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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  • Shilo May 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I totally want to see the stuff you want to buy/own and love. Nothing better than an honest recommendation.

  • Sally Ogilvie May 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I think it’s great. And why not?

  • Pink Ronnie May 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I think it’s ingenious Jenna. Love it.
    Ronnie xo

  • Jennie May 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Just do it! I, for one, would love to see some of the websites you endorse. And maybe even buy something for myself! πŸ˜‰

  • v May 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Good for you and a great idea. I read your blog every day and will continue to do so. Also, your girls are adorable…you should feature items you are thinking about purchasing for them in the ad space as well. They have a great sense of style. We are also a mixed family and I really enjoy your voice in the mommy blog universe. It’s quite refreshing. Thanks for letting us into your life.

  • Amy May 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Completely supportive over here! This is one of my very favorite reads, and I am just grateful you make time to write thoughtful, honest posts for us to read.

  • Marina May 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    In my opinion, it’s a great idea.
    I’m looking always to all your posts!

  • Diane May 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Even the way you have entered this new venture with thoughtfulness and transparency is what I love about what you offer all of us – your readers and supporters. This is perfect transition – well done.

  • julianne May 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    jenna, i really respect your decision, and appreciate that you worked through this internal conversation publicly with readers. i don’t think you owe folks anything more.

  • RebeccaNYC May 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    You could plaster ads all over this blog and I would not care. (of course, they would be artistically plastered…) I read several blogs now where both husband and wife have quit their jobs and blog full time. This is a new job opportunity that did not exist 15 years ago. You would be silly not to use advertisements to support your business, and in short, your family. Onward!

  • Maghy May 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I love your blog! i totally support you, i will be very happy to help you in anyway to make money of this blog… Heading to your list… And buying me some gap skimmer skinny pants in blue… Awesome suggestions

  • Jamsby May 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    I love you blog and am totally supportive of this.

  • Annie May 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    My dear you have not, or are nowhere near, going to the dark side – you need to do what is right for you, and if others don’t get or understand it, well then too bad for them. I know always so much easier said than done. I love your blog, and your utterly honest and open posts – so ads or not, I’m sticking with you! Take care, Annie x

  • mau May 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

    You’re welcome! And I really don’t know why it’s taken you so long! Do you honestly think we won’t like your blog (or you) anymore? You needn’t have worried!

  • Kate May 17, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Sounds like a good compromise, you get to maintain the aesthetics of the blog and make some well-deserved income as well. It’s been a difficult decision but you’re just doing what is best for you and your loved ones. It’s new and uncomfortable, so you’re really brave to go for it. Love your blog, Jenni, with your honest writing and beautiful photography.

  • kate quirk May 17, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Go for it Jenna! Seriously, you deserve to put a few ads on your blog, too.

  • Rebecca May 17, 2012 at 5:22 am

    I love your blog and respect what you do hereβ€”your honesty and openness are really inspiring. Your decision to make money off of the blog is completely understandable and doesn’t change a thing. All the best to you!

  • Anh May 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I can’t remember if I posted here before but I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. Your blog is one of my favourite blogs, it has substance, it looks good and you really do seem like a great person. So like everyone else, I support you a 100%!

  • Karen May 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Do whatcha gotta do girl! You’re the realest blogger I’ve come across and love the beautiful pictures you take!

  • Bobbi May 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Hi Jenna, I just recently discovered your blog and I enjoy it very much. Thank you for being real and honest. It is so inspiring! You have such great style and taste and sharing your ideas about products that work for you is a good idea. I hope it works for you and your family. You deserve it!

  • Caddy May 17, 2012 at 8:18 am

    You go girl! The ads don’t bother me at all. I’ve been reading the blog for years because I love what you have to say.

  • Luann May 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Go for it! Why shouldn’t you get some kind of income from all the work you put into this blog?

  • MCC May 17, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Happy to see you do this! I will gladly support it and given your impeccable taste – probably selfishly benefit from this choice! πŸ™‚ Wishing you lots of success!

  • ale May 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

    no hay nada que haga que deje de leer tu blog!! me encanta!!

  • Clara May 17, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I love your blog and really enjoy your recipes!!! Your sincerity is obvious and i wish you the best!

  • tamerajane May 17, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I like it!! & I like all the things you’re obsessed with! I hope it helps on the money front.

  • Moritzette May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    It’s your brainjuice, your hard-won time and your family: go for it! I wish you all the very best!

  • Meghann @ Fuzzy.Little.Wishballs May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    i don’t think you should feel anything negative. You are providing excellent *free* content here for any and all to take advantage of. I hardly noticed the new addition until I read the post so its most def not an eyesore. I’ve been pondering the same idea, though I have maybe a tenth of the traffic you do. You started this blog for yourself and your family, therefore, that’s who it should benefit most.
    Good luck!

  • marlene May 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    good for you!!!

  • SYC May 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    On the eve of Facebook’s IPO, where the company is being valued over $100 billion (yes BILLION), mostly on add revenue and usership, I think there is a little to go around for sites like yours, especially when it resonates with so many of us. Good for you Jenna!!

  • lulu May 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I dont mind your ads since i know you will not have it plastered all over. I am more partial to blogs with no ads i admit since life gets so busy and i prefer the somewhat cleanliness of certain blogs, but i trust you to do it well since i know you like the clutter free look too. i noticed your list of blogs on the left side was gone a few months ago (i actually found many blogs i love using it) and i figured you are kinda cleaning house to put something else there. Maybe not, just me guessing. But yes, this is your blog and do what you are comfortable with. And yes, people who love your blogs will certainly appreciate your recommendations.

