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 comments

  1. This post is exactly why you SHOULD be earning a million dollars! ;) Authenticity is rare and, therefore, valuable. Thanks for always keeping it real! Wishing you much continued success. -Beth

  2. Beautifully said! I also think it’s interesting they they didn’t mention some of the biggest partnerships in the article (e.g. Oh Joy for Target). As a marketer and a shopper, I value the endorsements of bloggers more than many other paid media – mainly because I look at it as advice. I love that scoop neck jcrew tshirt I bought because of your post a few weeks ago. And I would have tried and bough it if a friend gave me the same great advice that it is the perfect fitting scoop neck. Thanks for doing what you do honestly and with great editorial integrity. xx

  3. Thank you for confronting this issue head-on. You have always done a wonderful job of clearly explaining that you would not recommend a product that you yourself did not own/trust/love.

  4. I work in the online retail world and I am fully versed on affiliate businesses. I would gladly buy from my favourite blogs so I know they are making a small commission when you have inspired me! I love that you are educating your readers on this side of the business and I hope we can all help you to reach your goals!

  5. Erin, the way you articulately and thoughtfully handle potentially sticky topics is always a masterclass in grace. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for being so open – I appreciate it. I just wish that you would explain, more openly on your site (in a footer on the bottom?), what the r.style links are, and what they mean – I didn’t understand at all that you made a commission for them. I believe that you *deserve* that commission as a finder’s fee, but I think that it should be disclosed. Thanks!!

  7. Well said! Love your honesty … For what it’s worth I think it’s very likely that 600 puppies and a baby goat are in your very near future : )

  8. I think this was a wonderfully diplomatic response to the articles – and also shows that not a lot of research went into this piece. In fact, wasn’t there an article a few months ago about how blog income is falling from traditional revenue sources (affiliates, ads etc, making collaborations essential but only for a smaller group? In any case, congratulations on your success – and on your transparency.

  9. You SHOULD be making a million dollars!! You are totally amazing and I have absolutely no doubt that you will be making that soon. I can’t wait for your book to come out!!

  10. I like your style and value your recs. How you make money and how much you make is irrelevant to me. I’m still not sure what a RS link is and I don’t care. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  11. Just when you thought you were running out of topics to write about :) BTW Erin, your blog is the first blog I ever read. I was reading a newspaper article (many many years ago) and it was talking about how to style your apartment like Carrie’s from SATC and it linked to a post you had written. The rest is history. Thank you for writing for us each day, for free…you could put your content in a “magazine” format and charge us to view it, but that is not how you roll and for that we thank you.
    Cheers!
    Oh and one last PS. I was in Boston last week (where all the people are super nice and friendly might I add) and I noticed that EVERYONE was wearing jean jackets. Now I know why you always include them in your fashion posts. So preppy, I love it!

  12. Very nice post! You were one of the first blogs I followed, and I look forward to reading each day. It is like you are talking with us, which makes your posts so ernest and real. Kudos to you!

  13. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy and look forward to your blog. It reads like something you actually sat down, thought about, and wrote, as opposed to some that (to me) feel really unoriginal and generated. Nice work and can’t wait to keep reading!

  14. Love reading your blog because of your impeccable style & refreshing candor — qualities I admire in my closest friends! You’ve made my life richer by providing not only a source of entertainment, but good advice and inspiration, and maybe someday those riches will translate to vintage rugs and Chanel bags for us all! If you work hard and provide something that people value, you deserve to be rewarded. Thanks for sharing your process.

  15. Erin, you always conduct yourself with grace and tact as evidenced not only by this post but your approach to blogging in general. I don’t think your readers begrudge you the success you have earned from your blog where it intersects with opportunities for income. I have confidence that your reviews and recommendations are genuine, and continue to look forward to your posts!

  16. Blogging has turned into just that- a business. As “genuine” as bloggers like you might profess to be, I’ve worked in a commission business before and up selling is just part of the game.
    Just like I toss all my junk mail and skip through commercials, I’m increasingly avoiding blogs and rolling my eyes at J.Crew affiliate links galore. Readers have definitely caught on- I think the RStyle conference was about as obvious as it gets. I cherish the few blogs I follow with no affiliate links- that genuineness is irreplaceable and I can’t find it in the mall during a limited time only sale!
    I really don’t blame you and I congratulate you on your sales “success.”

  17. It delights me no end to see successful women working for themselves and doing well at it! I applaud you for your thoughtful and diplomatic response to this article and its incorrect information. Hopefully you’ll be making millions soon. ;) And I cannot wait to meet you, my stylish morning coffee ‘friend’, at your book signing in DC this fall.

    (PS I had never really thought about you receiving small commissions on items – there may have been some tunics, a bag, shoes, ahem – that I discovered on your posts and subsequently bought. I probably set the links aside while I thought about them. Now, I’ll be certain that I use your links. You deserve the credit!)

  18. Go girl! As always, your authenticity and honesty with your readers, in addition to the fact that you’re just straight up fabulous, is why yours is my favorite blog to read.

