I think if you google ‘How Bloggers Make Money’ you can probably find enough content to keep you busy reading for the next week. The most recent (well-written) article was done by Jess Ann Kirby.
I know some of you have been following my blog for a long time so I wanted to make sure you read it in my own words. Full transparency- because that is what you will always get with me!
I don’t think this is something we try to hide from you. There is nothing ‘shady’ at all about what we do. We just don’t talk about it. You don’t go around talking about your salary and income with people either, do you?
After this post, I will be following up with a post on #sponsored content and what a typical day for me looks like (my daily schedule and why I needed a full-time employee!) Be on the lookout for those posts. You can also SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss them.
How Bloggers Make Money
So many people message me each week asking the same question, so it is about time for me to write this. There is so much mystery behind how bloggers make money and there doesn’t have to be!
Let me start by saying this definitely varies from blogger to blogger. We are finding new ways of earning income and diversifying every day, and I am sure this career will be everchanging.
I think we somewhat realize that this may be a bubble that could burst at any moment, so we constantly are looking for ways to make sure we are safe if this ever happened.
Most bloggers use affiliate companies to earn income. For me, affiliate sales make up 50% of my revenue.
With affiliate companies, you get a commission % on each sale you make. When we link something we bought, the specific affiliate company will generate a link that is specific to us so that it can be tracked.
For example: Amazon pays around 7% commission on each sale. So, I would go on to Amazon, use the affiliate company to generate a link that is specific to me, and when you guys click or swipe up on that specific link I make 7% of that sale. On a $20 product, that is around $1.40 per sale.
Every company differs in the amount of the commission they offer. It ranges from around 5%-20% that we can earn per sale per retailer.
Affiliate commission is super competitive. THE LAST LINK you guys click on is the one that gets the sale. So if you shop on my page and put a bunch of stuff in your cart and then shop on another bloggers page and add a couple more items and check out, THAT OTHER BLOGGER gets the sale!
Also- the retailer has to be a part of these affiliate companies in order for them to be linkable. For example, most boutiques or smaller shops are not on rS or ShopStyle because they don’t want to/can’t afford to pay a % of each sale. We can do direct swipe ups or links to those stores, but we can’t add them to LTK or Instagram posts.
There are two MAJOR players in the affiliate world:
You may have heard of rewardStyle before. It is a large affiliate company based right out of Dallas, TX and founded by two SMU alumns Amber Venz Box and Baxter Box.
rewardStyle is the owner and creator behind LiketoKnow.it. Back in the good ole days when you actually could LIKE the photo to KNOW it, it was one of the easiest ways for bloggers to earn income. Due to Facebook privacy changes, the link between Instagram and LTK was broken and you could no longer like the images and get an email. After that happened LTK created their own app.
In the LiketoKnow.it app, you can search specific products, follow your favorite influencers, and you can still screenshot the photos on Instagram to get outfit details. I know so many of you LOVE using the app. It is so easy! Each time you click on something in the app and check out, that blogger makes a % of that sale. Again, that could be anywhere between 5-20%.
ShopStyle Collective is the company behind Shopstyle.com. If you haven’t heard of Shopstyle definitely check it out. You can use the website to search for the best price on a specific product and you can get sale alerts for those products.
I am currently in an exclusive contract with ShopStyle Collective (which is why I hardly every use LiketoKnow.it anymore!)
Both affiliate companies are great. It is really just about finding the right fit for each blogger. rewardStyle is amazing for those bloggers who post a lot of different outfits and are more focused on affiliate commission. ShopStyle is great for bloggers who focus more on their blog content and like to work on branded posts.
Collaborations (Sponsored Posts)
Both affiliate companies also offer collaborations. They work as a middle-man and connect us with brands to work on branded content (sponsored posts.)
We also work with brands/retailers directly (not through rS or ShopStyle). They reach out to us or we can pitch different ideas to them.
You think of these as #sponored or #ads, but we get soooo excited when we get to work with these brands! Due to FTC regulations, we HAVE to put #ad or #sponsored every time we are paid to promote something.
Without sponsored content (aka brand collaborations) I wouldn’t know about half of my favorite clothing items or brands. I also wouldn’t have found anything in my skin care routine.
Just because it is #sponsored, doesn’t mean we don’t love what we are promoting! Most sponsored posts started with the blogger reaching out to a brand, telling them how much they LOVE THEM, and asking if they would like to work together.
