Career

August 2014 Income Report — $1620.56

16

Posted on Oct 21, 2014 in Career

August 2014 Income Report

It’s time again for my monthly income report! If you’re curious what this is all about, I started a back-end overhaul of the business aspect of my blog on August 1st, and I want to share my results with you monthly. Why share? Well, a few reasons:

  • Accountability: I want you all to hold me accountable. Keep me in check if I stray off the straight and narrow. Turning your blog into a money-making venture is often a delicate balance between authentic and smarmy, and I really want to err on the side of authentic—and I’m hoping you guys will help keep me there.
  • Transparency: I think it’s hard to be authentic when all things financial and traffic related are hidden under a cloak of mystery. I’m hoping by sharing my numbers and stats, we’ll all feel a little more comfortable with the business side of my blog.
  • Motivation: My goal is to make the work I put into this blog “worth” my time financially. The problem is, I love doing what I do here so much that I’d do it for free. That doesn’t really light a fire under me to work on the business side! By sharing my financials every month, I hope to motivate myself to keep on keepin’ on the road to figuring out how to make this blog financially efficient.
  • Inspiration: Maybe along the way, I can figure out a thing or two and help inspire some other bloggers out there to find out how they can make their own blog more successful and profitable. That’d be super cool.

We’ve been running behind a few months on the past few reports, but this one is finally getting to the good stuff! I officially started my charge to make more moohlah on August 1st, and this report you’re reading right now is for August. So how’d I’d do for the first month? Well, let me show you…

Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.

Income

Total Income: $2003.68

Thoughts on Income

One goal.

I’ve talked in previous income reports about there being about a million items on my list of things I’d like to do to improve my blog and my business. Honestly, it is really overwhelming to think about all the things I want to accomplish! So when I first set out to make a change, I decided to set one goal for myself, and pursue that one goal. And that goal was to make the most out of what I already had. Sure, I could do a major push to gain followers. Or I could write an eBook. Or I could do a complete redesign. But first, I needed to get my ducks in a row with the stuff I already had. Eventually, I’d love to do all of those things, but August was all about making sure my foundation was strong before I moved onto big, new, shiny things.

What you don’t know can hurt you.

Until I read this book on monetizing blogs (I know I promote this book a lot, but I swear, it changed my life), I had no idea how much cash I was throwing down the drain by not optimizing my ads. August was my month for figuring out my ad situation. I went from five ad networks in July, to running 10 networks in August—with the same number of ad spaces. My goal was to figure out what ad networks worked best for my blog and my readers. Everyday in August, I’d login, check my stats for the previous day and rearrange and move things if I needed to. By the end of August, I had figured out my optimal setup (for now) and have been running it ever since with monumental success. My ad revenue alone increased by nearly $500 in one month! And that’s actually with less traffic in August, and the same number of ad spaces.

So what’s my current setup? Well, I’m running BlogHer and the Blogger Network as my main ad networks, and then I have some secondary ads (mostly buried within posts) that run other networks. It’s working so well for me! My hope is that it will continue to work well enough that I can actually work on removing some of the ad spaces (like that super annoying sticky ad on the bottom of the page) in my redesign. Obviously, it’s a balancing act, but my preference will be to have fewer ads in my new design, but that function better, and therefore, garner a higher rate from sponsors.

Expenses

Total Expenses: $383.12

Thoughts on Expenses

Get me some learnin.

You’d think, being that I’ve been doing this blogging thing for over four years, I’d know what the heck I was doing, but I have no dang clue! Like I mentioned above about ads, I’ve been really in the dark about how to run this blog as business for years. But thankfully, there are people out there who not only do it well, but do it well and then spread their knowledge with the rest of us. I’ve already waxed on about how much the How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook has changed my business, but I’m also applying the same desire to grow to another important aspect of my business—photography.

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been working really hard to improve my food photography. I’ve always had the elements to take good photos—the eye, the equipment, the knowledge—but I’ve mostly just been lazy about it in the past. Too lazy to grab my tripod. Too lazy to set up my diffuser. Too lazy to style the food well. But then I did some research and realized that my most popular posts also happen to be the posts with some of my better photography. Coincidence? I think not. Ever since then, I’ve been really trying to put the time into good photos. It’s funny that I always short-changed myself on that part. I work hard to craft a recipe and write engaging content, but then I’d sell myself short with not-so-great photos.

Food Photos

I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this food photography thing. I am 100% self-taught (well, my photographer husband taught me how to work the camera, but everything else is me, myself, and I), and so I’m still definitely an amateur, and I’m absorbing information from almost anywhere I can get it. One of my favorite food photo resources is Pinch of Yum (they also do awesome income reports similar to these). I like that they are amateurs and give tips and tricks based on an amateur food blogger’s knowledge and resources. I’m just getting started reading their book, Tasty Food Photography, but it has already helped me improve my photos immensely.

Photo Comparison

I had a lazy photographer relapse moment last week. I was in a rush to get the photos for the Butterfinger Ice Box Cake done, so I just quickly grabbed my camera and put the cake on a backdrop on the floor and shot the photos. When I loaded the photos in Lightroom, I knew I was going to need to reshoot them. It was a recipe and post I worked hard on—it deserved better photos! So I went back out the kitchen, set up my whole studio and re-shot them. If I just would have done that in the first place, I would have saved so much time. Lesson learned. Shoot good photos the first time. My work deserves to be represented well. I’m amazed at the lessons I am learning everyday with this project!

Tools of the trade.

You’ll notice two new items in the Expenses list that are going to be monthly charges—CoSchedule and ViralTag. CoSchedule is the editorial calendar I’ve been using for my site, and it has changed my life! Before, I was just using Google Calendar to keep track of my posts, but CoSchedule is also a social media calendar, meaning I can not only schedule my posts, but also my Facebook posts and Tweets for each post, making everything run much more efficiently.

CoSchedule

Unfortunately, CoSchedule doesn’t work with Pinterest, so in order to leverage Pinterest well, I subscribed to ViralTag to help me schedule my pins. ViralTag has been easy to work with, and it’s really nice because I can schedule my pins during prime Pinterest time—even when those times don’t align with my work time. ViralTag can be a bit buggy at times (sometimes it likes to vomit out all my pins at once instead of spacing them out—apologies if you follow me and have seen 40,000 of the same pins at one time), but they are constantly working to improve it.

ViralTag

Take Home Pay

Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month. To figure the hourly wage, I estimate I work 100 hours per month on my blog, so I divide that take home pay by 100.

Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
Hourly Wage = Take Home Pay/100

This month’s take home:

Take Home Pay

Woohoo! That’s a little bit better than the paltry $3 an hour I was clocking in back in June and July. I will say that that 100 hour estimate that I was originally using to figure out my hourly wage might be a bit off now. The amount of time I spend on my blog has increased significantly over the past few months—I might be refiguring that number in upcoming reports.

RPM

Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for August was:

RPM

I am so happy to see this number! As a frame of reference, decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM.

This number right here tells me that I’m doing a pretty darn good job now of making the most income possible from the amount of traffic I have. In July, my RPM was $1.93, which means I increased my RPM by nearly 400%! In one month! Exclamation points!!! I think this proves that, while yes, it’d be nice to grow readership, the most important thing to do first is to make sure your making the most out of what you currently have. This number tells me that in August, I achieved my one goal of getting my foundation squared away. And now, I can move onto bigger and better ideas!

Traffic

Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from August.

