A few weeks ago we discussed Blog Sponsorship (sponsoring other bloggers and advertising) in the New Blogger Series, so today let's discuss accepting sponsorship on your own blog.
Blog Sponsorship is basically when someone pays you to put their advertisement up on their blog, or when you pay someone else to put your advertisement up on theirs. In essence, they are sponsoring your blog (allowing you to put that money towards advertising for yourself, improving your blog, or whatever you'd like) while they in return get exposure for their blog/shop/site they are advertising.
Finances. It's not pretty to talk about money, but it's a fact of life we all have to deal with. While for most of us blogging is a beloved hobby, it's not a free hobby. I spend hundreds of dollars a year putting together awesome giveaways, sending happy mail, paying for my domain hosting (having an actual blog domain makes you really stand out and seem more professional), advertising on other blogs to get more readers, etc. Paying all of that money out of pocket for a hobby can cause some burnout-but being able to finance your hobby with your hobby-it's fantastic; and if someday you can turn that hobby into a career that you actually enjoy-that's even better.
When should you start accepting ads? When you feel ready. You have to know that accepting ads is going to take some time and effort, so you'll want to make sure that you have the time and ability to devote to your blog. Not only for promoting your sponsors, but for blogging on a regular basis. If you're not blogging often, then you wont be bringing as many eyes to your blog on a daily basis (you don't have to blog every day, but multiple times a week is important) then your advertisers/sponsors aren't going to be getting that much attention either.
So in short, make sure you have the time to devote to blogging as well as promoting your sponsors, content for your blog (DIY posts, family posts, etc.), and the ability to do all of these things. If you only blog once a month, don't own a working computer, or don't use Social Media, accepting sponsorship is most likely not for you.
So you've decided to start accepting advertising, now what? Well first you're going to have to decide how you want to do it. Do you want to kick it old school and arrange all of the payments and set up manually? Or do you want to hire a service that takes care of it all for you? There is no right or wrong about it-it's all about the work vs. cost you are willing to put into it, and the benefit you're hoping to receive out of it.
The Old School Way: This method requires that you have potential advertisers email/contact you to request an ad set up. You can then arrange payment with them manually and have them send it over, and then manually ad their button/ad to your sidebar as you see fit. Using this method will require you to be on top of your dates and pricing, because you will also have to remember to manually take down the ad once they are no longer paying for it. This method is generally cheaper, but takes a lot more work.
Hiring a Service: This method is generally much easier for you and the advertiser. You can hire a service that handles all of the billing, setup, and dates for you. While this is the easier option, it usually does cost money (for a good one) so if ease of use is worth a cost to you, this is your best option.
While I've heard of a couple such services, I personally, I use Passionfruit Ads (and no, they did not pay me or sponsor me in anyway for what I'm about to say-I just love it!) to sell my ads, and I will never go back. They make it so effortless to set everything up and then they handle the rest. All I have to do is approve the ads and then follow through with what I offer my sponsors later. I never have to worry about taking an ad down at the end, putting it up, following through with payment, etc. It's all automatic, and they have fantastic support.
The next thing you'll want to decide is what sizes to offer, how many of each size, and where in your sidebar you're going to put them. If you look at my right sidebar I have them off to the far right, but still at the top of the page so they're easily seen. When potential advertisers look for a place to put their button, they're going to consider where your ads are placed (I hardly ever sponsor anyone who has them at the bottom of their blog so you have to scroll all the way down to see them) and they're going to look for nice large visible buttons.
When deciding sizes, you'll first want to consider the size of your sidebar. How wide is it? How far down do you want the ads to go? This is how you can determine the size of your ads. The best size for my sidebar is 200px wide. This fits comfortably and fills the space. Then based on the ad you choose the height varies-such as 200x300, 200x200, or 200x100. Making all of your ads the same width looks much more professional since they fill the space better. If you were to make them different widths, then I recommend you cut it in half so that two will fit side by side (my swap ads are 100x100 so they still fill the full space and don't look awkward.)
