How I Made $78,000 With My Blog in 2015

After tracking my blog and freelance ventures for an entire year, I earned over $78,000 in 2015. Here's how I did it, with graphs and the exact numbers of each income stream!

These past few years of full-time freelance haven’t been easy for me. In fact, there were times when I wondered if I was cut out for this freelance game at all.

Back in May 2013 I was so depressed and lost with my business that I wanted to shut the entire thing down. Then in the summer of 2014 I found myself back in debt, mostly due to starting and running my own business.

During the latter part of 2015 I started questioning everything again and wondered if what I was doing was actually making a difference. Then I spent the beginning of 2016 talking to accountability partners and bouncing ideas off my business coach to figure out my goal for the year.

The struggle is real

Over the past twelve months I’ve been working on experimenting with the idea of earning less money from client work and diversifying income through my blog. I started working as a brand ambassador, launched monthly workshops and honed my affiliate marketing skills.

Sadly though, as the year ended I found out that what I *thought* I wanted wasn’t what I wanted at all. (Sound familiar?)

I’m a writer down to the core, so when I scaled back on client work I lost a lot passion and joy for my work. My blog will always be my baby but working with clients and being a freelance writer is a very close second.

So what’s in store for this year? How do I plan on overcoming this hurdle? Before I answer that, let’s look back at what exactly transpired in 2015.

Quarter one: $17,655 ($5,600 per month)

As I got started with Q1 of 2015 my initial goal was to earn at least 40% of my income from blogging activities like affiliate revenue, brand sponsorships and coaching services by the end of the year.

In January I earned $7,325 which was the highest income month I had to-date, with 35% of the income coming from my own products/services. I launched a product in collaboration with One Woman Shop as well as my flagship service, The Client Connection.

In February I brought in $4,966 most of which consisted of freelance writing and editorial work as I wrapped up client projects that were ending. Only 14% of my income came from my own blogging/branding efforts.

March was the first month I was able to flip the script on my #blogtobiz plan and I finally hit the 40% mark I was aiming for since the beginning of the year. I earned $5,374 of which $2,100+ was from Careful Cents blogging ventures.

Jan-Mar 15 Careful Cents income

All three of these months together bring the total for quarter one to $17,655. To read more about how the first quarter of 2015 went, along with my expenses and a few other financial wins, check out my first quarterly income report.

Quarter two: $16,555 ($5,500 per month)

Since hitting my annual goal within the first quarter of the year, I had to come up with a new goal/plan. So I started working on my hourly rate for both freelance projects and blogging ventures.

After running the numbers I found out that my hourly rate was only around $38 for everything, including admin tasks, bookkeeping, email, client projects, blogging, brand deals, affiliate reviews, etc.

This amount is obviously is way too low and would not pay for all the bills, health insurance and taxes for my family. Because of this my year-end goal was to increase my hourly rate to $75 and I began reaching out to clients to increase my rates and take on more lucrative work.

In April I earned $5,526 and spent a lot of time updating my blog’s content and securing more freelancer coaching clients. I had 10 sessions in total, which works out to around 2-3 sessions per week.

In May I brought in $5,843 while taking time off to travel to New York City for the first time. I met up with my business coach in person and connected with several of my accountability partners.

When we returned home, we went on a road trip to visit some family in Kansas and ended up being in three different time zones in three weeks! I finally felt like I hit a groove of balancing working, traveling and family time.

June yield $5,185 and leveled out a pretty consistent $5,000 per month income bracket.

In the middle of the month I experienced a family emergency and was completely thrown off track. My family and I spent several days in the ER and I noticed a dire need for putting systems and processes in place for emergencies like this.

Also, Careful Cents turned 4 years old in June!

Apr-June 15 Careful Cents income

All three of these months together bring the total for quarter two to $16,555. To read more about how the second quarter of 2015 went, along with my expenses and an income stream breakdown, check out my second quarterly income report.

Quarter three: $23,512 ($7,800 per month)

BOOM. In July I earned $8,554 which was the first time I brought in over $8k one month. I made the final shift from earning the majority of my income from freelance client work to earning more of it through Careful Cents blogging ventures.

I spent the majority of July housesitting in Denver while Ryan and I looked at apartments. We knew it was time to move out of Texas but weren’t sure where to move just yet. (After searching for 4 months we decided on Boulder, CO and ended up moving in October.)

I recorded my first Periscope video and started doing regular scopes every week!

In August I kept up my earning streak and earned $8,862. I focused on consistent blogging activities, buckling down, building more freelance relationships, guest blogging on different sites and regularly interacting with the Careful Cents community.

My income for September totaled $6,096 since I wanted to grow the relationships I already had versus seeking out new work. I also traveled to Charlotte, NC for a financial blogging conference and hosted my first Careful Cents Coffee Meetup.

During this conference Careful Cents was awarded the 2015 Plutus Award for the Best Entrepreneurship Blog.

July-Sept 15 Careful Cents income

All three of these months together bring the total for quarter three to $23,512. To read more about how the third quarter of 2015 went, along with my expenses and watch my first video interview, check out my third quarterly income report.

Quarter four: $20,335 ($6,700 per month)

As the year progressed I aimed to hit the $10,000 income mark in one month. And in October I nearly reached it with $9,913 but was about $80 short. I still think it’s a win though!

Ryan and I spent most of the month prepping for our cross-country move to Colorado and I let go of all my blog management and editing clients. And covered my first-ever live event for Amex OPENForum.

In November I brought in $5,937 more than 50% of that coming from this blog alone. This was all happening while I was moving out of one apartment and into another, leaving very little time for a consistent work schedule.