Overview

Google Analytics Overview

Top 10 Referring Sources

Google Analytics

10 Most Popular Pages

Google Analytics

Thoughts on Traffic

  • If you’re a big Pinterest user, you may have noticed that there have been changes recently to the way it’s displaying content to users. Instead of being strictly chronological (like Twitter), Pinterest is going the way of Facebook and using a “smart feed”—basically, they use an algorithm to decide what is displayed in your feed at what time. It’s scary territory for bloggers because it means we can no longer control who gets to see our stuff. Considering I consistently get a third of my traffic via Pinterest, it makes me a little nervous to see such a big shift. That being said, not putting all my eggs in one traffic-driving basket is an important lesson to learn! I’m going to start looking into other options for driving traffic to my site (StumbleUpon looks promising!).
  • I have to be honest, it’s a little disheartening to see no posts from the past six months on my most popular pages list. Intellectually, I understand it’s probably because those posts have been around longer and have had more time to circulate and become popular, but emotionally, I’ve worked so hard over the past few months to put in the time and effort to make quality content. I have to keep reminding myself that a large part of making a business successful (any business) is just slogging away day-in and day-out. You work hard, do good work, be a good person, and things will go your way. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not for a while. But they will go your way.

Next Steps & Other Thoughts

Redesign Time

Now that my foundation is set, the next big undertaking is a redesign! Not only does BTHR just desperately need a new look, but, more importantly, there are some serious functionality changes that need to happen. Most importantly, I am working hard to get my recipes in order—they’re a mess (and in two different places) right now! I also am working hard to optimize how ads display, both from a user and an advertiser perspective.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 1.36.33 PM

With the redesign, I’m also planning on going about it in a more professional way. I’ll be hiring a developer to work on some of the more complicated aspects of the new functionality, and I also plan on doing user-testing to make sure everything is fit as a fiddle before it goes live to the masses. That means the whole process is taking a lot longer than the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am style of design work I’ve done in the past. You are more than welcome to chime in in the comments with things that you like/dislike on websites. No guarantees I can make all requests happen, but I’d love to hear your ideas!

There are lots of little things I’m working on, too (figuring out the optimal posting schedule, working with brands, social marketing, etc.), but the redesign is my #1 priority right now. Like I mentioned up top, there are so many possibilities with this project, that I have to chunk it out and focus on one thing at a time, and right now, that thing is a redesign.

All done!

That about wraps it up for August’s report. If you’re keeping track, within one month, I increased my income by 278% ($428.54 in July to $1620.56 in August). Obviously, that big of an uptick won’t happen each month—August was a “catch up” month to help get all my previous issues that were detrimental to my income intake fixed. I am absolutely thrilled to see the numbers growing! And I hope you’ll stick with me as I keep learning. Thanks for reading!

July 2014 Income Report — $428.54

20

Posted on Sep 16, 2014 in Career

July 2014 Income Report

It’s time again for my monthly income report! If you’re curious what this is all about, I started a back-end overhaul of the business aspect of my blog on August 1st, and I want to share my results with you monthly. Why share? Well, a few reasons:

  • Accountability: I want you all to hold me accountable. Keep me in check if I stray off the straight and narrow. Turning your blog into a money-making venture is often a delicate balance between authentic and smarmy, and I really want to err on the side of authentic—and I’m hoping you guys will help keep me there.
  • Transparency: I think it’s hard to be authentic when all things financial and traffic related are hidden under a cloak of mystery. I’m hoping by sharing my numbers and stats, we’ll all feel a little more comfortable with the business side of my blog.
  • Motivation: My goal is to make the work I put into this blog “worth” my time financially. The problem is, I love doing what I do here so much that I’d do it for free. That doesn’t really light a fire under me to work on the business side! By sharing my financials every month, I hope to motivate myself to keep on keepin’ on the road to figuring out how to make this blog financially efficient.
  • Inspiration: Maybe along the way, I can figure out a thing or two and help inspire some other bloggers out there to find out how they can make their own blog more successful and profitable. That’d be super cool.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, a note: because of how some of my ad networks report, these income reports will run about 45 days behind—which is why you’re just now seeing the numbers for July. Keep in mind, I didn’t start this income project until the beginning of August, so the numbers in this report are from before I started working hard to boost my financials. Okay, onto the stats.

Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.

Income

Total Income: $741.92

Thoughts on Income

Oh, July.

July is pretty commonly accepted as one of the absolute worst months for ad revenue in the year, and that’s definitely reflected in my ad revenue for this month. It’s probably no surprise that seeing the numbers come in for July was one of the motivating factors to get me to start this whole monetization overhaul—it became glaringly obvious that my blog wasn’t financially sustainable with its current model.

Diversity (again).

I spoke about diversity of income sources last month, but my need to diversify really hit me like a ton of bricks this month. Because there was an industry-wide lull in ad sales in July, and because almost all of my income sources are ad networks, I took a major hit this month. If I had a few other non-ad network sources of income, they could help me balance out any major dips in ad revenue that happen throughout the year.

Welcome, ZipList!

I started transitioning my recipes over to ZipList earlier this year, and it’s been an incredibly slow process (my newer recipes are in ZipList, but the vast majority of my recipes are still housed in my older recipe delivery system). As I get more and more recipes in my ZipList account, I’m noticing my revenue from them creeping up! That’s very exciting and pretty motivating to get off my bum and get my other 300+ recipes transferred over to ZipList.

Curious how revenue works on ZipList? Well, when you partner with ZipList they create a customized recipe box website for your website. So whenever someone interacts with the ZipList website, they are doing it through your customized portal that shows ads that are linked to your account.

For example, say someone wants to save my Vegan Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipe to their ZipList account. They click the “Save” button the recipe.

ZipList

And get a pop-up to save the recipe to their ZipList account. See that add there? That’s generating me revenue! Yay!

ZipList

I also get revenue from a leaderboard add that shows if you access your ZipList recipe box from the buttons at the top of my sidebar.

ZipList

I hope ZipList creeps higher and higher up on my revenue list as I get more and more recipes put in it.

Expenses

Total Expenses: $313.38

Note: I’ve decided to include food costs at a rate of 30% of our total grocery bill. I figure about 1/3 of everything I cook in a month ends up on the blog. And the vast majority of those dishes require speciality ingredients that would be more pricey than if I was doing “regular” grocery shopping.

Thoughts on Expenses

Let’s Talk Hosting

I want to take a second to chat about hosting companies, because I love, love, love my host! I’m with AcceleratedWP, and I pay a little bit more than you can get with some of the big name hosts, but I get such better service that it’s totally worth the extra cash. I used to have a…uh…rocky experience when I was with one of the big name hosts. My site would go down all the time. They were always throttling my site so it loaded super slowly for a lot of people. And whenever I’d have a technical problem, they’d offer to help—but only if I paid them a hefty sum. About a year ago, I switched to AcceleratedWP, and it’s been like night and day for me.

My site hasn’t been down once. My load times became super fast. And my favorite part, they have given me the most reliable, helpful customer service I’ve ever had with a tech company. Because they charge a little bit more, they consider themselves a full-service WordPress host—which means they make sure everything stays running smooth for you. They keep your site secure. They make all your WordPress and plugin updates for you (and make sure nothing breaks). They do backups for you. They fix technical issues that might pop up (but rarely do, because they also monitor your site constantly to make sure it’s healthy).

awp

I became an AcceleratedWP Ambassador last month, but even if I wasn’t working with them, I’d still be singing their praises! I am so happy I decided to spend the money and go with a full-service host. I’m learning more and more than with blogging, just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. And my experience with the cheap hosting companies were exactly that—cheap. To me, the peace of mind of having the technical side of my blog taken care of is totally worth the extra cash.

Take Home Pay

Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month. To figure the hourly wage, I estimate I work 100 hours per month on my blog, so I divide that take home pay by 100.

Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
Hourly Wage = Take Home Pay/100

This month’s take home:

income-takehome

Oh man. It sounds so sad when you break it into an hourly rate! One of my biggest struggles with this monetization project is a block in my own mind—I have to get used to treating myself as a valued professional in this field. If I don’t see myself as valuable, then no one else will. And “selling” my work for three bucks an hour is not giving my work the kind of value it deserves.

