At the beginning of 2015 I made a decision to focus less on client work and more on turning my blog into a sustainable business. After months of dealing with inconsistent income and taking on a bit of business debt, I decided I needed to take back control of my income by leveraging this blog.
Mind you that I didn’t say “pimp out this blog” which is what a lot of freelancers do in order to make a living online. I’ve carefully crafted this platform over the past 3.5 years until it’s turned into an awesome place of resources, solopreneur stories, and for the community to connect with each other.
There’s no way I’m going to jeopardize that, but I do plan to make smart use of what I’ve built while offering value to everyone else. And I’ll be sharing my successes and failures along the way.
Quarterly income updates
I personally love reading other online blogging reports because it proves that you can make a living on your terms (and we all know how passionately I feel about that!). So throughout 2015 I’ll be documenting my blogging income reports as a way of staying accountable and tracking my progress.
But it will also be a way for me to detail exactly how I make money through my blog. The one downside with reading other blogger’s income reports is that they don’t specifically explain how they make money with their blogs, and usually just list out the various income streams.
A few really good examples of other bloggers who are completely transparent and share their income reports online, include:
- Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com
- Regina A. from ByRegina.com
- J$ from BudgetsAreSexy.com
- Bjork and Lindsay from PinchofYum.com
If you’re wondering if you too can make a living by starting a blog, here’s my story and proof that you can leverage different money-making methods.
My 2015 #blogtobizplan for Q1
My original #blogtobizplan for 2015 was to have at least 40% of my income pie be made up of revenue projects as a direct correlation with Careful Cents. This includes sales of products from my online store, biz mentoring and consulting sessions, as well as affiliate sales, and working directly with brands.
Instead of doing monthly reports, which can get a bit laborious as well as not show much of a change from month-to-month, I’m only updating my progress every quarter.
Here’s how the numbers look for the first quarter of 2015, plus the income percentage breakdown for each type of income I earned.
Blogging income for January – $7,324.85
This was the highest income month I’ve had — both from being self-employed and working for a traditional employer when I had my accounting job. What really pushed this month over the edge was a product launch in collaboration with One Woman Shop as well as a new service I created for serious freelancers to connect with quality clients.
Both of these products continue to sell well, but I’ll get into more of the specifics later in this post.
Blogging income for February – $4,966.24
February was a big transition month as a couple freelance writing contracts ended. I chose to ramp up some last-minute projects in order to not take on more client work in March.
My time tracker also shows evidence that I wasn’t able to spend as much time on Careful Cents projects, as displayed here in the 13.8% total. But I knew that February would be a busy month so I was willing to make the sacrifice.
Blogging income for March – $5,374.46
March was my most awesome month yet! Yes, I brought in more money in January, but thanks to a transitional month in February, I was finally able to flip the script on my freelance writing income versus Careful Cents ventures. When I look back at my original idea of having at least 40% of my income come directly from this blog, I pretty much knocked that goal out the park!
Blog management and editing is pretty consistent each month and remains at around 44% of my overall self-employment income. I’m not expecting that to change much as it’s work I absolutely love and it pays the rent! So if every month’s income looked like March’s pie, I’d be a very happy girl.
Total blogging income for Q1 2015 = $17,665.05
Below is a screenshot from my GoDaddy Bookkeeping software that tracks all my income and expenses for each month. This makes it extremely handy for calculating quarterly taxes and creating income reports. It shows the total income for the first three months of this year.
I’m not going to display the exact numbers for each month specifically, but if you do the math yourself you’ll see exactly how much money I brought in from each income stream.
Here are the total numbers broken down for the entire first quarter:
- Freelance writing income – $4,661.50. Right now I have between 4-5 consistent writing clients that I produce content for each week. Earlier this year that number was closer to 8-9, but as I’ve focused more on creating digital products and less on client work, that number has diminished. I expect that I will always have freelance writing work since it’s something I love a TON. But I want to focus more on writing for this site and creating digital products.
