How We Made $104,097 Blogging This Month (December 2018)

Advertiser Disclosure

Our readers always come first

The content on DollarSprout includes links to our advertising partners. When you read our content and click on one of our partners’ links, and then decide to complete an offer — whether it’s downloading an app, opening an account, or some other action — we may earn a commission from that advertiser, at no extra cost to you.

Our ultimate goal is to educate and inform, not lure you into signing up for certain offers. Compensation from our partners may impact what products we cover and where they appear on the site, but does not have any impact on the objectivity of our reviews or advice.

This month we celebrate an up as we hit six figures in revenue (in a single month) for the first time. Share in our success, learn from our failures, and see how you too can make money blogging.

Our mission at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. If a purchase or signup is made through one of our Partners’ links, we may receive compensation for the referral. Learn more here.

Note: This post originally appeared on, before we merged DollarSprout and BTOP together.

Even though we just had our best month ever, I almost feel just as lost as I did on Day 1 of blogging. There are so many things to learn, and so many new challenges as you try to hit the next level of scaling. I guess that’s one of the things I really like about this sort of work.

Ben and I are pretty much learning new stuff every day and trying to not make too much of a mess. And, like any business, some days are better than others.

Anyway, the last income report we posted was October 2018, where we generated just under $62k in revenue.

For reference, here are the last few reports we’ve done (we only do a few each year):

Fast forward to this month, and we generated $104,097 in total revenue. It was our first 6-figure month, which is really neat. That brings 2018’s total accrued revenue to $441,860.

Here’s a visual of the last two years of revenue:

blog revenue graph

But here is a more accurate depiction of how we got here:

accurate revenue graph

Honestly, I’m more proud of the left half of this graph than I am of the right. It’s easy to keep going when things are going well, but it’s another thing to keep going when literally nothing is working.

The left side of this graph involved:

  • Burning through my (meager) life savings in 9 months
  • Seeing friends advance in their careers while I moved straight backward
  • Probably some minor depression due to everything sucking for a prolonged period of time
  • Getting a job at a psych ward for $11.36 an hour that involved:
    • Serving meal trays
    • Giving people baths
    • Doing “safety checks” on each patient every 15 minutes. For 12 hours.

All this to say, our success did not happen overnight. And it probably won’t happen overnight for you, either. We all have our own unique set of hurdles that we have to get past before we reach some level of success.

Anyway, that’s my disclaimer before you write this off as “just another one of those 6-figure income reports I can’t relate to.”

On that note, here’s what our business revenue looked like this month.

Income Breakdown:

Ads: $1,003

Affiliate Marketing: $102,354

Course Sales and Coaching: $740 (net earnings, after affiliate payouts)

Sponsored Posts: $0

In my last income report, I did a video showing proof of earnings. We’ve added more affiliates since then and things are more spread out, so I’m skipping a video this time. I don’t think it really adds much value to this report. And if you don’t believe our numbers, a video probably won’t help change your mind.

I digress.

Expenses Breakdown:

Payroll: $11,290

This includes freelance writers, virtual assistants, content editors, etc.

Facebook ads: $4,054

Hosting-related services (billed annually): ~$99/month

Email marketing: $250/mo

Premium services (billed annually): ~$200-$300/month

These are typically plugin related. Think backups, theme support, security, social sharing, etc.

Web design project (category pages): $1,571

Random expenses: $1,061

Total expenses:$19,025

Net Profit: $85,072

Note: Yes, I know I’m using accrual accounting for revenue and cash accounting for expenses. And I know this isn’t the right way to do it. For now, it hasn’t caused any problems because Ben and I take very modest salaries, so we haven’t run into any cash flow issues (knock on wood). Starting in 2019, we will be working more closely with our accountant to keep better tabs on things. 

Traffic Breakdown:

This was our best traffic month so far. The bulk of each site’s traffic is coming from Google, which we are quite thankful for.

blog traffic
Note: Breaking the One Percent has since been combined with DollarSprout.

What Our Team Looks Like Now

Ben and I are trying to grow our business as fast as possible without being reckless. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but I think we are doing a decent job, at least for now.