RPM

Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for July was:

income-rpm

This is where is starts to become obvious that July was a much worse month off than June was. While the income numbers for the two months were only about $50 off, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In July, I had a 10% increase in pageviews over my June numbers—but I made less money, which is why my RPM dropped from the $2.52 of June.

As a frame of reference, decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM! I have a long way to go.

Traffic

Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from July.

Overview

Traffic Google Analytics

Top 10 Referring Sources

Referrals Google Analytics

10 Most Popular Pages

Referrals Google Anayltics

Thoughts on Traffic

  • I’m not sure how bloggers gained traffic before Pinterest existed, because man, I am sure glad it’s around now! Pinterest is consistently my top referrer (and by a lot). That’s why I’ve been really pumping a lot of time and energy into increasing my Pinterest strategy over the past few months. I haven’t seen a lot of gains (more on those in upcoming reports), but I think the work I’m doing is laying the groundwork for even more referrals from Pinterest.
  • Three of my top 10 most popular posts this month are “how-to” posts. I love developing recipes, but sometimes it’s really fun to break out of the box and write more how-to posts about things that are part of my day-to-day life (like prepping food or making popcorn). It’s good to know those posts perform well!

popcorn

Next Steps & Other Thoughts

Truncated RSS Feed

This change has been, without a doubt, the most controversial of any of the changes I’ve made ever on my blog. Last month, after agonizing over it for years, I decided to try out truncating my blog post in my RSS feeds. What’s that mean? Well, previously, I used to provide my entire blog entry in my RSS feed. So if you read my blog through Feedly or Bloglovin or any other RSS feed reader, you’d get the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle.

But last month, I made the switch to where the post cuts off after the first photo and a paragraph or two, and then prompts the reader to click onto my blog for the full content of the post.

RSS Feed

Why do this? Well, it’s simple really, and 100% financially driven—views in a RSS feed reader generate absolutely no income for me. If you read my blog in Feedly or Bloglovin, you don’t see any ads. I don’t get any revenue from those impressions. When I was treating my blog as just a hobby, that was fine! My main goal was to just have fun and be creative, and getting my work out to the most eyeballs as possible was part of that. But now that it’s important for me to make my blog financially sustainable, that model just wasn’t good business sense anymore. I was giving my work away for free. And that’s pretty much the worst business decision an entrepreneur can make.

I got some negative feedback about the change—I totally get it is a bit more cumbersome to read my blog now—but after explaining that small changes like these need to happen or BTHR might have to go dark, most understood. I also got a ton of positive feedback, too! A few people said that while they were frustrated at first, they actually now really enjoy reading my blog in its native form on my site! And so many people told me that they didn’t mind the extra click if it helped me out. One friend of mine even likened it to trying to shop local. A lot of us will go out of our way to try to support local businesses in our community, and while I’m probably not a local for you, I consider you guys part of my community. And I’m asking you to go a little (teeny, tiny) bit out of your way to help support me. You can literally help save my business with that one single click.

I also understand that changes like this are calculated risks. I’m going to lose some readers over it. And that’s a bummer, but I have to assume that those readers I lost weren’t really all that interested in my content to begin with. I believe that if someone is truly engaged with my content, a simple click won’t be enough to deter them (at least, I hope that’s the case). I’ll report back more in the next few income reports with the numbers, but I can tell you already, that I’ve seen a dramatic increase in my clicks from the common feed readers—people are clicking! Thank you!

Advertising Waterfalls & Overhauls

Last month, I talked about implementing advertising waterfalls. I’ll be sharing a lot more data on this in August’s income report, but I wanted to just drop a quick note to tell you that, holy cow, I was losing so much cash by not having waterfalls set up! I’ve seen an incredible increase in my ad revenue over the past six weeks. I absolutely cannot recommend this eBook by Kiersten Farse enough. I am so grateful to this book for teaching me all about waterfalls. I just had no idea how much money I was leaving on the table!

How to Monetize Your Food Blog

I’m actually still working on tweaking my waterfalls (and I’m even testing with a company who monitors your waterfalls for you—I’ve given them complete control over almost all the ad spots on my blog), but I’m so happy with the results! Like I said, I’ll be talking a lot more about this in upcoming months when I have the exact numbers, but I think you’ll be surprised by how much money I was losing by just running one ad network.

Affiliate Marketing

I’m slowly diving into the world of affiliate marketing. What is affiliate marketing? Well, say a blogger recommends a product to you. When you click the link to the product, it has a special affiliate code in the URL that tracks your click. When you then buy that product, the blogger gets a small percentage of the sale at no cost to you. It can be a really efficient way for bloggers to earn money, but it can also feel really smarmy if it’s done wrong. I think it’s vital to disclose when affiliate links are being used (see the disclosure at the top of this post), and only really promote products that you truly believe it. My philosophy is that I only post affiliate links for products that I would want you to buy even if I wasn’t making a commission. Like that link up there to that eBook. I do get a commission off any sales from that link, but even if you don’t want to buy through my affiliate link, that’s cool, because I really want you to read that book!

Affiliate marketing is a huge, giant, massive aspect of the online world, and honestly, it’s a little overwhelming to get the hang of. There are affiliate programs for pretty much everything you could think of. To make sure I can wrap my brain around it, I’m currently just trying to use affiliate programs for sites/services that I use the most—and then I’l add on more as I can figure out how to fit them in. Right now, I’m focusing on affiliate programs through Amazon, Zulily, StudioPress, AcceleratedWP, and Oh My Veggies.

I have no desire for my blog to become a dumping ground for affiliate links, but I also have no problem getting a little bit of a kick-back if I’m the one that referred a new customer to a company. I do know that some folks get skeeved out by affiliate links, and if that’s you, I recommend looking for a browser plugin that’ll strip out affiliate referral codes (they have those for most of the modern browsers).

Social Marketing

I’m still keeping up with my increased presence on social media. I have signed up (and pay for—more on that in next month’s report) two services that help me streamline my social media marketing—CoSchedule and ViralTag. CoSchedule is what I use as my editorial calendar, and I also use it to schedule Facebook and Twitter updates. I use ViralTag to schedule my pins. I’m really loving ViralTag! I can schedule my own pins, as well as other people’s. I really like being able to schedule pins during prime Pinterest usage time.

ViralTag

I do most of my “for fun” pinning in the wee hours of the morning while I’m nursing—not the prime time to get to people. With ViralTag, I can schedule my pins to go up during high-traffic times on Pinterest—say during Monday Night Football. I see such an increase in repins, likes and pageviews when I pay careful attention to the times I post to Pinterest, and ViralTag is helping me with that. I like that I still get to use Pinterest for fun, but I also can leverage it as a social marketing platform for my brand.

A Lesson in Sponsored Content & Going with My Gut

I’m sure you’ve noticed the uptick in sponsored content lately, and I hope you’re enjoying it. Like I said last month, my goal is to make those sponsored posts fit seamlessly into the overall content strategy of my blog (like this recipe for Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips I did for Blue Diamond this past month).

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Most of the time, it’s pretty obvious when a sponsored content opportunity either fits or doesn’t. But there are a few that fall somewhere in between that I often struggle with deciding to either pass up or accept.

This past month, I ended up accepting an offer, and I had a good idea of how to incorporate it into my blog and still offer readers a benefit, but something about it still felt off (even though it was with a well-respected company that I’m happy to promote). It didn’t feel quite right. But I proceeded because I thought maybe I was just being oversensitive. Then, the day before the post was to go up, the project ended up falling through, and instead of feeling bummed about the lost revenue, I found myself totally relieved! And that right there was a sign to me that I should have never signed the contract in the first place.

Even though it probably wouldn’t have been a problem for anyone (it’s not like I was shilling cigarettes), it didn’t feel right to me, and I should have accepted that feeling as legitimate from the get-go. I love my blog, and I love that I can make a nice living from it without me feeling “yucky” about it—and I intend to keep it that way!

