Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Advice for bloggers: sponsorship, getting paid for blogging, and the "I blog for me"

It's been a while since I posted an installment of the advice for bloggers series I started up a couple months ago, so I figured it's high time for another one of these bad boys!

Today's topic has been on my mind a lot since reading some negativity over the issue on various different blogs a while back, and really, ever since I started blogging I've seen it crop up every now and then. The whole issue of accepting sponsors, being paid to blog, and/or turning your blog into a business seems to be a touchy one with some people. And I'd like to throw in my two cents. Here we go!

Ladies and gentleman, there are two, maybe three, types of bloggers in this world: bloggers that make money off their blogs (via sponsors/affiliations/ads), bloggers that don't, and I suppose the third type would be those bloggers who want to make money off their blogs, but just aren't quite there yet.

Wow. We're getting off to a great start here! Are you going to tell us anything we didn't already know, Jenni?! 

Well maybe, but I'm just trying to make a point. You (if you are a blogger) will fall into one of those two (or three) categories, and either one is A-OK. Bloggers that don't make money off their blogs tend to blog just for fun or as an outlet for creativity or angst or what have you, or as a journal to keep friends and family up to date on life. Or maybe even to make friends! Blogging can be an excellent way to connect with people. It's just an overall fun hobby. Hooray for that! This first of the two main types may be bloggers with other fulfilling jobs and very busy lives, so they may not have the time or desire or even the talent to invest in blogging professionally. Fun and hobby are the key words for this type.

The other type, the money-makers, may blog for all of those same reasons (though there's often more to it than just what's mentioned above), but have also figured out that, for them, it makes sense to tap into the earning potential of a blog and the voice and influence you work hard to build and maintain. Blogging consistently and in a way that interests, entertains, and adds value to your readers' lives is hard and time consuming work.  It is a part time job, if not a full time job. It comes with responsibility to your readers and to the people paying you to advertise on your site or sending you free stuff. Some of the fun might be taken away and replaced with pressure, but if you thrive off accountability (like I do), this "pressure" may actually make you blog better and harder, if that makes sense. For example, if I'm mopping my floor just for myself and my husband, I'm probably going to do a half ass job. But if someone is paying me cash-money and praise to mop that floor, I'm going to do a reeeal good job, ya feel me?

Now, here's where the problem comes in for some people.  Selling out. Once a blog starts to accept "sponsors," at least in the niche of life and style blogs, the blog does, inevitably, change a bit. The nice clean sidebar is cluttered with ads. Advertorial type posts are now sprinkled in with the content you know and love. Now, instead of seeing 100% original content from that blogger, you're seeing fluff mixed in. Sometimes more fluff than you think there should be, which upsets you! You say to yourself,  "this blog is changing and I miss the way it used to be!"  I've been there, done that.

But then I remember that we're all just men and women doing the very best we can. We're moms, wives, girlfriends, entrepreneurs, working other jobs, juggling friendships and building networks, making ends meet, pursuing passions, struggling, hurting, living life, making mistakes, doing it wrong, doing it right, resonating with some people, not resonating with others.... and it's all OK! IT'S ALL OK!  It's OK to make some money off your blog, if you're willing to accept and take seriously the extra time and responsibility that will come with being accountable to others besides just yourself. It is not selling out to do a sponsor post every now and then, or even a couple times a week, if you have plenty of other good content throughout the week, too. You don't have to rave and lie and carry on about a blog or shop you don't really love, but you can introduce them and say what they're about and let your readers decide if they'd like to follow that blog or buy from that shop. Or you can be really, really picky about who you accept as a sponsor, which is the ideal way to do things. Then people start to trust you and your recommendations, and that's an amazing thing which leads to other amazing things!

Here on SOML, I typically have advertorial type content on Tuesdays and Fridays, and often my outfit posts include courtesy of (c/o) items. But to be honest with you, I do not have enough interesting things to say to post 5 times a week, so if it weren't for my giveaways on Tuedays and sponsor features on Fridays, I wouldn't have posts those days, anyway. So if I can fill those slots with helping to promote others while helping to support myself and justify the time I spend on all blogging related activities, then heck yeah, I'm going to do it! And I figure all you smarty pants out there will appreciate and support that decision and figure out that I won't pin you down and force you to enter my giveaways or read my sponsor features. They are optional posts you can read if you're interested, and they are there so that I can continue this cool gig of blogging my life and also using my blog as a platform to promote my photography business and any other future endeavors.

OK, and one last thing! So often when this topic comes up, I hear people respond by saying "well, I blog for ME!" And that is all well and good, if it's really true. But ask yourself, is it really true? Because if you have readers that you care about and attempt to engage, if you watch your numbers and hope they will grow, if you accept advertising or hope to in the future, if you use your blog as a platform to promote yourself in any way, then you blog for more than just you. Or you should adjust your mentality to a different way of thinking (in my humble opinion). There is absolutely nothing wrong with blogging for your readers as well as yourself. It doesn't mean you're selling out. It means you care about producing content that people will enjoy and relate to, or it means you want to use your time wisely and make some small pittance (money!) for the work you put in and the influence you have in your circle. We bloggers have a voice. Embrace yours. Get paid for it if you want, or do it just for fun if you're not into the business side of things. But whatever you do, don't hold it against someone else if they make a different decision. There are far too many blogs in the sea - if you don't like the direction one is going, there are about 4 billion others out there (give or take) that you can move along to.

Do you have any questions about sponsorships and advertising? Comments? Things you've been dying to get off your chest? Leave your thoughts in the comments so we can all see and respond. If you have any questions, I'll respond in the thread so others can read as well.

Happy Hump Day! :)

Other advice posts:
vol 1: the crazies: they could happen to you
vol. 2: blogging your life
other blogging tips

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