which will bring great traffic in to your blog.
I wrote about Harry Potter Studios last year and I’m still getting a steady stream of hits from people Googling what a day out there is like.
Sometimes the review is worth more than money.

Competitions is another tricky one. I don’t charge for competitions but again I am very particularly about what I accept and the work involved has to be worth the ‘reward’ (either an item for me to keep or the promise of good traffic).

But here’s the thing. It’s great that you want to make money from your blog and want to start making it pay, but THE most important thing to remember is to keep writing for you; remember why you started your blog and treat it with respect. And those reading it are more likely to do so too.

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16 Responses to How to make money from your blog

  1. Peggy says:

    That’s a great post Tara!

  2. suzanne3childrenandit says:

    SUCH a useful post Tara. I was gutted not to make it to Blogfest and I would have made a bee-line for this session. You're points are all very interesting, especially the media pack which I've yet to create but is nagging away in the back of my mind! i've definitely notice a surge in offers in the last 6 months or so but like you, I never became a blogger to make money so I'm picky. I think that actually gives you credit – go you!
    My recent post What Makes You Feel Alive?

  3. coombemill says:

    Spoken like the true professional you are. I totally agree with everything you say here, if you make a good job for a brand you are worth the money to them. Great guide Tara

  4. Hayley says:

    Thanks for such an informative post! 🙂

  5. Melanie Brammer says:

    Really interesting. I've been blogging for about four years and have pretty low view stats (I think the most I've got is about 60 views for a post). So I'm still at the stage of building up a blog following by interacting more with other blogs and improving my content. I've added adsense, but otherwise I think I've a long way to go before I start making any money from blogging. Hoping I might get there one day.
    My recent post Paint your own shields

  6. lauracymft says:

    Lots of great tips here 🙂
    My recent post Siblings in November 2010 #FlashbackFriday

  7. Grenglish says:

    This is all really good advice. I have dabbled in the odd sponsored post and review but most of the income I make from my blog now, is from writing for other people. So many of your tips above apply for people wanting to go down that route too.
    I missed blogfest this year but sounds like your session was a good one x
    My recent post Offline

  8. Le Coin de Mel says:

    Thanks for sharing your insider's tips with newbies like me, Tara. I really enjoyed your session at BlogFest, and your comments about being genuine and writing about what matters to you were definitely ringing a bell. My blog is my little space and it is indeed very precious. I wouldn't want to be looking back a few years down the line and thinking I wasted my time or wrote dishonest posts.
    My recent post Cranberry Mincemeat

  9. Elaine Livingstone says:

    some great advise here, thank you for sharing it with those of us that did not get to the event.
    I agree professional and courteous are (for me anyway) the main criteria, and that works both ways

  10. Pingback: Blogfest 2014 Thoughts - Child-Led ChaosChild-Led Chaos

  11. Dave says:

    Hi Tara
    Thanks for a really concise and thoughtful post. As a photo blogger trying to stretch my legs in a new niche I found your advice useful not only for my new blog, but also for my old one.

    Regards
    Dave
    My recent post 9 things that you can cut down to save money without too much discomfort

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