When blogging becomes a business – accepting sponsorship but not selling out

— by Alyson Walsh

Photos: Claire Pepper

This summer That’s Not My Age will be 10-years-old. When I first started blogging it was a Side Hustle. I worked three-days a week as a university lecturer and two-days as a freelance journalist for a couple of popular websites. That’s Not My Age fitted around everything else. Times changed and social media went mental. I continued to lecture until last summer when I made the conscious decision – after a couple of exhausting years – to go freelance again and focus on the launch of my second book Know Your Style and also on developing That’s Not My Age.

Having come from a background in women’s magazines, I have always treated this site professionally. As a journalist, I take time researching, writing and editing features, and as I often say to Mr That’s Not My Age: there’s no such thing as a quick blog post! With my experience, I also know the way the publishing industry operates and so wanted to take this opportunity to talk a bit about the business model here, to clear up any confusion.

When you buy a print magazine or newspaper, it’s the advertising that pays. Not only for the paper and the printing process but also for the salaries of journalists, as well as other staff and contributors such as photographers, independent experts and so on. When I run a sponsored post on That’s Not My Age, the same business model applies. The fee allows me to pay for the desk space I rent, add extra security to my site so that (whisper it) I’m protected from another sodding malware attack, buy a new laptop, travel to interview women for TNMA features, pay photographers and hire studios for photoshoots – like This IS My Style and more recently Know Your Seasonal Style – hire an assistant to help me do all of these things and not have a complete meltdown. The one-day-a-week assistant is something I decided on recently when I was spending far too much time on admin and behind-the scenes stuff and not enough on the creative side of things. And it’s working brilliantly (thank you, Helen). All of these things are the day-to-day expenses of an online editor – and that’s without factoring in a salary for myself.

Spot the sculptural earring

We are living through what amounts to an industrial revolution. I continue to freelance but the rates have not increased in approx. 15 years. Journalism has never been a lucrative industry, but I have reached a point in my career where I will not work for free – or what amounts to below minimum wage. (I could tell you a tale or two about freelance offers I have received recently from some very large publications that I am sure would shock you). So I have reduced the amount of freelance work I do. Several of my journalist friends are currently re-training – one is studying bookkeeping and the other has a degree in economics and plans to become a mortgage advisor. I have decided to put my efforts into That’s Not My Age, but to do so, I need to earn a living. To keep the site going, pay my bills and eat, I have to use affiliate links and accept sponsored posts from time to time.

M&S jeans in Harper’s Bazaar April issue

Please believe me when I say I am very discerning when it comes to sponsorship (and in general about what I feature on That’s Not My Age) and only accept about 10 per cent of the stuff that comes my way. Some of it is weird shit or not relevant or not a product/service I would endorse. Because you are discerning too – that’s why you’re here. Thank you to all the readers who recognized this and commented on a recent sponsored post. I don’t run banner ads or annoying pop-ups, my content is free and there is no obligation to buy. That’s Not My Age is very close to my heart. I love the opportunities it has given me and the network of like-minded women that has built up over the last decade – both on and offline, I love that you take time to write the most amazing comments and the talk-amongst-yourselves conversation that ensues. I am determined to continue working on That’s Not My Age – it’s my job – but to do this I do need some sort of financial return.

One thing I have been considering is putting ‘sponsored’ in brackets in the headline of the relevant post, that way readers will immediately be alerted and if necessary click onto another That’s Not My Age feature, instead. Much like when reading a magazine and you come to an advert you’re not particularly interested in and turn the page. Or is there a better way to flag this up? Your thoughts, please…


Brogues are always in vogue



Style note: This was going to be the second in my Know Your Seasonal Style series – a fitted, linen all-in-one for those who haven’t already embraced Jumpuit JOY. It’s one of the Vicky McClure forever pieces from Finery designed to celebrate the I Love Linen campaign. Earrings are Dinosaur Designs and pink suede brogues are Grenson.


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This summer That’s Not My Age will be 10-years-old. When I first started blogging it was a Side Hustle.