Monetizing a Blog: Tip Jars and PayPal Donations

Harry and I have had a few conversations about monetizing our blog. Every so often, the subject comes up (mostly because I brought it up), we talk, and the agreement is that we’d prefer not to make money off our blog.

Look around. There isn’t any Adsense. There aren’t any sponsored ads. We don’t do advertising. We very rarely profit from affiliate marketing. What we do promote that earns us a share of profits is promoted because we believe it’s a worthy product – not because we make money off it.

We created this blog to provide information and give back to the community, as it were. Alright, sure, we wanted to increase exposure to our business and boost our search engine ranking, too. But what we share here, we share freely and because we want to.

Still, I can’t shake the idea of having a button for PayPal donations. Every so often, I get the notion that having a discreet tip jar would be a good thing. Hey, it’s always cool when your efforts for going the extra mile are rewarded, even if it’s just a handful of change. I notice plenty of other blogs doing the same, and I browse the topics about the subject, weighing the pros and cons.

That’s when Harry always puts me back on track. It usually starts with, “I thought we’d agreed we didn’t want a donation button.” The comments progress to remind me why we started this blog in the first place and reflect a bit on our vision. Harry also has a way of working in how a donation button looks on a website (cheap and tacky) because he’s a graphic designer. He finishes up by encouraging me a little, telling me we’re better than that, we’re not panhandlers and that we have specific work ethics we like to maintain.

By the time he’s done his gentle and oh-so-subtle scolding (it really does sound like he’s just having a conversation, but he’s a sneaky guy), I feel like I should shove my hands in my pocket and scuffle the dirt with a toe. Yes, Ma… I know, Ma… You’re right, Ma…

He’s right. A “donate now” button on a business website does look cheap. The perception of someone asking for handouts isn’t much better, and I really don’t want that. Hey, if I didn’t want to offer free advice, I shouldn’t have started a blog in the first place. In fact, if a client asked my opinion on a “donate now” button, I would firmly suggest not to include it in the site design and to maintain a “corporate” image.

I think a “donate now” button does have its place. Someone who starts a website for fun, like a gaming site of some sort, who invests a lot of time, money and effort into building up entertainment for others but who receives absolutely nothing in return should definitely have a “donate now” button. Why the hell not?

But on a business site? For a freelancer? No. So… I’m glad to have Harry around. Someone has to tell me when I’m being a twit.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.