Feeling Overwhelmed with Possibility

I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed lately with the sheer volume of things I want to do to for my blog. I know I just need to approach it the same way you’d eat an elephant—one bite at a time! I’ve been doing a little bit of work on a bunch of different things (a redesign, eCookbooks, reworking my ad strategy, social marketing, partnering with brands, etc.), and I think I need to devote myself to one project at a time instead of jumping around. This month, my goal is to take my list of improvement ideas and prioritize them. And then, once I’ve figured out what comes first—work on that and only that until it is finished.

I think the site redesign might be #1 on the docket, because I hate how my site is displaying right now! This design was just never made to work with this many ads, and it’s making it a really cumbersome user experience. The design I’m working on displays the same number of ads, but it in a much more elegant and unobtrusive way. Right now, the way my site is serving ads is just a band-aid until I can get my new, clean, fresh design up and running—thank you for being so patient with me.

All done!

So that was the last report on pre-project income—next month, I’ll be showing you the first month’s numbers, and I think you’ll be really surprised by how big of a change one month’s worth of work made! I’m really happy with the difference. I’ll also go into a bit more detail about the big changes I made to see the uptick in income.

Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to chime in and offer suggestions and ideas. I’d love for this to be an open conversation about blog monetization. As always, thank you so much for your support. It really does mean the world to me!

June 2014 Income Report — $503.38

45

Posted on Aug 18, 2014 in Career

incomereport

It’s time for my first income and traffic report! If you’re curious what this is all about, I wrote a whole post last month about why I’m starting to post these reports each month, but the reader’s digest version is:

  • Accountability: I want you all to hold me accountable. Keep me in check if I stray off the straight and narrow. Turning your blog into a money-making venture is often a delicate balance between authentic and smarmy, and I really want to err on the side of authentic—and I’m hoping you guys will help keep me there.
  • Transparency: I think it’s hard to be authentic when all things financial and traffic related are hidden under a cloak of mystery. I’m hoping by sharing my numbers and stats, we’ll all feel a little more comfortable with the business side of my blog.
  • Motivation: My goal is to make the work I put into this blog “worth” my time financially. The problem is, I love doing what I do here so much that I’d do it for free. That doesn’t really light a fire under me to work on the business side! By sharing my financials every month, I hope to motivate myself to keep on keepin’ on the road to figuring out how to make this blog financially efficient.
  • Inspiration: Maybe along the way, I can figure out a thing or two and help inspire some other bloggers out there to find out how they can make their own blog more successful and profitable. That’d be super cool.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, a note: because of how some of my ad networks report, these income reports will run about 45 days behind—which is why you’re just now seeing the numbers for June. Keep in mind, I didn’t start this income project until the beginning of August, so the next two income reports will be with numbers pre-project. Okay, onto the stats.

Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.

Income

Total Income: $801.84

Note: I went back and forth about whether or not to include my freelance blogging and food writing income in these reports. I ultimately decided to not include the totals, because while they are indirectly related to this blog, those amounts will not adjust of change based on changes I make here. So, for example, if I launch a blog redesign, I’m not suddenly going to get a higher advance from my publisher on cookbooks. I’m choosing to only include direct income sources from the blog.

Thoughts on Income

I need diversity!

The biggest thing I noticed—almost all of my income is from ad networks! I only have one income source (Amazon Affiliates) that isn’t an ad network. And that’s a bummer because ad sales are on a steady decline. I’m in need of some serious diversification!

Viewability

BlogHer has recently incorporated some viewability rules and it required some serious blog reworking on my part in June. Basically, the new requirement is for their ads to be fully in view for one-second before a user scrolls or navigates away from the ad. Advertisers are really looking for numbers of at least 50% viewability—meaning 50% of users see the ad for one second before scrolling away. Unfortunately, my viewability numbers were in the low 30% range! Which meant I was in danger of getting my ads nixed from the BlogHer Network (which would be no beuno—I love working with BlogHer).

Because of these new viewability rules, I made two changes. First up, BlogHer gave me permission to move my main ad “below the fold” so it was closer to a block of content. Since I usually start off my posts with a big ole photograph, folks were scrolling right past the ad to start reading. Now, the ad aligns better with where readers pause for a second to read. I increased my viewability of that ad unit up to 55%. Which is good, but unfortunately, a lot of the high CPM campaigns BlogHer is currently running require a 70% viewability score. So I have some more work to do to get it up that high.

Screenshot Ad Location

Also in response to the viewability requirements, I implemented a new sticky ad in June on my blog at the bottom of the page (called the “tune-in bar” by BlogHer).

Screenshot Tune IN Bar

I have to be honest, even though this ad unit has a really high CPM, I really am not a fan of this ad. It’s not really a problem when you’re viewing my site on a large, desktop monitor, but when you check it out on a smaller, wider screen (like my laptop) it really cuts into a lot of premium real estate. It also hasn’t been giving me the viewability scores I had hoped—it’s averaging around 45%. I’m guessing most folks do exactly what I do when it loads—immediately close it!

These viewability requirements have definitely given me lots to think about with how I place ads in the new design I’m working on. Unfortunately, the new requirements means that my BlogHer ad income has plummeted this month because my site isn’t serving the high-paying ads. Part of it is the new viewability requirements, but also part of it is the summer slump for ad sales. Hopefully I’ll see some increases over the next few months as we cruise into the holiday season. And even more so once I figure out how to get those viewability numbers up!

Expenses

Total Expenses: $298.46

Note: I’ve decided to include food costs at a rate of 30% of our total grocery bill. I figure about 1/3 of everything I cook in a month ends up on the blog. And the vast majority of those dishes require speciality ingredients that would be more pricey than if I was doing “regular” grocery shopping.

Thoughts on Expenses

Spend Money to Make Money

Blogging might seem like it’s cheap (and it can be), but what I’m starting to realize is that it is one of those areas of where it really is true that you have to spend money to make money. I’ve always been afraid to pump money into my blog, for fear I wouldn’t get it back out, but I think that mentality has been holding me back. I’m not talking about running out and buying a Canon 1D or anything (I wish), but I do think that putting a little more cash into products and services that are more tailored to my needs might serve me well. You get what you pay for. And I’m “paying” for a lot of free services.  Right now, my expenses are low, but I expect them to increase over the next few months.

Take Home Pay

Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month. To figure the hourly wage, I estimate I work 100 hours per month on my blog, so I divide that take home pay by 100.

Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
Hourly Wage = Take Home Pay/100

This month’s take home:

pay

Womp. Womp. That’s a pretty sad number. Like I said before, I’m not looking to get rich off my blog, but it would be nice to be able to make at least a livable wage off the work I do here. And even though I live in a rural area with an incredibly low cost of living, $3.52 an hour ain’t gonna cut it.

RPM

Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for June was:

rpm

Another not-so-great number. Decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM! I have a long way to go.

Traffic

Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from June.

