Home > Making Money > The Line Between Making Money and Being a Sell Out

The Line Between Making Money and Being a Sell Out

photo: picsweb.net

photo: picsweb.net

We all want to make money. With the amount of reading I do each week, a very common and relevant theme is how to make more money from all kinds of various means. I’m not immune. We have had some huge debts to pay, and making more money was a big part of how we paid off our credit card bills. However, making money isn’t always as simple as seeing more dollar signs appear in your checking account. Many of us are making money by creating or selling products or services to others. While there is nothing wrong with that, do you sometimes feel guilty for making money at the expense of someone else? Are we always able to hold our values above what might make more money for our families? Where do you cross the line between making money and selling out?

People are Buying What You’re Selling

Any time we work in job that has something for sale, we are making money from someone else. I love free enterprise. People are able to compare products and prices, and shop around. However, there are times when making a sale just feels wrong. If I have a patient that I know has little money, I often feel guilty if our office sells them one of our products. Especially if they pick out something expensive. I know this is not rational. I didn’t scheme anyone into calling my office an making an eye appointment. We never offer pressured sales pitches. If you come in and don’t want to buy anything, that’s OK, but I still feel a bit guilty sometimes if you do.

We see ads all the time trying to get people to spend money, sometimes they cater to those who might have money problems. “No credit, no problem”, “Guaranteed financing approval”, “Let us do your taxes” are some popular ones I see right now. Probably if you need to use one of these offers to get a loan, you might not to examine why. Often we view these sales tactics as sleazy, but they must work or they wouldn’t keep offering them.

On the other hand, who am I to judge what someone can and can’t buy? Just because you are a senior citizen or work at Denny’s, why am I to assume that you don’t have money to spend?

I think that’s one huge reason I enjoy my work at the government clinic on the Native American reservation. I show up and give my best advice, but no money ever changes hands. Actually, I give the same advice no matter where I am. I just can’t profit from people’s choices at the clinic. Somehow that makes it seem less commercial and more altruistic, even though I still receive a salary.

Making Money Online

Most people who start online businesses, especially blogs, hope to earn money at some point. Whether you admit it or not, we all do. I didn’t start a blog with the sole purpose of making money. It was more of a challenge to see if I could do it, and I felt I had some relevant things to say. It also keeps me in line with my money goals because I have to be more accountable. However, I have certainly enjoyed the little bit of money that has started to come in from advertisers. That being said, I have to admit I feel a bit shady about it. I would never put anything on my site that wasn’t something I stand behind. I have to hope people will believe what I say and know it isn’t coming from a place just to make money.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of early 90’s music. I always remember an interview with the late Kurt Cobain where he said something about the minute you take a dime, some people will call you a sell out. Not that I would ever compare my blog to a multi-million selling album, but it’s kind of the same concept and something I struggle with.

Be Your Best

I think ultimately I have to do the best that I can. I have training and experience to help people with choices in eye care. If there is only one option to prevent vision loss or blindness, you better believe I will push that very hard. If there are lots of options, I will try to help the consumer make the best decision for each individual situation.

From a standpoint of sharing knowledge about money, I can only do the same. I can’t choose the right path for you. I can only share what has worked and what hasn’t worked for me, and hope you can find something that might help along the way.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to worry about money, but we all have to make our own way. I will try to make a point not feeling guilty about making money because I am not a sell out.

Was this a  Seinfeld like post about nothing? Have you ever felt conflicted about earning money?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I don’t consider warning money from a blog being a sellout. ( I can say this since my blog might earn $1 on a good week). Running a blog and writing good articles takes a lot of work and time, anyone that believes otherwise should try it and see! I don’t see anything wrong with getting some minor compensation from it, especially if they help you along with your financial goals!

    • Blogging really takes way too much time if you never make any money. I’m still working out a balance. I’m sure the sleazy salesmen will be making their way to Wise Dollar very soon if not already!

  2. I don’t see anything wrong with you making money for providing great content that will likely help thousands of people. At the end of the day you have to look out for yourself and blogging takes a hell of a lot of time for very little payoff (at least early on).

    Keep up the great work Kim 🙂

  3. Good post Kim! As an aside, I love the Seinfeld reference, but that’s because I love Seinfeld so much. 🙂 I can understand why you might feel conflicted about making money off the blog. I have felt the same way and my wife has can attest to those conversations. At the end of the day, I don’t think there is an issue with making money off your blog, especially with the content you create and the time that is put into it. Like you, I won’t put up anything I do not stand behind completely. I’ve learned to be much more discerning about what I put up for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I want it to be something I am behind and not just a cash grab. Keep up the great work Kim! 🙂

    • Do you run into that with your other job if you have to create ads for things you don’t believe in or are you able to be more choosy? I hate certain products, like some brands of contact lenses, but if a patient specifically asks for them, I have to prescribe that unless there is a health reason not to. I like to be my own person, but ultimately, we are consumer driven.

