How Blogging Became a Full Time Job & How You Can Earn a Living as an Influencer

How to Earn Income From Blogging

Huge thanks to ShopStyle Collective for sponsoring this post

A couple of weeks ago, someone on Instagram asked what my job is, and I’m grateful I can say that my job is running Putting Me Together!  When I first discovered blogs, oh-so-long ago, I was completely perplexed as to how you could create income from blogging, let alone make it a full time gig.  It’s been a while since I talked about all that, so when ShopStyle Collective, the main company that helped PMT become a full time option, asked if I’d share how I started blogging, how PMT grew, and let you know about their new Standard Program for newer influencers, I thought it’d be a great time to talk about what goes on behind the scenes and how you can support what happens here.

I’m so grateful to be able to run Putting Me Together.  My friends and I used to play this game in college and early in our post-college careers where we’d ask, “If you could have any job that’s not your current job and didn’t have to worry about money, what would it be?”  My answer was ALWAYS that I wanted to help women with style, and now through PMT I actually get to do that!

How I Started Blogging
I began Putting Me Together in 2011 to connect with likeminded people who enjoyed style, and to get better at mixing and matching my wardrobe.  I had also been helping my friends with their style, and I knew that if women learned a few foundational style concepts, style would be less confusing, and they could feel more confident in their clothes.  In the blogging world at that time, while there were a lot of super stylish bloggers, I only found a handful who had “everyday” style that I could relate to.  There were even less bloggers teaching about style at the time.  (There are tons now!)  In addition to connecting with likeminded people, I hoped that I could make style easy for others who just wanted to look “normal, but cute.” 😁 I honestly didn’t know if my blog would ever reach that point, so I set out to just focus on having fun documenting my style journey.

I decided on the name Putting Me Together, in reference to both the act of putting myself together in addition to hoping that maybe someday, someone would say “this blog is really putting me together!”  😊 I hemmed and hawed about actually starting my blog because, especially back in 2011, posting pictures of your outfits on the internet was really weird.  I mean, let’s be honest, it still is kinda funny, but it was even weirder back then! 😆  My husband bought the domain name anyway, and I freaked out for a bit.  Haha!  But, because we already had the domain, I felt like I had to use it.  It was the push I needed to actually get going.

I started posting my outfits and shared what I was learning.  Then, I wrote content that helped people with style, like Building a Remixable Wardrobe, how to wear One Piece Many Ways, and Style Tips.

Over the years, PMT has grown to a community of awesome women (all of you)!  I now also work with a team of 3 other women, which makes this even better.  I love sharing how to make style easy.  I love that I get to share amazing products because I can hardly contain myself when I find an amazing product.  And, I LOVE hearing how your confidence has grown along with your style!  You all make it super fun, and this wouldn’t be anything without you!

On a personal note, I’m also really grateful for the flexibility that comes with blogging, especially this year more than ever, given the crazy time that 2020 has been.  I have still been able to work, which is something I don’t take for granted.  In addition, I can help Addie with online learning and be around Aiden.  (Ella has continued at daycare, which I am also extremely grateful for.  It’s a super small daycare that’s basically its own quarantined bubble, and she gets to see her friends in a pretty safe environment.)

Since I started blogging in 2011, many things have changed in the landscape of the blogging and influencer world.  Like I said, when I first discovered blogs over 10 years ago, I was completely perplexed as to how you could earn income from blogging, let alone make it a full time gig.  The term “influencer” wasn’t even a thing back then!  And now, an entire industry has grown beyond what I would have imagined, and there are more resources than ever to help influencers do this as a viable, sustainable option.

 

How PMT Earns Income
So, how the heck do influencers earn money?  I think most of you are somewhat familiar with how it works, but perhaps the details are a little fuzzy.  That’s what I’ll get into today so you have a better understanding of it all.  If you’ve been around for a long time, you’ve heard me talk about this before.  If you’re newer or just want a refresher, I hope this gives you a better understanding!

Some of the main ways PMT earns income are through 1) commission on your purchases, 2) outfit guides, and 3) sponsored posts.  I’ll talk through each one of them.

