The Business of Blogging.

blogging-tips-for-marketers

Yesterday I got wind that there was a big feature in WWD about bloggers, affiliate links and their income.  I had heard grumblings about this piece coming out, but didn’t really pay attention to it since I’m not a premiere fashion blogger and that’s just not the world I live in.

Until a few people told me I was mentioned in the article.

Cut to this evening when my sister-in-law e-mailed me a link from Fast Company saying “You’re a millionaire?!?” Ummmm, what?!?

Having my name and blog in WWD, Fast Company (hubby is SUPER jealous), Racked and Refinery29 is pretty damn amazing, but I am here to report that the income level being reported is simply not true. Yes, I am a Top 25 publisher for RewardStyle, an affiliate network for bloggers, but making millions from it? Sadly, not even close. If I were, I don’t think I would be gearing up to paint my entire addition with my husband instead of hiring someone to do it for us. Or stressing about paying the mortgage on said addition. I’d also probably have more employees in my design business,  a cleaning lady, a Chanel bag and 600 puppies (and maybe a baby goat for good measure).  And if by some miracle I did make a million bucks off my blog through RewardStyle, there is a very, very large check missing in the mail that I’d love to find.

I am so proud of the success this blog has brought me, financially and otherwise,  but the thing I most value is your trust.  And for that reason, (even though discussing my income in a public forum is not something I wish to do),  I wanted to state that in these various articles my income from blogging is grossly misstated.  High fives to those who DO make that much, but as for me, no. Not yet, anyways. A girl has to have goals. :)

The whole concept of affiliate linking and blogging has been up for debate lately and I want to also discuss this openly with you.  Over the years, bloggers- especially fashion bloggers- have become this strong new hybrid of editor/model/curator that have attracted the attention of companies and therefore have become a new vehicle for marketing dollars.  What and how I blog has not changed, but my ability to make some money off of doing it has.  I write and design my posts first and then check to see if any links for that post are available through RewardStyle (which gives me a commission on those items readers buy through my posts)- I don’t pick items based on whether or not I make a commission on them.  And if I have agreed to do a sponsored post or collaboration with a company, not only do I very carefully consider if the brand works with my aesthetic and readership, but it is always labeled as such so y’all know it. I can’t speak to how other bloggers work, but that’s how I do. Simple as that.

The best compliments I get are when readers say they feel like reading my blog is like chatting with a stylish best friend. And I see all of you like that…friends.  And I wouldn’t tell you to buy something I didn’t actually love just as I wouldn’t tell any of my real life girlfriends that big shoulder-pads and crimped hair look SO amazing on them. And I certainly wouldn’t be hiding millions of dollars from any of you while lamenting about not being able to afford an amazing vintage rug on 1st Dibs, I’d be the one buying the drinks and toasting! I am very proud of my success, but only the success I have truly earned.

Thanks for listening,

EG

 

 

94 Responses to “The Business of Blogging.”

  1. Andrew Gates says:

    Hi Brenda – First off, I am not about to “defend Erin”. I think you have some valid points and made them in a very respectful way…so I applaud you for that. But my background and career intersect here a little, as I work with affiliate commissions for a living (not a blog). The fact is, it is hard to find merchants that are not offering this type of commission. There are at least 35,000 merchants that provide affiliate commissions to publishers (bloggers). That is a huge umber and encompasses almost every brand, merchant or store you, me and even Erin knows of. :) Only very small, independent ones don’t offer commissions and that is typically because they aren’t sophisticated enough…yet…but there are platforms popping up all over the place that will make it easy for just about anyone to sell anything and offer a blogger commission for linking to it.

    Which brings me back to my point…this proliferation of the merchants who offer commissions works to offset the potential conflict of interest. Bloggers don’t have to choose one brand over another because one offers commission and the other doesn’t…they both do. Sure, there are some that would pay more and that could be seen as a conflict. At that point, it is a matter of what blogger or publisher you trust to be true to themselves (I hope you count Erin in that category).

