Learn 6 ways to make money online as a dietitian!
This episode (part 1) covers 3 strategies in depth:
- Affiliate income
- Ad revenue
- Sponsored content
Learn what these income streams are, who they're best for, and how much you can realistically earn.
Episode 001 Show Notes
- Check out my FREE Facebook group – The Unconventional RD Community
- My 3 online courses – The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp
Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the following products. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
- Amazon Associates
- FTC Disclosure Guidelines
- Amazon Associate Disclosure
- Share A Sale (affiliate link)
- ConvertKit (affiliate link)
- SEMrush (affiliate link)
- Keysearch (affiliate link)
- The RD Entrepreneur Symposium (affiliate link)
- Amy Porterfield
- Functional Nutrition Answers
- Google Adsense
- The Keto Queens
- Pinch of Yum
- Food Blogger Pro (affiliate link)
- Social Fabric
- Wellevation HQ
- Babble Box
- My income reports
Read the transcript:
Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.
About this episode
Hey, guys, Erica here and I am so stoked to dive into the actual meaty episodes of this podcast. I wanted to launch with a bang and give you guys at least a couple of episodes to binge from the jump. So I figured, what better topics to cover in the first few episodes than blog monetization, or ways to make money online as a dietitian.
There are six different ways that I really am focused on and like to teach about in my courses and in my free blog content. And I thought, you know, covering six in one episode is quite a lot, so I'm going to split it into two different episodes.
So this episode is gonna be Part One, where I talk about the 1st 3 ways, and then the next episode will be a Part Two, where I cover the last three ways to make money blogging.
So, why am I talking about this?
Honestly, because I feel this is a real career option for dietitians, but it's so rarely talked about. Like, making money online kind of feels like this secret world that couldn't possibly be legit, right? But it actually is SO possible.
I don't know if you guys stuck around and listened to the whole episode of my introductory episode where I went through my story, but in 2019, for the first time, after five years of being a dietitian, I surpassed the six-figure mark in my business.
So there's still a couple weeks left of 2019 at the time that I'm recording this, but I should be hitting at least $110,000 or around $115,000 in revenue.
Yes, there's expenses in there that I need to subtract out, but still, I surpassed the six-figure mark, which was a goal of mine for so, so, so long.
And that's all through these passive income sources that I'm gonna tell you about in this episode and the next episode.
And it's not just me. There are many dietitians out there that are making full-time income online without seeing a single client.
So I want to spread the message that there is hope out there.
If 1:1 work doesn't speak to your soul, there are other options. If you're a content creator, get out there and create content for your people. Help them in other ways that feel good to you. I'm gonna show you exactly how that's done.
Content Marketing and Blogging
One of my favorite ways to build a business and a brand online is through content marketing, which is basically creating content that attracts your ideal client right to you. And my personal favorite way is through blogging.
Basically, a blog is just any regularly updated website or web page. It's typically run by (this is according to the dictionary definition) run by one individual or a small group, written in an informal or conversational style.
And to be quite honest, when I bring up the word blogging, um, you know, lots of different things come to mind, depending on your experience with the internet.
Some people think a blog is just like a personal diary, or maybe where you post little stories of what you ate for dinner last night, or your travel adventures. Maybe some people even think a blog is just like a self-indulgent hobby.
But it's really so much more than that. As a business owner, a blog is a space for you to serve your ideal customer through the written word. It's a place for you to answer questions, solve problems for them, provide resources, give examples, and teach and inspire.
So a blog is not about you. To be quite honest, a blog is about your readers and your ideal client. It's a space for you to connect with them and to serve them.
And you know, like every year, people are like, “blogging is dead”, like “social media is everything”. But no, blogging isn't going anywhere. The data says otherwise.
Over two million blog posts were published every single day in 2015, which was the latest stat I could find.
28.3 million people update a blog at least once a month, and it was estimated that that would grow to 31.7 million people in 2020.
1/4 of all websites on the internet are blogs, and blogs are popular because they work.
Business owners blog because it helps them grow their audience and attract customers. It builds a relationship and trust with their people.
Businesses with blogs, according to Demand Marketing, get 67% more leads per month. 60% of readers feel positive emotions in connection to a brand after reading custom blog content. And businesses that blog see a 13x ROI year after year.
And this is because blogging is a form of inbound marketing.
And you're like, okay, what does that mean? Um, well, that basically means not shouting wildly about your product to the masses, not spending tons of money on TV, radio or print ads, not door-knocking or cold calling, but instead creating amazing content that solves your ideal customer's problems. So when they google that question or issue, you are what shows up in the search results.
Position your company and your brand as a helpful and desirable resource for your ideal client.
So you're attracting people TO you versus forcing your stuff on people. That's a really, really helpful and important difference.
Is blogging worth your time? Does it work?
