How my part-time food blog side hustle made $2954.72 in December 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 December 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 kitchen blog. Find out more about us and the content we share at Fork in the Road here.
If you’re new to my income reports, make sure to check out my last report — November 2020 food blog income report — to get caught up.
Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in December? 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 2021.
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 make 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, Midwest Foodie Blog, 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 latter of which I sometimes lack!).
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.
💰 December 2020 Income Report
TOTAL INCOME: $2,954.72
- Display Ads: $2,605.78 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $98.94
- Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing, Photography, Design: $250
TOTAL EXPENSES: $252.14
- Website Upkeep Total: $72
- Website hosting: $11 (Cloudways)
- Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
- Tasty Links: $4* (automatic linking plugin)
- Website Engagement: $10 (Slickstream)
- Photography + Video Total: $42.94
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $29.99
- Canva: $12.95
- SEO + Keyword Research tools Total: $37
- SEMrush: $25 (shared account with other bloggers)
- Keysearch: $12
- Email service provider: $0
- $0 (Mailerlite)
- Content + social media management: $14.95
- Later: free plan
- Tailwind: $14.95+
- Learning (courses, ebooks, memberships, etc.): $85.25
- HashtagJeff SEO membership: $8.25*+
- Midwest Food Blog Pinterest Ebook: $77+
+Expenses with a plus sign are new for the month and explained in the expense review below.
*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 crossed out 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: $2,702.58
Income + Expense Review
Let’s talk about income…
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the way Fork in the Road created income in December 2020.
December was an amazing month for display ad income, in fact it was the highest earning month since joining Mediavine in April 2019. The blog’s RPMs were through the roof, some days they topped $75…and to think that they were only $8 back in the pits of May of this year.
To compare this year over last year’s income, even though my pageviews were about +16% higher last year (read my traffic section below for more on this) my add income is +178% higher because my RPM (revenue per 1000 sessions) was over double ($22 in 2019, $55 in 2020).
While it’s been amazing waking up to these numbers every day, all good thing must come to an end.
Once January hits it will officially be quarter one of the business year, which means ad budgets restart and most companies aren’t spending as much on advertising. (I’m writing this post on January 4th, 2020 and RPMs have halved down into the $25 range).
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 December 2020 FITR made close to $100 in affiliate income from various affiliate programs.
Most of this increase came from a slight uptick in Amazon purchases through my affiliate links, which is a result of increased traffic to my gift guide content. I posted a new gift guide this month, which brought in a small amount of affiliate income, but this is definitely an area for more content in the future.
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
In December 2020 I made $250 from freelance photography, which is photography work I did for other brands/bloggers outside of the what is posted here on Fork in the Road.
Starting in 2021 I will not include this type of income on these reports. I initially included freelance photography income because it was work that I would not have secured without the blog, however now I don’t think it truly reflect revenue generated by the website.
Also, I am taking on a new challenge with the blog and I am considering dropping this work for the time being. It’s been nice working with the client for the past couple of years, but I want to devote more time to content on FITR moving forward.
Overall I’m happy with the income from December. We were so close to hitting the $3000 mark and it was a welcome change from the dismal year we had overall.
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.
Investing in learning
If you should know anything about me and my blogging journey, it’s that I LOVE learning about blogging. I call myself a “chronic course taker” because if there’s a blogging book, course, or membership out there, I’ve probably taken it.
As you can imagine, this adds up after awhile and I’ve tried to scale back over 2020. Instead of buying new courses I decided to go back and redo the ones I’ve bought before and implement learnings.
However, when I have specific thing I want to learn (Pinterest, search engine optimization, etc.) I have no problem buying a course to learn what I need to know from an expert who knows more than I can ever learn just by searching around the internet.
So this month I purchased two learning materials that I’m diving into: a Pinterest strategy ebook from Midwest Foodie Blog (who is killing it on Pinterest), and a membership into the HashtagJeff SEO community.
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, though this month I spent a bit more for education.
📈 December 2020 Traffic Report
December 2020 traffic: 53,027 pageviews
This is +16% from November 2020 last month and +6% from December 2019.
Top ten traffic sources for December 2020
New content on Fork in the Road in December 2020
- New recipe posts: 2 new recipes
- New green guides: 1 new green gift guide
- New resources posts: 1 new food blogger resources
- New videos: 0 new recipe videos
Traffic was up 16% over November, which is a welcome respite from the disappointing November traffic.
