truelane Book Club: October 2018

My 2018 mantra was this: “Read more, also hustle.” My little sister was even kind enough to embroider it on a wall hanging for me, and it has certainly helped me succeed. Being on a mission to read more has forced me to get serious about my Goodreads account and pay weekly visits to my local library, putting me in contact with thousands of new-to-me titles. It inspired me to share some of them with you all, and I decided to create the official truelane book club.

It’s a fun one because there are no rules. There are no time limits or deadlines. I select a “book of the month” off my reading list and share it on the #truelanebookclub hashtag, and I couldn’t believe that others shared too! Seeing everyone’s posts brought me so much joy and truly reminded me that social media is a community, not just an avenue for me to promote product. As an influencer, it’s easy to feel like you have blinders on because those promotions pay your bills. But I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills this way if it wasn’t for my stellar readers, so thank you for being readers & reading along with me!

The October book of the month was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. I love historical fiction and anything set in the art world, so I had high hopes for this novel. Thankfully, all of us participants loved it overall! Here are a few quotes from the #truelanebookclub crew:

“Loved it! Couldn’t put it down.” - @maburns103

“Loved the book. I didn’t see her as a forger at all. I liked how she prevailed in the end.” - @aliciakeiser

“I loved the plot of The Art Forger, but the writing wasn’t very exciting or descriptive. And it ended kind of abruptly. It took me a second to realize I had finished the book.” - @dresstothrive

“I've never read a book like this before. Although I'm only a few chapters in, I'm very much enthralled. It's excited to see what the protagonist will do with every opportunity given.” - @musicforghosts

(How nerdy am I that I’m so excited I got to use the quote feature on Squarespace? Very.)

I agree with @dresstothrive that the writing didn’t really capture me, which is a necessity if a book is going to become a favorite of mine. The protagonist of the book, Claire, is a painter and makes a living painting copies of famous works that are sold as reproductions—totally legal. However, she’s propositioned to create a forgery of one of the most famous works in recent history; a Degas that was stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, which is totally illegal. With every discovery that unfolds, it makes you question which characters are the true artists and which are the true forgers. I was satisfied with the ending, although it did feel sudden and rushed. Plus, I was so excited that it was set in Boston (one of my favorite cities!) so I loved the setting as well.

Feel free to leave comments here if you have any more thoughts on the book! Stay tuned on the #truelanebookclub hashtag for November’s title, and please feel free to send any of your favorite books my way.

Similar recommendations:

"Andy Irons: Kissed by God" Film Screening

When my dad texted the family and asked if anyone wanted to join him at a movie screening downtown, I was the first one to say “sure.” I clicked the link he sent over and sort of glanced over it. It was a surfing movie, and the featured athlete had bipolar disease, but it was titled “Kissed by God” so I assumed the story would be one of redemption and he would overcome his obstacles to become a beacon of light to others in his situation.

No one else in the family could make it, so I looked forward to a fun night with my dad.

When the next Monday came around, that was exactly what I experienced until about a minute and a half into the film. One of the opening scenes showed Bruce, the brother of the featured surfer, Andy Irons, in front of a simple black backdrop with tears streaming down his face as he breathed through the flood of emotions. The first sentence he chose was something along the lines of, “I never thought I would have to sit here and talk about my brother,” and it hit me in the heart as the lump formed in my throat. This wasn’t going to have the happy ending I expected.

I sat through the two-hour film getting more anxious as it went on. The sweeping, glossy scenes of gigantic waves and 1970s Hawaii calmed me in between shots of his rampages with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and more. Half of the scenes were dramatized events featuring shadowy actors who resembled the real people, but the way it was shot made you feel like you were the one high on whatever they were. The camera was shaky, the noises were loud, everything was fuzzy and flashing with lights. The way all of his friends and family spoke about Andy Irons was searing. Clearly suffering from but not officially diagnosed with bipolar at a young age, he turned to opioid drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin to self-medicate. The longer the film went on, the sicker I felt about what I knew was going to happen.