It costs 62% less and brings in three times more leads than outbound marketing, where you're buying ads and things like that.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging are the top two focuses of inbound marketing teams worldwide. Blogging essentially brings your ideal customer right to you.
And then from there, you can monetize your website and there are six different ways that I like to focus on.
Number one, affiliate sales.
That is where you promote other people's products and then earn a commission. When your audience clicks on your special link or uses your special coupon code, you earn a commission on that sale.
You can do advertising. You can put ads on your content and make money when people view those ads or click on them.
You can create sponsored content. You can work directly with brands or through an agency that connects you with brands to create content featuring certain company's products and get paid for it.
You can create your own digital goods like e-books or meal plans or templates or whatever and sell those online.
You can create courses that basically teach people something or bring them an outcome. That really, is what you're really selling. So you're offering a transformation. Like, this course will take you from here to here if you just follow these steps. Courses are sold usually for higher prices and can be a wonderful, wonderful passive income stream.
And then the last way is membership sites, where you create exclusive content that's only available behind a paywall, and people can pay monthly or annually to have access to that content.
Oftentimes, membership sites have a community aspect to them as well. Make an exclusive place where people can connect with each other and you.
So there are so many possibilities. And to kind of make this more easy to digest and manageable, I'm going to split these up.
In this episode, we're gonna talk about affiliate sales, ad income, and sponsored content.
Then in the next episode, we're going to talk about digital goods, courses, and membership sites.
All of those things are examples of ways that you can make money through your website as a wellness professional without doing any 1:1 work.
So that means you can have location independence. You can work from anywhere because it's all happening through your computer. You can have schedule flexibility because you don't have any appointments with people. You can do this work whenever you can fit it into your day. In your lifestyle, you'll have complete autonomy. You don't have to be beholden to anyone, really. It's It's all on you.
You're the boss of your own business and online ventures. And you could make really good money just by serving your audience in a new way.
Again, these are all scalable income streams. So, yes, in the beginning, when your audience is still on the small side, you may feel like you're doing all this work, and the pay is okay. But as you keep going and stick with it, and you learn and you grow and you hone your niche and you build your audience, that same amount of work starts bringing you exponentially more money. So it can actually grow to be very lucrative if you just stick with it.
So today, we're going to go over those 1st 3 ways:
Affiliate income, ad revenue, and sponsored content.
So, avenue number one, passive income stream number one – affiliate income.
Affiliate income is money that you make through affiliate marketing.
And what is affiliate marketing?
Well, it's when you recommend other people's products.
I did not have any products of my own for almost two years, but I still made about $1,000 a month, on average, from recommending other people's products to my audience.
So if you have an audience, you can still monetize by making recommendations before you even have a product of your own.
But then, once people buy within that window, you will earn a commission. Usually anywhere from 3% on the very low end (through something like Amazon Associates) to 50% of the sale (if you're working with a company directly).
With affiliate marketing, you recommend other people's products with something that's called an affiliate link. It's basically a special link that has a little code within the URL and a cookie attached to it, which is basically like a tracking code on people's computers that can track who's clicking on it and who's buying.
Then they'll keep track of that. There's an affiliate area on that company's website where you can log in and get your special URL and see all the statistics. It will track who's clicked on your links and who's bought. It might not give you any personally identifying information, but it'll say, like, oh, you had one sale on this day, two sales on this day, this is how much you earned in commission, etc. Then they will pay you via direct deposit, usually on a regular interval, maybe monthly or after you meet a certain earnings threshold.
You will earn a commission if people click and then purchase within a certain time frame. That could be anywhere from within 24 hours after clicking to, you know, a year or more after clicking. It really depends on the person in charge of setting up the affiliate program. The company decides what that purchase window is.
So how do you become an affiliate for companies?
Well, there's many different ways.
1. Amazon Associates
Um, the easiest one is probably Amazon Associates. So if you have products that you often recommend in your niche and you can buy them on Amazon, you can send people to Amazon to buy your favorite products with special Amazon affiliate links.
They have a program called Amazon Associates that you can apply for and get a special link and then start sharing it on your blog. That's a really popular way.
There's a lot to learn about this, so there's some stuff that's very important. Like, you need to make sure that you're always properly disclosing that you are an affiliate and that you could potentially earn money from people clicking on the links.
And there is special language that you have to use. I think for Amazon, it's “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” Like, you have to say that, verbatim, on your blog and it has to be very obvious and conspicuous. It can't be hidden somewhere. It needs to be right in the same area as wherever the link is.
And some stuff, some additional, more detailed stuff for Amazon in particular. You can't share their links in any place that's not publicly available online. So you cannot send them via email. You can't embed them in a pdf.
It's pretty much just on your website or publicly available social media profiles. So NOT in a private Facebook group, for example.
