January 2017 Income Report: How I Book Sponsored Work
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!
Oh hi thereeeeee! Welcome to this month's income report – this time I'm just glad I was able to get it out before the end of February!??
So January. Oh how I love you and the new budgets you bring.
If you've been following along with my reports, you can see that I have more than doubled my income this month, and we're going to talk about some of the reasons I was able to do this other than the fact that I'm a complete workaholic.
I'm gonna basically give you the short answer right away: I really made brand new marketing budgets work for me in terms of pitching brands for sponsorships and getting repeat clients to come back once they received new budgets for the year. So this month's income report theme is going to focus on everyone's favourite topic: nabbing sponsored posts. A big part of that? Client feedback!
Let's get this month's income report started!
Here’s a breakdown of my income from this month: (8775.00)
- $8467.00 sponsored blog, social media and video posts
- $308.00 advertising (Mediavine + AOL)
Here’s a breakdown of my expenses from this month: ($3568.30)
- $30 Adobe Creative Cloud (I have the student discount for Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro)
- $3500.00 Canon 6D body + Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L Macro lens
- $38.30 The Food Photography Book by RecipeTin Eats
This month I have decided to start showing the amount of money I'm making in Canadian dollars to better reflect the money I'm actually making. Because so many of my readers are US-based and about half of all client work is paid to me in USD, I had been previously listing my income in US dollars. Going forward, I will now be listing in Canadian dollars so you should be aware that I get more money as a result of the exchange. However, many of my business expenses (like online courses, Adobe Creative Cloud, etc.) I also have to purchase in US dollars. So you win some, you lose some.
You may have also noticed that while I had a substantial increase in sponsored post revenue, I also re-invested a lot of it in a new camera!!! I had been wanting to buy the Canon 6D for a while now and knew that if I ever wanted to grow my blog, my photography had to improve even more. So, I went out and finally bought my full-frame camera. What a difference it has made in my photography! I am over the moon happy and was so glad to start the New Year off with better equipment.
This also enables me to show brands that I'm a professional photographer, now that I have upgraded beyond the entry-level camera to a professional body and macro lens. As I continue in this blogging and food photography career path I ultimately want to start doing professional photography in the food advertising and editorial industries so I also saw the new camera as beyond even an investment in my blog, but as an investment in my entrepreneurial career.
Now before we get into this month's traffic I want to talk about some of the reasons that I personally feel I have been so successful in securing a lot of sponsored work, despite the fact that my web traffic isn't in the millions (yet…heheheh).
Since taking Jenny Melrose's amazing Working with Brands course, I have been spending much more of my time pitching companies for sponsored work. I have taught myself how to create Tasty-style recipe videos so I can sell them as a premium service at a premium price, and I have also opened myself up to tons of out-of-the-box opportunities to diversify my sponsored income, from making myself available for Facebook live videos to hosting contests and beyond.
This year as I continue to make blogging and food photograpy my full-time business, I am focusing more than ever on tasks and activities that involve truly growing it, from the quality of my recipe posts to the number of ways I can continue to generate an income.
I am trying to move away from the daily tasks that distract me and don't end up really helping to build my blog that much, such as social sharing groups. Ideally, I would hire a VA, but I'm working on this full time and am really trying to get my student loan paid off and move back to Toronto in the next year, so I can use all the money I can get.
Right now my bread and butter in terms of income is sponsorships, but I don't want to rely on that forever as my only main income stream so I will be discussing diversification strategies and my goals for sustainable business practices in next month's income report!
I want to share some feedback brands give me after working with me on sponsored content, and reasons they give for wanting to work with me in the first place. Below are some actual pieces of feedback I've had:
- “You went above and beyond what we asked. You are the first blogger we've worked with to repost the recipe you created for our website on yours in order to better promote your work with us.”
- “Your photos are fantastic – it's clear you know what you're doing.”
- “We are really focusing on content creation this year and loved what you did for us last year – we would love to have you create a couple more recipes this year too!”
- “The client was really happy with your photos and recipe idea, and the video was great too. They would like to extend the partnership by two more posts.”
- “I know I always come to you with crazy deadlines and that I can count on you to pull beautiful photos together at the last minute. I know I can rely on you.”
Whenever a reader makes a recipe and shows me the results, or if I make a Snapchat story or get a post to the front page of Foodgawker, or get a post featured in a Buzzfeed/BHG/MSN/HuffPost roundup, then I also email the brand to show them the extra value of working with me. I make sure to go above and beyond the deliverables, and I make sure to do a fantastic job on photos.
When I was first creating videos, I even threw in a surprise video every now and then for clients. I think your ability to get more sponsored work hangs on not only your talent and professionalism, but also your reputation. If you make it well-known that you're easy to work with and that they can rely on you to get the job done on time and go above and beyond, word travels fast. About 50% of all my sponsored opportunities come from people I have worked with before, or people I have had a previous relationship with. It's so important to me that I keep the relationship front and center when working with anyone.
I think of it this way: if I can get 3-4 new clients each month and book 1-3 pieces of sponsored content with each of them, then those are clients that have a higher chance of returning to me or referring another campaign to me (because most brands are represented by PR firms that represent multiple brands).
