Before Friday’s post went live, I asked members of the WO2 Community to ask any questions they had about how blogs make money. One asked how my life changed being a full-time career blogger versus keeping it a part-time job. The biggest change has been the pitching, the negotiating, the courting of brands to secure paid sponsored content.
I hate pitching. It’s such a different headspace from writing, editing photos, crafting social media content. Every job has aspects we don’t like. I also don’t like bookkeeping, working on the site under the hood to keep it fast and modern and effective, or scrolling through 600 photos of me with one eye open and my necklace lassoing a boob to find 7 good for a blog post. But those are givens, they’re the necessary administrative tasks to accomplish the creative. But pitching, most of the time it’s essentially me begging a brand to like me and pay me to be what they want.
I can easily spend 40 hours a week pitching, replying to emails, taking calls, updating my media kit, liking and engaging with brands on social, and still not make a dime. It starts coloring everything I do. Let’s take this example, all aspects taken from real experiences I have had:
You want to work with The Sweater Store, you love their sweaters, you love their ethics, the pricepoint is perfect for your audience, as is the extended size range. You purchase a sweater from The Sweater Store and style it for the blog and Instagram. You sell a bunch of sweaters from The Sweater Store, the post does extremely well on Instagram. You reach out to The Sweater Store, tell them what a fan your are and clearly your audience is too. You compliment them on their partnership with a charity and a recent collaboration with a celebrity showing. You provide metrics of how well their sweaters sell with your audience, offer some ways to partner. They ghost you. Or they reply saying they’ll send you one free item of their choice in exchange for a blog post and social shares. Or worse, they reply back and say they don’t do paid collaborations even though you saw 8 of your blogger friends do paid campaigns with them in the past three months. What do you do, do you keep pushing to work with them or move on? Next thing you know, you’re writing for The Sweater Store, not for your audience.
It’s two weeks later, you’re writing a piece that is fun and creative and you’re in that zone and words are spilling from your fingers. You go to your browser to research something and you see you have new emails. You check and there’s an email from your contact at The Sweater Store. She finally replied back, they’d love to get on a call and chat about an exciting new project they have for next quarter. YES, all that writing about The Sweater Store paid off! You drop that creative blog post to reply back, schedule a call for the next day and spend the next hour or so organizing your media kit, crafting some pitch ideas, pulling metrics for how well you sell their sweaters, sweaters as a whole, this year compared to last year, how well your posts on social that featured The Sweater store did (we can pull insights on Instagram and Facebook to see how many people saw the content, how many liked it, shared it, saved it, commented on it, clicked on the hashtags or mentions, and more).
You get on the call the next day, thinking it’s a call with your contact but it ends up being her plus 12 different people from the brand, the affiliate, and their PR firm. Come to find out, they’re having a new sweater come out next quarter, a special sweater they want to promote. They want to send you and 499 other influencers the same sweater in exchange for a blog post and Instagram post and at least three slides in Instagram Stories about this sweater. It’s going to be huge, it will be on the Today Show, it will go viral, they already tapped a Kardashian and a Jonas Brothers’ wife and a YouTube star to be part of the campaign, it’s going to be awesome. And nope, there’s no budget but you could be regrammed by The Sweater Store, you may end up in their newsletter, and the top 100 photos will be on the back page of their catalog and it’s going to be amazing exposure. Oh, and they will need full rights to the high-res versions of the photos in perpetuity.
In the meantime, you haven’t finished that piece you were working on because you just can’t get back into that zone. 99% of you wants to throw two giant middle fingers up to The Sweater Store but 1% wonders if maybe if you do that campaign you may end up getting valuable exposure, maybe this would give you a chance to be in a paid campaign with the brand. And well, you have made a good amount from their affiliate program and likely will sell a bunch of these sweaters. You think, you know that Kardashian, that Jonas Wife, and that YouTube star all got paid six figures by The Sweater Store to participate. Likely a percentage of those 499 other influencers are also being paid, though less than a Kardashian. Your cursor blinks at you in Word, mocking you that you’ve lost another day to The Sweater Store and your creative awesome piece will now forever be a half-finished draft on your desktop.