Overview

Google Analytics Traffice

Top 10 Referring Sources

Google Analytics Refferals

10 Most Popular Pages

Google Anayltics

Thoughts on Traffic

  • One goal I didn’t mention in my earlier post on this topic—I want to increase my traffic! I think that probably goes without saying though. Have you ever met a blogger that didn’t want to reach more people? I’ve honestly never done a whole lot to garner new visitors, I just pretty much hoped people would stumble onto my blog and stick around, but I know there are a lot of things I can do to increase my traffic, and I plan on doing that over the next few months. Not only will it help with my income, but I also think it’ll be awesome to meet and interact with so many new people.
  • Just outside of the top 10, were the posts I wrote about June Bug. It’s good to know that when I write the occasional posts about being a parent, they aren’t going to alienate my readers. I know those kinds of posts aren’t of interest to everyone, so it’s nice to see some proof that they aren’t going to bother everyone.
  • The most popular post this month was a simple little recipe I wrote up about flavored water (really, does it get more simple than flavoring water?). While I’m sure the content appealed to some readers, I think what really made this post popular was the photography. The photographs turned out beautiful for this post, and I think it really helped the post spread on Pinterest. It made me realize that I really need to pay attention to my photography more often and work on getting better. My lower quality photography is almost 100% laziness. When I take my time and set up a good shot, I’m actually a decent food photographer (check out these photos from my upcoming cookbook). I just need to put more value into the photos I shoot for the blog.

cookbook

Next Steps

Sponsored Content

One of the ways  I plan on diversifying my income sources is to begin offering more sponsored content. I’ve always been hesitant to do sponsored posts because it can be a slippery slope. I don’t fault bloggers who accept sponsored content opportunities, but I think if you want to remain an authentic voice, it can be a tough balance to strike. The fact is, no matter how many disclaimers you post saying “all opinions are my own”, you are going to be influenced by the sponsorship. Because of that, I feel like the key is to accept that bias and only work with companies that fit in with your blog brand. My litmus test for accepting sponsored opportunities is this question: if I wasn’t getting paid to do this post, would this kind of content be on my blog? If the answer is a no, then I don’t accept the opportunity. And secondary to that question, I also like to ask myself: what value does this post give to my readers? I honestly feel like there is a way to give valuable content to readers and still meet the promotional objectives of a sponsor. If I’m just doing a post for my own gain, then to me, it’s purposeless. It might take some creativity to meet both objectives, but that’s what makes this blogging thing fun! I think my recent posts for Ball Canning and Blue Diamond Almonds are both good examples of posts that both fulfill they company’s objectives, and offer something of value to my readers.

sponsored

I’ve been contemplating what kind of frequency I felt comfortable with posting sponsored content. Before this little project, I’d rarely do more than 2-3 sponsored posts a year. For now, I’ve given myself a limit of one per week, and preferably less often than that (bloggers don’t always control launch dates of sponsored content). I’m hoping that just as long as I stick to my requirements, I make sure all sponsored content is both authentic and valuable to my readers, a higher frequency won’t be an issue. And I’m open to adjusting that frequency if it isn’t working for me or my readers.

As far as the logistics of securing new content, I’ve done one simple thing—I started reading my emails. Ha! I’m a member of numerous promotional networks (like Clever Girls Collective, PopSugarPollinate Media). Each week, those networks shoot out emails asking bloggers to apply for sponsored programs. I’ve mostly just ignored those emails in the past, unless something really stuck out to me. But now I’ve started actually going through the opportunities with a fine tooth comb, reading the requirements, and figuring out how it can fit in with the brand of my blog. Just by replying to those calls, I’ve secured six sponsored posts over the next two months. And I’m excited about the post ideas I have to fulfill each one!

I’ve also changed my process for replying to promotional emails. I get no less than a dozen emails a day from various companies asking me if I want to review products. 99% of them I politely decline. Before, I just flat-out declined them, but if the company happens to be someone I want to work with, I’ve started pitching them some ideas for sponsored content, plus including a copy of my (newly redesigned) media kit and rate sheet. I haven’t booked any gigs yet from this, but I have had quite a few companies mention they are interested for future campaigns. Who knows if that’s just PR talk or not, but either way, it’s getting my name and marketability out there.

mediakit

Pinnable Images

I’ve resisted making “pinnable” images for my posts for years. Even though I’m a designer who has extensive education in typography, I tend to be a bit of purist when it comes to food photography, and I always shied away from emblazoning a recipe title over my photos. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to look outside of myself, and be more of a Pinterest observer. And what I noticed? Even when I myself was just passing time on Pinterest, I gravitated toward pinning recipes that had pinnable graphics. There is something about a clear, easy-to-read note on the image itself in the Pinterest interface that makes it much more eye-catching to me than just an image with the “regular” description filled out. And it is much easier to scan through your boards and figure out what is what with text on the image, as opposed to needing to pause and read every description. I’m assuming that’s a pretty common user behavior across-the-board.

So I got over my snobbery when it comes to pinnable images and started making pinnable graphics for my posts. And I immediately noticed an uptick in my pins, re-pins, and referring traffic. I decided to hide these pinnable graphics from the post itself with a little bit of handy-dandy code, but you can still access the graphic when you go to pin (you can also see the image in the RSS feed). I like this compromise. My post still has nice, clean photography, but I get the marketability of a pinnable graphic on Pinterest.

Pinterest

My plan is to (slowly) go back and make pinnable images for my most popular-on-Pinterest posts to help leverage the popularity. I’ll also keep making graphics for any new posts that go up.

Advertising Waterfall

I’ll talk a little bit more about this in next month’s report when I have a bit more data, but I’m in the middle of implementing ad waterfalls for all the ad spaces on my blog right now. What’s an ad waterfall? Well, it’s something that’ll give you the most earning potential for each ad spot on your website. Say you have one ad spot. And you’re signed up with one ad network. Chances are, that ad network can’t fill your ad space 100% of the time. In fact, it’s pretty common for ad networks to only be able to fill spots 50-70% of the time. The rest of the time, they either show house ads (meaning, you don’t get paid) or ads that have an incredibly low payout or even nothing at all. Which means that you could be losing income for 30+% of your views!

An ad waterfall is a method of setting up numerous ad networks to backfill when the one before it can’t supply an ad. The idea is you set up your highest earning ad network first to give it the opportunity to display a high-earning ad, and then stack them down in decreasing order of earning power. I’m still working on my stacks and my list of ad networks, so I’ll get back to you later on how this is going for me. In the meantime, if you’re interested,I highly recommend checking out this eBook by Kiersten Farse. It’s a quick read any only costs $15, but I can already tell the information in it will make up for that cash many times over again. She does an excellent job of explaining ad waterfalls (and a lot of other stuff you can do to monetize your food blog).

How to Monetize Your Food Blog

I have been learning so much about the world of blog income that I just had absolutely no clue about before. I have to admit, it kinda grinds my gears that I didn’t do more research about advertising when I first monetized my blog four years ago. I think about all the thousands (probably) of dollars I lost out on just because I didn’t have a simple thing like ad waterfalls set up, and it makes me sad. Oh well, as my Mama says, when you know better, you do better. And now I know!

Redesign

I’ve been working off-and-on on a new design! Not only am I itching for a new brand, but I also am completely overhauling the backend of the site, and adding and fixing some functionality issues (just wait ’til you see my brand new recipe index—it’s killer). As far as the look, I’m trying a new thing for me—clean and simple! My style tends to be obnoxiously bright and busy, but I really want to showcase my blog’s content, not it’s design. I want to put my effort into creating beautiful photos, crafting engaging content, and developing delicious recipes and fun projects. And I want that effort to be the spotlight of my blog, not the blog’s design itself.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 2.48.52 PM

Social Marketing

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in my presence over the past few weeks. I’ve never done a very good job of leveraging my social media followers because, honestly, I was always afraid of becoming “spammy”. But then I realized that folks follow me on social media because they actually, uh, like me (probably), and want to hear what I have to say. And if they don’t, that’s what the unfollow button is for! I’m still developing my social media strategy, and plan on continuing to work on it for the next few months, but so far, my social media engagement has skyrocketed. On Facebook alone (which, admittedly, I was sorely neglecting beforehand), I’ve increased my likes by over 300 since the beginning of July, which is a lot for a little blog like mine.

