In this Income Report, we’re looking back on 2017 at what worked, what didn’t, what lessons we can learn and how we can best move forward to achieve our dreams. I’ll also share my business strategy and tips that made me $75,000 blogging in year two.
Welcome to Root + Revel’s very first income report!
I know this might seem a little crazy to you–or perhaps you’re just here for the food (might I recommend these ooey gooey fudgy and flourless brownies to hold you over), but let me explain.
And they’ve inspired me so much, not only to know what’s possible in the world of blogging as a business, but also with their incredible ideas and generosity in sharing their mistakes and successes along the way.
I finally feel like I’m at a point with Root + Revel where I have something valuable to share about making money online, something that I hope will help you learn how to make money doing something you love, something that lights you up every day and makes you excited to get to work, something you’re passionate about, something that impacts others for the better, something you can do from your couch in your jammies or on a beach in the Caribbean or at a desk in a co-working space at whatever dang time you please because YOU’RE YOUR OWN BOSS.
Please know, the goal of these income reports is not to brag or show off or pat myself on the back (though it’s always a good idea to celebrate your own successes, too!). Rather, my goal with these income reports is three-fold:
- to help anyone interested in starting a blog learn the ropes and find inspiration and motivation to be successful and change your life, whether that’s simply finding an outlet for your passion, improving your financial situation by making some extra money, or finally quitting your job and making six figures working for yourself. I hope that by sharing my own journey, my transparency and story might help you to achieve your dreams.
- to show fellow skeptics (hi, I used to be one of you when I was a full-time journalist who wrote for real publications and turned my nose up at bloggers who were running their blogs without integrity, transparency and a business mindset) that it IS possible to make money online and to do so while keeping your soul intact.
- to help myself. Yes, I’ll admit it. I do have some selfish motivation for publishing these income reports. Because quite honestly, it’s a great opportunity for me to reflect on my business, to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, to learn from my mistakes and to track my achievements.
I’ve been self-employed for nearly a decade at this point, but since I began blogging full-time in January of 2016, my life has exponentially improved.
I’m finally writing the stories that I want to tell, I’m finally helping others to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives, and I’m doing it ALL on my own terms.
Truth be told, when I was a freelancer for magazines and newspapers, I hated having to report to an editor, to be beholden to their advertisers and their needs, to convince through begging and pleading that a story needed to be told and, more often than not, to be rejected. Couple that with diminishing budgets, increasing demands, cranky and thankless editors, an overall exhaustion from traveling so much and a body that couldn’t handle eating rich restaurant food five times a week, and I knew I needed a change.
Now, I’m happy to report that life is so much better now that I’m truly my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day–I wake up excited to work, I’m always learning something new and I love the challenge of running your own business, constantly coming up with new ways to monetize and help people, simultaneously.
Alright, enough talk. Let’s take a look at the numbers for 2017…
Income Report 2017
TOTAL INCOME: $75,120.29
- Mediavine Ad Network, $7,870.12
- Affiliate Commissions, $12,069.13
- Aillea $5.86
- Amazing Grass $7.95
- Amazon $4,465.07
- Aquasana $100.55
- Beautycounter $127.75
- Butcher Box $1,650.00
- Daily Harvest $30.00
- Dry Farm Wines $876.81
- Erin Stutland $334.05
- EverlyWell $166.57
- Food Blogger Pro $571.58
- Fresh20 $35.88
- Green Smoothie Girl $10.30
- Intelligent Blends $3.18
- Kettle + Fire $106.70
- Lola $20.00
- Love Goodly $13.00
- Melyssa Griffin $892.50
- MightyNest $23.88
- Philosophie $77.28
- Real Plans $51.50
- Reward Style $22.75
- ShopStyle $21.18
- SunBasket $305.00
- Tailwind $0.50
- The Detox Market $0.80
- Thrive Market $1,050.00
- Ultimate Bundle $197.40
- US Wellness Meats $699.02
- Vital Choice $255.46
- Vital Proteins $56.53
- Sponsored Content, $53,882.50
- Guest Posting, $50.00
- Superfood Green Smoothies eBook, $978.54
- Coaching, $270.00
TOTAL EXPENSES: $39,900.22
- Social Media Management $9,158.00
- Virtual Assistant $12,636.15
- Publicist $1,958.00
- Video Editing $2,230.00
- Groceries for Recipe Development $2,057.56
- Website/Tech/Tools $2,369.51 (this includes tools like Tailwind, VaultPress, my hosting service Cloudways, and my tech manager, The Blog Tutor)
- ConvertKit $1,531.35 (this is my email service provider)
- Leadpages $297.00 (this is how I make pop-up boxes and opt-in forms and pages)
- Facebook Ads $2,637.79
- Courses + Education $1,436.00 (this includes Food Blogger Pro, The Blog Village, Melyssa Griffin and more)
- Office Supplies + Networking $2,043.98 (this includes resources like Texture and Audible)
- Photographer $1,425.00
- Adobe Creative Suite $119.88 (this is what I use to edit photos)
NET PROFIT: $35,220.07
Whew! I know that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I hope people will takeaway from these reports is just how much work, energy, thought and heart goes into running a blog. It’s not just as simple as slapping up a few words and an iphone photo and pressing publish.
