Recently Leslie wrote:
I like your blog, but when is the last time you did a non-sponsored post. Its getting a bit ridiculous.
First off, I want to really thank Leslie for being a loyal reader. Only someone who follow Frugal Upstate regularly would even notice the frequency of sponsored posts. These days over 50% of my traffic comes from Google Searches ( “Crockpot Oatmeal” “Crate Bookshelf” “How to Sew on a Button”. . . things like that) and 50% from Facebook and Pinterest. Many of those folks are one time or new visitors–so only about 25% of my readers are folks who check in on my regularly either via email subscription, with a bookmark or by taking the effort to actually type my blog into your browser bar and hit enter. I really appreciate that 25% who are true “fans” of the blog.
So this is a valid critique from a real fan–it deserves an honest answer.
First–at the time this comment was made in mid January I had only written 5 posts for the entire month–and three of those were non sponsored. So I could have been very literal and flip and said “well, actually I wrote an non sponsored post 3 days ago.”
What Leslie obviously meant was “What the heck with all the sponsored posts”–and to be quite truthful I don’t think I wrote anything at all in December that wasn’t sponsored, and very little in November.
So here is the honest, unvarnished, 100% truthful answer.
Blogging is my job. While I love writing, the reason that I have kept doing it for 9 years and with the frequency I do is because I make money doing it. It is freelance work–and by it’s nature the amount of work is tied to the retail calendar. Folks only pay me when they want me to talk about their service or product, and the time when the most folks are wanting me to do so for payment is the holiday season between November and December. If I don’t take the work then, it won’t be offered in say January or February. I was able to take 26 paying jobs in December. You know how many I’ve been offered in January? 5.
Because of that I make 1/4 of my income for the year currently in those two months. ONE QUARTER. That’s a chunk of change for me. I have bills to pay and plans for the coming year, so when things were offered, I took them.
I ran myself ragged doing it. Because in there, among shopping, crafting, cooking & photographing everything (which all takes far more time than you would think) I had the rest of life to deal with. My grandfather passed away (at 96–he had an amazing life) and we had to go out of town for 5 days (I spent all of one morning in the hotel business office writing posts while we were there though). I had to do all my own shopping, decorating and Christmas prep. We had family in town for the holidays which meant a lot of fun meals and outings–but which took time away from work. I was sick for a while. You know–life.
I burned myself out so much that I have barely written in January trying to get my head back in the game and to catch back up on all the other home and family things that were let slide.
Now I am very aware of the fact that not everyone likes sponsored posts. I try to make all the sponsored work I do as interesting and useful as possible, even if you don’t care about the products or services I am talking about. I am lucky that I get a lot of regular work from Walmart and that much of it gives me a lot of leeway so that I can MAKE it relevant to myself and hopefully therefore to my audience.
For example the post that Leslie’s comment was on was the “Organizing your Sewing Room” post. Walmart simply asked me to do a post on organization for the new year. The state of my sewing room has been a significant stressor to me (I walk through it several times a day since it’s also used as a hallway). I have kept putting it off because, well, there are always things that are up higher on my priority list. This posting opportunity gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get it done. If you look at the post, while I do show specific organization pieces I purchased (and honestly would have purchased at Walmart regardless of doing the post or not) and some tips for looking in non traditional parts of the store, most of the post was about the process I used to sort things, rearranging/re-purposing bins and boxes I already owned, and free printables (which took me a couple of hours of research online to find) that my audience could print out and use in their own sewing binder. Stuff that you can use whether you shop at Walmart or not. . . and that don’t cost you a dime.
Sure other posts (like the toy reviews for Christmas) are pretty product driven and commercial in nature, but I do try. And those ones are easy to skip if they don’t pertain to you.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that I am EXTREMELY up front about my sponsored posts. Maybe if I wasn’t, if I sort of buried it and just mentioned the brand all casual like and then put a small disclaimer at the bottom of the post folks wouldn’t really notice that a recipe or project or craft was actually a sponsored post. It might not be so in your face, and Leslie might not have even realized that my Duct Tape Bows or my Dessert Shooters were actually sponsored posts. . . but that’s not how I like to do things. I think you all deserve to know, and to know clearly, if I am being paid to try something out or to talk about it. The client also deserves to get what they are paying for–your attention on their brand or product.
For the record–I don’t take every opportunity that comes my way. I get pitches from credit card companies all the time, and I won’t take those jobs. I usually don’t do anything from folks doing loans (another common pitch I get). I probably trash about 10 offers a week for folks who have written “useful” articles that they want me to post on my site for money (which of course contain keyword links back to their product or site).
My intent, now that the Christmas rush is past and I’ve recovered, is to get back to writing a wider variety of topics, and intermixing much more non sponsored content in with the sponsored. I especially want to get back to some how to mending posts (although if I could get Dritz to sponsor those I would do it in a heartbeat–as I plan on writing them anyway), gardening (planning and of course doing), more recipes, the bookbag report, and a new series called “Why do you. . . ?”.
And I’ll tell you right now–if I get offered just as much work next November and December, I’ll take it again. It’s my business.
So I hope that answers Leslie’s question, and the questions of many more of you who probably were thinking the same thing but didn’t ask. I appreciate all of you who read, and all of you who made it all the way through this post! I hope you all continue to read and enjoy Frugal Upstate.