How to Grow and Monetize a Blog

** This post is sponsored by ShopStyle Collective.

When I started blogging almost 15 years ago, there was no “business” of blogging. The blogosphere was a geeky subculture of people sitting at home on their computers, writing under pseudonyms to connect and share with other like-minded strangers on the internet.

There was also no differentiation between creators and consumers back then; we were all one and the same. Either you were an active part of the community, writing a blog and reading and commenting on other blogs, or you probably had no idea the space even existed.

I still remember paying for my first professional blog design…

Little did we know what Musings of a Housewife would eventually become!

Over time, more and more people discovered blogs and started looking to them for information as well as entertainment and connection. Once brands began to realize our influence, they wanted to get in on the action, and a new media was formed.

What started out as a fun hobby and a way to connect with other stay-at-home moms has become my full-time job and a lifestyle brand that reaches over a million viewers a month.

My blogging path ​has been a long and winding one, but I think I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.

I often get asked for advice about growing on monetizing a blog, so I’m going to talk about that today, and I also want to tell you about the new Standard Program from Shopstyle Collective.

This program is specifically designed to help new bloggers learn affiliate marketing, audience growth, and content creation; and it’s open to anyone interested in becoming part of the influencer space. If you’ve been considering starting a blog, or you’re a new blogger looking for some guidance and direction, you will definitely want to take advantage of this!

First, let’s talk about what’s involved in owning and operating a blog. There’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

What Do You Do All Day?

My typical day starts between 5:30 and 6:30 AM. After I have a quick devotion with my coffee, I get right to work. That’s a personal choice, but with older kids who are more chatty in the afternoons and evenings, the mornings are my best time to work uninterrupted.

I usually start by checking my stats and responding to any emails that came in over night. Then I put the finishing touches on the day’s blog post and send out my email newsletter. I schedule a few pins to Pinterest via the Tailwind app, share the day’s post to my Facebook page, and prepare my ShopStyle Look and Instagram post for later in the day.

After that, it varies. Every day is different, but my tasks may include:

  • creating product collages and graphics for Pinterest
  • moderating and engaging in my JLS Insiders Facebook Group
  • fielding emails and negotiating contracts
  • researching trends and sourcing products for blog posts

  • writing content for daily blog posts
  • sending my daily email
  • creating ShopStyle Looks so users can shop my Instagram posts
  • engaging with readers on the blog and social channels
  • steaming clothes and prepping for photo shoots, packing the car, traveling to and from photo shoots, and unpacking afterwards

  • editing pictures from try-ons and daily outfits (thank goodness Alison edits my professional photos!)
  • creating sponsored content
  • amplifying that content on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
  • following up on collaborations and submitting links and reports on reach and engagement

  • un-packaging and trying on new products
  • returning products I don’t use
  • studying my analytics and planning future content

Then there’s the technical side of the business and everything it takes to keep a website up and running.

There’s a financial investment as well. While it is possible to start a blog on a free platform, I don’t recommend building a business there. It’s far better to own your own domain with a self-hosted WordPress blog, and that requires hosting fees and potentially a professional blog design.

You may also choose to hire a photographer or administrative help. I have two assistants who help out behind the scenes on an as-needed basis.

How Do You Monetize a Blog?

My revenue comes mostly from three sources: ads, sponsored posts, and affiliate links.

#1. Ads are pretty straight-forward, and most people recognize banner ads at this point. I use an ad network to manages my ads, and they pay based on impressions. Every time a person clicks on a page or post on my blog, that is considered an impression, or a page view. Those page views determine how much I earn from my ads.

#2. Sponsored Posts are direct partnerships with a specific brand or retailer. We agree on a flat rate in exchange for a blog post or series of posts to promote their product or service, and that often includes amplification on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

The brand may give some talking points and marketing goals they want me to share, and they sometimes ask to approve the content before it goes live to make sure the messaging is on point, but the blog post and social copy is 100% written by me.

In the interest of transparency, and to be in compliance with the FTC, I always tell you at the beginning of a post if it is sponsored, and of course, I only partner with brands I actually use and trust.

Brands will sometimes reach out directly via email or Instagram message, but I get most of my sponsored work these days from ShopStyle Collective.

#3. Affiliate Marketing is a commission-based revenue model. I generate affiliate links to products and services I’m talking about through ShopStyle or a similar network, and I earn commissions when a user makes a purchase from one of those links.

It’s important to note, the user doesn’t pay any more when she shops through an affiliate link; it’s basically the same as shopping from a salesperson at the mall who works on commission.

