Today is all about one of the stickier topics in blogging: monetization. Deciding whether to profit off one's blog is a personal decision and I've slowly worked on monetizing Fiscally Chic over the past year. I'm extremely selective about what I air on the blog and want to be sure not to spam you. I'm not rolling in the dough, but it helps pay for my domain name. As my Nana would say, it's chewing gum money.
Grace over at Design*Sponge wrote an epic series about online etiquette and ethics based on a panel discussion at Alt Summit. Part 2 is all about about blogging and the moolah. I highly recommend the read if you have some time.
Back to my monetization journey. I slowly started with Google Adsense. Nothing crazy, just an ad or two on the homepage. Let's just say I'm nowhere near the initial payout of $100. I still run those ads, but am sure to filter the types of ads I show on the blog.
About 9 months ago, I was approached about my first product review. You might remember my review (ETA - removed due to a request by Whooga) about Whooga ugg boots. (By the way, I'm wearing them as I type this post.) Since then, I've received more inquiries, but have turned down a majority of them. Do you want to hear about hair extensions? Probably not. I have no need for them, so I couldn't properly review them. On the positive side, I'm currently reviewing a few more relevant products and will share my experience in the next few weeks.
The challenge with product reviews is balancing meaningful feedback while looking out for the readers' interests. As I'm sure you know, the FTC requires bloggers who review products to disclose any connection with advertisers, including the receipt of free products, and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers. So yes, I received the Whooga's for free.
More recently, I joined some affiliate programs. Particularly through ShareASale. These are when a blogger promotes a product or a service in exchange for a commission should that product be purchased or lead generated. Bloggers also need to disclose when they're being compensated through affiliate programs. Amazon has their affiliate program, but it's not available in Illinois...boo! Your favorite companies and products might also have affiliate programs.
Here are a few of the affiliates I currently promote on my sidebar (I'm being compensated!):
Michelle of When I Grow Up Coach created an amazeballs creative career change workbook. I purchased it when I was grappling with my job change. She also has a package that combines the workbook with an hour coaching session. I totally recommend it if you're not sure what you want to be when you grow up. Even if you're not looking to make a change, Michelle has all sorts of great life coaching advice on her blog.
I first learned about Prosper at FINCON11. Per their website, Prosper is "the market leader in peer-to-peer lending—a popular alternative to traditional loans and investing options. They cut out the middleman to connect people who need money with those who have money to invest...so everyone prospers!"
Prosper's statistics show actual investor returns averaged 10.69% since July 15, 2009. Borrowers can get fixed rates ranging from 6.59% to 35.84% depending on their credit history and application. Borrowers receive their loan after it's fully funded by investors and passes Prosper's verification process.
John and I have recently invested a small amount of money through Prosper. We're able to select our specific investments (risk, time horizon, etc.), spreading our funds over several loan listings. I've seen listings to help consolidate debt, pay medical expenses, pay for a wedding, and starting business. As our confidence grows, we'll probably invest a little more, diversifying our overall portfolio.
Most recently, I joined the Tiny Prints program. You can order invitations, greeting cards (Christmas is fast approaching!), wedding invitations, photobooks, and more. They have some great gifts if you're running low on ideas. For example, what about a custom return address stamp for someone who just moved into a new house?
And to make things easy for you, here's the page with Tiny Prints' latest coupons. For example, you can save 20% off and enjoy free Standard Delivery or free USPS First Class Mail Shipping when you spend $49 or more using the code 20HOLDEC. Ends 12/8/11!
I've had some moderate success with affiliate programs, but it obviously depends on whether someone clicks on the link and purchases.
One of the primo monetization strategies is creating and selling your own product. Like Michelle's workbook. I'm a tad on my way with the Etsy shop and have greater plans down the road. This will build on my accounting background and Etsy experience.
I may start experimenting with paid ads on my sidebar in January 2012. I'll let you know when the time gets closer.
Other methods include sponsored posts and text link advertisements. Those aren't really my style, so I don't accept those inquiries. Though I'd be happy to offer giveaways for you lovely readers!
Do you monetize?