How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

Post synopsis: Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content. 


You know how I got addicted to YouTube? By watching beauty videos!

That was some 8-9 years ago and online influencers and niche gurus were becoming a real thing. Beauty channels were especially huge on both YouTube and Google. Lifestyle blogs were making an appearance but all they posted really were “What’s my makeup routine?” “What’s in my bag?” “What’s my evening skincare routine?” etc.

How many of you have watched Michelle Phan and Elle Fowler videos–the numero-uno beauty gurus of their time? You would know why it was addictive, yes?

The production value wasn’t great during the first couple of years. I suspect most videos were shot on a computer webcam.

And then something changed.

In just a couple of years, drab backgrounds were replaced by sterile-white backgrounds with a bunch of flowers adding a pop of color. Photos and videos were whitewashed with super-high exposure but they were HD-quality and posed.

I would watch those beautifully-shot backdrops and the awesome, expensive makeup and skincare stuff and sigh. At some point, I may have even considered starting some beauty or skin care channel of my own–but you know, but the thought of even 10 strangers watching me made me quit even before I gave it a chance #introvertproblems

And along with all these changes, a lot of videos/posts started showing the “Sponsored” FTC disclaimer.

And thus began the second-oldest form of blog/video monetization–creating and posting sponsored content for public consumption.

Many “successful” online influencers today–both YouTubers and bloggers–grew their personal platform to a business by posting sponsored content.

So, yes, it’s true that sponsorship is one of the most profitable–not passive–ways of earning online.

But here’s the other truth: finding sponsored opportunities is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of hard work and time before big brands will even consider hiring you to endorse them.

So, if you started a blog and want to monetize it by posting sponsored content, this post is for you.

How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

How to find sponsored blogging opportunities.

What is a sponsored content?

Sponsored content comes in many forms–be it a blog post, an Instagram photo, or a YouTube video. Basically, any product- or service-related content for public consumption that is created and posted in exchange for compensation by the endorsed brand is considered sponsored content.

For the purpose of this post, I will cover the aspect of sponsored content on blogs only.

How do I make money from sponsored content?

The compensation is usually decided by the brand but if you are a good negotiator and stand firm on your rates, many brands will agree to your terms.

Monetary compensation involves getting paid in cash. Plain and simple.

Non-monetary compensation could be in the form of free products or services, publicity, discount, etc.

Be aware that compensation by way of free products can be tricky. Not only are you required to disclose to your followers that you are being compensated but it may also affect your tax numbers.

Check with a qualified accountant whether such transactions are considered taxable in your country.

What kind of brands can I work with?

That’s completely up to you. You get to decide which brands you want to work with.

You may be someone who only wants to work with big brand names or you could be someone who is open to working with startups.

Irrespective of the brand you choose, it’s always a good idea to remain within your niche and choose products or services that your readers can truly benefit from.

Remember, even when you are writing sponsored content, it’s all about your audience.

For example, if you are a lifestyle blogger with the niche audience of women between 25-40, then marketing a mid-range skincare line might be a good idea. However, if you post content about the new programming software, it won’t interest them.

Can I write a sponsored post for my specific niche?

At a broad level, almost all niches can bring you opportunities to write sponsored posts. However, the more you niche down, opportunities are fewer but high-quality.

That said, brands in some niches are more open to hiring online influencers for their marketing efforts. A lifestyle brand is more likely to reach out to a lifestyle blogger than a scientific calculator brand reaching out to a calculator-enthusiast 🙂

Even within a broad niche, certain bloggers are more likely to receive opportunities than others.

For example, a beauty blogger is likely to receive more opportunities than a stationery products blogger. Both are considered Lifestyle bloggers.

Historically, the following niches have proved to be most profitable:

  • Make money online/online business/blogging
  • Lifestyle, especially beauty and style
  • Personal finance
  • Health and fitness
  • Food
  • Self-help/personal development

I know you have heard a lot about choosing a very specific niche but if you want sponsored posts or ad banners to be your mode of monetization, choose one of the aforementioned niches.

How to find sponsored blog post opportunities?

As with display ad banners, there are two ways of finding opportunities–contacting brands directly or via ad/media networks.

For a small- to mid-sized blog, working with a media network is a more realistic option compared to direct pitching. All you need to do is sign up them, share your social reach details, and depending on your stats, they will find suitable opportunities for you.

It’s completely up to you whether you want to accept or reject an offer.

Your social reach aside, many of these networks now require you have either a YouTuber following or an Instagram following. There might also be a sign-up fee.

Additionally, most cater to the Lifestyle niche. In their defense, Lifestyle is the most popular niche. It is also a very broad niche encompassing Beauty, Style, Gardening, Home Decor, Food, Parenting, etc.

Here’s a list of some media networks that can help you get sponsored deals.

Want more? Here’s a comprehensive list of companies that bridge the gap between brands and influencers.

What about direct pitching?

Working directly with a brand enables you to make more money simply because there is no middleman fee (network) to be paid.

Bloggers who have monthly page views of at least 1,00,000 can pitch their ideas directly to brands.

You can find the contact details of a brand’s PR person on the brand’s website or on their LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. That’s the person you need to pitch to.

Often, a brand may contact you directly. So make sure, you have your contact details posted on your website and social media accounts.

It is important, though, that you choose a product or service that is closely related to your niche and audience’s needs.

How to pitch to brands?

Once you have gathered the contact details of brands you want to work with, it’s time to pitch your idea to them.

