Whoa! Ever Been Called a Sellout For Monetizing Your Content?


I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time, but an email I received last week finally convinced me to get busy writing…

Hey Lisa,

I was wondering if you could do a blog post and share your experience with this. I have an email list that I use for important tips and advice.  I never, ever sell anything directly from my list and usually offer free advice. Well just recently I sent out a special mailing to announce my first financial e-course that I launched and one reader replied that I was selling out by pushing products to my list.  He didn’t even purchase the course. Even though the overall feedback was positive, this one comment really got to me and I couldn’t help but wonder if others felt that way and just kept silent.  Do people often complain when you monetize your emails, blog posts or videos?

– Jerry

The Snake Oil Salesman Fear

It’s inevitable.  I don’t care how much free information you give away or how awesome your content is, there are always going to be people who hate to see people selling something… ever.

If you’ve built up your credibility online by giving away free information and launch your first product, a lot of people worry that you will suddenly turn into a snake oil salesman and begin peddling everything in sight.

That’s an understandable concern because that does happen, but if your product is good then you can’t worry about pleasing everyone.

Some People Hate Promotion… Even if It’s Subtle & Seldom

I did a video last year showing how to use Artisteer to create your own WordPress theme, and I remember getting an email from an unhappy guy who unsubscribed from my channel.

He felt the only reason I created the video was to promote Artisteer for the commission.

I can’t lie.  Of course, that was part of my strategy for that particular video.  In fact, it’s a great strategy to employ on YouTube, as long as you don’t overdo it.

This video I did on the Genesis Lifestyle theme (affiliate link) has generated a few thousand dollars in pure passive income over the last year.  So of course the affiliate commission was motivation for such a video.

However, not every video I create is to promote something. In fact, most of my videos don’t sell anything at all. The majority are purely informational to build credibility, stay on your radar and to help out in some way.

And even when I do create a video that mentions a product I’m affiliated with, I also offer some kind of tutorial or advice to balance out the fact that I am earning a commission.

Even still, there are just some people who don’t like it and never will.  So yes, I can relate.

Like you, Jerry, I offer a lot of free information so sometimes promotional emails or videos (even if they are subtle and infrequent) can rub some people the wrong way.

And when you’ve built up a reputation of always giving away so much information for free, promotional content may cause a few frowns.

You Can’t Please All The People All The Time

At the end of the day, you can’t make everyone happy.

You could write a blog post stating you are donating $5,000 of your yearly blog earnings to charity and someone would criticize you for not giving more.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Jerry should completely ignore all negative comments, but sounds to me like most comments were positive.

And isn’t it funny how we can receive hundreds of positive comments and that one negative piece of feedback can really eat at you?  I can relate.

Assuming your product’s quality is good, most people are not going to have a problem with you monetizing your email list and website.

Just be careful of going too heavy on the promotion — especially if you set a certain expectation with your list by providing mostly free information.

What About You?

Have you ever struggled with when or how often to monetize your content?   Is it ever challenging to maintain that balance between free advice and promotional content?  Ever been criticized for monetizing?


  1.  KharimTomlinson

    Hey Lisa,

    This is an awesome post. the write up was great!

    I have a mailing list as well and most times I give out free advice. But as soon as I send out a mail about a new product or when there is a great sale going on, I notice some would unsubscribe.

    They want you to send them free stuff all the time so that they can make money or improve their blog, but don’t want you to make money at the same time. I think that is really unfair.

    So true, you can’t please everyone. Because some people will like this or that, and others will like that or this.

    Becoming a people pleaser will get you no where. You just have to keep doing your best to please the majority who truly loves your content.

    I don’t mind you promoting stuff, Lisa. I can trust what you recommend and just keep doing a good job.

    • Hey, just from what seen online is people that trust you for free advice are there for just that (FREE) the second you put a post up about something for sale you become a sales man and no one want that. My advice to you is do it how (Lisa and any other smart person) does it!! Make a small blog and link it to your site, not part of site k!! that way just those who are looking for whatever deals your trying to offers your subscribers have the opp to check it if they want, and dont over do the discript of the link. Short n Sweet is better.. Lisa # 1 fan..

    •  2createawebsite

      Thanks for weighing in Kharim and I completely agree with the people pleasing comment.

    •  chdoctavy

      Don’t worry guys. People always complain and most are driven by a certain egoistic spirit by always wanting free stuff. Those who frown when you offer something for sale are not genuine. I think if one is not interested he should just not buy the products but should not expect free stuff either. I only buy what I need and leave what I do not need. Be truthful always. The real partners will appear

  2.  thebrickblogger

    Excellent post Lisa, and an important topic! In my experience the key is to build up for the sale. If it is your own product, you can gradually mention it to readers that you are working on something. This way you are building up the curiosity and excitement, rather than resentment that you are charging something.