1. Affiliate Commission (i.e. links to products)
I earn a small commission on items that you purchase through links I share.  This means I can do the work of providing clothing recommendations, outfit ideas, capsule wardrobes, and other blog content at no extra cost to you.  Because of affiliate commission, I can continue to provide that content without needing to charge a subscription fee or a service fee like I would if we did a personal styling session.  You just pay for the clothes you’re buying, and the store then pays me a small percentage of that.  It’s kind of like how sales associate at Nordstrom earns commission on your purchase, but this is the virtual version.

I can hardly contain myself when I find a great item, so I love that I can share them and help you build a closet of AMAZING pieces without costing you any extra money.  I totally see it as a win-win.

To do this, I work with ShopStyle Collective, who provides the tools to create affiliate links for items at Nordstrom, Old Navy, Amazon, and so on.  My blog was built and sustained with affiliate links through ShopStyle Collective’s tools, starting way back in 2011, and it’s still the primary way PMT generates income!

With that, I want to say a HUGE thank you for shopping through links on this blog!  It takes hours to create those blog posts, and I wouldn’t be able to sustain creating that free content without the commission earned on your purchases.

For any of you who are influencers or are interested in becoming one, ShopStyle Collective recently launched their Standard Program for influencers with under 10,000 followers.  It’s a simplified version of the current ShopStyle Collective platform where you’ll get a simpler set of tools for text links and analytics along with training for creating content and growing your audience.  As your audience and your needs grow, you can graduate to the Advanced Program and gain access to more tools, analytics, and retailers.  Check out ShopStyle Collective’s program HERE if you’re interested!

One note is that ShopStyle Collective’s Standard Program is a pay-per-click model, which means you get paid when people click on your link, even if they don’t purchase anything.  When you graduate to the Advanced Program, it becomes a pay-per-purchase model like the one I use.  I started out with ShopStyle Collective’s pay-per-click model way back in 2011 and I loved it!  It was fantastic as a blogger just starting out!

ShopStyle Collective Standard Program

 

2. Outfit Guides & Starter Kit Wardrobe Guides
Another way PMT earns income is through the Starter Kit Wardrobe Guides and the Outfit Guides that you can download in the PMT Shop.  A lot of you want the done-for-you wardrobe with all the outfits, which is what these guides are.  Thank you for purchasing those!  I’m so glad they’ve been helpful!

Some of you just want the capsule wardrobe without the outfits, and I’m glad to be able to provide those for free on the blog thanks to earning commission through ShopStyle Collective’s affiliate links.

Both the capsule wardrobes and corresponding outfit guides take an immense amount of time and thought to create.  I am SO happy to make them, knowing how much easier they make your lives.  I’m also glad to earn income through them so that my team and I can continue to devote time to creating them.

 

3. Sponsored Posts
Another stream of revenue comes from posts that are sponsored by a particular retailer or business.  This is when a brand pays the influencer a flat fee to create content that highlights their brand.  Almost all of my sponsored posts come through ShopStyle Collective.  They are my connection to different brands, and they recommend me to retailers that they think will be good fits for our PMT community.  If a brand is interested, ShopStyle will present me with an opportunity that I can accept or decline.

I believe there’s quite a bit of mystery or confusion around sponsored posts, so I’ll get into this a little more.

I think there’s a misconception that for sponsored posts, the brand chooses all the items the influencer shows, but that’s not always the case.  In fact, it’s almost never the case for the ones I do.  Most of the time, I participate in sponsored posts where I can pretty much choose whichever items I want to show.  I mostly only say yes to brands that I’m already familiar with and know have good items.  Even better are sponsored posts with retailers from which I already own and love a ton of items, because then I get paid a flat fee to style items I would have shown you anyway.  It’s a nice cherry on top! 😁

When I’m presented with a sponsored opportunity, I’ll spend a couple of hours browsing the retailer’s inventory to see if there are items that are even worth highlighting before I accept or decline.  I do this because I want to make sure I’ll be sharing stuff that is really good.  I don’t want to say yes to something only to see later that the products are terrible, and now I’ve committed to featuring bad items.  I don’t always get it right, but I try to do this to the best of my ability.  Like I said earlier, I rely mostly on commission from affiliate links, so whether a post is sponsored or not, I always aim to find amazing items.  The way I see it, if I take on a sponsored post, tell you about clothes, and they’re all horrible or ridiculously out of your price range, why would you trust my recommendations in the future?  So, sponsored or not, I care about featuring good items.

