Transitioning from my 9-5 office job to freelancing and blogging full-time has been an incredible life change for me. I know this sounds cliché, but quitting my job was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I no longer spend 3+ hours per day commuting in a train, I’m way more passionate about my work, I can work from anywhere in the world (which is a HUGE benefit for me being in a binational long-distance relationship), and I feel that I have more freedom in how my career develops and more control over my success.
The reality is that I could not have done it without the resources I found online from bloggers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. I listened to countless podcasts, read as many online articles and books as I could, and immersed myself in this world to finally be comfortable when I “took the leap”. So, I want to “pay it forward” and share some of what I’ve learned along the way, too, for anybody else looking to make this change in their own life!
Over my years of blogging, I’ve received quite a few questions about the business of blogging — how to grow an audience, how to earn money, how to work with brands, etc.
So, I’ve decided to document some of my strategies, tips, and best resources in the “Blogging” section of my site for everyone to access.
For anyone who hasn’t launched a blog yet, I suggest reading How to Start Your Own Conscious Blog first because this article skips the basics and dives right into monetization!
Okay, now let’s get to the five ways to earn money as a conscious blogger…
What is affiliate income?
Affiliate income is essentially like sales commission for sales driven online. If someone clicks through your affiliate link on your blog (or email, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) and ends up making a purchase within a certain number of days (called the “cookie window”), then you earn a percentage of those sales.
The cookie window varies by brand, but somewhere between 15-60 days is typical. Something to note: if someone clicks through your affiliate link to a brand’s website but then 5 days later that same person clicks through another blogger’s affiliate link to that same brand’s website site and makes a purchase, the “last touch” blogger will typically earn the revenue. Some brands do have more complex affiliate systems where they credit multiple sources, but this is not super common.
The percentage of affiliate commission that you earn from the sales will vary significantly by brand. In my experience with ethical fashion and sustainable lifestyle brands, somewhere between 5-20% is typical. Generally, I don’t participate in affiliate programs offering less than 3 or 4% commission (unless it’s a brand with higher price-point items, such as fine jewelry) because it doesn’t tend to be worth the effort.
Direct-to-consumer companies typically offer affiliates a higher commission percentage (15 – 20%). Retailers, however, since they have slimmer margins, typically offer a lower commission (5 – 10%). However, retailers often offer a wider variety of goods than direct-to-consumer brands, so they can still be valuable affiliate partners!
Where do you get affiliate links?
In order to get affiliate links, you must first sign-up for an affiliate network, which is essentially a third-party that connects bloggers/publishers with brands.
The programs that I have found to be the best for finding conscious fashion brands are ShareASale, Refersion, Affiliatly, RewardStyle, and AvantLink (which is the platform Patagonia is on). Affiliates do not usually have to pay any fees to get set up with an affiliate network, but I try to stick to a limited number of programs for less administrative overhead.
I’m also part of Skimlinks, which is an affiliate network aggregator. By being part of Skimlinks, you can access brands from a variety of affiliate programs, which makes it my favorite affiliate platform!
Typically, with an affiliate network, you have to apply to each brand’s affiliate program and manually create your own customized affiliate links when you share the brand’s website or share product pages from that brand’s website.
Skimlinks, though, takes all this administrative work out. You just have a one-time set-up (either putting a line of code on your site or installing a plug-in) and then, like magic, all of the applicable links on your blog from brands that belong to the Skimlinks network are turned into Skimlinks affiliate links!
How much money do you earn with affiliate income?
It depends! This answer will vary based on these variables:
- How much traffic your blog posts with affiliate links are receiving
- How well the brands/products resonate with your audience (i.e. does your audience want or need those products)
- Your commission percentage from the affiliate links
In the beginning days of blogging, I barely earned anything at all with affiliates. I was happy to earn $50 a month! But now, as my website traffic has increased, the number of affiliates I work with grew, and my strategies of using affiliate links developed, I’ve been able to earn a significant portion of my income through my affiliate links.
