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This post is a little “off-topic” for Live Simply. I’m not a blogger blog, how-to blog, or a money blog. I’m simply a mom who loves kombucha, butter, and homemade lotion, writing a blog that’s grown larger than I ever could have imagined. Today, I’m changing things up. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with a really cool (and simple!) DIY later this week, but today, we’re going to talk about the hush-hush “m” word…money.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time, but since money is kind of a taboo topic, I’ve put it off. When people find out that I work as a full-time blogger, I’m frequently asked,”Do you make money blogging? How do you do that?” Of course, once people find out that Live Simply actually generates money, the response is often, “Hmm…Maybe I should start blogging?”
Before I talk about the how, let me just stop here and clarify this whole money-making thing.
In April of 2013, I started Live Simply. I didn’t know what I was doing as a blogger. My mom and grandma were my only two readers, and I didn’t have a clue that money could be made from a blog. I started Live Simply with one important asset…passion! I was passionate about my family’s real food lifestyle, the homemade soap I made in my kitchen, and our quest to simplify life. I personally believe passion is how every successful blog grows and thrives, and yes, eventually even makes money. But, the desire to bring in the green should not be the reason a person starts blogging, nor what fuels a blogger to continue writing each and every day.
“But wait, that’s not fair! I have passion and want to make money.”
I get it, but here’s the deal.
Live Simply didn’t make money for the first twelve months of existence. Nope, not one single penny. I put long days and nights (many sleepless) into Live Simply before this blog ever made a penny (literally, a penny). I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but, rather, I’m saying this because blogging is hard work! Yes, it’s awesome that I get to spend my days writing about simple, natural living. Yes, the perk of stashing 10 pounds of butter in my fridge for “recipe testing” is amazing! But, there have also been many missed play-dates, beach outings forsaken, and long nights of editing and writing after the kids are in bed. All this to say, blogging is fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work! If you start a blog with the number one desire of making money, you’ll soon be disappointed by the amount of work involved and little compensation for many months (even years). Passion is what will keep you going!
Since the start of Live Simply, the blog has grown larger than I ever could have imagined. What started with two readers (love you, Mom and Grandma) is now made up of over 250,000 unique family members (this post was written in 2014, so this number has now increased). With growth comes expenses…
- Since starting the blog, we’ve outgrown three servers (as of 2016, we’ve outgrown two more servers). Upgrading means paying more with each server upgrade to maintain the blog. A great “problem” to have!
- Over the summer, I realized that the Live Simply family desired more than what I alone could provide on the topics of natural, real, and simple. I decided to bring on three team members, including myself and Dustin. These team members help with admin work, recipe development, social media, and graphic design. These passionate team members are paid.
- The beautiful photos, food, and DIYs found on the blog, all cost money to consistently create, test, and share. Camera gear must be maintained. “Props” (AKA, plates and bowls that haven’t been chipped and glued back together) and ingredients must be purchased, often multiple times due to multiple testing of recipes.
I’m so thankful for the expenses. They are a welcomed sign that Live Simply has become a blog much larger than just myself, with a family of readers making a difference in homes and communities across the world. But these expenses also require money.
So, the big question: How does one make money in an authentic way without selling out, staying true to readers and a passion for sharing life?
Today, I’m going to very honestly answer this question. I should also note, before moving on, that the money made here at Live Simply, all goes back into the “company” (that just sounds way too formal) right now. Maybe someday I’ll get a paycheck from Live Simply, but for now, we choose to reinvest in Live Simply to continue bringing our readers the best of simple, natural, and real food.
How to Authentically Make Money Blogging:
The ads on my sidebar are placed by an ad network or networks. These companies service ads for many different companies, but we try to define our terms: no processed food ads, indecent ads, pharmaceutical ads, etc. There have been times when ad networks have manipulated our contract and placed unwanted ads on Live Simply, but we’ve promptly contacted the ad agency when this has happened, even removing the ad network if necessary. We could add more ads (with broader ad content), but we don’t want to take away from Live Simply or the message we promote. After all, you come to Live Simply for recipes, DIYs, and simple tips. You don’t come to Live Simply to stare at a million different ads that go against our message, whether serviced by an ad network or sold directly to companies.
Dustin (my husband and all-things tech/design guy) and I are very protective over the space here at Live Simply, including ad placement and the ads being serviced. You may have noticed that we don’t use ads on Live Simply’s homepage or main category pages, because Live Simply is not about money, we are about you and sharing our journey of simple, natural living!
