Monday, October 6, 2014

52 IHeart Blogging Series: The Bread & Butter of the Blog

When I mentioned I was going to do a few posts regarding the things I have learned {and what I am still learning} as part of a blogiversary series; one of the most frequently asked questions I received was, "show me the blog money!"  In fact, I have been receiving emails for years from excited individuals looking to start up a blog and make money doing it!

Although I was raised that it is taboo to talk about money publicly, today I will make an attempt to share a little of what I have learned about monetizing a blog and working with brands and sponsors.  When it comes to the subject of my blog income, I am always learning something new and how my blog has grown and has evolved with me over time.  It is absolutely something I am NO expert in, and a lot of what I am sharing today are just my personal opinions on the subject.  It doesn't mean that my opinion is right, or that every blogger would agree, it is just my take on the topic.

Of course I am a strong believer that bloggers should earn income for what they contribute to the online community.  Blogs are changing the way that many folks live.  I know my life has been been positively enriched since I found the blogging community; everything from making better personal choices to learning how to use {somewhat intimidating} tools and supplies.  I never would have had the confidence to take some of these risks in both my home and my life.  I value the time and energy that bloggers are plugging into their sites, to share their stories, ideas and projects, and am grateful everyday that they are able to make something back in return.

So today I will touch a little on how I earn my income, while next week I will share things I have learned about starting up a blog in general {sort of a "what I wish I would have known" type post}.   With there being too much information to combine it all into one post, there will be a small overlap within the two topics, however, fingers crossed that both posts will be helpful in different ways.

The funny thing is, although I typically love to plan and research and organize, blogging growth and monetization has very much been a "learn as I go process".  I started blogging for fun.  To share and interact with friends, family and maybe a stranger or two along the way.  It was my creative outlet and how I took a break from everyday mom and kid duties.  I didn't start out the blog to "get big" or to make money, or to do it full time.  That still holds true today.  Although I do earn an income from blogging, I would still do this {if I could} for free.  I love it for much, much more than any paycheck could provide.  The day that it changes, I think I will need to reassess what I am doing.

I didn't start making money right away.  In fact, it took me a few years of consistent writing to really catch a groove and realize I could do this full time.  I am not familiar with too many overnight success stories in the blogging community.  It typically take time, hard work and dedication to build a blog and a brand that will set you apart from the rest.  Above, you can see an idea of where my income is generated from each month.  My income varies based on the types of projects we are working on and sharing, how frequently I am posting, and the types of products I am releasing in my shop.


Shortly after I started blogging, I learned through the platform Blogger that I could incorporate Google ads on my sidebar.  I knew nothing about the importance of ad placement, or how to monitor the content, but you guys, I was making .50 cents per day!  To blog!  To this day, I have found that Google Adsense continues to be one of the easiest ways to generate income on a blog.  The Adsense website will advise you with proper ad placement and size recommendations to maximize your revenue.  The amount of money you make directly relates to the number of pageviews you receive, as well as the number of times an ad on the sidebar is clicked.  You can put filters in place to determine the types of ads that appear on your site, however, Google does the rest.  There is not a fee to place up to three ads on your blog.  Although I haven't personally explored it yet {one of those shame on me moments}, there are many other options for other ad networks that can work in a similar fashion.


As I continued blogging and building content, and growing an audience, I started receiving inquiries from individuals that were interested in sponsoring me.

Hold the phone!  You mean you want to pay me to do what I love to do?  That can't be right.  And then I put a lot of pressure on myself wondering if I was worthy of being paid.  Was I posting enough?  Was what I posting good content?  What made me stand out to these interested sponsors?  After mulling it over for quite awhile, I decided that in order to continue growing my site and investing in our projects, that it was worth a shot to work with sidebar sponsors.

