How To Talk About Succeeding In Blogging (Without Really Crying)

July 29, 2011

Here’s something that you might not know about me: I’m a professional blogger. A professional mom-blogger. Which is to say, I earn a living – a good one – from the business that I’ve established around this blog that deals primarily in discussions related to motherhood and parenting and – I should warn you, this will be the first of many words that some consider unladylike – the brand that is associated with this blog.

And this is something that I never write about. I speak about it at conferences, and in private conversations, but I never write about it, because, well, it’s just not something that we’re supposed to write about, right? Unless we have blogs that are devoted to the topic of ‘earning a living from your blog’ or are among those who have an obsessive interest in ‘exposing’ the dark underworld of Moms Who Make A Living From Their Blogs And Do They Really Deserve This, The Bitches, we just don’t talk about this stuff in this wonderful, public space in which we do talk openly about so much else. There are, I think, a million reasons why we don’t talk about it in these spaces – for me, these include fear of being attacked for what some might think is my undeserved success (see above re: ‘obsessive interest’ and ‘undeserving bitches’) and a certain prissy squeamishness about talking about my success or about anything that might be perceived as a veiled-but-nonetheless-self-congratulatory discussion of my success – but whatever the reason, the lack of conversation hurts us.

It hurts us because it allows the myths and misconceptions and misunderstandings around and about mom-blogging as a serious enterprise to flourish. It hurts us because those myths and misconceptions and misunderstanding get in the way of us communicating with each other about the many ways in which mom-blogging is, or can be, a serious enterprise. It gets in the way of us taking ourselves – and others taking us – seriously as the writers and publishers and entrepreneurs and business people and important social media presence that we are.

Katie Granju raised the topic some months ago at Babble, in response to an article by Ann Douglas about ‘top’ mom bloggers and ‘top blogger’ lists and the like (in which, disclosure, I am quoted), and the discussion that has ensued is, I think, tremendously useful, for the reasons that I cite above. We do need to talk about this stuff, whether we’re professionals or aspiring professionals or non-professionals who are nonetheless interested in talking about the many roads (this term suggested by Joanne, who was also cited in Katie’s post) to the many kids of success that professionals and sub-professionals and non-professionals can achieve. So I said this:

Okay, I’ll go.

I make much more blogging (that is, from the business that is my blogging ‘brand’ – more on this in a moment) than I ever did as a sessional university lecturer. Many people, I think, would consider it a lot. (How much exactly? Maybe I’ll screw up the nerve to talk numbers if this conversation continues. But because people are so quick to get their dander up about these things, talking numbers makes me nervous.) (And now, look, I’m wringing my hands and being a priss about it, which is a big part of the problem here, right?) (Gah.)

I don’t make the bulk of what I earn from CPM ad earnings. I make some of it that way, but not most of it, not by far. In the ‘advertising’ corner of my business I make much more through dedicated campaigns, some of which come through Federated Media, some of which I broker myself. And then there are earnings from consulting, and ‘spokesperson’ contracts (which might seem closer to ‘advertising’ but in practice, in most cases – in the best cases – are closer to consulting) that come about because of the success of my ‘brand.’ And then, finally, there are earnings from freelance writing – magazines and other more conventional forms of publishing (in the coming year, fingers crossed, book publishing) – most assignments of which are related to my quote-unquote brand.

It’s a business. And it involves more than relying on the CPM advertising model – very few independent bloggers can make a go of things with this model (and even the examples that I would cite here – like Ree/Pioneer Woman – have more magazine-like sites with multiple pages and sometimes additional contributors.) It involves work – it’s not just sitting down and tapping out posts. The content comes first, of course – I wouldn’t have the ‘brand’ to capitalize on – yes, dirty words, these – if I didn’t produce good content. But doing something with that content is work – roll up your sleeves and make the coffee at 6am work.

I’m not a ‘big’ blogger in the same category as Heather or Ree. But I am a successful blogger, and I’ve made that success for myself by building a business around my blogging brand. And it is, as I said above, busy – I’m in the process of hiring an assistant because it’s gotten too busy for me – but it’s awesome, and I love it, and I’m proud of myself.

Are we allowed to say that, as moms, as women – that we’re proud of our success? Because I am. I wish that we could talk about it more openly, and be more open in giving advice and support to each other. We do some of this at conferences, but we could be doing it more, more consistently and more openly.

Thank you so much for starting the conversation, Katie. Maybe I’ll screw up my nerve to write about this more fully at my – oh my god so successful! don’t tell anybody! – blog ;)

I was, and remain, reluctant to publicly discuss the hard numbers of what I make, because I don’t really think that it’s necessary, and also because – all of my brave talk notwithstanding – I still feel kind of prissy about it and the whole larger discussion. And – cue dramatic sigh – because I’m afraid of being snarked at – that whole ‘mom bloggers don’t deserve success’ horseshit that, regardless of how horseshitty it is, one still wants to avoid having flung in one’s face – and that, I suppose, is the real problem here: that regardless of whether or not the details are necessary, discussing those details still makes us uncomfortable, and for good reason. We do get criticized, from all corners, for even trying to make a success of what we do in this space. And that criticism stings, even as we rail against it being unjust and unjustified. It shuts us up. It shuts me up, on this topic, anyway.

But we are – despite the criticism – making successes of our work (our art, our craft) in this space. In many different ways – it’s so important to remember that not everyone defines their success in this space on the basis of whether or not they earn a living, in any measure, from their blog – and by many different roads, we are achieving success. And that says a lot about our worth – as I’ve said before, there seems to be a deep cultural thirst for mom blogs, if their ubiquity and popularity are any measure – and about the possibilities available within this space for women to pursue all variety of ambitions. And that’s something that we need to talk about – so that we can support and inspire each other, mentor each other, provide models for each other. So that we can do better at demanding and receiving recognition and appropriate compensation – or some other reward – for our work.

So how do we overcome our discomfort about talking about this openly? How do I get over my anxieties around shining a spotlight on my own success so that others can learn from it? Do I need to get over those? Do we need to talk numbers – not hard numbers, but ballpark numbers – in order to really unpack what it takes and what’s possible in this field of work? Would it be useful if I – or anyone else who is making a living doing this – spoke/wrote openly (in more detail than what I spelled out above) about what’s involved and what it looks like? Do we need to suck up the prissiness and just, you know, talk?

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    Katherine @ Postpartum Progress March 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    You’re a brave mama. Not that I didn’t already know that.

    Jen @ Momalom March 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Do university professors stand around at conferences and talk about their salaries? Do other self-employed mothers whose self employment is in a less-questioned realm than blogging reveal their financial details to each other? Do you have anything to be defensive about? No. No no no. We are mothers. We write. And if money is made because there is a demand for our points of view, our expertise, our abilities and talents, we say thank you. And we continue doing the work that we do.

    Her Bad Mother March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    @Jen @ Momalom, I don’t think that we should reveal personal details – but in most other fields there is some general knowledge about what one can make in that field at various levels. And in this sphere, I think, people’s expectations get skewed because the only numbers we hear about are speculative ones attached to outlying success stories – and numbers that are based only speculation on ad revenue (which is NOT a good indicator of overall revenue, and not something to work towards – very few independent bloggers make significant dollars through ad revenue). So there is an argument for having some conversation, however vague or ballparky ;)

    katie allison granju March 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    @Jen @ Momalom, In “regular” jobs, we women don’t tell each other directly what we make, but we have access to salary surveys that give us pretty accurate ranges. That allows us to have a clearer idea of our own worth when negotiating salaries. – Katie

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    @katie allison granju, And it’s common for professional groups for writers to collect this data on behalf of their members for the same reason.

