Blogging 101: Working With Brands & Making Money


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 This post contains affiliate links.

I am so excited to share the first post in my NEW BLOGGING 101 SERIES here on Pardon Muah. I've had so many questions on Instagram about blogging and what and how I do what I do. I couldn't fit them all into one post so I've decided to make them into a series where I cover one topic at a time. They will serve as a great resource when people have questions about blogging or are just of curious. You'll always be able to search "blog" OR "blogging 101" to find them in the search bar on the right. 

The first topic today is Working With Brands & Making Money

I decided to start here because I think the majority of readers want to know how bloggers are making an income and how in the world to start if you're interested in becoming a blogger yourself.

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Let's get the two most common questions out of the way first!

IS BLOGGING YOUR FULL-TIME JOB? YES!

DO YOU MAKE MONEY? YES, thank goodness! There are two main categories where bloggers/influencers make money. 

One is commission, like RewardStyle/LiketoKnow.it where you can shop my looks through my links. These commission percentages can range anywhere from less than 5% to over 20% depending on the brand. Meaning pennies to dollars - there is a lot of variation! If you are just starting you can also use a platform called ShopStyle that doesn't require an application.

The second is partnerships, which is where you really start to accrue an income. With partnerships (as opposed to collabs which are usually unpaid), you work with a company to produce agreed-upon content at an agreed-upon price. We will talk more about this below.


The Blogging Backstory

To be completely honest, I never thought blogging would be my full-time job. It has always been something I've loved and looked forward to doing, but making it a career seemed like a pipe dream. And to continue with the honesty... it's possible I would still be working full-time, part-time, and blogging had I not had several big changes happen in my personal life. I talk more about this in my recent 2019 Resolutions blog post, but I'll sum it up quickly below to help explain.

I started blogging in the summer of 2014 as a hobby. Mainly about beauty products. I didn't have great photos or lots of followers, but I was consistent and I LOVED it. It was a creative outlet outside of my full-time job (healthcare marketing) that helped me connect with like-minded people. Fast forward to March of 2016 I quit my job and moved to California to be with my boyfriend (aka Justin). At which point I took a bit of a break from blogging to reassess what I wanted out of it and if I wanted to continue. I didn't feel like I had a lot of direction and my life was changing so drastically. 

The break ended up showing me how much I missed it and in the end, I decide to talk more about inner beauty, in addition to fashion & beauty. So in May of 2016, I posted my first Cali blog post and started to take my social presence super serious. For some perspective, at the time, I had around 4,000 followers on Instagram. I decided to start posting on Instagram multiple times every day and backed off from five blog posts a week to three so it was more about quality than quantity. 

During this time I was working full-time in healthcare marketing again and also part-time for Stitch Fix (which was super fun!). I mainly took blog photos on the weekend when I had Justin's help and we mainly used his smartphone for every single picture. I finally got a "big girl camera" at the beginning of 2017 and it was definitely worth the splurge when taking my own blog posts.

You can find all of my blogging equipment HERE.

In September of 2016 (after over two years of blogging), I joined the RewardStyle platform and started linking my outfits on Instagram which was a huge catalyst to the beginning of my blogging success and also my monetary income from blogging. Many of you will ask how to get onto RewardStyle... and I promise I am hiding zero info. when I tell you they don't publicize the criteria. What I can say is that it's important to have an engaged audience - a loyal following of people to shop with you and interact with you, and a blogging history to show you're in it for the long haul.

I officially went full-time January of 2018, after a second cross-country move with Justin at the end of 2017. It was, at the time, more out of necessity than anything, but it ended up being the fire underneath me I needed to finally make it my JOB. And 2018 was a fabulous year!

This takes us to the next set of questions...


WHAT IS IT LIKE GETTING FREE STUFF? I still remember the first time a PR package arrived from Maybelline with something like 20-some foundations and I thought I'd hit the lottery. I'd only seen things like this on YouTube and I felt incredibly special. And I will say, for me, the giddy feeling of receiving an awesome PR package never goes away. It's always exciting and sort of unreal. BUT there is a point in your blogging career where press boxes can't pay the bills so you start to get more and more picky about what you agree to and what you share. True PR usually comes with no strings attached, but in some cases, brands will ask for specific deliverables for free merch, in which case you have to weigh out the pros and cons. Currently, I rarely agree to any kind of obligation for free product or clothing. I almost always accept it but ask that I can share if and when I want. 


HOW DID YOU START MAKING MONEY? It's important to note that EVERYONE'S BLOGGING JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT AND CAN GROW MUCH QUICKER OR SLOWER THAN SOMEONE ELSE'S. For me, I didn't make a penny off blogging until over two years in. Once I started linking my outfits things really started to take off. Allowing my followers to shop my looks also gave me a good perspective into what items people liked and wanted to see more of. Keep in mind, I didn't go full-time until 2018 and that was due to a second cross-country move that served as a huge catalyst to make blogging my full-time job because there wasn't anything else I wanted to do.  


HOW LONG DID IT TAKE BEFORE BRANDS WANTED TO WORK WITH YOU? My first unpaid collab with a boutique was in/around June of 2016. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing EVER that someone wanted to send me free product in exchange for me sharing. And the brands and boutiques that take a chance on you when you are new and growing always hold a special place. I received a cute tank and ended up doing a blog post and a couple of Instagram pictures.

