If you're looking to make money blogging, you might be wondering what exactly goes into making over $100,000 a year blogging. In this income report I'll show you where my 6-figure income comes from, how much I spend to keep the blog running, as well as my top tips for making the most of your efforts!
In 2016 when my husband came home to say he had lost his job, I turned to my baby blog as a source of income. It was a few months old at the time, had about 15 posts, and was making about $5 a month from Amazon affiliate links.
By all accounts it was a bleak prospect for making us any real money.
But I dove in and learned everything I could about blogging as quickly as I could.
Fast forward 4 months and I was able to fully cover my husband's previous income. Another 4 months and I had doubled it!
In 2018 (only 2 years after starting my blog) we made right at $100,000... well, actually about $96,000. But that's close enough in my book to call it 6-figures!
And now in 2019 we have seen a 15% income increase for a total of $110,000 made from just this blog! Add to that the fact that the average growth rate for a small business is only 9%, and I'm even more thrilled!
While I of course was wanting to see an income doubling as in previous years, a 15% income increase on a blog that I had largely on autopilot is an amazing feat!
I say it was on autopilot because I ended up putting a lot of my time and attention into other areas of my businesses.
- I launched a new blog for GAPS/Paleo dieters (which I then had to merge with AMH due to some trademark issues that arose after I launched, bummer.)
- I threw myself into learning more about my audience and how better to serve them.
- Created many resources for my Mom Life Made Easy blog to help moms teach their children early reading skills at home.
- Created 5 new products for A Modern Homestead, with email automation to drive sales.
- Ran a 6-week mastermind group for bloggers who wanted to have hands-on coaching while they grew their blogs!
- Fully updated the Launch Your Blog course with 58 brand new lectures and 34 full-length video lessons!
- Created the Q4 Profit Plan to help bloggers make the most of the highest paying ad season of the year.
- Coached hundreds of bloggers face-to-face in Private Sessions.
... and I weathered a lot in my personal life that took much time away from my blog and business.
But even after ALL OF THAT, this little old 4-year-old blog made over $100,000 for my family. Amazing!
So, where exactly did this money come from and how much of it went back into the care and maintenance of the site? Let's get into the numbers!
Income Breakdown of a $100,000 a Year Blog
They say it's a good idea not to have all your eggs in one basket, and I'm pleased that my income comes from a fairly evenly weighted group of places.
Right at 40% of my income came from the ads served on this site.
I use the ad network AdThrive and really enjoy that they serve fewer ads while still paying out the same or higher rates than other ad networks.
I've been with Mediavine and really enjoyed the community and support, but at the end of the day this is a business. So, switching to AdThrive made financial sense, and they also have really amazing community and support! Win-win!
I sell quite a few products on my site, including an ad-free membership, and then I also sell a cookbook on Amazon.
All of those products (not including the blogging book) brought in 30% of my income in 2019.
Please note that while I saw 30% of my income come from these sales, some of it was paid out in affiliate payments for those people promoting my products. See the expenses section for those details.
Between Amazon, and a few high dollar affiliate items (like this freeze dryer), as well as a few smaller dollar items, like this freezer cookbook I made a good chunk of change... 25% of my income, to be exact!
If you're looking to break into higher dollar affiliate items, be sure to think through any high dollar items that would be useful in the niche you blog about. Then contact those companies directly to find out about an affiliate opportunity.
While Amazon is easy to work with, they pay very little compared to a direct affiliate program.
And of course, there's the argument that Amazon is better even though it's a lower dollar payout because people are used to purchasing through them and so it makes for an easy sale. And you also get a commission on anything else sold there too.
Take it all in and then decide what's best for your site and audience!
A very tiny 5% came from sponsored posts this year.
In all honestly, it was something I had intended to work on more, but life happened and I just didn't. Maybe next year.
This year I was approached directly by two companies and did work with them through sponsored content on my social media and email audiences. I never even wrote a full post!
Blog Expenses for a 6-Figure Blog
Now, it's all well and good to say I had a 6-figure year with A Modern Homestead, but how much of that went to operations?
When you factor in email services, hosting, training, and outsourcing services... it was quite a lot, but maybe not as much as you'd think!
Let's take a look at all the expenses and I'll also give you a value for each one and if I plan on continuing with each during this next year.
Hosting - $1,206
You know I love Siteground and I still recommend them as the best hosting service!
But sadly I had outgrown them this year. This is going to be VERY RARE for most bloggers as the only reason I outgrew them was that I had about 20 sites on one plan. Yikes!
I ended up moving to BigScoots in August and I had a terrible experience with the service (most people have a great time with them, I didn't. It happens.) - so I'm currently contemplating where to move to next. I will probably be moving in the next few days!
My combined cost for hosting was $1206. This is higher than it would be because it's a hosting bundle that includes ALL my sites, so that would be less if I just had one site.
Likely, I would just be on the Siteground GoGeek plan if I just had the one site!
Email Services - $908
Much like hosting, this cost is combined with several other sites since I have them all on the same email account.
However, the cost wouldn't be that different with just A Modern Homestead.
I use ConvertKit for the four separate email accounts that I currently run and I really enjoy the service! The cost is a bit to get used to, especially if you're not monetizing your emails well.
But I ended up making almost $20,000 this year from my A Modern Homestead email list! So the total cost of $908 this year was worth it!
Affiliate Payouts - $1,667
Since I have an affiliate program, I also have affiliate payouts, which is awesome!
