Blogging, Entrepreneurship, Income Reports, Location Independence

The Sweetest Way’s First Ever Blogging Income Report: July 2017

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 ReportsMy first blogging income report after blogging for nearly four years! Learn how I earned nearly 1K in July 2017.

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 absolutelyย 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.

Want to start your own money-making blog? Find my best beginner advice here.

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.

Starting your own location independent lifestyle? Follow these steps to prepare financially.

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 monthย 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.

Want to know how I made money online before becoming a full-time blogger? Click here.

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

Affiliate Marketing – $433.44

Blogging Services

Online Courses

Affiliate Networks

Remote Job Sites

E-Book Sales – $11.23

Sponsored Content – $0

Miscellaneous – $175

  • Pinterest consulting – $75
  • Link placement – $100

Total Earnings: $967.70

My first blogging income report after blogging for nearly four years! Learn how I earned nearly 1K in July 2017.

The Takeaways


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).

Affiliate Marketing

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.

E-Book Sales

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.

Thinking of creating your own digital product? Read this first.

Sponsored Content

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!ย 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.

Wrapping Up

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?

Until next month!

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  • Reply Amy (Two Drifters) August 8, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Awesome, girl! I think this is very useful, and I especially love seeing what your goals are. It reminds me of things I need to focus on. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to be an affiliate for your ebook actually, I’ll email ya!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks Amy! I’d love to have you as an ebook affiliate, I’ll keep an eye out for your email ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Sky August 8, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Ahhh, thank you! This was awesome! It’s so refreshing to read an income report that actually feels relatable and attainable. Thank you for including so many details and your goals! As soon as I finish reading your book, I’ll email to be an affiliate! Would love to see in the future the tools that you use + your expenses!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Yay! So happy you liked it, Sky! I’d love to have you as an affiliate! I just put together a resource page on the blogging tools I use and love, but I might include them in my next income report too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Hayley Simpson August 8, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Hey Leah, I thought this was great and I wouldn’t change the post’s layout/headings at all.
    Hayley Simpson recently posted…A Sweet Portland Adventure + Where to Find the Best DessertsMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Cheers for the feedback Hayley! Glad you liked it!

  • Reply Serena August 8, 2017 at 9:27 am

    This is great Leah, and so informative! I’ll be reaching out for affiliation for your e-book!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      That’s great news Serena, I’ll be on the lookout for an email from you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Kristen August 8, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! As personal as it is, I think it is a key component of understanding what goes into making a living through blogging. Without true transparency, I think many bloggers assume the income is much higher or lower, and most of it is more passive than active. This was super enlightening and truly fascinating. Again, thank you!
    Kristen recently posted…On Solo Hiking and the Zen of Being OutsideMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      So happy to hear it was enlightening ๐Ÿ™‚ It has been super beneficial to me as well to be able to reflect on what I did right and wrong. I think many good things are going to come of this!

  • Reply Courtney Minor August 8, 2017 at 9:32 am

    So happy to see you posting income reports! This was very insightful & it’s motivating me to hunker down & make a plan of action.

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks Courtney! That’s great to hear!

  • Reply April | April Everyday August 8, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I love this so much! I used to read Melissa Gryffins income reports, which are just crazy figures, so it’s nice to see someone elses which is definitely a lot more achievable one day for me. I always find these kinds of things so helpful, especially when you’re trying to grow your own blog to see what kind of income to look into!
    xo April | April Everyday

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      That’s why I love them too. I always get great ideas from other peoples’ reports. And I totally get that about Melissa’s (or any other super successful blogger’s) income reports. At a certain point, it’s hard to relate to them because their results just seem so impossible for where you’re at on your own journey, or they’re dealing with issues you can’t even fathom yet. I’m still a little one-woman operation, it’s not like I’m managing a team or have the funds to hire business coaches that cost thousands of dollars!

  • Reply Brittany Quaglieri August 8, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Yes, please! I’ve been devouring everything you’ve been publishing lately and want more of it! You have such a great way of explaining things and making the (seemingly) unattainable easily within reach. I can’t thank you enough. Also, I’d love to be an affiliate for your book (that I’ve read twice in the last 6 months!). I’ll email you =)

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      You’re so sweet to say that Brittany! Looking forward to having you as an affiliate ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Erika August 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for sharing! I think it’s so awesome to put yourself out there and it will be great to see you grow even beyond what you’ve done.

    A couple of things that came to mind when I was reading:
    – What if you turned your eBook into a course? I feel like courses, even self-paced, do much better online and also can net a better return. I think people love the interactivity of courses and of course, the exclusivity of things like private Facebook groups where they can get more dedicated attention. You offer a lot of great material and I think it could be a better way to showcase your information.

    – What if you start pitching to brands that you’re already using for sponsored content? Those are the most organic partnerships anyway! This may be something you already do, but I know sponsored content tends to be good bread and butter for a lot of bloggers and it’ll highlight the tools that help you to be successful on your journey.