After you've decided what ad sizes you'd like to see in your sidebar, you'll want to decide what you'll want to offer with each ad size. Generally the larger the ad, the more that is offered with it (and ultimately the more it'll cost to purchase-but we'll get to that) so you'll want to decide what you have time for and can promise to your sponsors.
Some common sponsor offerings include: Feature Posts, Guest Posts, Giveaway Options, Social Media Shares, etc. There are a lot of options you could go with, it's all about learning what you can handle and offer your sponsors. If you have a really busy life you might want to keep your offerings more limited. I had to get rid of Feature Posts because it took up too much time and space on the blog to post them (and I'm not sure people read them) but I do include a feature with Individual Giveaways for my sponsors.
Pricing. This is perhaps the trickiest part of accepting advertising. You don't want to scare potential sponsors away by charging too much, but you definitely need to know your worth and make it worth your while to accept sponsoring. So how do you decide?
- Followers & Page Views: Take a look at the amount of followers (both blog and social media) as well as your page views. If they're low, keep your prices lower to match. You can always change them in the future (I recommend giving current sponsors notice and/or a discount when doing so) to meet your growing blog.
- Sizing & Offering: Larger Ads with more perks should be more than smaller ads with less perks, but having different sizes/prices is great since people want different things for different budgets.
- Cover Your Costs: The whole idea of accepting sponsorship is to be able to "keep the lights on" for your blog. Consider what you pay for your space: hosting charges, advertising on other blogs/sites, the fee for using an ad service (if you go that route), etc. Make sure you break it down and factor it into your ad prices too so you can make sure what's coming in is more than what is going out.
Now that you've decided how you want it all set up and what you want to charge, it's time to start attracting sponsors to your blog. When you're first starting out, this can be very difficult. Have you ever heard the phrase "You have to have a dollar to make a dollar?" The same can be said for advertising. You need to have ads in your sidebar in order to attract more ads-people want to see what it will look like if they decide to put their ad their.
For your first month, you can expect not to make a whole lot of money-so why not give away a few ad spots? Start by picking a few of your close friends, favorite bloggers, or favorite shops and offering them a free month of advertising on your blog. Not only does that help your image for other potentials, but there's a chance that those advertisers will want to renew and pay next month (especially if you offer a return discount code.) Then run a giveaway. Give a few of your ad spots away to a few lucky winners-giveaways drum up attention and you're doing your job of filling your sidebar. Having that dollar, so-to-say. Frequent discounts and sales are also great ways to drum up attention!
Write up a blog post, share it on as many social media sites as you can (facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, etc.) so that you can get the word out. The possibilities are endless!
- You don't have to accept every ad. It's totally up to your discretion! If you feel a potential advertiser doesn't fit with your blog or that you can't support their product for some reason, you can reject the ad.
- Communication is important! Always communicate with your sponsors. Email them welcoming them when they advertise, gather information from them (I like to create a Google form for them to fill out), comment on their blogs often, respond to their inquiries, etc. No one wants to sponsor someone who doesn't communicate.
- Don't overestimate your limits. I do this. I try to offer too much and sometimes can't always follow through. I always try to make it up to them (adding free months, etc.) if I feel I haven't done my best, but it's still never good to offer something and then not do it.
- Reward your return sponsors. I love offering advertisers a hefty (sometimes 30%-70%) discount for renewing their ads, and people who return often and continue to support me will often find I automatically extend their ads for free months here and there to show my appreciation.
- Learn from other bloggers. Pay attention to how other bloggers run their ads. It can be very useful as you narrow down what you want to offer and the kind of blog you want to be.
- Have fun with it. Not only is this an opportunity to make some extra money, but it's a fantastic opportunity for you to get to know new bloggers and shops and not only find amazing things but make new friends.
What's your best Sponsorship advice?
Also don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, I'll answer in the comments!
Want to read more about this from other bloggers?
Other Lessons in the New Blogger Series: