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How I Lost Thousands of Dollars, Or: What Is Free?

Travel and Life Resources to Save Money and Increase Liberty

I’m suddenly realizing something big…

It’s 1am, and the baby is finally asleep after perma-nursing all, day, and I KNOW I should “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but I have to get this out. It’s become clear this week that I have lost thousands of dollars in income that I did not need to lose. And I now see how to fix that.

The Boston Public Garden looks as serene as I felt, oblivious to the earnings I was losing!

The Boston Public Garden looks as serene as I felt, oblivious to the earnings I was losing.

When I started this blog in 2009, I did it because I LOVE to write for you. Clearly I still love to write, or I wouldn’t be up now with the passion to type. Over seven years, I’ve built my readership to more than 1,000 visits a day, and created nearly 700 articles here, each of which has given me great joy to publish.

Many of those pieces feature gorgeous hotels I loved staying in, airlines that were a dream to fly, and products that have saved the day for me more than once. As a result of the stories I told about these places and things, and as a result of the photos I shared, many readers have gone on to spend money with them.

Frequently, I receive emails saying, “Thank you for recommending ___ hotel/attraction/etc. on your blog! We did it because of your article and loved it.”

Flowers growing in Copley Square, Boston, like my growing understanding.

Flowers growing in Copley Square, Boston, like my growing understanding.

Meanwhile, I began to hear rumblings in the blogging community about something called “affiliates.” I vaguely understood that affiliate marketing is when you place a special link in an article so you get a small commission on a product click or purchase without costing the buyer any extra money.

“I don’t have time to figure that out,” I responded, when asked about affiliates. “I’m a full-time public school teacher with 140 essays to grade. I have two children under the age of 2.5. I also run a second website.

I barely have time to publish one post a week on each blog, let alone figure out html code to hand-place into hundreds of articles on the off chance that someone might click through and buy!”

ARGH. THAT WAS SUCH A MISTAKE.

Jamaica Pond, Boston, is free, but still needs money to be maintained!

Jamaica Pond, Boston, is free to walk, but still needs money to be maintained.

It was this week that I realized: Not adding affiliates onto this site years ago has cost me thousands of dollars in revenue that I would have earned, at no cost to my readers, who were going to book those hotels or attractions or flights anyway. Again: ARGH!

What most people don’t realize is that my two blogs are very costly to maintain, both financially and time-wise. I won’t even tell you how much I pay a month for a webhost and tech plan powerful enough to keep all these photos and words from spinning into oblivion, but I will tell you that the time cost of bringing you this site is usually at least 20 hours a week.

Now, this is my passion and I love it, which is why I spend all those hours writing, taking and editing photos, and making sure each article is widely shared on social media… But wouldn’t YOU be kicking yourself if you realized you’d been spending 20 hours a week for SEVEN YEARS on something, and could have been earning money for it the whole time?!

Travel and Life Resources to Save Money and Increase Liberty

Awake and thinking while sweet baby sleeps.

This brings us to my gender and my professions. Women are expected to give things away for free. When women request compensation, we run the risk of sounding pushy, rude, or even crazy.

Meanwhile, teachers, writers, and artists (many of whom are women) have historically been expected to give as much as possible for as little payment as possible. I am so done with that. It is time to set up a system so that I can — at the very least — cover the expenses of this site while still providing an excellent reader experience, and incur no extra costs to you.

Here’s the brilliant solution. If you have gotten any value from this site, please acknowledge the love, thought, and time it has taken to maintain so many years and words later, and consider doing the travel and life shopping that you were planning to do anyway on my new mega-post: 40 Travel and Life Resources to Save Time and Money which can help you get delicious deals on flights, hotels, vacations, gear, and lifestyle services and products, all while supporting this site at no cost to you, via affiliate magic.

It’s win-win! I have subtitled that post “LIBERTY” because it aims to give you more travel and life freedom, while providing me the liberty of soul to know my work is supported.

I will also slowly but steadily be adding affiliates to specific articles, so for example if you read this article about my favorite hotel in Hawaii, you can now browse good Hawaii hotels from a simple and clearly labeled affiliate link. My hope is that this will also save readers time because it will do the search for them.