Here’s a rough look at how we have everything set up:

ds team photo

There are times when I wish I had some idea how big publishers do it. I’d love to be an intern at GoBankingRates or Forbes or something for a summer, just to see how the heck these guys publish so much good stuff all the time. For now, though, we will keep flying blind.

New Developments and Things We’ve Learned

When you read this section, keep in mind that this is just what’s going on with us — and it might not apply to your particular business model or stage in blogging.

DollarSprout is Ad-Free as of 12/29

Yep. You won’t find a single display ad on our site now (we still use Mediavine on BTOP, though). We had quite a few reasons for deciding to ditch ads, and it’s something that’s been in the works for months.

dollarsprout mediavine

Affiliate marketing is what we happen to be good at. Display ads can clutter that user experience and slow down a website, so, for us, they didn’t align with our long-term goals for DollarSprout.

Since we’ve been tapering the ads off for a while now, finally killing them off thankfully won’t be a huge shock to our income. If we kept them at our original density and on all of our articles, Ben and I estimate we would probably be earning $10-20k per month from them. When I look at it that way, it definitely stings. However, the pros outweigh the cons for us:

  • Better user experience
  • Which leads to better branding
  • Focus can now 100% be on our content and affiliates
  • Everything is so much cleaner
  • We join some of our role models in being 100% display ad-free (Nerdwallet, Penny Hoarder, Student Loan Hero, The Simple Dollar, etc). We want to one day be on the same level as them, and this is one thing we all now have in common.

Extra note: I have nothing but good things to say about Mediavine, and I highly recommend them. Working with them has been a very positive experience. They offer a really, really valuable service to content creators. Absolutely no ill will.

We Started Using Asana

Ben and I have been notoriously bad about keeping any sort of editorial calendar, but I swear that will change! Starting in 2019, we are using Asana to create and manage our editorial calendar. Check it out:

asana ds

With major help from Megan (aka, Megan 100% is responsible for all of this), we are now scheduled to post 28 posts in January on DollarSprout. We paid $25 for this course and it was awesome. I would have tried to become an affiliate for it, but then I realized the guy who made it actually used to work for (own?) a competitor website. I’d rather spare the potential awkwardness and just have him keep 100% of any sales this shoutout may drive.

I’m still getting the hang of Asana, but I think this will give us a pretty good infrastructure to build off of as we attempt to scale to 50-75+ articles a month by the end of 2019. I can’t manage everything with whiteboards and a notebook like I’ve been doing up until now.

We’re Going to Hire a “Virtual CFO”

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Ben and I need all the help we can get when it comes to managing our business finances.

Things are quickly becoming more complex, and I know it’s only going to get more involved as we keep growing. As I said in an earlier note, we’ve been able to “get away with it” for a while now because Ben and I are pretty conservative when it comes to taking money out of the business.

We’ve been working with a coach/CPA for the past few months and it’s been very helpful, so we are probably going to bring him in on a more involved capacity.

Some issues we’ve been dealing with:

  • Tax filing status (S-Corp vs LLC, etc)
  • Human Resources stuff
    • Hiring employees
    • Benefits
    • Managing invoices
  • Risk Management
    • How much to reinvest each month
    • Planning for different scenarios. What are the first things we cut, where do we double down, etc. Scenarios like:
      • Income drops to $50k/mo
      • Income drops to $25k/mo
      • Income doubles to $200k/mo
      • etc.
  • Managing Cashflow – As our spending and payroll expenses increase, this will become extremely important.
    • We are switching to 100% accrual-based accounting in 2019 (not my tapestry of cash and accrual)
    • Receivables management
      • So far we are almost always paid on time, but I know it won’t always be like that
      • We have 17+ platforms that earn income, some of which contain a dozen or more advertisers. It’s a lot to track.

I think this will cost us somewhere around $500 a month, but in return, I will get my sanity back. I think it’s a fair deal.

New Projects

To give some context to the next few items, here is what I wrote in our October 2o18 income report:

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s going to take for us to reach the “next level” of blogging success.

Luckily for us, there are a LOT of sites in our niche that I can look to for inspiration, both in terms of tactics and overall strategy.