    Otherwise if someone is running a blog that is purely educational, and make subscribers get used to the free content, then all of a sudden releases a product and charge for it, yeah, I can see the concern. We train people how to treat us. So if the response is negative then it is within our power to present ourselves in a different way and get different results.

    Also, as Lisa mentioned, it is important to remain objective; look at the open rate, unsubscriber rate, sales, etc. once the promotional email went out, and if it is only one person who is unhappy or unsibscribing, I would consider that a successful launch.

    And I think it also depends on the niche and the kind of people the niche attracts. For example a review site is going to be doing a lot better because people who go there are already in the shopping mood and they just want to hear your opinion and comparison on which product to buy. ;)

    •  2createawebsite

      Absolutely. For example, an ecommerce website is expected to sell so there is a different expectation set immediately. For content marketers who start out by giving free information, it can be a little tricky with finding that balance.

  3. oh yeah, you will see this a lot the larger you grow. Some people are online communist LOL. They resent anyone making a profit off anything, then go and wait outside in line to buy a product from a company that hasn’t gave them a single bit of Free Information.

    They will read your blog, gain ton of knowledge, read your first hand experiences, watch you videos, then skip your affiliate link and go spend their money at the big box store ran by 18 year old’s who treat their business like it’s an inconvenience to them. They proudly Repeat the knowledge they gain from you for free to their friend, and recommend the big box store.

    Just ignore people like that, their losers!

    •  2createawebsite

      Hey Clarence!

      Sounds like you can relate to this huh? lol

      • Yes a lot of experience LOL. One of my biggest hurdles in the beginning. I neglected to fully monetize for a year because of 4 out of 10,000′s of people who didn’t like the idea that I made money.

        But the worse part wasn’t their comment, but the sub-conscience belief i had that everyone thought like them, I was wrong, others had no problem buying, and the ones who did have problems, I didn’t want those people around anyway.

  4.  supholisticfit

    If you provide value and credibility at the end of the day you have every right to sell. However, some people have in the back of their mind that their audience does not like to be sold and will lose followers.

    Even Gary Vaynerchuk said that he addresses it in his book “Jab Jab Right Hook”. If I have been jabbing a long time believe the right hook is coming. Your fall back is the value and credibility that you have given in the past.

    I have bought through Lisa’s affiliate links before but sometimes when she promotes I may not buy the product. That does not mean I will unsubscribe. It just means I may get the next product.

    Some people just want something for nothing all the time. The world does not work so. It’s called business with a smile. I am continually inspired by Lisa and have set a goal to go into this full time. Believe me the hooks are coming but not after I have been jabbing a lot.

  5. Thanks Lisa for bringing up this topic. As a potential customer and one who has dabbled in internet marketing and done offline sales I’d like to share some thoughts on this, if you will.

    I’ve done past ventures online and ran into this very issue. I also know some people with comprehensive websites who are shy about “pushing” products even though they have provided good solid free information.

    This “free” or low cost product issue happens offline as well. People will complain that your prices are too high or the price don’t represent their subjective estimate of value. Many large and well known companies are accused of just wanting to make money because people think their prices are too high or they don’t give out samples. In some of these instances the products are of high quality. Admittedly, some companies do gouge.

    That all said, I think people need to assess how and when they implement their sales and marketing strategy. In the case of your site, you’ve always given out valuable information and your delivery of ideas come at the best strategic times.

    Sad to say, many ask for money only when it benefits them. I have several emails in my box right now(around the holiday season) where people are pushing product (as far as I’m concerned it’s pushing) because I haven’t heard from them all year or only once or twice. The point being is that they have not contacted me on a regular basis.

    Business people have to walk a delicate balance between forming solid relationships and selling. The web owners I know who are timid about selling products, for fear they will be accused of “pushing”, learned early on during the older internet era to rely on google ads and soft selling of affiliate products.

    My hunch is that with social media now and less reliance on google, if you provide a lot of good content, then the people who leave a social media site to visit you are ripe for buying. So don’t be so quick to think that you can’t sell them.

    As a buyer of many products I can tell you unequivocally I would buy if someone pushed products in my face, if I trusted them. I’d rather they come out. Sometimes when they don’t ask I feel like they are holding back exposing me to the best product or service. Asking another person to buy can be flattering and considered helpful if you have something worthy to sell. That said, it is imperative, they have valuable products and services on their websites.

