monetising

Financial Rules To Follow At Every Age

When it comes to money, here's the cold card truth: the sooner you start crafting a financial plan, the better your chances of having a lifetime of financial success.  So, there's no time like the present to give yourself the present of a future.

Let's talk money, honey. 

YOU'RE TWENTY? WELCOME TO ADULTING.
No longer a teen, no longer relying on your parents to bail you out of tricky financial situations, and perhaps paying for your own health insurance. Your twenties are when you first really start to understand the inner-workings of earning, saving, and planning for your future. Especially since you're facing down an overcrowded job market and some oh-so-painful student loans.  

In order you prep for a secure future, in your twenties you should focus on saving-- and that means living below your means. You might be tempted to blow that first big(ish) paycheck, or YOLO it for a bit, but if you're dropping dollars you don't have and racking up hefty credit card debt, you're screwing yourself. Forget FOMO, you should be more concerned with FOMRO (fear of money running out.)

1. PAY YOURSELF FIRST. You've heard of treat yo'self. This is pay. yo. self. This is business advice that encourages you to PRACTICE SAVING: Even if it's a small amount every week, you need to start putting money away. Here's a tip: If you're using cash and you break the bill, deposit the rest of the amount into savings. 

2. YOU NEED AN EMERGENCY FUND. If you lose your job, get sick, or are unable to work, financial planners suggest having an emergency fund that can cover a month's expenses. That way you're not dragging yourself into debt when you're already down.

3. LEARN THE 50-30-20 Rule. 50 percent of your income should cover needs like rent, food, and transportation costs. 30 percent should cover things you want like night's out with friends, the occasional trip, maybe a new pair of shoes. 20 percent should be put away. This doesn't always work out every month, expenses pop-up, but you should be tracking your finances too see how close you're hitting the goal. 1. PAY YOURSELF FIRST. You've heard of treat yo'self. This is pay. yo. self. This is business advice that encourages you to PRACTICE SAVING: Even if it's a small amount every week, you need to start putting money away. Here's a tip: If you're using cash and you break the bill, deposit the rest of the amount into savings. 

4. STOP GETTING PARKING TICKETS. You need to be financially responsible now and stop wasting money. If you have a pile of unpaid parking tickets in your glove box, it's time to take a good hard look in the mirror and at those parking signs. 

5. START SAVING FOR RETIREMENT NOW. If it sounds crazy, it's not. LearnVest, the financial program that is accessible to everyone, released a study finding that a planner who starts putting $600 a year away at the age of 25 will have $72k by 65.  

6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF 401(k) EMPLOYER MATCHING PROGRAMS. It's hard to think about the "future" when it feels like a distant nebulous blob. And you're first thought at putting money into a 401(k) or similar program might be: I want this money now. However, if you're lucky enough to land a job where your employer offers a contribution-matching 401(k) do not overlook this opportunity. It might mean a slightly smaller paycheck, but it's free money for your future. You'll barely even notice it, but you will notice the chunk of savings you've accumulated by the end of the year.  

 

ALRIGHT, YOU'VE HIT YOUR STRIDE IN YOUR THIRTIESIf you learned how to save and plan in your twenties, in your thirties:

1. ALL OF THE ABOVE RULES STILL APPLY. You need to consistently practice saving-- both for short-term and long-term goals. Want a house? That down payment doesn't come cheap, and to get a bank loan you need to have proven steady income, and cash in the bank.

2. CREATE A DEBT-FREE-BY-40 SCHEDULE. You should also aim to be completely debt-free by the time you hit forty. That way you enter the big 4-0 able to focus on your nest egg instead of those student loans. Beyond that many of us typically make some very significant financial decisions in our thirties, like buying the aforementioned starter home, or starting a family. You might have more money in your thirties, which means it's prime time to be even more careful about how you spend. It's called lifestyle inflation-- don't get caught in it. When we have money in the bank we feel a little freer to spend on "unnecessaries," which can be dangerous. Treat yourself, sure, but don't treat yourself right out of a comfortable future. Short term pain, long term gain. 

3. PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME. If you're looking into home ownership, you can be sure the bank is looking into you-- and every bill you pay, or haven't. From checking if you've paid your car payments on time and haven't lagged on other bills, to seeing what you spend monthly. If you have creditors chasing you down, you can bet your bottom dollar that those bigger life purchases are going to be impossible to acquire. Good credit is a must if you want a good rate from auto loans to mortgages. 

4. START INVESTING. You need mix up your investments by starting a stock portfolio which sets you up for greater financial security in the long run. 

5. BUY A COOKBOOK. All that money you spend out eating out in your twenties? It's time to meal-plan in order to financial plan. Americans spend more money on eating out than on groceries. And with apps like Postmates making food delivery a cinch, we're tossing away dollars.

6. STOP BLIND SPENDING. We tend to work longer hours with every passing decade. And the app economy has made convenience very appealing-- but it's at a high cost. Apps like the aforementioned Postmates make it easy to spend without seeing. What the tech banks on is that you're not registering how much you're actually spending. A five dollar delivery here, six dollars there-- in the immediate it seems small, until you realize you've spend 300 the last month of delivery fees. That's 300 dollars you could be putting in savings or an emergency fund. 

WELCOME TO FORTY & THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

1. OUT OF DEBT? YOU SHOULD BE, OR CLOSE TO IT. Wild to think about it, but in your forties you're closer to retirement than you've ever been before. You shouldn't be paying off your student loans while paying for your kids to go to school. 

2. INCREASE YOUR SAVINGS. From your emergency fund to how much you're putting away for retirement. Since the aim for your forties is to be out of debt, you should be able to reallocate those fund into savings. Your life is probably a little more expensive than it was in your thirties and the stakes are a bit higher. So even if you're making more money, that mortgage, cost of kids, and that nicer car don't pay for themselves. 

3. MAXIMIZE YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS. In your forties you should be maximizing these contributions, especially if your employer matches your donations. 

4. START A COLLEGE FUND, IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY. If you're planning to send your kids to college, it won't come free or easy. Higher education comes at high costs so start saving today.

This post originally appeared on Create & Cultivate and is proudly shared here with permission. Go get 'em girls!

Blogging 101: How to monetise your blog - Part 2

By Rebecca Pitts

Part 2: Diversify your income streams by adding additional products or services

In the first post on this topic, we talked about leveraging your content to generate income with your blog. Today we're going to take a look at some of the ways bloggers can expand upon their business and brand by offering a service or a product to their readers.

You might be thinking: why should I add another project to my plate?

Offering a product or service is a great strategy for generating more income. Your blog and business and whatever you're selling can work in tandem--your community of readers is of course interested in you, your voice, and your brand. They trust you. You in turn, have listened to them and are offering a service or product they need. It's a win-win. 

Bloggers who are successful at making money know that it's smart (and more lucrative) to diversify--that is, they know it's important to not rely on just one method for getting paid. Depending on your unique skill set, interests, and brand, it won't be a huge stretch to figure out how to sell something you're already making or charging fees for something you're good at.

Let's take a look at some specific examples of products and services that are an organic extension to blogging:

Physical products

Maybe you're a blogger who has a knack for photography and sells limited-edition prints. Or a crafter who releases one-of-a-kind pieces as she makes them. Perhaps you run a lifestyle blog and sell a curated selection of goods that appeals to a niche audience. The possibilities here vary widely--and so does the amount of risk that entrepreneurs take on with their initial investments in running this type of business. (Think: the difference between selling a handmade scarf on Etsy and managing e-commerce for product lines you design and manufacture). Another thing to consider when going this route is the amount of time that you'll spend on things like shipping and customer service.

Examples:

Hudson + Daughter (my shop)

How We Montessori Shop

Writing a book

Ah, the dream of getting that book deal from a real actual publisher that prints real actual books. We're all writers, and we've all thought about it. The blog-to-book path may be trickier to navigate than, say, self-publishing an e-book, but it's often THE logical next step once you've had success with your blog.

Examples:

SFGirlByBay

Design Mom

Digital products

The idea of passive income is really appealing: you create a compelling digital product like an e-book, a digital printable, an e-course, or a sewing pattern, to name a few examples. You write it once, you design it once, you film it once and you sell it over and over again without any further action necessary, apart from paying transaction fees or other e-commerce overhead. It's like free money.

