Ethical wealth creation is possible.
When I first started this site, I didn't know what I was doing. I had just decided to take some time off from the 9 to 5 after a layoff. Thankfully, I had some savings stocked up which provided for my necessities. I even copped out at a website name and as a former project manager, went with the easiest, The Do Something Project. I was doing something and I wanted to document those somethings. Fast forward 2 years later and I am proud to have created this something.
Initially, I didn’t want to monetize my site because it was just my personal projects, but over time, I started putting in a lot of work into it. I wrote a few articles a week. Those articles improved in quality and content. I started getting traction. People left comments. I was wrestling with the idea of how to be true to the spirit of sustainability and zero waste, but get paid for my time and my passion. I value what I do and I hope if you are reading this, value the content I create as well. I decided then to run ads on my site. As a former adtech PM, to me this was the easiest way to monetize my site without asking too much of my reader. It’s also expected. We see ads everywhere, BUT, the challenge I had was that ads inherently encourage people to spend. Spending on unnecessary items is not only detrimental to the planet but also the wallet. So I reached a middle ground with this and I wanted to share with you my approach to how I am monetizing my site while still being true to my mission of providing resources for a good and sustainable life.
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Know Your Values
If you look to the bottom of this post, you will see a little disclaimer that states “The Do Something Project is committed to conscious consumption. While ads run on the site, please consider what you are buying? Do you already have it? Can you buy it secondhand? Can you do without?” I wanted to state this as a way to encourage readers to really think about their purchases. While I ultimately, cannot help you in buying decisions, seeing an ad on my site may trigger a purchase and it’s up to the end reader/consumer to truly decide if it was warranted or not.
When writing my posts, I try to specifically provide as much data as possible. Data should be unbiased in nature so that others can make their own judgements. When writing book reviews or summaries, I encourage readers to head to their local library instead of purchasing. When writing product reviews, I always specify how I came to get the product and it’s normally through my own purchase so that I can provide an independent review. If I like the product, then I will decide if I want to partner with the vendor to encourage sales for it. More below.
How My Site Makes Money
What exactly are affiliate links? Affiliate links are specific URLs that record traffic sent to an advertiser’s website. The URL contains an affiliate ID or username that tracks the source of the traffic as coming from a particular site. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase in the end, the website where you clicked on that link may get a small commission on that purchase. It doesn’t affect your purchase price and your transaction at all. It’s pretty seamless, but something that all web surfers should know about.
As a website owner, I partner with multiple companies as an affiliate and depending on the content I am writing, I will include affiliate links in my posts. It will always be preceded by the words “This post contains affiliate links. See Disclosures for details.” This is a requirement by the FCC to add this disclosure.
Instead of peppering my posts with lots of random affiliate links, I mostly partner with companies that are in line with my values and mission. These are companies that may sell eco-friendly products. These are companies in travel since I write a few travel guides. These are companies in food or supplements since I also write about health optimization. These are companies related to personal finance since I also write up finances. Companies work with affiliate platforms to help them manage and track all of this activity. Here are the platforms I currently work with and the reasons why. The main reason I work with these platforms is because I found a product that I loved and decided that it might be nice for me to earn a bit of income by sharing them.
ShareASale – ShareASale has a great list of “green merchants.” These are companies that have a bit of an eco-friendly spin. For me, these include Guided Recycled Notebooks (full unsponsored review), ECOLunchBox, Mason Jars Company, Organic Basics and Pact Apparel. I review the list of merchants every few weeks or so to see if there’s one company that I know, like, trust, use and want to share.
AWIN – AWIN has a large network of advertisers to choose from. To be honest, I chose them primarily because they have the Etsy program. I love getting handmade stuff from Etsy and want to promote these unique finds. I also like supporting these wonderful creators that put a lot of time and passion into their craft.
FlexOffers - FlexOffers is another network of advertisers. I primarily use them for personal finance accounts, travel and a few organic companies.
Amazon – Amazon was a tough decision for me. It’s so ubiquitous; it was hard for me not to join its network. I, personally, am a Prime member, but I limit my purchases to reduce shipping & packaging and normally plan ahead so that the item doesn’t need to ship 2-Day. For the majority of Amazon items I share on this site, they mostly lean towards items that fit the eco-friendly, zero waste criteria. Items that are reusable, last long, and help make zero waste living more efficient in this non zero waste world that we live in. I also promote a lot of books, if to just help others find ones to request at the library. I was iffy about Amazon because I don’t necessarily believe in their business practices, but I have also found that people shop only at Amazon so if we can expose these eco-friendly products to the mainstream, then hopefully, it can help shine a light to this movement.
I primarily use Google Ads on my site. Frankly, this was because it’s easy to use, easy to get accepted into and it’s one of the most well-known. Google runs the internet (kinda true) so the ads have a bit more relevance. There are plenty of other ad networks out there too like Yahoo or Mediavine so sometimes, it can just be a preference or the number of views that you have. I try to limit where the ads are in posts so that it provides a nice break in the content especially when reading on a mobile device. Most of my posts are fairly long so it’s nice to get a bit of a break from the text. Google just recently added a couple of new formats that seamless work better with the design of my site so I am happy with this. I hope you the reader aren’t as distracted by it as well. With Google ads, I normally get paid on a CPM, which is per a thousand impressions and sometimes based on clicks or call to actions. For this to happen, I need a good amount of views to make any money.
I rarely do sponsored posts, but I am open towards doing more of it to expose brands to readers who value eco-friendly products. I do have criteria that I follow to ensure I am writing about products or services that continue to be in line with the mission of my site. Learn more about me.
In the past, I have sold an online eBook related to marketing so I am toying with the idea of selling a product or service. I want to make sustainability resources available to everyone so am in the process of figuring out what this means, but this is also a great way to provide value and gain income from it. For now, I offer a bunch of free journal templates and email courses. Check them out. They are free to you.
So there you have it, in the spirit of transparency that is how I make money from this blog. I’m not going to pretend that money is not important. We all trade our time for money, the challenge is figuring out what is enough to meet our needs. I certainly don’t make a lot of money from this site, but I value what I do, I value my time and I want to be a resource of valuable information. With that, I do hope to increase my earnings and build wealth for my family’s future keeping in mind that I want to do it in a way that is good for the environment and in line with my values.
Just as a side note, if you are getting into credit card debt because of online spending, I would encourage you to reduce your time online, specifically time off of social media. I talk more in depth about that in this article. I would also encourage you to install an ad blocker to reduce temptation, just keep in mind that sometimes blocking ads can affect how certain sites appear.
And one last thing, in order for me to make money from my site, people have to be coming to it so this also means that 1) I market my site via various social media channels 2) I share valuable content that people want to read. So in the end, if you want to make money blogging about sustainable living, you have to provide helpful and valuable content to others.
Are you thinking about starting a blog? Got a question?