      • We do from time to time and have had to turn down a couple of jobs because for one reason or another we simply can’t get behind what is being advertised. Now that we have built a solid client base we have more freedom to be more choosy in that perspective. We also get the same type of sleazy salespeople (like in the blogging world)wanting us to help them hawk their crap and just choose to ignore them. I completely agree, we are consumer driven and have run into a few things that we may not like but is generally ok and will do ad copy for them because we realize that there are many who want/use said item. It can be a hard balance to have at times, but ultimately you have to go with your gut in regards to if you should do it or not.

  4. We had offers for sponsored links and stuff like that, but in the end we just couldn’t do it. The topics that the links covered weren’t things that we normally talk about in our day to day lives and that’s what our blog is about. It felt too disingenuous for us, but I get why other people do it.

    • It’s a struggle for sure to try and decide what the right answer is.

    • I’m with you there – I’ve turned down a lot of paid offers simply because they were too off topic for my blog. There’s making money, and there’s selling out. And the more you do of the latter, the more you degrade your blog and soon you’ll drive away your readers.

  5. I am terrible at sales and would feel bad just like you when a broke person goes for something expensive in my shop. But they probably go for expensive stuff at the supermarket and everywhere else as well and wonder why they are broke. In the case of the blog, none of your readers had to pay to get your content, so it is a bit different. And if you calculate your hourly rate… Although I get your point about shady ads, I think readers wouldn’t mind the occasional ad if you keep your content free.

    • My hourly rate is probably less than 2cents/hour! You’re right. People are going to spend money somewhere, it might as will be with me.

  6. It’s easy to point fingers and call someone a ‘sell out’ when you’re doing well yourself. When my family has been in financial trouble I did anything to make money for them. Getting food on that table was my only priority. It didn’t matter to me if someone couldnt’ afford what I was selling; if they wanted to buy it, I would take their money. They can make their own choices, and as for me, I needed to worry about my family. When you have money and are doing well, it’s always easy to point the finger on others’ “selling out” bcause you think you never would or point the finger on people “not being green” becuase you think you always will be green…but when the sh!t hits the fan, would you still be that way? Or woudl you put your family first?

    • If my family neede to eat or have shelter, I would sell toxic sludge to orphans if I had to. I always appreciate someone who makes an effort, especially if it’s doing something they don’t enjoy. It’s when people who are well of take advantage of people who aren’t that is wrong in my opinion.

  7. I’ve seen blogs that went from great personalized content to focusing almost exclusively on content that you knew was ‘money making’. That is selling out. If you retain your voice, and your posts are the focus of your blog, and the aspects that relate to making money are not a) the majority or b) pushed down readers throats, there is no worry about being called a sellout, at least from me anyways.

    • That’s kind of my though. I will try to hide the advertisements as much as I can and not get over run. When I can’t have at least 2 or 3 original, non-sponsored topics a week, I know it’s maybe time to move on to something else. Right now, I can’t shut up, so it will likely be a while!

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I have been struggling with deciding how and with whom to advertise on our blog. IRL I refer to certain kinds of advertising as “prostituting the blog.” There are certain blogs I admire who have kept their advertising to products they can really stand behind – it takes longer to make money that way but it can be done.

    • It is certainly a struggle to decide how and what to put out there. You wait and wait for someone to want to pay you and then if feels weird. I guess I’ll figure it out eventually.

  9. Great post. I’m not a fan of blogs where every post is a sponsored post. On my blog, I don’t send most sponsored posts to RSS feeds or emails, so no one should really be bothered by them. However, blogs that ONLY have sponsored posts kind of annoy me. I guess people can do whatever they want though 🙂

  10. I can see where you are coming from but you can’t be guilty about all the sales at the shop. You are right when you say you don’t know how much money they have. We can’t assume anything nor can we take responsibility for anyone else’s choices in life but our own. Great post Kim.

    • We had one fellow we were about to sign up for the indigent program. He was dirty and had a long beard and nasty clothes. Turns out he runs the junk yard and is swimming in cash. I learned a good lesson on that way.

  11. That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about especially since last month where I finally got some interest in advertising on my blog. At what point am I just doing it to make a little here or a little there. It’s a slippery slope because people can judge you, but they don’t walk in your shoes and know if you are struggling financially. It’s a good idea to always keep your goals and values in the back of your mind though as a way to guide you. Poor Kurt. I think he was almost too tortured by making money from his music. He suffered from too much guilt.

    • There is another eye doctor at the clinic where I work who sells contacts under the table to patients. There is no equipment for evaluating contact fits there. He just assumes they won’t complain if there is a problem. It is totally wrong, but everyone knows he does it and looks the other way. I could make alot of money doing that, but it’s taking advantage of a population that is already very challenged. I refuse and I’ve had patients yell at me for not selling them contacts without the proper fitting, but I have to sleep at night.

