How my part-time food blog side hustle made $1263.38 in August 2020! I share my strategies for taking your blog side hustle from hobby to business one post, and one month, at a time.
Welcome to the August 2020 Fork in the Road income report! If this is your first time reading one of our monthly traffic and income reports, my name is Kristina and I am a registered dietitian and the face behind this plant-based recipe and sustainable living blog. Find out more about what we do at Fork in the Road here.
If you’re new to my income reports, make sure to check out my last report — July 2020 food blog income report — where I shared that I wanted to put a stronger focus on targeted content output in August 2020.
Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in August 2020? Read on for my income and traffic report, my analysis of what worked (and what didn’t) and the goals I’m working toward for August.[mailerlite_form form_id=4]
If this is not your first time reading a Fork in the Road income report, you can skip this section and head right to the income and traffic report below.
You might be wondering why I am sharing how much money I made from my food blog with the world. Why would I want to put myself out there and share the nitty gritty details of the money this blog is bringing in?
The main reason for sharing this information is to inspire you to start taking your own blog seriously. I found other food blog income reports from bloggers like Pinch of Yum, Making Sense of Cents, and Kate Kordsmeier of Root + Revel very inspirational in my own food blogging journey. Their posts have been invaluable over the last year when I was low on motivation and needed a push to keep going.
I especially want to share because so many blog income reports are from established bloggers who are raking in tens of thousands of dollars, and I want to show what realistic growth (and the inevitable plateaus) look like when you’re also working a full time job. No one starts out bringing in the big bucks, it happens with time and consistency.
The other reason for sharing is a bit more selfish: while I’ve done well creating new content and mastering food photography, I haven’t been great at tracking my own progress and setting attainable monetary and business growth goals. I have a ton of ideas for the blog, but sometimes not a lot of follow-through due to time restraints and not knowing where to start on everything I want to accomplish. Sharing my monthly food blog side hustle reports with you is a way for me to stay accountable.
In these reports I share a month-by-month analysis of what I’m working on, how the blog has grown, what’s working and what isn’t, and my goals for the future. I share this to stay accountable and so that you can learn and be inspired to keep going with your food blog journey as well.
💰 August 2020 Income Report
TOTAL INCOME: $1263.38
- Display ads: $917.18 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $46.20
- Studiopress: $20.98
- Amazon Associates: $17.52
- Food Blogger Pro: $7.00
- Earth Hero: $0.70
- Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing, Photography, Design: $300
TOTAL EXPENSES: $168.05
- Website Upkeep: $87.08
- Website hosting: $11 (Cloudways)
- Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
- Tasty Links: $4.08* (automatic linking plugin)
- Website Engagement: $25 (Slickstream)
- Photography + Video: $29.99 (Adobe Creative Cloud)
- SEO + Keyword Research tools: $37
- SEMrush: $25
- Keysearch: $12
- Email service provider: $0
- $0 (Mailerlit)
- Content + social media management: $13.98
Tailwind: $19.98 (Pinterest planning)
- Planoly: $8.99 (Instagram planning)
- Link.My Photos: $4.99 (Instagram bio links)
*Expenses listed with an asterisk are paid annually to take advantage of annual discounts, but I include the monthly amount here to show how much the blog costs to run each month.
**Expenses listed with two asterisks are those that I paid for last month but decided not to pay for going forward. I leave these here for the first month I don’t pay for them to show how I am cutting expenses month-to-month.
NET PROFIT: $1095.33
Income + Expense Review
Let’s talk about income…
If you’ve been reading other food blog income reports, you’ll know that no two blogs monetize in the same way. Some are high traffic with high display ad earnings, some are killing it at affiliate marketing, and some sell their own products and courses. And some are doing a little bit of everything.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the way Fork in the Road created income in August 2020.
Traffic held steady with a slight increase in August (see traffic report below), but display ad RPMs rose significantly. Which means more money for about the same amount of traffic!
July ad RPMs averaged out to $17.75 per 1000 sessions, but in August that increased to $22.43. What changed?
I think there are a lot of factors at play, some in my control and some out of my control:
- Out of my control: Marketing spending on display ads likely boosted RPMs overall after a dismal few months after the start of the pandemic.
- In my control: I saw a lot of content I wrote in May through July beginning to rank and bring in more traffic, and these posts were optimized for display ad settings (see content recommendations from my display ad company, Mediavine, here). I also published a video to one of my most popular posts, which I think helped boost overall income.
Affiliate marketing is when a blogger promotes another brand’s product or service and receives a small commission if the reader purchases after clicking through an affiliate link. In July 2020 FITR made $46.20 in affiliate income from various affiliate programs.
Amazon affiliate income continues to go down, but like last month I haven’t been putting much effort into incorporating Amazon links in my recent posts.
I have been meaning to post more “buyer intent” articles to boost affiliate sales. This means targeting people who are looking for answers to questions about specific products, who already have the intention of buying.
Because this has been something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile but never get to because I’m always prioritizing new recipe content, I will make the commitment to post one new affiliate-focused post per month to get the ball rolling and report back on results in the coming months.
I’m currently not pursuing sponsored post work. If I was approached by a company that aligned with the site, I would definitely work with them, but right now I’m not using my limited time to pitch sponsored work to brands.
Freelance Writing + Photography
Freelance writing and photography is any content I create for brands or other bloggers. Even though this type of work means the content never ends up on Fork in the Road itself, I still include it in these income reports because without the blog serving as my portfolio, I would never have secured the work.