Facebook likes

Of course, I’m also keeping an eye on unlikes and when users hide my content on Facebook. I’ve had an uptick of those unfollowing me and hiding me, but I think that’s only to be expected when your page suddenly goes from almost no content to posting content multiple times per day. Those might have been people who didn’t really have an interest in my content to begin with. Or, they might be people who find my increase in posting annoying. Either way, the response has been overwhelmingly positive to my increase in Facebook presence, so it’s worth it to lose a few folks who aren’t fans of my new strategy. I’d much rather be reaching out to 100 super engaged followers instead of having 10,000 followers who aren’t all that interested or engaged.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 5.35.54 PM

My plan for the next few weeks is to continue to build my audience on Facebook, but also leverage my followers on other social media channels, as well. I’m admittedly more of a Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest kinda gal, so a lot of my effort will be put into Facebook, since it’s lagging behind, but that doesn’t mean I want to neglect the other social media channels, either.

eCookbooks

Another part of my diversification strategy is to offer eCookbooks for purchase. I love the idea of making my own product to offer to readers—not only because I get complete creative control, but also because it also gives me a higher level of financial solvency. My product, my profit. I’m slowly working on plans for two eCookbooks. One will be short and sweet freebie that I will offer readers for completing an action (signing up for email updates, following me on Facebook, etc.). Because I’ve never published a digital cookbook before, I figure offering a free one would be a good way to help garner some customer confidence in my product. You’ll get a chance to try out one of my products for free before shelling out any cash for one of the premium cookbooks.

ebook

The second cookbook is actually based on an idea I pitched to my publisher for a traditional cookbook, and we came close to publishing it, but in the end decided it wasn’t quite enough content-wise to fill out an entire on-the-shelf cookbook—which makes it perfect for the land of digital publishing! I’m so excited about it, and my hope is to launch both books sometime this fall.

Phew!

That was a lot of text, are you still with me? I promise these income reports wont always be this long-winded—I just really wanted to share with you all the exciting things I’m thinking about. I actually have a ton more I want to talk about, but I’ll save it for next month’s report. Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to chime in and offer suggestions and ideas. I’d love for this to be an open conversation about blog monetization!

 

Let’s Talk Blogging Income

46

Posted on Jul 29, 2014 in Career

cash

Ready for an obnoxiously long post about the ins-and-outs of my blogging income? Probably not. But here goes anyway…

I’ve pretty much always treated my work here on Back to Her Roots as a hobby. Sure, I have some ads in the sidebar, and I do some sponsored posts here and there, but for the most part, I’ve never really seen my blog as legitimate income source. I did it because I love writing it, I love interacting with you folks, and I really enjoy it as a creative outlet. The extra cash that I make from it basically does little more than cover my expenses and give me a little bit of pocket change for buying canning jars or some fancy new kitchen gadget. Because I never really viewed it much as business, I never really pushed myself to make my blog reach its full potential (both monetarily and content-wise).

And that was fine, before. It’s amazing how much things change when you become a parent. It’s like your life is suddenly bisected into B.P. and A.P. eras (Before Parenthood and After Parenthood).

Before parenthood, I could afford to devote 30+ hours a week to crafting recipes, projects and posts for Back to Her Roots without much recouping of the income. Before parenthood, it was okay that my hobby took up so darn much of my time, because, honestly, what else was I going to do with all that freetime? Before parenthood, I could easily work 70 hours a week between my blog, writing career, and freelance projects, and still have time to head to the gym, play in the garden, watch an episode or two of some TV show after dinner (oh, and actually cook dinner).

mixer kitchen

After parenthood, I’ve realized that the precious amount of freetime I have is just that—extremely precious. I no longer have the vast freedom with my schedule that I did B.P. I have to be very careful to be efficient with the time I do have. And the honest truth is, BTHR isn’t very efficient. It is a huge timesuck in my life (a timesuck that I love, but a timesuck, nonetheless) but the amount of compensation I receive for the amount of labor I put into it just isn’t realistic anymore. To put it another way: something has to go in my life.

I’ve thought long and hard about what thing would be the thing to go. Obviously, I’m not planning on sacrificing time with my family—that’s a given. And I don’t plan on sacrificing the things I need to do to keep myself healthy (getting a somewhat decent amount of sleep, cooking healthy foods, exercising).

That left me with figuring out a way to not work 70 hours a week, and still be able to put food on the table. I, thankfully, have a lucrative freelance writing and design career, and as much fun as that is, I still find myself wanting to spend my time working on my blog most days. The truth is, I can’t cut out my freelance career (well, I could, but we’d be living in a cardboard box) and I really don’t want to stop writing my blog. What a pickle, right?

pickles

That leads me to the point of this post: I’m going to be working hard over the next few months to make BTHR more efficient for me monetarily. I don’t want to give up my blog but the fact of the matter is, if I’m going to devote so much of my time to this blog (time that isn’t spent snuggling with my daughter) then I need it to help us out financially a bit more—and maybe eventually enough that I can back off on my freelance hours and free up a little more time in my life. As much as I’d love to be independently wealthy and be able to just write this blog for the sake of blogging, that just isn’t realistic in my world. My time is valuable, and I’ve been ignoring that for years.

So what’s all this mean? Well, this means that I’m going to be working really hard to make BTHR even better and more engaging for you guys. But I’m also going to be working hard on the back-end to make it more lucrative for me. I’m going to try my darndest to make these changes not interfere with the reading experience (and maybe even enhance the experience in some spots). I’ll be trying lots of different things over the next few months and be asking for your feedback the entire way. And, I think most importantly, I’m going to try to be as transparent about the process as possible—including sharing monthly reports on my income, expenses and readership.

Without you guys, I wouldn’t be making a dime, so it seems only right for me to be clear about what is going on behind the scenes. If you aren’t interested in that, cool, just skip past the post or two each month about blogging income, and I’ll be back with a yummy recipe the next day.

lunch laptop computer

Past Revenues

The first thing I want to do in this whole transparency project is share with you a little bit about the revenue I have been generating over the past few months. Blogging income reports have become all the rage in the blogosphere lately, and for good reason. Not only is the transparency really nice for readers, but it’s also incredibly inspiring for other bloggers. It is possible to make a decent living doing this thing that we love (without selling your soul to the highest bidder), and I love being able to see clear evidence of that each month. It used to be so taboo to talk about money and pageviews, but I think the value of transparency outweighs any icky feelings folks might get from talking about the numbers. I plan on writing up a post each month showcasing the financial backend of BTHR.

On a personal note, I think tearing down the curtains and showing what’s going on backstage is incredibly motivating (and, well, terrifying) as a blogger. I’m going to try to work hard to make this blog a good income source for my family, and each month, I’m going to be posting my results for all to see. Thousands of people seeing your monetary successes or failures each month is a pretty good motivator to work hard!

So, let’s talk about what I have been making so far this year:

May 2014—$877.17 <– the last month I have full data for
April 2014—$836.88
March 2014—$724.54
February 2014—$1,344.17 <– I had a big sponsored post this month
January 2014—$1,923.49 <– a post I wrote went viral on social media this month

These are just gross income numbers, they don’t take into account the money I pay for taxes, hosting, ingredients, props, and a million other little expenses that go into blogging. This income also comes from a variety of sources—not just one ad network. They include multiple ad networks, affiliate programs and sponsored posts. When I share my monthly income report, I’ll go into more detail about both the income sources and the expenses I have.

To some folks, these numbers might sound like a lot, to others, it might sound like nothing. To put this into perspective for myself, I like to think of it as hourly rate. Say I work 25 hours a week on my blog (a conservative estimate). That’s 100 hours a month. So, in May, I was making a whopping $8.77 an hour—that’s less than the minimum wage in some states! Comparatively, I charge at least seven times that amount for my design work. See what I mean about how BTHR just isn’t efficient for me financially? And that’s not even considering that my blog revenue is decreasing each month, even though my readership is increasing. Womp. Womp. Something ain’t right, kids!

Hopefully, when you see my income reports over the next few months, you’ll see those numbers creep up as I work toward my goals (more about that below). I plan on sharing everything I do in a month so you can be on the journey right along with me, and chime in on anything that doesn’t feel “right” to you (although, my goal is to weed out anything shady before it ever comes your way). And, if you write your own blog, maybe some of the things I share can help you make your blog own blog more profitable.

laptop couch post

Goals for the Remainder of 2014

You guys know I’m a big fan of goal-setting, and I think amping up my blog income requires a set of goals, too. I’ll talk about these in more detail in my upcoming monthly income reports, but here’s a general overview of what I’m thinking for the remainder of 2014.

