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A Question for Readers: What Are Your Expectations of Me?

First, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a rant or an emotionally-charged post. I had a few days to think about it, and truly want to hear from you. I know most readers hate commenting, but I hope you make an exception just this once.

You may have seen my recent post on Netspend and why you should sign up for this account. Originally, I didn’t plan to include my link which gives me $20 incentive and instead defer you to the person who  provided analysis to begin with. However, he insisted that I insert my own referral, so I did. Here is the comment I got on that post:

netspend comment

 

Basically, in that thread few people were offering $10/$15 in exchange for using their link, effectively splitting $20 commission.  I don’t mind the comment at all and actually did update the post to give people the option of pocketing few extra bucks. I want to stress that I welcome all comments, especially if they benefit my readers. Not to mention, I love DoC blog and find it incredibly useful. That’s one of the reasons I originally included personal referral  link from one of its writers.

But it did make me think. I wasn’t aware  that folks were offering this incentive in the comments. But if I was, should I have mentioned it? At any given time, there is a conga line going somewhere. Am I required to link to it? Is there a guarantee that those folks will follow through with payout? It does sometimes take a few months for money to get deposited.

On one hand, I absolutely want readers to get the best deal. I pride myself on linking to non-affiliate credit card offers  and have directed folks to non-paying cards on  numerous occasions. Of course, if the best offer happens to pay me, and very often it does, I hope you consider supporting the blog. But this area to me is somewhat cut and dry. I’m not allowed to share my affiliate commission.

But here is the thing. I’ve seen people offer incentives for using their personal credit card referral link. Am I required to link to those comments and provide an email of the person? BTW, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m genuinely curious what you think on this topic.

I actually have offered an incentive on Discover card  if someone used my personal referral link. In fact, one of my readers told me I could keep it, but I insisted on sharing the payout. I made a promise, and it was the right thing to do. Should I do the same thing from now on? As in match other people’s incentive rather than link to the thread? I want to do the right thing and hope you can  help me find acceptable compromise. I’ve noticed quite a few clicked on the link to DoC post where people were offering this $10 incentive, so obviously, it’s something you are interested in.

My goal from the start has been to provide value to readers. I really want to be useful. Sure, there  are rants here and there but hopefully, even those aren’t totally  without merit. I want to make folks laugh, cry, sometimes both at the same time.

The thing is, though, blogging is a lot of work. It really is my part-time job, and the hours I put into it reflect that. Some (not all) of my posts take three hours to write from start to finish  and are mentally draining. If that’s not work, I don’t know what is. I answer emails, do research, provide free consulting service etc. I’ve also helped some readers book award tickets and charged them nothing for my time.

Over the last 4 weeks I had zero conversions, aka made no profit. The previous month was  a bit better, but not by much. I would love to say that I can do this indefinitely with very little pay, but it would be a lie. Eventually, I will have to make a decision.

There is a possibility of me getting a part-time flexible job in my field when both  kids will be in kindergarten. And we can sure use the money. If I accept, at that point, something will have to go.  Contrary to popular belief, as a stay-at-home I have a lot of obligations. Many times,  I feel like I don’t take care of them properly and stretch myself too thin as is.

This isn’t some sort of a guilt trip or a threat. Miles and points industry survived without my blog, and will do just fine if I walk away for realz. I believe in honesty and transparency. Connecting with readers is my favorite thing, hands down. But I can probably do that without posts. And it’s not all about the money. If very few are using my affiliate links, it makes me think that my content isn’t all that useful. And if it isn’t useful, why am I spending three hours on some of the posts?

Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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23 thoughts on “A Question for Readers: What Are Your Expectations of Me?

  1. I don’t think you have to make sure you link to every single thing. You can mention it so people know its out there if they want to look but I wouldn’t spend so much time on nor do I expect you to.

