Welcome to another income report and update on the business side of this here little food blog! I started posting these income reports as a way to share honestly with you about my growth and the behind the scenes business of the website.. and the struggles and successes along the way. If you’ve been following along, you may have noticed I haven’t posted one in a few months! That’s because, as you could probably guess, business (and being your own boss) is, well, busy.
If you’ve never read an income report before, read more about why I’m doing them in this very first one!. The short of it is that before I started this blog, other blogger’s monthly reports were so helpful for me when I was figuring all of this out for myself. And I’ve wanted to do it since the first month this blog started, the month I made $0.27, as a way to document all I’m changing, growing and learning along the way. I really just hope it serves as a way to inspire YOU to do something for yourself too, as just a passion project, side hustle, or full-blown business. Having something that’s 100% mine, that I 100% LOVE to do has changed my life.
I truly hope the information in this post gives you a little insight and motivation if you’re new to this whole blog thing. And check out my post on how to start a blog for a step-by-step of how I did it if you’re interested in giving it a go too! It was truly one of the best decisions I’ve made, even though I had no idea it would be back then! The tutorial I wrote on starting one is everything I wish I would have had before I had to google for 23 hours on how to set one up!
Since we spoke last in the previous food blog income report, the rebrand and new website went live (!!), I started working on my cookbook (!!!), my traffic has hit new highs each new month (!!), I started a podcast (!!), started exploring video and the impact it’s having on my RPM aka ad revenue (!!), and probably more that I can’t think of right now. But there are the biggies.
So, obviously with all of that going on (mostly the book), my work days are longer than ever but filled with more passion and excitement than ever! Turns out I REALLY love podcasting too. Now that the deadline is looming nearer though, I’m mostly just panicked 😉 and holding onto hope that I can get it all done on time.
Because of that, things on the blogfront have taken a backseat over the last two-ish months in terms of how many posts per week are coming out and how many brand partnerships I’m taking on. To keep my sanity, and to ensure that my best, most focused work is going into this book, I knew I’d need to scale back. I was sort of freaking out about that to begin with because writing a cookbook is VERY expensive (OMG why didn’t anyone warn me?!) and my dogs need to eat, you know? However, as time has gone on, I’ve realized that the investment of my time and energy that went into this blog from the start of it now allows it to be a living, breathing thing that I’ve built well enough for it to not need me 24/7.
That, honestly, has been the biggest sigh of relief. I’ve been able to allocate the funds needed from the “passive” income and pump the brakes on working on my usual amount of sponsored posts. Quotes around passive, because I 100% believe there’s no such thing as passive income. I know better than to call any of what went into creating this “passive”. However, I’m seeing that I can slow down and still see the payout on my “investment” (aka: time spent and sacrifices made). That being said, I hope that serves as a bit of inspiration to YOU to keep working at it and then one day get to see the results and reward.
The lightbulb moment came when my boyfriend and I were on an anniversary trip we had planned (before the book contract). Prior to going, I had one of the more dramatic stress-induced breakdowns I’ve had in a good while. I was actually dreading going and taking ANY time off but then Justin’s grandma passed away 10 hours before our flight was to take off, and I felt terrible seeing him upset, then that complied onto my stress about the manuscript deadline coming up so fast, and I felt like I’ve been letting my blog readers down, not going fast enough and getting enough done for the book, like it wouldn’t be good enough, like I don’t have any right to take this vacation, about never posting to instagram, sucking at everything, and falling behind schedule. The thought of leaving when I’m already struggling with putting out content here, spending more money when I’m already feeling like I’m hemorrhaging it.. well, it was a long, ugly cry.
Long story short, we went, of course. And the break was so needed and rejuvenating, of course. BUT what it showed me when I got home and looked at the numbers was that A) my blog traffic was totally fine, and normal. And normal, which as you’ll read about in the rebrand section, is actually BETTER than before and B) I still made $1,800 while we were away, which I reminded myself is enough to pay the mortgage being Justin didn’t have any PTO after having to rush back to be with his family unexpectedly for the whole week before we left, and… it’s going to be okay. And that was even WITH a day of my website being down while I was in Rome.
Yeah, that was a fun (read: stressful AF) few hours on the phone trying to get my site back up while in Italy. Having your site down is already the WORST, most helpless, scary feeling, and being in a foreign country with limited connection and a 7 hour time difference made it all the worse. Which just proves this point even further though: even when it’s not perfect, even though things will happen, stressing over what I can’t change/do doesn’t really get anything accomplished, and it’ll all be juuuust fine because I will make it so.
