August 2016 Income: Developing & Maintaining Relationships
Welcome to my once a month income report for bloggers and freelancers. If you’re new here and want to catch up on my progress, feel free to browse my previous income reports here. If you're looking for help on how to start your blog, or how to increase your web traffic, check out my resources page!
Hey all! I'm back again with August's income report for freelancers and food bloggers, and I have to say this past month was BUSAYYYYYY! (by the way, if you're here just for the food, I've got you covered with other recipes here.) Now that the fall traffic is picking back up again, I'm going to be even busier. Crazy, but that's how I likes it! 😉
If you're unfamiliar with my income reports, I decided to start writing them because I was inspired by the ones written on some of my favourite blogs, including Pinch of Yum, The Endless Meal, Platings and Pairings and Jessica Gavin.
Since I started my income reports back in March 2016 (Here's one, two, three, four and five), I have discovered that each month tends to circle around a certain theme of what I'm learning as a budding media professional, so I'm changing the titles of these posts up slightly to reflect each topic of discussion.
In March I discussed transitioning from living on my own to moving back in with my parents in order to start my food blog and photography work as a business. That theme touched on the compromises and realities of blogging as a career. In April, I discussed the investment I'd made in my blog, while in May I talked taxes as a freelancer. Meanwhile, June focused on the summer traffic slump and tricky social media algorithms, while July touched on the importance of networking, diversifying my income and analyzing where direct traffic comes from.
Based on some feedback I received last month, I've decided that this month I'll be focusing on developing and maintaining relationships both with other bloggers in the field and with brands/potential clients.
But first, let's talk money.
Here’s a breakdown of my income from this month:
- $100 from advertising (Google Adsense, Gourmet Ads, Chicory and AOL Ads combined)
- $1359 sponsored blog posts
- $450 freelance recipe development, writing and photography work
Typically, about a third of my sponsored posts for the month usually come from blogger networks such as Food Bloggers of Canada and Social Fabric, but this month I had no luck and only received sponsored post opportunities from brands who contacted me directly through my blog's email. One of these sponsored posts is a recurring monthly fee for my involvement in a 6-month brand ambassador program.
I also signed up for a couple other blogger networks like Pollinate Media, Activate by Bloglovin' and Tap Influence. I have not received any offers or any way to apply for sponsored work through Tap Influence or Activate yet, but have applied to one Twitter party opportunity that I did not receive for Pollinate Media. I will continue to report back on these networks as time goes on.
In terms of income, it can be really difficult to work as a freelancer/blogger. Your existence basically depends on other people's willingness to pay you for your work, and pay you market value. It also depends on people being able to find you or you being able to seek out work by cold calling, inquiring, etc.
I have been EXTREMELY lucky in that most of the work I receive is through others reaching out to me, whether it is a PR company that is working on an influencer campaign for one of their brand clients or whether it is the brand or small business reaching out to me directly.
I would say about 50% of the work I receive through people contacting me for campaigns are people or PR companies I have worked with before and have developed a relationship with. This is through people either contacting me directly through my website, or the result of me being on a media contact database called Cision, or from the many mailing lists I have put myself on over the course of my two years of blogging.
To get started, Google some PR companies in your area and look up the clients of each one to see if any are a match and then email the appropriate PR companies to get on their mailing lists. All of their client news may not be important or relevant and sometimes the newsletters even clog up your inbox, but you may also get invited to some exciting events in your city and that is an amazing way to network in person.
Sometimes you can also receive samples and feature products on your social media pages as a means to develop a relationship with a brand, though this strategy has proven more work than it's worth sometimes for me personally and there isn't always a clear way to disclose that I have accepted products for review to my social media followers without it looking like I'm selling out.
But I digress.
Regardless of any advice I can offer, I can't stress the importance of going above and beyond in your work. I know this may sound like straightforward advice, but really make the effort to be on time in posting and double check everything if you take on any kind of sponsored work, and especially if you want to receive more. Be sure to:
- Maintain constant communication and update the client on your progress.
- Provide professional photos that you are proud of and even consider adding in bonus content such as more photos than asked for or additional social media shares.
- Maintain a supportive relationship with the brand/PR firm on social media even after the campaign is over.
- Send over a report at the end of your campaign highlighting how the post did on social media and how many views it received on your blog.
- If the client has paid for your work to live on their site, consider re-publishing (with permission) on your site to gain the client double exposure.
Ultimately, ensure that you do everything you can to make working with you a pleasant experience and go above what you've been asked for when possible. I've had clients, for instance, who want a blog post within a couple of days and even though the tight timeline may be stressful for me, pulling through and letting the client know they can count on me to do it with a (virtual) smile will make me top of mind to work with again. Quick AND professional results? You'd be surprised how few people are able to make that happen, and you finish the working relationship with a great reputation.
At the end of the day I truly believe people choose to work with you based off of their trust in you and your willingness to be kind and accommodating no matter the circumstances. Of course, they will keep coming back for your beautiful photos and social influence, too, but in a competitive industry you not only have to put forth your professional best, you also have to put forth your personal best.
Another thing I don't think most bloggers think about today is the influence of other bloggers in gaining paid opportunities. For instance, I have been chosen for a couple campaigns or market research opportunities where the PR company/brand has asked me to refer them to other bloggers, and I have definitely been on the receiving end of this myself from other bloggers.
