Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Making Money and How to Get Press Samples

These aren’t exactly my favorite topics to talk about, because I think that focusing on them can undermine the genuine passion and effort that a lot of beauty bloggers put into their blogs, but they are certainly important pieces of a larger puzzle.  If it’s something you want to do full-time, it has to be a viable full-time job, which means you do need to earn money.  There are also expenses like products, equipment, hosting, and technical expertise.

Monetizing Your Blog

Display Advertising:  When you just start out, I fully recommend Google AdSense.  It’s free, easy to implement, and proven.  If you’re outside of the U.S./Canada, AdSense may not be as viable.  Since I’m not familiar with what networks may serve your specific region or country, you might want to google something like “AdSense alternatives for [your country].”  We continue to use AdSense to backfill any unsold inventory.  After you’ve built up your audience, you can consider joining one of the many advertising networks that exist, which usually have minimum requirements (usually in impressions, pageviews, or visitors). A few networks to look into: Glam, Style Coalition, and Total Beauty.  My experience is primarily with Glam, as we have been using them for three or four years now.  Networks are middlemen, just like AdSense is, that sell your inventory to advertisers, and they will take a cut.

Sponsored Content:  Sponsored content is usually when an advertiser gets involved with some other piece of the blog that isn’t the traditional advertising units (banners) that you see on a blog/website.  Brands can and have sponsored anything and everything, so it’s up to you where you want to go with that.  I will caution all on sponsored reviews, which is a sensitive subject.  Depending on your readers, they may be more or less receptive or skeptical of sponsored reviews. For us, we have determined that that’s an area we aren’t going to go into.  We do, however, write sponsored editorials (e.g. “what makes for a great girl’s night out?”) as well as advertorials (content that is written and supplied by the advertiser), and sometimes we have sponsored contests (many of our contest prizes are bought and provided by Temptalia but not all).  Sponsored content often pays at a much higher rate than regular ads.

Affiliate Marketing:  Affiliate marketing is usually in the form of links.  This means that when I link you to a product at a retailer, I might use an affiliate link. When you click on that link and actually buy something, I get a commission. This commission, for the record, is usually 3-5% of the purchase price (to put it in perspective, a $20 lipstick yields $0.60 in commission).  Most retailers belong to an affiliate network, but not all do, and some networks are more exclusive than others.  Here are a few to consider: Commission Junction, Google Affiliate Network, and Linkshare.

Keep Track of Your Expenses:  Part of monetizing your blog is also keeping your expenses down or knowing what they are.  If and when you start making some money from your blog, you may be able to take some deductions (check with your CPA!).

How to Get Press Samples

Obtaining press samples is a bit of an art form. It’s not a gimme–and it’s not guaranteed at all for any blogger.  We have great relationships with some brands, but other brands are nearly impossible to get samples from.  There are still a few brands who categorically refuse to send samples to non-print media.  Brands often receive 100-200 pieces of a product, and this is supposed to cover print and digital media.  This is why it can be difficult to get samples of a whole collection or a certain shade, and why it can differ dramatically from brand to brand (some get 500 pieces, some might get 50 or less).

How big or small your blog is often a factor in whether or not a brand can justify sending you one of the samples they have; and it doesn’t mean all small blogs are ignored, because genuine passion, good writing, an engaged audience, etc. are all important, too. Someone who is a devoted follower of the brand but may have a small audience may be just as important to the brand as a large blog who barely covers them.  Share your stats with pride (because you’ve worked hard!), and be sure to share metrics like pageviews, unique visitors, and visits.

