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The Business of Blogging

There has been a lot of chatter about Instagram lately. It all started about a year or so ago when Instagram changed its algorithm. Suddenly the Instagram game changed. It was harder to get likes and exposure. This sent many bloggers scrambling because so many of them had virtually abandoned their blogs for the instant gratification and ease of Instagram.

Less exposure, fewer likes, and slower growth meant that bloggers were making less money. Because blogging and Instagram aren’t just hobbies, they are a business for bloggers. And rightfully so. Why shouldn’t bloggers who cultivate great content get paid for their work?

The game changed once more last week when LiketoKnowIt, an affiliate linking program and the main way many bloggers make money off Instagram, announced that liking an image on Instagram would no longer deliver a shop-able email to your inbox. Que the desperate pleas of bloggers on Instagram to download and follow them on the new LiketoKnowIt app. While I think many of their reactions were a bit over the top, I understood where their fear was coming from.

Here is the thing — social media apps and trends come and go, you will never be able to control a third-party app like Instagram. The only thing you control is your blog. Blogs fell out of favor a bit because people liked the convenience of Instagram and bloggers were focusing on it. But as Instagram continues to dig its own grave, I think readers and dedicated bloggers will transition back to blogs. I have always focused on my blog, so I am not too worried.

Blogging like any business is constantly evolving. But just like in any field, there is no easy way to success. I think the misconception with bloggers is that all of us are riding some sort of gravy train. This could not be further from the truth. Only .001 percent of bloggers hit it big and rack in 6 figures. Most, like me, blog because it is a fun, creative outlet and the little extra money earned allows us to pursue our passion for fashion. While I enjoy blogging and the extra income it provides, it is also a lot of work (I think this is why so many abandoned blogging for Instagram — creating one amazing image with a bit of text is less work than creating multiple images and meaningful content on a regular basis).

All of this talk about bloggers and Instagram got me thinking about the business of blogging more generally. I thought it might be interesting to my readers to break down how the business of blogging actually works.

Affiliate Links
This is the number one way I and a lot of bloggers make money off their blog and Instagram. RewardStyle is an affiliate program that creates personalized product links for bloggers. These links track when someone purchases the item you link. If someone purchases a item because you linked and shared it, you receive a small commission. Think of it like how a department store employee used to get a commission if they helped you find something and you purchased it. As Instagram grew, RewardStyle capitalized and created LiketoKnowIt — you liked an Instagram image and received the links to the products featured in the picture directly to your inbox.

So how much are bloggers really making from affiliate linking? Obviously, I can only speak for myself and my small (but amazing) following. Typically, I earn anywhere from $200 to $500 a month with affiliate links. After taxes this is far from enough to live on, but certainly enough to further my fashion addiction. 😉

Brand Gifting + Paid Promotion
As I am sure you aware, bloggers also receive products from companies. In many cases you don’t even ask for the products you receive, they are sent by PR companies with the hope that you will share the item. No money exchanges hands and while free stuff is fun, you can’t eat or live off free items. Personally, the only brand gifting that I like to do is with companies I already love and have purchased from. To me, this just feels more authentic. Take Melissa Shoes for example. I have raved about these shoes for years because they are truly my favorite travel shoe. As my blog grew, Melissa discovered me and my love for their shoes and asked if they could send me some. I had similar organic collaborations develop with Dagne Dover, Framebridge, and Lilly Pulitzer. As tempting as free product is, I really try to only accept authentic and meaningful partnerships with companies. I never want to share something that I wouldn’t actually buy myself if I was not a blogger.

In addition to free gifts, many companies will also pay you for a specific number of blog or Instagram posts. These are typically more like a review of a product or service. I have done this with several companies such as Wacom and Adore Jewelry. Again, I strive to be selective with these. I also stipulate with a company before accepting a project that my review will be fair and honest. To avoid awkward posts about things I didn’t like, I limit the amount of paid reviews/posts I do and once again stick to products and companies I genuinely like or are interested in.

Sponsored Travel
Last but not least in the world of blogging is sponsored travel. I have only recently entered into this realm. But basically bloggers are comped and paid to travel to and feature a hotel or destination. I have done this with an amazing villa in Umbria, The Indiana Dunes, Visit Tampa Bay. I would love to do more of this, but, sadly, my work schedule doesn’t allow a lot of personal travel (obviously, I travel quite a bit for work).

Bottom line, blogging is a business and the work bloggers produce should be valued and rewarded (when done well). I worry, however, when I see a lot of bloggers who want it to make it big quickly on one platform and when that platform changes pleading for likes, engagement, and follows. Nothing can replace quality content and hard work. As professionals we need to be able to adjust strategy when necessary.

Sorry, that was a lot of thoughts on the business of blogging, but hopefully you enjoyed the insight. What are your thoughts on the business of blogging? Do you have any blogger pet peeves?