It’s time again for my monthly income report! If you’re curious what this is all about, I started a back-end overhaul of the business aspect of my blog on August 1st, and I want to share my results with you monthly. Why share? Well, a few reasons:
- Accountability: I want you all to hold me accountable. Keep me in check if I stray off the straight and narrow. Turning your blog into a money-making venture is often a delicate balance between authentic and smarmy, and I really want to err on the side of authentic—and I’m hoping you guys will help keep me there.
- Transparency: I think it’s hard to be authentic when all things financial and traffic related are hidden under a cloak of mystery. I’m hoping by sharing my numbers and stats, we’ll all feel a little more comfortable with the business side of my blog.
- Motivation: My goal is to make the work I put into this blog “worth” my time financially. The problem is, I love doing what I do here so much that I’d do it for free. That doesn’t really light a fire under me to work on the business side! By sharing my financials every month, I hope to motivate myself to keep on keepin’ on the road to figuring out how to make this blog financially efficient.
- Inspiration: Maybe along the way, I can figure out a thing or two and help inspire some other bloggers out there to find out how they can make their own blog more successful and profitable. That’d be super cool.
We’ve been running behind a few months on the past few reports, but this one is finally getting to the good stuff! I officially started my charge to make more moohlah on August 1st, and this report you’re reading right now is for August. So how’d I’d do for the first month? Well, let me show you…
Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.
- Sponsored Content — $775
- BlogHer — $417.14
- souvrn — $152.16
- The Blogger Network — $146.13
- Yellow Hammer Media — $120.26
- Amazon Ads — $77.52
- Swoop — $76.49
- Adsense — $63.58
- GourmetAds — $55.00
- How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook Affiliate — $42.50
- Today’sMama — $31.96
- Amazon Affiliates — $27.31
- ZipList — $13.35
- Media.net — $5.28
Total Income: $2003.68
Thoughts on Income
I’ve talked in previous income reports about there being about a million items on my list of things I’d like to do to improve my blog and my business. Honestly, it is really overwhelming to think about all the things I want to accomplish! So when I first set out to make a change, I decided to set one goal for myself, and pursue that one goal. And that goal was to make the most out of what I already had. Sure, I could do a major push to gain followers. Or I could write an eBook. Or I could do a complete redesign. But first, I needed to get my ducks in a row with the stuff I already had. Eventually, I’d love to do all of those things, but August was all about making sure my foundation was strong before I moved onto big, new, shiny things.
What you don’t know can hurt you.
Until I read this book on monetizing blogs (I know I promote this book a lot, but I swear, it changed my life), I had no idea how much cash I was throwing down the drain by not optimizing my ads. August was my month for figuring out my ad situation. I went from five ad networks in July, to running 10 networks in August—with the same number of ad spaces. My goal was to figure out what ad networks worked best for my blog and my readers. Everyday in August, I’d login, check my stats for the previous day and rearrange and move things if I needed to. By the end of August, I had figured out my optimal setup (for now) and have been running it ever since with monumental success. My ad revenue alone increased by nearly $500 in one month! And that’s actually with less traffic in August, and the same number of ad spaces.
So what’s my current setup? Well, I’m running BlogHer and the Blogger Network as my main ad networks, and then I have some secondary ads (mostly buried within posts) that run other networks. It’s working so well for me! My hope is that it will continue to work well enough that I can actually work on removing some of the ad spaces (like that super annoying sticky ad on the bottom of the page) in my redesign. Obviously, it’s a balancing act, but my preference will be to have fewer ads in my new design, but that function better, and therefore, garner a higher rate from sponsors.
- Food Expenses — $221.42
- Foodie Studiopress Child Theme — $33.71
- AcceleratedWP (Hosting) — $30.00
- ViralTag (Pinterest Scheduling Service)— $29.00
- Tasty Food Photography eBook — $19.00
- Vaultpress (Backup Service) — $15.00
- How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook — $15.00 <—best money I’ve ever spent!
- CoSchedule (Editorial Calendar)— $10.00
- DropBox (Cloud Storage)— $9.99
Total Expenses: $383.12
Thoughts on Expenses
Get me some learnin.
You’d think, being that I’ve been doing this blogging thing for over four years, I’d know what the heck I was doing, but I have no dang clue! Like I mentioned above about ads, I’ve been really in the dark about how to run this blog as business for years. But thankfully, there are people out there who not only do it well, but do it well and then spread their knowledge with the rest of us. I’ve already waxed on about how much the How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook has changed my business, but I’m also applying the same desire to grow to another important aspect of my business—photography.
You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been working really hard to improve my food photography. I’ve always had the elements to take good photos—the eye, the equipment, the knowledge—but I’ve mostly just been lazy about it in the past. Too lazy to grab my tripod. Too lazy to set up my diffuser. Too lazy to style the food well. But then I did some research and realized that my most popular posts also happen to be the posts with some of my better photography. Coincidence? I think not. Ever since then, I’ve been really trying to put the time into good photos. It’s funny that I always short-changed myself on that part. I work hard to craft a recipe and write engaging content, but then I’d sell myself short with not-so-great photos.
I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this food photography thing. I am 100% self-taught (well, my photographer husband taught me how to work the camera, but everything else is me, myself, and I), and so I’m still definitely an amateur, and I’m absorbing information from almost anywhere I can get it. One of my favorite food photo resources is Pinch of Yum (they also do awesome income reports similar to these). I like that they are amateurs and give tips and tricks based on an amateur food blogger’s knowledge and resources. I’m just getting started reading their book, Tasty Food Photography, but it has already helped me improve my photos immensely.