- Blog management and editing services – $7,387.99. In addition to Careful Cents, I’m also the managing editor for several finance and editing blogs, where I help create an editorial calendar, come up with content ideas, manage a team of freelance writers, give out assignments, as well as edit, format and schedule blog posts to be published each week. I also have an assistant editor who works with me on a couple of these projects.
- Affiliate product sales – $1,126.66. I have a very strict affiliate product policy and only promote products that I personally use and feel right about recommending. I’ve done several case studies and reviews here on the blog, which includes everything from the best invoicing software to getting started with investing. I’ve also optimized these blog posts for SEO so they can be found better in search results. After the initial time spent for the in-depth reviews, this is a fairly passive income stream.
- Brand sponsorship deals – $2,215. This is kind of a new venture as I am completely against using banner ads or other forms of direct advertising on my site. I think sidebar ads or even Google Adsense make sites look cluttered and cheap. Occasionally though, I get to connect with a brand that has an awesome product or service that I really like, and I’m able to share my honest perspective via blog posts and case studies. One example of this is my brand ambassadorship with the Neat Company and more recently, partnerships with LifeLock and E*TRADE. I have limited slots of these partnerships each month, and am very particular with the brands that I work with. I nearly turn every one of the inquires away.
- Biz mentoring and consulting sessions – $1,240. One of my favorite things about running an online business is connecting with other freelancers and solopreneurs who are just getting started. As a way to pay it forward, I offer consulting sessions for anyone looking for answers to specific questions, as well as on-going business mentoring and accountability sessions. I have limited space (time is money!) so I only extend invites to go-getters who I think will be the best fit.
- Digital product sales – $1,024.40. My new online store has only been open for 3 months but many of the ebooks and services are products that freelancers find useful. Most of them are based on my personal experience with starting or running a business, as well as my accounting background.
Total = $17,655.05 (yes, I’m a bit obsessive that all the numbers on ALL my reports have to match).
The money isn’t all profit
This may go without saying, but I didn’t deposit the entire $17k gross income into my bank account. I pay several team members to help manage and edit this blog, as well as help interact within my community. I also have to pay about $1,000 a month into a savings account specifically dedicated to paying quarterly taxes, and a good chunk goes towards health insurance (hooray for being self-employed!).
On top of that, I also have to pay for subscriptions like web hosting, bookkeeping software, MailChimp for newsletters, images for blog posts and ebooks, premium social media tools, office supplies (printer, scanner, and misc paper/ink), business cell phone, and PayPal fees.
My expenses are by no means high, since I do run a streamlined business online, but after the business expenses are paid I pay myself a $900 weekly salary that goes into a household bank account. I’m the breadwinner for our family so what I make pays the rent and puts food on the table.
A few financial wins
As a side note, this quarter I also reached the $20,000 mark with my retirement account. I haven’t been able to contribute the max to my Roth IRA account since I became self-employed, so that’s still a goal of mine. But I am happy that I can put $100 into the account each month. Every little bit helps and it’s now grown to a healthy balance.
I’m also consistently pulling in nearly 1,000 unique visitors per day, which comes out to roughly 30,000 unique hits per month. This is something I hoped to reach back when I began this blog in the summer of 2011. A thousand readers a day just seemed like a nice round number, but still small enough to produce quality readers.
Last week I received an email notice from my MailChimp account saying that I graduated from the free plan to the paid version, due to the fact that I have more than 2,000 email subscribers. (Yay?!) Even though I have to start paying $30 a month to use their email service, I find it kind of awesome.
Being in bootstrap mode has caused me to run my business extremely lean, but there are times when it makes a lot of sense to invest in the growth and future of your business. So I’m doing a little dance!
I don’t usually judge my online success by metrics like this but these are milestones worth celebrating. Overall, I am ecstatic about my #blogtobizplan income progress for the first quarter of 2015. I will be sharing more in-depth articles about each type of income stream, and my plans going forward, as the rest of the year unfolds.
Until then, leave a comment if you have questions about how I make a living online. I’d love to hear your thoughts!