I'd like to add that staying humble is incredibly important in blogging. You can't start a blog and immediately expect payment. Brands and boutiques look for longevity, creative content, a loyal following, an engaged audience, CONSISTENCY... and those things come with time. First and foremost you have to LOVE blogging and producing content. Even if you're doing it for free. And when you do start working in exchange for product, make sure to go above and beyond so those relationships will possibly become partnerships down the road. 


HOW DO YOU REACH OUT TO COMPANIES TO GET PAID PARTNERSHIPS? In my almost six years of blogging, I have only reached out to companies/brands a handful of times. It's common practice among creatives, but up until now, I decided not to so I could measure my organic reach and growth. The majority of my collabs and partnerships have come from companies and boutiques who found me online or on Instagram and thought I was a good fit for their brand. It's always a nice way to start because they are already familiar with your work and aesthetic. So the interest is already there organically. This route definitely comes with more patience though.

Pitching to brands is a common (and accepted) practice that most bloggers take part in. With pitching, you usually find a brand contact whom you email with an intro about yourself and your blog, sharing facts about your following and why you feel you are a good fit to share their product. Before you start pitching, it is a good idea to have a media kit in place. **By the way, pitching is something you can find consultants or classes to help with! I'm definitely not the expert.


DID YOU CREATE A MEDIA KIT AND WHEN? Once I started earning money through partnerships, which think it was towards the end of 2017, I created a media kit. Most brands will ask for this as it gives them a quick glance at yourself and your blog. A media kit is basically a bloggers resume. It shares who you are, who your brand is, your demographic, your social stats, companies you've worked with previously, and your content offering (i.e. blog post, IG post, IGTV video, etc.). 

There are some great examples if you google "blogger media kit" (that's what I did!)


HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON YOUR RATES? When I first started I used Social Bluebook, which is a site you can link to your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and it will give you a general rate you should be charging (minus the production costs, etc.). It's a base value but gives you a good idea if you are under or overcharging. And in the beginning is a good way to get started. You can also follow the $100 per 10,000 followers rule, but that also doesn't take into account work behind the scenes, hiring help, the scope of the project, a fast turnaround, etc. It gets easier to gauge rates over time.


HOW DOES NEGOTIATION WITH BRANDS WORK? You may get lucky and get exactly what you want from a brand, but many times negotiation takes place. Especially once you blog full-time. Once blogging is your job, your career, your passion, you have to learn your worth and stand by it. It's common to have a brand reach out about an unpaid collab... and through discussion and proof of engagement, it can turn into a paid partnership. The end goal is to find a rate and terms where both parties feel the benefit of the partnership. I know negotiation can sound scary, but in my experience, it has been really pleasant! There are times, of course, where you cannot come to an agreement that works, and in those cases, one party will politely decline, and that's okay! 

Not every opportunity is going to be a good fit. Speaking of which, most bloggers, myself included, turn down dozens of brand deals and inquiries (even ones worth good money). So when we do share and it's #ad or #sponsored or #"brand"_partner, it means we stand by the brand and their product. A great way to think about sponsored content is as dedicated content. I heard Courtney Kerr say this at last year's RewardStyle Conference and thought it was a really great way of explaining "sponsored." It doesn't mean it's something a blogger/influencer is posting just to make money, it just means it's a post solely for one brand, unlike an outfit picture where multiple brands are featured. 

Additionally, if you didn't already know, bloggers and influencers are governed by the FTC who oversee we are disclosing honestly to our audiences. To work with a brand monetarily and to not place the proper disclosure could result in huge fines. And currently, the disclosure must come before the "read more..." portion on Instagram and at the very beginning of a blog post before any other content. That's why you'll see me put "This post is sponsored by..." or "#brand_partner" right away.


HOW MUCH DOES A BLOGGER MAKE ON AVERAGE? This question is impossible for me to answer because one, it is so varied, and two, money isn't something commonly discussed among bloggers and creatives. It's our job just like any other so it's not really appropriate. In any other career, you probably wouldn't ask someone how they make, so sometimes it catches me (and I'm sure others) off guard when that's the first thing someone asks (though I understand the curiosity). 

The most amazing part of blogging is that there isn't a glass ceiling or salary cap so your earnings are endless if you work hard and want it. You could make millions or hundreds depending on your time, drive, resources, luck, and successes. It's not a job you should start for the money because there is no guarantee and it can take years to make it a full-time gig. But if you want it bad enough, there is potential to earn above and beyond. 


I will end for today by saying this...

As a blogger, you get what you give. If you work hard, stay humble, radiate kindness, and believe in yourself, success will come to you. Maybe quite quickly, and maybe quite slowly. But in the end, if you work work work and stay in your lane (i.e. don't try to be everyone else or do what everyone else is doing) you'll have lots of opportunities comes your way.


I hope you all enjoyed this post! Please let me know in the comments if you have any 
other questions and keep a look out for the next edition of Blogging 101.

In the meantime you can also check out two other posts I've written on blogging:
How To Start A Blog | A Beginner's Guide
Five Ways To Grow A Following On Social Media


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