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Did you know? In 2018, consumers spent $126 billion online (that's with a B!) on holiday shopping worldwide!

And for 2019? Sales are predicted to be up as much as 15 percent. So the time is NOW to laser-focus on how you can create buzz for yourself. Whether you want to offer a sale, work on a holiday gift guide with some of your favorite brands, or be an affiliate for products you're passionate about, it's time to start thinking about what will work for you.

You can make some serious money with your blog over the holidays. But you need a strategy. Here's how.

Now, before you say, “but Helene! We haven't even had Thanksgiving!” Remember that the time is now to start planning. Please, feel free to keep your Fall decor up! But… I won't judge you either if you've started to listen to Christmas music.

The biggest shopping event of the year is coming up. And as a blogger there are many opportunities for you to get your own piece of the money-making pie. Each and every year I publish my holiday gift guides. That's because I focus on the things I use and love, and therefore, make a profit from this.

You might have seen emails floating around like this:

“Can we be included in your holiday gift guide?”

This is an email that I receive not only daily, but usually 5 times a day. It's now officially “holiday” season, which means brands know they need to get on our radar if they want to be included in our blog posts. Which is awesome! It usually means free stuff and money! But it can also be hard to figure out the terms of the deal, what you should ask, what you should get, and how this actually benefits you. Whether you're getting emails like this or not, this is the best time of year (literally) to maximize your options, and ultimately, make more money.

your-guide-to-holiday-blog-success

I wanted to create a guide so you can make the most out of the holiday season for your blog. You can use this time to strategically work with advertisers and sponsors to maximize your time and effort. Holidays can make up to 30% of a retailer's annual income. That's insane! It also means people are in spending and buying mode. So you need to give them a good reason to read your guides.

How to prepare for the holidays on your blog

First and foremost, only work with brands you love. I am approached all the time to work with different companies. But unless I know it's 100% a fit for myself and my audience, then my answer is a definite no.

I try to work with companies and products that I've personally used. That's because I value my audience's trust and I know that if I recommend something that I'm not 100% confident in, they'll lose trust in me.

If a brand approaches me I'll often ask for a few samples of their product. Or, if I want to include something that I already use in a gift guide, then I will see if that product has an affiliate program.

Amazon has an incredible affiliate program that you can join and link to all your favorite products, movies, you name it.

For example, I almost always include a link to my travel backpack. It's one that I thoroughly researched and have used for the past 3 years. I have total confidence in this bag and highly recommend it to anyone (I've had many friends purchase it as well!). So I know that when I include this in my gift guides it's something I can recommend.

The benefits of working with brands

Not only does working with brands benefit you financially along with gaining new products or services, it also helps widen your influence. First, it lets other brands know that they, too, can work with you. You become a spokesperson for the product and a resource for the brand itself. You can let them know what you think, how you use it, and how they can improve. This puts you in a position of influence and lets you direct how the company’s products benefit your audience. Win-win.

It also adds to your resume! I keep a list of brands and sponsors I work with and like to showcase this when a new brand approaches me. It lets them know I'm legit and it shows that I produce awesome content to boot.

Also, lots of brands and sponsors will share your post or social shares on their social media, leading to increased engagement and new readers for you. I remember when I posted about how we saved enough money to buy a house in 6 months (a sponsored post), it went viral when it was shared by the brand itself.

Bottom line, it helps with your credibility, extends your reach, and can help you to monetize. 

First, do you want to write a gift guide?

If so, start thinking about what kinds of gifts you'd like to have. You can write a very general gift guide, or more specific. Like… holiday gift guide for dogs (please send me this one if you write it, by the way). If you are wanting to write one, you need to start thinking now about who you want to work with and what will be included.

Whether you are being contacted or not, start organically talking about the products and services you might be mentioning. Not only does this prime your audience to know what you'll be discussing, but it also flags the brand that you are interested in them. A good way to do this is by mentioning them on social media, liking their photos, etc.

It takes time for advertisers to send the products and budget how much they can send out. It is TOTALLY okay to start reaching out, whenever you see fit.

What does your audience care about?

You need to start researching and thinking about what your audience would care about in a gift guide.

I don't write a lot about cooking. Therefore, I'm not going to include a pots and pans set. It's just not something I talk about so it doesn't make sense for me to include it.

Things I do talk about: travel, clothes (specifically clothes for travel), dogs, and beauty. So my gift guide(s) will focus around these types of things.

Start compiling brands you'd like to work with

Now it's time to do a little work. Make a list of brands you want to include. Think about what makes sense for you and your audience, then start creating a list that you can refer to. Next, you need to reach out. Find them on LinkedIn or social media and connect. Whether advertisers are reaching out to you or not, you can absolutely ask for free stuff or even to be paid for inclusion in your guide.

Every woman (and I'd add blogger) is a brand. Your brand is determined by what you write about, your personality, what you like to do. Your brand is inherently you. This is appealing to advertisers and companies who want to work with someone just like you. So remember that when you start reaching out.

Let me remind you why. You have a unique audience that NO ONE else has. My audience is not the identical copy of someone else's. I blog about different things, in a different way. I should absolutely be paid or receive commission for my time and effort. Don't you think?!

Start by following them on social media. Tweet to them your thoughts. Comment on their Instagram. Reach out directly and ask. Share SPECIFICS on how you want to feature them. Do not be vague. The more details you can share the better.

Create your pitch

Now that you know you're worth it, go on with your bad self and send an email. Now, don't just say “hey I'm awesome, give me everything.” You need to explain why they should work with you. When reaching out be specific. Have a clear idea of WHY you’re contacting them. Speak to them directly, and try to even include their name. Make it obvious that you're interested in their product. Showcase why you and your audience are unique to them.