They're really strict. And if they catch you breaking the rules, they will shut down your account and not give you your most recent payout. So it is important to follow their rules, and you can read all of them on their website.
Or, if you don't want to read them, you can sign up for my Make Money Blogging course at theunconventionalrdbb.com.
You can find the Make Money Blogging course there, and I go into extreme depth on how to be compliant with Amazon Associates program and correctly use their affiliate links.
2. Share A Sale
Another place that you can sign up to become an affiliate is through programs like Share A Sale (this is my affiliate link). Share A Sale is a website that you can go to where you can sign up to be an affiliate.
And then once you're signed up, you can search their product database. So companies will create their own accounts on Share A Sale and be like, “Hey, I have xyz affiliate program. We're looking for affiliates.”
And then you, as the affiliate, can search through all of the programs available and apply directly through Share A Sale. Then Share A Sale will keep track of all of your clicks and your sales and your money that you're owed and they will pay you out once you reach a certain threshold of sales.
Um, so, yeah, that could be a good place. I don't have a ton of affiliate links that go through Share A Sale… I think because for a company themselves to use Share A Sale, they have to pay a fee. So a lot of companies will just run their own affiliate programs rather than going through Share A Sale so that they can keep more of the income.
But there are some… Like, I am an affiliate for Food Blogger Pro and their product, which is a membership site that teaches people how to create a food blog (and they have some e-books and stuff), their affiliate links are through Share A Sale.
But most of the other ones that I'm an affiliate for, like website hosting, or themes, or plugins that I like for my website, or email marketing services, they all run their own affiliate programs.
3. Direct with companies
The third way is to connect with companies directly. So if there is a tool or service or product that you use all the time, go to that website, scroll down to the very bottom of the page.
You know, in the footer area, where there are all those links in like small print. There's often something down there that will say, like, affiliates or affiliate log in, or affiliate application, affiliate dashboard, something like that. Anything with the word affiliate.
Click on that and it should bring you to a page where you can apply directly to be an affiliate with the company.
A lot of times they will have to approve you, because big companies probably get a lot of spam through those links and those applications, so they'll just make sure that you're a real person.
And then once you're approved, you'll have your login and you can log in directly through that company's website to get your affiliate link and track all your clicks and your sales and all that.
And what can you be an affiliate for?
Honestly, almost anything.
So I recommend making a list of products and services that you already use and love. Things like continuing education opportunities… are there online courses or books or something like that that you really loved? Maybe they have affiliate programs.
Business tools, online courses I already mentioned, e-books, anything sold on Amazon, even food products and things like that.
It depends on your niche, but anything that you're always recommending, there's a high likelihood that you can become an affiliate for it.
How to use affiliate links
You can include affiliate links in blog posts, tutorials, resource pages….
Basically, I've found that when people first get into affiliate marketing, one of the biggest mistakes that they make is they're, like, really excited that they have this link to share, and then they just throw up a social media post where they're like, “Oh my gosh, check out this tool. It's so cool. Here's my affiliate link. I'll earn money if you buy through this link.”
That doesn't really go over well… like, you're really unlikely to make sales in that way.
Using affiliate links in blog posts
The more effective way to do affiliate marketing is to think about who is looking for information about this product or service and is right on the cusp of buying.
So what would those people, for example, be typing into Google?
Let's pretend…. I'm gonna use an email marketing platform as an example.
Let's say that I'm a huge fan, which is true, I'm a huge fan of the email platform ConvertKit (this is my affiliate link).
So, let's say I want to create a blog post that includes my ConvertKit affiliate link. I want to try to attract people to that blog post who are just about ready to potentially sign up for and purchase a ConvertKit account.
Writing an article based around purchase intent is probably the best thing I could do. So I would do a little bit of keyword research, which we'll talk about in upcoming episodes, but basically you can use tools like SEMrush or KeySearch (those are my affiliate links) or even something for free, like Ubersuggest.
Type in the word “ConvertKit” just to see what comes up. And actually…. maybe I'll pull this up right now on my laptop and just see what comes up, because that could give us some actual data.
So let's see, I'm logging in right now. I use SEMrush.
It's $99 a month, but it's like my favorite SEO tool. I will include a link to that for you guys in the show notes, in case you wanna check it out, and a link to all the other ones I mentioned as well.
But basically, you don't want to get super-specific. You just want to type in the name of the thing that you want to be an affiliate for.
So I typed in ConvertKit and then I can see a list of all the things that people search for in Google that uses the word ConvertKit every month. It will tell me how many people are searching and how difficult the competition is to create a blog post around that topic.
So the most-searched thing is just “ConvertKit”, 18,000 times a month. But you wouldn't want to create a blog post just called “ConvertKit” because 99% of those people typing ConvertKit into Google are probably just trying to go to the ConvertKit website directly.
