The Money Myth of Fashion Blogging (And How To Monetize Your Blog)
By: Ashley Robison

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This post is by Ashe Mischief

One of the first things I hear out of new bloggers’ mouths is– “how do I grow my traffic? I want to make money off my site.”  I think it’s Darren at Problogger who says quite honestly, if you’re getting in to blogging to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

The fact is, fashion blogging is an ever growing niche, and brands only have so much money in their marketing budgets. They have to be discretionary as to how they’re spending it and where.  Couple that with the fact fashion blogging is a niche that feels limited in HOW you can make money.

There are a handful of fashion bloggers who make a full time living off of their blogs, and they’re an inspiration to us all. One thing they all have in common is ingenuity in HOW they’re making their money.   Gala Darling sells ads on her site, yes– but she also sells a monthly podcast and freelance writes for sites like Red Bull’s China Shop blog.  Grechen from Grechen’s Closet runs 6 sites, builds relationships with brands, and is an inspiration when it comes to creating great content while utilizing affiliate links.  Most bloggers would like to earn something in exchange for the hard work, energy, and creativity they’re putting in to their blogs, but the fact is that most of us do it for love and passion only.

 

Fashion bloggers monetize their site in a number of ways– each with their own pros and cons.  Before you begin trying to monetize your site you should develop a media kit– make sure you have all relevant information that an advertiser could want!

 

Ads:

Banner ads, text link ads, RSS ads, and ad networks– they’re all the first place bloggers look to when wanting to monetize their sites.  Ads can be sold individually or through an ad networks– you may get paid by impressions or set a monthly rate if you’re selling them.  Google Ads and Text-Links Ads are examples I’ve worked with if you go the route of the ad network.

 

Pros:

  • Can be sold on a month-to-month basis.
  • Most blog layouts contain the ability to host many ads– whether banner ads or text ads. You have the option to control the quantity and maximum profit.
  • You can hand over your ad work to a network– where you put in the code, they generate the ads and you passively earn income.

 

Cons:

  • Are banner ads becoming irrelevant? I don’t know. Fashion bloggers tend to think that sponsorships and banner ads are the means of blogging full time.  But the fact is, as more and more of our readers syndicate their content through websites like Blog Lovin’, Google Reader, they’re not visiting our sites.  So why should a company invest in a banner ad, when the target audience they’re trying to reach isn’t actually visiting the site regularly?  However, that doesn’t mean that traffic gained through search engines won’t attract click-throughs.
  • Some ads, like text link ads and their networks, can hurt your credibility with search engines and cause you to lose PageRank.
  • You’re competing with more bloggers for limited ad budgets– advertisers are going to want to stretch their budget to reach the most readers and  the most active communities that they can.
  • Ads can be cluttering, decrease the load time of your site, make it look cumbersome and overloaded.  It’s also important to try and keep your ads relevant to the site, otherwise you end up looking like your site is full of spam.

 

Affiliate Companies:

Affiliate companies, like Commission Junction, Google Affiliates, or Share a Sale, allow you to link to products through reputable companies; when readers click those links, a cookie is embedded in your browser.  If you buy anything through that site (and through that cookie), the site owner earns a commission on the sale (typically 4-8%).

 

Pros:

  • A passive means of earning income–while inserting the links can be time consuming, once they are in, there is nothing else to be done. It’s up to your reader to click & buy.
  • You can earn money on your own purchases (with the exception of Amazon.com).
  • It’s a great way to support your fellow bloggers–maybe they’re affiliates with a company you aren’t, and you can purchase through their codes.

 

Cons:

  • In a tighter economy, people may be spending less money (and therefore, less likely to buy before a cookie expires).
  • Readers can be distrustful of affiliate links.
  • Some programs, such as Commission Junction, financially penalize you if you don’t make sales in a certain period of time.  If you’re not a link heavy blogger like I am, this can be financially harmful
  • Should be used consistently to generate long-term and ongoing cash flow.

 

Selling/Creating External Products:

Creating and selling your own external products can be a great way to monetize your blog. Gala Darling has found great success in selling her monthly podcasts; Problogger makes a substantial income off his monetized forums, e-books for Problogger and Digital Photography School, and many bloggers have shops associated with their sites (selling clothing, accessories, jewelry, art, and more).

