Friday, September 20, 2013

the business of blogging

After my post about using ShopStyle as a way to shop and for links on my blog, I had several people ask me more about the business side of maintaining a blog, so I thought it would make for an interesting blog post. In the last few weeks I've had some really awesome opportunities come my way, and it really has got me thinking about how strange this whole blogging thing is. What started out as just a fun thing of taking a few shots from my macbook in my bathroom thing has turned into a part time job for me. Here's what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, what I'm not doing, and so on. I would love to hear your philosophy on blogging, making a business out of it, and how you get it all to happen. 

affiliate linking

I blogged for about six months before I ever used an affiliate link, and even then I was doing it wrong for another two. For those new to blogging or don't know what an affiliate link is, it's kind of like an in between link that tracks what your readers click on. There are two main types that fashion bloggers use - Reward Style and Shop Style. With Reward Style, you get a percentage of a purchase a reader makes. You don't get anything for them clicking on your links, just if they make a purchase within a certain time frame (usually around 30 days if you don't click on a new affiliate link or clean up your cookies). The second is Shop Style, which pays you around 3-5 cents per click, but nothing for purchases, so for example, if you were to click on this to see the most beautiful dress imaginable, shopstyle registers that click, I make $0.05, but it wouldn't cost you anything. I believe that most of my readers are like me - we're a bit nosy about what other people are trying on and buying, and we like to do a lot of window shopping, but we probably aren't making a ton of purchases. For these reasons, I use Shop Style the majority of the time. I feel it's less intrusive for some reason - no part of your money ever goes to me. I think you guys like to see what I'm looking for, what I'm trying on, and what I've decided to spend my clothing budget money on. I do use Reward Style links occasionally, especially if I'm highlighting an item on sale, but for the most part I stick with the per-click affiliate links. If you haven't used Shop Style or are interested in giving it a try, I used this tutorial to figure it out. I then convert them to a link so that I can track the clicks per item.

The internet as a whole has a lot of mixed opinions on affiliate links. As a blogger, I think that bloggers drive people to make purchases or just to check out what brands offer, bringing exposure to that brand. Since this doesn't take away anything from the reader, I think they are a great way for bloggers to be paid for the "work" they are doing on their blog. I know many will argue that bloggers don't deserve that money, that affiliate links are like selling your soul, and that they can't be trusted. I think there's definitely an in between in there - the biggest thing as a blogger is to be open about your affiliate linking to your readers. I have a disclosure on the left hand side of my blog so I hope that no one has ever felted duped or cheated.

sponsor agencies

I'm a member of the Clever Girls Collective, which is like an in between machine. Basically, companies will go to them to look for a certain type of blogger for their campaigns, and then we can apply for those campaigns. If we are accepted to that campaign, we usually get to try out their product and then we are compensated for our time. This is how I did a few of the Hanes and Kotex posts over the last year. Personally, I try to limit my participation in those to companies that are either related to my blog or my life. I wear sportsbras, and I use Kotex tampons, so talking about them isn't an unnatural thing for me. I was chosen to be in a really cool campaign coming up that I'm so excited about - I can hardly wait to show you guys all about it, and I would never have gotten to do this or get paid like this if it weren't for being a part of a group like this. Again I think it's really important that you think about the bigger picture, and not just run at every single campaign that comes along because your readers may not want to read about juice or bubble gum if they are reading a style blog. I generally do maybe one of these every other month or so.

selling advertising space

I feel that the selling of ads on blogs has slowly been declining. I offered it for a while on my blog, and I got to meet a lot of awesome women, but in the end I feel it didn't work well with my blog. I always felt guilty that I wasn't doing enough for the people who were giving me their hard earned money, and I just didn't want them to be disappointed with where their money was going. I already follow many of you who comment on here, so it felt weird taking money from certain people. Once I started school, I completely removed all sponsorship information on my blog. Honestly, it felt freeing. I didn't constantly have to update my stats, make sure I was doing as much as I could for my sponsors, and feeling like I needed to push that part of my blog.

working with companies one-on-one

I am not one of those people who have the guts to contact a company to work with them. I've done it two times, and it was for companies I was truly interested in (Daniel Wellington), or have paid my own money for (Everlane). I know many bloggers have no problem putting themselves out there, and most days I wish I had the balls to do so. The times I have worked with companies, I either was given the opportunity from another blogger (like the Hobo Bags collaboration) or the companies reached out to me (for example, Dankso). I don't think that I'm at the point in blog size that I should be paid for this exposure, especially when I'm offered free things. I may be selling myself short, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The companies I do decide to work with are companies that fit my aesthetic and are things I would buy with my own money, and I just get the awesome opportunity to try it out for free.

money money money

In any given month, I make at least enough to technically pay my rent - this is almost all through affiliate linking. Every 6 months or so I receive a check from google for the adsense I run on the side. I am in a bit of debt right now from my medical school applications (they are SO expensive) and my move, so my money that I earn is broken down in to:

  • 25% goes straight into a "Taxes" savings account. The money we receive from affiliate linking is not taxed yet, so I'm planning ahead for tax season now. I'm kind of hoping that the tax return I would have received from working will cover the money I owe, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.
  • $100 goes into my Chanel savings account. After I used the money I had saved up before to pay for my school clothes, I wanted to start over to save my that Chanel bag. I should have enough saved up by graduation, just shy of my 30th birthday, to buy one. Or maybe I'll go on an awesome vacation, or maybe I'll use it to help pay for a house, or whatever, but I like that I can put a little bit aside each month for myself.
  • The rest is going to pay off my debt. I'm not going to lie, it kind of sucks to have all of your money go towards things you already paid for, but duh, that's what debt is, so I want to get out of it as quickly as possible. Although I'll be in about $250,000 worth of student loan debt by the time I graduate, I want to be out of this other debt way way before that.

I'll be really honest and say that I think that making money from a hobby is the most bizarre thing. I never started all of this to make money, but I'm thankful that it has happened because it's allowing me to get my finances in order. I hope that you as readers don't feel like I'm using you, or that I'm just doing this to make money. I truly appreciate all of the support and friendship you guys give me, the money is just a little bonus.

I hope that gives a little more insight into what goes on behind the scenes for me. Please let me know if you have any questions, don't know where to start, or how you feel about all of this. I want you to be honest!