    By Word of Mouth Musings March 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Interesting that this should be an issue in the world of Mommy Bloggers. In pretty much every field, what you make is not usually publicly disclosed – unless of course, you are up there in the hallowed halls of a public company – then America for one believes you to be fair game.
    But Mommy Bloggers having to disclose figures, numbers, advertising … just seems so many shades of wrong, when have they not scrambled enough to be taken seriously as “Mommy Bloggers’, to then take it down to playground politics?
    I think it rocks that you make a living doing what you love, for me I am grateful that I get to live peacefully in my little corner of the blogosphere and feel like its a corner of my own … if people visit, it just makes me happy.
    (but if anyone feels the needs to send me a check, don’t let me stop you!)

    Catherine March 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t think the point is full public disclosure of individual income. I think the point, as touched on in a previous comment, is that there are no guides. We may not know what every individual nurse in the United States is making but we can easily find out what nurses in different specialties, or with different levels of experience, or even within different geographical locations make on average. The same can be said for teachers, software engineers, journalists and more. The average blogger trying to earn an income of any level has no guide to look to at all. I think that is why this discussion is important.

    Dawn March 31, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    @Catherine, YES!

    Daria April 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    @Catherine, I agree completely. In general you can figure out what an entry level engineer will make and what they can expect +/- 10% after 10 years of experience. Why don’t we have the same for blogging? You can expect X for an article 500 words or more if you have pageviews between x & y. and Y for the same article if you have 10 times pageviews of X & Y.

    As a new blogger, when I am contacted to write a sponsored post – I have no idea what my time/post is worth. If I broke it down into hours, then I think I make $0.10 an hour? Maybe? But how do you know if no one talks about it?

    Brittany {Mommy Words} March 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Hmmm, I don’t think people should ever feel like they have to talk hard numbers. I always left the bank early on bonus days just to avoid all that hemming and hawing and eavesdropping. Everyone always wants to know what other people make. Me? I was okay with general ranges so I knew where I stood in the pack. I think people think they want to know exactly what others make but really it can make some people feel bad, others feel undervalued and some just plain angry.

    I admit to wanting to know what is possible from this blogging world and would, in all honesty, love to know the ranges that are out there for the different projects that bloggers take on. So yes, I suppose a more specific general conversation would be helpful for me.

    It is a world where there are so many unknowns and so many expectations. I actually think it may do the reputation of bloggers good to know how very hard we work for what we get. For lovely people like you, who can make a living doing this, I think very few people understand how much damn work it actually is.

    Thanks for continuing the conversation.

    Adventures In Babywearing March 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I’m fine sharing the numbers as long as I’m in my comfort zone- and with people I know are using my info for good and trustworthy reasons. Otherwise, frankly, i think a lot of the people whining about wanting hard numbers are just being nosey. There’s a difference, and in a more personal setting I can be discernful and divulge as I see fit. And it’s not like I have a huge pile of money to hide- I think some people just want the honest truth. I’m totally willing to share but I probably want to know a little more about you first.


    Issa March 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I love this post. Love the discussion. I make nothing blogging. It costs me money actually. It’s okay though. I love it, so it’s worth it.

    However? I have a full time job and I don’t think I’d talk about my income to other people. You shouldn’t feel like you have to do that, no matter what anyone says or wants. I’m not saying that anyone should be ashamed or feel guilty about their income. However, you never hear people in general conversation say, so this is how much I make, what about you? Or I suppose if one does hear that, well they know a different type of person than I do. Anyway, I don’t think it’s necessary.

    Backpacking Dad March 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot of the resentment I see toward mom bloggers as individuals or as a group is based in a resentment toward the mystery of Internet success in general, and the mystery of monetizing snot in particular. It’s like there is a secret gold mine in Alaska that Dooce and Ree have a map to, and they only shared the route with a few others (or other people also found secret mines, but even theirs are in Alaska). Nobody sees how hard it is to actually get to Alaska or dig in a fucking mine all day, but they do see that some people have gold at the end of the day, and the way they got it seems like an effortless trick. Further, they have no idea how much gold there is, but IT’S GOLD! WANT GOLD!

    So, two things can happen: One, everyone can keep saying to everyone else “Numbers don’t matter, just focus on your content, and embrace whatever community grows up around you” as a way to combat the resentment side of the problem (focusing on the resentful, as it were), or those who have had success can be very, very open about that success. BRAG about it, even. Jesus, it’s SUCCESS, it’s not clubbing baby seals. It’s finding work-life balance, and fending off a world that wants you to be poor so the top 0.1% can roll in gold syrup, and raising kids in a healthy and safe environment, with access to things that will enrich their lives and their minds and their health. It’s finding mental calm, and security. It’s earning recognition for thoughts and deeds. It’s SUCCESS. Own your success. Be proud, not ashamed.

    There’s a parallel in philanthropy: no one wants to tell anyone how much they were able to help a person, group, cause, town, etc….They display modesty, thinking that will focus attention on the problems to be faced, and that’s what is really important to attend. But modesty doesn’t create role models, and doesn’t inspire great choices.

    If you have made great choices, that result in great happiness, there is no immodesty in explaining how that happened, to be a lesson for everyone else. Modesty, true modesty, is in not taking credit for what is irrelevant to success, not in rejecting credit for what you DO accomplish that you think is worth accomplishing.

    You are a role model, Catherine. Own that shit.

    Issa March 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    @Backpacking Dad, Only you could work clubbing baby seals into a comment.

    Her Bad Mother March 31, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    @Issa, that was pretty awesome, wasn’t it?

    What There's Time For April 1, 2011 at 1:53 am

    @Backpacking Dad, Well put and I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot this week. I love blogging and I think I’m really good at it, but I make no money at it. I’ve been stunned to discover this week (I just released an app!) how hard it is for me to promote my OWN product, of which I am very PROUD and which I believe is a really GOOD product, even on my own blog. So, no wonder I’ve shied away from promoting my WRITING, which is also good, also something I’m proud of, but not so clearly a product that should benefit people (though it should and does) and very clearly “all about me” (though it isn’t, not entirely).

    Apparently, in my emotional brain, me being successful (or even just *trying* to be successful) is only slightly above clubbing baby seals on the morality spectrum. My rational brain strongly believes otherwise, but it’s a big struggle.

    Having successful mommybloggers more publicly owning their success is incredibly helpful to the rest of us for those emotional reasons alone. Thank you, Catherine. (Some day I’ll get to a conference, but right now I’m limited to getting this information on-line, so thank you and Katie for starting a discussion.)

    IzzyMom April 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I think Backpacking Dad nailed a huge part of what a LOT of women/mombloggers feel on this incredibly contentious issue:

    a resentment toward the mystery of Internet success in general, and the mystery of monetizing snot in particular. It’s like there is a secret gold mine in Alaska that Dooce and Ree have a map to, and they only shared the route with a few others (or other people also found secret mines, but even theirs are in Alaska). Nobody sees how hard it is to actually get to Alaska or dig in a fucking mine all day, but they do see that some people have gold at the end of the day, and the way they got it seems like an effortless trick. Further, they have no idea how much gold there is, but IT’S GOLD! WANT GOLD!

    This is why blogging has spawned the huge spin-off industry of telling people how they, too, can get rich blogging—because everyone wants to know what the secret is (you know all those “social media experts on Twitter? Yeah. Heh.)

    Anyway, my personal take is that you don’t owe anyone any private info on how much you make, however, by taking on this topic, the whole lot of you are breaking down proverbial barriers, so good on you. Thanks :)

    Kristin March 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    It has always perplexed me the way people get so up in arms about mommy bloggers making a living at it. What does it mean to “deserve” it? Do we question Perez Hilton’s right to make a living by gossiping on his blog? Certainly not the way we go after mommy bloggers.