Check out this guide on pitching as a blogger.

Make sure your email includes:

    • A subject line that makes sense. Avoid sounding disingenuous.
    • If you can, call them by name. I’m more likely to pay attention when someone starts an email with “Hey Helene” instead of “Dear Owner of Heleneinbetween.com”
    • Note why you’re contacting them. Be upfront and realistic.
    • Explain why you want to work with them and how you think this would benefit them.
    • Lay out your idea for the collaboration. You don’t need to include EVERY detail, but you should provide a rough outline of what you have in mind.
    • *Your media kit! (Click here to download your media kit template)
    • Make it clear how they can contact you back

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Leverage your worth

Now, let's say you've received an email back from the brand you want to work with. Or, maybe they are reaching out to you. Awesome, virtual high five! But before you reply back with a “hell yes” read through the email and make sure the terms line up with your blog goals. Are they asking you to post 17 times on Instagram? For me, that'd be a deal breaker.

When a brand reaches out, think about how this will in turn benefit you. Maybe they will share about you on social media or promote your post to their email list. I negotiate the price I ask for with almost every single brand I work with. I don't have a set price list. I like to see what they are wanting and come up with a pricing structure based around that.

Kallie of Caffeinate and Conquer agrees, “Because of all this, I don't have “canned” pricing but instead, I chat with the company about what they want and then give them some offerings based on their needs.” You can figure out how this works for you, how it will benefit you and the brand, and then develop a pricing structure from there.

You might also hear the word “no.” Remember… that is OKAY! Alisha of the Alisha Nicole says, “Businesses have bloggers reaching out to them all the time about collaborations so it may just not be a good time for them.” I agree. Keep them in your back pocket and it might be better to work with them at another time.

Remember that you are allowed to ask for money. You are already in negotiations with them, the worst they can do is say no. I know it can be scary to ask for money or products, but if you don't try, you won't know. Remember, sending you a product is an investment for them and a chance to be seen by YOUR unique audience. So own it!

Keep it organized

Now that you have some sponsors to work with, you need to manage it all. Keep a calendar (on or offline) of posts and advertisers and a timeline of when everything is due. Chances are, you have TONS to manage over the holidays. Parties, cookie eating, wine drinking, gift buying, did I mention wine? Anyway, it's hard to keep track of it all – the fun stuff and the work. I like to use a sponsor tracker or you can use a tool like Eventable's event management system. This will help you keep everything in order for your posts (and your life.)
You also need to check to ensure your site is mobile friendly. So many transactions are happening on phones. Double check that you have a mobile responsive check out process or that people can easily understand where to click. For example, websites that use Shopify saw 59% of sales come through mobile!

Timing is key

Studies reveal that many shoppers like to finish their holiday shopping before Black Friday. You don't necessarily have to promote on those exact dates. I suggest finding dates that work for you. For example, I travel a lot. When I offer sales I like to be present. So I won't share on days that I'm flying because I know that if something were to go wrong I wouldn't be able to fix it immediately.

Remember, there is a sense of urgency here. Holiday sales go quick so make sure to keep your readers up-to-date with when sales are ending or when they can get the best deals.

Promote like Kanye without sounding salesy

Okay, so now you have some sponsored posts to write and promote. YAY, money and free stuff. Boo, trying to sell to your readers. This is something every single blogger struggles with, so no sweat. First and foremost, craft a post around a story. If you are telling a story it will come from your own unique voice and style and people will respond to it. Readers can see straight through in-authenticity. Especially those that are loyal. So explain why this actually means something to you. Showcase how you actually use it. Give me some real pictures, not just stock images.

Remember to stick to your unique voice and write in your own style. This can be tricky when you write a sponsored post, which is why I recommend using stories or real life events to make it more relatable. Try to incorporate the product or pitch in your everyday life or why it helps you. Give examples and showcase how it's unique to you.

Tools that work

About 27% of sales will come from email. I personally use and recommend Convertkit to collect email addresses and send out targeted emails. I like this for a number of reasons. But you can use email to promote your own products or link to an affiliate. This is a great way to monetize and it's a priority for many retailers. Also, it's a big bonus when you are negotiating with a brand and you can let them know you can include them on your email list! Here's how to create an email list from scratch!

If you're wanting to create a pretty gift guide I believe the best tool to do so is Photoshop. You can easily create it in the style that you like and create beautiful layouts. If you don't want to pay for Photoshop I suggest the online and free tool called Canva.

I suggest coming up with some ready to go social media shares so that you're not stressed when the sale or post goes live. I use Hootsuite to schedule all of my social media. It's one of my most used tools and I couldn't imagine running my blog without it. Here's how to schedule blog posts like a boss. If you're wanting even more, check out my most recommended blogging plugins and tools.

Keep Your Word

Don't forget to meet the sponsor's expectations by following through on what you agreed to do. Do you need to share on social media? Facebook? To your email list? Make sure you fulfill your contract so that they know you're a reliable contact and so you can hopefully work with them again.

Also, make sure you get paid and on time. I suggest keeping track of your sponsors. I manage and track how I make money with sponsors in a unique way and I like to think it's pretty useful.

Bottom line: The 32 days from Black Friday through Christmas pull in 50-100% more revenue compared to shopping days throughout the rest of the year! So having a strategy is truly key. Here's to upping your game this holiday season!
Have any sponsored posts planned? What are some of your tips?
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