The opioid crisis in our country comes to my attention in waves. Seattle, particularly, has a staggering population of people experiencing homelessness, and it’s hard not to wonder when you walk by a crowd of twenty or thirty tents how many of their inhabitants are struggling with this exact disease. Just a few months ago, I heard a heartbreaking story (and I feel that’s an understatement) about a local treatment facility that allowed NPR to interview one of their patients—a young woman who was addicted to heroin. She’d been in for weeks and was full of hope. “This time I’m going to get better. I’m really doing it this time,” she’d told them. And at press time, they’d reported she had left the center and was back on the drug, living on the streets. I think about that woman now and then. I heard her voice—she was real, she was humanized. And I wonder, is she even here still?

I struggled with my growing anxiety as the film progressed, but the hardest part came at the end of the film. My anxiety gave way to aching sadness when the filmmakers asked, “What would you say to Andy now, if you could talk to him?” And Lyndie Irons, Andy’s stunner of a perfect southern California beach goddess wife, could barely get the words out. “I want to tell you about our son, Axel.”

I bit my tongue hard to avoid drowning in uncontrollable sobs, and then harder when the slow-motion scenes of young Andy Axel Irons running across the terrains of Kauai kicked on. Lyndie had been eight months pregnant when Andy died in a hotel room from a drug-induced heart attack, on his way back home to Hawaii. The six-year-old ocean wonder, little Axel Irons, surfed as well as anyone I’d ever seen. How special—what a blessing—that Andy could leave Lyndie with this miniature half of a surfing legend, at precisely the time she would need him.

Andy’s profession glamorized his sport, and glamorized the partying, so much so that it could be hidden easily from the public. No one knew until after the movie came out that he won competitions and medals and championships high on cocaine and alcohol. Andy Irons’ is a huge story, one I hope millions of people get to see, because it forces you to look outside the movie screen and realize this is the small story of thousands of people just in our country alone. Over 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day in America. Tragically, so many of them are on the streets with no access to help or support, but some run in much flashier circles, or even in our own.

Of course, the opioid crisis is just another one of those things in our country and our world that need our attention, compassion, and our dollars. It’s a sad truth and reality that we can’t fix everything—but we can always help, and work towards something better. I’ve shared on truelane before that I donate 10% of all my income, and this month, I will be sending half to the Andy Irons Foundation and half to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The darkness that some people face within their own minds shouldn’t have to be faced alone—and even though it’s up to them to seek help or even just accept it, the rest of us must never stop trying to offer it.

Growing Up Too Fast...Again

“Don’t grow up too fast.” A phrase you hear all the time as a kid, especially around the time you might start to wear makeup or have your first crush. When you’re in the quintessentially awkward phase of being a teenager, instinct tells you to propel yourself out of it and into maturity, but that’s easier said than done. When you’re fifteen and trying to act eighteen, that’s all it can really be—an act.

Thankfully, those days are far behind me, but I’ve discovered a second quintessentially awkward phase of life: your twenties. It feels like you’re sailing a too-small raft on a too-big sea, and I’ve felt uncomfortable navigating it throughout the entire journey. Now that I’m closer to thirty than twenty, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, although I’m one of the few people I know that doesn’t have a fear of the big 3-0. I’m ready to turn thirty. Heck, I’m ready to turn forty.

Here’s the thing. Many of the things I enjoy are stereotypically enjoyed at a much later age. The only kind of concert you’ll find me at is one where I have a seat, with earplugs in my pocket. I spend hours on a Saturday working on jigsaw puzzles. I only drink decaf coffee these days, and I’ve become more of a wine snob than I ever thought possible. I can actually identify a cheese on a cheeseboard just by looking at it. I can’t watch scary movies, I don’t trust technology, and my idea of a perfect Sunday morning is reading the newspaper in my bathrobe before tending to my patio planters or starting my James Madison biography. Think you stumbled upon a blog for baby boomers? Surprise, you’re still reading truelane.

Of course, dozens of these activities can also identify with personality type, not just age. The fact that I would rather be at home with my books and movies than do anything else is classic introversion, something you realize more and more people identify with thanks to how tightly the Internet has woven our lives. These days, it’s becoming cool to say that you’d rather stay home than go out to a bar with your girlfriends. Saying you have an “old soul” has become a bit romantic. The “self-care” movement has turned what sounds like a boring evening—a face mask in the bath while reading your favorite book with a little too much wine—into something glamorous. Doing a puzzle is a brain exercise. Caring for plants is a stress reliever. Rather than being exclusively relaxing or even just lame, these activities serve an actual purpose for people in their teens, twenties, and beyond. You can embrace them at twenty-five or sixty-five.

Part of me wonders if I’m trying to find a reason to push myself into old age because my hobbies no longer make me different. Even just a couple of years ago, people would be surprised to find out that my favorite thing to do is make popcorn and watch Frasier, or that my maximum is two glasses of wine unless I want a raging hangover the next day, and think I was nothing more than a lightweight hermit. I went on a date once where the guy actually said to me, “Are you like, the most boring person ever?” But these days, people take pride in Instagramming their quiet weekends at home and their hours spent with adult coloring books. Interests that used to make me unique now make me part of the herd, and I guess it’s embarrassing to admit, but I kind of miss that. Of course, I know that there are thousands of people in the world like me—but before, there weren’t as many in my circle, or even on my radar.

There’s also the part of me that just wants to feel settled. Many of my friends are older than I am, and buying houses or Porsches, having children or dinner parties, and the fact that I still have years to go before moving somewhere with a yard (technically never, in the Seattle-area housing market) pains me. I’m ready to settle into a two-bedroom house with my dog and my mid-size SUV and my fine China dinnerware settings. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with two of my siblings, and feeling too old to be in this living situation makes me seem ungrateful for these few years that the three of us get to be in the same space.

One of my most used phrases these days is “I’m too old for that.” My left knee gives out on me more times than I care to admit, my eyeglass prescription is so strong I’m nearing blindness, and I actually walk around my bed to make either side instead of leaping across like I did when I was fourteen (and, of course, had to be asked several times before I actually made my bed). There are things I do that make me feel older than I am, but I don’t know if the mind or the body is more at fault. Everyone you know who’s made it to sixty or seventy or eighty say the same thing: it’s all gone by too fast. I’m in what’s considered the prime of my life. Why would I want to skip any of it?

Maybe it’s the wondering about all these things that keeps you tied to your number. The fact that I’m wondering and worrying about trying to process these feelings could be telling of my age already. Overthinking everything is what your twenties are for, isn’t it? While there are a lot of things that make me wish I were thirty-seven this year instead of twenty-seven, I need to remind myself of everything that will happen in those years between twenty-seven and thirty-seven that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

I guess having this 1000-word conversation with myself is just a reminder not to will myself to grow up faster, but to enjoy myself and my life right where we are now. It is, after all, the older and wiser thing to do.

FAQs: Full-Time Blogging

All of the great questions readers sent in ended up making yesterday's How to Make It as a Micro-Influencer post way too long, so I've collected them all here. If there are any more questions, leave them in the comments and I'll be happy to update this post accordingly.
 

WHERE TO BEGIN

What is a micro-influencer?

Generally, a micro-influencer is a social media influencer with under 100,000 followers.

Where do you start?

You come up with a blog name (it can also just be your name!) and create a Blogger account. That's what I did! You don't have to share your blog with people right away. Take a couple months to get it the way you want it. No joke, I designed mine with HTML knowledge I learned from using MySpace. I can't stress enough you don't need anything to start. If you have a desire to start a blog, just start one!

How did you start writing your first blog post?

I was eighteen years old. I just typed out three things that were inspiring me, chose some images that went along with them, and linked to all of them. That was my first blog post! Here it is, if you want to read it.

How do you turn blogging into a job?

After you have been blogging for several months and have a following, you start pitching campaign ideas to companies. I go into detail about this in my blog post “How to Make It as a Micro-influencer.” Brands pay you for the content you create.

When did you decide to take the plunge and go full-time? What pushed you to make that decision?

Back in 2015, I had been toying with the idea for a few months. I was brainstorming daily, with dozens of lists of how many and what kind of partnerships I would need to be able to blog full-time. Out of the blue, I got a contract with Coach that was the same amount of money I was making at my full-time job in finance! The week after, I put in my notice and dedicated all of my time to finding new brand partnerships to sustain my income.

What was the first brand you reached out to? How did it go?

I had to do some research to answer this question! The first brand I reached out to was Travalo, a little travel perfume atomizer. They sent me a free one to review, and I was SO excited about it!

What was the first brand that reached out to you?