  2. Erin says:

    I’m totally unaware of the publication so I probably wouldn’t have come across it…though congrats being mentioned, even if the information isn’t completely accurate. I found your response an entertaining read and got a couple chuckles out of it. Well done!

  3. katie says:

    YES. Cheers to you being able to respond to this with such grace. You deserve all the success that comes your way, and more.

  4. Brittany says:

    Erin,

    Thanks so much for your overall honesty and willingness to truly make this blog a well rounded, lifestyle blog. I follow a lot of different blogs, well known, lesser known and new. I am not quite sure why people have such a problem with bloggers making a commission off of sharing the products that they like.

    Most of the time I wouldn’t have known about an item if not for stumbling across a “What I want Wednesday” or “Fashion Friday.” I see it almost as a public personal shopper. I don’t necessarily have time to scour the internet for a palm print bathing suit so when someone writes about the trend, posts links and I buy it, why not give the blogger a commission? It makes absolutely no difference to me, the reader, just creates a business and an income stream for someone i like, and enjoy reading about.

    Clearly the Charmin and Jimmy Dean Sausage collaborations while wearing Louboutins is not what I am referencing. That is just downright comical, and I think they would be off my “Blog roll.”

    Keep it up, you are great and work hard, enjoy every bit of your success and the money that comes with it.

  5. JH says:

    Reading your blog IS like chatting with a stylish friend. And finding things I didn’t know I needed. And feeling creative & inspired. Not to mention feeling a little bit at home (I’m a MA girl — lived in another close-to-Boston town beginning with “N” — but now living in CT). Keep up the good work, and thanks for the insight on how you operate!

  6. Gennea says:

    Even though I interact with you as a blogger, I really think of you as a designer (that I would totally hire if I you local). You just also happen to have a blog that I love!

    If I buy something you recommend to me, I would hope that, as a professional, you get a commission. (There certainly wasn’t a sales girl helping me purchase those leather jeans online, it was your link.)

    Congrats to you and your success! May you one day get that million dollars!

  7. Brenda Kula says:

    As a blogger, I so respect you for the transparency. And you did it so gracefully.
    Brenda

  8. GP says:

    I’m a Boston girl too (even though I don’t live there anymore) and I’ve been following your blog for a while. I’m genuinely GLAD when I see people involved in cool things, advance & do well in their careers, are happy etc. Your blog rocks, I love your style, I like what you recommend, and to top it all off, you are a Boston girl. More power too you. This blog is hard work, you deserve to benefit financially from it, why the #$*! not?!!

  9. Kelly says:

    Thank you. You have such an elegance about you and (not unexpectedly) handled this in such a graceful way.

    I do have to say that I think RewardStyle will be the downfall of certain blogs. I have no problem with bloggers receiving commissions for well edited content, but I am so tired of the “sale” alerts, weekly sponsored links, and collaborations with companies clearly not in keeping with a blog’s theme. I think this is becoming such an obvious way to monetize blogs, and I’ve stopped reading a ton that are doing this.

    I think this is such a hot button topic because I think a lot of readers are suspicious of RewardStyle. Would you mind adding some transparency to how it works? Is it true that once a reader clicks on a link, that the cookies stay on your computer for up to a month, and that that blogger will receive a commission on any purchases made at that retailer during that time period (even if it wasn’t the item originally linked)? I’ve honestly stopped clicking on any links in a blog because I don’t know/trust what clicking on that link truly entails.

    Thanks so much in advance.

  10. k says:

    Congrats to you for any amount you make and I hope some day it is a million dollars! I have been a reader for many years and you have pointed me in the direction of so many amazing products and vendors. You’ve always been open and transparent about your sponsorships and I think you provide great value to both your readers and paid supporters. Keep up the good work!