    There are so many people making money that, in my opinion, they can’t possibly deserve – I mean who really deserves millions of dollars a year, for anything? – that this ongoing attack on mommy bloggers is downright offensive.

    When I hear about mothers who have found a way to be make a decent living as bloggers all I think is, “Good on her, another mom making a living through creativity and ingenuity.” With so little real support for moms working in the conventional sense we need to employ those creative muscles to create the lives that we want for ourselves and our families.

    And no, I don’t think you need to tell us how much you make. You’re business, not mine.

    katie allison granju March 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Awesome response. Adding link to Babble post now… – kag

    Mir March 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    My $.02, or maybe I should say my undisclosed amount commensurate with the work I perform (bada bing!) is this:

    Part of the problem is the feeling that people ask about number so that they can attack, sure. But I think a greater issue is that this is simply a very variable field. Do you and I make the same amount of money? Probably not (not that I’m asking), but then, we have different gigs. Very, very few successful bloggers are making a living off of ONE site or ONE gig. Most of us are diversified freelancers, and how that money comes in is not constant even to an individual, and certainly not from person to person in any sort of reliable way. So for me to tell you (or anyone else) the hard numbers of what I make not only kind of offends my “nice people don’t talk about money” sensibility (yeah, I’m a little old-fashioned that way), but it’s just not a good representative of “If A, then B.” I make different amounts for different gigs. I make different amounts for different months even on the same blog. It’s ALL variable.

    If someone asks me as a fishing expedition, I’ll demur or perhaps let them know what I think of the question. If a fellow freelancer wants to strategize, I’m more than happy to talk baselines: Figure out what your time is worth and what’s reasonable for this field, and then figure out how long it will take you to produce the expected content. Does the fee match your ballpark hourly wage? If yes, good. If no, negotiate or walk. That part is the same from field to field, but the specifics that so many people seem drooling to get at, well, I just feel like it’s kind of irrelevant.

    Her Bad Mother March 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    @Mir, NAIL — HEAD — HIT.

    Angella March 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    @Mir, What you said. Amen. Word. Ditto. All of the above. :)

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve never been shy about saying that I make money from blogging or asking for money for the blogging work that I do. Perhaps that is because I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was in my early teens and I’m used to having to name a price and promote my services. Whether it is babysitting, teaching swimming lessons, providing consulting services, selling ice cream, writing blog posts, or offering advertising space, it is all work. I expect to be paid for it and don’t feel bad about it for a moment.

    Her Bad Mother March 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, I’m not shy about saying that I make money. Nor am I shy about asking for money. I’m shy about talking about *how much* I make.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 31, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    @Her Bad Mother,

    I don’t think any of us should have to say how much we make unless perhaps we are being paid by taxpayers dollars, in which case it is perhaps a matter of public interest. Otherwise, none of anyone’s business. Period.

    Her Bad Mother March 31, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, perfectly said.

    jeannett March 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Something I’ve been dealing with lately. I suppose all of us are in some capacity. Funny how people (even family!) get all huffy that you got some “free” whatsit or whosit…and seem genuinely OFFENDED that you got something for free. Or is that jealousy? To which I casually respond: “Well, it’s not much, but it’s nice to see all of those hours and money we’ve put into it pay off.” “What? Isn’t it free to blog???” Um….no. Not if you count the web hosting, domain registration, web design, technical support, conference costs, airfare, hotel…and let’s not get me started on the emotional energy I pour into this venture. My heart and soul are dumped out onto that screen. It’d be nice to think that I throw up onto the keyboard, hit publish and walk away until the next day…but anyone who blogs for an audience larger than their mother-in-law knows that is far from the case. So yes, it costs me money. Thankyouverymuch. And tears somedays. Not gonna lie. I bust. my. butt. blogging. The behind the scenes of it all is a lot. It’s amazing. I love it. But it is work. Fun work. Work I love. But still WORK.

    I dont think hard numbers need to be disclosed, but…(isn’t there always a but?) from my perspective…as someone who is just starting to move their blog towards more of a business model, it is difficult to know where I stand. Am I getting hosed on this deal? Am I asking too much? Should I be looking over there? A day late and a dollar short…or so it feels like most of the time. I feel like I’m grasping in the dark in this world of brand partnerships and it’d be nice to have some semblance of intentional motion.

    Loved this post. Beautifully written.

    Ann Douglas March 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Great post, Catherine. I don’t think it’s a matter of anyone feeling that they have to disclose what they make or do not make. I think it’s more a matter of attaching value to the act of blogging. You have worked hard, Catherine, to provide professional development opportunities for women who want to treat blogging as an art and a business and a way to change the world. It shouldn’t be treated as a second-class media, simply because it is online. (There’s are still some old-school thinkers who treat e-anything as less prestigious than print-anything.)

    Along with wanting to be treated like a professional and compensated as such, however, comes the need to produce a professional quality product. It’s easier to understand how to succeed at anything if, in addition to putting in hours and hours of hard work, you network and exchange information with peers. That’s why I think this type of dialogue is worthwhile. We can remind other women who blog that our words have value and that our time has value. We can exchange information about opportunities that we have been able to create for ourselves and strategies that we used to achieve success. We can see one another as allies rather than competitors. And so on. I am happy that Katie started this conversation. I love working cooperatively with others, particularly women. (It’s a model that comes naturally to us unless some outside force artificially ramps up the competition. That’s part of what I was getting at in my article about lists, rankings, etc.)

    I loved being part of Blissdom Canada last year. I plan to send you all kinds of ideas ASAP in the hope that I can fit into your plans for this year, too.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    @Ann Douglas,

    I love this comment Ann.

    Ann Douglas March 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting — Thanks, Annie. xo

    (How cool that Catherine’s blog software allows us to reply to one another this way.)

    Clueless But Hopeful Mama March 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    If anyone deserves success for her blog, her writing, and – yes – her brand (Own that word! Your brand is something to be so proud of!) it’s you.

    I think it’s tacky to discuss specifics of earnings, no matter who you are. (I am a little too WASPY for such discussions.) But I think it’s more than tacky – it’s disgusting – that people are attacking mommy bloggers for their hard-earned success.

    Becca March 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I can’t add anything useful on the income-from-blogging front, but I do think the world would be a better if we were all able/permitted/whatever to be open about what we earn. Or to just talk about money in general. I’ve had some great “we’re in a s-load of debt” chats with friends recently, and it’s so freeing.

    kelly @kellynaturally March 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    There are a couple things that bother me about this whole thing.

    if the job in question – mommyblogging – were taken seriously, it wouldn’t be an issue. If it were nearly any other vocation, it wouldnt be an issue. If it were not WOMEN blogging about MOTHERING it wouldn’t be an issue. Do you think sports writers debate over receiving awards, accolades, or income for their job? Tech writers? Newscasters?

    Add to the disrespect of women writing about mothering, the overall disrespect and undervaluation of art in general. Most people sneer in disbelief at the cost of art. When I & my peers were trying to sell paintings way back when, the thought of charging not just for supplies, but also for time spent, and an added percentage such that we wouldnt lose money after paying the dealer, was often viewed as over-the-top, selfish, self-elevating, etc. It’s just art afterall.

    Blogging is just writing stuff down afterall, right?

    There’s a lack of understanding and respect here that extends beyond jealousy of those “not making it” in the blogging world.

    I do think more open dialog – between bloggers in the industry – has benefits for the greater blogging community. But I see no value in disclosing details of your success just for the generally curious or as a justification of your art.

    Your art is your business. With a capital B too.