    • @HML Thank you so much for your input. I am genuinely curious as to how readers feel on this subject. I definitely don’t mind mentioning that conga lines exist, and if someone wants to leave their referral link in the comments, that’s fine too. It’s up to them. I certainly don’t force anyone to support my blog and hope this post didn’t come off as whiny. It’s my choice to put the content for free. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it. Fortunately, I do still enjoy writing, but it’s a lot of work and a huge time commitment. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. I will never expect for a blogger to split their commission, I heard once that some bloggers make around 7K a month. It’s hard to believe but maybe if you started when the industry wasn’t saturated, if you pay other people to travel, research and write for you it may happen? I’m not saying this to make you feel bad. I wish you could make more money for all the work you put into it but it’s also good that you’re focusing on your family. As a blog reader I ALWAYS look for affiliate links when I apply for cards, and as you know I use yours first, if you have them. Believe it or not, I have e-mailed bloggers asking for their links and they didn’t respond! in those exceptional cases when I couldn’t find a link I just went to the bank site and I applied through them but I hate doing that after all of the free info I find in blogs. Sometimes it takes some work for me. I remember doing a multiple card application once, being stressed out about having all the incognito windows open and filling the info fast enough before they timed out and also making sure I was using affiliate links. I know that effort doesn’t compare to your writing but I am willing to put some work in making sure I’m helping bloggers. Now, what I do before the date when I’m thinking about applying, is writing a note with the name of the card I want to apply to and where the affiliate link is. If you get paid $50 or whatever you got paid for the Capital One card I applied to, after I probably read 4 months worth of your posts and e-mailed you asking for advice, that’s more than you deserve. Besides… it costs me nothing! I mean, maybe 15 minutes of my effort making sure I find affiliate links. No guilt Leana, you don’t need to split commission!

    • @Leticia Thanks for stopping by! You are incredible, and your support has helped to keep this blog in business. I’m being dead serious. I absolutely don’t mind helping you via email. I’ve said before that even if I stop posting, I hope you keep in touch. I think of you as a friend, we think a lot alike. #Fiesty
      It means a lot that you don’t mind the extra work to locate the links. I know it’s a pain in a butt, but it’s what gives me (and other small bloggers) tiny income. Boy, I wish I had other decent streams, you have no idea! I have to read on a regular basis how terrible it is to have credit card affiliate links, and that it makes me an immoral person. “Shock! Disgust! How dare we?” This stuff can really get to you. And the thing is, I link to best offers whenever I can. I don’t charge readers for anything, the support is completely voluntary.
      You better believe some make $7K per month or MUCH more. Honestly, I don’t say it to be critical. As you correctly pointed out, this has to do with timing and other factors. I don’t think I provide $7K worth of value, but hopefully, more than zero. I’m absolutely not the hardest working blogger in the industry. That would probably be Will and Chuck at Doctor of Credit. But guess what? I doubt they make $7K per month. They should, but this industry is incredibly unfair. It’s an oligopoly, and I doubt things will change any time soon. Oh well, there are bigger issues in life.

  3. I think if they find the info on your blog, you should get the referral credit. You did the work. If they want to keep digging and find a better deal somewhere else, then they can give the credit somewhere else.

    Keep blogging if you enjoy it and share good tips when you come across them, but I don’t think you owe your readers anything. Don’t stress.

    • @Jennifer Thanks for chiming in. I definitely try to publish best deals on credit cards as long as I’m aware of them. I made a promise a long time ago, and don’t want to break it. Other stuff are more of a grey area. I don’t offer to split $5 shopping portal referral link 50/50, because I think that’s just ridiculous.
      I do enjoy posting, now if I can just find that right balance and manage my time better. Thanks for your support!

  4. My expectations first and foremost are that you and any blogger take care of yourself and your family. If that means taking a part time job that is more fulfilling financially, professionally, and personally for you and the fam, that’s a no brainer. I’d still encourage you to keep this blog going, and I strongly believe that is possible with a part time job, though not to the degree you do now.

    As far as you as a blogger, I like the level of research, the cadence of posting, the variety of topics, the quality of output, and the no nonsense families first focus. It feels unrealistic that you should be doing this without compensation, especially given what I see some people are paid to produce at sites like FTG. I think the Ray fly handle referencing referrals and affiliate links is natural and appropriate. That’s why when we have applied over the last year, which was a whopping 2 times, I’ve tried to do so with your affiliate links.

    No one expects any blogger to have a handle on every aspect of every deal. That’s why I love the community aspect of people chiming in with ways to make deals even sweeter. That’s something I think you encourage. And I don’t think anyone holds it against you when they think they can add some thing you aren’t aware of. Though it seems like the folks here are a bit more thoughtful than riotous rabble I see elsewhere.

    What you’ve described here is why I avoid blogging like the plague. I think I’d be good at it. But not make enough money to replace your full time jobs income good. But I can see it’s a lot of work and time. Ain’t nobody gone time for that.

