Sponsored Post Q & A

It was so fun to share a little behind-the-scenes on Monday of what goes into a sponsored post.

And I SO appreciated all your questions. I’ll do my very best to answer them all here and if you have others, definitely let me know. I’m an open book!

How much money do you make on a sponsored post?
The annoying answer to this is “it depends.” There are no real industry standards for paying bloggers or other influencers, and many bloggers are very hesitant to share how much they charge, so it can feel kind of like you’re just shooting in the dark. And agencies vary wildly in how much they pay – some offer $100-200 for a post, while others are several thousand.

Also, there is seasonality – brands have more money to spend during peak times like end of school, back to school and the Christmas holiday seasons, so they’ll generally pay more (and you can charge more) during those times, versus slower months like January. Time of the quarter matters too. At the beginning of a quarter, there is usually less money available than there is when they’re closing out a quarter.

And it depends on your blog traffic and how many followers you have on various platforms and how good your engagement is there (for instance, you might have a ton of followers, but very few likes and comments, so you are much less valuable than someone with a smaller audience but very high engagement).

In the past year, I’ve done blog posts where I made $300 and others where I made nearly ten times that.

How do you decide how much to charge?
There are about a thousand factors that go into how much I charge. For instance, a huge international brand is going to have more money than a small brand, and especially as we’ve launched London Littles, I have a whole new appreciation for that.

The cost of the product matters too – if a flooring company came to me and was willing to provide all the flooring for our house as part of a sponsored post, I’d be willing to take a MUCH smaller fee. Free cereal? Not so much.

I also charge more if there is a video component or if they want all the rights to the photos. If they want a lot of social sharing, that’s more expensive too.

As my traffic grows, my rates go up and I charge more if it’s a peak time like the holidays.

How do you decide if an offer is good enough?
It’s a whole combination of how busy my blog calendar is, how interested in the product or brand I am, and how easily I can talk about it (for instance, just because I’ve used tampons for almost twenty years doesn’t mean I really want to write a whole post about it). And sometimes I’ll take a lower offer if I feel like it’s a foot in the door with a dream brand.

How much of sponsored posts is you reaching out and how much is brands reaching out to you?
I’d say currently it’s probably 60% of me reaching out to brands or applying for campaigns through agencies and 40% of brands reaching out to me. In the past six months, I’ve also started working with a marketing agent who brings me opportunities or I’ll tell her, “Hey, I’d love to work with Play-Doh” and she’ll reach out to them and pitch my blog.

What do you do if you don’t like the product you signed on to promote?
This happens very rarely to me because I usually am applying for campaigns for brands I already know and like or pitching to brands that I already use and want to work with, but a couple of times, I’ve had a product that I got and thought, “This is NOT something I’m comfortable recommending.”

In those rare cases, I’ve just emailed the brand or the agency and told them I didn’t like the product and didn’t feel comfortable promoting it, and they’ve very willingly let me back out of our agreement. After all, it’s bad for them too if I can’t be super enthusiastic about it and there are always more bloggers willing to take a campaign spot.

How much of the sponsored content is stipulated by the sponsor?
It depends on the sponsor, but the longer I blog, the more freedom I want in my sponsored content. So I seek out brands and agencies that trust me to create interesting, useful content that incorporates their product, and I’ve stopped working with agencies and brands that I feel like dictate too much.

Do brands work directly with bloggers or do they use a third party company?
It’s a combination. Some brands work directly with bloggers and have their own in-house team for working with influencers, while other brands have a dedicated marketing agency that handles it all, and other brands go to third-party agencies. And some do a combination of all of them!

How long are exclusivity clauses? 
Typically, it’s 30 days from the date the post goes live, but it can vary. Usually, if it’s much more than that, you can ask for a higher rate. For instance, back in 2014, I worked with a cereal brand and they wanted a year-long exclusivity clause, so they paid double the normal rate.

