In a time where social media plays an ever-growing role in the marketing world, brands are moving away from traditional outbound marketing and are shifting towards influencer marketing, and bloggers who are known to be authentic and have loyal followings have become important influencers (see Marketing-Schools.org). While influencer marketing is still a relatively new way of marketing, it's predicted to be "the next big thing in advertising" (SocialTimes). So if you're thinking about monetizing your blog or social media accounts, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon!
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Why and when did you start blogging?
I started blogging in 2010 just after my first daughter was born. I started off as a hobby blogger that just wanted to share about our little family with our extended family that lived farther away. I started to look to monetize and grow beyond our family and friends in 2011 where I started sharing more quick and easy recipes and projects for busy families. Blogging at that time was just my side hustle, though. I was a full-time reading specialist in an inner city school district in NY. As teaching changed and I became unhappy with missing out on moments with both of my young daughters I looked to make a full-time income that could replace my teaching income. I diversified my income with ads, affiliate marketing, and sponsored posts. I also grew my traffic and social media following.
In 2015 I retired from teaching because my sponsored post income replaced my teaching salary. In September of 2016, I launched JennyMelrose.com where my sole purpose is to teach influencers how to monetize and grow their online businesses so that they can turn their side hustles into a full-time income. I specialize in working with brands. I combined my love of working with brands and my knowledge of teaching by creating the e-course "Working with Brands" which launched mid-October. I enrolled over 100 students in a months time and have gotten great feedback about the course. The course will relaunch January 13th with updates and a new membership site.
In 2015 you quit your job as a full-time teacher and have since then been a full-time blogger (and mom!). What made you decide to go "all in" and how did you know this was the time to do it?
It wasn't really that I knew it was time to go all in. It was more that I needed to for my sanity and the health of my family. I was very unhappy at my teaching position because of administration and the expectations. I had a roster of over 250 students that were at least two grade levels below where they needed to be in reading and math. I felt unsuccessful and useless every day when I went to work. I loved my students but my hands were tied in how much I could really do when I had five different level of students sitting in front of me and a group as large as 19 kids. It was insanity.
My husband and I sat down and looked at the money I was bringing in from my side hustle and we determined that if I could consistently bring in 4K per month for six consecutive months then I would resign from my teaching position and we would move our family from NY (super expensive) to NC (inexpensive). I lived my entire life in NY and my entire family is still there, but I needed to get out for the sake of my family. After a year and a half down south, it was the best decision I have ever made. I more than doubled my blogging income from my lifestyle site The Melrose Family and I did over 30K in my first launch of my e-course.
How did you first start monetizing your blog?
I started monetizing by working with networks on sponsored posts. I later found out how much smarter it would have been to reach directly out to brands, but I had no idea where to start and in 2011 there weren't a ton of resources out there like there is now. I also monetized via ads and affiliate marketing via amazon.
And now? What's your main source of income?
I now make more than 50% of my monthly income for The Melrose Family from sponsored posts by working via networks and directly with the brands. From my second site, JennyMelrose.com, my sole income was from the sale of my e-course.
You recently launched a free challenge to help influencers perfect their pitch. Why did you decide to create this?
My Pitch Perfect Challenge is successful because it gives away free content in the form of a mini lesson and then homework. The challenge teaches my audience about pitching but also gets them used to opening emails from me. Plus, it allows them the opportunity to engage with me via my Facebook group for Influencer Entrepreneurs. That engagement leads to trust, which ultimately leads to them becoming students of my "Working with Brands" e-Course because it is the logical next step after an initial pitch to a brand. You then need to know how to create a media kit and a proposal that lands you a contract. The proposal piece is what alludes most bloggers because you need to determine your worth, which is difficult at times for us to put a number on it. I give them resources to make it easier and then provide sample proposals that they can utilize.
In your opinion, what makes the perfect pitch?
The perfect pitch needs to be clear and concise. You need to be able to explain what your site is about and how it is relevant to the brand that you want to work. You also need to be able to show them how your influence could help them. My 9 Point Pitch Checklist has all of the pieces of a perfect proposal.
Specifically talking about influencer marketing, what are your thoughts on signing up with agencies who connect influencers and brands vs. doing it on your own and approaching brands without an intermediate?
I believe that networks that act as a middleman are still valuable and bloggers should definitely utilize them, but I feel it is more beneficial to reach directly out to the brands. You get to play to your strengths and you are not pigeon holed with specific requirements when you work directly with brands. Reaching out to brands is a numbers game, though. You have to consistently reach out and you need to reach out 3-4 months in advance. So, right now you should be reaching out about Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day.
What would be your number 1 tip for new bloggers trying to monetize their blog or social media?
My number one tip would be to know your purpose. Why are you writing what you are writing? If you want to monetize, you should also be thinking about a product that you will possibly create so that you can create a targeted list. I talk more about this on my podcast, Influencer Entrepreneurs, which launches January.
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