Happy Thursday, my friends!
Hope y’all are having the best week! I’ve been getting more and more questions about blog and Instagram life.
Before I became a blogger, I constantly thought: “That is the best job ever! Just share products and prance around on beaches, right?” When I started BalancedAmes, it truly was out of passion. I wanted to spread the word of living a balanced life and taking care of yourself mentally and physically. After Maxwell came into our lives, I found myself wanting to write a lot more about mamahood as a way to support and encourage other mamas.
I started this blog about 3 years ago now and it has certainly evolved! My posts still serve as a way to share my passions, hopefully inspire others to prioritize their mental and physical health and NOW serves to help our family make extra income.
Growing Your Blog and Instagram Following
If I were able to help anyone do it, I could make a loot selling that education. In a time when blogs and Instagrammers are a dime a dozen and algorithms rule our social media platforms, it is HARD to get traction. So when someone reaches out asking my advice, I tell them to proceed with passion and determination…probably needing more of the latter.
Now, I should mention that I’m writing this for aspiring bloggers and people interested to see how this industry works. If you are a blogger that just wants to do it for passion and fun, not all will apply to you. I find that *most* people, however, do have thoughts of making some money from it…at least enough to pay for your hosting services and other blog expenses. And overtime, if you are like me…you start to realize that the time you are putting into your blog is precious. Having it be paid justifies it more for our little family.
I’m NOT going to tell you, “numbers don’t matter”…because I certainly did NOT start getting paid until I hit certain points of pageviews and followers. I will tell you that I blogged for 2 years before arriving to a point where collaboration checks were coming in. I think it is easier for those women to say, “don’t worry about your numbers” when they are sitting on a 100 K+ followers. I will say that it is in your best interest not to be consumed by them and not to let your personal happiness be impacted by them.
My key has been to be myself. I don’t think anyone could keep going and going behind a persona that wasn’t truly them. The biggest and most common compliment I get on my Instagram and blog is “thank you for being so real and YOU!” Now, I know every single person doesn’t want to share about their sex life after babies. I’ve ALWAYS been an overly honest person, so this is ME! I don’t do my posts or captions for shock value, I do them because I truly believe that they will touch or help at least one woman. SO what makes you, you?!
Tip: Send a text to your 5 best friends. Ask them to describe you in 5 words. What are the themes? I did this and my friends said things like: confident, calls it like it is, honest, loyal. I SHARE those personality traits by the way I write on my platforms. This tip was on an Amy Porterfield podcast.
I’ve said this before, but I HIGHLY recommend not playing the follow for follow, loop giveaways, sending your photos to an enormous group of people that are going to like it, or any other “tricks” to grow faster. I’ve stuck to my guns and built an organic following, even when it meant that my growth was slow at points. BUT, what this has meant for me is that the people following me actually want to be there and come here. This means they are much more likely to be engaged with me than if I had done one of the grow fast tricks.
You WILL be in for ups and downs. I had about 25 page views in the beginning. And let me tell you, those blog posts in the beginning were taking me a long time to write. I was new to blogging and honestly producing a lot more research based posts. Now a recent post had 5K views on the day it was published. I know there are bigger bloggers out there, but to me this is hard work paying off. There were peaks and valleys along the way, but now my monthly page views have hit 80K+ page views for a few consecutive months. I don’t share page views to be boastful, I share them to give you the real behind the scenes example of my growth.
If you are in the place with just your mama, a few friends and husband reading…I was there too. I do not know what your path will be as far as growth, but I do think you’ll find your own little tribe of readers that will support and cheer for you.
Tip: EDUCATE yourself. I listen to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast and Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy every single week. I’ve never missed an episode of Jenna’s and I’m constantly working to catch up on Amy’s evergreen information. There is a massive amount of FREE information that bloggers can utilize to grow, I definitely dive in and attribute part of my growth to these amazing ladies! I’d suggest you start with free education to learn more.
The Business Behind Blogs
Bloggers/Instagrammers make money in a few different ways. I’m going to focus on the ways I make money.
First it has to be said, I’m SO protective of this platform and you guys. If a brand reaches out and they are not the right fit, I would NOT pair up with them (hello diet teas). I’m lucky because for Drew and I this is “extra” income. It isn’t my main job (part-time oncology nurse is) and we don’t depend on the money, although we are very thankful for it.
When I had a smaller following, I would reach out to brands. When you are pitching a brand it is really important to make your email unique. Don’t just say you love their product, because that message doesn’t have a real impact. Make it unique! Know a little more about them than what is on their home page. Make it you! Tell them what you can bring. Best of all, give them a unique idea (that is on brand for them) of how you want to feature them on your social media and blog.
Tip: This is a perfect time to realize that the worst that could happen is they say no…or more likely…not answer you. No problem for you and you practiced your pitch.
Until you grow (definitely over 5K and likely closer to 10K on Instagram) you’ll likely be doing product exchanges. This means that they give you their product for free in exchange for an Instagram square or blog post. Benefit to you: If they share it on their page, this is a way that you can gain followership. It is also giving you good experience in working with brands, understanding different branding and you’ll be able to share your work when paid opportunities come your way.