It was then that the lightbulb moment allowed me to see I made the right choice in giving myself the breather from “hustling” on the blog side. A reminder that there are times to do that, and times to pull back, and that it will still be here doing the thing I built it to do without my “mothering” it 24/7 while I chase after other dreams and goals! A reminder that I can’t do it all, but I did prioritize correctly. This time 😉
Pumping the Brakes
So, what does pump the brakes on sponsored posts actually mean? Great question. In most months prior to trying to write a cookbook, about 50-70% of my income came from partnering with brands to incorporate their product into a recipe. What that looks like now is that I’m turning down most offers I receive, and I’ve chosen to keep my partnerships only to the brands I have pre-existing long-term contracts with (except for podcast sponsorships, which is something I manage for our show). Unlike other revenue streams, sponsored posts are NOT passive.
Branded content takes so much extra work (as opposed to just a recipe I write for the blog on my own). It includes hours and days of going back and fourth via email to figure out the budget, usually negotiating on said budget, the contract stage, getting approval on my images and copy I’ve written, making sure my audience’s needs are going to be met along with the brands, sending campaign reports, etc. etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE partnering with the brands I believe in and products I think are helpful for my community. It’s one of my favorite parts about this job! Just sayin’, it’s a lot more work.
Anywho, all that to say 50-70% of my income is… a lot. And I was nervous about losing that. At the end of the day though, I’d be more upset to put out a book that I didn’t put my everything into, so that takes priority over any amount of money. My boyfriend also reminded me that for almost a year I made jack (zero) from the blog, and that work paid off, and so will this work, which put it into perspective and made the choice clearer. Bless him.
*Note- you will see a larger dollar amount on sponsored posts in this particular income report, because of a larger payment that was 30 days late for a long-term contract I had. Which, as I’ve mentioned in past income reports, is the nature of this business. Invoicing someone in August, and not actually seeing the money for the work you did starting back in June until the end of October. It sucks sometimes, especially if you’re counting on that money, not going to lie, but I’m a lot less feisty about it now that it’s here than I was when I was broke and waiting for it, haha!
Update After the Rebrand
SO many people put the fear of God into me prior (and immediately after) it went live. I was told that my blog traffic “would never recover” and that rebranding was “the biggest mistake you could have made for your food blog”. I mean, after spending 10k and 6+ months working on it, a highly respected guy in the blogging world ripped me a new one and had me in tears the day after all of this hard work went live. But, I also had SO many people tell me that it would be just fine, SEO would go back to normal, that if I figured out how to build a semi-successful blog in 18 months, I have nothing to worry about, and that following my gut and my heart here would be the right choice.
The latter group was right. And I’m so thankful I listened to them.
The first full 3 months since it went live have been my best months ever in terms of traffic. My traffic didn’t tank like those people told me it would, it’s BETTER than any month prior AND I’m posting less (low-key doing a victory dance around them.. but.. a humble victory dance).
Other quantifiable info & why I think that’s happened:
- My email list has grown by 5k – well planned and well placed opt-in forms with an enticing freebie
- Pinterest followers have grown by 2k – social icons much more visible than previously, top of screen on mobile
- Bounce rate went down, more time spent on site, more comments being received, recipe ratings – all chalked up to how much faster the site is after the overhaul, and a WAY more user-friendly layout, functionality, navigation, and website map. Making the site more user-friendly and having a website that worked FOR my readers was the main goal to begin with, so I’m over the moon about this result because it tells me you’re not having a hard time accessing the info or recipes. My whole intent with this overall is to make your life easier, and the new site does that so much better than the old one.
Not only are the numbers better, but my heart is better. My mindset is better, and I’m so much more at “home” here and feeling like myself. It’s the website I dreamed of, I’m passionate about the message it sends about health, and I’m glad every day I get on it that I went for it and didn’t listen to h8ers.
Alright alright, we’re done with the updates.
Here’s the Income Deets
Income is counted as what I have physically received in the month of October, not for the work I did. Typically sponsored posts don’t pay out for 30 days, affiliates don’t pay out for 30-60 days, and ad networks (I’m with Mediavine) don’t pay out for 60-90 days.
Meaning, income from ads this month was in relation to my page views from July.
Sponsored Posts: $5,846.02
*Food: My food costs are outrageous right now. Even though I try to shop sales, buy cheaper meat, etc. I’m spending between $250-500 a week while testing and developing cookbook recipes (+ the blog). It sounds like a lot, but I need to have 6-7 fully formed recipes per week, each tested at *least* twice if it works out the first time, so we’re looking at a minimum of 12-14 recipes per week + food styling items, not counting blog recipes.
