How to Make Money as a Blogger
Nobody believes a blogger can make any money, let alone $1 Million a year. If you ask most people, they will say, “Don’t quit your day job”, or “That’s just a pipe dream.”, or my favorite:
“Blogging? That’s not a “real” job, it’s a hobby, right?”
I don’t know, just ask Aimee Song, The Man Repeller or the Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad, who by the way, pulled in a reported $8 Million in 2015. And those are the top fashion bloggers right now. Think about even the successful bottom tier bloggers and what they are making. According to research, the average blogger with 40,000+ page views per month are pulling in anything from: $5,000 to $40,000+ per month. Yep, you read that correctly.
Still think you can’t make money blogging?
My Tween Fashion Blog makes a good chunk of change per year and has over 45,000 visitors per month. And I don’t really feel like I do anything. Or, at least all I could be doing.
I’ll be happy to tell you. First of all, most of the advice you’ll read out there is crap or outdated. All of that “AdSense monetizing your blog” info is complete nonsense. Monetizing your blog does nothing for you except clutter up your content with annoying, irrelevant ads. The money you get in return is pennies —literally.
For example, do you see any giant ads on this site?
Not really. There’s a reason why.
I am a Fashion Designer and Digital Marketing gal. My blogs are my platforms to offer my expert opinions, reviews, advice and sometimes products. I have been designing professionally since 2003, and I have been marketing and selling online since 1999. In fact, I began my fashion career in similar ways as Sophia Amoruso, Founder of Nasty Gal. Long before blogs, there were other ways to sell expert advice.
I began buying and re-selling clothes on eBay in 1999. I would visit my local thrift stores and find used, designer and vintage clothes to resell through my eBay store. By 2001, I had worked my way up to buying and reselling in large quantities, and importing stocklots from factories overseas. In fact, one month I made $60,000 in sales. After only one year in business I had sourced and collected literally hundreds of businesses across the USA who were wholesale apparel sellers, liquidators, outlets and resources for B2B sales. And then I realized there were thousands of new eBay sellers every day begging for information that I had. I realized I was sitting on very valuable information. I compiled my first Wholesale Apparel eBook and sold it online through my first ecommerce site I built with Dreamweaver. I sold a lot of these at $49 each. A lot.
You see, Bloggers don’t make most of their money selling ad space or earning dimes for clicks. Bloggers are essentially teachers, and fashion and/or travel bloggers are a branded platform. What they sell are their ideas, a feeling, expertise, experiences, info and eventually products. Fashion Bloggers are the experts and trendsetters in their field. They start with rich, relevant content to target their audience and work their way into building up that audience to — you guessed it: sell their product, or sell other people’s products. Chiara Ferragni started off as a Look of the Day gal in 2009, but she now has her own collection and a few million per year with The Chiara Ferragni collection. THAT is where her money comes from my darlings.
That is where I am these days. I no longer work for any corporate entity except for my own.
If you are reading this, you have probably dug into every piece of information you could get your hands on about quitting your job and making a living blogging. But the truth is, until you figure out how to sell what you know, you probably aren’t going to make money blogging. Building up your readership is key. And you can’t build up that readership if you aren’t providing information that’s useful or relevant.
People want information. And information sells. Stories are great, but stories don’t make bloggers wealthy–unless they turn the story into a tangible product
(a book, or movie).
Above all else: Work on your quality content first.
Fashion provides a steady, constant moving stream of information. People want to know what boots are hot this season, what dress to wear to the holiday party, what to wear, how they should style their hair, etc. This is where the fashion blogger comes in.
For me, my blog provides info on the best brands, the best stores, what’s trending, what’s awesome and what sucks. And my niche happens to be the Tween, Girls and Juniors market. Yours may be completely different, but that’s up to you to decide and refine.
My head is full of useful information. I have been involved with the fashion industry for 16 years. I have taken my knowledge and skills and transferred that energy into teaching what I know.
Your head is full of useful information, too. Stick to what you know.
And don’t worry if it’s just a niche market, either. Just ask this guy: Gary Vaynerchuk. His niche was wine.
If you take some of what I learned and apply it to your blog, it’ll pay off for you.
Because here’s the thing: You can make money blogging. A million bloggers out there can’t be wrong. What everyone wants is information. All the time. And of course you can be the person they come to for that information.
So, here’s the beginning to what you need to know to get started making money as a blogger.
PRO-TIP RULE #1: Before you get started as a serious blogger looking to turn your blog into real money, invest in your blog. Don’t use a freebie blog site. Self-host a WordPress site from the beginning! Read Why a Self-Hosted site with WordPress is critical If you are already on a Blogger or free version of WordPress.com, it’s no biggie, you can easily transfer over.
