Sponsors vs. Subscriptions — How to Fund Content Creation in 2021

Hey there. I need your thoughts and advice. For a decade, I funded my blog, my writing, and my social media work through sponsored posts. But there has always been tension about the sponsored content from readers, and from me as a creator too. The general feedback I’ve received is basically: We know sponsored posts are necessary so you can make a living, but we don’t like them, and we are going to scroll past, no matter who the sponsor is, or what the content is; we’ll try to be good sports about it, but we really don’t like sponsored posts.

Honestly, I get it. I understand. The mix of personal posts and paid-posts (which are also sometimes very personal!) can feel super weird. Plus, working with sponsors means I don’t always get to choose the topics I’m writing about — so some sponsored posts can feel forced. Working with sponsors is also a huge time-consumer above and beyond the content creation — the proposals, the back-and-forth on contracts, the project management, the approvals, the reporting. I’d rather use that time to create more content and connect with readers.

So 18 months ago, when we moved back to France, I stopped saying yes to sponsored posts. And since then I’ve been looking into other options for monetizing my work, but wasn’t having any luck finding an option that makes sense for me. Then, a few months ago, the people at Substack reached out and I think their platform might be the answer.

Substack is basically newsletter software where writers/creators can offer a combination of free subscriptions, and paid subscriptions that come with perks. Sort of like when you download a free app, but then you can pay if you want to unlock all the app-upgrades. Different writers/creators use Substack in different ways, but the general format is to offer a free newsletter that’s available to everyone, and then, if people want to pay $5/month (or $50/year), they will have access to additional subscriber-only content. The paid content can take various forms — as I’ve explored Substack, I’ve seen subscriber-only discussion posts, recipes, ebooks, live Q&As, podcasts, videocasts, essays, etc. It really depends on the writer/creator and how their subscribers want to connect.

Tall House Updates

Let’s talk about shutters! In France, shutters are very functional. Households will open them each morning, and shut them in the evening. They use shutters for privacy, black-out light control, and to manage heat in the summer. And it’s not just France. Many European countries use shutters daily — Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Switzerland and more. Interestingly, shutters are not common in the UK or Scandinavia.

In Instagram Stories, I shared updates about our shutters and did a demonstration of how the shutters work and the differences between our wood shutters and metal shutters. I ended up getting tons of questions from Americans who have not used shutters and were curious about all sorts of things (screens? curtains?). So I answered some of the questions in Stories as well.

And then, I started getting questions from Europeans who were confused why Americans didn’t know about shutters, (hah!) and also wondering what “screens” were (because they’re not common in every part of Europe). So I answered those questions too.

Living With Kids: Hillary Pember

When Hillary reached out about sharing her family’s story I loved that it wasn’t one we hear all the time. She and her husband had just started figuring out being empty nesters, with their 3 kids all in college and out of the home. Then, the pandemic hit and two of the kids had to move back home. Which meant schedules, expectations and routines had to be adjusted. But their comfy, New England style home was just what the needed to weather the storm. Welcome, Hillary!

How To Make Perfectly Hard-Boiled Eggs

How to Perfectly Boil an Egg

In March and April, eggs go on sale at the market, so this is an ideal time to learn, or improve, our egg boiling skills. You may have big plans to dye some Easter eggs, or maybe you’re just craving an egg salad sandwich. Either way, knowing how to perfectly hard-boil an egg is a skill everyone should have.

How to Perfectly Boil an Egg

Do you ever peel and cut open an hard-boiled egg only to find a pesky grey-green ring around the yolk, or that the yolk is still a little raw? This post is here to help! Soon you’ll be an egg-spert and be able to show all your friends how easy it is to hard-boil eggs.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? Ours was good — lots of slow and steady progress at the Tall House. Sometimes I think I can see an actual move-in date! But mostly, I know I just need to be patient.