I mentioned in last month’s report that I thought I had been hit by a previous Google algorithm update considering my traffic this year was so much lower than in 2019. It was especially evident in November, usually a great month because of Thanksgiving.
I had a call with an SEO agency and they confirmed that the site lost rankings for many of my keywords in November 2019, January 2020, and then again in the spring of 2020. There was a small recovery happening from the summer until now (which is interesting because this was when I started implementing my new keyword research strategy).
Then, to make things even more interesting, there was a major Google algorithm update in December and the site traffic jumped about 15-20%. My newer posts that were optimized (and better quality) jumped and some posts that were previously not getting much traffic started bringing in more and more each day.
This told me what I thought I already knew: this is likely a quality content issue and not some technical problem with the site.
So what’s the next step?
A COMPLETE CONTENT OVERHAUL. As in auditing every single blog post and page on the site.
Yes, you read that right. I’m going to go back and take a critical eye to every single article, recipe, page, and other piece of content on the site and update or delete where necessary.
It’s going to be a huge project that I will outline more in a dedicated post, but I hope you follow along because I’ll be sharing exactly what I’m doing and my progress.
💌 Email List Growth
~710 subscribers (+57 new subscribers in November 2020)
My list size stayed about the same in December compared to November, even though I added what Mailerlite is telling me is 57 new subscribers.
However, two things happened this month:
- Mailerlite’s numbers aren’t right in this graph because while 57 people “signed up” through my forms, not all confirmed. The number was more like 30 people who double opted in.
- I had a lot of unsubscribes. I emailed my main list of 700+ people about a giveaway after not reaching out them for…months. So because I’ve ghosted them and they had no idea who I am, I had 29 unsubscribes.
So all in all, the number of sign ups was about the same.
I’m still struggling a bit with the mailing list. I find email marketing fascinating and love reading about strategies, but I haven’t been consistent with emailing my main list (I email my blogging list regularly though). I need a strategy for this…maybe invest in another course?!
💸 December 2020 RPM: $55.72
What is RPM? RPM is Revenue per Mille, or the amount of revenue per 1,000 pageviews. The formula for RPM is:
RPM = (estimated earnings / number of pageviews) * 1000.
($2954.72 / 53,027) * 1000 = $55.72
In December 2020 the blog earned $2,954.72 and had 53,027 pageviews, which means the RPM was $55.72. This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $55.72, +25% over the previous month (gotta love the end of quarter four!).
📌 December 2020 Summary + Goals
Overall a great month for the website and even though I didn’t get much content pushed out, I was in hyper planning mode all month because I have big plans for 2021.
In the fall I let my less than stellar traffic numbers get to me but then I had a tough love talk with myself about how much actual content output I’m doing versus the scheming and planning and reading about blogging. I’m definitely a visionary-type person but when it comes down to the nitty gritty actions of day-to-day, I struggle.
I then looked at my time and realized I’m spending A LOT of time reading, searching, and looking around how to blog when I could be spending that time ACTUALLY BLOGGING Yes, I have a full-time job and I’m a mother to a young toddler, but there is also a lot of time in the day that I’m not using to my advantage.
So with all that in mind, I’m switching things up in January and doing something absolutely crazy: I’m going to post every single day.
Yes, read read that right. I’m going to post a recipe or article every day in the month of January. Why? There are two main reasons:
- The blog has a ton of older content that needs to be updated/optimized. Because many of these posts are already written and need varying levels of updating, some will only require new photos or updated text and not a complete overhaul.
- I need the kick in the pants of a hard challenge to get the motivation train rolling. I’m definitely an all-or-nothing person, and for the last year I’ve been operating on nothing (or bare minimum, at least). So a challenge like this is very exciting for me to implement my learnings and share the results with you.
Goals for next month
With this “Project Post Everyday” goal in mind, here are my specific goals for January 2021:
- Post every day of the month. Either update an older recipe or article, or post a new recipe or article for 31 days in January.
- Get ahead. I would like to be about a week ahead by the end of the month, with posts scheduled and ready to go.
- Pin to Pinterest, but ignore all other social media. Because my focus is on content output, I’m not going to spend any time or mental energy on social media like Facebook or Instagram.
This will be a big undertaking with a full-time job and a toddler, but judging by the amount of time I’m spending each day looking at blogs and social media — and by the systems I’ve been building over the last few months — I believe this is completely doable.
Want to follow along with my progress? Sign up for blogging updates via email in the form below! I’ll be emailing my list of fellow bloggers throughout the month about what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can implement my learnings to your own blog.
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s December 2020 journey!
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