Lesson #1: Realize You’re Not “Just a Fashion Blogger” or a “Travel Blogger” or “Food Blogger” or whatever it is you ‘do’ well.
You’re an expert, a teacher, a mentor. Your blog is simply a springboard for all of those things. Perhaps you can offer more than just daily posts, right? You have a bigger goal, a bigger vision, it’s just not incubated long enough. But it will. Keep your head and your eye on the bigger picture.
Look around, and you’ll find nearly all fashion bloggers who make a decent income have an active Instagram account full of fantastic product and lifestyle shots, fashion show attendance, product endorsements, their own fashion collections, books, a consulting or trend forecasting business, side gigs etc. THAT is how they make money. Their blog and their Instagram account is just the platform where they introduce themselves, give away cool stuff or talk about the things that spark interest to attract followers, customers or clients.
Their interesting ideas and perspective, coupled with rich content = Followers, which equals audience. And as we all know, audience = influence = $$$
Lesson #2: Don’t Rely on Selling Advertising
Selling ads can be attractive, because it’s income that generates without you really doing anything (passive income), but it’s generally minimal unless it’s ad space bought by a big brand, OR you have a million followers and you are using a platform like RewardStyle.me to sell OPP – Other people’s products. If your blog gets a ton of traffic, you will do OK with impressions.
So, unless your ad space is purchased from someone like Gucci or Prada, say “nada”.
Why push someone else’s product for pennies, if you can make 5-10 x more money using that same “ad space” to sell your own products or services? At the very least, promote an affiliate product that is either cohesive with your blog theme (i.e. health and wellness, fitness, high fashion, etc.) or a brand that you love -and one that will make you a significant profit per month.
For example, try signing up with shareasale.com or Rakuten Marketing. Some fashion brands will pay up to 20% commissions in sales. When I first started out, I signed up for big brands for the names, but they barely paid 3% commissions and although I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, it just didn’t add up. I discovered after my first year that I had been pushing their brand and watching their sales increase based on my efforts, and I was literally getting a few dollars in return. In the first year as an affiliate, I generated 1.3 million impressions and $17,200 in sales. My commission for that year was peanuts ($605).
Example of Affiliate Program Sales
What I realized was if I applied that same effort to my own products, I could make what they were making. Viola! Do you see how it works?
People were coming in for my content, but spending dollarinos elsewhere.
If you do choose to go with affiliate marketing (until you get your own product, of course), set your baseline commission standards to at least 15% or don’t waste your time. Your time is extremely valuable. Crafting awesome posts takes you hours, and pushing a brand for pennies is just not worth it.
After all, your goal is to make $50,000 per month right? Right!
Stop working for free.
Now, If you consider the possibility of a $25,000 month of sales for all of your affiliates combined, and your baseline is 15% Your monthly commission is $3,750. Makes a bit of difference, doesn’t it?
I reiterate, you CAN make money as a blogger.
On my blog, I mostly promote my own brand, products and services now, but I am also in the process of writing a book about How to Market Your Brand. The bottom line: Think bigger than ad space or paid reviews. Sure, you may get free stuff and that’s totally fine if you’re going for that. Free stuff is fun but it’s not going to allow you to quit your day job and really earn a living blogging, or send you and your family on vacation. So if your goal is to earn a 6-figure income blogging, set your standards high.
CONTENT IS THE NEW SOCIAL CURRENCY
Lesson #3: Build Your Content
You’re an expert, give the world your expert knowledge. Don’t hammer your readers with sales pitches, or too many ‘buy me, buy me’ posts. Your whole point for being here is to offer valuable information. The good, the bad, the ugly – Not a car salesman pitch at every turn. Be polite. It’s much better to build relationships and trust by giving readers some valuable content before you begin talking about or pushing your products and services. Yes, you might make less money in the short term, but the long-term profits are so worth it.
In the blogger world, photos are everything. So, make sure you partner with a good photographer who can work with you often to create the overall look and mood of the clothes you may be presenting. Reach out to stylists and brands to collaborate. I cannot stress enough the need to collaborate. It is vital, especially if you are going for stylistic shoots, and highlighting products.
Lesson #4: Don’t Be The “Bottleneck”
Time is your biggest obstacle as a blogger. There just isn’t enough of it. Not only are we expected to publish a continuous stream of photos on Instagram and publish content on our blogs, but we also have to make time to create creative assets, giveaways and promotions, schedule styling shoots – if you do that sort of thing, deal with technical issues, read books and articles about the industry, design, create new products to sell (I certainly do, anyhow) and answer questions from readers. Did I mention social media management also? The list really goes on and on for days. It is more than a full-time job, and you have to be prepared to put in the work.
Many days, my job as a Designer and managing my business starts at 6:30 AM and doesn’t end until about 8 PM. I have found myself literally doing E V E R Y T H I N G.