I can't mention how much I made with my products without also letting you know how much of that I didn't keep. It was a pretty small amount this year as sales brought in from affiliates dropped off quite a lot.
I paid out $1667 in affiliate sales for the whole year.
Last year I had quite a few affiliate promoting products on Pinterest for me so I paid out much more than that, sometimes more than that in a single month!
However, most have gone on to create and promote their own products, so they don't promote mine in the same manner.
Outsourcing - $2,000
Currently the only blogging task that I outsource is Pinterest.
I hit a point in mid-2019 that I needed to free up a bit of time to focus on larger projects, so I hired Virtual Powerhouse to manage my Pinterest account.
I spent $2,000 from May to December ($250 a month, plus an onboarding fee) to have them run my account.
Was it worth it? Let's take a look at my Pinterest traffic increases and work out the numbers!
Here's my Pinterest traffic only for the months that VP took over, as compared to the same months in the previous year.
When you look at the page views increase, then combine that with my average ad RPM, not factoring in any product purchases that occurred from the new readers - I made about $4,500 on the extra page views.
So the service definitely paid for itself!
I do highly recommend the service and use it for several of my blogs. If you are interested in connecting with them, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and please be sure to mention my name, because I do get a referral credit which is awesome for us both! :-)
Training - $1,500
Just like any blogger, there are still areas of blogging where I'm growing and learning. I purchased a few courses this year, and the grand total for my learning was $1,500.
Here are a few of the courses I purchased:
- Genius Bloggers Toolkit (I buy this every year to review it for my blogging list)
- StoryBrand Business Made Simple University
- A course on running a successful Etsy store (branching out my patterns onto Etsy this year)
... And various other small purchases
Miscellaneous - $1,095
I also had some random one-off expenses throughout the year that added up to $1095.
- Going to the AdThrive Summit in Austin: $850
- Renewing plugin costs: $245
And then I did want to mention payment processing fees taken when I make a sale online. That added up to about $1,200!
Income Versus Expenses
When you look at how much I brought in, versus my outgo, I think you'll be very surprised by the ratio!
I made $110,000 and spent $8,376 which means I only spent 7.6% of what I earned to keep the business going. That's an amazing ratio of income to expenses!
What Did I Learn, What Would I Change?
This year was very focused. I have so many different blogs and businesses that being scatter-brained isn't an option for me.
My one goal overall this year was to learn how to truly serve my audiences in the best way possible.
That looked different for each blog and business, but it was ultimately the same skill set that I was learning and honing.
Here are my tips for the coming year:
1. Pick ONE thing to learn and learn it well.
Don't overwhelm yourself by deciding that you're going to start a YouTube channel, put out 5 products, learn how to take amazing photos, and also publish 4 posts per week!
Oh and you're going to start a second blog!
Listen, you're building a business. This isn't a sprint, you're building something for the long-haul!
I know when you need cash fast it can seem like a sprint, and sometimes it is, but focus your speed on the areas that will build up income the fastest... don't just throw mud at the wall to see what sticks.
Write great content, learn about your audience, serve them well.
The rest will fall into place and you will be able to see the areas that need work as you go.
Serving your audience might mean products, or a Facebook group, or maybe a YouTube channel yes... but it might not.
Don't set your mind on something without knowing it's the best thing for your people. Talk to them and listen! Then you'll be able to make the best choices for yourself and for them.
2. Pay attention to your expenses.
It's VERY easy these days with blogging to rack up expenses in the blink of an eye.
So as you're going through this next year, make very conscience decisions as you make purchases.
Here's where I'd recommend spending:
- Education. If you stop learning, you ultimately waste time and fall behind in growth. Pick courses that line up with what information you need to serve your audience and dive in!
- Outsourcing. Be careful with this one, but if you can reasonably outsource a process and spend your time growing other areas, then do it!
- Email. Since email is really the only audience you can control (unlike social media or SEO) it's important to build this up. Invest in a strong email provider and then really learn how to grow and monetize your list! This is where education comes in!
- Connecting. Go to at least one conference this year. It can be a small local blogging convention, or a world-wide meetup of bloggers and online business owners! If you've never done this, you'll be shocked how amazing it is to be in a huge group of people who "get it". Whose eyes don't glaze over when you start talking about your Pinterest strategies or your email funnel! Do it, you won't be disappointing!
What I'd Do Differently
All in all, I'm very please with my efforts for 2019. However, there are always to improve!
If I could do 2019 again, I would definitely outsource various processes sooner.
Pinterest is simple enough, but when you're spending time there instead of working on other larger projects, it can become a burden. I'm so glad I outsourced that process!
I would also have hired a VA sooner to help write my backlog of content. I have over 300 recipes and patterns photographed, but I can't write all that myself in a reasonable amount of time!
Rather than letting that content sit there not being written, I'm in the process of hiring and training someone else to write up that content!
That's a Wrap!
Thank you for reading through my income and expenses report! My goal was to give you a look at just what it actually costs to make money blogging.
I think you'll find that it's a pretty cheap business to run, even when outsourcing things like Pinterest!
In fact, starting a blog can be as cheap as $3.95 a month which makes it a very low-risk option for creating your own income from home.
If you don't have a blog yet, I have a step-by-step guide to starting a blog here as well as a full video course for launching your blog into success as quickly as possible!
No matter what you choose to do in the blogging world, I'm glad you are here!
Here's to an amazing 2020!