There are other ways to monetize a blog — like offering paid courses, eBooks, consulting gigs, etc., but these are my main sources of income.

I realize this is a lot of information, and the learning curve can be steep, which is why I’m excited to tell you about ShopStyle Collective’s new Standard Program.

The Standard Program from ShopStyle Collective

ShopStyle Collective is my primary affiliate network, and they have just launched a new program targeted specifically for users under 10,000 followers. This program is designed to help new bloggers learn affiliate marketing, audience growth, and content creation. Best of all, anyone can join.

Most affiliate marketing is based on a pay-per-sale model, meaning you only make a commission when you make a sale from the link. But the Standard Program is a pay-per-click model, which means you instantly earn a small commission when someone clicks on one of your links. It offers a straightforward tool set consisting of text links and simplified analytics.

This is a great way to get started with monetization and will help you learn what type of content converts best for your audience. Eventually, Standard Program users can graduate to the Advanced Program, which is based on the pay-per-sale model and provides access to more tools, analytics, and retailers.

Obviously, the larger your audience, the more products you are likely to sell, and the more valuable you are to brands looking to partner with influencer. Which begs the question…

How Do You Grow An Audience?

Growing an audience and monetizing a blog in this noisy space is challenging, but it can be done. It was a lot easier when I got started because I kind of grew with the space, but if you’re looking to dive in now, I would consider the following:

#1. Decide on a niche.

In a saturated market like this one, it’s important to set yourself apart in some way. If you have a topic you love, that’s awesome, but consider how many other people are writing about the same topic. Is there a way to narrow it down to a certain aspect of the topic? Or is there an untapped niche related to that topic?

Fashion Over 40 was a rather untapped niche when I rebranded under my own name and niched down to fashion five or six years ago, but these days, we are a dime a dozen. I’ve tried to set myself from other fashion bloggers in my demographic by focusing on quality over quantity and taking a deep dive into the topics that I cover.

That’s partly just my personality and writing style, but it’s also been an intentional shift from trying to be all things to all people…or maybe I should say, all women over 40.

#2. Be true to yourself.

It should go without saying, but sometimes it takes a while to find your voice when you’re just starting out, and it can be tempting to copy people you admire. You won’t stand out in a crowd by imitating everyone else, especially these days when there is so much competition.

Stay true to yourself, and you will eventually find your people. It’s far better to have a small, loyal audience who trusts you and wants to support you than a large audience of drive-by readers that drop in from a giveaway or a Google search.

#3. Have a consistent and predictable posting schedule.

Once you decide on your niche and find your writer’s voice, it’s important to be consistent with your posting schedule.

That doesn’t mean you have to post daily; in fact, I don’t recommend that. But choose a schedule and stick to it so your audience knows what to expect. They come to depend on that, and if you’re willy nilly, posting whenever the spirit moves, people will lose interest and move on.

#4. Collaborate with other bloggers and get involved in the community.

One of the best way to find new people to bring into the fold is by collaborating with other bloggers who have a similar audience to yours. There are all kinds of creative ways to do this, but it’s best to approach people with an audience that’s a similar size to yours so the collaboration is mutually beneficial.

Maybe you do share week, where every day you each post a different way to wear a hot trend and promote each other all week long, or maybe you all style a holiday look on the same day and link to each other. Or maybe come up with a totally new idea that achieves the same goal.

#5. Post quality content.

This really should have been #1, or maybe it’s good to end on the most important tip. Content is king, and that hasn’t changed.

There are all kinds of courses on content strategies and SEO and how to leverage Pinterest, and those may be valuable. But if you aren’t putting out quality content, none of those strategies will matter in the long run. The cream always rises to the top.

Figure out how to add value to someone’s life by saving them time, solving a problem, or teaching a new skill, and then deliver that information consistently and truthfully. That’s how to grow an audience in 2020.

And if you’ve been thinking about starting a blog and are feeling overwhelmed or stuck on where to start, definitely check out ShopStyle Collective’s Standard Program.

They’ve been a wonderful partner to me over the past few years, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. You can find out more about the program here, or feel free to comment or email me with more questions!

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19 Responses

  1. JoLynne, I enjoyed your post today. It’s honesty and completeness was so refreshing. Thanks for your willingness to help new people get into the business. 
    I look forward to your blog and although I’m over 60 I find your content to be timeless and classy. 
    Have a great day. 

