We all start out as “hobby” bloggers, some with intentions of making our blog a business, and some just to happily blog away without seeking advertisers or partnerships. There's nothing wrong with either path, and I am not of the opinion that you always need to treat your blog as a “business” right out of the gate, but knowing WHEN and HOW to do so is important.
WHEN to treat your blog as a business:
You place ads or affiliate links on your blog
The second you decide to display google ads or affiliate links on your blog, you should start treating it like a business. You are using your words, your photographs, your presence online to make money (no matter how little), and that deserves respect.
You want it to eventually BE your business
You know what they say: “fake it 'till you make it,” and treating something as professionally as you want it to be perceived goes a long way towards getting you there
You accept a sponsored post
This goes without saying (I hope), and is true even goes when you trade or accept product for review. You should have agreements in place and expectations clear before you even start, and that requires
You use it to promote your offline services or freelance work
If your blog is an extension of your offline business or you're using it to promote services you provide, then absolutely you should treat it professionally. Don't try and separate them, or think they won't overlap, or that your customers won't see your blog. They will.
HOW to treat your blog as a business:
Keep meticulous records and receipts
I've used Quickbooks for years, but there are lots of other services available for tracking expenses & income. It doesn't matter which one you use, just pick one and use it! Set aside time each month for accounting if you don't do it as money comes in and/or goes out, and you'll be all set at tax time.
Watch what you say
I always believe you should watch what you say online (once it's out there, you can't take it back), and be careful that you're promoting an image you want EVERYONE to see, but it's particularly important when you're using your image to make money. You don't need to change yourself to suit your advertisers; you should have established your image/your brand before you started monetizing, but you do need to be cognizant of WHY they hired you and what they hope to get out of your relationship. If you're all over instagram or twitter complaining about how hard blogging is and you wish you could quit, you better believe that your advertisers will see it, and begin to question working with you.
Disclose your relationships
this is THE LAW, so always disclose sponsored posts, affiliate relationships and when you've received something for free.
File taxes on whatever money you make
It's that time again…if you made ANY money on your blog, you should claim it for the IRS (I'm not familiar with any other countries' tax law), even if you don't think it's enough to worry about. TECHNICALLY, if you make less than $600/year you don't have to consider it, but I wouldn't take the chance. This is the IRS. I'm no expert, but there are tons of articles about tax tips for bloggers out there – here's one on IFB – so consult those and your accountant if you have any questions.
Have a media Kit
Create a media kit to direct potential partners to as you reach out to them. This is a must-have for any blogger who wants to monetize or treat her blog as a business. Keep it updated and include quotes from happy partners in there too!
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]