Then and Now: Celebrating 5 Years of Blogging

In order to keep this site going (at no cost to you!) this guide may contain affiliate links.

Then and now: what five years of blogging looks like and how things have changed. Plus, I share a comparison of my income, traffic and newsletter stats for the past five years. Including a breakdown of where I invest my money.

On June 22nd, 2011 I published the first of many blog posts here on Careful Cents. It’s been five years since then and this blog has grown, morphed, changed design (like 6 times!) and gone in multiple directions.

It started out as a personal finance blog where I shared goals like saving for my first laptop (which I STILL have btw) and paying off my car loan so I could become debt free.

As my journey continued over the years I took on freelance work and additional jobs in order to save up money to take the leap into full-time self-employment.

This blog began to focus on side hustling, entrepreneurship and freelancing. Two years after starting my blog, on May 1, 2013 I quit my accounting day job and became my own boss.

It’s been a tough journey, one full of mistakes and constant lessons about myself and my ideals. But one thing has remained: I still love this blog.

I still enjoy writing and sharing my knowledge and life lessons. And most of all I really enjoy you — the awesome community of readers.

Here’s a comparison of how far Careful Cents has come in five years!

Income growth over 5 years

Want to know how much money I earned from my blog in it’s first month? $19.35  yeah I basically made enough money for a decent dinner out. HA!

It mostly came from Google ads, which I haven’t had on my site for over 3 years and back then I had no idea what I was doing.

2011 YTD income earned: $1,958.36

Jun-Dec 2011 blogging income

My first client was an online bank startup that I met at a financial conference in October 2011. I didn’t get paid but was able to use the samples in my portfolio as well as come out with a raving testimonial.

From then till now, I’ve always had some kind of client work and love every minute of it! In 2011, almost 100% of my income came from freelancing.

2015 YTD income earned: $78,057.87

Last year I shared blogging income reports to gauge my progress. I even had my first $10,000 month! In 2015 my average monthly income was $6,590. 

Jan-Dec 2015 Careful Cents income

Over the past five years I’ve experimented with different income streams and now earn income through my blog in five main ways. That’s a pretty good change from 100% freelancing in 2011.

Jan-Dec 2015 income pie

2016 YTD income earned: $33,403.64

Currently I bring in an average of about $5,560 per month, so it’s down a bit from last year. But I’m okay with that as I still have plenty of time in the year to ramp things up.

Jan-Jun 2016 Careful Cents income

It’s taken me much longer than I’d like to admit (hello, five years?!) but I’ve finally been able to achieve a 50/50 ratio of blogging income streams and client work.

Here’s what Careful Cents income looks like in the first six months of 2016.

Jan-June 2016 income pie

Anyone else notice that my Interest Income doubled since 2015? HOLLA! lol

Blog traffic stats

My traffic was dismal in the first six months of starting my blog. I earn more pageviews PER MONTH now than I did the entire 2011. I didn’t know a thing about SEO, guest blogging or building my blog’s online presence.

2011 YTD traffic: 18,703 pageviews

Careful Cents traffic stats 2011

I get a lot of organic traffic, but of course it’s always a work-in-progress. Still, Careful Cents has come a long way. Here’s how my blog’s traffic looks as of June 2016.

2016 YTD traffic: 186,736 pageviews

Careful Cents traffic stats June 2016

Social media & newsletter followers

I’m not going to do a comparison of how my social media stats looked back in 2011 because they were non-existent. HA! I had just started blogging so all my social media platforms had 0 followers.

Here’s what my social media and newsletter numbers look like now (as of June 2016).

Total social & email reach: 22,782

Can you tell which platforms I really like? Twitter has always been my favorite and I spend a lot of time on Facebook with my private Freelancer’s Club community.

I feel like my social media stats are still really low for it being five years. However, my approach to growing followers (and even subscribers) is totally different than most bloggers.

All of these numbers are completely organic. Yep, not one advertising campaign for new likes, follows or fans.