So we want to get a little more specific…. The second-most-searched term is “ConvertKit Pricing” and the third-most-searched term is “ConvertKit vs Mailchimp”. Now that is a great opportunity,
I could write a blog post called “ConvertKit vs Mailchimp” maybe, 2020 comparison, or something like that. That is searched 720 times per month.
The people who are searching for that are probably about to buy, but they're just not sure which one they want to sign up for.
So if I personally really strongly believe that ConvertKit is the best option for people, then I can create a whole blog post outlining the main differences between ConvertKit and Mailchimp and why I think ConvertKit is the better choice and then include my affiliate link in there,
I looked at the difficulty for that keyword and it's very low. So I have a high likelihood of getting on the first page of the Google search results creating a blog post on that topic.
And so when someone types in “ConvertKit vs Mailchimp” in Google, there's a high chance that they'll see my blog post and click on it.
And then, as they read it, if I do a really good job trying my very best to create the actual best piece of content out there on the Internet on that topic, then they're gonna be like, “Wow, this is so helpful. This is amazing. I love what this person has to say.” Maybe they bookmark my page. Maybe they'll share it. Maybe they'll give me a backlink on their website.
But most importantly, they're going to be like, OK, I follow this person's logic. I understand where they're going. I agree. ConvertKit is the best choice.
They're already on your page. They're probably going to click on your affiliate link in that blog post to go to ConvertKit and buy. And then you are going to make a commission.
If it's searched 720 times per month, if you're in the first position on the first page of Google, you're gonna expect about 30% of those searches will click on your first result.
So that would be about 200 or so people coming to that blog post just for that keyword every single month.
And then let's pretend I have, maybe, I don't know, a 3% conversion rate cause I tried really hard to make that a really good article.
Then that would be maybe six people or so every single month that are signing up through my affiliate link and I'm earning a commission.
And with ConvertKit, people pay monthly for that service and the commission is recurring. So if six people every single month sign up for a ConvertKit account, I get a percentage of that.
I don't remember what…. let me check what their commission rate is…. Let's see…. I don't know if I have it written down.
I think it's about 30% or so and the lowest price option that they have is 30 or $29 a month, so I'm making about $10 a month per person who signs up.
So if I get six people the first month, that's $60 in recurring passive income that I'm getting just from recommending people to sign up for ConvertKit.
Then the next month, six more people sign up. Now I'm making $120 per month. Then six more people sign up, about $180, etc. etc.
So you can see if I make a really good article and I update that year after year after year and people keep coming to it (some people will probably cancel their account, whatever ) but I'm going to be making consistent, recurring passive income by serving my audience through that blog post.
So that's an example of how you can use affiliate marketing in your content to make passive income.
Using affiliate links in tutorials
You can also make tutorials around a product. So, um, maybe I could do like a ConvertKit tutorial on YouTube, for example, and include my affiliate link underneath that video.
Using affiliate links on a Resources page
I could create a Resources page on my website. I could have just like a little page in my navigation bar that says “Resources” or “My Favorite Things” or something like that.
And if people click on that, you can list out all of your favorite resources in your niche and include affiliate links.
Those don't do super well in terms of conversions, but it's a good place just to have all of your links and you could refer people back there periodically.
Using affiliate links in emails
You can't include Amazon affiliate links in your emails, but for most other affiliate programs, like if you're working with a company directly, you totally can.
So if you come across a cool new tool and you want to tell your people about it, you could send out an email promoting it, including your affiliate link, and you'll probably make some sales there.
Using affiliate links on social media
You can share on social media. You can mention things in your podcast and include the link in your show notes, or maybe say a link out loud or say a special coupon code out loud that is attached to your affiliate link.
Affiliate partner promotions
Um, or, you know, in its most in-depth form, you can treat other people's products almost like your own and even do a full-on affiliate promotion.
So my best example of that would be – I'm an affiliate for The RD Entrepreneur Symposium, which is put on by Heather Neal every year.
And for a very, very long time, almost two years when I was running The Unconventional RD Community, I didn't have a product of my own and I didn't really, I didn't offer anything for sale for people.
So the only thing that I ever promoted was my own talks at The RD Entrepreneur Symposium.
I had been a guest at that event for, like, the 1st 5 iterations of it, I believe.
And every single time I spoke, I would say, “Hey guys, if you want to hear me speak about XYZ topic, sign up for the symposium! You get continuing education units, you get to hear and learn from me and also like 12 other amazing dietitians” etc. etc.
And I would sell. I think my best round of it I sold like 70 affiliate sign-ups. So that was really, really lucrative at the time. So it could be a legit income stream.
Other people will do this too. Like bigger marketers.
Like, um, I don't know…. I'm just making this up. But, like Amy Porterfield, for example, she's a really big online digital marketing guru, I guess you could say. She'll occasionally do affiliate promotions as well. Where if she really believes in another online business's offer, she will promote it almost as if it's her own product to her audience and give special bonuses when people sign up. And then she earns a commission on those sales.