    As a potential customer, my opinion is that if you’re a web master make sure:

    1) You have valuable content on your site.
    2) You market wisely and not just around holidays or slow periods
    3) You treat your customers with respect and follow up with all inquiries when you can.

  6. Larry McGrew says:


    We don’t gather acorns or build shelters from twigs. We need the skills of other people. Writer and reader must benefit. I cultivate a garden and someone thinks they’re entitled to the fruits of my labor? For those readers who are ‘offended’ by me earning a living I say avoid me and ‘cultivate your own garden’. (I wouldn’t ‘say’ that but that’s the way I see it.)

  7.  booksofgrimm

    It is a common belief that everything on the internet is suppose to be free. However, it is really amazing that in 2014 people can’t see that it takes a lot of valuable time, energy and resources (money included) to produce all that valuable content that you give away for free.

    The better content you produce, the bigger your audience becomes which cost you more money to sustain. I would love for that gentleman who unsubscribed to go check the prices for hosting sites with large audiences. Check the prices for email responder services with large subscriber bases. This list of expenses goes on and on especially when you start start counting hours worked to produce it.

    Its time every realized that is ever completely free to create unless its something that not providing much value. Everything Lisa gives away is great stuff and real advice and most of it is free.

    Maybe content creators should make all their stuff Pay first and give nothing for free and maybe people will appreciate what they do for us For Free!

  8.  StuffSeniorNeed

    What do people expect? You are putting all of this time and energy for free?

    I would agree with the sentiment IF the content was half-baked pap that you just threw up to earn a commission.

    However, if you take the time and effort to go above and beyond in the process of providing the free information then putting an affiliate link in a blog post or email…and disclosing it is such a link (as Lisa did with the Genesis lifestyle theme above) is no problem…

    You can’t please everybody, so let ‘em unsubscribe and move on.

  9. It’s strange how some people assume time spent helping them to become successful isn’t worth compensation, and even stranger that they would think it doesn’t cost anything to put such content out there.

    I say don’t fret over the loss of such subscribers. You aren’t losing anything but negativity by leaving them behind. If you work hard you deserve something for your labor, especially from the people who are profiting from it.

    You deserve to make a living from your hard work. Don’t feel guilty about it. Remember: you have bills to pay, and a retirement to prepare for.

  10. Hi Lisa – I’ve been following you for years and I can honestly say that you put in a lot of hard work and long hours creating your sites and content. You are genuine and you keep it real! That being said, anyone who is complaining about your commissions is most likely jealous of your success.

    Not just anyone can site down and create content the way you do. You have to be knowledgeable and have the skills and expertise.

    The guy who unsubscribed from your Youtube channel clearly doesn’t understand how hard it is to run multiple websites and market your business. Bet he isn’t up till all hours learning and researching like you.

    Keep up the great work. You inspire me and you are the reason I was able to start making money online!

  11.  twitter.com/africaholistic

    Greetings Lisa,

    Can you please do an video on this . Your article is great but it feels like there is more to say on this subject. And I guess you’ve got me spoiled with the videos.

    Please, Please !!! LOL !!!

    Sista Shai (Shy-ee)
    African Holistic Health Chapter of NY
    Facebook: African Holistic Health Chapter of NY
    Twitter: Africanholistic
    Pinterest: Africanholistic

  12.  IlkestonWeb

    Hi Lisa,

    You have helped me so much with my website, Faceboook page engagement, SEO, etc. (I am a newbie). I appreciate all the free advice that you give as I have been able to implement a lot of it with great results. Sure, people don’t have to purchase your products but to complain about you or others getting paid? Beyond me. It takes a lot of time and energy to give out free content (my site is e-commerce so I understand it’s hard finding that balance as I don’t have the same problem–but I get it). Your advice works and is very easy to follow and your how to vids are very user friendly. I found your site after Googling info about increasing my FB engagement (I asked a question about Scandal and got triple the engagement than before LOL) and understanding SEO. Keep doing what you are doing. And to all of you out there that are giving free content you have my 100% support. And oh yea (get that money, too). Gosh, how are you supposed to live? Peace and love to you all.

  13.  Luke_Ciciliano

    Liz makes a great point about this type of criticism. When people get mad over monetization (assuming it’s only a few readers who are mad) one has to wonder, in my opinion, are those people who are angry providing “quality traffic” to begin with? Any thoughts?