Assistant/Content Manager: $560.00
Bookkeeping (paid quarterly): 350.00
PayPal Fees – $243.98
MailChimp: $75.00 (monthly)
Tailwind (Pinterest scheduler): $10 (monthly)
Lightroom/Photoshop: $10 (monthly)
Software needed: $159.00
G-Suite (Google emails, drives): 20.00
External hard drive additional storage & computer needs: $60.00 + $80.00
Photography needs (memory card, tripod geared pan/tilt head) – $30 + $235
Total: $1,832.98, *food costs not included in total number because my recipts are a mess.. somewhere in the ballpark of 1,500-2,000 this month
*I want to note a LOT of my income the last year has gone directly back into the business in the form of the redesign, equipment and developing the cookbook. It’s all been a BIG investment, thousands of dollars, but one I’m excited about and think is so, so worth it. This is the first full calendar year of this blog as a business, and my accountant keeps reminding me that most businesses aren’t even profitable for the first few years, so not to feel bad that I’m spending so much (what he means: not to feel bad that I’m not making so much haha!).
*Also note this doesn’t include 35% of my monthly income (before expenses) that goes to taxes (paid quarterly). If you do the math, it breaks down to about $3,500 for taxes, $1,800 in expenses, $1,500 in food, then add internet, related expenses for office/necessary kitchen needs and bills, gas going to the grocery store every 2 days, the real “income” looks more like $2,000-3,000 for my actual bills and life.
Absolutely not complaining! I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. I just want to give a real-life look as to how that awesome looking number next to “income” is truly breaking down right now at this phase of my business 🙂
Lots of Growing
Holy moly! Check out the income report for 1 year ago, last October! I just found it when looking the one I wrote about sponsored posts, and wow, it’s so crazy to go back and read it, and see how much has changed.
This isn’t what I was going to end with, but when I came across that, it felt right. So, I want to leave you with this, a snippet of what I wrote 1 year ago here. It’s still 100% true today – and maybe even more. I have worked harder this past year than I think that woman who wrote this knew she’d work (yep, still up at 5am, it’s actually 5:02am right now!), have been told bigger no’s to bigger dreams, and worked for victories larger than myself last year would even have thought possible then, and, just like I wrote then, it’s still so, SO worth all of it.
From October last year: I want to be clear about something. The money wasn’t handed to me. I’ve spent months up all hours of the night or getting up at 5am to get blog stuff done before my “regular” day has to begin. I spent months getting only 4 hours of sleep after a 12 hour overnight shift at my “real job” so I can be in the kitchen, create recipes and take photographs in the natural light before heading back to work for another 12 hour overnight shift because I have a bigger dream. I research, network, edit photos, create graphics and respond to emails every possible free minute I get while waiting in lines, before bed, on break at work. I’ve spent months feeling like I was a tree falling in a deserted forest waiting for the page views that told me maybe I’m not just shouting into the internet void. I worked for and celebrated what were huge victories to me then (the 10k page view month, 20k, then 60k) and used them to push me to work harder for bigger victories the next month.
There’s been lots of “no’s”, lots of failures, 6 hours spent researching how to do something and lots of oops and yeah, shouldn’t have done thats, but I wouldn’t trade my blog for anyone else’s and I really, really hope these income reports can be a source of inspiration for you to create (and work hard!) on your own labor of love.
Can You Make Money Blogging?
Hey. You. With the goal to pay off your student debit (yeah, me too), or with the dream to not have to put your bills on your credit card (I’ve been there), or not have to work overtime (pulled 16 hour shifts constantly!), or to have something of your own, a new hobby to be passionate and excited to do, or maybe you’ve just hit your max on hours you can spend after work watching Netflix (is that possible?) and want something else to put brain power into – I TRULY believe that if I could patchwork together a site with no tech or photography or business or culinary arts background, make it profitable in 7 months, quit my job in 9, without taking fancy blogging courses (credit cards were for my bills, remember?), that you can find what you’re looking for out of blogging too.
I have a really detailed step-by-step guide to setting up a blog, and a growing list of blog resources that I use on my own blog. If you need any further help, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments! Remember, it’s not a race though, I solely used my experience there because I wanted to show you that because I was dedicated and needing some side income, I found a way to make it happen. And I believe you can too. There’s room for all of us.
‘Til next month! And, as always, thank you for your support, and for your trust in me. None of this is possible without you, and I promise to keep trying my best to help you change your life from a place of gratitude for how you’ve changed mine.
xo, – B