Also important to note is that affiliate revenue will fluctuate quite a bit. November and December are going to probably be higher months (coordinating with what months are strong for retail overall) and January is going to likely be a pretty slow month since it’s a slower month for retail in general.
Another benefit of affiliate links beyond the immediate revenue is that they can be a great beginning of a partnership with a brand. If you show value to a brand using their affiliate links, it makes the conversation/pitch for a bigger partnership much easier as they already know that you can create a return on investment for them. Which brings me to….
2. Brand Sponsorships
What exactly is a brand sponsorship?
I define a sponsorship as a partnership in which a blogger promotes a brand for an agreed upon amount of compensation. This can be gifted product or payment, though I’m going to focus on the payment part because this blog post is about making money with blogging.
How do you get a brand sponsorship?
You might be surprised at how early in your blogging journey you get pitches from brands! We’ve all been hearing about the rise of the micro-influencer and brands are increasingly seeing the value of smaller bloggers/influencers with an engaged audience.
That said, you don’t need to wait around for a brand to email you in order to get a brand sponsorship. Bloggers can also pitch the brands they’d like to work with.
From my experience working on the brand side of influencer partnerships, I have a few tips to help you stand out in your pitch:
- Share your numbers. Put numbers like website visitors, web sessions, domain authority, social media audience size and engagement percentage, email subscribers, audience statistics (age, country, etc. of your audience) in a media kit to send to brands. You don’t have to put all of these numbers, but including as much as possible will make it much simpler for the brand to understand how big your audience is, how engaged they are, and who your audience is. Brands don’t just want any exposure from influencers but want to make sure they are reaching their target audience.
- Be specific. In your media kit, be sure to include the ways that you work with brands and the associated fees (like a Blog Post for $450 or Instagram Post + 3 Instagram Stories for $200). But also, try to tailor your pitch to the brand, suggesting the exact features of the brand/product that you would highlight and that your audience would love. The specific pitches immediately stand out and increase the likelihood of response because you’ve just made it that much easier for the brand representative on the other side!
- Figure out where you can be flexible. As with any type of professional (and personal!) relationship, flexibility is key. This doesn’t mean reducing your rates to a point that isn’t financially sustainable for you and it DOES NOT mean working for free (!!) but it may mean adjusting what you offer even if it’s “not typically what you do” to create a win-win for you and the brand. This might include creating a unique variety of types of sponsored content you don’t normally do, throwing in a “freebie” or extra shout-out if the brand is working with you on your largest sponsorship package in your media kit, or offering a small discount on your prices with the use of brand affiliate links.
- Follow up! Just like all of us, brand influencer managers can get busy and lose track of their emails. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the brand doesn’t want to work with you. Don’t be afraid to follow up once or twice. If you don’t hear back after that, either move on to the next brand or, if you’d really like to work with that particular brand, find a different contact to reach out to.
How much can you earn from sponsorships? How do you know what to charge?
Similar to affiliate revenue, this varies a lot depending on your audience size, web traffic, and a whole host of other factors.
Social Bluebook and Influencer Marketing Hub are trusted resources for calculating how much you should charge per Instagram post, though don’t be afraid to charge more than these platforms suggest — there is more value in niche industries, and as a conscious and sustainable blogger knowledgable about eco-friendly and ethical products, you definitely are offering something special.
You can also charge more if you take high-quality images, and you should definitely charge more if you are hiring a professional photographer to shoot your photos!
As far as charging for a blog post, the pricing formula is based on your monthly visitors or page views and your domain authority. (Domain authority is essentially your ranking from Google — you can find your Domain Authority score for free with this tool.)
There are quite a few resources you can use to figure out the “right price” to charge. This Blogger Rate Card is pretty helpful!
Again, these prices are a baseline and you can always charge more than these prices if you are an experienced/skilled copywriter or photographer.
Another type of sponsorship is a partial blog feature where you include multiple brands in one blog post. There are many ways to do this — it could be an outfits post where you include the outfits of multiple brands, it could be a sustainable shopping guide where you list out multiple brands, or it could be a “how to” guide where you include multiple brands throughout the post.
