Well, here I am creating my very first blogging income report for my website. I used to see Pat Flynn do this and always wondered why in the world would he share that and why in the world would anyone care?
But I wasn’t motivated (significantly) by how much money he was making.
No. I wanted the freedom and the flexibility to work when I wanted and from wherever I wanted while helping others. I also wanted more time with my family and less commuting.
Those were my motivations.
I’ve come a long way since then, and have since started 3 other websites too. My perspective on almost everything has shifted too. But I realize that for those just starting out in blogging, it can be helpful to know where to focus your time and energy.
After all, there are a million gurus in internet marketing all telling you to do different things.
And if you do all those things (you know, the supposed get rich quick schemes), you’ll likely just waste a lot of time and a lot of money and not get the results you want. If I’ve figured out anything, it’s that:
- There’s nothing as important as just hitting publish on content you created (or hired writers to create)
- You aren’t going to find some magic secret that all the gurus know that you don’t which will make things accelerate super fast
- Find what is actually driving traffic to your website and double down on those actions
- Eliminate any actions that aren’t driving traffic to your website (even if the gurus say you should keep doing it)
I’m going to publish income reports quarterly rather than monthly.
So this is for the 1st quarter of 2020; Jan-March. I’ll break down both income and expenses so you can see where I generated income, and what I spent money on to do that.
GROSS REVENUE – $18,657.72
Generally speaking, my income does go up from month to month, but there have been occasional dips and spikes.
2019 was 179% better than in 2018, for example. But month over month, the increase varies between 2% and 20% with somewhere around 9% growth being about average.
Of course, I started this site in 2016 and made virtually nothing for a long time.
I made nothing in 2016, and for all of 2017, I made $1,643.56, and the bulk of that was doing contract work for an internet startup company called BublUp. They found me through this website, but the work wasn’t directly tied to my site.
Now, let’s break that down by month, category of income, and then by the website (remember, I have 4 websites, and also recently started a YouTube channel for one of those others).
Gross income was $6,116.91
Gross income was $6,032.05
Gross income was $6,508.76
Blogging Income by Category for Q1 2020
Ads on my websites – $5,407.65
I use Mediavine for the ads that appear on all 4 of my websites.
They are a great company, the ads are easy to implement, and their customer service is great. It used to be a little easier to get started with them. However, they did recently change to where they now require a minimum of 50,000 monthly sessions (not page views which will be slightly higher) to qualify.
That’s lower than AdThrive which is the other premium ad broker out there, who I believe requires 100,000 monthly sessions.
Personally, I would avoid ever using Google AdSense. You just won’t ever make much money with them. And it’s not nearly as easy to add them as it is a premium ad broker.
As an example, the last month I had AdSense ads on this site, I made $86.20 in ad revenue.
Then my first full month with Mediavine was $479.58. And it didn’t take more than a few months for that to triple. If you don’t have 50,000 monthly sessions, I would probably start using Ezoic when you’re at 10,000 monthly sessions.
Then switch to Mediavine when you hit 50,000.
If you have under 10,000 monthly sessions, you won’t generate hardly anything in ad revenue anyway, so you’re better off just waiting and focusing on content creation and driving traffic to your website.
Ads breakdown by website
Middle Class Dad – $4,381.52
Kitchen Appliance HQ – $1,026.13
The Grocery Store Guy – $0 (got approved at the end of March, but will have some impressive Q2 numbers)
Hot Tub Owner HQ – $0 (got approved at the end of May, but will have some impressive Q3 numbers)
Amazon Associates Affiliate Income – $948.67
Admittedly, Amazon isn’t a great affiliate program, it’s just easy.
The commission rates keep dropping, and honestly, in a few years, they might not even have an affiliate program. Unfortunately, other companies follow them, so you’ll also see low rates on other trusted online retailers like Walmart and Home Depot too.
But, EVERYONE knows, likes, and trusts Amazon.
That means if you recommend something from Amazon, if it solves a problem that person is having, they are likely to click over and buy it. And they are FAR more likely to do that compared to if you were linking to the same item on some website they have never heard of.
So while other internet marketing gurus are losing their shirts over the March 2020 commission rate cut, I’m just proceeding like normal. I’ll still look for new programs out there.
But if the conversion rate (the percentage of people who click over and then actually buy) is 2-3 times higher with Amazon that with other companies, unless you find a company with 10% commissions or better, it’s probably not worth moving away from Amazon.
