Blogging, like motherhood, is very rewarding, but not a high return-on-investment gig.
In the seven months since I started this blog, I’ve made about $30 from people who have purchased things on Amazon through my site (mostly my in-laws; thank you!). I’ve spent, give or take, 450 hours working on this blog directly, and at least a thousand more doing all the garden and food things that I write about. But let’s just count the direct time: my blog has earned me about 6 cents an hour.
Now, I don’t do this for the money (clearly), but I’m not opposed to a little bonus for my labor, either. In the blogging world, turning your digital brainchild into a profit-center is called “monetizaion.” One way to monetize is to link up with Amazon to sell stuff. I have, and am thrilled to get that 4% commission when someone buys something I can wholeheartedly recommend. I feel like it’s a win-win.
One can also host Google Ads on their blog. With all due respect to my fellow bloggers (and this includes my husband) who opt to monetize with AdWords, I’ve never liked the look or feel or the fact that stuff I don’t endorse can pop right up. Homebrew Husband wrote a thoughtful and rather poignant post on his blog about turning 40 recently – and right next to it was this ad:
I think that pretty much says it all. What crap. So, since I don’t like seeing those poorly-matched, periodically offensive ads popping up at me, I don’t subject my readers to them.
I got an email the other day from a woman who wanted me to put a link to a for-profit, online school in my blog. She was very nice, and was willing to pay me $40 for a post with two links. $40 would more than double the financial return I’ve seen from my blog. Now, she wasn’t suggesting I link to a porn site or anything, but nothing about her site was something I thought my readers could benefit from. I had to pass.
So that brings me to the latest addition to the right-hand side bar: the Tip Jar. I hate, hate, hate asking for things, but if you find some of what I put up here on Northwest Edible Life helpful or entertaining, and if you want to say thanks for the effort it takes to keep this site going, a buck or two donation would be tremendously appreciated.
This isn’t a pledge drive, and it sure as heck isn’t an obligation. All the stuff on the site is freely available to all. But if it’s in your budget to do so (No Spend Month people – don’t you dare!), and you wouldn’t think twice about subscribing to a magazine or buying a new book with equivalent information to what you’ll find on this blog, please consider tipping your friendly local blogger.
Or, if you happen to work for Territorial Seed, or Raintree Nursery, and you want to sponsor me to continue to talk about how much I love you, drop me a line. If you don’t, I’ll keep talking about how much I love you anyway.
My friend and fellow blogger Calamity Jane over at Apron Stringz inspired this move to monetize our way (hopefully a kinder, gentler way than Mature Singles Only!), and she and I are launching our Tip Jars together. I think we both felt it would be easier to jump into this pool of uncertainty (“But will they hate us if we ask for a dollar?!?”) if we closed our eyes and held hands as we lept. So there it is.
Thanks to all my readers. Really no pressure. If you tip, or not, please know how much I value everyone who takes the time to read, to comment, and to share. Even at 6 cents an hour, this gig is well worth it because of ya’ll.1
I loved the Amazon AdSense, but dammit! California passed a law ending that so I don't get to monetize with them anymore. I think I only made $10 from it anyways.
jenna over at cold antler farm puts up ads that she thinks readers would be interested in and she has a donation button. she caught a lot of flack for asking for donations, but since i get a lot out of reading her blog i didn't think it was outrageous. as someone who spends a lot of time working on their blog, i see nothing wrong with asking for a tip if someone was so inclined. though i haven't taken that step yet 🙂
April Alexander says
I think this is a brilliant idea Erica! You do put a lot of time, thought and energy into your blog and give so much free advice that is benefiting many in the gardening and urban homesteading community. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for donations, and I'm sure people will love to give back to you for your efforts. I too have had an issue with advertising on my blog, as I mentioned to you sometime ago. I just can't go there, try as I might. Many have told me how I could "make so much off of my blog" by doing so, but your add above says it all, sigh. Also, I feel that our movement is not about getting rich, but being community and sharing, however, people like you and I need to make money somehow, right?
