So you have been at this blogging thing for several months...or several years...and you are starting to get tired of working for free. Am I right? (I hear you cheering over there blogger from North Carolina!)
So how do you start making money?
There are many ways to start earning on income off of your blog, but the #1 thing to remember is to diversify until you find something that works and then diversify again. What does that mean? It means you have to try everything that you think might work for you -- ad networks, individual companies, selling ads to etsy shops, amazon affiliates, adsense, using your blog as a platform for PAID work - these are all methods of making a few dimes. If you work hard at it, you will find the best methods for you and it always helps to have 3 or 4 ways your blog is making money for you at all times (even when you are on vacation!).
Now hear me when I say...your READERS should not feel like you are making money in many different ways. They should have a healthy awareness of the fact that you are using ads and promoting yourself or others, but they should not feel like your blog is one giant adfest. Here is the thing - EVERY time you place an ad, promote a product, even give a link -- you are taking a little bit of what I call 'trust bucks' away from yourself.
This is the way it works....
Trust bucks are the "points" you earn with your reader for telling the truth, providing good content, leading them to good sites, communicating with them, loving them, not being stupid, etc. etc. There is no cap to the amount of trust bucks you can earn with readers, but there is a balance that must be kept when you start earning money. It is very easy to just see dollar signs everywhere and want to take any little gig that you can. You should NOT take every little bit of ad money that comes your way though. You will be shooting your future self in the foot. You see, trust bucks are lost every single time you use your publishing platform as an advertising platform. Now, clearly I believe that advertising is a good thing (I think you should be PAID for all of your work!), but you MUST be aware of what it is costing you.
When a company contacts me or I am offered an opportunity to promote a product for payment, I weigh 4 things.
#1 Is it relevant to my readers? This is always the FIRST question I ask and it is typically the defining moment of whether or not I proceed. Because I talk about Food and Photography and DIY Design and Garden SCHTUFF, I have quite a wide net. Many of you probably have smaller nets because you are a highly niched blog. If you are always discussing art, there is absolutely no reason for you to promote a household cleaner. It just doesn't make sense. If you are organizing and cleaning blog however, household cleaners make all the sense in the world. So choose wisely, because you are losing trust bucks when you accept any offer.
#2 Is the price worth it? How much work am I going to have to put into this? Is the money worth my time? When you are first starting out, the answer is YES. ANY money is worth your time to get the ball rolling. Once you've worked with a few companies, the answer might quickly become NO. Don't be greedy, but don't undervalue yourself. If the work takes one hour, you have to consider your hourly rate. When I was working retail my hourly rate was $7.50...for photography I charge $150-$175...somewhere in between there is my hourly blogging rate. If I am not making that rate consistently, I need to change something.
#3 Will the ad or sponsored content fit into what I am already doing on my blog? This is a little different from question #1. Question #1 weeds out the "absolutely not -- my readers will shoot me if I bore them with recommendations on how to self tune your piano", while this question really determines whether the ad is a good fit. Another way to look at it is if question #1 is checking the size tag in a pair of jeans, then question #3 is actually trying them on for size. We ALL know how different the outcome can be when we try on the same sized pair of jeans from different retailers, yes?
How do you know if it is a good fit? I quickly look through the posts I have ALREADY written as well as blog prompts that I have photos or ideas for and see if the advertiser seamlessly fits in anywhere. If it doesn't, I try to think of a way I could provide legitimate content while weaving the ad into the post. If it doesn't seem right, it doesn't fit and you shouldn't waste your trust bucks.
Here is an example for you...
Yesterday I wrote about chickens. Now if you have been reading for any amount of time, you know I have chickens, I like chickens, I think they are good for my kids and my garden and my pantry and they are a genuine part of my life and my blog. So when an opportunity came up to promote California Hatchery, the answer was absolutely yes. It fits, the price is good and it is relevant to readers coming to this blog for home and garden SCHTUFF. Now I didn't just write a little post promoting California Hatchery. I had ALREADY written a post about chickens and ordering from California Hatchery literally slips write into place without effort. It is a natural pairing and beneficial to both me and the advertiser. (They don't WANT to be on a tattoo blog or a coupon blog...they want to be on a blog that regularly talks about CHICKENS).
The last and final consideration that can make or break a deal with an advertiser is: #4 Would you honestly buy from that retailer? For CH, the answer was yes - I am receiving my order of chickens this spring! I trust them -- they offer a good product -- and therefore I feel comfortable recommending them. If you don't LOVE the product (you think it is cheap, badly made, too expensive, etc, etc...) then DO NOT recommend it. You have lost many many trust bucks if you recommend something bad.
You might also have noticed that I weaved a few more links and prompts into the post, but hopefully I didn't weave TOO many in. You see, I am attempting to balance my trust bucks. I want you to keep reading. I want you to enjoy what you read. I want you to consider me an expert in information on raising backyard chickens, so the last thing I want to do is plug irrelevant sites.
So now the only question is whether this method has worked. Did you notice all the ads on the post yesterday? Did you care? What are your feelings towards using your blog for making money? I can't wait to hear from you!