The first brand that reached out to me was Karen Kane. It was a very special partnership to be a part of (for free, obviously—I had been blogging for four months). I’m still Facebook friends with the Kane family!

Lifestyle blogs are a big category—do you feel like you need a niche? What’s the best advice for figuring out the focus of your blog?

You don’t need to have a niche. There are dozens of bloggers that succeed and write about fashion, travel, beauty, home décor, and recipes—they do it all, and they do it well. The thing is, when you’re an influencer (micro or not), people want to know everything about you. Even if you’re fashion blogger, once 50,000 start following you, they start to have questions. How do you get your hair like that? What moisturizer do you use? What potholders should I buy?  As an influencer, you are sharing your entire life, so your expertise naturally expands to other areas. The best advice for figuring out the focus of your blog? Write what you love. You will get tired and cranky writing about anything else.

What does being "successful" as a blogger mean to you?

I never intended to turn blogging into my job. I would say that truelane is successful because I'm doing something I love to pay for my life, but that's definitely not all of it. The community I've created is my greatest success. Everyone that has ever reached out to me and said I inspire them has inspired me in turn. I've met some of my best friends by having this website. It has made my life whole in so many ways that would never have come about without truelane. A general definition of success is achieving the goals you set when you began. I've set out to inspire, and I've accomplished that in many ways over the last seven years.

 

GAINING AN AUDIENCE

How did you increase your following?

Back in 2010, I grew my following by hosting giveaways, doing guest posts on other fashion bloggers’ websites, attending New York Fashion Week, and several of my friends happened to have a lot more followers than I did and tagged me when we hung out. And don’t discount being a kind person! Always respond to comments and interact with your readers. Most of the fun of blogging is building that invaluable community. My readers are my friends!

How did you find your niche/build a genuine following?

I started Zipped (my first blog) as a fashion blog. That was my interest, that was my passion, and that was all I wanted to write about. I never had a ton of money growing up, so my outfits were girl-next-door prices and very accessible to the everyday gal. My niche was just who I was as a person! Regarding building a “genuine” following, I’ve been very lucky. Every day, I feel so blessed that I don’t get creepy Instagram messages from sketchy guys or hateful comments. Just make sure you’re associating with brands and bloggers and readers that share your values, and be as kind as you can.

How do you get to the next level once you have a consistent & cohesive feed?

In the beginning days of Instagram and blogging, having a consistent & cohesive feed didn’t matter, so I don’t have personal experience with this. My best advice to growing followers is to host giveaways (yes, spend your own money on the prizes if you have to), follow & engage with & comment on other blogger’s Instagram posts, meet up with other bloggers in your area, and don’t be afraid to hand out business cards in real life. Word of mouth is a great way to gain page views! People are always curious to look you up.

 

BRAND PARTNERSHIPS

Do you reach out to a ton of brands hoping for a response or are brands reaching out to you?

When I first started out, I reached out to probably thirty brands a week. I’ve been blogging now for 7 years, worked on countless campaigns with countless brands and agencies, so they know my name and have me in mind when new opportunities come up. But when you’re starting out and trying to get to that next level, you have to reach out to a ton of brands! Don’t sit and wait for them to find you, because odds are, they won’t! Put in the work. It takes hours. That’s how this is done.

How did you get your foot in the door with partnering with companies?

My first campaigns came after I was featured on Natalie Off Duty, who was a model and already well known by dozens of companies. I got lucky! Other than that, like I said, I reached out to 30 brands a week and asked to feature their clothes. You just have to do the work.

How do you find people to work with?

Brainstorming. Ads on the internet. Brands I find while I’m shopping in real life. Client lists on PR firm websites. Brands I love. Instagram explore page. Just think outside the box! Make a list of brands you want to work with and start emailing.

How do you choose who you collaborate with?

As soon as I read an email, I have a gut response, and that’s what I go with. 99% of the time, it’s right. There is no black and white way to answer this question, because each opportunity is different. If it’s a product you can see yourself using in your everyday life and would be interested in purchasing with your own money, you’re probably solid in saying yes. If you’re wavering or leaving the email marked as unread for days on end or talking to your mom about whether you should accept it or not, you probably shouldn’t. You just have to use your good judgment. Be honest with yourself. Money is not worth more than your authenticity.