Speaking of patience, it’s been so encouraging to see the vaccine rollout doing so well in the U.S.. Being able to have gatherings in July sounds dreamy! We’re getting notes from friends who are making plans to travel to France this summer, and we’re feeling hopeful. In Europe, the vaccine rollout has been much slower, so it will be interesting to see what European countries decide to do with opening their borders and travel permissions this summer. We are waiting for announcements, trying to figure out if it will be better to bring our older kids to France, or if it will be better to travel to the U.S. for a summer trip. Or maybe the fall is more realistic? Who knows. How are you feeling about the vaccine progress where you live? Have you been able to get a shot yet?

I’ve got a really good link list for you today. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Little Bunny Pillows with a Pocket

DIY: Mini Bunny Pillow

Pull out your needle and thread! You’re going to want to make a dozen of these little Bunny Pillows with Pockets. They are sweet and versatile. Tuck a small gift or treat in the pocket and use them as a mini Easter basket. Or add some spring cheer to the house and hang them on a door handle. They make a welcome guest for teddy bear play, or why not make a Bunny Pillow Tree?

With the free bunny image download, our little pocketed bunny pillows multiplied quickly! And we’re so glad that they won’t hop away — they’ll continue to be adorable long past Easter weekend.

Are you ready to hop to it?

Living With Kids: Caryn Schafer

Choosing to downsize from a large home in the suburbs to a much tinier space is probably not as difficult to handle when the much tinier space is in huge by anyone’s standards New York City! I think it would be the best kind of challenge, right? Keeping only what you love, organizing vertically by use, and ruthlessly overthinking every purchase. And the minute you feel a bit claustrophobic, Central Park is one block away. Marvelous.

I love this peek into Caryn’s small space and big thoughts. I’ve read it three times, and I find something new with each read. I hope you do, too. I originally shared this NYC home tour in 2015, but with rent prices dropping in Manhattan, and people considering a move to the big city, I thought it was time to share it again. Caryn’s love for New York is wonderful. Welcome, Caryn!

A Few Things

Hello, Friend. How are you? I’m here with a Monday edition of my usual Friday post. How was your weekend? Ours was good. We were busy doing some exploring, squeezing the last few moments out of Winter Break, and we celebrated Ben Blair’s birthday. And now, the kids are back in school today, and we’re back to a regular working schedule.

We’ve been having freezing temperatures at night, but this week, the weather may rise to the 50s(!), and we’re definitely seeing signs of Spring. How about you?

I’ve got an especially good link list for you today. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Tall House Updates

Updates at the Tall House continue steadily. Roofing repairs, more tile work, uncovering the floors in the atelier/studio/craft room, and clearing out the yard. Come see what we’ve been up to.

How Many Selfies Are Too Many Selfies?

I’d love your thoughts on selfies (or self portraits if that sounds more agreeable). The other day, I wondered if I was taking enough of them. Then immediately was embarrassed for thinking such a thought. I’ve been instagramming since 2013 — the year the selfie was recorded as a global phenomenon. As I write this, I’ve shared 2424 posts, and if I scroll my feed, my face doesn’t show up very often. Interestingly, I end up showing my face on Instagram Stories quite a bit more — not as selfies, but in footage of me talking about the Tall House.

It’s got me thinking: am I not showing up enough in the record my own life? Will my kids have pictures of me with them? Pictures of me participating? Or am I spending too much time behind the camera? Does it matter?

Living With Kids: Melissa Clark

Melissa and her wife reached out to share their beautiful home in the Living With Kids series and we’re so lucky she did. Their home is charming — bright open windows, beautiful pieces throughout, and gorgeous outdoor space. Like so many of us they have spent more time in that outdoor space in the last year than probably any other time of their lives. They’ve adapted, changed up bits of the routine, and have learned to appreciate the “slowing down” that was caused by a year at home. Welcome, Melissa!

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How has your week been? Since the kids are out of school this week, we have been using our mornings to explore off-the-beaten-path Normandy — and doing a lot of baking. This weekend, maybe we’ll visit a couple of brocantes we haven’t been to before, maybe do some bike riding, and Olive will head back to Paris (sad face). How about you? Any plans?

