The New York Times magazine ran an article about mommy bloggers two weeks ago: Monetizing Motherhood. It really only addressed blogging and the money companies are paying some moms to write product reviews and not all the other aspects of monetizing motherhood — books and TV shows come to mind.
Most mommy bloggers will at some point get approached by a company to do a product review for the first time. My blog, Dagmar’s momsense, wasn’t even three months old when the first PR firm contacted me, which was exciting because I had never considered doing a review and just the fact that they had found me was baffling to me. I still remember how much Landon loved that little frog we reviewed. Aw, how little L was!
Truthfully, I had no idea about the extent of the mommy blogging community and the different kinds of blogs when I started Dagmar’s momsense. I had never really read blogs before. I came to find out that there are moms who do nothing but review products — for fun and I guess to make a little bit of extra money.
My friend calls it “ice cream money” — because while it is fun to get the product for free, you still spend so much time writing the review, at least I do, that the payment would just amounts to that — a few extra dollars for your kids when you hear the ice cream truck rumble down the street.
I sometimes do product reviews and giveaways, but I’m very picky: the product has to be something I’m interested in using, I have to like the company, the product has to make sense for my blog (kids, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, green, frugal, etc.), and it has to be something my readers would be interested in or could benefit from. I don’t take money for the reviews because I don’t want my readers to think my opinion can be bought.
Unless you are offering an all-expenses-paid trip to Bali for my whole family…
Another thing: I write reviews on my own terms. More and more, payment comes with a lot of strings attached: the PR firm wants you to word something just so, insert this and that link… That’s just advertising. If companies want to advertise their products on Dagmar’s momsense, they are more than welcome to pay my affordable advertising fee.
I also decided on declining paid posts — I’m not interested in having sponsored post on Dagmar’s momsense. My readers come first and I don’t want to annoy them with those kinds of post. I think being so picky works in my favor because companies appreciate it more when I do take on their review.
After spending a lot of my own money on postage to send products to readers who won my giveaways, I now request that the company send the prize directly. I’m considering charging a small fee for giveaways, because they are more work and I only do them as a thank-you to my readers.
Mommy bloggers are still just beginning to figure out what they want and think is fair. I personally always knew that I wanted this blog to be something I’m making money with — and I boldly stated that in my first Dagmar’s momsense blog post. A lot of us who blog professionally have gotten over being shy to ask for payment because we realized how much clout our opinion has. If we are doing our job correctly, our readers look for us to inform them and they value and trust our opinion.
Apparently, products being reviewed on mommy blogs is a more effective advertising strategy than other forms of advertising, and that’s why companies don’t mind overnighting even a pricey item if they can get a free review from an influential blog writer and free press from the blog’s readers.
Blogging, SEO, and social media maven Kelby Carr wrote an excellent post a while ago, Mom Bloggers Deserve to Get Paid, in which she makes powerful arguments for bloggers getting compensated for all they do. I wholeheartedly agree: I expect to get paid and do get paid as a social media consultant, and that job only came about because of the success of my blog and my incessant tweeting and substantial following (10,400+ Twitter followers as of 01/15/2011) after thousands of unpaid hours I spent on both.
By the way, this is what a blogging mom looks like, to her little son: sweats, hair in a ponytail, no makeup, on the sofa, in front of her laptop. So glamorous.
Nobody sees this — you only get to see the hair down, glamorous version:
But back to my point: I would also expect to be compensated as a spokesperson for a brand or for being on a panel where the PR firm or brand is asking for my opinion, which is basically consulting.
My time is valuable — if someone doesn’t want to pay me, I happily buy one less sweater and spend the extra time with my son. I recently blogged about the toll my countless blogging hours are taking, The Never-Ending Struggle to Balance Motherhood and Work, and that I need to find a better balance between work and family time.
So in my view, and Kelby also touched on this, if you run your blog like a business, take it very seriously, and conduct yourself professionally, others will take you seriously and all your hard work and long nights will pay off and lead to other things that will — and should be — paid. I blog and tweet for an international speaker now, for example, and I get editing projects from promoting my company imPROOF on my blog.
If all you want to do is reviews, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I have other aspirations. I’m first and foremost a writer and editor who gets to write about what I’m passionate about on my blog, and I hope to make a difference in my reader’s lives — with making them laugh, or empowering them, or some new information or useful resources they benefit from.
The beauty of blogging is that you can make it what you want it to be, you can make it a hobby or profession, you can be as open or as mysterious as you feel comfortable — and if you are tenacious enough, you can even make it the springboard to your dream job.
Dare to dream — and learn to say no to work that doesn’t pay and takes precious time away from your family.