When you started blogging, how did you know if a brand reach-out or collaboration was legitimate?

Often, you can tell by the email. Grammar and spelling errors? Pass. However, when I was first starting out, it did take me awhile to figure out what was legit or not. Do your research—Google the brand they’re promoting, Google their email address, the name of the agency (if there is one), and use your street smarts! Sometimes, I’d respond to an email, and never hear from them again, so that’s another telltale sign. Other times, it’s just a language barrier if the company is based in another country! I haven’t had many problems with fake emails, so hopefully, you won’t encounter too many.

Spill on the free travel benefits! Pitch email, media kit etc.

Free travel is one of the greatest things I’ve gotten out of blogging. When I decide to go somewhere, guess what…yep, I put in that hard work again. I email 40 hotels asking if I can have free nights. I email the tourism board for that city or state or country telling them I’ll be in town and asking what’s going on and what they can hook me up with. I email travel marketing agencies all the time, pitching myself and telling them which clients I’d be a good fit for. I write an introduction email or a campaign pitch email. Tell them exactly what you’ll provide for them in return—what blog posts, how many Instagram posts, etc.—and deliver! Don’t expect to be paid by visitors bureaus or tourism offices for cities or states—trust me, they don’t have big pockets. Also, do a good job. Tell a story with your travels. Don’t just post your outfit in front of a colorful wall and say “Loving Austin!!! #ootd #lol #amazing #travel” Actually talk about what you’re doing, where you’re going, why you’re loving it. That’s how you win with tourism boards. Check out this post for a pitch email and media kit example.

 

MONEY

How long were you posting regularly before you started making an income?

At least 4 years. Blogging wasn’t such a “thing” back then, so I didn’t even know I could charge for posting. But it’s different these days. I’d say after you’ve been posting consistently for a year and have a large following, you could make a solid income.

How do you check in on a late payment?

For any agency or brand, they usually have something that says “payment will be made within 30 days of invoice receipt.” If they miss their deadline, it’s up to you to check in, and I am ruthless when it comes to getting payment. I have bills to pay! I usually send an email a couple weeks after I send in my invoice and say, “Are you still on track to pay me by January 30?” or whatever the day is. If the due date passes and I haven’t received payment, you better believe the next day I’ve put an email in their inbox saying, “Following up on the payment that was due yesterday. I still haven’t received it. Please give me an update as soon as possible.”  I send this email almost daily until I get the check. Many people suggest adding interest to the fee and sending the brand updated bills. Even if you don’t see that interest added to your final paycheck, they see you mean business, and should be more eager to get your check out sooner. And it’s very rare that you never get paid and have to contact a lawyer, but always be aware.

How do you earn enough money to pay your photographers and still have enough for yourself?

You account for that in the fee you charge for a sponsored post. If you’re paying your photographer $50, and you want $250 for yourself, you charge the company $300.

What do you do when people ask for free posts? How do you decline without burning bridges?

First of all, do not just decline because it’s a free post. If J.Crew emailed me and said “We’re sending you this sweater we want you to shoot for us to post on our blog,” there’s no way I’m emailing them a, “Sorry, I’m only accepting paid posts at this time” email! There is huge value in a big company giving you exposure. However, if I don’t have the capacity to post for a brand without payment, my emails usually go something like this: “Thanks so much for your email and interest in working with truelane! Glad to hear about [Brand], I love [something you noticed about the brand that’s interesting to you]. At this time, I don't have availability to work together, but I appreciate the offer. I’m attaching my media kit and post rates to this email. Please reach out to me in the future and hopefully we can put together a great collaboration!”

Does money come from posting sponsored Instagram posts or ads on the blog?

Both! For me, I don’t currently run ads on my blog, so most of my income comes from sponsored Instagram and blog posts. It’s smart to have revenue coming in multiple ways, so if it’s tough to find sponsored posts one month, you’ll still have that income from running your ads.

 

TECHNICAL

Is it smart to invest in a mid-price DSLR camera going into blogging, or just stick with iPhone? Portrait mode is awesome, but I’m more concerned about videos.

