Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to make money blogging

This month I am focusing on sharing tips and suggestions on how to grow your blog.  If you missed my other posts, here they are if you'd like to check them out.


If I could give you a set of things to do to guarantee you will make money blogging I would.  But the truth is, there is no exact process to make money blogging.
Some bloggers may make a fabulous six figure salary, most may never make a dime.  Some who end up making money blogging, generally don't end up making enough to leave their day job.
Others, have no desire to make any money, and do it purely for fun.  That is awesome too!  I think no matter your choice as long as you have fun with it, then your making the right choice!

There is one true fact, there is money to be made by blogging.  How much, and how you do it really comes down to you, and how much work you can put into it.



The truth is, for the most part the difference between someone who makes money blogging and someone who doesn't is a person who is willing to put a lot of time and dedication into it.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Blogging is fun, wouldn't it be fabulous to call it a job?  But those that reach that status are a pretty small number, when you consider how many bloggers are out there.

I am NOT a six figure blogger, not even close.  Not a lot of bloggers will be honest with you on what they make.  But for this posts purpose I am going to give you the true facts on what I make currently. Mostly so if your wondering why I am writing this post, what I am basing it on.
About a year and a half ago I decided if there was money to be made blogging, I was going to see what it would take to earn a little of it.
I went into it realistically, but I knew it was going to take hard work and time.

My first month I made $2.68 you may laugh at that.  But at the time I was pretty darn proud of that, to me it was a great starting point.  Proof that it was possible.
Lot's of hard work, lots of trial and error the last year I made quite a bit more.  Nothing to quit the day job over.  But I was learning and things were happening.

I don't make a set amount each month.  Right now I make anywhere between $200-$350 if I only put basic efforts into it.  Months I have more time to spend, I tend to make a little more.
My best month ever so far was last fall, where I made a little over $800 in one month.  (Oh, I was super thrilled about that month, I can't even tell you how cool that was!)
Turning this profit, in over a year and a half in timing was pretty incredible at least I think so!

HOW DO I DO IT?

Well I should mention I do have a pretty good background in online advertising.  I won't go into my past job history, to much.  But it did give me a little insight to everything from small mom and pop shop advertisers to some of the biggest fish in the market.
Did this help me much with blogging, yes and no.  I believe it will help me more in the future, but it gave me a realistic understanding of what different types of advertisers are looking for.  Which helped me decide which avenues might be the best for me to pursue to start out with.

Do you necessarily have to have an online advertising background to make money blogging? Absolutely not.  But for me, it hasn't hurt.

What is needed to get started:
A blog
1-2 social media platforms with a decent following base
Know how to install HTML code into your blog
Know your blogs Analytics and understand what it all means

A blog: It doesn't have to be a self hosted blog.  Clearly I am still on free blogspot as I am writing this.  I do have plans to move over to self hosted.  But I have to wait for a few more months, for reasons that don't really matter:)

1-2 social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are good choices because you can link your posts/tweets/pictures to your blog.  Instagram is fun and popular, but you can't link a picture to click to your blog directly, so if your just starting out.  However, a lot of advertisers love Instagram right now, so it's not one to skip.  Make sure at least one of them can directly link to your blog.  If you can, go ahead and sign up for as many as you can, it can't hurt!

Know & understand your Analytics: Some blog platforms (blogger) give you your blog site states, in their own analytics.  Truthfully, most of these are terribly inaccurate and list far more page views than reality. Most companies won't accept them as creditable forms of verification.

I use Google Analytics, it is the most popular and widely accepted by pretty much anyone.  There are others, but if you are going to take the time to install it, I'd go with Google because then you won't have to worry later on about its acceptance to the masses.
Then learn how to use it, learn the difference between a Page View, Unique Visitor, Session etc..  It may sound Greek to some, but it's not that hard to understand and there are lots of tutorials out there that can make it really simple for you.

AMBASSADOR PROGRAMS

The important tip on this is, wait until you are ready.  Once you are fairly established and have the hang of things.  Once you have time to move onto something new.

Apply for Ambassador programs in the different niches of your blog.
Make sure you are picking companies and programs that make sense for your blog.
Ex. if you blog about Homeschooling and you apply on travel companies programs because you think it would be cool to get paid to fly around.  Your probably not going to get it, because there is no direct relation to what you blog about.