Here’s the Amazon breakdown by website:
Middle Class Dad – $604.98
Kitchen Appliance HQ – $257.19
The Grocery Store Guy – $0 (this site is currently almost exclusively monetized with ads)
Hot Tub Owner HQ – $86.50 (was still somewhat low traffic. It is now the biggest Amazon payout)
Other Affiliate Income – $858.04
I use a number of other affiliate networks with small, but varying degrees of success.
When I first realized I could monetize my blog, I signed up for every program under the sun. That was a mistake. Instead, take the time to really understand the problems of your audience/readers, and what the best solution is for them.
I generate very small amounts of revenue from the following affiliate networks:
- Max Bounty
- Commission Junction/CJ
- Share a Sale
- Impact Radius
All of those are brokers, meaning they represent many different companies with affiliate programs.
Very few companies actually run their own affiliate program by themselves. So you have to first join one of the above companies. Then you have to find individual programs in their system. And in most cases, you have to then apply to each individual program.
I got suspended from Clickbank in June 2020 for high refunds.
But of course, I’m just promoting their products, so I don’t understand why they penalized me (and they didn’t explain). Since I promoted several Clickbank products, they didn’t even tell me which product it was that had high refund requests (and I wasn’t even seeing more than 1 refund a month).
So I’ve moved my links over to other networks and won’t likely be back if that’s how they treat the people keeping them in business.
I never even had a warning or notice that refunds were high, and didn’t do anything other than recommending products in my articles. And a suspension is for 90 days.
90 days would be a loss of revenue of at last a couple hundred bucks, and my links would still be sending them sales for which I would get nothing.
So goodbye, Clickbank!
A couple of the individual brands that have affiliate programs that I use:
- GQueues – A desktop/app task organizer program that I literally couldn’t live without
- Project24 – The only blogging course I’ve ever purchased, and one I highly recommend in this article
- Acabado WordPress Theme – The WordPress theme you’re seeing now. I love it and use it on all my sites
- Name Cheap Domain registration & Hosting – Very inexpensive way to get started blogging!
Click on any of those affiliate links to check them out.
Of course, as with all affiliate links, the cost doesn’t increase to the purchaser. The product creator pays me a commission from their revenue when someone buys through my link.
So affiliate links are a great way to say thank you to whoever referred you.
Sponsored Posts – $12,108.13
I only do sponsored posts on this website as I want my other 3 sites to be more passive.
For that reason, I also don’t use Pinterest for my other 3 sites either as that’s a lot of work. I might eventually hire that out though.
What is a sponsored post?
A sponsored post is basically a guest post that you get paid to publish. Now it could also be a situation where a company mails you a product to review and the compensation is in the free product and not by direct compensation.
But you’re still being compensated.
Of course, with Google, it’s against their policy to pay for or sell backlinks. But really, that’s what these companies want. So it’s a tricky balance. Often a sponsored post is not great quality. They are usually short also (somewhere between 500-1000 words).
In 99% of cases, the article isn’t optimized for SEO and will never generate traffic.
So just know all of that if you decide to go down this route. I wish I hadn’t, and I will eventually cut it off once my overall revenue gets above a certain level.
But as you see, it is a decent chunk of change.
People email me with sponsored post requests. Once your blog gets a domain authority score of 15-20, you’ll likely start getting hounded by people too. Domain Authority is a score created by MOZ. Ahrefs has its own version too.
How much they are willing to pay you for your time and blog’s authority varies, but a good starting place is between $1-$2 for your domain authority score number.
In other words, if your website’s domain authority is 17, you could charge somewhere between $17 and $34 per article you publish (with them writing it).
Now to be in compliance with the FTC, you do need to acknowledge somewhere on your site that you are being compensated, and then you need to be able to identify the sponsored posts (I put them all in 1 category that I then identify in my TOS).
But remember, you aren’t being paid to give someone a backlink; you’re being paid for your time and website’s authority to promote a product, service, or company.
Blogging Expenses by Category for Q1 2020 – $240.12
Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling – $104.88 (but paid annually at $419.52)
Again, I only do Pinterest currently with this site and not my other 3. With a full-time job and a wife and 3 kids, I don’t have time for more Pinterest.
But Tailwind is essential if you want to be on Pinterest! It’s a little slow, and occasionally buggy. And like Pinterest itself, not 100% accurate on the analytics.
But you can’t really do a serious business with Pinterest without it.
CLICK HERE to check out Tailwind with my affiliate link
WPX Website Hosting – $24.99
I used Siteground for years on all my sites, and I still think they are decent, especially when you’re starting and don’t have much money to spend. You can get started with Siteground for under $5.00/month.