    (apologies for any typos – typed on the iPhone. Ouch.)

    jeannett March 31, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    @kelly @kellynaturally, GO KELLY! Loved it. But mostly super impressed that you typed out all of that on an iPhone! ;)

    Marinka March 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I’m a regular reader of your blog and I’ve never wondered about how much money you made.

    Nor have I wondered how much money my dentist keeps when she fills my cavity, after she pays for overhead and all that.

    I think you’re absolutely right to feel shy about it. Although I suspect it’s less shyness and more common sense.

    Amanda March 31, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Oh, but if you open one door, they all begin to clamor. The how, the why, the ineffable whatever that makes your brand your brand, you you. All the rest is subjective, heck, it all is. All that being said, I’d probably come back to read your grocery list, precisely because the way you do it is fascinating.

    Jen March 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed about. You’ve made your money in a lot more honest a way then some people. I don’t need or want to know numbers and think that is perfectly acceptable that you don’t want to share.

    I don’t see how you’ve done anything wrong and anyone who attacks would do so out of jealousy. I think it is wonderful that you’ve made money by this and feel comfortable with what you’ve made.

    Also, I think you are very brave to talk about this in this way. There are so many vicious people out there ready to tear people apart over such dumb things. But the more we all open up, stand up and keep with it, the less they have to use against us.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

    @Jen, I’m not ashamed of my success; I’m actually very proud. I’m just a little uncomfortable speaking about it publicly, in some part because of those ‘people out there’, as you say, who are standing by waiting for opportunities to tear others apart.

    But thanks ;)

    Abby March 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Maybe it is because I am a public school teacher and thus ANYONE can look up how much I make as long as they know what degree I have and how many years I have been teaching, but I don’t think it is a big deal to talk about money. Hard figures or ballpark, I think it would help a lot of people if you could just google it.

    As far as deserving or not deserving to get paid for something, yes I think mom-bloggers get the short end of the stick. They write openly, honestly, and thoughtfully about something that people have been lying about for a long, long time. Thus the popularity of the genre. But as a teacher I can tell you, there are other professionals who are also consistently told they are lucky for what they make because their job simply isn’t that hard. It used to make me furious. Now I realize these people are speaking out of ignorance and should be ignored or educated depending on my mood.

    Heather Meyers March 31, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I certainly don’t think you should publish your tax return or anything, but I wonder about whether or not your squeamishness is tied up with that whole competitive mom thing that seemed to go on in the past. Mom’s never revealed their secrets (recipes, beauty tricks, etc.) lest someone else use your information to better themselves. I actually like that things in general have changed and that women are sharing information, even if it is on the internet only. It makes me for one feel less isolated as a stay at home mom. If you want to start a discussion about blogging on your blog than you should. It is good to be prudent, but I can’t say the discussion is not worth having. There are those of us with out a clue about what we are doing with our blogs, that would love to know how you’ve gotten where you are. To know what the possibilities are.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 9:47 am

    @Heather Meyers, I’m not worried at all about sharing my ‘secrets’ – I talk about this stuff openly at conferences and am happy to give advice to anyone who asks. But those seem, somehow, to be safer spaces – probably because in ‘real life’ spaces I can look around the room and know who’s there and feel reasonably confident that no-one’s going to lash out and go ‘WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE’?

    But I need to get over at least some of that squeamishness, because I think that it IS important to talk about what the possibilities are, and how to realize them.

    Dawn March 31, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I’m all for people talking about it or not talking about it, whatever they see fit. It’s awfully nice when bloggers making their way share info, (which you do) but I don’t see why they need to share hard numbers. The survey someone linked to somewhere (I don’t see it here so I’m thinking it was at Babble) is a perfect idea. It’ll give a range and then individual bloggers can share details as they see fit.

    There are successful bloggers that I don’t particularly like and I don’t get why other people like them but then they same can be said for television shows and books and magazines and all kinds of other media. I do know that the bloggers who are “making it” are working at it. I personally prefer the bloggers who let you see the sweat on their brows (as opposed to the ones who pretend that it’s effortless) but again, I can change the channel if a particular blogger isn’t living the blogging dream the way that I want her to.

    I would like to know how much money the ad networks make and how it’s distributed among the folks running those networks. I don’t care if another blogger is making more money than I am (I pretty much trust that the ad networks distribution blogger to blogger is fair) but I do wonder about the people running them, particularly at BlogHer because those conferences must make some SERIOUS bank.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

    @Dawn, I really don’t have a whole lot of insight into the machinery of the ad networks. But I do think – I know – that it’s rare for an independent blogger to make real dollars off of ad network ads alone, and it frustrates me when discussions about monetizing focus on ad networks and on boosting traffic to feed the ad network. NOT a good business model in this space.

    Sara March 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Catherine, excellent insight. I think that as long as women choose to hate on each other this discussion of worthiness will continue. It happens time and again. Anytime a woman succeeds, there are haters ready to toast with Haterade instead of champagne.

    Someone has to be the pioneer. But when the pioneer blazes the trail then covers it up to make it harder for those who come after it feeds the belief that women are each others worst enemy.

    Very few succeed on their own, regardless of occupation or endeavor. There are mentors and helpful people along the way. It’s when those who do find success pretend they did it alone and don’t think they need to ‘pay it forward’ that keeps this discussion alive.

    The ‘mom blogger’ community is filled with wonderful and amazing women who will reach out and help. But at the same time they need to continue to work and reinvent themselves to stay current and relevant. There is only so much time to fit it all in.

    When we can stop judging our worth by comparing ourselves to others, only then will this discussion be irrelevant.

    Mommy bloggers are the ultimate reality show. Some become famous, some become infamous, some go on to genuine success, others will find spin-off shows, but in general most of us will work hard and make money without people ever knowing.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

    @Sara, I wish that there were more and better opportunities to mentor each other. To be mentors, and to find mentors.

    MamaRobinJ April 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    @Her Bad Mother,


    Lana W March 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    The main discomfort in sharing enough information to create a usable money scale stems from lack of interest in stepping into the shit-storm, right? And you’re right, who’d want to? But surely then, the reason for those attacks should be further examined. Here’s my take…

    Do you think an over-arching element is that blogging and it’s associated communities is still very much a developing business model? And that is occurring in a space that is notorious for not yet having a long history of successful business models. The internet is free space that business are still struggling to monetize in reliable ways (it’s call for let’s not pay for things already put a stake through the heart of newspapers for instance).

    So into this space comes a demographic from a job that has never been part of an income base (What, get paid for being a mom?!) There are no real metrics for success and expertise associated with being a mom either, oh, and who said that qualifies you to be a “writer.

    Regardless though, the bloggers have been there, but only recently have businesses woken up to the fact that there is now the possibility of having access to the spending power of an incredibly important group (thanks facebook and twitter to name a few). And to top it all off, the currency is “Social”(again, few metrics yet) – so you now have a dollar amount having to be affixed now to all these traditional roles that previously were free of pay. I think people are not comfortable with that yet.

    Additionally, and I might get slapped around for this, it is a brand new business model being largely generated by people who are not known for placing a premium value on their contributions (I know I’m awful at it). But I think these discussions are so important for how they contribute to a relatively new business model to emerge that we can all participate in.

    And that boys and girls is why trolls attack…

    Seriously, your specifics are your business, but good for you for taking what you do seriously and making your living on the leading edge of technology.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 9:56 am

    @Lana W,

    “Do you think an over-arching element is that blogging and it’s associated communities is still very much a developing business model? And that is occurring in a space that is notorious for not yet having a long history of successful business models.”

    Absolutely. And because there is, I think, a quiet bias against (or just an unwillingness to consider) the idea that blogging successfully requires a business model. We’re still very much attached to the idea that blogging – especially mom blogging – is more of an artisanal craft than a business. But it is (or can be) a business in which one’s art or craft is the foundation and the ‘product’ – and every business does need a model.