Diversify

Back when I started blogging, ad sales were the way to make money. You got into a good ad network selling to good advertisers, and you were basically rolling in the dough. Then advertisers got smart and started to realize that readers pretty much just tune out ads on websites anymore (either figuratively or literally through ad blocking software). This means that ad sale revenue just isn’t what it used to be. Even though my blog traffic has grown by 400% over the past three years, my ad revenue has pretty much stayed the same. Crazy, right?

The fact is, while ad sales are a great baseline (and really easy) way to monetize a blog, they are no longer super lucrative. To really make the most out of blogging, you have to diversify your income sources. Not only does that mean diversify your ads themselves, but also think about other products you can offer to make a buck. For the rest of the year, I’d like to focus on diversifying my income portfolio beyond just ad sales and the occasional sponsored post. The more baskets my eggs are in the more apt my blog is to be a sustainable income source for years to come.

easter eggs

Create a Social Media Strategy

I’m the first to admit I’m pretty lax with social media. I could be leveraging my nearly 13,000 social media followers much better. I mostly just use my BTHR social media accounts for personal use, and while that’s fine as a part of a blog’s social media strategy, it is definitely ignoring a large opportunity to gain more readers and create a larger network.

I also need to do a better job of marketing myself and my hard work on social media. I went as far as having WordPress automatically publish my posts to by Twitter and Facebook feeds, but other than that, I do a rotten job of publicizing myself. Which is silly. People that follow me on social media are following me because they want to hear from me!

Write and Publish an eBook

Writing a traditionally published cookbook is incredibly fun and rewarding (seeing it on the store shelves is way cool), but it isn’t incredibly lucrative. Sure, you get a nice big advance check, but when you spread that out over the hours and hours and hours of work that goes into a book, it just doesn’t end up being very much. I have so many great book ideas that I’d love to try to put into eBooks for purchase. Not only do I get complete control over the content, design and marketing (something you decidedly don’t with traditional publishing), but I also have a sneaking suspicion I might be able to make it a bit more profitable than traditional publishing. Plus, I just think it’ll be flat-out fun!

salad jars

New Design and Content

My blog design needs an overhaul. I did a complete redesign about 18 months ago, and the result worked beautifully for a while, but there have been a lot of technical changes on my blog in the past few months that have started to break down my blog structure. I would really like to move my design over to a more sustainable theme and work on making it clean, crisp and easy-to-navigate. I also want to overhaul a lot of my content pages. I’ve been working on a new navigation system, new pages, and a new recipe index that’ll hopefully make the whole blog a better experience.

Seek Out Opportunities

You’d be shocked at the number of emails a day I get pitching me stuff for the blog. I turn down a good 99% of the proposals because I just don’t think they are a good fit for me, my blog and my readers. But what I haven’t been good about is pursuing opportunities that I do think will be a good fit. I’d like to spend more time over these next few months cultivating partnerships with companies that I truly believe in—and that might mean cold-calling them. I can’t expect them to always just stumble onto my bog!

Streamline

Part of the hobby philosophy of my blog is that I’ve pretty much done everything manually and haphazardly. Sure, I schedule posts, and I have a rough editorial calendar, but I think I can do a lot better at streamlining my blogging process to be more efficient. This, in and of itself, won’t bring me more money, but if I can spend less time generating the same quality content, that means my income is much more efficient and more time with my family—which is my whole goal for this project!

june bug

Thank you so much for all of your support over the years! I hope you’ll stick with me as I work my way through this new chapter in my blogging career. <3

Have you ever turned a hobby into a career?

Odds + Ends

14

Posted on Jun 9, 2014 in Career

Well, I’m officially past my due date, and I’m still pregnant. Shock. Awe. Surprise.

Okay, not really. We definitely expected to go late (on average, first time mothers go eight days late, plus, we felt like the due date was set a little early anyway), so this isn’t any big surprise to us. People keep asking me what I’m doing to get her out—well, a whole lot of nothing. My philosophy is that she’ll come when she’s good and ready. And if she needs a few more days (or weeks) in my belly to develop and be the strongest little baby she can be, I’m all for it.

Although, ask me again when I’m pushing out a 10 pounder…

me pregnant due date

I’m also getting lots of questions about induction. Our midwives don’t even start talking induction until the 42 week mark, so that’s not on the radar at this point. I’ve had a perfectly healthy pregnancy, and as long as it stays that way, they are fine with letting it run its course (have I mentioned how much I love my midwives?).

One thing I am doing is pretty much living on iced red raspberry leaf tea. Partially because they say it’s good for my cervix, but mostly because it’s insanely delicious. And it’s hot out. And iced tea is awesome when it’s hot out.

raspberry leaf tea

While I’m patiently waiting for contractions to start, I figured I’d write up another post with some random odds and ends to tell you about. I have some exciting projects to catch you up on! Let’s get started.

Cookbook Update

Last month, I told you guys all about my second cookbook that’s due out early 2015—Cooking with Superfoods. Well, one thing I’ve learned in my limited time in the publishing industry is that you can always count on things to change, and it’s definitely changing around with this book!

smoothie

After I submitted my manuscript, the powers-that-be decided to do some changing around with the book. The release date is still the same as is the content (lots of awesome information about superfoods), but the title, the size and the cover designs are all changing. It’s exciting because it means we’re actually moving to a larger sized book that is independent from the previous Cooking with… series. Apparently they think what I wrote is cool enough to stand on its own (which makes me a happy little recipe developer)! I’ll share more info once the title is finalized, and I know more information about pre-ordering.

An eBook (or two) in the Future?

I’ve pitched a lot (a lot) of ideas to my publisher for cookbooks. Some of them were accepted. Some of them were totally rejected (and for good reason, they were terrible—ha!). But there have been a handful that received a lot of reactions like this…

“That’s a cool idea, but we just really don’t think it’s ‘big’ enough to do a whole cookbook on.”

And I totally get it. They are a huge international corporation that pumps a ton of money and energy into every book they publish, so it’s important for the books they sign on to do to have the gravitas to put their weight behind.

salad jars

But that doesn’t mean the ideas need to go into the trash can. So I’ve been thinking about self-publishing a few eCookbooks based on those types of ideas. But I want some feedback from you guys! I’ve, quite honestly, never bought an eCookbook before, so I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that a lot of people do purchase? Of course, it would be well-designed with beautiful photography and available on multiple platforms. I’d also try to keep them really affordable—probably under $5 depending on the number of recipes included. The recipes included would be never-before-seen dishes that aren’t available anywhere else on my blog or the web. And each book would follow a very specific theme (example: healthy comfort food or salads-in-a-jar). Is this something you would be interested in?

Spotted Elsewhere

I have a lot of projects to show off for you guys this month that I’ve been working on with my partners-in-crime. Like I’ve been mentioning the past few weeks, I worked really hard to get a bunch of content written and wrapped up before Baby J showed up, and now those posts are starting to go live for public consumption. Here’s what went up this past month:

Anytime Fitness Blog

I’ll still be posting to the Anytime Fitness Blog while I’m on maternity leave (well, more accurately, the posts were pre-written beforehand, and my awesome friends at AF will be posting them for me). So make sure you keep an eye out over there for some fun posts over the next few weeks. Anywho, here’s what I wrote for them this month:

sliders

Recipe: Slow Cooker Peachy Pulled Chicken Sliders: The slow cooker is the perfect summer-friendly option for keeping your kitchen cool and helping you get dinner on the table with time to spare. These chicken sliders are packed full of sweet, peachy flavor!

pans kitchen

Excuse Busting: I Don’t Have Time To Eat Healthy: Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean you devote hours and hours every day in the kitchen. Here, I share my favorite tips for making healthy food fast.

guacamole chips

Recipe: 5 Minute Easy Guacamole: By using pre-made pico de gallo, this guac comes together in less than five minutes. And I promise, no one will even know you didn’t spend all afternoon slicing and dicing.

