a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Oct, 2011

Blogger rate sheet/rate cards: a how-to with some pontification

Posted by andrea tomkins in: The business of blogging

Hello Fishies!

I’m back from Blissdom Canada. Holy mack. I want to write about my time there but it’s nearly impossible because my brain is swimming and my heart is full. I will have to leave the summarizing to other people. Let’s just say: (1) It was awesome (2) My panel was awesome (3) Did you see this article published in the Toronto Star and on ParentCentral.ca? Awesome.

I participated in a panel called “She Works Hard for the Money” along with three other women (click for their bios because they will knock your socks off): Janice CrozeSusie Parker and Corinne McDermott. We talked about how we make a living from this thing called the Internet. We spoke for 75 minutes and it was not nearly enough time. As some of you know I’m really passionate about this topic and am capable of talking about it AT LENGTH. Because we were pressed for time we glossed over the part about rate cards a little bit and I wanted to go in more depth here because I think it would be helpful to a few of you out there who are trying this out.

What the heck is a rate card (or rate sheet)?

A rate card or rate sheet (the terms are interchangeable) is old media speak and it refers to a one page document about ad rates, sizes and technical specs. If I want to place an ad in a newspaper for example, I’d call up the ad department and ask for their rate card.

When I started selling ads here in 2008 I quickly realized I needed a blogger rate card because, obviously, it was the first question potential advertisers asked me and I got tired of retyping all of the information in emails over and over again. So when someone comes calling I email them my handy rate card. Easy peasy.

What kind of information does a blogger rate card contain?

A very basic blogger rate card contains a list of prices and ad sizes. I’ve seen some rather underwhelming rate cards in the past, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re a blogger and that’s all you’re sending out you are missing a giant opportunity. Here’s my big secret. Are you ready? The rate card is a sales pitch in disguise. I know that if someone is contacting me for my rate card they’re already interested, so I use the rate card as an opportunity to take it one step closer to sealing the deal. I throw in all the carrots I can. :)

Think about what the advertiser would want to know, and find a way to include those things. Remember, your rate card might be passed around to other people so it needs to be able to function as a standalone document.

My rate card contains the following components:

  • My contact information
  • A bit about where I can be found online (Web, Facebook, Twitter)
  • A paragraph about why it’d be a good idea to become a blog patron, what my site is about, and what kind of people are reading.
  • My reach. How many views is the blog getting? What’s my Google Rank? Klout score?
  • My actual rates. I charge a flat fee so it doesn’t change a lot.
  • Tech specs: size of ad, details of the package. For example, I only offer one size of ad in terms of 3, 6, 9, or 12 months.
  • Extra: A testimonial (with a link) to an existing patron. Patti Taggart, the owner of Tag Along Toys, wrote one for me. (Thank you Patti!)
  • Bonus: Have you received any media coverage? List it on your rate card because it looks good.
  • ETA: I haven’t done this yet but I do recommend putting a date-stamp or expiry date on your rate card, or something that explains that these rates are only valid for a limited time.

How do you create a rate card?

Unfortunately I used Microsoft Word to design mine. Word is not a desktop design program! Making major changes to my document has been challenging and making a clean PDF proved to be nearly impossible. Hire a pro or use something like Adobe InDesign, but, whatever. If you have no other option or are a Word Wiz, good luck to you. BUT, it has to look good. And by look good I mean that it has to be well designed, sans typos. It’d be extra cool if your rate card matched your blog design. (I’m a big fan of matchy-matchy! If you’re a business person you need to present yourself like a business person. Shine your shoes. Brush your hair. Pull out all the stops on your marketing material. Invest in yourself!)

Also, the rate card should be easily editable. It’s an evolving document and will need to be updated as your traffic goes up and your rates change.

I send mine out as a PDF via email to anyone who’s interested, but I insist on knowing who the recipient is. A surprising number of agencies inquire on behalf of clients. I want to know who those clients are because I reserve the right to refuse any ad. I feel very strongly that ads on a personal blog like mine appear to be a personal endorsement, so I go with that, and I can safely say that in my case they are. My patrons are amazing, and because I’m so selective about who I accept I feel good about promoting them, online and offline.

I am not afraid to refuse an advertiser. My reputation is too important.

Should rate cards be posted right on the blog?

Nah. Don’t do it. I have a page at the top of my blog telling people I sell ad space in a general way, but I ask them to email me for specifics because I (a) want the opportunity to convince them they need an ad and (b) I want to know who’s asking.

That’s all I can think of! I hope this helps! If you have any questions just let me know. :)


8 Responses to "Blogger rate sheet/rate cards: a how-to with some pontification"

1 | DaniGirl

October 17th, 2011 at 11:27 am

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I think the rate card as sales pitch is woefully underdone, and it’s great that you mention it. I don’t have a rate card per se, but I do admit to recycling the same basic info via copy-and-paste into a fresh e-mail, which is nearly as simple and without the formatting headaches! ;) In fact, I put the sales pitch up front, and make them wade through it to get to the rates at the end.

Great info!

2 | Hollie Pollard

October 17th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

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Love that you overviewed this so throughly. I am sure it will be a wonderful help to bloggers, now do you have a media kit as well as a rate card? and why should you have both?

3 | andrea

October 17th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

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Thank you Dani!

Hollie, I don’t have a media kit. I’d feel silly having one. I think that if a company wants to become a blog patron they can find the info they need from the rate sheet and my bio page. What more would they need to know!?! :)

4 | milkfacemama

October 17th, 2011 at 8:11 pm

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A tip to all your patrons (and all small business owners): Write testimonials!!!

A well written testimonial can act as a basic advert for you and your company and will be passed around by others – for free!

5 | Psychgrad

October 17th, 2011 at 10:42 pm

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Good post! Any advice on what a reasonable rate would be?

6 | andrea

October 18th, 2011 at 8:25 am

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Thank you !

Psychgrad, check out this post about setting rates.

7 | Parent Club

October 18th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

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Thank you so much for sharing this. Your panel at Bliss was top notch and this information is invaluable.

8 | Maranda

October 19th, 2011 at 11:37 am

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If anyone would like an example of a rate card, I would be more than happy to share mine. And if anyone needs one done, my DH (a pro designer who laid out mine and did my site) and I can put something together for you.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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