    Amy March 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for opening the flood gates of discussion.Eventually it had to be done and I guess you were the one to bust through the class ceiling and let the shards land where they may. I look forward to reading more about how being more open will help us all, rather than hurt us in the long run.

    I have a semi-mom blog… here’s my latest:
    Your Socks Are On Fire

    MarfMom March 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I for one would LOVE to see a discussion about BALLPARK numbers. If we can’t get an idea of what we might be worth, how do we know we’re not selling ourselves short (or asking too much). I see a lot of complaints on twitter and on blogs about women who are doing too much for too little or for free, and that that in turn devalues other women’s writing. But, no one wants to talk numbers or even generic formulas for determining your worth. I think that, however uncomfortable it might be, it’s necessary to be taken more seriously as a profession.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm


    I think you have to pick a starting point, test it out, and be willing to revise it (upward or downward). I took a stab in the dark when I first established my advertising rates and I have revised them once since then.

    I know that Andrea Tomkins from A Peek Inside the Fishbowl has a very community oriented blog, so she used the advertising rates in the community newspapers as a ballpark. She knew what their circulation was, she knew what her stats were, and she went from there.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, That was a smart approach for Andrea to take. Thanks for passing along that strategy.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

    @Ann Douglas, yes, it’s awesome. May need to get her to speak about that at Blissdom Canada :)

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

    @MarfMom, as Annie said, you need to figure out what you have to offer (maybe it’s good traffic, maybe it’s an engaged community, maybe it’s a strong local readership) and go from there. If you’re not working through an ad network, you have to sell yourself, but selling yourself provides for more lucrative opportunities

    Andrea’s strategy, that Annie describes, is an excellent one for getting started.

    Maria @ amotherworld March 31, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I think other bloggers are curious to know how they too can become successful and make a living as a blogger or writer. Especially now that bloggers ARE actually monetizing their sites, and there are conferences and ad networks, etc., blogs are becoming big business. But should there/will there be a salary range for how much one blogger makes? I don’t think so. As a writer or blogger, you’re a freelancer. And freelancers can work various gigs and their work can vary, so to add a number to that wouldn’t be completely representative of how much a blogger makes. I blog and write for various sites and am paid well collectively but I’m not about to reveal what I make! And I don’t think you have to either.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    @Maria @ amotherworld, Members of organizations such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) share information about rates paid on various types of projects so that members have an idea of what to charge for similar work. The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) created a document summarizing the types of rates charged for different types of work a few years ago, but it needs to be updated. It was also created as a result of members pooling rates info. There may be a way for women in blogging to come up with a way for pooling this type of data without it being linked to an individual blogger — but for the benefit of a large number of women bloggers. (Just an idea.)

    Madilyn March 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Did you know Hollywood, film making was run by women in the beginning? Then the men came and made it profitable and made it theirs.
    I think it is important for women to be who we are and professional., and dare I say ‘worth every penny we make and more’.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    @Madilyn, YES!!!!

    redpenmama March 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I make zip blogging and do a lot of wishful thinking that i will change that someday. In the meantime, i want the comments here to have ‘like’ buttons. Also if i were close to you, catherine, i would apply to your assistant position in a red hot minute.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

    @redpenmama, :)

    Pam March 31, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I’m a brand new blogger and also a new reader of your blog. Just wanted to say that I enjoy it and you are MORE than entitled to your privacy regarding income! I am a public school teacher and therefore my salary is published online yearly and it frustrates me that anyone can just look that shit up! Also, when what you earn is that public, people (as you mentioned) feel that they are entitled to discuss your actual worth. (Wisconsin. Teachers. Salaries. Pensions. Benefits. Nuff said.) I hate the feeling that as a teacher I have to constantly defend the very steady but modest salary that I earn. I appreciate your willingness to be candid to further the mommy blogging world, but certainly, as others have said, ballparks and baselines. Specifics, blah. No way. From what little I have already read of yours, you more than earn whatever you make. You are a talented writer! :)

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

    @Pam, thank you!

    Kelly March 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I spent some time thinking about this last year and created a survey on SurveyMonkey designed to be anonymous, and allow people to talk about rates and overall salaries.

    The thing is I found out it’s kind of not allowed to share the data I have because it can cause price fixing per our US government. So I have this pile of data and I can see a range and a trend, and I want to share it, but I can’t.

    I will say that based on what the data says you are doing well, and you should be proud of that.

    I talk openly about how I made a loss my first year, and that many people I polled started by making nothing for years, and eventually turned it their blogs into a business-one that they love, and are super appreciative of.

    When else can you be at home working while simultaneously nursing or taking a conference call while wiping someone’s tush and still be respected? Not many jobs-maybe none.

    I think the part people miss when we talk dollars and sense is that in many ways moms blogging and consulting from home has allowed us to have the best of both worlds at the same time, and that? That is something to be celebrated. It’s a big win-win-win for you, the brands, and your family.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm


    I don’t think it is price fixing unless we all get together and agree to use the same rates. For a lot of products and services, rates are posted publicly (e.g. price of a soft drink, price of a hair cut, price of a burger), so people know how much the competition is charging and can set their own prices accordingly. In a competitive market, that is fine.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, I agree with your interpretation. The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) collects and shares member data about rates. There haven’t been any concerns about price-fixing.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, … but in any case, isn’t that the point of unions (and in other contexts, guilds, and the like)? To empower collectives to demand certain minimum wage/payment rates? It’s not exactly the same, I know, but I’m really surprised that there’d be any concern about that.

    Michele March 31, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    As a regular, un”professional” blogger who makes nothing off the efforts, I’d like to say thank you. It’s always encouraging to hear that a craft and skill that you’re passionate about can also help to put food on the table and shoes on teeny-tiny feet. And as one who keeps dipping a big toe into the rest of the blogging world, I appreciate knowing that the range of monetary success is broad; I’m no Dooce and don’t have those expectations. But I hope to find a place that I may add value to the conversation and there’s even a bit of compensation for it. I have novice friends who bake glamerous cakes or who create photography sessions yielding amazing shots. They get paid a novice wage, but their efforts are appreciated by those who consume the “product.” **wince at the term**
    And thanks also for bringing to light that there is *work* involved when it comes to making the blog successful. I’d love a post detailing out what some of that work looks like – myself being Perpetually Pregnant (3rd in 3 years), I can’t seem to make those intimidating yet super-inspiring conferences I read about.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    @Michele, There are years for babies and years for writing conferences. (I had my first three babies in 3 1/2 years.) It was years before I could get to conferences about writing. Fortunately, there is a lot of inspiration to be found online. Have you discovered ?

    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle March 31, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    This post could have been written almost verbatim for the world of food bloggers…where I live. Not that you personally should disclose personal revenue but wouldn’t it be nice to have a idea of what would be acceptable? A chart of sorts for a range of what is ‘typical’ – otherwise I do think a lot of newer bloggers accept a lot less than they should and so keep the average down for everyone in the playing field. Without any knowledge of expectations…they take less than they should.

    Where else would I be expected to purchase food for an event, prepare it, photo it and then write about and think that $30 would be an acceptable rate…but I’ve seen it, over and over. So, one day, when I’m not too busy with that cooking, photographing and writing thing I might like to do a blog post about expectations…but without people sharing real numbers, even if in a broad sense, it’s a guessing game and that gets no one nowhere. Fast.