What I found is this:

  • The players getting millions of monthly pageviews in our niche aren’t selling courses or products. Everything is free.
  • They are not simply a repository of content. The pros guide their readers through a transformation or a decision. 

That last one was huge wake-up call for me.

As I look at our site right now, DollarSprout is just a big conglomerate of blog posts on a bunch of different financial topics. It’s basically up to the reader to navigate their way through our site and hopefully find something that is helpful to them.

It’s not that our current strategy can’t get us results (it definitely can, and is), but I’m sensing that there is going to be a ceiling for our growth if we continue on this path.

Fast forward to now, and I think we have a better idea of what this whole “guide your readers on a journey” thing is going to look like for us.

Here are some new things we are working on. Pretty much everything here is a work in progress with no results yet, so don’t assume any of this stuff is a good idea (remember, our Shopify store was a total bust).

Redesigning Category Pages

Most category pages on blogs suck. They are essentially just a massive blog roll of every post in that category, with no real structure at all. DollarSprout was no different up until recently.

Here’s what we have now:

category designs

I know this picture makes it kind of hard to see, but our pages are built much more intentionally now. We have cornerstone content at the top, and then more specific sections until you get to the “latest articles” feed at the bottom. There is still a bunch of tweaking I want to do to each of these pages, but I think this is a million times better than what we used to have.

Once we get the kinks worked out on these pages and add a new page for our Banking category, a homepage redesign will be next.

Creating Quizzes for Product Recommendations

Now, I just started working on this last night, so it’s in the VERY early stages. I’m sure I will look back on this in a month or two and cringe, but that’s how blogging goes.

As we expand our affiliate offerings, I want to make sure we are guiding readers to the right products for them. I think we, as publishers, have a responsibility to do that, but it’s not always easy to do. It’s much more practical to say “hey, this is what I like and use, and you should do the same.”

While that’s the route we’ve taken for a long time, I want to move away from the “endorsement model” and more towards the “best for you” model. I mean, I don’t personally use 30 different banking and investment apps. But that doesn’t mean DollarSprout can’t be a legitimately helpful and ethical affiliate for dozens of competing products.

I’ll give you an example:

Let’s say we are affiliates for two banks. Bank A and Bank B.

Bank A offers a very high interest rate but has an account minimum.

Bank B has a slightly lower interest rate, but zero account minimums.

Which bank do you tell your readers to join?

(And no, it’s not the bank with the higher affiliate payout.)

It’s the bank that best fits the reader.

It depends on your reader’s personal situation. Now, it might be easy to explain that to a reader when you are comparing two products, but the job gets harder when there are several competing products.

So, I’m experimenting with making “quizzes” to help guide readers/consumers to making smarter choices.

Again, this is very early stages and was more of an experiment than anything else. But I think I can make this a bit more robust and helpful. After I made this particular quiz, I learned about “branching logic“, so now I need to go back and incorporate that.

Another application I am excited for with this is for our content on making money. A common complaint pretty much all personal finance bloggers who promote paid online surveys get is “I barely made any money doing this and it was a waste of time,” no matter how clearly you disclose that “hey, this is a mindless task that will make you a few extra bucks each month. It won’t make you rich.”

By using this sort of system, I think we can more effectively funnel people into the right opportunities for them. If someone wants to build a business, we don’t want them to sign up to drive for Lyft or take some surveys for $20 a month. We want them to learn about blogging, e-commerce, virtual assisting, etc.

This is a mammoth project because it involves not only building the quizzes themselves, it also means going back through all of our old content and adding them in, removing endorsement-esque verbiage, etc.

Research Studies and Personal Stories

I made this post a couple of weeks ago in our Facebook group:

aja debt facebook

So yeah, I want to share more personal stories on our site to inspire people. We’ve got a decent platform to help a lot of people — way, way beyond what we are doing now.

We’ve also come up with a few “research studies” that we are going to work on in conjunction with the content marketing agency we just hired, which I think will be really neat. Those will hopefully have some SEO benefits down the road, but for now, I’m just excited to get some more totally non-monetized content on our site.

Now that our business is at a point where I’m not worried about covering rent and basic needs each month, I want to allocate some of our earnings towards more “cool” stuff like this. Not just for brand building, but just because it would be cool.

