How We Earned $61,915 from Our Blog This Month (October 2018)

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Have you ever wondered how bloggers make money? See how we made over $60,000 blogging in a single month in our October 2018 blog income report. Inside you'll get all sorts of tips, tricks, ideas, and inspiration for starting your own money-making blog.

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

For the first time ever, I’m going to attempt to write an income report from start to finish in just one sitting. It’s also the first time I’ve written in a while, so bear with me if this ends up all over the place.

Since launching DollarSprout back in October 2017, we’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of success. This past month DollarSprout had over 300,000 pageviews and, combined with BTOP, generated $61,915 in total revenue.

In this report, I’m going to break down what worked, what didn’t work, and where we see DollarSprout going in the future. This income report is going to be different than most income reports you’ll read, for a couple of reasons:

A. I don’t have anything to sell you. The more successful we get, the more I worry these income report will be used to sell somebody a dream. I don’t want that. If you want to start a blog, I will leave this blog tutorial link here once.

B. This will mostly be a stream of consciousness rather than a lot of tactical advice.

But first, let’s look at the numbers.

Traffic Stats:

traffic stats

Income Breakdown:

Ads: $785

Affiliate Marketing: $59,141

Course Sales: $482 (net earnings, after affiliate payouts)

Shopify: $7

Sponsored Posts: $1,500

Graph showing history of our blog revenue growth

Proof of (most) Revenue:

And because I’ve heard grumblings of people out there not believing income reports, I decided to shoot a quick video walking through most of our affiliate networks to verify earnings. (Really, though, I just didn’t want to save/compress/upload 10+ different screenshots).

Expenses:

Payroll: $7,908

This includes freelance writers, virtual assistants, content editors, etc. Something worth noting is that our expenses in this area will drastically increase here in the near future. Starting in November, we will be working with a content marketing agency for around $6-7K per month.

Facebook ads: $2,877

Hosting-related services (billed annually):  ~$105/month

Email marketing: $161

Premium services (billed annually): ~$100-$200/month

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

Other random expenses: ~$500

Total expenses: $11,751

Net Income:$50,164

Related: 8 Affiliate Marketing Strategies to Drive Massive Sales from Your Blog

A note on expenses:

If you look at this and say “well dang, I can’t spend 12 grand a month on my blog, so there is no way I will ever get to $60k+”, understand that you slowly build-up to this point. When we first started out, our only expense was our web hosting.

Also, note the complexion of our expenses:

How most business expenses work: Spend $10 to make $11. (Think of blogs with heavy Facebook ad spend)

How ~75% of our business expenses work (mostly under “payroll” category): Spend $10 on asset creation that will yield 10-100X over the next several years. 

I think this is something very important to consider when looking at our income report vs. some other bloggers in our space and at a similar revenue level.

Recent Developments and Things On My Mind

Our Shopify store was a complete bust.

We made $7 from it last month after I spent probably 40 hours or so on that project.

I’ve sensed for a while that we are at a crossroads with DollarSprout in terms of how we want to monetize the site.

You always hear some of the big bloggers talk about how “the money is in the list” and how important it is to sell your own products. For a while, we took that to heart, but now I’m realizing it might have been a mistake.

Up until this point, we have been quite successful in affiliate marketing. When we created the Shopify store (and planned out possible future products and courses), I viewed it as a way to not only diversify our income, but take it to the next level.

After a lot of thought, I’ve come to these realizations:

A. I don’t think our products were the right fit for our audience.

B. We have only just started to scratch the surface of our affiliate marketing potential, and focusing on product creation and sales only distract us from what we are truly good at: making solid content and getting it seen.

In a sense, trying to add a new monetization strategy to what was already working wasn’t a way to diversify. It was actually slowing down our growth.

Don’t be afraid to try something new, but don’t be afraid to cut ties with projects that are weighing you down. 

What got us to $60k monthly revenue isn’t going to be what gets us to $500k+ a month

Yes, I know I sound ridiculous right now.

I have no inherent need to make that much money, but the act of making progress is what seems to drive my happiness, so I think I’m always going to be in “growth mode.” It’s the lack of a finish line that makes me love this game so much.

So anyway, 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 many 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 a 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.

growth strategy

So what does this mean for us in terms of changes?

To be honest, I’m not totally sure yet.