  11. Kendal says:

    I don’t care how much you make. You don’t seem snooty about your success. You seem like someone I’d be friends with and you always write such personal, honest posts. I love your blog and this is irrelevant when it comes to my support of you.

  12. Angela says:

    I echo Kendal. You’re authenticity comes through and I hope you make as much as you can while being authentic.

  13. Amy says:

    What I am about to say is applicable to many blogs and I’m not in any way singling out EOS. I enjoy reading your blog and love your style posts and will continue to read and enjoy it. I also think you have handled this with grace. That being said…

    I’ve read a good number of blogs for many years and until recently I hadn’t been aware that the links in many of my favorite blogs were “R Style” or affiliate links… I have to say when I came to the realization I felt a little put off. I had always assumed that bloggers made money primarily through ad space, not links in their content. Maybe it was naive of me to think this, but I am just being honest about what I had believed to be true.

    A lot of bloggers write with the tone that we’re all “just a bunch of girlfriends hanging out” and I think it’s a little disingenuous to contain affiliate links and carry on from that standpoint.

    It is kind of like, a friend invites me to her house for a cocktail party and one of the following happens:
    a) I arrive at the party and my friend is wearing a beautiful necklace. We talk about the website she had ordered it from and the next morning I go to the website to check out their other items.
    Or-
    b) In the party invite, my friend is upfront that it is a jewelry party where we will have the opportunity to check out some cute items… and I go willingly and happily to support her because she’s my friend.
    Or-
    c) I arrive at the party but unbeknownst to me, the “party” is actually being run by a jewelry salesperson. Now I am involved in a business transaction and my friend is making money and it kind of makes me feel icky because I thought I was there just to have a good time.

    When I feel like “c” is where I have an issue…

    I think what is jarring is the realization of what the relationship is between bloggers and their readers. We’re not “just a bunch of girlfriends hanging out”… Bloggers are in business to make money… (yes we all work for money and it is not a bad thing!) and although we may admire their taste, bloggers are not necessarily our friends. Vice versa – Readers are customers (also nothing to be ashamed of, I love buying something cute and lovely just as much as the next person!) and although the blogger might be thankful they are there, the reader is not a friend.

    It’s hard to have it both ways. This doesn’t mean that I can’t come to a blog and appreciate the content and sometimes click on a link, but it is my honest way of looking at things.

  14. Lisa says:

    Erin…you deserve all of your success and then some. I love your blog, your opinions, and your taste. Hope you make millions because you have a true talent. Best of luck

  15. Patricia says:

    If bloggers make a million bucks a year, why aren’t all reporters whipping out their own million dollar blogs? Well, maybe because it’s easier to tear something apart than come up with original content…

  16. Diane says:

    Congratulations on your success and you should never apologize for earning an honest living nor feel the need to explain it to anybody except your family and the IRS! Blogging is a legitimate business and those who feel it is just an opportunity to make online friends and should not be monetized are entitled to continue their friendly blog but for others who are able to make some money and deliver a wonderful “product” at the same time are also entitled. I challenge any “legitimate” journalist, blogger or otherwise, to come up with interesting and compelling content that people continue to read day after day and then be willing to do it for free if they don’t have to…I am sure I have no takers on that offer!

  17. Sara says:

    I’m a fan. I actually do think that this article is, at the very least misleading, and certainly incorrectly states your personal take-home income. If so, it is libel. Not sure if it’s worth going down that road. Maybe it’s to your advantage for some people to think you’re making that much $$$. Regardless, it doesn’t feel good when people talk about us in a way we ‘d prefer them not to. Honestly, you should be proud of your success and it is no one’s business how much $$$ you earn. Now, as far as those links are concerned, I don’t really have a huge problem with it. It’s really the only way to monetize the content of the blog. We get to read it basically for free. To be honest, I never click on something and buy it from that click. I always go away from the page and google the company. If it’s jcrew, I’m going to go to my own history and look it up. And I’m not going to but it straight-away anyway. Sorry bloggers. I can usually tell which posts are sponsored or semi- sponsored or have some business affiliation. I mean, I was born and raised in a capitalist country. And it always seems fake when particular bloggers push product you know they wouldn’t normally wear or use, for the sake of endorsement. Good luck with everything. Your readers are always rooting for you!

