Blogging is my full-time career, which inevitably leads to the question “how do bloggers make money?” This disclosure page is, first and foremost, here to help you understand my rules and policies, in accordance with FTC rules. But it’s also a fun, in-depth answer to that question!
1. It’s different for everyone.
The way bloggers make money, and how much they earn, is completely different from one blogger to the next. My disclosure here is not necessarily someone else’s experience.
2. Most of my revenue is traffic based.
Most of my revenue is NOT given to me by sponsors. It’s earned the same way any commission or performance based job would, with automated programs (#3 and #4) that allow me to earn based on traffic.
3. The internet is built on affiliate marketing.
When I first monetized my blog in 2012 (after approx. two years of blogging 7 days a week), I did the most simple action. I took the links I was already posting, and converted them to affiliate links. Literally anyone with a computer can do this, and every time you click on anything on the internet, it’s probably an affiliate link. Similar to if you refer someone to your gym and they give you a month free, I earn a couple of pennies every time you click. Affiliate marketing is great because there’s never pressure to choose brands or stores that have affiliate links – 99.9% of brands I shop already have them!
4. Banner ads, obviously.
Banner ads are pretty obvious as advertisements on a website, but I want to be clear that those boxes in the right hand column of the blog are paid sponsorships with companies. Or they are banner ad networks, where I earn revenue based on the number of eyeballs (traffic) to the site.
5. I’m a Stella & Dot Stylist.
Stella & Dot is a multi-level marketing company I joined in 2011. That means I am a 1099/independent contractor employee with them. I pay fees to be a Stylist, I earn commission when you buy through me, and I earn discounts on products. I don’t list prices for these items in posts, because the prices I pay are not available to non-Stylists.
6. You can identify sponsored posts by the disclaimer.
Anytime you see a disclaimer at the end of the post (“this post is brought to you by”) that means I was compensated by that company to share that post. This practice - bloggers being paid - is growing bigger everyday. Studies show that companies are taking marketing budgets away from traditional media like TV and print, and putting more and more into online marketing, which often includes paying bloggers.
While I am compensated on these posts, I am also completely autonomous in the creation of them. I pick out the clothes, style them, and write everything myself, and while I do let the brand “approve” before it goes live, I don't take edits other than typos. The work depicted in sponsored posts is completely my own.
7. Sponsored posts are inherently biased.
In college I wrote a paper about press junkets and the freebies given to reporters, exploring whether reporters could write unbiased articles if they are being showered in free gifts? And my conclusion was – probably not! And I still feel that way. What's really important though, are the things you do NOT see on the blog - the sponsorships I said NO to. These are a large number of companies each week that inquire about partnering but I don't work with them for a number of reasons:
- Their aesthetics are not a good fit.
- Their prices are not a good fit.
- They/their website seems shady or unethical.
- I agreed to partner with them, but when I received the items I didn’t like them in person, so I shut it down.
I’m incredibly passionate about this topic and rule with an iron fist. Sponsors have to go through the ringer before they make it to your screens. Sponsorships are totally biased, because if I don’t like it, I’m not posting it!
8. Items are borrowed for sponsored posts.
Just like a magazine, I borrow items and photograph them for sponsored posts. It may sound strange and I may be the only blogger on the planet who does this, I really don’t know. But I am super passionate about the environment, being a good steward with clothing, and limiting how much I own, so I operate just like a magazine would. Whenever possible, items are borrowed and then sent back! When they are not sent back, they get consigned, donated, or become c/o items (see #10).
9. I don’t accept free clothes in exchange for posts.
There is a very common practice in blogging where a company says “hey blogger, I’ll give you this dress for free!” and the blogger takes it and wears it on their blog. It’s not really a sponsorship since the blogger wasn’t paid, but they got an item for free, so that is often disclosed in a blog post by using the term "c/o." I used to engage in this practice back in the day (2011-2013) but have since stopped accepting these solicitations because:
- It’s harder to tell when something is c/o sponsored. I prefer a more clear disclosure statement.
- If I like a brand enough to accept a free item, then I'll just buy it, or we can do a sponsored post.
- In most instances I really don’t want any free stuff. My personal closet is focused on re-wearing old items.
10. So what does c/o mean?
C/o means, ultimately, that the item was a gift and I didn’t pay for it. But it’s not an advertisement either. Most of the time, it’s an old item, left over from a sponsored post (#8), back from when I used to accept free items (#9), or an old gift card that's left over. Often there is no link for a c/o item because the item and/or company doesn't exist anymore. I just like to wear the things in my closet that I like to wear. I don’t think about whether it’s c/o when I style it for the blog, and hopefully it doesn’t affect the way you see it either.
Whew. That’s a lot of information.
Blogging is still a new industry and it’s a bit like the Wild West, isn’t it? We have the ever-important FTC’s ruling on blogger disclosure: FTC Rules on Sponsored Conversations, to act as a guide, but there are still a lot of decisions to be made on the blogger’s part.
Which is why I’m always happy to answer any questions, and if something bugs you, please let me know and I will fix it. I’m still figuring it out and blogging and social media are always changing.
One last thing… my "why." Why do sponsorships at all?
My first “why” is how I wound up blogging as a career in the first place. I lost my job in marketing and couldn’t find another one during the recession. I was terrified and had no idea how I was going to pay my rent, so I tried different methods to monetize my blog. It’s amazing how motivating that situation can be, because a year later I was making five times my marketing salary from blogging.
Now that I’m out of that phase, I’m happy to say blogging comes from a place of pure joy. It’s the epitome of the American dream to do what you love, AND get paid for it. It’s also fun doing sponsorships. The day to day of blogging can be monotonous and partnering with a brand (especially with my background in marketing) is wonderful. I love getting creative on campaigns and doing sponsored posts!
This page was updated and comment section added 6/5/16.