    • @Cheapblackdad I am so grateful to have you as my reader! You make me cry, you make me laugh, and your comments are always full of unique gems. Please, keep showing up. Oh, and thank you so much for using my links! I definitely don’t take it for granted.
      I don’t know what I’ll do on this whole job situation. I have some time to think about it. We could use more income since my family (like most middle-class families in US) is getting squeezed by increasing health insurance premiums and lack of raises. But we are doing OK right now, and OK ain’t bad. This hobby offsets my travel-related costs, so that’s nice.
      You would be AWESOME at blogging, and believe me, I’m not kidding. I would love to afford you as contributor but as you can see from my post, it’s not realistic at this time. 🙂 And you are spot on: Blogging requires a ton of time, thick skin and resilience. It’s fraught with failure, so you have to pick yourself up and keep going even when it seems like nobody cares. Sometimes it’s very hard, and lack of financial rewards is a bummer. That’s when passion takes over, at least for me. If there is no passion, without money you are kaput as blogger.

    • @Cheapblackdad Wanted to run an idea by you in case we ever partner in blogging. How about we split my site in two sections? One will say “Miles for white family” and the other “Miles for black family” It will be the first segregated blog in the history of internets. You like, you like?

  5. The problem is that a lot of your readers are “deal hunters” and are by their very nature drawn to maximizing return at the expense of everything else. Posts like these, though somewhat painful to read, are necessary to remind everyone the big picture.

    No one should expect you to do this for free. And I personally find it very sleazy for anyone to try and steal your potential commission in the comments section. Because it really is theft. You’re the content provider, and especially when you bring about an “exclusive” like that, you should be compensated for it.

    • @Mark Thanks for stopping by! I feel bad because I didn’t intend for my post to come off as painful. I wasn’t sure if I should even bring up the money because let’s face it, it’s an icky subject. Bloggers are expected to show up with the smile on their face, proverbially speaking, of course. Well, sometimes it’s tough, especially when you’ve invested over 2.5 years into your site and getting very little in a way of financial rewards. Of course, I’m very grateful to those who use my affiliate links. I know you did, and for that THANK YOU! I certainly don’t take it for granted.
      No one forced me to start blogging. It was my choice to do it. Getting into this industry for money was insane back when I started and even more so today. There are much easier ways to earn a living. And as you correctly pointed out, this industry is full of folks who want something for nothing. It’s the nature of this hobby, no? More so, they don’t want anyone to make anything, ever, even if it comes at no cost to them. Of course, it doesn’t help that my blog is very small and gets tiny video advertising revenue. And I do mean tiny, because it barely covers my costs to run the website. So, oversaturated industry+tiny niche+fiesty personality=little profit. Thankfully, my family doesn’t depend on this site and I don’t have employees.

  6. This may be my first or second time ever leaving a comment on a blog. However, I feel compelled to address your question. My wife and I, with our three children, are benefiting greatly from your site. I recently (about 7 months ago) started researching this whole miles and points project in an attempt to provide some nice trips/memories for our family that would be otherwise difficult on a very limited income. My priorities in life are far different than most of the “big time” sites I have read. I am not trying to amass millions of miles to spend on first class in some exotic destination. I just want something very nice for our family of five — without spending my entire life depriving my family of my time while chasing every points/miles scheme known to mankind! Which bring me to your website.

    Your website has become my first website to read. Why? Because you just tell the facts in a human, common-sense, compassionate way with a normal family in mind. A single person or couple (with no children) often have very different goals in mind. No offense to them, but many of us are in a different stage of life. Your website connects to the normal family situation with the normal income — not the extreme scenarios. I intend no criticism to those who are in the “extraordinary” situations, but that is not the situation for my family. Therefore, I am drawn to a blog (your blog) that connects to ordinary families in ordinary situations.

    Regarding the comments left in response to your blog posts, I would say that most satisfied readers never leave a comment. A few do — and those who do leave comments on your site seem to be very nice and kind in their comments. Others might leave additional info in their comments that would undermine your site or links. Some of those are probably well-intentioned, but aren’t thinking of the real-world impact. The few who might want to criticize or undermine intentionally are part of a vocal minority who need to move on with their negative attitude to other places! Unfortunately, some (hopefully not many) people just like being negative — especially on the internet.

    My guess is that you have a whole host of people (like me and my family) that say little, but benefit GREATLY from what you do with this site. I’m sure we would not see everything eye to eye (who does?), but I feel like this is a place I can go and receive needful info from a common-sense perspective.

    Summary: Thank you for all your time and effort. Our family (part of the quiet majority) appreciates what your site is providing. We are grateful!

      • Ditto Anonymous and BJ.

        Another long time reader, first time poster.

        I think we all appreciate your authenticity and down to earth approach. It’s very hard to find those qualities in the travel blogosphere.