Also, I want to take a moment here to talk about how high my expenses were for a new business. This is something I struggled to grasp for a long time: do you have to spend money to make money, or should you wait to spend money until you’re making enough?
In the end, after A LOT of analysis and talking with other business owners and reading tons of books and blogs on the subject, I decided that if I wanted to grow my business quickly, I would have to invest some money into it. And for my sanity, I knew I couldn’t possibly do everything on my own. I had to delegate.
So how did I decide where to spend and where to save? It was pretty simple, really–I thought about what tasks I enjoyed doing and what my strong suits were (writing, creating, business development, interacting with you, my dear readers) and what tasks I hated doing and had no skills in/desire to learn (social media, admin, photography, video editing, pitching). And then I outsourced the latter.
I never would’ve been able to accomplish all that I did last year without my incredible team–I’ve got an Instagram guru, a Pinterest pro, a virtual assistant/business manager/publicist, a photo and video team that blows my mind with their talent every day, and the rest of my money went into advertising and learning so that I could continue improving R+R all the while.
Of course, I don’t recommend going into debt to start your blog, but if 2017 taught me anything, it’s that investing in your business (whether it’s a blog, a moving company, a brick-and-mortar store or restaurant, etc.) is key to your success, and the speed at which you achieve it.
Traffic Overview: 727,972 pageviews for the year (average 60k+ per month)
Top Ten Traffic Sources
**Note: there was a glitch with my Direct traffic through October 2017, so most of my Pinterest and Google search traffic was being counted as direct. The issue has since been resolved, which you’ll see reflected in future income reports.
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel Last Year:
- How I Reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance Naturally!
- DIY Charcoal + Clay Face Mask for Acne and Blackheads
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- A Butter Coffee Recipe to Balance Hormones + Improve Digestion
- What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
**Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in The Blog Village, a membership site that helps bloggers monetize their blogs. This tracking tool is my favorite part of the site!
**Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in ConvertKit.
Note: RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille, or the revenue earned per 1,000 pageviews. When you look at RPM, you put the focus on optimizing your revenue as efficiently as possible, rather than just getting the most people to your site. For example, a site with 100,000 pageviews and a $1 RPM makes $100, while a site with 20,000 pageviews and a $10 RPM makes $200. This is good news because it means you don’t have to have TONS of traffic to make a great income. In fact, when you niche down and focus on providing as much value as possible to your current audience, you earn more money.
Hourly Rate: I worked on the blog for a total of 925 hours in 2017. With a gross income of $75,120, that means I earned roughly $81 per hour. Not too shabby!
If you look at my net income instead, my hourly rate drops to about $38/hour, which is still respectable for being my first year of full-time blogging.
I use Toggl to track my time.
What I Focused on This Year
Oh man, where to start. It’s tough doing this income report for the entire year (future reports will be monthly), as there’s so much ground to cover and I’d prefer not to bore you all with a book the size of Hamilton.
So I’m going to pick three big things I focused on in 2017:
- Sponsored Posts: After working with a few brands in 2016, I knew that sponsored posts would be my best bet at making money from blogging in 2017. So I created a fancy media kit and hired a business manager to start pitching relevant brands. We have a MASSIVE spreadsheet in Google Docs where we make lists of potential sponsors, keep tabs on open conversations and track existing partnerships. It helped a ton to have a third-party to pitch R+R–I always felt a little strange pitching myself and I think it adds some professionalism and legitimacy to the business to have a liaison handling the campaigns. I work really hard to only work with brands who are a perfect fit for the blog–this means that I often have to turn down requests from brands whose ingredients aren’t clean enough or whose mission isn’t in line with our natural, organic and eco-friendly principles. I could definitely make more money if I didn’t uphold those standards, but my first priority has always and will always be to my readers and so I’m very particular about what brands we feature on R+R. Sponsored blog posts are a ton of work–between managing the contracts and timelines, organizing the photo shoots, writing the post, sharing on social, etc. it takes a lot of manpower to produce, and there are several people I have to pay from my compensation–my assistant gets a commission on every deal she helps orchestrate, my photographer and video editor have to get paid, my social team has to get paid, I gotta pay Uncle Sam and then whatever’s left is what I get to keep. In 2017, I decided to charge $1,000 per sponsored blog post. And now that my pageviews and social audience have increased drastically, I plan to increase my rates accordingly for 2018. I also want to focus more on Instagram partnerships, rather than blog posts since those are less time consuming and leave more space on the blog for non-sponsored content.
