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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  • Katie May 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    You go girl! You absolutely should profit from this blog. You are a thoughtful, consistent blogger with original content (which is more than I can say for some other career bloggers).

  • Jennifer Nichols May 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I really enjoy your blog, and I would love to see you be able to generate a little income from this to support your family. With all the time and thought you put into maintaining your blog, and with so many of us getting such enjoyment from it, why not? You have my support!

  • Tara May 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I think you should get paid for creating this blog – it is a work of art. I wouldn’t mind ads. Do what you gotta do!

  • hnahk May 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    love it!

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag May 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm


    1) I like you OH so much. Love your blog. love your voice.

    2) You do what is good for YOU!

    3) I LOVE the new doo-dads on the side! I love being able to see the shop and links to stuff you like. I think it makes the blog look pretty, how’s that?

    4) No dark side! I really ever so truly believe that this is not The Horror that you think it might be. If you can make some $ with affiliate links you do it! Soooooooooo much work goes into blogs and I don’t think folks have any idea unless they do it.

    no apologies needed. zero. xoxoxoo

  • Aya May 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I not only stand behind your decision, (I appreciate your explanation) I find the graphic unobtrusive and enjoyed looking at your things. Keep on keeping on!

  • Hannah May 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    You really shouldn’t feel bad. I think that this is a cool way to do ads.

  • Sid May 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Personally, I love your blog and I’m happy to see you making some money off of your hard work. I also happen to really like your personal style/taste so it’ll be neat to see things you’re interested in.

  • Sora May 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I love your honest posts and think you should definitely be able to recoup what you put into this blog. Even a banner ad at the top would not bother me. Keep on keeping on!

  • Shannon May 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I like it! You should make some dough off all the work you put in to this blog. Plus, I really like seeing your style and what you are coveting right now. I think it is great and I hope you make gobs of money from it!

  • Elizabeth May 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    As Katie rightly said, your content is far more original than most blogs out there and therefore your audience will keep reading. Next time in NYC (I live in London) I want to stop by the Brooklyn Flea and buy some cookies 😉 I actually bought some for my friend in LA from your online shop and she said they were yummy. Xxx

  • Mary May 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Good for you! You obviously spend a lot of time on your blog – it is high quality, well formatted, and has a lot of good content. It’s beautiful, and there’s no shame in putting yourself out there a little and getting a little compensation in return. I’m off to check out what you’re obsessing over now…

  • bari May 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Oh good for you Jenna! Seriously, your apology wasn’t necessary. I don’t know why readers have problems with ads, they aren’t even paying for them. Please don’t pay attention to it because its total BS. I’m a super long time reader and I don’t think I have ever commented, maybe once? (I bought a package of cookies from you guys at the first flea and I’ve been around ever since.) But I just had to chime in to say I think its a great idea.

  • Candace May 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Sweetie, let me tell you about something called ‘the black womans’ creed:

    You may not do what you WANT to do, but you always do what you HAVE to do!

    These days, this creed applies to all women, because times are certainly different and strange. Your blog is wonderful, and you are going to be alright…

    Handle yo bizness!

  • rachel May 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    i’ve started to realize that a lot of readers of a lot of very cool blogs are starting to complain to the blog author about ads. i personally think it’s ridiculous and just another way for anonymous readers to spew their anger and jealousy at others. blogging is a business, and a tool. if your blog will help your business, you should be making money from it and using it to inform people of your awesome products. this is why the internet is so awesome.

  • Karen May 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Jenna, I am a long time fan, first time commenter. I don’t see a dark side in this, especially after seeing how much thought you put into this and all your decisions. For what my opinion is worth, this appears to be a fine compromise. I actually enjoy seeing what you like/own since I admire your taste, and I also appreciate that it appears on a separate page. Keep on keeping on, and hope your health is improving.

  • mette / ungt blod May 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    that seems like such a great way to separate things! really looks like a good program, since sharing things shopping info can definitely clutter up blogs! good decision!

  • Shauna May 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I have been reading you for ages and have never commented, but feel like I have to now. Do it! Do this and whatever else you need to do to help support your family. You are a wonderful writer with a totally open and honest voice and I can’t imagine judging you for doing whatever you need to to keep the wheels of the family bus moving (and that would include you lining the sidebar with ads. You could do it and it would totally be okay.)