Tip: Even with product exchanges, some brands keep asking for more and more and more from you. From the start, have a very clear email exchange about what you’ll give them for what you are getting. This way you are not obligated when they ask for more and you can kindly reference the agreement you made. That being said, if I LOVE the product and love how the brand has treated me…I’m willing to do more because I believe in the product and want you guys to know how much I love it.
When your page views and Instagram following grows, you can definitely start to make money. I would highly recommend making a blogger collaboration agreement. In my opinion, it should give the look, feel, language of your blog/brand. It is smart to add your “stats”, brands you’ve collaborated with in the past and you can add price if your comfortable with it. For me, I’d rather be up front about price than go back and forth a bunch of times. Ain’t no mama of two/part-time blogger got time for that. I have worked with brands that honored my price ask right away and brands that have wanted to negotiate. I like the first way of doing business. 😉
I take very, very limited unpaid work today. I will pair up with small local brands, brands that I deeply believe in their cause or brands that I’ve had a long term relationship with (they believed in me a long time ago). I just know my time is very limited and I can do my best work if I’m getting paid for my precious time. This also helps me to pay my photographer Caitlin, which I do for paid collaborations.
Tip: I used Canva to make my blogger collaboration agreement and used a design that was pre-made. I use Social Blue Book to figure out what prices make sense for me. This doesn’t just depend on your numbers, it also assesses your engagement (how many people like and comment on your photos). I update it before I send it to a brand to make sure everything is current. I also can send them more information on demographics and analytics to back up my prices.
Because this is a pretty darn busy season of life, I’ve recently been letting brands come to me. I KNOW that it would be really good for me to be pitching brands and going after dream brands, but I truthfully just do not have the time. If there comes a time when I’m freed up and don’t have current collaborations running, I would start looking at what brands I would want to work with next.
I will tell you that I’ve had AMAZING collaborations that have felt like the perfect fit. And I’ve had collaborations that haven’t felt so right. Recently, a brand wanted to add an entire sentence into my post that said, “I’m SO obsessed with this…(then described the perks of the product)”. They asked if that was okay. I said, “No, we have to tone that down. I’m not obsessed with it and wouldn’t want to be untruthful. We could go with…it’s a really great option for me.”
Tip: Be SO truthful in your recommendations and the products you link. This will build TRUST with the people that read your posts.
I would NOT recommend something I would not use and pay for myself. And if I use the word like obsessed, I am actually obsessed.
The brand asks you for what they want and typically want to review your post before you post it. They also have a specific amount of times that you need to share it on your social media. The good news for the consumer is that we have to say #ad #sponsored or something like that to make you aware that we’re getting paid for that post.
This is my favorite way to make money from blogging and this has really ramped up for me.
Affiliate programs are set up so that you make money from clicks and purchases (different affiliate programs have different rates). The only one I currently link to is Amazon Associates. I’m linking to Amazon products, because I WANT to share them with you…but, I also make money if you click, purchase, or sign up for Amazon Prime or Audible through me. Again, I’m an Amazon Prime mama through and through…so, 95% of the things I share, I’ve actually bought myself. The other 5% is things I’m dreaming of buying.
The past 30 days I’ve made $521.33 from Amazon Associates.
Blogging and Family/Friends
Y’all, I cannot tell you how lucky I am in this department.
Each member of my immediate family supports me in a different way. My dad will tell me how proud he is of a post, my mama will share a post on her Facebook, my older sister will tell me in person how good a post was, my younger brother will tell me about his friend’s girlfriends/fiancés love my blog, my little sister will share my posts (she especially loves my peanut butter energy ball post and my healthier dinners post), my mother-in-law gives me compliments on my blog, my father-in-law tells me how proud he is of me, my sister-in-law will take pictures for me to give Drew a break. 😉 I know that not everyone is so lucky in the support department and I KNOW this has helped me go on.
And then there is my husband. He reads every single post and talks to me about them. He gives me posts suggestions. AND he takes a lot of pictures and stars in my stories. He is my number 1 supporter, that is for sure.
Drew has warmed up to blogging. He ALWAYS supported it because he believed in the message I was spreading and knew I wanted to do it. I’m going to be really honest here (we talked about this during lunch yesterday), Drew’s attitude toward taking pictures for me really got a lot better once I started making money. 😉 And I get it, he didn’t sign up to be a blogger. We had a conversation about a year ago that changed things. I mentioned to him that he wasn’t being very supportive when I asked him to take a picture for my blog/Instagram. I talked to him about how the pictures were important to spread the messages I wanted to spread. I told him it would be a lot easier if he just did it with a smile and goes a lot quicker then me having to set up a self timer. He agreed to have a better attitude about it. NOWADAYS, we have fun with it. He is hilarious about taking pictures and even likes to be in my stories. I would suggest being patient and kind to your husband because it might take them a while to get the vision.
Tip: ALWAYS ask people if you are going to mention them in your blog post, especially if they are the moral of the story or the punch line. When I wrote the post about how I improved my relationship with my in-laws, I ASKED them if I could do it. The 3 of us sat in my living room and talked about it. They gave me suggestions for it! I then followed up and asked my husband if it was okay. Speaking of my husband, I ALWAYS ask him if I think something is borderline too personal. I want to make sure that I’m first being good to my family BEFORE I think of something as good blog material.
