Here’s my promise to you: This post on blogging is the most helpful, comprehensive, detailed, realistic, applicable, with the most free resources you have ever read. Sound good?! I’m also sharing exactly how much I make blogging part-time and how you can too.
I have read probably 50 posts on “How I make money blogging” and walked away with essentially NOTHING. They tell me to pick the right name, use WordPress and get a hosting company and that’s it! What about SEO, how to get affiliate links, what ad service to use, Lightroom presets, free photo sources, the best plug-ins, Pinterest strategies, growing traffic … ?
After blogging for six years, I have hundreds of ideas and tips. I want to actually share with you ALL the practical information I’ve gathered from trial and error, research and blogging friends during this time!
I have never spent more money on my blog than I have coming in. I currently pay no regular fees for my site except for hosting and emails. I’ll show you how!
Ready? Because this isn’t a short little post with stuff you already know. It’s a beefy, takes notes, pin it and pay attention because this is so exciting!
I went to journalism school for graphics and worked as a graphic designer at newspapers for a decade before kids. Working with deadlines, photographers, reporters and editors was extremely helpful to me in the blog world. In a way, a blog is its own little newspaper.
Here is an outline of all the tips and secrets I’m going to share.
— Updated May 2020
You can do it!
It’s true, blogging is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. You have to do it because you love it, not because you want easy money. You have to be self-disciplined. You have to be willing to spend “me time” doing it.
BUT! If you want it, you can do it! You have a unique voice and talent. Everyone has something valuable to say and teach. Don’t worry about the sea of blogs out there, focus on what you want yours to be.
I’m going to help you make a plan, show you free tools and how to get traffic, but all that is just to showcase YOUR ideas!
TIP: You can listen to all the best blogging advice in the world, but if you’re not creating killer content, it’s all in vain.
TECH SIDE OF BLOGGING
Before we get to the fun stuff, we have to talk tech. After all, you can’t have a blog without a website!
How to start a blog
1.Choose your blog name. Think long and hard about this. It needs to work for everything you write about now and in the future. You can’t change it later without destroying your Google standing you’ve worked so hard for. (Example: If you’re not going to blog about being a mom in 8 years, don’t include “mom” in the name.) You’ll also have to make sure the name hasn’t been taken and check if the url is available.
2. Write a tagline for your blog. While you’re thinking about your name, go ahead and spend some time writing a tagline. This will help define your blog’s content for yourself and readers! Mine is: “Offbeat ideas on family, decor and organizing for moms on a budget.” It’s short, but tells readers exactly what I offer.
3. Choose a host. I use Blue Host. Do not use a free service, you need your own domain name. For example, if I used Blogspot my url would be housemixblog.blogspot.com. Free, but not professional.
4. Choose a website builder. WordPress is the most popular choice and works well with Blue Host.
5. Pick a theme. A few places to find a theme: Alien WP, WooCommerce, Restored 316, Just Free Themes.
6. Start building your site! Think about what you want in your side bar: photo, short hello message, subscribe form (more in a minute), search, recent posts, follow on social media … I would suggest putting in the basics, keep it simple. Then you can start on your posts. So exciting!
7. Take the time to get an email with your domain name. It looks more professional than a gmail account. You can do this through Blue Host.
I am not super tech savvy, but I do have access to YouTube! You can Google anything, you just have to be willing to take the time to watch, learn and apply it to your own site.
The best blog plug-ins
A plug-in is something that you add to your website’s existing coding.
DO NOT add too many plug-ins or it will slow down your website. Fast load time is critical to keep readers on your site. I have 24 and that is way too many.
These are my favorite plug-ins:
Akismet Anti-Spam: Protects your blog from spam. This saves me so much time from deleting hundreds of spam comments. (You choose your price.)
All In One SEO Pack: Boost your site’s search engine optimization. (free)
All In One WP Security: Adds security to your site, even emails your monthly backups of your site! (free)
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP): Displays Google Analytics Reports and Real-Time Statistics in your Dashboard. Automatically inserts the tracking code in every page of your website. (free)
Instagram Feed: Display beautifully clean, customizable, and responsive Instagram feeds. (free)
MailChimp for WordPress by ibericode: Adds email subscribe sign up to your site. (free)
Pinterest RSS Widget: Display up to 25 of your latest Pinterest pins in your sidebar. (free)
PopupAlly: Pop up email subscribe box for exiting readers. Does not interfere with pop up ads. (free)
Related Posts by Sovrn: Adds related posts to the bottom of every post. (free)
Social Warfare: These are the colored bars I have at the bottom of my posts with how many times it has been shared. It makes it easy for readers to share your content. It’s a very versatile plug-in. (Just to save you time, I did not care for Shareaholic, another popular one. It kind of took over my site, adding their own links and buttons.)
Sign up for Google Analytics right off the bat. It measures all your stats — visitors, page views, SEO, most popular pages, readers in real time …
You need this for your own knowledge, but also for all ads and sponsorships. It is proof to companies how many eyes will be seeing their content. They won’t take you on without it.
BLOG DESIGN STYLE
Your style can evolve, but it should look similar from one post to the next.
1.Design your logo. Here’s where my graphic design instincts kick in. Your logo does not need to be fancy. In fact, it’s better, more versatile and looks more professional when it’s simple! You could just use a certain font. Yes, it really is that easy! That’s essentially what I did and it’s worked from day one. Spend some time on this because you don’t want to change your look often for branding purposes. Also note, legally you need to have the rights to the font. So either purchase it or keep reading for free, copyright-free font sources.
2. I suggest sticking to two or three fonts. Don’t try a new one each week, and make sure they go well with your WordPress theme.
3. Edit your photos consistently. A Lightroom preset can help with that. More on that in a minute.
4. Stick to a color scheme. I use mostly white with hints of green, light blue and blush. If you can’t decide, look around your house. What colors do you naturally love and choose?
5. Keep a similar style across all platforms (blog and social media). It’s best to even use the same headshot for all platforms as well (your blog comments, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook …). You’re branding your blog.