    Go, you!

  • Kimberly May 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Good decision.

  • Loren May 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I agree with everyone above! The aesthetic of the blog remains and honestly, if I like a blog for a certain reason, I usually have similar tastes as the author and welcome connections to certain things that they, too, enjoy. No more apologies!

  • Mary May 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Good for you!
    I hope this helps fill some of the gap in income for your family.

  • Victoria May 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Yay for you!! And, yes, I read your entire post and was still with you at the last line. But it wasn’t too long, rambling or ridiculous. It was empowering. xo

  • tiffmino May 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    oh my goodness, this blog is work! WORK! And you do it so well, Jenna. Why shouldn’t you make a little bit of money from it? And you have the design sense to make it work wonderfully! Thanks for your blog, sharing your thoughts, and obsessions.

  • Joanna May 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    It’s all good! I like you and hope for the best for you and your family, that of course, includes your finances and I think it’s great to use your blog to provide for your family.

    I bought the SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50- I have been looking for a good one and if I could support you while getting what I need… I’m all for it.

    Be blessed!

  • Jen May 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I think Candace said it best. Seriously though, it’s time for writers/photographers to get paid for writing/photography. We shouldn’t have to give away our work for free. We’re providing something: connection, inspiration, entertainment, whatever you want to call it.

    I know what it’s like to live on a freelancer and bootstrapped business income. Oh, do I know. I also know what it’s like to not have insurance and mounting medical bills (my son has asthma and both my kids are prone to pneumonia).

    So let me add to the voices above regarding anything you decide to do to generate income with this gorgeous thing you put together here: Go on with your bad ass self.

  • Catherine May 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    “I am not that special. I am not above this.” My favorite thing you’ve written, along with your realization last year that maybe you just couldn’t afford the health insurance with the greatest bells and whistles last year. I think many of us are reworking our expectations and figuring out we just have to dive in and do it. Thanks. And I hope it brings you more than you expect.

  • jen May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    from one reader, i don’t care if you have ads as long as you keep doing what you’re doing! your blog is awesome!

  • Simone May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I love it! One of the things I like about your blog and my other favourite blog, is that there are no ads. That said, I am a middle class mum with 3 small children and know that you have to do what is best for YOUR family. No need to apologize for that. So, if you do plan on putting in a few ads on top of you ‘sales referrals’ you go for it! It certainly won’t stop me popping by.

  • Lena May 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I just have to say, that I absolutely love the way you put out your thoughts, but in this case you overthink! You have plenty of taste, and I personally often wonder, where you get ths or that. I hate when blogs commercialize to the point you do not feel it is a blog any more. But I amsure that taste of yours just would not let it happen. I am a fan of you blog for a couple of years now and honestly I see more good, than harm in that sidebar.

  • Jenna May 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Thank you so much for all the support so far you guys. You are all so wonderful!

    @Joanna – I love that sunscreen. It’s a small bottle but you don’t need much. It was recommended to me by my doctor and it also has great reviews.

    @Lena – I know I overthink! And I think out loud too, oy!

  • Eve May 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Jenna life is complicated enough without sweating over these kind of issues. Simply put-it’s your blog, change the font to neon pink if you wast to 🙂

  • Caroline May 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve been a long time reader too and continue to gain so much from your writing. So thanks for that, firstly!

    Second I saw the fancy necklaces that spell “VO” and went there. First impression: it pretty much fits what you do here on the blog, content-wise, and I felt none of that “ugh this blog is really *marketing* to me now” vibe. I even got excited about those little red sandals because along with many readers I like your taste and have in the past ordered from the brands you’ve talked about after learning about them here!

    The blog has always been an extension of your business to me so please do make some money from it if you can!

  • gia May 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    It’s almost as if you feel undeserving to make money on the blog. Which is the opposite of the truth. xo

  • Grace May 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for being so sincere and honest with your readers. But I agree with the other comments – this is a beautiful, original blog and if you can make some money then you should! And its true – you are giving away free advertisement basically by answering questions about products you own already. Thank you for being so thoughtful and considerate with your blog, as always.