The pros of affiliate marketing….
The number one – Honestly, you don't have to spend time creating a product. You're just recommending things that you love to your audience and earning money.
You don't have to do customer service.
It's quick, relatively easy to set up, low barrier entry, and it gets people used to purchasing from you and taking your recommendations. Clicking on your links and taking action. So when you are ready to launch your own product, people are kind of ready and waiting for you to launch your own thing.
The cons of affiliate marketing…
It does work best if you have trust with your audience. So your relationship with your audience matters here.
If you don't have an audience or you don't have a connection with your people, they're far less likely to actually take your recommendation.
People don't like to be sold to, so if it feels like you're just like, popping out of nowhere, being like, “Hey, click on this link, buy this thing….” that's not gonna land in the same way as you actually creating some really amazingly helpful piece of content that just happens to also include your affiliate link, and then sharing that with your audience.
It does kind of have a slimy reputation from the past, because people saw dollar signs and got really spammy with it.
As a business owner, it's very important that you only recommend things that you believe in. Because as soon as you start foregoing your morals and your beliefs for dollar signs, that erodes the trust that you have with your audience, and it's very difficult to get back.
So make sure that you're only recommending things you wholeheartedly believe in.
And again, read the rules for each agreement, especially for Amazon, because they're all slightly different and have different restrictions, and you don't want to accidentally get kicked out just because you didn't read it.
How much money can you earn from affiliate marketing?
Just to give you some idea of how much money you can make from this…
For my Functional Nutrition Answers blog, which right now is getting around 15,000 sessions a month in traffic (I did get hit by a recent Google algorithm update. Well, not recent… it happened in, like, July of 2019. I'm just now rebounding from that.)
That website is bringing in about $200 a month just from Amazon affiliate links, which is great. I mean, I have a freelance writer that I paid to write most of those articles.
And then I just continue to make you know, at least $100/month. Even when I got hit by the algorithm update, I was still making at least $100 if not $200 a month in passive recurring income when people visit my articles and click on my Amazon affiliate links in them.
In the last 12 months or so, I've made about $12,000 or so in affiliate income just by promoting other people's products.
So that includes three RD Entrepreneur Symposiums and affiliate links – on my website and in my courses and that I share in my Facebook group.
So, I think affiliate income is really appropriate for anyone. You can start at any level of blogging or online business presence, but just note that audience size plays a role in this.
Your earnings will likely increase as your following grows. Some affiliate networks even require a minimum following size to accept you. So just be aware of that.
But if you do it correctly, it could be a really wonderful, relatively easy to start passive income stream, before you even have a product of your own.
Income stream number two is ad revenue.
Ad revenue is money that you can earn from displaying advertisements on your website, and you're paid based on impressions (just people viewing the ads) and clicks. Usually, you get a little bonus if someone actually clicks on the link.
It's usually coordinated through an ad network.
So it's not like you're directly connecting with the brand and being like, “Hey, do you want to put an ad on my site?” No, it doesn't really work like that anymore, although it used to.
They act kind of like the go-between between bloggers and advertisers.
They coordinate the placement of ads and your payment, and it's usually free to join these ad networks.
But some of them will require a certain level of traffic for you to get in.
Then the way they get paid is, they're really taking a cut on your advertising earnings. And sometimes as your audience size grows, they will take less and less and less of a cut.
So you'll be paying relatively more in the beginning, and then as you grow, your percentage that you pay the company goes down. So that's how that works.
Getting started with ads
To get started… You could start at any time by putting Google AdSense ads on your blog.
There's no minimum traffic requirements, but at the same time, it slows down your website a little bit because you're putting extra code that has to load every time someone visits your site and you're only probably going to be making tens to maybe hundreds of dollars per month.
So the amount of money that you're earning when you don't have a lot of traffic to your website may not be worth the decrease in the user experience on your website.
So my personal recommendation, and what a lot of bloggers do, is they just don't put any ads on their website until they've hit the 25,000 sessions per month mark, which is what is required to be eligible to apply for a company called Mediavine.
How much can you earn from ads?
Typically, $15 to maybe $30 per 1,000 sessions is what you can expect to make once you're in an ad network.
So if you're getting 25,000 sessions, which is the minimum you need to apply, and you're making $15 per 1,000 sessions, that's $375 per month that you can expect on the very low end to make from your blog.
But you could make double that. Maybe like $750/month to start, especially if you have video or you're very well optimized for ads on your website.
So that's just, um, some ballpark. But big, big websites, they usually have hundreds of thousands of pageviews per month if you're really trying to blog full time.
So what would that look like if you had 300,000 people coming to your website every month?
