Before I started blogging, I had no idea to the extent of which someone could monetize their blog. Sure, I read other blogs before I started my own. But not blogs are entirely open about their monetization, and I hadn’t read any blogs that really dove into the ways to monetize. These days it seems like so many people begin blogging for the sole purpose of making money from it. I see bloggers post in Facebook groups that they’ve just started their blog that week, and wondering how they can go about getting sponsored posts. Me on the other hand? I had this blog nearly a year before I earned my first dollar. I began my blog on WordPress.com (something I would never recommend). I knew I would have to upgrade before I could start monetizing, and figured I would build up my audience for 6-9 months, then make the leap after the wedding when I had more free time. And that’s exactly what I did. I took on a few sponsored posts in exchange for free products, but didn’t make my first dollar for almost a year. Some people might say that seems like an absurdly long time to wait, especially given how common it has become to make a living from blogging. This isn’t my full-time job, so making money wasn’t my priority. And I wanted to make sure I was ready. You might be thinking you’re ready to monetize your blog, and that’s awesome! Before you take that leap and monetize your blog, there are a few steps I suggest you take first to make sure you (and your blog) are really ready!
This is the first big task you should tackle, because your blog design is the first thing companies will see when you scope out your blog for the first time. It’s important to make sure you have a clean, cohesive blog design. Make sure there isn’t clutter all over your sidebar and footer, and that it looks altogether professional. It’s also important to feature a picture of yourself and links to your social media pages in a prominent place.
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This is the most important piece of all if you’re going to begin applying for sponsored posts! Companies have no reason to believe you’ll write a quality post for them if you’re not already posting quality content. They’re going to look at everything including the categories you post about (to ensure the post is a good fit for your blog, so don’t try applying for things that aren’t a good fit), the length of your content, your writing abilities and the images. They’ll also want to know how often you post and how long you’ve been blogging. Some blog networks won’t even consider you if you haven’t been blogging at least 6 months and post at least three days per week.
Honestly, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog or how you want to make your money, your content is going to be the most important thing, and the thing you’ll have to work the hardest to perfect!
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When you’re offered a sponsored post, it’s typically not just about sharing the post on your blog. You also need to get people to the post! Meaning you’re going to have to promote the post on social media. Most companies are going to ask that you share the sponsored post across all (or most) or your social media channels. So even if you have a lot of page views, they might pass you up in favor of a blogger with a larger social media following. The biggest thing I can recommend is to start building your social media pages immediately, and start interacting with your followers now so they’ll want to read what you have to say when you begin sharing sponsored posts.
It’s also important to ensure your social media channels are portraying a message the company would want. For instance, if you typically swear a lot on your social media or share inappropriate content, a company that sells family products likely isn’t going to want their product associated with that account. And if you send a tweet one day complaining about the service or quality at your local Starbucks, don’t expect Starbucks to choose you to promote their product when that sponsored post opportunity rolls around.
You’re also going to want to have share buttons on your blog. I use Shareaholic, but lots of plugins exists to accomplish this. That way your readers can share your posts easier as well. The more eyes you can get on a post, the most a company is going to want to work with you!
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This is the one thing I wish I had been more prepared for when I began monetizing my blog. You might notice (or you might not) that I use a lot of stock photography on this blog. I am not a photographer by trade or much experience with photography, so I typically choose to opt for stock photos. If you do that as well, that’s fine! A lot of bloggers do. But if you’re going to monetize your blog with sponsored posts, you absolutely have to nail your photography. Every sponsored post I have done has had the requirement of original images. Looking back, I cringe a bit at the images in some of my earlier sponsored posts. And since images are a huge part of blogging, you’ll want to have the best. If you don’t deliver great images, companies are less likely to return for more sponsored posts in the future.
If you’re even thinking about monetizing your blog with sponsored posts, start working on your photography now! You don’t have to invest in a fancy DSLR, and it can be done with a smart phone, but you just need to start practicing!
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It is immensley more difficult to promote products and companies in sponsored posts if you don’t know who you’re promoting to. First of all, companies are unlikely to want to work with someone who doesn’t know who their target audience for their blog is. Many companies will ask you to describe your audience and why you think the product would be relevent to them. It’s also going to be difficult for you to write to an audience you aren’t sure about.
I read a lot of posts where business bloggers insist you have to choose a niche for your blog to be successful. I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I think what’s even more important than narrowing down your blog topic is narrowing down your blog audience. It will be much easier to figure out how products and sponsored posts fit within your blog if you figure that out first!
You might have noticed that all of the previous advice I shared revolved primarily around sponsored posts. Of the lifestyle bloggers I know, sponsored posts are by far the most popular way to monetize a blog. However, there are many different ways to monetize your blog! Many fashion bloggers rely on affiliate links as their main source of income, when people purchase the clothing they share on their blog. Some bloggers rely on ads as their main source of income. Here’s the thing though. Affiliate links and ads are heavily reliant on traffic. First of all, it’s going to very difficult to make money on affiliate links as a new blogger because your readers simply won’t trust your advice yet. As a general rule, your ad and affiliate income will rise as your traffic rises. And I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to make a full-time income blogging solely from sidebar ads if you don’t have a ton of traffic. You can certainly throw the links and the ads up there and earn your few cents per week, but it will take a lot of traffic to really see those numbers soar.