tip toeing over to the dark side…or has hell frozen over?

May 16, 2012 |  Category:   life rambling the biz

Remember this post from last year about my internal struggle about ads? No, I’m not about to line the sidebar with 20 ads and I doubt that I ever will, but I have placed this seemingly innocuous graphic over there to the left called “Currently Obsessed” that I’m not sure you have noticed yet (ok, I only put it up last night – EDIT: I have since taken the graphic down). What is it? It will take you to a page full of products that I own and like or are currently thinking about purchasing and it works as affiliate or referral links if you ever decide to purchase those items. I usually comment on each item. One of the things that I like about it is that it lives off the blog. Judging from the interest and positive comments I get whenever I do the rare outfit post or the numerous emails asking where I shop for the girls and what camera I’m using, I thought this might be a relatively unobtrusive way of showing the products I use or like for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing. Ok, so by now you might be thinking, “what in the huh? But…you said that you wouldn’t feel right about making money off the blog! That you don’t like writing about material things! What the hell happened?”.


Friends, I’ve thought and struggled a lot over this the past year since i wrote that post. The conclusion I came to recently was that while I still don’t feel comfortable plastering ads all over the site (I’m a control freak over aesthetics, after all!), I’m feeling ok making money off the blog if I’m able to. What’s ironic is that I used to make money off ads and sponsored links from a previous product review blog that I started in 2004 when this was all sort of new territory, so what’s the difference now? It forced me to examine why I write here, what I want to get out of it, what the blog’s turned into, and what I need to do to make things happen for the future. The only thing left that was making me anxious over this decision was the reaction of some of you who’ve expressed that you would be disappointed if I started placing ads, but at the end of the day I decided that was my problem, not yours, for caring too much what other people think. Even the fact that I’m sitting here explaining to anybody why I’ve started using affiliate links in this ridiculously rambling post is unnecessary, really, but I’ve always tried to be honest and transparent.

So it came down like this:
Near the end of last year, we lost our only real stream of steady income when a very part time, long term consulting gig of Mark’s came to an end. It wasn’t as devastating a blow, obviously, as when he lost his new job way back in 2008 when this whole adventure – the business, the blog, everything – began, but this income paid for our bills and groceries every month. We didn’t feel the sting of the loss initially because the holidays were fast approaching, December sales were good and it gets so crazy during holiday time, but we have been feeling it ever since. So I think…how are we going to replace this income? We can sell more cookies! I can look for more freelance jobs! Um, OK! But it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when we’re both hustling and overworked already. And then I started looking at the blog again. It seemed so obvious. I have an audience. I spend hours writing every post. It costs real money to host this blog on a server. Why not get something in return? But…why the hesitation? I talked to some of my friends who are also coming to the same realization and I looked at other friends and bloggers who are making income off of their blogs. Why am I different from them? And then I realized that every time I answered the question “hey, where’d you get that”, it was free advertisement for the retailers. The internal struggle loosened its grip just a little bit.

I’m not forcing anyone to look or buy anything that I might link to in the future. I am not changing my content by littering every other post with affiliate links (honestly? I don’t even think I can do that!). I may once in a while link to products that is of interest to me or that I have personally purchased, but this is nothing new as I have done this in the past. The only difference is that it might happen once a month as opposed to only a few times a year and I may make a little commission from it. I am not expecting to make gobs of money and quitting my freelance career (oh man, sometimes I wish!) – I would have to have a lot more readers and link to a lot of products to do that. I am not even expecting to replace the income that we lost and I have no idea how much, if at all, any of this could generate, but I’ve come to the realization that I need to see everything that we do, including this blog, as part of our business and what we hope will be our future. This includes being better at promoting ourselves, our products, tweeting every new blog post on twitter – all of which I truly suck at because I don’t ever want to appear pushy and feel like I’m saying, “hey, look at me!”. But I need to get over that. Really. I am not serving our business well by being so sheepish and apologetic about it.
Having a health scare puts things in perspective. Mark and I are definitely not young and spry anymore. If these are our prime money making years, then yikes! I don’t plan on compromising my beliefs or integrity to make money, but I also know that I have 2 girls to support who are quickly growing up. I would do anything for them. I am at a point where I’m willing to try new things and do everything I can to help support my family. I am at a point where I no longer want to look around and say, “wait, why can’t I do this too?”. I am not that special; I am not above this. And if you are still here and you have read through to the end of this very long, rambling and somewhat ridiculous post, then I thank you.

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  • Jackie May 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm


    I personally like seeing what other bloggers are into. Please, post! That and this is YOUR blog. If you feel that this blog should be working for you then by all means! No offense taken here.

  • Kristin May 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    You go girl!!! It isn’t selling out, it is being smart. I love the blog and wish you all the best!

  • nicole May 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    dude, you do what’s right for you. if you need to add some subtle advertising, honestly, i wouldn’t care a bit. the only really annoying situations are when blogs do features that are obviously paid advertisements (and have that oily feel) without saying so so have large, obnoxious popups. Otherwise, you’re simply charging for a place that you provide for others to take comfort and pleasure in. i mean, seriously, i just dragged a picture from your trip to old westbury gardens as inspiration for my own. xo.

  • naomi May 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I think you deserve to make boatloads of money. Your blog is beautiful. I love this new section as much as the rest of your blog:)n

  • shalini May 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Good for you! There’s nothing wrong in making some money from your blog, it’s yours to do with as you please, and your voice is always present in your posts, so carry on.

  • Gloria May 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Jenna – Reading your blog is always a breath of fresh air compared to the million others out there. You have a unique voice, and I don’t think you should feel guilt tripped into doing what is best for your family. Keep calm and carry on. I’ll continue reading, ads or no ads, as I’m sure they’ll be tasteful.

  • jacqueline @ thehourglassfiles May 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    I really hope this new source of income helps your family. Your blog is wonderful and I love reading each post. And I solidly trust that you will only promote products you really believe in, so I’m not worried about this becoming some consumeristic space.

  • Lakshmi May 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Do what you have to do – that’s a piece of advice I got from a very wise man a long time ago. And it’s still unwinding in my head.

  • Eva-Lotta May 22, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Very happy to get a glimpse at stuff you like or own!
    Hope this brings a steady income stream.

  • Eva-Lotta May 22, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Can’t figure out how it works – do you get something if I go to the links, or only if I purchase a product?
    Happy to browse through the links, but shipping cost to Europe is prohibitive, so can’t actually purchase :(

  • blandine May 22, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Not only did I read the whole message, I am also commenting for the first time to let you know, fwiw, that I have enjoyed reading your blog for over a year now and will certainly NOT stop doing so just because of these small adds 😉

  • Jenna May 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

    @Eva-Lotta I really appreciate you checking it out, Eva-Lotta, but yes…I only make money if someone makes a purchase .THank you though!

  • monica May 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    jenna, after all the work you put into this blog, you DESERVE to get something out of it.
    anyway, i love your honesty on just about everything.

  • Annie May 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Hi Jenna! I’ve never commented before but you should NEVER, NEVER worry about this! Do what you need to do for your family. We support you!!

  • Grace May 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

    You are a great person. That’s all I want to say.

  • Jeanie June 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Realize I’m late to this thread but I wanted to throw in my support too — I’m a long-time reader, and one of the reasons I read this blog is that it’s beautiful and you have a particular eye. Lots of times I’ve seen beautiful things, and wondered where you purchase. More power to you for getting some reimbursement for what is definitely a skill that you’ve cultivated. I’m looking forward to it! Plus, I second that you are a great person. That’s an awesome comment…!

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