How does compensation differ between a sponsored blog post, a sponsored IG post, and a sponsored IG stories post?
It’s all based on numbers. My blog has reasonably high traffic (around 200,000 page views a month) so I can charge the most for a blog post generally. My Instagram audience is a little smaller, so I usually make about half to a quarter on a sponsored IG post than I would on a full blog post. And more and more advertisers are going toward IG stories because they’re so highly viewed and you can do a swipe-up to go directly to a site, so in the past year, I’ve started doing more IG Stories only sponsorships.

Do you ever regret accepting an offer?
Happily, I’ve never really had an experience where I felt deeply unhappy about the product itself, but I have had a few times where the brand was such a nightmare to work with that I wished I’d never agreed to work with them.

Whether it’s changing the requirements a bazillion times, very slow communication, lots of delays on review or publishing, my worst sponsored post experiences have all been because the brand or agency was hard to work with, not over the product or service itself.

How do you break into getting a sponsored post in the first place?
If you’re just getting into sponsored content, I think third-party agencies are the easiest way to go. They’ve already lined up the brand and now they just need bloggers. I did a whole list of third-party agencies here – just sign up for a few and start applying to campaigns!

How do you form relationships with brands in the first place?
I love going to blogging conferences and have met quite a few brands through those. I also try to tag brands on Instagram when they show up organically in my stories or posts. And if I do a post where I mention a brand, I’ll often send them an email to let them know.

Do you get paid in money, product, or both?
At this point, I almost never work for product only unless it’s a big-ticket item. I’d almost always rather just buy something myself and not have to share it with a bunch of disclaimers, hashtags, and tracking links.

Also, I’m just not interested in STUFF cluttering up my house, so unless it’s something I REALLY want, free product isn’t that exciting to me.

And I’m fully aware that the reason brands send free product is so that you’ll share about it, so unless I’m 99% sure it’s something I’ll want to share, I’m not going to say yes. Even if they don’t ask you to share, they REALLY want you to share and I never want to be the blogger taking things for free with no intention of sharing it.

Running a blog also isn’t free, so I need actual cash just to break even, let alone actually make a profit. I have hosting costs to keep my site online, I have an (amazing) assistant who I pay weekly, I pay my photographer, I have a babysitter about 12 hours a week, I travel to conferences, I pay for my email provider, and on and on.

How much time does the photo element take to produce?
Back when I took my own photos, the photography and editing for a post might have taken at least an hour, so hiring a photographer bought me back so much time. Plus, although I’m not a terrible photographer, a real photographer does SUCH a much better job than I ever could. Now we can bang out 4-5 posts worth of images in an hour and I don’t have to do any work beyond that, so the time is WAY down.

How long do you typically work with a brand?
I’d say about half of my contracts are one-offs, and the other half are longer term. I way prefer the long-term relationships like Mixbook or Pampers since it feels much easier to talk about the same brands, plus when I know that I’ll be doing more posts together, I can always be thinking about what the next post might look like.

Are you constantly on the lookout for content rather than experiencing what is happening? How do you strike a balance?
One of my history professors once said that you should be thinking about your term papers all term long – while you walked to class, when you’re in the shower, while you’re doing dishes – and that by the time you sit down to write, you should be pretty clear on what you’re going to say or at least the main points. That’s how I feel about my blog posts – it’s always running in the back of my mind. I think “Tally’s birthday is coming up – I should do a list of birthday picture books” or “Hey, we always do grilled cheese sandwiches for our Halloween dinner – that’d be a great post and Tillamook would be a good sponsor.” But it doesn’t feel like it gets in the way of real life.

And if I’m taking pictures of something that we’re out doing, I try to get a couple of shots and then be done.

Do you run any ads? What’s been the biggest key to growth?
I’ve never run any paid ads for Everyday Reading. I think for me, the keys to growth have been consistency (hello, twelve years of blogging) and writing about things I’m really passionate about.