Of course it takes time to run the blog. Everything from writing the posts, to taking the pictures, to communicating with brands. It’s funny because I really do fit it into the times between. I’m currently finishing this post with Trey sleeping on my belly. There are times when I need to hit a deadline and will head to our local coffee shop on a Saturday morning to finish. Drew is SO supportive of this and to be honest…it gives me a mommy refresh. Because I LOVE running this blog and it feels good to just go write and drink a warm coffee by myself.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t admit that sometimes I’m scrambling to get things done and finishing a post immediately before I hit publish. I wish I was more organized and ahead of time, but that just isn’t my season right now.
I TRY to be really good about balancing my social media/blog life with our family time. Yesterday, I told Drew during our Chipotle date, I’m just going to take one quick story. And THEN I put my phone away for the rest of the date and focused on my husband. If I need to get a picture, we usually do it right away when everyone is clean…and then it’s done. I’m by no means perfect and sometimes Drew asks for less phone usage and I’m happy to oblige.
So, You Want to be a Blogger
You cannot care about grabbing a selfie or talking to your phone in public. You will get weird looks and side glances.
You start to see anytime you actually have your hair and makeup done and a normal outfit on as an opportunity to get a gram.
You will start seeing your experiences or lessons learned as blog post ideas.
You might blush when you first start and people are asking you about it.
You will have times when you think, “Why am I doing this?”
It will be much easier if you have a blogger friend (hi Lisa!) BECAUSE they will understand talking about numbers, engagements, brand partnerships. It’s a language that can sound pretty darn shallow unless the other person understands that it’s the way the business works in the same way you do.
Peaks and Pits of Blogging
(phrase taken from Keeping Up with the Kardashians)
Feedback from y’all. I have no words (except I always have words). I cannot tell you how much it means when you reach out via email or in a DM on Instagram. WAY more than any number will ever matter, I excitedly tell Drew about what y’all say. Whether it is that I helped you get ready for your natural birth and you reread my birth preparation/encouragement post several times to prepare OR that my Instagram posts help you to be more positive in your marriage or motherhood…your words mean the world. It keeps me wanting to post on those subjects.
Working on myself. Y’all, I’ve never been more positive in my entire life than I am right now. Why/how/what? Because I’m intentionally always reading and listening to podcasts to grow and be inspired. I’m then able to share those reflections, lessons and growth with all of you. I know for a lot of bloggers, blogging can work the opposite and make them more negative…but, this blog serves me as I hope it serves you.
Beautiful pictures. I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t share that getting amazing pictures of my family is not a huge perk. I LOVE it!
Sharing is caring. The biggest compliment you can pay your favorite blogger or Instagrammer is sharing! Of course we love the messages and please keep those coming, but sharing my link with those words really helps me. You mentioning me in your story or in a caption really helps me. I get SO excited when I see someone took the time and was kind enough to do that! Definitely a peak.
Growing pains. It can be really hard when you feel like you are making really great content and you have dips instead of growth in readership. For the most part, I’ve had steady growth…but, there were times when it was slow as molasses. I had to keep believing that I was writing valuable posts and that eventually people would want to read them. 😉
Comparison. It can be hard not to compare yourself to those around you. But, if you truly want some longevity, you’ve got to learn to stay in your own lane. This took me a WHILE to be able to do and do well. The book Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur (this is an example of a link that I would get paid for, especially if you purchase the book) was a SERIOUS game changer for me. I started to realize that another woman’s success didn’t mean my failure. It helped me understand to freely share, uplift, and encourage other bloggers AND do it without wanting to get something in return.
Competition. I used to be one of the MOST competitive people. Hello high school sports. As I’ve grown up, this part of me has really cooled down. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m racing a 5K I’m still going to try my very best and push myself…but, I don’t feel competitive with other bloggers. I DO get annoyed that some of the women that I’m “going up against” to land these collaborations do things in a way that I would consider “cheating” (buying likes/followers or sending them to huge networks that have rules for how soon you need to like and comment on hundreds of other people’s photos). But alas, I’m not the Instagram police…so, I just have to be confident that there is good news in having integrity in the way you do things.
Staying caught up. I wish I had time to thoroughly answer every single person’s DM on Instagram and help! Some are more complex and I make a NOTE that I need to do a blog post on that subject (postpartum workouts and breastfeeding scenario). If I miss your message, it’s because it is hard to keep up with it all. I truly want to make every single person feel heard and cared for, so it is a balancing act for me.
Time. Blogging takes time. Social media posting takes time. I would be foolish to think I wasn’t on my phone more than the average person. Definitely a pit.
Y’all…there are SO many ways I could up my blog game. I’ve been saying I’m going to start using Pinterest for like a year. 😉 I just do my best in the time I have. I have a healthy relationship with my numbers and I don’t let the gram or blog get me down. This is a happy place and I’m happy that you’re here. I’d be so honored if you came back.
Hope you learned something or got the behind the scenes that you were looking for.
Have a great weekend!