Being a blogger is great for so many reasons. I get to create my own hours and be my own boss, which also means that I get to choose what I want to post about and when. There’s a freedom that comes with this job that’s unbeatable.
What’s not so great? I don’t get a steady paycheck every two weeks like I’ve always had in the past. That can get really stressful, especially because my husband also runs a business and nothing is ever guaranteed for either of us.
With a mortgage and a baby on the way, it’s extra important right now that I’m bringing in a solid income for my family, and I do that in a few ways. I thought I’d share how it all works to take any mystery or confusion out of the game.
As you can probably tell, some of my posts here and on social media are #sponsored, but what does that mean exactly? Today, I’m going to break it down for you so you get a little behind the scenes look at how it works to be a blogger, and how we make our living. Bloggers can get a bad rap for taking on too much sponsored content, but it’s a fine line that we walk between supporting ourselves financially and keeping our content authentic and real. I hope that by the end of this post, you will understand it all a little better!
To organize this post, I am answering the questions I get asked most often from readers, friends, and family. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below and I’ll answer them there.
What is a sponsored post?
A sponsored post can take on a lot of formats. Most of the time, it means that a brand is paying me to wear/write about one or many of their products in a blog post and/or social media post.
Other times, the brand might gift me product in exchange for a post. This is generally the case with bigger ticket items like furniture. I still count it as a sponsored post, because I have to pay taxes on the product and a contract is signed.
How do I know if a post is sponsored?
On my blog, I always write a sentence at the bottom of the post, indicating if it’s sponsored. It will say something along the lines of this: “Thank you to XX brand for sponsoring this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.” On Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, I always include #ad and/or #sponsored in the copy.
Legally I have to do this on both fronts, so it’s something that I literally have to stay on top of, but I also never want you to feel tricked by my content for any reason so I try to make sure it’s super clear.
If a product is gifted to me and I’m not being paid to write about it, that’s a different circumstance. In the biz, they don’t refer to this as “sponsored” just as gifted. Which brings me to my next point…
What does c/o mean?
If I mark something as c/o in a blog post, it means it was gifted to me. If a brand or PR firm sends me a gift, I have no obligation to post about it, and only do if I feel like it. c/o doesn’t mean I’m getting paid to promote it, unless you also see a disclaimer at the bottom of the post indicating that the post is sponsored in addition to the c/o
Keep in mind that I get a lot of product sent to me (between two and 15 boxes per day, no joke), and I only share the things that I really like. Sometimes I have no idea how people even get my address! It can get a little creepy… but it’s always exciting.
How do you decide what campaigns to work on?
In the past, I’ve taken on campaigns just because they paid well, but after one particularly bad experience where I took a lot of heat last year I realized my mistake quickly and vowed to never do that again. So I have pretty strict rules around who I’ll work with.
It involves a number of factors, but first and foremost, I only agree to promote products or brands that I actually like or use. If a new brand wants to work with me, I request to try the product for at least two weeks before committing to a post about it. For clothing, I have to try it on for quality and fit. For food, obviously I have to taste it!
This process definitely adds an extra step to the process, but I don’t ever want to lose your trust by posting something that I haven’t tried, only to find out it’s no good.
How do you get in touch with brands?
I have an amazing manager, Ariana, who handles most of my communications with brands. I spent six years doing all of the back and forth myself, but when DBA (the agency I work with) reached out about repping me a little over a year ago, I felt a huge relief. They do all of the negotiating, and my checks come from one place, which means not having to deal with a million W9’s during tax season.
Sometimes brands contact me directly, and I’ll put them in touch with Ariana, but most of the time she brings campaigns to me and I say yes or no.
What about affiliate links?
I work with a few affiliate companies where I can create custom links to products I’m linking to on my blog or Instagram. If you buy a shirt from Nordstrom or a pair of shoes from J.Crew where I use an affiliate link, I get a kick back. I’m never required to use these links, but it definitely helps me because I get a check every month based on how much you guys buy.
On Instagram, you’ll see me using LikeToKnow.it, which is the same idea, but a little more complicated. In order to shop my Instagrams, you can download the LikeToKnow.it app and you’ll be able to click on all the pieces I’m wearing.
I think that just about covers it! Let me know if you have any more questions, and I’m happy to answer them in the comments below.
This is such a helpful post. I just started my own site a few months ago so I am always curious to know how other bloggers manage it all. Thanks for sharing!
Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com
this is super interesting- i’ve always wondered how bloggers get/have a rep! thanks for being so transparent.
summer hats are on my blog today!
Some people get cranky about this, but I love it when I see bloggers doing sponsored content. I know how much it means to them to get those meaningful partnerships!