 

Pros:

  • Monetary gain is higher– you aren’t splitting percentages with other companies (like with affiliates).
  • Products can be created/marketed/distributed on your own.
  • You can create your own affiliate program– this encourages other bloggers to sell your product on their site.  While you’ll earn less (from paying out their commission), you’re earning more because you’re maximizing your audience.

 

Cons:

  • A large, dedicated following of readers is useful to ensure your product sells.
  • Products can be time consuming, and there’s the “nobody knows” factor on how well the product will sell.

 

Trades: Freebies/Swag/Store Credits

While it’s not putting money into your bank account, many companies will offer you store credit, products, or gift cards in exchange for reviews or even working for them.  As more and more companies utilize blogs as a means of outreach, they oftentimes hire bloggers to create that content.

 

Pros:

  • Who doesn’t love free products?  It can help supplement your shopping habits– by working with a company whose products you would already buy, you’re saving yourself money at least.
  • Built in content– if you love a product, you’re given content for not only their site, but your own site as well.

 

Cons:

  • Working for trade, products, or credits can devalue your work.  Once you start accepting products in place of payment, the company may be more reluctant to pay you in cash at any point.
  • It’s not money.  If you’re pursuing your blogging professionally, product trades won’t pay your bills, pay off your debt, or buy you groceries.

 

Monetizing your site is a time consuming and many times frustrating process.  But as more and more bloggers seek to use their blogs as an income stream (or the jumping point for a new career), bloggers need to be persistent and creative in how they make money.

 

For those of you who have successfully monetized your site–what methods have you worked with?  How successful did you find them?

 

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Comments

  1. What a great read Ashe! Love how you broke it down! Thanks for your insight.

    xx,
    Christina

  2. Retro Chick says:

    I’ve found skimlinks excellent for affiliate marketing, it uses a piece of code to scan and links you happen to place on your blog, and if they happen to have an affiliate program it converts them to affiliate links without you having to do anything.

  3. Christy L. says:

    Thanks for posting this Ashe! All of this information is ridiculously helpful. As you know from our private convos I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a few pennies from my blog w/o sacrificing the integrity of my site.

    I’ve toyed with various things and decided to just put a few small ads up in fear of cluttering my page. I’m going to see how they work and if they don’t then so be it.

  4. Love this! I didn’t get into blogging for money, but I really dislike it when people say it’s wrong for others to do that…in my opinion it’s wrong to tell others what their motivations should be!
    And I really agree with your pros and cons.

    • I don’t think it’s wrong to get in it for money… but I think that it’s misleading to believe that starting a blog will earn you a lot of money quickly. It’s the hot new “job” nowadays, and people don’t realize that blogging really has to be a full time job in order to reap the rewards everyone wants to gain from it.

  5. Vanessa says:

    Hi Ashe,
    Great article with many insightful tips. I found that consistency adding quality content helps to increase traffic organically. Having ads that don’t compete with the overall look of my site is what works for me.

  6. Louise Thomas says:

    I think going into fashion blogging as a career is not the right way to go into it, in my opinion.

    Fashion blogging started out pure – people wrote blogs because they loved fashion, they wanted to share this love, and communicate with similar people. A few of these blogs grew successful, and as with many other walks of life, people now just see the success stories and want to emulate them.
    They want the fame, the freebies, the fashion week front row seats. But that’s not what blogging is about. Those are privileges that should only be earned by those who deserve them.

    I blog regularly, and do so for the love of fashion, and the love of writing, rather than to reap benefits.

    • i dont see any problems at all with going into it with the intention to make money off of it as you would with ANY job. because in a sense it is just that, a JOB! It is a job you’ll LOVE, but all the same, still kind of a job!

      • There’s no problem going in with it as a job– I think the point of the quote above is that… you’re not going to make money quick. Blogging is not quick money. You have to have passion behind it, and not the sole goal of income.

        I’ve seen many bloggers want the fame and success though, but aren’t willing to put in the work like they would a job…

  7. Treacle says:

    I monetize several different ways:

    Advertising–Adsense, Infolinks, banner/sidebar ads, advertorials, and newsletter ads (some people have found success with Chitika so that didn’t work so well with my niche).

    Affiliates–I use ShareaSale, Commission Junction, LinkShare, as well as a few affiliate programs through individual companies to bring in revenue.

    I just want to add that most affiliate programs do not let you earn money on your own purchases. In fact, I only know of one that does so. So you’d definitely want to check the fine print before assuming you’ll get cash back.