  18. Erin, I adore what you do. I admire you so much, and so appreciate your honesty about the links, etc. xx’s

  19. Cindi says:

    I am totally clueless about this and have been reading your blog for 3-4 years – no idea RewardStyle existed but glad you brought it up. It is obvious that you spend an inordinate amount of time on your blog. And the fact that you always post is a tribute to your work ethic. I am GLAD you are able to make some money off of this. You make my life easier by routing through a lot of junk and showing me stylish things – whether it’s fashion, interiors or travel. The other readers are right – you EARNED a commission. The key is your honesty and letting us know. Please let us know when you hit the big million!

  20. Betsy says:

    Hmmm. It seems as if basically, some readers don’t understand business. Every retail sales associate is PAID to sell merchandise. Every car sale includes a commission, an interior designer earns money from selecting fabrics and furniture, every doctor uses certain pharmaceuticals for some extra benefit…..this is how the business world works. The fact that some bloggers sell out to companies they obviously make more money from will eventually doom them I think. The fact that you really search out items that you truly like, shows in your blog– and that authenticity is appreciated by all. I don’t get why any one would suggest that you should work for free! Do they?

  21. this is what makes your blog a gem and pretty much my only regular read these days:

    “If I were, I don’t think I would be gearing up to paint my entire addition with my husband instead of hiring someone to do it for us. Or stressing about paying the mortgage on said addition. I’d also probably have more employees in my design business, a cleaning lady, a Chanel bag and 600 puppies (and maybe a baby goat for good measure).”

    number one: baby goat!!! yes! pygmy goats make the greatest pets.

    number two: your honesty and humor are fab! you’re

    number three: your taste rocks (obvi) but what’s cool is that you master a mix of hi/lo. i have friends with a HUGE home design blog and all their stuff is cheap. other blogs ONLY feature the high end stuff that makes me drool but will never pass the hubby test. i just love that you’re accessible.

    rock on with your rewardstyle affiliates. you deserve every penny and to do a special happy dance when you hit $1million.

  22. KBF says:

    I think this was a fantastic response and clarified much of the confusion out there regarding affiliate links. I really enjoy your posts and I’m sure you’ve earned some commissions from me :). The only issue I wanted to raise is feedback. Several months ago you swooned over a line (Priley Lane) just around the time I needed pieces just like theirs. I ordered two and the quality was appalling (they were great in resolving, but still…). I hemmed and hawed over it but sent you an email just to let you know since I would want to know had I been in your shoes and I never heard back. I went with the “I’m sure she gets a million emails a day” theory, but has stuck with me!

  23. Erin Gates says:

    KBF- I’m sorry you didn’t get a replay, I honestly did not get the email from what I can recall. I do my best to reply to people, but it would be impossible for me to respond to everyone. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with Priley- we’ve gotten two pieces from them for clients and been really happy with them!?

  24. KBF says:

    Totally appreciate the note, I did assume you get masses of email! I have a feeling it was just an issue with the lacquer pieces from their line. Chips all over, uneven paint job, gouges, unpainted in seams/joints – just an overall lack in QC. They really were lovely in trying to resolve, but it was all quite a mess.

  25. Virginia says:

    I found EOS a handful of months ago and have been reading it regularly ever since. Love that your posts are a mix of fashion and design, I have very similar interests. I work in Marketing and I’m sensitive to when something feels un-authentic. I’ve never felt that your posts are anything but authentic and a reflection of your taste and who you are. I’ve also found the things you post to be fantastic! I’ve tried several things you’ve posted that I likely wouldn’t have found or tried if I hadn’t seen it here.