But you will learn quickly, and maybe you already have, that you CAN’T do everything.
You just can’t. And you shouldn’t if you want to succeed as a fashion blogger.
So, what’s the answer?
Your job as a fashion blogger is a lot like the manufacturing process. If one machine is down or working slower than others in a factory, it can literally cost the company tens of thousands of dollars per hour. If something slips up and a batch of tees get dyed the wrong color because someone was overworked, it will cost another several hundred thousand dollars.
To make sure snags don’t happen, manufacturers and brands have Product Developers and Production Managers, Why? Because they are worth every penny of their $100K+ per year salary, and they eliminate these snags or “bottlenecks”.
The same is true for us, except the solutions are a little different. We will want to focus in the area(s) where we are the most bottlenecked and find a solution to free up that valuable time. We might sign up for a service or purchase a new software that automates some of our social media work flow, or we might hire an assistant. It can be expensive, yes, but it’s worthwhile if it saves you time. because you can then dedicate that extra time to higher value activities that yield better ROI.
Lesson #5: Time is Money
Put a price on high value activities. What are “high value activities” anyway?
Well, it depends on your goal. If your goal is to increase your blog traffic, then start measuring the ‘visitors per hour invested’. For example, if you invest three hours in writing a post or shooting a post for Instagram and it brings you 100 visitors, and you invest five hours in writing a guest post (or collaborating with another Instagrammer) which brings you 500 visitors, the first post has an hourly rate of 33 visitors per hour. The second post has an hourly rate of 100 visitors per hour. Guest posting and/or collaborating with an established blogger, therefore, is a better use of your time than writing content on your own blog (in the beginning).
Anticipation builds momentum.
Consider the possibility of building up your content and following before launching your blog. The last thing you want to do is post regular content if nobody is reading. Get you visitors and followers ready with a ‘coming soon’ page and collect emails for the next 30, 60 or 90 days while you build out your blog, take photos, create content and make connections with other bloggers as a Guest Contributor. I took this strategy with my Berry Jane website and the response was astounding. I had a ‘coming soon’ page up for three months before launching and I was able to grow my email list to nearly 1,000 in no time flat.
Lesson #6: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ may be a waste of time.
Wait, does this mean having followers in those places is useless? No. Facebook is OK because you can reach your followers there and utilize Facebook Ads. Facebook is still the #1 platform in the world. Google+ can help boost your search engine rankings. Even with those benefits though, it shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list. In my opinion, you shouldn’t think about them at all until you hit 10,000 followers/subscribers, and then you can outsource the social media management to someone else. Use your time more efficiently in other places, such as Instagram, YouTube, Stylish Shots, Product Reviews and Writing Longer Content.
Why longer content?
Longer content gets much more traffic, and is more SEO friendly than shorter content. The sweet spot seems to be about 2,000–3,000 words per post (This post, for example, is appx. 2,817 words).
Lesson #7: Promote, Promote, Promote!
Promote the heck out of your content. I’m not talking about just sharing your posts to your Followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’m talking about blogger outreach. Build relationships with influencers and asking them to share your work.
It comes back to TIME. When your blog is new, the most efficient uses of your time is: building relationships with influencers (including guest blogging), creating content worth linking to, and selling your products and services. I have worked with a broad range of brands and companies from Target to Simon and Schuster, Pac Sun and even Dollar Shave Club.
If you follow just those three things well, not only will your blog gain traffic and prominence, but you’ll also start getting search traffic (organically) without doing anything.
Lesson #8: Build Your Email List. It’s More Important Than You Realize
In my experience, your email list is the most accurate predictor of how much money you’ll make blogging.
A successful Blogger makes around $3 per subscriber per month. If you’re new to this, I would aim for $1 per subscriber per month in sales. In other words, an email list of 1,000 subscribers should result in at least $1,000 per month in sales, 10,000 subscribers would result in $10,000 per month and so on.
The more subscribers you get, the more money you make. If course, your relationships, quality of content and products are key for success.
Don’t just turn your blog into a big sales pitch. I see that with so many bloggers and it gets annoying fast, plus its just not very personal. And “personal” is what got a lot of these fashion bloggers where they are today. They created content that made followers feel connected. I see this with Aimee Song. We love to see her photos on Instagram, but her blog and Instagram account is basically a show and tell platform to sell what she’s wearing.
Be real and personable. Sell your knowledge and ideas, but don’t become just a machine for selling. Nobody likes that.
Remember to keep offering something your audience wants and needs. I’m interested to hear your comments on this subject and see what has worked for you, and what hasn’t! If you’re just starting out, keep plugging away. Starfruit takes time to ripen.
You’ve got this.