    Personal Shopping/Consulting–I offer personal lingerie shopping services to my readers and business consulting to lingerie retailers. I just launched this a few weeks ago, but I’ve acquired a handful of customers.

    Trades–I don’t count this as monetization. Compensation, yes, but not monetization.

    E-books–The next phase in the monetization project.

    I think it’s really important to understand that just selling ads won’t pay your bills, much less make you rich. For advice about how to monetize, market, copywrite, etc. etc. it’s worth paying a visit to the professionals like ProBlogger, CopyBlogger, and IttyBiz. The principles they teach over there are applicable to any niche.

    • “So you’d definitely want to check the fine print before assuming you’ll get cash back.”

      Absolutely! I just mention it because I KNOW Commission Junction is like, “Oh, you’re losing money on your account? Make a purchase so you’re in good standing!” Shady as hell, but they encourage it…

  8. great post! thanks for your insight. i’m still on the fence about whether i would ever advertise on my blog..
    xo.ashley

  9. grechen says:

    brilliant article ashe!! love the pros/cons, but i’d like to add another con to accepting advertising and managing it yourself: dealing with advertisers ;) — sometimes they can be difficult.

    i still believe in banner advertising as long as it’s 1000% relevant and you use it in smart ways. i also always sell ads as blocks that include banners in my RSS newsletters to reach readers who may not visit the site.

    and of course affiliate links in posts reach readers wherever they read your content; which is why they’re so powerful. BUT…it’s just as important to make sure they’re relevant and not just thrown in as an afterthought – don’t write about things just because you can use an affiliate link (readers see right through that) – write about what you love, then if you can use an affiliate link somewhere – BONUS!!

    it is REALLY hard to make enough to live off only via your blogs. i do it, and all i do is sell advertising and make affiliate commissions, i don’t sell ebooks or speak or do anything else besides write my blogs – but as i’ve always said, i’m a shopping blogger and i started many years ago, maybe my success can’t be translated to other blogs.

    all i know is that getting to do what you love comes first, building a community of readers who love it as much as you do comes next, then the money will follow. and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

  10. tashrin says:

    Thank you so much Ashe. This post was very very helpful. I am now going to dive into the links i got from the comments as well as the posts. Not just for a blog but this is very googd knowledge for anyone trying to benefit from online business. :)

  11. Very informative, thank you. I’ll look up all these sites you mentioned.

  12. I love how realistic this post is. You don’t sugarcoat the fact that monetizing a blog is a difficult task and takes time as a blogger builds a reputation and readership!

    I couldn’t agree more that making a LIVING from a sole blog is nearly impossible and often it’s the other revenue streams that are the most lucrative.

    Great post Ashe!

  13. Katy says:

    These are all fantastic ways to monetize, but you missed by favorite way that bloggers can make money–consulting. Helping businesses navigate the waters of social media can be a great way to make some money, make the space more enjoyable for everyone, and not feel like you’re selling out your platform.

  14. Helen says:

    Great post! Very realistic insight.

    X

  15. Katy says:

    Thanks for breaking all of this down bit by bit. It is so hard to figure out what is the best path for your own blog to take and when you are ready for it. – Katy

  16. This is a great post. I started blogging because I’m passionate about fashion and social media marketing and I have learned a lot through the process of doing it. I never thought about actually going full time with it. As you mentioned in this post it’s possible to monetize your blog but is making a living by blogging really that profitable? I’d love my blog to get me a full time job of my dreams rather than be my full time job. Do you think that’s possible?

  17. Kate says:

    Making money off a fashion blog is not easy so you really have to do it because you love it…and hopefully the money will come someday. Maybe, maybe not. My advice is to not get too caught up in the money aspect and always have a back up plan.

  18. lisa says:

    Pretty comprehensive view of various advertising options out there. Nicely done, Ashe. :)

  19. Jessie says:

    This was excellent. Thanks so much for the info!!
    xx http://wordbyjessie.wordpress.com

  20. M says:

    Currently I don’t advertise but if I decide to do so at some point it would have to be in a way consistent with my blog’s “brand”.
    This post was full of great information to keep in mind as reference.

    xx

  21. stylefyles says:

    Actually Bloglovin’ does take you directly to the websites you follow (unlike google reader).