TIP: Remember, with graphic design, simple is best!
Photos are an integral part of blogging success. Period. I’ll show you what I use and give you tips for more professional-looking photos.
Cameras for blogging
You do not need a professional camera to start blogging. You can even use your phone at the beginning, but ALWAYS shoot in natural light.
I am not a professional photographer. I’m an amateur who takes most of her photos in automatic mode (gasp!). I know professionals are shaking their heads right now, but this is an area I plan to grow in.
For now though, I shoot in automatic and adjust the f-stop (the exposure) as I shoot.
Great beginner camera: I was happy with my Rebel for years. This a great, affordable step up from a point and shoot.
Tips to make your photos more professional
1.Shoot in natural light. I keep overhead lights turned off for photos to avoid a yellow cast.
2. Take A LOT of pictures. A couple of each shot to make sure one is in focus. And from each and every angle. The more you take, the more likely you are to get THE shot. I end up using a small percentage of the pictures I take.
3. Make sure your photos are straight. My photos are always slightly skewed to one side no matter how hard I try to shoot straight! The most basic thing you can do to help your photos is to make them straight with the crop tool when editing.
4. When you edit photos on the computer, make sure your whites are truly white, not too blue or yellow. You can do this by adjusting the cast. This is so important.
5. Take things from different angles. I’m always climbing up on bar stools and chairs to get a different vantage point. Get down on your knees to shoot children or even furniture. Don’t forget to shoot vertical too for Pinterest! And utilize the magic of flat lays!
6. Rearrange it. Take a minute to try your shoot a different way. The flowers over there, less things on the vanity, add a basket from the living room … I don’t know why, but I almost always prefer how my photos look after the second or third arrangement.
How to edit your blog’s photos
Whether you shoot with your phone or a professional camera, it is a good idea to use Adobe Lightroom and find a good preset that suites your style.
Lightroom is $10 a month. This is a good investment because the presets and exporting options save hours. I’m addicted for sure. In the meantime, the Lightroom app is free on your phone — for now.
Using a preset consistently gives you a style and unity to your posts. The more you can brand yourself, the more memorable you’ll be. People notice photos, graphics and design before words. It’s your first impression.
I use this Magazine Interior Preset, for all my photos for this blog and Instagram. It comes with presets for your phone and desktop, and I made it an affordable $5!
It took me YEARS to make setting for a true bright white and classic, timeless look. Of course I made it for my home shots, but it works great outdoors and with family portraits as well.
Export your photos for the web
Don’t upload your photo to your blog without resizing it, otherwise it will be huge, eat up memory and take too long to load. These are the settings I use in Lightroom: 1,000 pixels wide and 72 resolution. Check out this article for more photo exporting help.
Why you need to label your photos well
Name your photos for SEO in the Alt Text. Google can’t see your photos, so you have to tell it what is in your photo. It’s time consuming, but well worth the effort. When you name them properly it will help you show up higher in searches. Do not put an image in a post that says IMG_456!
Your alt text is also what ends up being your Pinterest caption when readers pin your photos. The more descriptive your alt text is, the more chance your photo has to show up in a Pinterest search.
I often even include my paint color, where the furniture is from, the IKEA furniture name … People search all these things when they’re considering what items will look like in their own home.
Give credit where credit is due
Always, always, always give credit and a link back to other blogs if you use one of their photos.
It is enraging when you see that someone stole a photo from your site (that you spent time staging, photographing and editing) without crediting you and is receiving hundreds of pins on Pinterest from it. Don’t do this.
I actually don’t do round-up posts anymore and choose to use almost exclusively my own photos. What that does is give readers a view into my life in every post and keep a consistent style across posts.
I have an appreciation for creating content over aggregating it.
Free stock photo sources
I tend to prefer blogs that use their own photos, so I get a feel for the writer, their style, their home, their life. It’s important that readers get to know you so they relate to you and even create a relationship. But sometimes you do need a professional photo and I have some sources for you!
You CANNOT just take images off the internet. You need sources that are not copyrighted. Take this seriously because one can easily do a reverse image search nowadays.
- Unsplash (free)
- StockSnap.io (free)
- Pexels (free)
- Pixabay (free)
- Wikicommons (free)
- PikWizard (free)
- Big Stock (Like everyone, they want you to sign up for a monthly fee. Sigh. But you don’t have to! They still sell by the image affordably here.)
Fonts are also copyrighted! As a graphic designer, I can tell you that Font Squirrel is an excellent source for free fonts that can be used on any work, personal or professional.
Etsy has a fantastic selection of unique fonts at very affordable prices. Do this right, and own the fonts you use for your new job.
How to grow blog traffic
It can be hard growing readers in the beginning, but I’ve got lots and lots of tips for you.
Writing and proofing
I read and reread my posts several times before I schedule them. And then after they’re posted I end up reading them AGAIN and still find mistakes! If you want people to take your blog seriously and see you as a credible source, then YOU need to take it seriously.
Write in your own voice, by all means! This is what will help people connect with you and make your space one-of-a-kind, but no run-ons, use capital letters when appropriate, use spell check and correct grammar.
Headlines make or break you.
I am not all that artsy or clever with my headlines. I tend to be straightforward because I want my post to show up in your Google or Pinterest search. I essentially make my headlines and subheads something that I would actually type into Google or Pinterest.
But headlines that are a question, make an outrageous promise or make you feel like you’re missing out on something are more likely to grab the skimmer’s eye.
Headline Analyzer Tool: Try this free tool to see how your headline scores.
Headline Formulas: Check this chart out when you’re in a headline rut.
Get the first paragraph right.
The first paragraph should be the nutgraph, as journalists call it, or the summary. What are you offering in this post and what’s so great about it? Don’t start off talking about how you’ve been MIA or rambling. You can get to that later in the post. Get to the point in that first few seconds when the reader is deciding to stay or not, and sell it, girl!
For me, this important paragraph also shows up as the blurbs on my home page and excerpts in my newsletters. So I need this to entice readers.
Make the content easily digestible.
