How I find them, how much they pay me, how they pay me, and some marketing tricks I picked up over time.
Think of it as Marketing 101, only I have no background in marketing, don’t love it, and am only slightly-moderately successful in it. I’ll lay out everything I know so far, no stone unturned.
Also definitely read ‘til the end if you want to hear about the shameless tactics I use.
How it started
When I first started this thing, I didn’t really have a vision for it. For me it was just a way to pick up a new skill (writing and building websites), flush out some ideas and hone my critical thinking skills, and something to put on my resume.
At first there were no ads. I was working for free.
When the audience started to grow, I started realizing that I may be able to monetize it. So, I made an Amazon affiliates for every book I had read (So far I’ve made a whopping $10, thanks to those who’ve bought).
Then the real work started, when I tried to find sponsors.
How it works
In the beginning I reached out to friends who had niche businesses. The conversations went something along the lines of “Hey, I have this audience of hundreds of people, for $5-10 I’ll write an ad for you in my newsletter.”
Sometimes that worked and sometimes that didn’t work. There was absolutely no logic or method to the madness.
But once I started working with some of the bigger advertisers (the breweries, the dealerships, etc.) I had to become more calculated. It became a game of numbers. Here’s how it works now when I pitch them:
- I have an audience of hundreds of people, let’s call it 500 to make it easier.
- X% of those people will open and read the newsletter. For me that ranges anywhere from 51%-75%, which is actually really, really good.
- That means about 300 people read it. Of those 300 who read, I can see how many people click on the ad. My click through rate as about 2%.
- So, of the 300 people who open it, 5-6 (2%) people will click on the ad.
- This is where they’re conversion rate will come in. Most businesses will know this.
So, I go “Hey, I can guarantee anywhere from 5-15 people will make it to your website”, and they’ll say “Ok, we know at least one of those people will turn into a real customer”.
Now it’s a conversation of how much those customers are worth. For a brewery, they will assume that each person gets 2 beers which is like $20 bucks. So, they’ll give me $10-20 bucks for an ad.
You may think $20 is a lot, but think about it, that’s just one customer, and they are also factoring in retention. That one customer may come back for beer again and again and again, even after I stop writing an ad for them.
It’s trickier for a business like a dealership, because not everyone is ready to pull the trigger on a car. Usually, for this conversation, I will tell them how many people I can bring to them, and they will pay a set price per view.
So, any given week I make anywhere from $20-40. Not mind blowing, but I’d do this anyways so it’s nice to be paid for it.
How I find them
I wont lie to y’all, this is the hardest part. Finding people who want to take a shot and pay me is the most time consuming and difficult part because most of them say no.
Like I said, most of the advertisements come from existing relationships or are just businesses that I find interesting.
Minted has been one of my favorite brands to follow on social media, I bought my car at Tansky, I work with Starter Story, and I go to Saucy Brew Works and Seventh Son Brewing Co.
Most of the time, all it takes is a phone call or email. Just like my conversation with the world famous potter, you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help.
How they pay me
I thought this would be the hardest, but it’s actually been the easiest. Early on, with the friend businesses, I would just have them Venmo me. You know, under the table stuff.
When I started working with legitimate businesses, I had to figure out invoices. I went online, found an invoice generator, and made an invoice I could email them.
The only caveat, I changed the first invoice number from 1 to like 12, to make it look like I have had several other people pay me.
Then they’ll either use PayPal to process the payments, or they’ll just direct deposit the money into my bank account like an employer would. Since it’s called “from, matt” they don’t really worry too much about my name being on the account of having a business account. At least not yet.
Tricks of the trade
Now on to the juicy stuff. Here’s how I have found different ways to increase advertising and scheme the system. Nothing deceitful, just some guerilla stuff.
Sometimes, in the early days, when I couldn’t fill an advertising slot fast enough with a legitimate advertisement, I would write a fake ad. Consider it a free ad. This way I create a facade of demand for the next advertiser.
Sometimes, I’ll be the customer. For example, I go to Saucy Brew Works semi-frequently, and most of the times that I go there I will try to name drop from, matt when I am at the counter ordering. I am already going there anyways with the intent of buying beer, but now I’m also making it look like I’m driving additional customers in.
Something I would like to do in the future is flyer-ing. I want to go to college campuses, print a QR code that leads to my website on paper with something like “Don’t Scan This” or “This Site Should Be Illegal”, and tape them everywhere.
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And that’s that. Now you know how those ads show up in my emails. It’s currently a slow, challenging, and intensive process.
In the future, when my audience has grown a bit, I think affiliate links may be the way to go. Where I get a cut of every purchase I generate. This typically works really well for people with large audiences because it’s less intensive, more lucrative, and easier since you don’t have to change ads every single time.
I want to work in some sort of referral program and begin sponsoring other blogs to continue growing my audience, but as I’m sure you know, things come up, people get busy, and for now I’m good with where I’m at.
Hope you enjoyed this crash course. Go ahead and leave me a review on Rate My Professor. Or share with a friend if you really want to.