    – Also, a resources page would be good, too. Good place to put affiliate links and people can just get to it from the menu right away.

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Erika, you are totally right about courses being a better product to sell online. I’ve toyed with the idea of turning my book into one, but I struggle with how I would make this particular topic engaging–I’d want to create video content and I’m just not sure what parts of my book could easily translate to video.

      As for pitching for sponsored posts, I could definitely do this with brands I already use. For now, it’s probably not my biggest priority because like I said, I’m more interested in building sustainable passive income, but it’s worth considering.

      A resources page has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and you gave me the kick in the pants I needed. You can now find my blogging tools from my homepage, and I plan to add a few others (one for travel and one for finding remote work) so thank you for that!!

  • Reply stephanie August 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

    wow very useful article! thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      You’re very welcome Stephanie! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Kristin Haners August 8, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Hi Leah! Really interesting and informative post. I’ve mostly written a book that I tried to publish traditionally and failed. I think I will try to self-publish it. It that what you did? Do you recommend it? Thanks so much!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Hey Kristin! I actually just sell my book as a PDF, which was super easy to do. Then again, I sell through Gumroad only and never attempted to get my product on Amazon or any other large platforms, which would probably be a lot more work!

  • Reply Christian August 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Such a great first income report! I would be curious to know your current traffic totals so bloggers can compare it against your monthly income. I realize amount of traffic doesn’t always hold true in how much you’ll make, but it might be a good reference point for some. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Kristin Haners August 8, 2017 at 11:16 am

      I was also wondering that!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Christian! I am open to including my traffic and will probably do so in next month’s income report. I agree that it would be useful. Kind of easing into all of this slowly! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Rosie August 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Leah, thanks for being so frank. This is really such useful information. I usually despise newsletters but I genuinely enjoy receiving yours. Keep up the amazing work and also, what’s your ebook? ๐Ÿ™‚ Rosie

  • Reply Elizabeth August 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    This was a really useful post; thank you for sharing! I found it really interesting to see where you focus your attention for earning money. I’ve only just started focusing on affiliate marketing and I’m looking forward to expanding that area of income in the coming months. I’m looking forward to reading more of these posts!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Affiliate marketing is awesome! I hope to be earning significantly more from this income source in the next few months. Glad you enjoyed it Elizabeth!

  • Reply Lisa | Not On A Budget August 9, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Great results! I love Mediavine and have them on a recipe blog that I no longer update. To increase the RPM on your Mediavine earnings, this is what worked for me:

    1) go back on ALL of your old posts and make them 2-3 sentences per paragraph. (this also helps with SEO)
    2) Write long content (which it looks like you do!) but you want at least 18 paragraphs

    Mediavine will show x-amount of ads in content, as well as it differs between if a person is on Desktop or Mobile. It’s been a while, so I’m trying to confirm this, but I believe an ad shows every 4 paragraphs. And, I remember writing up to 16-18 paragraphs hit’s the maximum amount of times it appears. This post was long and would be a perfect example of length. Just make the paragraphs shorter.

    Also, the upcoming 4th quarter is def where earnings peak. On my old recipe blog, I made my most money during 4th quarter and 1st quarter. But, advertisers spend spend spend for the last push of the year so it’s def a great time to take advantage of the ad traffic.

    I can’t remember now, but I do recall even adding more images in my posts helped. But I had also been using image ads too, so that might be why.

    Hope this helps in some way!

    • Reply Leah Davis August 11, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      I’ve slowly been updating old posts to include shorter paragraphs (I used to write big clunky ones in my first year of blogging) but I mostly focus on making my new content awesome as I move forward, otherwise, I think I might go insane. I’ll definitely check all my most popular posts to make sure they are formatted properly though.

      Thanks for the tips Lisa!

  • Reply Suze - Luxury Columnist August 11, 2017 at 12:32 am

    This was really interesting, especially the part about affiliates as I’ve just signed up for CJ – have you ever tried them?

    • Reply Leah Davis August 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      I did join CJ awhile back but found their dashboard to be clunky and hard to navigate. I wound up never joining any programs and had my account deactivated as a result, lol. But I know lots of people that use it and like it, so I think itโ€™s a good option!
      Leah Davis recently posted…A Perfect Bag for Work or Play: The Machir Casual BackpackMy Profile

  • Reply monica August 12, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Leah, this was very useful to read a real income report, and the ideas and challenges you have disclosed in an honest way. I have not read all the other comments so I might be repeating something. There is a lot of information out there about how to start a blog, but not so much about how to design it. I think an e-course describing how you make your buttons, page layout, photography etc. would be very helpful. You have the talent and skills as a designer.

  • Reply Carrie August 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

    love reading these types of posts! they’re super helpful! I’m curious..why are you only pinning manually?

  • Reply Visweswar Reddy September 22, 2017 at 4:45 am

    This is an awesome and inspirational post for bloggers like me! Thanks a ton for all that inspiration and sharing all of this!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      So happy to hear that! Thank you for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

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