This process included placing a "your ad here" image on my sidebar that linked to a page that included a few places I had been featured, my monthly stats and my contact information.  Since my first go at it, I have learned that it is important to really bulk up your "advertising" page with solid and to-the-point information.  Add a media kit, make your rates simple to find, sell your accomplishments and your goals for the site.  The blog world is becoming quite saturated and sponsors can opt to work with many different bloggers at inexpensive rates, so mention what sets you apart from the rest.  And P.S.  I would NOT recommend using my current advertising page as a perfect example... it will be updated and streamlined in the future with the rest of my blog.

How much to charge is always a hard one.  There are formulas out there and they are a really great place to begin, but ultimately, there is no magic answer and comes down to what you feel comfortable committing to and charging. We tend to undervalue ourselves in this department, but go with your gut, think about how many hours you commit to blogging as well as the types of projects you plan on funding as well as your rate of growth and monthly pageviews.  

My biggest tip for managing sidebar sponsors is to set up a consistent billing cycle for each sponsor you work with.  I can't tell you how many times I would forget to bill a sponsor at all because I was trying to juggle too many start and stop dates and rotations.  Now, they are all listed on a spreadsheet and invoices go out via paypal at the same time each month, the terms of the sponsorships always start on the first of the month and run for an entire month or an entire quarter.  I also keep every last inquiry on a spreadsheet waiting list, which allows to me minimize a break in income.  Also, don't be afraid to seek out potential sponsors and sell yourself, the worst that can happen is you are told no.

Many bloggers are beginning to move away from sidebar sponsors and leaning towards solely working with ad networks, as it is much less cumbersome to manage.  Again, it is definitely a personal preference and there are a variety of options to explore. 


I love working with companies that want to give back to YOU, my super-fabulous readers.  I have had the opportunity to give y'all some really amazing products, everything from printers to cleaning supplies to the most beautiful organizing products around.  Because I personally hand select the companies and brands I work with for the giveaways, they are all businesses I support and would personally purchase from.  I do charge a small fee to the giveaway sponsor, as the exposure being offered to those sponsoring a giveaway is just as great as the exposure of those sponsoring my blog each month.  It allows me to keep the rates lower for my sidebar sponsors {which are all small businesses I love to support back}, and I currently run giveaways 2-4 times per month. 

Bored yet?  Sorry, so much business talk today.  I am ready to go paint something.  I will try to move along so we can all get back to organizing, DIY'ing, crafting and even cleaning...


Affiliate links are becoming a very hot way for a blogger to earn income.  An affiliate link is when the blogger earns a small referral on each item purchased through their recommended product link.  It does not cost the reader/buyer anything additional to purchase through a blogger's affiliate link, and is a great way to support bloggers who are curating ideas, reviewing products, offering recommendations and sharing their favorite sources.

There are many affiliate programs out there for bloggers, the most common being Amazon, rewardStyle and ShareASale.  I opt to use Amazon affiliate links in the event I am recommending a product I have purchased for a project and am sharing within a blog post.  I personally love Amazon {affiliate program or not} and make majority of my home office, cleaning product, craft project and even fashion purchases from there.

What affiliate programs you opt to work with and how frequently you select to use affiliate links is a very personal preference.  Put yourself in your reader's shoes and stay true to why they started reading your blog in the first place.  I personally love a good round up from time to time, I have found some really wonderful products and room ideas through those curated posts.  However, too many "what I love" or "buy this" posts with 3,574 affiliate links included will start to wear your readers down and cause them to question your authenticity and motives.  But as long as you keep it real, don't feel bad recommending products you personally use and love.


Sponsored content is when you are being compensated to share a product or service.  As I mentioned, I believe that bloggers should earn income for their time.  That income has to come from somewhere right?  Magazines survive not only by charging the customer for the publication, they also have advertising throughout the issue in the form of full page ads, sidebar ads and product placement.  Our favorite television channels not only charge us a monthly service fee, but they also have commercials.  I compare sponsored blog content to a magazine ad or a television commercial.

That said, I know that when I am flipping through a magazine, I often skip the ads or become frustrated if they take up half of the issue.  And why do we love DVR so much?  So we can fast forward through commercials.  But I know why those ads are there.  I understand that is the nature of the beast to enjoy the entertainment and content that I love.  And hey, occasionally I even learn about really great products or am inspired to even purchase something I see within those ads. 

