Today in Blog Class (see here edition one and two) I’m discussing a highly requested subject: the business aspect of blogging. When I started blogging four-and-a-half years ago, I had no idea that writing compelling content about your favorite brands or collaborating with big retailers was a way to make a living. The business side of fashion blogging wasn’t nearly as evolved as it is now – or maybe I didn’t see it because I was simply doing it as a hobby – and the amount of information on the topic was minimal.
Currently, This chick’s got style has worked on many campaigns with big names like Chanel, H&M, Olympus, de Bijenkorf and various beauty brands. After two years I decided to sign with a media agency, which works for me because it takes a lot of time and negotiations off my hands so I can focus on the creative part. Today I’m telling you about ways to monetize your blog coming from a personal angle and research I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this post helps your blog to become the best it can be!
Blog Class: Making money with your blog
Whether you work with an agency or are selling your ad space to companies directly, the ways of monetizing your blog are pretty similar. From selling banner space to sponsored content – there’s something that suits every big and small blogger and every brand. Let’s go over the most common ways of monetizing a blog:
Option 1: Affiliate networking
As a personal (life)style blogger, you’re already talking about brands, services and products – and are probably linking to those. Affiliate networks let you earn commission off of sales that come from those links – or banners – placed on your blog. Commission rates on these networks usually vary between 7% and 25%. Depending on how well you connect with your audience, and on how big it is, this can be a huge source of income for bloggers.
The convenient thing about affiliate programs is that you’ll find thousands of retailers in one place and are able to track your income in one account. Most networks do require you to apply, to ensure the quality of the blogs they expose their advertisers to. There are many networks out there so have a look at the retailers they work with, and see which ones suit your style and budget – and those of your readers. I’ve been using Rewardstyle with great pleasure, and so do many bloggers I know. Other well-known and loved affiliate networks include Beso, Zanox, Shopstyle and Google Affiliate Network.
Option 2: Banner advertising
Banners – also known as CPM display ads, to throw in a fancy term – are a more traditional form of advertising. CPM stands for cost per mille (in Latin mille means thousand) and means the amount you receive for a thousand impressions of a banner. Impressions are very similar to pageviews, but count for that specific ad. So imagine you have two banners up on your blog – one on the top of the website and another one in the sidebar. One visit to your homepage would actually count for two impressions if the visitor sees both ads. Because your ad impressions are sold per thousand, this type of advertising is mostly lucrative for blogs with a big readership. Some (smaller) blogs also sell ad space for a fixed price.
Option 3: Content advertising
Ads that blend in with the content of your blog – that don’t scream ‘I’m an ad!’ – tend to be more effective than banners. Blog articles get more attention than banners might do, and they feel less invasive. Advertisers are warming up to this form of promotion and most bloggers like ‘native’ advertising because it gives them a sense of creative control. Advertorials, sponsored posts, product placements and social media promotion all include brands in the storytelling on your blog. Let me break down the forms of native advertising for you that we often see on blogs:
• Advertorials. In case of an advertorial, a blogger is paid to cover a certain brand, product or topic. Often these include specific (tracked) links, brand mentions and are published on a specified date. Always include this is a sponsored posts, your readers will highly appreciate your honesty.
• Product placements. Brands often send out products to bloggers in the hopes they will be featured in a blog post. If I receive an item I’m enthusiastic about and know my readers will want to know about, chances are high that I’ll post it. Do note that if a brand requires a specific amount of exposure, within a certain timeframe, and requests you to include branded links, this is more like an advertorial and it makes sense for you to get paid for that work.
• Social media partnerships. Most partnerships will include visibility on other channels you interact with your readers on. Social media coverage could be included in the agreement you make with a partner, or it could be separately charged for. If you have (tens of) thousands of followers on a channel, it makes sense to charge an additional (smaller) rate for exposure on this outlet of your blog.
Option 4: Events or co-creation
A more interactive way of promoting a brand is creating a product or service together. Examples are guest designing a collection, hosting an event, starring in a campaign, shooting a series of videos for the brands website, and so forth. Often these are displayed on the brand’s webpage / social media as well so besides being lucrative, these collaborations can mean a lot for your blog in terms of publicity and brand building.
Option 5: Freelancing
Another way to making yourself and the expertise you’ve gained through blogging useful for your partners, is by putting it to work for the company directly. Are you a star at photography or styling? Get involved in creating the brand’s lookbook. Do you have a way with words? You could write for one of the organizations (online) platforms, such as a corporate blog or a branded magazine. Keen on sharing your knowledge? Consult the brand on how to manage its online presence.
What to charge?
A CPM (cost per thousand banner impressions) often starts at 5 euros and can go all the way up to 35 euros. Unless you have many, many visitors that will get to see a banner, an advertorial is probably more lucrative. Rates for these sponsored blog posts can go all the way up to thousands of euros for blogs with a big audience. For freelance jobs, I’d suggest coming up with an hourly rate based on standars for that field (say, photography or writing).
Many companies, especially the bigger ones, allow themselves between 30 and 90 days for payment. I always include a request to pay within a month in my invoice and follow up if the payment hasn’t been made after that. I have a separate bank account for my business, which keeps things organized for bookkeeping and helps me see what comes in and what goes out – I’d highly recommend it.
Trust from your readers is one of the most valuable and important goods when running a blog. Connecting your blog to brands that don’t suit you, or advertising products you haven’t personally experienced, might make readers question your authenticity. So a guideline is to always disclose if you are being sponsored for a post, and only accept offers that a) would also make sense in your blog’s content if they weren’t sponsored and b) are a fair deal. If I think a certain collaboration won’t sit well with my readers or if the demands a brand has are unreasonable, I step away from the offer. Odd but true: intuition can be your biggest advisor when it comes to making business decisions!
Photo by Eefje Gerritsjans. Yes, sometimes your couch is simply the best place to blog from