A Quick Word on Competition Research

Gotta get this one off my chest, so bear with me.

So, I’ve always been a big fan of drawing inspiration from your competitors. Studying them, seeing what they do right, where they are weak, etc. I do it basically every day, probably way more than people realize.

I can tell you the latest projects of many of the big (and small) names in our space, I can tell you who’s getting crushed by Google, who’s quietly dominating under the radar, whose FB ad arbitrage is not working like it used to, I can tell you what’s sparked layoffs at certain publishers in the past 2 years, who’s spending WAY more than they are disclosing in their income reports, who is suddenly no longer even publishing income reports, etc. Not to sound full of myself, but I think I do a pretty good job of keeping tabs on our competitive landscape.

Whenever I tell people to “study their competition,” way too often I see people take that as “copy your competition.”

That is not what I mean.

Please don’t throw quizzes up on your website or shut off ads because you saw us do it. Most of the time when I see people copy us (or anyone, for that matter), I see them using a tactic without understanding the underlying strategy. And one without the other is a waste of time.


Someone may see that we rank #1 for the keyword “HealthyWage Review.” They see that it’s New Years, lots of people are trying to lose weight, and this is the perfect affiliate for that. So, they create a strikingly similar article to ours. Same headings, structure, etc. Not blatant plagiarism, but definitely a gray area of copying.

They’ve copied the one visible tactic they see (write an SEO-optimized review with affiliate links), but they have ignored the strategy.

  • They see the article was updated in December 2018, but they don’t see that the original post was written in 2017 and it’s been aging on Google for a year.
  • They don’t see how we’ve driven internal link equity to that article
  • They don’t understand that those social shares matter
  • etc.

What you have is a blogger who has deviated from their own game plan because they’ve seen another blogger do something that is working. They allocate time (their most precious resource) towards a task with incomplete information, and it doesn’t bring them any closer to their goals. And it doesn’t hurt me as a competitor, because I know the imitator doesn’t know the entire strategy.

This happens all the time with copying (no one actually copied our HealthyWage article as far as I know; that was just an example).

To be fair, I’ve been on the other side of this before. Maybe not quite to the level of direct copying, but my decisions were definitely influenced by someone else’s success.

Example: Sarah Titus releases a $130k+ income report, and within two weeks I have a Shopify shop up on DollarSprout. I copied the tactic that I thought was connected to success, but I didn’t appreciate the complexity of the strategy involved. It turns out that it’s a heck of a lot more involved than just making a bunch of printables and throwing up some links on your blog (btw, Sarah just released a course teaching her entire process). I was in way over my head right from the start but was blinded by the shiny object syndrome.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that. Don’t copy people. And if you do, make sure you at least create something better than they did.

Goals for 2019

Alright, here’s what we have on the docket for this year:

  • Readers: 20,000,000
  • Revenue: $2,000,000
  • Profit: $1,000,000
  • Jobs Created: 2 full-time, 10 part-time/freelance (on top of what we have)
  • Publish 75 Articles in December 2019
  • Move to fully functional 1st-party affiliate link management system

Let’s do it!

Note: This post originally appeared on in 2018, before we merged DollarSprout and BTOP together.
Jeff Proctor

Hi! I'm Jeff. A personal finance nerd and entrepreneur at heart, I'm here to bring you all the latest cool ways to make and save extra money. I am a quoted contributor in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates,, Credit Karma, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money,, Yahoo! Finance, and more.


This was a great article and very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your income report and strategies with us.

Thank you Dafina! 🙂


Congrats on the six-figure month! I always enjoy reading your income reports, and I can especially relate to your efforts to guide readers on a journey through your content. I’m trying to do the same thing with my blog so I definitely agree that this is the way to go.

Thanks Marc!! Everything still feels so much like a work in progress, so I’m trying to resist the urge to get too comfortable. I feel like there are so many areas we have a responsibility to improve in! Thanks for the support 🙂


Congratulations on the 6-figure month Jeff/Ben. Your reports are well put together and inspiring. I’m looking forward to following along as you guys continue to kill it in 2019!


Jeff and Ben, you both rock! May you grow more. You are so inspiring for new bloggers!


