*10 minute read*
I want to let you in on a little secret. It’s a secret that bloggers hide from you every day, and I hope to help you out by sharing it with you. Have you ever seen a blog post about a “gift guide” or “Autumn Decor Roundup” or “10 pieces I’m loving from Target this season”? I see these kinds of posts all the time, and before I actually began writing a blog, I thought they were just fun things that bloggers did. You know, for fun.
Fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, home bloggers, and DIY bloggers are all in on this big secret. And it’s not just “for fun”. The majority of income from writing a blog comes from these things called affiliate links. You might’ve seen an affiliate link disclaimer at the top of some of my renovation posts. The disclaimers usually say “this post contains affiliate links”. I’ve shared what that means before, but I want to explain it a little further.
When you write a blog about a specific topic, you can apply for affiliate programs with companies that align with your subject matter. Some companies have their own affiliate programs, while some companies are part of larger affiliate programs that serve many different companies. When you are accepted to an affiliate program, you are able to earn commission when readers purchase products from companies in the program. Instead of using normal internet links to products, bloggers can build special links through the affiliate program that have their personal information embedded in the links to track commissions. It is a legal requirement for bloggers to tell you when they use affiliate links, and to display affiliate program disclaimers. (Mine is on the right sidebar at the bottom) When you click on an affiliate link in a blog post, you are redirected a few times within seconds, and end up at the company’s website. (This page from popsugar.com has tooons of “gift guides” that are full of affiliate links.) When you click on a product, look closely at the URL immediately after clicking the link. You might see URLs like “shareasale.com” or “shopstyle.com” pop up for a split second before being redirected to places like Amazon or Target or Wayfair. Any purchases you make (even if they aren’t the original item you clicked on) will send a small commission to the person that advertised the link. Different companies give different commission rates, but most home goods transactions bring in anywhere from 4-8% of the product total. The commission reports tell you what items were purchased and when, but they do not share any personal information about the shopper.
I started writing this blog as a way to document the things I am learning as a young adult and young wife, so that other young women like me could have a resource that aids the transition into adulthood and having a home. I also document the home projects that Ben and I have completed. After I wrote the post about our kitchen update, I learned about affiliate links. I applied and was accepted to the Amazon and Wayfair affiliate programs, because they were my sources for the kitchen renovation supplies and decor. I updated my original product links, and have since earned a few hundred dollars in commission from that single post. It was pretty exciting. It’s how we paid for our dog. I only used affiliate links in two or three posts, and they were all for items I already purchased and placed in our home. I’m no longer able to participate in the Wayfair affiliate program because of a recent change in state tax laws, but it was a fun and unexpected experience.
I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know something important about advertising and consumerism. There are a lot of blogs out there that I really enjoy reading and looking to for inspiration. But there are many, many blogs that I have seen on Instagram that do nothing but advertise, advertise, advertise. And I get it! If you’re strategic and dedicated enough, writing a blog, gaining a large enough following, and advertising for companies can accumulate a ridiculous amount of income. When you train people to want and buy what you have, you can make a large profit from sharing all of your sources. You can also make a huge profit from scouting the internet and sharing products even if you yourself don’t own them. So if you’ve ever seen one of those “decor round up” or “gift guide” blog posts and thought to yourself, “Wow, I really wish I could buy all of those things”, I guarantee that the blogger wishes you would even more! Those kinds of posts are basically gift wrapped packages full of affiliate links and potential commissions. I understand the temptation to write those posts, and I even considered some creative ways to write them.
But at the end of the day, I hate reading posts that tell me to spend money. And as a blog writer, I make every last effort to avoid telling you to spend a single dime. It makes my stomach churn to think about manipulating my readers and using this platform as a way to tell my friends to buy things they don’t need, with the money they don’t have, so I can make a few dollars. I write this blog because I love finding resourceful, affordable, and creative ways to make my home a cozy and inviting place. And instead of advertising every last source for every item pictured in my photos, I try to draw principles from my styling so that you can incorporate those principles in your home using items you already own. (But let’s be honest, Goodwill doesn’t have an affiliate program. Sharing the sources for 75% of my home decor would be useless).
I want to use my knack for decorating and love for writing as an avenue to serve you. Not to get your money. That’s why I’ll never tell you to go out and buy stuff to make your house look cute. In fact, in every post I write I try to tell you the exact opposite! Yeah, it means I miss a lot of opportunities to make money from writing these posts. And the days of making any income at all from this blog are probably over. This blog is a hobby- not a jobby. But I’m okay with that, because you and your heart and your contentment are so much more important to me than making a profit.
So when you see those kinds of posts in the future, just remember that you have the power to make a decision. Those posts used to be a temptation for me, and would sometimes leave me feeling discontent that I couldn’t “get the look” or keep up with the latest trends. But now that I see them for what they are, little packages of affiliate links, I’m able to remind myself that I do not need material things to be content, and my home and my closet and my life lack nothing. If there is a blogger you want to support, then by all means go for it. But remember that you get to make a decision about whether or not advertising is going to “work” on you. I hope that this knowledge will help you be less tempted by the constant bombardment of “buy this” and “buy that” that the internet has delivered to your fingertips (sometimes without you even knowing).