Let's say you're right in the middle…. Let's say you're making maybe, like, $22 per 1,000 people, then that's $6,600 that you could make every single month in ad revenue, just by being a blogger and creating content.
I don't know about you, but that's like a full-time salary! That's great.
So for some people, that is their entire business model. They are trying to pump out as much great content as possible (ideally that is optimized for search engines).
Like, this is how a lot of food bloggers make their money. Start with the goal of reaching that minimum traffic requirement to get to be a part of Mediavine and then they keep growing and growing and growing and earning more and more and more money.
As time goes on, it's definitely possible to make over six figures just in ad revenue from a food blog or any sort of popular blog that has display ads on it.
It just is sort of a longer-term game. It's not something that you're going to achieve in a few months. It's more like a few years.
The pros of using ads on your website
It's a very passive way to monetize.
I mean, you're gonna make this content regardless…. And if you choose to put ads on it, then it's a way to get compensated for your time that doesn't really involve any extra work. Your earnings will grow as your readership grows.
And it's not really that big of a deal. Like, a lot of people will be like, “‘Oh, I'm so worried if I put ads up people are gonna email me hate mail like, ‘I can't believe you sold out.'”
But, I'm in enough blogging groups to know that that doesn't really happen. Maybe you'll get like one email, but people are just so used to ads. They're online, they're on TV, they're on the radio, they're in magazines.
It's just a part of consuming content for free. If you want to consume content for free, there's probably going to be ads because people need to make money to create this content for you.
The cons of using ads….
Some business owners dislike the user experience, although you do have some control over that on the back end. As the business owner, you can control how many ads are on your site and where they're displayed.
You have some control as well over what ads get displayed. So some people are worried. “Oh, what if I have a site about vegetarian meals? Like, what if an ad gets displayed for, like, Hamburger Helper or something like that?”
And they're worried that there's gonna be a disconnect there. Most ad companies or ad networks do give you the opportunity to kind of opt in or opt out of certain ad categories.
So you, for example, if you're a vegan or vegetarian, you can make sure that no products for, you know, animal-related things will be displayed on your site.
So there is some level of control there.
Another con is that it does slow down your site speed. Site speed is a ranking factor for Google, so all things being equal, if you are exactly the same as another website, the faster website will get displayed higher in the search results.
So that's another reason why for beginner bloggers it may not be worth it for you to take that hit on your site speed if you're only earning pennies. You might as well forgo the earnings, in the beginning, to get the following and then only put the ads on your site once it makes sense, monetarily, to do so.
And as I said, you can definitely earn a good living from ad revenue.
I will say it's a little risky, like you don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket.
If your only income stream is ad revenue, you are very much at the whim of changes in algorithms.
Whether that's Google search algorithms, Pinterest algorithms, how ever you're getting traffic to your website, there's always a risk that something could change and you could fall out of favor with that traffic source.
And if that's the only way you make money, that puts your livelihood at risk when your traffic potentially decreases.
So I think diversification is important, but it's definitely a legit way to earn a significant amount of money if your goal is to be a fulltime blogger.
For example, I like to talk about Lara Clevenger's blog. She runs The Keto Queens. I've never met her in real life, but I've just become friends with her online, and I'm just, like, so inspired by her story.
We both were blogging around the same time, but she ended up niching down and creating a keto blog that eventually, about 1.5 years after she niched down, was making more than $10,000 per month in ad revenue, getting over 1,000,000 pageviews per month.
So, like what???? Like, that is so insane and amazing. She's now traveling the country in a sprinter van and blogging 100% remotely, and that's her full-time job. Like what?
I promise I'll try my best to get her on this podcast in the future to share her story because it's so, so cool.
Another blogger that I admired and followed for a long time a lot, mostly because of their transparency and their helpfulness, was Pinch of Yum.
They also are the people who created Food Blogger Pro (affiliate link), which is a membership site and a podcast to help bloggers grow food blogs and monetize them.
But they've been blogging for a really long time. They were around even when I started my first attempt at food blogging back in 2011.
They were sharing public income reports, which was super inspiring to me and helped me see that yes, online business can be a real viable thing.
So they started putting ads on their site when they had about 40,000 page views per month. I think they were just using Google AdSense at the time, probably not optimized in the same way that you can today, because things have advanced a lot since then, and they made $21 in ad revenue their first month.
But five years later, they're getting five million pageviews per month and earning $40,000 per month in ad revenue.
Like whoa, that is legit, right?
So, um, just putting it out there that this is a legit revenue stream for a lot of people.
I think it's best for intermediate blogger, so I recommend not putting ads on your site until you've reached that 25,000 sessions per month mark and then growing from there.
The third revenue stream is sponsored content.
Sponsored content is getting paid to create content that features a company's product.
So, for example, if you're a recipe blogger, maybe you create recipes featuring specific food products like a pasta brand or something like that.