A few things do come to mind, though:

  • Refining our content verticals and creating a writing team of industry experts for each one.
  • Redesign category pages and homepage.
  • Hire a developer to create interactive tools within our content. We want readers to be able to “play around” with our content rather than just read words on a screen.
  • Refine our internal linking strategy and be more intentional with user paths for each piece of content.

This is not an overnight project, or even a year-long project. I can’t even consider it a project, really. It’s more of a new “state of existence” for our business. But, I think you can expect to start seeing noticeable changes in DollarSprout within the next 3-6 months.

A quick note: As I’m writing this, I kind of feel like I’m taking on a pretty critical tone of myself. Full transparency: I think this is a blessing and a curse for Ben and I. We struggle with taking a step back and seeing that, wow, we made 60 freakin’ grand this month from our living room. At the same time, it’s this self-critical mindset and always “looking ahead” that has got us where we are now. Not sure I’m ready to change that just yet, but maybe someday.

Reader Q&A

Before we publish an income report, Ben and I like to ask our blogging Facebook group members about any questions they have. We usually can’t get to them all, but here are some from this month:

How do you justify the time that you spend on different tasks?

This is something I continue to struggle with on a daily basis. I hate to look at everything from a direct ROI perspective because that paints an incomplete picture of what is important and what’s not. For instance, this income report might tangentially lead to an affiliate sale or two on our site, but since I haven’t monetized this article very much, we will probably get nothing out of this, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a few hours of my time to put together.

On the flip side, I think that as you are building traction with your blog, it’s absolutely vital that you figure out what moves the needle for you and what doesn’t.

Here are a few things that I see people spend time on that I think they shouldn’t:

  • Spending time in Facebook groups when they should be building content or learning a skill
  • Responding to emails that don’t warrant or deserve a response
  • Buying courses that they won’t implement and then lying to themselves about it
  • Creating content that doesn’t have a clear path towards being seen
  • Twitter (I’m guilty of this)

How much backlink building do you do and how? Guest posts? Directories?

I’ll be honest, this is where having multiple people helps. Between me and Ben and Megan, we are always on the prowl for backlinks.

Whether it’s hanging out in niche-specific Facebook groups where journalists may be looking for sources from time to time (for us, that’s the FinCon group), or sending outreach emails for guest posts, etc., we are always trying to find new opportunities for links and exposure. I’m sure we have done a couple of directory listings, but I doubt they’ve done much of anything for us since directories have so many links.

I think making “link awareness” a permanent state of mind is the biggest thing for us. There isn’t one tactic that has led to any major breakthroughs, but more a byproduct of jumping on any opportunity we see come up. Over the course of 6-12 months, the results of that labor start to compound.

How you guys optimize posts for conversions once you get them ranking and getting traffic from Google?

For list posts, this is where knowledge of EPCs (earnings per click) comes in.

Say you have 5 affiliates mentioned throughout an article. If Affiliate A has a $1.10 EPC and Affiliate B has a $0.77 EPC, it makes sense to have Affiliate A appear earlier in the article.

People are easily distracted, so having your highest-converting offers appear early is important. That being said, you shouldn’t sacrifice the context of the article for the sake of neatly ordering your EPCs. If it doesn’t make sense to mention a certain affiliate until the end of an article, don’t artificially try to place it at the beginning.

Another thing we do is disable our display ads once articles start to rank well. This not only speeds things up from a load time perspective, but it reduces the number of distractions a reader has to deal with. If you have a post about the best online banks, you want someone to open a bank account through an affiliate link, not click on an ad for cat litter.

When can I expect my beach house?

from Bart Proctor (AKA My Dad)

TBD.
And on that note, I think I’m done with this 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 am a quoted contributor in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Business.com, Credit Karma, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, and more.

21 comments
Debbie Gartner
Debbie Gartner

Excellent results and excellent insights. I love this, and I’m so impressed with how you keep moving the bar. I think investing in people/content creation early on has been a tremendous asset, and I’m just been starting to do it…but barely scraping the surface. But, as I continue to grow, I will be looking to do more. It’s not just about investing the money, but investing it wisely and as this has increased your capacity, it has really enabled you to explode your growth. Looking forward to see how your future grows.

Thank you Debbie!! I think looking as money invested back into the blog as a long term investment has really helped us focus on where to best direct our cash. Hopefully we can continue the trend!