No one will read a page-long paragraph. Make frequent paragraph breaks, use lots of subheads to organize content, and bullet point lists instead of using commas.
- Make frequent paragraph breaks.
- Use lots of subheads to organize content.
- Use bullet point lists instead of commas.
Do you see what I did there? I used the same content in two different ways. Which one was your eye drawn to?
TIP: According to several studies, the optimal blog post word length is about 2,000 words. Posts 3,000+ words do very well. More here.
Add informational layers.
I’m a fan of longer posts, packed with information. It keeps your reader on your page and site longer and gives them something to take away.
Whenever possible, I want to give my reader something to take away — a poster, a checklist or printable. Instead of doing a quick write up of your SAHM schedule, why not type it out into a printable? And add a blank one for the reader to fill in for herself. Include a bullet list of ideas to do with toddlers or free things to do outside the house with kids. Add quick-read tips along the way.
Think layering and multidimensional posts. This is something I learned in my years as a graphic designer at newspapers.
Think about your categories.
Start with just four categories or so. This will help you keep your content organized from the beginning. I started with exactly what my tagline says: family, decor, organizing, money. Over the years I’ve expanded, but start small to help keep your focus and stay organized.
Always try to answer everyone who takes the time to leave a comment on one of your posts! Build a community and connect with others. This is my favorite part about blogging — making new friends! I have connected and continue to connect with women from South Africa, India, UK, France, Spain, even Korea. I LOVE hearing from other women (and on occasion family men!). Don’t miss out on this special opportunity of putting yourself on the web. This also encourages people to come back to your site!
Make sure it is easy to comment on your blog, that you don’t have to log into something special or sign up for a new program. There have been many times when I have to sign up for something to comment, so I just skipped it.
An overly sarcastic and pessimistic voice doesn’t usually win over the crowd. The blogs I follow have genuinely nice, friendly people behind them. It just comes out in their writing and concern for their readers.
As you grow, you will get the occasional mean comment. It’s not constructive, it’s hateful and meant to cut down.
People have told me I need to find the joy of motherhood when I shared I was having a hard time, that my projects looked better in the before pictures, that they disliked all my choices. Someone once accused me of hiding things when I was selling my house — even though I wasn’t selling my house and shared the project with the whole internet!
Do not stoop to that level. You will not feel better after a nasty quip back that sparks an ugly argument that no one wins. I don’t even usually comment back. If you must, keep your dignity and kill ’em with kindness.
Start an email subscription
Don’t put this off. Do it as soon as you can, because it takes a long time to grow your list. I started this late in the game! MailChimp offers free service for up to 2,000 subscribers.
Why is an email list important? This gives you a way to get in touch with your loyal readers, to tell them about your latest post and best deals. It keeps them coming back to your site.
How to get email subscribers
Offer an incentive.
What makes you stand out in the blogging world? Is it photography? Write an ebook for beginning photographers. Is it organizing? Put together an organizing ebook with your best tips. Or maybe you are good at design. Offer a free printable or poster.
I tend to make my freebie more general than for a specific audience. For example, a cleaning planner will appeal to more people than making your own soap. Everybody has to clean, and while it sounds cool, a lot of us will hold off on the DIY soap. Does that make sense?
It takes time to sift through how-tos on building a subscriber list and offering incentives to new readers. Don’t get frustrated, keep pushing forward. I started here.
Right now (after some setup) mine is fully automated and sends out my posts from the week in one weekly email.
Also, I do not include the whole post in my email, only a snippet of the beginning to encourage readers to visit my site. Otherwise I don’t make one penny after sending an email to 1,700 people.
Do a pop up subscribe form.
Put an email subscribe form in your sidebar, but also add a pop up option. I didn’t do this for a long time because I didn’t want to be annoying, but it works! I get probably half my subscribers from the pop-up.
I use the PopupAlly plug-in and set it to pop up as a reader is leaving. This is one of the few free sources I could find that don’t interfere with my banner ads at the bottom.
Have you subscribed yet? ;)
UPDATE: If you want a more stylized email format or have over 2,000 subscribers, I just started using Flodesk. BUT it is not free. It is $38 a month, but it doesn’t matter how many subscribers you have. I switched from Mailchimp because I have 3,000 subscribers now and last month they charged me $90! (Under 2,000 will always be free though.)
Save 50 percent on Flodesk by using my code: HOUSEMIXBLOG
Promote your posts
This one is hard for me. I’m not a natural marketer — especially when it’s myself! It seems so vain. But alas, if I don’t tell people who I am or put my content out there, they will never know about it.
Promote that post anywhere and everywhere.
After I have a new post, here is my checklist:
- Post a link to Facebook.
- Post all vertical images to Pinterest.
- Post my favorite image from the post to Instagram, advertising the post with a tease of information and a question to the reader to hopefully engage them.
- Share screenshots of the post and maybe a quick video explanation by me in Instagram stories. It seems some followers prefer stories and others prefer photos. I don’t really love being in front of the camera, but it’s good to get on the other end sometimes so readers get to know you.
The next day or so I also:
- Post the vertical images again to different folders on Pinterest.
- Share another picture from the post on Instagram to remind readers about the article.
- Share another tip from the post in Insta Stories if I have time.
And you can and should share it again after this timeline too! Even months or years later … BUT
One thing I want to mention is that I see a lot of people making the mistake of spending too much time promoting their content and recycling old content, and not enough time creating new content. Promoting is important! But so is fresh material.
The truth is you don’t know what posts will be a hit and which ones will be a flop. I thought for sure my potty training or $5 placemat pillow posts would be instant hits! They were not. I’m not going to go back and create new images for them or spend time re-pinning them if they’re dead. I’m going to use that precious time to plan my next viral article!
How to increase your blog’s SEO
To increase your traffic and chance of being seen in search engines, you also have to up your SEO (search engine optimization) game.