The brand knows nothing about you. It’s probably the first time they will even hear your name. This is your chance to stand out from the hundreds of other bloggers who might be pitching their ideas to your preferred brand too.

Illustrate how you can give exposure to the brand and/or their product(s)/service(s).

But, the days of simply talking about a brand in your blog post or YouTube video are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Brands now want influencers to showcase their chosen product or service as part of their daily lives so that their audience can see how they can also benefit by purchasing the said product or service.

In short, what’s your story as far as the product or service goes?

This is where it becomes important that you are truly a fan or consumer of the product or service.

So, give some thought to your pitch–what does the product or service mean to you, how does it help you and your audience, how is it aligned with your values, why you and your audience will love it, etc.

Once you have a solid idea, put it in an email in the following format:

Hello {PR/Marketing person’s name},

{1 sentence to compliment the brand and why/how their message speaks to you}

{2-3 sentences – Include a short synopsis of your own brand. What type of blog you own–include URL, and how it is related to the brand’s message}

{2-3 short sentences – Why do you want to work with the brand? How the brand and your audience– a good place to include your social reach numbers–can benefit from this collaboration?}

{2-3 sentences – Pitch your idea–a working headline/title and a synopsis of the idea.

{1 sentence – Close the email with positive words}

Best,

{Your Name}

{Your Blog name and URL}

{Your contact details, including social media}

As far as possible, send the email from a professional ID, such as [email protected]or[email protected]etc.

Once you have sent the email, give the brand a week to respond. At the end of the week, follow up with them by sending them another short email.

Bigger the brand, the more follow-up emails you may need to send. Don’t be disheartened. Following up 4-5 is normal.

What else can I do?

Be intentional about the brand you choose to endorse. Please don’t send an email to every brand in your niche.

It helps if the brand recognizes you even before you send your email. Here are a couple of ideas how you can do this:

  • Follow and engage with the brand on their social media accounts, especially Facebook and Twitter.
  • Recommend the brand to your followers on social media and tag the brand.
  • If you already use their product or service (as you should!), give sneak peeks of you using it.
  • Write a short, unpaid blog post or Instagram post (or a platform of your choice) that includes the said brand/product/service on your Wish List, Shopping List, etc.

Here’s a fantastic post by The Sway (previously known as The SITS Girls) on how they select bloggers to work with.

How to create a media kit?

Irrespective of whether you need to work with a brand directly or via a media network, you need to create a portfolio to showcase. A summary of your portfolio is called a media kit.

Often a one-pager, your media kit showcases a synopsis of you as an online influencer. At a bare minimum, it includes your:

  • Short bio
  • Blog Name and URL
  • Niche/target audience
  • Social reach, including your blog numbers
  • Cost

You may also choose to include your success stories, testimonials, how you can help as an influencer etc.

In short, your media kit is your blog resume.

Give it as much love, care, and thought as you would to a traditional resume when applying for a job.

Tiffany from Beautiful Dawn Designs has an entire post on creating a media kit and offers a free template if you sign up.

How to write a sponsored blog post?

It depends on your negotiation with the brand. They may or may not have specific ideas about how they want you to showcase their product or service.

This discussion will take place once the brand has seen your pitch and chosen to contact you. Be ready with a couple of different ideas.

Perhaps you want to include the product or service in a personal story; perhaps you want to showcase the product in use via a DIY YouTube video, or perhaps you want to write a simple text review.

No matter what approach you take, ensure that your post is an honest post.

  • Don’t rave about something you don’t believe in. It will damage the trust your audience has in you.
  • Don’t showcase a product that your audience has nothing to do with. It will tarnish your reputation and project you as a “sell out.”
  • Don’t talk about a service that your audience cannot afford. It’s a lost cause.

Other than the aforementioned guidelines, treat sponsored posts like any other post you would write with your heart and soul.

Do justice to both the brand and your audience.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

And now comes possibly the most important question for most of us:

How much can I expect to earn from sponsored content?

First and foremost, know your worth.

Just because brands can buy blog posts for $5 on Fiverr doesn’t mean you also charge $5 or less. There is something to be said about quality over quantity.

Let’s consider some of the components of cost calculations:

  • What type of post are you creating? A simple text review post will typically require less time and effort than a YouTube video or even a DIY activity post. Determine how much of your time and energy is going to be spent in creating this post.
  • Do you need to spend anything from your own pocket for this opportunity? Suppose you are promoting a hobby product by creating a DIY activity post. Include the cost of products you will spend in creating this post.
  • What is the perceived value of your brand? An established content creator will naturally charge more than a small blogger who is not as well-known. Dive into your social reach and analytics to determine the perceived value of your brand.
  • Do you have past success stories? If you have already worked with brands before, how successful were those campaigns? Do you have testimonials you can showcase?
  • What is the going rate for sponsored posts in your niche? Some niches are more profitable than others and it reflects on your rates. Try researching on Google about the going rate for sponsored posts. A typical freelancer charges about $250-$500 for writing paid blogs. Let that be your guiding factor too.

In fact, ask for more than you wish to be paid and then be open to negotiations.

Another important thing to remember is that if you are accepting free products instead of monetary compensation, you may be liable to pay tax on it. I would recommend avoiding these type of exchanges.

In conclusion, there are plenty of opportunities available to earn money from sponsored content. You just need to be patient and honest.

Do you have any experience with creating sponsored content? How was your experience? What advice would you share with new bloggers? Share with me in the comment box below.

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Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content.

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