Don't go crazy, don't apply for a dozen or so of them at a time you'll get overwhelmed and never be able to give each of them the time that is needed to succeed in their programs.
When you have time to invest into it, try applying and get the hang of things, using their program to your full advantage before signing up for others.
Some bloggers apply for anything and everything, and then end up realizing they can't even give one 10% of their efforts, which is kind of a waste!

WHAT DID I DO?
You can actually see some of the companies and programs I am affiliated with on my right sidebar as you scroll down my page.  I've made some great relationships and have received a lot of paid opportunities through these programs.  Not to mention have learned a ton about the blogging world, participating in them.

APPLY WITH COMPANIES DIRECTLY

If you are really ambitious, you can contact companies directly.  To do this, you need to know your worth, you'll want a media kit that displays what your blog is and about, and your monthly stats. What you can offer them, and why they should pick your blog to advertise on.

Some find this to be tedious, but if done consistently this can actually end up bringing you some of your highest revenue and guaranteed monthly revenue... an income!

Why?  Because you are throwing out the middle man (ad agency) you will get to collect and keep the full cut of what the company is willing to offer you.

How? Get your media kit ready, start researching companies, find their marketing department who who is in charge of advertising and email them your media kit and a short but eye catching email. You tell them why YOU are a great choice to bring them more traffic or boost their sales.
Generally if you send out 100 of these, you'll probably see a response from about 1-4 of them.
Might sound like a lot of work for such small numbers.  But if just one of those is a big campaign and you could book them for a year, that could be some decent guaranteed low maintenance earned income for each month.

Relationship Building - Some may even respond and tell you to contact them at a different time or tell you they don't budget again until October etc... Most companies do their advertising budgets quarterly, so they may tell you to contact them in 3-6 months. Do it, write their name and keep that contact info handy, that is the beginning of a relationship even if it is an automatic email response they send!

HAVE I DONE THIS?
Yes, but very little on my blog, so far....  I will though!
I mentioned I used to work in online advertising, I did this daily.  Yes, it is tedious, yes it takes a lot of time.  But after you get a system it doesn't take quite as much time.  But it is worth it.  I took a sales desk that was only bringing in $28K a month, into one that brought in $250K a month in less than a year.  A lot of that was attributed to contacting companies large and small directly using this same method!

ONLINE AD NETWORKS

One way to start making a little money immediately is to install ads from ad networks into your blog. There are lots and lots of them out there.  You might even find a lot of them contact you first.  Don't jump the gun too quickly on these.  Look them over, see what they are paying you for.  Are you getting paid for each ad impression or each click thru?  Do you have to have so many before you even start making money?  (Make sure you understand the difference between an impression and a click.)

I am not going to tell you which is the right and wrong way, but I will say if you don't know what your doing you can easily get suckered into running free ads for someone.
If you find the right one, if you do install them, you will likely make a little money over time.  Just keep in mind you may only make a few dollars a month when first starting out.

FYI You can't ask for clicks on the ads you run on your blog, and you can't click on the ads themselves otherwise you will be penalized.  That is a big NO NO rule of running ads on your site!
But as you grow your blog, you'll notice others will click and the amount you make will grow.

WHAT I DO
I like to use Google Adsense, they are run through a feed that fits relevant ads to each individual person.  Meaning I may see one type of ad, but you might see another type depending on what you do online.  Adsense is click based, so I only get paid on how many times people click on the ads on my page.



USING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING

There are lots of advertising companies out there who find companies for bloggers to run ads for them.  They do all the work and hassle to obtain the contracts for you.  If you are the right blogger with the right following you can make some pretty decent easy money.
But with these, you need to have a decent social media following.  The most common are Twitter & Facebook ad campaigns.  However, I have seen a growth in Instagram campaigns lately as well.
Technically, you don't even need your blog for these campaigns.

MY EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS:  If you want to know how I earn a good portion of the money each month I mentioned.  I will be honest, they have been on Twitter campaigns. That is where I have my largest social media following.  I have legitimate follower accounts, who interact.  When companies pull your social media accounts, they can tell these things.
Due to contracts I have signed I can't tell you how much I make with them.  But to give you an idea for X amount of tweets or mentions I get X amount of dollars.

