Guys, my palms are sweating as I type this. Putting your income out there for the world to see is kind of terrifying, I’ve gotta say.
But, that’s actually one of the reasons I knew I had to do this.
“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” -Seth Godin
I like to live by this adage and sharing my blogging income reports is, in no uncertain terms, the scariest thing I’ve done all year.
So, you may be wondering why exactly I decided to start publishing income reports after nearly four years of blogging. Why would any blogger openly share what they earn with the world?!
Lots of reasons, actually. Allow me to explain…
Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Sweetest Way!
Why I’ve Decided to Start Sharing Blogging Income Reports
To be a better resource for bloggers and online entrepreneurs – For the first two years of my blogging career, I blogged under a different name (I’m sure some of you remember). I wrote about travel but lacked a specific focus, and I had no clear path for turning my site into a business at that time.
By my third year, I knew location independence was the niche I wanted to pursue, and so with my rebrand came a shift toward more useful content for others hoping to earn a living online so they could work from anywhere.
Nowadays, rather than exclusively sharing travel stories that entertain a few and help no one, my energy is spent supporting others as they create their ideal travel lifestyle, whether through remote work, freelancing, or entrepreneurship. This blog here is my baby, my vision for the future–and while I’ve written at length on themes like building side hustles or finding freelance work, I’ve yet to really dive into the nuts and bolts of making money through blogging.
I believe these income reports will make my site all the more valuable to you, my loyal readers and fellow dream chasers.
To help myself stay more organized throughout the year – This may come as a shock to
absolutely no one some of you, but I’m not the most organized person you’ll ever meet. I’ve never been good at setting up systems or tracking data or crunching numbers, so by committing to sharing my income reports with you each month, I’ll be forced into the habit of staying on top of my shit for once. And, believe it or not, this is useful when you’re trying to grow a business!
To reflect on what’s working and what’s not – One of my biggest mistakes over the last few years has been my failure to stop at regular intervals and reflect on what’s been happening within my business. Even worse, when things haven’t been going my way, instead of stopping to ask “But why?” I’m usually on to the next thing before you know it.
“Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor.” -Warren Buffett
What I’m saying is, I suffer from a mean case of Shiny Object Syndrome, and it’s been one of my biggest downfalls. So, these income reports will offer an opportunity to dig into why certain things aren’t working and why others are so I can adjust my sails accordingly and rediscover my path to prosperity.
For more accountability – With a firmer grasp on what’s working, I can set appropriate goals to work toward. Not only will this give me more direction in my day to day dealings, but stating these goals in a public forum will add a layer of accountability that didn’t exist before; my hope is that this will leave me more motivated than ever to work diligently toward them.
Because other bloggers’ income reports have helped me immensely – I’ve known for quite some time how valuable blogging income reports can be; I’ve drawn so much wisdom, guidance, and inspiration from the income reports of so many other bloggers–including blogs I follow religiously and bloggers whose site I’m landing on for the very first time. If my own blogging income reports can be of value to even one person, I’ll know it was worth it.
A Few Other Things Worth Mentioning
Because I’ve never openly discussed my income before, there are a few things I want to make sure are crystal clear before we get to what you really came here for, the numbers:
These income reports will cover BLOGGING income only – For the last several years, I have been living a digital nomad lifestyle thanks to a combination of freelancing jobs and a small amount of income generated by this blog. However, in recent months, I decided to give blogging full-time a real go, and by the end of March 2017, I’d given up every last one of my freelancing jobs to focus on this site and this site alone.
Essentially, I went from earning a comfortable monthly income to once again having The Fear, but the timing felt right for a few reasons:
- I was finally earning a decent chunk of money from my blog each month
- I was getting ready to settle in Washington state, in a small town where I knew my living expenses would be quite low
- I wasn’t planning to travel nearly as often anymore, particularly internationally
- I had money in savings to use as a safety net if necessary
- I have a super-supportive partner who splits all the bills with me and helps keep me sane
These factors combined to create an opportunity for me to finally take a chance on myself, knowing that even if my income didn’t grow rapidly right away, I’d at least cover my expenses.
This amount of income did not happen overnight – The last thing I’d want is for someone to stumble upon this post and think I’ve earned this much money in my first month of blogging. NOT SO. While there are definitely people out there who have grown blogs insanely fast and started earning almost immediately, I am not one of those people.
My background is in nutritional science, for god sake–things like business, marketing, coding, SEO, and the list goes on, were SO far outside my realm of understanding when I started blogging that, for me, the learning curve was steep. And while I was learning all of these new skills, I had bills to pay, which is where freelancing came in. The blog grew slowly while most of my energy was focused on making money elsewhere, so what you see in this income report is the result of three years of part-time blogging by someone who had zero skills from the outset.