Jumping in here, because this is something I can relate to as a blogger and as a reader! I totally agree with you Alyssa! When I see some of my blogger friends getting these AMAZING brand partnerships or features, I’m so proud because of how hard they worked to get that partnership. I know some sponsored content can come across as too forced, but most of the content I see (and write about myself) are really on brand for us!
Pink Champagne Problems
Thank you both for this! That means a lot, and it’s rare that we hear it as bloggers 🙂
I haven’t found any of your content to be less than authentic, but I will tell you one of my favorite insta-stories was when you discovered the organic section at your local grocery and shared your finds. The fact that you could get most of what you normally buy at WFM, yet a fraction of the price was such a real and relatable story. Keep up both the sponsored and organic posts … love them both and truly enjoy trying the products you share!
As a someone who works on both sides, I completely respect the fact that you have to make money! I love your sponsored posts because I know that you’re honest with them. Your content is always so great, and I don’t think people understand the work sometimes that goes into making a sponsored post work for your readers! Thanks for sharing this, it’s so thorough!
Thanks Ashley! I really appreciate that.
As an outsider looking in, I’ve always been very curious how bloggers handle relationships with companies when sponsored posts or campaigns fall flat with their readership. All it would take is quick glance at the comment section of a blog post or social media post for the company/rep to see if there has been blacklash. How have you handled this in the past, like with the poorly received campaign you mentioned in your post, for example? Does all communication go through your manager?
Great question, Allie! I respond to every email and blog comment when there is backlash. I’ve been lucky not to have a lot when it comes to sponsored content, but I respect everyone’s opinions and try to make sure every voice feels heard! Does that answer your question?
Thanks! I guess my question was more related to how you handle the relationship with the company (given that they’ve hired you for a project that may have back-fired.) Not necessarily how you handle your relationship with your readers. I’ve just always been very curious how companies respond when a campaign or sponsored post isn’t received by the target audience as planned!
Oh I see! I’m usually honest, and let them know that while it felt right at the time, my readership didn’t have a great reaction. I’m never mean about it but just won’t do another partnership with them again in the future. This has literally only happened once and they were really nice about it!
Thanks for answering!!
what do you do with the unsolicited items you receive in the mail? Do you give away to family and friends? do you still have to pay taxes on things like that? I used to work for a state university and if we received a “free” t shirt from work, we had to sign a form and indicate we understand we had to pay taxes on the item. I’ve seen some bloggers reselling on places like poshmark, which seems slightly sketchy. Not gonna lie, i’m not a fan of watching bloggers ig stories of unboxing things, it feels so braggy to me, but in my line of work (public health) the only mail I receive is requests for donations.
Another great question! I have a bag of stuff in my closet for giveaway. I let my sister and friends look through it first, and whatever they don’t want, I donate to Goodwill. I do have to pay taxes on the things that I post about, but not the stuff that I never use/giveaway.
I hear you about unboxing! I try to only share a few products that I’m sent a week on Snapchat/Instastories. Is that too much? I’d love an honest answer!
thanks for the reply! It is nice to here you give away/donate the unsolicited/possibly unwanted items. I bet you sometimes get some interesting items. I don’t do snapcat, so I can’t speak to anything on there, but on ig, as of now, i’d say I don’t personally think its overkill on the sharing items. I also can’t claim I watch every story, so there may be other readers with other opinions.
Thanks for this post. It helps a lot. I started a blog about 3 years ago (nothing as fancy as yours) when I was home without a job but once i got a full-tae job, it kinda fell thru. and now that I am home pregnant with my first baby thats due in June am thinking of starting it back up. My question is, how do you come up with posts and how do you know what you are writing will interest the readers.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Sounds like you’re right behind me 🙂
It takes time. I’ve realized over the years what will land and what won’t with my readers. That being said, sometimes I’m still way off. I try to write and post about things that I love and care about and usually, that is what does the best!
This is an incredibly transparent and honest post, thank you! Your content is always so on brand, you’re so good at what you do!
Thanks for sharing this info! As blog lover, I really rely on the bloggers I trust to recommend products that may be a good fit for me and my life. Thanks for being so honest about what you are using/loving!
Thank you for the transparency. For the record, I liked the crocs post last year 🙂 …which I think is the one you got a lot of backlash on.
I loved that post too!
Seems pretty straightforward when you lay it out – sponsored and c/o mean exactly what you think they’d mean! This is a great reference anytime someone is confused!!
Such a great and detailed post! Thanks for sharing these insights!
That hat is on point! For what it’s worth, I’ve always thought that you have established a consistent, recognizable brand, both with your personal style and your home decor, and that you carry that style through sponsored posts in an authentic way. Kudos to you for addressing the topic of sponsorship in blogging with candor too!
I definitely like being informed about sponsorship or advertising with blogging content. One pet peeve is too many hashtags on instagram and the #ad is left until the end. To me its not clear until after ive gone all the way to bottom of their list of hashtags.