It’s smart to invest in a DSLR if you know how to use it or know someone who knows how to use it. If you’re stuck with a DSLR and no one to shoot for you and no knowledge about how to use a tripod and remote and photo editing software, it is of zero use to you. As a general rule, I think iPhone is great for Instagram. I prefer DSLR images on my blog website, but that’s just me. And I’m not a video blogger, so I can’t help you there. I think iPhone videos are phenomenal quality, but I’m not in tune with the YouTube community enough to know what you need to succeed there.

Is @truelane a separate account from your personal? How do you let people know you are going to have another account?

@truelane is the only account I use on Instagram. If I created another account, I’d post an announcement on my original one.

What should you be mindful of? (Having a nice camera, filters for consistency…?)

Be mindful of the story you’re telling by having an Instagram account—be mindful of your intentions for it. Why are you starting this in the first place? Be mindful about how you’re coming across to random scrollersby on Instagram. Be mindful about posting consistently—post once a day or twice a day or three times a week, but post consistently. Be mindful of posting quality photos—that doesn’t mean they have to be shot on a $1,000 camera. I don’t think consistent filters are important, mine often change seasonally!

How did you network with photographers and bloggers?

Honestly, when I moved to Minneapolis, I didn’t have any friends, so I just messaged other social media gals and asked them out to coffee! Never be afraid to cold call. There are also tons of events in cities across the nation for creatives to mingle. Start searching them out or create your own! Photographers are a little harder, but I used to find college students on Instagram that were looking to expand their portfolio and photographed me for free.

What hosting platform is best for bloggers?

There is no “best” platform. Blogger is great, WordPress is great, Squarespace is great. I started out on Blogger, which is an incredibly easy platform to use. WordPress I’ve heard is very confusing, but much more customizable, and when you get to a place where you can pay a designer to create your site, WordPress would be the best choice. Squarespace is what I’m currently using. It’s super clean and simple, but you have to pay for it, and there isn’t as much room for customization as you may want.

How do you handle dips and changes in engagement? Has the algorithm affected you?

I have to be honest answering this question—I simply don’t care anymore! The algorithm has been in place for so many months now that I’m used to the fluctuation. Here’s how it has affected me: I used to get between 2,000 and 5,000 likes on every one of my photos. Some now don’t even make it to 1,000. But I’ve accepted that this is the way it is now, and it truly just doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve never had a brand come to me and say, “We won’t work with you on this because your engagement isn’t high enough.” They get that it’s a problem too. My best advice is that if the dips in engagement bother you, try something new! Think outside the box and be resourceful. Never underestimate the value of a fifteen-minute brainstorming session.


It's tough for me to answer some questions today since I started blogging at a different time when the Internet was a different place, but hopefully you can find some nuggets in my experience that you can apply to today's social media madness. Thanks for asking, and thanks for reading!

How to Make It as a Micro-Influencer

As a shy person, there’s a reason I chose blogging as my career—80% of my time is spent alone at my computer. I’ll never be a blogger-turned-model with millions of followers working campaigns for Dior and Gucci and Cartier, and I wouldn’t want to be. Although settling in at a comfortable 100,000 followers would be ideal, I’ve been living on a great income with 60,000 Instagram followers for the past few years, which might be hard to believe. But it’s possible!

In this post, I’m not going to tell you how you can make it as a full-time blogger. I can only tell you how it works for me. There is no secret, magic way to start making $60,000 a year as a fashion influencer. There is no secret! What I know you don’t want to hear is that maybe 30% of it is hard work. 70% of it is luck and being in the right place at the right time. That is the truth, and if you want to just get fame and fortune overnight, blogging is not the career for you.

Since I get so many questions about how I got to where I am, here are a few things that helped me: one was beginning my blog in 2010. Sincerely Jules and Sea of Shoes were just getting started—right place, right time. Another big blogger at the time, Natalie Off Duty, visited Seattle and we got together (my first blogger meet-up!). I was offered my first campaigns after brands that followed her blog found mine—luck. Three years later, I attended my first New York Fashion Week. I attended dozens of shows, exhausted myself networking, and planned meet-ups with the big-name bloggers back then—hard work. Now here we are in 2018, blogging is my full-time job, and as much as I’ve settled into a rhythm, it’s not an easy career.

  Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week


How do you make an income?