    The way bloglovin works is it created a feed when the blogs update, and the only way to read the blog (correct me if I’m mistaken) is to click the link. Otherwise, all you can see is a small thumbnail and around three sentences of text.

    When you click to a blog from bloglovin, the url will be a bloglovin’ url (also most subsequent links within the blog you’ve clicked to will also have bloglovin’ urls), which is the one aspect of the system that bothers me.

    • Thanks for clarifying on Bloglovin’! I know a lot of other RSS feeds don’t work the same… for myself, only 1/10th of my readers come from Bloglovin, so it becomes a concern whether people visit the site or not…

  22. Skimlinks huh? Will have to check that out. I find affiliate links time consuming. Although for vintage, my Ebay affiliate links seem to do really well considering they are products I search for anyway.

    I am in the process of writing my first ever eBook. I even took a boot camp course to help me get started. What I find is that eBooks have to solve an immediate problem, which in fashion sometimes is difficult to pinpoint.

    Gala Darling does an excellent job with her self help guides. I’ve purchased several and found them to be a fun read. Her price point is affordable too.

    I’m hoping my eBook will make a few sales, plus give me an extra boost in credibility in my niche. Cross your fingers.

  23. Afrosaxon says:

    Interesting read, I use wordpress for my blog, how does one set about monetizing in this format?

  24. kurlybella says:

    great post ashe! i think that many beginners think that they can slap up a few adsense codes and affiliate links and see money rolling in when that’s not the case but instead makes their site look like a spammy hub or squidoo page.

    there is nothing wrong imo, in blogging for money if you realize it’s a job. i’m very much a don’t knock the hustle gal for certain situations and this is one. if you are providing quality content – and i really mean quality – people will read and respond and you will get noticed.

    i started blogging for fun. that was my only purpose and have come a long way in the last few years.

    as far as success and “making a living” goes, imo, it’s not the blog directly that makes the money, it’s the platform that the blog provides to make a living – just like youtube. the gurus make money from appearances, partnerships and brands they’ve created, not so much their adsense checks with the exception of a tiny few; just like in blogging – some blogs make killings off of adsense alone – but this is RARE.

    so treacle and katy you both make a great point about consulting and branching out.

    what’s the point in having 100k+++ page views a month if you want to blog for a living (not just hobby) but don’t want to brand yourself?

    kate and gretchen and the other commentators who spoke on it are also right – it is hard to make money from blogging, but once you have created a quality product with genuine content and start to come up with creative ways to stand out from the crowd – because let’s be real here, most of us are all really doing the same thing – honda and toyota are both cars but just branded differently – then you will reap the rewards.

    i will say this though. i find that many of the fashion bloggers that are making money are very, very vague in sharing how they are doing so. it’s understandable in some ways, but then again, is see other bloggers basically laying out a platform on how to do it for free – darren, shoemoney, john chow. i think in fashion, people are afraid to give up the goods because it is so hard and so niche that it’s a different ball game. i have nothing to hide, you ask me an i will tell you. i’m in competition with no one but myself. so sharing is caring for me and i have no problem with telling others how it can get done.

    susie over at style bubble had this comment on her blog a few months ago when asked very rudely about how she “makes money from her blog” and imo, she hit it dead on:

    “As I said in my comment – IF YOU HAD READ – I have nothing to hide.
    That said, I’m not accountable to you and where my money come from is ACTUALLY none of your business…
    If you had asked in a slightly more polite tone, I would have GLADLY answered anyway so I’m doing so here perfunctorily…
    I used to have a full time job at Dazed and now I work freelance doing projects for brands that involve writing, commissioning and also styling as well… I also blog for other people too and ads also come into it once in a while… (depending on where you are in the world you may not see the ads?)
    I’m also incredibly lucky to be in a situation where I can get things on the cheap and I don’t shop as often as I did actually so in effect, I’m spending less money these days…
    I’m not someone to shirk away from talking about money but I do believe there’s a more TACTFUL way of going about it and at the end of the day, my bank account is my business…”

    you can see the rest of her comments on the topic here: http://www.stylebubble.co.uk/style_bubble/2010/07/sale-spoils.html#comment-form

    • Actually, I’m pretty sure Susie links to one of my blog posts, Finance & the Fashion blogger, in that post.

      You make so many great points in this comment- I don’t even know where to start in responding to them all!

      “will say this though. i find that many of the fashion bloggers that are making money are very, very vague in sharing how they are doing so.”