  19. Hi Erin, I just wanted to say I hope you do make a million dollars! You work hard and are leveraging a business/blog you have worked hard to create. Why should people have to explaine and justify success? We celebrate athletes and the Kardashians…. who make millions and don’t hide it. Not to mention do nothing to deserve it.

    Be proud!

    Lynn

  20. What I don’t understand is what is the point of the article? So what if these woman took their lives and careers into their own hands and made themselves some money and have had a blast doing it! I applaud woman who can find something they are passionate about and make a career/living out of it. It is the ultimate goal right? Congrats Erin on all your hard work paying off! When you hit the million mark we will hold you to those free drinks lol!!!

  21. Thanks for your honesty and transparency. When I buy something that you recommend, I think you should earn a commission…it is like you are a personal stylist so why shouldn’t you get credit? Keep up the good work!

  22. I really enjoy reading your blog because it feels genuine to me. Yes, I know you are sponsored by different businesses, but your blog as a whole doesn’t feel like a commercial. I enjoy your writing and topics. You make it more personal. I’ve read many different design and fashion blogs and so many now feel, look, and read like a J Crew commercial, a Tory Burch commercial, a Target commercial…the list goes on. I get it, they’re getting paid and free stuff, but the idea or at least my idea of a blog is lost. I’ve never have commented on a blog before, but this particular topic has been bothering me lately. I understand the blog world is evolving and it is now a business for many bloggers, but the best blogs in my opinion are the ones that know the right mix or balance of sponsored posts and their own content. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to your book this fall(and the competition of your reno!).

  23. I think what you are doing is awesome. I’ve been a silent reader for a long time, and I’m proud of you. You deserve all the success and press you are receiving, millions of dollahs or not!! Keep on dominating, Gurrrl.

  24. Ms. Gates, I think you’re truly amazing. I appreciate your honesty with not only this post, but all of your posts. Cheers from NYC.

  25. The “reality” that most bloggers show is laughable. You are the only blog I continue to read daily. I appreciate that you clearly take great pride in your work and have an awesome work ethic. Your blog is so honest and transparent, I only wish I could meet you and be actual friends.

    Keep up the great work and hopefully you get your well deserved millions!

  26. This only makes me want to be extra sure that any time I do purchase something you have featured (and there have been many times), I be sure to use the direct link! If any blogger deserves that amount of success it is you. I have also been a silent reader for a long time, and I love waking up to your blog daily. Always starts my day off right.

  27. You are a great writer with impeccable taste and a terrific eye – you deserve those millions even if you are not making them yet!

  28. Thank you for your commitment to honesty and to yourself. I’ll echo many of the comments above in that I find your outlook/blog/writing refreshing, candid, classy, elegant and funny/sarcastic as times which is again, refreshing. You didn’t have to address this and talk to it, but you did and it not only speaks to the changing business models in blogging but also to readers curiosities…but you’ve done so in such a well written manner. Thank you for inviting readers into your life and your recommendations are always appreciated. I wish you continued success and am cheering you on! Just one other person who is a fan :)

  29. Hi Erin,
    I just discovered your blog through the FastCo article and I’m so happy I did (even if it’s because you’re not making your millions yet!) I’ve added Elements of Style onto my must-read blog list and I’m looking forward to having a proper look around. I thought your Business of Blogging post was very eloquently written.
    Good luck!
    erin x

  30. Girlfriend, you win. Thank you for posting this and being so honest and real! The only thing that really gets to me about affiliate programs is when bloggers throw up a lazy post, just so they can include 10-15 rstyle links. It’s always been so clear to me that that is far from the case on your blog, and we all are so appreciative of that! Thank you for sharing what you love, not what you’re trying to make money off of.

  31. Emily- it’s a fine balance to maintain- making an income AND keeping my ideals in tact. Some days I can be lazy too. But I try. Thank you.

  32. Great post, Erin! Thanks for being open and honest about this and I agree with Emily above- affiliate links should never feel forced or out of place. Only share what you truly love- which it’s apparent here that you do! :)

  33. Erin, so well said and spot on. I’ve been following (LOVING) your blog for years and wish you all the success you can manage to find. I’ve preordered your book and buy from your affiliate links when I can. Why not – don’t we support musicians we like when we buy their music, artists we like when we buy their work etc. What’s the alternative?? I am HAPPY to support you and other bloggers I like so that they can continue to produce excellent work for me to enjoy.

    Keep on doing what you do, I hope you do become a millionaire. You will have EARNED it.

  34. Erin this post was fantastic! As a very small blogger, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your transparency when it comes to the business side of blogging. One of the main reasons I love your blog is because it feels genuine and authentic. I think many of us are here because we do feel like a friend is letting us in on her life, the things she actually likes, and the positive and negatives of the day to day (as most girlfriends do!). You should be proud of what you have accomplished because unlike many of those top 25 RewardStyle blogs, you have managed to not turn into the dreaded blogger robot only interested in pushing links. I think it’s great that you make money from your blog, just as long as you keep creating and inspiring your readers. So congratulations on all your success, and to much more of it!