Karen Van Lowe Getzinger says
I am happy to support your tip jar- I have learned so much from your blog and posts. I found your blog about the time we moved into our new home with gardens, a greenhouse and I didn't have a clue. I now have veggies that are trying to grow, 4 chickens, 2 apple trees (with plans to add a mini orchard next winter) and plans to add a couple dairy goats next spring. Thanks for sharing the opportunity for me to say thank you with a monetary donation!
It's better than ad's, and while I agree with April Alexander, I feel when people are blogging with the idea of making money behind it, it might take the edge of the genuine & sharing nature of their blog? Would it not put pressure on you to come up with the goods, once people have tipped you? I guess if you need the money, this is one way to make some, though I find it hard to believe you can even make any money, to make it worthwhile? Only one way to find out, I guess! Good luck!
Please review your interactions with Erica. I feel that one after another you are condescending. Now what was your point? You do not need more money and feel sorry for those who are marketing ? Bragging, petty, and inferior you appear. Erica thank you for the introspective response. Dixiebelle you defame the name.
(Oh, not saying your blogging is bad & you won't make any money!! I just wonder in general how blogging can bring in any money… but I guess for some, a little money is better than none?)
I have nothing against folks who want to make money from their blog. I simply refuse to do it myself. I used to write for a living so I know what my time is worth. My blogging is for me and if folks want to read it, great. I do enjoy your blog. Thanks.
Erica/Northwest Edible Life says
Hi Dixiebelle, I was hoping to email you privately but I was unable to find an email address on your blog. First, thank you so much for your comment. You really gave me pause, and for that I'm grateful. You run a wonderful, well written, attractive blog so I really take your concerns to heart. It's good to look at what we do and why.
I write here because I've made a commitment to myself to do so. I really do treat NW Edible as more than my garden journal or my periodic diary. As a blog reader, I know how much I value consistency in content, so I *already* put pressure on myself to deliver the goods to my readers, day in and day out. Many (most) nights that means I'm writing and photo wrangling for a few hours after the kids go to bed, and it means I'm making tradeoffs in how much sleep I get and how I spend my leisure time.
Please don't think I'm complaining! This blog was my choice to start, and I get so much from growing it and writing and sharing with my readers. I love working on it, but I also want to emphasize that I take my commitment to it seriously, because I really get how valuable my reader's time is. So in many ways, I treat my writing here like a job.
For these reasons, I don't think my accepting tips will change the effort I put into this blog, or the authenticity of my writing, any more than my accepting tips for the meals I've catered changed the nature of the effort I put into those.
After spending over a decade in the hospitality industry, I know that sometimes people are happy to express satisfaction with a product well executed through a gratuity. I live in a city where everyone throws a buck to the barista who spends 3 minutes making their morning coffee, so I guess it is my conceit to hope that a few people will find my writing almost as much of a pick-me-up as their cuppa.
That said, I have no expectations of anyone actually tipping, or of making big sums from the Tip Jar. Those who do choose to give have my eternal gratitude, and I really will be using the money to offset my seed costs. Those who don't but read and comment and share *still* have my eternal gratitude, because this community of readers remains my primary reward in this endeavor.
Finally, I think, knowing myself, that when and if the time comes to retire this blog, I'll let my readers know why that's happening. I don't think the money that might come my way from the Tip Jar will change that, or keep me locked in after the fire to write and the commitment to share is gone.
Thanks for raising your concerns, and letting me respond. And thank you most of all for your wonderful comments. I truly appreciate your interaction.
Green Bean says
I hope that the tip jar works out for you. After blogging at two different blogs for three years, I made $48! It is hard to monetize when you feel uncomfortable promoting much of what is advertised. Good luck!!
Do NOT apologize for asking to get a little something for your time. Artistes can live La Vie Boheme, the rest of the world needs to get back-to-school shoes for their kid. People that get huffy and think the sordid talk of money somehow means you aren't sincere in your motivations since you've had the gall to remind them that writing=content=value probably also gripe about tipping breakfast servers. And they don't have to read your product. If they excoriate you, don't worry about it- it's not like they sit across from you at the Thanksgiving table.