Brands are interested in blogs and bloggers, and when it makes sense to, they’ll definitely do what they can to get product to the person.  It’s a good idea to focus on working with brands that you already know and love; ones that you regularly purchase from, ones you’ve covered extensively in the past.  It’s a great place to start the relationship from.  You can begin your relationship by introducing yourself, sharing links to previous reviews/posts you’ve done about the brand, and ask if they have a media list for new product launches/press releases.  Remember, you didn’t start your blog for freebies–there’s no need to send a laundry list of products you’d like them to send over.  If you’ve asked for a sample and have been denied, don’t take it personally.  Use it as motivation to keep building up your blog so the next time you ask, there’s no way for them to say no! :)

Series over!  For now, at least!  Hope you found it helpful :)

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34 thoughts on “Series: How to Start Beauty Blogging — Monetization (Making Money!), How to Get Press Samples

  1. MarioInvincible

    Thank you so much for writting these posts in detail. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog in a slightly different niche, and alot of this information applies as well :)

  2. This is great information, thank you :-) At the moment I’m still buying all the products that I review. But it’s quite costly! Make-up is my passion (which is why I became a make-up artist) and I love trying out new things and writing about it. But I won’t lie, it would help a lot if I received samples.

  3. lizlovesmakeup

    This was great! Thanks for this post. It is super helpful for a newer blogger, such as myself :)

  4. Miss Madd

    Christine, this is awesome! I just started my blog for a couple of months now (missmadd.com) and this will really help me. Thank you!

  5. FaerieEvenstar

    Brilliant post. Useful too! I’m not a big or popular blogger, but I put everything into what I write there, even if nobody else ever reads it! A very helpful post for a n00b like me! Thank you x

  6. Hi Christine, what an absolutely awesome, altruistic series! Thank you so much for that! I started my own beauty blog a little over a month ago and while I don’t dabble in advertising just yet, this series was so helpful! The key point you mentioned that I’m sticking to the most is “content is king”. It seems to work! I take my pictures with my iPhone in less than stellar conditions but I still get a little more views every day (I’m a bit obssessed with checking stats at the moment :D ) and I’m grateful for every single one of them.
    I’ve loved Temptalia for a lot of years and I’m trying to build an English-written blog that features products and brands you can get in Europe.
    All these tips and tricks were useful and I loved reading about your own blogging history. Keep up the amazing work!

  7. Great series!
     
    I blog, and while I’d certainly have fun reviewing and playing with PR samples (I’ve never reached out to brands / received any), they definitely aren’t why I started to or continue to blog. 

  8. geauxgirl

    Thank you Christine. In the last week I’ve been thinking of starting a blog, but unsure what direction to take. I’m still thinking (it may not even be a beauty blog) but now have better information. You do great work and your dedication shows in every post.

  9. giuliadeluca85

    thanks for this post: it’s very usefull!!

  10. I thought this was super informative and well-written. I think it’s a great idea for a series, Christine!

  11. This is a great post! I’m new to beauty blogging, but a long time internet marketer (going to drop my job and do it full time sometime next year) and you’ve done a great job covering the basics here.
     
    One little thing I can add: as you said, asking for samples can be a great way to build a relationship. I’ve found a good way to start is by letting them know I realize they can’t accommodate every request for freebies, but [I love their brand] or [my visitors are requesting it] or [any nice truth], and then get into what I can do for them – how many visitors might see it, etc. By letting them know you understand they have a tough job where they must disappoint some people, you often make them feel appreciated, and that makes them want to work with you more!

  12. takkitoes

    I don’t intend to go in to makeup blogging, but I certainly found this really informative! I had always wondered how you folks could make money at it and now I have a better understanding of what you guys are doing on your end. :) Thanks!

  13. Interesting read, Christine, despite having no beauty blog ambitions myself..  Great tips and very informative for those who do!

  14. This series is fantastic!
     
    I have a quick question for your Christine: You said that you use WordPress. Now is that WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Because they’re very different, as I’m sure you know. :) Because I know that WordPress.com does not allow for any affiliate links, with the exception of a few “large” blogs that have to apply or something. Is that how Temptalia works? Or do you use WordPress.org and build everything yourself? Or I guess Shaun does that!
     
