On Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking at Traverse blogging conference in London. It’s a brilliant conference and it’s one I’ve spoken at every year since it launched. It’s a place where bloggers from many difference niches (but mainly travel) come together for a few days of learning, networking and partying.
I keep coming back to Traverse because I love getting together with other bloggers, learning from them, sharing tips or just having a good old catch-up. Traverse is one of the few blogging events that has such a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly and lovely and I love meeting blogger friends, both old and new.
This time I gave a talk about making money as a blogger.
As always, I waffled on and on and ran out of time so I didn’t get chance to share everything I’d wanted to share. I promised to share my notes from the talk for those who missed bits of my talk or weren’t able to attend.
So here it is…
About me and why I’m giving this talk
To cut a long story short…
I started blogging in 2009 when I went travelling around Asia and Australia. I started The Travel Hack to have an online journal from my travels and to keep my friends and family updated. But my main reason for starting The Travel Hack was to use it as an online portfolio of my writing. I wanted to be a journalist so I thought a blog would help me when it came to job applications.
This was a good move as it helped me get onto a good journalism course when I returned home and helped me get my first job as an editorial assistant on a travel website. I then worked in social media before leaving that job to go freelance. After about a year of freelancing I was able to work on the blog full time.
I wanted to give this talk because I believe there’s more money to be made from blogging than most people realise. There are a lot of bloggers out there who could be earning more through their blogs if they knew how to monetize their followings.
I feel that if more people earned more money through their blogs it will raise the standard of blogging in general. And the more bloggers creating amazing blog posts, the more people will read blogs. The more people who read blogs, the more brands will want to work with bloggers. And that can only be a good thing for us all!
But I really want to highlight that making money through your blog shouldn’t be your number 1 priority. The best blogs were founded on passion and a love for the topic you blog about. Earning an income through your blog should be an added bonus, not a reason for starting a blog. I’d hate to think of anyone getting so snowed under with earning an income through their blog that they lose focus of why they started it in the first place. They forget about that excitement and energy they felt when they first started blogging and the therapeutic nature of sharing your thoughts and experiences.
How and why you should charge for everything
“Charge for everything or charge for nothing”
This is just my personal stance of working, I can either charge for everything or charge for nothing.
Let’s say that on a Monday I’m invited on a press trip to a luxurious and exotic destination and agree to produce a lot of content during my trip for free, simply because I really want to go to that destination. And then the following day I’m invited on another press trip to somewhere not quite as exotic or luxurious so I tell the brand that I charge x-amount per day for press trips.
‘Whhaaatt, you accepted a press trip yesterday and said there wasn’t a fee?’
Oh yea, travel brands and PRs talk to one another just like we bloggers talk!
You can’t expect to work for free for one brand and then charge another brand for doing something very similar.
And it’s for this reason that you either need to charge for everything you do, or charge for nothing you do.
Prove you’re an influencer
Brands want to work with us because we’re influencers. We have the opportunity to influence people’s decisions, whether it’s their buying habits, places they go, things they do or how they think. It’s kind of a scary thought but we really can influence people.
So if you want a brand to work with you (especially if you want a brand to pay you!) you need to prove that you’re influencing people’s decisions. If you’re an influencer then you’re worth investing in.
You need to prove your followers buy the products you recommend and do the things and go the places you blog about.
The best way to prove this is through creating awesome reports.
Things to put in your reports
- Screenshots from comments where people tell you they’ve taken your recommendation
- Trackable links using bitly.com (or something similar) to show how many of your readers click through to their websites
Package it all together into something pretty and easy to read – something they can hand out in a meeting and show to their clients.
How to be an influencer
The best way to influence people is to be an expert.
But don’t just be AN expert, be THE expert.
Be the blogger people come to when they want tips and advice and guidance about something specific.
When people start coming to you for your expert opinion, that’s when they start taking your recommendations. And when people start taking your recommendations, brands will start paying you.
Raise your reach, engagement and views
One sure way to get brands to work with you (and ensure they’re more likely to pay you for the work you do) then you really do need to have the highest reach, engagement and views as possible. I’m not saying you need to reach millions of people, but the more people who see your content, the more opportunities there are to monetize that content.
I have 2 great little tips for increasing the amount of pageviews you get:
- Create a whole series of blog posts
Don’t just write a one off blog post from your holiday to Paris, write an entire series of posts from Paris. Write about your itinerary, the hotel you stayed at, the places you ate, the bars you drank at, your tips to make the trip smoother, the things you loved, the things you hated, what you packed in your suitcase, how much the trip cost. Create videos and share a huge series of photos on Instagram.
The reason for this series is because when you manage to attract someone to your blog to read one of your Paris posts, you can then link to all your other posts. You can give your readers all the information they need for this trip. And if your readers enjoyed one post, they’re probably going to enjoy the whole series.
A whole series of posts like this is amazingly useful to your readers – whereas a one off blog post is more like pretty inspiration. You can then pull all of your posts together into one, meaty post that links to all the others. I’d recommend then paying to promote this post via Facebook and Pinterest promoted pins.
- Write like a person, not a copywriter and don’t dilute your personality
The best thing about blogs is the fact that they’re written by real people and we get to know the personality behind the words. I love magazines but I never feel like I know the person writing the stories. A blog feels like a person is talking directly to you and this is what readers love. And because this is what readers love, that’s what brands love too!
Having a strong personality behind a blog is the key thing brands look for when working with bloggers.