If you want to know your current domain authority, check out Moz. You have to create an account, but it’s free and gives you valuable information, like:
- Domain authority score
- You top-ranking key words
- How many inbound links you have
- Other website links sending you the most traffic
- Your pages with most domain authority
Here are 6 things you can do to boost your SEO and Google ranking:
1.Use key words in your headline and first paragraph.
2. Label each photo in detail and make sure it’s in your alternative text when you add the photo to the post.
4. This might not necessarily help directly with SEO, but always link with the “open in new tab” option when linking to an Amazon product or resource that is on another site. You don’t want to lose your reader to another site.
5. Comment and add your URL on popular blogs and websites that have a higher Moz standing than yours. This creates links back to your site and that increases your Google standing (but only if the the site is large and credible). This is so important I used to do one comment a day on credible sites in the beginning.
6. Add an SEO plug-in that allows you to choose what shows up in the headline and description text on Google. Like I mentioned in the plug-in section, I use All In One SEO Pack. Yoast is also a popular one.
You can get traffic and a higher domain authority by guest posting or being a regular site contributor – as long as a link to your site is included in the post.
A few tips on guest posting: personalize your emails asking to guest post, offer your best content and follow up.
Here we are! This is it, how you make money blogging:
1.You write content for months that only your mom and best friend read.
2. You earn enough to buy a cup of coffee. At Dunkin’ Donuts, not Starbucks.
3. Someone leaves a comment that you don’t know!!! You feel way more official.
4. Someone signs up for your email list! Yes!!!
5. Six months later, you have 12 subscribers, two free cups of coffee at DD and three comments. Don’t you give up. Keep writing like the whole world is reading!
6. Something breaks and the post you wrote at month 2 goes crazy on Pinterest. Oh hello, uptick in page views!
Ok, that was tongue and cheek, but not entirely inaccurate. Here’s the real dirt. I’m sharing all my real numbers with you. I have a lot of room to grow still, but I’ve come a long way.
Google AdSense (anyone can join)
So how do you make money blogging? I get this question a lot. I earn a few pennies each time someone visits my site from companies who put ads on my blog. If someone clicks an ad, I get a little more.
When first starting out blogging, I recommend starting with Google AdSense for ads on your blog.
- You sign up.
- You are allowed about three ad placements on your site.
- You enter their code in your sidebar or where you want them to go.
- They choose which ads go in those spaces you selected.
I no longer use this service, but to give you an idea of what you can make, here was what I was making when I left. I averaged 73,000 page views a month and made $200-300 with AdSense.
That’s not a lot. In fact, it took me a good long while before I even qualified for a payment from them! (You have to earn $100 before they’ll send you a check.)
Mediavine (need 25,000 sessions a month)
Instead, when I switched to Mediavine I started making about $1,200 a month and they put the ads on for me! Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot more ads, but that’s also a lot more money.
As readership grows (now 100,000+ page views a month and 80,000 sessions), my revenue grows.
See that drop in January earnings? That is despite growth in traffic. After high spending in the holiday season, companies hold back on ads in January to assess the budget for the new year.
You need to have 25,000 sessions a month to qualify for Mediavine. Get this on your list of goals. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. Forehead slap!
Amazon (anyone can join)
Also sign up for Amazon affiliates right away. Anyone can join. I currently make anywhere from $120-400 a month, depending on the season — Christmas being the height. That’s why I included a 90 day report here. Earnings are all over the place. Again, December is great. January is not.
I do not recommend littering every post with Amazon affiliate links. It’s disingenuous and feels gimmicky. But certain posts call for it. I have a series of the best toys by age or how I decorated our house. Readers will want to know your sources. I find lots of products this way from other bloggers. It doesn’t cost anything extra to readers and I want other bloggers to get credit for their work.
TIP: To make the most money, it a good idea to have low and high-end prices. Most of my sales are for something under $15.
Reward Style (criteria unknown)
I was denied the first time I applied to Reward Style/Like to Know It and accepted the the second time. I didn’t have enough traffic the first time I applied. I think you need about 10,000 page views a month, as well as some social media influence. (Or a lot of social media followers on its own will qualify you too.)
This site qualifies you for commission of many more stores than just Amazon. For me this means commission from my favorite places like Home Depot, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, World Market, Target, even Etsy.
I still don’t make big bucks here and it takes a long time for them to pay, based on how long the customer has to return items (30-90 days, depending on the store). I make about $100 a month here.
I like this service especially for its apps that allow writers to offer beautiful formats for product images, like above.
After you’ve been blogging awhile, maybe you realize you have something to sell! A blog is a great platform for a shop.
For me, it’s digital downloads. Like I said, I am a graphic designer and I create printables that can be automatically downloaded from Etsy. In other words, people buy my planner and they can download the PDF immediately and print it without me having to do anything.
It’s a good deal for them and me. I spent days designing, writing and planning it and they get to have it an an affordable price. I started this last year and have made almost 150 sales. I make about $100 a month from Etsy sales.
Maybe you have a craft or cookbook or service or print to sell as part of you blog to make even more income.
Don’t be afraid to try. I tried selling photo prints and posters and they pretty much flopped. And that’s ok. I gave it a shot and saw that my planners are what people are interested in. You won’t know unless you try.
How to get sponsor for your blog
A sponsorship is when you partner with a company or brand in exchange for a product and/or money. You agree to post about their product on your blog and/or social media platforms to boost their sales.
You can make a lot of money from sponsored posts! This is a major source of income for a lot of bloggers. Just be careful not to do only sponsored posts or your readers will lose trust, thinking you only want to sell them something. You will also burn out if you take on too many agreements.
Before you reach out to a sponsor, build yourself an amazing media kit! This is like your blogging resumé. Show them what you have to offer and what you charge. Don’t be afraid to ask for money in addition to a free product for your review.
What should I include in my media kit?
- Blog logo
- Blog tagline
- Contact info
- Blog stats: page views, sessions, reader demographics
- Social media followers
Check out some media kit templates here. Be sure to pick a style that matches your blog design.
PEP TALK: Do not get suckered into writing three posts and sharing three times on all social media platforms for a product worth $25. That’s a lot of work they’re asking you to do — writing, taking photos, editing, responding to comments. You’re taking on the role of their own personal ad agency and you should be compensated!