  12. I draw the line at direct sales companies (Advocare, Avon, etc). To me, that’s just pimping your friends for their money, and I can’t do it.

  13. I have no problem making money from working hard. I will not put up something that I myself would advise to people, but I am not in need of money. If I were desperate then I wouldn’t mind.

    • True. I am not looking at blogging to replace my income, so anything I make is gravy. If all the money dried up tomorrow, I think I’d keep doing the same thing. Now if my optometry money dried up, I might be hawking anything that would pay.

  14. Successful people think about the job or what they are doing first. If you feel valued and you get satisfaction from your job that all that matters.

  15. I hear you, Kim. There are lots of vulnerable people who do get taken advantage of and because you’re a good person, you don’t want to be lumped in the same group. Well, don’t worry – you’re not. You put out great, helpful content that people elect to read on their own free will. Your advertisements don’t overwhelm your blog, etc. It takes a lot of hard work to run a successful blog and there is nothing wrong with earning money from it. It’s interesting because I try to read a variety of different types of blogs and there is a type of blog that seems so heavily sponsored and ad-driven that it’s one big commercial in my mind. I have no issue with ads or even people being a paid spokesperson for a product/company they support but when all your content is paid … that makes me pause.

    • There is certainly a balance that you have to achieve. Maybe you can make more money doing it the sponsored way, but then you lose why you started doing it in the first place.

  16. I hear you on the blog. I think very few people start their blogs with the aim of making money. Once they get the taste of the dollars coming in, it is very tempting and natural to want some kind of pay back for hours and hours of work they put in the blog. With that said, we all have a choice on “how” to make that money. I am not saying one way is right or wrong. I made a choice to not take any sponsored posts. Every single word in my blog, whether useful or crappy, I can stand behind it. I know I am probably making less than a 3 month old blog because of this choice. But as I said, it is something that chose and feel comfortable. Most of the blogs I read and admire do sponsored posts, I do not judge them for that. I get really annoyed “only” when every post is a sponsored post or when they choose to accept some blatantly wrong advice. Slipping a link is one thing and accepting a post that list 5 ways payday loans are awesome is an entirely different thing. Just my 2c.

    • I haven’t taken any money from PayDay loans. One side of me says no way every, but another side says take their money if they are going to pay me money to keep basically saying never use their services. I guess we’ll see what I decided if that situation ever arises.

  17. Whenever I feel conflicted about making money, I dig deeper into what’s causing it. There’s usually something wrong that I did that makes me question whether I really acted according to my morals.

    • I really think for me it’s my journey to get out of debt and stop spending money on stupid things. When I see a patient heading down the same road I was on, it makes me want to cringe, but it’s really not my place to say anything. I’m not sure about blogging yet. I want to make money, but maybe I don’t?

  18. I dislike DRM. I think it hurts average users and doesn’t affect actual piracy. But as an ebook publisher, I have had a client who insisted on including it. I did, but I’ve always felt somewhat dirty about it.

  19. Definitely NOT a post about nothing, but instead, some very valuable info here, Kim! I always say people who stay true to themselves sleep better. Running your business, whatever it is, with integrity, helps to ensure people will trust you, which will help to advance your biz. A very wise and needed post, Kim. Thank you!!

  20. I always feel conflicted about selling. I know what I have is worth the cost and current customers are happy but it’s hard for me to persuade others without feeling sleazy.

  21. As a new blogger, I don’t mind making money from banner advertising.

    But I don’t think I would feel comfortable with sponsored posts or constantly pitching 3rd party affiliate products. I feel like this kind of marketing destroys the quality of thought in a blog and will eventually alienate readers.

    Of course, if I lost my job and had to live by blogging, I’d have no choice but to throw my standards out the window in favor of survival.

    • I don’t think I could ever do a post pitching some product I don’t love and use myself. I have been asked to do posts about the new Discover card, which I’m sure is a fine card, but I’ve never had one in my life. It’s hard to tell someone else how great it is.

  22. I don’t consider making money from my blog as being a sellout or a conflict of interest. I just make it a point to offer only the things that I think my readers will find valuable. There are some times where it could go either way, as in “will more people than not find this helpful?” That is the line I have a hard time figuring out. I’ve passed on a lot of opportunities because of this.

    • I hear you. I personally would have no interest in reading a post about how to get the best car loan, because I never intent to have one again. On the other hand, many people do have to have car loans, so if you can give them steps to not waste money, you are doing them a solid. Sometimes I have to take me out of the equation and think about what advice people are hoping to find.

  23. This is really interesting, largely because no, I’ve never felt guilty. I’ve never been in a job that sold products; in fact, I’ve spent my entire career in communications, where we’re selling to advertisers, not consumers.

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