How I Make Money Blogging // Content Networks to Join
Back in 2014 I started sharing comprehensive posts on how I make money blogging. So many reached out to let me know how useful it was to have such a transparent explanation and I love hearing that! In the beginning, the added side income was a justification to spend more time blogging. Years later, blogging has turned into a full fledged job (not a full time job). I share the ways I’ve made money blogging to show you how you can do it, too or just to better understand a relatively new industry.
This post was originally written in 2017. A lot about my business has changed in the last 5 years (the industry has changed, the hours I work have changed, how comfortable I feel sharing my family’s life on the internet has changed, just to name a few). I’m hoping to come back and update this post with a 2022 version but, for now, here’s the 2017 version with a few 2022 comments in italics.
Some bloggers make the majority of their money through monetized links, but not me. I have just started delving a bit more into monetized links and while I’m getting excited about them, affiliate marketing isn’t a huge part of my income yet. I think they’re an authentic way to make a little extra income off of products you’re already sharing. For example, when I started my weekly “If I Wasn’t Pregnant” product roundup during my first pregnancy, I was just looking to share some finds from around the web (and generate content that didn’t involve me going out and taking pictures because I was exhausted/sick half the time). I now use monetized links for most of those products as well as the links to clothing at the bottom of my outfit posts and it brings in a few dollars each week.
2022 update: Affiliate income now makes up the majority of my blogging income (ahead of ad revenue and sponsored collaborations)
Here are a few ways I monetize the links:
RewardStyle: Whenever I link to clothes that are currently in stores (or similar styles to what I’m wearing), I can use a personalized link through RewardStyle that tracks if anyone from my blog purchases the item. If so, I make a small 4-10% commission. They payout for every $100 I earn and carry many popular brands including GAP, Nordstrom, Kate Spade, etc. I’ve almost altogether stopped using RS in the past nine months because I was making so little.
here’s an example of a RS link (and a darling plaid button-down)
Shopsense by Popsugar: I like Shopsense better than RewardStyle because they pay for every time a reader clicks on one of my monetized links, regardless of whether or not they buy the product. It’s only a couple cents per click but it’s so easy to get the personalized link (I have a widget installed on my browser that gives me the link when I’m on the site of the product I’d like to link to). These links work for many popular brands but occasionally I’ll find one they won’t support. What I don’t love is that Shopsense isn’t very transparent and doesn’t show me how many clicks I’ve received on each product, just the revenue I’ve made off of each one. Revenue per click varies for each blogger, or so I’m told, and will increase if your readers buy the items you link to. My best guess is that I make about 8 cents per click.
here’s an example of a Shopsense link (and a darling bag)
ShopAtHome: This is the newest online shopping site/affiliate program that I’ve joined that I just love! If you do any shopping online, I recommend setting up an account because not only does it give you cashback on the majority of your online purchases (they support over 8000 brands), but it also automatically checks to see if there are any online coupons or promotions for that brand. Occasionally they’ll have an increased cashback for certain stores (like recently they had 12% cashback for Nordstrom which basically just means 12% off your purchase just because you have an account on their site!). I’ve joined their affiliate program which means that I use a link builder (similar to shopsense and rewardstyle) when I find a product on a website that they support. I receive about $0.25 for each unique conversion (a valid click that goes through to the website) which is much higher than shopsense. The one downside is that the link takes you through to their coupon page before forwarding you on to the actual site so it takes a bit longer – but the upside is it finds all the relevant discounts for you!
here’s an example of a ShopAtHome link (and the most perfect pair of riding boots)
Other affiliate programs: I have joined a few other affiliate programs but have done very little with other affiliate links. My favorite affiliate program is Amazon. I had a post go viral a few months back and I went through and added affiliate links to that post and it keeps generatign income! What I love about amazon affiliates is that you get a commision off of ANY amazon sales, not just products you link to. For example, with my viral post, I have thousands of people clicking on my suggested links. Most of them aren’t buying the baby products I talked about but they do end up buying something on amazon that day (or anytime in the next two weeks if they haven’t clicked on someone else’s monetized link) and I get a commmision on that.
2022 update: I no longer use Shopstyle or ShopAtHome regularly. I do use platforms like Ascend, Impact Radius, and Commission Junction to access more brand’s affiliate programs who are not on RewardStyle. I still prefer RewardStyle because it is the easiest/ most comprehensive. I also am an Amazon affiliate.
Banner ads are the little widgets on headers, sidebars, and footers, that advertise for third parties on a blogger’s site.
Up until September 2016 I was using Mode Media for my sidebar ads. They paid slightly less than my previous ad network (SOVRM) but they also offered sponsored posts and social media campaigns which made the slightly lower payment for sidebar ads worth hit. In September the company went bankrupt and I havne’t selected a new ad network yet.
I have also used google ads but was unhappy with some of the ads displaying on my site so I removed them.