  14.  Pushupking_fit

    I would personally handle that statement with the tried and true rejection response. Thank you for participating. Our mission is to provide the best resources available and realistically a very low percentage of users are looking for something that doesn’t exist. To facilitate users like in this category, users can freely unsubscribe from our online services and channels anytime no questions asked.

  15.  myeaseresume


    Have been there myself with my sites. Others criticize because something is lacking in their life, not yours. I was once told that small minds can’t comprehend big spirits. Keep doing what you’re doing because if you love it, others will too!

    Best of Success,

  16. Thanks for this post Lisa! I always wondered how people would think about having that happen to them. I always try to give more value to followers because lets face it everyone loves free stuff. But if your content is valuable they wouldn’t mind buying from you anyway. My two cents.

  17.  manghay

    well good thing that your subscriber unsubscribe if he say you are just pushing to make sale from them. It is not your lost , i said good because at least your subscriber filtered and they are just trash to your auto responder. there are billions of people around the world and you really can’t make sale to all your subscribers. The conversion of 5% is enough to make you living. It is just a number games, just give the best you can give to subscribers and after all if they want to unsubscribe then let them and move on. Don’t be feel sorry about the action you’ve made. No successful people never encounter those such negative person.

  18.  fross30

    Hey Lisa great post your blog as always is full of tips and advice.

  19.  24_7France

    It’s all about having free choice to do what one wants with one’s content – readers are also free to choose to read it (or not) and/or buy (or not) whatever is being offered. Most people wouldn’t work for free, so why should writers be expected to – that being said, the vast majority are not making money from their craft and/or blog. Merci, too, for visiting my blog.

  20.  geoio

    Very interesting advices! I found by myself recently that not all of my posts should contain affiliate links and if some do, best to include some useful related information or advice!

    •  Luke_Ciciliano

      Really good point Geoio,

      One of the best ways to not cross the line that would actually warrant this type of criticism is to ensure you don’t try to “over monetize.” I agree with what you do, not putting affiliate links in everything.

  21. Lisa,

    Like most people, I too don’t appreciate the “hard sell”. We all gravitate towards honesty, sincerity and integrity. Most of us can tell the difference and that’s why I appreciate your information so much!

    It’s no secret that the most successful “information bloggers” are those that provide a respectful balance of consumer usefulness (free stuff =) vs monetization without either you wouldn’t be here,…. right? Lisa you do the best job at keeping this balance!

    Thanks for all the great insight and truly sincere, helpful information you provide in a way that, for me is more accessible than any other of the hundreds of “Blogger help” sites I’ve come across.


  22.  prawfeed

    Hi Lisa,
    A great article once more! I have always stick to this principle in everything I do online,
    “Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Next!”
    You can never be someone who pleases ALL people so why bother about it?
    Cheers and have a great day!
    William Siong

  23.  freedommmc

    What’s up Lisa ,

    Thanks for sharing the results of your video marketing campaign.

    This is an excellent example of how to create value first with detailed tutorials.

  24. Cathy Gormanson says:

    You’re an affiliate marketer and a darn good one according to most.
    Don’t sweat the small stuff!

  25. Hi Lisa,

    I personally don’t like the hard sell. I treat my email list like I would like to be treated, this means that I provide a balance of free stuff as well as paid promotional stuff as well. After all if you’re providing value, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to get paid profits for it.

    You can’t let one comment get you down..if you know that you’re putting out value and not screwing people, there’s nothing wrong with doing some promotion.

    I have learned that not everyone is going to purchase anyway. Some people tend to believe they can run a business without investing in it. These are the type of people I believe that promotional emails will offend.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a great day.

  26. I have learned that not everyone is going to purchase anyway. Some people tend to believe they can run a business without investing in it. These are the type of people I believe that promotional emails will offend.

  27. I already posted a comment on your G+ page, but I had some more thoughts about the topic.

    I believe only strong cynics would criticize a person for selling out. They like to believe that the world is a place where people should all be selfless and help each other out just for the sake of helping each other out. However, the main issue with a cynic is that they are not keen to how the world works — the only people that they should expect such selfless activity from are their parents, good friends, spouse, and their dog.

    Your audience members are all people who are doing web entrepreneuring, so they should understand the importance of time spent doing things and the flow of money. In this case with content, you’re either monetizing through affiliate links or you’d have to charge a membership for content. If not those, then you’d basically be writing all these things for free… and that’s simply being unrealistic. Fortunately, most audience members are realistic about things.


  28. Hi Lisa!! Thanks for writing!!! I’m from India and huge fan of yours. I’ve downloaded all of your Youtube Videos in my PC. Waiting for the new updates. Thanks again.