Sponsored Posts

“Sponsored” is a hot topic and a buzzword, yet personally my favorite way to earn money through blogging. Sponsored content makes up about 90% of my income, which is an extremely high percentage, so I'm working on amplifying my other forms of income this year to be a little more balanced.  Partnering with a company that aligns with your aesthetic and values is a great opportunity, and it’s exciting to have them believe in you and your content enough to pay you. It’s not the easiest way to make money (sponsored posts are a ton of work!), but if you do it right, it is the most organic way. You are getting to create a story and image around a product you love. The key to keeping it organic is to say no to any offer you aren’t 100% on board with. A wavering "sure" will cost you in the long run. 

What to charge?
People hate talking about money. I hate talking about money. I won’t be sharing my personal income or fees here, but people are always asking me for guidelines and advice, so I’ll give it my best shot.

If you have 50,000 Instagram followers, you can easily ask for $1,000 for a sponsored Instagram post. You are paying for a photographer, props and wardrobe for the image, potentially a space to shoot in, and effort of the hours you put into it. Say that ends up costing you $300. What’s the other $700 for? This company is paying for the exposure to your stadium full of people that follow you, and paying for the caption or photo guidelines they’re giving you. That exposure is huge value for a company looking to get their product in front of people.

But guess what? The company says no, their budget is only $500. That’s when you have to buckle down and calculate what they’re giving you on top of the lower fee—free product? Exposure?— and decide in your heart if you want to accept a lower price or not. My best advice? Your gut is telling you the right answer. Don’t ignore it.

  Sponsored post for Mr. Coffee

Sponsored post for Mr. Coffee

Sponsored Post Pricing:
Keep in mind a sponsored post fee really depends on the factors surrounding the individual post itself. I included both low-end and high-end suggestions, just as a starting point for negotiations and to think about what you are comfortable asking for.

10K followers  |  $50~100
20K followers
  |  $100~300
30K followers
  |  $250~500
40K followers
  |  $500~700
50K followers
  |  $750~1000

If you have under 10K followers, I would not ask to be paid. At that point, all you are looking for is exposure to get to the next level. Receive the free product, promote it to the best of your ability, and send them the results of your efforts. And once you get to that next level, don't underestimate the value of doing free work! I still do gifting campaigns all the time—I just can't make promises about posting it, because sponsored posts always take priority.

This guideline can also apply to blog posts. In my experience, my blog readership is lower than my Instagram follower count, but a blog post takes much more work than an Instagram post. Since an Instagram post is mostly paying for the audience, and the blog post is mostly paying for the effort, it evens out to ask for about the same price for each. In general, charge most for the platform you have the most followers on, and then take into account how much time and effort you personally will put into the project.

Affiliate Commissions

ShopStyle, Like2Buy, RewardStyle, LikeToKnow.It…you’ve probably heard of these even if you aren’t a blogger, because it’s how bloggers send you links to what we’re wearing. When you click-through and purchase the item, we’re then given a commission (usually between 5-15%) and paid after the return policy on the item expires. If you return the item, the commission is also returned. Bloggers from all tiers—10K, 30K, 50K, 90K—can make thousands of dollars a month just by doing this (albeit aggressively). I'm not aggressive about this, so it only adds up to about 5% of my income. You have to have a significant amount of followers and a referral or invitation, so make friends with a blogger who uses it so they can refer you. 

Banner Ads

Food bloggers I know can make $10,000 in one month just by running banner ads on their sites. Although their page views just about quadruple mine, running ads on your site is a valid way to earn a passive income—you don't have to do anything beyond installing them to make the money. However, many agencies require statistics from Google AdSense (or a certain number of page views) before you can apply to their agency, so get started with an account there. Any passive income is worth it as a micro-influencer!

Product Creation or Partnerships

You've noticed that bloggers often release capsule collections in collaboration with another company, like my past partnerships with Elegantees and Goldfine Jewelry. On top of being paid for their time and effort in the design process, they are paid with commissions on each piece sold. You can also create your own products, like an app or an eBook if you're into the tech or writing side of things.

  Designing my TrueXGold collection with Goldfine Jewelry

Designing my TrueXGold collection with Goldfine Jewelry


How do you run your business?