Where do I find sponsors for my blog?
So you’re all ready with your media kit. Where do you even find a sponsor? Here are some popular influencer marketing platforms. Please note, I have not used these personally for sponsorships.
- Massive Sway
- Mom It Forward
- Reward Style
- AspireIQ (formerly Revfluence)
- Once your blog is established you’ll start getting email requests for sponsored content.
- Find a company you’d love to work with? Reach out to them directly! (Search their company name and PR to find a contact.)
How much should I charge for a sponsored post?
Chrystie from Living for Naptime suggests charging your page views divided by 10. (Page views / 10 = $) You might choose more or less than this amount, but it’s a good starting point.
TIP: According the the FTC, you must clearly declare in the article, social media post or video that you have been compensated.
I do not currently do sponsored content and here is why:
I am a freelance graphic designer (apart from this blog) with deadlines and specific requests to abide by. Instead, my blog is a world where I can do whatever I want, when I want. If I think fluorescent pink would make a good accent color for a series, I’ll do it! If I’m sick for a week or my kids are home for summer, I’ll take a break with no one to answer to. In other words, my blog is my happy place, and I want to keep it that way. This might change in the future, but for now this is best for me.
Because I don’t do sponsored posts, here is advice from some talented, trusted friends of mine who know what they’re doing!
Sponsored post advice from the pros
Arin, Arin Solange at Home
Sponsored content can come from so many avenues. Some brands will directly email you (so be sure you have your email in your Instagram bio), there are platforms and sites you can sign up on that serve as a middle man, that allow you to apply to certain collaborations. Those platforms vary based on how many followers you have, or you blog numbers. And last, you can certainly email and pitch a brand yourself. Brands want to work with people who truly love their product, so many times emailing a company will end in a great way to start a partnership.
When you’re ready to start doing sponsored content, be sure you start slow. It can be overwhelming and a bit of a shock to your followers. I also would say my biggest pieces of advice are: 1. Balance your sponsored and non sponsored content. If you post 10 times a week you will be able to do more sponsored content, than if you post 3 times per week. You want a good balance of non sponsored content on your page! 2. Stay on brand and true to yourself. If you wouldn’t ever consider buying the product, there is a good chance your followers wouldn’t either. You likely are doing the brand no favors by working with them, and will probably lose credibility with your followers, so are better off saying no to some projects.
She uses: Aspire, Clever, Massive Sway, Socialix
Megan, Life on Shady Lane
I get my sponsored opportunities through platforms like CLEVER that connect influencers and brands, but also through brands reaching out to me and vice versa. When I first began blogging, I tried reaching out to companies to work together, but was typically turned down. So I began focusing on improving my content and voice, bettering the quality of my photos, and increasing my page views and follower counts. It took me a while to find my voice and to decide what I wanted to really focus in on, but once I had that down I started to notice emails trickle in to my inbox from brands. I was selective – I didn’t say “yes” to everybody, because there were certain campaigns that just didn’t mesh with the brand I was creating for myself. But for the ones I was truly excited about, I often agreed to accepting product without compensation. I think that, for a beginner, was a great way to get better at working with brands.
When I started to feel more comfortable, I tested the waters with asking for compensation when a brand would reach out to me. Often they said that they only had the budget to provide product, but the more confident I became in asking, the more I heard “yes” when asking for money!
Today when I reach out to a brand, it’s typically only for product. But when a company contacts me, I almost always ask to be compensated monetarily. My advice to beginners would be to know your worth – do your research to find out what an influencer/blogger with your stats (pageviews, sessions, number of followers, etc.) should be compensated and go from there. However, don’t ask for a crazy amount just because you’re looking for a paycheck. Brands have a feel for an acceptable range of pay, and if you ask for too much they’ll likely say no. Be confident, but be smart about it!
My other pieces of advice would be to build a one-sheet or media kit with more information about yourself and your website. Don’t include pricing info. on those, because pricing can vary greatly depending on the brand, the scope of work, etc. In addition, don’t say yes to every single company that reaches out to you, just for the sake of being paid (unless they all align with your brand!). There will likely be some brands, products, or campaigns that just, plain and simple, don’t fit with what you want your own brand to be about…and that’s OK! Stay true to you, and you’ll be great!
Stephanie, First Thyme Mom
I receive opportunities for sponsored blog posts in a few different ways. First of all, I am part of a few networks that link up sponsors with bloggers. I usually partner up 1-2 times per month through these networks. I also receive direct emails or DM’s a few times a week from brands looking to collaborate.
The other way that I receive sponsorships is to directly reach out to brands that I am interested in working with. I take the time to write a pitch to them, detailing what it is I like about their products, why I want to partner with them, and the scope of content that I would be interested in producing in order to work together. When determining scope of work, carefully consider deadlines that you can stick to, and set the expectation up front as to what the brand can expect.
I choose to donate 20 percent of all proceeds from this blog to Christian charities for children. I don’t know if that is any incentive to my readers or not, but I won’t quit doing it because it’s in my heart.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BLOGGING
The most popular social media platforms for bloggers are Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t try to focus on all of them!
You have to do Pinterest as a blogger. That’s not an option! Most readers will find you through Pinterest. But after that, try a few and one or two will emerge as your favorites. Instagram is my favorite by far (I’m on here almost daily), but I also post the occasional YouTube video and regularly post new links to Facebook. Twitter never caught on with me, but lots of bloggers use it.
Here’s a deeper look into how to use social media for blogging:
Pinterest is everything in the blogging world. If you want to pick a social media platform to focus on, this is it! I think a little differently about Pinterest than most bloggers, but I’m growing quickly, so I think I’m onto something.
I currently have 11,000 followers and 5 million monthly viewers on Pinterest. I am growing by about 50 followers a day. My most popular pin ever has earned 500,000 pins and counting. But it didn’t happen overnight and I’m not obsessed with the numbers.