Quick questions- Blogging is your bread and butter- how did you start handling sponsorship or gifted items before it was a full time gig? How do you file taxes on gifted items? Or deal with mentioning a product you like- but do not have detailed contract?
I am dipping my manicured toes into the water of blogging (more for my own creative outlet than the intention of a full time job) but im overwhelmed with the legalities of talking about my experiences with certain products when its not them knocking on my door. Is there a resource you reference you to navigate legalities of blogging?
Great post! What would you say is your best advice for gaining traffic to your blog and instagram?
Great question but hard to answer! I’d say consistency in posting and being consistent on social media as well.
How did you get your first sponsored post? What is the process like for writing a sponsored post?
Oh man, I don’t even remember! Some brand probably reached out and offered some amount of money and I accepted. The process is that I sign a contract and then shoot and write the post based on their ask. Then the brand has to approve or edit it and I’ll post on our agreed upon date!
I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing this post. I have been following several blogs for a while now and never knew what a lot of the things you talked about really were. I loved reading the comments as well because everyone’s questions (and your answers) were really great. Do you ever reach out to companies for sponsorship? I have definitely been curious about this while reading all different blogs.
Hi Erin! Glad you liked the post 🙂 I never reach out to companies about paid sponsorships. I might reach out if it’s about a product exchange, but never for money. I wait until they come to me.
Thank you for this post! I have a question about how you work with your agency/manager – do they take a fixed percentage of each contract, or is it more of a retainer relationship where you pay them a set amount each month/year regardless of how much they book for you? Thanks! Taylor
When I signed with them, we agreed on a fixed percentage of each contract. It’s nice because it brings me more campaigns!
Loved reading this post; very helpful!
I have a blog as well, more of a hobby since my main job is my jewelry and accessories line, Hampton Ivy. I would love to start making my blog my second job though, so I have two questions I’d so appreciate to hear your input on!
I receive items as gifts to post about, that I believe my friends and readers would enjoy hearing about, but as my following grows and more and more brands contact me, I’m wondering when to start charging for my posts. When do you think bloggers should start charging for posts/ when did you?
Also, how do you decide which items you’ll accept as a gift rather than being paid to post about? (Regarding your comment on accepting bigger ticket items for free; ie. furniture)
Thank you so much! I absolutely love how honest and open you are, and so excited to see mommy posts and your baby girl when she’s born!
Hi Melanie, great questions. I think for charging, you can probably start after you have a few great posts under your belt that you can share with brands. Show them the posts, how many comments you received, and any information you have about clicks. Start charging a small amount and be very clear about what the brands will get in return.
Also never reach out to a brand for a campaign if you’re going to charge. You can only suggest an amount if they reach out to you first.
For paid vs gifted product, it just depends on the campaign. It’s a case by case basis.
I hope that helps!
Absolutely helps! Thank you so much for responding!
Love this post, so informative and honest! I was always curious about sponsorships and affiliate links. Thanks!
Great article Julie explaining in a very simple way how us bloggers make money and partner with brands we care about with products we love and support. Thanks as always for the honest, great content and helping explain how us bloggers support ourselves. Kudos lady!
Very enlightening! Sponsorship makes more sense now and understand LikeToKnow.it better but still not sure about the process. If I click on your link and purchase something from them is there a code I would use or does it go through as your post so they know, and who are they exactly and where do they get their merchandise. Do they actually have the product or do they represent a brand? As I write I’m beginning to think maybe I really don’t understand how this works. 🙂 Anyway, just want to say that I really relate to your style and love stripes and blues and whites. Also love how your blog and personal style have a nice consistent flow.
Great questions! So if you purchase anything through my link they automatically know it’s through me so you don’t have to do anything 🙂
A lot of brands and retailers work with them to give commissions to bloggers. It’s super confusing but I hope that helps!
Yes, thank you. Very helpful. Enjoy your weekend!
I have read through some of your blog posts after finding you through PureJoyHome and I just wanted to let you know I love your site! Lot’s of cute and informative posts. This post was especially helpful for me. Love following along
Love this! Even though I haven’t gotten to the point of having lots of sponsored posts on my blog, I think they’re totally fine as long as the brand fits your personal brand and the post is natural! Plus, other jobs receive compensation so bloggers definitely should be able to as well!
This was so honest! Glad you re-shared it.
This post is so helpful! I keep trying to get my product in front of you…and still hope to find a way:)
Hi, I’m just curious.. how much to you get paid per vender for a typical sponsorship? Do you have a specific fee that is standard for all? Love all your post!
It depends on the sponsorship and what they’re asking for! I have a media kit that I send out with standard rates but am also flexible with what I charge.