A very clever friend of mine (Hayley who is head of marketing at Trek America) once told me that they have budget to pay for copywriters. If they wanted a copywriter, they’d employ a copywriter (a copywriter is someone who often writes the words on websites. It’s detailed and factual and creative but doesn’t have personality). But if they want personality, a unique perspective and someone who speaks directly to an engaged audience then they’ll go to a blogger.
Affiliate marketing is the best way to earn money as a blogger because once they’re set up you can sit back and let the money roll in. Well, that’s the theory anyway! I don’t know of any other jobs where you can do this so it’s the biggest advantage to being a blogger.
I aim to earn a basic income through affiliates – enough to cover my share of the mortgage and expenses and feed my family. This means that if I ever have a slow month with other work then at least I have enough to pay the bills and I don’t need to worry too much. This is a nice little safety net because it means I never need to work on campaigns that don’t fit my brand or accept work I’m not 100% happy with. It also means I can take time off or slow down when I need to without worrying that I won’t earn enough money.
My top tip when using affiliates is to write for people who are already looking to buy something.
If I wrote a travel journal about a trip to Thailand and it was all about my wonderful experience, and then at the end of the post I linked to the shoes I was wearing, no one would buy those shoes! They wouldn’t buy them because they weren’t reading the post to buy shoes, they wanted to know about my trip. (OK, there is a small chance someone would buy them on a whim but it’s unlikely).
But if I wrote a post about ‘shoes to pack for Thailand’ then every person who stumbles across that blog post is looking for shoes to wear in Thailand and, chances are, they’re probably looking to buy some new shoes for their trip. They’re already buyers. You don’t need to convert them from regular readers into buyers because they’re already there.
I also suggested using Skimlinks as a quick and easy way to set up affiliate links and find out what your audience are buying. Once you know what they’re buying, you can sign up to the dedicated affiliate program for that product to earn a higher commission.
Finding alternative ways to be paid
Now I’m going to contradict everything I’ve already said throughout this post.
Sometimes, something will come up and they really don’t have any budget for it but it’s just such an incredibly, amazingly, uniquely, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t say no to it.
But if you’re relying on your blog to pay the bills then you’re going to have to find a way to earn some money through it.
The obvious options would be to use affiliate links when talking about your experience but it’s better to create your own mini campaigns and approach brands you’d like to work with.
Let’s say you’re invited on a holiday to Greece and you just can’t say no to it, you could do a little project with a swimwear company to showcase loads of gorgeous swimsuits in beautiful locations. You could work with a camera company to shoot all these amazing shots. You could work with a backpack company, a makeup brand…any brand really. But make your own mini campaign and pitch it to all the brands you think would be relevant to your trip.
This is why networking and building up a ‘little black book’ of contacts from different brands and PR agencies is so important!
Now I ran out of time in my talk to go through the final tips but there are all quick and easy ones.
- Group projects together.
Let’s say you’re working on 4-5 little projects – find a way to group them all together and do them all in one go. Rather than do a half arse attempt at them all, see them as one big project that deserves an entire week of your work and attention. Go somewhere amazing for location shoots and dedicate all your time and energy to the project.
You can’t be good at everything so outsource the things you’re not great at. It might seem like a big investment at the time but it’ll pay off in the end.
- Join a confidential bloggers group
If you’re not sure how much you should be charging, join a blogger’s group on Facebook with bloggers in a similar niche and with a similar size audience to your own. Make sure the group is small and confidential so you can chat about the projects you’re working on and what you’re charging. If you’re can’t find a group like this already, start your own.
- Try to keep your audience to one location
This can be difficult for travel bloggers but it can pay off when you’re working on paid campaigns. Let’s say you’re working with L’Oreal – yes they might be a worldwide brand but if you’re UK based, it will probably be the UK L’Oreal marketing team wanting to work with you. They might have £2,000 to invest in you to help raise sales of their latest product in the UK. But if 80% of your audience are in the US then you’re not going to be much help in raising sales in the UK. So they’re more likely to invest in a smaller blogger who has a 90% UK audience. It’s unlikely you’ll find a big brand looking to raise sales worldwide, it’s much more likely they’ll be focusing on a specific location.
- Turn press releases into projects
Don’t just bin the press releases, if you think the messaging in the release fits your brand then email them back and see if they’d like to work together.
- Work with smaller brands (this tip came from @wanderlustchloe when I asked for some blogger friends if they had any final tips)
If you’re just starting out it can be more beneficial to work with smaller brands because it’s easier to get in touch with them and get directly to the person who has budget. You’ll also find that you can make more of an impact with a smaller brand. Let’s say Nike send you a pair of trainers and 100 of your readers buy them, well that’s just a drop in the ocean for Nike. But if 100 of your readers bought a product from a start-up business who only sell 1,000 products a month then you’ve made a huge difference to them.
- Have set fees and content you deliver for these fees
Create a rates card to make negotiating fees easier
- Always send a report
After you’ve worked on a project, whether it’s paid or unpaid, always send the brand you’re working with a report so they know the reach and results from the work you’ve done.
Treat every project like you’re being paid £1 million!
Just because you’re only being paid £50 for a little project, it doesn’t mean you should do a half arsed job. You never know where the little projects will lead so give every project as much effort as you would to one that’s paying you big bucks.
And, of course, my final tip is going to be to check out my 12-week e-course about blogging. This is a course that will help you earn more money through your blog and take things to the next level – whether that’s blogging full time, earning your first £1,000 in a month, making your first affiliate sale or starting to work with brands.
I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the positive feedback I’ve had from members of the course so far. Our private Facebook group for members is also one of the biggest bonuses for the course. It’s friendly, supportive and motivating and I’m happy to answer any questions that members ask.