    I think there’s a distinction between bloggers who post things they’re truly passionate about and those who just post endless products solely for the $$. If you can make a little money doing what you love then hats off I think that’s fantastic. In fact, I think there would be a lot more happy people if everyone could figure out how to make some money doing what they love.

    You’re graceful, honest and classy, and there’s obviously a big audience who loves you. So keep doing what you do.

  26. Lindsey says:

    I don’t get why this is an issue. As a reader, I go to Erin’s blog constantly because I love her ideas and suggestions. She should absolutely be compensated because I’ve purchased many things from merchants due to her suggestions that I probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. Who cares if she is putting items on here to make money(which it sounds like she isn’t anyway). If she started posting things just to make money and didn’t actually use her skills and talent to properly curate those items, then people won’t buy things and in fact, probably stop visiting her blog. This seems like much ado about nothing. I mean, we’re talking about clothes and home items for goodness sakes. I think it’s so silly we’ve gotten to a point where people need to apologize for being successful and feel like they shouldn’t be making the money they so obviously deserve.

  27. april says:

    I just had to pop in to see if anyone else noticed and was laughing about the robot spam comment that showed up about ‘jarring meats’? What??? So gross! :) Erin, you’re awesome and inspiring and seem very down to earth. Keep up the good work!

  28. Heather P. says:

    Congrats on the mention in the article, and I see now that they did put an asterisk next to your name, saying you’re disputing the claim that you’re a millionaire. ;-)

    I’m glad to see you sticking up for yourself because I never got the impression you were a million dollar earning blogger at all. Otherwise I’m pretty sure that addition on your house would be larger than my current one. :-)

  29. Margot says:

    I just want to say that I have purchased numerous items after seeing them on your blog, and I love each and every one! Seriously, sometimes when I’m stumped for what to wear, I read back through your Fashion Friday posts for ideas. I think you provide a very valuable service that I would gladly pay for personally…even better that someone else foots the bill! :) Love your blog!

  30. Click says:

    I am going to at once clutch your current rss feed when i are not able to to locate your electronic mail ongoing url and also e-newsletter company. Accomplish you may have any kind of? Please allow myself recognize to ensure I possibly could join. Thanks a lot.

  31. You’ve got good taste, which is why I read your blog. I would hope that you are making well-deserved money from the work that you put into your posts. Honestly, when I read WWD or any other media outlet publishing about the income of any blogger, it raises an eyebrow… Why? Because you are not a public company, so there’s no reason to trust that information. Regardless, I’m glad to read this post. It sets things right, either way.

  32. Amber B says:

    Your blog is one of the few that remains true to its original style/content/voice. Many have become giddy with these sponsor links and that’s all they post! They are like a daily Nordstrom ad!! I love your blog and will continue to read (and click). You provide original content, advice, tips, ideas, etc. It’s always interesting to read and your success is well-deserved.

  33. Gray says:

    WELL! I agree with everything they all said – your blog is honest, truthful, classy, genuine, heartfelt, you have great taste, etc etc. But what I don’t think anybody said is that you’re usually really funny as $^*I(#@^!! I love that. When you say stuff like, “I. DIE……ok I’m dead.” and “she looks like a giant banana”, and “GAH!” I am in my kitchen in my bathrobe drinking my coffee laughing. More than once my husband has said,”What are you reading?”
    I read your blog every morning (even on vacation) and I hope you make a million bucks with it. I think it’s great that you have all these cool opportunities from the hard work you have done on it, and on your design business…

    I hope one day soon to have a blog of my own for “us 50-somethings who can’t pull off what Bradley and Bee are wearing(but adore their style), who can’t have a fabulous loft and career like Cassandra(but love to read about it and her entertaining, but are as funny as Jamie and are as all around excellent as you, and want to be as creative as Jenny and Kate.” And if I do, I hope to make a million bucks too. Except I think there’s only 12 of us.

    OH! Ps – I love that you say “y’all” and you’re from Boston.