The ads that are serviced are an easy way for Live Simply to receive income and support the blog as they don’t require you to click or buy anything.
Side Note: If you ever see an ad that is disturbing or just annoying (like a video ad) please contact me.
2. Live Simply Books:
As a young child, I always dreamed of writing a book when I grew up. I’ve always loved writing and sharing stories. Two months ago, I self-published my first eBook, Real Food Planning Challenge. I truly had no idea how much work goes into writing a book until I actually sat down and started writing, creating printables (actually Dustin did that), and editing. There were many days that I felt like giving up, but I pressed on. Finally, the 130-page challenge was born! Despite advice to charge more, we wanted to keep the book very affordable for our readers, so we priced it at a low $8.99.
This week, another Live Simply eBook was published, Holiday Celebrations, a holiday cookbook featuring 32 of my favorite recipes (no longer available). We also kept the price very affordable at $3.49 or free with the purchase of the Real Food Planning Challenge.
Both products authentically provide extensive help on real food topics, at an affordable price, while supporting Live Simply.
Live Simply also makes money through affiliate programs.
An affiliate program works by a company selling products and allowing a blogger to make a commission when someone purchases a product from the company. While there are many affiliate opportunities available, I believe a blogger should only focus on the opportunities they truly love and use. For Live Simply, this means Amazon.
I’m frequently asked about the products I love and use. With Amazon, I’m able to share the very products I use, giving you a choice to buy the product through Amazon or shop around locally or from other online resources. When you click on an Amazon link here at Live Simply, we receive a small commission (4-7%) on your purchase (there are exceptions).
While I love Amazon, I’ve noticed a recent craze in the blogging world to link anything and everything to Amazon just to get clicks and hopefully, money. This is the wrong way to use Amazon and not authentic, in my humble blogging opinion! Using Amazon to share products a blogger naturally uses and loves, which will help readers in making a recipe or finding a tool, is very useful. Randomly suggesting any and every product on Facebook or “funny” blog posts, just to get clicks and hopefully money, only leads to distrust.
The same goes for books and bundles. Here at Live Simply we only recommend books (and occasionally book bundles) that we truly love and enjoy! Books aren’t recommended to make money, rather to enrich your life.
4. Sponsored Posts:
2016 Update: We no longer work with sponsors/brands on Live Simply. Instead, we’ve focused the time we spent on sponsored work toward freelancing. We feel this is a better use of our time, and offers a more authentic blog experience (our number one goal) for readers.
If you’ve been around Live Simply for long, then you may have noticed this statement at the bottom of specific posts: “This post is sponsored by… The opinions and photos expressed are completely my own. As a blogger, I’m privileged to partner with companies making a difference in the natural and real food world. I only endorse companies and products I 100% love and believe in.”
When this statement is posted at the bottom of a post, it means I worked with a company (usually receiving payment and product) for the post. I have very strict standards when it comes to working with companies and will only work with companies offering products I personally love and use in my home and kitchen. Live Simply could make a lot of money by working with any and every company who solicits a partnership, but I don’t find this authentic or trustworthy. Soon, accepting every company offer, leads to endorsing products just because they pay. I would rather not work with companies then promote products just because they are free or the company compensate monetarily.
Along these lines, I also believe company posts should always benefit you! This means company sponsored posts are always ideas that originated here at Live Simply (not something a company pushes on us) and truly help the Live Simply community: recipes, DIYs, and useful tips.
5. Freelance Work:
One of my favorite ways to earn money is through freelance work.
Freelance work usually involves, for me, recipe development and photography for food and natural living companies. These recipes and photos rarely make it to the blog and are usually specifically requested by a company (using certain ingredients, etc.). While freelance work technically doesn’t involve Live Simply as a blog, all the companies I work with have found me through the blog (photos and recipes).
I have three purposes for writing such an “off-topic” post.
First, is to provide bloggers with authentic ideas for how to make money on a blog. A blog that’s first driven and written by passion, not the desire to monetize an online space.
Second, I want to provide you, as a reader, with an honest answer for the question, “How do you make money here at Live Simply?”. You are always my first priority and the reason Live Simply exists, to share the passion of finding simplicity in natural and real food living. As a family, honesty is always important.
Third, with the many holiday parties approaching, the question of “What do you do for a living?” always comes up. Let’s just say “I’m a blogger” is a very unconventional answer. As I shared earlier, the next question is always related to money. So, this post is my answer to you, the sweet lady in the reindeer sweatshirt at last week’s party.