This is kind of a different blog post to my normal posts, BUT it’s something I wanted to take a minute and write about because lately I have had so many people ask me how bloggers and influencers make money.
I didn’t realize how much of an unanswered question this was because I’m in it, and I guess it just seems obvious? Apparently it’s not though! I’ve had a handful of DM’s this past month asking, and then I just had my fifth person in real life ask me so… I thought I’d do a basic explanation today.
Hopefully, if you are wanting to get into blogging this will help, but also I hope it provides a little bit more transparency so you know when you’re being “sold” to.
This may get kind of long so I’m going to jump right into it:
Oh and just a quick disclaimer: this is mostly how fashion/style bloggers make money as that is the field that I’m in. Things may look slightly different for other genres of blogging.
First of all, not EVERY blogger or influencer is making money. I didn’t for a long time. I’ve been doing this since June of 2015 and it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that I really started to see income generate. So basically it was two years of hard work (I did take about 6 months off when I was pregnant with my twins) before I saw anything.
I WILL say, I didn’t get into blogging to make money. I knew some bloggers did, but I just wanted a creative outlet after my oldest was born and I had decided to become a stay at home mom. It wasn’t until the first brand reached out to me (about three months into blogging) that I realized what it COULD be. But even so, I continue to blog because I love doing it and not because I’ve been able to make money doing it..
So my point is: not all bloggers are making money, not all bloggers want to, and it’s not a guarantee that if you get into blogging you will make an income (especially right away).
BUT there are several ways that bloggers can make money, and I thought I would quickly break it down for you:
These are ads that a blogger can add to their site design and they can be subtle or annoyingly obvious (ever tried to read a site, and gave up after being overcome with ads?). I’ve personally chosen not to have ads on my site because I can’t fully control what’s being shown, and it kind of goes against the grain of what my blog is about, but a lot of bloggers choose to have them.
These aren’t a big money maker, and obviously the more people you have viewing your blog/month the more money you’ll make off of them. I think for a lot of bloggers they are just a nice little side income.
These kinds of posts have caused a lot of buzz lately because, turns out, for a lot of years these kinds of posts were not being disclosed by a lot of bloggers and influencers. They are basically posts where a brand pays you to promote their product to your audience, and the payment amount depends on how many views you have.
These can be somewhat controversial as some people don’t see them as being very ethical, or some people may feel “duped” by them. I think both of those things CAN be true, but if a blogger is being open about when a post is sponsored I don’t necessarily agree that they are unethical.
Personally, I don’t choose to do a lot of sponsored posts because a lot of times there are very specific “checklist” items the brand wants you to include in your post and I don’t like the way that would change my messaging and brand. If I do choose to do a sponsored post, it’s because I love what the brand stands for, I would buy the product in real life, and I think you guys would resonate with it. A lot of bloggers/influencers feel that way… and a lot of them don’t. There are some blogs/accounts where every post is a sponsored post and I get it. Sponsored posts are the best way to make money as an influencer so you can really make a lot of money doing them that frequently, but I personally don’t feel right about overwhelming you guys with sponsored posts.
And I do want to add here that I know a lot of people think it’s ridiculous that bloggers and influencers would make money off of working with a brand, BUT what a lot of people don’t understand is that blogging is actually a lot of work. I put in the bare minimum at the moment (I have three kids and one on the way) and I’m still working about 15 hours a week at it. Doing one post can take hours of work and, whether you like it or not, bloggers do have influence. Studies have been done that show that consumers are making purchasing decisions based primarily on what they see shown on social media/blogs. It makes sense that brands want to pay influencers instead of running MUCH more expensive marketing campaigns, and it makes sense that influencers should be paid for the hard work they are putting in. I know a lot of people will disagree with this, but… agree to disagree. 😉
This is where I make most of my money. These are basically links that you can earn a commission from when someone makes a purchase. I have a few brands that I work specifically with, and am a part of their specific affiliate programs (Everlane, Tradlands, etc.[those are affiliate links by the way ;)]), but I’m also a member of RewardStyle which is an affiliate company that a large amount of brands work with.
There are a lot of ways that these affiliate links are presented to you by bloggers and influencers. The obvious one is through a blog post, but on YouTube when they mention they will “leave a link below”, a lot of times those are affiliate links. On Instagram you’ll see a lot of RewardStyle links in the form of LiketoKnowit posts, or on Facebook when someone shares a photos with (AFF links). They can also be added to stories in the form of swipe ups or in the link in someones bio on Instagram. Shopable posts in Pinterest are also becoming more of a thing.
I do affiliate links in social media posts EVERY now and then, but I mostly concentrate on blog links. Again, the more you utilize the more you make so it’s really just about what you and your audience are comfortable with.
This is another interesting topic, but being “gifted” items is another potential way to make money, but it’s usually just an exchange of goods.
When it CAN make you money is when an affiliate program you are part of gifts you their clothing, and then you make a commission off of the gifted clothing. A lot of my Everlane posts are this type of exchange (though I do buy a portion of the Everlane clothing that I share). Its kind of a win/win for the brand and the blogger because even though they are giving you free product, you are sending customers to them, and then you make a commission.
Some people may find that “iffy”, but for me personally, I don’t tell you about clothes unless I genuinely like them and plan to actually wear them. If there are issues with it I will tell you about that, but I don’t share things that I don’t love or that don’t align with my style. Not every blogger is as “tight” with what they accept as a gift, and I don’t judge that… it’s really up to each blogger and what they feel comfortable with. Some bloggers show things they wouldn’t wear or use because they know their audience will. Again, it’s up to each blogger to decide what they and their audience are comfortable with.
Things get a little hazy when gifted items are sent, but there are not affiliate link opportunities. This is such a contested issue among bloggers and brands, but some brands will attempt to send product in exchange for a dedicated post. They might do this because they are a small brand and can’t afford to pay bloggers, or they might be a big brand that knows they can get bloggers to work for “product.” And that’s where it gets a bit hazy… because when you are starting out and you don’t have a lot of views it’s nice to have an opportunity to get “your feet wet”, but at some point you should be being paid for your hard work (this is my personal view point of course).
My policy for awhile now has been that if a brand is asking for a dedicated post then they need to be willing to pay me, or there needs to be affiliate link opportunities. That might rub some of you the wrong way, but with all the requests I get to collaborate I have to prioritize the opportunities that will allow me to help provide for my family.
I will, however, include a gifted product in a post with a small blurb and link back IF it’s something that I like and will use or if it’s a product that I was going to buy anyway.
A side note: I don’t accept every gift that people want to send me. I don’t have a P.O. Box because I don’t want brands to be able to send me something without my prior approval. I do this because a.) all of the shipping waste that goes into PR packages and b.) I don’t want a bunch of stuff cluttering up my home that I can’t use.
I wanted to close by saying that I understand why bloggers and influencers get a lot of flack. There’s a lot “entitlement” that CAN come with the job. But I think what’s misunderstood is that most bloggers who have “made it” (I’m talking the BIG bloggers… not bloggers like little old me) have worked incredibly hard to get there. And no, not just worked hard at looking good, but work days that don’t end, never taking time off, putting other areas of their life on hold to pursue their dream, and years of hard work (in most cases). It’s not something everyone wants, or is willing, to do.
My point is that most successful bloggers are people with drive, good work ethic, and a willingness to devote their life to their “dream.” The few bad eggs that make it into the media don’t represent the entire bunch.
I think some of the “distrust” comes from not understanding how bloggers are making money (or from bloggers not disclosing properly) so I hope this post helps!
I think that sums everything up. If I missed anything let me know!