- Email List: After taking Melyssa Griffin’s Blog to Biz Hive course, I learned the value of having an email list and spent much of 2017 working on ways to gain subscribers and provide them with value. I started by switching over from MailChimp to ConvertKit, which provides a lot more functionality in terms of segmenting, automations and tracking. From there, I signed up for LeadPages so that I could create opt-ins for my readers–these included everything from pop-up boxes to special pages for things like my 7-Day Free Green Smoothie Challenge and my Library of Resources. I created a bunch of free downloads to encourage people to sign up, like this Natural Wine Guide or my DIY Cleaning eBook. And then once I got their emails, I put them into a Welcome Series, where I shared with them some of my most popular posts and recipes, some exclusive freebies and discounts and created a weekly series called the Whole Soul List where I share what I’m eating, reading, listening to, enjoying, watching, hoping for and more. This is a great place to include affiliate links, as well. I found that the fastest way to get more email subscribers was to do giveaways; however, a lot of the people who enter don’t stick around after the giveaway has ended, or they don’t unsubscribe but they only ever open emails with “Giveaway” in the subject line. So they’re not always my target market, but at the same time, there’s always a handful that become a real part of the R+R community. So I still find it worth it to do giveaways, especially because I’m able to raise brand awareness for my partners and gift one of my valued readers a special treat at the same time. Win-win-win!
- Content: I know, I know. It’s the piece of advice that every blogger always gives: focus on content and they will come. But it’s cliche for a reason. Beyond just producing high-quality content that would benefit my readers, I want to explain what I mean here. At the end of 2016, I was a hot mess, totally overwhelmed with all of the many ways I could monetize my blog. Should I start a podcast? A Youtube channel? A membership site? Should I launch another eBook or create a course? I had a huge case of analysis paralysis and it was stressing me out of my mind. So for 2017, I decided to just press pause. Nothing new. No launches in 2017. I was just going to focus on ONE thing: the blog. So I set out to create killer content that I knew my readers would love and just left it at that. This was a fantastic idea, both for my sanity and to really build up the blog so that when I do decide to launch, I’ll have a larger following to do so with. To create good content, I always first ask myself, “What is the benefit to the reader? What service am I providing them?” Then I look to Google and Pinterest to see what people are searching for on that topic and how I can best serve those searchers. Using the Yoast SEO plugin, I make sure that my SEO is targeted to my keyword, which I determine by using the Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension. I look for keywords that are between 5,000 and 30,000 searches per month–any more than that, and the keyword will be too competitive for a blog of my size. Then I create a sharable Pinterest graphic using Canva and voila!
Goals for 2018
Since this income report is for the entire year of 2017, I’m going to make this Goals section for the entire year of 2018.
- Increase Affiliate Income: I’m going to be working hard in 2018 to improve my affiliate earnings. With a few changes at the end of 2017, I was able to bring my affiliate earnings to over $2,000 per month and I’m hoping that in 2018, I’ll more than double that figure. Some tactics I plan to use include doing video demos/tutorials/unboxing (like this Butcher Box video), adding some new email sequences and updating my Welcome Series, experimenting with using social media to sell affiliates, creating a new resources page and hosting webinars.
- Launch a Membership Site: This has been on my mind for over a year now, and I’m really excited to finally start putting this in motion this year. On my wishlist for the site: a Community Forum with Active Daily Prompts + Expert Advice, Live Q&A calls/webinars, Fun monthly challenges, like a Sugar Detox and Money-Saving Plan, Unlimited access to all video mini-courses on topics like meal planning and saving money, healing chronic health conditions naturally, detoxing your home, a Deals & Discounts page, Meal Plans, Food Diaries, Health Logs + Exclusive Recipes with Potential Grocery Delivery and more! I have a tendency to wait to do something until it’s perfect, but I’m trying to break free of that perfectionist mentality this year and just. do. it. So I think I’ll be rolling out the membership site in phases. If you’re interested in being a beta-tester or just want to be kept up to date on the status, please sign up here for updates.
- Numbers + Stats Goals: In 2017, I had nearly 728,000 pageviews. For 2018, I’d like to shoot for 1,250,000 pageviews. I’ll be experimenting with paid advertising, improving SEO with backlinks and guest posts, and expanding social media to help me get there. I’m hoping that I’ll have over 100,000 followers on Instagram (double what my current following is) and 25,000 subscribers on my email list. And my income goal for 2018: $125,000. I hope you’ll follow along on this journey!
Featured Question: I’m going to be featuring one question from a reader in each monthly income report, so please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer.
It’s All Thanks To You
Please know, I am keenly aware that I have the flexibility, freedom and finances to work on this blog as my full-time job because of YOU–dear reader, sharer, Pinner, commenter, Liker, customer or silent follower of Root + Revel. Your support and participation in the R+R community reaches beyond just this website. This month, I donated to the Environmental Working Group in your name.
I am so incredibly grateful for you! Thanks for showing up 🙂
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no extra cost to you when you purchase through my links.