      Sometimes I wonder… at least from my own experience, is whether this happens because so much of it is done through hard work? Some niches it’s much easier to experiment, there’s a lot less risk…. but I’ve found bloggers asking simple questions, that a little bit of work and research on their end would go a long ways…. and I just want to say, “Look, I looked up how to do this myself, you can too.” Like maybe sometimes people want too much given to them, and they’re not willing to put in the elbow grease? That being said, I’m always willing to help out another blogger who I see is working hard but needs a name, an email contact, etc.

  25. Good article Ashe. Clean, simple, honest and real. Would actually like to speak with you at some point soon about a fashion/style question and answer site I’m launching. Should be in private beta this week, or the next actually. Really want to get fashion bloggers involved for mutual benefit (status and financial on your end and user generated content/feedback and financial on my end) and would be appreciative of some of your thoughts about how to make my idea work best for bloggers and provide maximum ease AND revenue for you guys.

  26. Thanks so much for posting this. I don’t think I’ll be trying to monetize my blog any time soon, but I do wonder just how one goes about doing it. This has given me a better idea of what to do. Thanks.

  27. Wow! This is very informative.

  28. Monique says:

    Some extremely well thought out and valid points here! I think blogging for monetary purposes ALONE is a wrong reason. I think there most certainly needs to be a passion for it and for the community and for what your actually blogging about as well.

  29. Irenelim says:

    Good insights. I wish I could monetize my blog more. :)

  30. Kate says:

    I think if I wanted a brand to respect me and work with me I would do the magazine route. I would say hey I will review the product or feature the product and send it back to you, but I would rather be paid than keep the product. It’s a trade off, but something I would try out if I had the following.

  31. Terry says:

    To All those here,
    I thank you for your open opinions.
    What has been stated has helped me decide upon a direction for the future of a fashion label that I shall commence next year.
    Best regards to you all.

  32. College Blog says:

    It’s very possible to make lots of money from your blog, but I do agree that you will need a passion for it. The reason I say this, is because the main thing you need to have is good quality content and to be able to post as much as often. If you don’t have that, how will anyone even want to visit you?

    My advice is to start small and learn as you go. Try to just focus on the content and everything else will come as you grow. If you do that you will be fine, but never lose focus of your goal of providing the highest quality of content that you can.

  33. Stevia says:

    Very informative, ashe! Thank you!

    I started out blogging as a way to bond with my sister. She dropped out. But I was already amazed with the amazing world of blogging itself. It just connects people from everywhere with the similar interest!

    I have been thinking to monetize my blog
    But I still have a lot to consider about!
    I have my own job and I thought blogging would be fun to make a side income!

  34. Great article. I’m making decent income from banner ads. I find that while “some” or even “a lot” of people are using readers or sites like Blog Loving to subscribe to a website, when you content is good, visitors will still click through to discover more or leave a comment.

  35. Yen says:

    This blog is very informative. i am glad that I could read it when I am still new to the ifb. Thank you so much.

  36. Great post! Very helpful! I am not looking to monazite my (fairly new) blog anytime soon but, of course, it has crossed my mind for the future…
    I really don’t like google ads. Especially text ads. They really irritate me and I’m less likely to return to the blog using them!

  37. Kasu says:

    Finally some one being honest about monetization :) love it thanks a ton for the information

  38. Bill Burton says:

    making money with a blog taks time and being consistant

  39. Hi Ashe, you have shared some inside tips many of the newbies may not know, I categorically agree with you on ‘cons’ of ads…
    I agee with Princess Dominique… Blogging is the ‘next big thing’ for the writers – at least so far!

  40. Alexa Harpes says:

    Thanks a lot for writing this. It is an overwhelming experience when your trying to monetize your blog. Thankfully there’s a lot of options out there in affiliate marketing, and so you can dabble with a bit everything until you find what works!

  41. Rhonda says:

    I have been blogging for years and some sites make money and some don’t, however, blogging should be about something you are passionate about, and people will follow your blog.

    Thanks for all the insightful information!

  42. deanna says:

    great blog! i love all the tips and advice .thanks alot.

  43. deanna says:

    great blog! i love all the tips and advice .thanks alot.informative.

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  45. Minty Mina D says:

    Great post! I really like blogging/vlogging as a hobby, a platform where I can share my interests and ideas with the rest of the world^^

    http://www.youtube.com/mintyminad

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