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    @Barbara | VinoLuciStyle, I can share some general rates about blogging. In recent years, I’ve been paid $100 to $200 per post for posts of 250 to 500 words. I used to be paid $2 per word (in the late 1990s) for writing similar types of online content. Those were the good old days — and before I had written 28 books. ;-)

    jonniker March 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Hold the phone: Why are you ashamed of this? This is hard to talk about, yes, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Success is not something to be ashamed of.

    You are one of my favorite professional bloggers, because yes, you do it professionally, but I rarely feel like you’re selling something. You do campaigns, but you rarely foist them on us in the space that you talk about yourself and your life — at least not in a way that is offensive or excessive. And your personal voice remains earnest and true to who you are, I think.

    I don’t think you’re any obligation to talk about what you make, say, TOTAL. But I get why people should be talking about ballpark figures, or at least a general idea of what to expect on campaigns, to give people a good point to start from. And maybe, God help us all, to stop the inevitable flood of posts scolding everyone to stop taking bad campaigns! Don’t do this for FREE! But no! No, I won’t tell you what you SHOULD ask for, I will just scold you because you did something wrong! But I won’t get any more specific than that! Wait, why are you confused?

    On the flip side, what Mir said is SO TRUE, because while I am not a professional blogger at ALL, I am a freelancer, and I get a LOT of leads through my blog and contacts I made from it. A LOT. So … does that mean I have to talk about that, or the value of something like that? Does that count as salary I made professionally, even if it was only in a roundabout way? I don’t THINK so, but I think it helps to illustrate Mir’s point.

    I will say that it’s interesting to me how some focus on the time/effort it takes to write something. People talk about the value of WRITING, when so many of these campaigns aren’t remotely about that. They’re about using you (general you, the blogger) as a mouthpiece/influencer to reach your audience, which is typically highly engaged. That, to me, is the number one reason people should be wary of doing something for too little money, because your audience can become less engaged and/or less valuable, so you should ask for enough money to make up for that.

    That’s my pathetic, unprofessional opinion.

    Separately, what is also interesting is that people assume when you dislike something someone successful does that it is simply because they are successful. Of course, it must be envy, right? Ahhh, makes me crazy. I like you quite a bit. I like Ree very much as well. I like a lot of really successful people a whole lot — some of them I even (gasp!) love! Some of whom are (OMFG) WAY MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN ME!, although I do consider myself successful, but not in such a public way.

    I don’t like a lot of things other people do, nor do I necessarily like them as people. But it’s not because they are successful, you know? We’re capable, as women, of having more complex emotions than that — of sussing out what we like and don’t like beyond the simplicity of “I AM JEALOUS, AND I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH IT, SO I AM GOING TO BE BITCHY ABOUT THIS PERSON!”

    I don’t know anyone who really reacts that way. Most people I associate with have a good enough sense of themselves and their reactions/emotions to be able to figure out WHY they feel a certain way and react accordingly. (For example, when I feel jealous, I JUST SAY I AM JEALOUS. I think it’s an okay feeling to have and own.)

    Bottom line: I like you. I think you’re good at what you do. I don’t think you should apologize for it or be ashamed of talking about the fact that you are good at it and have achieved success. When I do things I’m proud of, I want to tell the whole fucking WORLD, and usually, I do.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

    @jonniker, I love you for this comment.

    I should clarify, though – I’m not ashamed at all. I’m very proud, actually. And I speak openly about that at conferences and the like. I’m just uncomfortable about writing about it here, for a variety of reasons, most of which I outlined here, all of which I want to get over, precisely because I *am* proud, and because I think that much of the stuff that I’ve learned achieving this success could be helpful to others (others who don’t go to conferences ;) )

    Ash March 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Musicians get all that crap about “selling out”, too. Brush it off.

    I’m not a blogger, but I’m a 22-year-old American woman who doesn’t have cable. I have no idea what’s on primetime TV, but I know what EVERYONE on my blogroll is up to. Firing up my Google Reader is like switching on the boob tube for me, but lots cooler. Most of the stuff on television is vapid garbage I can’t relate to. My concept of blogging is that regular people got fed up with modern media’s attempts to entertain us, so we took to the web and started entertaining ourselves and one another. And the bloggers I read provide the intelligent, thought-provoking, heart-warming kind of reading I enjoy.

    Fiona March 31, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I think anything that gets us all thinking about our practises is welcome :)

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    @Fiona, Agreed! Community is a great thing for mothers and for writers.

    Kathy March 31, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Well now, this is interesting! I read the post in full and the comments and I thought some really good points came out in both.

    I am the somewhat rare beast these days (or so it seems to me) who specifically does not aim to make money from blogging. I do run Nuffnang ads but to be honest, I do so for the freebies that Nuffnang gives and the community events they organise, not from any expectation of making actual cash off them.

    When I say I specifically do not aim to be a professional blogger, I mean that, really, income generation is an anti-aim for me. Blogging is one of my hobbies, an important one to be sure, but not my profession and I do not want it to become so. (I have a career in another field, currently paused but to which I’ll return next year, that satisfies my professional ambitions amply). I like to blog exactly because I don’t have to keep an eye on anything – my “brand”, my SEO, my traffic, whatever – and because I’m not looking to it to give me an income. My blog is just about what I want to write, for my family, myself and my friends, and secondarily it’s about forming connections and community within the parenting and book blogging worlds, connections that I value and enjoy.

    THAT SAID, on the general point of whether professional mummy bloggers should disclose their incomes / details of their success, my answers would be:

    1. Not unless they feel moved to in the spirit of mentoring – it’s never an obligation (just like I don’t have to disclose, and wouldn’t, how much I made in my career in public policy)

    2. Bands might be useful for some aspiring professional bloggers (in the same way that public service positions have bands, for instance) but no-one is obliged to provide this information, even if it could be done in a meaningful way in such a greenfields area as personal blogging.

    Lisa March 31, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks for the spirited post. I think it is more important to focus on how it is done rather than the size of the pie. As you said, there is not a living to be made through advertising usually, but it is how you use your blog to leverage payment that is good to get a better understanding about.

    I agree that the first thing we need to do is make sure that we ourselves understand that the decision to blog is a career choice (yes, even if it is just for fun. Think of it as your other career if you already feel you have one that is different). Until then, we risk undervaluing our efforts.

    Inspirational & aspirational – Thanks BM

    Maria March 31, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Okay, here’s some real talk, from a non-mom blogger, who’s been blogging about her life for years (in varying capacities) and who’s been a professional blogger (in entertainment and tech) for three years. I now work in marketing/PR and am on the other side of this coin, working with bloggers.

    The truth is, mom bloggers do NOT get the short end of the stick, with regard to blogging and monetizing. Sure, there is a lot of stigma around “mommy bloggers” and snarky posts on Gawker and whatnot, but y’all are laughing all the way to the bank, ladies. Nobody cares about women bloggers in any other way unless they are a mom. I went to a BlogHer meetup last year and when the PR reps who went discovered I was not a mom blogger, they were wholly uninterested in anything I had to say, despite the fact that I had a successful blog on a major network (b5media) and managed to bring that audience over to my own independent blog. And despite the fact that I was there as PRESS for a major project for a major brand. So really — let’s move on, mom bloggers get all the attention, press trips, marketing dollars, etc. You. Are. It.

    Second, you and other mom bloggers are a business now. Your life is your business. Maybe this is why people are so hesitant to share actual numbers. I think no one wants to say how much they are paid because everyone is paid differently, and hey, no one wants to reveal that number. I get it. But, to have conferences and talk about how great this all is, and in way, encourage other women to try to lead this life, without giving them any of the true cold hard financial realities is somewhat irresponsible. And other businesses disclose their income. It is not a deep, dark secret. Business people talk money, when appropriate. So, I think it’s better to be more transparent than the other side.