The hardest part about blogging is that you are doing everything. As a micro-influencer, I make a comfortable living for me, not for anyone else, so I don’t have the income to hire regular employees. I am the CEO, the COO, the CFO, and the secretary for each of them. I run the sales department, the marketing department, and the legal department. I can bring in help on a case-by-case basis, but since 2010, I've done it all. I’ve never been good with numbers or organization, so discovering a process that worked for me was the hardest part. The key for me is to write every single thing down—every single thing. If I don’t write down an email I need to respond to, that email will be lost in the black hole of my inbox faster than the speed of light. If I don’t write down a sweater that I was gifted from a company, I’ll forget I ever received it and it’ll be months before I get around to shooting it. My friend recently set me up with a Trello board, which has changed my world.

To succeed as a full-time micro-influencer on your own, you do need to have an organizational system. You do need to have a income and expense spreadsheet. You do need to have an editorial calendar. You do need a filing system. You do need to have a dedicated office or desk space. You do need to have a business checking account. You do need to have a notebook you can scribble things in as soon as you think of them to refer back to when you have time. There is so much value in staying organized when you work from home and for yourself. Since I’ve put this into practice, I’ve already been able to improve brand relationships, feel less stressed, and even enabled myself to make more money.

 

How do you get work?

That's simple—pitching. I've sent thousands of emails (even Direct Messages on Instagram or Twitter) over the last seven years telling brands why they should pick me to create content for them. Probably 40% of them came through. Yeah, over half of this job is rejection. For me, there are two categories of pitch emails: introductions, and campaign pitches. Here is an introduction I sent to a travel marketing agency back in 2015:

 
How to Make It as a Micro-influencer | truelane
 

If you don't have a list of companies you've worked with before to kick off your email, just list a few brands that you have featured in your content, and sell them your brand! Whatever you can say to make yourself sound enticing to them—as long as it's true. With an introduction email, I also send along a media kit, which is a PDF that gives them the rundown about you: your website pageviews, followers at a glance, campaigns you've worked on. Here is an old media kit I used to send out:

 
How to Make It as a Micro-influencer | truelane
 

This is the email you send before you start campaign pitching. Just from sending that email two years ago, I've worked on five multi-thousand dollar campaigns for them! People want to see professionalism, a bit of your personality, and your credibility, and that can adapt depending on who you're writing to.

Here is an example of a campaign pitch email I sent to a brand last year:

 
How to Make It as a Micro-influencer | truelane
 

I had done "gifting campaigns" (receiving free product) from this company before, and so this was a pitch to a company already familiar with me. Their fashion is fun, bubbly, and girly, and I gave my email that personality. She was interested. In my next email I sent her my rates, then we were able to work out a fair price for the trio of blog posts.

After doing this for seven years, I've made enough contacts at brands and agencies that they have me in mind when a campaign comes up, and they reach out to me. I probably send out a pitch email three or four times a month now. But when I was starting out, I sent thirty pitch emails in a week. How do you find what brands to pitch to? Email the ones you love. Look at who other bloggers are working with. Look at the ads Facebook is throwing at you. Look at the #ootd hashtag and see what brands people are featuring. Browse Pinterest. Use your resources. Here is an example of me being resourceful, in a cute little quotation indent:

When I was breaking into the travel blogging world, I researched every hotel and destination out there and found out who their marketing agency was. Once, I tracked down an agency I was interested in, and all I could find was the CEO's email address—not about to pitch a blog post to a CEO! I then went to LinkedIn and looked up the social media team for the company, and input a name of an employee I found in the formula of the email for the CEO—firstinitial.lastname@company.com. The email got through! Never underestimate time spent on research and resources.

How to Make It as a Micro-influencer | truelane


Now that I've overloaded you with information, I'll reiterate: I don't have all the answers. I don't know how you can make it as a blogger, I can't tell you how to get more followers, and I can't tell you how to start making more money or make the jump to the "next level." No matter how many times you ask me "How do you become a full-time blogger?" I will never have a simple answer for you. I've tried to be as plainspoken as possible in this blog post, and I hope you find some of it helpful rather than discouraging. You can definitely succeed in this career, just as I have, without being a millionaire superstar. And I hope that if it's your passion, that you do!  
 

BE RESOURCEFUL.

WORK HARD.

BE PATIENT.

HAVE FUN.

Good luck out there!