I also started working on a super fun project with my friend and co-host Cait, The Budgets and Cents Podcast.

I finally wrapped up the year in December earning $4,485. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the reason for the big dip in income was because I took time off to re-evaluate my direction. I didn’t do any marketing, interviews or outreach. I basically took the entire month of December off to focus on my own projects.

I also turned the Client Connection service into a full-fledged membership site and prepped for the relaunch in the New Year.

Oct-Dec 15 Careful Cents income

All three of these months together bring the total for quarter four to $20,335. To read more about how the fourth quarter of 2015 went, along with my expenses and a few other financial wins, check out my second quarterly income report.

Annual income: $78,057 ($6,500 per month)

As you can see from the income reports listed above, my work scaled up throughout the entire year, peaked and then spiraled down. This brought on a lot of confusion and feelings of being lost.

But despite all of the business ups-and-downs, I still accomplished some awesome things. Here’s a timeline snapshot of what happened in 2015:

  • January – launched first major product for freelancers
  • February – found a consistent blogging schedule
  • March – earned 40% of income from Careful Cents blogging ventures
  • April – found more freelance coaching clients
  • May – traveled to New York City for the first time
  • June – experienced family emergency (and Careful Cents turned 4!)
  • July – spent time in Denver looking at new apts (earned $8k in one month!)
  • August – recorded my first Periscope video
  • September – traveled to Charlotte, NC and won Best Entrepreneurship Blog award
  • October – moved across the country from Texas to Colorado
  • November – started recording episodes for new co-hosted podcast
  • December – took entire month off, focused on personal projects

Jan-Dec Careful Cents pie

As you can see, the entire year turned out pretty even as far as income streams. About one-third was from freelance writing, one-third from blog management clients and one-third from this blog.

Want to see all of my income reports for 2015?

TOTAL income for 2015: $78,057 (before taxes)

Why my #blogtobiz experiment failed

All the work I did for the entire year felt like a complete failure because I reached many of my goals but still felt unhappy with my business direction. I did, however, learn a lot through my failures and discovered more about myself as a business woman than I ever had before.

After much internal searching, I decided to move my blog to a “side business” project. I’m taking on more freelance writing work to pay the bills and have prioritized this blog (and corresponding blogging ventures) to the backburner as far as needing to make a living.

I don’t like the feeling of using my blogging community to pay the bills, so it will return to it’s original state of being a passion project that brings in additional income.

I already feel so much better about this direction and have some awesome things planned for 2016!

How do you bounce back from a failed experiment? What did you learn in 2015 that helped change your perspective?

Tax Checklist for Freelancers: 9 Frequently Forgotten Tax Deductions and Credits
Become a Brand Ambassador: How I Earned $7,200 Through Deals and Sponsorships

12 comments

  1. Sarah says:

    This whole shebang resonates so deeply with me! I’m writing you an email write now, haha, so I’ll keep this short, but good on you for listening to your gut even when those dollar bills are flying at you. I’m going to break out this quote in my freelance club later this month, but it fits so well here that I’ve got to share it:

    “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
    CS Lewis

  2. Sarah says:

    GREAT post!! I work FT and freelance/blog on the side. I have gone back and forth with deciding which one to pursue more (freelancing or blogging), as I don’t really have the time for all three. I have chosen the opposite: blogging! However, none of this money (freelancing or blogging) pays the bills for me. That’s what my FT job is for at the moment. I struggled with this decision for a while and for all I know I’ll change my mind again mid-year, but it’s good to know I’m not alone! I am happy to be following along and supporting your journey! Cheers to a fabulous 2016! 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      The good thing about being an entrepreneur is that we can always change our minds! It’s fun to try new things, and experiment with different side hustles. 🙂 I know that Elizabeth Gilbert kept her full-time job for a long time, even after Eat Pray Love was so popular. It’s always a good idea to keep a cushion and have something that pays the bills and something separately that lights your passion on fire!

  3. Robert says:

    First, congrats on the amazing year. You put your intention out and definitely saw returns. This post was an inspiration to many freelancers but also a great look at what one can accomplish when they push themselves to the max. Great job!

  4. Kara says:

    Wow. GOALS. You are so inspirational. I love how you step back and look at your life, and ask yourself if what you’re doing is win line with your goals and your values. It’s wonderful to be able to see someone figure things out and crush it at the same time!

  5. You had quite the year and it’s wonderful how open and honest you are about everything. I agree that I often feel lost with my freelance writing business, which is entering its 10th year. I feel like I’m doing whatever work is thrown at me, even if I don’t always enjoy it (although most I do since I really enjoy writing) I fantasize about having a blog and making money from it, but as you have shown, that’s not always the case nor is it fulfilling. I also wish I could find a business coach or someone to just listen about what I’m doing and discuss what I’m doing right and what I can improve on. Good luck with 2016!

  6. Ah-mazing.

    This is going on year four for me, and I’m nowhere even close to doing that! I’ve considered teaching a course or doing something to where if I end up out of commission, I can still have some income going in. I haven’t decided what that will be yet. I’ll possibly take a presentation I already have and then instead of me talking, put together videos and make it a course. I already have a workbook and everything! I’m also still whittling away at my book about entrepreneurs with anxiety, building up my e-mail list and trying to pick up VA clients when I can.

    Thanks as always for the inspiration.

  7. Dayna says:

    Thanks for the great post. It is so encouraging to see the natural ups and downs of other freelancers, as my financials and work-life balance fluctuate widely from month to month. I especially loved that you listed something positive about every month; gratitude is so important!

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