Almost every time I chat with a fellow blogger or writer, the conversation inevitably turns to business and money (0r rather, the lack of money I should say). Just last week a blogging friend asked me about sidebar ads and affiliate programs, desperate to figure it out. She told me that between hosting expenses and paying someone to help her with some technical issues, it feels like she is paying to blog. And that paying to blog made her "grumpy." And I get that. For some people, blogging is synonymous with writing, and I think we all can agree that writing is art. It would be like asking an artist to pay money to hang their artwork in a museum so that people could marvel at it all day long. Doesn't that seem backwards? Shouldn't the museum pay the artist, in some form? And shouldn't the visitors pay the museum, so the museum can support the artists?
The problem with blogging is that the internet is the museum. And we, the people at home on our computers, are the visitors. And there are no fees, ever. It's like Free Museum Day, every day. We get to hop from blog to blog to blog to the Huffington Post back to blog to blog to blog. Everything is free, all the time. We get to read stories and find inspiration and feel connected to other people and get great ideas. FOR FREE!
Some bloggers have mastered the art of making money off their words, and to them I say, bravo! Some have landed book deals or TV shows or extravagant sponsorship opportunities and to them I say: GET IT GIRLS. More power to ya.
It's a weird world we live in, when I take a step back and think about blogging in general. We're all sitting at home on our laptops, pouring our hearts and souls into cyberspace, no doubt by our own desire and own accord, yet we desperately want to be paid for it.
Anyone who blogs knows how much work it is. It takes effort to set aside time to write, to empty yourself, to take pictures, to edit pictures, to resize pictures, to post links to social media, to respond to comments and e-mails and questions. I spend more time on my blog than I do on my photography business and I'll let you guess which one brings in more money.
And I do all of that because I love this blog. I love it because I work so hard at it and because at the end of the day, I feel like this blog is a little piece of me. It's my life story, all wrapped up into one tiny website.
Do I wish I could make money off this blog, this thing that occupies so much of my time and effort? Of course I do. Do I feel entitled to make money off this blog, because of the fact that other people are reading it regularly and often gaining something from it? Not really.
Because at the end of the day, it is my choice to blog.
I can choose whether or not to spend my Wednesday nights at Starbucks writing or sitting at home watching TV. Sometimes I pick TV, and sometimes I pick writing. It's my choice. Nobody forces me to write here. I don't feel entitled to earn an income off this website because I have decided to work hard at it. I didn't make a blog with the intention of making money; I made the blog to have a place to write. Having said that, it would be great if I could turn this work, this art, this blog of mine, into something valuable for my family. But let's be clear: earning money from this blog is my desire, it is not my expectation.
I think a lot of my blogging friends are in similar boats---they love to write, they love to make art, they work very hard at it, and would love to make a few bucks in the process. So for them, I am sharing some tips for you, the reader.
Here are some ways to support the bloggers you love, both emotionally and financially:
1. Leave a comment. The whole point of blogging (at least how I see it) is to create community. When you leave a comment on a blog post, that is your way of saying, "I'm here! I am a part of this!" It makes the writer feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. You don't need to leave a comment on every post---just once in a while when something resonates with you. Some of my favorite posts that I have ever written have a string of comments below them that all say some rendition of "Me too! I feel this way, too!" Those comments not only benefit me, they also benefit the other commenters. The less alone we all feel, the less crazy we all are.
2. Send them an e-mail. I have been affirmed in my writing so much from reader e-mails, it's ridiculous. I save every single one. They go into a special folder called "Don't Quit Blogging" and when I feel overwhelmed with this blog, or writing, or sharing my life with the internet, I just read a few of those e-mails and get over it. If you've been reading a blog for a long time, soaking up words that someone else has graciously dumped into the internet for free, the least you can do is take 5 minutes to e-mail them and say, "Keep going!" This is on my goal list for 2014 to do myself with a few of my favorite bloggers. I owe them at least that much for continuously blessing me with their writing.
3. Share their content. If you're like me, chances are sometimes you read blogs on your phone. It is stupid hard to leave comments on blogs from your phone. I don't know why, because it's 2014, and you'd think the Masters of the Internet would have figured this out by now, but they haven't. Do you know what's REALLY easy to do from your phone? Like, share, retweet. As bloggers, we're in this for the community, and at the end of the day, we want people to see our art. Wouldn't it be sad if there was a beautiful museum filled with art and nobody ever went to visit it? When you click retweet and share, you are sending people to our museum. WE APPRECIATE THIS.
4. Buy them coffee. This is kind of a stretch, but speaking personally here, I write best in coffee shops. Coffee is expensive. Well, my coffee is expensive because I don't even like coffee---I like the milk + chocolate + espresso + syrup concoctions that cost 3x more than coffee. It takes $5 and less than two minutes to caffeinate your favorite blogger. Send them an e-gift card, or try the Tweet A Coffee service from Starbucks.
5. Buy stuff they blog about. I don't say this carelessly; I say it intentionally. If someone blogs about amazing running shoes (not me, I hate running), and you happen to be in the market for new running shoes, buy the shoes they recommend! If someone blogs about Christmas cards, and you know you're going to order Christmas cards anyways, click on the link in their post and use their promo code! Bloggers receive teeny tiny commissions off those purchases, and for many of us, this is the only compensation we receive from our blogs. Personally, I abide by the 95/5 strategy: the content on this blog is 95% genuine and 5% sellout. And by sellout, I mean I'm blogging about a product that I honestly recommend, but probably wouldn't blog about if it wasn't for the minor financial gain. Basically, for every 20 heartfelt posts you see on this blog, you're also going to see one about hairbrushes or Christmas cards. I try to keep it very, very minimal around here, but the truth is: those posts are the only posts that earn dollars. When you buy something that I recommend, it's basically putting a dollar in my blog tip jar. Tips = diapers, coffee, college tuition for Everett. MY FAMILY THANKS YOU.
6. Visit their blogs before shopping on Amazon. I recently realized something dumb. All of the bloggers I love have Amazon affiliate accounts, and I shop on Amazon, A LOT. What if, instead of just going to Amazon.com and buying the stuff I want, I FIRST went to my favorite blog, clicked on one of their Amazon links, and THEN ordered my stuff? It would take an extra 5 seconds, and would throw a little bit of money their way. Not sure where to find an Amazon link on your favorite blog? Try searching for "Amazon" in their search box, browsing their old gift guides, or looking for posts where they recommend books. Once you find it, just bookmark the post, that way you can get to it easily every time you shop. ISN'T THIS SO SMART? You're already shopping on Amazon, and by spending an extra 5 seconds to click on one extra link, you are SUPPORTING YOUR FAVORITE BLOGGER. I am totally doing this from now on.
7. Buy an ad on their blog. Have an etsy shop? A graphic design business? A blog of your own? What better place to spend your marketing dollars than supporting your favorite blogger while ALSO increasing your web traffic? This is what we call a win-win.
8. And last but certainly not least, just show up. Read the posts. Like their blog page on Facebook. If your favorite blogger writes a book someday, buy it. If your favorite blogger asks you to fill out a survey, do it. Be a participant. Engage. Read their e-book, take their e-course. Show yourself once in a while. Chances are, your favorite blogger is showing up for you even when they don't always feel like it. The best thing you can do is simply return the favor.