I am sincerely thankful that you, whoever you are, take the time to read what I write and try the things I write about. I am not an expert or an authority in any field at all, and it amazes me that there are so many people supporting this hobby of mine. I want to use this avenue to serve you and value your time, and hopefully help you cultivate an appreciation and a love for your home and your place in this world. I’d hug you if I could.
Now that I’ve said all of that…
A few weeks ago, I shared this photo on Instagram with the caption below.
“I try to keep our home as clutter free as possible, so items that aren’t on the walls and ONLY function as decor are kept to a minimum. This empty chair has been sitting in the corner of the dining room, and I broke my own rule of functionality to make a happy little fall corner that is purely decorative. The scarf is from a yard sale, and the thrifted vintage atlas was the guest book at our wedding! My momma got me that pumpkin that’s my favorite shade of blue green. I’ve got three other tiny fake pumpkins around the house, but that’s all the fall decor for me! I’ve been seeing a lot of people on Instagram decorate for fall, and while it is all very cute, it is also very expensive. People don’t usually talk about the cost behind their pretty images- they just share them and act like it’s totally normal. I want to give you permission to be content with your home during this seasonal transition. You don’t have to drop tons of money on a small army of white pumpkins. Shop your house for cozy autumn things if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to! I’m intentionally limiting seasonal decor to save money and also be as unfussy as possible when it comes to styling and keeping a tidy home. Try getting in the fall vibe with a cozy candle or baking something yummy to share with family and friends. My point? Seasonal changes shouldn’t cost you money or make you discontent. That said, Fall I’m ready for ya. #endrant”
See what I mean about telling you not to spend money? I’m serious about it, friends!!! Today, I put together some place settings for fall using things I already had. I love fall decor. It’s my favorite season, so I want our home to reflect the best of fall for as long as possible. I also want to do that without going overboard or spending any money that just doesn’t need to be spent. A friend gave me some pumpkins in exchange for helping her out with a project. I incorporated them into my place settings, but they’re definitely not necessary if you don’t have any on hand. I want to share a few things that went through my brain as I “shopped our house” for this fall table.
- Start with dishes
Do you have a set of dishes with a fall vibe? If you do, great! You don’t have to have a full set or fill the whole table. You probably won’t use them all anyways. Our table seats eight, but I only have four of these plates. They’re from the Pioneer Woman collection at Walmart and I love them. If you only have one set of dishes, that’s cool too! They’re perfect! You can style around them.
2. Once you’ve picked out your dishes, grab your silverware. I have four place settings of gold silverware from Target that I love. They’re not fancy flatware, but the gold color gives me all the warm feelings. Silver flatware accomplishes the same purpose of inserting food into your face hole, so that will also work. Seriously. Just do you, okay?
3. Glasses. They can be mason jars, they can be wine glasses, they can be the set of multicolored plastic cups from Ikea. Anything goes, but I grabbed our gold bottom wine glasses to pair with the gold silverware. If you have multiple options, try to pick glasses that complement your plates and your silverware. If you don’t have any that give a fall vibe or complement your dishes, go with your most basic option.
4. If you have placemats, you can use those too! I have woven jute placemats from Walmart because I think they look great in every season. I’m not going to tell you to buy them, but if you would like to they are very affordable and very good at hiding crumbs. I think they’re $3 a piece. I like them here because the woven texture adds some interest and some coziness against the metallic flatware and glasses.
5. The centerpiece! This is the part where you get to shop your house. I walked around looking for things that would complement my floral dishes, jute placemats, and gold flatware/glasses. I picked out a woven tray (Goodwill), gold candlesticks (also Goodwill), a vintage red book, and a white pitcher full of wheat and billy balls. The map underneath was an afterthought. It was sitting on the table waiting to be put away somewhere, but I thought it would echo the atlas sitting on the chair in the background. The little white pumpkins are from my friend, and I thought they looked cute sitting on the plates. If you don’t have pumpkins, you could cut some out of paper and even use them as name cards if you host a party anytime this Fall! I grabbed the red book to add some height to the centerpiece, and because it accented the red rim of my plates. When you shop your house for your centerpiece, just look for things that will both complement and contrast your dishes and placemats. Your color scheme might be totally different than mine, but just think warm fall colors like red, burnt orange, and mustard yellow. If you don’t have any fake flowers to put in a vase, I’ve seen really beautiful centerpieces created from foraged greenery. Head out to your backyard with some scissors and see what you can find! So my basic formula for an interesting centerpiece would be
Some kind of tray or table runner + Vase of fake flowers/foraged greenery + something to add a little height like vintage books or a wooden box + candlesticks if you have them + something seasonal (like a pumpkin or a bowl of candy corn).
That’s it! I know it is nothing new or revolutionary or complicated. Just shop your house and see what you can find! It might look really similar to what I created, or it could be totally different. That’s the fun part! If you use design principles, your finished product will be entirely yours and entirely unique. So when someone says “Wow that’s so Pinteresty” you can say “Actually, I came up with it myself because I have skills”.
I promise you can do it. And I know you can do it for zero dollars.
If you style your own Autumn place settings, I’d love to see! Share a picture on Instagram with #hollandavenuehome and tag me, @hollandavenue. I love seeing what readers create! Thank you so much for reading and supporting Holland Avenue.
With so much love,