How We Made $7,158 Blogging this Month (January 2017)

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Never in a million years did I imagine you could make money blogging. Yet here we are. See how we made $7,158.11 in January, 2017 with our blog after two years of trial and error. Here's what we've learned.

Our number one goal 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 BreakingTheOnePercent.com in 2017, before we merged DollarSprout and BTOP together.

A lot of bloggers like to post regular income reports on their blogs. I always thought that was the weirdest thing. I mean, you never hear anyone outside of the blogging world shout out to their friends, “Hey guys, I made $___ from my job last month!”

Um, cool?

And now here I am, posting our first ever blog income report. Hear me out, though.

Bloggers and online entrepreneurs are a different breed, that’s for sure. But there are actually a lot of reasons for why they choose to publish their online income each month, none of which have to do with bragging:

  • Documenting the journey: Bloggers naturally enjoy writing. Oftentimes, income reports give readers a behind-the-scenes look at what all goes into making a successful blog.
  • Accountability: Income reports are a popular spot for bloggers to lay out some goals. By making them public, bloggers become more accountable.
  • Showing Expertise: This doesn’t apply to every niche, but for many finance/business/marketing blogs, publicizing your own results boosts the overall authority of your blog. That’s why these niches are the most common spots to see income reports.
  • Inspiring Others: We all started at $0. Some of us stayed at $0 for…a while. Income reports can offer some inspiration and show other bloggers that it’s possible to break through.
  • Promoting Affiliate Products: If there’s a certain product or service that they use that helps them with their blog, they can promote it to their readers and get a commission on any sales.

So, what made me want to post our first ever blog income report this month?

Ben and I have been running our personal finance site, DollarSprout (formerly known as VTX Capital), for almost two years now, and this blog for about 4 months (since October 2016). During that time, we’ve learned a lot about what all goes into running a successful blog, mostly via trial and error.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the past year is the incredible value in studying others who have already accomplished what you want to accomplish.

In my opinion, we did too much trial and error in our first year. I think we would have been better off investing more time in learning from people who were already succeeding. We tried to reinvent the wheel, and it wasn’t working.

So with this income report, I have a couple of goals:

  • Show you what is working for us and what isn’t
  • Let you know that it is possible to earn a living from blogging
  • Show you why you should never give up

If you’re completely new to blogging and want help getting started, check out our step-by-step guide, From 0-$100,000: How Anyone Can Start a Blog, to set up your blog.

January 2017 Blog Revenue: $7,158.11

Approximately 98% of that is profit.

This didn’t happen overnight. It took hard work and there was a lot of second-guessing and failing.

January 2017: $7,158

December 2016: $1,744

November 2016: $929

October 2016: $723

September 2016: $1,082

August 2016: $1,162

July 2016: $29

June 2016: $17

May 2016: $0.29 (We officially made less than 1 cent per day that month. This would have been a pretty reasonable time to quit, but we didn’t.)

January ’15 to April ’16: No income.

Note: Jump to July 2017’s income report to see how we’re scaling our business.

The vast majority of our online income comes from affiliate marketing (promoting the products of other companies and getting commissions on sales or leads that we generate). We also make money from ads (where we get paid per click) and from sponsored posts.

Here are some of the most popular affiliates that we make money promoting (we’ve tried and personally recommend all of these companies):

  • HostGator
  • Personal Capital
  • Lending Club Investing
  • Ally Invest

Let’s back up for a minute though and look at some of our biggest takeaways from finally making a substantial income with our blog.

Takeaway #1: You won’t get anywhere without traffic.

You might hear different opinions on this, but until you have at least 10,000 monthly visitors to your blog, you should not even be thinking about making money from your blog. If you aren’t quite there yet, building up your traffic needs to be your top priority. And 10,000 is still relatively low.

Here’s a breakdown of our traffic numbers for both blogs in January:

Google Analytics traffic breakdown for VTX Capital and Breaking the One Percent

Just under 200k pageviews brought in $7k in revenue (again, mostly affiliates). We’re going to work on optimizing our conversion rates to get more out of each pageview, but this gives you a general idea of where we are.

To increase your income from your blog, one of the levers you need to tilt in your favor is traffic.

Speaking of traffic, that brings us to the second takeaway.

Takeaway #2: Become a master at one social media network first.

This was a big mistake that Ben and I made when we first started the blog over at VTX. We wanted to be everywhere, all the time.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Quora, Quibb… we were all over the place.

And you know what?

For the longest time, our traffic sucked. I mean, it REALLY sucked. We weren’t getting anywhere.

Then we did what every male blogger thinks he will never do… we got into Pinterest.