I guess my point in telling you all this is that anyone can earn money through blogging if they have enough patience, and please, for the love of God, be patient–this didn’t come quickly or easily for me, and it might not come quickly or easily for you, either.
This income report will not be 100% comprehensive (yet) – For the time being, I will be reporting my earnings only, not my expenses. This is simply for the sake of convenience right now, but I plan to include expenses and other relevant numbers (like site traffic) in later income reports.
I’ll be using cash accounting – What you’ll see is the total amount that was actually paid into my accounts that month. In many cases, I earned the money much earlier–every ad or affiliate partner I work with has their own payout schedule so money shows up in my account at strange times. I will do my best to explain this wherever possible.
I am primarily focused on building passive income streams – Below, you will see five major categories (Display Ads, Affiliate Marketing, Sponsored Content, E-Book Sales, & Miscellaneous) and subcategories where applicable. The Miscellaneous category is for one-off or infrequent income sources, including the occasional Pinterest consult, a remnant of my former life as a Pinterest manager and consultant.
These categories will be included in each monthly report whether I’ve earned any money from that particular source or not; the majority of my energy is spent building up the streams that are passive, such as affiliate marketing.
Your feedback is very valuable to me – If you have ideas for how these income reports can be improved or things you’d like to see included in next month’s report, please leave me a comment and let me know. I want these to serve YOU and YOUR needs in addition to my own, so discussion is highly encouraged.
So, get on with it, Leah. How much did your blog earn in July 2017?
Okay, finally we’ve reached the good stuff. Here’s the breakdown…
Display Ads – $348.03
- Mediavine – $348.03 (April earnings)
Affiliate Marketing – $433.44
Remote Job Sites
- FlexJobs – $15
E-Book Sales – $11.23
Sponsored Content – $0
Miscellaneous – $175
- Pinterest consulting – $75
- Link placement – $100
Total Earnings: $967.70
I’ve been a Mediavine publisher for nine months now, during which time my traffic has, unfortunately, remained fairly steady. Despite this stagnation, the earnings are still a drastic improvement from my earlier attempts at implementing Google Adsense on my own (which earned me $100 every three months if I was lucky).
For the month of July, I earned an RPM (rate per thousand impressions) of $7.71, which is lower than previous months. As recently as May, my earned RPM was $9.65. Looking at my dashboard I can see that my ads aren’t performing as well as they could be, so it’s up to me to see where improvements can be made.
I receive Mediavine payouts 75 days from the end of the month they are earned (this is also called NET 75), so the amount reported this month is what I earned in April. For smaller blogs, their program is a great option (you need 30,000 monthly page views before you can apply).
I would love to see more earnings from this income stream, which is largely passive; improving traffic is always a goal, and I’m happy to say I’ll finally be getting some professional help on this front starting this month (more on that below).
I think one of my strengths in this area is that I’ve got many irons in the fire. Despite the fact that no single income stream is enormous on its own, together they add up, and if one performs poorly, the others make up for it. I’m a huge proponent of diversification for this very reason.
That said, I think I need to focus on one source at a time to improve conversions and make each one a powerhouse in its own right.
My favorite affiliate programs at this point are those offered by bloggers who sell their own digital products. The payouts are high (up to 50% commission on courses that cost $197, for example) and since helping people build online businesses is a part of my niche, it’s fitting for me to promote courses related to blogging, SEO, affiliate marketing and the like. These are courses that I have paid for and taken myself before promoting them, so I can personally vouch for their value.
Recently, to keep better track of my various affiliate partnerships, I created a spreadsheet where I list each affiliate, my contact person, login details, commission rate, and whether or not I’ve created a blog post for that particular affiliate partner. This has proven beneficial, but I will admit I could still make better use of it, for example by recording the date I most recently shared each post.
What I fail to do month over month is to consistently promote my best affiliate blog posts. Most of this affiliate content is evergreen, meaning I can continue to share it long after its original publishing date. The other area I could most certainly improve upon is updating posts that are not performing as well as they could be–if my clickthrough rates are low, I need to start figuring out why and testing various solutions.
I could also stand to revisit the course material in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing for a refresher. Taking that course is what allowed me to build up my affiliate earnings to where they are now (and this was not my best month by any stretch) but there is always room for improvement.
Sales of my e-book were nearly nonexistent in July, which points squarely to my need to improve my sales funnels, both on the site and through automated email sequences.