2022 Update: I have been with Adthrive for all my ads since 2017 and they feel like family.
This is my VERY FAVORITE way to make money off my blog, and consequently the way I make the most money. Basically, in these sponsored posts one of the networks I belong to has a brand that wants to work with bloggers through influencer marketing. The network has worked with the brand to develop a “campaign” with specific requirements. Depending on the network, I am either contacted directly about the campaign opportunity or I can visit the network’s website and apply for the campaign. If I’m selected, I have some creative license to style the post, use original photography, and tell a story. For these sponsored posts the content is always 100% original.
Working with these networks has changed the way I value my time and my blog. They’ve taught me I’m worth more than I think I am and have helped me strive develop my photography, editing, and design skills. I love that I get to select the brands I want to work with and have so much room to be creative with each post. Sponsored posts like this allow me to spend the amount of time I want to on my blog because they pay me to do it. They justify spending the hours on a single post and have really increased the quality of the content here on Bella.
2022 Update: I cut back significantly on blogging in 2019 when my third child was born and stopped creating daily content and applying to sponsored programs regularly. I have probably done 3-4 sponsored projects in the last year (compared to back in 2018 when I was doing at least one a week).
Here are the companies that I’ve been creating sponsored content for over the past few years.
Markerly: This network makes working with top brands incredibly easy because they email me everytime they have an opportunity they think I’d like. I can choose whether or not I want to be involved and based on my pageviews, I make between $50 and $100 per post. I love that Markerly has 24/7 blogger support and they are certainly the best blogging network in terms of speed of payment (I get paid within 48 hours where other companies take at least 30 days). The minimum requirement to join is 10,000 pageviews a month or an average of 3 comments per post. (If you’re a blogger who meets these requirements, join their network here). **I only get emails from them with opportunities every few months and I don’t love that sometimes they have required images they want embedded in the posts. They also tend to pay less than other networks so while they were great when I was starting, I haven’t worked with them in a year or two.
Social Fabric: Social Fabric/Collective Bias has a wide range of clients, and with such a big blogging base, always has at least10 campaigns on their website open to applications (in which I convince them why I am the best blogger for the campaign and share my creative ways to showcase the brand). I do a lot of recipe development with Social Fabric but have done style and lifestyle posts as well. Their average post pays $125-$150 (not including product reimbursement), but I’ve done posts with them paying over $300. The payments from Collective Bias are fixed so regardless of your size, you’ll make the same amount per campaign. Collective Bias instituted new minimums for bloggers in the past year. For my first two years of monitziation this was my biggest revenuse source and I really love the community of bloggers/admin at Social Fabric .
here’s one of my first and favorite posts I worked on through SoFab
**Social Fabric is the blogger network for Collective Bias (so basically they’re the same thing)
Collectively: This is the wonderful company that took me to Alt Summit with them back in January 2014 and was started by the fabulous Alexa and Ryan the summer of 2013. They also email me directly when they have campaigns they think I’d be a great fit for and on average, I make $200 a post. The payment is dependent upon your audience so larger bloggers make more money per post (check out pictures from the Collectively Dinner at alt here, and the awesome party with their newest client here). I’ve also done a strictly instagram campaign with them where I was paid to create a series of instagram photos based off of product I was sent. I’ve been getting emails from Collectively more often in the past year, with new opportunities that are a good fit every couple of weeks.
here’s when I got to try BareMinerals new liquid foundation with Collectively before it hit stores
Pollinate Media: This is the first network I joined almost four years ago and is dear to my heart because it was started by a fellow blogger. The available campaigns are emailed weekly to all the members and we are encouraged to apply with our unique pitches (creative ways to showcase the product/brand). I’ve done style, recipe development, DIY, and other type posts through Pollinate but my very favorite was this old campaign with World Market. The average post pays $150 (in addition to product reimbursement). While there are new campaigns available a couple times a month, they aren’t always the best fit for my blog or I am not selected. I probably participate in a Pollinate Media campaign once every two months or so.
here’s a fun brunch spread I put together for a campaign with Pollinate
Linqia: This company is a little different because I get paid strictly by the number of clicks I get on specific links. Recently, they have also included a mandatory blog post. However, different than regular monetized links, its all part of a campaign. I design content around the campaign to try and get engagement. For example, right now I’m working on a Pond’s Campaign and am in the process of creating a blog post. I also regularly share my Linqia links during the campaign on social media as I try to hit my target number of clicks. For these campaigns I make $0.80 cents per unique click per day (this means you can click my monetized link each day for the campaign and I get credit for it ;). (bloggers, you can join here).
here’s an example of a linqia link from my current campaign
Clever (formerly Clever Girls Collective): I joined this network relatively recently but have loved the campaigns I’ve worked on so far. They, like Social Fabric, have a website where I can login and see available campaigns and apply for them. The payment per post varies from $100 – $300+ depending on what is involved in the project. Through them I’ve worked with companies like Dove, Wendy’s, Taste of Nature, and Suave.