Live Better America

I had just announced how excited I was about my new partnership with General Mills and Live Better America last month, and unfortunately, a few weeks later, us bloggers got the news that General Mills had cut funding to the LBA site and it was shutting down operations in May. Womp. Womp. I’m so bummed! I was so excited to work with all the awesome people there. They were still great to work with and let me finish up all my outstanding assignments and got them posted to the website before the team left. So you can still access them!

curry

Recipe: Weeknight Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry: If you’re craving some Indian food but don’t have hours to devote to a slow-cooked recipe, this vegetarian curry is for you. It’s packed full of complex flavor, but comes together in about a half hour. Bonus: thanks to the use of coconut milk, this dish is 100% vegan—a great option to serve to mixed company! It also just gets better and better as leftovers.

taco skillet

Recipe: Vegetarian Black Bean and Chickpea Taco Skillet: This vegetarian taco skillet comes together in a flash thanks to a using a few Old El Paso products you can find on your grocery store shelves. By using whole grain pasta and two beans as a fiber-filled protein, you get a healthier version of the standard hamburger skillet comfort food. I served it with a little dollop of sour cream on top!

burgers

Recipe: Buffalo Black Bean Burgers: Just because you’re having veggie burgers doesn’t mean they have to be flat on flavor. These black bean burgers have the texture of real meat and a ton of blazin’ flavor thanks to a spicy mayo. These burgers are also awesome to freeze. Just make them up ahead of time and pop ‘em in the freezer before cooking.

avocado tomato salad

Recipe: Quick and Easy Avocado and Tomato Salad: If you’re craving a light and healthy lunch, this adorable salad-in-a-shell is perfect for you. Flavorful cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, herbs and spices are mixed with healthy-fat powerhouse avocado to make a salad that is light, satisfying and totally tasty!

blueberry ginger granita

Recipe: Blueberry-Ginger Granita: Dessert in the summer doesn’t have to be heavy, and this vegan, gluten-free berry granita is a great example of how satisfying a light dessert can be! Tangy, sweet blueberries may seem like an odd combination with the zing of ginger, but it’s an incredibly interesting flavor combination that just screams “summer!”. Feel free to use either fresh or frozen berries (but I like making it with fresh for the biggest burst of flavor).

coleslaw

5 New Spins on Coleslaw: It wouldn’t be a summer barbecue without coleslaw on the menu. Instead of serving up the standard mayo-based slaw (which can clock in at upwards of 300 calories per cup), try out some of these healthified versions. You might just find your new favorite coleslaw!

dry rub

Build Your Own Dry Rub: It’s the time of year to fire up the grill and cook yourself some super tasty summer dinners. Dry rubs are an easy way to impart a ton of flavor on your grilled goods without devoting a ton of time (or calories). Just mix up the spices, rub it on liberally and grill away!

What have you been up to lately?

All About Cooking with Superfoods

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Posted on Apr 25, 2014 in Career

ice cream superfoods

I had so many great posts planned for you guys this week. But I woke up on Monday morning with one heck of a cold, and I’ve been fighting the good fight against the germs ever since. Long ago, I accepted that the best way for my body to fight colds is for me to stop, rest, and let my body do what it’s supposed to do, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do this week. So instead of writing posts for you or testing recipes for my new cookbook, I’ve been laying on the couch and coughing my lungs out while watching old SVU episodes. Which was really fun for the first day, but now I’m ready to get back to feeling like myself and get back to work!

Knock on wood, I think I’m on the mend. I even headed to the kitchen yesterday and tried to play catch-up on some of the recipes I’ve neglected during my time in germ city. While I was whisking away at Maple Coffee Ice Cream (the photo above), I realized that while I’ve done a lot of mentioning of my second cookbook to you guys, I haven’t actually told you much about it. Doh.

oatmeal

My second book is called Cooking with Superfoods, and it is part of the Cooking with… series from Countryman Press (the same series that my first cookbook was in—in fact, my Greek Yogurt cookbook was the first one in the series). If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s going to be packed with recipes that contain superfoods (duh)! There are a ton of foods out there than can be labeled a “superfood” but I narrowed down the list to about 40 of ‘em, and each superfood has 2-3 recipes spotlighting its greatness.

Unlike Greek Yogurt, the vast majority of the recipes in Superfoods are brand spankin’ new, so I’ve been working really hard in the kitchen over the past few months developing new yumminess. I have about 35 more recipes to test and photograph, and then I’ll hunker down and write, write, write! I’ll be turning in my manuscript in the next few weeks, and if all goes well in the design process, it should be out for public consumption in late 2014/early 2015.

smoothie

I’ve mentioned it a few times here, but I am insanely excited for this book, and incredibly proud of the recipes, photos and writing I’ve done so far. 99% of the feedback I received on Greek Yogurt was positive, but I took that 1% of constructive criticism and really tried to make Superfoods even better. The recipes are healthier, cleaner, and more straight-forward. The photography is better (at least, I think it is). And, after getting such good feedback about this part of Greek Yogurt, I’m incredibly excited about the non-recipe content of the book. Not only is it going to be packed with over 100 tasty, healthy recipes, but it’s also going to have a write-up for each of the 40+ superfoods in the book complete with why they’re good for you, why you should include them in your diet, and where to find them. It’s going to be more than just a book of recipes, it’s going to be a great resource for both people who are new to the world of healthy eating and those of you who are well-versed in good-for-you-foods.

Want to hear some of the recipe titles? There are some good ones:

  • Dark Chocolate Açai Brownies
  • Grilled Fish Tacos with Blueberry-Avocado Salsa
  • Spaghetti and Freekeh Meatballs
  • Goji Berry and Ginger Yogurt Scones
  • Kiwi and Sweet Potato Bisque
  • Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Pumpkin Seed Clusters
  • Strawberry-Chicken Spinach Wrap
  • Sweet Potato, Chicken and Quinoa Stew
  • Banana Walnut Whole Wheat Pancakes

Yum!

sweet potato fries

One of the biggest changes between the process of my first cookbook and this one is that I’m not doing the design on this one! If you didn’t know, for my first cookbook, I did the writing, recipe development, photography, and design—and it was an amazing experience to be able to have such a high-level of control over the final product (I know a lot of authors, especially first-time authors, don’t get that luxury). But because of the timing of this book, and the arrival of Baby J, I’m just not going to be able to do the design for Superfoods.

I have to admit, as a professional designer, it’s really hard to give up control over that part of the creative process. Who am I kidding? It’s hard to give up control over any part of the creative process. I have promised my editor I’ll try not to be a “helicopter designer” on it, but I still do pity the poor designer who has to work on my book. I’m sure I’ll be nice and picky (and probably annoying). And thankfully, I do have time to design the cover, and do a few sample interior designs for the other designer to work off of—just as long as Baby J doesn’t show up early—so I’m not relinquishing total control.

peanut butter cups

Okay, so that’s the scoop on cookbook #2! I’ll definitely be sharing more info once I know the exact release date and pre-order date.

Neither of my cookbooks would have been possible without you guys (that’s why my first cookbook is dedicated to my blog readers!), so thank you so much for your support everyday. Even if you didn’t buy my first cookbook, and have no plans to, just you showing up here and hanging out with me during the week has impacted my life and career more than I think you’ll ever know. I am so grateful to each and every one of you!

And now, I’m going to go eat one of those peanut butter cups pictured up there. Peanut butter cups are good for a cold, right?

P.S. If you’d like to snag a free copy of Cooking with Greek Yogurt, my friend Kelly is giving one away on her blog this week!

What’s your favorite superfood? Do you try to pack your diet with superfoods?