Here’s what happened:

website traffic chart: increase after mastering Pinterest

Keep in mind, we run a personal finance blog. That’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pinterest.

We made it work for us, though, after a lot of trial and error. As a 26-year-old finance guy, it turns out I wasn’t necessarily born with the gift of making viral pins. But with practice, I’ve gotten a lot better:

Pinterest pin design progression: first pin and 200+ pins later

Between better pin design, a better understanding of what our audience wanted, and actually learning how to use Pinterest from a business perspective, we were able to grow both VTX’s Pinterest account and the account for this blog really quickly:

Breaking the One Percent Pinterest engagement January 2017

4 months. Seriously, if you have a strategic approach to growing your Pinterest account, you can do this. Pinterest is the best source of free traffic out there for new bloggers, bar none.

Takeaway #3: Be flexible with your business model.

When we first started VTX Capital, our goal was to be a subscription-based investment research company. We know financial advisors can sometimes be way too expensive, and we wanted to offer a low-cost alternative. Our plan was to run a few different model portfolios and charge subscribers a monthly fee to access our research and see any trades we were making.

I still really like the idea, but the cold reality is that we failed at making it work.

And it took us a long time, too long, to accept that.

I would spend all this time researching stocks, writing trade rationales, building portfolios, etc. And nobody subscribed. When you added on the free content that our audience wanted, plus all of the marketing, it was just too much for 2 people to handle.

So then we experimented with offering 1-on-1 coaching services. I wrote an eBook. While these worked out a lot better, it still wasn’t getting us the business results that we wanted.

That’s when we decided to experiment with affiliate marketing. And that’s also when things started to change for us.

We got our first real taste of success in August 2016 with affiliate marketing, and since then, our business model has completely changed. We are almost exclusively focused on working with major brands through affiliate marketing now.

Right now, our general approach to making money is pretty simple:

  • All of our content is free
  • Readers should always benefit from our content, even if they don’t act on any affiliate links.

That last part is really important. We refuse to run a business based on spam.

Takeaway #4: Diversify your affiliate conversion thresholds.

Don’t just promote the high-paying stuff.

Some of the affiliates that we promote on our sites pay over $100 per purchase, but guess what? We make more money from the companies that pay us $3-5 per email address we send their way. Free signups are easier to convert than expensive purchases, but the sheer volume of small payouts really adds up.

You need both ends of the spectrum, plus some stuff in between in order to maximize your earnings.

Also, don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. If you focus your entire source of income on one affiliate and then they decide to one day shut down their affiliate program, you’re gonna be screwed.

What We’re Doing Differently than Most Bloggers

Ben and I are obviously really happy about jumping from $1,744 to $7,158 in one month.

But we are planning on putting most of our profits right back into the business. We’ve got big goals for these websites (and others we want to start), which means we need to keep the big picture in mind.

So what does that mean for us?

  • Paying freelance writers for more content
  • Hiring an assistant to manage and grow our Facebook pages
  • Investing in Facebook ads
  • Other investments for the business (coaching, admin assistants, etc.)

I’ve learned that money spent on learning is usually well worth it. We recently invested in a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, and it has helped us out immensely. I’m looking to find similar courses to invest in for social media, SEO, etc.

One thing that has really helped us along the way is being 100% emotionally detached from our blogging income, whether it’s 29 cents in one month or grand. It’s important to always keep reevaluating what’s working, what isn’t, and the direction we want to go in.

We are no longer aimlessly writing about whatever comes to mind. We’re researching what our readers want to read, SEO optimizing every post, and putting appropriate affiliates in each piece of content.

Our Goals for the Next 90 Days

  • Video: I’ve been dreading this, but it has to be done. Video is ruling social media, and I don’t want to get left behind.
  • Build Facebook and Instagram: Now that both sites have a stable foundation on Pinterest, we need to expand. Facebook and Instagram are next in line. This is going to require a lot of learning, but we’re up to the challenge.
  • Increase content output: I’m the first to admit, we post a bit less frequently than other blogs. We do need to step this up if we want to stay relevant.

Recently, we began consulting for a fairly large website completely outside of our niche, so that project will require a significant amount of time over the next year.

We are super pumped about this though because if we are successful, we would love to have them on our resume as we approach bigger brands for consulting opportunities. The main aspect we’re working with them on is converting their 700,000 Facebook likes into more profit for their business.

Who would have thought, a personal finance website would one day transform into a marketing and consulting company. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and double down on what is actually working for your business.

What I Recommend for Any New or Aspiring Bloggers

Don’t get caught up in other peoples’ numbers. I’m only posting ours so you can see that it’s possible. In four months, we took this blog from 0 pageviews to 50,000 per month.