Blogs get the majority of their traffic from Pinterest. Just look at the numbers on my analytics!
9 ways to get more Pinterest followers
- DO NOT only pin your own photos.
- Pin only gorgeous, magazine-worthy photos.
- Pin daily.
- Add a follow button to your home page.
- Add your latest pins to your sidebar with a plug-in.
- Remind followers on other social media that you have amazing ideas over on Pinterest as well.
- Comment on popular pins.
- Join group boards.
A big mistake I see even big name blogs make is only pinning their own stuff. Why not take advantage of these gorgeous, professionally shot photographs to gain followers and use as our own inspiration.
I’ll tell you, I’m not going to follow someone who pins the same photo with a dated font and heavy filter on daily repeat.
I follow people who pin a variety of beautiful, inspiring images that give me new ideas and help me grow as a designer. Because yes, I use Pinterest to grow my blog, but I also use it for inspiration.
How to create stunning pins with text
I use Adobe InDesign and Illustrator in my freelance work, so I also use it to make pins and checklists. I know that doesn’t help most people, but I do have a great resource for you that anyone can use!
Canva is used by thousands of bloggers and you can make beautiful designs in a matter of minutes.
The optimal size for a pin is 600×900, or 2:3 ratio. I tend to do mine a little deeper than that to hopefully grab more attention. Either way, your pins always need to be vertical.
TIP: On your best posts, it’s a good idea to create a few different pins to choose from. Use different headlines and different photos. You’ll probably be surprised which one takes off on Pinterest!
How to organize your pins and boards
It’s important to organize your Pinterest boards. Do whatever makes sense to you, but be consistent.
These are my folders for my blog. They are at the top and all my photos go into these three categories. Only the “viral” pins go in Best of the Blog:
- House Mix: DIY & Decor
- House Mix: Life
- House Mix: Kids
- House Mix: Best of the Blog
Most of my pins are home decor, so I labeled the rest of my most popular boards like this:
- Home decor: Bathroom
- Home decor: Bedroom
- Home decor: Bookshelves
- Home decor: Entryway
- Home decor: Kitchen
- Home decor: Lighting
- Home decor: Living room
It goes on and on, but you get the idea. I do the same with holidays (Holidays: Easter, Holidays: Fall, Holidays, Christmas …). It makes things searchable for me and followers.
Get a business Pinterest account
Sign up for a business account so you can get rich pins. Rich pins have extra information in them, which is a big bonus. See the headline in the pins above? That’s what a rich pin looks like. You also get to see how successful your pins are with extra stats (the numbers at the bottom).
This is what Pinterest says about Rich Pins:
- Product pins make shopping easier. They include real-time pricing, availability and where to buy your product.
- Recipe pins get cooks excited with all the right info: ingredients, cooking times and serving sizes.
- Article pins help pinners save stories that matter to them. Each Article pin shows a headline, author and story description.
Find out how many pins your post has
I just found this out and it is so cool! Sometimes the counter on the bottom of my posts isn’t right and I have no idea how many pins on specific post has. But there’s a way to find out!
Go to Pinterest’s Rich Pin Validator. Enter your post’s url. And hit validate!
What pins go viral on Pinterest
Pinterest is less like social media, and more like a visual search engine. And it’s quite sophisticated. It rewards users for visiting frequently and pinning manually (without the use of a scheduling app). Doing these things regularly increase your chance of being seen.
There’s no magic formula, but of my posts that have gone viral (10,000 pins or more):
40 percent: Contain a free printable
25 percent: Super long posts with ALL the information I could squeeze in*
- How I simplified & organized my house (4,007 words & 35 photos)
- How I save money to be a SAHM (3,690 words & 17 photos)
- Baby food in 45 a week + cost + recipes (1,814 words & 21 photos)
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Long posts are only 25 percent of my popular images but they bring in the most traffic and pins by far!
25 percent: Unique hacks or dramatic change
10 percent: A beautiful photo
6 tips to go viral on Pinterest
1.Use key words and very detailed caption.
2. Use original, well-edited photos.
3. Use only vertical photos.
4. Post your best vertical photo with and without text. Some prefer pinning photos with no text for a clean looking feed.
5. Add a “pin-it” button that appears when hovering over photos on your site.
6. Add text above one image to remind readers to pin it.
The only exception is this post from 2014 with basically just a color palette that people seem to like and still pin. I don’t know why! Haha. That’s the mystery of Pinterest.
One amazing thing about blogging is the post doesn’t die a week after you write it. It has a long shelf life! That kitchen cabinet post I was telling you about is my most read post today and it’s from five years ago!
A lot of times a post I write won’t really take off on Pinterest until a year later. I imagine it takes that amount of time to gain significant traction from Pinners.
I tried Tailwind. Here’s what I thought:
Tailwind is a popular pinning tool that allows you to schedule pins and join tribes that pin each other’s content.
I used Tailwind for six months or so. I did not see any improvements in my followers, pins or blog traffic. In fact, I saw a slight decrease. I was pinning around 10 pins a day from Tailwind and a few manually.
I have friends who swear by Tailwind. They pin 80 pins a day, belong to tribes and spend quite a bit of time at it. I’m pretty sure they would disagree with me.
And that’s fine! Get Tailwind’s free trial and give it a shot! Maybe it will work for you, I’m still experimenting.
I also joined some tribes and was very underwhelmed by the photos I would have to add to my feed. My Pins also show up on my website, so I ask myself if that image fits in with my other pins and would someone follow me based on that selection.
An alternative is to start or join group boards on Pinterest. Usually the rule is you pin something from the board for every photo you put in. This is a good way to set up a friendly network to share content and ideas about what is working and what is not.
How I use Pinterest now
Now I hop on Pinterest once or twice a day, looking for inspiration and just manually pin what I truly want to come back and see again for reference. ONLY beautiful images, mostly without text. I pin probably 40-50 percent my stuff and the rest lovely images I find. None of the pins above are mine, for example, but I bet they caught your attention!
If you want to come back to a slime recipe that has a photo taken in someone’s kitchen at night with yellow lighting, post on a secret board.