I had a lazy photographer relapse moment last week. I was in a rush to get the photos for the Butterfinger Ice Box Cake done, so I just quickly grabbed my camera and put the cake on a backdrop on the floor and shot the photos. When I loaded the photos in Lightroom, I knew I was going to need to reshoot them. It was a recipe and post I worked hard on—it deserved better photos! So I went back out the kitchen, set up my whole studio and re-shot them. If I just would have done that in the first place, I would have saved so much time. Lesson learned. Shoot good photos the first time. My work deserves to be represented well. I’m amazed at the lessons I am learning everyday with this project!
Tools of the trade.
You’ll notice two new items in the Expenses list that are going to be monthly charges—CoSchedule and ViralTag. CoSchedule is the editorial calendar I’ve been using for my site, and it has changed my life! Before, I was just using Google Calendar to keep track of my posts, but CoSchedule is also a social media calendar, meaning I can not only schedule my posts, but also my Facebook posts and Tweets for each post, making everything run much more efficiently.
Unfortunately, CoSchedule doesn’t work with Pinterest, so in order to leverage Pinterest well, I subscribed to ViralTag to help me schedule my pins. ViralTag has been easy to work with, and it’s really nice because I can schedule my pins during prime Pinterest time—even when those times don’t align with my work time. ViralTag can be a bit buggy at times (sometimes it likes to vomit out all my pins at once instead of spacing them out—apologies if you follow me and have seen 40,000 of the same pins at one time), but they are constantly working to improve it.
Take Home Pay
Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month. To figure the hourly wage, I estimate I work 100 hours per month on my blog, so I divide that take home pay by 100.
Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
Hourly Wage = Take Home Pay/100
This month’s take home:
Woohoo! That’s a little bit better than the paltry $3 an hour I was clocking in back in June and July. I will say that that 100 hour estimate that I was originally using to figure out my hourly wage might be a bit off now. The amount of time I spend on my blog has increased significantly over the past few months—I might be refiguring that number in upcoming reports.
Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for August was:
I am so happy to see this number! As a frame of reference, decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM.
This number right here tells me that I’m doing a pretty darn good job now of making the most income possible from the amount of traffic I have. In July, my RPM was $1.93, which means I increased my RPM by nearly 400%! In one month! Exclamation points!!! I think this proves that, while yes, it’d be nice to grow readership, the most important thing to do first is to make sure your making the most out of what you currently have. This number tells me that in August, I achieved my one goal of getting my foundation squared away. And now, I can move onto bigger and better ideas!
Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from August.
Top 10 Referring Sources
10 Most Popular Pages
Thoughts on Traffic
- If you’re a big Pinterest user, you may have noticed that there have been changes recently to the way it’s displaying content to users. Instead of being strictly chronological (like Twitter), Pinterest is going the way of Facebook and using a “smart feed”—basically, they use an algorithm to decide what is displayed in your feed at what time. It’s scary territory for bloggers because it means we can no longer control who gets to see our stuff. Considering I consistently get a third of my traffic via Pinterest, it makes me a little nervous to see such a big shift. That being said, not putting all my eggs in one traffic-driving basket is an important lesson to learn! I’m going to start looking into other options for driving traffic to my site (StumbleUpon looks promising!).
- I have to be honest, it’s a little disheartening to see no posts from the past six months on my most popular pages list. Intellectually, I understand it’s probably because those posts have been around longer and have had more time to circulate and become popular, but emotionally, I’ve worked so hard over the past few months to put in the time and effort to make quality content. I have to keep reminding myself that a large part of making a business successful (any business) is just slogging away day-in and day-out. You work hard, do good work, be a good person, and things will go your way. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not for a while. But they will go your way.
Next Steps & Other Thoughts
Now that my foundation is set, the next big undertaking is a redesign! Not only does Wholefully just desperately need a new look, but, more importantly, there are some serious functionality changes that need to happen. Most importantly, I am working hard to get my recipes in order—they’re a mess (and in two different places) right now! I also am working hard to optimize how ads display, both from a user and an advertiser perspective.
With the redesign, I’m also planning on going about it in a more professional way. I’ll be hiring a developer to work on some of the more complicated aspects of the new functionality, and I also plan on doing user-testing to make sure everything is fit as a fiddle before it goes live to the masses. That means the whole process is taking a lot longer than the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am style of design work I’ve done in the past. You are more than welcome to chime in in the comments with things that you like/dislike on websites. No guarantees I can make all requests happen, but I’d love to hear your ideas!
There are lots of little things I’m working on, too (figuring out the optimal posting schedule, working with brands, social marketing, etc.), but the redesign is my #1 priority right now. Like I mentioned up top, there are so many possibilities with this project, that I have to chunk it out and focus on one thing at a time, and right now, that thing is a redesign.
That about wraps it up for August’s report. If you’re keeping track, within one month, I increased my income by 278% ($428.54 in July to $1620.56 in August). Obviously, that big of an uptick won’t happen each month—August was a “catch up” month to help get all my previous issues that were detrimental to my income intake fixed. I am absolutely thrilled to see the numbers growing! And I hope you’ll stick with me as I keep learning. Thanks for reading!