You guys are such an inspiration, I get the shiny object syndrome every second of the daaay too! 🙂 Great tips.

Aw, thanks Lily!

It’s tough not to get pulled in 6 different directions. Obviously we’re guilty of it too 🙂

Destiny George
Destiny George

Awesome report! I have length a great lot to implement in my own blog. i joning your facebook group sometimes ago. I can’t remember committing any offense. I was off network reach for some days, by the time I was back, I couldn’t have access to the group anymore. I missed the group

Hmm, that’s bizarre — I don’t think we’ve ever once kicked someone out of the group/banned anyone (outside of someone who is obviously spamming)!

Feel free to reapply and we’ll get you in 🙂

Kari @
Kari @

I absolutely love the thoroughness of these income reports! It’s not even about seeing the profit, but about giving us a glimpse of the strategy, failures, bumps in the road, and other details of running the business day to day. It’s not all pretty. It’s raw and it’s been awesome to see your continued growth.

Ahh thank you so much Kari!! I really appreciate your support and I’m glad you can get something out of these 🙂



I loved this piece!! Especially liked the section on chasing results because of what you’ve seen other successful bloggers do. It rang so true.
I know many bloggers (myself included) who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, wasting their most precious resource, time, to “copy” tactics of other big-time bloggers, only to find themselves writing about things their audiences don’t care about and that don’t bring them closer to their goals.
Focus is one of the hardest thing things to maintain as an entrepreneur. But this year, that’s what I’m focusing on!!

Thanks Matt!!


As the always great article and inspiring. I have two questions:
1- What was the best strategy to make money? Organic traffic (Via Google and social media) or Paid traffic?
2- From which social media platform you got better results? Facebook or Pinterest?


Hey Ramin!

1) There’s a room in your traffic acquisition model for both: organic traffic typically produces higher quality traffic (and better earnings) — that said, with laser-good targeting, paid traffic can also produce meaningful income. Theoretically, organic insinuates free traffic so obviously it’s the preferred method of garnering traffic. But paying for traffic, especially if it’s part of a profitable funnel, is ideal too (even if it comes at a small loss, the traffic growth can be help your business expand in other ways).

2) Definitely Pinterest from an organic perspective (we do a lot of paid Facebook advertising for DollarSprout). Pinterest offers both immediate and sustained traffic due to the nature of their algorithm. It’s definitely still the way to go as long as their algorithm doesn’t meaningfully change in the coming months to years…if/when it does, we’ll all have to readjust accordingly (just make sure your audience actually exists on Pinterest before making the jump).


Thanks Ben,
For one blog post with some offers, is there any tracking system in the market that can measure profit/loss for each paid campaign? especially in your business model

We use SubIDs to roughly track our return on ad spend for specific articles that we’re promoting exclusively on Facebook (or any ad platform). It’s tough to get laser accurate numbers purely because we can’t install any sort of tracking pixel on an affiliates checkout page (to get more accurate tracking information). At some point in the year we plan on using custom, first-party affiliate tracking to more accurately build URLs and track profit/loss.


Thanks Ben,
Do you think for a new website focusing on just paid advertising on Facebook or Pinterest could be profitable? because I can’t get organic traffic 🙁

That wholly depends on your experience with ad purchasing (and how well your content is optimized).

To get an idea of whether or not you can utilize paid traffic as a profitable funnel, you’ll need to understand/know how much a visitor is worth to a specific page.
If you can create an ad campaign that drives target cheaper than your revenue/visitor, it’ll be a profitable funnel.

For us, Facebook remains the cheapest ad platform to advertise on. A combination of their retargeting features (pixel) and audience building allows us to drive traffic at or near our average revenue/visitor (which then allows us to recoup our ad spend each month which we’re aiming to aggressively scale in the coming months).

Greenbacks Magnet
Greenbacks Magnet

This was really detailed. Thank you for a peek behind the 1% curtain. Nice work. I too try to be as detailed as I can on my blog. I think if people tally up the number of subscriptions they have, they would find substantial savings right there which could be used to invest in passive index funds like the S%P 500. That’s what I did.


Belle @ Budget with Belle
Belle @ Budget with Belle

Hey guys!