Then the cycle continues.
Hopefully 1 or 2 of those new clients convert to returning clients, and then I get 3 or 4 new clients the next month and it all repeats again. And then as that happens, I am trying to increase traffic to increase my passive income from ads, and I am also trying to focus on creating passive income products like a blogger course, and I'm building a more comprehensive portfolio to do more professional food photography work for brands outside of my blog. The gears are always grinding in my head of how I will be able to sustain my business.
Okay, my head is spinning and it's not even noon. Let's talk web traffic!
Here’s a breakdown of my traffic from this month:
If you tuned in last month, then you know that due to a new recipe plugin I installed, I lost more than half of the Google traffic I had built up over two years because it duplicated all my recipe URLs and Google penalized me. It's honestly been pretty devastating and two months later, I'm still trying to recover from it.
I had gone from 400-600 or more Google referrals each day and now I'm down to 150. Some images for my recipes don't show up in search so people aren't tempted to click on my site even when I do rank for a keyword, and it's just been an absolute nightmare that I can't really do anything about except wait for things to improve. Supposedly the image cards will show up over time and with increased web traffic, but it's pretty hard to get more traffic when I've lost 75% of my Google traffic.?
So, Pinterest and direct traffic to the rescue! Luckily my Pinterest traffic has exploded since the new camera. It isn't being reflected here for January necessarily (it will be accounted for in February's income report), but Pinterest and Google have pretty much swapped places in my referrals list strangely enough. I used to plateau at about 7000-8000 monthly Pinterest referrals for the longest time and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.
A few tweaks to the design of my long pins (hint: the more minimal, the better) and using my Tailwind Tribes (join my Tailwind Tribe here!) more consistently has certainly helped a lot and I am now seeing about 700 daily referrals from Pinterest where I used to only see 200. So at least even though I've lost my Google traffic, my Pinterest traffic continues to grow with time, also bumping up my direct website hits. Luckily, my overall traffic has not decreased and if anything, more and more of my posts are starting to get more visits thanks to Pinterest, unlike the handful that were most popular with Google.
So February's focus has been going back and creating long pins for almost ALL of my blog posts and keeping them in a folder so I can keep scheduling them back onto Pinterest as seasonally appropriate. I used to schedule a pin to go out to all appropriate boards only once or twice but have since started re-scheduling my most popular pins to be constantly going out week after week, and I want to start putting out some older content out there once I create long pins for it and then put it into Tribes (which I wasn't using until only a few months ago). I have a TON of content that I think I can successfully recycle so I will keep you posted on that.
I think I have actually increased my pageviews by a couple thousand despite this Google penalty, and I have done this without any features from Buzzfeed, MSN, etc. so I'm pretty proud that my growth is starting to become more organic and rise naturally. From now on, my focus is going to be on getting more Pinterest and Google traffic, and then make my site such that readers will want to keep coming back.
The idea is once you get a visitor, you want to keep them! If I can create even one more recipe that is the reason someone stays to browse or returns to my site, I am over the moon happy. Always create with your readers in mind, while keeping your heart in it. People love authenticity and someone they can relate to.
With all that said, let's talk goals for the upcoming month!
What I Accomplished in January:
- Pitched the hell out of brands and companies for sponsored work this month!
- Nurtured existing relationships to secure even more sponsored work for the upcoming calendar year
- Continued to create weekly recipe videos
- Started watching my Teachable videos so I can start making more money off passive income; they had a Black Friday deal where they also threw in a bunch of marketing e-courses to learn how to build an email list and a profitable course, sales and email funnels, etc.
- Bought Nagi Maehashi's food photography book to continue to improve my photos (no, this is not an affiliate link and is a super well-known e-book but I have been struggling with lighting in my photography and every once in a while I think it's helpful to read a book or take a photography workshop – honestly even as an intermediate/pro-blogger I am finding this book SUPER helpful!)
- Re-worked my photo editing process thanks to professional food photographer Brooke Lark – if you haven't already checked out her Youtube channel, it is a treasure trove of resources for food bloggers! She's so fab!
My Goals for February:
- Continue to chip away at my Teachable marketing courses
- Start to develop my blogger crash course for 2017 as a passive income stream
- Find ways to continue to diversify my income both inside and outside of the blog (develop a product on Teachable like my blogger course, start pitching brands for recipe development to live on THEIR websites/social media and not mine, secure freelance food photography and social media consultation work, etc.)
- Create long pins for almost ALL of the recipes on my site to recycle on Tailwind as seasonally appropriate – sometimes it can take up to a year for a pin to go viral so you never know!
- Continue to increase my web traffic by creating more Google-friendly recipes
- Read more inspirational books for entrepreneurs
And there we are, the end of Income Report #11. Thanks so much for reading!
And finally, is there anything you believe I missed this month? If you have questions or comments I would LOVE to hear from you in the comment section and talk all things blogging!
*There are affiliate links in this post. If you click and make a purchase on any of these links I will make a percentage off the sale!