I get the benefit of pitching, but I don't know if it makes sense for my kind of content and goals for Wardrobe Oxygen. I am not looking to be a spokesmodel. A lot of influencers, their goal is to be a model of sorts, or a visual example for a lifestyle or personal style. They focus on photography, work to have their images represent brands beautifully while sharing a consistent aesthetic or brand. And there's nothing wrong with that, but I consider myself more of a writer. And most pitching in this field is based on modeling a product. Maybe all this pitching isn't just messing up my creative flow but my direction for Wardrobe Oxygen as a whole.
Taking a Sponsor-Free Summer Vacation
I’ve decided to take a summer vacation from brands. For the rest of July and August, I am not going to accept any sponsored content, I won’t pitch to any brands, I won’t use my blog and social media to try to court brands to hopefully get paid content. I am going to share content like I did when I was a part-time blogger, but even if I am offered a paid campaign during this time I will decline so I can focus on writing not pitching. I’m going to wear what I want, share on Instagram when it feels right and not when the algorithm says I’ll receive the highest engagement, and share content I find enjoyable.
What this Means
No sponsored posts – no mentions in posts, no dedicated posts, no Instagram photos or stories for brands. No sale alerts the rest of the summer. No Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, no Amazon Prime Day, no list of promotions for Weekend Reads. I may make a quick mention, but no spending days prior to create that content like I did last year. Everything you see on the blog and social is there because I chose to have it there. No contracts, no favors to brands, no dropping there now so I can score some paid campaign come September. I will not spend any time pitching or negotiating. I’ll have a form reply saying I am not accepting any collaborations until after Labor Day. I will focus my time not on sponsorships but on creating more content for the blog.
- I have an open contract with a brand. It is for a series of Instagram posts with corresponding Stories. The last of the contract was shot before July started and sent to them for approval. Once it is approved it will be published.
- I agreed to two trips this summer with brands. These are brands I have featured many times, even before I worked with them. I am not being paid to attend these trips nor to share my experience. I will be sharing on Instagram and writing trip recaps on the blog, but they are not paid for nor am I under obligation to complete them.
- My family and I are taking a trip later this summer, staying at a minimum of four different cities. We have booked and paid for the entire trip… except for one city. I worked with a hotel brand in the past and last month asked if they would cover our stay with one of their hotels in this city in exchange for promotion. It has not been confirmed yet.
- If I am wearing gifted merchandise, it’s because I own it, it’s part of my wardrobe, I love it, and would wear it whether or not there is a camera. I know gifted merchandise can be hard to believe. Previous jobs had perks – free computers, college assistance, 401K matching, office space… my job perk is sometimes getting items of my choice from brands I love. I will always mention it was gifted, and will be better about mentioning how long I’ve had it and other times I’ve shared it on the blog so you can see it’s a product I truly care about.
Giving Back with Your Help
I don’t share how much I make because it’s honestly no one’s business. But after sharing how blogs make money, I want to do an experiment. I am going to share how much I make from affiliate and ads during this “summer vacation.” For every $1,000 I make, I will donate $100 to a charity. Each month, I will pick five charities and you can vote which one should receive the donation.
Most affiliate commissions are held up for at least 90 days to have time for returns to happen. I won’t have an accurate number for what I really earn from affiliate, but I will use the metrics offered to show what I made off of open sales during that month. With ads, I can see what I made but that specific revenue is paid months later. I again will use the metrics to show what I made during that month, not what I received. To not go against any contracts I have signed with these monetization companies, I will not break down this revenue, I will share a lump sum of all affiliate and ad revenue combined.
I donate on a monthly basis already, but rarely share the recipient of the donation. I love the idea of you, who help make that donation be possible, be part of choosing the charity. I will do a post after each month with how much was made, how much will be donated, and have a poll for you to pick the charity. All month long you can email, comment or DM to me charities you think would be a good fit and why.
At the End of My Summer Vacation
At the end of this eight-week vacation, I’ll share the results. How did it affect my creativity, my mindset, and my bank account? I’d love to say that this switch will prove more successful, but I fear it won’t be. But I look forward to trying this and seeing how it affects the content and my relationship with you!