ONLY stunning images. Did I make that part clear yet?
By this method, I’m gaining about 40-50 followers a day.
My Instagram game was slow at first and now I’m finally getting somewhere! To truly be successful on this platform there is a lot of planning. You need a specific niche and to only post your best photos.
I’m writing an Instagram guide right now! I’m a great guinea pig because I did so many things wrong!
If you are a blogger, I do have one thing to say in the meantime — make your blog your focus, not Instagram. Let me explain:
I’m in a tribe on Instagram with girls who have 17-50,000 followers (seriously! why they let me in, I don’t know …) and they are all extremely talented, but discouraged by “the algorithm” and have started to devoting more attention to growing their blogs.
Why? Because you can control your own blog! You’re not at the mercy of a math game that no one can figure out. Those girls make money from sponsorships on Instagram, but I don’t. I make money from ads on my blog.
I realized I was spending too much time on Instagram when I could have been creating content and driving traffic to my blog instead. The answer to my Instagram frustration was simple: I wouldn’t quit Instagram, but it will take a backseat to my blog. I would use it to support my blog. Plus, Insta Stories makes it so easy to share extra tips with you!
Never run out of blog ideas
I keep a running list of blog ideas on my phone. When one pops up, I write what the title would be in my notes.
If I’m sitting at the computer when a thought strikes, I go ahead and create a new draft for it and write the opening paragraph! Words flow much better when you’re inspired and in the moment. Then I can come back to it later.
Actually that’s what I did with this post! Each time a new point or tip crossed my mind, I came back to this post and wrote a little blurb about it.
Keep a blog schedule
If you want this to be your job, treat it as such. And that means getting organized.
When you get serious about blogging, it’s a good idea to post regularly. Even if it’s one day a week, your readers will come back because they know there will be a new post. When I started this, my regular readership grew.
When I first started blogging I declared I would post three times a week, but I could not keep up with this. My content was mediocre at best. So I cut down to once a week and started producing quality content. Some might disagree, but I say quality over quantity with posts is best. Personally, I would rather skip a week of posting than put out a short, subpar post.
Now my goal is to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I once read those were good days to post, but really they work best for my schedule. My most read days are actually Tuesday and Sunday.
If I miss a week, like when I was sick in February, I don’t beat myself up. But I thought it was interesting that a few readers asked what was going on. That’s good! That means they were coming back because they thought there would be new content because of my normal schedule.
I have also started taking summers off when my kids are home from school. I’m never going to regret spending these few summers of their childhood with them!
Keep a calendar
Once you have a schedule (I recommend starting with one day a week), create a calendar with your blog idea list. Loosely lay out what posts would be feasible and try to work on them in that order. I use Google calendar.
I like to finish my post a least a day ahead of time so that I can proofread and add any information layers to make it more complete.
Think ahead. I always have 5 new Christmas post ideas when it’s December 20. That’s not helpful! I couldn’t finish all of them by Christmas, and even if I could, they wouldn’t have time to gain any traction on Pinterest.
MY SECRET: So instead of sneaking it in too late or even skipping it all together, I put it on the calendar for next year! In fact, I already have next December planned out right now.
I start a draft for these posts. Sometimes I even finish them all together! It makes holiday months a breeze. The ideas that you come up with organically are always better than the forced ideas. (The forced ideas come when it’s November 30 and you’re looking at a blank December idea calendar. You MUST come up with something Christmasy ASAP!
My weekly blogging checklist
Here is an example of what my typical week blogging looks like. Note, I try to do all my work when the kids are at school and not on weekends at all. Ok, sometimes I work on Saturdays when I have an idea for projects that will take an extended period of time.
I would guess that each post takes on average 8-10 hours, and that doesn’t count all the time I spend thinking about it! My poor little brain never stops. But long posts like this one take days.
Monday: Hopefully I’ve started Tuesday’s post, so Monday I’ll finish it. I’ll edit photos, write any missing information, add source list, proofread and schedule the post for the next morning.
Tuesday: I promote my new blog post via social media. I also address any website tech issues or research new ideas. I spend more time pinning on this day. I don’t typically start a new post, but I do glance at my calendar to mentally prepare for the next one.
Wednesday: This day is not as laid back as Monday. I’m doing all the things in a rush to get them done for Thursday’s post. Hopefully I’ve already started a rough draft, but if not, you can find me very seriously pecking away at my keyboard.
Thursday: Basically the same as Tuesday. Hopefully I got everything done on Wednesday and don’t have to use Thursday to finish the post!
Friday: I try to get a jumpstart on next week’s posts.
8 things to do before you launch your blog
There are many things you can address after your blog is up and running, but there are some things it’s best to have in place before you go live. Here are my top 8:
1.Sign up for Google Analytics.
2. Sign up for Google AdSense.
3. Sign up to be an Amazon affiliate.
4. Take a good headshot. It’s great if you can get a professional shot, but you don’t have to. I just set my up my tripod and timer and took a dozen photos to get a decent one. Edit it well and use it across all platforms for consistency.
5. Set up your professional social media accounts. Only focus on a few, not all of them so you can do them well. I post occasionally to Facebook and YouTube, but I focus mostly on Pinterest and Instagram. Some people do very well with Twitter as well.
6. Put your social media buttons right at the top of your blog so readers can connect with you.
8. Get a few quality posts up. You don’t want to advertise to everyone that you are officially a blogger, but when they go your site you have one post that says “Hello, world!” Give them a taste of what is to come so they will want to return.
Beginner blogging FAQ
I asked my friends over on Instagram if they had any questions about blogging and here were the top questions. I had all of the same concerns too, so I’m happy to answer them.
Q: How much time do you have to spend to see a return? If that makes sense. How long did it take to build a following? Wondering how to get past the feeling of there already being so many great bloggers what would I offer.
A: Great questions! I don’t have a clear answer on how long it takes to see a return because I was more dabbling when I started this blog than running full steam ahead and viewing it as a job. I didn’t have much to show for the first six months, but by my one year anniversary I was making about $35 a month from Amazon and $40 from AdSense. So a week of free groceries.