If you're a travel blogger, maybe you create a blog post featuring hotels that you're staying at.
If you're a travel or a food blogger, you can get sponsored by travel boards or food boards to go to specific geographic regions or to talk about things like I don't know, like, Wisconsin cheese or Idaho potatoes or something like that.
Sometimes those food boards are looking for influencers to pay to fly out and maybe do like a tour of a farm or something like that in exchange for you to create content around that and spread the word.
Or even something like pairing up with a supplement company, perhaps, and creating content around your favorite omega-3 supplement. It's a little trickier there though… there's a lot more nuance with pairing up with a supplement company because there are a lot more restrictions in terms of claims and things that you're allowed to say, and you need to be in alignment with those as a blogger, even though it's not your product.
But there's just a lot of opportunities. I would say this is very, very, very common in the food blogger in the travel blogger space and also in the mommy blogger and the fashion blogger space.
It really depends on your niche, but there's lots of opportunity to pair up with brands.
Brands are now coming around and really understanding the value of micro-influencers, so, people who don't necessarily have hundreds of thousands of followers, but maybe they have 10,000 followers and they're really, really engaged.
Like these people genuinely know, like, and trust you and listen to your recommendations.
Sometimes having someone with a smaller, more engaged following will lead to more connection and trust and sales than someone with 1,000,000 followers just doing a random shout out, you know what I mean?
So don't count yourself out even if your following is small for this revenue stream.
The pros of sponsored content….
You can get paid to create content featuring brands you love.
Maybe you already create content featuring brands you love, so you might as well reach out and see if there's potential to form a connection there so that you can get paid to do so.
Of course, you need to disclose that you're getting paid. That's not optional.
Some people are worried like, “Oh, if I'm getting paid to create this content, it's going to, maybe reduce the value of it to my audience.” But I don't really feel that way.
I feel like if I'm following a certain food blogger, for example, and they're creating sponsored content with a certain cheese brand or whatever, like, I'm still there for the recipe. I don't really care what brand of cheese you're using.
Like, good for you to get paid to create this content for me, for free, that I'm just downloading off of the Internet.
I'm more than happy to support your work with other brands to continue this platform and to keep it viable so that I can enjoy it for free.
Sponsored content can integrate relatively seamlessly into your regular posts. The idea isn't to do a 180.
Like, if you run a food blog, you're not suddenly gonna have a post about Purple Mattress or something like that. You need to keep it on-brand.
But if you do keep it on-brand…. like, if you're just continuing to put out recipes but now with certain products as special featured ingredients, that integrates very seamlessly and doesn't really disrupt the user experience.
And it typically pays very well.
The cons of sponsored content….
Again, you should turn down offers from companies that don't align with your platform, no matter what they're offering you.
If it doesn't align with your audience and something that they genuinely might enjoy and be interested in, it's probably not a good fit.
Another con is – people are trying to get into influencer marketing more and more, so there's a lot of companies out there that are trying to get people to do work in exchange for free product or “exposure”.
So you might get lowballed a lot or offered work for free product a lot. And that's totally okay to say no to.
You should not be expected to work for product or for free. Always stand your ground and hold your worth.
Really think hard about whether you want to work with the company for free before you do it. I'm not saying that there's never an opportunity that's appropriate to do so.
But don't underestimate your value, I guess, is what I'm trying to say. Don't think that you have to do a certain number of campaigns for free or for free product before you're worth charging money for. That's not true.
Some content creators just don't do sponsored content because they don't want any affiliations to, sort of, cloud their recommendations.
Like, for example, with my nutrition-related blog, I probably would never do sponsored content on that blog because I don't want to be tied to recommending like one kind of supplement, for example.
I recommend products from all sorts of different lines, depending on what's in the product and what I'm trying to achieve with that recommendation. So, I wouldn't want financial relationships with companies to sort of cloud that advice.
So that's something to think about, too. And you do need to consider your future opportunities and relationships.
Like, for example, if you do sponsored content for almond butter, you might be shooting yourself in the foot for a potential opportunity, to do, I don't know, sponsored content with a cashew butter company because they are in competition with the almond butter company, and they're not happy that you're promoting their competitors on your website. So they maybe wouldn't want to work with you, or something like that.
You know what I mean? So make sure that when you're agreeing to do a sponsored post and promote a certain company that you are thinking about how that's going to potentially impact your future opportunities or relationships.
And probably one of the biggest cons that people bring up themselves is that freaking pitching yourself to companies can be scary.
You have to put yourself out there, and you have to connect with these companies and pitch yourself. You have to say why you're worth working with and what value you bring to the table, and some people are intimidated by that in the beginning.
So how do you get started with sponsored content?
Well, you can connect with brands directly or you can go through networks.
A network would be a company that basically has a bunch of brands on deck that are looking for influencers to work with, and you apply through the network and then they'll try to match you with campaigns that are a good fit.
