After talking with Audrey McClelland, co-founder of Getting Gorgeous and co-founder of her blog, Mom Generations I now know the secret to monetizing blogs and it's pretty straightforward. It takes hard work, dedication, brand loyalty and being online 24/7.
I was curious to know what the tipping point was for Audrey from blogger to Mompreneur, as I've seen her name online and in national campaigns along with Getting Gorgeous co-founder Vera Sweeney. Audrey explains that where she is today is exactly where she had dreamed of being since 2006 when she made a decision to start blogging in hopes of monetizing at some point down the road. There was no manual for this job, no rules and no boss. Audrey says:
"I wasn't blogging just for the creative outlet. I wanted to create something from nothing and build a business. In 2004, we had our first son and only a couple months later, I was pregnant again. I wanted to stay home with my kids but my husband's job was not completely secure so I wanted to build something that would allow me to work from home. I was fascinated with DailyCandy.com and I wanted to find my own niche."
In September 2007, Audrey had been online for a year and decided that her niche would be fashion. A topic that excited her since working as Donna Karan's assistant in 2000 for five years. Audrey graduated from Brown with a degree in Theatre Arts and pursued the broadcasting industry for a little while until she landed this job at DKNY. She says, "That experience shaped my love of fashion. I was able to see this creative genius at work everyday. She embodied entrepreneurship. Her world revolved around her work, which was her passion and also her family & friends." She credits working for Donna Karan as a huge piece of the puzzle that makes Audrey who she is today as a Mompreneur.
In June 2008, the Mom Generations blog went live with Audrey blogging alongside her mom and sister. She admits that initially there was no business plan beyond the simple act of going online daily, commenting, engaging with other bloggers and making social connections that she continues to enjoy today. She did the online equivalent of "pounding the pavement" to become an integral part of fashion blogging.
In order to monetize, Audrey knew she'd need to collaborate with brands and the easiest way to do that was to reach out to brands she had been loyal to for years and also frequently talked about in her fashion blog. Her first campaign was with TJMaxx doing makeovers on women.
"I reached out to the company, scared to death pitch. I did it for free, I wanted to do good job. I considered it an audition. I was in no position to really make demands of the brand but I wanted to build a relationship. That's how I've gone into every campaign, saying 'Let me show you what I can do and if you are happy, let's build a relationship."
She says those relationships are now real friendships with the brands and their PR teams as well.
She took blogging to the next level and hit that tipping point when she met Vera Sweeney at Disney Social Media Moms in Feb. 2010. Audrey says, "Fate would have it that we sat next to each other. Vera was already a successful celebrity gossip blogger and together we jumped into the 'Mom blog' world. Within an hour of meeting, we had planned the basic foundation for Getting Gorgeous." The stars aligned and their first event was that summer in August 2010.
I can't imagine going into business with a complete stranger after an hour and Audrey agrees,
"It's unconventional and so is our job! We are completely in sync. We share the same business mind and goals. We are trustworthy and respectful of each other. Trust is the key. We can talk on each others behalf. It's an incredible experience. Blogging can be lonely, you are home with the computer, but with Vera, I have an office mate. We talk ten times a day."
Vera feels the same way about her partner and says:
"Audrey and I have a deep understanding of one another. We are both the sole providers for our families.... so failure isn't an option. We have to continue to better ourselves, to build bigger deals and to take greater risks because our children depend on us. I think the fact that we are both in the same situation lends to this drive. Finding a partner and a best friend so late in life is a true blessing -- my greatest that has come from this industry."
After working with TJMaxx, Audrey had the confidence to approach other brands but there was still no industry standard for getting paid and no guidelines on rates. So she walked a fine line with her next client, Healthy Choice. She decided it would be better to talk openly about this new way to earn some income. She spoke with the brand's public relations team and was given valuable advice that she offers to other bloggers:
"Whenever you go into a meeting always be prepared to offer 4-5 different options. Since we don't know how much is in their budget, offer a wide range of pricing options. Their budget is a mystery and therefore it can be uncomfortable. What it comes down to is being honest, open and flexible. It's about building the relationship, rather than going in for the kill and moving on."
Audrey says that many times bloggers just want to get paid instantly and she's adamant that's not how it works if you want to be in this for the long run. She says,
"It's earned media. You write about brands when it makes sense. Stay authentic to brands, find your loyalties and then reach out to those brands, show them how you've promoted them consistently in the past. This may be very simple advice, but it's been the key to my success."
Working with major companies and running Getting Gorgeous events has allowed Audrey's husband to work with her now after being laid off two years ago. He's at home with their four kids while Audrey runs this Mom Blogger biz. As this revenue stream grows, Audrey says "It's a huge help having him home. Juggling four boys, life is much better with him around full time. Having someone who is just as invested in both biz & family makes this all possible. I'm pretty simple, I want to live comfortably and be happy with my family. This set up makes us very happy and as balanced as possible."
With Audrey & Vera's faces on a huge full page spread for Procter & Gamble in O Magazine this spring, they are paving the path for brands to better understand the reach and influence of bloggers. They're elevating the conversation that many bloggers feel is overdue.
When asked what she wants people to know about her being a Mompreneur, Audrey says,
That is exactly what I am. I'm in the business of being a mom. My whole day is centered around my kids and then my biz. I'm up at 5-ish to do some work then my kids get up and we get ready for school. They are always on my mind and because I live in the digital world I can be accessible to business contacts almost anywhere, anytime. I'm usually online most of the day between 6 am and midnight! I speak for most mompreneurs when I say there's a lot of blood sweat & tears that go into every part of this business, but having the support of my husband, my family and my best friend, Vera makes it all possible.
Audrey's Tips To Making Money Through Blogging:
- Pay your dues, spend time online engaging with people.
- Connect both online & offline.
- Find what you're good at and what you love and run with it. Are you good at pitching? Are you good at consulting with brands? Are you good at freelance writing for larger outlets?
- If you have high traffic, absolutely look into affiliate and ad revenue programs, it's a wonderful way to make extra money.
Audrey is a great example of creating something from nothing to build her perfect job/business but she says the one sacrifice with being a digital brand is that her friends who aren't into social media just don't get it. It doesn't appear that she has a real job, so they don't understand why she may have to miss a friend's event in order to host a brand's twitter party. But she says that now that their family has all their eggs in one basket, the stakes are higher and it is a very real job. "It's hard work and dedication. You see who your true friends are. It's those who can understand this unconventional business."
Audrey has lots of friends online who have become friends in real life too. This is what happens when you work in the digital world, you end up connecting with like minded people. This "in real life" connection is why Getting Gorgeous has been such a huge success, connecting brands with bloggers and taking digital to the level.
Even their kids (the eldest is seven years old) are beginning to understand that it's different for both parents to be working from home, but they aren't complaining. After saying something, they frequently ask Audrey, "Mom, are you putting this on your blog or Facebook?!" They're catching on. I'm seeing a kid's endorsement in the near future.