In August 2020 I made $300 from freelance photography, which should be about the same amount in months going forward. It’s an easy and fun project, as I get to shoot photos outside of my typical style, which I find builds my photography skills overall.
August income saw a nice 20% increase over July, which is great growth after having a few months of very low income. I have been holding steady at around the $800-$1100 range for almost a year now, so I’m hoping that my hard work to create more content will result in even bigger increases as we head into quarter four.
Let’s talk about expenses…
What you can see from my expense breakdown is that running a food blog means spending money to keep the blog running. I consider these costs of doing business, and because I work a full-time job as well as run the blog I outsource some things like tech management and use tools to automate tasks like social media and emails to my mailing list.
Also, many of the expenses you see listed in this expense report are things that I pay annually, so I have divided out the monthly cost to give an idea of what it costs to run the blog each month. Before doing this for these income report posts, I was spending $200+ on the website each month.
Over the last few months I have slowly cut away some things I have more time to do now to reduce monthly expenses for redundant services or those I’m just not using at the moment.
What happened when I canceled Tailwind
Last month I mentioned that I was testing out using Pinterest’s native scheduler instead of using Tailwind. In August I ended up canceling Tailwind altogether and manually scheduling pins through Pinterest.
So what happened after I stopped using Tailwind? My Pinterest traffic went up by almost 10% to over 5400 sessions a month.
However (and this is a big however) I hardly posted to Pinterest at all the entire month so it’s not a great apples to apples comparison of scheduling through Pinterest and scheduling through Tailwind. This could be seasonal or I could have had a few viral pins, who knows.
I’m going to continue to publish manually for the time being and see how things work out moving forward and I’ll report back.
The amount I spend monthly is probably pretty standard for most bloggers with a site my size. My goal is to keep expenses below $200 a month to maximize profits.
📈 August 2020 Traffic Report
August 2020 total traffic: 48,495 pageviews
This is +14% from July 2020 last month and +13% from August 2019 last year.
Top ten traffic sources for August 2020
New content on Fork in the Road in August 2020
- New recipe posts: 3 new recipe posts
- New green guides: 0 updated green eating guides
- New resources posts: 1 new food blogger resources
- New videos: 1 new recipe video
August was a good month and I saw a 14% increase in traffic from last month even though I only posted a few times. I think this is because some of my content written in previous months started to rank in Google and bring in traffic.
I mentioned in last month’s income report that I’m really focusing on search intent and keyword research. I’m specifically targeting low competition, long-tail keywords. What does this mean?
- Low competition: Keywords and phrases that are not very competitive in Google search. For example, as a new or even intermediate food blogger it would be near impossible to rank for “chocolate chip cookies” because there are thousands upon thousands of chocolate chip cookie recipes on the internet. Instead, I’m finding keywords with lower competition and writing recipes for those keywords.
- Long-tail keywords: Instead of targeting “chocolate chip cookies” I’m researching keywords that are more specific such as “healthy vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies”. Not as many searches as just regular cookies, but people are still searching it and because there is less competition it’s more likely that I will rank for those recipe (and if you’re wondering, yes I do have a recipe for those cookies).
I’m still in the beginning stages of pushing out content with this strategy, but I’m seeing posts rank quickly because there isn’t much quality content for these searches. I’ll report back in the coming months and share more if it pans out to be a success.
💌 Email List Growth
640 subscribers (+61 net new subscribers in August 2020, 9% growth)
Not much to report on the email front. I haven’t been consistent with sending out emails to my subscribers, but I hope to get started with writing more email content soon. I have many ideas but time is always the barrier, so I think it would be best to start small with 1-2 a month.
💸 August 2020 RPM: $26.05
What is RPM? RPM is Revenue per Mille, or the amount of revenue per 1,000 pageviews. The formula for RPM is: (estimated earnings / number of pageviews) * 1000. In August 2020 I earned $1263.38 and had 48,495 pageviews, which means my RPM was $26.05. This means that for every 1000 pageviews I received, I made $26.05.
📌 August 2020 Summary + Goals
August was the first full month that I was back to work after being furloughed since March. It was definitely a transition month as my in-laws went back to Italy after staying with us since February and my daughter started childcare.
For all of those reasons I didn’t post the amount of content I wanted, but my site still experienced growth as the articles I wrote in previous months started to gain traction.
I went back and read the last few months’ goals and realized that the only thing I’m being consistent at is…not reaching those goals.
In the past this would have had me feeling down, but I know that in this season of life (pandemic, working a full-time job with an infant) I need to give myself a little grace and not push too hard.
I definitely started to feel the beginning of burn out by the end of August so I pulled back a bit and took some time for self-care and came back the next week feeling stronger and motivated to get to work.
If you’re struggling to juggle your blog with all of the other things life is throwing our way in 2020, just remember that no one could have predicted this hot mess of a year. You’re doing your best and your best is good enough.
Looking forward to September 2020
I’m taking my zen attitude toward the site and channeling it into some super simple focus areas for September:
- Content, content, content. Continuing my 2020 focus on creating excellent content and not worrying about the rest (social, email, etc.).
- Video! I posted one video in August and actually had a lot of fun making it, so my plan is to do one more in September.
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s August 2020 journey!
Make sure to check out the Food Blogging Resources page for past income reports and blogging tips, and sign up below to receive emails when new reports and blogging resources are live.[mailerlite_form form_id=4]
Do you have a food blogging question you want answered in a future report? Want to commiserate on your own blog traffic or income? Leave a comment below or contact me!