*That is why it is NOT a good thing to buy into those programs where you pay for followers, they are not legit and will only hurt you.

If you'd like tips on how I started to grow my social media followings, visit the link at the top of this post.



SHOULD YOU DO FREE PRODUCT REVIEWS FOR PRODUCT ONLY?

The controversial topic of blogging, should you do free product reviews or only paid reviews?  The truth is, the choice is yours.
If you are contacting companies to do product reviews and you have the numbers and blog stats to back up what you are asking them financially for, then do it, go for it get paid!

If you are a small blog, low numbers and a company offers you a product review opportunity you might not be able to ask for money.  But that is okay, do a good job with that review anyway and use it to help build your blog.
A lot of times companies if they like your review, they will link to your review on their blog.  This could bring you future traffic, which could turn into dollars later on.

The choice on this is yours, and don't let other bloggers tell you that your ruining the blogging world because you aren't charging for your post and review.  We all have to start somewhere, and if they go back to their roots, they probably have to admit to doing a few free themselves.
When you do them just make sure no matter paid or for product you follow all FTC rules!

A key thing to keep in mind is, blogging takes time.  Eventually you may realize it's not worth the time to do something for free.  Even if you do only want to do things for free, remember your blog is valuable and you have ever right to charge for things, if you have the page views to back it up!

WHAT DID I DO/WHAT DO I DO
When I first started out I did do reviews for free product, not many but I did a few.  I took care to do a good job on them, even if the product was small.  They actually became the building blocks for paid reviews.  Companies can see my work, they are part of my media kit.  They see that I take time, I am thorough and they won't be getting a short blurb, but a full report.  Basically, they can see what they would be getting for their money.

Now that I have been blogging for a few years, I personally rarely do a product review for free.  Not because I think I am too good for it, its not that at all.
Doing a good review takes time.  It can take an hour or so just to write the post, and to edit and add pictures, can take another 30 or so minutes.  Not to mention the time it takes to do any required social media mentions.  That is time, a lot of time!  
I value my time, and at one point realized I have put a lot into my blog to build it to where it is now.  I value my time and I feel I am creating a good product (my blog), and there is not a whole lot of spare time.  Which is why I really had to start thinking time is money.  

* I can't give you a set figure on what to ask for posts.  It really depends on what your monthly page views are.  It also depends on what they want you to do, some have a series of things you need to do.

Another VERY important thing to remember.  By law, you have to declare the net worth of the product you received for free on your taxes.  If you are doing $100's to $1000's of dollars a year in FREE reviews, for product only, you will be paying money to the government to review those.


PAID PRODUCT REVIEWS

If you have a good following, and blog page views.  You can actually get paid to do product reviews.

A few things to keep in mind when doing this.  Your audience trusts you, you should be honest. You should only want companies who want your honesty!!!

Review only products that may be of interest to your blog audience.  Don't review things just because your getting them free or paid.  Review it because it might be a product of interest to you and your readers.
Companies are asking for an honest review, it's your job to give it.  If you don't like it, or a particular feature on it, then say so.

Reviews help companies in several ways, the SEO it can provide them with.  Even bad reviews still get their name out there to the public and can bring their website rankings higher, it's all about branding.  A lot of companies actually make improvements based on reviews.  Most do them to build their SEO in a low cost way.

You need to think of them as you would any job.  If you are going to do it, do it well.
If you try a product and you don't like it if you are working with the company directly you could ask them if they'd still like you to review the product, but most right up front ask for an honest review, so give it!

One thing a lot of bloggers find after a while, is companies will contact you to do a review.
A few things to keep in mind.  They are sending out a mass email, they are likely hoping for as many FREE takers as possible.  They'll get them, that is why they do it.
The method above I mentioned about sending out 100 emails to company a week to find advertisers. Well companies do it too.  They research find blogs, and send out mass emails.
Don't be afraid to ask for compensation, but be realistic and send them your kit as to why you don't do free reviews.  They may pass up on you, but that's okay, you've established your worth, and they may not take you, but a bigger fish might!
Many do have budgets, but they are saving those budgets for certain bloggers, you might as well try and see if that blogger is you!

