Many people want to start making money on their blog, but how do you get started when your blog is new? It’s probably not too realistic to start making money right away, but thinking about it when you start is a great goal to have. So if your blog is brand new, here’s what you want to keep in mind if monetization is on your mind.
Have a professional website
You need to act and think like a brand in order to be attractive to a brand. After all, you’re asking for money or product compensation in return for advertising: your blog is now a business. So it is crucial that your site looks and behaves like a business: easy to navigate, contact methods, branded, and contains well-written content.
- Quality content: Professional, consistent and regular writing over time (at least a few months).
- Clean and attractive: Consistent branding and modern website design. Hire someone to create a simple logo and help you add a nice theme to your blog (I can help if you’re on WordPress!) – if you are a new blogger, branding and graphics can offer a jump-start on the road to attracting clients.
- Easy to navigate: A clean menu with categories, links to your social media profiles, and obvious how to find information on you including your contact page.
Learn why having a professional website is so important to your visitors and clients.
Demonstrate your talents
First, build your traffic and trust with consistent quality writing and throw in some reviews of stuff you already own so you have examples to give. You will want to send these links to the brands you want to partner with, as examples of what you can offer them. So make sure you have some excellent reviews or promotions ready to send over. Important things to add:
- Effective and clear writing. Can you convert people to customers? Have you made the article easy to read with sections and bullets, or is it one big long chunk of words?
- Clear links and/or information on how to buy.
- High-quality photos. Do you show off the product?
Then you can branch out to writing sponsored posts or running other promotions (sponsored newsletters, social media promotion, whatever). Remember that you are selling marketing and advertising, so think like a marketing business when you approach them. Keep your message clear, to the point, have your deliverables outlined, have a (professional looking) media kit, send examples, mention pricing. Your first message might be short and introductory if you have never spoken with the brand before, and then if they are interested send the longer message with pricing and your attached media kit.
If you receive an opportunity: Great! Here are a few more tips:
- Make sure you get an agreement in writing. Use a tool like Docracy, or have your client accept them upon payment (payment equals acceptance), and make sure your terms are really clear. Here’s an example of terms I use for DOGthusiast and Internet of Dog Things.
- Get paid before you publish. Send a draft with your invoice, or set a deadline.
- Use an online payment tool like WaveApps (free with pro invoicing and accounting!), or PayPal to transfer funds. If you use PayPal, don’t ask clients to click “friends and family”. Some businesses will send a check in the mail, which also applies if you’re receiving product compensation, but do remind them that you do not publish an article until you receive payment.
- Understand FTC guidelines for blogging, and follow them. This is for the safety of both you and especially your client.
You can also join professional blogging networks, like BlogPaws or BlogHer (and many others) if you’re in the lifestyle or pet niche, to be considered for opportunities. You will have a lot of competition for opportunities, but it only takes a half hour of your time to apply for them and it can of course lead to an opportunity.
Tip: Treat product compensation like monetary compensation in your taxes, so keep records of what you receive for tax time.*
Add advertisements: banners and buttons
You can also ad network banners (such as Google AdSense) or tenancy ads (static ads for a set time), but this isn’t a great source of income for many these days. Try them for a while, and don’t be afraid to remove them if it’s not generating much money. Using up that space and the distraction may not be worth what you earn! It’s better to have an attractive site than make “a cup of coffee per month” – try it out for a few months, and see if the trade-off is worth it.
You can also find brands that offer affiliate programs. These vary greatly, and you must market the product regularly (as this is the only way to start your sales). Good programs, for you, will offer either a high percentage of the sale or have pricey products that mean you earn more per sale (of course, those sales are harder to come by!)
Try them out, and see if you actually sell. Keep in mind you will have to regularly talk about a product to sell enough to earn an income from affiliate advertising. Therefore, it is probably best for your blog that you focus intensely on fewer brands that are a good match to you and your dogs. Remember that this goes for sponsored post clients, too: customers usually need “12 touches” (mentions of a product) before they buy – so don’t forget to promote those posts!
Other things to think about
- If your site doesn’t focus on promotion (giveaways and review site, for example), then you may need to temper this promotion against other writing and be careful how you write these posts, as it can affect your audience. Treat each sponsored post like a commercial, and remember how your audience feels about commercials during their favorite TV shows. So unless your blog is all about products and reviews, space out your sponsored posts.
- Consider the amount of time you will spend for the return. The work to get this work often defeats what you earn from it, especially if many of the brands you approach are not interested in paid promotion. It is a lot of cold calling, and that time adds up.
- Always check how much time and effort it takes to do anything, what it means for your blog and audience.
- One last word: don’t sell out, always be truthful. This is a key part of the FTC rules: “truth in advertising”. Don’t sell products to your audience that you honestly wouldn’t buy or use yourself just to “monetize your blog”. Your blog and integrity is worth so much more than that. But most importantly… make sure you enjoy it! Let that be your guide on pricing and how to move forward. Good luck!
Here are some notes I took on monetization at the BlogPaws conference in 2014.
(*) I am not a tax professional. Please seek advice from your own accountant.