Over the past 12 months, I’ve earned more than $1500 from a seldom-talked-about side hustle: sponsored blog posts.
In fact, it was a revenue model I’d never even considered until a company reached out to me last year and offered to pay $400 for a sponsored post.
$400! At the time, that was the most anyone had ever paid me for a piece of my writing.
OK, I’m listening, tell me how this works…
What is a Sponsored Post?
A sponsored post is pretty much what it sounds like: some company or brand paying to advertise on a site, except in a much more subtle, written-form, rather than a banner ad in the sidebar.
It’s a way for them to get in front of their target customers in a potentially more compelling way than a traditional ad. The content is usually written by the blogger, not the company, so it retains the voice and personality of the site.
Here are a couple examples of sponsored posts I wrote:
- 8 Things to Consider Before Starting a Physical Products Business
- Beyond $5: 5 Fiverr Gigs with High Average Order Values
They may not be my absolute BEST writing ever, but I think the content holds its own with the rest of what’s on Side Hustle Nation.
Pros and Cons of Sponsored Content
From a blogger’s perspective, the biggest advantage of hosting sponsored content is it’s an easy way to monetize your site.
- Get money
- You feel like a sell-out
- It destroys the “purity” of the content
Those cons can be hard to get over, and there will always be a balance to weigh.
But the last thing you need is to turn this into a giant moral dilemma.
Why You Probably Shouldn’t Feel So Bad
If you already have affiliate links, ads in your sidebar, or ads on your podcast, you’ve already made the decision that it’s OK to make money from your content.
There’s no shame in that, right? After all, you invested a ton of time and energy to create it, yes?
And unless your blog is purely a passion project or purely a marketing channel for your own business, eventually it’s going to have to ring the cash register in some way to justify its existence and your continued effort in it.
With sponsored posts, you still retain editorial control. After all, it’s still YOUR site and you don’t have to publish anything you’re not comfortable with.
In fact, I’ve turned down or ignored WAY more requests to host sponsored content because the brand or product simply was not a great fit for Side Hustle Nation, or was something I didn’t believe in.
Where to Find Sponsored Post Opportunities
There are several companies that help connect brands with bloggers. These companies facilitate sponsored posts and take a fee on top of your rate from the sponsor.
Here are a few that represent a wide range of industries:
I’ve worked with Triberr and Izea before, and you may find a niche-specific agency for your industry.
Still, the best opportunities (and the highest payouts) may be found by going direct to advertisers you’d like to work with. Specifically, what I’d do is find other blogs in your niche, search for keywords like “sponsored” (for example), and see what advertisers, if any, they’ve worked with.
Then you can reach out directly to those sponsors and pitch your service. Come prepared with your stats like monthly unique visitors, social account following data, and your proposed rate.
How Much Should I Charge?
Speaking of rates, how much should you get for a sponsored post?
Naturally, this will vary based on your traffic and engagement, but if I can offer two words of advice they would be this: Aim high.
In most cases I’ve been asked to name my price first. Negotiation 101 says that puts me in the weaker position, but I can always come down from that if I’m out of the acceptable range.
Keep in mind that big brands have big budgets. If they’re used to buying TV spots, you are a total bargain. Like I said, last year I was shocked to be offered $400 for a single sponsored post (and some social media shares), but that quickly gave me a baseline to use when other companies reached out.
And traffic has gone up 3-4x since then, so I think I’m about to have a new baseline!
Don’t sell for less than you’re comfortable with, and know that you may be able to earn more than you imagined. To get an idea of what to ask for, you may look around to see if any other bloggers in your niche have a public rate sheet, or email them directly to ask.
Worst case, pick an aggressive number you can live with and see what happens. Even if they say no, you’re no worse off.
Be sure to conspicuously label all sponsored content on your own site and on social media as “Ad” or “Sponsored.” The FTC has strict regulations about advertising content posing as editorial content and has even issued some big fines to fight the issue.
The disclosure can be as simple as:
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fiverr in partnership with Kasai Media. All opinions are 100% mine.
Or more in-depth, like this:
Disclosure: In conjunction with National Small Business Week, UPS partnered with bloggers such as me for their UPS Small Business program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. UPS believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. UPS policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.
But either way, make sure to include something to this effect on any sponsored post you publish.
Before accepting my first sponsored post, one of my biggest fears was if this was “allowed” by Google.
Since more than half my traffic comes from organic search, the last thing I wanted to do was jeopardize my standing with big G.
Similar to other forms of online advertising, sponsored content is 100% OK; but there is a caveat. Per Google:
Paid links: A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use
nofollowon such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word “Advertisement”).
The “nofollow” tag is a simple way to signal to Google and other search engines not to pass any “link juice” to the destination site. This protects both you AND your sponsor, because buying links for SEO purposes is a risky move too.
To get this done, just toggle to the HTML view of your site, find the link in question, and add rel=”nofollow” to the <a> section.
Original link: <a href=”http://google.com”>Google.com</a>
No-Followed link: <a href=”http://google.com” rel=”nofollow”>Google.com</a>
Piece of cake.
(In WordPress, there’s also a free plugin that will add a simple “nofollow” checkbox to your link-builder tool.)
Have you ever accepted sponsored posts?
Do you think there’s a way to do them in such a way that it’s a win-win-win for the blogger, the sponsor, and the reader?