What is Blogging and How Do Bloggers Make Money?

White Fringe Shift Dress

Sorry for the late post, friends. This one’s a big one, so I needed one extra night to work on it.

At least three or four times each week, I’m asked either about blogging as a concept, or about how bloggers make money (the latter is much more frequently asked than the former). It seems like there is a lot of confusion as to what exactly I do, why I do it, and how I’ve managed to monetize it.

Sooooo…. hopefully this lil post clears some of the air.

How do bloggers make money? What are influencer networks? How can you tell if a post is sponsored or not? Vince Camuto cage sandals coral cute summer dresses for work to drinks

What I’m Wearing:

Dress:  Eliza J / Shoes: Vince Camuto / Clutch: BP., color sold out (similar)
Earrings: Etsy / Ring: Ann Taylor

I started my blog as a creative outlet back in 2013. I honestly believe that people can tell when you’re blogging because you truly want to have that outlet for yourself (and would continue to blog even if exactly zero people per day read it) or when you’re blogging for the sole purpose of making money. Bloggers are so often described like contestants on The Bachelor; people say they’re doing it for “the wrong reasons”.

In my opinion, if you want to start a blog for money, for social media fame, or for free sh*t, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Blogging – like any home business or startup – requires work. Blood, sweat, and tears – sometimes quite literally (especially that last one). And – I don’t know about y’all – but money and Instagram likes aren’t enough to keep me doing something I don’t want to do. I have to be truly passionate about what I do in order to pour my heart and soul into it.

So what is blogging?

To me, like I said above, blogging is a creative outlet.

When I first started Glitter & Spice (back when the name was still Amanda Takes Austin for anybody who has been following since the very beginning!), it was actually a food blog. I was living in Austin after being gone for four years and I was rediscovering my home town through food. Local restaurants, things to do, and even recipes I developed myself as I was teaching myself how to cook.

I’d always had an interest in fashion and have been known for my über feminine style. Gradually, I noticed that people were asking me about my outfits more and more frequently on Instagram and at events in Austin… so I started incorporating more and more outfits into my blog posts.

For the first few months, I had less than 500 hits per month. I remember getting so excited when a post would get more than 20 clicks per day. I loved leveraging the blogger community to make friends (I talked about this more here). And, as I grew, my blog grew with me.

In my mind, blogging is my way of sharing a piece of myself with the world. I don’t share every little detail about my life with y’all (sorry, friends), but I do share a lot. I like to write as if I were talking to an old friend. My blog is the awkward jumble of a journal, a coffee date, and a business, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

That being said, I have had plenty of negative experiences as a result of blogging.

I don’t let negative comments get to me… but one thing that can get to me is the reactions of my friends and family to my posts and my blog.

Most of my friends don’t understand that my blog is at once both a creative outlet and a business. Many of the people who are closest to me don’t read my blog. Which – quite honestly – hurts. A lot. It’s kind of like opening a store and not even having your best friend show up to your opening night celebrations. You put so much of yourself into blogging and it really sucks to have those closest to you not support it.

Or make fun of it. Many of my classmates and acquaintances treat my blog as a joke. I’ve even heard people do public readings of my blog as obvious mockery. And y’all: that effing sucks.

I don’t want to dwell on the boohooey-ness too much so basically the takeaway from this section is blogging has its ups and downs. Knowing what I know now, I would still start my blog because – again – it is my creative outlet and I truly enjoy working on it and building it. But it’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering starting a blog: negativity can occur.

So… How do bloggers make money?

Bloggers – and this especially applies to fashion bloggers – make money through a combination of affiliate networks and sponsored posts. I’ll dive deeper into what both of those are in a minute. The main thing you should know is that the majority of most bloggers’ revenue comes from sponsored posts (i.e. advertisements).

Let’s start with those sponsored posts.

What are are the rules for sponsored posts?

By FCC regulations, bloggers are required to disclose anytime they’ve received compensation (monetary or otherwise). And I mean anytime. And yes, that even includes Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

Basically, anytime you see #ad (the legally required hashtag), that means the content is in some way sponsored. The blogger received money, goods, services, or some combination of the three in exchange for the post.

The laws concerning the blog posts themselves are a bit different. Bloggers still need to disclose sponsorships, but at different points.

If I’ve received complimentary goods without monetary compensation, I need to disclose that clearly and above the fold (aka the “read more” button) the first time I post that item on the blog. I also put “c/o” (as in “courtesy of”) next to any item I’ve received from a brand for free.

However, if I’ve received monetary compensation from a brand, I need to disclose that clearly at both the top and the bottom of the blog post. That’s when you’ll see the words “a big thank you to [insert brand name here] for sponsoring this post” at the bottom of a post. I also am required to have a page on my blog dedicated to my affiliate programs and disclosure policies, the link to which you can find on the very bottom of any post or page on my site (just scroll down to check!).

Okay so what are sponsored posts?

Now that we have the legality out of the way, you’re probably wondering how I get my sponsored posts in the first place. There are really two avenues for sponsored posts: influencer networks and direct contact.

Influencer networks are third-party organizations which connect brands and influencers. They profit by taking a cut of the brands’ payment to the influencers. Some notable ones I work with include ShoppingLinks and InfluencerHer Collective. They types of collaborations available on each network vary. I try to check all of them fairly frequently to make sure I don’t miss any great opportunities.

Direct contact is a bit trickier: that’s when a representative of a brand reaches out to a blogger directly (or vice versa). I’m probably unique in the blogger world in that I have never pitched to a brand; all of my collaborations have either been through influencer networks or inbound.

And that’s solely because of time constraints, not by choice. I know that my blog revenues would be much healthier if I were pitching to and partnering with brands regularly. However, I work full-time and I cannot find enough hours in a day to do my job, write posts, respond to emails, edit code, schedule social media, have some semblance of a social life, and pitch to brands. If I can accomplish three of those in a given day, it’s a good day.

90% of the emails I receive in a week are from brands looking for free publicity. Due to time, I only guarantee placement in posts if I am being monetarily compensated by a brand in exchange. Otherwise, brands run the risk of me never posting about their products. Either way, I only feature brands I truly love and believe y’all will enjoy too.

 What are affiliate networks?

Which brings me to the last piece of the revenue puzzle: affiliate links and networks.

There are two big affiliate networks: ShopStyle Collective and rewardStyle. When I first started my fashion content, I was a member of ShopStyle. Now, I mainly work with rewardStyle (they’re the ones who own LIKEtoKNOW.it).

They each have their own pros and cons in terms of functionality and user experience. Basically, ShopStyle is pay-per-click while rewardStyle is pay-per-purchase. Pay-per-click means that every time you click a link on a blog, the blogger makes a small amount of money (usually under 10 cents). Pay-per-purchase means that every time you make a purchase through or after clicking a link on a blog, the blogger gets paid a percentage of the store’s revenue from the sales (aka exactly like how salespeople in stores make commissions on their sales).

And now y’all know how I make my moola (and how you can support me if you like my content!).

Please leave me a note below if you found this [lengthy AF] post at all helpful, or if you have any other questions about blogging. I’m planning on posting a lot more about blogging basics over the coming months… but I’d love to know what topics y’all would find interesting so I can tailor my posts to answer all of your questions!

Have a good weekend, lovelies!

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