Six weeks ago, when I announced that I had quit my job in bartending to pursue this whole “writing thing” full time, some people felt concerned for me - like REALLY REALLY concerned. I had made this decision based on several other people’s belief in me. But now, my more anxious advocates began to enter my floodgates. And my floodgates have enough trouble keeping themselves shut as it is.
“I’m really worried for you,” a friend/customer/former-naked-yoga-classmate said. “I remember when Towleroad sent out an email begging for subscribers to click on his ads. If they didn’t, he couldn’t afford to keep it going and would get shut down.”
I had never heard of Towleroad because, as I admitted from the beginning, I never actually read any blogs. I went onto his site and immediately discovered… well, that we had pronounced the name entirely wrong. I’m sure it happens to the best of us. People can hardly get my blog’s name right. But then I discovered how he was no longer a “he,” but rather had become a “leading online news source” with more than 50 authors.
It all started as a personal blog of Andy Towle. From editor in chief at Genre magazine to working in feature film development at Twentieth Century Fox, this man boasted an impressive resume. I couldn’t tell if it’s evolution made me feel hopeful or nervous. Either way, I immediately knew what my friend/customer/former-naked-yoga-classmate didn’t mean to actually say. If a guy like Towle struggled to keep his blog financially viable, what chance would I have?
The question on everyone’s mind kept boiling down to this: “How does one make money as a blogger?” I've come to learn that some bloggers out there don't like to disclose how they be ballin. But that's not how I roll. I don't want to be some cat burglar, all dressed up in black, sneaking around and making stealthy financial gains from under the noses of my followers.
So for this week’s essay, I figured I would once again embrace that sense of total transparency, explain what I have learned, and how I plan to put it into action. I want to strip off the black burglar outfit and show that I have nothing to hide. And for those of you curious on starting your own blogs (as I’m getting asked more and more), pay extra attention.
First off, a blogger could start charging for their content. Fortunately I wouldn’t even have to charge much. If all newsletter subscribers pledged just one dollar per essay, I could sustain a minimally decent living - enough to afford a few more apples each week (occasionally organic if I’m feeling fancy). And that’d only be around $26 per year for all of these delightful little stories that hopefully don’t ever suck.
But in the end, I don’t want to go this route. As transparent and upfront as it is, I love giving away my blog content for free. It seems like everyone nickel-and-dimes each other these days. So the idea of offering up something for absolutely nothing has become a bit romantic. This is why I keep our home available for travelers on CouchSurfing rather than AirBnB. Our guests constantly say how we should start charging for the guest room. However giving it away to help those in need of a solid vacation just feels better than getting a fistful of cash.
Another way, I could start ballin’ like a blogger is to put ads up on the site. But alas, I don't want to do this either. Again, nowadays, we all get slapped in the face with so many ads. Everywhere we turn, ours eyes get assaulted with them. I can’t quite tell if we’ve grown tired of it or have just become numb to it. But it just seems like one less thing the world needs. Plus having ads on the blog would slow down the site and tweak it’s lovely appearance that I worked ever so hard to create. Ads would have to be a last resort.
Then there’s the idea of doing partnerships. I actually plan to go with this option as my first experiment in making a living as an independent writer - which is ironic seeing as how I don’t fully comprehend how this would even work for a blog like this. For instance, a blog expert that blogged on blogging might partnership with other sites that help build blogs. Those sites would then pay this blog expert blogger to recommend them to his audience.
It’s like a wordy product placement that makes sense for a field expert, but not for a storyteller like me. How on earth would I fit products into my stories? Could you imagine what that might read like?
“I couldn’t believe what Jasper just said. How dare he accuse me of stealing! I was so upset that I immediately ran downstairs and started doing laundry with the Boulder Clean all natural laundry detergent. Boulder Clean gets all the stains out without any harsh chemicals. But would I ever get these stains out of mine and Jasper’s relationship?”
Ugh. That’s terrible. By the way, Boulder Clean is a real product that I really use. They didn’t pay me to write that awful example. But a friend of mine works for them and we will see if I can convince him to write me a check after using them to demonstrate such atrocity. To be continued…
So anyway, in an effort to not destroy my storytelling, my partnerships will have to look a little different. Luckily a new online vendor, Undies & Lube™, contacted me with a great idea. We could combine forces to create a new under/lube bundle with some Bare InkSlinger twist on it. Together we will sell this for a limited time. Those who want it can buy it. Those who don’t want it can ignore it and just keep reading. Everyone's a winner. Maybe. I think.
At first, I worried that partnershipping with an underwear and lube vendor might look a bit too tawdry. But as someone else objectively pointed out, it's actually well within my brand of body positivity and sex positivity. Sticking within my brand means my audience won't have to worry about me suddenly trying to sell them tupperware or anything. Truth be told, I’ve actually already been offered to sell toothpaste. Even though I certainly have the big teeth to hawk it, I politely turned it down as I don't often write about dental hygiene.
Regardless of how I do partnerships, my oath to my audience is that I will ALWAYS be transparent about it. If I get paid to endorse something, or am given free product to promote on the blog or on Instagram (this concept is getting insanely popular on Instagram), I will be honest and acknowledge it. I would also only do this for items that I actually use or think worthy of use. I would never promote something I thought sucked.
And the final way a blogger makes money is by opening an online store to sell shwag within their brand. I’ve been watching how other online personalities or public figures do this, and while some do it well, others can do it poorly. Let’s just say that I don’t want to merely slap my logo or face on a t-shirt or phone case and call it a day. I don’t want to turn my audience into walking billboards for me.
Okay, fine. There probably WILL be t-shirts. But through my love of words and artwork, and my good fortune to collaborate with some seriously talented folk, I hope to create some really cool, unique items that people would actually want to buy. This way, I could hopefully sustain a living by selling original artworks, photography, etc to then keeping my blog content sustainably free.
By now, I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds fairly risky. Actually you may now be thinking of how much laundry you need to get done (I know I am). But either way, don’t worry. You will eventually get your laundry done and I will eventually make a living as a writer. Fingers crossed.
The fact is that this venture really is truly risky. I have no idea if my partnerships will interfere with people’s enjoyment of my work, or if my online goods will spark anyone’s interest. But attempting it will be a whole lot better than going back to the bureaucratic, nine-to-five cubicle from which I narrowly escaped before it fully killed my soul. And, as much as I enjoyed slinging drinks at the bar, the late night hours and consistent over alcohol consumption began prodding at my Bipolar side. That’s not even a joke.
I had spent a whole lifetime of playing it safe and all it got me was being uncomfortably comfortable. In order to break free from this, one has to take risks. These various ways of making a living certainly sound like a shit ton of work with a potentially unstable result. But sometimes the only thing crazier than taking a huge risk, is that of taking none at all.
Edited by Glen Trupp
Copyright © 2017 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.
Photography Copyright © 2017 Rob Kavalek, Used With Permission