* As well as declaring the product cost you are reviewing, you also are required to declare all funds you make.  These companies do file on their records that they sent you these things.  Keep that in mind before you go and spend every dollar you just made:)

A FEW AD NETWORKS I RECOMMEND

I would love to give you a list of all of them.  But there are far too many to list.  Each blogger who used ad companies has their different preferences.  Instead of giving you just a random list, I'm going to list the ones I actually use and have found the most success with.

BLOG HER
They have various opportunities, but I really like their platform, they pay you exactly when they say they you will get paid.  It's easy to keep track of your campaign and it's progress.  They are great to work with.  You can actually learn a lot from them as well as attend blog conferences.

THE SITS GIRLS COMMUNITY (MASSIVE SWAY)
They are also on my high recommend list, you get paid exactly what they say you will.  They have a good platform.  But for a smaller blog, you may want to wait until you have a good following before applying, as a lot of their campaigns have some pretty high requirements.

SOCIAL SPARK
Here you can get paid to blog.  But you can also get paid to tweet, as well as a few other options.

TAP INFLUENCE
You fill out the application and enter your info and they put together your media kit for advertisers. Higher your numbers the better your chances.  But they have both blog and social media opportunities.  They are pretty well known in the blogging world, even some of the companies I am an Ambassador with run their campaigns through them, to pay you better based on your blog stats and numbers.

INFLUENSTER
This is really a fun opportunity for bloggers who like to try out free things.  There are not really any requirements when they send you things.  But if you do go back after you receive them and do some of the optional feedback and social mentions, you'll be able to continue to receive occasional opportunities from them.  I am not aware of any paid opportunities with them however, they do have contest for those who do reviews and I have seen them offer cash prizes, it could be you, you never know:)

IZEA
They do have paid opportunities and work with quite a variety of different companies!

TOMOSON
I've done several campaigns with them.  I do like their platform, it's easy to complete the ad campaign projects.  However, when you first enroll they will not allow you to set your status as paid.  You have do do a few, establish a ranking with them (how quickly you fulfill the requirements) before you can set your account as paid.  But they do have lots and lots of products and companies, there is a little something for everyone.

GOOGLE ADSENSE
If you have a basic understanding of how to install HTML code into your blog, then you can easily run Google ads on your site.  I believe your blog or site has to have been up for more than 30 days, before applying as it needs time to gather your sites feedback.


Like I mentioned there are many more and I have tried a few others this past year and a half.  But these are the ones that I have stuck with the most and actually recommend as great companies to work with.

GETTING STARTED

Start out small and do one thing at a time.  If you try to do it all, you'll get burned out before you even get started.  If you need to work on building your blog, building your following then start working on that today.
If you feel you have an okay following, then start applying for campaigns or contacting companies.

MY TIP - Set a few goals for yourself.
Maybe your first goal is to obtain X amount of social media followers.  Or X amount of monthly blog page views.  Give yourself a realistic time frame to do it in.  Then write down what you need to do to get there.  Figure out how much time it may take a day/week to get this goal.  Manage your time and keep yourself dedicated to your goal.
If you start to get burned out, hold back for a while maybe a few weeks, or a month. Until you feel you can put the time into it again, while still enjoying it.
Keep it fun, and keep active goals and you just might see some great success!

THE FACTS

The fact is this, there is money to be made on your blog.  But just because you have a blog doesn't mean that is all you have to do to make money.
If you want to turn it into something that you can make an income off of, it won't happen over night. It's going to take hard work and time.
Above I listed some tips and suggestions to consider when deciding if getting paid to blog is right for you.  But if your serious about it, I will promise you can make it happen, I just won't offer any guarantee's at how much you will make.

First you need to Build Your Blog, and Build Your Social Media Following.  Network with other bloggers, create your own blogging tribe.   You can treat your blog like a business, schedule your time so you can use it to your best advantage most wisely.  Remember that a lot of it is trial and error, and sometimes you'll have to try a lot of things that don't work to find the thing that does.  Don't change your blog to fit what you think others want or business want.  You'll have far more success if you blog from the heart.

Keep creating great content and being unique.  Always remember to blog first and foremost for fun and because you love it!  That way you'll never be disappointed about your results!


So tell me, do you make money blogging?  Is it something you hope to work toward?  If you do, I'd love to hear what things work best for you!  Or do you just blog for fun, and want to keep it that way?  Nothing wrong with either goal or objective!!!





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