I prefer to have high engagement so I focus on a smaller community that converts really well.

Where I spend money in my small business

As my business has grown I’ve actually done a lot to streamline how it runs. Two years ago I employed a virtual assistant, an assistant editor, social media manager and multiple writers. But now it’s just me (and my tech guy!).

I actually believe I tried to grow my blogging business too quickly and it went through some unnecessary growing pains. However, it forced me to learn how to create systems for my business and ultimately replace a lot of the work I outsourced by using a (cheaper!) tool to do the job for me.

Here’s where I spend money in my business after five years of blogging:

2016 business expenses – $1,731.20 /mo

How much did I spend my first year of blogging? It was a grand total of $438 in expenses for the entire year! OH MY. How things change. 🙂

Cheers to an awesome five years and to, hopefully, many more! Thanks for reading this blog and being part of the Careful Cents community.

It’s because of your emails, comments, tweets and shares that enables this little passion project to continue thriving. So thank you!

Happy birthday 5th Careful Cents!


  1. Emily says:

    It’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come, especially as someone who is in “Carrie 2011” phase. I also loved seeing your business expenses. There are SO many things a blogger can buy, and it’s hard for me to know what’s worth it and what’s not. It’s helpful to see what a more experienced blogger invests in. Thanks for sharing the inner details of your biz!

    • Carrie says:

      It’s true there are a lot of different things you can spend money for your freelance business. I’ve tested out a lot of different things and find that this works for me now. A few years ago though I didn’t have this many expenses as I was bootstrapping my biz and chose to spend time over money. Now, though I prefer to spend some money in exchange for more time. It just depends on where you’re at financially!

  2. Betty says:

    Thank you for the inside look Carrie! It’s very enlightening to see how you’ve built your blog into a revenue generator while freelancing your services! Did you create those bar and pie charts?

  3. Lexi says:

    Congrats, Carrie! So great to see how much you’ve grown, learned and created a business that works for you. Hope you are doing well, that you and family are happy and healthy!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Lexi! It’s been an awesome and crazy ride since we first worked together and I owe a lot of what I’ve learned from you. So thank YOU!

  4. Happy 5th! I am in my 10 month of blogging (after co-blogging for 4 years on another project) and am slowly starting to bring my numbers up. It might take me five years, but this at least shows me it’s possible! Here’s to many more years of growth, Carrie! – Danielle @

  5. Ty says:

    Hi, Carrie! I’m 6 months into my blogging journey and really appreciate you allowing us to get a peek behind the curtains – it’s a great reminder that building something substantial takes time. Thank you!

    I see so many bloggers getting into Pinterest, Snap Chat, Periscope, etc. I do my blog and Twitter, that’s it. I don’t even do Facebook (personally or for my site). As someone with a full time job and a family, it seems like too much effort to expand into these areas. That said, if these other social platforms drive a lot of traffic then I’d reconsider. What have you seen in regards to traffic and engagement from these “other” platforms, and do you think they are worth the effort?

    Thanks again and congratulations on a successful 5 years!!

    • Carrie says:

      Ty, this is such a good question! Honestly, if I could start over I would probably just do Twitter and Pinterest and nothing else. It’s a lot to handle all the different social media accounts, so I suggest just focusing on your top 2-3 platforms and forget the rest. That’s basically what I do. I have my brand on other social accounts, like Google+ and LinkedIn but I don’t really manage them or update them. I just make sure I have the @carefulcents handle taken (so no one else can grab it) and then just post things occasionally for brand management, in the event a brand wants to sponsor me or whatever. Hope that helps!

  6. Chrystina says:

    Stopping over from Jess Lawlor’s site. (Can you tell I’m super behind on blog reading?) I loved reading this post. I especially liked being able to see it through the eyes of an accountant with graphs & charts included. I’m also hitting 5 years very soon, but haven’t quite gotten around to the quitting the day job thing (maybe on day!). Props to you though, seriously very cool! And for still loving your blog 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *