It's been 22 years since Swarthmore student Justin Hall created the first-ever blog in 1994, then called, suitably, a "weblog." While the industry has evolved a lot in these two decades, the business of blogging is still somewhat of a tangled web (no pun).
As a blogger for the better part of a decade, here are the 10 questions I get asked the most often, with my most candid of answers. Yes, we *will* cover free stuff.
Did you plan to become a blogger?
Not really. I started my career writing for Rolling Stone in 2007—and got laid off after two years. After some research and soul-searching (I lost not only my job but my *dream* job), I decided to leave the print world and earn money the old-fashioned way: online. Blogging wasn't very popular at the time, but I managed to build a following by securing high-profile interviews (Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger) and chronicling my life as a New York writer.
How did you grow your following?
Slowly. I started out on Twitter, sharing my blog posts and engaging with fellow editors and businesses. Companies like Google and New York Daily News put me on must-follow lists, and traction picked up from there. The most important channels I use today are Facebook and Twitter, which refer the most traffic to my site.
What does your day look like?
No two days are alike, truly. This week, I tested Google's new Android Wear watches, hosted Take Your Child to Work Day for Motivate Design, previewed the IBM-Marchesa collaboration, covered The Congressman premiere in D.C., mentored a social media class at NYU and gave a talk at Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses event. Next week will be entirely different with virtually no overlap.
How much does a blogger get paid for a post?
One sponsored post with a top blogger can set a brand back anywhere from $5,000–$25,000—but not always. I consider several variables before agreeing on a rate. First and foremost: Is this brand a good fit for my personal brand? If that answer is a yes, we play ball. What are the terms of the campaign? What's the value of the product at hand? How long will the project take? Is there a greater good or social mission? Do I have an existing relationship with the brand?
Disclaimer: I don't have to get paid to write about something. If I love something, I may choose to write about it, but I don't accept product as payment. I can't pay my mortgage with a smart watch.
It is ethical to write about a brand that's paying you?
I entered blogging from the journalism world, where getting paid by a brand was unheard of. Here's an important distinction: Any decent blogger is not paid for their opinion; they're paid for their time.
How much money can a blogger make in a year?
What are the different ways to make money blogging?
Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What counts more than five different revenue models, "including affiliate marketing, advertising, sponsored content, event hosting, and collaborations with brands," she says. Personal product lines, apps, and working with agencies are other ways to generate income.
Do you have an agent?
I do, but I haven't always, and I don't think it's necessary for everyone. I have 350K followers and a lot of incoming requests through social, so my agent helps me field a lot of those.
What types of costs go into running a blog?
I joke that all you need is a laptop and Wi-Fi, but there are actually quite a few investments. Some expenses include building and designing a site, purchasing computer equipment and a camera, hiring a photographer and/or an assistant, paying an agent commission (10–20 percent), and travel/lodging, often during high-traffic times like conferences and Fashion Week.
Are you hiring? What would impress you in a potential employee?
We work with a wide network of contributors and are always looking for new talent. My ideal employee is ambitious, a lifelong learner who is equal parts hardworking and hungry.