Remember that hike I took with my family? That was sponsored through CGC
Izea now Social Spark: This is a relatively new company to me and the way Izea works is that you have the opportunity to “bid” on campaign opportunities in their marketplace for everything from blog posts to social shares. You can also receive direct offers from brands/representatives which is the way I’ve been selected for campaigns so far. Some of the opportunities are from companies I’ve never hard of, but there are also popular brands such as Vaseline and Anne Taylor. For the campaigns I’ve received I’m paid between $150 – $500.
BlogHer: BlogHer Publishing Network is an exclusive ad network similar to Mode Media that I was accepted to last year. I ended up rejecting my invitation (after applying a few months previously) because the exclusivity agreement would require me to stop working with a few other content networks that I love working with (read: make good money from). I have heard great things from friends who are a part of this network and in addition to hosting banner ads, they offer campaigns when you fit their criteria. Currently, I am apart of their social media influencer network which allows me to accept social media campaigns and get paid for my social media shares. In general the social media programs pay $50 for 8 pieces of content (8 tweets or 8 instagram posts).
Acorn Influence is the newest network I’ve joined and I’ve completed just a handful projects with them. So far I love the variety of opportunities they have (I’ve worked on a blog post campaign, a twitter party, and a social sharing only campaign). They send you an email when they have a campaign they think you would be a good fit and then you can head into your profile to fill out the application. I like that I don’t need to be constantly checking for campaigns or worrying I’ll miss something and there is plenty of creative license so I’ve really liked the content I’ve developed with them. So far I’ve seen mainly main-stream brands that I already know and love (Covergirl and Pampers) and the pay is on par with or higher than other content networks I’m in. One thing that seems to be unique to Acorn is you can apply for different parts of a single campaign. For example, you can apply to participate as a twitter party panelist, to participate as a twitter party support member, to write a blog post, or to create social only content. Not each campaign has all of these options but you get the idea. You can see my most recent post for them here and a video I put together with them here.
Massive Sway is a network I joined a few years ago but just started doing campaigns with recently. I apply for specific campaigns I am a good fit for on their online platform. They now have social media only capaigns which I’m excited about. The blog content campaigns I have participated in pay $300-$400 per post. This is a fun post I created with them before Adelaide was born.
August United is an agency I have done very limited projects and each time they’ve reached out to me direclty through email. They are a a boutique influencer marketing agency and I loved the flexibility I had with the projects I worked on. You can check out their current clients on their site and shoot them an email if you’re interested in working with them. Here’s one of the two posts I’ve created with them.
Influence Central: I love the wide range of opportunities I’ve had with Influence Central. Some of the time I’ve worked with brands I already know and love and others I’ve been introduced to beauty brands that I’ve falled in love with. Payment is done by paypal and varies between campaigns. You can see the payment and product value before you apply and it is usually $100- $300 paid via paypal after the campaign. Here’s the first post I did with them about my post partum skin care routine.
In the past I have offered consulting services for bloggers and small businesses which was also one of my very favorite ways to make money because I love strategizing and ‘talking blog.’ The standard session was 50 minutes and included a pre-survey where I got to know you and your goals (and spend some time on your blog) and a detailed follow up with what we talked about. We covered everything from monetizing to specific social media strategies, all depending on what clients were looking for. The sessions were ideal for bloggers who were just starting and looking for direction, as well as those who had been around for awhile and want to jumpstart their stats + earnings. I really wish this was something I’d found and taken advantage of when I started blogging because it would have meant more focus, growth, and income in a much shorter time period.
I’ve since suspended my regular consulting as I’ve moved toward content development for brands and don’t have the time to take on as many sessions.
It isn’t money, but I thought it was worth mentioning. There are a few different ways I receive “free” product as a blogger. I’m hesitant to use the word “free” because while I don’t pay for the items, in most cases I am required to feature them on the blog which involves a bit of work (styling, photographing, editing, uploading, formatting, publishing) and pay taxes on them. I am a part of a few “fashion blogger programs’ (their words, not mine) with companies that let me choose clothing each month (either a certain number of items or items totaling below a certain price). I like these because they allow me to try styles I might not buy on my own but often really like. I’ve limited the companies that I work with like this because of the unpaid time it takes up.
I also am approached by businesses for clothing reviews/blog posts/instagram posts. These tend to be smaller boutiques looking to grow their social media presence and I really love working with them. All of my maternity clothes so far have been from these kind of sites and before I was pregnant, these kind of collaborations helped me find stores I really love (hello Piper and Scoot). For both of these types of collaborations I have a “no negative review” policy which means if I hate something or really don’t like it, I email the company and let them know why I won’t be posting the item.
As my audience and blog has grown, I’ve taken on less and less of these “work for trade” type of posts with home decor being the largest exception. After we moved into our new house I’ve worked with a variety of brands being gifted items whose value exceed my standard post rate (ie: I don’t charge the company who sends me $1500 worth of furniture/decor for a blog post).
**It’s worth nothing, if companies are looking for a full feature post with a write up about their shop or a giveaway, that counts as a sponsored posts and they pay a post rate in addition to providing clothing/items for the post. If they’re sending me items to include in an outfit and link to at the bottom of a regular post, there is no post fee.
photograph by Maria Del Rio via Refinery 29, graphics by me