We actually have total control over all collaborations. We get to read the contracts before we sign, pick or test out the products we promote, write our own opinions, etc.
Brands pay us a flat rate for these along with a clothing budget. If it is done through an affiliate company then we can earn commission on top of our flat fee.
Later this week you will see a sponsored post with Nordstrom. They asked to collaborate to promote their new swimwear. They gave me a budget and I got to go online and pick out the suits I loved and wanted to promote/keep! I could have just chosen one, but I love all of the swimsuits on Nordstrom so much that I ended up grabbing a bunch!
I will do a blog post next week on #sonsored content and you will be blown away with all of the things I use on a daily basis that came from a sponsored post.
You can definitely make money as a blogger on Instagram. We can link to the items within Instagram so you guys can shop on our feeds directly. This is done on Facebook. We still use affiliate links for these posts.
In Instagram, we can also post a picture and direct you guys to the LTK app or to take a screenshot to shop.
We can direct people to our blogs to shop or use swipe-up in stories or in bio.
Without Instagram we would definitely take a hit, but luckily we have our blogs to fall back on if anything in the social media world changes! Plus, if Instagram goes away, something else will take its place.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding new algorithm, cookie windows, etc.
Algorithm- we get more brand sponsorships when brands find us on Instagram and we have high engagement (likes and comments.) With Instagram’s everchanging algorithm, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be seen. If you love our content, I cannot tell you how important it is to us that you also LIKE the photo! It is an added bonus if you leave us a comment to. We don’t want the likes because it makes us feel better about ourselves. WE NEED THE LIKES in order to get brand collaborations aka stay in business!
Now when you swipe up on something in stories, you actually stay within the Instagram app. Affiliate companies haven’t been able to test how long that link is tracked. Rumor is that the cookie only lasts a few minutes and if someone leaves the instagram app before completing the sale, then the sale is lost. This is why I play around with Instagram Stories. Sometimes I ask you to type in my url, sometimes I do a direct swipe up, and sometimes I have a swipe up to my blog where you can grab the product! Once I have more data I can make this easier on all of us!
***One thing I do know for sure, IF YOU SWIPE UP ON A PRODUCT AND IT ASKS YOU TO OPEN IT IN ANOTHER APP (Amazon app, Nordstrom app, Revolve app, etc) THEN WE LOSE THE SALE IMMEDIATELY. If you guys could hit ‘no’ when this prompt comes up it would mean sooo much to me (and all of the other bloggers you shop from!)
Instagram pages, shop pages, links, widgets= mostly all are affiliate.
The cookie lasts a lot longer on the blog too. For example, if you buy something from Nordstrom from my blog and then buy something from Nordstrom 15 days later on your own (without my link the second time), as long as I was the last blogger that took you there I still get commission from that sale!
The more page views we get = more brand collaborations we can get and the more we can charge per collaboration.
Some bloggers have ad banners on their site. They earn money on these every time the ad is viewed, clicked on, or when a sale is made from the ad. It just depends on what kind of contract they have with that specific ad company. They can be a great source of extra revenue for influencers with a lot of website traffic.
I personally don’t like the look of these banners on my website so that is why you never see them on mine.
Most influencers do not get paid to travel. Usually we try to reach out to hotels for a free stay in exchange for exposure on our social media channels and blog. Our flights are almost always paid for by us even if the hotel is free. I have never gotten a free flight.
I pay for 70% of my trips and the other 30% are paid for (free hotels.) Most of the time when I travel I would rather just pay for everything so that I am not having to ‘work for the hotel’ during my trip.
We actually buy MOST of our clothes. Shocking, right? Yes, a lot of clothes are also gifted.
As stated in the Brand Collaborations section above, a clothing budget is included in the contract when we do brand partnerships so it is a part of our payment.
The Next Steps
What are the next steps typically for bloggers?
Many bloggers have started their own clothing lines, like Rachel Parcell, Julia Hengel, Arielle Charnas, Sincerely Jules, etc.
Some bloggers have published their own books (this is what I reallllly want to do!)
Some sell Lightroom Presets (aka filters) like Tezza.
There are so many more places we can take your blog once we feel like we are ready for that next step!
ANY QUESTIONS? I would be happy to answer any questions you have on How Bloggers Make Money! I am sure this is the first time you finally have clarity on this for some of you!