    Love from a big fan Richmond VA…

  34. Gray says:

    ps – that was supposed to say “that WANT to be as funny…..and as excellent…..”

  35. Lori says:

    Just as I don’t begrudge FastCo for the benefits they’re receiving with such a clickbaity headline, I don’t begrudge you a commission on RS links. Maybe it’s because I am a marketer, but I just assume a phrase like “Shop the Post” means there’s some commerce happening. I guess you could spell it out each time (maybe a link to this post?), but readers/users/shoppers also need to be savvy when they’re online. You don’t send money to Nigerian princes. You don’t assume valuable content is always free.

    To be more concise: I am happy you are successful, and I will continue to read your posts (and maybe even shop them!), especially since I checked out the other bloggers that are “making millions” ;). You provide much, much more valuable, personable content, Erin.

  36. Erin says:

    Erin,
    I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work and great advice.
    Erin R.

  37. kimmie says:

    While the WWD + Fast Company articles are interesting (and the reported income is definitely aspirational) I wondered how accurate the numbers were. That being said, I’m happy to see bloggers make this into a real career. I still work full-time but blogging might as well be my part-time because I spend so much time on it. I can’t imagine not being a blogger, I love it so much. Trying to find a way to remain authentic but monetize it is hard, so I give kudos to anyone that’s able to find that balance. You’res is fantastic, so it’s not surprise you were featured. Keep up the good work!

  38. […] Rachel Strugatz and David Yi with Incomes Keep Soaring for Fashion’s Top Bloggers.  And this response from Erin Gates at Elements of […]

  39. Katie says:

    I wish you hadn’t taken the tack “I don’t even make $1M”. It would have been a more interesting, and I think relevant, position if you’d pointed out how much work/talent goes into what you do, and by George, you should earn $1M for recommendations on your blog.

  40. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and transparency. It’s so refreshing!

    I don’t begrudge anyone to make money blogging of anything else. What I think offends some people (and I have never thought your blog was like this) is that the blogs and the writing is no longer authentic but some kind of marketing hustle by J. Crew, Tory Burch, etc. I can think of one mentioned in the Fast Company article that I rarely read any more because it’s so obvious the blogger is shilling for companies rather than doing what you do: writing about what you actually love.

    Authenticity reads through no matter if RewardStyle is paying you or not. You are authentic and I have always thought your writing came from the heart. So if you make a little bonus from it, good for you!

  41. Sora says:

    So nice article! Thanks for sharing! Quality content is your great aim. Take a look at site Sora.com, there are you will find a lot of interesting information about affiliate marketing.

  42. andrea says:

    Why is it our business in the first place what someone else makes (if they’re not a publicly traded company, political figure, etc)?

    I have never thought that your content has EVER seemed forced or contrived – just honest – and I think that those who are put off by the notion of bloggers making money in a “shady” or “half-truthful” way are implying that the rest of us are too stupid or naive to not know when someone is selling to us. I know exactly when I’m being sold to, and if that’s the case with a blog then I simply wont read anymore.

    I appreciate your style and advice the way I would a friend’s. If I want to buy something you like then I will and if I don’t, I won’t. Simple as that.

    I believe you work hard at your career, which includes this blog, and for your readers. I appreciate anyone who works hard! If it makes a lot of cash then congrats! Carry on!

    And I wonder if people would still think them shady and undeserving if the majority of the bloggers were men? Would it be a non-issue?

  43. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy
    on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for
    me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?

    Fantastic work!

  44. Tanis Grice says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I can say its a dose of fresh air considering I seem be hearing about these “top earners” a lot lately and I do feel that the true heart and soul of one’s blog could be lost with all the dollars thrown their way. I love blogging! I find it fun… therapeutic… and a great creative outlet. Would I love to make millions of dollars doing it? OF COURSE! (who wouldnt?!) but at the end of the day I love blogging for blogging and I love that you feel the same!