  • Lisa May 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I like your writing, particularly the honesty I feel is behind many of your posts. It seems you have put so much thought into this post, the fact that you even wrote a post about it speaks to that. I know I will continue to drop by your blog, so please keep it up!

  • cheryl May 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I wrote a research paper for my MA on the commercialization of mommyblogs. Was interesting then (and now) to see how thoughtful people are about this. I hope this brings in heaps of money for you. 🙂

  • Helen May 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    The links is nothing compare to some other blogs I read! As a bee mom of a baby girl, I have a new found respect for all moms especially working moms! You do what you NEED to do for your girls and I’ll probably drop by some of those links since you have great taste!

  • Helen May 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Oh stupid iPhone autocorrect! Here’s a spell checked version of my last comment:

    The links are nothing compare to some other blogs I read! As a new mom of a baby girl, I have a new found respect for all moms especially working moms! You do what you NEED to do for your girls and I’ll probably drop by some of those links since you have great taste!
    Also, thanks for writing these honest posts, always love to read them!

  • GinaK May 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Given how much time, thought, and probably countless editing/ photoshop/ media work that goes into your blog posts- it really should not be a struggle. You aren’t changing your very intimate posts to more commercial themes at all.

  • red May 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Good for you! It actually makes me happy to know that as one of your readers and as a mom, I can help you out in some small way by buying my girls new saltwaters. (Their feet are growing so fast! hint hint: put lots of kids shoes on there. Ha ha! Just kidding, of course.)

  • hollie May 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I personally cannot stand reading sponsored content or seeing posts that feature a list of where every item in every photo was bought, and aesthetics also play a big part in what blogs I read. I happen to think this is a great idea, so that people who want to see where you bought things can, without throwing off the whole feel of the blog. Best of luck to you!

  • Monica May 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve been keeping up with your blog for some time now, but I wanted to leave a comment for the first time because 1) thank you for being REAL. just straight up real. your honesty and vulnerability inspire me to no end 2) I totally support you (not that that should mean anything to you) in your decision to make money off the blog particularly in the nonobtrusive way you describe. I’m Korean American from NY with mixed race cousins, in my 20s, and often lost and confused, and I learn so much from your blog. I’ve shared your blog to a bunch of my closest girlfriends. I am rooting for you and your family!

  • Cecilia May 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for having so much respect for us, Jenna. I’m continually inspired by how genuine, open, and down to earth you (and your blog) are. Can’t wait to check out what you’re obsessed with.

  • Atsuko May 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I love what you do on this blog already, so please do what you feel right:) Besides, this special link gives me an opportunity to know where you are getting things. You have such a wonderful taste in fashion and style.
    I just came back from the two-week trip. As soon as I got home, I read all of your posts I missed while I was gone. This said how much I enjoy reading your blog. Have a good day.

  • stacy May 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm


    It’s so refreshing to hear your honestly, and as so many other readers put it, your “being real”. I love this idea- its very classy. And personally I love your style so will be perusing it often 🙂 Some of the blogs I read are really starting to annoy me, when I have to X out of several ads that pop up in the post. Not very relaxing or inspiring to say the least. xx

  • Josephine May 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Jenna. Please rest easy about your decision. I visit your blog almost every day, and would continue to visit, ads or no. Your words are honest and lovely, your photography beautiful, and I think it’s more than reasonable to get a little something back after all you put in.

  • Hannah May 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Hiya, your blog is so thoughtful and honest and great to read! I think this is a great way that we can support it, so thanks for giving us the opportunity! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks 🙂

  • Hayley May 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Content is content whether sponsored or not. I see no problem with you accepting ads or affiliate links. You write well and should be compensated. Have you read this post on privilege and selling out? http://www.sweetney.com/2012/03/on-privilege-and-selling-out.html Cheers!

  • kate hart May 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I think this is awesome! I totally understand ads on blogs… but aesthetically, it’s often a downside. But this is so simple!! I’m off to see what you’re currently obsessed with!

  • Renita May 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I appreciate the consideration that you put into for your audience. I am such a visual learner and your aesthetics is one of the reasons I revisit (content too) but I’m better at taking in a experience through a picture …. Currently Obsessed is not visual diarrhea.

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