I’ve been following BTOP & DS journey since the start of it! I read that an entire post all the through, thanks for being transparent.

And I agree with you regarding the “copying,” we all want the success story, we want the things associated with success and oftentimes we don’t know what it takes to get there (long hours, depression, flatten butts and bank accounts, etc) …

I’ve learn to be ME. And work!

Here’s to DS becoming a dominating player in the personal finance world!

Pachalo Mkandawire
Pachalo Mkandawire

Congratulations to you guys. I read and bookmark every blog reports that you publish because they are packed with lots of information about blogging strategy+tactics+execution. I like your strategic thinking and I know you will continue crushing it in 2019 and beyond. Continue showing us the ropes and we look up to you guys.


Congratulations on the 6-figure month Jeff/Ben. Your reports are well put together and inspiring. I’m looking forward to following along as you guys continue to kill it in 2019!

Thanks Meredith! We’re hoping 2019 is going to be an awesome year.

Blog Ambitious
Blog Ambitious

So many great points in this report, guys! “I’m more proud of the left half of this graph than I am of the right.” This sentence really resonated with me.

On Categories: yes yes yes! I have been working on improving the Category pages of my blogs, too. So many bloggers just throw their category links in their header menu and call it a day. Not user friendly at all.

I did have one question: What is a 1st party affiliate link management system? If not in the comments, would love to learn more in the next report!


Hey Victoria,

So affiliate marketing is obviously pretty tricky from a tracking perspective. You typically promote a company through a network, or directly, usually with a tracking link from the company itself.

In either instance, you’re wholly dependent on third party data. You earn whatever they said you earn. There are very few ways to confirm the data/whether you’re being paid out correctly (and companies have varying levels of transparency when it comes to tracking issues).

Some large(r) brands use first party tracking systems and a two-way API (typically a piece of software), where they’ll will essentially act as the affiliate network…they then pass their data on to the companies for comparison/consolidation. Hypothetically it helps reduce tracking discrepancies, and gives you (the brand), way more insight/data into how affiliate transactions are occurring.


That is awesome you broke 6 figures! Congrats! Huge accomplishment!

Last month I started using Asana to organize my editorial calendar as well. I like it a lot. It makes it so easy to see at a glance what I need to be working on or to move things around if I need to.


What an incredibly inspirational post! Its giving me so much to think about and digest. What I see is that over time you guys have been able to see more and more about what your audience wants and how your competitors flow works and how you can build that into your blog.

To get there I am sure you must know your audience well! How long did it take you to finally go- ah ok, I know what these readers need and I am going to place xyz there? Affiliate marketing seems very strategic too and tricky. I see many people just use ads for revenue- and then it just boils down to traffic only and not always providing a need.

I struggle quite a bit with Affiliate marketing and look forward to the day when I feel I can understand my readers needs well enough to be able to make 6 figures in 1 month! Super impressive!

Ok, one last question- when you started hiring, who did you actually hire first (besides freelance writers)?

Thanks again for the inspiration!

Hey Elle!

As far as how long did it take? Quite a while — we were super stubborn and tried to produce content we liked vs. asking our readers what they liked. We did that for the better part of 18 months without making much income because we failed to adapt. Around the 18 month mark or so, we began to realize that general personal finance topics meshed better with our audience than did ultra-specific stock market advice and that’s where things took off.

Look at competitors, find out the types of content that are working in front of their audiences and that will give you a good idea of what your readership might like (or, alternatively, you can always poll/survey/email them as simply ask!).

Lastly, as far as hiring goes, we haven’t done too terribly much outside of our dozen or so contractors — we are still working through some of the complexities of hiring remote full-time workers. Our first planned hires were more editors/copywriters, a few developers, and probably a full-time affiliate liaison/affiliate manager.

Hope that helps!


This was helpful, Thanks for this article. Having such an income is shocking. I am 4 years into blogging, I still don’t see much income. I want to study to do what you do.


Great stuff! I just learned about you guys yesterday and am so impressed by your success. I have been blogging for years and make an OK income but am hoping to get to the “being a full time affiliate marketer” within the next year or so. You have inspired me to make it more of a priority to get where I want to be, so thank you! Thanks for being so open!

Leave your comment

You May Also Like