How do you get brand deals when you have a small following?
It’s definitely harder when you have a small audience, but if you have a specific niche, that helps a lot. If you just say something like, “I share products I like with my very engaged audience” that means basically nothing. If you can share exactly what you offer with examples (you take amazing photos or you are a terrific storyteller) or you have data (“When I shared about this book with my affiliate link, I had 487 clicks and 25 purchases”) that helps. And definitely start with third-party agencies!

What do you say when you pitch a sponsorship?
I’ll be the first to admit that cold pitching is not my strong point. I much prefer either having them reach out to me or applying through agencies where I know they already have money and want to work with bloggers.

How do you decide what brands to work with?
I think about what posts I want to write ANYWAY and then think about brands that would be a natural fit for that. For instance, if I’m talking about how and when I listen to audiobooks, Audible is a natural sponsor for that. If I’m going to do a post about my Sunday night routine, I think about the parts of that – ordering groceries, painting my nails, doing a face mask, planning for the week – and then think about what brands would fit into that post.

I also think more about the posts themselves and what brand fits what I’m trying to share and less about what brands I use a lot and then trying to think of an interesting way to share about it, if that makes sense.

So for instance, I’m more likely to think “I’d like to write a post about how to stop being late all the time and that might be a good fit with the watch brand I wear” than I am to think “I have this watch and I like it. Maybe I could get them to be a sponsor and I could write something about . . . . being on time?” For me, the post always comes first.

Does sponsorship get in the way of content you want to cover or does it help?
I don’t know if this is the case for every blogger but for me, it really helps. I have a massive running list of posts I want to write so when a brand comes to me or opportunities open with a third-party agency, I’ll look at that list to see if there’s a fit with one of those posts.

Who sets the price?
Usually with third-party agencies, the price is already set (occasionally you can negotiate with them, but it’s getting harder). If you’re working more directly with the brand or their marketing agency, you can tell them what you want and come to an agreement. Usually I shoot high and then am wiling to negotiate down if needed.

Does sponsored content feel like a chore?
No! It’s actually one of my favorite parts of my job. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to take any product – from yogurt to jeans to diapers – and figuring out a way to tell an interesting story or share something really useful.

And sponsored content also justifies the time and money it takes to do NON-sponsored content. If I wasn’t making money on my blog (about 75% of which comes from sponsored content), I couldn’t justify the expense of a babysitter, a photographer, and the enormous amount of mental space it takes to run Everyday Reading. Every non-sponsored post is made possible by the sponsored posts.

Anything else I didn’t cover? Let me know!

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  1. Loved this post. So informative and fascinating behind the scenes. Thanks for this blog. The beauty about a reading blog is reading it will never go out of style compared to “reading” a lifestyle blog. It’s just not the same!

  2. It’s so interesting and fun to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. I have a couple questions (hope they’re not too prying or nosy). Do you find that you are able to make a very regular/steady income or is it quite unpredictable in terms of how much you bring in from month to month? Have you ever been turned down when you reach out to companies? Do you find that most bloggers you meet are sincere when promoting a product/posting sponsored content, or does it seem to you that a lot of them do it simply to make money?

    1. All nosy people welcome here 🙂

      It’s definitely not super regular (that was one thing I did like about being a contributing writer for Disney and a few other sites back several years ago – it was very predictable how much money I would make every single month). I make more money at the beginning of summer, the back-to-school season and the holidays, but over the last year, I feel like the swings have become less wild as more money gets directed toward influencer marketing and also as I build more relationships with brands and agencies.

      I get turned down ALL the time. Probably 80% of the time. It’s a total numbers game and so I know I’ll need to reach out to 5 companies at least (and sometimes more like 10) to land even one sponsored project.

      I’m sure there are bloggers out there that are just in it to make money, but all my blogger friends are pretty careful about who they work with. And frankly, there are easier ways to make money than blogging. I’m making good money now, but if you average it out over the last 12 years, I’m still making probably pennies per hour.

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