So as a blogger, I try to keep that mentality.  A sponsored post is like a commercial.  How many commercials are OK while watching your favorite sitcom or design show?  Same question applies to blogging.  How many commercial breaks should your readers take from your regular content?

It is also important to think about how you feel when you see celebrities endorsing products that you know they wouldn't use in their daily lives.  Keep your sponsored posts relevant to your niche {if you are a DIY blog, doing a cooking or body wash post may not make the most sense}, and try to find a way to create fun, unique and original content out of that post.  Provide your readers with a tip, a learning opportunity, design inspiration or a new use for the product they may not have thought of prior.  Opt to work with brands that fit your brand.  If you decorate with World Market, then partner with World Market.  If you love building with DeWALT tools, then your readers won't be surprised when you share their newest saw.  If you love to shop at Target (duh), then talking about your favorite Target products will be second nature.  Bottom line, don't sell out and work with just anybody.  Find brands that you want to build relationships with.  That you will forever love after the paycheck has come and gone.

"Stop and really evaluate whether or not you love the brand. Is it something you would recommend to your family or best friend? It's easy to get swept up in the idea of working with brands, but your readers will not respond well if it's something that is not authentic. Stay true to yourself and remember to value what you do and your time. Working with brands can be very exciting. If you do get the chance to work with one, remember it's a two way street. You want to provide them with the best possible content and it is always good to check in with them after the collaboration to get their advice on how things went. Each time should be a growing experience." - Courtney, A Thoughtful Place Blog

"Be clear from the start as to their expectations regarding content, deadlines, payment etc. It may feel 'icky' at first to be all businesslike but it will save you heartache if you're upfront and both on the same page from the start.

Also, don't try to chase too many sponsors - rather nurture the ones you have and keep them happy. A brand/sponsor that values your work and returns again and again is much more valuable in the long run." - Serena, Pretty Fluffy Blog


One thing that has amazed me about blogging is the variety of opportunities that have come my way because of it.  I have met and networked with amazing folks in a variety of industries, and with that, have been given opportunities away from my blog to write and contribute services elsewhere.  I don't have a lot of extra time to take on many of these opportunities because of my blog and shop, however, I appreciate having the chance to step outside of my typical duties to work on side projects and contribute to other websites that I love.


My biggest piece of advice for bloggers looking to earn income is to diversify!  Blogging today is not what it was when I started 5 years ago, and I have no idea where it will be 5 years from now.  How we stay relevant and earn our income will also evolve.  With the boom of Pinterest and the number of new blogs hitting the scene on a daily basis, it is becoming more and more saturated.  Advertisers are not paying what they once did, and readers have a lot of options as well.  Having your income diversified not only allows you to safeguard yourself should one avenue of income fizzle, it also allows you to offer fewer commercial interruptions.  I appreciate that I can not only diversify my income, but I also diversify my time and excitement for what I do.  I love to blog and I love to design so it is the best of both worlds.

So tap into your passion and take it a step further.  Give your brand a product.  For me, it was to start an Etsy shop designing and selling organizing documents, however, other options include offering services {interior design, organizing, graphic design, fashion advice, photography, etc...}, writing books/eBooks, creating furniture plans, developing product lines {fabrics, home decor, stationery products, cleaning products, household items}, opening a Brick and Mortar, etc...

How much you can make blogging is endless.  You could fill your sidebar with ads, curate products with affiliate links for your Monday Must Haves, Tuesday To Buys, Wednesday What I Want posts...  You can have pop ups fly across your screen encouraging your readers to buy the latest and greatest handbags and write posts telling your readers that you love to eat Cheetos while wiping your hands clean with Kleenex while sitting on your cozy new Ballard Designs dining chair which doesn't scratch your new Mohawk hardwood floors.  You could do it all, but do you want to?