  29.  noor-noor

    It is really amazing that in 2014 people can’t see that it takes a lot of valuable time, energy and resources (money included) to produce all that valuable content that you give away for free.

  30. I find it almost laughable how to some there is some kind of supposed code of integrity that one should following: toiling away for hours without making money.

    I think making money is a sign of success and business strategy well implemented.

  31. Hey Lisa, this is a great article on monetizing. To tell you the truth, I’ve never faced this problem. With God grace I got success in every field I choosed.

  32. I always want to put affiliate ads on my blog. But my blog doesn’t fit into that category. I will start a new blog where I can put affiliate ads.

  33.  Klinkkdotcom

    It’s a dilemma that has always existed, Lisa.
    There are people who always ask everything for free, and do not give anything in return.
    But there are also people who recognize all the help you’ve given, and they give you back something, such as a purchase of a product from your affiliate link or a social share, for example.

    This sense of recognition is not inside everyone.
    But I believe in karma, if you give a lot, at the end, you also receive.

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa.
    Interesting article!

  34. Hi Lisa, i just discover your blog, i’m learning about to earn money with blogging, thank you for your advices.

  35. There I was with my site. Criticize others, because something is missing in your life, not yours. I was once told that small minds can not comprehend the spirits are great. Keep doing what you’re doing, because if you love it, others will too!

  36. Hmm… I think you have a good point there! People are just over sensitive these days.

  37. I can see that happening especially if you started out with no advertisements, products and etc. From the beginning, well a month after launching my site, I had ads. No one has complained about me pushing products or my ads but I’m not the best sells person in the world anyway.

  38.  Mike_Howg

    There are some people out there who just hate it when someone else is successful or working towards being successful. I just simply ignore these kinds of people and move on with my life.

  39. Lisa,

    If you currently had the choice between hand registering:

    2createawebsite.com or how-to-create-a-website.com

    Where “2createawebsite” has 0 monthly search results
    “how to create a website” had, lets say 10,000 monthly search results

    Which would you choose? I am aware EMD’s dont have the weight they once did, however I feel there is some slight advantages that they still do have.

    What are your thoughts? I am in a similar situation myself

  40. Hello Lisa,

    Thank you so much for making me realize that we can’t avoid people who hates selling online (even its totally free of cost). I’ve been worried about such responses as well.

  41. Hi Lisa

    What is this financial e course? I want to learn from you.. Thanks!

  42. Great post Lisa, I’ve always wanted to avoid selling too much. This post inspires me a lot though. I will ignore those haters and focusing on creating real values.

  43. I have seen this happen too much to good people. People that you can see genuinely care and give a lot of information and help for free, getting attacked for making money through affiliate links etc. The best is to ignore those senseless attacks, because the people that know are giving good quality content and help for free, can rest assured many benefit from it.

    On the other hand, some out there do put this facade of giving so much, but digging deeper easily reveals how little value they provide while at the same time overtly advertising themselves.

    It’s all in the intention. If the focus is on people, there’s nothing we should feel bad about. If the focus is solely money, well, then probably that person doesn’t care so much about what people say or not. To me, the fact that Jerry was hurt by that comment means that he cares, and that shows his heart is probably in the right place and he shouldn’t feel bad about monetizing at all.

  44. Some people tend to believe they can run a business without investing in it. These are the type of people I believe that promotional emails will offend.Thanks…!!

  45.  RockstarEmperor

    I have been thinking to start sending emails to subscribers. Your post was a valuable guidance at the right time. Thanks.

  46.  SamGalaxyS5

    Great content and i thing we have to invest money to start a business and o give best to it so that we can gain from it.

  47. Lisa I am glad you mentioned this. This does not happen online only, it is rife offline too. These same people will happily buy stuff from strangers but cannot support someone they know personally. I just thought I should point out that we may be dealing with some flaw in human behavior and not necessarily an online behavior per se. I love your blog and sites a lot. Thanks for the freebies…and i love your Niche Websites e-book!!

  48.  2besure

    I have a Christian website. For some reason some people feel, it is somehow immoral to promote ads on this kind of a site. I don’t feel a this site is any different then any other site. You have to pay for set it up, promote it, and spend loads of time writing quality content. I have no qualms about monetizing my Christian content. However, I might not put as many ads on it as my regular sites.

    •  2createawebsite

      I have a friend that had a Christian site. I remember her mentioning how sensitive some of the visitors were to ads. She always struggled with walking that line. But I agree. If you put work into your site, it’s OK to monetize it… especially when you disclose it.

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