When it comes to monetizing your blog, probably the easiest way to start is by getting access to free products and services in exchange for writing about them.
Now, I know this doesn’t actually put money in your pocket. But it does serve a purpose: first of all, you may be able to get things for free that you would normally pay for, so that saves you money. Secondly, once you start to get a few of these under your belt, and you build up your traffic, you can start to get paid for them.
Over the last 6 months, in no real order, I’ve gotten (for free) quite a few meals, tons of cookbooks, social media books, a night at a hotel, theatre tickets, grocery items, and more. Recently, I ran a contest on my Cooking by Laptop blog. This consisted of writing a blog post about canning (for which I received a home canning kit) and then giving away a second canning kit. All together, the value was about $100, but I would estimate that it was about four hours of work all together, from liaising with the company’s contact, to creating the recipe, to photography, to writing, to running the contest, to writing the report afterwards. It was a lot of work. So, once you get to a place where you’ve done a few, and you have good returns from these kinds of posts, you can start to charge $100-200 for a post of this nature.
In the mean time, if you’re happy with just getting free stuff for a while while you build your numbers and experience, here’s how you start.
- Define what kinds of products or services would work well with your blog. For this blog, I will review apps, books on social media, new social networks, and tech gadgets/gizmos. For my cooking blog, anything food-related: so I’ll do restaurant reviews, I’ll do new food product reviews, cookbook reviews. I usually do these types of things in the context of a recipe post. For example, I just got samples of a new soy-based pudding, and I’m incorporating it into a recipe, rather than just doing a straight-up review. Just know that you can’t take everything that offered to you. It’s okay to turn things down if they don’t fit your niche.
- Perfect your pitch: You already have a “Work With Me” page and a press kit in place, right? On your “Work With Me” page, you should outline what kinds of products or services or brands you are open to working with. You should also have some examples handy of review posts you’ve already done.
- Once you’ve identified a brand or a product or service you’d like to review, head to their website, and see if they have a PR or media contact. Then send them an email, outlining your proposal, a blog post in exchange for free product, and include the link to your “Work With Me” page, or your media kit. You may also want to include links to similar blog posts you’ve written. Keep your tone casual and conversational, you want them to know you’re a real person. You may also want to get someone to proofread your email–just because you are being conversational, doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t have impeccable spelling and grammar. You want to come off as a professional, even though you’re just getting started. And just FYI, you may need to follow up in a few days.
- Get hooked up: do some research online. There are lots of networks of bloggers out there which you may be able to tap into. There are lists, and if you can get yourself on those lists, opportunities will start to present themselves to you.
- Try to keep it positive. If you try something, and you don’t love it, you have two options: you can either not write a review at all (but contact the PR person and let them know that), or you can write something that highlights something you did like about the product. This is murky territory here. You are a blogger, and you should be open and transparent and authentic. If you don’t like something, it’s okay for you to say that. You don’t have to like it just because you got it for free. But if you write things that are really negative on your blog, you may not get offered opportunities in the future. It’s my belief, that, generally speaking, if you are sticking to your niche, you’ll probably get hooked up with stuff you like. How honest you are if you don’t like it is up to you. There are some people that make being controversial their brand (but I’m not one of them!).
- Close the circle: After you’ve published your post/review, be sure to email the link to your PR contact. Make sure you include in your post, links back to the business. Thank them. Again, this is not a power thing at all… it’s about being professional. When you behave like a professional, people are going to want to work with you again and again.
I live in a weird in-between world. I am on both sides: I blog, of course, but I also work on the PR side, doing outreach to bloggers. I’m harping on the “behave like a pro” stuff because I’ve often worked with bloggers who didn’t–by saying they’d come to something, for example, and then not showing up, or coming to something and then not writing a post/review or publishing it really, really late.
PR people and bloggers have a symbiotic relationship–and it’s just that–a relationship. You both have to work at it.