Less than a year ago I was making 29 cents a month.

You can do this.

I know so many of you are looking for a way out. Well, this could be it.

I’m going to leave you with two things:

1) Watch this Video

2) Go Do

Related: How We Made Over $17,000 Blogging Last Month (Income Report)

Author
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've been quoted in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Student Loan Hero, Business.com, Credit Karma, The Simple Dollar, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Moneyish, Zumper, IdeaMensch, Discover Bank, PrimeRates, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, Club Thrifty, Guru Focus, Rent Track, Fit Small Business, Coupon Chief, and more.

42 comments
Bart
Bart

If they can get an old chunk of coal like me to dive in then you should too. Thanks Jeff! You guys are the best, in my opinion, of breaking this stuff down and showing us that it CAN be done.

Debbie Gartner
Debbie Gartner

Hi Jeff and Ben. Congrats on having such a stellar month and making a huge leap. Your strategy and approach makes perfect sense. You have the right business principles in place.

I came here from Michelle’s FB group. I also thought her course was great. I’ve been growing my passive income, while starting a new business. Dec & Jan turned out much better than the previous months. My Jan income was just a bit higher than your Dec income. Wow on the big leap to over $7,000. If I could just get to half of that soon, I’d be thrilled (as I’m working on my new biz too). I’m off to read your pinterest article. I’ve been doing much better with pinterest, but I have a ways to go and I see lots of upside.

Thanks so much for the inspiration.

Thank you Debbie! Just know that YOU can do all of this too. It can happen sooner than you think 🙂

Jason Butler
Jason Butler

This is amazing. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with Pinterest. I’m thinking about letting someone else do my pins for me.

If you can outsource your pins and improve your click through rate even marginally, it’s almost invaluable over the life of your Pinterest account. I would look into doing that if you really want to get the most out of Pinterest.

Natasha
Natasha

Thank you for giving us such substantive information that we can take and really learn from. I am digging into your Pinterest post as well. I’m not doing great with graphics so I really need to fix this or just pay someone to create a template for me. Well done Jeff!

Thank you! See my reply above to Jason re: outsourcing your pin design. Best of luck to you!

Viktoriya and Oksana (@viktoriyaandoks)
Viktoriya and Oksana (@viktoriyaandoks)

these are definitely note worthy. creating the right pinterest has made a big difference in our traffice as well even though we just created our pinterest account! it is already driving traffic to our website.

Woohoo! Way to go 🙂

Lianne Benning
Lianne Benning

This is definitely inspiring. I’m just starting out though so I’m not even really thinking of making money. But I will keep this info in mind anyway, thanks!

We all have to start somewhere! Just remember, you should always think of your blog as a business. Think strategically, and always be planning out your next steps to reach your goals. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck just aimlessly putting out content!

John
John

Really appreciate you posting your numbers to be honest. It has given me hope and motivation to do the same with my 2 sites.

Thanks!

Thanks man! I’m no saint, though… I waited until we were doing really well before I considered posting the numbers.

You got this!!

Rick
Rick

What’s your favorite paid surveys affiliate to promote? Looks like that niche is hot in Clickbank.

Our readers like Swagbucks the most. They seem to offer the most in terms of different ways to make money, which I think is part of why it “sells” so well (even though signing up is obviously free)

Roy Miller
Roy Miller

Congratulations on your success. Thank you for the tips and for sharing your journey with us.

mashupmom
mashupmom

Thanks for the pinterest tips — very interesting!

Gemma
Gemma

Love this. I’ve bookmarked it to revisit at the weekend. It’s what I’ve been looking for, all in one place

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler)
Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler)

Great tip and information that I pinned for later. Thanks for sharing 🙂

lorevi23
lorevi23

that’s amazing thank you for share this tips!!!
Lorena

Mia
Mia

Wow, the jump from January to February was HUGE! I’m definitely rethinking my Pinterest strategy now. Thanks for sharing all of this!

superhealthycooking
superhealthycooking

I made my own mistakes too… 😀 Very good tips, really helpful blog post!

Jessie Krieger
Jessie Krieger

Wow! Your growth in January is huge. Congratulations! I am pinning this too!

Thanks Jessie! I had no idea we were that close to a breakout month 🙂

Catherine
Catherine

I love this! Y’all remind me so much of myself. I have that tendency too to want to reinvent the wheel myself too! I’ve had a little bit of success myself! Nothing like y’all though $7k?! That’s insane! I got $5 in 4 months.

Krista Aoki
Krista Aoki

I just discovered your website today, but I’m hooked. I love your articles. Thanks for sharing this income report and how you got there! You guys are awesome.