    Make no mistake of my tone here. I fully admire what all of you do. I write about my life, but I could never do it like this. So kudos, and go get paid.

    Christine Gilbert April 8, 2011 at 5:22 am


    To be fair, you were at a blogging conference where PR people were specifically sent there to connect with mommy bloggers. I write a travel blog and I have found tons of PR people willing to work with me. I think you just need to find the right PR folks.

    Maria April 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    @Christine Gilbert, You’re right, and I don’t think PR attention is solely devoted to mom bloggers. It’s certainly true that there is PR for everyone, in every niche. My point is more that mom bloggers get more attention and more marketing dollars. There is no comparison, I think.

    daysgoby April 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I thought about this post a long time last night. And woke up this morning with a headache (not attributed to you, honest!) and a question, perhaps a little off-topic but related:

    How much of your blog (the stories of your life and your opinions) do you bring to a freelancing post? Do you write differently?

    Her Bad Mother April 1, 2011 at 9:18 am

    @daysgoby, I bring a lot of the blog to my freelance writing, mostly because I’m usually approached to write freelance pieces because of the blog, and what they’re looking for is the voice and style and subject matter of HBM. And I actually haven’t pursued freelance writing that doesn’t draw on what I do here, simply because this is the writing that I love to do :)

    Ann Douglas April 1, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    @daysgoby, It totally depends on the market. Some magazines/newspapers want a personal essay-type approach. Others want more traditional features. I tailor my pitch accordingly. But blogging has given me the opportunity to experiment with a huge range of different writing styles — and I’ve grown as a writer as a result. Years ago, I wrote a post called, “Why Every Writer Needs a Blog.” I still believe that.

    Linda April 1, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Bad Mother:

    Money is personal and nobody’s business in any field. Women tend to over-share and this is an example of TMI. While one would think sharing is generous and transparent, it is nobody’s business.

    Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in.


    Jen April 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Love this post. I’d say more, but it’s already been said above in several ways :)

    Meagan @ The Happiest Mom April 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I am loving this whole discussion and am so glad it’s happening. Particularly as somebody who has been making my living (a good, but not holy-cow good living) as a writer, with my blog as a mostly unpaid sideline, for the last seven years or so.

    I’d LIKE to make my blog profitable, in whatever way(s) it makes the most sense to do. But then I run into disheartening discussions–I stumbled across one just last week, actually–where the basic consensus is “Blogging used to be so GREAT but then MONEY CAME AND RUINED EVERYTHING!”

    And then I think, will I be sullying this space–not just the space I’ve created, but the larger space–if I start earning money via my blog?

    But you know, I’m kind of done with that. Because the truth is I am a writer, and I *need to be a MONEY-EARNING writer. People like and benefit from what I write. The more I blog the less time I have for other forms of (money-earning) writing. But the more I blog the more I benefit my audience. So, honestly, they’ll just have to be OK with me earning money via my blog, because I don’t owe anyone anything. (What is it with this feeling of “owing” a piece of ourselves–whether it be personal details, or completely free, personalized content–to readers? Is it a blogger thing? A female thing? Because I run across this attitude a lot both from bloggers who feel they owe the world XYZ or readers who seem to think bloggers owe them XYZ. And it seems to be mostly women/mom bloggers who are the obligated ones.)


    Regarding hard numbers–in a way it’s kind of irrelevant how much you make in total, because the different opportunities you have cobbled together are a snapshot of YOUR brand and YOUR efforts, and wouldn’t necessarily be something anyone else could reproduce anyway. But I DO think it would be valuable if we all talked about the different price ranges one could expect from, say, a sponsored campaign. Or a spokesperson gig. Or even what is a reasonable CPM (I’ve heard anything from $1/CPM for a 125 X 125 up to $8. Pretty huge difference.) Kind of like what Jonniker said here: “Don’t do this for FREE! But no! No, I won’t tell you what you SHOULD ask for, I will just scold you because you did something wrong! But I won’t get any more specific than that! Wait, why are you confused?”

    I’m too much of a newbie when it comes to blog advertising/sponsorships to talk with any kind of authority on what these things should/can pay. But if you asked me right now what a national magazine will pay for an article, I will gladly tell you that I generally earn between $1 and $2 per word for an assignment. Of course it depends–some national magazines pay more, some pay a little less. But I can at least give a range, with some specifics, that could help somebody determine what’s possible or whether they’re being offered fair terms. I would love to get to a place where we can be as specific and open about pay for bloggers.

    jonniker April 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

    @Meagan @ The Happiest Mom: Remember back when we talked about it and we were talking about who did it right, and how there were people who did it WRONG WRONG WRONG, but not that many who did it right?

    If it isn’t obvious, I think Catherine does it right. And yet, she makes a living from it. So it IS possible to do within the parameters I laid out on Mom101′s post, I think.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:24 am

    @Meagan @ The Happiest Mom,

    “But then I run into disheartening discussions–I stumbled across one just last week, actually–where the basic consensus is “Blogging used to be so GREAT but then MONEY CAME AND RUINED EVERYTHING!”

    This is so pernicious, I think. Money isn’t hurting blogging. BAD BLOGGERS are hurting blogging.

    If content always comes first, if you’re protective to the furthest degree of your integrity and the authenticity of your work, then the money can’t ruin (consider how this is true in ANY artistic field). I don’t claim to have done it perfectly, but I think that I’ve done pretty well. I’ve turned down buckets of money – really – in order to protect my (dirty word alert!) ‘brand’, which is to say my content and my reputation. But it was necessary if I was to keep doing what I do here.

    Kristen Howerton April 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Meagan, I think I know the conversation you are referring to, but I think that the issue is that people came into blogging to make money, rather than for the love of writing. I see a lot of bloggers today who aren’t writers AT ALL. Wouldn’t even call themselves writers. Their whole mission in blogging is to get free stuff to review or give away, build their name up, be a brand ambassador, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with those things per se, but if that is the ends to the means (instead of content, like Catherine just said), it does kind of sully the mommy-blogging arena.

    For you, for Catherina, likely most of the people replying to this post – for us, the goal is to make enough money to continue doing what we would probably be doing for free anyway: writing. But now there is a whole host of bloggers who don’t really care about content, and who are (IMO) just hustling to try to make money. There is no love of the craft of writing or the community.

    All that to say, I don’t think you should feel like taking money means that you are bending to the “money + blogging = bad” equation.

    Helen Jane April 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, I don’t think Money Ruined Everything, but it certainly has changed Ye Blogging of Olde in a way that blogging will never return.

    I’m grown up enough to know that we can’t go back to that time where we all “just did it for the love.”

    Also, this is SO FREAKING NEW. It’s so strange to me, all these opinions about “This is WRONG” and “That is UNPROFESSIONAL” when we have only inklings where this medium is going.

    Ten years after the printing press, people had no idea of all the opportunities. We have no idea of the potential of blogging, of sharing information and stories from a personal perspective.

    Be gentle with these decisions because we’re still screwing up and that’s okay.

    Of course, grin, you’re doing it right.

    The Other Laura April 1, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for addressing this subject so openly. It is tricky but I can tell you this – I don’t think it is anyone’s business how much money you make no matter how you make it. It would be rude to walk up to someone at a party/coffeehouse/library and say “how much money did you make last year?” and it is rude to demand answers online. I would politely respond “none of your friggin’ business.”