SAHD FIRE
SAHD FIRE

That was really interesting and I love the honest Q/A. I just started my blog about 2 weeks ago and only have a few posts so far, so I couldn’t even dream to eventually getting to be 1/10 as successful as your sites have become. I’m following you now so I can enjoy your future journey!

Don’t limit yourself!! You can have as much success as you want to have 🙂

Bushra
Bushra

Jeff, Congratulations, although I have already left a message for you in the FB group as well. I thought should say that this post is amazing and very reall. So happy for you guys. Such an inspiration you are for others new bloggers like myself who is learning a lot from you.

Heidi
Heidi

Thank you for your encouragement, Jeff. There’s a messy path between $0 and “success” (whatever that means). I remember you putting a funny graph that talked about the months you thought blogging was sucky because it was not doing what you wanted it to do. Few talk honestly about this part. You’ve overcome and done a wonderful job. I aspire to get to this point. Bravo!

Thank you Heidi!! This means a lot 🙂

GP Roth
GP Roth

Excellent results, and love the video. I appreciate how you share what has worked well as well as things that you’ve decided to scrap quickly. A “Fail Fast” and pivot strategy is needed in any field and especially in an online focused business. Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to watch your growth and I hope to follow a similar path. Best of luck on your path to a $200k+/mo. business. With your strategic mindset, I have no doubt you’ll get there.

Thanks GP! There have been SO many things that haven’t worked out for us, but I figured the Shopify was a good recent example to share. Definitely a fan of “failing fast” as you say 🙂

Andrew @ Wealthy Nickel
Andrew @ Wealthy Nickel

I like your idea regarding the long term focus of your blog (quick win vs. reader journey). I think there is a natural progression from one to the other. I am focused on the “quick win” piece right now to get traffic to the blog, but ultimately I want to have a bigger impact on someone’s personal finance journey, taking them through all the steps from in debt to financially independent.

I think helping folks with quick wins was our OWN way of getting some quick wins, but like you said, now I want to shift to more meaningful help. For us, doing it in that order worked out because now we have the resources to invest in more content. There is no one right way to do things, which is what I love about blogging!

Jason
Jason

Jeff,

My biggest questions, after reading several of your posts, is about the quality of content you are writing for Dollarsprout.

1. Is there a process you are using to create it?

2. How unique/different is your content from other sites (seems easy to rehash old ideas).

3. With only 400 links to your site, it seems to be growing in organic search really well. What would you attribute that to mostly? your social following? links? content? etc?

Hey Jason! To answer your questions:

1. Yes, we do have a process. In a nutshell: competitor research > kw research > content planning > hiring writers > rigorous editing > publish
2. The topics are similar, but we try to outperform our competitors in terms of depth and quality from both an information and a user experience standpoint
3. Everything 🙂 Our success is attributed to dozens of factors, all of which are important.

jason
jason

Awesome. Considering your track record and helpfulness, I am subscribing, something I dont recall doing more than a couple times in 15 years of doing seo 🙂

Dipak jadhav
Dipak jadhav

Its a very very brilliant post with all results are totally impressive. Nice work done and very very good results get. I am hoping to setup something like this to earn some passive income from blogging. Hope to get it done. Thanks a lot for Motivating and giving us a very helpful information. Thanks again

Veronica @ Passion By Girl
Veronica @ Passion By Girl

Loved this blog post! Very helpful, so thank you. If you guys ever make an advanced affiliate marketing course, I’d love to be a beta tester lol. It seems like there’s so much more I gotta learn about it. I think it’s great that you guys decided to focus on affiliate marketing vs digital products. Not every income stream is gonna work for everyone. For example, I know I don’t want to sell services, I just want passive income so I’m focusing on that 🙂

Ahh thank you Veronica!! Gosh, creating an advanced affiliate marketing course sounds so overwhelming to me, haha. I’ve kind of found that I don’t naturally enjoy teaching as much as a lot of other people do (probably why we never actually released that blogging course we spent a couple months on earlier this year!)

Manas Meher
Manas Meher

Thanks! for motivating, Jeff. Truly needed. Really happy for your success. I hope to get to your position someday. Thanks.

Ahh thank you Manas!! 🙂

Denise
Denise

Oh wow, that’s a fantastic result! Good job, you guys! I love how open you are about blogging and don’t shy away from talking about the negative parts and the things that didn’t go as planned. This is super motivating and helpful to see. Thanks for sharing!

Ana
Ana

Thank you for this post! I love how genuine and real you are 🙂

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