  • tallin May 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    oh good for you! my only wish is that I had seen the currently obsessed link two days ago when I purchased one of the Madewell necklaces! πŸ™‚

  • oilandgarlic May 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    You should do what is best for you and your family. My only “dislike” for ads is that I read several fashion/design blogs and see way too many cute things that make me want to spend. I can see why you would be hesitant. However, that’s my problem, not yours!

  • Renee May 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Like you said, you don’t need to explain why you are doing this to anybody…times are tough and gee, if this helps you make money to provide for your family, who cares if it’s through ads or links…it beats robbing a bank. πŸ˜‰ I don’t really have anything against ads,except the ones that are always flashing on the top of blogs…it takes my interest away from the blog, but you are creative, so I’m sure you will make it fit in with the blog and not look like you are just an ad blog or anything like that.I have seen many blogs go from no ads to ads, so you are not alone and like you said, your blog isn’t free and your time writing this should surely be worth something. I love seeing where I can buy something a blogger has,may not be able to afford it, but I will click on links to see the items and if just clicking helps,too,well,then I’m glad to have helped you get something from it. Your blog is amazing whethere you have ads or not, we all visit b/c we love your style of writing and photos…why should anyone stay away b/c of some ads….surely people don’t stop checking their mail for fear of ads…they are all around you, so to stop visiting a blog b/c of ads is just childish in my opinion. Do what you gotta do for your family and don’t apologoize….you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time! Keep up the great blog….I’m lovin it!

  • Britta May 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Great!

  • plum May 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    gee, just do it! Lots of very cool blogs have done it without any lost of enjoyment/ kudos etc. And if its stuff you actually endorse, mo better. But really not necessary to angst xx

  • stylencritics May 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    hi, from Athens Greece. I am reading your posts almost every morning with my coffee. I dont care if you put ads i will keep reading. You are so honest, i love your photos and your writting. Keep going!

  • maticki May 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I LOVE your blog.
    just go for it, I am sure you will still think of aestetics
    I hope you earn loads of it

    good luck

  • maticki May 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    p.s. happy to report tat I own couple of your “currently obsessing about” items, but most are for my daughter

    (salt water sandals, green adidas origina;s sneakers and swedish hasbeens sandals that are mine:)

    will keep checking

  • Karyn May 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Gooooo Jenna! πŸ™‚

  • amina May 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    you do what you have to do. i like that you are reflective person, which comes out well in your writing. i join others to wish you good luck. i do hope you will make money off this too.

  • SY May 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I admire that you’ve managed to keep the blog advertisement free for this long. However, I do believe that your family comes first and as a fellow consultant, I know how the life can be. It seems that if you can keep the advertisers “true” to your story and somewhat unobtrusive, your readers won’t notice the difference much. You’ve got great taste, I always love what your girls are wearing, so you might as well take advantage of the opportunities while you can.

  • Erin May 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    do your thing, Jenna!

  • Monica May 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I agree with you…you need to get over it! You are a gifted writer and I love reading your blog, I wish and hope you do get paid for it.

  • Heather M May 18, 2012 at 2:04 am

    I think this was a great solution! At least to try for a while, and see how it does for you. Like lots of others, I also hope it’s helpful.

    I’m not sure you realize that your musings over these things are one of the things that makes your blog so unique. I love the blog posts where you are clearly taking a lot of time to chew over an issue – somehow you write it all out without it seeming too labored, it’s just this interesting way of being transparent and I LOVE that you are rarely 100% certain about the answers. Most of life is too complex for a truly thoughtful person to have total certainty, and then when you ARE totally certain about something (saying “I’ll do anything for them” about your girls) it just carries that much more weight. You’ve brought up so many fruitful and important topics in these posts.

    AND it’s nice that sometimes you can just enjoy a cute piece of clothing for your kids, or anything else that populates your world as a useful or beautiful object.

    Going to buy some cookies now… πŸ™‚

  • Sara May 18, 2012 at 5:09 am

    I love your blog for its authenticity, genuineness and non-materialistic focus which I find a lot of other blogs have lost. I do think bloggers should be able to generate money from their blogs, but so often its done in a way which dictates the content. I think you’ve got it just right with the currently obsessed links … fact is that we all consume and when I buy a product I would much rather that it is something that I read about or was recommended such as the things in your list, so it becomes more of a conscious, considered and meaningful choice.

  • Simona May 18, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Well done! From a reader in Milan, Italy

  • Amanda May 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    you are awesome. i really think people are waking up to the idea that these blogs we read daily, weekly, are just like magazines. they have a lower overhead, and the quality varies, but really, why should people expect to get entertainment/insight/advice/recipes etc. for free? it’s part of the reason that i do try to buy books or other products by bloggers i really like. seems only fair to support them that way. it really only bothers me when blogs turn into what seems solely like a commercial operation. but then i just stop reading! i’m not worried about that here…

  • Justine May 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Not sure you’ll even have a chance to read your 99th comment on this topic, but…. did Currently Obsessed invite you or is it something one can sign up for? It might be good for my blog too.

    And I for one am glad to see what you’re obsessed with, since we always have had such similar taste!

  • Jenna May 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    @justine Of course I read ALL the comments. It’s invitation only (with approval). If anyone want a referral to sign up, send me an email.

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