October 2016 Income: Doubling Your Income
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. MY. GOD. *Janice from Friends voice*
October was CRAZYYYYYYYYYYY amazing – both professionally, and personally!
I finally attended the graduation ceremony for my Master's degree in journalism, had a fantastic time at the Food Bloggers of Canada conference in downtown Toronto, had a gloriously relaxing time at the family cottage and had some great downtime with my girlfriends.
I ALSO ALMOST DOUBLED MY INCOME AND LEARNED ALL OF THE THINGS.
Okay, before we get too far into this though, I think I am going to start making these income reports shorter because a) I'm busier than ever (with PAID work! whoopie!) and b) they are my lowest source of traffic. I'm also going to start including my expenses so you can see just how much I end up spending on the blog each month.
I love writing these income reports and helping other bloggers, and I also love the camaraderie and transparency that these kinds of posts encourage in the blogging industry so I will continue to put them out.
You just won't have to deal with my crazy long rants anymore 😉
If you're unfamiliar with my income reports, I decided to start writing them in March 2016 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.
We've talked web traffic, sponsored posts, blog investments, conferences, collaborations, social media algorithms and so much more in that time, and I'm so grateful for anyone who's taken the time to read my income reports or drop me a friendly comment/email or two. 🙂 The relationships in the blogging community are so crucial to our collective success and I am so happy to be apart of such an awesome, growing industry.
On that note, let's talk money.
Here’s a breakdown of my income from this month:
- $3188 sponsored blog posts
- $100 advertising (Chicory, AOL ads)
- $220 freelance recipe development, writing and photography work
Here’s a breakdown of my expenses from this month:
- $30 Adobe Creative Cloud (I have the student discount for Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro)
- $800 Food Bloggers of Canada conference ticket
- $175 photography lights
- $25 hot plate
- $9.95 Crowdfire social media app (so I can continue to grow my social media and unfollow those who unfollow me)
- $400 Working with Brands course by Jenny Melrose
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 was a closeout 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 a couple months back but have given up hope of work with them. If you are contacted for an opportunity they usually aren't a good fit or are a low-paying social media campaign. Maybe it's different because I'm Canadian, because I'm pretty sure I have decent enough traffic to be considered. But I digress.
This month was huge for me not only in taking some great advice on rates from other food bloggers at the conference, but also because it gave me the confidence to realize that the work I'm doing is legitimate advertising work and I deserve to be paid accordingly by brands. My traffic has quadrupled in a year's time, so I have done the same thing to my rates, as well as negotiating higher pay in certain circumstances like last minute posts, video production, extra social media shares, etc.
As a woman I think it can be hard to say no. As a full-time business owner and freelancer who will have to pay extra taxes, expenses for my business, health/dental insurance, etc., I need to be charging more for my services. I have taken on a personal policy now that no matter what I'm doing, whether it's sponsored work, photography, etc., I will work for no less than $100 an hour (whereas before I was settling for $20 an hour because that's what I was getting previously at an office job).
I know this all sounds good and dandy, but in reality I work 50-60 hour work weeks and only have about 25-35 billable hours the past couple months. Before I changed my rates, I was earning even less – sometimes only $1600 a month. But, as my site grows and I become more of a professional, I am aiming to increase this to 40 billable hours, and I have had success, both in part due to further investments in my blog, and in part due to my newly-formed negotiating and pitching skills.
I've been very lucky to have a lot of PR companies and brands reach out to me directly. I've talked about how I think this has happened several times on my last couple income reports so if you're looking for more info on that I highly suggest you go back through my income report archives!
So, I'm not a stranger to sponsored work.
However, what I no longer want is to wait around for brands to approach me first, because at that point I'm at their mercy and what they're willing to pay me, regardless of my influence. It's also a very scary way to run a business, waiting for clients to find you!
I mean, I accepted a sponsored post for like $200 in the summer because I was so desperate for a little extra cash flow. That's about six hours of work from start to finish, aka only $30 an hour. That ain't working for this girl, especially if I ever wanna move out of my parents' place again (and rent in Toronto is NOT cheap!)
The way I see it is, what I'm doing is valuable and I need to earn a living. And big magazines and other media charge several tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars for sponsored content and advertising. Then they need to hire outside contractors like photographers, graphic designers, etc. to make the actual ad.
I'm creating an ad as an outside contractor, yes, but then I also have the platform in which to place that ad (60,000 page views), AND I provide help with the marketing of it on social media. To reach that many people and for the time it takes me, I think it's worth at least $100 per hour. More if they need something right away or if they want add-ons like video, or if my schedule is filled.
In October, for instance, a large brand approached me about doing a last minute post that they needed the next day, so I quoted them nearly double what I would normally charge, even accounting for the fact that I've increased my sponsored post rate.
And guess what?