I watch 30Rock and want that show on the air but I don't want the commercials. But how do they get paid? In my dream world, I just hand Tina Fey cash and get programming without Subway commercials.
It works for NPR.
Thank you for reply Erica. I appreciate your blog, as I appreciate quite a few blogs, because I get a lot from the blogland community and interacting online with likeminded souls. I know you put in the effort to bring the quality and you should be rewarded! To me, the reward for my blogging effort is for people to comment, to tell me they appreciate what I do (and mostly the reward comes from how blogging makes me feel!). Others feel differently, and I guess why not be paid for it, whether by subscription, sponsorship, even book deals and TV shows are possible!
I guess I am in a position where we earn good money & live fairly frugally on top of that, and I don't need to make money from blogging, thank goodness, because I'd be rubbing two coins together from it, if we did! (and besides, my seed collection does not need adding to!!) I am not judging others who do & can make money from it, I guess I am just explaining my response yesterday!
I am from Australia, we don't have tipping in the same way you guys do in the US, but I don't gripe about paying or treating people fairly. It's true I prefer the library to bookstores, blogs to newspapers, but I also supported The Story of Stuff project when they asked for donations, because I wanted to encourage a worthy cause to keep going. If the blogs I love *need* the money to keep on blogging, perhaps I would donate in that case. In the mean time, I give the blogs I read my time, my appreciation and my connection, which I think is better than $5!
Alena Belleque says
I'm working to monatize, too, but don't actually have expectations. I like your idea of a Tip Jar 🙂 Once I'm actually able to invest the kind of effort YOU do in my own blog, perhaps I'll follow suite. For now, I've affiliated with a few companies I like, and their little buttons are on my sidebar. If I make money, woohoo! If not, not a huge deal 😉 Good luck!
Have you heard of the Affiliate program for Back to the Roots Mushroom kit? The kits are really cool, and the Affiliate program is easy to put up on your blog. I had signed up and posted the link on my blog for about 3 weeks and made $4. Then I took the link off, because the focus of my blog is education instead of gardening. But it could be a good fit for NWEdible. Here are the pictures of what the kits look like: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/2011/11/02/mushroom-kit-on-day-7/
Thanks Jenny, I am familiar with BTTR – I was one of the first bloggers they contacted to do a giveaway of their awesome kit, and now they are ALL over the place! I feel like the neighbor who lived next to the kid who grew up to be a famous person: “I knew them when…” 🙂 I didn’t know BTTR had an affiliate program, though. Thanks for letting me know.
Kathy McCreedy says
I’m new to your site, and love it!
Your comment about Seattle worms and coffee grounds will stay with me for a long time! Your advice on how to use coffee grounds in the garden is appreciated. I wish you could come over to my house to give me some general advice and let me pay you! In lieu of that, since I live in Michigan, and that’s a really long walk, I’m delighted to have a way to thank you for your expertise.! Now if I can just figure out how, we’ll be all set!
Wendy Iles says
Good for you! Due to an accident taking me out of the kitchen, I started Hampton Grows and within 6 months, folks were coming out of the woodwork wanting me to put in gardens – for FREE. We set it up as a non-profit and are in the IRS pending state, so we can now ask for donations instead of taking it from our funds. So far so good. We are working on sponsorships as well as grants… sometimes it’s like getting a nickel out of Jack Benny’s pocket!
So how do I tip you.. which I am very willing to do.
I find your Blog funny (amusing not peculiar) and informative.
I have bought endless gardening magazines over the years and found them to be full of recycled stuff from other issues.. so no more.
Now I read Blogs such as yours and am deeply envious that you are able to post photos.. I am working off an iPad at the moment and am not tech savy enough to know how to get photos up on my Blog.. grrr.
So how do I get my money into your Tip Jar?