If Charlie Brown were a reader of mine, I’d probably be the second most hated person in his life. The first, of course, being his barber.
Throughout the Peanuts Christmas special, Charlie Brown laments how the holidays have become too commercial. That people don’t appreciate or realize the true meaning of Christmas. So I can only imagine how he’d react to the the commercialization of my blog. As though I didn’t appreciate or realize the true meaning of blogging.
Longtime readers will remember that I wrestled with the thought of placing advertisements on my site. I wanted my site to remain ad-free so that it didn’t look like I was selling out or going the route of commercialization. I wasn’t sure if it would turn people off or make them think I was only doing this for the money.
Truth is, it costs me money to support this blog. But it’s a labor of love. I love to write, I love to share, and I love to interact with readers. At the same time, I can’t let my passion for blogging affect my family, my clients, or our financial stability.
Knowing this, I opted for the ads in the hopes of defraying the costs. Understand that the costs extend far beyond hosting, domain names, and other technical nerdy things we need to make the Internet go ’round. As a freelancer, time is my only inventory, and there are only 24 hours in a day. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So if I spend an hour or two writing a post, it eats up an hour or two that I could trade for income. At $75-$125 an hour, it adds up quick.
Within every day’s 24-hour budget, I need to make sure I devote enough time to sleep, to eating, to my children, to my wife, to our pets, to my business, to my home, to my friends, to errands, to charity work, to exercise, to volunteering, to coaching…you get the point.
When you own your own business and write your own checks, there are no paid vacations, no sick days, and no paid leaves of absence. Time gone is time gone unpaid, so I have to constantly balance priorities. As much as I don’t like it, blogging has to be last. Well, almost last. I can go without eating to write. Humor is like fuel to me.
There are hundreds of bloggers out there making literally THOUSANDS of dollars every month through their blogs. Whether through sidebar links and ads or sponsored posts, if they write, they get paid. LOTS.
I’m not even a blip on that level’s radar. As much as I thought I’d at least be scraping the upper echelon of blogdom by now, I’m still mired in obscurity nearly three years later. I doubt that will change, and I suppose I’m at peace with that. If I can carve out a few dozen devoted readers, I’m happy. Not wealthy, but happy.
In the spirit of full disclosure, do you want to know how much I make each month through my ads?
When you’re bringing home this kind of bank, it opens up a whole new world of decisions. Like, where does one shelter all this cash? How does one keep their compulsions in check and not go on wild spending sprees? What can one do to prevent the desire to just go off the grid and travel the world worry-free?
It also opens up other decisions. Like, how in the world can I keep doing this? Is it worth sacrificing literally hundreds of dollars or precious hours with my family to write a blog that’s going nowhere? What can I do to further support my passion that doesn’t involve crime?
That’s when I made a decision that will either give sustainable life to my blog or kill it. Kind of like an unproven pharmaceutical.
I have long been approached by companies to write sponsored posts that linked to their products or services. I’ve always been against that because I absolutely REFUSE to allow even one word on my site to not be my own. I didn’t want to be a mouthpiece, a corporate shill, or yet another purveyor of press releases. I wanted my posts, my blog, to remain 100% me and 100% genuine.
Still, what good is a 100% genuine site if it means the site will go dark?
I’m not asking for anything from anyone beyond the understanding that sometimes, I will be publishing a sponsored post. It’ll be rare, but it’ll happen.
That said, I have strict criteria for the sponsored offers I’ll accept:
1) If a press release is provided, it’ll be shredded. I don’t regurgitate verbiage, I make it from scratch.
2) I won’t be told what to write. Being given a topic, a subject matter, or an angle is fine, but the entire piece will be my own.
3) It must be a topic that naturally fits with my family and my life. It has to be relevant and it has to be applicable. I can’t be asked to write about mountain climbing equipment unless I’m allowed to explain why I’ll never own any.
Yesterday, I wrote a sponsored post relating to long term care insurance. The reaction was mixed. Most didn’t comment, which is like getting the silent treatment because of displeasure. Some admonished me for my honesty in sharing the realization that I’d be unable to provide long term care myself (although it was really more a commentary on how I didn’t want to rub my mom’s feet or wipe her rear end). Some saw it for what it was, a sarcastic look at the relationship I have with my parents (seriously, we joke about this stuff all the time together). And one mentioned that she felt duped by the presence of a sponsored post.
And it’s that duped feeling that inspired this post.
Now that it’s blatantly apparent that my blog will be forever lost in a sea of white noise and buried by an increasingly crowded blogging landscape, I have come to the realization that either I need to offset the cost and sacrifice or I need to shut it down.
My family comes first. Always have, always will. Whether that means I’m coaching my son’s basketball team, enjoying a romantic trip to Wal-Mart with my wife, shuttling the kiddos between doctor’s appointments and school, helping out with homework, or just sitting with them to play a board game or watch the latest episode of the Wonder Pets, their needs come first.
It’s also kind of important to keep the lights on, the heat working, and the cupboards stocked. As such, work has to be a major priority or else I’ll be writing my blog from the local homeless shelter. Assuming they have Wi-Fi.
I’m also devoted to volunteering and supporting charitable causes through Rotary and through my willingness to provide my services pro bono to non-profit organizations. That also needs to come first.
Then there’s all the aforementioned tasks like house maintenance, errands, pet care, exercise, and more.
After all this…with all the free time I have left…there’s blogging.
I hate that something I love so much has to come last, but it’s the responsible thing to do. It has to come last even with how much I love it and depend on it for sanity.
By sprinkling in a few sponsored posts, I’ll be afforded the opportunity to mix it with work in the grand scheme of priorities. It’ll give me a buffer, a level of freedom that allows me to not stress over the fact that every minute that ticks by while writing is one more minute that takes away from my family’s income.
I’ll always tell you when a post is sponsored and I’ll also preempt each post with a disclaimer so you don’t feel duped by its presence. As well, every word will be legit. 100% my own. Also understand that it won’t happen often, I’m not that popular, but it will happen. The only other alternative is darkness.
So, I suppose, if you’re REALLY against sponsored posts, and you feel it taints the other memories and opinions I share, you can abandon me for the non-commercial blogs that remain. Should they exist. Even with these posts, I’ll earn hundreds less than I could otherwise, but at least they’ll support my habit. Kind of like crack but without the stigma.
Thank you for enduring the rant and I’ll hope to still consider you an avid reader. I mean no disrespect by entertaining a few paid offers now and then. I just know I can’t keep doing this without them.
I think even Charlie Brown could appreciate that.
And he’s a blockhead.