Then, I’ll decide on a topic to write about.  I think there’s another misconception that for sponsored posts, the influencer has to say whatever the brand asks you to say.  Again, that’s not always the case.  I usually decline the ones that have a narrow scope like that and say yes to ones with broader scopes, like simply highlighting fall style.  I will gladly do those, as there is tons of flexibility with what I can write about.

To decide a topic, I’ll sift through items and focus on what’s good.  Then, I’ll refer to my running list of blog content ideas that I was planning to write about anyway and see if the retailer has suitable items for any of them.  If it does, I’ll use that content idea for the sponsored post.  If not, I’ll draw inspiration from the pieces I found.  This has led me to write content that I might not have thought to write otherwise, such as dressy outfits for holiday work parties, waterproof shoes that aren’t rain boots, tips for how to style skirts, and various remixes.

Another thing I love about sponsored posts is that they force me to work harder and dig a little deeper through inventory to find good products.  If I’m browsing a store casually on my own and it’s not for a sponsored post, I might just try a few items, not find anything good, and stop.  I think that’s a pretty typical shopping pattern for most of us.  For a sponsored post, I’ve committed to posting something from that store, so I have to find something good there, and I’ll keep searching until I do.

When I prepare for a sponsored post, I will often try anywhere from 30-60+ items from that store.  It’s quite a time investment, but I want to make sure I’m sharing good items!  If I don’t find good enough items from that first batch, I’ll spend hours searching for more.  This has pushed me to find some gold nuggets that I may not have naturally tried, and I’ve gotten some of my absolute favorite pieces–and yours–as a result!  I’m talking about things like PMT fan-favorite Zella leggings which I tried as I dug through items for a sponsored post back in 2016, the Wit & Wisdom bootcut jeans that feel like yoga pants (for a post in 2015), the Dear Mushka pendant necklace that has made the PMT Top 10 Monthly Best Sellers list for…forever 😜 (for a post in 2014), and the insanely soft and stretchy Kut From the Kloth denim jacket (for a post in 2019).  I added those to my closet due to searching for awesome pieces to share in sponsored posts, and I still talk about them regularly to this day in both sponsored and non-sponsored posts.  AND, those are PMT staples that you now love too!

Because I like to rely less on sponsored posts and more on commission, I usually limit the number of sponsored posts I do in a month–if I’m lucky enough to even be offered that many, haha!  Like I said, I take quite a bit of time to sift through a store’s inventory and try 30-60+ pieces (all through online shopping, which means having to package returns which is also a pain as I’m sure you know!), and I typically wouldn’t spend that many hours shopping otherwise.  So, I try to stay around 3-4 per month, with the exception of the holiday season where I’ll do a couple more if I can.  I do like how they push me to dig deeper and find good products and come up with topics I might not have tried or thought of otherwise.

If you are an influencer or you’re interested in becoming one, you can start with ShopStyle’s Standard Program, and when you graduate to the Advanced Program you become eligible for these types of collaborations with brands as well.  It is really helpful to work with a program like ShopStyle Collective if you are interested in sponsorships because they are a brand trusted by retailers, and having ShopStyle vouch for you and set up partnerships goes a long way.

Those are the main ways PMT generates income and how I’ve been able to continue providing style help and outfit ideas for the last 9 years.  Thank you for helping to keep this thing going by shopping through links, purchasing outfit guides, and engaging with sponsored content.  In doing so, you’ve helped others who found us after you receive free style help, too!  I’m so appreciative that you’re part of the PMT community, and I’m honored to be part of your style journey!

For those of you influencers or aspiring influencers, remember you can join ShopStyle’s Standard Program and start helping others in this way, too!  Check out what the program entails, and apply to join HERE.

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