After reflecting on 2015 and coming up with my 2016 blog & biz resolutions, I started to realize how truly far I've come in just a short year. And one of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that I've been able to monetize my blog and turn it into a profitable business. Who knew that what I'd started simply as a hobby and creative outlet could become a kicka$$ side hustle? I sure didn't! Nonetheless, turning my blog into a biz wasn't an easy feat, and I'm really just getting started. Though I love every second of research I do for this blog and making it more profitable, there are definitely a few things I wish I had known in the early days. Like...
Pageviews aren't everything.
Though one of my goals for 2016 is to increase my traffic, I think that the pressure to get more views can discourage a lot of bloggers from monetizing. I used to think, Oh, I need to have X number of views before I can start getting sponsors. That notion is utter BS! It's better to have a small group of engaged followers than a large, but disinterested audience. And truth be told, audience size is relative. I still remember the days when a few hundred pageviews per month was exciting. And that's okay. But, no matter what audience size you're at, you'll eventually become adjusted to it and aim higher. So no, you shouldn't refrain from monetizing your blog because you don't have hundreds of thousands of followers. Instead, when communicating with brands, stress other things you do have. For example, I always talk about my high-quality photography and unique target audience. There's lots of bloggers with massive amounts of pageviews, so don't rely on that to get you noticed!
There's so many ways to get connected with brands.
When I first started blogging, I had no idea just how many influencer networks were out there. I also wasn't aware of the increasing demand for sponsored relationships. A lot of this is due to millennial disinterest in traditional advertising, so blogger/celebrity endorsements are becoming increasingly valuable for advertisers. My advice to myself in early 2015 would be to sign up for as many influencer networks as possible (that are relevant to my niche). You never know when an opportunity might pop up!
Sponsored posts aren't the only way to monetize.
It wasn't until recently that I started to recognize the value of creating your own products as a blogger. And if you don't believe me, just read this article. It's insane. Whether it's through e-books, courses, an Etsy shop, etc., there's a way for every blogger to start working for herself. Not other brands (as fun as that can be!). This is also a great way to start generating passive income, even if you continue to work with sponsors, as sponsored opportunities are usually a one-time deal. That means once you've published the post and been paid, it's time to find another advertiser, or you're S.O.L! Products can keep being sold over and over again, without too much work on your part (aside from promotion and that good stuff)! Love it.
You don't need to (and shouldn't) accept every opportunity.
For those of you who have also monetized your blog, I'm sure you can remember how exciting your first sponsorship was. Someone actually wants to pay you to do something you'd probably do anyways! It's awesome. BUT, it's so, so, SO important to look at each sponsorship from your audience's point of view. Is this product something they'd be interested in? Could it help/benefit them in any way? If so, how? If you can't answer those questions, that's a big red flag. The payout is never worth losing the trust and loyalty of your audience -- no matter how big or small it is.
Don't work yo' a$$ off for free.
I always get a good laugh in when companies email me asking me to promote their products for free. Would a magazine place an advertisement for a product in their next issue without requesting a fee? No. If there's a product sample involved, then it's your prerogative as a blogger whether that's something you're interested in. It's totally reasonable to move forward with a project if you're getting to test out a product, but you shouldn't be putting in time to advertise for a company you're getting nothing in return from. And all that "social media exposure" they'll give you in exchange for your hours of hard work? In my experience, it's still not worth the time you'll put into a quality post on the product. ALSO: Know your worth! If you're charging for a post, ask for what you feel a sponsorship on your blog is worth. There's loads of things that should factor into this decision, not just pageviews. My recommendation is to stay away from the formulas that are purely based on audience size, because everything from the quality/creativity of the post to the engagement of your audience is excluded. And that doesn't feel like an accurate calculation to me!
Are you monetizing your blog? What do you wish you had known beforehand? Any tips? Do tell!