When a Hobby Becomes a Business

Welcome to the December 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Change . . .
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about life changes.

In elementary school my best friend and I wrote a book. Chapter by chapter, we would work on it every day during recess, tucked underneath the trees on the edge of the playground. There, we chronicled the adventures of our star, Princess Zara, and hoped of its’ someday publication. In our hearts we were destine to become writers. 
In a roundabout way, that leads me to today. This blog began as another one of my writing projects. A place for me to think and collect; remember and highlight. This place has never been perfect, but I’ve grown and learned a lot since those early post days almost 4 years ago. But this year was different than others – 2013 brought some big changes to this little internet place. This is the year that my hobby, turned into an official business.
Now, I use the word “business” loosely. I still consider writing and blogging my hobby. I would choose to do this in my spare time regardless of the income opportunities, but on a monthly basis I do generate revenue from That Mama Gretchen and the connections I have made through being a blogger. By no means is it a livable wage and some months there is no income, but it is the perfect mix of hobby and business that supplements our budget. As a one income family, it’s a true blessing to have some extra funds at the end of each month so thanks for continuing to read and support both me and the brands I’ve represented this year! My writing hobby turned small business gives my family a little extra fun and fluff. And by fun, I mean things like buying a garbage disposal for our kitchen sink … no extravagant vacations around here :)
 It’s been a slow change this year, fully grasping what blogging for income means. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but am slowly finding out what works and what doesn’t. Most of all, I’m learning how to balance the money side of blogging and the heart of why I started That Mama Gretchen in the first place.
Today, I want to highlight a few ways I’ve monetized my blog. I truly appreciate bloggers who are transparent in their endeavors, I’ve learned a lot from them, that’s why I’m happy to share the little bit that I know. 
To keep things organized I’m going to go in order of monetizing efforts …
Contributing Writer
My writing career truly started when I accepted my role as an editor at Baby Gizmo. I answered a call for new editors with a resume – a witty one if I do say so myselfand the rest is history. I’ve been writing weekly over their for the last 16 months. Mid-2013 I wrote an unpaid guest post for What To Expect and shortly after they welcomed me on as an official contributor. These two writing jobs are the basis of my income, so, not technically That Mama Gretchen income, but by being present here, they became possibilities. As a contributing writer I’m paid per post, so I largely control how much I earn – I can write as little or as much as I want or as time allows. If I’m being completely honest, someday I’d love to be a contributing writer for a parenting magazine and another website or two. If you hear of opportunities, let me know!
Campaign Networks
In the last year I’ve joined a number of campaign networks that work as a middle man between companies and social media influencers. These are fabulous! I love what they do and what they represent. Many of the sponsored posts you read here are all thanks to them. On average I earn anywhere between $50 and $200 for these posts – every post is different based on the company and post requirements. Sometimes my statistics come into play as well as the clicks that are received on the posts. Some networks send out calls for post pitches for specific ideas, others pre-screen blogs and just email asking if I’m game to participate. I probably get selected to participate in about 1/3 of the campaigns I apply for. Once selected I’m given details, prompts and all that jazz … and a post date. That’s why sometimes I’ll end up with 2 sponsored posts back to back – I promise I don’t mean to bombard you and I truly appreciate your support with these posts whether it be comments, shares, pins, giveaway entries, clicks, you name it. Thank you for loving me, by loving the brands I’ve partnered with.
My favorite networks to partner with are Pollinate Media Group, Linqia (I get a small credit if you sign up with Linqia through this link), The SITS Girls and Clever Girls Collective. There are quite a few others, I just don’t have much experience with them – Collective Bias, TapInfluence, Parent Tested Parent Approved to name a few.
Product Advertising Swaps
This is how I got my monetizing start. I don’t think everyone would consider swaps a monetizing plan, but for me, saving money sometimes equates to making money. For example, when I was expecting Max I knew we were in need of some new cloth diapers so I contacted a number of cloth diaper companies to offer a product advertising swap. Through my blog I’ve developed social media influence so it works in my favor to request a product that I might otherwise purchase in exchange for a review/feature/sidebar advertisement/etc. If you’re just starting out, this is a great way to build relationships with both large and small companies. You can build your reputation as a hard worker for brands in this capacity.
I don’t do much with affiliates because I haven’t seen much fruition from them. I’m assuming this isn’t the case with all bloggers or they wouldn’t exist. Right now the only one I’m set up with is Amazon. So, if you’re in the market to purchase something from Amazon, use my little search bar on the bottom right sidebar and I’ll get a mini kickback from your Amazon shopping.
Ad Sales 
I offer sidebar ads as an exposure opportunity for brands and bloggers. My primary ad is the rotating one through my partnership with the BlogHer Publishing Network. I don’t ads push much and don’t see a lot of income from them either – so, yeah, we’ll see where this goes in the future. I do have a pretty good deal on a blogger special – 300×150 ad for 60 days for just $15! I’d love to help promote you, your blog and specific posts if you’re interested!