During my second year (and a wildly inconsistent blogging schedule), I was making $200 from AdSense and $80 from Amazon a month. That’s not a crazy success story, I know. It’s a lot of work and not a lot of payoff, but I’m still making money from those posts today! I didn’t start making adequate compensation until I qualified for full service ad management (Mediavine). But! I wasn’t doing sponsorships either. That’s another significant source of revenue for some bloggers.
My readership has been a steady increase with a spike every six months or so due to a viral post on Pinterest. Pinterest has been the key to gaining a readership to me. The formula was for me: Post my best, detailed content + Pinterest + engage and form relationships with readers = consistent steady increase in traffic.
As far as other bloggers, I used to have the same thought. There are already so many great blogs! But there is always room for another voice. All voices are important. We all have something valuable to add. Do it!
Q: SAHM here, always wanna do something online. But, don’t know where to start. My two questions are, how do you choose a topic/thing to write about? And, how to maintain the consistency in the beginning period where we won’t be making money from it to motivate ourselves!
I write about whatever I’m passionate about at the moment. Right now I’m obsessed with getting chemicals out of our house so I’m working on a series for that.
I write better quality posts when I’m passionate about the subject. That said, my blog is called House Mix, I’m probably not going to write about golfing, ya know? In the beginning I recommend writing once a week. A schedule is crucial to gaining regular readers — said the girl whose schedule has been messed up for two weeks!
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you spend your spare time doing?
- What do you save for?
- What to you enjoy talking about?
I think it’s important to think of a tagline for your blog to help define it for yourself and readers. It’s also good to start out with about four categories to help keep your focus.
Q: How do you do it all especially with little ones at home? Budget for photo/when to buy and prepare for photos. Getting them done. The writing aspect too. Do you just type away and edit later? Basic questions I know (lol) but getting it all done. Been wanted to start for awhile but I feel like I would be so generic and the same as everyone else. And I can’t show my house because I’m in a 2 bed townhouse and it looks very awful. So I feel like I’m already limited …
A: When my kids were really little I didn’t get a whole lot done! (I’m actually typing this right now on the couch, watching cartoons with a kid’s head in my lap!) I tried to blog once a week, but sometimes it didn’t happen — and that’s ok! My posts weren’t as long or photo heavy, but I was still writing posts. Now that they’re getting older and two are in school, it’s getting easier to find the time.
I take 99 percent of my own photos because 1) I do a lot of tutorials and home decor posts; 2) I want readers to connect with and get to know me; 3) I want to curate my own look and style for branding purposes.
BUT there is definitely a place for stock photos, and I have lots of FREE resources for you in the above section. When you’re starting out, have little ones and are short on time this is a great option. Try to choose photos with the same feel and style.
I’m all over the place when it comes to writing, but when a thought strikes me I have to get it down, whether it’s in my phone or starting a new draft for a post. In a perfect world I would like to sit down and just write a draft from top to bottom without editing so my thought process isn’t interrupted. But in reality someone needs a snack, or has a boo boo or just needs cuddles. I write posts in a very piece-meal fashion in this phase of life.
I do tend to write the post before I take and edit photos though. That way I have a clear idea of what I want and even make a list of the photos I need. This is a great time saver!
You are NOT generic! You have your own style and voice and something of value to say. Everyone has something to teach and share. I used to avoid writing posts I thought had already been written. How many posts on organizing does the world need? It turns out a lot! I tuned out everything I had heard before and found my own voice, my own solutions and way of doing things. And it was successful. Find your own spin on things.
If your house is not featured on HGTV, that’s ok! In fact, maybe you don’t even want to blog about home decor. There’s food and travel and fitness and craft and mom blogs. We’ve lived in three places during my blogging years and I’ve had ugly counters, yellow bathroom sinks, nasty carpet … I still have the last two, haha!
Learn the art of flat lays and a white wall. Get you a white post board and get creative! Use a solid color wall for your background. That’s why most of my backgrounds started out white!
AND I actually love looking at blogs that have imperfect homes! I can relate to them more than pro-decorated mansions, for Pete’s sake. These creative women show me what I can do with very little. I’m more inspired by a paint job in a small, dark kitchen than an entire home renovation I can’t afford. Does that make sense? Show your townhouse! Show us your journey.
Q: Can I do it with a full time job?
A: Yes! I blog part-time now! To blog with a full-time job, you need to be strategic with your time. 1) Make a blog post calendar, what you want to write about. 2) Make a plan ahead of time and spend two hours doing it every other day, or whatever works for you. Maybe Saturday afternoons are for blogging. It takes sacrifice to blog, so it just depends on how badly you want to do it!
My advice summarized:
1.Spend the bulk of your time creating your absolute best quality content people can’t live without.
2. Keep a calendar of ideas and schedule of days you post.
3. Keep learning, researching, growing and honing your skill.
4. Don’t obsess about numbers. Staring at them multiple times a day and obsessing doesn’t change anything. Do your best work and they will come in time.
Don’t get your self-worth from your blog.
My last unsolicited piece of advice is to be real and humble. No one relates to a perfect person — because none of us are one. So don’t portray yourself that way.
And none of us truly benefit from too much attention or pats on the back. So don’t make it your goal to be popular or admired. We were never meant to be famous.
I can’t help but say it, it’s not about us.
It’s not about me. It’s not about you. We can be friends, create a community and learn together, but in the end it’s always about Jesus. As it should be. And his approval is all that matters in the end.
PRINTABLE BLOGGING CHECKLIST
Whoa, that was a huge amount of information! Because I love you, I’m going to put the highlights all one one page for you in a printable checklist.
Click image to download.
Are you a blogger? I would love to have your advice here too!
Or maybe you’re thinking about starting a blog. What questions do you still have? Has this post helped you? I would love it if you would pin it!
This site contains ads and affiliate links. 20 percent of proceeds earned from my blog are donated to charities for children and clean water.
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