So while I was at ALT Summit, I did a panel on the business of blogging with Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind and Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101. I always enjoy presenting, but something about the chemistry with those two girls made this conversation extra engaging for me.
I finally remembered to ask someone to record my presentation, but neglected to bring her a tripod. (Thanks for your forbearance, Kelly.) Here’s a slightly shaky video of my portion of the presentation:
I know a lot of you are bloggers trying to bring in a little income, so here are the main points of our entire presentation — each of us took on four tips.
Beyond the Banner:
A 12-Step Program for Successful Content Campaigns
Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind:
1. Re-invent the wheel.
Creative campaigns are fun and memorable. Consider Jason, who’s renting out his torso at I Wear Your Shirt. What do you have to offer that’s a little offbeat?
2. Test the waters first.
Before you jump into a huge commitment with a single advertiser, put a toe in the water. This way you’ll know more about how your readers will respond, learn how to price yourself through trial and error, and figure out which campaigns make you want to take a nap, and which are fun.
3. Know your professional strengths.
If you’re crappy at project management or staying on top of communications with clients, hire someone to do that for you while you produce content.
4. Less is more.
Erin likes to keep a ratio of 95 percent content to 5 percent sponsored posts. You’ll find your own ratio, but be mindful that you’re giving your readers something of value while you’re paying the rent.
Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101:
5. It’s not all about you.
Think about the sponsor, what are their wants and needs? Let that shape the program you propose.
6. Measure your digital footprint.
Remember that your blog probably isn’t your only online presence. You may have readers on Twitter, Facebook, or even a newsletter. Think of the whole package.
7. Know thyself.
If your gut tells you that an advertiser doesn’t seem like the right fit, say no. Your readers know you, and they’ll obviously be able to tell if you’re promoting something and your heart isn’t in it.
No one likes to feel misled. Let your audience know who’s paying you and for what.
And me, Maggie Mason from Mighty Girl:
9. Consider events.
Throw a party for a local boutique, host an event in conjunction with a larger conference, or start a little retreat and build from there. If you enjoy throwing events, they can be a good way to build a tighter community while you grow your business.
10. Remember advertisers are people.
People who want to give you money are not your enemies, so keep the conversation going. If you start to feel adversarial about a proposed campaign, suggest other ways to work with a brand that might be more interesting to you and your readers. Even the largest brand has a team of people behind it, people with faces and families, who care about their product succeeding.
11. Pitch to your passions.
Seek out advertisers to support the content you’re already producing by being smart about how you package it. Can you tell people what your site is about in a single sentence? Is there a memorable narrative in your life story – maybe you’re building a house, starting your life over, becoming a new parent? Focus on that when you approach potential sponsors.
12. Know your worth.
Don’t just look at your daily unique visitors when you’re pricing a campaign. Consider your ability to amplify on Twitter, Facebook, via newsletter. Think about engagement — if you have a small audience of readers who are passionate about a particular subject and will leave lots of comments, that’s valuable to an advertiser. And don’t forget to take your time into account. Your work is probably worth more than you think.
That’s it! Are you trying to figure out how to make your living as a blogger? What did we forget?
I first met Erin last year at ALT, remember? Then Erin came to the Summit this year sporting a fresh pixie cut, and charmed everyone with her over-the-top sweetness. The girl is such a positive force that all of us agreed that we wanted to keep her in our pockets for on-call ego boosts — Pocket Loechner.
In addition to being a dear, she is a powerhouse. Her site, Design for Mankind, was featured in the London Times as one of the top 50 design blogs in the world, and right now she and her husband are renovating their cabin and documenting the process for HGTV.com. She does not sleep.
I love Erin’s sense of humor when it comes to fashion, so I told her we needed to do a Mighty Closet next time she was in town. She offered to take some photos herself and pass them along instead. Genius. So here she is, Pocket Loechner, coming to you live from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Take it away, my sweet.
(Photos by Casie Towsley.)
Outfit One: Running Errands
This is an example of what I’d wear out and about, either to the grocery store, post office, or a coffee run. I used to reserve these types of activities for yoga pants and a hoodie, but I recently pixied myself and you’re not allowed to wear pixies and sweatpants. Unless, of course, you don’t mind being called ‘Sir’ in the cereal aisle. Hypothetically.
Pinstriped Oxford Shirt (Men’s): Banana Republic, Circa 2001
Navy Grandpa Cardigan: Heritage1981 I love the leather elbow patches!
Boyfriend Jeans: Levi, Circa 2004 The trick with wearing boyfriend jeans is to really buy men’s jeans. I’m totally not kidding here.
Boots: Antique, they were my grandmother’s!
Handbag: Vintage, thrifted
Frog Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Outfit Two: Birthday Party
Maggie asked for a cocktail party look, but we don’t have cocktail parties in these parts. So this is an outfit I’d wear if I were throwing myself a party.
Dress: Forever 21
Silver Sputnik Cocktail Ring: Antique, thrifted
Hairpiece: Tieks shoes come with this little ribbon around the box. I got a pair at the Mighty Summit, and thought the ribbon would make a cute headband.
Outfit Three: Working At A Local Cafe
Striped Sweater: F21
Confetti Skirt: Modcloth
Purple Tights: WeLoveColors.com
Navy Patent Wedges: Vera Wang, 2008
Gold Necklace: LemonadeHandmade This was a gift from the Mighty Summit.
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, Alameda Flea Market
Outfit Four: Lunch With Grandma
I don’t have any friends in Fort Wayne yet, so my most frequent lunch companion is my husband’s 90-something-year-old grandmother, who is fantastic and a total treat to hang with. Seriously. Anyway, this is what I’d wear to lunch with her, because she loves quirky boots and mixed patterns, and I enjoy surprising her with my latest combos. (Don’t tell anyone, but she just might be in direct relation with Iris Apfel. Never can tell!)
Striped Navy Boatneck: Land’s End Canvas
Striped Cardigan: F21
Herringbone Skirt: Tucker for Target Collection
Tights: Urban Outfitters, 2005ish
Boots: Anthropologie, Fall 2007
Brooch: Brooklyn Rehab, Gift
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Outfit Five: Out On The Town
This is an outfit I’d wear for an evening dinner with my sweet, sweet husband. You’re allowed to wear fake fur wherever you want in Indiana, so I take full advantage.
Dress: Tucker for Target (sold out online, but check your local store)
Faux Fur Vest: Vintage, thrifted
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Cicada Earrings: Erica Weiner Jewelry
1. I always wear a cocktail ring on my right index finger. It’s a staple of mine, and you’ll rarely see me without one.
2. I invest in jewelry, shoes, and little else. If an item has a pattern of any kind, I never pay full price, as patterns (with the exception of Breton stripes) are much easier to date than solids.
3. Colored tights are another staple, and I store these next to my cocktail rings. Snags ensue, but I consider colored tights and cocktail rings to be the President and Vice President of my wardrobe, so they can’t very well sit amongst the minions, can they?
Oh, Erin. How many times am I going to have to ask you to send me your grandmother’s boots before you bend to my will? Thanks for all your hard work putting this together. If I can’t have you in my pocket, having you in Mighty Closet is the next best thing.