  35. Your blog is one of few that haven’t become a constant sales pitch, which is why I still read it so many years later. I am a RewardStyle publisher too, and it brings in a few hundred bucks per year for something I was doing anyway, but it’s sad to see so many bloggers lose their voice and only publish sponsored content or a random collection of “summer style” items that are basically just a plea for commission. I’m also tired of my Pinterest feed becoming a Nordstrom catalog because they pay a higher percentage than most, but it bugs me the most when the ladies use Bitly to disguise the rstyle.me links, as though the redirect isn’t obvious.

    Sadly, I don’t see an end in sight. A fashion blog I enjoyed reading recently featured posts for Charmin toilet paper and Jimmy Dean sausage (not kidding) and even I get contacted often when I’ve barely touched my blog since having a baby in March. It’s the new normal, I guess. Le sigh.

  36. THANK YOU!!! After I read one of the articles that cites you as being one of these ‘blogging millionaires’ I was a little taken aback. Not because I don’t think you can be one of them, since you have a wonderful site and are on the Top 25 for RS, but surprised that someone with your style and humility would allow a site to write about your financials like that.

    This post is one of the reasons I’ve been a long time follower, you are authentic and hard working something missing in other bloggers out there. Thank you for inspiring the little bloggers like myself. You’re awesome!

    xo Donna
    http://www.soyouagree.com

  37. Amazing Erin. This is why I love your blog so much and it’s an everyday read for me. You are so honest, sincere, and never compromise yourself to “make it” in the blog business, and I think that’s part of the secret to your success.

    As a baby blogger it’s extremely discouraging to read articles like that because it seems so unattainable when you look at your own RS earnings. It makes you want to give up. So it’s nice to know that those reports are fabricated.

    Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

  38. Thank you, Erin, for being authentic. I think it is precisely because you are authentic that your readers trust you and yes, sometimes purchase the things you recommend, knowing you make a commission (you put a LOT of work into communicating style to us!). You are always conscious that most of us are on a budget, but you remind us that it doesn’t hurt to be aspirational as well.

    I probably fall into the category of purchasing more of your Nate Berkus for Target recs than anything else, but my husband last night presented me (for my 30th birthday) a “big girl” purse that you recommended last September, the Reed Krakoff Boxer (I watched you sell yours on Instagram with a heavy heart). It was a huge surprise and I never thought I would have a bag that nice, but I wouldn’t have even known about it if it weren’t for you and your “stylish best friend” advice. And I’ve bought a couple small Jill Rosenwald pieces that make me smile every time I see them in my living room. So thank you for the recommendations and for encouraging us to up our game a little bit! You deserve all the success you get!

  39. Erin — One thing that is confusing about the rstyle links – Can you link to anything you want or do you have to specifically look to see if there is an rstyle link for a product you want to link to? Does that question even make sense? Either way, I don’t think affiliate linking has compromised your impeccable style in any way!

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  41. Hannah, the numbers weren’t fabricated per say- there are bloggers who do make those numbers, just not me.

  42. Your authenticity is why people trust you. I don’t think that’s something that will ever go away with you because it is hardwired into you (I bet you are an NF in the Myers-Briggs personality type!). Thank you for your honesty, it will always serve you well.

  43. Erin, you are so thoughtful and articulate. This was the first design blog I ever read so many years ago and it is no surprise you still have loyal readers who do trust you and appreciate how you approach your life and business. Best to you…

  44. Erin – your honesty and willingness to discuss this difficult subject is why so many people have been loyal readers of your blog for many years. I agree with some of the comments above, sometimes the willingness to “collaborate with a great brand” on blogs seems so artificial, especially if the product doesn’t align with the blog’s readership. I think you do a fantastic job of curating your content and really writing about what is true to you, and your life.

  45. Erin, I respectfully disagree that bloggers who accept commissions on products they promote aren’t somehow influenced by the commissions. This is an example of a clear conflict of interest and these types of conflicts are one of the reasons why businesses are regulated in the U.S. ( As an investor, wouldn’t you care if you found out that your broker routed your orders to exchanges that paid him commissions rather than trying to get you the best price? This is an example of a conflict of interest brought to light recently in the financial markets.) As much as you believe you aren’t influenced it is only human nature to be influenced. Ask yourself this: of all the products you promote, especially clothing and accessories, what percentage are not part of a click-through that earns you a commission?

    Many blog readers are unaware that bloggers make commissions from click-throughs, nor do they truly understand how that business model works, and when they do find out, many readers feel deceived even if they would have paid for the advice had they known in advance. I think that is why articles like the WWD article receive so much attention. If bloggers would clearly state in each post that by clicking on certain links that the blogger will be paid a commission, then I think it would make blog readers more informed about the potential for conflicts of interest.

    To be clear, these comments are not directed at you personally but rather about the conflicts of interest I believe every blogger faces when they post click-throughs.

  46. thanks for talking about this. I think your comments are interesting and I do appreciate you being transparent with us as readers. Thats what all of us bloggers want to be in the end… real.

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