Just as I am glad to do what it takes to support Boston's parks' beauty, I hope you'll consider supporting this site.

Just as I am glad to do what it takes to support Boston’s parks’ beauty, I hope you’ll support this site.

What will I do with any money I earn from these affiliate partners? First, of course, I will cover the many costs of this site. But beyond that, I might buy some shirts that are actually made for tall people and cover my tummy, or I might donate to charity in a powerful way, or I might purchase and consume cookies, or I might buy a plane ticket to a a place so “Wowza” that you will swoon when you read about it, but… at the end of the day, it does not and should not matter.

I declare to you now that I am prioritizing doing what it takes to get paid for the work I do and the value I provide, and I encourage you to do the same, whatever that means to you!

What are your thoughts after reading this? Are you going through a related epiphany in your life around compensation, or have you already? Do share!

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Sally

Sunday 5th of June 2016

I agree with so much of what you have to say about people expecting women/teachers/bloggers to just give stuff away for free. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to tutor for free (this happened a LOT overseas... but still happens quite a lot in the States). I'm pretty sure they wouldn't ask my male counterparts the same thing. And, while I do blog for free on my own site, I'm surprised by the number of people who approach me asking me to write for free for their sites (sites they get MONEY for!). I haven't done much to try to make money off my blog. I don't quite have the same readership as you (probably because I'm not nearly as consistent or as informative as you!), and, like you, I definitely am in the "I don't have time for this!" camp. But I've done some Amazon affiliate links. I like this program because it's easy to sign up for and I use Amazon A LOT -- I don't feel comfortable selling products or services or websites I don't actually use. Just wondering if there are other programs like Amazon that have a similar affiliate links system that you'd recommend?

Lillie

Friday 10th of June 2016

I really agree about only recommending products I actually use. I also really like the Amazon Associates program. What I'm branching into now are the bigger affiliate networks like CJ, but there is a HUGE learning curve. For example, some of their affiliates pay a percentage of a sale, some a small amount for clicks, and some just pennies for anything. I'm deep into experimenting and thus far have already deleted two partnerships that seem bad investments in my time. I'll keep you posted as I (hopefully) figure this out!

Jessie Voigts

Tuesday 31st of May 2016

Sending readers to products and places that help them is smart - and yes, running websites cost so much time - and money. Brava!

Leslie

Monday 30th of May 2016

Lillie, I'm a big fan of your site and think you're so right!

I have a little suggestion: add a PayPal link and let people send you tips. I'm not in the market to buy travel stuff right now but I would send cash :) Of course I know you're not desperate but I do want you to be compensated for your time and enthusiasm and deep knowledge of so many destinations and products and teaching opportunities and more! And I know you could use cash — I want you and your kiddos to have everything you could ever want ;)

If you put it in the sidebar people on your site will see it from everywhere, even if they are on an older but still helpful post. Also sending cash can be more efficient than affiliate links since you get 100% or almost 100% as opposed to some smaller percentage with other vendors... :)

Lillie

Tuesday 31st of May 2016

You've made my month with your comment! Thank you! :)

Meg Jerrard

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Hi Lillie - congrats on jumping into affiliate marketing - it's a wonderful world I'm just starting to discover too. I think that while there was obviously an opportunity lost over the last few years, you've been blogging for your passion and because you loved to do it, so I wouldn't look back with regret - only forward with anticipation of how extra wonderful it's going to be to generate an income from your passion. Looking forward to reading more amazing hotel reviews :)

Lillie

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Ah, I love that! "Rather than looking back with regret, look forward in anticipation!" New motto. :)

Dave M.

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Congrats on getting your affiliate links set up! I know how much time and effort you've put into your amazing pair of websites, so you definitely don't have to apologize for wanting a little compensation :)

Lillie

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Thanks so much! The affiliates will take MONTHS to totally set up in the hundreds of articles they are relevant for (I won't install them in all, because some would be just random), but I'm chugging away at them, one or two posts per night, and at least the big "40 Resources" post is done (at least, until I need to edit it to add in new resources, which I already do)!

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