These days, cash-strapped families have plenty of options for bringing in supplemental income from getting a part-time job to direct sales to mystery shopping.
Then of course there's the dream of starting a blog based around your hobbies and/or passions that goes on to attract thousands of readers and make you thousands of dollars. It seems that professional bloggers are a dime a dozen (and for a majority of the estimated 181 million blogs, that might be how much they earn for their efforts).
So who are these people that support themselves and/or their families with witty platitudes? They're dedicated writers and networkers who not only update their sites regularly, but also reach out and develop relationships with like-minded people and businesses.
To offer more insight on blogging for a living, we caught up with Tara Settembre, the woman behind When Tara Met Blog, a lifestyles site that's taken her to exclusive parties, red carpet premieres and even the Emmy Awards.
Here, the blogging aficionado and new mother of twins shares her thoughts on what it takes to make your blog work for you.
Tells us your story. What's your professional background?
My background is in journalism. I started off as a journalist and received my master's degree from NYU Journalism School. However, I soon swerved off to the side a bit on the other side of the media spectrum into PR and social media as a career.
How did you come to start When Tara Met Blog? Is it your full-time gig now?
I started my blog almost 10 years ago, back when they were still called Weblogs. It started off as a graduate school assignment, but I continued it in order to develop my personal voice. I also saw it as a chance to write more "fluffy" stuff. It was fun picking the topics for a change and not having them assigned to me. I was criticized for talking into the void about dating in New York City and not picking a political topic and going all gritty with it. Yet, for what it's worth, I believe I'm the only one from that class project still with the same blog. Blogging is now my full-time gig, not just When Tara Met Blog though, but for several sites including TOT Runway and for The Huffington Post. I also do social media freelancing as well, but that was again through my blog's success.
What's surprised you most about blogging?
Literally thousands of posts later, I thought I'd run out of ideas and content by now. Instead, I have a list of ideas and a TBW (to-be-written) queue that is getting out of hand lately.
How did your blog help your professional life?
My blog has improved my life in so many ways. It improved my writing more than J-School did, as it keeps me writing constantly. It has also opened many doors for me from meeting new friends, attending amazing events including exclusive parties, red carpets premiers and even the Emmys to also improving my PR career. My understanding of the blogosphere and online contacts helped me to become a hot commodity in the PR world and led me to secure more placements for my clients and provide key expertise.
When did you make the decision to transition to working as a full-time blogger?
Although I've been blogging for many years, it started out as a hobby that I would focus on after work and on weekends, but I always dreamed of making it a full-time thing. Then, after the birth of my twin boys last November, I decided it was now or never. As a result, I'm now able to work from home and spend more time with my sons, too. Plus, with two busy infants crawling around, it didn't make sense to return to work just yet.
What sorts of planning did your family do financially when you began blogging full time?
My husband and I had "the talk." We reviewed all of our expenses to see if we could cover our bills on just his salary and discussed what I would need to earn in order to make it work.
When did you start making money from your blogging?
I had been making money off of my blog from year one; however, they were one-off ads that only provided pin money. I then became a part of an ad network, which provided monthly payments. Now, with this being my focus, I'm more selective and have been pursuing sponsor and advertising opportunities instead of letting them just come to me. When I receive pitches that are a good fit, I respond to the contact to see how we can make it work for both their brand and me. Also, if there is a company I'm passionate about or a product I want to try, I reach out to them directly instead of hoping they contact me. I also earn money through my social media networks as well.
What advice do you have for new bloggers who want to try to make a living from blogging?
Be humble and don't expect it to happen overnight. Nurture all of your contacts, as you don't know when one lame opportunity might lead to a better one. Make connections not just for yourself, but also for others, as it can also lead to more stuff coming your way as well. Most of all, keep blogging and writing.
What are some best practices for ensuring your blog is read by more than just your friends and family?
The "If you build it they will come" idea might work in the movies, but not for bloggers. You have to get your link out there if you want people to find you. Join all the social networks that you can and grow your following there. You will then have your own network to share your content with, thus redirecting people to your blog. Share your work on all the social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, pin your content, etc.
What's the best way to network as a blogger?
Network, network, network. That can be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, but you have to be in it to win it. If you want to be followed, you have to genuinely follow others. Retweet and share not just your own content, but those of your peers and from brands and personalities that you follow. For some in-person networking, attend a blogging conference that most appeals to you and your content. Conferences are great for meeting others that are going through the same thing, to re-fuel your creativity and to meet offline.
What tips do you have from balancing blogging while raising your kids?
My sons might only be nine months old, but they already know that the iPhone and computer takes their Mommy away. If I have either open for a minute, they are on me like white on rice. So, I blog around their schedule and not vice versa. I go online when they are sleeping, when Daddy is watching them and I'll stay up late at night getting posts up instead of sleeping.
What are your plans for the future as far as growing your blog?
I obviously hope to be blogging for 10 more years and gaining new readers along the way. Either way, it's been a fun ride and I look forward to seeing where my blog takes me next.