With networks and monthly income I’ve found myself establishing a true business (for tax purposes) and an element of accounting. I’m so very super thankful that Dominic is my Mr. Finance, he’s organized most everything for me. That’s been one of the biggest changes – the behind the scenes organization of an editorial calendar and accounting. I don’t have much advice or insight here as I’m still working out many of the bugs. This business stuff can be tricky! My background, pre-blogging, was in sales/marketing so that’s much more my cup of tea – working with brands and dreaming ideas. 
Most of all, whether a business or passionate hobby, surrounding yourself with encouraging supporters who understand the blogging world is key. This might be a blogging mentor, blogging peers or a support group (there are many on Facebook that are absolutely priceless!). Blogging isn’t something you go at alone – it’s a partnership between readers and writers, friends and colleagues, brands and influencers.  Thank you for partnering with me! I’m excited to see what changes will come to That Mama Gretchen in 2014!
So, now, I’m curious … Do you monetize your blog? Do you hope to in the future? What would you add to the above categories? I’d love to learn from you, please share!
And, if you have any questions at all or even an idea that you’d just like to chat about please don’t hesitate to email me – thatmamagretchen@gmail.com.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon December 10 with all the carnival links.)
  • Mature StudentAmber Strocel is embarking on a new adventure in 2014, by returning to a space in her life she thought she’d left behind – that of being a university student.
  • And then there were four — Jillian at Mommyhood learned how quickly love can grow when welcoming a second child to the family.
  • Handling Change As A Mother (And Why That Takes Things To A Different Level) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she helps her young daughter navigate change and why it is so important, as a mother, to gauge her own reactions to change.
  • Without Dad-One Year Later — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how her life has changed one year after losing her husband suddenly.
  • Family Ties — Lori at TEACH through Love realized that her most significant, most painful wound paved the way for her to share her greatest gift.
  • Rootless — After Dionna @ Code Name: Mama‘s parents packed up their home and moved to Florida this fall, she is feeling rootless and restless.
  • A Letter to My Mama Self in the Swirl of Change — Sheila Pai of A Living Family shares a letter she wrote to herself to capture and remember the incredible changes from the year, and invites you to do the same and share!
  • Junctionssustainablemum explains how her family has dealt with a complete change of direction this year.
  • Planning, Parenting, and Perfection — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how most of the plans she made for her adult life have worked out differently than she planned, but she’s ended up getting a lot of what she really wanted.
  • Why First Grade Means Growing Up… for Both Me and My Daughter — Donna at Eco-Mothering discovers that her daughter’s transition into first grade is harder as a parent.
  • First Year of Mothering — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot reflects on the quiet change that took her by surprise this year.
  • Building the Community YOu Desire — A recent move has Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children working toward setting up a new support network.
  • Slowing down in 2013 — A car fire and a surprise diagnosis of Down syndrome made 2013 a very different year than the one Crunchy Con Mommy and family were expecting!
  • The Seven Year Cycle — After 7 intense years of baking, birthing and breastfeeding 6 kids, Zoie at TouchstoneZ wonders, “Will I be enough for what comes next?”
  • Rebirth — Kellie of Our Mindful Life has found that each of her births leaves her a different person.
  • When a Hobby Becomes a Business — This year, new doors opened for That Mama Gretchen‘s hobby of writing and blogging – it has turned into a side business. She’s sharing a bit about her journey and some helpful tips in case you’re interested in following the same path.
  • 5 Tips for Embracing a Big Change in Your Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about a big change in her family and shares tips that have always helped her family embrace changes.
  • Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes — Ana at Panda & Ananaso ruminates on how having a child changed her priorities.
  • Homeostasis — Lauren at Hobo Mama is finding that even as elements shift in her life — in cosleeping, homeschooling, breastfeeding, & more — they mostly remain very familiar.
  • Sally go round the sun — A new baby brings joy and unexpected sadness for Douglas at Friendly Encounters, as she is diagnosed with a rare genetic condition.
  • Embrace it — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen muses about the changes in her family this year and how she can embrace them . . . as best she can anyway.
  • Big Change; Seamless but Big — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how one of the biggest changes of her life was also a seamless transition.
  • Celebrating Change — Change feeds Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep‘s soul. And all the work that seemed like monotonous nothingness finally pays off in a clear way.

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  1. says

    I'm thrilled for you Gretchen! I hope this becomes exactly what you need/want.

  2. says

    Mostly I get free books, which is one of my favorite currencies (other than that I can't do things like pay bills with them, etc

  3. says

    Some days, I wish my blog made money. Some days I just wish I could find more time to blog! I love the way you have broken this down to make it easier to understand!

  4. says

    Ahhh… I'd been meaning to ask you these questions for a few months now! Thanks and good luck!!

  5. says

    That was awesome! Thanks for the very concise details on how you are making some money with your blog. And I am glad it is bringing you some welcome change.

  6. says

    I'm always pleased to see other bloggers earning bank for their efforts. You work hard and are talented, so you deserve all you cultivate for yourself. I also appreciate blogger transparency. I've unfollowed blogs when I felt they weren't disclosing and, of course, keep reading those that do. Best wishes on growing success!

  7. says

    Very cool — I'm always curious how other bloggers make money! I'm hoping to start earning more by selling my own books — that's my dream for future income. I'll check out some of the other opportunities you mentioned!