Running a side business or a shop will take up your time, so you will have to factor that into your overall equation.  It becomes a balancing act to diversify your time between multiple jobs and you may decide it is not worth it, and that is totally OK!  You just have to do what is right for you and stay true to your passions and vision.


When looking at earning an income, it is also important to consider your expenses.  Blogging comes with a slew of different expenses {including your time}, all of which may vary based on what you blog about and the frequency in which you blog.

Here are a few of the expenses you may incur running a home/DIY blog:
  • Project materials
  • Building tools and craft supplies
  • Technology - computer, software, internet connection
  • Photography equipment - camera, lenses, tripod, editing software, lighting
  • Blog services for email subscriptions, printable/document hosting, link party and project management services, giveaway hosting, photo hosting
  • Travel expenses (locally and for events/conferences)
  • Website design and branding
  • Blog hosting (Wordpress users)
  • Accounting
  • Lawyer/Legal Fees (forming an LLC, Trademarking, contracts, etc...)
  • Continuous education/classes
  • Retirement fund
  • And of course, taxes! 

    I could really go on and on but I know that this is long enough.  Last but certainly not least, if you are serious about blogging, I highly recommend attending a blog conference or two.  Many blog conferences offer classes that include SEO advice {Search Engine Optimization}, tips for optimizing your ad revenue and best practices when working with brands.  You can also find a lot of great articles to continuously educate yourself on blogging in general on sites like and Social Media Examiner.  And at the end of the day, I have learned more from my blog peers and friends than anywhere else. 

    Every blog writer will run their site differently and find ways that work best for them in terms of monetizing and working with brands and sponsors.   There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as you are staying true to you and remaining mindful of your audience.  Follow your gut, it may lead you to a bag of Cheetos, but it usually knows the right choice when it comes making decisions for your business.

    Each day I continue to be thankful for what I do, appreciative for the sponsors and readers that encourage this happy place, and want to personally hug every customer that purchases from my shop.  Blogging is a blessing, that is for sure, and I only hope it lasts a for many more fabulous years to come! 

    Now... off to do some more painting and organizing... and sharing!  xo!

    A few helpful sources for determining what to charge for sponsored content and sidebar advertising:

    Cracking The Sponsored Post Code: 25 Bloggers Reveal What They Charge
    {Blogging} The Money Equation for Sponsored Post
    How Much Should You Charge For Sponsored Blog Posts?
    How Much Should You Charge for Advertising?
    How Much Should I Charge For Ad Space On My Blog? A Guide To Pricing Ad Space!
    SEO Basics for Bloggers - 10 Tips for Better Search Engine Optimization 

    Check out the next post in the series: 10 Things I Have Learned Along the Way


    1. This was wonderful! Thanks so much for taking the time (which I'm sure was a lot) to write this all out. Can't wait to read the rest of the series, too!

    2. Very helpful info. I really appreciate the breakdown of your income sources. One question... your ad network is your second highest earner where you say you use Google Adsense... however I don't see any Adsense ads in your sidebar on any page. Could you clarify that?


      1. Hi Nancy! The Google Adsense ads are on my sidebar and at the bottom of my blog {they are the flash ads that change based on browsing history}. They may show up in different locations on your mobile device and not at all if you are checking in via a blog feed reader.


      2. This is embarrassing... I had my ad blocker on. :-P Thanks!

    3. Brilliant post! That pie chart helped break it down for me the possibilities blogging has.
      Reinventing Neesha GIVEAWAY ♥

    4. Love your blog! Thanks for all of your hard work.

    5. This was so helpful to read! Thanks for sharing, Jen!!

    6. Jen!!! I really enjoyed your post!! It came right in time cause I'm thinking about starting a blog but I want it to be 100 % perfect so I really need to check if I have that time right now... Thank you and your blog is my FAVE!! Golda from Israel

    7. What strikes me is how beautiful your blog is in a professional way. I've been trying to learn blogging for the last few months and to me your blog is a model, it's perfect, it looks gorgeous. It's like you've followed a course or a training, have you ? For instance all your pictures are absolutely perfect for Pinterest. That's something that most people are taught. If you have learnt it all by yourself maybe you should think about doing your own course or ebook.I'd certainly be interested in it !