  2. As usual, you are thoughtful and ready to help others. I think that’s one reason you have so many faithful followers. It’s so nice of you to explain to others what you do for a living. Many people have no idea that blogging is a 12 hour a day. Thank you for all you do.

    1. The nice thing about blogging is, you can put as much or as little into it as you want, and it’s always there when you come back to it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I think a lot of people do it for a hobby and to work on writing, and those are definitely good reasons to start as well.

  3. Hi! This was very interesting! I am curious to know – how do you remember what item came from what store for returns? How do you keep it all straight? Do you take the tags off everything for photo shoots? And how do you remember what tags go with each piece? And do you tell companies you are a blogger and will have a high return rate? Some companies can get a little weird if too many things are returned. I enjoy reading your blog and getting outfit inspiration from you – you make it look effortless! Hope you have a great day!

    1. I have a weird mind for facts and details like what items came from which stores. I can even remember product names and sizing info. But also, they all have tags, so it’s not hard to keep track. I never delete an email – I just archive them in my gmail account – and I often search for things to remember what size I got if people ask. I don’t remove tags unless I’m keeping things. And so far I haven’t had any issues with a higher than average rate of returns. I don’t usually tell people I’m a blogger when I’m shopping, you never know how they will react. Not everyone appreciates us, lol.

      it is certainly not effortless, but I do enjoy it, so thank you. 🙂

  4. I have no interest in starting a blog, but I was interested in how it all works (just curious.) Great post! I learned so much. I love reading your posts; I learn so much about your thought process in your outfits. I love your honesty, your dedication, and how you explain everything so well. I also am amazed that you answer all my questions and my comments!
    I am 66 (yikes! how did that happen!), and I love your inspiration and clothing. I will be changing what I need in the coming year when I retire in May and move to North Carolina, so I am not buying any heavy winter clothes (love the boots you styled!) and not much for “work wear”. Teaching on line means I only have to dress on top, but you give me inspiration to wear a necklace, do my make-up (which I never really wore much of, but now do a bit more. I have learned so much from your posts on make-up and skincare!)

  5. I can’t wait to sit down and dissect this post.  So much to unpack!  I’d really like to focus on blogging more regularly after the holidays and I already see that there’s great advice here (even though I focus on home and humor vs fashion).   Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

  6. Wow Jo-Lynne. I had NO idea blogging was that involved. I appreciate all your HARD work even more.  I don’t know how you get it all done.  I think you are set apart in that you are so REAL, share your family life, answer questions so quickly and just all around great help to make fashion fun and informative.  Keep up the good work.  Enjoy the rest of your day. It was sunny and mild here in Oregon today.  I got a good walk in this morning.  🙂  

    1. Thanks, Kathy. It is a lot, but I love it so it doesn’t seem like work (most of the time… ha!) The community and connections with other women is my favorite part. Glad you’re getting some pretty weather!

  7. What a great read about how much work you do for this blog. What sets you above all other bloggers is your attention to detail. Not only do you show us something, more importantly, you tell us about it. I have learned so much about fashion from you. Thank you for all that you do, Jo-Lynne!

  8. I really enjoyed this post. I find the business of blogging fascinating. I was recently talking with a friend of mine about how there aren’t any “super models” anymore (don’t remember why we started talking about that – haha!), but for us Elle and Vogue magazines were our fashion guides and we looked up to Cindy Crawford and Claudia Shiffer. Now things are so different! And it doesn’t look like influencer driven advertising is going anywhere; it is just increasing!

    I joined Instagram a few years ago in order to follow some teacher bloggers. I had just started selling some of my own teaching products I created on a popular teaching website and wanted to see how using Instagram might increase my sales. I started a teaching blog and wrote exactly 9 posts. 😬 I found it difficult to really put the time in while also teaching full time and spending all the hours needed in my “regular day job.” It seems to be that the young teachers just starting their careers are the ones with the really successful blogs and Instagram accounts. Many have sponsored posts much like you fashion bloggers do. But I’m in awe of how they do it all and still have a life. Reading your blog post just emphasizes how much work is involved with running your blog business. I am working on writing a children’s book right now though and that gives me another passion to work on away from teaching. 

    Anyway, I’m glad that I found your blog a few years ago. I’ve gotten many ideas and bought some great products through your links. You are unique in that you definitely connect more with your readers than any other blogger I’ve seen. You invite us into your life in a more personal way and are very down-to-earth and real. I don’t sense anything fake about you. People feel like they know you and therefore trust your advice. 
    Thank you! 🖤

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