The only sale I had came from a limited-time coupon code sent to my email list giving them 30% off the purchase price. I use ConvertKit’s tagging feature to know which of my subscribers are potential e-book buyers–if they click on a link to my e-book, they are tagged with “Potential Buyer” (how appropriate, right?). A specific promotion like this goes out to a small segment only to avoid unsubscribes.
I was also THRILLED to find out ConvertKit was releasing a new feature, visual automations. This will be an enormous help as I improve upon my existing e-book sales funnel.
On the site, I’ve long had aspirations of updating my sales page to a WooCommerce store, and that is still one of my goals. I think it’ll make for a more engaging user experience that may just lead to more sales.
Lastly, I’ve taken on several new bloggers as affiliates for my e-book in recent months and have so far neglected to follow up with them. That is definitely my bad.
Do you blog about the digital nomad lifestyle or location freedom? Email me to become an affiliate for my book Take Your Life Back: Finding Freedom Through Location Independence. I offer 50% commission.
This is the income stream I am the least proactive about pursuing; if a company reaches out to me and we’re a good fit, I’ll go for it, but the majority of pitches I receive either a) aren’t a good match for my brand or b) they don’t agree to my rates.
Additionally, this kind of work requires a direct exchange of time for money; it is in no way passive and therefore my lowest priority.
I did work on a few paid campaigns in July, however, and both involved heavy use of Instagram, which I am now realizing is an area that still deserves my attention regardless of my love-hate relationship with the platform.
I’ve always said that I want my business to revolve around my website and not social media, but with nearly 20,000 Instagram followers I am at a tipping point where brands are now interested in Instagram-only campaigns. If the shoe fits, I may just wear it.
Speaking of Instagram, I’m hosting 10 days of giveaways starting TODAY, August 8th. I’ve got lots of cool prizes, including some valued at more than $100! Head there now to find out how to enter today’s drawing!
Goals for August
Develop a content strategy with the help of an SEO consultant – For the next three months (minimum), I’ll be working with Megan Clarke of Clapping Dog Media to improve my web presence and optimize my site for Google searches.
While traffic is certainly a primary goal, so are things like increasing conversions on affiliate links, gaining email subscribers, and tailoring content to the needs of my ideal audience. I think this will be a hugely beneficial investment and I’m super pumped to share the results with you.
Share my best affiliate posts on a rotating schedule – To do this, I plan to make a list of my top performing affiliate posts and decide where to share them and how often. I will use Buffer to schedule posts on Twitter, Facebook’s own scheduling tool for my Facebook page, and a written schedule for Pinterest (because I am currently pinning manually, not with a scheduling tool). I will also create new pinnable graphics for each of these posts.
Follow up with new e-book affiliates – I will email everyone who showed an interest in helping promote my book and offer them any support they need in the form of marketing materials, assistance in promoting their reviews, etc.
Consolidate my affiliate partnerships and apply for new programs – I’m currently part of several different affiliate networks, and some are definitely better than others. It will be useful (and less stressful) to consolidate my favorite brands into a few networks so I can reach payout thresholds faster and have fewer logins to keep track of. Additionally, I have not applied to any new programs in awhile so I could stand to spend some time searching for great new brands and products to promote.
Learn why my display ads aren’t performing well and implement changes – Mediavine gives each major ad unit a performance score along with recommendations for improving that score, so I’ll read through their documentation and make changes where necessary to see if I can improve August’s Session RPM.
Next month, I’ll kick things off with a recap of my goals for the month and whether or not I reached them before diving into next month’s earnings. I’d also love to start sharing traffic reports to provide additional context to these numbers.
If this was useful to you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. If this was not useful to you, I’d love to hear from you, too so I know where I can improve.
I’d love to know what other blogging topics you are specifically interested in, whether you’re curious about the tools I use to run my blog, how I stay on top of a never-ending to-do list (hint: I don’t) or what it’s like being a blogger in a place where no one else “gets it.”
Last but not least, thank you, as always, for reading. This journey would mean nothing if I couldn’t share it with you guys.
Looking for more posts on blogging?
- Blog Post Checklist: 25 Things Every Blog Post Must Contain Before Hitting Publish
- Blogging for Beginners: 5 Skills to Master from the Start
- 10 Steps to Creating Blog Content That Doesn’t Suck
- Want to Become Location Independent This Year? Consider Starting a Blog
- 8 Affiliate Networks to Join to Start Earning Passive Income
- How to Quickly Create Multiple Pinterest Pins: PicMonkey & Canva Tutorials
Until next month!