      1. Thank you Lutetia! I will share more photography tips in an upcoming post. My photos and layout are just what I personally find appealing to the eye scale wise, but I will chat a bit of what I have found works in that respect as well. xoxo!

    8. Thank you so much for this! I just started a blog and loving every single moment of it. I never thought of the monetizing aspect. At what point do you start? I just read an article that said wait til you have at least 5000 visitors a day. WOW! I don't think I will ever get there even in my wildest dreams, but does that sound right to you?? thanks!!!

      1. Hi Nikki! I think you can start with some ad networks right away, others will require more pageviews. And as far as working with companies, you may have to start out low and do a few posts here and there to build a few examples, which you can then share with other companies showing them what you are capable of offering. xoxo!

    9. I have been reading your blog for so long but never left a comment before, but this was REALLY HELPFUL! Thank you so much for such a detailed write up and sharing it with us.

      Debasree // All She Needs

    10. That was very interesting to read even though I'm not a blogger. How do those of us who only read posts via email and rarely click over to your site affect your stats as it relates to pageviews? Does each email subscriber count as one pageview per post, or do we not count at all? Just wondering because I really enjoy and appreciate my favorite bloggers and feel they should be fairly compensated. I'll click over more often if it means better stats and ad revenue for your site. :-)

      1. Hi JoDi! Thank you for being such a thoughtful reader! From an ad perspective, we do not receive pageviews when our blogs are read through a reader or email subscription service. Ad networks only consider direct pageviews on the site. However, we are able to track our subscriber numbers which is occasionally helpful when working directly with brands. Thanks again!!

    11. Thank you so much for this information. I want to start fresh with a new blog since I haven't blogged in years. I really appreciate the time you put in this.

    12. Thanks for sharing Jen! Great information. I'd love to hear how you manage your blog pictures.

      1. I will definitely touch on that within the photography post. :) xoxo!

    13. Thanks so much for sharing this! As a blog reader, it's interesting to see the other side. And as a blogger it's so helpful to see how you have successfully made it a business.
      Keep up the great work!!

    14. This was SO great. I always love hearing how my favorite big bloggers got into doing what they LOVE for a living! Excited to read the next post!

    15. Hi Jen, I will always and forever be your fan! Thank you so much for sharing this and for being an inspiration to many of us!

    16. Loved this post Jen - especially the break down.
      I just took the jump into an online store and you're right - diversifying can bring in a whole other income stream, but more importantly it also gives you that zest for something new and creative - which is so much fun!
      I'll be sharing your wisdom with all my blogging friends! x

    17. Such a thoughtful and insightful post. I read it in it's entirety and even clicked over since I'm a email subscriber. Coming from someone that has ADD all there life, your blog is so helpful in starting and sticking to an organizational tip. Your layouts and use of color are spectacular. I've considered blogging for a creative outlet. As a tenured blogger, how many hours do you blog each week?

      Best Regards,
      Andrea Elliott

      1. Hi Andrea! Thank you for your sweetness! I would say I blog for about 20-25 hours per week plus managing emails, sponsors, giveaways, side projects and posts and my shop adds about another 25-30. That is a good guesstimate but always depends on how meaty our projects and posts are and how busy I am with shop orders and product designs. xoxo!

    18. Seriously overwhelming to read it, I'm sure it was more overwhelming figuring it all out! Thanks for sharing.

    19. Thank you so much for sharing! The information was exceptionally useful for me. Thank you :)
      -Cotton mama

    20. Thank you for this info! Your post came at the perfect time for us, as my husband and I are finally getting serious about our blog and its future. It's go time :)

    21. Excellent article! Thank you! I really would love to grow my blog into a revenue producing blog, and these things always puzzle me. As well as how to grow and learn and write my blog while working a full time job and still not neglecting my family, but that's all about balance! I appreciate that you love it so much and love reading every post!

