Financial compensation has become a sensitive topic in the blogosphere. More and more money is out there for bloggers, and one’s vision can be clouded by dollar signs. My vision has been clouded before, but I’ve learned that there is no dollar amount that is worth losing my self-respect or tainting the voice and brand I have built. I’ve had a few readers comment lately on my monetization, and I’d like to explain it more carefully to you – what I do and why I feel okay doing it. I know this topic is not interesting to everyone, so though I despise them, I'm going to put in a jump for the rest of this lengthy post.
Giveaways. 99% of the time, my giveaways are through BlogHer. I have been a proud member of BlogHer for several years. I think the organization does great things, and they respect me as a person and my goals for this blog. I am not blackballed if I refuse campaigns, and they understand if bloggers don't want to participate in programs or ads because they go against their beliefs or ethics or lifestyle. Every so often, I receive an email from BlogHer asking if I’d like to be part of a certain campaign. I am told the brand, the general direction for the post, and am asked if I fit a certain demographic. Sometimes I apply, sometimes it's a wrong fit and I decline. Sometimes I am approved for a campaign I apply for, sometimes I am not.
These giveaways always involve some sort of review or knowledge of the brand mentioned in the post. I receive the product for free as well as money for writing the post and touting it on social media. I don’t half-ass these reviews, I truly use that product more than one time and I believe give a thorough review. Heck, some of the products I review for giveaways become products I purchase again and again. I write all the content – they do give me some wording from the brand about it’s benefits and ingredients and who they see as their customer, but how I use that is 100% moi. I like working with BlogHer because they pick random numbers for giveaways, they understand not everyone uses social media or wants to blog about a giveaway, they always mail the winners their product, and they work with brands that I like and respect. Oh, and the prizes are good stuff – gift cards and fancy gift baskets and such. I won’t do a giveaway if the prize isn’t something I would like to get myself.
For every giveaway/review I do, there’s three I reject because I don’t think they’re a good fit for the blog or I don’t want to be connected with the brand. As for timing… well sometimes I ask to be part of a program in March but it doesn’t go live until July. this can make for some wonky scheduling (I have to go live the day they choose), and can end up having a month that is way too heavy on the sponsored posts. Luckily it usually ends up that the month after is nice and quiet so hopefully those who come by on a regular basis don’t see me as a perma-sellout.
Sponsored Posts. Other than the BlogHer giveaway posts, I don’t do sponsored posts on this blog. I rarely do a guest post, but when I do it’s from someone I know very well and who knows me and my blog very well and I think provides information or a perspective I cannot provide but will still provide content that resonates with my readers. Sometimes I have done sponsored content on a different URL with a teaser here, but I have gotten burned in the past with how it goes, and am far more careful/less likely to do them these days.
Affiliate Links. When I link to the dress I am wearing, if it’s not a gift from a brand and it’s a mass retailer, it’s likely an affiliate link. I primarily use ShopSense, which has an unknown super secret algorithm on how they pay, but it’s not solely based upon you buying items when you link. I also receive a commission if you sign up for Gwynnie Bee past the intro month and use my custom URL link. I also use affiliate links when I mention music or books, but then use Amazon. I dabble with SkimLinks and RewardStyle and have used Commission Junction in the past and I may use a different program in the future if they make it easy for me to use, don’t force you readers to buy anything for me to profit, and have the brands that I feature naturally on this blog.
Speaking of which, you’ll never see a What I Crave Wednesday or similar post because I don’t want to encourage you to buy anything you don’t want or need. When I discuss brands and items in non-personal outfit posts, I always write the post first and then do the links – if I can’t find an affiliate link for something I mentioned I just do a straight link instead of changing the content. I also provide the brand of each item I wear so you don’t have to click on a link for more information – you can Google the brand and a description and find it. In fact, when it comes to shoes if I know the style name I will share it so you can click on the link, or choose to Google to find it elsewhere.
Banner Ads (Primarily Found in the Sidebar). I use the sidebar (and occasionally other places on the blog) to sell ads. Some come from ad companies (Google AdSense, BlogHer, Burst Media, Technorati, Lijt, etc.), and some come straight from the brands who work directly with me. With the ad companies, I can’t guarantee what they will show, it’s often determined by your web habits. This is why if you went to look at dresses at Lands’ End and then visit my blog, there’s suddenly an ad right there for the very dress you considered putting in your shopping cart. While I don’t know what will be shown, I do restrict certain products or brands (politics, weight loss, cosmetic surgery, firearms) that I do not wish to support. I also won’t sell adspace to any old company – the longer I blog the more discerning I am with my blog’s real estate and I offer primo space to those companies and brands I like the most. I promise not to clutter my social media channels or dedicate blog posts to courting sponsors.
Gifted Merchandise/Opportunities. When I started having brands offer to send me free stuff it was so exciting! Sure I’ll take that ugly sweater, go ahead and send me that weird scarf, I’d be happy to try your stinky greasy body lotion, it’s free! The thing is, I would then have to take my time and my blog real estate to review that free item, and it’s not very nice to get a product free and then write a negative review (though long-time readers know I do it from time to time). I now am far more discerning with what merchandise I will accept, and I let them know ahead of time that it will be shared on the blog ONLY if I like it.
Recently a brand I like and wore before they contacted me offered to send me some of their merchandise. I picked out my pieces from a lookbook (AKA teeny little low-res pictures), guessed my size and thanked them. The clothes arrived, they were well-made and cute but they were too small. However, I was able to clearly see the quality and style and the error was on my part, so I incorporated the brand into an advice post instead of looking awful in their very nice clothes.
Sometimes I am gifted an event or opportunity, I always incorporate in the post that they gave it to me. If I don’t mention that a brand was kind enough to send me/let me try/have a membership to something, it’s because I bought it with my own money. Sometimes this may not be clear, so I often write a disclosure stating that my raving is because I am a fan, not because I am paid.
I will note an item of clothing or accessories is gifted with “C/O” which means courtesy of. Even if the piece is three years old, I will still note that it is “C/O.” I have received some comments lately that I wear too much gifted merchandise, but you need to realize I have been blogging for seven years, I choose to feature brands I like, so some of that C/O stuff could be three years old. Also do know for each brand I do choose to feature, there’s three who received a “thanks but no thanks” email. I also find this blog a great platform for lesser-known brands and companies that do good with their product; if it feels I am wearing too much of a certain brand it's probably because the company as a whole is pretty amazing, has a good message, or supports women who are curvy or plus sized.
Speaking of size... brands often choose to partner with bloggers who are younger or thinner than I even if they have a smaller or less appropriate audience. When a brand contacts me and wants to work with me, a 38 year old soft size 12/14 person, I am impressed. You may have seen that some of my “go to” brands of yesteryear I hardly wear or mention any more, that is because I don't believe they see us as their desired demographic or my blog as a proper platform. I choose to promote brands that realize that women over 30 and a size 10 love fashion and are willing to open their pocketbooks if a brand will provide and promote quality and style for them.
When I see blogs I love start having more gifted merchandise, events that they are hosting, trips, and ads I am happy for them if they are maintain their voice. Some bloggers are in it just for the money, some are in it just for the platform, and some of us are so honored to be able to receive compensation for what we love and would do for free.
I love blogging, I love connecting with all of you. My goal is to be compensated for this work without compromising the content. If you feel I am selling out, if I am putting money before content… send me an email and let me know. There’s no point in this blog if I am turning off those who have been with me since the get-go, or people who could be new readers and friends.