The reasons we start blogging vary. Some of us start a blog with the purpose of sharing personal stories with friends and families. Others start blogging to promote a business. And some start blogging to try to make some extra cash. The reasons we get here vary, but inevitably a lot of us end up asking the same question – how can we turn our blogs into a business?
There are a lot of different ways you can make money with your blog. In this post, we’re going to focus on one way: paid (or sponsored) posts (or content.)
Typically, a blogger can receive a “pitch” from a company or PR agency. This may or may not include a proposal for a review, but it almost always has the same goal in mind – to get the news about their product in front of your readers.
You Know Me?!
I still remember how excited I was when I first started getting pitches from companies. I felt like I was “in demand” and “valued” – that these agencies saw that I could fit one of their needs. And so, I posted. I posted about this event or that article – just happy that I was developing relationships with new contacts and hoping that these would turn into future opportunities.
And I posted and I hoped. And I continued to get “we hope you’ll share this….” or “we think your readers would love this article…” pitches. Do you know how much money I made from all those free postings? NOTHING. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. I learned that once an agency realized I posted for free, they would keep sending me pitches, almost with the expectation that I would continue posting those articles for free.
Layin’ Down the Blog Law
I decided it was time to up my game. Magazines and newspapers print articles and product placements all the time. Guess how many of those placements are free. None. By this point, my blog had grown. I had readership, fans, and even people who commented (thank you to those of you who comment!) After some encouragement, I implemented a post policy. A lenient one, but a policy none the less.
I’ll be the first to admit that this step was hard. I worried what the companies I worked with would say. Would they still pitch me? Would I get any pitches? Would I come off as some greedy, money-hungry blogger? Then I took a quick reality check. There are lots of blogs who regularly receive payment to post. There are even actual companies, like Social Spark or Social Fabric that will pay bloggers to post about certain topics or products. The reality is that your blog has readers. It has an audience that you influence. Your blog has VALUE. Picture your blog as an online publication, because that’s what it is.
As the pitches came in, I started responding with my posting policy. Sometimes the pitch leveraged into a paid post. Sometimes it became a review and giveaway. Sometimes I heard crickets. Do you know how many of the companies that I posted free for in hopes it would develop into something more continued to work with me? None. But that’s OK because I discovered that as I started to view my blog as something of value, agencies began to see it that way too. The more I started sharing my posting policy, the more comfortable I became. I was in the blogging business, not the friendly favors business.
Developing a Blog Business
After blogging for more than 5 years, I finally had achieved the blog business mind set which is this. Your time is money. The time you spend writing, the time you spend posting on social networks, the time you spend organizing. All of those things are what many professionals are paid to do. Why shouldn’t you be paid too? You should be.
Of course, once we start talking about paid posts, the question comes up – how much? This is a trickier question to answer. On one hand, only you can answer that. How much do you think your time is worth? Calculate how much time it takes for you to write, proof, and promote a post, then determine your hourly rate. If it takes you 2 hours to properly post, and you want $20 an hour, then your post should be $40. On the other hand, many agencies base their pay rates on page rank, traffic, influence, etc. so they will influence your price as well. I suggest setting your target price and use it as a starting point for negotiations. Sometimes you might get more, sometimes you might accept less, but at the very least, you’ve started a dialogue.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t post any free posts. On occasion, I do post an event or promotion for free. The decision is ultimately mine and is based on a working relationship with an agency or PR representative who I know values my blog and my time.
Over time, what you’ll find is – you’ll still get lots of people wanting you to post free stuff. They’re always there; it’s their job to try and promote their brand or product. You’ll also get more people who want to actually work with you. Typically it will start off as a review, but that review can turn into a review and giveaway, which can turn into an ambassadorship or sponsorship. The sky is the limit. But I’ll tell you one thing – you will never get paid to do anything if you do everything for free.
How Posting for Free Hurts Blogs
What I’ve noticed is that many blogs get stuck in the “post for free” rut. They never transition into the business mind set and consistently undervalue their time and their blog. Beyond just selling themselves short, there is also a domino effect that impacts bloggers as a whole. When one blog posts something for free, the person they worked with now has the expectation that other blogs will post for free too. In fact, some bloggers do get responses like “other blogs value this free content and posted it,” as if to say because one blogger posted it for free, all bloggers should too. Remember, the reason they are pitching you, is because they want to promote their content on your blog. They pitched you.
I’ve often thought that bloggers should have a union. One where the greater good can be achieved for the benefit of all bloggers. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking that we’ll reach a point where blogs and their owners will be valued and appreciated as much as they deserve – a blogging utopia so to speak.
Until we reach that point, I encourage all bloggers to take an honest look at their blogs. What do you want your blog to be? What is your blog now? Is what you’re doing now going to help you achieve your goals?
Again, this isn’t a post to say to never post anything for free ever. Many of us started out posting things for free and, as I mentioned earlier, I will selectively post things for free even now. I did, however, want to share my experience with how I transitioned from making nothing for posting to making something. Remember, you are not alone and it is possible to develop strong working relationships with agencies and PR representatives that value both your time and your audience.