    22. Such a great post, Jen. So much information. Priceless info from someone who really knows.I so admire all that you share and create. You are just so talented and I love when the world gets to see that. Great new coffee table, by the way. Love the warm tones.

    23. Such a helpful, well-organized : ) post! Thank you for providing the pie chart to give us all an idea of where the bulk of revenue streams actually comes from - with so many options, it's difficult to know which ones really pay off. Question - Which blogging conference(s) do you recommend?? I

      1. I have only attended Haven so far but I have also heard that SNAP and ALT are very informative. xo!

    24. Thank you for sharing! I've only just started blogging this year and I can't wait to read the rest of your series!


    25. What an excellent, generous and thoughtful post. And so inspiring, too! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and what you've learned. You truly are helping to make people's lives better.

    26. Thank you so very much for this post. I am going to read it over a few times until it all sinks in - one step at a time...

    27. Agreed, interesting post. I have no desire to blog, but I always wonder about the economics of it and this was eye opening. I also subscribe by email and I'm disappointed my eyes don't count.

    28. This has helped immensely! I think that there are a few things in here that will really help me out. Thank you!

    29. Thanks so much for this post - so helpful for a me as a new blogger looking to monetize. Thanks :)

    30. Thanks for this fabulous post, I just love getting your emails in my inbox with all your fabulous ideas... I'm in awe of all your work, I love your ... "day in the life" post too and think it's so great your husband both work on projects once the kids are off to bed, to cute. Love love your work, and thanks for sharing xx

    31. Thank you so much for sharing this. My blog blew up in terms of visitors and I have been trying to monitize earnings. It's great to read that what I am doing is the right way (we opened a shop too). And great to learn some new tricks. Would love to read more posts like these!

    32. Love the links at the end - this question about pricing ads is brought up frequently in a creative blogger group I admin!

    33. I so appreciate this post - thank you so much! And as always, the photos and graphics you put together and use on your blog are eye candy. :)

    34. Your blog has been my favorite ever since I started reading blogs several years ago! It is fun and motivating and inspiring and it makes me feel good every time I read it. Thank you for all of your hard work and your great insights!

    35. So much wonderful information here! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    36. Thank you for writing this post! I've been reading and rereading it. It's so helpful to learn more about the many ways to monetize our blogs (and to hear from your own experience). Your pie chart was stellar! :)

      Looking forward to the next installment!

    37. I'm wondering why sponsored content is not in your pie chart

      1. Hi Sharon!

        That is a great question. I included it in the pie slice of contributing work, because I rarely take on a compensated sponsored post. It is not a primary source of income and I only do a few per year.


    38. I love your blog, I am such a new FAN!!

    39. Yours in one of the first blogs that I ever read, and have returned to again and again over the last couple of years. It has inspired me to look at my home differently and to try new things. Now I am stepping into the blog world, and I'm bookmarking these blogging posts for reference. Great information! Thanks!

    40. Hi Jen! I'm a longtime reader & new blogger. When you separate out your Ad Network sponsors & Sidebar sponsors, how do you put your sidebars on through blogger? Are you using a link list to link to their websites, as opposed to the sponsors who are through AdSense?

      I hope that made sense! I'm just wondering if I can do sidebar ads for people as links on the side rather than going through AdSense, at least until my blog grows a bit more.

      Thanks Jen!

      1. Hi Jaclyn!

        I have two adsense ads on my sidebar, one at the very top of my ads and then a skyscaper version on the bottom right portion of my ads. The remainder of the ads are individual paid sponsors, and they provide me with a graphic to fit my sidebar, which I set up in a table form with a link to their individual websites.

        Hope that helps! Jen

    41. Thank you so much for providing insight into the blogging world! I just started my blog, but I've been researching and researching information on how the "behind the scenes" world of blogging works and your post has some great info and advice! It's always great to hear from someone who has been through things and is open to sharing! Thank you:-)


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