They went for it. They knew that they would not be able to get professional work from someone else in that time frame, and knew that they would have to pay extra to make up for the fact that I had to drop everything else to create content for them.
I think as business owners it can be so hard to justify charging more, but I've been doing so the past month and seeing extreme success, because I know I provide quality work, am pleasant to work with and go above and beyond what the ask is. I think the strategies I'm implementing are ones that more business women and young entrepreneurs need to have. Know your value!
So anyway, I made almost double my income this month. And if you thought I was gonna spend all that on Sephora or Aritzia, you're wrong!!! I invested that money right back into the blog.
Every extra cent I made.
I purchased my conference ticket for next year's Food Bloggers of Canada conference in Ottawa, I purchased an amazing course by Jenny Melrose of The Melrose Family that taught me how to pitch brands and I bought some lighting to improve my photography and videography to tide me over til I can save up for a better camera. Right now I'm working with an entry level DSLR and while I still love it, I think my skills have become more advanced and I would love a full frame Canon 6D camera. The way I see it is that better pictures generate more interest, which generates more traffic, which generates more money, which generates more investment, which generates more growth (be it traffic or money!)
However, I'll be waiting a little while longer for the camera, mainly because it would be a whole month's income (And yes, my DOUBLED income at that! As in a used car, or two large sectional sofas, or a luxury handbag, or two vacations…I could go on…) Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that I can make due with what tools I have for now. I really credit my success thus far to my DIY-everything attitude.
I bought a $50 Genesis child theme and have customized it mostly myself with coding over the course of two years. I took a year to think about and design my own logo and branding, colours, etc. I bought my own hosting, and set up the site without anyone's help. I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite and how to take my own photos using just a couple food photography books. Okay, so you get the point. The frugal person inside me will wait and in the meantime focus on bettering my food styling and playing around with lighting.
I'm seriously convinced that people like me get rich by being patient and persevering in times of uncertainty, and living a very frugal lifestyle in order to build savings, and using those savings to invest and build more growth.
Now let's talk web traffic!
Here’s a breakdown of my traffic from this month:
My Google traffic had gone from around 3000 in June to 7300 in July, then it crept up past 12,000 in September. Now I'm closing in on 18,000 monthly visits from Google in October/November. I am very slowly but surely building long-term growth with Google and I think this will only continue to help me grow in all areas. Search visits can also lead to long-term direct traffic and loyal readers so I'm happy my growth is expanding.
Pinterest has plateaued, however, so I'm a bit disappointed with that and not really sure what else I can do besides continue creating good, searchable content. I've joined a few tribes on Tailwind and have been doing a mix of long form, graphics-based pins and just pinning direct from my site, and I pin the hell out of other people's content making sure to do only 40% mine and 60% other high-quality content. We'll see what happens there – good thing Tailwind makes this all low-maintenance!
I'm also super happy my traffic is growing because my ad revenue is too!!! For months I sat at $100 a month in advertising between Chicory, AOL ads (I'm on their influencer network), Google ads and Gourmet Ads. Like $100 all of them combined. WHAAAAAT. I don't even wanna know how low of an RPM (revenue per mile) that is.
Now, I've gone 21 days with Mediavine and I'm at 7.19 RPM and have made $335 – and that's USD so I will be getting even MORE money by the time it converts over to Canadian funds. The month's not even over yet either. Needless to say I'm jumping for joy and this will increase as my traffic increases so between that and increased sponsored income I may be moving out sooner than I thought I would 😉
Anyway, I promised this post would be shorter and I don't really feel like it is. Oh well LOL. It’s time to talk goals!
What I Accomplished in October:
- Continued to build strong editorial calendars by season with recipes that have been well-researched for SEO
- Changed ad networks to Mediavine (and BOY has it ever increased my ad revenue!!!)
- Continued to create weekly recipe videos
- Incorporated more personal story-telling and photos into my recipes
- Took an e-course to help me pitch more sponsored content to brands in order to increase my revenue
- Enhanced the quality of my videos by purchasing a portable hot plate and lighting
- Started taking portrait photography for my portfolio as a new income stream (AND booked a paying client for November!)
- Created a portfolio in addition to my Work With Me page
- Started reading some productivity books for entrepreneurs to better structure time in my day
My Goals for November:
- Continue to 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.)
- Collect market research to better understand what kind of recipes my audience wants; could also use this kind of info for e-books and e-courses I want to put out in the future
- Continue to increase my web traffic by creating more Google-friendly recipes
- Start reading inspirational books for entrepreneurs
- Learn more about tried-and-true marketing strategies and start thinking of some ideas for an e-course
- Start pitching my Master's thesis to magazines! (unrelated to the blog I know, but I could probably fetch $3000-4000 if it gets published in a big magazine)
And there we are, the end of Income Report #8. 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