Thank you so much Krista! Glad to have you here 🙂

Cheryl
Cheryl

Thank you for sharing! I, too started my blog in October 2016. I love to check out other blogger’s income reports as they motivate me to keep going. You are so right about focusing your efforts on one social media platform and diversifying affiliates. Keep up the good work!

Christy @theharperhouse
Christy @theharperhouse

great post Jeff! I’m visiting from Gina’s FB group. I’ve been wanting to do an income report myself, but have not gotten around to it. Part scared and part lazy I guess. But it’s seeing other people’s income reports that got me off my lazy sahm butt and starting a blog just a year ago that now makes $7k/month (seems like a good number!) Your pinterest analogy is spot on. I see zero traffic from FB, IG, Twitter, or anywhere else. Once you figure Pinterest out, it’s a gold mine as far as traffic and promoting evergreen content. I went from 0 to 10k pageviews in my first month blogging because of Pinterest and had 350k last month. Regardless of niche, pinterest is the place to be!

Brittany Quinn
Brittany Quinn

Great blog post it was very good. I enjoyed your blog income report. I love reading blog income reports. I actually started blogging myself from reading blogging income reports. Pinterest is fastly growing I’m seeing more and more men joining more now than before. There are some great Pinterest group boards for men now.

Ms. Frugal Asian Finance
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance

I’m definitely inspired by your income report. It’s great to see such a big jump in income and how hard work can pay off. Thanks for sharing!

DNN
DNN

How often did you create blog posts in order to generate that amount? And where was your content shared?

There really is no rhyme or reason to how often/with which frequency you need to post in order to generate that sort of revenue.

My advice is to be consistent though. I would recommend at least 1 blog post per week in order provide fresh value to your readers (prevents overexposure fatigue, reminds your fans you exist, and keeps search engines happy).

DNN
DNN

Ben,

That sounds fair game to me. As of now, I’m striving to create one lazy post per day 1000 words or better. I was reading something not long ago concerning” Evergreen content marketing,” whereas pages that are longer with 1000 words or better get better treatment by search engine spiders versus people who blog when they feel like it. I was one of those people who used to blog whenever I felt like it and noticed my traffic enormously dropped. I’m really glad to see band your blogging because I hope to stop by in the near future and comment on more of your posts so we can continue our wonderful conversation and possibly network. How does that sound to you good friend? 🙂

Anytime, happy to help.

And yes, it has become apparent that search engines prefer long-form content. I think a recent article from backlinko cited that articles in the number one search spot typically average about 1,900 words.

That said just because an article is 1900 words does not mean it will perform well from a search perspective. It goes without saying that the number #1 variable search engine ranking algorithms still take into effective is that backlink profile of the hosting site/landing page. If you have quality, long-form content with a solid backlink profile to that specific page (or your domain at the very least) then you’ve got a good shot a top ranking page (assuming your keyword is reasonable).

DNN
DNN

Ben,

This is true. I’m averaging 1,500 words like every few days when a post goes on DNN. I’m striving to get the word count and relevant external links up to par. Looking forward to seeing more about this topic on your future blogs. Keep doing what you’re doing. 🙂

Russell Barbour
Russell Barbour

Inspiring Income Report! I love Swagbucks and Ebates and so far I have found them to be great for saving and making money.

James
James

Amazing, pretty motivated to read the whole report.
Thanks for sharing.

Sameen Pervaiz
Sameen Pervaiz

Can you please talk about the backlinking?

Jennifer
Jennifer

Ben, I have a question you may not want to answer….not trying to put you in a bad spot. I torn between taking making sense of affiliate marketing or elite blog academy. I have mywebsite and blog set up and have all my social media set up and have been blogging since June. I am a Dietitian and haven’t quite put my finger on my specific reader…don’t know if I should lean toward selling a product (which I have no idea what that would be) or jumping head first into affiliate marketing. If you would like to answer me privately via email I understand that too! The basic question is that I’m trying to decide which course to invest in…thanks for your help

Hey Jennifer!

Definitely don’t mind answering here but sent you an email with some additional info because it has some personal information in it 🙂

Anyhow, the skinny is that I think, after taking a peek at your blog, that you may actually benefit from some individual coaching at around the same price point. The reason being is that while both of the courses no doubt will help improve your understanding of affiliate marketing, I think there are some easy wins that a blog coach can walk you through 1:1 versus trying to slowly learn and apply the principles you learn in either course (I have nothing against either course and recommend them both depending on an individual bloggers circumstances).

Jason | Blogooroo
Jason | Blogooroo

My new blog gets launched soon, and I have to admit that income reports motivate me. I like your approach though: no padding, no lying, no worrying about hurt feelings.

You told it like it is and I thank you.

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