    • @Anonymous Thank you so much for breaking your “no comment” streak! 🙂 I needed to hear that today, you have no idea. Your family is exactly why I’m blogging. We are very much like you: Limited income and savings, kids’ schedule etc. There is no way we could afford traveling to the extent that we do without this hobby. And I agree with you, I have no problem with those who choose luxury destinations and lodging. If you can afford it, why not? It’s not something we are able to pull of at the moment, but a gal can dream!
      And honestly, some luxury is within your grasp with the help of miles and points. I don’t make it my end goal, but if opportunity presents itself, I’m not opposed to splurging. We are flying in first class and going on Alaska cruise this May (you probably saw my post). In a balcony cabin, yay! But it did require planning, systematic savings and foregoing other stuff. We put off buying TV and recliner. And that’s my point, nice travel is possible if you are willing to put in some work and sacrifice material things. That’s why I occasionally cover finance deals like Netspend account. It’s all connected: Get extra money, spend it on travel.
      Please, don’t ever hesitate to email me with questions. I love hearing from readers. This blog is a lot of work, but I do enjoy the awesome community it created. I hope I can be of help, so keep in touch. Full disclosure: Using of affiliate links isn’t required!

  7. I love reading your blog, but a bad habit I have is that I’ll read multiple bloggers/flyertalkers take on the subjects and then find time to actually apply/join/use the offer link. At that point, I just google it and go through the bank website, completely forgetting what blog to use for a referral link! Keep blogging, I’ll keep that in mind from now on! Your blog is awesome and in my RSS reader’s priority list!

    • @Hargobindsv Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! Honestly, I wasn’t really planning on sharing my blog monetization woes. It’s not something I wanted readers to know about and frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing. After blogging for over two years, it can be quite demoralizing and makes you question whether you really add that much value. I know we are not supposed to measure our website’s worth by the amount of income it brings. But it’s hard, especially when you put endless hours into something.
      As far as affiliate links go, I can understand why it can be a pain to locate them. This is especially true for small blogs like mine that have a link where you have to click another link, and then open another link… People are so busy, and present affiliate system makes it extremely difficult due to various government regulations. I remember one of my readers told me he applied elsewhere because he couldn’t find my link for Arrival. He looked and wanted to support me, but just wasn’t able to locate it on my affiliate site. Well, at the time, I definitely did have a link for Arrival (still do).
      I strongly recommend you use affiliate links, and I’m not referring specifically to my blog. Sure, there is a lot of spam out there, but many of us truly care about readers. I also would like to encourage you to support small bloggers if at all possible. Many of us are struggling and need all the help you can provide, obviously, for apps you were going to make anyway. If I don’t turn this around, my company will drop me, I’m sure of it. Even though, I try not to measure my blogging worth by affiliate commission, sadly, they don’t share the sentiment.

  8. I agree with Cheapblackdad and Anonymous also made some good observations. I think what attracts me to your blog is that you have a voice that is very real and down-to-earth. Kinda like an enthusiastic friend talking travel over a cup of coffee. Some of the larger miles/points blogs will write lots of filler “click bait” posts to give the appearance of bountiful content, but probably 75% of the time I regret taking the bait (“thanks for wasting my time”) when I find there is no substance or the underlying info is worthless.. I think that’s not your style. Even if you did write a click bait post in the past, it probably made me laugh so that’s a value-add in itself LOL. I believe the other thing that comes through in your writing is honesty. Sure, you want to make a buck (and should), but I feel that you are always very transparent and upfront about your links. You try to post the best known offer available whether it helps you or not and if something better reveals itself later, you’ll update it when you find out. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect more from a small time blogger. I guess the people who want to share commission are using the logic that by discounting a referral they can make it up in volume? It’s an interesting angle…but it only works if you truly have the volume.

    I don’t know how you grow a blog enough to make it more than a part-time income, otherwise I would have done it myself. I really admire the ways that people have made something out of nothing on the internet (who knew that opening toys on YouTube could generate an income of nearly $5m/year??? Crazy.) Perhaps you can read up on search engine optimization techniques, because I understand that is very important to help people find you. One of the most brilliant things that MMS did in the beginning was his “interview series” where he interviewed other blogs and the trackback links helped rocket his site upwards in search rankings. I’m not suggesting that you do the same, but there are probably other ways to increase your visibility and thus traffic to your site. Contributing “thought” articles on travel to LinkedIn that people share around? Speaking at travel seminars, even if it’s just a booth at a local travel show? Maybe promote yourself by striking up relationships with other (non-travel) family/mom blogs? I dunno…build your brand, as they say.

    I wouldn’t get discouraged by the absence of comments. There are some days where I might enjoy a blog post, but don’t have anything to add to the discussion or my time was too limited to write a comment. Maybe I’ll be able to contribute a post one of these days, but as you know, writing a post or trip report is very time-consuming and it’s difficult to find free moments with active young kids. Thanks for keeping it real and do what is right for you and your family (BTW, I hope your son is still doing OK).