     

  15. Kafka

    Fascinating. And, for those who hope to blog about anything, a very inspiring series as a whole. Thank you for sharing that.  One thing I’ve wondered when it comes to big, established blogs which are essentially a full-time business and job: can you claim makeup purchases (or whatever is the subject-matter of the blog in question) as a necessary business expense for the purpose of taxes? The labyrinthian horrors of the Tax Code are beyond me, esp. for a field such as blogging (which I assume would make one a 1099).  (Thank God for accountants!)

  16. Kafka

    Fascinating. And, for those who hope to blog about anything, a very inspiring series as a whole. Thank you for sharing that.  One thing I’ve often wondered about when it comes to big, established blogs which are essentially a *full-time business* and job: can you claim makeup purchases (or whatever is the subject-matter of the blog in question) along with platform costs as a necessary business expense for the purpose of taxes? The labyrinthian horrors of the Tax Code are beyond me, esp. for a field such as blogging (which I assume would make one a 1099) but I assume there are some rules pertaining to blogs that are essentially a full-time occupation and business, no? If one can claim such deductions, it might make some of the expenses a wee, tiny bit easier to handle in the long run. (Btw, thank God for accountants who deal with this stuff so that many of us don’t have to!)  If you feel your answer may lead to potential tax minefields for people who won’t check with their *own* accountant for their individual circumstances, feel free not to answer.  :) 

    •  @Kafka I have a CPA, and I am able to take business-related deductions :) The crux seems to be how much you spend vs. how much you take in. Do you really treat it as a business? etc. Kind of like “if it looks like a business, talks like a business, and walks like a business… it’s a business.” But you absolutely need to talk to a professional CPA to make sure you take the right deductions!

  17. corallista

    Incredibly helpful, thank you Christine!

  18. lattawo

    Thanks for posting this! Very informative, interesting and useful :)

  19. I applaud your emphasis on the need for loving what you do.  As with any entrepreneur, self-employed person, it really does have to start out with a love and passion for something.  Here’s why:  you will never get paid for the insurmountable number of hours you spend doing what you do.  You will only get out of it what you put into it, so if it is a half-baked effort, don’t expect to set the world on fire.  I know so many people with great ideas, but they always fall down in the execution.  Why?  Because they do not recognize the herculean effort required to get there and the time and effort commitments.  Christine is a really good example as you see she posts every single day and, yes, weekends.  This is more of a commitment than most people are willing to give.. seriously!  If you do not love it, you will end up resenting it and you will looks for ways to avoid it.  
     
    Wonderful series Christine!  Very educational and I think important for people to recognize the huge effort and the vast number of things happening in the background which are not transparent to us, the end-users.    

    •  @wwendalynne It is very true! You only get what you put into it.  I know that if I take a day off, that means none of the things I need to get done are getting done – because there’s no one else to pick up the slack. There’s no one to fill in for you if you’re sick.
       
      There are definite upsides – I mean, the boss can never REALLY fire me, and I can show up in PJs ;)

  20. I’d always wondered how so many beauty bloggers seem to get samples — a lot of big YouTube bloggers seem to get buckets of them! of course, they’ll always be quick to tell you that they often buy a lot of their makeup that they feature, and when they started out it all came out of their pocket! I’m sure it’s all our dreams to have people send us makeup to play with and enjoy…but only a lucky few really get that. :) Lucky ducks! 

  21. I think it’s also really nice that you’re explaining how the money works. Some vloggers and bloggers want to keep readers in the dark – not for fear someone else will start making money, but for fear readers will think it’s all about the money, and not a genuine passion.
     
    You’ve inspired me – I’m going to do a video about this topic right now, so people will know that yes, you can make money doing something you love, and no, it doesn’t mean it’s “all about money.”

  22. LaceyD

    Christine,

    I know you love blogging but I wonder if you will stop to become a lawyer or a Judge. I know you were working on that through school. I find it amazing that you could juggle this extensive blogging while doing such hard school work. I know it’s not really related to this article but I was just curious what path you were going to take!