I’ve got a great link list for you this week. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Tall House Updates

Here’s the latest happenings at the Tall House. First up, a couple of weeks ago I shared floor plans. I also invited Q&A about the floorplans:

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The Definitive Guide to the Best Nicknames

Definitive Guide to the Best Nicknames

My wonderful mother-in-law, Julia Blair, gave extravagant nicknames to her children. Ben’s is: Benjerbomboom. His siblings (or maybe it was the neighborhood kids) gave him another one: Ben-Benji-Bare-Bottom-Burp-Baby-Blair. All of his siblings have terrific nicknames. A sampling: Jenettikins, Blopsy, Caroliney-Deeny-Diny, Margretchie, and Deedle-Doos. (Just by reading those names aloud, you can probably guess that my mother-in-law was a wonderful singer. And you’d be right.)

My name is Gabrielle but I grew up with the nickname Gabby. Since I talk a lot, it’s always been a good fit. (Hah!)

We were telling our kids about their aunts’ and uncles’ nicknames, and realized that at our house, we’ve hardly used nicknames at all. Ralph is occasionally Ralphie. Maude is once-in-awhile Mimi. Olive is Olive. Oscar is Oscar (with an experimental Osc here and there). Betty is always Betty. And Flora June is Flora when speaking French, and June when speaking English. I love the idea of nicknames and was kind of surprised to realize we didn’t commonly use them.

Also, nicknames and alternate names always make me think of Dostoevsky. I swear, he uses like 10 different names for each character he introduces.

What are your thoughts on nicknames? Do you have one? Do your kids? Do you know anyone that was given a nickname as an adult and it stuck?

P.S. — The names that got away.

Living With Kids: Katy Regnier

There are houses that scream “THREE CHILDREN LIVE HERE!” as soon as you walk through the door and over a small pile of plastic joy, and there are houses that whisper “Three children live here,” and leave you looking for any traces of babies or toys or…fun. Katy‘s home lies somewhere perfect in between, stating contentedly “We live here.” And isn’t that the loveliest thing a home can say? Friends, I’m delighted to introduce you to Katy and her sweet family. Enjoy!

Salt Dough Easter Eggs DIY

DIY Salt Dough Easter Eggs featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom
DIY Salt Dough Easter Eggs featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Easter is on its way and I am very much looking forward to it. I’m ready for the bright colors, the pastels, and anything with spring green. And I am helping it along with the bright tones of these Salt Dough Easter Egg Ornaments.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? Our kids have a two-week school vacation that starts this weekend. Last year for this school break, we drove to Switzerland to enjoy a few days in the snow. For this pandemic variation, we’ll focus on movie marathons, baking, and lots of reading time.

Speaking of reading, I’m happy to report I did some casual fiction reading and really enjoyed it! (I know I mentioned I haven’t been able to enjoy fiction lately.) We started listening to the audio version of book one of the Scythe series on our last drive to Paris, and I was into the story, so ended up getting the kindle versions and zipping through all three. It feels like it had been soooo long since I had gobbled up a story like that. Now I’m on the hunt for another good fiction read. Would definitely love to hear what you’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Ready to dive into links? Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you.

Tall House Updates

Another exciting week of progress at the Tall House. And at the Small House! We weren’t originally planning on working on the Small House this week, but we’re so glad it could happen.

A man named Guillaume helped us with our radiators a couple weeks ago and was looking for additional projects. We showed him our (seemingly endless) list of projects and asked what aligned with his skills, and he mentioned his father (who is retired) was a roofer. Guillaume thought tackling the Small House roof repairs, with the direction of his father, would be ideal. So we said: Go for it!

Living With Kids: Laura George

[ Note: This is one of the first home tours to be featured in this series, which now includes almost 450. It was originally published in March 2014. Readers loved it then, and I think you’ll love it now as well. ]

More than a few of Laura’s photos sent for inclusion in her tour had the word sun in the name. Those three little letters made me like her so much. I guess people looking for the bright side have always been my favorites.

There’s so much sunshine in this tour, Friends. From the very first description of her kids to how she describes her home to her final answer about the way our children honestly see us, it’s all real and refreshing. (Neville sounds like a hoot!) Please enjoy it!

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