Examples:

Elise Joy

Braid Creative's email subscription series

Teaching

You are an expert in something (or more likely, many things). Why not share your knowledge base with your community and get paid for it? Perhaps it's the specialized thing that you're blogging about (origami tutorials, creating a capsule wardrobe, your life as an illustrator--you fill in the blank here.) Or, it's the technical skills like mastering the Adobe creative suite photo styling that make you a pro at your work. With so many fantastic online education portals now on the scene (such as Skillshare, Creative Live, Atly, and Craftsy, to name a few) I have a feeling that teaching will be a huge area of expansion, especially as it overlaps with digital products. Some courses are filmed once and released as a digital product (hello passive income again!), others may require your ongoing participation in a live chat as online "office hours". And of course, there's always the kind that requires chalk, face-to-face.

Examples: 

Design Love Fest's Blogshop 

Design Sponge Social Media Workshop

Mentoring & Coaching

Mentoring is a way to share your expertise on a one-on-one basis. You can offer real value to someone who isn't as far along in their career as you, as you're offering your dedicated time and complete focus on an individual client. If you're sought after as an expert, you can charge real money with your clients. If mentoring remains a side project for you, you may need to be very deliberate with the number of clients you take on as this sort of work can involve a huge time commitment. Think of it as the opposite of passive income. It's about as active as you can get.

Examples:

Tiffany Han

Braid Creative (again!)

Events & Conferences 

You are all about your community and dream up ways of getting everyone together. Can you imagine throwing a fabulous party that doubles as a conference or a networking event and getting paid for it? Bloggers who are successful at generating income from community events have a knack for design and styling, are outgoing and friendly (you want to make people feel welcome and valued) and of course must have some serious skills when it comes to project management. 

Examples:

And North 

Blog Society

Brand collaborations

Collaborating with a huge, well known brand to design a product or collection--sign me up, right? Working on a project like this might seem out of reach but keep in mind: most bloggers who have caught the eye of a major brand aren't overnight successes, but have instead consistently created high quality content with a unique and singular voice. Oh, and they probably have a ton of followers. If you're not there yet, consider alternative ways of partnering with smaller brands you can stand behind. 

Examples:

Oh Joy

Babyccino Kids

Have you tried any of these strategies or side projects, or would you? What's worked well? Anything we've missed?

This post is the second of two that discusses blog monetisation. If you missed the last one, you can check it out here.

Rebecca Pitts is the founder and owner of Hudson + Daughter, an online shop that sells commissioned, handmade family treasures made of eco-friendly bamboo. She writes about running a creative business, making art for and with her daughter, and living in the Hudson Valley on her blog.

Photo credits: Unsplash

Blogging 101: How To Monetise Your Blog - Part 1

By Rebecca Pitts

Congratulations! You're a blogger! You've set up your online home, you're planning your editorial calendar, writing the content, snapping the pics, prepping the posts, and connecting with your community. You're doing it! 

But should you be making money with it? Or, if you are making money with your blog, should you be making more of it? And how?

If you have a website, I'm guessing you've asked yourself these questions. And the answers--spoiler alert!--vary greatly depending on your goals for your blog and business. Let's take a look at the most popular and effective ways for making money with your blog and some real-life examples of bloggers who are doing it well.

Ads

Banner and sidebar ads are perhaps the most obvious (and traditional) way of monetizing your website: a company pays you for space on your blog. If you've read a magazine, you get it--there's content, and there are the ads next to the content. This form of advertising doesn't seem to be going away, but bloggers who could at one time rely only on getting paid this way have now seen a major decline in generating revenue from this income stream alone.

Examples of blogs that do this well:

Reading My Tea Leaves 

A Beautiful Mess 

Sponsored Posts

We've all seen it: "this post is brought to you by…" A brand pays a blogger to develop original content to promote a product or collection. Bloggers who are successful at this (1) know what types of products their audience is interested in, (2) choose products that they are genuinely enthusiastic about and align with their own brand and values and (3) are transparent (and law-abiding) by qualifying a sponsored post by letting their readers know that they are being paid to promote a product. It's a delicate walk, and the bloggers who pull this off make it look easy.