Want to get started with them? CLICK HERE to check out Siteground with my affiliate link
I moved to WPX as I wanted a faster host and one that I could grow with as my combined traffic was over 100,000 monthly page views. Siteground starts to get expensive after your initial policy renews, and I also felt their service had gone down, as had my site speed.
So after 2 months of investigation, I settled on WPX and overall have been very happy.
So if you have more than 1 site and decent traffic, I would highly recommend them.
CLICK HERE to check out WPX with my affiliate link
ConvertKit email service provider – $110.25 (billed annually at $441)
Honestly, email is pretty frustrating. It certainly doesn’t pay for itself. In a way, I wish I’d never started a list (one of a few things I did because Pat Flynn said to do it that hasn’t panned out for me). But I don’t want to knock Pat; he’s awesome and the whole reason I started my blog.
But his business model is very different than mine (or most bloggers), so what works for him doesn’t work for everyone.
ConvertKit is the best of the 4 companies I’ve used (MailChimp, Mailerlite, Constant Contact). But they are also the most expensive, by far.
If you want to build a personal brand or offer a membership site or a course, ConvertKit is a great way to build that list and create drip campaigns.
It can also work really well if you’re doing affiliate marketing and using Facebook ads to drive traffic to landing page opt-in pages (which you can create in ConvertKit) and then drip them emails once they opt-in pushing them to a product or service.
I do not do list building on my other 3 sites and am not sure I ever will due to the expense and time involved in setting everything up initially.
CLICK HERE to check out ConvertKit with my affiliate link
Of course, there are lots of other expenses, or expense items I write off on my taxes.
For example, my wife and I decided in 2020 to build me my own tiny home/office. So that’s a business expense. We also deduct a portion of our utilities, property taxes, etc since my business is home-based.
On my kitchen site, I do occasionally buy products to review (hello new Traeger pellet grill!), and guess what? That becomes a business expense.
Then, of course, there’s stuff like internet bills, etc. But the above represent the bulk of the primary expenses directly related to blogging.
As you can see, it’s pretty small compared to the overall income generated.
Then there are taxes too. I’ve never paid quarterly before, but I’m probably close to where I’ll need to start doing that too, unfortunately.
Bottom Line Net Profit Before Taxes – $18,417.60
So, after the major expenses, that’s an annualized net profit, again, before taxes get taken out, of $73,670.40.
Not bad, and in reality, with the growth of my other sites, and hopeful growth of my YouTube Channel, I will end 2020 WELL above that.
Not bad as I approach the 4th anniversary of starting my website!
As you can see, it’s taken me almost 4 years to reach what could definitely be a full-time income.
My personal goal is to hit $10,000/month for at least 3 months in a row before I consider leaving the safety and security of my day job.
I do know, however, I could have hit those numbers a lot faster had I done things differently.
What would have sped things up?
- Not waste time publishing my posts on social media (Pinterest excepted)
- Focus on following 1 system instead of listening/following a bunch of different gurus who all have different systems
- Remember that NOTHING is as important as just writing quality articles and publishing 1-3 times a week, after doing good search analysis on what you are writing about
- Not spend so much time tweaking the website (at the expense of publishing content)
- Don’t focus on trying to make money when your traffic is under 25,000 page views a month
- Ignore the constant emails looking for a guest post
- Batch similar tasks and do them on a set schedule (ie: Pinterest every Monday)
- Focus on 1 task at a time
- Use a planner/organizer/task list and know what the top priorities are for each day
If you are just getting started, I can’t recommend the blogging course Project 24 highly enough!
It’s from the people over at Income School, and while they have a ton of great videos on YouTube, it was joining Project 24 that really started moving the needle forward.
I joined in April 2019, and that month, my income was $2,308.56
Compare that to May 2020 (last month at the time of this writing), and my income was $8,343.65. While I can’t say all of that 261% increase was due to what I learned in Project 24, a good portion of it certainly was.
What do you get in Project 24?
A TON of different video module courses, the hub of which is their 60 steps to building a website. But then they also have courses (multiple videos in each one) on YouTube, search analysis/keyword research, monetization, and so much more.
And they add new courses a few times throughout the year.
Plus you get their WordPress theme, Acabado, totally free for as many sites as you want to use it on. And then there is their own internal forum where people like you and me constantly chime in to ask or answer questions (along with the whole Income School team).
It’s the only blogging course I’ve ever bought, and the only one I ever will buy.
CLICK HERE to check out Project 24 with my affiliate link.