Some bloggers also blog part time while freelancing for a publication/agency, or they work full time in PR and if you have developed a great personal relationship as blogging buddies and they admire your work, they will be more likely to come to you with campaigns when available. I've definitely had this happen MORE than a few times.
Coming together to do group blog posts can also turn into paid opportunities when one or more of the bloggers have a relationship with a brand and then share that with you for a group post opportunity like a link party or a giveaway. I've also been lucky enough to experience this. It's really quite wonderful that as bloggers we work in an industry where everyone is so caring and willing to share/create opportunities for one another.
Now here is where I need to tell you a couple unpleasant stories about networking and social media. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, I've had nothing but AMAZING experiences interacting with other bloggers. However, I have encountered a blogger or two who has been unpleasant or participated in follow-unfollow tactics on social media when I have been nothing but a huge supporter.
This is not for me to bash or judge anyone, because I understand that mistakes happen, but it really does impact how I see the blogger involved, and will make me remember them for all the wrong reasons. In fact, a blogger I once recommended for a paid opportunity and had interacted with several times online and in person once unfollowed me on Instagram in a follow-unfollow tactic, and it has led me to not want to be supportive of that person anymore.
And that's not to say I haven't made mistakes. I have definitely sent one or two less-than-friendly emails before in a moment of upset or disappointment, and to this day I regret not behaving in a friendlier capacity. Since my blog has evolved into more and more of a full-time business I have come to recognize that everything I have stems from my relationships, and so I always think very carefully about how my interactions with clients and other bloggers will impact me personally and professionally in the present AND future before making any rash decisions.
All good things to think about and a very simple business motto: treat other people how YOU would like to be treated! 😀 Now let's talk web traffic!
Here’s a breakdown of my traffic from this month:
It seems I have officially escaped the summer slump!
Well, that and a recipe going viral on Yummly definitely helped 😉
My Google traffic had gone from around 3000 in June to 7300 in July, and now it is up past 12,000! I had a URL that didn't match the branding of my site as recently as May, and when I changed it to my current URL (I paid for a redirect), it completely wiped out my Google search traffic. It took about four months to recover, but finally in August I was able to move past my previous plateau, which feels amazing.
Before I changed my URL to better reflect my branding, I was only able to get 7000 visitors per month from Google before I plateaued for several months without growth. Changing my URL was perhaps some of the best money I have spent on my blog so far to date – you really can't put a price on great SEO.
I was also watching a Food Blogger Pro video from Bjork of Pinch of Yum and he mentioned that half of Pinch of Yum's traffic comes from 50 recipes. Sounds like a lot until you realize that the blog has over 800 recipes!
The takeaway from this? Well, Bjork likened it to creating music. You put out albums filled with songs, but only one or two may take off, if that. So, you have to keep creating with the hope that with each recipe, you're one step closer to that recipe going viral. And if you think viral recipes are just a temporary increase in traffic, you're totally wrong!
My Mason Jar Noodle Soup recipe, for instance, went viral on Yummly in August, which really helped my traffic and led to several new email subscribers and Facebook likes. It is now one of my most visited recipes and shows up number 1 on Google, which further leads to more search engine traffic.
I honestly can't really tell you how to create a viral recipe because it seems to be totally random sometimes. The soup recipe was published in January and at the time, it was six months old before it was discovered.
I had the same thing happen to my Bibimbap recipe, which is currently over a year old. Jaden from Steamy Kitchen featured it on her Facebook page in the spring (her page has a massive following) and I received a crazy amount of traffic. As a result, the recipe has been featured on so many different high profile sites and I am now high up again on Google for that search term, which has led to long-term Google search traffic.
It seems that once you're ranked high on Google for a certain search term, it becomes a permanent source of traffic. Unless of course their algorithm changes, which you always hope isn't the case.
Anyway, I feel like I've been rambling on and on! It’s time to talk goals!
What I Accomplished in August:
- Continued to build strong editorial calendars by season with recipes that have been well-researched for SEO
- Started to create weekly recipe videos
- Started to create long pins for Pinterest
- Incorporated more personal story-telling and photos into my recipes
- Gained my first paid video client! Woo hoo!
- Upped my Pinterest traffic with Pinterest scheduling, going from 80 pins per day to 110 pins (I have over 180 boards, most of which are group boards that I belong to, and I pin half my own content and half other people's content)
- Optimized my website for site speed, including removing some plugins and re-uploading old photos
My Goals for September:
- Find new ways to diversify my income in relation to work I’m already doing on the blog (e.g. freelance photography/videography, cooking workshops, social media work, etc.)
- Pitch ideas to all kinds of food publications to increase my freelance writing and photography income
- Switch web hosts to increase my site speed even more
- Switch ad networks with the hopes of making more money from advertising
- Create monthly meal round-ups to re-promote older, evergreen content
- Collect market research to better understand what kind of recipes my audience wants
- Create a portfolio tab to replace my Work With Me page
- Continue to increase my web traffic by creating more Google-friendly recipes
- Staying on top of food trends with the hopes something will go viral!
And there we are, the end of Income Report #6. Thanks so much for reading!
Anything I missed this month? If you have questions or comments I would LOVE to hear from you in the comment section!
*There are no direct affiliate links in this post, but there may be some located in other pages I have linked to in this post