Examples of blogs that do this well:

Second Floor Flat 

Cup of Jo 

Affiliate Marketing

Similar to sponsored posts, in the sense that you are letting the reader in on the products and services you love. Instead of being paid up-front for promoting a product, the blogger is paid on commission, so to speak. You recommend a product, your reader clicks on an affiliate link embedded in your site and buys the product, and you're paid a percentage of that sale. Some companies offer affiliate programs directly to bloggers; others are part of a larger collective of affiliates. 

Examples of blogs that do this well:

Amy Lynn Andrews 

Brilliant Business Moms 

Collecting Donations

Perhaps you write a blog that doesn't exactly align with product promotion, or, you're uncomfortable with the idea of creating sponsored posts. If you're delivering content that is truly a must-have for readers, you may consider asking them directly to make a donation to support your work.

Example of a blog that does this well:

Brain Pickings

OK, your turn--have you tried any of these, or would you? What works well?

This post is the first of two that discusses blog monetisation. In the next post next week, we'll look at some of the ways you can diversify your revenue streams beyond blogging by adding products or services that are a natural fit for your brand.

Rebecca Pitts is the founder and owner of Hudson + Daughter, an online shop that sells commissioned, handmade family treasures made of eco-friendly bamboo. She writes about running a creative business, making art for and with her daughter, and living in the Hudson Valley on her blog.

Photo credit: Present and Correct

#blogtribe // 4 Tips To Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers

I've been getting more and more questions related to marketing, social media and revenue tactics - all of which I love speaking to people about so I wanted to open up the topic for broader discussion here and share some of my own advice.

Today I'm chatting about affiliate marketing - a term you've probably heard thrown around a lot and up for debate in the blogging circles. I for one have had great experiences with affiliate marketing and think it can be a wonderful way to not only drive revenue for yourself but could be explored as a marketing tool for those bloggers looking to have others promote their own products, campaigns, etc in a unique way.

To break it down, affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission (normally a set percentage) by promoting other people's products. Essentially you get rewarded (or you do the rewarding) when you (or someone you enlist) help complete a transaction.

When executed properly it's a win/win scenario but it's not always easy and there are some essentials to making these relationships work -for you and of course your community. Some key factors to take into consideration when exploring affiliate marketing:

  1. Believe In The Product
    If you are putting your name on a product you better be damn proud of it, believe in it and can proudly share with your community. It's not worth losing followers or risking your brand reputation for a small commission - aways think big picture.
  2. Suggest Not Sell
    The beauty of affiliate marketing is that your recommendation, when coming from the heart, comes with trust. I believe in honest marketing and if the product is the right fit, your audience will want to check it out. Forget the hard sell.
  3. Create Valuable Content
    Don't just slap up a link and cross your fingers. Affiliate marketing works best when you can't wait to talk about it and the message can fit within your existing content, adding value to your community.
  4. Transparency
    When sending newsletters, writing blog posts transparency is key. Be upfront and honest with your readers if you are making a commission - something you shouldn't be afraid to tell - and something your audience deserves to know upfront.

Let me show you a perfect example...

I'm a HUGE fan of Hilary Rushford from Dean Street Society.  She's one of the most clever, smart self starters out there and if you are a blogger or interested in clever marketing she's your go to gal. She's also one hell of a business woman and has created such an incredible portfolio of work based around her area of passion & expertise: style and helping women find body confidence and empowerment.

Her new e-course, Style & Styleability, struck a cord with me and when I was approached about being an affiliate I happily said yes. Now I'm not a fashion blogger but I do believe that when you look good you feel great - and Hilary's passion and core messaging spoke to me and I think it might also speak to a lot of you. Her affiliate program is detailed, thought out and totally in line with all of the points I mentioned above and most importantly of all - her e-course kicks ass and is something I'm proud to recommend checking out.

So the next time you are exploring income options, take a serious look at affiliate marketing and how it could work for you. And yes as a final note, in the name of transparency, I am an affiliate for Hilary meaning that if you sign up to her e-course using the links above I get a small commission - but it's a damn good course and one I'm proud to work with.