But then they take a cut. So the pay, if you're going through a network, is often dramatically lower than if you're working with the brand directly.
Some networks that people will start out with include Social Fabric, Linqia, Ahalogy, Acorn, Wellevation HQ, or even Babble Box. So you could check those out. I'll link to them in the show notes in case you wanna check them out.
I've only done one sponsored post, on my food blog, right before I shut it down. Actually, my last post before I stopped blogging was my first sponsored post.
I think I was getting, I don't know, just over 10,000 sessions a month on my website.
This was a campaign through Linqia, which is one of the lower-paying options. But basically they will send you free product or a coupon for free product and then you create the blog post featuring the product.
And then they'll say, Oh, we'll pay you X amount if you're able to get this many clicks on the sponsored link in your blog post.
If you go past that number, you don't make any more money. If you don't hit that number, you make less money.
But if you surpass the goal, then the next campaign that they offer you will be a higher number of clicks and a higher payment. At least, that's how it worked years ago. I think it's been like two years now since I did that campaign.
That was a campaign with Tru Roots Quinoa, which was a great fit for my blog and a product that I actually personally bought already all the time. I used quinoa in my recipes quite often, so I was like, shoot, I'm gonna apply. And I got it! And I did it.
I think I made, I don't remember, maybe like 100 bucks, which was very low, honestly, for sponsored content. But at the time, I was just stoked that I was making any money on my blog.
So if that's you, no shame, honestly. If you want to check out these networks and get some of these opportunities and get some examples under your belt, then maybe that will give you the confidence to pitch brands directly.
So, how much can you earn from these sponsored content opportunities?
Well, you know, it depends on your following, your credentials, your authority, your influence, and, most importantly, your connection with your audience.
Will the recommendations that you make to your audience actually be followed through upon?
You have to think about who's retaining the rights to the content that you're creating and how long it's gonna remain up. Like a blog post, for example, is up on your website forever. So that has value.
Like, people will potentially find that content through something like a Google search, forever. And you'll be promoting that company's product in perpetuity on your website.
In contrast, if you're just posting on social media, for example, the lifetime of that post is a lot shorter.
You can get paid more if you do higher-end things like fancy photos. Food bloggers will often include photos of the product in their blog post. If you do videos or recipes, obviously that's higher value.
And then it's important to think about whether they expect to do social shares and things like that to promote the post after you create it.
So, as I mentioned, on the very low end, I got like, $100 from my sponsored post.
But it's not uncommon for dietitians to get at least $1,000 if not multiple, thousands of dollars per blog post that they create featuring a company's product.
So don't sell yourself short. Just some examples that I found… It's not as popular anymore, but income reports used to be like all the rage.
(I have my own income reports if you want to check them out, although I'm kind of behind…. if you go to theunconventionalrd.com and then go to the blog section, you can find them there.)
But people will share online how much money they make from sponsored content.
Pinch of Yum, that giant food blogger that I mentioned earlier that's getting like millions of pageviews every month, in December of 2018, which was the last income report that they created (they shut them down after that), they made $22,000 that month from sponsored content. And yes, that's in addition to the $40,000 that they made from ad revenue.
So they're doing very, very well as a blog. It's a husband-wife team, basically, but they're doing very, very well from their ad revenue and their sponsored content.
But there's also a lot of opportunity for smaller people.
I found one blogger, The Girl on Bloor, and in January 2017 she was getting just 56,000 pageviews per month and she was posting three times a week.
Half of her posts were sponsored and she made $8,500 that month from sponsored recipe posts, including video.
That's a great income. I would be thrilled with that. And honestly, it's not that hard to get 56,000 pageviews. Like, you could get there, if you're posting three times a week, I think you could get there in maybe a little over a year if you really know what you're doing.
So who is sponsored content best for?
It's best for bloggers with a genuine audience because the connection really matters here.
It's helpful if you have credentials to lend some authority to your recommendations.
It works best for people with a tight niche because, you know, typically, if you're very niched down you have a very targeted community and following that really take your recommendations seriously.
But, alternatively, people and companies are also looking for people with very large followings, even if they are less niched because sometimes it's just all about the numbers and the exposure.
If you want more guidance on rates and how to pitch, that is something that I cover in-depth in the Make Money Blogging course that you can check out at theunconventionalrdbb.com.
I cover all three of the revenue streams that we talked about today in that course, and I have a private Facebook community as well, where people are always checking in every single day asking questions, and I prioritize my engagement there.
I answer typically same-day to any question. It's a great way to get direct feedback and help from me.
So, yeah! Thank you guys.
Those were the 1st 3 ways to make money blogging.
And then in the next episode, we're going to cover digital goods, online courses and membership sites.
I look forward to hanging out with you guys in that next episode.
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