    • @Erik Thanks so much for stopping by! Don’t worry, you comment plenty, no complaints there. I always appreciate your input. Also, no pressure on guest posting. Content is my responsibility, not readers. I like to hear what you have to say, so if you ever feel up to it, great. If not, no big deal. Why do you think I’m complaining how much stinking work blog involves and why it’s not wrong to try to make money from it?
      Oh, and sorry about click bait articles. I’m definitely guilty, though in my defense, most titles were meant as non mean-spirited spoof on trends I’ve observed over the years. Well, that and to drive more traffic. Hey, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do! I agree, those can be annoying.
      I’m definitely trying to avoid too much fluff. Obviously, some of my posts are personal in nature. I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut, period. I’m like that Urkel character from “Family matters” show. Reading over some of the crap I’ve posted in the past, I go “Did I do that?”
      You are absolutely right about SEO, need to do more of that. Also, reaching out to mom/family blogs: Did do that and had some guest posts, but once again, it takes time. I’m having a hard time keeping up with my blog. Not making excuses, I’ve always said the success of my blog is my responsibility. You have to have traffic in order to make money in blogging, and it won’t just magically appear on its own. You have to be a go -getter. I’m not. Also, this is a very narrow niche and it’s hard to find fresh recruits.
      Erik, thanks again for all of your support. I hope the post didn’t come off as whiny, it wasn’t meant that way. Oh, and we still have to do some more tests on my son, but he seems to be OK.

      • @Mr.S. Wow, lots of lurkers have come out today! 🙂 I like it. Thank you very much for reading. Regarding authenticity, I saw this comment once: “Authenticity… Once you’ve got it faked, you’ve got it made.” It made me laugh because it’s true. I think we all assume a persona on our blog, whether it’s intentional or not. I try to be myself and talk to readers just like I would talk to a friend. In fact, like I told Erik, I probably should keep some things to myself. When there is financial incentive involved, it is good to think about what you say, so I don’t blame other guys for being more politically correct. I say whatever I darn please and it bites me in the behind sometimes.

  9. As a reader, my expectation is that you are sharing honest information that you believe to be interesting or helpful. That’s it. Everything else is gravy and keeps me as a loyal reader. It’s not in the makeup of your blog to intentionally lead us to a less than optimum deal. If you know there are options through another blogger and mention it, great! If not, great! It’s not your duty to link to them. We found your blog and can find their’s.

    You helped my family make a couple of mini-vacations, save money on regular travel, and directly assisted us in making our first OCONUS vacation (Hawaii). While that doesn’t help pay the bills, it means I’d prefer to click-through a link that supports your efforts, even if there is a slightly better option. It is one way a reader can show loyalty, and you owe us (and yourself) that option.

    • @Slade Thank you so much for your comment and for being a loyal reader! I was happy to assist you with your trip planning, so don’t hesitate to reach out again. I know this blog has had its share of ups and downs, and I truly appreciate you sticking around. I probably should keep some things to myself, but it’s just not in my nature. I definitely don’t want to toy with readers’ emotions, and this post wasn’t meant as some sort of a credit card application drive.

      I think when it comes to reading blogs, it’s only natural for folks to ask “what’s in it for me?” I’ll be honest, that’s how I feel too. Everyone is busy, so it’s important to bring something valuable to the table. Whether it’s entertainment, personal attention, tutorials or deals will vary by site. Hopefully, mine has all of the above elements.

      If you are honest and helpful, many readers will want to support your efforts, especially when it comes at no cost to them. When the website has a lot of traffic, even if 10 percent click your links, it will usually add up to a decent amount. If the blog is small like mine, that’s where things get tricky, especially in this industry.

      I definitely try to point out the best credit card deals, and many times it costs me commission. If I start linking to conga lines, I might as well close up shop. The sad reality is, when readers use a link from a random commenter who offers to give them a $10 cut (maybe) instead of supporting their favorite small blogger, it pushes that said blogger one step closer to quitting. I realize it’s not a politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth. Nobody likes to work for free. Bloggers who say they don’t care about monetizing are probably lying or have too much time on their hands.
      Some sites can survive on page views alone. Big blogs on Boarding Area are pulling in between $3,000 and $8,000 per month (yes, month) just from ads. Credit card conversions are just gravy. I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, they worked hard and started early in this industry. They also target a broader niche. When you are writing for a niche within a niche within a niche, monetizing is a challenge, to put it mildly. Sorry, long rant! Probably should have done a dedicated post, but I’m pretty sure my readers are sick of hearing about this topic.

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