To start, I’d suggest pricing a partial feature as your full sponsored blog post price divided by how many brands you are featuring multiplied by two. This is because the link clicks will likely get divided among the brands, so each brand will get slightly less of a benefit. However, I do the multiplied by two since most people will click through to multiple brands featured in your post.
So, if you are charging $500 for a sponsored blog post, but you are creating an “Eco-Friendly Cookware Brands” guide with 10 brands, you could charge $100 per sponsored feature.
You probably already know what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it again — these prices are a baseline, and you can always charge more based on the value you are bringing the brand!
3. Website Advertising
Once your website has reached a significant number of page views and visitors, you can start to make a decent amount of money from ads on your website.
I personally do not use this method yet — however, many conscious bloggers have had success with banner ads on their site.
You can set up an account with Google AdSense to put banner ads on your website, though the quality is generally hit-or-miss, unfortunately. To get an estimate of how much money you can make with Google Ads on your website, scroll down this page and enter your region, category of your content, and monthly page views.
The highest quality ad management (in my opinion) to join is Mediavine, which is a platform only available to larger publishers and bloggers. This advertising management company requires 50,000 sessions per month minimum to get you approved with all of their advertising partners, though, so it’s something to keep in mind as you grow your blog!
4. Sell Your Own Products
In addition to earning money from sponsors, you can also offer valuable products to your audience. You could create a digital product, such as an eBook or digital course covering the topics you know the best or you could develop a set of physical products such as customized zero waste essentials or upcycled scrunchies.
If you’re not quite ready to develop a product, another way to offer value to your audience is to offer consulting or one-on-one coaching in your area of expertise, whether that’s vegan cooking or social media marketing.
You may not know which products to create or what your audience needs consulting on in the beginning. As you grow your blog, though, you’ll receive more and more questions from readers/followers, which will help you figure out what products and services would be the most valuable to your audience!
5. Set up a Patreon
Patreon is the most popular platform for conscious creators to earn an income directly from their fans. Your audience can essentially pay a monthly subscription price (which can start at even $1/month) to access your Patreon. Typically, creators offer different tiers — a low, medium, and more expensive option — with different benefits for each.
While I do not have a Patreon myself, in general, I’ve seen that the most successful creators on Patreon are those that offer exclusive content for their patrons.
Some ideas for exclusive content could be to share sponsorship/ad-free versions of your content (this makes the most sense with YouTube videos!), host patron-only Q&A sessions or other virtual events, start community discussions on the Patreon platform, send patron-only newsletters, share patron-only blog posts and conscious shopping guides, create free downloadable resources (such as a vegan meal planning checklist or capsule wardrobe guide) for your patrons, or do Patreon giveaways.
It could also be helpful to offer your audience an opportunity to give a one-time payment to you if a recurring subscription fee is not feasible for them. You can do this by sharing the links to your PayPal, Venmo, or other payment app account through your blog and social media accounts.
There is a variety of ways to earn money online with a blog once you’ve built a strong foundation (i.e. you’re delivering high-quality content and have grown your audience) and there is no single “right” way — everyone has a different combination of income streams that works for them and their platforms. You may choose to earn money exclusively through selling your own products and services and barely ever do brand promotions or you might love promoting brands and earn most of your money through sponsorships and affiliates.
And, it’s totally normal to adjust your income streams as you grow your blog! You can get started with affiliates very early on in your blogging career and then add in sponsorships, and then develop a service or product to offer your audience.
If you have a highly engaged audience, Patreon might be a perfect platform; if you have a lot of web traffic, banner ads might be a good choice; if you have strong skills in a certain area, consulting or developing digital courses might work out great.
The one rule of thumb, though, is that you should try and diversify your income streams if possible. While you don’t want to have to manage 10 different income streams, having two or three ways to make money will make your business more resilient in the long-run.
If you’re looking for more advice on making money as a conscious blogger I offer consulting services, which you can learn more about here!
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Accessorize with Purpose: Upcycled Fair Trade Jewelry from WorldFinds (an example of a sponsored blog post that was mentioned in this article!)