    Number Cruncher April 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Will numbers make the difference you’re looking for? I doubt it. Why? Because while you might be a “professional” in some sense of the word, what you do does not match broadly held colloquial understandings of the word. You are a professional in the sane way that Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian are: you have something that you do and that you make money from. But everyone knows that Sheen makes a ton of money from his new twitter page, and Kardashian does from her public appearances, etc. – a LOT of money. And yet they are not really “professional”. In many ways just the opposite. Actually, bloggers if all types, but especially political bloggers, complain about not bein taken as seriously as, say, magazine writers. Maybe for that reason, most of them try to write for magazines as well. Or get think tank jobs or whatever. But by many standards “magazine writer” is only barely a “profession”. So I just don’t think that the money matters (although you have alluded to it on your blog in the past). Fairly or unfairly, in cultural/colloquial terms, “making money”, even making millions, does not amount to “professional”. And what you are doing here is obviously culture-bound. On the other hand, would the numbers be a reliable way if gauging the sort of cultural appetite/impact that you are claiming? That’s a different, and interesting question.

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

    @Number Cruncher, the numbers question isn’t about satisfying anything personally for myself – it’s about whether I could better help others by being more open about them. I don’t gauge my own success by numbers – I don’t track my own stats; I only have a sense of how the blog is doing numbers-wise by my ad earnings – but for some, numbers (like the actual or ballpark numbers of what I or anyone else earns) can be a helpful benchmark for figuring out what is possible.

    On the term ‘profession’ – there’s the use of the term to describe the traditional ‘professions’ – doctor, lawyer, accountant – and then there’s the more casual use to refer to work that isn’t amateur, which is to say, work that is paid. Even Kim Kardashian is a professional in this latter regard, inasmuch as she earns money from what she does. So it is reasonable to distinguish ‘professional bloggers’ – bloggers who earn a living blogging – and ‘amateur bloggers’ – bloggers who do it just for the love of it and do not earn a living.

    Shannon {Discipline Project} April 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Love this conversation. It’s not about numbers. It’s about sharing – and enhancing – the map to the numbers. I don’t care how much any other blogger makes because my gauge of monetary “success” might be completely different than yours. What I love about this post is the idea of sharing the HOW. Why is it wrong to talk about the path to success?

    I love what Backpacking Dad said: “If you have made great choices, that result in great happiness, there is no immodesty in explaining how that happened, to be a lesson for everyone else.” People have commented that this is just a women blogger issue. Not so. People like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sarah Palin are criticized because hey, they are just too successful for whatever stupid thing they did to become successful and that’s not quite fair. Wah! Musicians get the same shit, actors too.

    Bottom line: If you are successful, you’ve likely worked hard. You do deserve it and you should own it. And there’s always going to be someone to criticize it.

    Leslie April 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

    @Shannon {Discipline Project}, This is just what I was thinking! I’d love to discuss with people strategies to earn money through blogging. Tips, books to read, where to start, any of it. Bring it on! I personally don’t care about numbers, as was said above by a few, it’s just too variable and different people have different ideas of financial success anyway. I feel strange asking this because I am looking to gain information, as I have none to share at the moment, but how can we continue the conversation that shares the HOW, not the HOW MUCH?

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

    @Shannon {Discipline Project}, “It’s not about numbers. It’s about sharing – and enhancing – the map to the numbers.”

    Exactly. I should have read this before I responded to the comment above ;)

    rebecca April 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    As my therapist says, it’s a blessing to be able to do what you LIKE doing every day. My best guess is that most mommy bloggers (of which I’m also included) do not make in the high six figures like a partner at a law firm after years. However, again, it is a BLESSING to get up every morning to actually like what you do. And that makes up for a lot! Therapist says he can’t believe how many millionaires he knows that hate getting out of the bed in the mornings. So it’s not always about money, honey!

    Her Bad Mother April 2, 2011 at 10:35 am

    @rebecca, totally. I’m thrilled that I earn a living doing something that I love. I’m thrilled that I make a good living and that my income keeps increasing, of course, but I’d do this for free, and that, end of the day, is the most important thing.

    JILL SIMONIAN April 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    To be utterly cheesy: I’m inspired by the “pro” mom bloggers… you amaze me.
    To be utterly honest: I’m curious as HELL about ballpark numbers. I just started this little mommy-blog experiment when my daughter was born (6 months ago) and have no idea of the earning potential that might be in front of me. I would love to find out what heights I can aspire to so that I can set goals for myself (to continue to earn my own money and have something that’s mine).
    If you get screw up the courage Catherine, I’m happy to pick your brain. Until then, I’ll continue to read and enjoy. :)

    Jonathan Warner April 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I understand criticism, and internet criticism is particularly bad because it’s always unexpected and random. Like a stranger coming up to you and telling you’re a bad person because you left a substandard tip for the waitress, four days ago. That can explain hesitancy to talk about things you mention. Please ensure that you aren’t also hesitant because you secretly feel there’s some measure of truth to the criticism.

    Did you feel you tipped the waitress enough? Well then you’d probably just blow off the stranger haranguing you. Did you think back and consider, “oh she’s right I should’ve paid more”? You’re accepting the stranger’s story about the situation rather than your own. That’s where the guilt comes in.

    As far as the stranger’s motivation, I posit it goes like this from their perspective: Money == status. This person is doing something I consider trivial and status-less, yet they are making money at it. This does not compute. The malcontent has a serious case of cognitive dissonance at that point, and can only fix it by attempting to destroy the offending part of the equation.

    Lastly, I’ll echo other commenters and suggest that sure it’s gauche to mention effective salary. It’s also sort of beside the point. The bottom line is you can make a living — whether that’s a thousand or a million dollars is really irrelevant, as long as you’re living honestly.

    Thanks for blogging.

    Candace April 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I don’t think exact numbers are anyone else’s business. I do think ballpark numbers are useful, though.

    On the other “end” of things, I have heard “big” bloggers react negatively to bloggers who “work for free” or “work for peanuts”. Some of us come to blogging with a clear idea of the worth of our time and skills. I was a freelance writer before “blogs” so I know how much is a baseline per word, per hour, etc. for me. From there I can factor in other variables and come up with a reasonable number.

    I am also fairly media-literate. I took the classes in college, wrote the papers, did a PR internship for the local Arts Council, and I can chat about ethical issues with my husband, who spent time in journalism prior to his legal career.

    For these reasons, my approach is: “Is this something I would be proud to do? How much does someone need to pay me to make this worth my while, compared to other things I could be doing?” (and this includes non-monetary value, like helping others, building my brand, building my resume, feeling more relaxed, being more present with my kids, etc.)

    But there are a number of people who are talented writers, interesting personalities, or gifted community-builders who just have no foundation for knowing how much to charge or even for what to charge.

    For them, the question may be “Is this the type of thing for which I should be paid? And, what is the market rate, approximately, for what I’m being asked to do?”

    So, for them, I think ball-park numbers and discussions of what is paid and what is not is extremely valuable.

    I’m monetizing my (co-owned) lifestyle site–which is not what you guys are talking about here. I have other sites focused on other, non-stuff-based, topics, like my Education blog and my Military Spouse Blog.

    At this point, I’m not ready to directly monetize my Education blog because I want to be very careful with this one. This is my career, my profession.

    I suspect that a lot of personal bloggers with huge, devoted followings could be making more–but part of the reluctance to talk about numbers has to do with this same sense of caution. When you are the brand, when what you are monetizing is people’s interest in you, and when you are trying to be an authentic you, it becomes a difficult topic.

    Part of it has to do with our perceptions of women and motherhood–but part of it also has to do with our perceptions of artists. We, as a modern society, like our creative folks to be in it for the art…not the money.

    I am not a “personal” blogger for a number of reasons, including my husband’s (occasionally government-mandated) need for privacy, my own comfort level, and my ambivalence about how to separate my own story from that of my children. However, I have a lot of respect for some of the amazing personal bloggers I read.

    Catherine, you are one of my first and always favorites and I would never begrudge you or doubt any success you have.

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