    •  @LaceyD No, I don’t like the law or have any desire to be a lawyer. I hated law school from the get-go, and I would have dropped out if I hadn’t already taken out a $55K loan (and had any sort of fall back plan!).  Instead, I hoped that the MBA portion of the JD/MBA would make school less miserable, but it didn’t (I actually preferred law school over business school, LOL!).  It’s a good degree to have, and it wasn’t worthless or anything, but I stopped wanting to be a lawyer once I understood what exactly that entailed.

      • AS1929

         @Christine (Temptalia) Wow, I appreciate your candidness when it comes to the JD/MBA!  I know you worked incredibly hard for this and are a school-oriented person, and it is a big deal to admit you did not like it.  Are there other schooling paths or non-schooling paths you would have taken given the information you have now about your career goals and experiences?

        •  @AS1929 Not really. I don’t think there’s really a degree that would help in a meaningful way with beauty blogging – realistically, it’s too fast of an industry where a particular degree would be especially helpful. Maybe a more generalized degree in marketing/psychology/consumers, but then it makes it sound like a business from the get-go, which isn’t what blogging should be about. They can turn into businesses, but I think like all good start-ups, it should come from a great idea/great passion.  Maybe journalism… I don’t know much of anything about those programs, though.
           
          My undergraduate degrees (Economics and Political Science) were both super generalized, so I had no choice really but to keep going through school. My default was always to go into business/finance, and you really can’t go into “business” (whatever that even means) without a MBA anymore!  
           
          Going into business for yourself is totally helped by a JD/MBA, but it’s an expensive path to take.  You gain insight on lots of things you’ll face on a day-to-day basis, but you could learn a lot of the basics on your own (assuming you are motivated to do so).  You just get exposure to a vast number of topics that you’re less intimidated by them when you see them in real life. Like I can read a contract and immediately know the verbage that’s designed to screw me.  Just being able to read a contract and not get bogged down by the legalese is extremely helpful.  But whether that’s worth the cost of graduate school is hard to say.
           
          I can’t think of a better path to have taken knowing where I am today, only because I don’t know if it would have happened otherwise.  School gave me the daily flexibility to spend a lot of time on the blog vs. what would have happened if I had a full time job.
           
          Generally, I highly recommend getting 1-3 years of real life, work experience before going into MBA. I felt like my MBA education was shortchanged because I had never worked in a traditional work environment (I always did weird jobs and was self-employed except for 2 months where I worked retail) and was one of the youngest people in my class (most were 30-40) and had management experience.  I also recommend in specializing in something, because then it makes your MBA more valuable and helps you go into a more specific career path.  Specializing is also something I recommend to undergrads!

        •  @Christine (Temptalia)  @AS1929 I don’t mean to butt in (I wasn’t asked this question, LOL), but I actually started out blogging for passion, as Christine is talking about, and then I realized I could make money at it. Then I wished I had a business degree, but I’m not sure it would’ve improved my situation. I’m now earning enough online to consider quitting my full-time job next year and working online from home full-time.
           
          But on Friday, someone from the Marketing department at my job came to me b/c he’d heard I knew WordPress. It turned out they’ve been looking for someone with precisely my skill set – manage the corporate website, write for the blog, keep the software updated and secure, write press releases, rock the social media, etc. They can’t find anyone among all the college grads they’re looking at for the position, and there I was wasting away in the Department of Tedious Paper Shuffling. :D
           
          So this work experience I’ve given myself may open up a new and exciting avenue for me within my current job – and it’s something I could do on an outsource basis for other companies, if I want, later on. And that’s not from a degree: it’s from just doing it.

  23. My

    Wow! I’m so surprised that you are so open to share your experience in blogging and making money. Usually people do not to share information being scared of competition. This just shows how confident you are. I think is great to inspire other people through your work. Keep up!

    • Competition is healthy — without it, we become stagnant, arrogant — but with it, we learn to thrive, learn to push boundaries, and become better and able to hone our craft to the next level.  Plus, one blog can’t cover everything, so it’s great that now you can find a review on anything :)

  24. Christine, you have done such a wonderful job with your blog. I always see your reviews and how things look on you before applying. Thank you for your tips. :)